“How’d it go?” he asks, as always, when I come in from my ‘pony time.’
“He was a turd,” I reply, “he was at least 75% turd.”
It was true. I felt like I was working with a two-year old, not a fully-grown horse. Is this a mustang thing?, I wonder, this obstinate, arena-tantrum baby behavior? When he got tired of working in the circle and in general listening to anything I asked of him, he pulled to the nearest obstacle (a cone, a barrel, a mounting stump) and nosed it, getting as close as possible to whatever it was and bumping it with his feet. The cones have plastic bags on them, and he removed each in turn, and the second one I had to reach over and pull out of his mouth he was trying so hard to get it to a place that seemed a little too close to his esophagus for my comfort.
This is what it must be like to work with babies, I thought. Fussy, curious, with an attention span of about three minutes. Only this one is lazy, so my attempts to thwart his misbehavior with forward movement are met with pinned ears and nose that reaches toward the earth which always makes me think we are toeing the edge of a buck.
These are the moments I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m nervous and I’m angry with him and with myself and it’s all I can do to put some kind of positive spin on the session. I ask him to go the opposite way from where he is pulling. I reward every small try. I make it very easy for him to say yes, for me to say, thank you. I quickly try to reach a place where I can say, OK. Good. We’re done. That was, um, good enough for today.
Just yesterday he was light and responsive. I rewarded him with a walk down the road and a brief stop to have some grass at one of the few areas of open ground in a 3-mile radius. And today is the thanks I get.
I guess it’s like that old John Denver song:
“Some days are diamonds/ Some days are stones”
When I was a runner, I had bad runs. It was inexplicable most of the time. The moon? Hormones? What I ate? My mindset, distracted by some other seemingly unwieldy thing that I could not lay down? I learned to get through and let them go. No judgement, no dwelling, no using them as reasons not to get back out there and try again. Take the stones as they come and put them in a pile. Hope they are outnumbered. Think diamonds next time.