Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A Study in Contradictions

Poco's behavior on the ground continued to improve. He began to relax, no longer giving the impression he was wound too tightly. He started hanging out with Mike and me when we'd sit in the driveway to watch the sunset. One day, he even walked all the way into the garage (filled with way scary stuff) to check things out. The compressor or AC kicking on, pneumatic tools, chain saws, the garage door, Mike starting his kick-ass 1967 Chevelle (which literally rattles the entire house) – Poco was unfazed. If he saw me come out the door, he'd come over to say hello. His behavior for the vet and the farrier became not only acceptable, but exemplary. Both Jon and the doc remarked what a different horse he'd become – I was SO proud.

My relationship with him was becoming quite wonderful. I would sit on the small slab outside the laundry room and he'd come up cheek-to-cheek. He seemed to like feeling me breathe on him. The softer I spoke, the closer he’d come and the harder he’d struggle to stay awake. But the progress we were making on the ground was still not carrying over as success under saddle. Every once in awhile, if it felt like a good day to die, I'd try again with varying degrees of success, but it was sporadic; the victories were small and short-lived.

Whenever I rode Jaz on the property, Poco would do things like lag behind then gallop full-bore like some crazed banshee to spook him. Or he'd follow us really closely, biting Jaz's butt, or trying to pull the pad from under the saddle. He'd bite my boots or the stirrups. He'd try to pull the headstall right off Jaz's head. Sometimes he'd walk along beside us, then step directly in front of us, abruptly cutting us off, frustrating poor Jaz to no end. I'd smack him with the crop and he'd sulk. "Pain in the ass" is a mild, kind description.

Meanwhile, I was gaining confidence riding Jazu. Once Heather put me onto his game, he's submissive enough that it was easy to outmaneuver any crap he tried to pull. To escape Poco's nonsense and for a change of scene, I began taking Jaz off the property, down our winding, low-traffic, paved county road. The area mostly remains undeveloped and heavily wooded. Periodically the land drops sharply into steep ravines formed from rushing water when it rains. In many places, the land under the grass is very rocky and uneven. I do a lot of shifting on and off the road and from one side to the other for the safest, most comfortable-on-the-feet route for Jaz. There aren't really any smooth stretches long enough to get a good trot going, so mostly we just mosey, with a few secs here and there of trot. This is great bonding time for Jaz and me. We ride, he gets to graze, people stop and want to pet him, we share a Gatorade -- what's not to like? I was getting stronger, eventually able to easily mount and dismount without the mounting block. Jaz finally learned to stand still until I say he can move.

The first time we "went walkabout," Poco screamed his silly head off from the moment we started walking away. Mike said he kept it up the entire time we were gone, running himself into a lather. Jaz never even called back to him. It was likely the most peace and personal attention he'd had since joining the family. When we returned, Poco turned his back on us. After I tacked Jaz down, groomed him and let him go, Poco bit him and herded him off to the back of the property. The tantrums continued, but lessened in severity each time Jaz and I left the property.

One day when Jaz and I returned from our ride, I called to Poco as soon as I could see him. When I opened the gate, I encouraged him to walk with us to the area where I groom them. He stood quietly on Jaz's off side and didn't harass him. Every time I passed him to work on Jaz's off side, I'd pet him or brush him. The next time Jaz and I rode, same scenario, but this time, I swear, Poco's demeanor seemed to say, "Me, me, pick me!" I asked him if it was his turn, tacked him up and hopped on. I didn't push my luck and only stayed on a few minutes, but it was glorious. Riding him is such a RUSH.

Next time, same deal. He actually stood there, put his head down for the bridle and I saddled him as he stood, untied. I got on and -- sucker punch -- Psycho Gelding returns!

Upset? I was despairing, despondent. Heather and I were both just baffled by his inconsistent behavior. I didn't know what to do, but by this time, I was used to the roller coaster that is life with Poco. Sometimes all you can do is just keep on keepin' on.

Next time: Life Imitates Art

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