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The Bird Feeder Horse Lesson

Nothing, I repeat, nothing moves on the face of the earth without leaving a mark. Some of those marks are far less readable than others but they are still there. Tracking is the art of reading those marks and the stories they have to tell. Some twenty-five years ago I was much farther into tracking than I am now.

I got the big idea I'd spend an hour on my stomach looking at a 6 inch square patch of ground beneath a bird feeder. I was determined nothing was going to take my attention off that piece of ground. It didn't take but a couple of minutes before my determination began to seriously crack but I clenched my fists, gritted my teeth and forced myself to finish the hour.

I was absolutely stunned at the volume of things I began to see. I could see untouched seeds starting to germinate. I could see ants eating the insides of seeds that had been cracked by the birds. I saw various bugs moving around doing bug things. I could see the blend of grasses in various stages of growth from just peeking up to chewed off by the mower. Some feathers laying there identified some birds had visited. It was a fascinating hour staring into that little world beneath the bird feeder.

To this day I can close my eyes and still see that patch of lawn.

What does that have to do with horses?

Don't take your eyes off your horse for an hour, ideally with the horse loose. It won't take you very long to get bored but force yourself to keep at it. When you are done you will know every inch of that horse with your eyes shut and the next time you see it you will immediately notice any changes good or bad in the horse.

One of my little riding students knew every square inch of her horse better than she knew the palm of her hand. ANY hair out of place, ANY bug bite, the slightest blemish, she was on top of it.

I once saw her getting her horse out of the pasture and I saw the horse was limping. It was limping so slightly I guarantee you few horse people would have noticed it. When she led the horse by me I took the leadline and told her to go some distance away and watch me lead the horse. If that horse moved 4 feet, I'm a duck, and she said, "SHE'S LIMPING!!"

REALLY learn what your horse looks like, you'll be surprised what you see.

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