Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Day 59 Hindsight wisdom

Well, I did it again.  I totally worked myself up to some idea of how everything would go today (after being gone for five days)and then utterly screwed it up by being inflexible and impatient.  Brilliant.  If dogs learned as slowly as I do, people would take them behind the barn and shoot them in the head before they made it to their first birthday.  Fortunately (for me) I'm not a dog.  Unfortunately (for Little Love) I'm a human...

In a nutshell (since I am tired beyond words and need to go to bed NOW) I went to the barn in the morning with the idea of soaking Little Love's feet, taking a nice long walk in the sun together and just hanging out in perfect harmony.  I don't know what I was thinking.  I have been gone for five days and since it wasn't the first time I've been away from Little Love I should have remembered that the first day I'm back is not a day to have major plans.  In fact, the first day back is a day when you just sort of hang out and reconnect.  But there was no reconnecting for me, because I had this plan. 

Things started going wrong from the beginning.  First, I went to the barn in the morning, which I rarely do, but I was so keen on seeing Little Love that I just had to go.  She was happy to see me, but was obviously also waiting to get out into the pasture, as usually her and Col go out first thing after breakfast.  Second, my dog disappeared about ten minutes after we got to the barn.  She doesn't ever leave the property, but for some reason she could not be found anywhere.  I called and called, looked everywhere, but no dog.  Naturally, since she literally vanished off the face of the earth, I was sort of panicking (we eventually found her after 45 minutes of searching, she was stuck in the pool house and nobody has any idea how she got in there)  When I found the dog, I should have just let Little Love go into the pasture since looking for my dog had put me into a state of mind that was not exactly great for horse-handling... But, because I had noticed that Little Love's legs were sort of thick (probably from lack of excercise in the past five days) I was even more determined to take her for a walk.  But before that I wanted to soak the feet, namely because they hadn't been soaked for five days. 

By this time the barn worker was done mucking Col's stall and wanted to put him out.  We agreed that he could be put into the small area in between the barn and the field, because we both knew he wouldn't go out to the field on his own, and if he did, Little Love would lose it (I at least had the sense to realize this much).  At this point I was attempting to soak Little Love's feet, but of course the second she heard Col outside, she was certain she was getting left behind and couldn't stand still.  So much for the soaking. 

I put the boots on her feet, which was a chore as she would not stand still and just wanted to run to Col, who was standing about 25 feet away, but on the other side of the fence; a clear sign (according to Little Love) that he was going out without her.  Even trying to stand at the fence did not work, as she paced back and forth in panic.  At this point my emotional state was not exactly one of patience and zen and a few times I totally reverted back to my old way of coping in such situations i.e. I "lost it" and made Little Love pay some sort of attention to me by vigorously backing her up by applying pressure on her face via the leadrope/halter.  The second time I did that, she sort of stopped and gave me this look of "oh, so this is how we are doing it today" (I swear, this is how it felt to me).  That momentarily snapped me out of my state and I took my first deep breath, feeling like I had failed some damn test I had set myself up to take. 

So, then after all this drama, I still was stuck on the idea of walking her off the property.  I have no clue why I just couldn't go to the arena.  My brain was obviously switched on to this one gear and there was nothing that would turn it off the track it was on.  Off we went, me grinding my teeth and my horse literally prancing next to me (the upside of this is of course that she is feeling so much better on her feet to actually prance on concrete)  Col had a fit in his little paddock and started screaming from the top of his lungs.  He does not whinny melodically, but rather sounds like an elephant in pain.  I'm sure all our neighbors thought we were doing some kind of horse torture on the property. 

Little Love handled this concert really well for a while, until we were about 6 minutes away.  Then her eyes glazed over, she tried to turn home (with a rear) all the while screaming in a very high pitch voice to her one and only boy friend.  I didn't have the sense to turn home right away, but rather pulled her along with me.  However, after another minute or two it became obvious that I had little say in where we were going and at what speed.  So, I made the only sensible decision of the day and turned around.  By the time we got to the front gate, Little Love and I were both a lot calmer (maybe because we had jogged uphill?)and perhaps a little more connected (I was finally listening to her on some level).  Col was still calling, but not as vigrously so we went into the outdoor arena and walked around for a good 20 minutes. 

At that point I was fairly disappointed in my own behavior, but still braved on with the walking.  And I'm happy I did, as it did help the swelling on her legs go down - some kind of consolation for doing pretty much everything else wrong today.  Little Love was fairly energetic and offered some trot.  She is moving completely differently now than last week, very confident, even on the hard ground.  The left front still gives her grief every now and then, but all in all I would say she is fairly sound.  This, of course, is brilliant news.  Otherwise she doesn't look as great as she seems to feel; her hair is quite dull colored and she has dropped all muscle.  It was sort of a shock to see her after five days; I guess when you are gone for a while, the changes as more obvious. 

Once I was done walking her (finally, in Little Love's opinion as she had tried to trot out of the arena about five times at that point), I took her straight to the pasture.  Col was waiting for her and together they took off down the hill at a canter and disappeared behind the corner.  I, on the other hand, mucked the stall and prepped the evening feed, all the while mentally kicking myself for being such a hard headed idiot.  It is interesting how I hadn't really seen the whole picture until I was out of it.  Hindsight is precious, and it stings in an old wound like three pounds of salt.

After the chores, I went to the pasture and sat down in the dirt while the horses grazed.  Little Love wouldn't give me the time of day and I can't blame her, I had behaved like a controlling tyrant.  I was so dissapointed in myself I wanted to cry.  After about ten minutes Col walked over to me and touched my arm; he is such a supportive guy.  Little Love looked at us for a moment and then walked the opposite direction, pulling Col with her.  If I could take back this day and start over, I would skip everything and just go straight to this last part; the pasture.  But we can't take back time, unfortunately.  We can only learn from the mistakes we made.  Hopefully some day that will happen to me.  


  1. Hi K
    Love reading your blog!
    I also had a terrible time with my horses yesterday, all because I did exactly the same thing as you and didn't see/hear what they were very obviously trying to tell me. All the more stupid as my idea had been to see how they felt and then decide what to do from there. I find that a lack of a plan for me actually makes things worse - if I'm not clear on what I want to do or which one of them I want to work with, then I seem to make bad choices through indecision. I need a plan - but it needs to be adaptable.
    Well, today is another day and I know we have both learned from our mistakes. I hope you have a wonderful time with Little Love today, and I must go try to apologise and make up with my horses.
    x Sophie

  2. Yes, I've found that too - it's helpful to have a plan, but be willing to toss it out the window if the horses have a better idea. Which they often do.

  3. Sounds like you did in fact learn from this experience, and rather eloquently. Little Love is so lucky to have you, K. What was a blistering lesson in patience and intuition for you, is unfortunately routine for most human/horse relationships. The most magnificent part of this story is that you listened and know what Little Love needed, she was clear in her telling of it. Bravo to you, go easy on yourself. This is a journey for both of you, each as the other's guide. Today is another day...

  4. I'm a little late, tmdunphy just said what I wanted to say- that you've already learned from the experience.

    You will make mistakes, she will get annoyed at you, and you will both get over it. Horses are very forgiving that way. I had a plan last night that I almost had to chuck out the window when it looked like my mare didn't want me to put her bridle on (I'm starting her under saddle). Fortunately she changed her mind and we had a great session.

    With my horses I usually use the 3 strikes method. If I try to do something three times and they still don't want to cooperate then I do something else.

  5. Thank you all for your encouraging words! It's good to know I'm not the only one "messing up"! I like that three strikes method, makes sense :-) And having a plan works, but obviously it has to be a flexible one.