Ramblings from the Desert

The man who trades freedom for security does not deserve nor will he ever receive either. ~Benjamin Franklin

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Location: New Mexico

Author of the urban fantasy novel, The Music of Chaos, and the paranormal romance, The Canvas Thief.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Nikster and the Nazgul

(Probably of interest to no one. Too bad; I wanna blather about my horse.)

Peoples' perceptions of horses are funny. Probably because of the movies, most see horses as large fuzzy all-terrain vehicles. Drive 'em forever and where ever. Training a horse is just a matter of getting it to accept a rider on its back, right? All the other stuff, "Whoa," etc., comes preprogrammed. A bit like Plug and Play computer hardware. Once you're on their back everything else falls into place. Wrong.

Naturally, most of these people can't even train their dogs properly. Most of the dogs in America don't come when called, at least not reliably (mine, included). And the process of turning a horse into reliable mount is much more complicated.

Horses aren't entirely pre-programmed to even "like" us. They're prey animals and somewhere in the back of their instinctive memories, they still remember a time when men with spears tried to turn them into Sunday supper.

For the most part, the Nikster thinks people are okay. He is, however, quite suspicious of strangers. He is rideable. He's also paranoid and when he decides something is scary, he reacts big. If I happen to be on his back at the time, he sometimes forgets it's me up there. "Yikes! Mountain lion on my back. Getitoffme, getitoffme!"

So we've been working on his fear issues. And mine. See, when I was a kid, I'd bounce when I fell off a horse. Now, I hit the ground and go crunch.

The process has two facets: First, to expose him to as many scary things as possible; second, to train a reliable "calm down" cue. The exposure part has the neighbors thinking I'm a loon. For example, I've hauled a big ole drum (some sort of Central American thing) out to the paddock. Wham, wham, wham! The goal is for Nikster to stand quietly while I beat the thing around him. (Hmmm. Perhaps this is why he started the midnight drumming sessions on his feeder.)

Yesterday we were working with the black plastic trash bag. The latest variation: I put it over my head (and suffocate, much to his relief), and make like a Nazgul. All was going well until he reached over and pulled it off my head. At which point, black scary thing was suddenly attacking him--because he was pulling it toward himself; small horsy brain. His head rose up on his long Loch Ness neck, the bag still firmly in his teeth; he skittered back a dozen feet, finally dropping the bag.

To his credit, he did look a little sheepish. "This," I told him, "is why people think horses are stupid." We repeated the exercise a few more time and he sorted things out.

Now I just need a clanking suit of black armour.

Um, mornin' Happy Friday.
P.K.

 

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