Monday, August 22, 2016
dream of a common language
Abbey and I have been together for 7 weeks. We have gradually expanded our landscape, the geography of mutual trust is being mapped out, day by day. She now marches through ponds and forests, jumps immovable objects in the cross country field. She bucks after her more 'successful' jumping efforts, expressing self-satisfaction, or perhaps exuberance, I imagine. I can't dull her excitement: in a budding cross-country partner I want her to feel confident and excited and willing to tackle more and more intimidating obstacles. I want her to think for herself. Someday, if we make it up the levels, she will save me when I screw up. Now is the time for me to give her a sense of independence and a say in what we do. This means tolerating her excited bucking as we cruise across rock-hard summer earth. I haven't fallen off her... yet.
This, of course, is all in the context of an extremely dangerous sport. Christopher Reeve (Superman!) broke his neck, was paralyzed, and ultimately died as a result of a fall during a jumping effort going cross country on a horse. A gal in my barn showed up on crutches last week. "Ridley and I didn't agree on the jump" she said. Tibial plateau fracture, now with 2 screws in the bone. She's out for the season.
A few weeks ago when I was washing the sweat off of Abbey's chest on a 95 degree day, she reached around and bit the hell out of my shoulder blade. I have a fading bruise and a scar where here teeth broke the skin. But on the flip side of that, she answers my Dressage questions by trying. She greets me when I come into the barn, with a whinny. She stops what she is doing and rubs her soft nose down my arm, and we touch noses, taking in each others' scents. Like me, Abbey doesn't like to be fussed over. She shies away from too much attention or affection. She's all business. She doesn't complain about pain, though I'm sure she has the muscle aches and pains of any athlete in serious training. She doesn't like to be over-faced, but she wants to be challenged and see new things every day. She is happiest when she has a job that has consistent expectations, but variation in the day to day routines. She's my partner, and will be for her whole life if I treat her with the respect she deserves.