Thanks for your reply
I wrote a long post in return, but then the computer monster ate it.
Your thoughts on your horse looking at your shadow when you where on his back was very interesting. We have a wall at my stable yard on which is painted life-sized images of horses running around. When a new horse arrives at the stable, he will always spend a few minutes sniffing and looking at one of the painted horses in particular. Both a shadow and a painting are quite abstract (compared to the other things in a horse's life), and is very exciting to see that they have the depth of intelligence to understand them.
I don't think that he is looking at me because of ill fitting tack or tiredness. When he has had enough of riding, he stops and stands completly still. Then I know that it is time to get off
A few times, he has not wanted to walk to the arena at all, so I took it to mean that he really didn't feel like riding on that day.
My horse is 13 years old (he is an OTTB), and had a tough time before I got him. The last rider rode him with running reins in a kimblewick bit, with some contraption to tie his mouth together so that he could not evade the bit. The only way that my poor boy will let people ride him is if you take the time to figure out what is going through his head, and if you respect his right to have an opinion about things, and you listen to it.
MFor example, my instructor took him out for a ride a while ago without asking me!! :( My horse would not cross a ditch, and my instructor ended up fighting with him. Afterwards he told me that he has never ever been so scared on a horse before (he has been instructing for over 50 years). He never got the horse over that ditch. The horse fought him and nothing would make him do what he did not want to do.
I feel that my horse is starting to realise that not only am I trying to figure out what he is thinking, but that I respect his right to have an opinion and to act on it. That is why I am so thrilled and intregued that he is giving me these very deliberate looks. I feel that it is the start of a deeper understanding between us, and that he is starting to trust me more. "I think we are often not giving our horses enough credit for trying to cooperate and to understand our human ways"
That is such an amazing statement, thank you very much! It rings so much more true than the horse trying to evade, etc. I think that we have so often killed their curiosity about humans in the way that we treat them, and expect them to react like automatons to every single thing that we want them to do, every minute that we are around them!