07 March 2015

Pointing out the Obvious

Back around 1970, I realized that when I pointed, my mare responded by doing what I wanted. Since I'd been told--repeatedly and by people I respected--that horses did not understand human pointing, I kept quiet about it and when caught in the act explained apologetically it was just something I did and that I realized horses didn't understand my pointing.  Despite occasional indulgent smiles from other horsemen, I kept pointing because horses responded by doing what I wanted.

Nice to see that pointing now looks to be in the totally accepted category.

"Horses Understand Human Gestures"

Now I wonder what "near" means.This article says pointing only works "when the human remains near to the reward." Is near two feet? Ten? A hundred?

I'd like to know because a few weeks ago I turned out my Andalusian to frolick in the arena, the only place not slippery with ice and snow . As he was tearing around, I wondered if he'd stop if I put my arm straight up, his halt command. He was in a full gallop on the far side of the arena maybe eighty feet away when I punched my arm straight up. When he saw my signal, he flung himself sideways to face me and halted, standing immobile while I trotted over with the expected treat. I then pointed in his original direction and gave him an "OK," his verbal release. He instantly struck off in the exuberant gallop I'd interrupted.

I have a witness. Neither of us really expected him to stop. This was not something I worked at training him to do, but he's a remarkable horse so we weren't surprised either.

Here's Simon a year earlier, his first time on double lines without a surcingle holding them up. I took him out for a friend to see and she captured this few seconds on her cell phone. Before this, I had no idea I bobbed around so much. I also know I don't have to lift my leg so high for the strike off. I'm waaaay overdramatic. I need to stop moving so much,. And maybe shut up? But he appears to take his rhythm off my verbal tempo, but I guess that's another thing horses can't do, isn't it?

Simon in Long Lines