Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sunday School In Spite of Everything Else

Dar bucked E off today during his session. It came out of nowhere, not buried in a spook, not part of a leap into flight, not telegraphed with a pinched, swishing tail. He just bucked her off, from what looked like a place of total disrespect. "Get off me! I don't want you on me. Get off!"

She wasn't hurt in the fall, though her helmet is done.

This was her fifth or sixth ride on him. The only new thing was the dressage whip she carried, and I saw no sign at all that he cared about it. He's at that point in his training where he needs to learn to be more immediately responsive to her cues, not continue to be the sluggish turkey who arrives at the trot well after she's asked for it.

She didn't let go of Dar through the fall. She collected herself, led him out of the grass arena and back to the mounting block. In a few seconds she was back on him. A 15-minute ride proceeded with little incident, but he was irritated and she had to keep the reins high to keep him from ducking his head. Lots of bends and turns wore him out and stopped him from humping his back, and she dismounted only when she felt he was completely responsive.

I write this journal to capture and hold things that are important to me; in this instance, the horses. It's not a journal about my life except when I filter how I see myself through my involvement with them. In the scheme of things, though, Dar could not have picked a better moment to pull this move. My heart closed on him instantly, and hard, because I was already shocky in the wake of too many absurd, hurtful and frustrating events that have occurred during the previous week. I might never write about them, but they set me back to such a raw, fearful place that Dar's stunt today seemed the least of it. In an act of self-preservation, I dismissed him from my future.

"This is Dar," E said. "He's an asshole."

It wasn't until now, hours later, that I asked H.G., "What happens to a horse like Dar without a person like me?" I was thinking then of Dar afterward, as he stood silent and still in the cross ties while I untacked him. I have too many years of involvement with animals to not recognize anthropomorphising in myself and others; I know how easy it is to project my own hopes and fears onto the seemingly expressive face of an animal. Nevertheless, I could see that Dar was sober, mopey and down. He was tired, and the look on his face seemed to ask "Why is everybody mad at me?"

If Dar is all the difficult things he appears to be -- studdy, dominant, a bucker -- then what is the right future for him? If he is all the wonderful things he appears to be -- a lover of people, curious, unflappable -- does it matter? Where does a horse like Dar end up if someone like me gives him up? Where is such a horse meant to end up? I love him, from my gut. It's a solid, strong, simple love I feel for him, sprung from a strange understanding of what it must be like to be him. I can't possibly know that, I know, but something in me gets him.

I wrote this quickly to keep myself from shaping it into anything more or less than what it was. It's all I can do right now.


Kate said...

Could he have a physical problem that makes him ouchy - ulcers/saddle fit/back pain? Bucking takes a lot of energy and horses don't do it lightly.

Anonymous said...

E here...

If it were pain, we would have seen signs of it before now. Throughout his training, I have (as J has been) been diligent in watching for pain or discomfort - it is a critical part of training. His overall attitude changed so drastically from a horse unwilling and angry to being worked with, to a curious and involved participant. Absolutely no signs.

This was a part of Dar that we wondered about. There was no anger, no ears pinning, no swishing, no clenched jaw, just a quick stop, duck and buck. Very well rehearsed move. Without any provocation Dar decided he was done, not 10 minutes into a very low-key ride. It was a dirty move, one he has done before and will do again. That's why I called him an asshole. Not out of anger at him, but at him for blowing it. He did have it made.

Is he the worst bucker I have seen or worked with? No. Definitely not. Do I think he can be "cured"? No. Horses always have a schtick - a signature move so to speak. Something they revert to. Scout gets tense and quick. My old mare bolted. My new mare leaps and launches for joy when fresh. The old foxhunter Sam, kicks his heels when excited. Even Gambler has his move, a swirl of the head, a prance and dance. It's up to J to decide what kind of schtick she can tolerate from a horse.

Still kicking myself for not sticking it though!

Beth said...

I really feel for you. I have been making a habit of buying and holding on to the wrong horse for a while now. This year I started to focus on what I wanted and clean house so to speak.

When I saw Kinsey take off with a kid I knew at that moment that she was not the horse for me and I would never ride her. I tried for a few more months to try and "fix" her but in the back of my head I just knew that, as your trainer said above, she would never be fixed either.

Abby has been much harder. I adore her. I really love her but after she has been at my trainers for a few weeks now I know that without a lot of training she would never be the horse for me. Although I really really wish I had the money to keep her in training, even if she was ended up perfectly trained, I am not sure I could ride her knowing that a simple fall caused me to break an arm. So I did the hardest thing ever. I gave her to my trainer so he could train her, get her going, and find her a suitable home. Although she is out of my hands now, I think it was the best choice because I don't think I could have given her a decent chance to a good new home. With me I think she would be bounced around from home to home. He will give her a much better education to take her further.

Now I have a horse that is not what I was looking for at all, but she is prefect. Corrie is a lil dumpling of a pony, but I can ride and drive her. I am not afraid of her, although I still have some fears I have been conquering them one at a time with Corrie, not despite her.

It is a hard choice you have to make. {{{{hugs}}} You'll make the right one.

Muddy K said...

Beth ~ Thank you so much for your support. I know how hard it was for you to let go of those mares, because I followed your posts about it, so your wisdom is hard won and I respect it. I think, but for some circumstances that have me in a holding pattern for another week or so, I would have already let Dar go. Right now, though, it seems hard to believe that I will ever find the right horse, just a horse I can ride walk, trot, canter, ride hard and long, ride out alone, ride with others, grow with, all for under a thousand bucks.

Beth said...

Muddy K

I know how you feel, I never thought I would either. I only paid $700 for Kinsey, but in the end she cost me more than that. I did pay a pretty penny for Corrie, more than I have paid for a horse in a long time. I saved, used my tax return, borrowed, stole (just kidding), cashed in on my birthday and Christmas, and am making a few payment. I spent more than I thought I could for her, but she is worth her weight in gold. Trust me I agonized over spending that much money on a horse, but she will be with me for a long long time. She is not fully trained to ride yet, so she is a work in process. Only has about 30 days under saddle, but a lot of driving training.But she has the mind I wanted. Part of her price tag is of course the fact that she is a haflinger. In this area you could find a really nice trail type qh for about $1000-$2000, though there are always deals where people need to find good home for a horse they can not afford. YOU WILL FIND A HORSE. :)