Friday, June 13, 2014


My first word was "horsh".
I just started wondering if it is significant or not. Probably not. I wonder if I'd attribute anything mystical to it if my first word was "cigarette." Probably not.

My daughter is fascinated with horses. Horse this, horse that, horse the other thing. We've had the opportunity to board a horse for a friend who doesn't have the funds to board him at anyplace fancy. It is a good chance for us to see if a horse will work out at our place.

Shenanigans is an old thoroughbred race horse. He doesn't want to do anything but graze and be brushed and given pockets full of treats these days. He is probably what you'd call an "easy keeper". I have a knack for making easy things hard.

Emmie is the one who is supposed to be bonding to him...supposed to be. But, Nanie humbles me. He tries to help me understand him. "If someone is going to boss me, I want bigger people, " he says. "That dog and those cats are going to eat me, " he says in fright. "That old tractor tire scares me," he warns. "I love when you brush my face with the soft brush," he croons. "Thank you for loving on me, " he nudges. "What'cha bring me today? Let me look in your pockets for more!" "That is too tight and I won't budge till you fix it." "I don't like that corner of the pasture." "Clover is yummy, but I don't like these little buttercups...pbbbbb." "I LOVE when you pick my hooves...that is sooo nice...see how well I pick up my feet for you?" "Hello?! Where are you?" trot trot trot "Ohhh, there you are! I have to weave my way to you so that I can see you good." "Haha, you moved your feet more than loose...I'm done now." "Ohhh, touche', you moved your feet much less than me...I feel safe with you, I'll stay with you." "Can you kiss my nose?" "Seriously, what is in your pocket? Is that the face brush? If I nudge it will you understand I want you to brush my face?" "I feel better about you today." "After you just brushed me, I'm going to the dusty area to paw around and then roll, okay." "What the *&$% is that? I HATE that!!" "That trickle of water in the trough really bugs should probably fix it." "Those cats are gonna die, I swear to god." "Too bad the cows are so boring...*snort*" "Hey cows! How many cows does it take to screw in a lightbulb?" "duuuuhhhh...wus a lightbulb?" *snort* "Thank god you provide some kind of mental stimulation, lady...these cows aren't cuttin' it. Let's walk right into them to let them know they don't even register on our radar." *snort* "You just did that all wrong, and I want away RIGHT now." "Okay, okay...I'm calming down. You dropped the brush and I thought it was going to eat me or something...wheeewh...scaaaaarrry, huh?" "I LOOOVE it when you brush by my tail....woooooweeee!" "Hold me."

Nanie is a talker. He's been talking the entire time. I'm learning to listen to him. Last night, after watching multiple youtube videos on how to lead a horse (I seems so easy...there are MANY ways to get it wrong, let me tell you right now, I've done most of them), and reading one of Emmie's books for "Horse-Crazy Girls" (it's all I got people), I went out there with a pocket full of carrots, the halter and lead rope, the face brush and hoof pick. Okay...I was gonna have a good time with Nanie this time. I was gonna DO THIS. He was in his dusty corner staring across the road at the little white pony and the big Pinto mare..."hey pretty lady," he was saying to her. She just stares and snorts. He tries so hard.
I start walking across our beautiful green pasture walking through the clumps of buttercups now and again. I walk a little zig-zaggy, making sure to stay at his side so he can see me well, and called to him in a high pitched voice, which I realized he loves, "Naaaanie! Hi buddy!!!" He pricks up his ears and turns to me as I start coming. He is very interested in what I might be doing, and what I might have in my pockets. He turns slightly and watches me come. "Hi pretty boy!" I get about 20 feet away from him and try something, I take out a carrot and click to him, "*click click click* Come on Nanie. Come see what I've got." I hold the carrot out to show him (I'm learning they have very good eyesight). He does a low nicker at me (which is like a very nice "hello!"), and comes toward me. I've completely stopped walking as I want him to see me as the boss (the horse who moves their feet the most looses, and he likes to play that game). He comes all the way over and takes the carrot. As he eats the carrot, he turns his head to the side so he can see me really well and he softly nudges my face with his nose and blows on me. I blow into his nose low and gentle too...I try to blow warm air into his nose. This is how horses say "I like you, tell me more about you." He really likes it as his eyelids close a little bit. He stops chewing the carrot for a minute when I blow into his nose. I feel in awe of him all of the sudden. He is amazing, I realize. I cannot even explain it to myself so I just laugh and smile and feel amazing.
I give him another carrot and show him the halter. He sniffs it like, "Yup. I know what that is. It's fine." So, I put it on him. Last time I tried it, I put it on too tight I think and he hated it. This time, I keep it loose, but hopefully not too loose - I need to look into this halter business. I do not think I like the halter I was given for him...something skinnier and less likely to rub would be nice for him I think. Anyway, he takes the halter okay, but seems to be wondering if I'm going to tighten it too much. He kind of freezes when I start to buckle it, and I say, "Forgive me for yesterday buddy. I didn't know I was doing it too tight. Don't worry, I'll do it much looser today." He relaxes his head when it is on, and I feel like I've made a small victory.
"Okay...we are gonna walk around the pasture together today. You aren't going to try to walk all over me. You aren't going to pull away. It is going to be nice!" He likes it when I talk to him, and he nudges my pocket, "Okay, but I want more carrot first." "No carrot yet, let's walk first." *snort* "okay, let's do this."

I fold the lead rope in my left hand, and leave it slack and start walking. He follows me...he is following me! He stays at my right and far enough away and he is going where I lead! I try a few things with him like stopping quickly - I stop very quickly, make a little gasping noise and look around as if I'm telling him, "Listen! What was that?!" He hears me and stops with his hears pricked up, looking where I'm looking, "Yeah! What WAS that?" I say, "Alright, everything is fine, let's go." He listens to my body language and put his head down, trusting me that I assessed the danger and everything is fine now. I do this a few times. He responds everytime! The rush of getting this HUGE old horse to TRUST me is amazing. I feel a tear going down my cheek. What?! Why am I crying? It is like Nanie brought something out in me I didn't know I was longing for. I cannot even really explain it, but it is something very old. Something intuitive, instinctual. It was freeing.

So, I try turning him 180 degrees every now and then, just a gently pressure of the rope in the turn and he goes. He seems to try and keep the rope slack on purpose. He doesn't like the rope pulling him, so he chooses to keep it slack. I understand that he likes it slack so I don't pull on him if I don't need to. I am understanding it somehow. Because I want him to be comfortable, sometimes I let the entire rope out and let him graze while I hold the other end. When I want him back I didn't even pull the rope, I just fold it up again in my left hand and he seems to recognize that this means we are going to walk again. I give him another carrot just because I want to.

I bring him closer to the "scary corner" where the tractor tire is. He doesn't want to go, I realize, but he is trusting me and trying. When we get to the point where he is just about to come out of his skin as we near it, I stop quickly and look around, he stops too and looks around saying, "I knew that damn tire was gonna get us! What's it doing? Is it moving? oh my god, I think it moved!" But I relax and turn into him a little bit. He nudges me just enough to acknowledge that I said it's okay and he backs up a little bit. Woah...he is still trusting me! I feel another tear...weird. Totally unexpected reaction again.

I feel like he has had enough, so I turn him back to his happy corner, and he immediately relaxes into it. "yes, yes, yes! I love this spot so much better!" When we walk away, I stop him before the corner and put the rope, loose over my shoulder. I get out the brush and allow him to graze. I brush and brush and brush, and he loves it. His eyes are almost closed, his ears are relaxed, his body is relaxed. He looooves this. I get bold. I throw the loose end of the rope gently over his back. He glances at it, but is nonplussed. Good. I put my hand on his bum and walk around the back of him...this is bold for me to do...I don't even really know if I should, but I feel confident. Nanie doesn't mind one bit.. I brush his bum as I go around him and start to brush his other side. He glances at me with hooded eyes. He likes it! I come around the front of him and kiss is nose and rub his face.

Then I put the brush away and decide we are going to pick his hooves. Okay...I've read about it...that's all. I just have to do it. So, I bring my hand down his leg and when it touches that rough patch on his leg (called the acorn, by the way), he instantly brings up is hoof! He has learned this a long time ago, and he is so patient while I clean them. I know I'm not holding them right, but I don't know how far up I can hold his hoof, or where is safe to stand. I do all his hooves, moderately well, and he LOVES it! I notice a few pebbles coming out of his hooves, and it must feel so much better. When I am done - as well as I could, I come around to the front of him and he nudges me and nuzzles and nibbles with his lips until I give him more carrots. He licks my hand, he tries to put his nose in my pockets, he nibbles at anything he can with his lips. I keep scratching his face and kissing him, and we both love it. He is amazing. He is this huge graceful old race horse who is afraid of everything until you show him not to be afraid. He could crush me with one kick and he gently put up his hoof for some relief. Another tear?! What is going on with me? I decide to end on this amazing note, so I take off his halter, and usually he just runs to his "happy place" and leaves me in the dust like he can't wait to get away, but instead, he keeps looking at me. He nudges me once more and blows on me. I blow in him and nudge him as well, then I kiss his eye ridge. I let him walk away first, so he still feels safe with me (the one who doesn't move her feet as much), then I go. I feel like I'm floating away from him. I wouldn't have understood that a day ago, but today, I get it. I understand why "horse people" get so wrapped up in it. I understand how you could loose yourself in horses. I get it.

Horses are special. Nanie is special.  He is not like a dog. He is not like a cat. He talks all the time, and I'm listening and learning to talk back.

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