Continuing, from the top of the previous page of this journal, the narrative of events at Reitschule Eurastetten in 1981:
Mingo, our Family's First Horse
So here he was, officially ours, scrawny, with missing strips of fur from altercations loading onto transport, partially educated, front hooves so long and habitually left long between shoeing to the point he already had contracted heels at barely four years old, and with a lousy reputation for throwing riders and fighting back when treated without tact or consideration.
I quizzed my family to see if anyone recalled any details of the actual sale, which I don't. My father laughed and said he clearly remembered one thing: That when it was my turn to do a ride on the sale day, the horse was unsettled at the tie ring, probably by some commotion (or maybe because of past run-ins with the proprietor), and Mr Walters was saying, "Just get on, like this" and he demonstrated, and immediately slipped off the other side and hit the ground, as the horse gave a casual little lift of his hindquarters and lowered his head.
I personally have never liked mounting horses when they are unsettled - I wait until they are settled, and if talking isn't enough, groundwork will do the trick. I do remember that I was apprehensive about being pushed to mount an unsettled horse by an adult. Mr Walters was not my instructor, and my instructor Monika had never asked such a thing from us. I did eventually mount the horse and ride him around the arena without incident, as before. My parents did the same thing, and following that, the horse changed ownership, and we had our first ever own horse.
My parents and I are instinctively good with animals. I can go into a cow paddock with a strange herd and start getting their confidence within ten minutes, just hanging out with them. They will come up and hobnob and touch their noses to my hand and sooner or later, I will be scratching one on its face, then its ears, eventually its shoulders and back. Not pet cattle, beef cattle who, although generally highly curious, are generally nervous about letting humans too close to them if there is a choice.
It's always been like that for me. I respect their size and the potential for getting knocked over, but I've never been afraid of being near large animals. I respect their etiquette and don't advance contact if they are saying, "Hold it!" - I have to have a "maybe" for that. I always just sit still and let the herbivore make the first move towards contact. I'll talk to the animal, I'll use body language, and eventually it just gets that I mean no harm.
My husband, in the first year he got to know me, was frequently boggle-eyed when we walked past or through farming paddocks and he saw me interact with the occupants. "What are you doing near that huge thing?" and I'd laugh. I can no more ignore an animal than I could a stranger passing on a hike - I like to acknowledge others. And Brett said, and he still says, "When you go into a paddock, any paddock, pretty soon you are surrounded by a cloud of animals. They think you're fascinating." Well, I think they
I've always worked with animals on a mutual relationship
basis, not a master-servant, human-lower being basis. I don't feel that I am special compared to a social animal of another species: I am an equal, and work from a side-by-side position, not an "I am above you" position. So how do I get an animal to do something I want it to do, some people have asked? Well, probably I am very persuasive!
But, my animals want to
work with me, just like I want to work with them. It's a symbiosis - a relationship of mutual advantage. I view training as a conversation
, not a monologue.
I think animals pick that difference in approach with their "antennae"! And I think it's why I didn't have any unusual troubles with our first horse, or with the other horses since.
(Yegads, look at those front hooves, they're just scandalous, but it's so common in horse circles...)
And so, the summer turned into autumn back in 1981, and I continued to take part in group lessons at Reitschule Eurastetten on Mingo. The horse and I made progress and he was soon like any other riding school horse doing his arena work. My father and I alternated going on trails with groups, riding this horse. (My mother by then had given up riding due to the aggravation of a back injury, but continued to spend time with the horse.) Mingo was a bit spooky and very keen to move, but we had a pretty uneventful time of it, with one exception: A major group bolt that happened with a trail group. I wrote about it here: https://www.horseforum.com/horse-ridi...2/#post7522354
This was a traumatic event for the whole group of riders, and especially the woman who ended up in hospital with a broken skull. I've never experienced anything remotely like that in the thirty-four years since. However, I initially lost a fair bit of confidence after that on trails, and it took me months to get it back. I couldn't stop hyperventillating and going into flight reaction myself at the sight of large trucks and the like for much longer still! Such is the burnt-in memory of a trauma, which the amygdala in the brain is programmed to produce.