Imagine a horse so sensitive and timid, it took two years to load into a trailer…who when finally loaded shook the whole rig- truck & trailer, with his trembling fear…who unloaded after his first ride drenched in sweat from the trauma of being taken for a short ride to a local barn. Now this horse hops into his trailer without a lead rope.
Imagine a horse so sensitive and timid, he could not leave the safety of his arena to be ridden without jumping out of his skin at each new sight and sound. Who couldn’t go on a quiet trail ride down the road because he shuddered in apprehension just seeing a cow or another horse on the next ridge. Now this horse takes me into deep canyons to find ancient petroglyphs and high mountains to admire the alpine vistas.
Imagine a horse so sensitive and timid, he could not go to any horse shows, even the local Pony Club show- a small, low key affair without the bustle and high strung energy of large recognized shows. His insecurity at being taken from the safety of his home and his barn buddy reduced him to a panic-stricken bundle of electric nerves. Now this horse uses his therapeutic sensitivity to heal others from trauma. (See Violet’s Story, beginning Nov. 26, 2012, https://equitherapy.wordpress.com/2012/11/26/violets-story-part-1/ and continuing through many posts in this blog.)
Imagine a horse so sensitive and timid, he could not pick up a foot for cleaning, stand tied for grooming, or tolerate hoses & sponges for a bath. Now this horse will lift a foot with the light touch of one finger on his leg near his hoof; will stand for hours whenever he is asked, loves grooming and bathing, and will even play in the sprinklers in his pasture or arena.
Imagine a horse so sensitive and timid, he could not put a foot in water, much less cross a bridge or stream. Now this horse eagerly enters a running creek and stops midstream to drink and play, despite the rest of the horses heading down the trail without him. Just last week, we took a ride into Dry Creek Canyon with 2 other riders. An hour into the ride, one horse spooked and unseated her rider. Excited, the mare headed back down the trail where the rigs were parked. The other rider, an experienced outfitter & guide, took her horse to find & retrieve the spooked mare. Monarch & I stayed with the fallen rider. He was left alone, in a deep canyon while his trailer buddy and the other horse went back in the direction of his rig. He waited patiently with us for their return.
Monarch was a horse that could go nowhere for the first 10 years of his life. Many people sell horses that need so much time and careful training. Instead, by giving your horse understanding and empathy; fair and logical training; a variety of experiences; and always the benefit of the doubt, you will form a deep bond. Your horse will do anything you ask of him.
I raised Monarch from a beautiful, black baby with a white star on his forehead. Now he is a magnificent white dancer, progressing in his dressage training. I never planned to buy him; I was looking for an older horse that I could ride upon purchase. Yet, Monarch choose me, as he laid his beautiful head on my shoulder and asked me to take him home. As I struggled to understand what he needed through the years, he taught me as much about horses, (their ways, their needs, their mode of communication), as I taught him about ground manners, trail riding, and becoming a dressage partner.
Monarch is Lipizzan. His sire, Favory Bora, was born in Piber, Austria, and he was imported from the Spanish Riding School of Vienna to Florida by Gary Lashinsky, producer of the “Dancing White Stallions.” Today his breeding, his intelligence, and his sensitivity show in his talent for dressage, his aptitude for therapy, his common sense on trail rides, and his gentlemanly manners on the ground. He has become an ambassador for the Lipizzan breed, and currently for my art show, “HIGH POINT, the Art of Showing Horses.”
Last night we took him to “Main in Motion,” a weekly celebration which my hometown of Montrose holds each Thursday, May-October. Main Street is closed to all traffic. By 5:30, the street is jammed with people experiencing the festival air of warm weather, live music, street food, vendor & community service booths, preschool activities, dance troupes, climbing walls, jumping palaces, rappelling rigs, a small kiddie train, and artist demos. Monarch gave delight to many people as he stood to be painted, patted, and photographed. The comments ranged from how well behaved he was, how beautiful he looked, how he connected to people, how long he stood without acting restless, to how unflappable he acted amidst all the balloons, crowds, paint.
He was more than a gentleman; he is an ambassador. An ambassador to the Lipizzan breed, to my art show “High Point” where painting horses means more than just creating a painting of a horse, and most importantly, he is an ambassador to the idea that horses are wise and sensitive souls. If we are to be their keepers, we need to give them our empathy, our understanding, and the time they need to come into their own.