My MHTA and Dusty……
In my last Jeffers order, I bought a new pair of barn boots in a lovely light blue with spots. I tried them on for the first time this afternoon and they felt AWESOME. So awesome in fact that I thought they gave me Magical Horse Training Abilities (hereafter known as MHTA). Aren’t they pretty?
This evening I arrived home to an empty house. The sun was still shining and it was decently warm out. I decided to get Dusty out and ‘play’ around in the yard with him. I got my handy dandy neon orange lunge whip (known as Orange Stick – not to be confused with big name trainer Veggie Stick), a new black and turquoise halter and lead rope and a pocket full of horse treats. He came to me once he saw that treats would be involved and gladly let me put the pretty girly halter on his head (at this point the Orange Stick was out of sight!).
We went out into the yard and I let him grab a few blades of grass before asking for attention. He pulled back and went back to the grass – was that a fly flicking by? I lifted up the Orange Stick and immediately I had his FULL attention. Let me just state here and now that to my knowledge that this horse has NEVER been beaten with anything, and if I ever caught anyone beating him, there would be hell to pay. He gets all put out and pouts if he thinks he’s in trouble, so 99% of the time he’s a good boy. The other 1% is when he doesn’t understand what the heck I’m asking him for, like what you’re about to read below……
I’ve got this old set of cement steps out in the pasture that we had taken off of the old house many years ago. It’s roughly the same dimensions of the steps that are used in a lot of the extreme cowboy competitions. I’ve tried a few times half heartedly to get him to go over it, but it’s made out of old concrete blocks and there are holes in the top that are mostly filled with dirt and concrete. They are MAYBE 1 inch deep, so it gives the optical illusion of being a honey comb. I haven’t ever been able to get him to do more than step a foot up and yank it back off. SO, today I felt really confident in my MHTA , and just KNEW that the stars were aligned to that perfect place where Dusty would believe every word I spoke and hop right up like a trained circus horse….. Can’t you just see the magical stars floating by?
I started out by leading him over to the steps. He thought he deserved a cookie for walking over and stopping. Ok, here’s a cookie. I told him to Whoa and I walked around the steps. He stood there like stone looking at me like I was daft or at least stupid. I lifted the rope slightly and asked him to “Step up”. He promptly raised both front hooves, pivoted on his rear and completely avoided the steps and came around to the side where I was standing and snuffled my pocket for a cookie. *frowny face* I said NO Dusty and moved him back to the other side. This time I walked up and over the steps, saying “See? this is how you do it”. He just blew out pffftttttt and shook his head. I asked again, and had my feet ready to move quickly and turn him before he had another chance to rear to the side. Foiled again! We did this same dance around and around and around that step for about 5 minutes before I finally lost my temper. He flat out refused to even put one foot on that darn thing. He was making a fool out of me and my new boots!! Out I brought the Orange Stick because evidently my MHTA was not on the same channel that Dusty was tuned in on tonight. Eyeballs bugged, head went up and he took a step backward – all the stars disappeared about then. I’ll say that at this point I should have just walked away and found something else for him to do that I knew he could succeed at – like weed eating around the house foundation. But NOOOOOO – I had on my new blue boots and MHTA was pumping through my veins. He WOULD obey my every whim and be happy to do my bidding. (Don’t laugh at me!!)
The more I insisted, the more he shut down. Most people will tell you that if a horse refuses to do what you’re asking, work them really hard and make what you want them to do the easy thing. I promptly took him over and started lunging him on the 8 foot lead. I pushed him pretty hard and had him cantering in that tight little circle. He was NOT happy with me. I took him back to the steps and got 2 feet up! At this point he decided he had enough of my nonsense. I asked several more times and he refused. Back to the lunge we went, and by this time I was getting pretty frustrated with him, and he was frustrated with me. It got to the point that he wouldn’t even lunge for me. The last time I asked, he walked straight up to me and put his head down to my level where his eye was looking straight into mine about 6 inches away and just stood there breathing in my face and waiting for me to get it. He has NEVER done that before. Looking into his eye I felt so ashamed. This horse has been a faithful loving companion to me for several years, and here I was getting angry with him because he wouldn’t climb up on some old steps that he thought looked dangerous. He has carried my fat butt for miles on end over all kinds of terrain and kept me safe through it all….. I felt like the worst kind of owner and he brought me to tears – just like that. I don’t deserve this horse, but so many times in my life he has been exactly what I need.
I took him back out into the yard and let him graze on some of the clover and fescue that are growing while I reflected on the absurdity of what I did. I think he forgave me pretty quickly because when I turned him out, he stood at the gate and put his head on my shoulder instead of racing off like he usually does. He fluffed up my hair and sniffed my ear a bit, made me feel a lot better.
So next time I put on my new boots, and the MHTA feeling hits, I’ll just ignore it and do something constructive like clean out the horse trailer or scrub a water trough!