The Big Brat

A few weeks ago, I posted about the Big Blind Man’s giving us a work-out. This week, he made up for it. There’s actually not much to say, except yet another amazing moment of absolute calm. Six months ago, he couldn’t be dragged near the trailer, and he flinched at the touch of a brush.

Monday, he stood with drooping ears, a flapping lip, half-closed eyes and let us groom the hell out of him. Just when we thought he couldn’t get any more relaxed, he shifted onto three feet and went to sleep! We groomed and clipped him, then took him over to try blanketing him again.

Well, ok, so there was some excitement there. We found out that he crowhops like a bucking bronco. It’s really good for aerating the lawn! He’d been dancing around the blanket, playing, being a pain in the ass. So M dropped the blanket onto his back. STRAIGHT up. All four feet off the ground. He went about two steps, stopped, listened to us laugh. M held the blanket up to his nose, and you could just see the thoughts passing through his head.

Horses have such expressive faces, but it’s incredibly hard to describe their expressions to someone who isn’t familiar with them. But if you’ve ever seen a truly quizzical dog, you can sort of imagine a horse’s quizzical expression, just multiply the dog’s look by about ten. Both ears pointed in different directions, ‘riffling’ snorts, an expression of amused disgust in his eyes as he sniffed the blanket. He sort of scrabbled his upper lip on it, then started nibbling at it.

Rinse and repeat a couple of times.

The bridle posed about the same amount of annoyance on his part. He just doesn’t get the human’s obsession with all these straps and icky cloth! There was a fair amount of running around, and then the heart-attack: he jumped away and got his head hooked to his heels. He’d effectively hobbled himself in the bridle.

This isn’t too big a deal with a Western-type bridle. There’s a reason it’s held together with little leather ties: a horse or human gets caught, the ties break. It saves a lot of grief, and money. I can break the ties with my bare hands, so if something really bad happens, the bridle pretty much just disintegrates into component parts.

The big deal is that very, very few horses will tolerate being hobbled without extensive training and desensitizing. Old trainers used to hobble horses and let them stumble around until the animal was either so exhausted and scared he couldn’t move, or until the horse went down and couldn’t get up. A horse is a flight animal, and hobbles make it a stuck animal.

Big Man is an abused horse who couldn’t stand being tied, while I’ve had perfectly solid horses panic at having something caught around their foot.

He spooked a bit, he staggered some circles around us, but he stayed remarkably calm. He just wanted the thing off, and we could see that in his eyes. A tie finally broke and loosened the tension enough that he stepped right out of it. Emergency averted.

He’s an amazing animal. When we went out to catch him, he walked away–until M called him. He followed her voice back to us. At one point, he tried to detour through the fence, but a sharp word from Monica, he stopped, stuck his nose out and sniffed the fence, then shifted course and stopped right in front of her. This is a horse with MAYBE 10% vision.

Dumb horses are easy to train. It’s just the same thing, over and over and over until they’ve got the patterns established. I’ve had a couple of dumb horses. No fun, but predictable.

It’s the smart ones like Big Man, Romeo and Captain (all bays, incidentally), who are hard to train. They get it. Usually the first time we go through it. I don’t even remember training Romeo to a bridle, because the first time I combined me being on his back with him having a bridle on his head, he was reining. I’d never even gotten around to using long-lines to teach him to rein! He just knew.

Captain can be the most bull-headed sack in the world. He’ll play dumb, because he knows exactly what you want. Show him the error of his ways, and he’ll still out-think you without even waking up.

Big Man doesn’t have any problem with intelligence. He knows what the bridle is, what the blanket and saddle are. He just doesn’t want them, so he makes us work instead of him. Captain is the same way. (Thank the lord, Romeo wants to work with his humans, or I’d never have gotten him trained!) On top of the intelligence, the Arabs and their derivative breeds-which I am convinced Big Man is related to–are known for their sense of ‘fun’. Said ‘fun’ is worst with the stallions, and usually involves trying to inconvenience the humans. Yes, I know exactly what I’m talking about. I can’t tell you how many time an Arab cross has played me for a fool. Embarrassing, really…

Big Man is on his way to being a spectacular horse. M and I have talked about his potential as a show horse. He moves beautifully, he’s intelligent, he’s got lots of energy and he shows off all on his own (not, however, always a good thing with a show horse. The intention is that the human and horse show off together, not that the horse shows off how dumb the human is!).

Also, I got a chance to look at his eyes, and there’s hope there too. Apparently M talked to the vet, and there’s a chance that the damage is only to the outer layers of the eyes, similar to cataracts. There’s a possibility that they could be repaired. Would he be able to see perfectly? Doubtful. But, it would probably clear his vision up a bit.

It would cost a huge amount of money, and he’s not suffering, so it’s a distant thought, but one that we’ll be pondering for a while.

But really, he’s got us running in circles half the time, even without sight. I must wonder if we really want him to be able to see what he’s doing to us…


One Response to “The Big Brat”

  1. *chuckles* Such a pretty horse. I’m sure he’d be eternally grateful for his sight.

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