Wednesday, November 30, 2011

In which Harley plays the reminder

Last night I brought Harley in for his dinner.  The weather was balmy and raining.  The sun was long gone.  When I saw Harley at the gate, his black forelock and mane were plastered wet against his forehead and neck.  Most of his body was dry, but he had clearly abandoned his shed for the gate when he noticed the lights on in the barn, and now he was sporting a wet cap on the dorsal surfaces of his body.  He whinnied with anticipation when he saw me walking with the halter.  I placed the halter over his ears and decided not to latch the throatlatch.  The barn was just a short walk and he knew exactly where we were going.

Walking next to him, I rested my right arm on his shoulder.  This draped the lead line from his halter just like a single, cotton rein.  He remained next to me but pranced a little bit, shaking the water from his mane.  His neck was softly arched in such a beautiful way that I caught my breath a little.  He is so pretty when he is animated.

We passed another horse waiting along the fence and Harley reached to sniff the other's nose.  I do not allow this type of fraternizing when I am handling a horse, so I continued walking, looking straight ahead and told him to "come on."  When he felt the lead line become taunt he bounced forward away from the other horse and passed me as I continued to walk at the same pace.  Like a yo-yo, he found the end of the line again and pranced backward, richocheting back and forth slightly before reaching my side again.  All of this occurred with very little pressure on the lead line.  My arm barely moved and I only maintained passive muscle tone to draw him back to me.  I was partly annoyed with him for running ahead of me and partly impressed that he rebounded like a rubber band, his stepping high and almost fresh.  We continued to the barn, but a few paces later, he was dancing at the end of the line again.  This time he was tossing his head and hopping off his front end.

"What are you doing, Harley?"

My complacency got the better of me as the lead line slipped out of my hand.  I cannot remember the last time a lead line has slipped out of my hand.  Clearly I was not really gripping the rope and now my horse was loose and seemingly agitated in the dark rain, shaking and tossing his head as he popped up and down off his front legs.  Although he did not move more than a foot or two from my side I grappled for the line clumsily and felt a wave of embarrassment.  I cannot believe that my horse just got away from me.  My hands felt like slow, thumbless paws as I clutched the fat rope and stopped my horse.  Upon inspection, I realized that the loose throatlatch flapping against his face was the source of the confusion.  As is always the case, this was human error (i.e. my fault) and I had taken for granted the usual quiet demeanor of my sweet quarter horse.  I apologized to Harley and clipped the rogue halter piece in its rightful place before finishing our short walk to his stall.  When I finally united him with his dinner, Harley shot me a glance that could not be mistaken.

"You did it WRONG."

I swear he looked at me that way.  No anthropomorphizing here.  ;)

My horse was right anyway.  Always take the time that is necessary, whether it be for training or daily routine.


  1. They are certainly far smarter than people give them credit for! Smart boy, Harley! :0)

  2. Shortcuts often backfire :)

    Sometimes I swear I hear a sigh of resignation - "What can you do - they're only human..." ;)

  3. Your post brought a smile to my face - we're lucky horses are so tolerant of us. I find mine very forgiving :)

  4. Val- And reading your comment makes me smile. :)

  5. I swear he has got to be the most intuitive horse! I could just picture him prancing back and forth and then suddenly realizing, he didn't like the way his halter felt. Silly boy. I am very glad he kept himself calm and didn't decide to run out into the night. Actually I don't think he would, it was after all, dinner time. :-) I would sure like to meet him someday. Sadly you are clear on the other side of the country from me. No need to worry about me suddenly showing up at the barn. I am so happy I get to read about your experiences with him, I enjoy it so.

  6. Thanks, Mary. Your comments are so thoughtful and kind. Harley enjoys visitors. His former owner visits all the way from Hawaii once in a while, so you never know!


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