Friday, September 20, 2013

On the Topic of Wrangling Wild Northern Beasts

When I was a large/massive/weird child, I used to read books about horses, play with toy horses, draw pictures of horses, and memorize horse anatomy and breed types. For three years I religiously and selfishly prayed every night that God would use my polished manipulation skills to convince my parents to get horses. My parents were impressed with my knowledge and enthusiasm and my prayers were answered. So, we resurrected our falling down barn and built a barbed wire fence on our acreage. We ended up getting two inseparable Arabian sisters who had rebellious teenage attitudes.

Horse ownership isn’t all glamour and glitz. Frankly, it’s peasant farm labor. I shoveled monumental amounts of horse sh--, carried buckets of water up the hill to our barn, (since our barn had no running water), and loaded heavy hay bales from the truck into the loft. Then there is cleaning their hooves, tacking them up, bathing them, feeding them, getting them shod, and dealing with their neurotic tendencies and impossible psychology. Horses are exhausting.  

I haven’t done much horse riding since I was a kid. However, I’ve resurrected that hobby and I’ve found myself a little petulant horse to ride. She’s a feisty Icelandic/Paso Fino horse. She has a bushy black main, a little brown face with a bump on her nose, small dainty legs, and a ballooning belly.

And she’s a little pill! She tries to eat when we’re riding in the meadow – even though she’s just eaten and is, in fact, full. When I make her trot, she tosses her head in defiance, trots for a few steps, and then stops. I have to keep my legs glued to her sides to keep her trotting (and even that doesn’t work). It’s exhausting and harder than doing a wall sit. She bucks when I make her cantor. And then runs towards the barn, hoping to be done with the torture. It’s like dealing with an obstinate two year old. Now I know how you parents out there must feel.

I tried to manage her naughty behavior by saying things like “No!” or “Don’t do that!” Then I tried rewarding her positive behavior. I said affectionate and comforting things when she did as I said, like “good girl!” and “you’re doing such a good job.” It was somewhat successful. But then she just went back to her usual wayward ways. So, in a moment of frustration, when she refused to listen to me, I slapped her butt. She jumped a bit and then did every thing I told her to do from there on out. She figured out that when I mean business, I mean business.

We made a good team. I felt like a wild county girl with the power to domesticate a large beast (by beast, I mean small pony). I patted her and told her she was distinguished and esteemed. She beamed in delight as she tottered about. 

After the frustration and joy, I eventually dismounted my beast and de-tacked her. Then I sat down in the shade, put on her halter and she lazily grazed by me. Eventually, I put her back into her pen and stroked her. She stood next to me rubbing her head digging into my belly. I put my arm over her head and tousled her chin. And she nuzzled her little head into my armpit and gave me horse hugs. 

It was nice to know that after all we’d been through. The roller coaster of emotions - we were still friends.