Tame Or Broken

Ablaze got an eye infection from the wind, which is something my Arabians do on a regular basis. For some reason, they handle rain, frost, blizzards, everything nice and easy, as long as it is cold, but a warm wind, that is sure to get their eyes…

It is the first time Ablaze has got it though, and I won’t lie, I was a bit discouraged about having to treat him. Truth be told, he is not that… easy.

I mean, Saleem and Apocalipse has had their eyes treated so much, they show up themselves and let me do it easily enough, having figured out that it actually helps. Clever boys. Ablaze though, at a year and a half old, is hardly used to wearing a halter, as I always “train” him without aids.

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My vet insisted on seeing him anyway, which is kind of annoying, to be honest. So, they can drive up to my place, say “yeah, that’s right, that’s an infection,” and hand me something to treat him with. Instead of just letting me get it at the pharmacy, which would have saved them a lot of time and me a lot of money, but I guess that is the brilliant Danish system, as the vets are not allowed to hand out antibiotics without seeing the animal first.

Because I just woke up this morning with a craving for scamming my vets out of some antibiotics…. No, wait, that never happens… Anyway…

So, the vet came by, and patted Ablaze on the shoulder, and he looked at her thinking, “is she afraid of me?” Because clearly she knew he was a bit of a special case and she treated him like one. That is always a bad idea, with a horse like Ablaze and that is where most people are wrong about him and the rest of my horses.

Even my boyfriend said it when the vet had gone home. “Well, Ablaze is not that tame.”

Which is where I instantly have to shake my head. Ablaze is very, very tame. Much more tame than most horses ever become.

When I show up to feed them in the evening, in the pitch black darkness that is the Danish winter, he just lies in his house, and he doesn’t get up. He always calls out for me, and when I stumble through the fence, with the hay, and my flashlight, nearly (sometimes actually,) falling over the electric fence, (not sure why I keep doing that,) he just lies there, trusting me. So I can feed him right under his nose and he eats his hay happily, without getting up. Now, THAT is a tame horse.

He can be touched, all over, he can easily have his hooves trimmed, he CAN wear a halter, even thought all my horses hate it, and he is not opposed to having the vet or strangers touch him.

What he isn’t, is broken. That, I hope he will never be. Raising him, without breaking his spirits, will be my finest achievement for the future.

To me, being tame means knowing humans and trusting them, letting them touch you. Most horses does not trust their humans, they would never lie down and not get up if you came stumbling through the fence, spraying mud and hay everywhere, most horses are locked up in a stall and instantly jumps up as soon as they hear the smallest sound. These horses will let the vets touch them though, and poke them and colour test their eyes when they are infected, but that is not because they are tame, not in my book. That is because they are broken.

What I get from Ablaze is hard earned, I never tell him “NO!” or “Do this!” I ask him nicely, and if he says no, I keep asking the question in different ways, until I get an answer I can accept. That way, when I have to treat his eyes, I won’t force him, and if he fights me, I let him be wild. Once he is done acting up though, I simply try again. “Here we go, now, I need you to put your head on my shoulder, like this, so your head will be steady and I won’t accidentally poke your eye out, and then I need you to let me open your eye with my fingers and drip some of this cream into it. I know it isn’t funny, but I have all day to do this, how about you?”

Ablaze usually doesn’t have all day. He reminds me so much of Poseidon, of how Poseidon used to throw a tantrum and if I didn’t back down instantly, he would surrender and say, “okay, be quick then.” Ablaze is pretty much the same. He simply doesn’t have the patience for acting up over the same thing for too long. Except if you try to force him, like the vet realized when she saw him last, and tried to inject him with antibiotics because he had pneumonia. I tried helping her, by holding him in a halter, and we both told him “stay and don’t act up now.” That is a mistake with Ablaze.

Then, he is stubborn. And not because he isn’t tame, but because he isn’t broken. Pressure makes him respond badly. As long as I figure out how to play everything into him, he is so sweet and easy.

I want to keep him this way forever.

I am following another horse blog, “Bee and the Horse,” http://beeandthehorse.com/2015/01/21/liberty-only-the-truth-remains/

and she had the most beautiful quote in her latest blog post,

The spirit of a young horse is like a blossom: once ruined, it will never return. 

I couldn’t agree more. Which is why it is so important to me, to preserve everything that is Ablaze, even if I have to teach him to have his eyes treated, because of course he is getting help and treatment when he is sick. But not at the cost of who he is. Never that. I have worked with broken horses all my life. Meeting Apocalipse and Ablaze, my very own foals, made me realize that even if I never knew it, I have never had a not broken horse before those two.

All I can do for the others now, is try and restore their blossom, to find that foal they once were, and help it trust in humans once more.

Take a horse like Saleem, for instance. He is a good boy, he never acts up, he never says no, he is rather tame, he doesn’t mind much that I feed them when he sleeps, even though he does get up if I trip myself in the fence. Still, he hides. When the vet was there, looking at Ablaze’s eyes, my boyfriend and the Ferrier was trimming Saleem in the other house. Saleem is usually very calm and easy for the Ferrier, but once in a while, he just can’t handle it and then he suddenly can’t stand still, and he just wants to leave.

That is very hard to work with, because if he had just told me, like Ablaze and Apocalipse would have done, when the situation was stressing him, I could have maybe fixed it, before it became too much for him. He doesn’t. He tries to do good and once in a while, he just can’t anymore.

I want to make it clear that Saleem, Tardis and Marble has not been abused in anyway by their previous owners. They are happy, loving and trusting horses, who has been raised well and cared for. It is only because I am hysterical, and because I always look for a reason, when my horse suddenly explodes, that I would call Saleem “broken.” But he is, when he is stressed and doesn’t let me know, that is not because he is tame, that is because his spirits has at some point taken a blow.

And it is nothing, compared to how a truly broken horse is, what issues they might carry around, (sending a loving thought to Poseidon and Legacy,) but it is still more than enough for me to know that I never want to see Ablaze like that. I want him to tell me instantly if something I do, is causing him distress. As long as we can talk about it and I get to treat his eyes when needed, I don’t mind if the vet can’t touch him too much. We will get there too. Just give me time.

It is so easy and much faster to break a horse, than it is to actually teach it, but it is worth it in the end. My four year old Apocalipse is an absolute superstar, I never get tired of staring at that horse in awe, and I never stop adoring how special his mindset is. How wild, yet amazingly trusting. Just the way he was born to be.

My vets had two ways of responding to Ablaze. When I told the receptionist on the phone that if the vet came by, she wouldn’t be able to treat him anyway, her instant response was, “how old is he?”

And when I said, “A year and a half, turning two this spring,” she instantly replied, “But you train your horses a lot, don’t you?”

Yes. I train them. I mean no offence, I really don’t, but that is how it is in the equestrian world. It’s a two year old this year. It should be broken, used to wearing a saddle and being lunged. I mean, are you kidding me, why can’t yours?

Because at almost two, it is a baby. Hell, my almost five year old can hardly be lunged or wear a saddle. It is a child. In my book, they are far too young, mind body and soul, to be worked with like that.

When my vet arrived, we talked about Ablaze and she seemed rather intrigued by it when I told her that I wanted to keep his spirits and his persona exactly as he was. No judging me for having a wild two year old, or anything, which she does get points for. Still, her instant response was, “It is going to be interesting, once you get to ride him, isn’t it?”

Which brings me right back to the equestrian world and how most people tend to look at horses like Ablaze, as if he wasn’t tame. I mean, sure, I can’t tell him to behave, I can only ask. Truth is though, Ablaze and Apocalipse would walk through fire for me, without hesitating. Riding them won’t be an issue, once the time comes.

I climbed up on Apocalipse last year, without a bridle or a saddle and we walked around the pasture. I could not have done that, with a horse that didn’t trust me. If I manage to bring up Ablaze just as well, riding him shouldn’t be a problem at all.

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Time will tell. I love this foal, I adore his spirits, and now, I better go treat his eyes again. Twice a day. We even do it in the dark, with a flashlight in the evenings, because why make it easy? Ablaze loves learning new things, which is another thing I want to preserve in him. His positive attitude. As long as I make it interesting to have his eyes treated, he wants to play along, just to learn what this new game is all about…

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I would take that any day, over those horses who are used to getting tied up and shutting out the world, ignoring the humans around them as much as possible. My horse wants to be with me, even when I do mean things to him, like treat his eyes, and he never ignores me, even if he does sometimes fight me. I guess I am lucky that my vets know me, and even if it is a hard concept to grasp, the difference between tame and broken, they don’t argue with me when I tell them to not try and force Ablaze. That is priceless to me.

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About Starstone

-Owned by horses. Writer, Photographer, Director, Musician.
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