Friday, August 26, 2016

My storm

Things look different depending on how close to them you are.

From a distance, a storm is a dark, powerful, beautiful thing.  It doesn't seem like a bad thing when it's all the way over there. 

But when you're in the thick of it, you feel a bit different about it.  When that's your reality, you notice other things.  Like the risk involved and the fact that there is no off switch.  You just have to wait it out and try to avoid damage.

And then there's Theo.  He's dark, powerful, beautiful.  From a distance, that's what people see and fall in love with.  I've been asked if he's for sale while out with him.  This is usually from trainers looking for an ammy friendly ride while he's dozing in the warm up ring or rifling a steward's pockets after standing like a statue for tack check.  Fun fact, we've practiced taking his ear net off enough that when I reach forward to grab it at a show, he lifts his head so I can reach.

I mean, who wouldn't fall in love with this horse?

He's also capable of being a rampaging dick and likes to give me little reminders that he could, at any moment, decide he's done playing.  About once a week, I get a glimpse.  A curl, hump of the back, tense ears, a buck or offer to rear.  My relationship with mi papi has always had that little edge of trying to keep a lid on things. Unlike my TB partners that would blow up due to excessive energy or over reacting, Theo gets pissed.  And when he blows, it's not pretty.

Being dumb stubborn suicidal experienced, these generally don't even register with me.  I note the dropping barometric pressure, adjust, and we move on like nothing happened.  Half of the time, even Trainer A doesn't notice it.  We've worked together long enough that I can smooth the edges, hand him a cookie, and not miss a beat. 

But storms are a force of nature and, in the end, you can't stop them.  It's what they are.  You plan and take precautions, but that doesn't mean they'll never strike.  Theo will always be mi papi, and that's not always a good thing.

Theo gave me a totally awful ride yesterday.  We were outside so we could use the large arena to work out the First 3 trot pattern.  As I'm walking around the outside to warm up, we both hear something in the woods.  Theo stops and pops his head up.  I'm looking with him, but never see anything.  Probably a fat squirrel.  I wait until it's quiet, then shrug it off.  I put my leg on and he walks by with some looking, but whatever.  He gets a pat.  This is all completely normal.  I start trotting.  At that same spot, he stops dead.  I nudge him to step up and he says NOPE.  Which is ridiculous, we work in this arena all the time and squirrels are nothing new.  I said go on, he started going sideways and swinging his butt.  I put my spur on and that jerk decided that he was going to curl and fly backwards, followed by a lift and turn on the haunches I wish I could get when I wanted it.  When I booted him, he started to go up.  I smacked him on the neck, my standard response to going up, followed by a verbal correction.  Usually he gives at this point, verbal corrections are very effective with him, but instead I felt his butt drop. 

Oh shit.  We just went to the place I don't want to go.

Now Theo wants to fight.  Now I have to make sure I don't let him face home because I'm in a loose ring snaffle and there's no way in hell I can stop him from bolting home.  He's already using all of that lovely new flexibility against me and trying to spin.  I pop him on the shoulder with my whip to stop the spin and he kicks out.  It got bad enough that a clueless mother watching her equally clueless daughter ride called for her daughter to get out of the ring.

And my temper started snapping.  This was ridiculous and I was not going to be hauled back to the barn by his bolting ass.  It would have been easier to get off and throw him, but I forced him to walk by it in a shoulder in so he couldn't look at it.  Fine.  I won.  But now what?  He was stomping his feet more than trotting and diving out his shoulder rather than cantering.  I was ticked about the whole thing and guarding against another blow up.

I forced myself to let go of the reins and give him a cookie.  He kind of glared at me, then took it.  He crunched away and I took some deep breaths.  I picked my reins back up and we went back to work.  It was still tense and tight, but at least we weren't actively plotting each other's deaths.  I did the bare minimum for the day and got off. 

Why thank you, papi, for reminding me that you are not, in fact, bluffing.  Yikes.

And we stood there, sort of glaring at each other, until I gave in and started scritching along his crest.  You know he's angry when he looks at a treat before he takes it, but by the third treat, the eyes were going soft again.  After his bath, I let him loose in his field.  I needed to move his hay back to where he could get it, so he followed me as I walked down the hill.  I gave him a little push and jumped away.  He snorted and came back.  I pushed him and took off.  That was enough for him and with a mighty head toss he chased me the rest of the way down the field.  Even the best of friends have fights sometimes.

Controlling a storm is not an easy feat.  It's not for the faint of heart.  I adore him, but I do need these little reminders to take his threats seriously.  He's not bluffing.


  1. He's a feisty one for sure! Good for you for sticking to your point but not the fight.

  2. Oh Mi Papi! He keeps things interesting at least... I'm glad that you managed to avoid the storm.