Dear Smart People Who Are Not Jane,
There’s a reason I mess with Jane. Via messing with Phil, who, face it, is über FUN to mess with. I mean, c’mon. If you were stuck hanging out with a Phil, could you resist turning your head casually, and saying a bored: “Booga booga”?
Or “I think there’s a skunk in the bottom of your hay…”?
Of course I’m scaring him when Jane isn’t around. Frankly, setting him off over nothing is just too much fun to resist.
My latest episode of admittedly over-the-top phreaking out of Phil was precipitated by little pointy party hats. Complete with chin elastic.
I had a birthday.
The one day of the year I get to look completely stupid. I’m the handsome horse on the left. The messy human staring into the sun (she’s not very bright) is Jane. The gorgeous babe rocking the stupid pointy hat (Chicks can do this. I don’t get it either.) is Ginger, with her tidy and photogenic human, Laurie.
Please take notes, Jane. A little make-up goes a long way. Tidy up, please.
Thank you for listening. Can any of you help Jane develop some horse savvy? For instance: We Do Not Put Party Hats On Horses Who Are Not Phil.
p.s. There’s one more letter, for Jane.
Ginger and I have proven to be excellent sports. Please destroy the Winnie-the-Pooh hats.
I’m enjoying the daily warming massage therapy on my knee, which frankly, I don’t think looks all that bad? Why all the fuss? It doesn’t hurt. At all. If it did, I would have torn you to shreds already. And the Not-Galloping is making me grumpy, FYI. This is not good for your future.
The ice water massage boot is interesting. For about three seconds. You thought I was yawning for 20 minutes because it felt good? I was bored OUT OF MY MIND. (But please, no singing.) You could fill those 20 minutes by peeling me some baby carrots, emperor style.
I need to know. Does ultra-sound treatment on that knee involve more Jane-Singing? I guarantee you that knee, should you sing, will explode. But not before I take a chunk out of your shoulder.
The real reason for my letter: I don’t understand this birthday obsession you humans have. I was pleasantly surprised that you considered what I, not you, would like for my birthday.
- I do not want to be clean. Clean is bad. Thank you for letting me roll and roll and roll.
- I do love a clean water trough. Nice of you to scrub it out.
- Of course I love carrots. And food. Thank you for happily providing both.
You are not off the hook for the party hat photo. Please consider my recent flare-up of Phil Phreaking Out a warning shot across your bow. If you do not cease, I cannot be held responsible for my actions.
(I can make him afraid of cookies. Do not tempt me.)
I risked my life for this photo.
Meet Phil, Bella’s new trial roping prospect:
He’s a teensy bit anxious. Mix in quick, athletic, slightly phobic, and feels safest with other horses, and you can see some of what needs to be addressed. He’s also cute, sweet, and has a killer cowhorse stop. Asking him to stop from the canter is akin to those car commercials where the car suddenly stops dead at a wall or sheer cliff. Unbelievable. Exhilarating. Death defying.
I like Phil.
Hudson likes Phil too. Hudson likes being a God. Phil believes Hudson Knows All. He encourages Hudson to pontificate.
The first time I ponied Phil, the conversation went like this:
Phil: GAH. What is that? Are we afraid of that?
Hudson: No. Hay cart. Shut up.
Phil: Are we afraid of THAT?
Hudson: NO. Cat. Shut. Up.
Phil: What about that?
Hudson: Dude. It’s grass. We eat it. Chill.
Phil: (trembling) What about that?!?
Hudson: (long pause, then some concession) Sometimes. Trainer. Avoid.
Recently, I was ponying Phil off Hudson. Phil had mostly settled down after a few ponies. The hay barn had been cleaned out for a new shipment, and there was a long narrow piece of black plastic blowing back and forth on the ground, making scary serial killer/chainsaw noises. It whispered: “come closer, I have a cookie. Then I’m going to dismember you alive….whoohahahaha.”
Hudson planted. Snorted. Grew another 20 feet tall. Scared the crap out of Phil who hadn’t seen the plastic, causing him to do three Looney Tunes style double-takes.
When Hudson is spooked, I let him look at whatever, process it, and figure out what the thing may be. Then he’s good. After a few minutes of staring at softly swooshing black plastic, from twenty feet in the air, with a hysterical Phil bouncing on the line, Hudson was ready to walk up to it and investigate. He wasn’t afraid.
Phil: We’re NOT afraid of this?!?
Hudson: I don’t think so…
Phil: Okay. Wait. You don’t think so???
We investigate. Hudson decides it’s NBD. He reverts from Hulk-sized to horse-size, relaxes, his eyes stray to the hay, and the plastic is not on his radar. Two seconds later, I realize his brain has marinated about Phil and his anxieties.
Hudson fake snorts. Prances. Calculates if he can snatch a mouthful of hay out of causing a distraction.
Phil is bouncing up and down and weaving back and forth, trying hard not to lose it completely. I smack Hudson on the neck. He flicks his ears. FINE. I just wanted a bite. But his brain keeps processing. We pass the plastic 400 more times with Hudson on the buckle, yawning, and Phil having successively lessening panic attacks.
Horses. Never go to the barn with a plan that includes an ending time.
Yesterday, I progressed to riding Phil and ponying Hudson.
Now we had a three-way conversation going:
Phil: I don’t WANT to be in front.
Hudson: I can handle it. Move over.
Jane: Hudson, knock it off. Phil, you’re first.
Phil: But he wants to…and I don’t?
Jane: Phil. Go.
Phil: Going…this okay?
We come up to the hay barn. Phil tries to appear as if he’s walking forward while walking backward. Hudson is smirking. The black plastic is long gone.
I let Phil look at the hay barn. He settles down. I ask him to walk forward. He cautiously tip toes forward. I ask to stop. We stop so fast that I have to fight the reverse button. I sneak a glance at Hudson. He’s not yawning. We stand for a few minutes.
Just as I am about to ask Phil to take another few steps toward the hay (which I would let both of them taste), Hudson’s ears swivel forward dramatically and he leaps in place, one eye on Phil, the other on the grass to his right.
I. Am. Gonna. Kill. Hudson. Days worth of work, and he knows Phil is going to go with him, not me, or even himself.
I get Phil under control and yank Hudson before he can get his head all the way down to the grass.
Hudson: Geeze…it was just a joke. You don’t have to be so rough.
Phil: AH AH AH AH AH AH AH
Jane: Phil, he’s having you on, forget forward, just pass the dang barn, okay?
Phil: ACK ACK ACK ACK ACK
Hudson: Heh heh heh heh heh
Jane: One more “heh” and I am going to “forget” your happy meal. Knock it off.
Phil: Are we going to live? Are we alive? Is it gone yet? I still see it. I think I still see it?
Jane: We’re alive. Keep walking.
I see another 400 rounds past the hay barn in our future. After round 200, Phil’s settled down. I decide to switch directions: may as well get over the hay barn in both directions.
We make a couple of passes. All goes well. I’m thinking of quitting for the day. Just as we hit the mid-point of the hay barn on what I’ve decided is our last pass, Hudson takes advantage of my focus on getting Phil calmly through the worst part. He yanks the lead suddenly, something he’s never done, and manages to get about 3 feet of play. He darts behind Phil’s butt, mouth open, ready to chomp grass. He tosses in a little panicked leap. Phil now has a serial killing hay barn on his right, a rope around his butt, an apparently terrified Hudson charging away from the monster, and me, who says: “Dude. It’s fine”.
He’s so overloaded all he can do is panic without moving. He can’t go right: Monster. He can’t go left: Hudson. He can’t back up: still Monster. He can’t go forward: listening to Jane, who has clearly lied through her teeth about monsters.
Hudson: heh heh heh. GRASS! Score.
Phil: WHAT DO I DO?????
Jane: (reluctantly dropping Hudson’s lead, for safety) Go forward.
Phil: Okay okay okay okay okay. Going forward. WAIT. Where’s Hudson? I can’t go without HUDSON.
Hudson: (muffled by mouthfuls of grass) heh heh heh. You go. I’ll be here.
Jane: Can I just hit my head quietly on a wall somewhere?
What is the one thing you do not want to do with a smart horse planning a coup? Reward him. By turning him loose on grass. I take one of Phil’s looooong split reins and wallop Hudson. He flinches in surprise, but not enough to raise his head. He knows I can grab the lead rope if he lifts his head.
Great. All I’ve done is terrify Phil. Not only do I lie to him about monsters, I whack the guy he trusts with his own rein.
If it wouldn’t scare Phil, I’d start banging my head on his neck.
Hudson: Bang your head. He won’t mind. I swear. (heh heh heh)
New Mountain Horse tall boots!
Yay! And OW!
For the non-horsey: tall boots are cut at least an inch too high, because the leather will soften and drop around your ankles a bit. This means they cut into the tender area behind your knee, while awaiting maximum drop, and rub the crap out of your heel tendons. Blister city.
These weren’t too bad. I walked a whole twenty feet before developing my first blisters. (Trust me, boots exist that are capable of blistering most of your leg in under five feet, flat.)
I invested in super padded self-stick gauze bandages. They’re keeping my blisters from getting blisters. Win-win. (It takes iron will-power to break in new boots. New boots do everything they can to break you right back.)
Yesterday, I forgot to pack an extra pair of footwear for the barn, in case I had to walk farther than 50 feet. (The gauze pads give me 30 feet of extra walking range!)
I rode Hudson, and we had a terrific workout. I think we actually made an entire circuit of the arena in a semi-correct position. Hudson worked up a sweat. I worked up a sweat.
The boots were incredibly comfortable up here:
Hudson and I usually go pick up Woodrow to pony before we start, or after we’ve finished. It gives Woodrow an extra 20-30 minutes of walking (he’s in PT) and Hudson gets company for the booooring part.
20 minutes into our cool-out ponying walk, Hudson is still steaming. Ordinarily, this is the point where I’d get off, untack, and just hand walk the boys.
I look down at my boots. So not going to happen.
I drop the reins on Hudson’s neck, tuck Woodrow’s lead rope under my leg, and text Bella:
Jane: Hmm…ponying. H isn’t cooling out. Ok to switch seats, pony H off W?
I wasn’t sure if weight-bearing had been added to Woodrow’s physical therapy. I stare at the screen in my hands, while using my seat to direct Hudson around the arena. God I love this horse. A horse you can pony from and text on at the same time? Goldmine. I wait for the return text bing. Resist the temptation to play Bejeweled.
Even I can’t justify playing a game on my cell while riding.
Bella: Sure! Go for it.
I’ve only been on Woodrow once, months ago. I don’t usually do first rides bareback in a halter, but it felt fine…? He had been mildly surprised, but it went well. I’ll do the same thing today.
I untack Hudson, still steaming, and halter him. When I do not take the expected course up to their paddock, they glance at each other, ears swiveling in a horse code (similar to Morse code) of chatter. I try to ignore them talking behind my back. It makes me feel like a school marm.
Woodrow: Dude. What’s she doing?
Hudson: No idea. Bizarre. You hungry?
Hudson: Stupid. We could be eating.
Woodrow: Hey, there’s still some lunch left. Try leaning.
Woodrow: Lean toward the food? Like…you know…hint.
Hudson: I do not lean. Leaning is beneath me. I yank.
Woodrow: Whatever. Too late. Look where we are.
I’m standing on the mounting block, calculating distances, trajectories, and potential Jane-velocity. Woodrow is only slightly shorter than Hudson. Not entirely sure I can “leap” instead of “lower” myself on his bare back. I try to factor in that I’ll be leaping while holding another horse.
Hmm. I change the angles in my head.
One of the trainers takes pity on me and offers me a leg up. After my last fiasco getting a leg up, I turn her down flat, but thank her profusely for holding Hudson, so the only thing I have to work out is how to get ON Woodrow.
Turn mounting block on its side, pretend I’m ten….
I’m on in 2 seconds, with no embarrassing misses. Age denial: it’s a good thing.
Woodrow is bulked up like an Offensive Lineman. He’s a tank! How great is that? Tank horses are comfortable. I can hear Hudson sniff: leaner horses are more graceful.
(Not true, but I’m not going to hurt his feelings.)
The trainer smiles and hands me Hudson’s lead rope. Woodrow’s head is high in the air, very still, one questioning ear turned toward me. I laugh. It’s adorable:
I pat him on the neck.
Jane: Hi! We’re going for a walk, cutie pie.
I expect this to answer his question. I am so wrong. The conversation has just started.
Woodrow: Yeah. Um…I think you made a mistake. This is how it goes? You ride that horse, and I keep you company. Not in my owner’s manual that you have clearance?
Woodrow (to Hudson): Cutie pie?
Jane: No, it’s fine, I called your mom. We’re just going to walk. You and Hudson are just trading jobs.
I squeeze with my legs, and lay the lead rope against his neck: let’s go that away.
Both ears swivel back at me. Not a hoof moves.
Woodrow: Nooo…I think this is wrong…? That horse lugs you around. I stroll and rubberneck.
Huh. Meanwhile, Hudson has begun tossing his head, uncharacteristically surging forward and back, antsy to get going. I stare at Hudson. One of Woodrow’s ears swivels, pointing at Hudson.
Woodrow: Hey. She’s smart after all! Who knew? (Sotto voice: Hudson, she looked at you when I pointed!)
Woodrow: (back to me) That’s right. You ride him. See? He wasn’t lost. You didn’t look hard enough.
Woodrow: You can get off any time.
Hudson is eyeballing the soft dirt of the arena. Uh-Oh. I see horsey dust angels in the bubble over his head.
Hudson: I’m naked! Naked naked NAKED! OOOooooooo….I love being naked. Mom? Look the other way for just a sec, K?
Woodrow: Dude. I’m naked too. And she’s on me. Think you can focus, and help out with that?
Hudson: Uh. No. Hey. THAT looks like a good spot to roll.
Woodrow: No one is rolling. Not if I can’t.
Although he hasn’t responded to my squeeze, clucking noises, or neck rein, Woodrow and I are on the same side. No. Rolling. I pull his lead to the side and tattoo his ribs lightly with my calves.
Woodrow: What? No! You still think you should be up there? MISTAKE.
Hudson: Haha! Neener neener. It’s not a mistake. C’mon, let’s GO. We used to do this all the time with Dinero. Look guy, NBD, okay?
Woodrow: Who the heck is Dinero? And dude, don’t yank me.
Jane: He’s right W, let’s go. You have to cart me around for a while.
Hudson: Told you.
Jane: Hudson, shush. You’re not helping!
Woodrow: This is so wrong. Fine. I’m walking.
Woodrow: Hey. Cute mare, twelve o’clock. Check out the wash rack!
Hudson: Dude. Awesome. She’s hot.
Suddenly, we’re walking briskly toward the wash rack. Um. Gelding I’ve don’t know very well (from up here) touching noses with mare I don’t know? So not going to let that happen.
I rein him away, rather abruptly.
Woodrow to Hudson: Told you this was wrong.
We walk. Every now and then Woodrow slows a bit and swivels an ear back to me. Couldn’t be clearer.
Woodrow: NOW are we done…?
I cue him to keep moving out.
Jane: No. And you just made the time longer.
Hudson: Now you know what I have to put up with. And stop asking. I’m hungry.
Jane: Hudson, SHUT UP.
Hudson: (innocently) Geeze, just talking.
Woodrow: Dude. How do you stand it?
Jane: Guys? Helllllo. I’m right here. I can hear you.
Woodrow and Hudson, simultaneously: SO?
New boots. The source of blisters on many levels.
But SO worth it.
(I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time!)
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.