Sunday, June 6, 2010

Far, and Few Beyond

That's how my brother long ago mangled the familiar phrase "Few and far between." I laughed about it then, but today, I feel he may have had it right all along.

The last thing I wrote in this journal described simple things: how my horses were doing together, my grooming Scout and feeling close to her, and the sound of the summer train passing in the distance. It was easy to write because things felt all right. I knew I was readying myself to ride Scout, and Dar's progress in school was good. Underlying it was the quiet certainty of how important the horses are to me, so important that I won't let life turn it upside down. I've been living the priority, even as my busy season looms.

So. I went to the barn on Saturday morning prepared to noodle around with Scout before having a training session with Dar. I had a friend with me, and I love to introduce people to horses. K was coming out to meet me, too. She hoped to ride Scout herself. This is something we have talked about for weeks. K has her fears; I have mine. I happen to think her fears don't apply to a horse like Scout, so I was really looking forward to us working with Scout together.

I walked up to the grass arena. Dar lifted his head at the sound of my voice. I instantly realized that Scout was not with him. Seconds later, I saw that she was out in the big pasture with all the other horses. My mind formulated the concept that E had put Scout out because she knew we would be working with Dar. I was wrong. My cell phone rang. It was E, on her way back to the barn after errands. She told me that Dar and Scout had fought in the dry lot they share for morning feeding and she had separated them. She told me they were out to kill each other. She told me breaking them apart was hard and they were lucky not to have sustained serious injuries.

I sat there stunned for a couple of minutes, my friend sitting beside me. K arrived, and I told her the news. E was there a minute later. We all listened as she described what had happened and how hard she had worked to separate them. We all went together to examine both horses. Scout had swelling above her left knee, a scrape on the inside of her left hock, and a shallow, jagged cut across her vulva. Carefree, she stood calmly as I ran my hands over her, gazing at me. Dar had a clear hoof print embossed on the right side of his rump, a healthy patch of hair missing from the right side of his chest, and several scrapes caused by teeth raking down the right side of his neck. He showed less of the eagerness and curiosity he displays when people are with him. He didn't seem agitated to be alone in the grass arena.

I don't really remember the words, I just remember the sitting there, talking about the bad thing that had happened, the sober feeling of it, the heavy disappointment of it. The peculiar instant when I thought, I am so sick of bad things happening with my horses when I am not there to witness them. I never get to see it with my own eyes.

I really needed to see this thing happen. Because I didn't, I will never know what caused it. I will never know whether Scout was on the offensive or the defensive. The assumption defaults to Dar being the bad actor. He's the studdy, mouthy, pushy one. But what if Scout saw her chance to take him down a notch and went for it?

You think the worst. You do. I have no luck with horses. I'm not going to get there. I can't believe I have another horse that's not_____(fill in the blank.)

After that conversation ended, we decided to do the training session with Dar. As I led him out of the arena and down to the barn, Scout called after him. He answered back, but soon settled down in the cross ties. I tacked him up and returned to the arena. E began with a few minutes of in-hand work, then moved on to ground driving. I watched for signs of hostility, refusal, unwillingness or defiance in Dar. There were none. It would be easier for me if there had been. E removed the driving reins and led Dar to the mounting block. She got on him, and I led them back into the arena. I walked beside Dar, holding the lead rope loosely as E rode him in simple straight lines and wide circles. We'd done this on Thursday, her astride, me leading from the ground.

I walked with them until E told me to hand her the lead rope. She looped it over Dar's and moved him off at a walk. I followed about 15 feet to the side of them. There was my trainer riding my horse. She turned him, halted him, trotted him. He did just great.

So there was a huge fight and there was a great training session. Put them on the scales and they balance each other. They balance to zero. In two weeks, the jousters come back. I can hand him right back to them and say thanks for the tryout. I think I'm supposed to be smart enough to decide to do exactly that, but I don't know how to face it. I don't want to give him up, but I lack the knowledge to justify why I wouldn't.


Beth said...

My heart really goes out to you. I honestly felt as if I was reading my own blog for a moment. Horse fights and not knowing if your horse is right. Seemed like for the past 8 months everything I have tried with horses has gone wrong, except to start riding lesson horses again. Finally things are starting to go better now.
I don't know if you should give Dar back or not.I grappled over selling Kinsey, but I felt so free when I did. It was really hard for me to decide to sell Abby. I adore her and she is a great horse, but I can't ride her now, in the future maybe but I will never get to that point unless I ride now. So it is a catch 22. What I have learned though is that I needed a horse I can ride now. Owning two horses that I couldn't ride really sucked and kept me from getting back in the saddle. When I finally found someone who had horses I could ride, my confidence has grown by leaps and bounds. Now I am looking at a horse that is short and fat and not at all what I thought I wanted. Yet she seems almost perfect. I can ride her.
*Hugs* I know how hard it is to decide.

Wolfie said...

I agree with Kate. My guy is turned out with 3 other geldings. He doesn't do well in a mixed herd - he tries to dominate. Perhaps Scout and Dar were just having a bad day.

Muddy K said...

Kate ~ The thing is, all but one of the other geldings at the farm are geriatric. The one who isn't particularly old is a recent and expensive acquisition who replaces a horse that a boarder lost in a freak accident. I would never forgive myself if my idiot, domineering child were to hurt any of them. Scout was turned out with Dar to help socialize him. We all recognized her to be an alpha, and she was the only mare not to be in heat, so we thought she might give him a little what-for. They did really well for two weeks. And you are right. He was wonderful during his lesson tonight. In so many ways, he seems like a good fit for me.

Wolfie ~ Ditto, and boy, I'd love to believe it was just a bad day for those two. I have to decide whether to try them together again, but I won't do anything for this week at least. For now, Dar seems untroubled to be in solitary again.

Beth ~ Yes, I ache with recognition of the fact that I just need a horse that I can ride. I think we can relate to each other in so many ways.

I appreciate deeply the time all of you took to respond to this post. It helps to know there are people who understand why this is all such a big deal to me.