The Young and the Liftless

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?

Shaun: Mmmm.

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.

Hudson: Whatever.

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.

Jane: Whatever.

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…

Hudson: Cookie??

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!

It works.

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?


16 thoughts on “The Young and the Liftless

  1. Yes, of course. Family members, co-workers, friends. They all hear Tucker’s side of the story all the time. And it’s followed by fake-smiles plastered on people’s faces to hide the fact that they think I’m nuts, and visibly forcing themselves not to run away. Quickly.

  2. Of course horses talk. One of ours told me for months:
    “Put the food IN the bowl”
    Which of course is what I always did, so it took me months to realize she was not reminding me because she thought I was mentally challenged, but complaining about the stablehand who flung her evening meal in the general direction of the bowl, spilling it on the edges. This mare is a neat freak. If she was human, she’d be prissy.

  3. Actually I only recently have been able to consistently hear my horse.

    Before I was just projecting, and of course I always talked to them. But in the last 3 months I’ve finally started really hearing them.

    And it’s both horses, although Lily is not much of a talker. I’m hoping she’ll open up.

    When I relate it to non horse people, I stick to very simple stories. My heavy reliance on horse metaphors is tough enough…

  4. Of course! No one thought I was very funny, so they’re grateful my horse has such a great sense of humor and can keep them laughing.

    Other horse people join me in giving my horse a constant stream of conversation. He’s fairly opposite from Hudson in many ways, but just as talkative! (Opposite: One day my mom was helping by cleaning his hooves for me while I was putting on his boots. I was on the left hind, she was at the right hind. He wouldn’t pick up his hoof for her. I went around and elbowed him and he picked it up until she was done. Next time I was at his left hind he picked his right hind up and held it nicely in the air like “I remembered, Mom!”)

  5. I had this conversation with my horse, on the day after my husband installed automatic horse feeders (so, grain magically appeared at 4 AM, I showed up at 5:30 AM to turn out)

    Jeigh: What, no breakfast?
    Me: The feeders are instead of breakfast.
    Jeigh: You mean, in addition to, breakfast?
    Me: No!
    Jeigh: I want breakfast!
    Me: You already had breakfast!
    Jeigh: That was an early morning snack! Wait, don’t turn me out! I haven’t had breakfast yet!

  6. The infamous Tihiti’s Tiki Taki not only talked to me, he would solicit the agreement of entire arenas-full of people, and they all knew exactly what he was saying. 🙂

    The first time he and I encountered dry ice in a trail class, he paused.
    “Okay, now go toward it,” I said.
    “Do WHAT?”
    “Walk forward.”
    “Do you even SEE this smoking thing?”
    “Yes, it won’t hurt us. Walk on, please.”
    “Yes, I am. It’s an *obstacle*. You LIKE trail obstacles.”
    At this point, he looks up into the stands, where it’s obvious almost everyone has been following our conversation.
    “Do you SEE what she’s expecting me to do? My monkey is an idiot!”
    Crowd erupts in laughter.
    HUGE sigh from Tik. Ringmaster is laughing, judge is laughing, announcer cannot speak.
    Tik lowers head and stalks the dry ice like a puma after a rabbit. It doesn’t dare to move from its water boxes (two — all we had to do was walk between them).
    “Thank you,” I say.
    He mutters something unprintable, then looks at the judge: “I get extra points for that, right?” Judge starts laughing again.

  7. I most definitely do. I generally related the conversations to my husband, who got into horses after meeting me. I don’t think he totally “gets” it, but that’s okay. Although Mosco doesn’t actually speak words, we certainly have conversations much like you & Hudson’s.

  8. I’ve had very similar conversations with my horses where they offer every foot but the one I want. Do I tell anyone about it? No. But that’s only because they really aren’t interested.

  9. duh. we converse all the time. with ears like Fiddle’s you can see what she says al-l-l-l-l the way to the other end of the county.

    with non-horse people, I usually just show off pictures of the pretty horsie and then we talk about the latest books we’ve been reading. It’s…simpler.

  10. Haha! I thought it was a universal horse-person thing to do? Even new horse people seem to start talking to their horses instinctively 😛 When I first started eventing I would talk ‘to my horse’ all the way around the cross country, too – really helped ‘him’ get over any fears 😉

  11. You know, actually, I don’t talk for her. For me, it’s easier to “listen” to what she’s communicating if I don’t make up words to go with it. Now the dog and the cats – oh lord yes. The kitten orders us around all the time. “Pet me! No, wait, don’t touch me! Do it right, human!”

  12. Very funny… and I can relate.

    I talk to Jigs all the time. He hates ring work and nags at me when we work in the ring. The conversation goes like this:

    “But Jigs, we need to practice transitions.”
    “Why do you always want to go in circles?”
    At this point he has usually slowed to a painful walk and we are nearing the gate.
    “Come on buddy.” I squeeze him, he actually manages to go slower.
    “But the trails are on the other side of the gate”
    “Let’s go,” tighter squeeze.
    He goes a smidgen faster.
    And so we go, walk to trot, trot to walk….. and on….
    Boring. He’s right.
    “Come on Jigs, we’ve earned a break…”
    Trails here we come.

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