Friday, February 27, 2009

The Education of Cowboy

One of the less glamorous tasks of bringing up a baby is introducing all kinds of tack at an early age, so that nothing is a surprise later on.
Let me make this clear from the outset, just in case anyone thinks I'm endorsing the hair-brained concept of owning a baby horse: Raising and training a foal is not fun. It's a lot of hard work and it's full of boring repetition. I've had many years of experience so I feel qualified to make that statement. I hesitate to reveal how many years ago I raised my first foal (I'm trying to ignore birthdays at this point in my life), so let's just say the years could be measured in decades. I have a photo of me with my very first foal, a bay Thoroughbred colt. My hair is cut and permed in a fluffy disco bob. Does that give you a clue as to the era? If I were to summarize my personal philosophy of bringing up a baby, I guess it'd be this: First teach the foal not to fear you. Then teach the foal to respect you. Then all will be right with the world.
Of course, unexpected things still happen once in a while when you're raising and training a young horse. For example, I've been rather smitten with Cowboy because, with the help of my sister, he's learned to behave like a young gentleman. Cowboy stands tied to be groomed and have his feet cleaned. He loads and trailers quietly. He clips. He bathes. He even has the basics of longeing at the walk and jog and understands what "whoa" means. (I teach rudimentary longeing early on, only at the walk and slow trot, just as an exercise in control and discipline). Yet today when I ponied Cowboy off of Ringo, the palomino colt revealed what an immature, dinky-brained "kid" he really is. All was going well. We'd trotted and cantered side-by-side through the neighborhood, past barking dogs, trash cans, traffic and assorted farm animals. We even tramped through puddles of water. As we turned toward home, I pulled Ringo to a walk and the two horses were just lazily cruising along. But when we reached a particularly sandy patch on the bridle path, Cowboy just plopped down and began to roll! Right there, in the middle of the trail! I yanked on the end of the lead rope and called to him to get up. Cowboy complied, but he had the most quizzical look on his face, as if he couldn't understand why it wasn't perfectly reasonable for a horse to roll in such a lovely spot of clean, soft sand. Do you see how raising a baby horse can have its challenging moments? Just when I'm gloating over the progress of Cowboy's education, something like that happens!
I always read my emails. You can send them to: or you can click on "comments" below and leave any thoughts or personal tales there.

Monday, February 23, 2009

A Cure for the Common Crazy Horsewoman

Okay. So Wally isn't terminally crippled. However, he's still sore. After his costly appointments with the vet and shoer, he's much better, but not completely sound. I rode him a little bit in the arena yesterday (Sunday), and he felt great. Yet on the trip up and back, over any part of the trail that was hard and unforgiving, he'd take a short step on his right front, the foot with the sole bruise. When I fed him this morning at 6:30 I could tell he was still ouchy.

Naturally I called my vet, Jennifer. At least I had the self-control to wait until 8:03 a.m., so I wasn't bothering her before the start of regular office hours. But it was hard. I swear, I was literally staring at the digital clock over my microwave, waiting for it to click to ":03" before I began dialing the number. After all, I don't want my vet to think I'm a crazy horse owner or anything like that. <*cough*>

I left a plaintive message on Jennifer's voice mail, explaining in grand detail Wally's life history over the whole 72 hours since she'd seen him last. And I ended it with, "So tell me precisely what to do. Like, how long should I lay him up? How much bute, if any, should I give him, because I want him to be comfortable, but I don't want to mask his symptoms and think he's okay when he's not, but I don't want him to be in pain, yet I don't want him to get an ulcer from all the bute, either. I need exact days. I need plan of treatment, Jennifer, a precise plan!"

She probably waited to call me back until she'd stopped laughing at how ridiculous I sounded.

When Jennifer did call she had a very conciliatory tone to her voice, similar to a kindergarten teacher telling a 5-year-old, "There there, now Margie, that's just a scrape. Doesn't even need a Band-aid. Now dry your eyes and head back to the swing set."

She gave me a plan: "Give Wally one gram of bute each morning for a week. Do not ride him, do not longe him, not even in the arena, because while the footing is nice there, the ground is hard on the trail, and we want that bruise to heal, not get worse and go deeper into his sole."

Somewhere in there she said, "He'll be fine." But I forgot that part as soon as I hung up the phone.

I wish someone would come up with a medicine that would calm the nerves of anxious, neurotic horsewomen like me who go into an emotional tailspin when their horses are lame. Or sore. Or ill. Or have a skin rash. Perhaps it could be marketed in feed & tack stores right alongside the multitude of equine supplements. The product should be something benign and non-addictive, because the typical crazy horsewoman would be reaching for it frequently. The product would also need a clever title and tag line. Here are a couple of my ideas:

Vet Bee-Gone Granules
Feeling helpless and abandoned? Natural herbs and honey extract soothe away the fears you feel as the vet drives away.
Lay-Up Time Tea
Kick off your boots, settle back and sip some tea. You won't be riding your horse for a while, so why not relax?
Penniless Powder
Has your grocery budget been decimated by vet and farrier bills? Just add water for a scrumptious drink that provides all the nutrients neccessary for an entire day!
"Is He Sound Yet?" Chewable Wafers
Designed specifically for compulsive horse owners who cannot control their urge to peek at their horse numerous times each day to check on the animal's recovery status. Studies have shown that chewing on these gummy wafers relieves stress and anxiety. (Limit 16 wafers per day).
If you have any creative ideas for curing the worries of the everyday crazy horsewoman (or any other thoughts), just click on "comments" below!

Friday, February 20, 2009

How I Spent $400 in Two Hours

Since I spent much of last night in tears, figuring that Wally was doomed due to his current bout of sore-footedness, it seemed only fitting that I'd awake bleary-eyed, just in time to greet my vet, Jennifer. She brought along her assistant, Mark. He positioned Wally's leg while I held Wally... and the camera. After all, I wanted to document how quickly several hundred dollars can disappear when you're in love with a horse.

Once the x-rays were taken and Wally was sent back to his stall (minus his front shoes), Jennifer went to the back of her truck and tallied up my bill. Hmmm... Why is she smiling?

Within 10 minutes of Jennifer driving away, my farrier Ed arrived. That coincided with a fortuitous phone call from Jennifer, who had already viewed and inspected the x-rays. (More on that later). She gave Ed some instructions, which resulted in Wally being shod with special "no vibration" pads and thick aluminum shoes. Then silicone was injected underneath the pads for even more shock absorbing capabilities. The duct tape was a mere bonus to keep the silicone in place until it dried. Ain't it pretty? It should be, for what I paid. *sigh*

Here Ed writes up my bill. Notice how intent he appears. Hey, don't forget to add the silicone to the bill! That's an extra few bucks. Maybe Wally can get a credit account at Home Depot and buy his own silicone before the next visit from Ed. And that would be in six weeks. Why? Because I have a horse who grows his feet at a remarkable rate, and it's mostly all toe growth. Not a good thing... Unless you're independently wealthy. And I am not.
So much for the bad news. My checking account and my wallet will survive. Now for the good news: the x-rays Jennifer took were fine! I began to be optimistic when he demonstrated hardly any response to the hoof testers. Usually a horse with raging navicular issues will flinch to the application of the hoof testers. Wally did not. The films revealed no signs of ringbone or sidebone. There wasn't any founder; his coffin bone hadn't rotated (which I feared, given the crummy conformation of his feet), so those shots were clean, too. As for the navicular area? I asked Jennifer over the phone, "Are you seeing holes and frilly edges?" She replied, "I am not looking at Swiss cheese. I don't see anything remarkable at all. However," she added, "Wally has very thin soles. That's why he's ouchy on hard ground or over any kind of rocks or pebbles. So no more of that. And have Ed put on those pads with the silicone we talked about." As you now know, that's precisely what I did. Oh. And while Ed was paring out Wally's right front foot-- the sore one-- he discovered a significant bruise on the sole. Voila! Mystery solved! I'd put on a party dress and do The Happy Dance, but right now I'm too poor to buy a party dress.
I'm sure that Wally will still be a little sore for a while, because it'll take some time for his soles to adjust and for that bruise to heal. But now I know he's not facing a certain downhill slide to an early demise. I feel so much better, even if it did cost me a little over $400. Do you know how many bales of hay that is? I do. But when it comes to realizing that my horse will be with me for a long time yet to come, that my friends, is priceless.
Thanks for all of your good wishes on Wally! If you have any other comments or thoughts, please click on "comments" below or email me at:

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Judge Has Frostbite

It's amazing the things horse lovers will do to earn money to spend on their horses. As an example, yesterday I judged a regional English horse show for the 4H. Now, before you think I have something against the 4H organization, or those who ride as part of their 4H activities, let me correct you. I think it's wonderful that in today's increasingly mechanized and computerized society, young people still have opportunities to raise and care for animals in a supervised, structured setting. And 4H provides that opportunity. I also like the local leaders I've come to know. They're enthusiastic. They engender a sense of, "Put the animal first" in their philosophy. But judging a large 4H horse show has its challenges.

First of all, a significant percentage of the kids participating do not have a professional instructor. That means that as a judge I spend about 25% of my time educating the riders and their horse show moms on basic rules and regulations that a professional trainer would normally provide. This time, the 4H show manager encouraged me to periodically use the microphone to explain why some exhibitors did not get a ribbon. For example, I reminded everyone to study rules about appropriate tack and equipment so we wouldn't have any more hunters under saddle coming into the arena wearing flash nosebands or huntseat equitation riders entering the arena adorned with roweled western spurs.

Next, a lot of the kids train their own horses. Sometimes, that works out admirably. I was really impressed with one young girl on a pretty pinto pony. She rode quite well, the pony jumped beautifully (I'd love to have him as a lesson pony!) and she was impeccably turned out. She had trained the pony herself. But in general, I have to take certain precautions when judging a bevy of home schooled horses and ponies. I split the large flat classes before they cantered, so only 6-8 horses were cantering (or galloping and bucking in some cases) at a time.

Finally, 4H shows tend to be run in a very relaxed manner, mostly because they're manned by volunteers who are already sleep deprived and exhausted from being overworked. There are no posh surroundings at 4H shows, no cozy, cushy places to relax between classes. Yesterday my only refuge was the mobile trailer that served as a cramped show office. It was kept warm with a propane heater. I ran in there during breaks to thaw out... until the heater ran out of propane. I spent the remainder of the day bundled up in three layers of wool (knitted scarf included), a rainproof parka, gloves and boots. Still, sitting in the judge's booth-- which was perched above the arena-- I was freezing. Honestly, I shivered for the entire day. I forgot what my toes felt like, because they went numb shortly after 10 a.m.

So why did I agree to take this judging job?

Well, I actually like the regional director for the 4H. She has an outrageous, down to earth sense of humor. She promotes good horsemanship and responsible horse care. She also reinforces proper protocol at horse shows. That means that I don't have to worry about horse show moms ambushing me when I rush off to the bathroom or try to gulp down a Pepsi during breaks in the schedule.

But mostly I took the judging job because I needed the horse money. On Friday Wally is getting his new shoes, and I'm sure they're going to cost even more than his already expensive regular set of shoes.

After having a confab with both my vet and my farrier-- we all happened to be at the same place at the same time-- we're going to try a special kind of "floppy" pad called a "non-vibration pad" underneath his regular shoes, and inject silicone underneath the pad for added cushioning power. We're holding off on the eggbar shoes for now. So instead of costing me a fortune, the shoes will only cost me a small fortune.

And between pulling off the old front shoes and putting on the new front shoes, my vet is going to x-ray Wally's feet. She doesn't really think this is necessary, but I want her to do it. That way, if Wally goes sore again, I'll know what I'm dealing with instead of conjuring up images of doom and gloom.

Do you see how this Friday is adding up to be a very expensive day?

But just to reassure everyone-- including myself-- Wally looks perfectly sound and happy in his paddock. Right now he's meandering around, sometimes walking, sometimes trotting, with his big orange cone in his mouth. In fact, I'm sure he's wondering why the heck I'm not saddling him up and taking him for a ride, or at the very least leading him down to the arena for a turn-out. A heavy rainstorm is brewing, so by the time I got him booted up and headed out, we'd be drenched. Besides, I don't want to risk making him sore again before he gets his new-fangled shoes.

Maybe I over-reacted to Wally's sore front foot. My vet and farrier try to console me, saying it could be nothing more than a deeply bruised sole or a sore heel. So maybe Wally doesn't have navicular problems. Maybe I just have to spend several hundred dollars to find out precisely what's going on. Maybe I'm just an incredibly neurotic horse owner.

All I know is that when things are not right with Wally, my world doesn't feel right, either. I'll do what I can, within reason, to make things all better. I'll even freeze half to death at a 4H horse show if necessary.

Thanks for all of your good wishes and comments about Wally. If you'd like to add some further thoughts, just click on "comments" below or email me at:

Friday, February 13, 2009

Duck Soup

Have you ever heard the saying, "If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, chances are... it's a duck"?

Well, unfortunately, in the world of horses if it walks like it has navicular and acts like it has navicular, chances are... the horse has navicular.

Hear that sound? That's Wally quacking like a duck with navicular.

Okay, maybe I'm over-reacting, because we all know that I'm the Number One Most Neurotic Horse Owner in the World. But let's review the signs and symptoms that Wally has presented over the last few months. Combined, they are most of the hallmarks of navicular problems:

1. He is cursed with the long toe/low heel syndrome. When I bought him, his feet looked great, but then, I figured the sellers had just shod him. Yet in their defense, they did tell me repeatedly, "He grows a lot of toe." And, "Make sure your farrier takes off a lot of toe." My farrier does indeed do all that, but within three weeks the growth rate of Wally's toes begin outpacing his heels. He cannot go more than six weeks without being shod.

2. On soft ground, like the arena, he's 100% sound, even in circles. But on hard ground, especially when crossing the street, the concussion of clip-clopping on the asphalt for even a few steps makes him short-strided and uncomfortable.

3. Going downhill on a trail, even the merest of slopes, has become increasingly difficult for Wally. He takes the tiniest of steps, as if that's the best way for him to minimize his discomfort.

4. On some days, he starts out creaky and stiff, and then eventually loosens up and becomes more comfortable. That's typical of arthritic issues, including... navicular.

5. When he's at his worst, he's very sore turning in small circles. On bad days it's most pronounced when I untie him from the hitching post and then turn him around to lead him back to his paddock.

Quack, quack, quack, quack, quack.

When I bought him, almost 2 years ago, he had clean navicular x-rays. It was his hocks that bore arthritic changes and a couple of non-invasive bone spurs. But he'd also only been a show horse, where his work was restricted to the soft, groomed footing of arenas. Over time, I fear, the combination of his natural hoof conformation and trail riding on bridle paths that are often constructed of hard packed dirt and sand, has set him up for that elusive diagnosis of "navicular syndrome."

A recent issue of Horse Illustrated covered the whole spectrum of navicular issues. I know it's a catchall phrase, and trouble with the navicular area can range from actual bony deterioration (recognizable as de-calcified areas or "lollipops" on x-rays) to strains of the deep flexor tendon that runs down into the hoof and attaches to the navicular bone. There's also palmar heel pain, which is not technically navicular disease, but it's a distant cousin, so to speak.

No, I haven't had recent x-rays taken. But as I pointed out in Items 1-5, it's pretty obvious what's going on. Truthfully, the average horse person would not think anything was wrong with Wally. Except for a few days a couple of weeks ago, he has never been lame. But there are definite times when he just feels NQR: Not Quite Right. I can feel these subtle differences that have been increasing in significance over the last few months.

I'm no stranger to navicular issues. I've lost count of how many horses I've raised, ridden and shown over more than 30 years and certainly some of those horses have had navicular issues that I had to deal with. I know that it's not the death sentence that it once was. I also know that if you're keen on what warning signs to look for, and you're aggressive in treating it from the outset, navicular can be managed and the horse can be useful for many years.

So what's my game plan to prolong Wally's usefulness? First, that long toe/low heel issue has to be more strongly addressed. I can't shoe him more frequently than every six weeks; the hoof wall won't support that many nail holes. So after consulting with both my vet (who agrees with my intuition) and my farrier, we're going to put eggbar shoes and pads on Wally's front feet next week. That should make him more comfortable, because the eggbar design increases the weight-bearing surface of the hoof and also helps distribute the concussion of each footfall. The pads help that, too. Plus, as Wally's toe grows from one shoeing to the next, the eggbar will help support his heel.

I'm also going to restructure our riding routine. Instead of riding him 5 or 6 days a week, I'm cutting back to 3 or 4 days a week. And I'm going to spend more time on the soft footing in the arena versus so much time on the trails. Honestly, I truly do enjoy riding Wally in the arena. There's a large city maintained arena about 4 doors down from my house with excellent footing. Wally has had so much training that it's a joy to work on leg yields, side passes and figure eights. Sometimes I play Let's Pretend We're in a Horsemanship Class and together we work imaginary patterns. So I'll just focus more on working in the arena and strolling down the trails at the walk. Besides, with my own physical ailments, I'm really not up to 2-hour trail rides anymore. Wally and I are becoming the perfect match!

I'm willing to do this because I love Wally dearly. That big flashy Paint with the borderline personality disorder has really found a place in my heart. Ron and I consider him to be a part of our family, right alongside our dog. Wally and Betsy (our Schnauzer) are the kids we never had. Coming up with the money for the eggbar shoes and pads every six weeks won't be easy, but I'll find a way to budget it in. For example, I already cancelled my hair appointment for next week. I was spending $90 every six weeks to have my hair colored and cut at a salon. Now I'll just grab a box of Lady Clairol off the rack at Target and get my hair cut at one of those walk-in places at the local strip mall. And who needs to eat a big meal every night? I can do a lot with a crock pot, some chicken broth and a bag of dried lentils.

If a woman will forego the hair salon and concoct meals that begin with soaking the ingredients overnight, then you know she must really be attached to her horse.

If a woman looks like a horse lover, and acts like a horse lover, chances are... she's a horse lover.

Quack, quack, quack, quack, quack.
Have any navicular or duck-related thoughts to share? Or simply want to make a comment? Just click on "comments" below or email me directly at:

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Do I Even Know You?

I've been married to my husband for almost 26 years and yet, honest to God, sometimes I feel like I don't know him at all. For example, when we bought this house we argued on nearly every detail regarding interior decor. I wanted furniture and accoutrements that evoked early California, and hand-crafted, folksy items from Mexico. He wanted to conjure up Surfin' USA. I kept trying to explain that we had a horse in our backyard. Therefore I saw no use for carved tiki heads and palm fronds. Skip ahead almost two years and what does he buy off eBay? Not a vintage poster of the quintessential surf film, The Endless Summer. Not a table lamp in the shape of a seashell. No. He buys this and sticks it on the wall of our living room, which will serve as Exhibit A in: "Never Give a Man Your eBay Password":

Ron calls this our "conversation piece." Yup. Guests will start each conversation with, "Oh my gosh! You have a dead cow skull hanging on your wall!"


I'm not sure if I should be happy that Ron has finally come around to embracing the ranch themed atmosphere I wanted to create, because my vision really didn't include remnants of dead animals, even if they did once roam an actual ranch. Then again, he's always been a pretty good sport about putting up with me and my horses. Whether he's mucking out Wally's stall when I don't feel well or running to the feed store to order a delivery when I'm writing an article on deadline, he's been a very reliable horse husband. So I guess I'll put up with the cow skull. Things could be worse. I could still be in search of a man who'd tolerate my horsey lifestyle. Things are tough out there for horsewomen trying to find a guy who's not put off by horse hair on the furniture, mud on the floor and alfalfa dust on the kitchen counter. See for yourself by clicking on this link: Wherefore art thou, Oh horsey Valentine? I did some research for this short feature on Horse Channel: I trolled through several online dating sites specifically designed for horse lovers and equestrians, cowboys and cowgirls. And what I discovered is that I'm glad that I have Ron, even if does have peculiar tastes in home decor.
As always, just click on "comments" below to share your thoughts!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Could Someone Call me a Tow Truck?

I promised you there would be adventures.

Once Cowboy got into the groove playing Follow the Leader alongside Ringo, I began to have a lot of fun ponying the youngster off the wise old ex-police horse. Wally was sitting at home nursing a bruised sole (he's fine now, thank-you!), so I had the time to drive across town to my parents' place and go on these pony rides.

Before I go on with the tale I'm about to tell, I must point out two of the skills Ringo had to learn to be a certified mounted patrol horse:

1. Ringo had to learn to push into and against an object until it gave way. That's a difficult concept to teach a horse, because throughout their lives they're taught to back away from pressure. But a police horse might have to be ridden into a line of protesters, or through a group of rioters, so Ringo had to learn that it was-- under certain circumstances-- fine to push into something until it yielded. To learn that skill, Ringo was taught during police training to push a huge, giant ball.

2. Ringo also had to learn to stand his ground. No matter what. The world could be falling apart around him, but he had to be brave and remain rock solid. That was pretty easy, I think, for Ringo. Since he'd been used for roping in years past, he already knew to hold taut against a calf-- and drag one if necessary.

By now you probably see where I'm headed in this story.

So. Last week I ponied Cowboy off of Ringo all around the neighborhood surrounding my parents' place. Since I want to get Cowboy more accustomed to traffic, I headed down the street that runs past both the high school and an elementary school. Ringo is absolutely bombproof around traffic, and he was a real confidence builder for Cowboy. By the time we reached the elementary school, Cowboy was rather ho-hum about the big orange buses. When we reached the corner, I had a decision to make: Turn right and we'd be on a straight path back home. Turn left, and we'd take the long route.

It was a lovely day, so I turned left.

Cowboy planted his feet like a mule. (My apologies to mule fans everywhere. I'm merely attempting to create a visual image).

I was so shocked at the colt's sudden reluctance that I studied his physical stance. Was he suddenly ill? Lame? Tying up? Bleeding? Exhausted beyond all reason?

Or was he too smart for his own good? Did he know-- even though we'd never been on this exact trail-- that home was just a few blocks away, in the opposite direction?

Was he already exhibiting signs of being BARN SOUR?!?!

Just to make sure, I pivoted Ringo around and headed the other way, which was the short way home.

Instantly, Cowboy brightened up and resumed jogging right next to Ringo. What a brat.

So of course, being the alpha mare that I am, and not wanting this colt to begin masterminding his own agenda at 10 months of age, I wheeled Ringo around and headed back the way I wanted to go. Again, the mule thing. Cowboy splayed his legs in all four directions, drooped his ears to either side like Eeyore and half-shut his eyes, as if to say, "I dare you to make me go away from home."


I dallied the lead rope around my saddle horn, kissed at Ringo and the two of us literally pulled Cowboy down the trail. Ever see a puppy on the end of a leash, refusing to walk? Then you've got the picture.

I made it to the corner of the next street, Rock Springs Drive. I had to hold the dally as hard as I could, though, to keep Cowboy coming forward. Thank God I was wearing my deerskin gloves! He took each step as if each foot was chained to a 50-pound bowling ball. When we got into the street (this is a very, very quiet residential area with lots of backyard horses), Cowboy flat out refused to go any further. He'd been on Rock Springs before, and I'm sure he realized that this was the scenic route home.

Right then, a lady drove up to the stop sign in her horsey pickup truck. She was wearing a ball cap and I could see some rodeo stickers on her back window. Ringo, Cowboy and I were blocking her path; she was stuck at the stop sign and I was stuck in the crosswalk. I motioned for her to go around us, and when she politely obliged-- driving at a snail's pace-- I noticed the look on her face. It said, "I feel your pain."

What could I do? I was not about to give in to Cowboy, however, the prospect of towing him all the way home like a calf being dragged to a branding fire wasn't appealing, either. So I decided to instigate one of Ringo's police horse skills: I turned him into the side of Cowboy, so that his brawny chest was pressing against the colt's side, and clucked. Ringo didn't hesitate. He went into bulldozer mode and shoved Cowboy across the street until we were safely up on the bridle path. What a good man, Officer Ringo!

But now what should I do? I sat aboard Ringo, underneath a sycamore that had shed most of its leaves for the winter. Truly, I contemplated breaking off a stick and using it as a crop to swat Cowboy on his plump yellow butt. I also thought of calling my father on my cell phone and asking him to come, with the longe whip in the back of the truck, so he could "encourage" Cowboy to come along. My final option was to just wait Cowboy out.

In any case, I was not going to turn around. That was out of the question. You see, this wasn't the first time that Cowboy had said, "Nu-uh" to some request. He did it with the clippers. He did it with loading into the trailer. He did it with getting a shampoo. He isn't scared. He gives absolutely no signs that he's frightened. He simply would prefer not to do what the humans are asking.

But of course, I always end up winning: He now clips. He loads beautifully. And he stands patiently for a shampoo. Yet I win not because I beat him into submission, but because I explain that I have all the time and patience in the world, I'm consistent in what I'm asking, and I reward him profusely when he complies. Hence, I decided to just stand underneath that spiny sycamore until Cowboy realized, on his own, that he was not getting his way.

It took about 8 minutes.

Ringo was perfectly happy standing there. He probably figured he was on a stake-out. But Cowboy began to grow restless. Some part of me still believes that horses can somehow understand the essence of what we're saying to them, so I said to the colt, "Have you gotten the impression that we are not going home that-a-way?"

I swear, he looked at me and then nuzzled Ringo.

"So," I said, "would you like to get going, or would you prefer to stand here until dark? Because truly, I have nothing better to do. AND YOU ARE NOT GOING HOME THE OTHER WAY."

I tempted fate. I neck reined Ringo to the left, the direction I wanted to go, and gave the faintest of tugs on Cowboy's leadline. He came along, happily.

We trotted and cantered much of the way home. We went up some hills, down some hills, and across a few more streets. La-la-la-la-la! Cowboy had plenty of energy. He bucked a few times and even pranced when we jogged past The Poodle Farm. (It's a huge house on about an acre and the folks there raise Standard Poodles that roam the property like curly deer).

I didn't make any big whoop-tee-do when we strolled down the driveway. Coming home shouldn't be a grand celebration; that only makes it all the more desirable for a young horse to get home hastily. I want The Great Outdoors to be what's fun, fresh and exciting.

Once I put Cowboy and Ringo away, I was the one who celebrated all the way back to my home. Why? Because Auntie Cindy won yet again. And it must be that way, or Cowboy will grow up to be a spoiled, hog-headed beast. But that doesn't mean that there won't be more adventures. Trust me.
Have a ponying saga to share? Just want to leave your thoughts? Just click on "comments" below!