Trudy Andrew | Canadian Author

Horse Tails

And so it Begins

I didn’t give Robin much of a break. She was fit, clearly had endurance and stamina, and had completely annoyed me. She and I were going to have some serious discussions about her attitude, and I intended to lay down the law, right off the bat. Now, when I say I’m going to have a discussion with a horse, it means there will be discipline and work of some kind. The severity of such was always determined by the seriousness of the crime. Though I didn’t believe in any sort of abuse, neither am I foolish enough to believe that talking to a horse, can teach it. Words and sounds can soothe, calm and warn. As for reasoning, it’s not possible to actually talk to a horse, and expect it to comprehend. With horses, actions really do speak louder than words. Patience, repetition and reward are powerful tools, yet undesirable behaviour still must be reprimanded. Always fairly, mind you, but necessary. This is what I had plenty of, with Robin.
Working with her was tricky. If you punished her in any way, she would have it in for you. It could be an attempt to kick, strike or bite, but she had the memory of an elephant, and intended to get her revenge. Thankfully, I could read her intentions, and always stayed on guard while working with or around her. She never did get the opportunity to realize her desire for retaliation, and as the days passed, learned to accept scolding and fair punishment. After all, we never beat on a horse, as there’s no need for it so she had no reason to be snarky. Biting recieves a pinch to the lip. Not a slap or punch, never a reach, just a simple, hard pinch that swiftly convinces a horse that nipping or biting is unpleasant, for it. The added benefit, the horse doesn’t become headshy, as it basically teaches itself. It’s all about cause and effect.
Teaching her to stand while being tacked, didn’t take more than a few days. The same with mounting up, which was a tad surprising, for how bad she’d been. I decided it was time to work away from the security of the pens. There was a field in summer fallow, almost next door, and I thought it would be a good place to put more work on her. She was extremely antsy and such behaviour was certainly not suitable for the hubby. He hadn’t liked it when Kidd didn’t relax and simply walk. He certainly wouldn’t enjoy the same from Robin.
Del, a friend I’d known since he was a boy, rode Thow-ra. I rode Robin. The field was pretty well perfect. Smooth, soft, in case I was to go off, and about ideal for working on an unruly horse. I asked Del to move in circles around Robin and I. Robin fussed. She wanted to go with Thow-ra, not stand still.
“Trot, please,” I asked of Del, “but still in circles.” He rode around, my increasingly impatient horse. Then, when she fussed more, I upped the ante, “can you canter around us now?”
“Are you sure?” Del hesitated, doubt on his face, “She’s really acting up.”
“Yeah,” annoyed with Robin, I nodded, “Go for it.”
Del began to canter Thow-ra around us. Robin began to bob her head, all the while fussing and fidgeting, more than ever. What did I do? Well, I slapped her neck, to get her attention.
What did Robin do? That horse leapt, all four feet off the ground, spun in the air and landed exactly where she’d started. Without giving it a single thought, I slapped her again, this time to reprimand. In an instant, we were in the air again, doing the same spin, and landing back where we started. This time, I breathlessly restrained the impulse to discipline. Looking over at Del, who had pulled in Thow-ra, at the first four-legged leap into the air, I saw he was as awed and amazed as I was.
“Um, I don’t think you should do that again,” he advised, with a slow shake of his head, “That was kind of crazy.”
“I think you’re right,” we shared little smiles at what had just happened, “I don’t think I want to do that again.”
We didn’t work on anything like that again that day, but we did continue to pressure her as the days progressed.
Riding around the four-mile block about a week after the great spring into the air, we were just passing by the Thoroughbred farm I used to work at as a teen, when I heard my name being called out. Reining in, I was surprised to see Robin’s ex-owner, hurrying up the driveway towards us. He was just as surprised to see us, as we were to see him.
“Wow,” he enthused as he walked up, ” she looks great. You’ve really done a lot in a short time.”
“She’s coming along,” I agreed in the age-old style. It was what you said, when training or working a horse. If some asked how a horse was doing, it was quite simply ‘coming along’.
Looking up at me, a hand on her neck, he grinned, “would you mind if I rode her? I’d really love to.”
What was I to do? I said yes. After all, he’d allowed me the privilege of trying out his incredibly well-trained gelding when we’d tried out Robin, and he wasn’t at all abusive. I dismounted, he stood beside her and reached towards the saddlehorn.
I could tell he intended to leap onto her, cowboy style.
“We don’t do that,” I cautioned, “She has to stand still when people get off and on. No acrobatics allowed.”
“Oh, right,” he nodded and immediately obeyed.
Robin stood perfectly, while he did a proper job of mounting, then again after he took her for a little spin. I couldn’t have been prouder. Except when he told me what a good job I’d done. Apparently, I actually could feel more pleased.
Over the next couple of weeks, Robin kept right on improving. Some portable corral panels were attatched in a circle behind the horse trailer, and became her barn. All feed and water was kept in the front of the trailer stalls, and within a few days, she stopped swiftly backing out at our approach. The trailer became a good place, associated with nothing but good things. Where she’d angrily resisted any attempts to load her, now she eagerly leapt in. By the time the first competitive trail ride at Souris Valley wildlife management area came upon us, she was ready to go.
Hubby had a horse to ride, again.

  1. Horse Tails is such a pleasure to read. I really look forward to each installation.Your writing is clear, descriptive and very simple. By simple i mean it is like talking to a friend – like you would do in everyday speech. Some writers write all of this florid prose, like they want to impress with their considerable vocabulary and innovative descriptions. BLECH!
    You have definitely made a new fan and i will be reading your books soon. But, more Horse Tails , please!

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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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