Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Nuzzled Into It

Why visiting the barn can sometimes not be such a great idea and why I may soon be in so much trouble with myself... (explanation follows)

This is Bella.

Bella is a yearling.

Bella is a registered Paint mare with two blue eyes (and black eyeliner and ultra-mod white eyelashes).

Bella is visiting the barn for a couple of weeks while the barn manager teaches her about respect and manners, since apparently she has none (according to her owners). (As we all know by now, being of the Parelli Persuasion, my initial off-the-cuff remark to the barn manager was something to the effect of "well then it's the owners that need to be here..." because it's not the horse's fault, it's that the owners, however well-intentioned, don't know how to ask for the horse's respect. I know I'm at the right barn, because the BM chuckled in agreement.)

Bella was occupying the round pen. (Flashbacks to the old barn: every time I made up my mind to play with my horses, there would be a new horse being "quarantined" in the round pen.) BM explained the training situation (and said it's no trouble to put her in a stall if I want to use the pen). Then BM suggested that I have a go at her. Play with her. See what I can get out of her.

Well, OK. If you insist. LOL!

This was a new situation for me because babies don't know what older horses should know, so the approach is different. It was important for me to bond quickly and establish trust rather than get really firm—that's just too scary for a baby horse. So I had to employ a much softer, gentler approach but still not let her get away with stuff. No nipping. However, no smacking if she nipped because that's her way of testing out the world—there are kinder ways of dissuading her from nipping at me. She wasn't very mouthy with people but she chawed on the lead rope quite a bit. That's OK for her to do. Then she knows it won't hurt her and it keeps her curiosity intact.

That's the biggest challenge—how to be firm enough, yet gentle enough, and teach her without knocking the curiosity out of her. She's a very curious little mare, and that's GOOD. We LIKE that. She's smart. She's inquisitive. She wants to explore and taste the whole world. She just needs to understand that the two-leggeds are in charge, have the plan and that she needs to follow and trust the leader.

It was fascinating. Much different from playing with Cheerios, my obstinate 10-year-old gelding. But what was more fascinating was what happened later when I played with Cheerios. I changed my approach with him without thinking about it, because I was still thinking about Bella, and to my utter amazement, I realized I've been much too firm with him (even though I thought I was being too soft). I found out he WILL respond to the slightest suggestion IF I am POLITE. I didn't realize until today how impolite I tended to be with him. Impatient. Kind of snotty, like "you should know this, now do it".

When I treated him more like the baby, I got responses! I mounted Cheerios bareback at the end of my session with him and I barely had to ask him to walk, to stop, to please go left please go right. It was the lightest he's ever been. There was a LOT of apologizing on my part to him for yanking on him in earlier sessions and expecting him to not respond.

Anyway. Back to Bella.

Bella has been with her current owners for about a year. Bella was purchased from a sale (auction? dunno). Bella's owners have other horses. Bella's owners adore her, but. Bella's owners want an older horse for their daughter. Bella is far too young to be ridden (not until she's at least four).

Bella is for sale, priced at $1,000.

I made four five huge mistakes today:
  1. I went to the barn to play with horses because it was 60 and sunny
  2. I played with Bella and we bonded
  3. I fell in love with Bella
  4. I asked the BM if they'd maybe take $800 for her
The BM called later. They said if Bella was going to a really good home and would be boarded out there, then yes, they'd take $800.

Oh, crap.

Thankfully, the BM also told Bella's people that I was just thinking about it. So I haven't bought her.



We know better, don't we?

Oh. What was the fifth mistake, you ask?
  1. I asked the Universe/God, "Why have I been so unmotivated lately when it comes to my horses and horsemanship, and could You PLEASE give me a reason to get motivated again?"
Is there anything more motivating than a fresh, unspoiled (and absolutely GORGEOUS to whom cell phone photos in poor light do no justice) baby horse and the opportunity to start her off right? A baby horse that within minutes had decided I am THE COOLEST thing since sliced grain? Who tipped her head toward me and looked at me with those wide blue eyes, muzzle on my belly, when I asked her if she wanted to be the foundation of my Paint Horse Empire? (Of course, this is how I wound up with Cheerios. He stuck his nose in my belly and blew, and the guy said "by the way he's for sale".)

Blue eyes. What IS it with me and blue eyes? Aren't horses "supposed" to have big brown eyes? If I wind up with her, that will be five out of six eyes blue and only one brown in my mini-herd. And two Tobiano Paint Mares. This little girl, she's like my first three horses (Cheerios, Shaveya and the late great bay mare Wildflower) all rolled into one.


I won't tell you what I paid for Cheerios as a four-year-old, and he's GELDED. As in no babies ever. And I thought I got him cheap. Of course, there would be vet checks and the farrier has to look at her feet, and I need to research her bloodlines... so it may not fly. Oh yeah, and there's the additional board fees. But I have set a deadline to decide. Three days. By Saturday night, I'll know if it'll fly or not.

Either this is my next acquisition, or it was just a kick-ass motivator to remind me of why I got into Parelli in the first place.

Yeah, I still wanna be a musician. Why, can't I be both?

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At 3:13 PM, November 15, 2007, Blogger becky c. said...

You are the first person I have ever known who buys horses. I have obviously led a very sheltered, urban life!

At 12:26 AM, November 17, 2007, Anonymous tiennie said...

J - I've never even been on a horse. I don't think that I want to. Somehow they always seem to be too big too scary for me.


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