I was going to put the horses in the pasture as usual. It got down to below 10F degrees last night, so the ground froze. Then, it snowed almost an inch. They were waiting in the front corral, staring at white blanket that covered yesterday’s little blades of grass.
I followed my usual routine. First, I told them to go to their stalls, and they raced right in to stand at attention. Then, I closed the stall doors. Silk always goes out first. Siete comes back in from the pasture ahead of her mother. I try to be fair. Today, as I put on Silk’s halter, Siete had a temper tantrum.
I couldn’t believe it. My little horse was rearing and bucking and squealing in her stall. I thought she was going to hurt herself. It was really scary. For a moment, I considered taking her out first to avoid possible injuries. I knew that Silk wouldn’t mind if she wen t second. However, that would be rewarding this outrageous behavior.
What I really wanted to do most was go back into the house, crawl into my bed and pull the covers over my head. Instead, I told Siete in my deepest, firmest voice to “QUIT”. I led Silk calmly to the pasture while Siete continued to buck, rear and charge around in her stall. My biggest fear was that she would try to blast through the closed door. Fortunately, she didn’t, but in the five minutes it took me to settle her mother behind the locked gate, the little horse caused a big uproar.
I decided to just approach her as I did every other day. She stuck her nose over the door and let me put on the halter. I had my clicker and my treats, so I stepped inside and began doing the lowering her head exercise. She immediately settled into it, doing what I asked. Lowering a horse’s head causes her adrenaline to slow down. I also know that a horse can’t rear with its head down. I completely focused on the task at hand. Once we were distracted by the clicker and the treats, I began to lead her out of her stall.
Other than prancing and snorting, Siete let me lead her to the gate. Suddenly, Silk charged at us, causing Siete to get excited again. I made her circle around me a couple of times and told Silk not to give me any trouble. I motioned to her to go away and she ran to the closed end of the gate. I didn’t know if I could open it without Silk trying to run out, but I took a deep breath. The worst thing would be if she charged again and I got caught between them. I always turn the horse so she faces me while I close the gate and then unclip the lead rope. Going along with the idea that I would just continue as if things were normal, I opened the gate and led Siete inside. I wished I could lunge her, but it was just too icy. Silk just stood and watched us.
Once I set her free and stepped outside, I expected mayhem. Instead, each horse found her own pile of hay and began eating.
I stood watching them and considered how it used to be when I boarded them at a stable. If I had been feeling the way I felt today, I probably wouldn’t have gone over to see the horses. I would have chosen the "going back to bed and hiding under the covers" option. Having them in my backyard means that no matter what, I am going to interact with Silk and Siete at least three or four times a day. I can’t avoid anything. And I have to admit, it makes me a stronger person.
(This post is dedicated to my dear friend, Pat H. We’ve been buddies for 32 years, and just as Siete was blowing up this morning, Pat passed away. I almost didn’t finish this post tonight, but I knew that she would have wanted me to because she wasn’t a quitter. I’m really going to miss her.)