The “C” Word


Well, Huey the Wonder Horse is on the mend.  Yesterday was the first day that it was OK to ask him for a trot under saddle, and when I did, he gave me the World’s Most Anemic Trot, and dropped out of it like a rock, stopping cold on his forehand and cramming my fork into the pommel.  Ouch.  So I walked him some more, and then asked him for another trot, and got another utterly listless four steps and another trip into the pommel.  Ouch.

Then I had to ask the question “Why”.  Why was he not taking off with the trot?  Why was he stopping like that?  The obvious answer was “Because he is still injured and I shouldn’t be trotting him yet.”  But, recall, this is the Wonder Horse.  And one thing that Wonder Horses do is listen v-e-r-y c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y to their rider’s seat, and to their rider.  There are plenty of times when he hears me telling him something before I realize I’m even saying anything.  I’ve been taking advantage of our many short poky rides at a walk to work on a couple of things, one of which is getting to the bottom of his response speed.  And, after quite a bit of experimentation, I can safely say that no, it is NOT something I am doing with my hand, and no, I am NOT making any conscious signals with my seat.  And yes, really, ALL I have to do is to think “let’s make a circle” and he does it.  Or “let’s go left” and he does it.  He will respond like that even if I’m parked in the saddle like a dead-weight sack of potatoes.

I don’t know how he does it.

What I do know is that he’s a Roaring Success so far as a Schoolmaster for a School of One: I have to pay the closest, tightest attention to what I am thinking and where I am looking at every bloody second I’m on his back, because where my mind goes, so does his.  And where his mind goes, his body is going to follow, in very short order.  I’ve never had to focus this hard in my life, and that includes skiing black diamonds on ice.

So while the obvious explanation for the Anemic Trot was that he wasn’t up to it and should not be pushed forward, a competing hypothesis raised its head:  that I was afraid to ask for the trot because I was afraid I would break him (again) and that where my mind goes, so does his.  And that he was picking up some kind of “please trot only don’t because I’m afraid” vibe.

It’s difficult.  It could either be my personal problem and I just need to get my head right…OR…he was still injured.  The right answer was either to trot plenty OR not to trot at all.  Ooof.

Fortunately, I have an awesome trainer, and she was able to deliver a definitive answer by hopping up on his back.  He already considers her to be some kind of Supreme Being, and she gave him a nice reminder of what it means to be carrying around a Minor Deity. He smartened right up, I’ll say, and she trotted him cleanly a few times in each direction around the ring.  So.  Answer: it was me, not him.  So now, we trot.   And I’ll just go get some Girlfriend Therapy to help deal with the conviction that I broke him and the fear that I’ll do it again.

In the meantime, the chiropractor came this morning. Good timing, too, because the Wonder Horse had gotten into some funky biomechanics over the last several weeks.   I was explaining these as I untacked him, and offered to do a c, a, r, r, o, t stretch to illustrate the point.

I said, “I have to spell it because he knows the word.”  And he does.  Huey has a limited number of Tracks in his brain.  One of them is the Hay Track.  And another is the All Horses Must Regard Me With Wonder And Awe Track.  There’s a Grain Track, but it’s not as big as the Hay Track.

But the biggest track of all is long, pointy, and bright orange.  The Carrot Track.

Huey has demonstrated, several times, and definitively, that he both knows the word “carrot” and he knows what it means.  If I say “carrot” it means there is a carrot. For him.  Here. Now.  The Carrot Track is irresistible to him, and once he falls into it, he doesn’t come out of it again.  Not until the carrot shows up.  And maybe even not then, if he thinks there might be another one.

If I utter the syllables “ca” “rot” then I’d better be prepared to deliver one, ASAP.  He’s like a four year old that has just heard the words “ice cream cone.”  You parents know this.  You either don’t tell the kids you’re going out for ice cream, and let them discover it when you get there…or you tell them approximately 90 seconds before it becomes obvious that you’re going out for ice cream.  Why?  Because from the moment you say “ice cream” to the moment the cone itself is handed out of the little window, it’s going to be “ICE CREAM!  ICE CREAM!!  When are we going?  ICE CREAM!!  Are we there yet?  When are we getting it?  Mom?  ICE CREAM!!  Mom?  When is the ice cream?  Now? Mom? Now? Mom, mom, mom! What about now?  Is it yet?  ICE CREAM!! ICE CREAM!!”

And, really, who wants to participate in that scene for more than 2 minutes?

Huey is exactly the same way.  Only he’s…physical.  So instead of hopping all over the furniture and racing around the house shrieking, he engages in a ceaseless routine of bonking me with his nose, poking his nose at any place I might have a pocket that is concealing the carrot.  And as far as he is concerned, I could have pockets anywhere on my clothes.  And the whole time, he’s saying “Carrot! You said Carrot!  I want my carrot!  Where is it?  My carrot?  Mom? My carrot?  Mom, mom, mom! You said carrot!!!”

And, really, who wants to participate in that scene for more than 2 minutes?

In much the same way that parents deal with this issue, by saying “Let’s go for i, c, e, c, r, e, a, m” to each other, so do I deal with the c, a, r, r, o, t, s.

So there I am, in the barn, saying “Would you like to see him do a c, a, r, r, o, t stretch?  I have to spell it because he knows the word.”  And the chiro says “Soon he’ll learn to spell it too!” and, by golly, he did.

No sooner were these words out of my mouth, than he’s craning his head around, bonking me with his nose, and attempting to investigate my clothing.  And, by golly, saying “Mom!  You said a word that means the same thing as carrot!  I want a carrot!  Where is it?  My carrot?  I know it’s here!  Yousaid it!  Mom, mom, mom! You have a carrot!!!”

Good grief. The Wonder Horse has learned to spell.  What will it be next, “The C Word”?


About Lori Holder-Webb

I'm a Southern Woman by birth and a Texan Woman by upbringing...and yet I find myself living in New England and married to a New York City boy. Up here we use the same currency as we do at home, and I don't need to travel with a passport, but the commonalities pretty much end there. The language is different, the jokes are different, the people are different, and the weather and terrain sure are different too. I moved away from Texas in 2002, and ever since then, I've been the stranger in the strange land... I've had some questions about the name of the blog - if you were not alive, or living abroad or under a rock, or in grad school during the late 1980s, Oldsmobile attempted to shuck its stodgy image with a series of commercials intended to bring brand appeal to the younger generation: this car, they said, is not your father's Oldsmobile. If you have a morbid curiosity, hit YouTube for William Shatner will take you right there.

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