I relate my conversations with Hudson to Shaun. Normal. They go something like this:
Jane: You’re never going to believe what happened today. Hudson is so smart. You know how he’s been fine with me putting the rubber boot on his hoof?
Jane: He’s convinced he will die if he let me take it off, right?
Shaun: Uh. Mmmmm.
Jane: Today he argued. He wouldn’t let me put the boot ON, because he’s figured out he’ll have to let me take it off. Smart, huh?
Shaun: Did you say you had an argument with Hudson?
Jane: Not an argument exactly. More like a conversation with very strong feelings.
Shaun: (putting down book) Tell me about it.
Jane: I got all the stuff ready, he saw the boot and said: forget it. You know I don’t care if you put it on. I don’t care if my hoof is in it. But I don’t like when you take it off. The rubber touches my leg. Not working for me. Figure something else out. Not cooperating.
Shaun: So did he talk to you like this the entire time?
Jane: Oh yeah.
Shaun: Tell me.
Jane: (surprised Shaun is interested) Okay. I cleaned out his hooves, leaving the hurt one for last, figuring he’d be in the pattern by then, and I totally expected he’d pick it up.
Shaun: I meant: tell me like you were talking to each other.
Jane: (??) Thanks for the left foot buddy. Give me the left rear.
Hudson: I don’t like to pick up my hind feet. I was traumatized as a foal.
Jane: I’m your therapist. Listen closely: Get. Over. It.
Hudson: Fine. Here. (He raises his hoof so high it’s nearly in his belly).
Jane: Nice try. No pretend kicking range. Hoof down please.
Hudson: I don’t know what you’re talking about. (Blinking his eyelashes)
Jane: (rolling eyes) Bull. PSA: Not intimidated. ETA for elbow to gut: 2 seconds.
Hudson: Here. (shoving hoof into my hand) What is your problem? I always give my hooves like a gentleman.
Jane: Because I will beat you if you don’t.
Hudson: Why do I always have to be polite?
Jane: Because I said so.
Hudson: (big heaving sigh) Here’s the other hind.
Jane: Thank you. Way to go on the No Drama.
Jane: Last hoof…haul it up.
Hudson: I can’t. It’s stuck. (His gaze travels to the bright blue Davis boot.)
Jane: Riiiiiight. I expect that hoof in my hand in 3 seconds, mister.
Hudson: Hey. What mare is that? The one on the wash rack?
Jane: 2 seconds.
Hudson: I. Can’t. STUCK.
Jane: 1 second.
Hudson: Fine. You don’t believe me, YOU try to lift it.
Jane: (squeezing near the chestnut) Hoof, please.
Hudson: (shifting all his weight to “stuck” hoof.) See? Can’t. Move. Very sad.
Jane: (pulling on lead, giving command.) BACK.
Hudson: Those stretching exercises? Look! I can bend my head all the way between my knees.
Jane: Back up, or it’s the elbow for you.
Hudson: (shifting his weight from leg to leg and swaying like a sailor.) Sorry. What did you say?
Jane: Back. Up. Now.
Hudson backs up the three hooves I don’t care about. The fourth hoof sticks out in front, as if stuck to the rubber mat. Two polite, clear requests. This is not about pain. It doesn’t hurt to lift that foot. It doesn’t hurt to put it in the boot and stand in warm water.
I’ll give him that it feels strange to pull it out. Here’s the deal: we get used to strange. Strange becomes the new Normal. He is showing no fear signs. This is a power struggle. My hoof, my way.
I am not nice. I elbow him in the ribs, hard. He leans into me, instead of moving away from the pressure. I double elbow him until he shifts away from the pressure.
Jane: Hoof, or I get the dressage whip. FYI, I have a pocket full of cookies. I get hoof, you get cookie. Do the math.
Hudson: Cookie? Where’s the cookie. I want the cookie. I love cookie. Can I have it? Pleeeeeease…?
Jane: As soon as you give me your hoof.
Hudson: Cookie first.
Jane: Hoof first.
Hudson: No! Here’s the wrong front hoof. (Ha! I know she’s not going to put a heavy sloshy thing on that one!)
Jane: Wrong hoof. You’re getting a boot. Tough.
Hudson: That’s what you think. Eleven hundred pounds of pressure…give it a go. See if you can lift it.
Jane: Fear we can work with. Pain we can work with, stubborn opinion and you get beaten to a pulp.
I return with an “in hand” whip. Hudson sighs, and holds up the hoof as if the problem has been me: I haven’t been clear. Right. Lugging on that leg wasn’t clear.
Hudson: You should have just asked.
I slip the boot on easily, no issue. 20 minutes later, we have issue.
He doesn’t want me to take it off. This part is not stubbornness. The feel makes him uncomfortable. Uneasy. It’s creepy. Might be a little scary.
I’m not going to be stern with him like I did on picking it up. No escalation. Funny how putting it on, and taking it off, are two unrelated issues in his head. I open the boot wide, unclip the cross ties, and lead him out of the boot. He’s a little jumpy, his foot doesn’t come out with the first step. He looks questioningly at me.
Hudson: Um. Creepy. Am I afraid? I might be a little nervous.
Jane: Nervous is okay. Don’t care, you can be nervous. But nah, it’s not scary. Normal. It’s NBD on your radar. Cookies, on the other hand…
He steps right out of the boot without thinking. He looks down at it, snorting. I keep walking while holding out the cookie. Good association. NBD, and a cookie!
And I stop telling Shaun the story.
After a long pause, Shaun says, “Do all horse people talk for their horses?”
I’m puzzled. “What do you mean?”, I say.
“You had this entire conversation with him, like he was really talking”, she says.
“He was”, I say, baffled. His talking was as clear to me as hers.
“Okaaaaay”, Shaun says.
So I’m putting it to you. Do you talk for your horse?
I’m laughing. I think I know the answer…
Update: I didn’t say clearly what I meant. I know most of us talk to our horses, and we describe our conversations to other horse people. They usually know exactly what we mean. What I was trying to say (although you can’t tell that from what I said!):
When talking to other, non-horse people, do you relate your horse’s side of the conversation to them?