The first time I turned our horses out into the grass pastures at our Texas ranch I wondered, “Will they come back?”
Most of the relationship (training) work I do with horses is at liberty, meaning they don’t have to participate if they don’t want to. I want to earn a horse’s attention and deserve his willingness. Liberty work sometimes means taking risks.
From the Desert to Equine Eden
My Arizona training and breeding facility was nestled in the High Sonoran desert, fifteen miles north of Phoenix, mountains visible on every side–and no grass. The largest paddock was a bit over a third of an acre, every square foot visible, with the horses never far from the gate.
The new paddocks in Texas were pastures, ranging in size from eight to fifteen acres. None of the horses we moved from Arizona saw such open space before, much less the freedom it offers.
Every horse was born and raised in a show barn. My Arizona facility sported two arenas, one open, one covered, two round pens, two hot walkers, and three show barns plus additional covered pens, a trail course, sliding track, quarter-mile jogging track, two homes, and miscellaneous buildings.
Everything was precisely arranged on ten acres.
Not only were my pastures huge by comparison, but they presented a significant temptation factor. There were no grass pastures large or small in our part of Arizona; every paddock a dry lot, nothing to distract or entertain the equine mind except another horse, human, dog, Gambel quail, bird, cat, or native varmint.
The Texas paddocks were huge, decorated with oak trees, carpeted with grass, water tanks with fish, turtles, a buffet of water grasses and weeds, and every kind of thirsty critter stopping for a drink.
Our horses never experienced fence-to-fence grass before, but the barn horses couldn’t stay out on it forever. Except for bred mares and their foals, the horses had to go back to their stalls after recess.
When I went to the gate the first day to call them in, I admit to an unexpected sense of insecurity. This was unknown territory for all of us.
Will the horses come back?
“Would they hear my voice? Will they come when I call?”
It’s easy to be present and focused in familiar confined spaces, but when you give horses or people expanded freedoms the odds may change. Freedom adds options.
Maybe the horses came to me in Arizona because the only available food was in the barn. In Texas pastures, food was everywhere.
The horses didn’t have to come.
But they did.
Because they know my voice and trust me.
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. – John 10:27
Related post: Freedom – Round Pen and Liberty Work with Horses