Was not my plan yesterday when I drove south. My plan was to see what kind of mental condition she was in, as my partner, Walt, was telling me he had a hard time getting near her and only at all on the right side. He was thinking even getting a halter on her was going to be a trick. Didn’t turn out to be, at all but then there was more . . .
The horses were out to pasture upon my arrival. Shiny chestnut and grulla coats gleamed against the bright green backdrop, framed by the Spring bright trees along the fenceline. Pretty sight. Almost as pretty as when they came in on the gallop when I called for them, led by Jewel, the old retiree who knows what’s up and that people are good.
I close off the pasture gate keeping them in the dry lot at the barn. As always, it is spotless, Walt is amazing about that. I have never seen such clean horse pens in my life! Riata looks at me, more friendly than not, and I think hmm. Rather than try to catch her in the lot, I halter up her buddy, Junie, and we walk into the round pen. I head straight to the far side, Riata pausing for a moment at the gate and here she comes. Good deal. Junie is out, Ri is in.
I next do something I have not done in years. I go get a bucket with a little feed in it. Riata has to come to me for her bites and she does so easily. Hmm, again, not looking so bad. Her stitches look fine, the cut on her face is healing nicely. I am not going into detail how that happened, I was not there, didn’t see it, just the aftermath. Wish it would not have happened, but it’s really not affecting her much as far as I can tell. The halter will sit well up above the wound and I have no problem touching her neck, rubbing her a little and she halters up without a problem.
Riata is quiet, very relaxed and easy in her skin. She looks like the horse I used to ride. I regard her some, thinking hard. What to do next? I want to keep this frame of mind for her, so bad, but I have a hard time believing the issues have suddenly, magickally, disappeared. Nope, they haven’t, but I find that out later.
We do stuff in and out of the round pen. She is alert, moves out briskly but not nervously. Her feet land where I think they ought to, and she does everything I ask. I think, okay, I am going to saddle, can see no reason why not.
That goes just fine, I saddle in the round pen, and she is unconcerned. Until I tighten the cinch. Head is up, muscles tense, eyes go flat and dark. I get the back cinch but leave the breast collar off as when she bucks, she pulls the saddle up, and I want it in the middle.
And she does buck. I have the halter rope and I keep her feet moving. When she gets to bucking, I go the hindquarter, sending it around until she quits and can come forward. All around the round pen, steps, ugh, leap, jump, hairpin back bowed. Going past me, she looks like a school of porpoises cutting through the water, up down, up down. Get, Riata, Get! I am right there with her, and she comes through and settles.
Makes the change. She is quiet, her eye is right and when I touch her, there is no electric shock flinch through her body, no leaving the country in double bounds.
So, I pull the wood, congratulating both of us on a good night’s work. Except, no. I don’t. I think, just one more thing. Plenty of daylight, and my hubby is out of town for the weekend so I can stay out late and hang with my horse as looonnng as I want. I ended up staying much longer.
Flipping the end of the lead rope up over a saddle is standard op procedure on starting a colt for me. If they can’t handle the rope coming up and across, seeing it come down out of the other eye, and feeling it touch the body over there, I doubt my leg is going to be much better for them when I go to mount up. She is fine for awhile so I increase the noise and movement some. This worries her, but I cannot have a “hi bob” horse. A horse that you keep your arms tightly to your body because if you reach up and wave at Bob, they are going to buck your ass off. So far, that is exactly what I have.
Something in that process spooks her and she is off again, this time not just bucking, but leaping in the air, full blown panic and fighting to get away. I can’t get to the hind and get away she does.
Then, it is hours of me trying everything I know to get this horse to let me catch, hell, put a HAND on her again. I run her. I turn her. I walk her down, speaking gently, not speaking at all. I drop my shoulder when I catch her eye and turn away, inviting her to come in with me. I even go back to the bucket of grain. She is having none of any of it. I can get close enough to touch her, occasionally, but when I do, she leaps in the air and blows out, bucking. To her credit, she does not kick my head off or my guts out when she does this, and she could have, multiple times. There was no safe place to be, except maybe somewhere else, and that crossed my mind. My place, she would have spent the night out there, and I would have checked her emotional temp in the morning. Not my place, and brand new saddle up there I’d just as soon not find hanging from her belly in pieces, that was not going to be an option.
She is steaming, fog rolling off of her, backlit by the barn lights, only a silhouette for me now. I want her willing cooperation. I want her to say, Okay, Terri, I am coming with you and being with you is better than being out here, running my lungs out. I can see that when she is running from me, her adrenalin is up and it’s impossible for her to stay. Turn, face up, nostrils blowing like bellows, sweat slick shiny and running down her legs, eyes white ringed and terrified. I don’t’ like it.
When she leaves, I don’t chase her this time. I don’t help her go. It’s not helping either of us, I don’t think, though I am fat and burning some calories in this endeavor, for sure. I get in front of her motion and she is chasing me now. The shoulder drop works this time and she comes in closer. I stay in front of her. Ri, you want me to leave you alone and not chase you, then you better get in line and chase me.
She follows closely, but I can’t touch her, still. We do this for a long time. She needs cooling out anyway, and I need to think. It’s cold, it’s dark, and I have to work in the morning. I really cannot stay out there til the sun comes up so we need a resolution.
Claustrophobic, which is where the cinchiness comes from, or causes, I dunno,chicken n egg at this point. I get that when I am close enough to touch her, she feels trapped and has to blow. I go get my stick, maybe a little distance will do us good. Takes awhle before I can touch her with that, and I pick up the loop of the halter rope that is ran back to the saddle horn. Good thing I didn’t pull the halter as I usually do, or we’d probably still be there.
Takes a few tries for that too, and finally I get the rope off the saddle horn and it’s in my hand. She is just as tense, just as goosey, and I turn and walk away from her, letting her fall in behind as we have been doing. I turn, putting tension on the rope and she knows I have her. She’s not happy, but doesn’t blow.
It takes again, way more time than I would have thought, to be able to touch her without flinches and puffs of alarmed air. I can finally unsaddle and now her head is down, again. She will touch me and there is life in her eyes.
I don’t know if cinching her actually causes her pain or if she just thinks it does. Whatever the case, it’s bad news bears, and she has got to get over it. We will see what today brings.