Saturday, June 14, 2008

What are the odds?

For the next two weeks leading up to Poco's arrival, I was posting to The Happy Appy forum multiple times a day. I was encouraged to find actual (as opposed to virtual) help and got a message from a woman named Heather, who offered to help me. She asked where I was, and I responded in broad terms. She kept narrowing it down until we discovered she was only 2-3 miles away. She and her boyfriend (Jason) were staying with her parents (Nita and Jim), but had 30 acres and about 20 horses on a spread maybe 20 minutes north of here. Texas is a big place and she could have been anywhere. What are the odds that she would literally be a neighbor? In the time since, Mike and I have come to be friends with the whole family. Turns out, Nita and I are the same age and get on like gangbusters! But, I'm getting ahead of myself...

Jerry brought Poco out here the Friday after Thanksgiving 2006. Poco was wigged and pretty scary when Jerry opened the door to the trailer; he came FLYING out. He remained really spooky for weeks. Texas was headed into winter, with crisp, windy days that I have since learned can be crazy days for horses. Poco had been kept in a naked .75-1 acre corral, without a tree in sight. We have lots of trees. Every time he was hit by a falling leaf, or a bird flew out of a tree, or the wind rustled the leaves, he'd bolt. A moderately busy road runs along the south side of the property and he was unaccustomed to the noise, not only from it, but from the house as well. The first morning I had him, I went out to feed him, the AC kicked on and had I not dived over the water trough, I would have been trampled. Talk about an adrenaline rush at 5:00am! Same scenario the first time Mike opened the garage door. Through all this, Poco seemed wary, if not indifferent to me. I had to work to catch him, and when I did, my impression was he had something akin to disdain for me.

I don't recall how long it was until Heather actually came over to meet Poco and me; it might have been the same day he got here, may have been a day or so later. She came by herself and Poco played hard to get, giving us a chance to see him move. It was beautiful. Although he's only about 14.2 and built like a tank with little bitty short legs, he has a smooth, lovely stride. His cannon bones are stout and sturdy, and the power in that barrel chest, thick neck and big butt is very obvious when he moves. The shape of his head and neck, as well as the feathery fetlocks seemed to indicate draft in somewhere in the gene pool. I don't remember if we ever did catch him that day. Heather told me he was out of shape, 150-200 pounds overweight, and he needed his (unshod) feet trimmed.

I made an appointment with the farrier she recommended, who turned out to be this absolutely adorable young guy named Jon. Ladies, this guy makes a pair of jeans look REALLY good from behind :-)) But, I digress... I had caught Poco and had him on a lead rope. He took one look at Jon and just flipped out. He wouldn't let Jon near him. He was rearing, snorting, pawing. Talk about idiot newbie moments. I honestly had no idea you had to TEACH a horse to stand for the farrier or the vet. DUH. Jon was so kind and so patient. He spent 30 minutes with me, just talking to me, showing me how to approach and handle Poco. He introduced me to the basic concept of stress-release when working with a horse, and how to tie a quick-release knot. He finally was able to approach Poco, stood his ground when Poco acted up, and showed me how to pick up his feet. He told me Poco's feet really didn't look too bad, and that I should practice making him stand and lift his feet. He didn't charge me for his time. Those 30 minutes continue to pay dividends for me even now.

When Heather visited next, I had a veritable litany of questions and observations about Poco's behavior. I had him on a lead rope, and when she tried to approach him, he puffed up like he was going to strike. Before I could say a word, she threw herself forward and chest-butted him, growling through her teeth, "Don't you DARE!" To this day, the memory of her getting up in that horse's face never fails to make me LOL. I've since had to do it myself a few times, and it works every time. Poco's manners totally SUCKED, and in his mind, HE was the boss. This actually made sense. Jerry's wife and kids mostly cared for him. Poco pulled them around like they were rag dolls, and was doing the same thing to me. And so began my instruction in how to become the lead mare, the Boss Hoss. This is an intimidating but completely necessary concept to grasp considering the sheer size and unbelievable quickness of these animals. Things can go terribly wrong in a heartbeat.

Next time: The Nature of the Beast

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