Saturday, October 18, 2008
The Horse Whisperer, I am Not
The lead rider assigned me to Cappy...when I heard the name, the first image that came to mind was of a toothless rogue pirate. Turns out I wasn't too far off...The instructor thought I would be able to "handle" him since I was the only one in the group with "riding experience". Little did she know that my "experience" consisted of a few lessons taken 13+ years ago. Cappy appeared innocent enough, a smaller framed black horse with a little white marking on his nose. This beautiful black steed would be my companion for the day.
Before I continue, let me express my romantic visions of how I thought the day would go. My horse and I would greet each other, he: nuzzling his soft nose into my hands; me: whispering softly to him as i gracefully mounted the saddle; we: riding together through the woods, leaning forward to stroke his neck, breathing the fresh air, moving in sync, both enjoying the beauty surrounding us. Beautiful. Peaceful Serene.
"So you're going to have to hold the reigns short...Cappy likes to eat grass while he should be following the other horses. And keep him at a safe distance from the horse in front of you. He likes to take bites. Just make sure he knows who's boss" Okay, short reigns, rump biter, I'm the boss. I think I had it. All this while fiddling with a headset (to listen to the ranger's guided tour). Not even five minutes into our walk, Cappy spooks, starts prancing around and heads the opposite direction as all the other horses. This was definitely not what I envisioned. And I was definitely NOT the horse whisperer.
Cappy was passive aggressive, an envelope pusher if you will. While everyone else was walking in a straight line, Cappy zig-zagged. While all the other horses were content, ears perked up, Cappy expressed his irritation by keeping his ears back 90% of the time. While the others kept a safe distance from the edge of the hills we walked up, Cappy sauntered dangerously close to the edge as if to say "I know you think you're the boss but hey, your life is in my hands". He did humor me a few times by perking his ears up after i cajoled him with "you're a good boy, good boy, good boy". Though I might have just dreamed that part up.
This was not the harmonious connection I had envisioned, but rather a power play between me, holding the reigns, and Cappy, holding my weight. Our relationship got me to thinking about power dynamics with animals, and more generally, with nature. Maybe if Cappy didn't feel like I was trying to control him the entire time, his ears would have perked up. Cappy let me know from the beginning that this trail ride, it just wasn't his thing today. I'm thinking I should have listened.