"It's just no good anymore since you went away... Number One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do..."
I don't think it's natural for horses to live a solitary life. Yet it may take me a while to find another horse. Just so you don't string me up for animal cruelty, Wally isn't neighing constantly (except when I come out the back door), he isn't pacing in his paddock, and heaven knows he hasn't lost his appetite. But I can tell he misses having another horse at home. Why? Because he's suddenly become more friendly. Heck, he's almost downright dependent on me, which is actually a good thing.
You see, when I got Wally he'd been expelled from a large Paint show barn. I can't blame the trainer. She inherited Wally from some clients who appeared on her doorstep, Wally in tow. Right away the trainer could tell Wally and the young girl weren't a good match: the kid was timid and Wally was a bit of a bully. And, since he is a big, rangy thing it was next to impossible to collect him into the extremely slow-legged lope necessary to win in the show pen. But someone had tried, and that had soured the flashy red horse.
"When Wally came here, he was an angry little man," the trainer told me.
And that's how I got him. He was beautifully schooled and as comfortable to ride as sitting on a sofa. But he was downright obnoxious on the ground.
Wally needed to find an enjoyable job that he could do successfully.
Fortunately, Wally loves trail riding. He taps into that swaggering bravado of his when he's out on the trail and that makes him very brave. He approaches anything unfamiliar (today it was a pair of pigs dozing in the sun) with an attitude of, "What the heck is that?" He rarely spooks. Instead he investigates.
So now that Lexi is gone, Wally is revealing that some of his aloofness was merely a big bluff. He knows his boundaries now. Thanks to some no-nonsense work in the paddock, where I used the space like a round pen, Wally will retreat from "my space". But he also realizes that treats abound when you're a good boy. Where Lexi was quite fanatical about carrots, Wally thinks peppermints are divine. I keep some in my pocket just as little rewards for when I can tell that he's thought about his actions and behaved himself.
He'll never make Citizen of the Year. But with this one-on-one therapy he could rise to the status of reformed felon.
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