I had an epiphany the other day. No, it wasn’t about my riding skills or some huge life lesson. Nothing that profound or life changing. What I realized is that when the first words out of Ms. C’s mouth are “Your horse” or “Your horses,” the words that follow are usually not, “is an angel” or “are a pleasure to have around the barn.” No, the words that follow usually are more along the lines of, “ran me over” or “tried to kill me.” This must be what it feels like when a parent has a conference with their child’s teacher.
And here lately, my boys seem to be very busy since I hear that phrase usually a few times a week. Since it is so common, I thought I’d share some of the stories with you…
“Your horse….is icky.” It is no secret that Cigar is a wee bit of a pig boy; he has been this way from the first day I owned him. He gleefully wallows in any puddle or mud slick and will try to bite me or run away when I attempt to remove the filth. Unfortunately for me, he has now lead Ike down the path of muddy ickiness. And I have discovered that if your unclipped horse sweats profusely on the abnormally warm day in March, the sweat combines with the winter’s worth of crud to create a sticky paste that doesn’t want to rinse off. You can create little spikes of hair to make your horse look like a punk rock band member. Since it won’t rinse away, the next time to see your horse, the hair is matted together and nearly impossible to brush. At this point all you can do is hope that it rains and that your horse stands out in the downpour for a few hours.
“Your horse….looks like a plow horse.” I suppose that I must raise my hand and claim responsibility here although I’d like to think that Ike must bear some of the burden for this as well. We hear this when we are trudging around the ring on the forehand rather than engaging Ike’s rear end for more power. Sure, just half halt and all will be right in the world. Wrong. If I was a stronger person, a subtle half halt might do it, but on plow horse days, I sometimes have to resort to some louder tugging and a few jabs with my spurs to get the young man’s attention. (Yes, I heard you gasp in horror.) Once I fuss, Ike usually will comply and we can then move along more like the Second Level pair we aspire to be. And once Ike is engaged, it is amazing how much easier walk to canter transitions are and how much more of a push I can get for a medium trot.
“Your horses….tore down the hot wire.” My boys are bound and determined to live together. They check the status of the hot wire on a daily basis. I can hear them asking each other, “Did someone forget to turn it on today?” Deconstruction commences as soon as they realize the power is off. I have reiterated to them that I do not agree with this course of action since I cannot afford to build a new wing onto Ms. C’s home for the vet to use. My admonitions seem to have little effect on their daily activities.
“Your horse….looked like a rodeo bronco.” Thankfully, Ike rarely shows off his rodeo skills while under saddle. If you have followed us for a few years, you know that it did not end well for me the one and only time he bucked while I was astride…I showed off my gymnastic skills with a single front flip, but unfortunately I did not stick the landing. Routinely while stretching his legs in his paddock, Ike can be seen happily kicking up his hind legs. I cringe in horror as I play out the worst scenarios in my mind that involve strained muscles, torn ligaments and fractured bones. Any attempts to explain to him why this is not appropriate behavior fall on deaf ears.
“Your horse…is very tall.” I usually hear this either after Ike has spent the day rearing while playing with his brother or after Ms. C has ridden him. I suppose that I am now so accustomed to his burgeoning girth that I no longer give it much thought, except when it is time to replace tack since most standard items won’t fit. Not everyone carries 18 inch browbands or blankets for big and tall boys; this reminds me of when my mother would shop for my brother in the “husky” boy’s section at Sears…clothing with a little something extra.
“Your horse….is crooked.” Yet another time that I must share some, if not all, of the blame. It is most noticeable with our right lead canter. I know all about positioning my horse in a slight shoulder fore position, but just because I know about it doesn’t mean that I can tell if I have achieved the correct position. Usually we fail and Ike carries his hind end to the inside as we canter down the long side of the arena. Any judge who is paying attention will comment, “haunches in down long side,” but I am usually so focused on maintaining the correct rein length and praying that I can slow down the freight train at the appropriate point that I cannot spare a thought on where Ike’s haunches are. We are diligently working on it in our lessons. In my defense it is hard to know what is going on behind me when there is so much of it back there.
My horses might be a handful, but they are mine. They make me laugh and smile and bring joy to my life. I hope your horses do the same for you.