ODE TO THE GRUMPY HORSE
My son, Cooper, has a new horse named Chuku. He’s an off-the-track chestnut thoroughbred. For all you non-horse people, think red headed stepchild with ADD, ADHD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Some racehorses are taught to be aggressive. After all, when there are fifteen horses on a track, the sweet, passive ones aren’t going to push their way to the front. If aggression is any indicator, I’d bet good money that Chuku was the second coming of Secretariat.
I love this horse so hard.
A magnesium supplement can work wonders for tense and grumpy horses. I was willing to give it a try. But, I wanted to understand why it might help. So I asked my freaky smart husband. He explained that the mechanism in the mineral affects cortisol and blood vessels and muscle relaxation or some such slop. But, I was like the dog from The Far Side cartoons and all I heard was “Blah blah blah makes him quiet. Blah blah blah he might not try to eat you anymore.”
So I bought a supplement and the checklist on the front of the bag caught my eye. It went something like this:
Your horse may be magnesium deficient if he:
- Doesn’t like to be touched
- Is cranky, antisocial or unhappy
- Never relaxes
- Prefers to be alone
- Is consistently inconsistent
- Has unprovoked bouts of moodiness
Um, hello? Mr. or Mrs. Supplement Maker? Exactly how much of this product would you recommend for a human? I think Cooper’s horse and I are soulmates.
Since reading that checklist, I have begun to see the world through Chuku’s eyes. When he was a baby, he was whipped if he didn’t run fast enough. My gait is best described as a leisurely dawdle. If I have to pee or am really cold, I might step it up to a saunter. Kurt literally walks circles around me because he cannot make his body move that slowly.
Kurt tells me that I don’t have to talk because my facial expressions give me away. Well, Chuku is my spirit animal because he also makes his feelings known without having to speak a word. The other day, I put him on crossties and went to get him a carrot. When I came back, a woman was standing in front of him holding one crosstie. I would have thought his ears being pinned flat back and him chomping at her would have clued her in that he was unhappy. Short of him breaking into The Police’s “Don’t Stand So Close To Me”, he couldn’t have been any clearer. But no. She stood there yanking on the crosstie every time he did his darndest to ask her to move.
Feeling his pain of having his personal space invaded, I felt the need to intervene.
ME: Excuse me, but that horse will bite you.
HER: I know. That’s why I’m holding the rope (she couldn’t even use the correct terminology).
ME: But he doesn’t like that.
HER: I know. That’s why I’m holding the rope thingie. So he can’t get to me.
ME: (Mentally telepaths to Chuku to bite her.) But, you’re in his space and he doesn’t want you there.
HER: Oh. Should I move?
My friend Carey is a tremendously talented horseperson and extremely empathetic to the animals. She told me many years ago that to be a successful rider, you must think like a horse. It’s sage advice, but also common sense. If the horse doesn’t want you in his space, don’t be in his space.
I oh so badly wish I had the ability to pin my ears back. I also long for it to be socially acceptable to bite people if they stand too close to me or come in my room uninvited.
I think this horse is on to something.
It’s a fact that alpha animals interpret other animals looking them in the eye as a challenge. So guess what, I don’t look Chuku in the eye and when I go in his stall, I step in and stop. I stay still and trust that he’s not going to mow me down. So far so good. I always give him a treat when I enter his space. It’s the least I can do for letting myself in his room without knocking. Do you have any idea how much happier I would be if people brought me treats before they stood too close to me or touched me?
It bears repeating. Chuku and I are soulmates.
I respect the grumpy. I understand the cranky. I get the need for space. The magnesium has helped. As has my acceptance of his quirks. He no longer tries to give me a nose job with his teeth. He hasn’t offered free dental work with his hoof for a while. I let him come to me. I am convinced I can win his love with homemade applesauce, Milano cookies made from scratch and an endless supply of carrots.
If only that worked for people, too.