Just after a nicker at the Festival of Dressage Show, in LA.

I was cleaning the  mud off my eldest daughter’s current favourite shoes yesterday with an old toothbrush, and was pondering all the things we do for our horses and for our kids. Why?

Today was a lovely, warm, sunny day and one of the first days this year warm enough to bath our horses.  So, Vinny got a good “all over” bath – mane and tail included.

After I turned him out in the field for a bit of grass – hoping he would eat, rather than roll – and he ate a few bites, and then rolled. One of the grand types where they roll over and over and over, back and forth many times.  So that clean mane now has dirt and grass ground in to the roots.  Oh well, somewhere in there he is a bit cleaner and happier for the lovely roll and the yummy grass.

So, why do we do little things for our ponies and our kids?  Well, it is easy to do the little things for your kids.  First, you feel you should – I mean, you are the parent, isn’t that what you are supposed to do? But then the appreciation (most of the time, getting less and less from my almost teenager), the love and the adoration is pretty fantastic.  You feel like you are the most best-est (as my 5 yr old says) person in the world to them because you can do these little things for them when they are in the depths of despair.

For our horses, I think we all want them to “love” us back as much as we love and adore them.  How good does it feel to have your pony nicker to you when you call or run to meet you at the gate.  That kinda of stuff just melts your heart!

My first horse was a talker who would meet you at the gate, so I was spoiled.  He also bucked me off alot, so I guess it was a good thing he melted my heart everyday.  I even tried to teach him to nicker on command.  Then one day I over did it and he stopped nickering when I asked – he would just get soooo excited for the treat he would be beside himself, but no nicker. DAMN IT, I ruined it.  For his whole life, he did always met me at the gate and nickered when I called though.

Vinny (my current horse)  is not really a talker. When I come into the barn, he usually pops his head out the door to say hello, and then goes out to his paddock and wait for me to summon him with food.  At first, I was most disappointed by his cavalier attitude and aloofness.  I am his “person” for goodness sake, I pay the bills and I bring the treats.  I want, no I NEED, something back.  A nicker would be nice.  Begging for food by banging the door, just isn’t enough.  But I then realized, he was going out to pee before going to work  – so smart boy.  But he could nicker before he goes outside.

Vinny begging for a cookie.

But, when we are at horse shows, Vinny is all love and nickers.  I arrive in the morning – big nicker – mostly saying “get my breakie, mom.  Where have you been!”  (a comment I get from my children as well, at times).  Then, I go and come back later and another little nicker saying “hi, you came back.  Can I have a treat?” to which I respond – “of course you can have a treat, you are soooo cute!”.  And give him a cookie.  After our test or hack, he waits patiently and usually gives a low nicker that is so quiet you almost miss it.  And I say, “you’re sooooo cute, have a cookie”.  He is the only horse I know that seems to know the word “cookie”.  If I say “wanna cookie”, he will perk up and usually paw, but no nicker. Damn it, nicker already.

Then, there is Riley in my barn.  He nickers every time ANYONE enters the barn.  So, of course, he is the barn favourite.  And why not, he has the cute card played EVERYDAY!  He has figured out that if he nickers at ANYONE who enters, they are very likely to be bringing some kind of food.  Treats, apples, carrots or a meal.

Volte, across the hall, is very quiet.  He doesn’t nicker, bang or anything.  But he has the BIGGEST soft brown eyes that will melt your heart with every blink.  Blink, blink, blink.  “yes, you can have a cookie too”.  Romeo and Steddy are equally sweet – sweet as sugar. Very polite and wait, making just enough noise to make sure they don’t miss out.  “Yes, you guys get cookies too”.

Then, there is Zoe – the girl of the barn – she will wait a sufficient amount of time to see if it is worth her time and then leave, as to say “fine, if you aren’t going to feed me this minute, then I will do my own thing”.  But for her owner, Zoe is all sweetness.  Hmphf, that’s a mare for you!

Go pat your horse and give him a treat.  Maybe today he will nicker, maybe tomorrow.

Alison