KICKED FROM COMPLACENCY
We've all had it drilled into us: "Don't stand behind that horse, don't walk too close to that horse, don't pass so near to that horse, you'll get kicked! We find ourselves repeating the same doctrine to novices and people whose horse sense we are unsure of.
|Lola's racing days. Were there things from|
her past that she couldn't tell me about?
But sometimes, complacency can set it. At least I've found that to be true, especially with a horse that we've known for a long time, and formed a close bond with. It might start out as a small transgression, such as crawling halfway under a horse to paint a hoof rather than getting up and walking around to the other side. If anyone else is in attendance, we might throw out a disclaimer, "You should never do what you see me doing right now," as our actions belie our words.
So it was with Lola, the Thoroughbred mare we had acquired two weeks off of the
racetrack where an injury had ended her promising career. During her lengthy rehabilitation and recovery period, we formed a bond and mutual trust that was unbreakable. That trust was hard-won and very real, but I was probably just a little more conscious of my movements around Lola than with our other horses. Any quick hand or arm movement around her or over-zealous use of a manure fork in her stall had the potential of causing her lightening-quick reflexes to send her retreating smartly backwards into the stall wall. There were things in her past, it seemed, that she was unable to tell me about.
|Lola, the sweetheart of the herd,|
still feels her oats.
We knew a lot of things about each other, and made allowances for them; that's what enabled our relationship to work. I never thought of her as difficult, but she was very sensitive. Lola may not have been 100% trusting of anyone, but from what I observed in nine years caring for, training and riding her, there was no other human that she trusted more. She would give the boss mare, Bella, a very wide berth and back down in any situation that had even the potential of conflict, her strides being very tentative. With me by her side though, she would confidently prance right past her, ears forward, with a purposeful stride. Sometimes I would chuckle to myself that maybe she had a little too much faith in me; Bella could easily take us both out if she ever had the mind to.
|Lola's stall, the scene of the crime.|
Mine, not hers.
After I had made my way up to the house to be checked over by my wife Mary, a nurse
by profession, I went to bed but although I was very tired, sleep would not come. What kept me awake was not the fear of playing out "what if" scenarios, but rather an intense feeling of gratitude. The last few months, I have been exposing my two year old grandson, Daniel, to the wonders of horses, to the delight of all humans and equines concerned. It occurred to me that I had at some point started thinking of our horses as big teddy bears, and perhaps unconsciously transmitting that attitude with the best of intentions but the carelessness of familiarity. I was very grateful that it was me that paid the price for that lapse in judgment, and not Daniel. It was a very small price to pay for an important and timely refresher course. They are not teddy bears. They are horses.
|Someday, young Daniel, I'll tell you all about|
your pal Lola, when she was known as
One Precious Gem.
The fact is that I had frightened Lola and she responded the way frightened horses do. Then she laid low for awhile, then allowed me to walk her back to her stall, and when she thought it was safe, came and expressed affection. I am grateful because Lola teaches me how to be: there was an overreaction to stimulus, a retreat to regroup, then a making of amends. I had to wonder, if this had been a human-human interaction, would it have been resolved so quickly and amicably?