Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sweetness and Love

Day 42 with Maggie the Wonder Horse. It's been a month and a half today. I gave up a few days ago (you may recall), then read up a little bit more about how to gain control of a dominant horse and decided, well hell, might as well try waving a little plastic bag on the end of a stick. Supposed to gain you some respect in horse body language.

So I went out there tonight and darn it if it isn't true that she did not like the waving of the plastic bag on the stick. She liked doing whatever she had to do to have me put that stick down. Then we worked a little slow and easy with the bit, to try and get her to keep her head lowered when the bit goes in. It's me, shoving it up there too fast that causes her to raise her head. So I have to relax, and act like I have nothing better to do than stand there with molasses dripping down my arm while I get her used to me approaching and taking away, approaching and taking away with the bit near her mouth. The long way is the short way, they say. Tiny steps. Once you get her happily taking the bit, it will be easy to do forever.

She has gotten (at least today) really good about letting me have all four of her feet to clean out. This is a major accomplishment in 6 weeks.

She has also learned Whoa, and is learning to turn right and left. This is helpful when there is a big firetruck coming down the road and you want to get out of the way in the future. So I'll make sure we have these cues pretty well established.

All in all a good training day. After our little work session I then scratched her entire body because she likes that. I think that is really why she lets me clean all her feet. Because I scratch her huge stomach, and this is bonding. Molasses and belly scratching, it could stop all wars in the world if we tried it. Works for her anyway, sweetness and love. Kinda love that. Pretty great journey if you look at success in small increments.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I'll Never Quit You

Isn't that from Brokeback Mountain?

I decided the other day that this horse was a big mistake and I should take my midlife crisis wrapped in fur and trade her in for I don't know, some Icees at Target or something.

But then two of my friends said, wait, aren't you expecting a little too much? Yes. If you slowed down a little bit, wouldn't you be happier with the small steps and results? Yes. Slow down? What's that? If I slow down I'll fall down. That's why I never sit and watch tv with the kids. I'd just be asleep in seconds.

So then my one friend bought the mare a bale of extra hay, the sweet alfalfa kind that I can't afford, and my other friend brought her a little fly mask to keep her eyes nice and protected, and there is this tiny group of people that are really interested in how she turns out. So the next morning I once again dipped my hand in the jar of molasses and rubbed it all over the bit and she loves Molasses Hands, she would put the bit in herself if she had hands. And she lets me pick up and clean all her feet each day, which she hadn't done a month ago.

The more I work with her, the more she knows what to expect, the more the work becomes routine and boring, the more settled and predictable horse she becomes. She just needs to be allowed to learn the routine. She will be first in line to see the outcome.

So we continue to work toward boring. Something I've achieved with my all my personal goals. And what am I really losing, spending all this time in increments with this cow of a horse? Molasses makes your hands smell pretty good.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Dissolve Yourself

There was a point, outside with our big horse today, where I did something right. Or I don't even know if it was right, but this huge, 1400 pound lump of motherly love was balanced between my outstretched arms, going in the circle I was trying to teach her (to lunge) around me.

I wasn't forcing her forward, I was encouraging her and then letting her go forward. And when I stepped in closer to her tremendous girth instead of being afraid, at a safe distance, when I moved in that's when, magically, she just started moving around me, like with me closer to her, she felt supported instead of attacked. Picture me standing in the middle of our back dirt paddock, barefoot, at 10 at night, and I decide to step closer to the giant mare, and hold my arms straight out from my sides, crucifix style, and jiggle the leadrope in my left hand to encourage her forward, and wiggle my right hand at her rear to let her know that this is where I end, that she's in a safe little pocket of me, and then magically, she trusts me. I'm so close to her that it's like she's a half ton ballerina and I'm supporting her weight, even though she's not touching me, she is leaning on me, the air is heavy and we are doing a little dance, where everything is moving the right way. We're in sync, and we are connected. And it's easy.

It's like the one time I was a good actor. For one moment in a play we did back in Maryland at our little coffeehouse theater, it was me and Paul, my friend, doing a scene from "Burn This," (no doubt badly) and in the play he storms out of the room and my character is supposed to crumple to the floor and want him back, and when Paul stormed out of the room I actually forgot that I was in a play and I felt my body say "Is he coming back?" And I cried for real, I crumpled down to the floor because I felt the loss, and that's the one time acting was real, when I forgot, and it was like crossing over to some other place, where I wasn't OUT HERE and everyone else was OVER THERE. I was THERE. I wasn't even I. The moment was everything, and I was dissolved into it.

That's what it was like tonight, out in the misty dirt, with the beautiful horse, balancing on my outstretched arms like she was floating. Lasted maybe four whole seconds. Because perfect only lasts that long. Then I scratched her way under her tummy and she stretched her neck out with her lip quivering because it's really hard to reach your itcy bellybutton when you're a horse. And I thought maybe it is worth it to have our little barn and family, even though she had to give up 30 gorgeous rolling green acres in Colorado. All the food she wanted, but none of this glorious dancing with barefoot humans.

Connection is something.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Everybody Call 911

I got on! Exactly one month after working every day with her. On 9/11, and the tatoo on her butt says 911. It was destiny.

And look how highly dangerous she looks.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Tale of the Horsey Continued

I have no idea where we're going with this horse, if we're even keeping this horse. But for now, I guess we're just trying to see if I'm not too chicken to keep moving forward.

We took Meg to the park yesterday, first time, me and Nathan on his bike and Katie our friend, and Hank and Owen, doggies.

She is the slowest horse ever. But when we got to the arena and let her free in that thick sand, she just ran around with her head straight up in the air. She was checking out the green grass, the kids playing in the park (she'd never seen a park, never seen a baseball field, never seen anything.) Of course I was scared seeing she could go fast and was huge. It just looked like death on horseback to me. I think I'm fixated.

But on the walk home she did finally relax and get back in her laid back mellow surfer state. So I have to realize that with each new step and experience, it is all new and all scary, for her and for me. But that new things are supposed to be nerve-wracking and scary, that's how it starts. That's hopefully the worst of it. Then it morphs into routine, normal, everyday. I just love boring. But I'm having to take all the scary steps to get to boring.

So maybe next time she'll be a little bit less excited, and then I'm building into things being reliable. It's all just time, and experience.

Monday, September 05, 2011


Day 22 with our new horsie - I hate to sound optimistic, but I think she's kind of great. I mean, she's really slow - I'll probably never make it more than 10 minutes from the house before I have to turn around for the hour ride back...this is if I ever actually ride her... But she seems level headed. Just inexperienced. So we're going slowly. It's only been 3 weeks now.

Today I got the saddle on her, got her used to the feel of that, and leaned on her back while standing on a chair. I also got her to pick up all four feet without kicking me. And she is starting to like the bit - it's going farther in her mouth each time we try. So no rush, this seems to work. Tiny bit at a time, and we might end up with a sweet horse. I think she eats about a bale and a half a week - which is about $30 at our high hay prices of the moment. But if I get a boarder in here, or get my horse job going again, she'd be covered.

Well, it's a good experiment. Everything seems like the first time, like I don't know anything about horses. All I know is to be scared. But we're building something. I'm building confidence.