I had such a wonderful day at the Ranch today! I nearly always enjoy myself, but today I met two very special mares. So very different, but both delightful. It will be great finding good forever homes for these ladies!
The first one was very nervous at first, a hair’s breadth from quivering. Tuning in to her, what I felt was confusion and fear. She seemingly had no idea what was going to happen next, and she expected it to be unpleasant and likely dangerous. I don’t know her story, and my guess is that someone she trusted fell on hard times and this lovely girl suddenly found herself with no human connection.
She didn’t offer to do anything wrong while she was being saddled, and I talked to her to try to explain what was going on and why. If she’d just do what she was asked, I said, we’d get a video and that would help us find her a good person to love her. She may have had no idea what I was saying, but she must have understood voice tone, because she did calm down.
Out in the arena under saddle, she did a wonderful job. This girl has a Quarter Horse stop that you’d better be prepared for—she tucks her fanny and if you’re not ready, you’ll go right on over her head, or nearly. Very nice! Rusty, but nice.
Afterwards, she was so much calmer—it’s like she figured it out, and felt like she could do what we were asking. And then the magic: You could feel the beginning of hope in her energy, and her eyes were brighter. The trainer and I walked her back to her turnout area, with cookies and stops for grass along the way. No worries, Sweetheart, life is on the upswing now!
The second mare is an interesting sort. She’s self-assured, reserved, and exceedingly capable. She’s also big, athletic, and FAST. She was in a good mood today, and we shot some nice video of her moving through her gaits, stopping, standing, backing up, and generally being a good Quarter Horse.
An hour or so later, after she’d been put back in her stall, we realized that we hadn’t done the “interview,” where the trainer talks about the horse. So I went back down to get her out again.
I rarely get a chance to handle the horses myself—usually I just shoot video—so this was really exciting. I had the usual moment of nervousness, entering a stall with a horse I don’t know well (that has never gone away!), but it didn’t last long. She was great for haltering and led nicely down the barn aisle.
Things got interesting when we got to the arena. I walked over to the tie ring and went to loop her rope through it—and she gave me a pretty good shove with her head. Hmmm….
Here’s the ensuing conversation. It was quiet and calm on both sides, which was the really cool part.
Me: No, we don’t do that. That’s not polite. Let’s back up now.
Mare: Nope. I like shoving people and that’s what I do.
Me: No, you need to back up. Can you back up?
Me: Well, how about you move that foot back a step. Can you do that? (I lean toward her, no pressure on the rope. She doesn’t budge.) Come on now; move that white foot just a little bit. Can you do that? (I tap her chest gently with a fold of the lead rope.)
Mare. I guess I could do that.
Me: Thank you! Now, how about that other foot. Could you move that one back?
Mare: OK. I could do that.
Me: Great job! Thank you! Now, let’s try moving forward again.
And of course, as soon as I got ready to tie her, she went to head-butt me again, but this time I was ready and stepped aside. She looked at me, and I looked at her….
Me: No, we don’t do that. When that happens, we back up. Now let’s go. Can you back up for me?
Mare: No. I don’t want to. I like butting people. I told you that already.
Me: Yes, I heard you, and you’re going to back up now. Move that white foot again. Good girl! Now the brown foot. Good! Now take another step.
Mare: OK. Fine. Whatever.
Me: Good girl! Now let’s get you tied up here.
And this time she didn’t butt me. She thought about it, but didn’t do it.
We got our interview done, and I got ready to take her back. First, I suggested she stand beside me and back up with me. I leaned back, then stepped one foot back myself.
Me: Come on, back up with me.
Mare: Nope. I don’t know how to do that.
Me: OK, well, I’m going to stand here and you’re going to move that white foot back.
Mare: Nope. I’m going to go sideways.
Me: No, I don’t think so. There’s a wall there.
Mare: Oh. Well, then. Maybe I’ll just stand here.
Me: You could do that. Or you could move that white foot back. (I tap her chest gently.)
Mare: Oh. I remember that. I can do that.
Me: Good girl! Now the brown one?
Me: Wonderful! Here’s a cookie!
Mare: Oh! That’s tasty! Can I have another one?
Me: Sure. We’re going to walk a little bit first.
And off we went down the aisle back to her stall, with several more “stop and back with me” practices along the way, with a few more cookies.
By the time we got there, she was stopping and backing up with me several steps at a time, with no fuss. She seemed positively pleased with herself. Her head was down and she was relaxed and happy.
Got her into her stall, though, and she braced up again—old habits resurfacing. It seemed like we’d had enough of a lesson, so I just looked at her hip and took a step toward her—and she yielded her hindquarters very nicely indeed. Think I caught her by surprise, before she had time to decide not to do it. So I took the halter off, thanked her, and left her to her hay.
I’m posting this not so much because of the fact that I got the job done, and done really well with absolutely no drama. I’m mostly posting it because I was SO HAPPY AND EXCITED about the interaction! I may be 65 on the outside, but inside I’m still that horse-crazy ten-year-old whose biggest, brightest, most precious dream is to be able to talk with horses and to be around them.
It’s not often that we grown-ups get to be a kid again, and I want to enjoy every opportunity that comes my way. Woohoo!
Livin’ the dream, folks! I am so incredibly blessed!