Friday, July 27, 2007

Working Out The Kinks

90% of having a good horse is working out the kinks.

Whether you've raised a foal from birth and patiently worked with it to make friends, taught it that doing what you ask is a good thing, and developed a close and loving bond, or went to the sale and bought the best thing you can afford... there WILL be kinks to be worked out.

Kinks can be anything from an annoying habit of dragging feet, to dangerous behaviors such as rearing, wheeling, or kicking.

Kinks can also be personality quirks that your best option is to learn to live with them.

My dad had a horse when I was growing up, with the use-name of Goofy. This would be because he was a big goofy sucker and always up for a laugh. This horse had plenty of personality quirks, his most famous practiced only on my dad.

See, Dad and Goof had a game. Whenever cattle were to be moved, and dad rode Goof, the horse would stand patiently to be saddled, accept his reward of scratching the itchy spots and a pat on the shoulder, with possibly a nuzzle of affection to top it off...

Until dad mounted up. Then, the other riders, saddling up on the opposite side of the trailer, would hear a whoop, look up and see dad and the horse over the top of the trailer, and they'd be gone.

A half a mile run, and they were back, ready to work.

That horse would never even offer to buck or run away for anyone else... but he also never worked as well for anyone else.

Another horse I've ridden, Pud, has many, many quirks. Since he's not my horse I can't work them out the way I'd like to, so my only option is to deal when them when I have to ride him.

Puddin is a beautiful little palomino, and he knows it. He'll arch his neck and prance around, demand that everyone pay attention to him, and basically make a pain out of himself whenever people are around.

Unless, of course, you've got a saddle on him. You can walk all the way around him, pick up all four feet, stand beside him and jump up and down while singing "Black Betty" at the top of your lungs, and he'll never move, as long as you're petting him... as long as he's not tacked up.

Slap a saddle on that pony and its like doing a tango with an epileptic elephant to even approach the stirrup.

One day I was obliged to borrow Pud, because we had to move a cow that had lost a calf, and hadn't "cleaned out" or passed the afterbirth, and we needed to get her to where we could get her in a trailer and take her to the vet. So, we load up good ol' Pud and take him over to the pasture where the cow is, I tack up and the Farmmom takes the pickup to help haze the cow out of the field and down the road.

Since we parked the trailer outside the pasture, I had to get a gate, so I led the pony over to the gate, opened it up, and went to double check my cinch, since this horse had the habit of blowing up like a beach ball whenever he could get away with it.

Pud stepped back, rotating his hindquarters away from me. Its important to note here that this rotation placed his near fore foot directly on top of my right foot. Not pleasant.

Anyone who has ever worked with horses has probably been stepped on accidentally once or twice, and you know how difficult it can be to shove a large animal off your foot. I'm convinced that this was on purpose, though, since, standing facing his near side checking my cinch, my right foot was further away from his near fore foot than my left.

So I get the horse cussed and pushed off my foot, wiggle all my toes, shake the foot, and go to mount up.

And he does it again. Same foot. Only this time, he puts weight on it... and then *pivots* his hindquarters away from me.

Once again, I shove and cuss at his shoulder until he shifts his weight enough for me to yank my abused foot out from underneath his. Once again, I wiggle my toes... except this time, there's a sharp pain in my littlest toe when I do so.

Grit my teeth, tell Pud "Stand" and grab the stirrup, and he attempts to step on me yet again. This time, I've kept my feet out of his reach, though, and before he can reset to try again, I swing into the saddle.

Setting my right stirrup I realize that I should probably ride more on the arch of my foot on that side, since my normal stirrup position about makes me wet my Levi's, and adjust accordingly, setting off across the pasture to find the cow that caused all of this.

Of course, Pud couldn't just cooperate at this point, so we kept up a running battle of "No, you will NOT go over there because we're going over THERE!" Which, of course, included sudden jumps to either side in an attempt to scare me off his back, a tactic which has never worked with me, but caused me a considerable amount of pain as I braced against his antics.

After all of this, when we found the cow in question... the old hussy had cleaned out in the night, no need for any of it.

Back to the trailer we go, and since we're going in the direction he wants to go, Pud finally begins to cooperate and I relax a bit. That is, I relax until it comes time to dismount.

By then the endorphines had kicked in and I figured that I would have a nasty bruise, but nothing too bad.

'Course, since I've broken bones before, I should know better.

I stepped down off that horse and nearly went all the way to the ground as my right foot took weight and promptly told me to go do something anatomically impossible with myself.

I managed to stay upright through the cunning use of fortifying cuss words... and hanging onto the saddle... and got good ol' Pud untacked and loaded back into the trailer.

At this point Farmmom has asked me multiple times if I'm ok, and the best answer I have is to just get the horse taken back and unloaded before I take off my boot. I had a funny feeling that once I took the boot off, I wasn't gonna want it to go back on... and I was right.

One broken toe later, I'm hobbling around like an old lady and muttering curses at whoever designed the foot so that the little toe is so important...

Oh, and before you ask... no, I didn't go to the hospital. How did I know it was broken you ask? Well, when I got home, I sat down, and I looked at it. There was a ring of dark bruising around the bottom of the toe, and when I pulled on it, it felt like someone was stabbing me with hot files that were rubbing together inside the toe.

So, I taped it up, iced it down, and popped Advil for a couple of weeks while I pounded the pavement for Combined selling accident insurance.

Sometimes, the kinks you encounter with horses are on *you*.......

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I recall this one horse I had back in the mid-90's... best trained horse I've owned and my sister rode him. When I met him, he'd been starved down to nearly nothing... I bought him to try to help him regain. His quirk was mainly he didn't care about anything that didn't involve actually riding. Carry a halter out there and he'd walk off. Carry a bridle out there or have a saddle out where he could see it and here he'd come. My sister got her toe broke with him once too... I'm not sure whether he meant to or not. And my sister was taking classes in ballet and point at the time. Her dance teacher said my horse was her enemy from then on.