Thursday, October 21, 2010
Pat's* Natural Horsemanship Principle #2.
The other night I almost got my head kicked off by Travis. The absolute last horse I would ever have expected it from.
Trav is in his thirties now. Kip and I bought him as a "17 year old ex race horse" ten years ago. lol. He was our first horse together.....my first horse as an adult. He was a wonderful school master and has been a special treasure. We've always talked about how he doesn't have a mean bone in his body. He has taken great care of both of us.
Well, he's getting on in years. Much older than we thought, which is fine. He's been pretty much retired since 2008, his teeth are falling out and just this year he has started to go blind. Thanks to a super diet and heavy winter blankets he is looking amazing. Still the king of the herd, he moves the horses all around and has memorized everything in his environment. As he trots and canters around its hard to tell how much sight he has lost.
Ironically, while cleaning stalls, Kip and I were talking about what kinds of horses were "safe". We both agreed that even the safest horse can get a fright, trip or whatever. I was thinking about preserving the confidence and safety of kids and adults with less experience and in a rare moment was quiet entering Travis' stall to put on his blanket. He had his butt to me. I put my hand on his rump to let him know that I was there and to ask him to scoot over.
Travis is stalled next to our youngest horse Ferreira. He was her babysitter as she was weaned and they are good horsey friends. Naturally, as horses do, she tries to "one up" him when she is safely on the other side of a wall. When he first started to loose his sight she was able to sneak up on him and got in a few pretty good bites. Now he's savvy enough to stay just out of reach. Out of habit I was watching his expression. He pinned his ears. I cannot recall him doing that in the entire time we've had him. In that moment I realized he thought that I was Ferreira reaching over the stall to snipe him. I thought: "oh crap. he thinks I'm a horse". In my mind I flashed to how firm he gets with other horses.
Thank heavens for those good habits. I was standing out of the kick zone. He double barrel kicked out at where he thought she was. My eyes got wide and I felt the air swoosh around my ears as his hooves kicked out harmlessly a few feet from my head.
"Oh my gosh Kip!" I said feeling the adrenaline surge through my legs. "I almost just got pounded by Travis!" I described what had happened.
"Whoa" he said. "I guess it makes sense. He's used to you chatting away on the phone."
I went back into Travis' stall making sure to talk with him. I thought of what it must be like...having to make this sensory adjustment....to have to imagine what's happening around you. This time I started by rubbing his shoulders. He cocked a leg and I threw the blanket over his back.
With the shakey chuckle of a near miss I commented to Kip: "It would have been awfully embarrassing to have to say that I couldn't make the Linda course because our old sweet horse put me in hospital. Phew. Good reminder. I guess all's well that end's well. I figure if no one gets hurt and you learn a valuable lesson, that's a good thing."
"Yeah", Kip said. "Principle number two. Don't make or teach assumptions".
*see glossary at the bottom of the page