Sometimes, I get angry.
Truthfully, this should post should be called "Horse Handler Confessions", but that doesn't have quite the same ring to it.
I found myself very frustrated and angry the other night after teaching lessons. I was angry with a horse. Rest assured, this horse was not Harley. It was the black Percheron horse, which we use for lessons.
I know intellectually that there is no point to getting angry at a horse. If I pick the situation apart, I guess that I am really angry at all the people who have touched this horse since he began his training. This horse is very nice under saddle. My gripe is with his ground manners.
Although my interactions with this horse were pretty minimal on this particular evening, every interaction that I had with him annoyed me to the point where I wanted nothing to do with him by the time he finished his dinner and had to be turned out for the night. Problem number one arose, when I attempted to bridle this horse for a lesson. The fact that I have to use the word "attempted" makes my blood start to boil. I have bridled many, many horses over the years including tall horses and draft horses alike. I have bridled horses that put their heads on the ground and make things easy for you (I love you, Harley.) and horses who throw their heads up and refuse to open their mouths. I have never failed to bridle an unwilling horse until the other night. Every time that I try to bridle this horse, he tries to walk away and this instance was no different. I had the reins around his neck and I was ready, so he did not walk away, but he did sweep his big head and neck away from me. Twice. Once he realized that he was not going to be able to walk away he put his head as high as he possibly could. I was able to bit him, but I was too short to put the crown over his ears. I just could not reach. The barn manager finally had to help me by encouraging him to put his head down, which he would do for a second and then jerk it back up again. Needless to say this put us behind for the scheduled lesson I was about to teach.
The riding lesson itself went fine, but once the lesson was over, I had to hold the horse while the client was leaving. A small child unexpectedly stopped right in front of this big horse, so I asked him to halt and he continued walking forward. I asked again and he ignored me. I had to resort to pinching the underside of his neck to get his attention and then MAKING him back up by pushing on the bit and his chest. This is the complete opposite of how I like to work with horses, but this horse's attention to his handler was so poor and the situation was such that I could not allow him to walk forward and make a mistake. I was admittedly angry at this point, but outside of pinching the horse, I did not act on my feelings. I walked him back to the barn and decided to remove his bridle in his stall, so that he could not walk away from me.
And I failed again.
Unknown to me, the horse had grain in his bucket and walked away as I was trying to unbridle him. Thankfully, I stopped him before he got his nose in the bucket and rewarded himself. I promptly removed him from the stall and marched him back into the aisle. I realized that I would have to ask for help again to remove his bridle. I turned around and suddenly became aware that there was a crowd of people in the barn. Everyone from staff to clients. I decided to wait for a moment until the group dispersed so that I could untack the horse without so much commotion and people...ehem... underfoot. I was standing at the horse's shoulder, directly next to him. Not in front of him. I was holding the reins under his chin. He was adequately restrained in every way except that his attention span and body awareness are zero.
Do you know what this horse did? He stepped on my right foot.
I very, very rarely get stepped on by a horse. The few times when I have been stepped on in the past twenty-five years, the horse (any horse) realized that they were beginning to squash me and immediately lightened the load on my foot to basically nothing. I have been working with, riding, and handling all sorts of horses in that time frame. All different ages and breeds, males and females. I am quick, which helps me avoid a possible foot-squashing situation, and most horses that I work with do not want to step on me and make every effort not to hurt me if they ACCIDENTALLY do.
I think this horse stepped on me on purpose. I was right next to him and he moved his foot sideways and planted it on my little toe. My toe did not break, but it hurt and it was not easy to move him off of my foot.
My anger was threw the roof at this point, but I still did not act.
I wanted to smack that horse, so badly. But I did not.
I got some help. We untacked him. He ate his dinner. I let someone else turn him out, because I could not stand to interact with him one more time that night.
I love, love, love horses. I love my horse so much. But this horse made me so angry and frustrated. This horse needs some serious work and I know how to do ground work to improve obedience, but this horse annoyed me so much that I do not want to spend time with him to help him improve.
I do not like to admit that a horse can make me angry and I do not think that many horses have over the years. But this one got me. At least I feel a little better having written about it.
Has a horse ever made you angry?