Women think differently
My ageing terrier bitch sits at my feet as I write this article - if I move so does she. My Rottweiler has had his breakfast, his milk and his walk. Now he is back on his bed waiting to see if I am going out in which case he’ll be at the back door before I am. The house is quiet. My wife has gone over to see to the horse which will take out almost four hours of her day.
In theory the horse is mine but my wife gets on better with her than I do. I chose the mare when my stubborn gelding Joe was passed on, but she doesn’t want to do what I bought her for. The mare is a sports horse and has little aptitude for hacking about. She wants to work out in a flat, calm, quiet, rectangular arena - learning new tricks. Out in the country lanes there are bogeymen and she wants to go ‘OO’ every home a bird flies up from the hedgerows. Then she’ll spook and jump three feet sideways just to make sure I am awake.
She gets bored unless she is learning something new.
And ‘No‘, for sure I can’t tie her up whilst I go into a pub for a glass of wine.
But the big problem I have suddenly realised is that she doesn’t like to be ridden the way I ride her. She doesn’t want her head - she prefers to be ridden ‘collected’ and ‘on the bit’. And I mustn’t wiggle about. And when I get tense, because I am expecting the silly bitch to spook yet again, she picks up on my tension and asks what is the fuss all about. Mind you, she can have her moods because her hormones are playing up or even just because she feels slighted. If she doesn’t get her daily ration of exercise either under saddle or on the lunge line she’ll be difficult and throw a hissy fit.
Oh my, can she play up when she wants to.
So the end result has been that I have found her a young female riding partner who has the ability not only to ride her in the arena down at the stable yard but also in competition. And the more rosettes the mare earns, the further she drifts off from me. But there is some pleasure for me in being an owner, especially a winning owner of a beautiful horse. As a dapple grey mare with a pretty head and compact conformation who can prance, she looks magnificent. I could enter her for Playboy any day.
It is the age old syndrome, an old man with a young filly.
I have never owned a sports horse before, but there again, I have never owned a mare before. Whenever we have gone off for competition I have prepared her for the day and loaded her up into the wagon. When we have arrived at the venue I have brought her out of the horse box and shown her around. Then her young clever rider has mounted up and has done the business in the arena. When she has performed, then I have taken her back and it is me that has untacked her, given her a brush down, thrown a blanket over her and given her some treats. I am, after all, the soft touch. She knows it.
I don’t shout at her. I rarely raise my voice. I don’t hold grudges against her. I do use my strength against her but when I do she knows there is a reason. And I have never ever carried a whip when near her because the tone of my voice is enough to convey my message.
And on a couple of occasions, when things have gone seriously wrong, I have had very good reason to accept that she never wants to hurt me.
But I can’t say that the mare replaces in my life my gelding. He was difficult and very strong. Again he never tried to hurt me but he would do all those things that stubborn, crafty, bolshie cobs will do when they want their own way. I did use a crop on him because at times it was the only way to get him to listen but it was always ‘man to gelding’ stuff. There were no long held grudges. He would shove me, I’d shove him. He would disobey, I’d react. He knew he was pushing his luck and he’d expect me to react - and if I didn’t, then he would try to walk all over me. But when we were at the top of a ridge looking down a crumbling pathway knowing that we were going to slide down the trail rather than walk down, then I knew I was in safe hands on My Boy. We could walk at trucks and cars. We could lead a line of horses and keep them in order. And in a race through the woods with a mate, my Boy would cheat to stay in front.
Of course I had to convince him that goats weren’t of the tribe of the Devil and that donkeys weren’t the descendants of lions for then he needed me for protection. On the whole we had a deal: I fed him and let him have some of his own way, he’d behave and does his best for most of the time. But don’t expect perfection.
My wife at the end would not ride him.
The interesting thing was that he would from time to time allow himself to be cuddled. He’d watch to make sure that when I first arrived on the yard I said ‘hello’ to him rather than any other horse. He could be obstinate and hold back but I did have to approach him and if necessary walk right across the field to put his halter on. But then he’d come easy enough. I guessed it was his way of showing the other horses in the field that he had his master taped or it could be simply because I was late or out of routine.
My wife would not play these games with him. She simply didn’t understand.
So back to the present. The mare needs a different home and soon I’ll have to find her one. She is a woman’s horse. She doesn’t like getting dirty. If she had a mirror in her stable she’d always be looking at herself in it. She won’t be groomed with fly spray unless she likes the perfume. She nags if she feels the routine has changed. She simply loves routine. And she is aloof, almost snooty. I suppose that is what makes her so competitive, she thinks herself to be the best. Geldings she looks down on; mares she competes with. Her rider should wear white breeches, a white stock and white leather gloves. And the tack must shine.
A new owner will have to be a woman who has an interest in dressage. She will have to be knowledgeable and patient; a woman who will ride a fast, sharp, intelligent horse on the mildest of bits, without carrying a whip. The new owner should be up to Novice standard in dressage and follow the tenets of Natural Horsemanship. She‘ll preferably have her own land and keep her horses in at night. And when eventually this sainted buyer comes to call, at some stage she’ll sit on my mare and I’ll know instantly if they match. I’ll see it in the way my mare carries the woman and I’ll watch to see if the horse wants to put the human to the test.
I‘ll not sell the mare on to another man - men think differently.
If I were to get another horse and I don’t think I am going to take on responsibility for an animal which could easily live longer than me, then it will be something placid. Maybe a stocky Dales or even an old fashioned Friesian, but certainly a gelding with some miles on the clock. Something hairy with a touch of cart horse in its blood. I want it to be self confident and easy to please. I’ll do it his way - sometimes. Somehow we’ll find a compromise. If he’ll stand and wait, then I’ll take him along. If we reach a dodgy bit of terrain, I’ll let him do it his way, cause that’s what I will keep him for. In my pocket there will always be a handful of treats and when we go to the pub I’ll bring out to him a packet of potato crisps, cause horses like them, especially the beef flavoured ones.
I might even buy him a Western saddle - that would put the cat amongst the pigeons in the snooty county of Gloucestershire just around the corner from where the Berkeley hunts and titled ladies keep their horses.
But mares - no, they are too tricky for an old man to handle at his stage of life.
Ah, perchance to dream.
Last edited by xxBarry Godden; 01-17-2011 at 06:32 AM.