Horse sense

I have owned two horses, and cared for another one for several years.  Each was a different breed and each had his or her own personality.

The quarter horse is the fastest thing on horse shoes for a quarter mile. A smart, well trained quarter horse is a cow man’s best friend. He can stare a balky maverick eyeball to eyeball. When the cow bolts to escape, the quarter horse and rider are already in her path before she can get there. Finally the cow gets the message, and goes where she is supposed to.

The quarter horse mare I had was lightening quick, but nervous as a tick. I should have gotten the hint from her name, “Spook.”

How spooky was she? I used to walk up the little valley that is our back yard. She would watch from her corral, anticipating the feed I was bringing. One day I was jogging in the foothills behind our house. I came down from the opposite direction; same clothes, same smell, same me. She looked up at me coming from the wrong side of her head and spun into panic mode. She flew into the fence busting the poles and dragging the fencing wire with her. Fortunately I don’t use barbed wire, or she might have made hamburger of herself. But the wires and poles “chasing” her spurred her on. She dragged herself and the whole devastation up the road to the neighbor’s barn where she could find solace with his horses. I decided I couldn’t afford a psychiatric couch or straight jacket big enough for this equine nut case. I sent her off to a friend who owns big pastures, big enough to go crazy in.

The Arabian is king in his native land; virtually worshiped for his beauty, intelligence, and sensitivity. Nothing on four feet is more breathtaking than an Arabian running with his or her silky main and tail flowing in the wind. The purebred white Arabian mare I owned was born to be adored. With an aristocratic lineage going back a couple of centuries, a perfect specimen of her breed, she carried herself majestically. She knew all this as well as she knew her name, “Princess.”

Unfortunately, she had the self centered petulance and laziness that too often accompanies those to the manor born. She wanted to preside over the ride rather than take directions. She was well trained, just didn’t like the idea that the person holding the reins should be in charge. I often rode her bareback, and she would try, sometimes successfully to buck me off or sit down inelegantly on her back side to try and slide me off. When she succeeded in dumping her rider she would take off for the barn. She could have been a fine horse for the family and friends, but preferred to be elegantly aloof from the duties of a servant.

The long legged Tennessee Walking Horse I owned was the opposite. He excelled at the hospitality and comfort of the Old South from which his breed descends. Big plantations, and open flat country in the antebellum days favored a horse that could stride out, cover many miles, and do it all with consideration for the person in the saddle. Dusty could do that smoothly as Kentucky bourbon (that’s a Southern saying. I have no idea how smooth bourbon is.)  You could ride him all day at any gait and feel like you were mounted on a Lazy Boy recliner. His name was Dusty partly, I suppose because he was the nondescript color of dry dirt. Also he was ugly as mud with a moose nose, miniature shoulders, and ribs sticking out like a war refugee. But he was gentle, anxious to serve, and fully capable of making your experience pleasurable. You had to love the guy. A young woman from down the street a few blocks did just that.  She came up to bring him an apple every day, and after awhile asked if she could take him for an exercise ride. Knowing his trustworthy character, I agreed.  He was always the perfect gentleman. Later she arranged for accommodations for him, got her parents permission, and I gave Dusty to her.

They were “Beauty and the Beast.” Unfortunately his bony ribs were covering serious problems inside. Not long after she got him, the noble unhandsome fella tipped over and died. He left fond memories for all of us who knew him.

Like the people who ride them, horses are individuals. Probably none are perfect. Some live up to their potential, others choose not to.

My experience is that like children, they respond best and are happiest when guided with a firm and gentle hand. Some want a tighter rein, some looser, but none do well when they want to take over control of the ride