Sunday, April 26, 2015

Like Dogs? Like Kids?

Licorice STILL has hives.  We are working on different angles and I'm hoping we turn the corner soon.  He looks awful.  All lumps and bumps.

We've had some great groundwork sessions.  I realized something pretty critical about my abilities and that is that it's not that I lack confidence, it's that I have anxiety.  I knew I had anxiety, but I thought confidence was the missing ingredient.  However, confidence is something you can gain through exercises, trust and time.  Anxiety doesn't give a crap about those things, it's a totally different beast.  One I'm very familiar with working with, but until I recognized fully that it was anxiety driving my discomfort and not confidence, I kept trying to train it out of me.

I have pretty good feel and pretty good timing.  My releases happen at the right time and even when I'm talking to someone else, one 'eyeball' is always on my horse.  I correct when I need to, am reasonably soft (this is ALWAYS a work in progress) and when riding, have a good seat and soft hands.  Licorice is not dangerous to me nor am I dangerous to him.  He's not a hot spooky mess all the time and neither am I.  I'm not sure it's exactly fun a lot of the time, which leads me to my newest pondering.

One of the people I'm working with for Licorice's hives heard that I was still thinking of selling him.  She basically dressed me down for it, saying that horses bond to their owners and that if I was having a hard time with my child I wouldn't give them up, would I?  Well, she's right.  Quite frankly, if my daughter was a horse, I probably would have sold her already.  (note to my child when she's old enough to find this on the internet:  you may use this for approximately five years of counseling when you're in your early 20s.  Then, someday, you may have a child and you can apologize to me with extravagant gifts.)

So, where do horses fit in?  Let's take out the 'horses cost a lot of money' line, because kids do too.  Also, let's take combinations that are dangerous off the table.  And let's also leave out 'horses are a hobby'.  I understand this is true for some people, but my horse isn't just a hobby.  I do puzzles for a hobby.  Horses are something deeper for me, and it DOES involve another being.

Why are they different than the commitment to dogs?  I had a border collie who I loved dearly, but she had some big issues (rescue dog) that we worked around but if she was a horse would I have traded her in?  I'm REALLY thinking about this, not just off the cuff with the whole time/money/life is too short stuff.  What makes the difference?

Dogs.  Children.  Horses.  All are beings and I believe they all have souls.  They certainly all have personalities.  What would life with horses look like if we DIDN'T trade them in?  I board, so I only can afford one horse so it's not an option to keep one and then get another one to do some of the things I want to do.  And why is WHAT we want to do MORE important than the horse/person bond?  My dog was NOT a family dog, but I just worked around it.  My husband is not a horse person...I wouldn't trade him in.

So, any thoughts?  I really would love to have a thoughtful discussion about this!  I recognize there might be differing opinions, so if there are, let's be respectful to each other.  And be open to thinking about things differently.....I know I am.


  1. I think it is perfectly fine to say "this is not the horse for me" and to sell that horse. A poor match can rarely be fixed, even with consistent lessons and training rides, and why keep a horse you are afraid to ride just because somebody has a different idea?

  2. I actually see our horses (and our dogs) as I see our husbands. You will date a lot of horses. Some will sweep you off your feet the moment you meet them, and you will fall head over heels. They'll romance you, and for months, you might think "This is it! The one I'm meant for!". And then it might go sour.

    Or you might realize they are too immature for you. Or maybe, you were too immature for them. Maybe they just wanted you to get somewhere? Horses, are like the dating scene. You need to go out there and ride a few. Have your heart broken a few times. Think you found "It" and then realize you had "It" all wrong. Be dumped. Do some dumping. Totally change your mind about what you like. A few times. Your girlfriends will be all "Ugh, is she EVER going to settle down??!" or "She's sooo slutty! That was her 5th guy this week!" Maybe, you won't ride any for awhile because you're so sick and tired of going out with losers that don't "get you".

    When you *finally* fall in love, the kind of love that is marry-able, that you can deal with all the ups and downs and struggles without the desire to trade him in, trade the horse in, then you're ready to settle down and marry that man.

    That's the difference to me. Your child, is a part of you. So long as you are able and capable of raising her, you will. You can't "divorce" your kid. You can't break up with her, you can't just stop returning her texts. Men and horses, you can do those things and that's okay. It's part of finding "the one".

    Like dating, it might not be love at first sight. It might take awhile. It WILL be a hell of a lot of work. You will hate him sometimes. You will love him sometimes. But at the end of the day, for all the shit, you won't trade him in, even though you TOTALLY can and it would be okay.

    THAT is horses and men. No one is ever telling you that you should have married your high school sweetheart, or that guy you made out with at the back of the bar when you were 22 ;)

    Children, sorry, you're stuck with them.

  3. Men, horses, dogs, sorry, much as I can get attached - if it's not right for me it's not fair to them either. That being said, I don't give up easily and have rehomed exactly one dog to a more suited home and haven't got another was really hard! Horses- I had two mares that were super bonded and best friends. I felt super guilty for leasing one out and leaving the other without her best bud. I needn't have worried, she met someone new right away and is even better buddies with them. I think they adapt to a changing herd more often than not. I also think I rate less than other horses in their minds so suspect our partnership may be a little more one sided than I'd like. As long as it's a good home where they are treated well and have lots of horsey friends I think they're happy enough. Kids - I don't have any so don't get to vote there :)

  4. I've thought about this a lot too, Mona. I feel like, for me, the fundamental difference between the dog/human relationship and the horse/human relationship is...the horse can kill you.

    A dog MIGHT kill you (they certainly have, of course...well, I'm a cat person, and there's a reason we've kept housecats small--anyway), but horses kill people, either maliciously or without intent, quite frequently. And that changes the whole nature of our relationship to them. (At least, it should. I always hate it when I hear, "My husband's not afraid! He'll ride anything!" etc etc etc.)

    This may be why we may try harder to forge bonds, even if they are difficult, with our children, spouse, dog, cat...and try perhaps a little less hard with a horse we just don't seem to "mesh" with. Is the payoff from that relationship worth the risk? We are, after all, as living things, survivalists. I think that's where anxiety can really start to take over.

    Even if you don't feel Licorice is dangerous...the anxiety stems from somewhere. Perhaps it's fear. Perhaps it's fear of doing something wrong, not seeing something or causing an issue. I don't know. I know those have all been factors for me at one time or another.

    So I guess I'd say, Life Is Short. All caps. FAR TOO SHORT. Take time, if you want, to outline YOUR goals for your equine (I'm a list person..can you tell? Also, YOUR goals, NOT your trainer's goals for you). Do YOU want to show lower level Dressage? Do you want to go on a trail ride? Do open shows? Be able to ride down the road without worry? Ride on the beach with your horse? Trust him not to pull a fast one on you if you DO let your guard down, if you DON'T ride every stride? Be able to ride a cheerful horse when days and days go by in between rides? Have a finished horse? Have a broke horse? Maybe compiling a list and comparing what Licorice, who is not a young horse and while trainable, is certainly developed in his personality, can do versus what you'd LIKE to do would be useful. (Something tells me you've already done this)

    [Side bar: What happens (when he's feeling better and not covered in hives) when you work the absolute crap out of him on the lunge or under saddle (sweat dripping everywhere, tired tired horse, holy cow that was a lot of work)? Is there any change in his anxiety level, or yours?]

  5. First, I snort laughed at the comment about your darling child. If that's what takes her to therapy...bwahahaha. (Love you, Turtle - when you find this later!)

    Second, I would have to agree with many of the points being made above. Horses are a relationship of choice, just like most of our relationships (except children under 18, I guess) and, having had a horse that was NOT right for me, it sucks but it sucks more to keep forcing something that isn't working. But only you will really know if that's the case...