Sunday, June 15, 2008


I had WAY too much horse for my limited abilities, and I hadn't ridden at all in 8 years. In order to ride my horse, I needed to be a better rider, but I couldn't ride my horse to become a better rider. Such a conundrum. Meanwhile, Heather's telling me Poco's behavior would probably improve if I had another horse. They're herd animals and they do better when they aren't alone. And I need a horse I can trust to help me learn and give me confidence. She very generously offered to lend me a teaching horse, an 8 year old Egyptian Arabian gelding named Jazu. She'd had this horse since he was 6 months old and used him to teach children. Her exact words were, "Jaz is so sweet he'll rot your teeth. You'll be begging me to sell you Jaz." I was skeptical.

Jaz came in January 2007 and those two horses were instantly best buds. I was so excited to have a horse I could actually ride, I came flying home from work the first or second day I had him so I could jump on for a quick ride before it got dark. I didn't even take the time to tack him up. I just threw a halter and a rope on him and jumped on. Well, TRIED to jump on. I did not yet have a mounting block and tried standing on an inverted bucket. I completely underestimated Jaz's height, the bucket wasn't quite high enough, and as I swung my right leg over him, Jaz started walking and I realized I didn't have the strength to pull myself up. So Jaz is walking up the driveway and I'm hanging on by a handful of mane in my left hand and my right ankle hooked over his withers. It was six months before my right hamstring, glute, and groin muscles were completely healed. I bought a mounting block and kept riding anyway. Notice in the picture, Poco has pulled the blanket almost completely out from under Jaz's saddle. That's so Poco. Also notice how much taller Jaz is than Poco. When they run together, Poco's stubby legs are taking 2-3 strides to every one of Jaz's. Highly amusing.

Later in January, Poco was due for his annual vet visit. The vet and his
assistant came to the house and Heather and Jason were here for moral support and help if we needed it. Poco is very mistrustful of new people, especially men. The vet insisted his tech hold Poco, which I didn't think was such a good idea, and wasn't. The tech was way too forward and abrupt with Poco and he behaved badly. He got his shots, but it was not a good day, and I heard, not for the first time, the opinion that my horse was crazy and dangerous and I should sell him. He needed his teeth floated, so I made an appointment to take him to the clinic the following week.

Heather and Jason showed up early that Saturday morning with their horse trailer, as I did not yet have one. I had also never loaded a horse into a trailer. It took about 30-40 minutes, which Heather assured me was not any big deal at all, but it was stressful as hell for me, not to mention I was bruised all over from being bashed around the trailer. The lesson? When a horse bolts while on a lead, LET GO OF THE ROPE. Apparently it's a common newbie mistake to not know when to let go. We made it to the vet's and Heather suggested to the
vet that things might go better if they'd allow me to hold him and lead him. I did and he was fine. They doped him up and worked on his teeth. Holy crap, that thing looks like some early Industrial Age torture device! It's a full size compressor with heavy-duty pneumatic drills, rasps and files like Mike uses to work on his car! It did not look like fun at all, but Poco was so doped up, he was listing like a drunken sailor. The anesthesia also messes with their body temperature, and he was dripping sweat like I've never seen. He loaded in 2-3 tries and was completely subdued for the mile ride home.

When we got home, we unloaded him and I gently hosed him down (the weather was unseasonably warm) and groomed him. Jaz seemed to revel in picking on poor Pokey in his weakened condition. I'm sure in Jaz's mind it was entirely deserved for Poco's dominance of him the rest of the time. Jaz is normally submissive to all but the youngest foals. The day after the procedure, I came outside and Poco walked over to me ever-so-slowly and laid that big ole head in my arms, obviously just miserable. That was the first time he ever came to me on his own for anything other than food. Jaz leaned over and scraped his top teeth along Poco's face from between his eyes down to his nose. He was actually quite gentle and didn't hurt Poco, but it was truly pathetic.

I rode Jaz every chance I got. A friend of our sons came and brought his 2 little girls who were immediately in love with Jaz. Of course, Jaz was perfect and they were thrilled. Right after this photo was taken, the blanket slipped and both girls slid off. Their dad was right beside them and broke the fall, but the little one was very frightened and upset. As soon as her heart stopped racing, the older one was back for more. I knew then she was a kindred spirit. I recognized that longing in her eyes. They have visited several times since. Jaz doesn't look too bad in this photo, but at the time, he was so bony. Even Nita, to whom Heather always sends hard keepers to fatten up, wasn't able to keep weight on him.

One day in late winter/early spring (2007), I got on Jaz and it was like he was possessed. If I said left, he yanked me right. He refused to do anything I asked him. He even ran me into a tree! I was truly despondent: if I can't ride Jaz, friend of children and idiots everywhere, there could be no hope left for me! I called Heather and she laughed and said Jaz was known to do that. When I asked her why she didn't tell me, she said he only does it when his rider starts to gain confidence and wants to call the shots, and she didn't think I had gotten that far yet. Me neither, but apparently Jaz thought so! He tried it a couple more times, but I was onto him and we got past that pretty quickly.

Next time: Night and Day

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