Woo-hoo! I’m celebrating! I’ve had this blog for a full year! I’m excited about this – I’m proud of myself for keeping it up and writing in it very consistently, every week. And without realizing it, it’s been a year! Congratulations to me!! I tell Buckshot that he is famous, but he doesn’t seem the least bit interested in his fame. He’s so modest. But I am glad that he is famous, for he deserves it.
When I began this blog, I didn’t know how it would go. But month after month, I have found that I enjoy writing my posts, and look forward to the comments I’ve gotten. Through my blog and the other horse blogs that I read, I’ve met and read about some wonderful people and you have all enriched my life. When I am with Buckshot, I find myself thinking about something you have said or observed. I have learned from your comments as well. The community aspect of blogging is wonderful, much more so than I ever imagined. I also thank you for reading through what must have been some boring posts. Sometimes nothing dramatic occurs. In life, that’s okay. But in blogs, it can seem a bit boring at times. Still, I enjoy reading others’ posts when nothing much happens. Because we all love our horses, and want to share about them. And we learn from and inspire each other. So thank you, thank you to all of you readers- I greatly appreciate you! I would like to make us all a big birthday cake, I think it would be carrot cake (in homage to our horses!) with cream cheese frosting, and a big picture of Buckshot on top. I wish I could offer each of you a piece of this cake!
Buckshot and I had a great weekend. He was great in all of our activities. We went to the reining trainer clinic yesterday and had a good time. Near the end of the clinic, the trainer looked over at us and said, Look at Buckshot, his eyes are closed and his lower lip is flopping. He was trying to nap, I guess, during our clinic! But when I asked him to walk, he woke right up and started walking! What a funny horse! I had noticed some beautiful, emerald green grass just outside the arena in one section of the farm during the clinic, and I’d told Buckshot I’d let him nibble some of that grass when we were done. So, after I woke him from his “nap,” I walked him around the rail and told him we were in cool down mode. After a few revolutions, I took him to the special grass, dismounted and let him nibble. I think I heard him say, this is so goo-mphmphmph….!
(To update you on the bridling and foot issue, I bridled him in a different place this weekend, where I wasn’t competing with his hay, and he bridled without incident. Thanks very much for your helpful suggestions!)
On another topic, I want to mention my book. I noted it in the “About Yourself” section of the blog but I haven’t said much about it. I have been having editor’s block with my book in recent months. I’ve written the text, and put it into chapters, and am now trying to get the chapters in order and do a final edit. But I am stuck in this editor’s block where I just can’t get motivated to work on it like I feel I should. So I have decided to jump-start my efforts by sharing some chapters here in my blog. Today I am including my first chapter. I think I’ll call the book A Thousand Pounds of Fragile Horse, just like the blog. It is the story of my first years of learning about horses, and getting my first horse, Buckshot. I hope you like it.
A Thousand Pounds of Fragile Horse
By Jan Swisher
The horse reared next to me. He reared! Deadly hooves suddenly high in the air, near my head. I’m sure my eyes got big as saucers, because my mouth was instantly dry as cotton, my heart racing frantically and panic numbed my brain. I was scared to death! My horse, the horse I had just bought a few months ago, my old, ready-to-be-semi-retired, gentle horse just reared! Oh my God, what kind of horse did I buy?! I was instantly aware that this horse ownership thing was an experience in the frightening and the unknown. All at once. Oh, shit.
Adrenaline kicked in and I ran to the barn manager’s trailer, where he and his girlfriend were, but doing what? Heaven only knows. I didn’t care what activity I had to interrupt, my horse, in cross-ties in the barn while I groomed him, just reared. Reared. This is one of the scariest words the partially-experienced horse owner can hear. It connotes a dangerous, mean, aggressive horse. It means you’ll have fights and usually the horse will win. What was I thinking, buying a horse that rears? I mentally pummeled myself mercilessly, as if it was my fault that my gentle, sweet horse had decided to rear.
Actually it was.
But more on that later.
“Buckshot reared!” I frantically explained to Sammy, the barn manager, as I stuck my head in his door. Without a word, he slowly disentangled himself from said girlfriend (thank goodness they were clothed!) and slowly left the trailer. I followed him as I half-walked, half-ran, half-held-my-fear-in back to the barn. “He did…” was all Sammy said.
Buckshot stood calmly in the crossties. Sammy asked me what happened. While grooming him, he had started to paw a little. To stop this, I did what I’d read from the experts: to prove you are the leader to a horse, move his feet. Back, forward, to the side. I had made him move a little bit, back and forth. I turned my back to grab a brush and turning back to him, I saw—hooves! In the air! (I didn’t even know a horse could rear in crossties!)
Sammy walked calmly up to Buckshot’s haunch, put both of his hands on his haunch and pressed, grunting “move over!” He asked me where my saddle was. I told him- just behind him on a boarder’s trunk. My God, I thought, why saddle him? He’s wild, he’s dangerous! Although he was standing calmly, and I didn’t see any signs of aggression in him now. But I’m not going to ride him, I thought, still filled with shock, dread and a totally dry mouth.
Sammy calmly tacked up Buckshot and led him out of the barn. He called back to me, “Get your helmet and come up to the arena. I’m going to ride him.” Barely able to comprehend why I needed my helmet, because I wasn’t going to get on a wild and dangerous horse, I grabbed my helmet, tried to find enough spit to swallow, and walked, woodenly and reluctantly, up to the arena.
By the time I got there, Sammy was calmly riding Buckshot at the walk. I stood in the middle of the sandy, jump-filled arena and watched. Sammy kicked him into a trot. Buckshot complied and trotted neatly. I watched his face – Buckshot appeared calm and ordinary. His trot was normal- plenty of energy but responsive. Sammy kept riding. Finally, he called out to me, “See? He seems fine.” I nodded, deeply worried, although he did look fine.
A moment later, Sammy brought Buckshot to a stop and dismounted. He said, “Come on” to me and walked him to a jump that I could use as a mounting block. My gosh, I thought, he looks okay, he’s not showing anything different, but… (he just reared a few minutes ago!) I was about to get on a totally unknown, unknowable horse, who just reared! A part of me, a big part of me was scared, really scared, but a small part of me had recovered a bit from abject terror and could take in the new information from my own eyes- that Buckshot wasn’t acting bad or upset now. With trepidation, I decided to get on him.
Holding the reins a bit tighter than normal, and probably hunched over in the fearful-rider position, I asked for the walk. Buckshot walked. Sixty seconds later, I finally exhaled. We walked around the arena. He seemed very calm. I asked for the trot. Buckshot trotted. He seemed normal. Three minutes later, I breathed out again. Back to the walk. Very slowly, I tiny bit of my fear relaxed, then dissolved. He’s not going to rear again. Oh my god. Thank goodness. Another tiny bit of my fear relaxed, then dissolved. Some moisture returned to my mouth. Another breath out. Another tiny bit of fear relaxed. I was back, back from the precipice of shock and terror. I actually rode my wild and dangerous rearer. He didn’t do it again. I think I’ll live.
But still, a big part of my mind was in turmoil. What had happened? Who is this horse? What have I done? What kind of horse have I bought? Where is my gentle, old, ready-to-retire horse?
I dismounted after a few more minutes of riding. I walked Buckshot to his stall, calmly untacked him and put him back out in the pasture with a dozen other horses. I found Sammy sitting on the mounting block by the barn door. I joined him and said “I don’t know what happened.” Emotionally and mentally, I felt spent, weary, flaccid. Sammy suggested that Buckshot may have become impatient during grooming and it might have been better to stop brushing and just tack up. Get him going to help use his excess energy. (Excess energy? I thought. He is supposed to be slow, and old, and ready to retire, not have excess energy!! What the heck?)
Another boarder drove up, a woman I was friendly with. She approached Sammy and I, and said “What happened?” as I must have still been pale. Sammy told her, and ended with the order “Take Jan to get a beer. She needs one!” I laughed with them, the weak, half-smile laughter of tragedy averted. We went to the country general store down the road and for the first time, I had a horse-related beer! And no, he never reared again. I did say this was a frightening and unknown experience, didn’t I?
How did his all begin, this journey into the unknown and wonderful facets of the equine? ( It’s only frightening occasionally. Really.) Well, let me start at my beginning, which was eight years ago….