The opinions expressed in previous entries may or may not express the current opinion of the author.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

On The Spot

No pressure or anything.  Just the new horse vet and my friend (she of "A Delicate Balance") watching me while we treat Bridget's leg and then surveying my George-management skills when I go in to fetch Rose out of the field.

For years the horse folk in our area have made do with one or two good-natured cow doctors who are willing to pitch in and take care of the equines.  More serious problems involved trucking your horse over to Leesburg. But now we have a real live horse doctor, which is exciting, and which is why I called my friend to come over and meet him when he came out to check on Bridget's leg.

Before my friend arrived, we got the wound cleaned out and swabbed and scrubbed and generally prodded and interfered with.  The vet commented on Bridget's excellent ground manners throughout all this.  Then when he started to shave the edges of the wound, she started getting squirrelly. He asked if it would be ok to give her a low dose of tranquilizer, and I acquiesced.  My friend arrived around this time.  The vet said that the tranquilizer was low enough that Bridget could "break through" it if she wanted. Which she did want.  We got the shaving done with a little fuss, but then we had to spritz the Betadyne and get the blue goop on.

At this point, my friend and the vet were all for strong-arming her.  When I pointed out that she had been very good up til now without this treatment, my friend remarked, "Well that was before she ran out of patience" - implying that when the horse's patience runs out, we must resort to forceful tactics.

I offered to do the Betadyne myself - I showed her the bottle, kept a loose lead rope, told her that it might hurt but she had to be brave, and she stood while I squirted it.  Once again for the blue goop, the vet was holding tight to her head while she swiveled about.  I asked him to let go, I got her attention again, told her that she might not like blue as much as pink, but it was going on her leg, ok?  I kept a loose rope, and she stood still while I glopped the stuff on.

Thankfully, my friend now appreciates more clearly that I'm actually doing something different these days, rather than merely failing to do what she thinks I should be doing.  But after the vet left, when she and I were chatting, she mused that some vets would not have been so patient as to wait while I got Bridget to do things our way, and that we have to teach the horses to behave, because it's a "safety issue."  However, the way I see it, Bridget was far safer to deal with when no one was laying down the law to her, and she will be safer in future if she knows that she will be treated respectfully. She was so willing to resume cooperation when asked politely - how rude to force her! The key thing was to engage with her, to regain our mutual understanding and ask her to stay with me in that zone of friendship while we carried out the uncomfortable procedures. I imagine it's a little like balancing on a tightrope. Once you start slipping, it takes a lot to get your balance again, but if you can catch yourself after only a tiny tilt, the adjustment can be tiny too.

I also had the vet look at an old scar on Rose's eye.  This entailed extracting Rose from the George.  George specializes in a subtle and sneaky evil eye that sends the mares skittering off in fear. He prowled after us, making faces at Rose behind my back. I maintained my good will towards him and repeatedly asked him politely to back off a bit.  By the time we reached the gate, he had given up the evil eye and was willing to keep enough distance away from us to allow Rose to go through. This is far from meeting Carolyn Resnick's standard of being able to send your horse away and send him as far away as you choose.  However, dear George does like to be in the thick of things, and if he's willing to be nice about it, I guess it's ok if he decides to hover close rather than be banished.

Off to the beach tomorrow!  Thank heaven for a pet-sitter willing to take care of Bridget's leg.


  1. I am so proud of you being so determined on doing things your way <3

    "However, the way I see it, Bridget was far safer to deal with when no one was laying down the law to her, and she will be safer in future if she knows that she will be treated respectfully."

    EXACTLY! No need for the horse to act suddenly or be always alert, when they know they will not be forced or duped into anything.

  2. This tale of yours has highlighted such a crucial, central issue. People thinking 'its a safety issue' = force and not appreciating that mutual consideration, calmness and patience brings the safety. Well done you for staying so centered and grounded yourself. If you had felt any understandable defensiveness or tension in the company of the vet and your friend, Bridget may not have been able to relax as she did.

    I can just imagine George sending his subtle evil eye. I have similar at home!