Tuesday, August 25, 2009
I have learned more about horses in the last 4 days than I ever thought I wanted to know. Ever since Mark and I and Dad moved up here Mark and I have thought about keeping a horse or 2 to help out since our physical limitations don't allow us to do a lot hauling, carrying etc. He's also had concerns for years based on his analysis of society from a military intellegence perspective that things might break down within our lifetime to the point where it would be in our best interest to be self sufficient. A horse makes that a whole lot easier.
Over the years we've looked at the horse-for-sale ads posted on the feed mill bulletin boards but between the cost of the horse, the cost quoted in books of taking care of a horse and the fact that the last time I, the more experienced of the 2 of us re: horses, worked with anything of the equine variety was 25+ years ago, the idea has gotten repeatedly shelved. That was until last Wednesday. A friend of mine has a relative who basically abandoned her 2 horses and goat and if it wasn't for the neighbors of this woman and my friend who took it upon themselves to step in and take care of the livestock, God only knows what condition the animals would have been in. I have absolutely no patience for people who have no regard for and feel no responsibility towards those who are dependant on them. Finally this woman asked my friend to find homes for the critters - no easy task as horses are relatively plentiful around here, the economy is such that most people can't take on another mouth to feed and the horses have basically been lawn ornaments for the last few years receiving barely adequate care and no training - meaning that they're saddle broke but not easy to work with.
The goat, who is a real sweetheart, got herself a good home with one of the neighbors and has become the close companion of one of his children. A friend of my friend has been smitten by one of the 2 horses, Blaze, who can be seen here, and has the skills necessary to make him into a well behaved mount so he's found himself a home. The other one, whose picture is up top, we're calling Aeolae (ay-o-lay). She is rather high spirited, a bit stand offish and has managed to get a bad reputation among the horse people around here to the point where no one would take her. When my friend mentioned last Wednesday that her probable fate was to be euthanized (rather than sent to auction) because a home couldn't be found, I had to at least consider the possibility of giving her a home. Now is not the time we'd choose to take her - first snow could be as soon as 6 weeks from now and finances could definately be better - but we have the basic housing, the local costs of keeping a horse are within our means and with the help of my friend, who is an accomplished trainer, we have a decent chance of making her into a fine workhorse and mount. This is one case where we're definately not looking a gift horse in the mouth, at least not too closely, especially as she comes with trainer, help to ready this place for her and the loan of much of the equiptment we need until we can either make or buy our own. The whole situation has the feel of a God given opportunity both for our benefit and to do a mitzvah by caring for one of God's critters and saving some people from heartache - my friend is rather fond of her but can't take her.
Mark chose her name, which used to be Windy, as a feminine version of the Greek god of the winds - Aeolus. It has a much softer sound than Windy, no bad thing around a horse that needs all the calming she can get, and I find it interesting that the Greeks thought of the winds as horse shaped spirits. She seems to like it; I was over there Mon and she at least appeared intrigued at hearing it.
Last Fri Mark went to meet her and she took to him really well. That's due in part to her noticing one of the first things I noticed in him - his outward calm but forceful presence. He exudes command and she definately needs a leader of the herd she can respect. She walked very nicely next to him and he had little problem with her getting pushy. Me on the other hand, she walked all over - literally. It wasn't malicious and I was stupid for wearing sandals out there, I know better than that, but fortunately she didn't cause any damage except to my ego. She's a youngish and big horse, 13 yo and ~15 hh (~5' at the shoulder), and is solidly built being an Arab/Thoroughbred or Quarterhorse cross and used that to push me aside more than once as I was walking her. I'm a little nervous of her, which I'm going to have to get over in short order, and her and I are going to have to work on the fact that I rank above her in the herd. I'm somewhere going to have to find it to act larger than life and quit being afraid of getting hurt or she's going to learn that I'm no one to respect. I don't need that from my horse; I get enough of it from the rest of the world. The thing is that she isn't a dumb horse - that may actually be part of her problem; like me she's sometimes too smart for her own good and gets bored and rebellious. I think communication will occur and we will get along. It'll be easier when Blaze isn't there to be sticking his big nose into the situation and getting Aeolae into trouble.
Tonight we're going out with my friend to work with Aeolae again and hopefully I'll fare better this time. Last night she let me come up and rub her although you can see her uncertainty as to where I fit into her life. Her and Blaze are very dependant on each other and she's probably going to grieve some and act out when he moves to my friend's farm until her friend can take him. It's good though that we can leave Aeolae where she is for a few more weeks yet as we need that time to get the 'barn' ready, run fence, arrange for hay and all the other things I don't want to have to think about getting done before she arrives; too much to do in too little time with too little energy and undedicated money - I trust in Hashem to provide. At least she'll be able to deal with some of her separation issues in a familiar atmosphere.
One of the things I've learned lots about is the natural horsemanship method of training where the trainer/rider works with horse psychology to get the horse to do what is wanted rather than force. It's liable to take longer but will produce a much better horse. I had heard of the Horse Whisperer and ran across this type of training in Mercedes Lackey's Tarma & Kethry stories but had no idea that the practice was so widespread. I think it's more humane and treats the horse not just as a tool to be made to work as desired but with the dignity due any creature that has the capacity to cooperate in an endeavor.
Stay tuned for more tales of the breaking in of Aeolae; although I'm sure she'll do her best to break us in. It's a good thing I enjoy learning and a challenge. Mark's (and occasionally my) thoughts on horsing around can be found here. I'm off to read the stack of books my friend gave me as homework. Darn, I feel like I'm back in college - work my butt off all day, study all night, sleep sometime. :)