Zelda has been testing me. I was traveling for a few days last week, and when I haven’t been working her regularly, she forgets that I’m not Curly and she tries to boss me around. She will drag me toward the best grass, try to nip me when I put her saddle on, refuse to stand by the mounting block, and pretend to be spooked by a shadow. She does what she wants when the thought cosses her mind.
I will give her credit though, for not holding a grudge. Although it takes me several tries to assert convince her that I’m in charge, once she decides that I can be the alpha, at least for a short time, she’s pretty cooperative. Transitions every ten strides? No problem. Walking nicely beside me without trying to eat grass? Yes, Ma’m.
The trick is to use the same herd dynamics that she does: issue a swift display of dominance that is easily understood, then go back to business as usual. And by dominance, I mean more bluster than correction. Something loud rather than something mean. A growl, a slap with a crop, or, when she tries to bite me, a pinch on her nose.
Just as a point of reference, here’s how she treats Curly (who is her BFF). She never hurts Curly, but she sure does put on a display. Of course, Curly is clever. She pretends that Zelda has scared her off and then sneaks in behind her and grabs the hay.