The lesson went really well, but during the lesson I warned Barb, that because he was the offspring of two very dominant horses Zeeba could display a bit of temper occasionally when he is being told what to do, but he was so perfect that day it was hard to believe he could ever do anything wrong! Zeeba tried several new things like stepping up on the pedestal, crossing a tarp, and doing a nice figure 8 pattern over a ground pole. He also was very polite to Barb, doing everything she asked with ease. We were so proud of the progress little Zeeba has made in a short time.
We put Zeeba back in his pen and I gave him his evening feed. When I went to leave, he was standing with his butt blocking the barn door so I couldn't open it. I lightly thumped him on the rear a couple times to ask him to step over. In response he pinned his little ears and grudgingly stepped over one tiny step. Rather than rewarding his irritatingly slight try, I let his attitude annoy me and I whacked him firmly on the rump, thinking "You need to be more respectful, you little snot!"
I try to live by the rule: It is far better to earn a horse's respect than to demand it. But in that particular moment, I wasn't thinking that way, and Zeeba reminded me rather sharply that you cannot force someone to respect you, especially if that creature weighs more than double what you do!
Lightening fast Zeeba's little hind foot shot out twice. Crack! He nailed my elbow with his second kick. I chased him off to let him know that wasn't acceptable behavior, no matter how irritating I am being to him, but in retrospect, I deserved what I got. "Reward the slightest try" is like one of the Ten Commandments of Horsemanship and I failed to do that. I also increased pressure way too quickly. If I had maintained steadily thumping his rear with gently increasing pressure instead of giving him a sudden whack, he wouldn't have gotten offended and felt the need to defend himself from what he must surely have seen as a sudden, unprovoked attack rudely interrupting his meal.
Every now and then I am grateful when a horse reminds me to continue improving my horsemanship, I just wish it wasn't so painful sometimes! I had that terrible sharp, aching, tingling "funny bone" feeling in my arm for hours. I was surprised and very relieved when the next day it was mostly better. The fact that Zeeba was a perfect gentleman all during the lesson when I was treating him with patience and understanding, and he only behaved badly when I behaved badly first, made many things clear to me. It was a painful day in "school" but here is what I learned:
*Don't echo your horse's negative attitude. It won't improve the horse's mood, and it can severely mess up both of your days.
*You can't teach a horse to be respectful to you by being rude.
*When teaching, ALWAYS reward the slightest try. Even if that try is coupled with bad attitude, or if seems like your horse is making a deliberately tiny effort.
*Be mindful of applying pressure fairly. Sudden drastic increases in pressure can be perceived as either threatening/scary or rude/offensive and never contributes to developing understanding.