Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wanting a Pony

“I want a pony.” That is a statement that almost every parent hears. Whether or not the family lives in an apartment complex in a busy city or in a house in a country town, that desire for a pony seems to be universal. Why? Maybe it is because humans have had such a long history with horses, our companions in labor, transportation and even warfare for centuries. Perhaps it is deep within us to want to interact with equines.

Be that as it may, I know I wanted a pony more than anything in the world when I was a boy living in a small town. Mother would explain that we didn’t have a place to keep a pony. My response was that we could keep it in the back yard. I even made a little corral out there and stocked it with pine straw, much to the amusement of my big brother, who thought every idiot knew horses didn’t eat pine straw. But my persistence paid off and Mother finally bought an old plow horse that we kept at the old farm place in Louisiana, about an hour’s drive away.

Old Nancy was not exactly a pony. She was a very large draft horse. She made up for not being a pony by her gentleness, though, a good kid horse. She didn’t exactly enjoy my company and she seldom wanted to go in the direction I urged her in, but she was gentle, having no ill will for humanity. She was just lethargic and perhaps insulted that a little boy a long way from manhood was her master. I mean, she had belonged to firm, hard-working men who insisted on their way with some force. I was more of a suggester than a demander and she showed resentment by her recalcitrance. She always took me where I wanted to go, but it was obviously a ride of resistance rather than pleasure for her.

I brought more forcefulness to the rider-horse relationship as I matured and found that the beasts want their riders to be in command. They feel a bit insecure if the human on their back is indecisive. I don’t mean that riders should be cruel, but they should certainly let the horse know who is boss. And, if the horse messes up, we have to remember that their attention span is short and their memory even shorter. They should not be punished for anything that happened more than 20 seconds before the correction.

The Kazakh people have been horse keepers from time immemorial. We have someone from that heritage in our family, so I am obviously interested in that way of life. What I see as the main principle in their culture is love of horses, but a love that includes getting the animals to be of one mind with their masters, and that takes some doing. Even little children understand the principle and they pursue that oneness of mind with their horses with vigor, determination, skill and great love.

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