Saturday, January 5, 2013

Keeping Promises

I have been trying to keep my end of the bargain and visit Harley more often even if there is not enough time left before dinner to ride.  Yesterday, I went to visit him after work with about fifteen minutes of daylight to spare.  His buddy was already in the barn, so Harley was waiting at the gate of his paddock incredulous that he was still outside (my horse lives out 24/7 but eats meals in his stall).  Like most horses, Harley has a very strong internal clock.  He usually hangs by the gate when meal time grows near and raises his head to full height in order to see up the driveway, looking for movement at the house.  The sound of the gator starting up alerts the entire farm and is usually followed by a chorus of whinnies and nickering.  Meal truck!

The "meal truck" hadn't moved yet, but Harley saw me walking out of the barn and greeted me with enthusiastic neighing.  I am not naive about my horse's priorities.  I know that he is really excited about dinner and the possibility that I might be giving serving it to him, but I still like to think that he also happy to see me.  As excited as he was, when I approached the gate, Harley backed up politely, allowing me to enter and they dropped his head so I could slip his halter over his ears.  These are the behaviors that make me think my horse is a smart guy.  His stomach is telling him dinner, but he doesn't forget his manners or the fact that dinner will come faster if he makes the gate-opening and haltering process easier.  I appreciate these little things about him.

Once through the gate, Harley's enthusiasm was bubbling over.  He walked next to me, but he had so much pep in his step that his back muscles rippled on either side of his spine and his long, uncombed mane bounced against his neck.  I love how he walks straight and not on top of me, like some horses when they forget that their human is there.  I know that he would have also loved to walk even faster to the barn, but he stayed next to me even with a drape in the lead line.  His spunk made me laugh out loud.  Someone was very happy to be coming inside.

Once in the barn, I prepared his snack of hay cubes.  His actual dinner was fast approaching, but the nice thing about forage is that you can give it anytime and it helps keep horses warm in the winter.  I broke the cubes into small sections and poured them into his trough.  Then I added Harley to the stall and joined him with the my brush.

Harley was in complete heaven.  He munched his cubes industriously as I knocked the dry mud from his coat.  I fluffed and preened his thick, winter fur and worked at the mud stuck to the long hairs on his legs.  I marveled at how gentle my giant pet can be.  While I was brushing a foot that had some stubborn dirt at the hair line of his hoof, he wanted to move over to reach some food at the far end of his trough.  Rather then raise the foot I was working on, he leaned over to the food and kept the toe of the foot I was working on touching the ground like a dancer.  He did not want to move it away from me until I was finished.  Was this an act of respect?  Obedience?  Was it in appreciation for the cleaning I was doing?  Either way it was very sweet.  His gentleness was contrasted by his obvious strength and power when he shoved his feed trough over with a push of his nose.  That trough is pretty heavy as I have trouble carrying it by myself.  Apparently my horse can be careful with the position of his foot at the same time that he violently shoves his foot bin.  This was interesting to me.

Needless to say, I was very happy that I made the time to visit Harley yesterday, even if riding was not possible.  I enjoyed spending the time with him and in that short time he managed to make me laugh and to make me think.


  1. Hang out time really deepens the bond. Your Harley is a very sweet, well mannered guy.

  2. Harley is obviously well trained and respectful of his human. What a good boy. I love horses with manners and expect the same from each member of our herd too.

  3. People always note how bonded my horses are to me. It's because I take the time to just hang out with them. Every second we spend with a horse we're training, it doesn't matter if we're in the saddle or not. What we do on the ground translates to what we do in the saddle.

    As Podhajsky said, "I have time".

  4. Just being together, no demands or expectations, is as important as riding. What a sweet and helpful boy Harley is!

  5. Lovely post. And what a nice horse. I think hanging out with my horses is just as important to me as riding. Perhaps my favorite thing is turning them out and watching them graze. I think its their favorite thing, too.

  6. Sweet Val,
    loved* this post. It did remind me of my last 12 weeks time with my mare. Having to be content with ground manners and rehab work. Respect was the key!
    I know...doesn't your heart leap, when they nicker and neigh for you..all the while knowing it is for the meal or treats -more likely!
    Harley is such a gem, beautiful and wise. He has blossomed because of your keep.It makes all the difference in a horse that has strong, consistent care. It is a learned talent.

  7. I am glad you were able to spend some quality time with the big guy. I do believe it was appreciated.

  8. I often go to the barn to just walk out in the pasture to clean his feet and brush him a bit. I think he enjoys the interaction as well, and I always leave with a few photos and a smile. :)


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