I got Roxie out to work her, on one of those evenings when I’d had a very long day at work. The light was waning, so I was just going to do a ‘down and dirty’ lunge session with her – fulfill my duty for the evening, as it were. As I got her clipped into the cross ties, and began to reach for the cavesson, there was something in her expression that stopped me. It was a soft expectant look, and somehow I knew what it meant. So, I reached toward the other wall, grabbed the curry and brush, and got to work. Soon her head was tilted and her lib was wiggling ecstatically.
I will be the first to admit that I do not have the ideal situation for my horses. It is a small property with a rickety old-style perimeter fence. I have heard from many, online, who say that people like me should not keep horses. In their view, if you cannot offer them at least dozens of acres of rolling pasture, with year round grass, then perhaps you just should not keep horses. I find that a sad view, when so many rescues are continually filled with horses who needed homes, and trucks still take others across the border to slaughter. There are many ways to keep horses healthy and happy when you have less than ideal facilities. One of them is as simple as repurposing your prunings!
When you weigh over 1300 pounds, view the world from somewhere north of seven feet, and have feet large enough to serve dinner on, you command a lot of respect. Add to that a genius for picking up on cause and effect, and you can pretty much have your way – especially when your feeble caretakers are less than one sixth your mass! Such is life for my Noble, the giant in the family – a giant by most standards. When dealing with such an individual, who is well aware of his advantage, it is less about telling and more about bargaining.
As the light wanes, I plod back to the house after the evening chores. I watch Jake trotting ahead of me, his fluffy ‘pants’ swaying with each stride, his tail bobbing over his back like a plume. It has been a rough few weeks at work, the office politics reaching a fevered pitch – yet I find myself smiling reflexively. I begin to think of a saying I’ve heard, in various forms, since I first had Brita – you always end up with the dog you need.
My mother was down with food poisoning. Though nearly an octogenarian, she was not content to handle it curled up in a blanket on the couch, as most people even decades younger than her would. No, instead she was dragging herself out to feed snacks to horses, and texting me complaints about not being “made of iron.” When I got home, she was even out doing the early chores! Yep, that’s my mom … Still, she is not made of iron, and the horses were largely ignored, beyond satisfying their hunger. None received exercise, and those requiring turnout had to wait. So it was when I returned home from work. Limited on time and energy, my dilemma was how to best attend to the individual needs of five horses.
One reason I dropped out of teaching and training was the epidemic of anyone who won a few ribbons hanging out their shingle as a trainer. In some cases, people who rode horses trained by other people were getting their scores and then becoming professional trainers. I saw people and horses getting hurt under such trainers, but new students were dazzled by the ribbons and medals, so they stayed in business.
“Should we not ask the question, ‘is competition really the only measure of an equestrian?’ No. It never was, it isn’t, and it never will be! For ages, for centuries, real horsemanship existed, thrived, and survived without any competition at all.”
Charles De Kunffy, The Ethics and Passions of Dressage