My horse’s rear has become a common sight for me.
Every Tuesday and Thursday when I go to catch Lena to bring her in the barn so that I can harness and ride her, she faces me with her ears forward, watching me from afar, seeming almost excited to see me. But instead of offering a warm welcome, as I draw near, she turns around, threatening to kick. Sometimes she actually bolts or, if I get close enough, kicks at me. Spending thirty minutes like this each time I try to catch her has become annoying.
In trying to solve this problem, I came to the idea of offering her peppermints, a treat she would surely enjoy and one with a nice crunch to catch her attention. Surprisingly, when I brought a bag to the barn, as soon as I got close to her, she swung her rear at me. But as I pulled the plastic wrapper off the treat, she turned back around, excited, perhaps recognizing the sound from previous treats I had offered her. This worked for about a month until she concluded that, treat or no treat, she still did not want to be ridden.
Curious as to why she was behaving this way, I asked my trainer, Lena’s owner, about her history. Casey had acquired Lena after her previous owner had had a heart attack, and it was discovered his horses had been neglected. Casey said I had to prove to Lena that she could trust me, teach her that it was not a scary thing to be caught and ridden.
Ironically, just as I realized this, Lena was injured and had to stay inside. The injury actually was advantageous because Lena was forced to let me approach her, and she couldn’t be ridden. This made it easier for us to bond. For a month and a half I just brushed her or walked around with her, and we got to know each other. By the time she had healed, we were old friends.
Dealing with Lena has taken persistence, patience, and kindness. These three qualities have definitely grown in me since I started caring for her. Lena has taught me that it is all right to ask for help when I need it, as I had asked Casey weeks earlier. I like to think that Lena and I are alike: stubborn about what we want and don’t want, but willing to try to see the other side of things. Finally, Lena has taught me that I am much more driven than I had thought, for while many have commented that they would have given up, I stuck with Lena even on days on which I had to spend two hours or more getting her to cooperate. Our mutual victories have made me confident: I knew I was not going to give up and let her “win”; rather we have both won by my being persistent.
Looking at Lena’s rear and risking being kicked taught me and Lena both to be fearless. Now I am confident that fear will not get between me and my goals.