It seems now that we’re out of the arena and away from the invisible monsters that live there, Luc has uncovered another invisible threat – bugs. The trouble with this new form of invisible attacker is that it isn’t always invisible. In fact, sometimes the horseflies, deerflies and mosquitoes are even bombarding me as we’re trying to get on with our weekly ride. And if they’re bothering me, I know they’re bothering Luc, despite my best efforts to soak him in fly spray.
I try to be understanding about the bugs when we’re working, I really do. If they’re getting particularly bad, I will let Luc stop and scratch, or have my sister come over and do a ‘bug check’ where she searches out the annoying pest that is driving Luc batty and swats it on site. On our last ride together, the bugs were driving him completely crazy. He was unfocused – at least when it came to me. He was more than happy to obsessively focus on the bugs. Only they didn’t seem to be that bad to me.
More times than not during our ‘bug checks’ my sister would turn up empty handed. She wouldn’t find a single fly on him, but he was still acting like they were biting him to death. The key word there is acting. It appears that Luc has found yet another way to take advantage of my kind-heartedness, which I can now recognize is complete softness when it comes to enforcing the rules.
I had to pull out Ms. Meanie Pants and ride more like a sergeant than a softie. That meant making Luc work through the bugs, focus on me, and you know, actually do what I asked him to when I asked, not five strides later when it suited him. It was working for a while, but then the head tossing, tail swishing and skin twitching would escalate and I’d start second guessing myself, thinking maybe Luc was really being attacked by one of the abnormally large horseflies that inhabit our area. I can attest to the fact that it really smarts when they take a chunk out of you. When they get me it looks like a crater landed on my leg.
But nine times out of 10 Luc’s acting skills sucked me in and there wasn’t a bug in sight. I think I must have the words sucker written all over my face. I’m going to have to work on it if I’m going to actually be the rider in this relationship.
I felt a bit guilty with my inability to force Luc through the problem and get his focus back on me. I know it’s a disservice to him, but why I really feel badly is that my sister has worked so hard with him and I don’t want to unravel all of her good work. She routinely assures me that I’m doing no such thing and it’s good for her to see what he does when someone else is riding, so she can work on it. But it still feels like my riding is more harmful than helpful.
I know I have it in me to ride with more authority. I did it all the time in the past. I think the issue is that while I loved my own horses, I didn’t see them grow up. I didn’t know where every scar and bump came from. I didn’t know how far they’d come before they were mine – only what we managed to accomplish together. With Luc it’s completely different. I’ve seen every step of the way and know how far he’s come, how much some of it was a struggle, and how successful he can be. Knowing a horse since the day he was born and bonding with him will do that. But to help him become the best horse he can be – and I know he is one of the spectacular ones – I am going to have to pull on my big girl breeches and stop acting like he’s still a foal scared by what’s out in the world. If that description fits either of us it’s me, and it’s high time I got over it and started being the rider I know I can be.