Looking at early medieval sources we see people on horseback holding birds of prey. I have a horse and I have a very tame chicken. It is a short step to conjure up the idea to sit on horseback holding a chicken on my arm, right? This blog is about training a horse and horse to be badasses and release their inner viking.
For many horses, many things are scary. They are prey animals and everthing can be a predator. Their eyesight works differently than humans and other predatory animals. Where we see a rock in the grass, we see a grey rock in 3D in green blades of grass. A horse sees less colours and only a limited amount in 3D depending on where it is. So for a horse that rock might suddenly come into view and the brain goes: predatoooorrr! Instinct takes over, the horse gets his shot of adrenaline and... well what happens next depends on many circumstances. One of the places where a horses eyesight is a bit of a blind spot is right behind him and right on his back. Their vision is better to each side. What we call "out of the corner of our eyes" is probably crystal clear to them. Yet it is not in 3D but only seen with one eye. You can image things magically and suddenly appearing out of nowhere when they pop up in this "zone".
I found an image on the interwebs that illustrates this. Now with that in mind you can imagine sitting on a horse waving a sword and shield about or holding a flapping chicken.. sorry bird of prey, is a risky business. Fortunatly horses are great learners and if you are a good human you can teach them anything.
With the science part of this blog done, we can get on to the shenanigans part of this blog. First I have to mention the video I made for my Youtube channel. You might like to watch it before or after you read on. It`s up to you.
So when we sit on out horses we are in the blind spot, they are not complete idiots and can feel on on their backs. You can imagine taking of your coat, flapping your arms, wielding a sword, bow, shield or holding a huge cuddly toy in your hand is bringing it right into that monovision area. A place where they see it, but can really discern it as a 3D object. Like I said, horses are not complete idiots and in their lives with humans learn that things are put on their backs and are taken of again.
It is mostly the transition from blindspot to monovision spot and the thing lingering there that can make a horse feel uncomfortable. So this is what I practice. With a whip, flag, coat, blanket, and then, stick, sword, shield, bow. Pretty much whatever I can find. Moving it in and out of those zones either riding or from the ground.
Now for the chicken. Making sure the chicken is okay around horses was my first worry, but she was, straight away. Not all of them though, some are too nosy and will nuzzle her, she doesn`t approve of that. Brisingr is her favorite. It was just meant to be. Having her on my arm and walking beside Brisingr during groundwork or just mucking out in the mornings was usefull. he got used to her being there and flapping about. She loves sitting on his bum and he didn`t mind, not even when he moved and she would flap to keep her balance. There was no training involved in those moments. Everything we`ve done beforehand is what makes this leisurely interaction possible.
You can see the wheelbarrow in the background and Brisingr showing his fancy footwork on a frosty wintermorning as I hold Ger the chicken and pose for the camera. This was our daily routine, all normal things to happen.
But actually getting on his bakc holding Ger was a moment. For me. Not at all for horse and fowl, they took to it as if it was completely normal. So when I decided to take the leap and mount, it all went smoothly and we had a lovely photoshoot in the sunset. I now know that Brisingr will be fine if I ever get the chance again to hold a raven or owl as I have done with Blizz. Holding the raven was a dream come true and it was also in a castle! Perhaps a bit more epic than a chicken, it won`t keep me from having moments with Ger and Brisingr and riding off into the sunset together.
I will leave you with a few more photo`s and hope you enjoyed reading this. Remember that the daily life makes the difference and practise makes progress. Don`t forget to release your innner viking!