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New Lady on the Block!

New Lady on the Block!

By Betsy Kelleher

I remember saying only a few weeks ago how much I appreciated Traveller except for his lack of stamina. I enjoy a horse that’s eager to go and Traveller, at 19, isn’t eager anymore. Maybe we’re both bored and I don’t ride enough to keep him fit.

Russ has a really good trail horse in Sammy, who is 7 years old with plenty of energy…but Russ has never felt the bond he wanted. When Russ reaches out to pet him, Sammy often turns away. One thing led to another when a friend said she’d love to have a horse like Sammy and Russ almost sold him! We were both depressed for days and decided we couldn’t let him go. I started working with Sammy, hoping to promote this bonding issue. Seeing how well Sammy responded, Russ decided to let me have Sammy and find himself another horse.

Russ was serious…so I searched the internet for days, printed piles of pictures and info for him to look at, called various owners with questions to determine each horse’s fitness for our situation, chose the best horses for my husband’s safety and made appointments to look at two. We also planned to go to a big horse sale in Missouri for gaited horses, looking for a Fox Trotter 15 hands or less with a quiet disposition. Then…he goes to the Illinois Horse Fair and absolutely falls in love with the first horse he saw! This black Tennessee Walker mare reaches out to him with her friendly nose and before I could say a word, he bought her on the spot…no questions asked!

I must say this in his defense…we had both prayed about finding the right horse, and I had prayed that very morning that God would help him know when he saw the right one! So maybe I should have more faith in God’s guidance…or maybe God had something else in mind. Experience is an excellent teacher, you know. And this new “Lady” has helped him appreciate Sammy more…and given me a new project!

“Walker’s Velvet Queen” is registered, with good bloodlines. She is very pretty and smart and not too tall and she was said to be a good trail horse, used to hills. It’s interesting that she was Iowa born in September…just like me! We watched a woman ride her bareback down the noisy, busy street by the horse barns, and she looked very smooth. We made arrangements to have our “Lady” delivered to our barn (I was happy to learn that she loaded without problems!).

At this point, I planned to share some experiences of getting acquainted with our new horse, working through the fears of both horse and human (maybe later). But after two weeks, we’re not sure whose Lady she will be! Russ had forgotten what mares are like, and now he says he doesn’t want another one. And I see so much good in her that I hate to give her up! She is much sweeter and easier to work with than my first horse, but she is an “alpha” mare just like Fanny was. I had recently wished that Traveller was more like Fanny. Remember the saying: be careful what you ask for?

Our big dilemma is turning her out. We don’t want a horse getting hurt in the big pasture of 15 to 18 horses because she wants to be boss (that’s how I lost Fanny). Although Lady kicked at Traveller several times, he has fallen in love with her and now they seem to be fine together. She kicked Sammy a few times and he looked at us wide-eyed as if to ask, “What kind of playmate have you brought me?” They aren’t real buddies yet. And there is no way we could put the three of them together!

Saving Lady’s story until later, let’s go back to the real issue that began this whole scenario. Russ doesn’t feel a “bond” with Sammy, because Sammy turns away when he tries to pet him. Russ feels rejected and doesn’t know what else to do but accept the way Sammy is. The more I work with Sammy, however, the more he responds to me. Actually, most women have more patience than men, and that’s what it often takes. I’ve suggested Russ spend more time grooming, but Sammy is too full of nervous energy to relax and enjoy it.

Sammy is an excellent trail horse and he’s pretty. He loads easily, stands to be mounted, hardly ever spooks, and I’ve even trimmed his bridle path with small clippers (which took lots of patience). He moves around while being saddled because he’s probably eager to get on the trail. He was a field trial horse all his life until this last year. Is “bonding” so important if your horse works well for you? Sammy’s unique low grunting nicker always welcomes Russ to the barn and he loves those starlight mints and carrots that Russ leaves in his feed bin.

Here’s what I think (for what it’s worth to anyone): Every horse has some fear or problem. Each owner needs to determine the specific problems he sees in his horse and to work with that horse to “solve” those problems, with help if necessary. Taking charge of the situation with a kind and confident authority means being a caretaker and patient teacher more than a forceful master. If a horse has a problem and an owner never works with it, it remains a problem. Allowing a horse to remain bad natured or fearful is dangerous. But if the owner works with the horse and successfully solves the problem, a connection is formed. And the connection becomes a bond. The key to any effective relationship is mutual trust and respect. And a feeling of belonging.

Russ just wants to pet on Sammy and rub his neck, and feel that Sammy is really his. Instead of giving up, Russ should patiently keep working to build trust and teach Sammy to stand still to be petted. I purposely didn’t work much with Sammy after Russ bought him, so that they would develop their own partnership. I didn’t see any real problems that needed fixing…until Russ talked about selling Sammy!

Russ is not a “take charge” rider and he needs a horse that doesn’t take advantage. Sammy is good that way. He has a history of being ridden by many different riders because he has always been easy to ride. But perhaps Sammy has never found what he’s looking for…an owner that is really his.

I recently heard a trainer say we are like gods to our horses. People have different views of God, but we all want someone to love us, to help when we need it and sometimes take charge when we’re not sure of things. God is our provider, just as we are caretakers and providers to our horses. God is not a forceful master; He works with us to overcome our problems, our fears, even our rebellion, so that we can work eagerly with Him in harmony.

We work with our horses in the same way. In any relationship, working through a problem together creates a connection. Riding a horse on a competitive trail ride is a great way to bond with a horse as you meet the challenges of the trail together. Working through problems together creates confidence. Philippians 4:13 speaks of the confidence of a Christian believer, “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” The strength of one helps the weakness of the other.

We often turn away from God, sometimes without even realizing it, and yet He keeps reaching out to us, again and again, until we accept His healing touch of love and connection.

Our new Lady reaches out to us with her loving disposition, even though Russ doesn’t want to deal with a mare’s unpredictable spunk. Perhaps, in some way, she will encourage the bonding of Russ and Sammy.

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