Bon Appeal: She is hopelessly beautiful, insanely sweet, and when she upsets you, gives you that lost, confused look that has clearly been practiced in a pool of water until perfected. She is a Walt Disney horse, with big Bambi eyes blinking at you beneath long lashes.
Yesterday I tacked her up for Ride Number Two of Broodmare Makeover. If you’ll recall, on Ride One she had to remember how to be tied, and broke the hay string three times, running away dragging the SCARY SCARY lead rope twice. On day two, she broke the tie just once, and then it was almost more of an accident – I tied her, walked over to the hay shed about ten feet away to move something, and she snatched her head back to see what I was doing and popped the string loose. She backed up about fifteen feet, watching the lead rope of death following her with wide eyes and blown nostrils, but didn’t run away. I waited until she was done and then walked her back to the washrack, where she stood quietly. Progress!
Bonnie’s main phobia, the one that all other incidents stem from, is a fear of ropes. Or hoses. Or just long skinny things. I’m not sure what the primary offender is but the bottom line is, if it is long and skinny and loops around on the ground, she thinks it will eat her. Maybe it is a fear of anacondas. Anyway, everything about her is perfectly normal and sane until a rope drags on the ground near her, or a hose touches her hoof. Then she rounds her back, puts her head down, blows hard through her nose, and kicks one hind leg at her tail.
This isn’t usually a huge deal when we’re working, unless you’re trying to longe her to the right. And you know – you know how horses can be about longing to the right. Big eyes, staring at you – you want me to go clockwise? No – can’t be done! Some horses, you can swing the lead rope at their hind end, and they get the picture and jog off. Some horses, some Bonnies, you swing the lead rope at their hind end, and they go backwards backwards backwards away from the Rope of Death and Destruction.
I was rapidly getting frustrated (in case you’re wondering where Final Call is, he is out in the paddock whinging that he has a sore back and isn’t working today, so at this point I am not in the best of moods) and it was clearly not a great start to the ride, when suddenly I remembered – hey, I speak Thoroughbred! And I also cuss in Thoroughbred!
Here is how you cuss in Thoroughbred: you use a lip chain.
Lip chains stop horses from going backwards in the most simple of fashions. You put the chain across the upper gum, and when the horse pulls back, the chain gets tight. When the horse stops pulling, the chain loosens up. There is no clearer way to say to a Thoroughbred, “Stop you #&!#^ or I will #$%&# you up!” in their own, crude, racetrack language. It’s terribly effective. And no one has to get hurt.
I slipped the chain from the longe line through the halter ring, over the gum, and clipped it to the other side. I told her to go forward. She went backward – and stopped. Ow! Yes, I should think so.
And boom, went forward again and never looked back. Put her head down like a saint and trotted away in the clockwise circle that she swore was physically impossible. Hmmph.
The riding portion was brief, of course, since she isn’t used to carrying weight. We walked for about five minutes, while she ground down on the bit as hard as she could, and I tried to adjust my seat to her wide back. She’s very broad and Quarter Horsey, which I have to admit doesn’t suit my build very well. I fit the tall skinnies like Final Call much easier. Then we moved into a trot, tight and short at first, while she scrunched herself into a little ball, then slowly stretching out, letting her neck unwind from her chest, until we were rolling through big figure eights.
All in all, Ride Number Two was pretty pleasant. She was fairly relaxed, paid close attention to me, and didn’t spook at anything, possibly most important of all. I strongly suspect Bonnie spooks because she A)doesn’t trust me one bit and B)felt my complete re-rider status when I first got her, and took advantage of it. I’m a bit tougher now. We’ll see.