Mr. Neurotic may not be whom you’d expect. After all, he could easily be a worried horse husband or father, a fussy coach, or the nice guy at your local feed store who worries about you carrying bags of feed yourself. For me, Mr. Neurotic is a great big lug of a horse. He fell into my life the way animals so often do here – inadvertently. He was my responsibility before I’d even laid hands on him. I had no intention of ever living with him, but fates conspired and now I look out my window at his handsome self as I write this piece.
It’s a good thing I wasn’t at the farm when he first arrived. Apparently he flew off the trailer, broke his halter and spent 20 minutes galloping around screaming. He started earning his moniker right then. He also had a wound that was developing proud flesh, so the next day I brought him into the barn to clean and treat it. Yeah. No. Instead, I watched an impressive piaffe in cross-ties. Sweat dripped off him and his brain exploded. It took quite awhile to get him calm enough to take back to his paddock. In those moments I realized that, wanted or not, I had a “Project” on my hands.
The first time I stood him at a mounting block he spun around it for 10 minutes dripping sweat. When a saddle fitter brought a bunch of saddles to try on him I thought he was going to have a heart attack he was so distressed. People who had met him before he joined my herd reported he couldn’t be in a barn, had to be led with a chain, fought being trimmed and looked terrifying to ride. People still occasionally ask if he’s “that” horse.
Today he stands quiet as anyone might wish for massage, chiro, blacksmith, grooming and whatever else needs doing. He accepts it all with the odd snort, but good grace. He has my heart.
Cleaning and treating that original wound in the field, slowly following him around and offering him bites of grass if he’d stand still helped us develop a mutual trust in each other. I learned about patience and grounding myself, waiting at the mounting block for him to take a deep breath and pause long enough for me to hop on. Nervous energy doesn’t work for Mr. Neurotic, nor does inattention, so as I hop on, I leave my baggage behind. We school, we hack, we ride bareback, we revisit my old eventing days and do trot and canter sets in the fields behind the house. We hop over piled logs and splash through ponds. We went to a show once, on a bet, and he was most excellent. We might do that again.
He’ll never be my clinic horse, as experimenting with him causes anxiety and clinicians find him an enigma. But on a late night, when I’ve had a rough day there is no one who can make me feel better, I stand with him or sit on him and we breathe together, touching each other and finding comfort.
Mr. Neurotic came to me because he needed a soft place to land. I had no concept of how much I needed him. We are two very lucky souls.
Andrea Harrison, aka The Inadvertent Rescuer, has provided a safe haven for a variety of animals at her De Vareharri Farm in Prince Edward County, Ontario, and uses her skills as an educator and trainer to improve their lives.