HJU reader Joyce Morgan Kjos sent us this blog post about the dangers of working with a 1500lb animal.

Horses Are Predictably Unpredictable

For all that we know about horses, there is one truth that will never change, and that is that they are predictably, unpredictable. In most sports, it’s man against time, speed, a ball of some sort, something that they control.  Whereas in our sport, our partner is a 1500lb animal with a mind of its own.

Our partners are responsible for flying through the air at our urging, prancing about in a most unnatural way and mostly for giving us unconditional love.  Sometimes.  At other times, they are filled with mischief, curiosity, and the desire to be independent.  It is during these “independent streaks” that we find our faithful furfriends getting us into trouble.

When my daughter Kit decided she wanted to learn how to ride, I was thrilled.  My daughter following in my footsteps was exciting! I could once again live in the horse world vicariously.  Kit was riding at a dressage barn and started working with this 17 hand dressage schoolmaster.  He was a twenty year old grey who was probably one of the most clumsiest creatures I had ever met.  But she loved him, and when he did his job, he was graceful, elegant and eager to please.  Kit adored him and treated him with all the love, affection and carrots any twelve year old could offer.   Jordan had had a previous injury when he was younger and was prone to the occasional bout of lameness.

grey 745

Jordan, the schoolmaster

It was during his convalescence that Kit became more lackadaisical handling him.  I stood leaning against his stall as she cleaned his feet, passing underneath him and patting his tummy.  He looked down at her and gently nuzzled her.

“You’d best not get too careless handling him.”

“He loves me; he wouldn’t hurt me,” she replied while standing on a bucket to brush his back.

“Not intentionally,” I told her, “but he is a horse and horses can be unpredictable.”

As much as I love my daughter and didn’t wish for her to get hurt, there are some lessons that we must all learn on our own.  This came at a cost for my beloved Kit.  Jordan was mended and she decided to take him for a spin after being cooped up for several weeks.  She hopped up on him and before she could get herself together and settled, Jordan spotted a scary feather and bolted on her.  Kit simply bounced off of him and landed flat on her back hitting her head on the ground.  Jordan, surprised that his caretaker was now on the ground approached her and nuzzled her.  Kit stayed on the ground for a few moments until the resident doctor came in.  Giving Kit a quick once over, the barn doctor decided that no major injury had occurred.

Having suffered a major concussion and fractured spine, I did not accept that answer; I took Kit to the clinic where we discovered that she had in fact suffered a concussion.  Kit was grounded for at least two weeks, but that didn’t stop her from visiting her pony.  After a long talk with her trainer, we decided it was best if we found a smaller and more manageable pony for her.

I started to look around for a more suitable pony for Kit, and in the process, ran into my old trainer.  She had purchased a medium sized facility in a neighboring town and offered to take Kit into her program.  Mary has several very nice school ponies and took her time in choosing one for Kit.  Little did we know but Kit’s misfortune with Jordan colored her perception of other horses.  After trying several ponies, Kit finally met her match in a little black Morgan named Justi.

Justi

Justi

Kit and Justi, perfect match

Kit and Justi

With Justi and her playful nature, Kit has found herself gaining confidence, and becoming more aware of her pony’s body language.   Justi’s sense of mischief and need for independence has kept Kit on her toes, while challenging her ability.  Kit realizes that Justi will not always be a “good girl” and will constantly challenge her. Justi’s unpredictability is part of her charm and is what makes Kit love her more.

I was once told that horses are devious and plot our demise. I refuse to believe that they are mean and intentionally want to hurt us. I think that they don’t always fit into our definition of “good boy or girl”, and I believe that like humans, they want to act out, be naughty, kick up their heels and play.  It’s just that those times don’t usually occur when we want them to, because after all, horses are predictably unpredictable.

Joyce Morgan Kjos