Trudy Andrew | Canadian Author

Horse Tails

Addition to Tip over Tail

I was going to tell this story another day, but thought it fitting to tell now.

The same summer I had Chad back for a refresher course, a lovely, big mare was brought to me for training. The several horses I had worked with the year before, resulted in a good deal of business coming my way, a wonderful thing for a teenager who paid all her horse bills herself. A bit of extra cash was always great, and to earn it do something I enjoyed, even better. The mare was halter-broke, but that was about it. She didn’t have any vices, no kicking, striking or biting, and liked attention. She was a great, blank canvas to work with. On top of that, she presented an extra challenge for me. Her owner had but one arm. She’d lost one in a farm accident as a child, was now a young teen, and this was her horse. I had to make absolutely sure that the horse could be handled by someone with one arm. To accomplish this as best as I could, after the initial training phase, I did everything with one arm behind my back. Catching, grooming, tacking up, every last bit of it. If I couldn’t manage it, I couldn’t expect the young owner to, and it worked! That mare adapted to every request I asked of her. She dropped her head into the halter then held it out for the lead, ditto with the bridle. She was wonderfully patient to saddle and climb onto, and was pretty well perfect in every way. But, and there always seems to be a but, she had a big problem. One I absolutely had to sort, or she would never be a safe mount for her young owner.
The otherwise perfect mare reared at water. The puddle could be insignificant or huge, it didn’t make a bit of difference. It also didn’t matter how many I persuaded her to cross, the issue never improved. She didn’t like to get her toes wet, and was adamant about it. I came up with the idea that if I was to bop her over the head when she reared up, she might get the idea that rearing wasn’t acceptable. After all, she’d learned everything else. This should be perfectly attainable as well. Of course I wasn’t going to physically harm her in any way. I didn’t want to create a problem, I wanted to fix one. To that end, I figured if I filled a balloon to capacity with warm water, to that almost breaking point, and broke it between her ears when she reared, she would learn a good lesson. The warm water wouldn’t harm her in any way, while the sensation would surely have a big impression on her.
I saddled up, climbed aboard, near-bursting balloon full of warm water, carefully in hand, and went in search of a puddle. As it had rained a couple of days before, it wasn’t an impossible task. As always, she willingly walked right up to it, then reared in protest. Her head came up, the balloon came down and broke as easily as I had predicted. What happened next was what I hadn’t considered as a possibility. In a flash, that horse splayed her front legs out and dropped her head between them. She shook more than a bowl of jelly on a washboard gravel road, all the while sucking in big breaths of air.
I think that was the only time I was truly afraid atop a horse. I sat up there on that big horse, and didn’t dare move a muscle. There was no way, I was going to do anything that might create a reaction that would be potentially detrimental to my wellbeing. After a minute or so, I began to talk to her, as soothingly and hopefully calming as I could. The lovely, wet head gradually came up, the trembling ceased, and I felt a whole lot better.
“There we go,” I softly soothed, “You’re still alive. Nothing hurt you. Now, let’s go through that puddle.”
I squeezed my legs, felt her begin to coil a bit, then she suddenly dropped her head a bit and miracle of miracles, went right through it. From that point on, if she thought about rearing, her head would drop a bit, and she’d simply obey. The trick had worked, and extremely well.
No matter how well it had worked, I never used it again. Those precious few minutes where I felt like I was perched on a stick of lit dynamite, were not something I ever wanted to experience again. That experiment could have gone sideways in a flash. I had gotten away with it once. I wasn’t about to tempt fate a second time.
Would I recommend trying it? Not on your life!

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About Trudy Andrew

Trudy Andrew lives on a small farm just east of Winnipeg, Manitoba, where she enjoys her Morgan horses. A dreamer since she was a child, its no surprise to those who know her well that her imagination would find an outlet in writing, as it has in the past through artwork.
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 Oakbank, MB