What I will say is what I've been doing.
|The view of home always looks best from the back of a horse. Here,
Buddy and I rode through the pasture he now calls home, a week
before he was all cut up inside his legs. He seemed to enjoy our ride :)
However, as expected, Buddy is happy, his health is better, and his feet are better (no more standing in mushy footing). Despite one of my sister's small herd being a dick (a horse that nobody likes) who is the likely culprit who left a couple of fleshy bite wounds on poor Buddy and another one being a literal jackass--he is a mini donkey--my boy is much more relaxed. What I think may be a small ringworm patch on his neck was actually starting to grow hair on my most recent visit without any treatment, and the new bite wounds already have grown over with new skin a week after discovering them. He's only been there for two weeks.
At least one of his new herd likes to be with him. In fact, on my latest visit, they all followed us to the portable corral set up in the pasture (from working calves in the spring). I tied buddy inside and closed them off, but that didn't stop them (and the dickish bay) from pestering Buddy from the outside. The first time I visited, they stayed away. This last time (second week since taking him out), they wouldn't stay away and I had to chase them off--they stayed about thirty feet away, until I took him out.
Unfortunately, I found Buddy with new wounds that look like he tried to walk over something that cut up the insides of his legs a bit. Nothing too deep, but it was cringe-worthy. Like the bite wounds, I put some salve on those. I didn't get to ride, but I don't mind. the important thing is taking care of him. And I hope that he learned a lesson from that, as in not to do whatever he did again. I don't know why he did that in the first place, but I can imagine the bay chasing him to where he could only have one way out to cut himself like that (skin-deep, not into the muscle but still rough-looking). The same bay that no one can ride anymore, because he's bucked off even a bull-rider...twice.
I had Buddy at a nice barn for a short while, after moving from where we were boarding due to the sale of the place. At that nice barn, I had everything, but Buddy wasn't happy. And I felt responsible for being sure he got to stretch his legs, which I don't have the time for, especially with the occasional pain issues I've had. Sometimes, a nice facility isn't the best for a horse. He wasn't happy there, and that small patch of ringworm (suspected) was getting bigger. I knew he was stressed. All the signs were there. He was also losing weight (despite the good feed and hay--which he didn't always eat) and getting stiffer in his movements as his feet became tender. Out in the pasture, his feet are tough and his movement is so much more relaxed with bigger reach.
I'm happier for Buddy feeling comfortable with my childhood home on the prairie. I don't worry about him when I can't see him for several days--he does better taking care of himself. Even after a week, he was mister relaxed for me and let me do anything I needed to. I brought treats, salve for his wounds, fly spray, and brushes. He likes being taken care of, and he let out a big sigh as I was brushing him, as if to say "Thanks." He let me do what I needed to do to take care of him and was almost sleeping while I was working on cleaning, scraping off bot eggs, hoof-cleaning, and wound-treating. (A HUGE change from the brief period in the nice place, where he was always dancing around.) It was a very rewarding day, even if I have to wait a week or more for the latest cuts to heal before I can ride.
Having a horse isn't about riding anymore for me. As I've had to deal with my health issues, it's become just having something when I need it, a creature that I can give something back in return for what he gives me. It's a partnership--I take care of him and he let's me on his back and does what I ask for a short time. In between, I feel better knowing that he gets to relax as a horse is meant to--in a pasture with other horses, all the grass and water he needs and room to roam and run as he sees fit.
It took me a while to get over my beloved warmblood and the ambition and focus of dressage. With my thyroid and autoimmune issues, I've had to learn to slow down and enjoy life. But that's not a bad thing. Buddy was meant to be a little project to get me through some difficulties, but he's become something more. I want him to know dressage, because it makes such a difference to him physically and because I enjoy it. However, I don't have the time for that at the moment as I try to figure out if there is something in my body that will require some attention. Dressage is good for everything we ask of our horses, and I plan to use that to turn him into a cowhorse. He doesn't bat an eye at the cows in the pasture across the road, but we'll see what happens when the time comes to ride among them. I think he'll do great--he's incredibly smart.
I have a feeling that, once he learns to move a cow, Buddy's real talent will come out; and dressage has taught him to listen to the rider, me. That's important for moving cows too. It's a combination of horse and rider. Horses live in the moment, while the rider is thinking ahead to the possibilities of what that bovine might do and preparing to react, sort of like driving a vehicle in traffic. The "vehicle" in this situation, however, has four legs and a mind of its own. I can't wait to see what we can do together. We'll find Buddy's place. It will be and has been a fun adventure.
And it's happened because I know that a horse isn't a machine. A true horseperson respects the animal as an individual and listens, attends to their needs, and, through training, works with their unique personality to reach a goal. Like with teaching humans, one must keep the sessions interesting and be respectful and kind yet firm and consistent for the best results. Horses like to learn. They're amazing once they get going and will almost ask you to give them a job. Like us, they want a job they enjoy and that suits their natural talents.
Buddy has blossomed in the three years I've worked with him, from being timid and afraid of disobeying (due to--before I bought him--heavy-handed training that likely didn't take into account his individual personality but treated him like any other cog in a machine) to awakening to become a little resistant and finally to being willing to try what I ask and trusting that I'll take care of him and make him as comfortable as possible. I'll push him out of his comfort zone at times but will always be sure that he's safe and as pain-free as possible.
And that reminds me of something that can't be repeated enough: There are three reasons horses disobey us--1) lack of understanding, 2) fear, and 3) pain. #2 and #3 can contribute to #1. Once we eliminate the last two, understanding comes much more easily.
Buddy has learned that I will take care of him and never punish him and that I will listen. Communication is key. Horses have feelings. In fact, as I was leaving along the gravel road around the corner of his pasture, Buddy looked up from getting a drink at the dugout. He watched my vehicle (which I'd parked by the portable corral where I took care of him), until I was out of sight. I'm not sure what that meant, but it made me feel like maybe he was saying good-bye until I come out again. I hope that's sooner than the week between each of the last two visits.