Monthly Archives: June 2013

I TOLD That Horse!!!!!!!

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Well.  Things have been being VERY BUSY at the barn.  The farrier came and I got my hoofs done.  That is good because it was definitely being time for that.  It is very important to me that my hoofs are looking very nice, but they were getting big and making me trip.  I was thinking that farrier could have come earlier, but he didn’t.

Then the V was there.  My rider said he might be coming for me, but he was not.  Then she said he was coming for me later, and that I was not going to be liking it, but it was going to be a Good Thing.  I am getting those shots in my back legs.  She is right, I am not liking that, but she is reminding me that I was being One Wild Horse after those shots last year.  She said I was a racing around like a foal horse and a trying to kick the sky horse.  She said that is how I got that leg owie, so be more careful this time.  I will try.

Then, this is being VERY GOOD!  I am being a cantering horse again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I have not been being a cantering horse in a VERY LONG TIME!!!!!!!!!!!!  I am not a cantering very far horse, but my rider says I am being very good at it!! I know I am!!! I am GREAT cantering horse!

This is how it happened.  My rider is coming to get me early in the morning.  I was being outside all night because that is how it is in the summer.  But then she is wearing her riding boots and with that halter and saying Let’s Go Huey, and I am saying I do not feel like being a working horse this morning, I want to stand here and eat some of this little grass I found in my paddock.  Then she is making the Rope Snake bite me on the butt and that is making me jump and I am saying OK! We are working!  Because I am an arguing horse but really, it is being much better for everyone if I am a losing that argument horse.  I know this.  I cannot help arguing though.  It is just the way I am made.  My rider knows this and she says it is being OK because she is a loving her horse person and she is loving me because of my Spirit.  That is a good thing, because my Spirit is what it is, I cannot change that thing.

So we are walking and I am arguing that I should eat grass as we go, and that I should stop and say Hi to the other horses, and I am losing those arguments, but she is saying We are having a lesson this morning, Huey.

Well.  That is a Good Thing and that is a Bad Thing.  It is a Good Thing because in lessons, it is always something interesting and different.  It is a Bad Thing because the interesting and different things make me have to be a working harder horse.  It is being very hot now, and I am not wanting to be working hard.  Also, lessons are not as good as they used to be because it is only walk, walk, walk, and trot, trot, trot, and I am having to be a bending horse and lately I am also having to be a straight horse, and sometimes I am having to be a bending and straight horse at the same time!  That is not being easy!!!!  But I am doing it!!!!  That is because I am The Wonder Horse.

It was better when it was walking and trotting and cantering because I am very good at cantering.  Everyone says so.  And it is more fun.  But now when I say to my rider Let’s canter! She always says No Huey, we have to work some more first.  She says I need more muscle.  And I have to be careful of my legs.  I say This is boring.

But in that lesson, I was working VERY hard and trotting and trotting and trotting and trotting and walking and bending and being straight and everything.   Then I thought my rider said to canter with her seat.  So I started doing that, but then I remembered that I cannot be a cantering horse now and I went back to trotting and walking.  But then do you know what?

My rider was laughing!!!!  And she was saying Huey!  It is OK!  I did say to canter!!  We will go back to that place in the ring and make a canter.

Well.  Then I walked as fast as I could back to that place, and everyone is laughing and saying I am enthusiastic.  I am not sure what that is being, but I know that when I am getting to that place again, we are going to be cantering!!!!  And we were.

I can tell it has been a long time since my rider has been a cantering rider.  She is bouncing on my back.  She was not used to be doing that.  She said I am sorry, Huey! We will be getting better at this soon!  But I am so happy to be a cantering horse again I am not caring about a little bouncing!!!

So that is all being very good!

Then last night there were a bunch of people being at the barn.  Not people feeding us horses, just people.  We horses are all wondering what this is, with all these people outside.  Then my rider came in and said they were having a party.  I think this is like being in a herd.

There is being something good about my rider.  Most of the time, you can see, we are talking to each other with People Language and Body Language.   And sometimes we are just talking with Pictures.  But sometimes, my rider is talking to me with Horse Language.  That is not being very often, because she cannot move her ears like a Real Horse can, and she does not have a tail.  And she only has two legs, and some other things to hold stuff in, but those legs do not work like Horse Legs.  I can tell another horse exactly what is wrong with that horse’s behavior and what that horse needs to do to make me, Huey, happy, all with moving my back leg only a little.  And my rider can tell a horse exactly what is wrong with that horse’s behavior and what that horse needs to do to make her happy, all with moving her leg only a little, but she has to be on top of that horse when she does.  I do not have to be on top of that horse, I can just be standing where that horse can see me.  Horse Language is better.

So my rider cannot use Horse Language because she is not shaped right.  But sometimes she can use it a little.  It is only a little bit weird when she does that too.  Horse say Hello by sniffing noses.  I say Hello and Respect Me Now! by blowing hard at another horse’s nose.  People think their hands can work for a nose, so instead of giving me a nose to sniff, people will give me a hand to sniff.  That is very strange because a hand cannot sniff back.  Also, they smell bad a lot of the time, like bug spray or shampoo.  My rider sometimes will give me a hand to sniff, but sometimes she gives me a nose to sniff.  Her muzzle is not the right shape for this.  A real muzzle is nice and wide and has huge holes to blow out of and sniff with.  My rider’s muzzle is very small and pointy and has tiny holes in it.  I do not know about blowing out, because my rider does not tell me Hello and Respect Me Now! by blowing.  She does that with the rope.

Last night when she came to tell me they were having a party she went and and wanted to say Hello by sniffing noses.

And do you know what I found out?

She had Peppermint Breath.  Her nose smelled just like peppermints, any horse could know that for miles away!!

Then I thought maybe if she had Peppermint Breath, maybe a horse could also have Peppermint Breath.

But then, because any horse could know that, the small red horse in the stall next to mine thought maybe he could have Peppermint Breath too, and when I said Rider. Do you have peppermints for me?  He said it too!!!

I said You small red horse.  You are not supposed to talk to my rider.

But he ignored me.  But then I was hearing that sound.  You know that sound.  It is a magic sound, kind of like stepping on fresh hay, but different, and that sound only means one thing:  PEPPERMINTS ARE COMING.  And they were!!!!!  I chomped that peppermint up with my teeth and made it go CRUNCH.  And that small red horse put his nose all the way over his stall and said Give me one! Give me one! Give me one!

But I spoke to that small red horse in Horse Language with my ears and my teeth and let him know that he was NOT getting any of my peppermints and LEAVE my rider alone.  He was not respectful though, and my rider said You boys don’t damage the barn while you are sorting this out. And then she left.  Then that small red horse settled down and I went back to my hay.

But then.

My rider came back, and she was making that magic sound again, and she had ANOTHER PEPPERMINT.  And that small red horse, he is such a pest! He said Me! Me! Me! Me! Me!  But my rider gave it to me, like she is supposed to do.  And then she started talking to me, but guess what that dummy did then?  He poked my rider with his nose.

Now, I am not a dummy.  I know that poking with your nose is a Bad Horse kind of thing.  And I do not poke my rider with my nose.  Not much.  Maybe if I am thinking there is a peppermint or a carrot.  But I am knowing better, even then.  And this Bad Horse is not paying ANY attention to this and he is rude.  And I am jumping back a little and my rider is saying Ow and I am thinking about what to do. Then she is saying to the small red horse You get out of my face, Bad Horse!!  I am talking to HUEY not to you.  BACK OFF.  And then I am knowing what to do.

I am putting my head around the corner and I am putting my ears all the way back and I am saying YEAH. You Bad Horse.  That is MY rider and she is talking to ME and you are being VERY NAUGHTY.  You are not poking my rider with your nose you rude horse!!  You are leaving her alone!!!!!  Or I am biting you.    And then that small red horse is saying Ooops.  I will go stand over here.

And I am saying You are doing that.  And you are leaving us ALONE.

I TOLD him.

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That horse is not going to be bothering my rider and taking my peppermints. Or else!

It Is A SCARY Stump.

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Today my rider came to the barn and she was not wearing her boots.  I know what this means, when my rider is there and not wearing riding clothes.

It means TREATS.

This time, it was a bunch of something that looked like grass but it did not smell like grass!  And it was tasty!  I said Is there any more of that special grass?  But she said No.  But there is some Special Horse Pampering Time!

It as been being a very long time since there was Horse Pampering.  I am thinking there should be being more Horse Pampering.  This was being brushed, which is not Pampering.  Pampering is where I get my neck rubbed and my butt scratched and sometimes other stuff.  This time it was things I do not like.  There is a thing that people are doing to my belly some time that is making it shrink up.  I do not like that thing!!!  It is tickling.  And it is also meaning I am having to LIFT my belly and make my back work too, and I am not feeling like doing that.  So I am trying to walk away from that thing, but my rider is just walking with me and I am not being able to get away from it!!  Then I am saying RIDER.  I DO NOT LIKE THAT.  But she is saying I know Huey.  But it is important, and we are almost done.

Then there was being a thing where my tail gets pulled.  I am not liking that one either when it is going to the side, because them I am having to work very hard with part of my leg so that I am not falling over.  And I am saying RIDER. But she is saying Work it Huey!  Good horse!!  And she is not stopping until she is doing the other side too.

But then there is being some very good Horse Pampering!  There is a thing that is using my mane and making my crest be not tight any more.  I was not liking that one the first time we did it either, because I am thinking that if I am relaxing my crest then maybe something bad is going to happen.  But it is not, and then today, I realized that it is feeling good, that thing!  So I am putting my head way down, and helping because there are neck stretchy things that I like and I cannot be doing them all by myself!!

And then there was being a CARROT STRETCH and THREE CARROTS.  They were being very little carrots, which is not as good as being very big carrots, but three carrots is being better than only one!  And I am getting my muzzle all the way to my flank!  I am being so stretchy that I can almost be touching my tail with my nose!!!  That is being a VERY good thing because sometimes there are nasty bugs that land on top of my butt and my tail cannot be going all the way up there, and the only thing to do is to bite them.  And if I am being that stretchy, it is being easier to bite those bugs!

That was good.  But then I am having to walk backwards which I am not liking because I do not trust my rider enough to look for what is behind me, but she is not letting me look either.  I said Rider.  If you want me to go back there let me turn around and walk there.  But she is saying Huey, it is not about going to that spot, it is about walking backward.  That is being good for your haunches and making you a Strong Horse.  I want to be a Strong Horse, but I do not know if I am wanting that bad enough to be a walking backwards horse.

But then it was even better because we got to go eat some grass.

A while ago, my rider put me out in the pasture, she said to eat while she cleaned up after us for a little bit.  Well.  You are knowing how I am feeling about being a naked in the grass horse.  I am loving that.  And I am eating a bunch of grass, but then I am realizing something horrible.

I am all alone.

I am not seeing any other horse and I am not seeing my rider.

You are saying But Huey. You are a Brave Horse, I know.  But I am not that brave.  I do not want some dummy there in the paddock messing with me and trying to eat my food.  But I am not wanting to be ALONE.  And I am feeling very scared.

So I said HORSES!  WHERE ARE YOU!

And they said WE ARE HERE HUEY! WHERE ARE YOU?

And I said HORSES!  I CANNOT SEE YOU!!!!

And they said WE ARE HERE HUEY!  BUT WE CANNOT SEE YOU EITHER!!

And I started racing around in the paddock.  I could not even eat any grass because I was scared of not being able to see any other horses!! And I am racing and shouting HORSES!!!! HORSES!!!!!  HORSES!!!!!  WHERE ARE YOU!!!!!!

And they are shouting back too, but I am still scared!!!

But then I am seeing something!!!!  It is my rider, and she is coming around the corner of the barn and she is saying HUEY!  I AM HERE!!!  And I am racing and saying RIDER!!! I AM ALONE!!!!  COME HERE!!!!  And she is coming there very fast and I am running to the edge of the paddock and I am saying You left me alone!!! I could not see anyone at all!!!! And she is saying I am sorry Huey, usually you do not notice because of the grass.  But I am saying I noticed today!!!!!  Put the halter on and stay here! And I put my nose down so that halter can go on faster.  Then it is being OK because my rider is being there, and we are together and I am not being an alone horse any more.

It is also good because my rider always finds the best grass and then stands right on it to show me where it is.

Today, I was not having to be alone, but we were going to eat grass in a different spot.  It was right next to the ring!!

There has been something very scary in the ring for ages now.  My rider is not seeing it, and she is saying Huey.  You are being silly.  It is just the ring.  But I am saying It is scary. And I am not wanting to go near that place.  My butt is not wanting to go there, and my shoulders are not wanting to go there, and my neck is not wanting to go there.  My rider is working to make my butt and shoulders and neck go there anyway, but they are not listening to her.

The other day, she said Huey. This is silly.  And she made me go stand and face the part of the ring that is scary.  That was bad enough, but after a few breaths, she asked me to walk forward. I could not!!!  And my front feet came up off the ground and I made a little rear.  Rearing is a Bad Horse kind of thing to be doing, and rearing with a rider on is really a Bad Horse kind of thing to do, but I could not help it!!!  I was just too scared!!!!!  My rider said HUEY. But I said I cannot.  So she said Move on then.  And then my butt and shoulders and neck argued with her all the rest of the time even though I wanted to be a Good Horse.  They did not care.

Today I was eating lots of grass but then do you know what happened?

I looked up, and realized I was right next to the scary part of the ring.  All my skin got stiff for a second, but then I realized there was a big patch of clover right there, and I was not going to be letting any stiff skin get in the way of my teeth and that clover!  But then I saw it.

Right there.

It was being out of the corner of my eye.

It was the thing that was so scary!!!!  And I said RIDER.  That thing is SCARY!! And just to make sure, I pointed my nose at it, and I BLEW.

My rider said Huey.  And I could tell she was going to be arguing that this thing was not scary.  So I pointed my nose harder at it and I blew really hard.  I said IT IS SCARY.

But she said Huey.  It is a stump.

And I am saying What is being a stump?  That thing is being scary!

But she is saying Huey. There is a stump in your paddock.  You are not scared of it, are you?

Well.  She is right. There is a thing in my paddock that is looking like this scary thing, and I am not scared of it.  But then I am saying That is a different stump.  That one is not scary.  This one is scary.

And I blew at it again.

My rider made the noise like the wind in the trees, and said You are being One Silly Horse.  You are being a Scaredy Cat.  But I said I am not a cat.  I am a horse.  And she made that noise again, and then took me for a walk in the woods.  She said Look around, there are lots of stumps here too.

But they were different.  They were not scary.  Not like that one by the ring.  It was scary, and it still is!!!!!

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This is my Stink Eye. It is how I am feeling about that scary stump, and it is how I am feeling about my rider saying I am a Scaredy Cat. Any horse would be scared of that stump!!!

Barn Mice

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One of the greatest things about being a college professor is the same greatest thing about being a college student: Summer Vacation.  And one of the greatest things about my Summer Vacation is getting to spend a bunch of lazy hours at the barn without having to worry about what time it is, or about whether I’m getting too dirty to go anywhere but straight home.  And one of the greatest things about the barn is Barn Mice, aka Barn Rats aka Stable Rats aka tween and teen girls that are so crazy about horses they’ll do just about anything, including scrubbing grain buckets, to get to hang out with them and ride them once in a while.

This is the time of the year when the Barn Mice start to come out of the woodwork.  School is out, or nearly out, and the Barn Mice share my opinion about the greatest thing in Summer Vacation.  I know this because I was one, back in the day.  I like these kids.  First, they’re more interesting than a lot of kids that age.  Video games make fascinating conversation…if you also play the same video game.  Beyond that? No.  The Barn Mice aren’t to be found holed up inside, getting pasty and crabby from sitting around while a game or show sends useless adrenaline pounding through the system.  They’re to be found outside, having Adventures and learning incredibly valuable things, stuff like “horses can feel what you’re feeling, so if you’re angry or scared, you need to find a way to get that under control before you go messing with them” and “things happen, horses step on you, you fall off them and get a little banged up, but you get better” and “you get out of things what you put into them” and “if you want something, you need to work for it.”  Like I said.  Valuable things.  You don’t get that stuff from staring at a screen all day.

The other thing I like about Barn Mice is that they always admire The Wonder Horse. And they do it at some length.  Lately, they’re admiring his new bling.  He got a brand-new rhinestone browband for his bridle, and is now a Sparkle Horse.  I feel strongly that every gelding should have, at some point in his life, an eight-year-old girl that decorates him in glitter and wants nothing more than to Love On Him.  I get the sense that there has not been a huge amount of this kind of thing in the Wonder Horse’s past. Too busy being a Professional Horse.  Well, better late than never.  So what if he’s 18 and I’m 45?  We can still have Glitter Hooves and Glitter Braids and Sparkle Tack.  My local tack shop actually carries sparkle bell boots – and if they start carrying them in green, I’ll buy out their entire supply.  The Wonder Horse looks terrific in green.  All that red hair, you know.  It’s his Color.  Anyway, the Barn Mice love to love on Huey.  They love to love on all the horses.  But they always love Huey.  That’s because he’s huge.  And red, and he has a gorgeous white blaze.  Barn Mice love markings.  And he droops his lip down and looks all goofy when he’s relaxed.

Anybody wants to hang around and shower compliments on my horse, that’s fine with me.

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Here’s a picture of him, just in case you’re feeling like showering some compliments.

So this morning, as I was hanging out with Huey and getting him ready to ride, the Barn Mice were having a First Rate Adventure.  They had all been on a trail ride.  I’d have been tempted to join them if I’d been around when they left.  Only problem is, The Wonder Horse gets very…excited…when he’s outside of the ring, and it’s critical to go trail riding with a horse that will not make him more excited.  I learned that the hard way last summer, when we wound up in a situation like a bunch of Cub Scouts camping out in the backyard – the kind of camp-out where they manage to freak each other out so violently that everyone stampedes into the house around midnight, and someone wets the bed.

I arrived right on the heels of the Return of the Trail Riders, and right in time to watch Phase Two of Barn Mice Heaven unfold.

They gave one of the horses a bath.

Now, the horse they decided to bathe was a Haflinger.  This is what’s known as a “draft pony”.  He’s big and blocky just like a draft horse…only scaled down.  And Haflingers all look alike, and what they look like is this:  CUTE.  If Disney commissioned the Imagineers to manufacture the Perfect Pony, a Haflinger is what they’d come up with.

They’re tan and blonde, just like a California Girl.  They’re roly-poly.  They have huge thick manes and bangs and tails, like some sort of living My Little Pony.

This is a picture of a Haflinger, from horsegroomingsupplies.com.

Yep, they all look like that.  Including the one getting the bath this morning.   Hardly looks real, doesn’t it?

Watching a couple of tweens bathe an ultra-cute draft pony is like watching a Three Stooges skit co-starring Shirley Temple and her dog.  There are some Challenges to be faced vis-a-vis The Water Hose and Where To Point It.  Especially when you’ve got one tween on one side of the horse…and the other tween on the opposite side.  Then there is the Horse Not Feeling Like Getting Wet Challenge.  This one they chose to resolve, for reasons I don’t quite understand, by untying the horse from the hitching post and hanging onto the lead rope.  That decision turned the entire delightful scene into a Moving Spectacle.

The horse’s name is Winnie.  It’s short for something else, but you’ve got to admit, it fits.  They’re round and brown and blonde, just like Winnie the Pooh.  And there’s a pun in there too.  Like Winnie? Whinny?  heheheheheh…omg, it’s catching. Because the Main Takeaway from Barn Mice Bathe A Horse has to be the sound of giggling.

Hey! Winnie! Stand still!

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No! Bad horse! That was very naughty!

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Eek!  The water!!!!

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and so forth.

At one point I looked over and saw that they were sudsing him up.  He’d decided finally to stand still.  They assured me he likes getting rubbed.  The Barn Mice just come up to the top of his shoulder, so this was a lot like watching a team of cheerleaders wash a sport-ute at a charity car wash.  They were making some pretty good suds, too.

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We can spell things with the soap bubbles!

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Look at this! I’m going to spell something!  I….love….you! I wrote I love you on his back!

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It was positively annihilating, the experience of listening in on all this.

It stayed great for a good long time, too…long enough that I was working The Wonder Horse in the ring when the Moving Spectacle, in the Rinse Phase, made its way right over to the edge of the arena.

Girls, be sure you don’t squirt Huey with that hose!

OK!!

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When they were done, they decided to braid his hair.  I mean, really, who wouldn’t?

AND they decided to do this without putting him back on the hitching post.  Which meant that the Moving Spectacle now featured Barn Mice holding the line, and other Barn Mice dangling from the mane, while attempting to braid it mid-air.  It was…gymnastic.  I was so transfixed by the scene that I almost had to stop riding, myself.  It was, perhaps, a month’s worth of Cute all rolled into about two hours.  It may take me weeks to recover from it all.

I leave you with Templeton Thompson, who understands it all.

Epiphanies from a Windy Day

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Today it was windy.  I have a love-hate relationship with the wind.  I love the way it sounds.  I love the way it feels…in limited quantities.  I hate how it picks up every dust, dirt, and sand particle within 3 miles of my location, and flings them onto my contact lens.  I’m also not too keen on the way it whips the ends of my hair around so they lash me painfully in the face.

And then we get to the horse.  Something you need to know about horses is this:  they don’t have gigantic ears for the sake of decoration.  Nor are those huge ears some kind of Cosmic Joke from the Gods, giving horses (who hate bugs) huge fuzzy ears that are basically Bug Magnets, just to torment the horses.  I know Huey has a different opinion, but I don’t think it’s true.

Horses have giant ears because, most places you find them, they’re one of the lowest things on the food chain, and while they can (and do, sigh) fight with a will, they’d much rather run.  And to successfully deploy the Run Away Strategy, they need as much advance notice on Potential Threats as possible.

Horsepeople all know this, but for everyone else…you can tell exactly what a horse is paying attention to.  Just look and see where its ear is pointed.  The open part of the ear, not the tip.  The tips are a crude barometer:  pointed forward = good, pointed backward = not so good, pointed back and down so they blend with the neck = very bad.  And horse ears move independently, so a horse, unlike a human, can listen to two things at once.  They’re much better at this kind of multi-tasking than humans are, and I speak as a college professor who earned her stripes during the advent of the cell phone and text messages.  Humans do a positively lousy job at paying attention to more than one stimulus at a time.  Horses are better.  So when you want to know what a horse is paying attention to, look at those ears.

I saw this first-hand a while back when my trainer was putting some Good Manners on the Wonder Horse.  He didn’t come to the barn with Good Manners.  He didn’t back on request, he pulled at the lead line, he was inattentive to anyone on the ground, all the usual crap you get in horses who have been regarded as vehicles to drive forward in pursuit of medals and ribbons, rather than horses who know they are part of a family and expected to behave in a civilized manner.  Fortunately, my trainer is GREAT at this kind of thing.  I swapped out a Riding Lesson for a Lesson in Manners (his, on how to behave, and mine, on how to get him to behave).  It took her about 15 minutes to turn a First Class Brat into a Somewhat Respectful Individual, and another 15 minutes to teach me how to ensure that he stays Somewhat Respectful and advances along that part even further to Downright Civilized.  The good news is that 18 months later, we’re nearly there.

She had him in a round pen and was working with him to give him the requisite vocabulary of Decent Behavior.  I was standing by, outside the pen, watching what she did, watching what he did, and soaking it all up like a sponge.  But I couldn’t help noticing even then that while he was (kind-of) listening to her – in that he’d occasionally point his ears in her direction – for the most part, his ears were oriented all the way over on me.  On the one hand, I was thrilled.  He knew I was Mom.  This showed it.  On the other hand, I was not thrilled.  I wanted him paying full attention to her, so he could learn.  A quandary every parent is familiar with, I’m sure.

Anyway, hearing is very important to horses.  Maybe most important.  And when it’s windy, they can’t hear.  At least, not properly.  Everything in the world is making noise all at once.  They hear all of it.  And try to pay attention to all of it, because they don’t have any way to suss out what’s an actual threat and needs to be Run Away From, and what’s just background racket.  They can’t.  It would mean their life, too, if they didn’t pay attention.

So.  Wind takes on a whole new meaning when you’re a horse owner and rider.  Windy days mean that the horses are going to be all worked up, fidgety, distracted, and energized.  Ordinarily, when the wind is roaring through the leaves or even blowing intermittently in huge gusts, I figure it’s a good day to comb tails and clean tack…not to ride.  There’s nothing like being perched on a 1200 lb animal with hair-trigger reflexes that are all dialed up to 11.  You might as well hop a ride on an inbound ballistic missile.

But. This morning I had a riding lesson scheduled.  And it was windy. And I thought “Self,” I thought “what if it’s windy the day of a show?  Carpe diem.  No time to go riding in the wind like during a lesson.”  And I showed up early and put The Wonder Horse through some basic paces to make sure he was paying attention.  He really was a Wonder, too.  He was incredibly distracted, flighty, and reactive thanks to the wind.  But he was also really excited about working together and really wanting to focus and do a good job, despite the circumstances.

And so, I had a series of wonderful learning experiences.

First, I got on.  This may not sound like much, or as Huey would say, You are saying But You do this all the time! Why is that wonderful?

It’s wonderful because I knew he was wired to the teeth, I knew that he was in an ultra-high-energy state, I knew that he was having trouble concentrating.  And I spent about 3 seconds thinking “Holy crap, if this Goes Bad, it’s going to go really bad.”  And I thought about that, and I thought that I was probably up to dealing with anything that happened – after all, he flipped out briefly on Sunday and tried to buck me off, and it didn’t work – but here’s the kicker.  I thought and probably aren’t sure.  I wasn’t sure I would be able to deal with whatever.  I thought there was a reasonable chance that things would go south and I’d fall off.  Or get thrown.

And I did it anyway.  I regarded this as a viable possibility, but I focused more on the thought that I’d be able to handle it, and then I said Enough.  Yes, it could happen.  But I am not making any space in my brain for it.  And I didn’t.  I just shut that stuff right down, and refused to be afraid, and I wasn’t.

Sure enough, he was more than a handful for the next 40 minutes.  He was spooking and shying and spooking and shying and any cue I gave him was getting multiplied like I was screaming it through an electronic megaphone.

So Second.  I discovered Mad Riding Skillz I did not know I possessed.  I’m still trying to think it all through.  Huey is The Wonder Horse, which meant that even though every scrap of his environment was firing up every one of his many Flight Neurons, he still wanted to work with me.  He just had an uphill battle, trying to keep it together for that. But he wanted to.  That was really important. Without that, nothing would have worked, and they’d probably still be picking up my pieces from the arena floor now. He wanted to.

And it was my job as a rider to make that happen.  I knew, from reading and stuff, that the rider functions as a really important “support” to the horse.  I understood this, kind of, from watching a lot of jumping.  The rider plots out how many paces and where to turn and cues the horse to take off, and basically does all the thinking for the team and supports the horse that way.  And I knew it happens in dressage too…but I didn’t actually understand it until today.

I will say the job was complicated as hell, too.  I had to be really strong for Huey, and let him know what I wanted unambiguously, BUT I had to do it all with a great deal of finesse, subtlety, and delicacy.  I had to wield the iron fist clad in the velvet glove.  He’d deviate from The Master Plan, and I had to have a way to bring him back on task…but if that correction wasn’t subtle I’d just wind up causing him to shoot off task in a different direction, with added velocity.  Kind of like handling a temperamental six year old with ADHD but a strong work ethic, only one that’s got the detonation device for a nuclear warhead in his hands at the time.  He was ULTRA responsive.  I touched his sides once, asking for a trot – I knew that the usual “squeeze” wasn’t a good idea at all – and he launched himself into a canter.  Fortunately, I was on my game and knew he might do that and could pull him back out if it as soon as it happened.  But it was that kind of thing all over the place.

It was a physical workout, giving physical corrections to a huge animal, but it was a massive mental workout too, trying to figure out exactly how strong the correction needed to be to get his attention and hold it without touching off some other undesirable reaction.  Being strong but soft.  Being firm but delicate.  Being assertive but gentle.  A very complicated mix.  Giving him things to think about without overloading him and freaking him out.

And I did it.  Or, more accurately, we did it.  Because that was the other thing:  this was completely a Team Effort.  He wanted to be attentive and work, and he was not just letting me guide him, he was looking to me to guide him.  Huey likes to be in charge of things, whether it’s people or other horses.  He’s some kind of natural leader.  He’s imperious.  Commanding.  Proud.  Strong.  Opinionated.  I love all of this about him, but know that ultimately, it has to be me that calls the shots.

And today, instead of trying to take charge of the situation and call the shots himself, he looked to me to do it.  I stepped up and I was the leader that he needed to me be, but he also decided I was the leader he wanted to follow.

This was really too amazing for words.  I’m sure that anyone who has found themselves in a leadership position with alert and engaged followers, and discovered at that point that they were up to the job knows what I’m talking about. I’m not sure that anyone who hasn’t had that experience can really understand.

We were a unit.  Me and Huey, him listening to me and me listening to him, and me making decisions about what kind of latitude was OK to grant him – which was some, but not everything he’d usually request – and him knowing that it was all OK.

He trusted me.

I know Huey trusts me. He doesn’t like his ears touched, but I can brush them.  He doesn’t like his face touched, but he knows now to close his eyes and put his head down when I go to rub the Eye Boogers out.  He knows I won’t drop his feet, he knows that I know he doesn’t like his belly brushed but that I have to do it…and that I’ll keep that to a minimum.  He knows that the fly mask is his friend, and he knows to put his head down when he sees me standing there with it, even though it’s all flappy and makes a lot of movement.  He knows what the cue is for him to eat grass, and he knows that if he tries to eat grass without the cue, he’s going to get in trouble.  He knows that I will show him whatever I’m about to touch his body with, including the fly spray, and once I show him, he will stand still for whatever it is.  We have, as it were, a “bond”.

And today, I guess, was the Grand-Daddy of Payoffs for all of that, because he completely trusted me to take care of both of us.  It was the first time I’ve really been aware, as a rider, of supporting my horse.  And being the leader he needed me to be.

It was amazing.

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The Wonder Horse

It Was Not A Horse Eating Monster.

Standard

Today is being very exciting! I have not been able to go riding in days because it was raining too much.  But that rain was making lots of mud, so that is good.  But today it is being good riding weather! And it was.  Dakota got to go riding.  Hunter got to go riding.  And then my rider came too!

She took me in the barn like always to brush brush brush and tell me how dirty I am.  I saw Dakota and Hunter were in the ring.  And Pumpkin was in her stall but she was laughing and she said she was going riding too!  And she did!

So I said to my rider, Rider.  There are a lot of horses riding around in that ring.  We usually go by ourselves.  And she said Yes, that is OK though.

So I said A horse could really show some other horses what is what, with that many horses in the ring.  A horse could really show those horses how it is supposed to be done.  All those other horses would look at a horse and be very impressed by that horse.

Then my rider stopped brushing me and said Huey.  A horse cannot be showing a rider how things are done.  A horse can be doing exactly what its rider tells it to with a bunch of other horses like that.

And I said Maybe.

And she said I know I can count on you to be a Good Horse and not a Showing Off Horse.

And I said Maybe.

Well, I could tell when my rider got on and took the reins that it was not being a good time for a horse to be showing other horses how to do things.  And I was being a Good Horse.  I was being a Good Walking Fast With My Tail Up Horse, but it was Good first.  And my rider said OK, that is right.  And we rode good with all those other horses.

Then guess what.  Some of those other horses were cantering.  I have not gotten to be a cantering in the ring horse in a very long time.  First it was because I had that owie.  Now it is because my rider says I need to work out more before we are doing that.  But what is a horse supposed to do when hoof beats come running up behind and that horse is doing something a horse wants to do a lot?

But my rider said Do not even think about that Huey.

I said I can think.

She said You cannot act.  No cantering in the ring.

And I said OK.  Because I could tell that my rider was being one think ahead of me and she was not going to be letting me do that.

Then Hunter and his rider went over a jump.  I pointed my head at them and said Rider.  Hunter is getting to be a jumping horse.

And she said Yes, I see that.

So I said I could be a jumping horse.  And that is being a very small jump. I could be showing Hunter how to be a better jumping horse.  All we are having to do is go here and go to the fence.  I will be taking care of it all.

But my rider said No.  You cannot be a jumping horse today.  If you cannot be a cantering in the ring horse how are you going to be a jumping horse?  And then she made me go fast but then she said go slow but then it was fast.  I was getting to be one cranky horse there!  But then I realized something!  This was a game!!!  I like playing games!!!  This was the Go Fast Go Slow Game, and I am liking that game a lot.

But then it wasn’t, because I went to go fast by my rider made me stop!! And I said But it was the time in the game to Go Fast!

But she said You are right, Huey. It is a Game! But it is not that Game!

And I said Then what Game is it?  And she said It is the Good Listening Horse Game!  The horse that wins it is the one that is best at being a listening horse and doing exactly what the rider says to do, right away!  And when we go into a show, that is the Game were are going to be playing!!  So you show me how good you can listen and how fast you can do what I tell you to!!

Well.  I think I would rather be playing the Jumping Very High Game.  Or maybe the Going Very Fast And Showing Those Other Horses Who Is Best Game.  But I can be playing the Good Listening Horse Game.  

And I was being very good at it, and the other horses all went away and it was just me and my rider.  That made it easier to be a good listening horse.

Then, I was listening very hard.  And my rider was telling me with here legs Go fast now!! But then!!!

Right next to the ring, there was a HORSE EATING MONSTER!!  AND IT RAN RIGHT OUT INTO THE RING IN FRONT OF MY FEET!!! And then I jumped right up in the air, and when I came down, something went bump on my back!  THE MONSTER HAD LANDED RIGHT ON MY BACK!!!!! IT WAS GOING TO EAT ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So I did what any smart horse does when a Horse Eating Monster is on their back trying to eat them. I put my head DOWN!  And I KICKED out with my back feet, and I did it some more!!!  BUT THE HORSE EATING MONSTER WAS NOT GETTING OFF MY BACK!!!!  AND IT WAS TRYING TO MAKE ME NOT BE ABLE TO PUT MY HEAD DOWN ALL THE WAY!!!!  This is being VERY important, because a horse cannot be kicking hard unless it is getting its head way down!!!!  And I am FIGHTING with that Horse Eating Monster for my head and trying very hard to kick hard and get it AWAY from me!!!

But then I am also hearing something!!  I am hearing HUEY. HUEY. HUEY!  Something is saying my name over and over again and it is not sounding happy.  And I am remembering that Horse Eating Monsters do not talk, so part of me is wondering what that is that is saying my name.

And then I am remembering something else.  I am remembering that a minute ago, I had a rider.

And then I am wondering where that rider is now because I am wanting her to get that Horse Eating Monster to go away.

And that voice is still saying HUEY. HUEY. HUEY.

And then I am thinking that voice is sounding a lot like my rider.

And then I am also thinking about the Horse Eating Monster that raced in front of me, and I am thinking it looked a lot like Sparky The Dog.

And I am not trying to kick any more and I am not trying to put my head down, because it is my rider that is on my back and not a Horse Eating Monster, and I am standing there for one second.  And she is saying Huey.  That was Sparky!!  Not a Monster!

And then I am being One Embarrassed Horse but she is saying to walk forward with her seat, and so I am doing that.  And she is saying It is a good thing those horses are not still here, because you could really have shown them how to spook and buck!!  But I am not wanting to show those horses how to spook. That is not being part of my plan.

And for the rest of it, I am being a better Listening Horse, and I am NOT being a scared of anything horse.

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I am being a Smart Horse, not a Spook Horse. Mostly.