My birthday is on March 9. My buddy, Yohan and I are turning 26 years old. Besides a stiff leg and a couple of pigeon fever bumps on my chest, I’m doing pretty well for an old guy. Yohan took really good care of me for a very long time. His CMT got in the way of his riding, but we are still best of friends. Now, Yohan’s mom rides me once in a while and she and her friends pamper and play with me. Life could not be better!
Over the years, I’ve learned a lot from my human and equine counterparts who have attempted to shape my behavior and teach me proper manners. Here are a few takeaways tidbits I hope you find useful:
Maturity is overrated! Play, have fun and don’t shy away from a little dirt. Messiness has its perks, people. Since it rains so little in California, I love rolling in puddles on the freshly rain-soaked ground. Who doesn’t like a mud bath? Lounging on my back feels soooooo good, especially since I don’t have the means to get a professional back massage. What feels better than a good roll in the mud (and so much better than a roll in the hay-hahaha)?
Most humans just look at me and shake their heads. They might think “Athos should have been born a pig!” Say what they may, lying on my back moving to and fro takes the “itchies” away and fends off those pesky flies.
Better yet, when Elizabeth sees me in such a sad state (she says sad but mud makes me happy!) I get another rub down as she brushes my coat, untangles the knots in my mane and removes the stubborn cakes of mud stuck to my tail. Once she leaves, it takes me about 5 minutes to get all dirty again. Live and let live! Life is too short to worry about a few stains.
The Carrot is Mightier than the Stick! Over the years, I’ve had a lot of owners and a lot of riders, all with new and innovative ways to make me “behave”. Looking back, I must tell you that positive reinforcement is much more powerful than punishment, which fills me with fear and uncertainty. In all honesty, I live for praise (and treats) and a soft pat on my neck (and a few more treats). In fact, my favorite lessons include a clicker, praise and ….you got it – treats. I’ll do almost ANYTHING for a carrot (low-sugar snacks work just as well). If you’re around my forever home at the Horse Park in Woodside, bring a couple of carrots! I’ll show you all my silly stunts….you don’t even have to ask!
Everyone is on Some Sort of Spectrum – I never made it to horse size. I fall a wee bit short, and everybody points it out. Whatever.
I’m vertically challenged (short), horizontally challenged (on the heavy side, especially after the spring grasses), and move with a “gimp” (a word used by a vet to describe my walk, which I find horribly offensive) due to a past injury. I’ve learned to love myself deeply despite my apparent “flaws”. In fact, the more I love myself, the more others embrace me.
Children are my favorite riders, especially as I get a little older. They are light, trusting and gracious. When kids are around, I’m groomed, spoiled, led around an arena 2-3 times and everyone’s happy- no long trail rides or boring arena lessons. They love me unconditionally, cellulite and all!
Respect is Earned – In the horse world, there are tons of complicated hierarchy rules. The bottom line is that I have little clout, so I have figured out how to survive by being kind to all creatures big and small. Another technique is to find intimidating friends.
In the end, if other horses do not like me, that’s their problem. I just stay away – their loss.
Recently, I had to be isolated in a stall for a ridiculous amount of time. I was so lonely. When I went back to my “family,” my rank and mere presence had to be renegotiated. After being bossed around for a day, I decided to put an end to the nonsense. Stomping my hooves, standing my ground and vocalizing my frustration were the only way I got everyone to respect me. So, only put up with so much before setting boundaries! Everything is hunky-dory now.
Knowledge is Power – I am a flight animal by nature, so I am exceptionally keyed into my herd’s anxiety and the fear people carry in their hearts and soul. I’ve been told that many fancy pancy horses jump obstacles in the field, only to run like the wind to leap over another jump as fast as “horsely” possible.
Whoever invented that stupid sport? Personally, I’m baffled at why any horse would want to expend the energy to compete anywhere, anytime…….period! I bet they don’t even get a treat after they jump. Geez. Way too stressful and exhausting, in my humble opinion.
So if I’m on the cross country course and a seriously focused horse and rider gallop on by in the opposite direction, you can bet your bottom dollar that I’m following the fleeing horse. I’m not going to be the idiot who gets eaten by real or invisible monsters – no, not me! I may be short and chubby, but I’m no dummy!
But, the best rides are relaxing and scare-free. On weekends, I take walks with my pasture friends, Bailey, Szcarlet and my sister, Chyna. I love those rides, even though, Szcarlet has made it perfectly clear that she doesn’t care for me all that much. Girls are a mystery to me.
I must say that she is truly beautiful AND she has papers, a lineage, a noble family – the works. But, if I so much as look in her direction, with even the briefest of sideways glances, she chases me away. In fact, she’s always been pretty up front and blunt about her feelings towards me (she has none).
How do I handle her attitude? I do what I know how to do best – annoy her. When she’s in front of me on the trails, I stretch my neck out as far as possible and try to give her a love bite on her behind. If I don’t watch it, I’m going to get kicked in the face. Has not happened yet, but one day I might be sorry!
Hey, I never said I was perfect!
I have more words of wisdom, but all for now. I have grass to eat and mud to roll in. If you can relate to any of the above or have any questions for me, please feel free to ask. I love helping horses and humans alike.
PS: My friend Micaela snapped the Featured Image of me. We were playing Peek-A-Boo!