Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Look at that face. That face is why I'm such a sucker, a pushover. I cannot resist those Appy eyes. That freckled muzzle makes my knees weak. Yeah, I've got it BAD for that BAD BOY. You have no idea how hard it is for me to be a tuff girl with him.
Poco was so out of control when I first got him that I had no choice but to be a big, bad, mean mare. He had no respect whatsoever for anyone smaller than he is -- and that's when he weighed 150-200 lbs. more than he does now. If you're just joining us, Poco was allowed to have his way with the little wife and children of his former owner. He swung those kids around like rag dolls, and the son was taller than I am. So, like the late, great Rodney Dangerfield, I got no respect. It took some serious cojones for me to stand up to his macho pseudo-studliness. Heather made me come out to her place and hang out with the herd to watch how the horses treat each other, especially how the dominant mare (Clydesdale) treats everybody else. There's no such thing as "fair," there's only "because I'm the boss and I say so." It was so hard for me, but I did it. I did it because I had to. And Poco responded.
Poco is dominant to the extreme. There have been times when I've had to get right up in his face, growling through my teeth. I've chest-butted him. I've thrown buckets. I've kicked him. If there's such a thing as equine bi-polar disorder, I think he has it. We can go for months and he'll be fairly sweet, docile, and compliant. It's always just long enough for me to think that maybe, just maybe, this time he's turned the corner for good. And I slack off and get all mushy with him, which he absolutely loves. Then, without warning -- scary violins -- Psycho Gelding appears again! He'll get really mean to Jaz, not letting him near me. He'll try to run Jaz off, not just one pile or one bucket, but all the food. And then I have to play cafeteria lady to make sure poor lil' Jaz gets to eat and doesn't get bullied. He'll start getting pushy with me, impatient, crowding me, uncooperative, non-compliant, especially under saddle, because he knows that's where I am the weakest. I go back to being super bossy for awhile, and things mellow out again until the next time.
It's finally sinking in that I need to be overtly dominant with him all the time. It's just the kind of horse he is. He thinks he's a stallion, and I have to handle him just as if he were. I need to avoid behaviors that might suggest weakness or submission to him. As much as I love the way he comes up and sticks his head in the grain locker and nuzzles my hair, bites the feed bags, etc., I need to resist that trembly lower lip. I need to not let those sleepy, mottled eyes wear me down. I need to enforce my space. Paraphrasing Mugwump, he can't invade my space, but I can invade his as much as I want, any time I want. I already know this works and works well with him. I just need to be consistent and not backslide, even if he's behaving well for the moment.
I have gotten more confident in the saddle. It's not that my riding skills have improved all that much, it's that I'm not intimidated by him anymore. I should say here, he has never kicked or bitten. He has only ever shifted his weight to suggest to me that he could rear or buck...if he really wanted to. But he never has. I remain wary and cautious, of course, but with him it's all about intimidation. The more I ignore the nonsense -- change the subject -- the sooner he just gives up. I can't out-ride him yet, so I have to out-think him.
So, I'm j-j-jonesin' for that pony luv. I'll have to lay some lovin' on that funny little Arabian who doesn't particularly like being mauled. And did I mention that Poco goes off the deep end when I love on Jaz? Withdrawal is hard on everyone.