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Acquiring some Horse Sense

This is not my Riley: this is a Welsh pony photo from evans-welshponies.com

Good instincts usually tell you what to do long before your head has it all figured out – Michael Burke

I recently found myself in a situation that made me think of my horse, Riley.  Riley was an Arabian-Welsh cross that my Dad bought  for me when I was 9. I’d been riding for several years by then but had never had my own horse.  I rode JJ and Queenie, my cousin’s horses, as often as I could, and our draft horses Tony and Bruce,  but that wasn’t the same as having my own.  When you’re a full-time cowgirl you need a full-time horse! So when Dad asked me if I wanted to go with him to deliver a load of hay, I answered, “sure,” figuring that, at the very least I’d score a pop and some candy. That’s what you get when you take a trip with the Candy Man.

Slipping on my jean jacket and hopping into the cab of the truck, I never even noticed the horse trailer behind us.  Flipping through the AM stations, we shared peppermints and listened to the farm reports.    Arriving at a farm I didn’t recognize, I helped Dad as he offloaded the bales.  I noticed an older man, the farm owner, approach the truck.   I half-listened as they talked about grain costs and hay availability but, truth be told, I wasn’t paying them much attention because it was around that time that I spotted a dark grey horse looking at me intently.  He, with the most beautiful and inquisitive face, stared at me from a cow-filled corral and with cow pies up to his knees.  I abandoned the hay and sloshed through the barnyard muck, my rubber boots making a squirsh squirsh sound as I rushed to meet him.  Slowly and deliberately, he approached the fence but maintained a 3 foot distance from the rails.  Hardly daunted, I scaled the fence and, perched on the top, and reached out my hand so as to pet him. He snorted, stamped a foot, and backed away.

From behind I heard an unfamiliar voice ask, “So I hear you’re in the market for a horse?”

“Huh?” I said, looking in confusion over to my Dad, who stood at the truck grinning.

“What do you think all this hay is for?” giggled Dad.

Still confused, I looked from man to man and realized what was really going on:  they were trading hay for a horse – MINE!

I could hardly stand the ride home and I barely heard Dad as he explained, “You do realize he’s at least 5 years old and not even halter broke yet. He doesn’t know anything. You will need to work with him every day and teach him. You know that, right?”

Did I?

I spent nearly every day with Riley, after school, all weekends and every summer that followed.

So I brushed him. I spoiled him. I told him all my secrets. He greeted me with a nicker , ears up and one step forward, every time.  I laughed at his antics as he stole treats and opened gates for other horses but he’d redeem himself by obediently gave rides to small children who visited.  When he misbehaved while we were out riding, and he often did, I’d have him back up in straight lines.  Doing so won us both ribbon at the local 4-H show because, unbeknown-st to me, backing through an L corner was part of the “Western Trail” class competition. That horse could back a perfectly straight line the entire length of the arena.

There were many things that he was not: he was not tall and he was hardly lanky, but he was as dignified as an Arabian desert racer and as smart, stubborn and dependable as a Welsh working horse can be. He was perfect for me.

Riley.

He did more than listen: he provided therapy to a girl with a head full of dreams trying to find her place in the world.

He taught me more about trusting my instincts than any person ever has.

Once, on our way home from a horseback adventure with the cousins, he kept stopping every 20 feet or so.  Growing impatient, I urged him on. Finally, he stopped firmly, planted his feet, swung his head and bit me on the foot.  What?  He got my attention, and as I spun him around there, about 15 feet directly behind us, was the largest male coyote I’d ever seen.  Clearly he had sensed the danger behind us but could not see it clearly.   The coyote, no threat to us, locked eyes, looked down and loped away.   That day, I learned to listen to what he had to tell me:  I know better than you kid, and you might just want to pay attention.

What brings me to this tale?

A situation presented itself to me recently that just didn’t sit right with me. I tried to brush it off, to no avail. I finally spun around and stared it down for what it was. I recognized it, I dealt with it, and I moved on.

Thank you, Riley, for teaching me to trust what my gut’s telling me long before my head’s figured it out.

What have your animals taught you?


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Categories: Animals, Attitude, Beauty, Forgiveness, Gratitude, Home, Joy, Life, Life Lessons, Love, Opinion, Personal, Relationships, Self Discovery, Share, Thoughts, Uncategorized, Wisdom | Tags: , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

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12 thoughts on “Acquiring some Horse Sense

  1. That was a great story. I was just explaining to a friend that my older dog has taught me to remember…slow and steady, wins the race. She used to run alongside the entire walk. Now when I make the corner and start toward the house, she breaks down to a slow walk. She knows where we are going and she doesn’t expend any more energy than she has to. I may get there first but she still has enough in reserve to last her the rest of the day, I could learn a lot there.

    • Isn’t that the truth? Maybe on your next walk together you take it slow on your way back and even a little extra time to sit and give her a pet? 🙂 Thanks, Lissa, for stopping in and commenting. MJ

  2. This was fantastic, MJ. The lesson was duly noted, but I’d love to hear more tales of Riley. You have the beginnings of a good book, at least according to this horse lover.
    Congrats on facing down your situation and dealing with it.

    • Thank you, Lenore. He was one of a kind and I’ve never had a horse since b/c I knew I wouldn’t be able to replicate what I’d had as a child – wide open farms, fields & valleys to ride in, an abundance of hay & oats, and my father’s loving guidance to assist me. Thanks for visiting and for your kind words, MJ.

  3. Aww, horses are awesome. As you may have noticed on my blog, my sister has been horse-crazy since grade school pony club and now has a small horse farm. I didn’t catch the bug until college, where I ended up showing intercollegiate hunter/jumpers and fox hunting with several Atlanta-area hunts. I also ended up owning a sweet quarter horse of my own named Ruby. Such love.

    • I did notice that today, Caroline but I didn’t know your horse background. It’s not something I could do now as an adult $$ wise but I sure am lucky I had the times that I did. Thanks for visiting, MJ

  4. I like me your post and the reflections. I wrote in January, to gallop in a world of dreams …
    http://1cruzdelsur.wordpress.com/2011/01/13/galopando-por-un-mundo-de-suenos/

    Of the animals we learn to find the serenity in the life.
    If you have problems to read in Spanish, you can use the google translator
    Regards

    • Thank you for visiting and for including your post, I did read it and enjoyed it (and the music) very much. You are right – animals help us relax enough to see and experience serenity. Thanks for your comments, MJ

  5. Love this post! I never had a horse, but had dogs as a kid, and dogs for many years with our kids. You’re right, there are many things animals teach, if we pay attention!
    One of the best things about our dogs and family interaction was that they could actually be an ice-breaker, break the tension when we had a bad day. As a neutral and always fun part of the family, whether kids/parents were at odds, or husband/wife were, it frequently happened that some funny thing one of the dogs did would make us laugh, and then poof! the bubble of irritation or whatever would burst, and we would find ourselves laughing together. I think pets…horses, dogs, whatever…are a great addition to life!
    Thanks for writing!
    Sheila

    • Hi Sheila, I never thought of it that way but you’re right, dogs can be a definite ice breaker/mediator. I know our dog will usually go sit next to whomever seems to be having the roughest time of it. He has a way like that, even if someone is just tired, he’ll happily be tired with them. Great comment -thanks so much :). MJ

  6. Ahh horses, donkeys and mules love them all. What a wonderful memory to have a horse do you ever get a chance to be around equine anymore?

    • He was so smart that horse. I do not often get a chance to be around horses anymore; I could but it’s torture to visit. I know I’d want another and I can’t do as I did as a child with acres and hay provided. Now I’d have to pony up the $$ (pardon the pun – ha!) and it’s not do-able right now. Cheers! MJ

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