Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Black Bird Rustling

Let's add "black bird," to the list of Terrible Things That Eat Horses, Especially Ones Named Gabriel.

Uh huh. That's right. A black bird sent the big man into a tizzy last night. Make that several tizzies. No. I'm not kidding. Yes, I've seen the darn things perched on him out at pasture and had to flick dried evidence of their horseback perch from his hair.

We started out just fine. He was a little up, but just enjoying himself and having some fun.

Then we rode past a black bird that was making a racket rustling around in the crunchy leaves right next to the arena. His ears popped up, his neck arched and he did his signature duck and spin to head the other direction as quickly as possible.


The bird remained. I don't know what was in that pile of dried leaves that had it's rapt attention, but the dang thing poked around in the pile during the entire 45 minute ride and made quite a bit of noise.

When we passed the bird doing it's thing, Gabe did, grunt and spin. After the second duck and spin he got spanked and I spun him back towards the Black Bird of Imminent Doom and Destruction.

We. Will. Pass. The. Bird. Without you acting like a moron I told him in my stern I'm-not-going-to-put-up-with-this-crap-today mommy voice.

After about the 6th pass and subsequent duck, grunt and spin, I spanked him and spun him to face that bird.


He trembled. I could feel that energy building in him like steam in a tea kettle on the verge of blowing full bore.

This wasn't fear, this was ENERGY and he was simply doing something with it. Yes, what he chose to do with it was inappropriate, but I had failed to give him any other way to release that energy. I had become so focused on making him walk nicely past the noisy bird that I failed to pay attention to his growing need, his increasing desperation to just GO FORWARD.

I forgot the number one Thoroughbred rule: When things get sticky, just GO FORWARD. Give them something to do with that energy before you lose their brains entirely.

I was quickly closing in on losing his brain entirely.

Forget the damn bird, it's trivial, I told myself, just go forward.

And forward we went. I bumped him up into a trot and he gave me the world on a platter. He presented a huge, ground eating, back swinging, throw me out of the saddle trot. Holy mackerel.

Past that bird (which was still doing it's thing in the leaves. Rustle...rustle...rustle) without a single ear twitch...forward forward forward using up that energy in a positive way. Not rushing, just cycling spectacularly from pushing hindquarters, through me and my arms and to the bit where he graciously took it, raised his poll, lifted his withers, lifted his belly and gave me something he's never given me before....he went on the bit! Granted, it was only for a half dozen strides or so, but he gave it and I took it with graciously and with immense pleasure.

The feeling...indescribable. There was no force, there was no holding or pushing or pulling or was energy in it's purest form, the two of us in harmony.

For a few strides, I rode Nirvana. It's that place we all seek with our horses and from time to time, we find it, however fleeting the moment may be, we constantly strive to find it again and make it longer, more frequent. Beautiful.


  1. Maybe you need to get a fake black bird to rig up in the bushes each time you take him out!

  2. Haha! If it would inspire that much forward energy every time I most certainly would!

  3. This is a wonderful post! My horse ducks out on me, too. A friend who knows these horses has told me about the forward energy they need. I love your description of the riding in harmony. Good for you guys!! :-)

  4. This was so funny to me! How many of us have had a moment so similar? You described it perfectly.

    Great post - I really enjoyed it!

  5. Posts like this are why I love reading about TBs. Nobody else says "just GO FORWARD" - the other breeds are usually all about calming the horse down, blah blah. My idjit does much better if I let her GO FORWARD, and it's awesome to get some confirmation that I'm not alone!

    PS Dixie had to face down a llama today. Tell Gabe how lucky he is!

  6. Allison...thank you! It was definitely a thrill, even though it took me longer than it should have to figure it out. It gets so frustrating when they duck out and blow right through your aids, but when I can figure out the why and kind of solve the issue, it's so, so rewarding. mean those moments when you're pretty sure your horse has lost his/her ever-lovin' mind? :D I'm glad you enjoyed the post and if it got a chuckle, even better!

    Funder...When I can figure out why he's doing something silly (or stupid!) and trace it back to something I was doing (or not doing), it makes my whole day. If I can always remember to push him forward instead of reining him in both of our lives will be so much easier.
    OOhhh...a llama!!! EEEKKK!! I'm pretty sure Gabe's skin would fall off if faced with a llama. Those things look bizarre even to me. How did Dixie do?

  7. Loved it Jenn,
    Have not had that attacks from strange and recognisable objects- of late...thank goodness. But yes...move those feet, always a TB recourse for recovery!