A forum thread called “Turning ‘oh no’ into ‘oh boy'” caught my attention yesterday and came at exactly the right time. I’ve been a bit low this week, as I came back from my business trip to an aloof, irked horse, and I just didn’t catch on quickly enough.
Reading the thread reminded me of the Olden Days, when I was trying to straddle the chasm between normal and Parelli and everything on both sides was entirely new to me.
The Olden Days
I’d had some lessons but this was my first horse of my own, and the reality of horse ownership was crashing upon me.
In the Olden Days, every change, setback, annoyance, or obstacle was enough to send me in a spiral of “Oh no, now I can’t….” I can’t ride today because the wind came up right when I got to the barn. I can’t walk Rocky on the trail loop today because there’s a little league game. I can’t go in the arena because there are two other boarders riding in there, and that means I can’t play at all today.
Of course, enough Parelli will take the “oh no” right out of you. Gradually I started to respond differently. “Oh boy, the arena’s full, what if I take him on-line all around the ranch and find things to put his nose on?” “Oh boy, there’s a baseball game, let’s go stand by the outfield fence and watch a couple of innings.”
We moved to this Parelli ranch 11 months and eight days ago and I’ve only had a few real “oh no” moments. The bonfire was one of them, and I can’t even remember any of the others. The tractor, maybe? Everything else has been “oh boy.” Ooo, a pig challenge! Ooo, the tractor! The lawn mower! The gravel road next door! The front arena!
But lately, the “oh no” has been … will Rocky ever be rideable. He’s a nice horse, without malice, very sensitive and light, and we used to enjoy the occasional ramble, but he’s been lame with one thing or another all year. Deep fetlock cut, then barefoot transition, then arthritis (which is forever), and two months of thrush (which is gone now). He’s gimpy on the right front again and due for another Adequan injection on the 27th, so maybe it’s just that it wears off and he’ll feel better on the 28th.
But he never did get entirely sound, even with the Adequan “loading dose” of every five days, and now I wrestle with feelings of stuckness. He’s my horse for life and I can’t afford another one, and if he’s never going to be serviceably sound, then I guess I’m never going to become a rider. The “oh no my horse isn’t rideable” has to become “oh boy I have the opportunity to put together a really awesome on-line and liberty partnership.”
The essential joy of being with horses is that it brings us in contact with the rare elements of grace, beauty, spirit, and fire. ~Sharon Ralls Lemon, editor, Horse Illustrated
Never Give Up! Never Surrender! By Grapthor’s Hammer, Ye Shall Be … Ridden?
I am not giving up yet on the riding, especially since my confidence has returned and the patterns give me a program to follow. But I can’t help worrying, or mourning, or thinking how I have worked consciously these past two years to be “where we are now” and not to be thinking “we’ll just settle for this until … he gets his teeth done … he gets new shoes … he gets barefoot … he gets boots … he gets joint injection … he gets Adequan ….”
And then this week to come back from the trip to find a cranky, sore, irritated horse demanding to see my leadership credentials and not accepting them when half an hour later I finally figure out what’s going on…. well.
A Sharp Savvy Arrow
At least today I finally thought of a plan and went out and tried it and it worked: I took my carrot stick into the pasture and was ready to play catching game, except that he came over to me as I walked in. Then he stuck with me for a while, most likely because he could tell I had one cookie in my pocket. Every time his attention wandered, I walked or ran backwards at an angle away from him, ready to add driving game to zone 4 if he didn’t reconnect. Or I turned toward his hindquarters and surged toward zone 5. As soon as he yielded and gave me two eyes, I went friendly. Lo and behold, even in that huge pasture, at liberty, this worked to reboot the draw.
By the end of — well, I don’t really know, horse time is hard to measure — but by the end of “pretty soon” he was sticking to me intently. I gave him the cookie. Waited. Then did some more walking around, sticking, even in areas where he doesn’t usually follow me. And then I called it a day and left while he was still sticky, so that it was I who ended the session, not him.
When I took Salsa back there tonight after our (rather excellent!) session, Rocky came right over and stood with me for a while. We hung out and watched Rociada get her hand-walk in the arena. I felt a definite change in Rock’s attitude and respect.