Monday, March 24, 2008
Horses can read minds. I know this because Bullet knew exactly what I was up to the other day. After I worked him, I decided to put him onto the trailer because he hadn’t been on it in a long time and I thought it would be good to refresh his memory. He had always been a good loader but for some reason I had a feeling that he was going to resist. I was right. He planted his feet and refused to budge. But I was ready. I had a package of Ritz crackers in my pocket. I was planning to give him a few anyway. As soon as he got on, I was going to give him some so he’d associate the trailer with something good. Then I was going to take him off and let him go. Nice, pleasant experience. Good reinforcement. But nope. He wouldn’t get on. I took the crackers out of my pocket and crinkled the sleeve they came in. Bullet pricked up his ears. I took a couple out and ate them, munching noisily. He inched closer. I held one out to him but all he would do was stretch his nose out as far as it would go so I ate that one too. Frustrated, I thought, “I’m going to throw you back into the round pen!” Suddenly, as if he heard the threat, he climbed up with a big bang and I rewarded him with a cracker and a pat.
(I work the horses in the round pen. I make them move in different directions, at different speeds, like the boss horse moves the herd. It teaches a horse to respond willingly because he learns that you are his herd leader.)
The other horse Harley is a nervous goof ball and if you go out to catch him and approach him like you’ve got something on your mind, he’ll take off and scoot away, tossing his head and kicking up his heels. If he could speak English you would hear him say, “Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, you can’t catch me!” He’s just having a little fun. Not unlike the Joker on Batman. Which is why Kurt can’t stand him. Kurt needs a more serious horse like Bullet. Kurt calls him “The Bullet.” Bullet is a no-nonsense barrel horse with reining training. Most barrel horses when they’re running home run right through the gate and over hill and dale before you can get them to stop, they’re going so fast. Bullet, because of his reining training, crosses the timer and does a sliding stop. He skids on his butt in a cloud of dust miles before the gate. The audience gasps. He knows how to get the job done. In Batman, he would be Bruce Wayne with a touch of the Catwoman because he’s so good-looking.
The last time Kurt tried to catch Harley, he came storming in the house and threw the halter on the table. “You go and get that bastard!” I went out there and put my hand on my hip and rolled my eyes. “Now cut it out,” I said, like I was bored. “Stop being so silly.” He stopped in his tracks, turned around and plowed over to me. He slammed on the brakes and I believe he would have jumped into my lap if he could have. “Okay, you win,” he said. Well, he didn’t actually say it but maybe I can read horse minds as well as they can read mine because I know that’s what he was thinking.
In a way catching Harley involves a technique similar to the reverse psychology I use on Kelly. When she asks for my opinion on which shirt she should wear or what she should play with, I always say the opposite of what I want her to do because she’s going to choose the other one. Since I started working with Bullet, Harley keeps getting in the way. He’s jealous. He follows me around, nudging me, daring me to catch him because I’m too busy right now.
When I let Bullet out of the trailer, Harley loped over to see what he was missing. I took the opportunity to grab him and put him on the trailer. I slipped Bullet’s halter over his head, loaded him up and gave him a cracker. Then I thought about how much I love them. But they’re mind-readers so they already know that.