Didi has a turn. (1700 words)
Well yesterday we reached Defcon 4 with DiDi.
It is true we were half an hour late getting to the stable by which time she was alone on the yard with her head over the stable door. In passing I stopped for a moment to say good morning to Claire which did not help.
I should have gone over and straight away have given DiDi a stroke and an apology for being late.
DiDi looked at me and I could sense her saying : Where the bl**dy h**l have you been?”
I gave her a stroke on the forehead and she pulled back as I did so.
I opened the stable door and she turned her butt towards me.
I moved to undo the straps of her top rug and she fidgeted.
All in all she made life difficult. The day was not starting well. Her feet needed picking out and with much reluctance she eventually allowed me to clean all four but by keeping moving she made it as difficult as possible . Before the job was done I had to tie her up to the haynet hook, which is not usually necessary.
By this time the grooming area was free so I led her out and over towards the bay. Immediately she looked around to see which horses were still in the stable block. She was on her own.
Sniff Sniff Sniff.
We reached the grooming bay and I went to hook her up on both sides of her head collar.
She snatched and tugged at the crucial moment. Attaching her took time.
Then I went round the back of her to free up her under rug. Her head was restrained but her back end wasn’t so she moved about.
“What are you doing now?” she asked.
I told her that I was going to give her a groom.
All I got in reply was a muffled :”Well get on with it“.
She made life difficult. I moved to get the mud off her face. I tried to remove the earth stains from the white patches. I went to wipe her eyes At each stage she fidgeted.
It was very obvious already that she was in a Mare’s Mood. We’d reached Defcon 1
I used the soft brush which is not so effective at cleaning but at least it did not scratch. I was being considerate. I had to use the comb on her mane, what little she has left. That gave her an excuse to shake her head. I moved down her back to free up the hairs under the saddle area. She fidgeted.
“That hurts” she muttered
Then we came to her ample butt. That’s where all the power is hidden. But the winter coat is beginning to come out and so I used the comb on it to remove the loose hairs. She started to wiggle like a belly dancer performing in front of an arab sheikh.
The legs had to be done as they were splashed with mud from yesterday I reached down to get one. She pulled away. We were by now at Defcon 2.
I called out to her and said that the sooner we had finished grooming, the quicker she could go out into the paddock.
“Get on with it then” she said irritably.
Then I went to comb out her feathers.
Instantly there was: “You’ve done my feet already”
I told her that yes I’d done her feet but not the feathers. Anyway she need some hoof oil applied to her hooves. “Why?”
I tried to explain about hooves needing protection from the mud.
“Fiddle, fiddle, fiddle, that’s all you ever do”
Eventually she was ready to tack up with the Pessoa. She was going to be lunged today. Once she saw the saddle blanket, that was it.
“Oh no you don’t“. she said.
I told her that was the plan.
“Oh No you don’t”
It was pointless to argue. Lunging was what she was going to do. She was in no mood to attempt to ride.
The hard bit of fitting a Pessoa is getting it tightened up and she knew it. Even though she was tied by the head, she could still move. All of a sudden down came her front left hoof and it grazed my boot. I shouted back at her to behave.. We were at Defcon 3.
Finally I managed to get the straps tight enough.
Now we were ready for the lunging cavesson. I had to get the head collar off and the cavesson on. I needed her cooperation. I looked around to make sure the various gates were closed. If she made a break for it then she would never let me catch her. She and I both knew that.
Getting the head collar off should be easy enough but I knew I had then to get it round her neck as a temporary restraint. I almost managed but at the crucial moment she pulled her head back to teach me that it was not going to be that easy.
I shouted again to be still. For a moment she hesitated and with that hesitation I managed to attach it round her neck.
All remained was the cavesson.
At the critical moment of fitting it, she pulled back and again down came the foot. At the same time she gave me a body nudge This time I felt the edge of her iron shoe grazing the edge of my foot.
This was war and I dare not allow her to win.
I shouted at her, perhaps the loudest I have done for sometime. It is a tone of voice which I rarely use with her. BEHAVE! I stared at her straight in the face and I poked her chest with my digital finger. She backed off. I got the cavesson round her nose and tightened up.
Where had my kind natured, gentle, compliant, pretty, little mare gone?
What had caused all the kerfuffle?
Normally when she is tacked up and ready to go, I give her a tidbit. On this occasion if she calmed down and behaved then I’d give it to her. She looked at me and for the moment I was deceived. So I put my hand out with the biscuit on it. She snatched it off me. But at least now she was in a mood to be led. Or so I thought.
The arena was by now free. Claire was down there and she is better at lunging than I shall ever be. So I led DiDi down and passed the lead rope over. I warned Claire that DiDi was in a mood, not that I had to, she had already heard the noise. As Claire clipped on the lunging line
DiDi exploded. The horse knew the routine and she pulled back and took off immediately into a circular canter around Claire Usually she would start the exercise in walk and in control. This time there was to be no mucking about.
She went from canter, to gallop to racing gallop.
I watched her leaning over at a 45 degree angle going round and round with Claire in the middle desperately trying to shorten the lunge line. At one spot, her feet were by the edge of the elevated section of the edge of the unfenced arena - if DiDi had misjudged it, she would have gone over the edge and dropped almost five feet.
There was nothing to be done. Claire let her work it out. DiDi went round and round and round in a display of raw power It was Defcon 4. I have never seen DiDi behave quite like that ever before. My Rottweiler sometimes bursts into ‘super hype mode’ and here we were witnessing the horsey version. The raw power was awesome.
Eventually she slowed and finally Claire got back control.
The lunging session ended with five minutes or so of very active walk. DiDi was steaming.
Claire was a little abashed to say the least.
I went down and took back control. I looked up DiDi.
I asked her if she had had enough of exercise for the day.
She looked at me. She was as a child who had had a tantrum.
She gave me a muzzle nudge. We were down at Defcon 2
“Where is my biscuit” - but the tone was this time acceptable.
I reached into my pocket and brought out a carrot. She made to grab it but I told her to wait. She waited.
I gave her the carrot. I must never get angry or bear a grudge with an animal.
I took her back to the stable. I dismantled the Pessoa and slung the sweat rug over her.
It was a cold day and with half an hour or so, she was cool enough to put her day rug on. This time, butter would not melt in her mouth.
By now we were down at Defcon 1 - not quite submissive but almost.
Leading her out to her field was not straight forward and she tried to nudge me over, but when I pushed back at her with my shoulder, she behaved. We walked past the other horses who had all been witness to the fight in the arena. She snorted a couple of times and I think she was saying to them: “Well I am back“.
Of course I don’t know what the interlude was all about. All I know is that whenever the moon is blue, or a comet crosses the night sky, or DiDi fancies a fight, there can be an explosion of tremendous energy. If I can recognise at the beginning that she is in that mood, then it is best to leave her wherever she is. She would certainly be dangerous to ride.
As I took off her head collar and went to leave the field, she turned round and gave me a very gentle nudge. Almost as if she was saying “Sorry, Boss, for being naughty“.
I reached into my pocket and gave her the last remaining biscuit. We were friends again.
The Defcon emergency was over