Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Right Side of Trouble


The lovely blonde girl stares at me, dark blue eyes clouded with angry tears. She tries to speak and finally says to me, “Terri, I so want to learn what it is you have to teach me but the way you are saying it is making me so angry I can’t hear a thing!”

She waits for my response. I pause, searching for the right words, shake my head and shrug. “I think your emotional reaction to what I am saying is your problem, not mine. I am telling the truth about what I see and what I think just like you asked me to.”

The door slams and she is gone. Later we talk on the phone and she tries again. If my message is getting lost in the way I deliver, what good is it?

That was a turning point for me. A huge light bulb and not only in how I dealt with human beings but the horses as well. If I came at them with too much pressure and I got a big response, I always blamed the horse or the person for that matter. It never occurred to me that my message was being lost in translation.

Thank you, Crystal, wherever you are.

Enter the Parelli’s, Anderson and all that genre. Do as little as possible but as much as necessary to make a change. Reward the slightest try.  Be aware.

Peter Campbell: Work from where the horse is.

Peterphoto credit – Karen Johnson

And the person. As best you can. I finally get that I am responsible for my communication. No, I cannot and do not want horses or people to train me to be afraid to speak to them for fear they will take me wrong. Sometimes you have to jump out there, make a try and see what happens. There will be room for adjustments.

Horses are much more forgiving in my eyes than people are, but it works with human beings as well. A certain spotted Arabian has taken up where Crystal McCoy left off and taught me to be aware of how I present my message if I want anything like the reaction I am looking for to take place. I have other friends like that too, and family and a husband. 


The key is that for me, it is worth it to do whatever it takes to work things out with these people, this horse. It matters enough to set my ego, my defenses, angers and fears aside, try to figure out honestly what is I am trying to say and then have the courage to do so.

Royal has said in no uncertain terms in every way a horse can speak that he is terrified of being closed up. Things behind him trouble him a lot. Enough he’s kicked the back out of a couple two horse trailers, and boogers consistently when the scary thing goes to or from the rear view quarter of his big brown eyes.

I sold the two horse trailer. Staying on the right side of trouble here means coming about this battle from a different approach.  It by no means giving it up entirely.

My friend Donny said to get the back half as broke as the front and we might have something pretty good going on. 

We have worked with ropes on his rump, have worked on drawing up tarps behind him, and always always always, looking for the give in the hind.  Royal’s attitude has changed so much that when I rode him the other night for the first time since early December I had such a calm level horse I didn’t recognize him. I kept looking for my spook and almost created him out of thin air. I had to make the change instead of looking for it from him and ride the horse that was showing up, not the one that lives in my fears.

Calm Royal

Last Sunday, I loaded Royal into our new to us stock trailer. My plan was lead him in (yep, you guys who have studied trailer loading with me, I got in with the horse. For me it was working where he was at to try to get where we need to be), turn him loose and dip out the waiting side door while the ranch hand closed the gate behind us. There will be plenty of time to develop a send which by the way we did after returning home but this was the deal for the moment.

Royal kicks back sharply, hard, once, twice, three times. I am out!  He does not connect with anything and spins around suspiciously to see what has him trapped. Being able to turn calms him. He glances nervously about but soon settles.

We drove to a barn a few miles away to meet friends for what turned out to be a lovely January ride.

2014 Our best ride ever2014 best ride



That sentence has taken us three years to complete. The horse rode like a dream, both in the trailer and then later under saddle. We are not done, the next day he thinks the trailer is carnivorous but it’s light years from the last time I tried to haul him which resulted in a $600+ vet bill and more terrors for us both.

Instead of riding right away, we do our groundwork there. Eventually he stops scooting past it, and gets quiet. We ride and he is not exactly what he was the other day, but we get there. This is only our second time out by ourselves on the trail since my wreck before Labor Day and it takes awhile for my heart to settle, for me to become confident that I could keep my horse between my hands and legs. I supported him when I needed.  We spent a lot of the first mile making attempts at bends, not crookedy snake necks,  trying to get him on that elusive outside rein and we had more to think about with what WAS happening than what MIGHT happen. I took the dog, and it feels like home when Royal leveled out his neck and we three strode happily down the way.

2014 Royal & Axel


Royal’s claustrophobia shows up in a major way when we exit tight spots into open ones. He’s pretty sure horse eating trolls are going to get him before he can escape.

There was a flatbed parked in an unusual spot just past the mouth of the road to and from the barn, and just on the edge of sight coming off that road on our way back down. Also at the foot of the road before it spreads out into open country is a pad of ice that stretches nearly across the entire thing. There are narrow edges on either side that are okay for walking but a misstep on way or the other and we will be down and scrambling.

We backed up the hill behind us, high dirt walls on either side etched from almost 50 years of earth moving and smoothing the rain ruts.  The flat bed appeared, disappeared and reappeared from sight. When he calmed enough I didn’t think he would jump through his skin straight on to the ice, we skirted a path and successfully made our way past the somnolent beast. There was the smoldering manure pile just a few yards further that presented yet another adventure but when the wind send live embers our way, I took the hint and we will also pick that battle another day!

We will be doing a lot of this kind of thing, hopefully in better footing, as I seek to get the back half operating as smoothly as his front. Working with an eye on safety for us both, staying on the right side of trouble, avoiding troubles we don’t need when we can and getting fit mentally and physically to take on whatever lay in our ever brightening horizon.

We are riding in a day clinic with Kip Fladland on Sunday. I am going to cart him over to Chance Ridge on Saturday in the morning and then go play with rescue horses. It’s the beginning of a new year and a whole new set of adventures lay before us.

That vision I set in motion in the last blog? Getting solid around the edges . . .

2014 Royal & Lookout Mt


Kate said...

Glad to hear from you and it sounds like things are coming along very well. It's always all about us, isn't it? Marks to you for bravery for stepping up and dealing with the trailer issue.

Good Hands said...

Thanks Kate, it IS always about us :-) The more I remember that, the better I coexist on this planet, LOL!

As for the trailer . . . we either learn how to load and ride, or we never leave the ranch! I love that place but yeah . . .