Saturday, April 23, 2011

About Horses for a Change

I don't often blog about horses even though they're such a big part of our lives. I guess that's because this blog has been more of a way to chronicle the adventures of my kids and family. But once in a while, I really should blog about my horse kids as well.

About a year ago, we got a new horse. Her name is Lady. For the record, that name is one of my all time LEAST favorite horse names - it's right up there with Princess and Midnight. Bleh! Totally cliche and unoriginal. But I didn't change it because I'd known Lady before we got her and had been calling her that for a long time so she was already Lady to me.

She'd belonged to a gal who lives in Kanab and was a farrier client of my good friend/boss, Jen. Every time Jen went over to trim Lady and her buddy Splashy's feet, the owner would tell Jen horror stories about Lady and all the times she'd been dumped and scared and how many problems she'd had with the mares, especially Lady because that was who she'd ridden the most. Jen, who could tell that Lady wasn't much of renegade, kept telling this owner that she needed to get me to come out and help her and her horse. She finally called me and I went out to meet them.

When I showed up, the mares were tied to the hitching rail looking very innocent - not at all like evil, calculating monsters. The owner immediately pointed at Lady and said, "That horse is stupid!"

Hmmmm. I've never met a horse yet that was stupid, but I thought to myself, "This outta be good." and I said, "What makes you say that?"

And the owner said, "Every time I want to catch her I have to chase her for an hour - then she'll finally stop and let me approach, but I have to crawl the last 15 feet."

And I said, "Huh! I've never met a horse who was smart enough to teach a human to crawl before."

Well, needless to say, that shocked the owner a bit (and I have to admit I was pretty proud of myself coming up with that one right on the spot like that). People so badly want to blame the horse. Ray Hunt, one of the fathers of the modern natural horsemanship movement and one of my mentor's mentors said, "I'll be the horse's lawyer 90% of the time."

So I proceeded to try to help Lady with her people problem, but the biggest problem was that her people didn't really want to change. It didn't take me long to realize that Lady was actually a very good girl who had put up with A LOT from this person for a very long time. It was a testament to her good nature that she hadn't just offed this lady and had done with it. Anyway, after the gal realized that I didn't have a magic pill to "fix" her horse - translate: make her horse instantly capable of putting up with all kinds or rude and ignorant behavior while at the same time forgetting she was a horse altogether, she decided she could no longer "afford" the horses and asked me if I could take them. (To be fair, this was a very nice lady who loved her horses and took very good care of their physical needs, but was completely clueless about horse psychology and didn't want to put a lot of effort into learning why her horses didn't want a thing to do with her.)

We really couldn't afford another horse, but I worked out a lease arrangement with my good friend and photography mentor, Molly. She grew up riding and had wanted a horse for years, but because of her hectic travel schedule, needed someone else to have primary care of the horse. So we took Lady, Molly pays her bills and everybody is happy. I also arranged for my good friend Linda, who is also a Parelli student, to take the other mare. That mare, Splashy, has turned out to be Linda's dream horse.

Here's Molly riding Lady after a few days of us getting her home.

Within a week of living here, Lady was coming up and meeting us at the gate like all the rest of our horses. The first time I put her in a pasture, she whinnied and trotted to me when I came back to check on them. She beat all the other horses to the gate to greet me. Gee, it turns out that there wasn't a thing wrong with Lady after all. Molly rides her bareback in a halter all over heck and gone. She's learned the Parelli 7 games and is teaching them to Molly.

In related news:

Marty's brother Ed has a horse. He's had her for years, and honestly thinks she is the best horse in the world, but he's a truck driver and has a hard time caring for her during the week. He's been keeping her with a gal from his riding club, but he hasn't been happy with how she's been looking lately and he decided to bring her to us. Again, we didn't need another horse, but Ed is going to pay her way. So the mare showed up at our house about a month ago - 300 pounds underweight and with long, distorted feet and nasty saddle marks up by her withers. Ed told us to fix her up and ride her, and he made sure to leave us her gag bit/german martingale contraption for us to ride her in. (Yeah. Uh huh.)

Well first of all, we needed to fatten her up, take care of her feet and let her back heal a little. We've worked on her feet and fed her A LOT, and played with her a little, but we've mostly just left her alone for the last month. Today we decided we'd (and by we, I mean Marty) would try to ride her for the first time.

In Parelli, we have a saying that I love, "Does that horse look rideable?" In other words, we don't ever climb on a horse who is hyped up on adrenaline, worried and tense, or afraid of us. We want our horses in a rideable state of mind:  calm, relaxed, and feeling safe with us as their partner. So we played with Ed's mare for a while this morning and she really settled down and got looking rideable. Marty usually rides in a halter, but this mare's usually been ridden in a very nasty mechanical contraption. He wanted to try, though, and she was giving us all the green lights, so he got on and rode her around the arena. She was trying really hard to do everything he asked her to do and she was light in the halter, so we decided to go on a little trail ride and then ride her and Lady over to the pasture. She did SO GREAT. We could tell that she's used to being ridden full speed ahead, but whenever she'd start to think about getting high headed and frantic, Marty would just bend her, wait for her to relax and then head off on a loose rein again.

What's that you say? It's possible to ride a "hot" horse without a bit?! Through town?! (I had to take along my little point and shoot camera to document the occasion - I was afraid Ed wouldn't believe us without proof.)

 I love this one  - we're waiting for a break in traffic to cross the highway and she's looking at the horses across the street. But she's able to keep her feet still on a loose rein. Cool!

(She's still a little thin, but is looking so much better.)

We took Ed's mare and Lady to a pasture a few blocks away and they thought they'd died and gone to a field full of chocolate.

And here's another cool thing - Ed's mare looks A LOT like Lady.


Is that an uncanny resemblance or what? That, my friends, is a picture of absolute bliss.


Veronica said...

soooo, does Ed's mare have a name, or is it just Ed's mare? ;)

Ann H said...

Haha. Yeah, sorry. By strange coincidence, her name is Ann, which is my name, so it's a little awkward calling her that. Ed also calls her Splash, because she likes to splash around in water troughs. Lady's former companion was Splashy (a paint mare) - weird coincidences all over the place.

Thanks for your comment.

Lady's foster mommy said...

When they're at pasture I CANNOT tell them apart from afar.
Thanks for this beautiful post

Mackenzie | Red Roan Chronicles said...

Great post! It is funny that they look so alike... is there any chance they're related, do you think?

I love to see horses going in halters, particularly when they've had a history of "always" needing some sort of huge bit to hold them back. It really is stunning when you think about it how often you see people riding horses that are so very clearly mentally unprepared for that.

These horses clearly lucked out with ending up in your pasture... I'm looking forward to more updates about them!

Parelli Central said...

Great story, lucky horses!!!!

Petra Christensen
Parelli 2Star Junior Instructor
Parelli Central

wetarez said...

great story!