Friday, August 22, 2008

Beginners, Trust, and Bonding

Last night I finally made it to the barn with Casi in tow. I'm still a little sick, and Casi had her shorts with the "treat pockets," so she got to do a lot of the work.

When we got the filly up to brush her and take care of her, Casi asked a question that took me by surprise.

"Can I pick out her feet?"

I quickly weighed the options, shocked by the question. Casi is a hoof-picking novice, having only done it a time or two on a couple of the barn owners well-trained horses. Both those times she seemed nervous and unsure, and I certainly wouldn't have called hoof-picking one of her preferred activities. Now Halo, well, she's a hoof-picking novice, too. It was just over a month ago that she wouldn't even let us touch her legs, much less pick up her feet.

"Uh, okay," I said hesitantly, as a series of potential disasters flashed through my head. Halo stood there nonchalantly, resting one of her back legs. I gave her a fervent look.

Casi grabbed the hoof pick and went to work like it was no big deal at all. Meanwhile, I stood restlessly near Halo's head, trying to refrain from fussing with the filly in my anxiousness. Casi held Halo's off front leg probably longer than I ever have, awkwardly working away at the hoof. As the seconds ticked on, I waited for the inevitable jerk-and-stomp move from Halo. The filly blinked a blonde-lashed eye at me, standing peacefully until her foot was released.

Then it was time for a back hoof, which made my heart begin to race. What if she kicks? I thought. What if she jerks away or hurts Casi? A thousand paranoid scenarios were running through my head. By the time I shuffled through them, Casi was already done with the hoof and had moved on to the other hind leg.

As Casi made her way to the final front hoof, I could swear Halo had a smug expression on her big blazed face. But she'd earned it - I'm not sure I've ever been so proud of her as I was in that moment. And I was incredibly proud of Casi too - for taking on an activity that usually makes her nervous, and doing it like a rock star. I don't think she had any idea how on edge I was about it until afterwards.

As hard as it is to admit, especially as a paranoid re-rider, sometimes you have to trust your horse. And trust that the bond between people and horses is the best measure of what a horse is willing to do for you.

Casi explained that she felt safer doing Halo's feet because Halo is so much smaller than the other horses she's done. Also, she knows Halo and has worked with her more than the others. Of course in my mind, I had been thinking "oh-my-god-psycho-barely-trained-yearling-could-explode-at-any-second!!!" Sometimes trust trumps age or training. I am glad that my paranoia was proved wrong.

There's been a lot of talk lately about trust on a couple of blogs I read. Mugwump wrote a great post about the ability of horses to overcome our silliest errors - as long as we trust them. She told the story with the simple eloquence she always does, illustrating it with the example of her daughter's horse. The Zambito Oaks Farm blog also had a similar post called, "Young, Dumb but Havin' Fun" that was a similar reminiscence.

Thank you bloggers, and thank you Casi, for reminding me that it's not just training that makes a good horse. It's also trust in equal measure.

1 comment:

Leah Fry said...

We're all better than we think, despite the fact we all have the potential to be real pills.