The weather is turning, and our horses coats are growing. Last week my 6-year-old, Eddie, was clipped, his first time doing so in my owning him. He was perfect, the clip came out great, and the next day, I went to ride him. The second the saddle pad hit his back, he curled up and froze. He held his breath. His eyes went wide. He walked around the arena in hand for a bit, but discretion being the better part of valor, I stuck him on the lunge line. And he exploded, huge bucks, over and over and over. I’ve never seen anything like it. I struck a balance in my lunging between letting him let the energy out (honestly, I didn’t have a whole lot of say in the matter), and making transitions so he had to stay at least vaguely present and with me.
It was unbelievably naughty. And it was unbelievably out of character. Eddie is a kind, gentle-natured horse. He’s bright and engaging, with a soft eye. I’ve also learned in our 8 months together that he’s a little insecure, particularly about his back and his hind legs. So when I saw that look in his eye, saw him hump his back up underneath the saddle and walk like he’d been hobbled, it reminded me of a look I sometimes see in my human students’ eyes, when they’ve had a bad day at work, or they’ve had a bad night of sleep, or they’re going through a divorce, or they’re feeling the pressure of an upcoming show. Sometimes the barn is the best place for them, when they’re dealing with difficult moments, but sometimes they can’t check it at the door.