A Forced Study in Patience
by Kathy Rogers
Buck was a tall, cool, older, gentleman horse of bay coloring. He had been a working cow horse most of his life and had ended up rather lazy and uninterested in pleasure riding. And although Buck could be a good trail horse at times, he had acquired the frustrating habit of grazing while walking. And, being one of those long-necked running-quarter horses, Buck was working it to his advantage now. Once his head went down into the tall grass, it was a struggle to get him back. But the fact was, Buck wasn’t my horse, just a loaner. So one day, while out on a solo ride, the teenage me decided to break Buck of his obnoxious habit.
We headed straight down Forester Road, but being no temptations of grass along the way, I decided to swing him off the trail, up through the orchard till we emerged through from the walnut trees. There we stood in the sunlight, at the foot of a large grassy hill sprinkled with sweet yellow flowers and acres of that green stuff Buck could not do without. So, I laid the rein on his neck, leaned forward and asked Buck to engage the hill. He eagerly complied as, I was sure, the grass was waiving him on.
But the journey was not pleasant. It was a steep hill, putting the grass well within his reach, and every few seconds I was jerking his curb bit, trying to keep his head up and out of the grass. Buck wasn’t getting it and he was clearly annoyed so I turned him sideways and popped off to adjust my saddle on the downside of the hill. But, just as I slid to the ground, that brute deliberately yanked the reins out of my hands and plunged that long neck down into the grass. But Buck was tall, and as he did so, the reins slipped down around his ears. I turned to get a hold of them, but he immediately adjusted his front downhill footing and he came down full force right in the middle of my tennis shoe. Deliberately or not, yeowwww!
So, now I stood underfoot, facing his rear end on his downhill side. And he had all his weight on that downhill front leg – smack dab on my foot. Luckily, the ground was soft, and I could tell that there wasn’t much damage being done – but it was painful, and now I couldn’t make any move at all to get the reins. I was pinned, and he knew it. No amount of punching or pinching was going to move him, and every time he adjusted his weight, it hurt more.
I really don’t know how long we stood there. I think I cried a little and tried to conjure up some help. But we were totally out of sight – and there was no help. Just me and Buck and the span of time it would take for him to eat up the grass within reach and lift his head.
As I stood there pinned to the ground by my foot, I couldn’t help but be patient, calm and consider the way I had frustrated and punished the horse all the way up the hill. In hindsight, I can only hope I’ve made some good use of the forced and painful little lesson that a self-proclaimed, retired working horse taught me that day.