My adrenaline was up, relieved I had landed on my feet. He stood there right next to the mounting block all 17.2 hands of him, scowling at me, ears pinned and nose wrinkled in disgust.
“I’ve never seen him do that before.” She said.
“I call bullshit! That was well rehearsed!” I replied as I studied this 1300 lb chestnut. I reset myself, ready for him this time. I pondered what could possibly have him so defensive. All I’d done was swing a leg over him. I gathered my reins, tipped his nose to the left a bit, grabbed a little mane this time and as I stepped into the stirrup and swung my leg over his back he did it again! It was the smoothest, most well rehearsed move I’d seen. He reared, bucked and bit me all at once with grace, precision and athleticism ….. again! This time I stayed with him. He stood there, pissed I’d stuck him and I contemplated my next move. This horse was angry and it had nothing to do with me. I took a deep breath, releasing the air slowly hoping he would begin to match my breathing. As we sat there both deciding what to do next he flicked an ear and blew out a little air. I jumped off and laid my hand on his neck. “Good boy.” I chimed in a sing song praising voice.
“I’ll take him for 30 days.” I told her. “We’ll see if I can help him.”
I recognized and honored the fact that if this horse ever broke in two and really came undone, I’d get hurt … severely. He is a powerful horse and forcing him into the proverbial box (cookie cutter horse training) is what caused him to shut down in the first place. I spent 30 days helping him learn to walk under saddle again. I couldn’t request it, I had to sit and wait for him to offer it to me. Once we were walking freely and relaxed, I decided it best to turn Cricket out for the winter. He needed to decompress from his time up north at the hunter/jumper trainer’s place. I knew the trainer and I was sure Cricket hadn’t been “abused”. My best guess was he’d been pushed on pretty hard and he couldn’t take it. Kicking him out with the cows and my other horses seemed like a good prescription for him.
Cricket couldn’t catch a break in life. He was orphaned at two days old after losing his mother, Jiminey, in an electrical storm. As a four year old he stuck his foot through a pipe fence nearly severing the entire limb. As a six year old he missed puncturing his lung by fractions of an inch after ripping his side open on a bolt. He flunked out of hunter/jumper school and didn’t seem to have any future ahead of himself. The woman who bred and raised him offered him to me. At the time I stepped up because I felt it was the right thing to do. I cared about what happened to him but I wouldn’t say I loved him at that point. He was such a tough ride and an utter puzzle to understand. That said, I knew I could offer him the break in life he deserved.
The following spring I decided my best option for progressing him forward was taking him out on hound exercise. Much like tracking cattle, I knew the energy of the hounds moving forward in front of us could potentially sweep us along offering us the opportunity to move into a trot without me asking for it. That first summer, I prayed … fervently, every time I saddled him knowing he could easily have a full blown temper tantrum over God knows what out there in some unforgiving territory. My goal each and every time was to support him, love on him and stay over the center of him, come what may! The first time he offered to step up into a trot as the hounds moved out I got lost in his huge movement. What an incredible mover! I laid a hand on his neck murmuring sweet words of encouragement. It was working!
We fox hunted for several seasons to varying degrees of success. There were times I could feel Cricket get himself twisted in knots, waiting for me to come down on him in reprimanded punishment. Instead, I’d lay a hand on his neck, reassure him I was there to support him as he learned to partner with a human in a way I don’t think he ever really knew. More times than I can count, I walked miles back to the kennels next to him when he’d get his panties in such a wad he couldn’t even think straight. Let me tell you, tall black dress boots are NOT made for walking distances! Lol! But it’s what he needed from me in those moments.
I couldn’t imagine my herd without him now! I adore that Mack truck of a horse! We’ve shared a lot of adventures together, foxhunting, trail riding, camping, ponying my daughter before she would ride on her own and honing my skills in my pursuit of becoming the best horseman I can. The lessons this big fellow has taught me are too numerous to list. The best part of our story is, I love him. Truly, wholeheartedly, love him.
This past June Cricket got the opportunity to work with his first client. It was a warm day and it looked to me like he was going to sleep the entire session away! I should have known better. Though his eyes were closed, his leg cocked and relaxed and his breath deep, he was tuned in. As the client began to come into her truth and speak words that were congruent with her mourning, breaking heart I watched Cricket amble over to her receiving all her pain, offering her his big chest to lean into and his strong neck for her to wrap her arms around. He embodied her loved one that was dying and did so with tenderness, grace and compassion. I couldn’t have asked for more from that handsome hunk that day!
I am humbled to be blessed with the opportunity to step alongside him in this work, co-actively coaching our clients as they design and create a positive future for themselves.
“You are powerful, beautiful, brilliant & brave” ❤