Saturday, December 1, 2012

Snoopy's friends

We have quite a few horses at the ranch, and some of them ended up in Snoopy's book. One of these horses is Wendy, aka Which Way Wendy. She was bought a long time ago to be a show horse for one of the young girls. After many attempts at many shows, everyone decided that Which Way Wendy knew exactly which way she wanted to go - home and away from horse shows. The girl traded her in for a little mare who liked showing and Wendy became a lesson horse.

Wendy and one of her young students.
She started out as a ruthless teacher, rideable by the more advanced students. Seat in the wrong place? Don't expect her to turn right if your butt's pointing left. Standing in the stirrups and pulling the reins? Try sitting down and saying "ho" if you expect to stop. She was also light-sided and her gait was not smooth, so it was easy to find yourself on a bumpy ride at warp speed if you grabbed her sides with your legs.

Wendy will be 28 in January. She is now one of our beginner horses. Although she still requires her students to put their tushes in the middle of her saddle, she has become more tolerant of wiggly seats. She's used to the pull stop as well as a simple command. But don't get your legs into her. She'll still be off to the races if you squeeze too hard.

At 28, she's in amazing health but she does seem to be getting senile. In her youth, Wendy could be jumpy around loud noises, large trucks, and the ranch's tractor. She is regressing back to that state. As James Thurber put it, she's "jumping at slighter sounds."

We'd love her to stay around well into her thirties. We are also realistic. Every day with her is a gift.

Here's a little excerpt from the book:

Rusty was waiting for me when I got back that day. He was a nice horse, even if he was busy doing something all the time. Wendy would complain about him a lot.

“Why don’t you just settle?” she asked. “Why do you always have to be wandering around, climbing your stall?”

He’d laugh. “Why not? It’s fun, right, Snoopy?”

I didn’t really know if being so busy was fun, since I liked standing still in my stall and was never in the mood to climb up the metal poles. Wendy’s idea was pretty good, that a horse should save their energy. Hilde made me pretty tired every time he gave me a lesson, so I was happy to rest afterward.

“Do not listen to him,” Wendy told me. “He may be a year older than you, but he has always been too active for his own good. He was running circles around his mother when he was only a few hours old. Do you see how big he is? He will wear himself out before he is fifteen.”

“Were you born at the ranch, too, Wendy?”

“No, I was born on another ranch, a long way from here. I wasn’t even born in a stall, but out in the field late one night. My mother was part of a small herd. I grew up surrounded by other foals and mares.”

She was a plain horse with no markings, but the hair on her flank grew in funny squiggles. “Why is your hair so funny there?” I asked her.

“That is a brand. Because different humans owned different horses in the herd, they marked us all so they could tell who owned which ones.”

“Did it hurt?”

“Not really. I was fairly young. The men who did it were efficient, if not very gentle about it. They led me into a small stall, just big enough for my body to fit into. I was nervous, but one of the men rubbed my neck and withers until I felt somewhat calmer. Then I felt a cold pressure on my flank that stung a little. It stayed for a few moments, then went away, and they turned me loose.”

“I don’t remember having that done.” I looked at each side of my body. “I guess I don’t have a brand.”

“No, none of the horses born here have one.” She walked over to her water dish and drank. “You have been coddled.”

“What’s coddled?”

“You are born in warm stalls on soft straw, surrounded by humans to help in case something goes wrong.”

“You say that like any of us has a choice,” Rusty said as he knocked his hoof against the metal.

“None of us has a choice,” Wendy told him. “You simply received more attention than I did. You don’t know what it’s like to be pushed into the cold air, nuzzled into standing and forced to walk through the dark toward a group of fuzzy strangers. And I do not know the feeling of spending days, weeks, months in the sole company of my mother, without being on the constant move.”

“I would have liked that,” Rusty said. “I like to be on the move.”

“I guess I would be happy either way,” I told them. “Since I wouldn’t know any difference.”

“You’re too easy going,” Rusty told me. “Humans are going to expect you to do whatever they want.”

“Well, why not?”

“Why should we? I mean, okay, some days I get along fine with my owner, and with Niki. But if I’m not in the mood to do something, I at least make them give me a good reason to do it.”

“I just figure, if I do what they ask I get to finish and go back to my stall.”

“That’s smart,” Wendy told me.

“That’s stupid,” Rusty said. “You’re such a chump.”

I suppose I should have been mad about being called a chump, but it was okay. Rusty’s brain liked to go as fast as his body. I probably am too easygoing. I just never saw the point in fighting everyone, especially my humans. They were really strict, but they usually played good games.

1 comment:

  1. Amazing Wendy. She looks so confident yet very strict in her domain. Well, horses has their own sense. Trainers ought to understand their ways. But once you find their secrets, they become a nice friend.