I just watched a beautiful movie the other night called “Dare to be Wild” starring Tom Hughes and Emma Greenwell, as the main characters, and directed by Irish director Vivienne de Coursy. The story chronicles Mary Reynolds, a young Irish landscape designer, and her seemingly impossible dream to win gold at the Chelsea Flower Show in London, the most prestigious flower show in the world. The film’s overriding message encourages everyone, but especially gardeners to make room for a wild and natural life, by not being so caught up with order, symmetry and the idea of order over chaos. The total submission and domination of the landscape to our wishes and whims.
This got me thinking of the whole concept of wildness that we embrace every day as horse people. All of us are familiar with the spook or shy, whether on the ground or mounted, at some imaginary monster or other. The absolute terror of a plastic bag or a blowing leaf!
I happen to have a very spooky horse who thinks the world is out to get him, real or imagined. He is the embodiment of wildness itself! A 1200 pound kite on windy days, and something he’s walked by a million times, now becomes a flaming fire breathing monster on the millionth and one time.
I do have to give him credit where credit is due though, the things I’m SURE he will react to, and be the end of me, he just takes in stride, like it’s another day at the office.
One particular time, a goose that I was trying to herd out of his stall, (she ran in while I had the stall open getting the boys) using a lunge whip as a shepherds crook, (it was all I had) ran out of the stall honking and flapping and right under him! While I had him in hand (of course). We were both so stunned by what had just happened, that we stood there looking at each other and shaking with relief! I praised him up and down while we recovered from our fright and composed ourselves.
He always proves my point that he seems to know when I need to count on him, whether then, or when he’s injured himself being silly, and needs to be looked at by the vet. He’s done some amazing things without anesthetic, and he’s usually very good about meds and treatments by me, or now the staff at the barn. He seems to know when someone is trying to help him.
Although, that wasn’t to be the case, when my son and my poor vet were trying to do his teeth recently. I swear sometimes he get a stubborn bee in his bonnet, because he was having none of it! They just did the best job they could, given his state of behavior, and called it a day.
Everyone who knows him, knows that he is the most mercurial and strange horse they have ever come across. In the words of my son’s classic trainer, “you can’t force this horse into anything, you have to discuss it with him a little bit”.
He has his good days and his off days. On the good days you can draw blood and vaccinate and do all manner of things with no lead rope in the paddock. And on the off days, its better to leave him be in the paddock. If you have any notion of an agenda, you may as well turn around and change your plans now. Because on those days he barely tolerates being touched, never mind complying with your silly rules, like getting shoes on. In his opinion, appointments are nothing more than suggestions. Never mind that any of the professionals have a schedule to keep!
He once nipped a massage therapist every time she told him he was a good boy! She was very amused by all this, knowing how he is, and thank goodness for it, because I was mortified with his expressing his opinion with his teeth. He didn’t hurt her, just grabbed her jacket, thank goodness. Most of what he does is bluff and bluster, and show you that he could do it, if he so chose. He never misses, if he wanted to bite you he would, and damn the consequences. (But it’s still scary, when that monstrous head comes around like a viper, to let you know that he’s displeased with whatever you’re doing!)
The point of all this is to remind me that in his heart, he belongs to the wild.
He carries it as a badge of honor,unapologetic and proud, for every one to see.
He’s perfectly happy being out and swamping, in all winds and weather. Enjoying what it means to be alive, to fully experience life in all it’s richness, both good and bad. It’s meant me trudging through the blinding snow, or him coming in covered in mud, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
He has taught me so much about acceptance of myself, and others, and walking the long patient route that has served me well in this time of recovery.
It’s a reminder for all of us that our horse have wildness in their heart, no matter how deeply it’s buried, and no matter their great spirit of cooperation. Something that should not be punished or corrected for, but ultimately embraced as part of his natural being. Especially when you think of your horses having up and down days like you.
Maybe the thought of working in the arena doesn’t appeal to him on a certain day. Give him a chance to express his opinion, and really listen.
For that is truly where trust, cooperation and love, truly live.