A Walk Down the Road

August 27, 2006

August 12, 2006

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I’ve got a little bit too much on my plate these days getting ready for our biggest event of the year. I’m working without Mike’s help for the first time in five years and it isn’t easy. Since it wasn’t raining this evening and as a reward for persevering through the issues, I went out and got on Griton for a few minutes. It’s been raining so much lately I haven’t had a chance to do that in probably a week and I need to keep that connection with the horses to maintain my sanity when Mike isn’t here. He said during our last phone call he was glad I had the triple troop of dogs to follow me around with their little doggie parade and to keep me company in the house as well.

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After I shamelessly hinted, Mike ordered me a beautiful navy blue bareback pad so that I could return Griton to the world of riding without putting a saddle on him. It was so lovely, I ordered Griton a bitless bridle to match it. He has no fear or hesitation about this bridle and he seems to enjoy having me on his back as much as I enjoy being there. He has come a long way in the last year.

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If you look closely at these photos of Griton, you will see a star-shaped white dapple on his left shoulder. I like to think it is Star’s sign that Griton is here with his blessing. I have been doing a good bit of alternative work with the horses this summer, experimenting, trying to reach them on their terms instead of forcing them with ours. Things it has been suggested might make a good book if I can figure out how to put what I do by feel into words others can understand. Griton is an amazing example of this work. I have never had a rehab horse respond quite like he has and it almost seems as if he has truly been reborn without a past of abuse.

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I feel like we are having language lessons instead of me training him something. He completely understands that we are learning to communicate…I ask him for something and then wait, and wait, and wait, while he thinks about what it might mean. And then finally he responds, ‘do you mean this?’ and I reward him for trying whether it was the response I was looking for or not. He is quickly learning there will never be punishment again in his life, just praise for every effort he makes and so he tries even harder.

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Griton has become a quiet and mature horse this summer and at first it worried me, was he not feeling well? Were his stifles or his foot hurting him again? But I think he just finally finished growing up. He was such a persistently annoying prankster when he came here, always harassing the others, pulling most of Corazon’s tail out to bait him into a game of chase. When I would take him for walks to strengthen his stifles, I would see his shadow behind me, big lips reaching out to grab the back of my pants in play. I believe Griton did not have a chance to grow up when he arrived in our human world at roughly two years old. He was put to work immediately and worked hard enough to cause scars all over his body. You can see some of them as large white patches in these photos. When he came to live with us he got a new herd and it seemed as though he picked up life from where he left it in his home group. He has had the benefit of being raised by Corazon, the kind and tolerant leader, and by Mike and me, the humans who taught him people could love and respect him unconditionally. What a touching experience he has given us.

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He is reaching that magic place where he is becoming excited about each new thing I show him, eager for the praise and the rewards. He is always watching for us and comes up as soon as he sees me heading out to work with him. So this evening we took our first walk down the road. It wasn’t far or long, but we did it without fear, without a saddle on his back or a bit in his mouth.

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