Friday, May 16, 2003

Total Eclipse of the Horse, Part I
The only reason for the title is because tonight there is a total lunar eclipse. Yep, I guess I've been rather lax in blogging. It's been a little busy lately.

After surviving the Cheerios experience, I had some breakthroughs with Wildflower but sadly I don't recall exactly what we did. Darn it. Oh, I remember. And I see that I've already outlined the Amazing Gate-Backing maneuver she's learned.

I spent Beltaine (May 1st) transporting Wildflower to the Bruce Logan Clinic. Since four of us from the barn were riding in the clinic, it took two trailers, 8 bales of hay, 8 bags of shavings, two huge rubbermaid containers of grain, and a whole day to load them and our equipment up and haul them "across town". Across town in a car is no biggie. But with two cars and two trucks hauling equine, it's another story. It was uneventful, but basically you take the regular drive time and double it. Upon arriving, we had to unload horses, supplies, equipment, and drop trailers, then register, then I did what I could to help Nicole manage the clinic details, since she was the local registrant.

Somehow I got roped into being a substitute horse handler for their therapeutic riding program that night, which I thought would be ok since I've done that for Serenity Farms, but their set up was completely different. I was having an internal struggle with what they deemed acceptable horse handling; my tongue was bleeding from biting it. The one thing I've learned is that you cannot tell people that the Natural way is better; they won't listen to you unless they are ready to hear it. You can only lead by example, hope they're paying attention, and be ready to help them when they finally ask.

So gripping the clasp of the halter and yanking the horse to get him to move was causing turmoil in my stomach. They had already "warned" me that he doesn't like having his feet cleaned, as they were handing me the hoof pick. Oh, great, set me up for failure. But I outsmarted them (and him). While they were busying themselves plopping saddles on the other horses, I was playing the Friendly game all over the horse I was assigned to. Once he started relaxing, I tried a little Porcupine and he responded well.

I ran my hands down his legs until he tensed up, and backed off... back down, back off... repeated until he relaxed again. Then I politely requested his foot (the Natural Way). He lifted it politely and I went to work. Their arena is on clay and it gets packed in so I nearly ripped my arm ligaments trying to chisel it out. Yikes. But he was very patient with me. The woman kept coming over and telling me how "wrong" I was doing it. I just said "Uh huh" and when she wasn't looking, went back to doing it Naturally. Every time she came over and grabbed at him, he tensed. When I touched him, he relaxed. Gee. Wonder why.

She and I basically had a philosophical argument, which really surprised me, since she was the one with whom the clinic was arranged. I thought she'd be open-minded! After all, she was encouraging a PNH clinic. At one point, as I was trying to explain the reasons why PNH works (body language, the way horses communicate with each other), she flat-out said "well, sure it works with your horse, because you've been working with just that one horse for a long time. But it doesn't work with horses that aren't in the program." Nothing I could say could convince her otherwise.

I wish she could have witnessed it just yesterday. I was standing in our arena. Casey, a young Paint mare, had just returned from "training" and was out in the arena after her owner quit "working" with her for the day. She suddenly got a burst of Happy Horse energy, and came galloping toward me. All I did was raise my left arm and point, adopt a braced stance, and direct at Zone 2 with my carrot stick and her path immediately and gracefully shifted exactly where I wanted her to go.

Has Casey been exposed to PNH?

NO!!! Never. Only traditional "normal" training. She doesn't know Zone 2 from caterpillars. Yet, I asked her to "go that way, please" and she did. (Oh, well, she probably just moved because she saw the "whip" in my hand. That's what the skeptics would say.)

Anyway, load in day was very tiring. There were other personal matters I had to attend to after all that, and I was exhausted when I finally got to bed that night, and already sore. The next four days would probably be quite a test.

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