The horse's pasture to the East...

Monday, December 27, 2010


I've made a new friend! His name is Houston. You'll love his full registered name. It's " Houston, we've got a problem." I'm still laughing about that one.

Houston belongs to a neighbor of mine, across the road from us. They have a very nice little ranch with long, lovely open fields...much flatter than our place. He's an 'only' horse. His buddy died a couple of years ago, so he gets pretty lonely over there by himself. I've watched him from the road. He stands as close to the fences as possible, gazing off towards his neighbor's horses.

His human partner has severe arthritis, so she isn't able to work with him much or ride him. He's just a bit chubby and out of shape himself. (Well, OK...he's fat!) She was one of the people I called the day we had Chaucer come to stay for a while. While we were talking about our mysterious visitor (Chaucer, also known as Beau), she asked what we were going to be doing this year for Christmas. I told her " I spect we'll be staying home. I think one of my sons may be coming in for a visit with his wife. It's going to be a nice, quiet weekend for us."

The conversation wandered around a bit, as they always do with neighbor ladies who are catching up with each other. And then she asked if I might not mind coming over to care for Houston while she and her husband were out of town. Of course I said yes! I never pass up the opportunity to meet another horse, especially one I've watched from the road for so long. I'd heard that he was a "keeper"...real sweet and easy to be with.

This was out first encounter without his "Ma" there. " Grrrrr. I'm big. I'm bad. I live up to my name!" I'm sorry. I just couldn't take him seriously. His nose was going the whole time, sniffing. " I'm bad unless you have carrots in your pocket." All I could do was laugh.

John went with me to record what happened...and to learn. He's a new Parelli student himself, and just as bitten by the "horse bug" as I am.

Look at the contrast in his face here. On the right side (his right), his eye is soft and his ear is towards me. On the left his ear is still back and his eye is harder. The muscles in his face are contracted on his left side too. Fascinating! John caught his change in expression at the exact moment it began to change!

"Grain? Carrots? wait. I don't mean it! BRING ME MY GRAIN! I didn't mean it. Honest. I'm nice. Really." See why he made me laugh? What a character!

 This is the second day, later in the morning. She'd told me that she's only letting him out into his field for an hour or two a day. She's trying to help him loose weight. (I"ll get to that later) So we didn't let him out the first day. I wanted to make sure he was comfortable with us and saw us as a source of pleasure. IE. Bringers of food. It's not too hard to tell that he's a Left Brain Introvert. This big boy is ALL about food. And he's bored and lonely too, which his human partner is aware of and most distressed about. She loves him a great deal, but is trapped by circumstances she sees as overwhelming. We let him out in his field for a couple of hours while we went back across the road to do chores for our own herd.

Guess the "Bringer of Food" title worked. Look at how nicely he's coming in to me!

I have to stop and tell you here that it really is easier to get a horse to bond up with you when he's as lonely as Houston is. On his side of the road, since his nearest horse buddy in the next field died in October (a lovely, gentle and ancient quarter horse of more than thirty years), he can only hear neighboring horses. From his point of view, he's ALONE! Very scary situation for a horse.

Doesn't he have a nice posture, as he's coming to me? His head is down and his ears are focused on me. If you can't tell, I'm already in love with him. He is a total character.

Look at that massive neck! He is way, way over weight. But his conformation is very nice and square. His back is still level. He's a Tennessee Walker, by the way. Somehow these gaited horses keep showing up in my life.

What a nice greeting! It was a lovely, long "Horseman's Handshake". We took our time here...several minutes of sniffing, licking and chewing on his part. He was processing who John and I were, friend or foe. It didn't take him long to categorize us as "Friends".

And here it is! Our little "breakthrough".( John, if I haven't told you before, used to be a very good journalistic photographer. He's doing a great job of capturing all the important moments here, isn't he?) His head came down and the change in his energy was palpable. He completely gave himself to me, just like that! I didn't know whether to laugh with delight or to cry because it was so poignant.

Look at how soft and willing he is here. He's so vulnerable at this moment! We spent several minutes just standing there, getting to know each other. There was no hurry. It was all on his timetable, his pace. And he just kept offering and offering! I tried to brighten the picture just a bit here. I want you to see the softness in his eyes. At one point they were closed in a kind of Ecstasy. He was that relieved to have company that spoke "horse" !
This was the real surprise of the morning. I'd left my halter and lead, Carrot Stick and Savvy string outside the fence. I wanted to greet him just as equipment...if possible. I gave him the same signal I give to Lucky and Apache when I want them to Circle around me and go into their paddock. I visualized it, then ever so softly pointed in the direction I wanted him to go, leading with my eyes and shoulders...AND HE DID IT! His leg has just come forward there (left lead) and he's beginning his walk around me. SON OF A GUN...HE DID IT! I am having way too much fun!
After he had his tiny, wee bit of grain (just enough for incentive and to give him his supplements) and a lovely slurp of water, he came to me again just as if we'd been together for years. He was as soft and easy with me as my own herd across the road. I put this image in so you can see his chunky body. If you imagine him in better shape, without his tubby belly, he's a very nice horse. His human told me that he's 17 years old. I think he still has great potential!
"Want to play...dribble, dribble, dribble? How about going out for a ride? A nice grooming? Scritching? Got carrots?" Oh, the conversations we were having. Look at that focus.
We spent more than an hour there with him. The whole morning was at his speed, and it was all about Friendly Game. I moved at his pace, accepting what he had to give me. Look at the expression here! He's practically in my lap at this point. What a great, wonderful, sweet, shaggy bear of a horse he is.

This was when I knew it was time to stop. It was perfect! He let me find his scratchy place! I've never had any horse except Lucky allow me in that close, that intimate, and with such complete abandon THAT QUICKLY before! I stopped here, turning and leaving him half asleep with contentment, making these soft, little crooning noises. It was that profound for him.

As we drove out, his person drove in. We stopped at the end of the drive and I told her how things had gone while she was out of town. Then I offered to help her with him. She said " We'll see. I need to think about that." Good answer! Always be cautious and thoughtful about who you let work with your horses.

We went back home and spent some more time outside with our guys, playing at Liberty and just hanging with them. When we went inside, there was a message waiting for me. Houston's human had called. The message said " I don't know what you did, Nancy. But I want you to come back and do it some more! And I hope you'll teach me too!" Her voice had tears in it.

Maybe she will be one of my Parelli Recruits?!

I am, ever yours, Nancy...smiling at the wonderment!


Janine said...

Ohh that is soooo exciting!!! What did she already see that was so differnet to her?? Was it his attitude in Houston, or what? Thanks for the stories!

Parelli Central said...

What a lovely Christmas present!!!!
May 2011 be a year filled with peace, health, happiness, love and success for you...

Petra Christensen
Parelli 2Star Junior Instructor
Parelli Central

Nancy, smiling! said...

Hi Janine! And "Howdy!" to you too Petra!
I think Houston has been depressed. He's been across the road, completely by himself except for his person taking care of him twice a day, for a year now.
I'm still in my "baby talk" stage in my Parelli Journey, but it's still more than he's had before, so he was pretty happy when she walked out to see him after coming home.
She really loves that horse. It's obvious when I'm with him. He's so willing!
It was my Christmas treat (that and having one of my sons and his wife home for the Holiday), getting to walk across the road every day.
I'm keeping my fingers crossed that she'll remember to ask me back this Spring. I'd love to work with him. And I think that using Pat and Linda Parelli's system is her solution too.
I have the whole library, so she can borrow that. If I can convince her through being a good example, to join the Savvy Club, she could get far enough along to, perhaps, play with him at Liberty where she doesn't have to hold ropes or ride. And I would really enjoy having her as a study buddy too.
We shall see.
In any case, she did invite me back and was happy with how he was behaving when she came home, so I met my small goal of lifting both of their spirits. Both of them, Houston and his person, are very nice.
HAPPY NEW YEAR! 2011 will be the best one yet!
Nancy, smiling at the way things go

Janine said...

Well I hope Houston and his person will really enjoy their new friend! Create great moments~J9 and Enzo!