In which the Dragon has transformed from "Hellbitch" to "A Kind Demeanor"

Fiddle is 20 years old now. 

On the X-State trail (2021)

For those folks who didn't know my horse in the beginning, let me provide a little history:  

She used to be horrible.

At an early endurance ride (2010)

Really, really horrible.  

She was a kicker, a biter, a bucker.  She would swing her body around to knock people over.

A smarter person would have handed her back, sold her on, or somehow gotten away from her nasty attitude. 

I am not smart.  

At that time in my life, I desperately needed a challenge.

I asked for a walk-to-trot transition (2011)

I definitely got a challenge.

"But she loves you!" somebody said on FB the other day.

Does she?  

I'm not convinced.  

Final vet-check of a 30-miler (2013).  She is comfortable with me.

My horse certainly prefers me to most other people.   

She can trust me to be (relatively) predictable.  She knows what I'm likely to ask in most situations, and she knows she will probably be able to do whatever is needed.  She doesn't worry that I will throw things at her that she can't handle.

She knows that if she guesses wrong, I will give her another chance.  

She knows that I know (now, finally) the difference between Right and Good.  She values being Right.  She doesn't care one speck about being Good...and I've learned to let go of that sort of judgy-stuff, too.

She also knows that if she deliberately does something wrong, I will correct her promptly, but I won't get mad.  For a horse who likes to be Right (not Good, because that is totally different), this is important.

Unlike the Toad, who enjoyed chaos and spontaneity, Fiddle  craves security, routine, and rules.  

I can provide that stuff most of the time.  

She has always loved babies more than other humans. (2015)

But the Dragon isn't a dog.  She doesn't wag her metaphoric tail when she sees me.  

Foxie is so little that he wags his entire body when he sees me.

She is not now, and never has been a "pocket pony."  She likes to be groomed when she's itchy, fed when she's hungry.  She doesn't call to me from across the pasture, even if I've been gone for a week.

If she wants attention beyond having her gate opened or her bucket filled, she does a trick ("look away" and "pick up a foot" are the quickest and easiest).   If she lifts a front foot to beg for attention or a cookie, I try to acquiesce if I'm able. 

She might or might not meet me at the gate.  If she wants to do something with me, she will be there, waiting.  

If she doesn't particularly want to do anything, I have to walk to the furthest corner of the pasture while she stands there, waiting for me to come get her.  

If she knows we're going out but she has feelings, I have to stand in the middle of the pasture while she zooms around in mad circles.

When she has expressed all her feelings, she stands still to be haltered.  

Sometimes the flinging-herself-around takes 5 minutes.  Sometimes it takes 20.  I don't ever have to chase her, but I do always have to wait until she's done.  There's no point in trying to rush the process. It takes the time that it takes, no matter what my schedule says.

That's really been the secret to this mare's gradual transformation from a true Hellbitch to the horse whose vet record includes the note "has a kind demeanor":

Dr. Dick Root has always been one of the Dragon's favorite vets 

I listen to my horse.

This isn't always easy.  

Sometimes she doesn't say what I want her to say, and doesn't want to do what I want her to do.  

She will do things she doesn't want to do (because she is well-trained), but I try to take her feelings into account, because often there's a reason:  she's tired, she's sore, she's afraid (this is rare), she doesn't like a horse in the group (this is common), or she's just feeling uncooperative (less common now than it used to be).

The difference for both of us after 15+ years together: 
she is allowed to have an opinion.

I don't punish her for feeling grumpy. 

I will tell her to "fix those ears" if she's giving a nasty face to me (or to somebody else), which is a trick she knows.  I will also look at her lower lip to see if she's actually upset about something and likely to escalate (pinned ears/tight lip), or if she's just communicating that somebody (usually me) is (in her opinion) Doing Something Wrong (pinned hears/floppy lip).  

She gets to have an opinion, but she doesn't get to vote.

After Story died, I was looking for a mare who was short and sweet.  

Crossing the Renslow Trestle over I-90 (2021)

Instead, I got a Dragon.

Do I "love" her?  Yeah.

Does she "love" me?  

I don't know.  I don't think it matters.  

She prefers my company to the company of anybody else...except babies...and cats.  She will often choose me instead of another horse, unless it's a horse she knows really well...and sometimes, even then she'd rather hang out with me.  

Sometimes she'd rather hang with me than eat dinner, but she would always rather hang with me while we eat dinner together.

I do know this: it's taken a long time, but we are both better, happier partners now.

It might or might not be love.  For us, it's enough.

How about you, Readers?  How have you changed your equine partners?  

How have they changed you?




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