I have always loved horses. What little girl doesn’t? I got my first pony the first spring in my new house/business. Quickly after, I filled the pasture with geriatric, retirement and rescue horses. Loving horses and providing basic necessities became an overwhelming learning process that I drank in like a sponge. Horse trainers, clinics, saddles, farriers, snaffle vs bozel, winter blankets, pain management, leaky barn roofs, feeders stuck in ice, shortage of hay, intensely mucky spring ground, black flies! I love it all! Yes I’m insanely busy, or as I prefer to say….focused.
This spring saw some major changes in the pasture. My little project Nusence got restarted by my trainer and friend after loosing his “boss”. The herd boss suffering from navicular and bone spavin was slated for euthanasia. The kindest thing I could do for him considering his pain. His former owner disagreed with the vets opinion and I chose to give her the decision to take him home again. I completely understand her denial and honestly most things in my life are treated this way. Right or wrong….”If you ignore it, it will go away!”…which works for pretty much everything except my ex-husband. I now live with the guilt of his continuing pain because I was too weak to do the right thing.
Nusence as a cheeky teenager, took this to mean he got to move up! Pal is senior to him but a bit too laid back to worry about his “place”. After struggling in training we decided to put little Abby in the pasture with Nusence to keep him in line. Voila! A well behaved teenager put in his rightful place by a kicking, biting, princessy little pony. Nusence is an amazing little horse and once we get him a few more weeks of training he will be ready for Joey.
Pal is my bomb proof trail horse. I bought him without riding him and with complete trust of the child holding his lead for me to meet “Goldie”. I ignored the way Goldie watched the cat on the fence instead of looking at me at all. Here was a horse I could ride and love! The first order of business was to rename him Pal. Pal the palomino….I know….not much better than Goldie! My Dad shared my love of horses and in his childhood stories he always spoke of Siggy the boxer who pushed him out of bed and the little horse on a Clinton Ranch he named Pal.
It wasn’t long after bringing Pal home I realized this bomb proof horse had trust issues. He was excellent on the trail but when I tried to love him and snuggle him, he kicked at me! I kept the kids at a good distance! One day he actually leaned over and bit my head! That was it! He had to go. I made the decision to re-home him because I could not get past how he hated me! From the moment I made the decision I changed how I treated him. He wanted to be treated like a horse….well then I would just get tough and treat him like a horse! I saddled him up and took him riding with the sole intention of “this is your job, and you will do as your told!” Very quickly he changed and became the horse I needed. As long as I respected his personal space, gave him clear direction and took no guff…we made an excellent team!
This spring with a smaller herd I jumped headlong into my training with him. We had come so far that I was the only one who could get him in the trailer. Last year I saw Randy Ophus put a bit in his mouth (I had been told to only use a bozel), Pal refused to turn his head for Randy pulling on that rein attached to the bit. He stomped and side kicked and reared! I struggled with the bozel for Pal as it gave him more power to run for the door of the arena. I learned to use spurs….gack! Needless to say…gently. A few weeks ago with pressure from Amanda we got a bit in his mouth. I put on my helmet and headed for the field. I learned to ask him to bend his head with gentle pressure on his mouth. I had finger tip control! This was it, after two years of Pal teaching me to treat a horse like a horse, I was riding the horse I had been waiting for! Mutual respect. Clear focus. Intense peace.
Last week Calvin Reed came out to put spring shoes on the horses. Pal decided to put up a fuss pulling the fence apart with him and Calvin hauled off and yanked his lead and kicked him good! He deserved it! Then with the lead was in my hand and me standing in front of him he settled. Early this week Amanda tried to teach me to lunge Pal. What a sight that was! That bloody meathead absolutely refused to go in the direction he was asked! We chased him from corner to corner until we all shut down.
I went to bed that night frustrated with him and trying to reason through it. Could it simply be that his trust issues made him react like an ass to Randy, Calvin and Amanda? I know he trusts me. Is it possible he would choose to listen to me? The idea was consuming. Had we come so far that I alone held his trust and I was (for him) protector? I wanted it so much that I didn’t think it was possible. I couldn’t wait to try lunging him. Alone of course so if I failed nobody would know but me and Pal.
This morning before loading him to take Joe for riding lessons Pal died of colic despite the vets best efforts to save him.
I thank him for trusting me. I thank him for teaching me. I thank him for choosing me.