Thursday, March 18, 2010

Horse Crazy Girls

Everyone, at some point in their lives has known that girl  -- the one who reads all the books about horses, has the posters on her wall, collects the little figures, and every notebook had pictures of them splattered all over it. And if you've never met her, well, you're looking at her, 'cause I am that Horse Crazy Girl. It kind of gets to be, at some point, one of those things that you're a little embarrassed to admit to people sometimes. The same way some people look at you when you tell them that you love Star Wars and that your best subject in school was drama (check, and check.) Don't act like you don't know what I'm talking about either. You know who you are.

The thing about Chroicoragh is: I love her. Of all the images of horses in my head, and on my wall, and all the horses I'd ever (briefly) met, Chroicoragh is the culmination of all the qualities I love about horses. Her color and type, all that hair! And that little sense of mystery she seems to convey, like she has the wisdom of a thousand years and no matter what you think you know, you will never be able to figure it out.

One of my favorite lines is from a cheesy movie with Jeaneane Garofalo (who I love, but I never see her anymore except for when she's on Real Time.) Anyway in the movie, The Truth About Cats & Dogs, she plays a vet with a radio show. A bit of advice she gives a caller: "It's O.K. to love your pets, just don't love your pets."
It kind of goes into that whole thing of making fun of people who go a little too overboard regarding their pets. I get it. I mean, little Foo-Foo dogs in handbags bug the crap out of me. There is just something wrong about a dog in a purse. (Sorry. Rant.) But I mean, I don't know, I guess I'd rather be known as the Crazy Horse Girl than the Girl Who Buys Bottled Water For Her Dog And Is Shocked To See Him Eat Cat Poop.

Chroicoragh has a tendency to want to be the boss - there's one in every herd, and any good trainer will tell you that you must make it clear to your horse that you are the herd boss. Otherwise, the horse will assume he is boss, and doesn't have to listen to you, and go to the water hole instead of the trail. Or the hay barn instead of the round pen. Anyone who's ever ridden on one of these $25 an hour trail horses has experienced that. You are not the boss; you are an underling, and if that horse wants to walk rather that trot, he will walk, dammit, no matter how much you kick his sides with your Nike cross trainers.

It's be a bit of a learning curve for me with Chroicoragh. Over the past few years, I've learned to read her body language, and get a feel for when she's trying to be insubordinate, like when she reaches around and tries to rub me with her mouth. No, she 's not trying to "give me a kiss," she's seeing how close I will let her get, to see if she can push me around. The first thing she will do -- and they all do this to each other, by the way, it's a way of building the pecking order in the herd. You've seen it between your mom and aunts, or sisters-in-law. But who's always top dog? Grandma.

That's exactly how a horse herd works. It's matriarchal, run by an alpha mare. (The stallion will take charge of his herd, keep them all together, and protect them from rivals, but for the most part he will be independent from the mares and young.) And to establish their dominance in the herd the lead mare will bite, kick and push around every other member until they have proven that they are boss. Kind of like oldest siblings.

So when Chroi tries to pull this with me, I preempt it. I just nudge her nose in the opposite direction, or lean on her or apply pressure to get her to lean away from me (or sometimes get off my foot.) And when I don't, she will take advantage of me. She's not being mean, she's being a horse. But we have an understanding. There's a give and a take. I talk her kindly during training sessions, handle her gently and with respect, and she allows me, someone who's a fraction of her size, to lead her around, pick up her feet, groom her for hours, although I would love that - it would be like going to the beauty shop and having someone wash your hair and massage your scalp for an hour - god, who wouldn't like that?

I spend time with her in the barn and the yard, but I haven't yet done much with her at all besides breed her. She's not broke to ride She's not even registered yet, which is a crime because she really is a great horse, out of a very nice English stallion.

And people ask me all the time about the horses, like, "Why do you even have them, if you don't ride them?" Well, I just haven't gotten to that point yet. It all takes time and money, and both of those things are quickly fleeting commodities right now. But I'm not ready to give up yet. When we sold Siofra, we thought we might have to sell the other two, too, and the thought of it just broke my heart.  And I'll tell you why. I am one of the few lucky people in the world who has ever had their dream come true. I realize what a rare gift that is and I don't want to insult it by just throwing in my chips. I want to have my cake and eat it, too. That Horse Crazy Girl would never forgive me if I didn't.

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