Wednesday, February 13, 2013

There's Times


There’s Times


There’s times when you realize you just need some help. It’s my newest project this time. A 14 year old quarter horse gelding with Hancock bloodlines. We call him JB. His registered name is My JB Hancock. I don’t know what JB stands for. I had a “contest” once to get ideas. I got a lot of good ideas and then some riduculous ones. Jim Beam. Just Because. Junior Bonner. Jingle Bob. Jello Biafra. It’s still anybody’s guess. I just call him JB and leave it at that.


 He’s a grey, and in my humble opinion, a beauty with nicely defined withers so that roping saddle doesn’t go side ways when you have a hefty steer or calf on the end of your dallied rope. I’m grey, too, so we match. Physically he’s a sturdy boy. Probably about 1100 pounds dripping wet. A calf can’t pull him off his feet. Tall but not too tall at 15.3 hands high. Just right for me. Refined aquiline nose. A classic horse. Gentle and quiet. Walks out briskly. Not lazy. Or so the theory goes.

It seems like he just spent too much of his life within the confines of a corral or arena. We got him when he was already quite an adult. What had been done had already been done. Ray Hunt said, “A horse learns what he lives”. So now he’s anxious when we go out to the wide open spaces of our ranch to check the cows and calves. He’s kind of a like a born and bred New Yorker in a way. “Dahling, what is that over there? EEEuuuuuww! Let’s go back to the barn where I’m safe!” So I’m up there getting my fillings knocked loose from the jigging. I have enough feel in the reins so he knows he can’t just rocket away. So the energy goes where? Up. Next we try some circles. We’re trying to get down to the life in the feet and wind down that life. That goes no where. Or better put it goes some where more than I want. He simply spins out of the circle into even more energy! We try asking for softness in his head and neck. This works a little bit but as soon as he gets soft and I give him the release to say “Good job! Right answer!” he goes right back to jigging. Where was that valium anyway!

Frustration sets in. The bag of tricks is getting perilously empty. It wasn’t too full in the first place. I don’t know what to do. When he’s particularly bad I just get off and walk him back. With me in front he quiets down to the horse I know and love. I guess the New York side of him says “Oh, thank god! Stay in front and protect me from the bad nasty critters!” When he’s not particularly bad but just somewhat bad I stay aboard trying my limited bag of tricks. At least he’s giving me practice to stay balanced and light and noticing the slightest tries in the direction of relaxed. Of which there are precious few. I’m trying “ATM”. Ask. Tell. Make. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” Ralph must not have trained horses. In horse training consistency is the salvation and the holy of holies. This and perfect timing. A very astute person once told me that if you don’t give the horse the cue that he did something right exactly when he does it right he will pass by that try and consign it to the dust bin of “that didn’t work!” He may never try that answer again or it may take a very long time before it takes a chance and tries it again.

So you see we’ve got a challenge here. We’ve got an imperfect horse with an imperfect rider. Trial and error on both sides. Months are going by and we’re making glacial progress. It’s time to bring in the honchos. In the meantime we keep on the old saw of consistency and timing of release. It’s not so much what you do it’s how you do it and when. Just don’t get mad. Zen. Zen. Breathe!

Next installment: I take Jitter Bug to Gwen and Dave hoping to start the transformation of our partnership as horse and rider and turn him into Jim Dandy.

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