Don’t Care What the Horse Thinks

Each one has its unique gift given so sweetly and freely to me – And each has its need for improvement so that we can agree.

Relationship counts

Relationship counts

When I first took possession of Guilty, I sent her to a trainer for 6 weeks to “tune her up” as she hadn’t been ridden in six years and I was just getting back into horses after a 25 year break. I was worried that it might be a little more than I could handle. Guilty was always a very sweet and kind horse but very strong willed and not convinced yet that she didn’t need to call the shots. One of the reasons I liked her from the very start was the way she wanted to interact. She always came over immediately when she saw me and stayed and watched me until my car was all the way out of the driveway when I left. I loved that about her. After she had been with the trainer for a few weeks, I went to visit her and check on her progress. He had her in a covered area where he works the horses. When I came up to the fence she was standing on the far side of the arena. She turned and looked at me but stayed where she was. This kind of hurt my feelings and I feared that the bond had been broken. I stood there quietly for a few minutes and finally she started over. I was so relieved. I turned to the trainer and said so. I told him that I was glad to see she recognized me and wanted to come over to say hello. I told him that I didn’t want to lose that. He seemed a little perturbed and I could tell he thought I was just being a dumb girl. He told me that he doesn’t care about that stuff. In fact, it is a show of respect that a horse stays away until you go get it and give it permission to be in your space.  I thought about that conversation many times over the years and could never quite agree with him on that subject. Makes me wonder what else I might not have agreed on when I wasn’t there. Another incident that comes to mind where I heard a well known and respected trainer say out loud to a young horse while running it frantically around a round pen was “I don’t care if you are worried about where your friends are. I don’t care if you are upset. I don’t care if you want to quit now. I don’t care… You gotta show ’em who’s boss.”Those words and that attitude never set right with me but I was the one who was being soft and silly. Luckily, since then I have discovered that the truly great horsemen are not the ones who can make a horse do things. It is the ones that form a partnership with their horses that bring out the best in them. The true magic of horses is seeing and experiencing how a horse truly acts toward you – not how it is taught it needs to be when we decide to drag it into our itinerary. If treated kindly and fairly, the problems have a way of dissolving. Horses are innately of the temperment that they want to get along if they understand what we are asking and it is reasonable and do-able.  I believe that we need to listen more to the horse – see things through his eyes and let him have a voice if there are concerns. Establish a relationship. Not only is it possible, but it is the most rewarding benefit you will ever get from having horses. If you

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Warm at Heart

I walked down the hill to the barn where my horses are found – on a clear winter’s morning with fresh snow on the ground…

Snowstorm 2014

Snowstorm 2014

One of my favorite winter memories is riding my horse in the snow when I was much, much younger and living in Michigan. Now I live in Georgia and the opportunities to ride in a winter wonderland are much rarer. Every once in a great while I get to relive that experience. Those rides never fail to transport me back to those magic times. This past week when the rest of the world stood still during a record breaking winter storm and 6″ snowfalls, my joy was whirling like those flurries as I not only watched- but lived it- from the back of my horse. The following is a poem I wrote about this very thing in my book “Knowing Horses By Heart” .

 A Ride in the Snow 
I walked down the hill to the barn where my horses are found
On a clear winter’s morning with fresh snow on the ground
I heard the soft nickers greeting me from the stalls
I saw the halters all hanging from the hooks on the walls
I made up a warm mash to chase off the chill
And stood listening to them eating as hungry horses will
I really had no intention of riding that day
Just doing my chores then going my way
I suddenly felt an old memory deep inside of me stir
Was it really so wonderful? I had to be sure
I walked over to the stall where my favorite mare stood
And right then and there decided I would
When she had finished her breakfast and her belly was full
I snapped on her lead rope and gently gave it a pull
I saddled her up and we headed on out
Feeling that it is times like this are what it’s about
Just me and my horse the world silent and white
Quietly trotting out to meet the day’s first light
She was tossing her head and wanting to go
Excited to be travelling on the year’s first snow
At first I was worried, afraid she would slip
But she told me in her way, she was up for the trip
So, I loosened the reins and away we did fly
I couldn’t have stopped her – I didn’t try
The snow was flying and the sky turning blue
When I realized this ride belonged to her too
I knew she was having even more fun than me
We both felt the thrill you feel being free
Her mane was blowing back as she kicked up heels
I knew she was remembering how a young filly feels
The reason I know what I’m saying is true
Is because I was feeling like young girl too
It had been a very long time, a good many years
Since I had turned it all loose, put away all my fears
I trusted her to carry me safely that day
To the place deep inside me where old memories lay
To a time I was young, carefree and bold
Before I turned 50, before she was sold
Back to a time when my very first horse and me
Ran alone in the snow with me laughing with glee
It all came back to me on that morning ride
Tears of a pure youthful joy I could no longer hide
I slowed my horse down and as we wandered along
The crunch of the snow played out like a song
There’s nothing else like it, no music so sweet
As the rhythm beat out by my mare’s four feet
Add to the mix my dog running happily astride
I felt the grin on my face stretching ever so wide
When it was over and I quietly walked at her side

I silently thanked her again for the wonderful ride

I gave her an apple for the new memory I’ll keep

I buried my face in her neck and breathed in deep

There is no better smell anywhere on this earth

There’s no way to explain just what it is worth

I turned her loose and away up the hill she did run

Glistening and golden in the mid-morning sun

It’s a magical thing, a treasure I know
To have such vivid memories of a ride in the snow