Training My Dragon

So as I told you before, Coco Chanel is a *special* sort of animal. She gets super worked up… about nothing. Other times, I think she pretends to be worked up… also about nothing. Regardless, her brain doesn’t work when she’s in dragon mode. So, since she arrived at the Avocado,* I started devising ways to confuse (read: torture) her. My theory is that if she realizes how unpredictable (and potentially crazy) I am, then maybe she’ll decide to start listening. Less assuming, more listening. Wouldn’t that be nice!

So here’s a list of ways I have found so far to confuse its little pea brain, and I’m sure I’ll be adding more as time goes on. I’m also making this list for my own reference, because I do know one thing about Coco: she is REALLY freakin’ good at training her humans. But since I’m new in her world, she doesn’t have me trained to her liking quite yet, and it would be nice if it stayed that way. So if I make this list now, I can come back to it, and make sure I haven’t been tricked into doing her bidding. She’s sneaky, and I have to stay on my toes.

It “sleeps”…. and plots my demise.

So let’s start at the beginning.

I always feed the horses in their corral. They have to come in from wherever they are in the pasture to eat their meals. I holler, they come running. Those are the rules. The other rule is this: if you’re too “scared” to come through the corral gate, I will not feed you in the field. I will not coax you with grain. I will not catch you and lead you in past the imaginary monster. No amount of stomping and pawing and whinnying will convince me otherwise. You will go without. And go without, she did. Coco missed lots and lots of meals at the beginning. Then she would run up and down the fence line as I walked back to the house, nickering and staring at me with her beady little eyes. Sometimes I would go poke her in the nose and then go inside, just for good measure. She couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t feed her where she demanded to be fed. Additionally, if you paw at the empty feed trough outside my house at all hours of the night, clanging and banging around, in an attempt to train me, I DEFINITELY will not feed you, Coco. It was probably good that she miss a few meals anyways, because when she got here, she was a fatass. (No offense to any self conscious overweight readers out there.)

Thing 2. When she comes to the gate and insists that I catch her, feed her, or otherwise PAY ATTENTION TO HER RIGHT NOW, DAMN IT, I just walk right past her. It’s actually hilarious. Sometimes I dip, dodge, and dive right around her, pretending I didn’t even see her, and go feed the other horses some cookies. The look on her face is priceless.

Then I catch her and tie her to the trailer. This is HORRIBLE, she says. Horses are not meant to be tied, nor are their feet meant to stay planted on the ground, apparently. So she paws. Like, immediately. WHILE I’M STANDING RIGHT THERE. I can understand when a horse paws a bit after an hour or two of being tied and is possibly a little bored. OH NO. She isn’t bored. She’s an asshole. I don’t mean she paws a little. This is like- FURIOUS pawing, demanding that something be done to please her, and IMMEDIATELY. She tosses her head dramatically, flings the rocks in the parking lot on my truck and trailer, splashes mud everywhere, and digs a hole so efficiently that she should perhaps start her own excavation business. So of course, I like to haul her to the indoor with the other horses and tie her to the trailer for two hours by herself while I ride the others. I just let her paw and ignore her. Then, just when she thinks it is FINALLY her turn to go for a ride, I load her up and take her back home. It’s hilarious. She’s like, “But, but!! Human! You didn’t riiiide me yet!” How observant. It’s actually nice because I don’t even need to ride her- she’s worked herself into a sweat all on her own. It’s perfect multitasking, really.

Well eventually I started riding her. Sort of. As soon as I get on her, she is convinced that we have SOMEWHERE TO BE! Not tomorrow, and not in 10 minutes, but RIGHT NOW!!! So this winter we did a lot of standing around and eating cookies. I would tack her up, go stand in the arena, and then turn her back out. She doesn’t understand why it’s so easy. Surely it’s a trap. SURELY day to day activities are REALLY hard, and we should stress ourselves out over them. So we continue to stand. And then we wander. And I take a nap. And I pet the other horses from her back. And I laugh, because she still doesn’t get it.

Another fun fact about Coco. She’s hypersensitive to every aid- whether you’ve actually cued her or not is beside the point. If you even think about shifting your seat, you’re cantering in shoulder-in and doing flying changes. Then suddenly it’s doing haunches-in at the trot, when really all I was trying to do was itch my leg. So, I ride bareback and purposely do all sorts of wiggling and wobbling and flailing of limbs up there. She’s like “Man! One minute I’m supposed to canter, literally the next second the girl has fallen up my neck, is petting me, and wants me to piaffe! I wish she would make up her mind.” No, Coco. No. That was the cue for nothing. I have literally. done. nothing. Canter not required. Piaffe not required. Panic also not required.

We have progressed to using a saddle and jumping now. It’s nice because we can jump more than 6″ without me dying if I have a saddle on it. What’s really great and makes me laugh a lot, is to purposely use body language that says,”Get ready, Coco! We are about to do something extravagant!” I shorten my reins, I sit up tall, I look off in the distance like I’m on a mission, and then I sit and do nothing. Sometimes I even get up in two point and tell her, “On your markssss, get settttt, Halt!!” She hates me. Hahahahah 😂 It’s fantastic! You can just see her wheels start turnin’ and she can barely contain her excitement that we’re about to do something SUPER COOL, and then I make her do nothing. And I fiddle with my reins. I shorten them. And lengthen them. I hold them wayyyy out to the sides. She thought that was the cue (read: excuse) to canter for a long time. Ingrid, did you teach her to canter by widening your hands a mile and not applying any leg? She says you did. Although, she says a lot of things.

Okay, last one for now. Coco has long since determined that if it suits her, she will be herd sour. Like when trying to get her to leave the warm-up and go out on xc, for example. *Cough* So of course, we ride with all her little friends turned out in the field with us. Sometimes we ride away from her friends, sometimes we see how close we can get to them before they try to chase us down and bite us. And when she thinks she’s just about gotten it alllll figured out, I canter her to the far reaches of the field, untack her, and walk away.

Of course, she follows me the whole way back to the gate with her brain smoking, because she’s certain there must be a mistake! We are only supposed to untack at the trailer where she can paw and cause a scene!! “This human is stupid,” Coco says. “She’s nearly impossible to train.”

Sometimes I get my hopes up that we are making progress, but when I look out my window late at night and see that she’s wide awake while the others are sleeping, I can only assume she’s busy plotting my demise. So I remind myself to not let my guard down, and I veryyyy carefully venture to the barn to torture her again the next morning.

*We call my house the Avocado.  Because it’s about the size of an avocado (650 sq ft or something) and the EXACT color of the inside of an avocado. You know the creamy light green color? That’s it, in house form. Mind you, when my dad was painting said house, and I mentioned green would look nice, I had a slightly different shade in mind. Like a nice dark-ish green with crisp white trim… But the color the store mixed up was not the color Dad supposedlyyyy ordered, and Man Theory was strong that day, so he just went with it. Of course, I could probably re-paint the whole thing with just one gallon of paint if I really wanted to, but now that it’s been named the Avocado, I feel like we just have to roll with it.

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