Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Cooper Report #3

I don't mind admitting when I am wrong. The trouble is, where to begin?

When I finished writing Cooper Report #2, I think I had resolved to try to get Cooper a prescription for medical marijuana....

I didn't procure that prescription, but I did do one smart thing: I called a trainer.

I needed the trainer to show me the basics of working with a beginner. I also needed her for moral support--to lean on her confidence and courage.  She is not blindly fearless when it comes to handling horses that have all kinds of issues and problems; rather, she knows how to handle these horses safely and effectively.

A display of aggression is a useful way to remind the horse who's boss. The trainer also reminded me that aggression is different from anger--there is no role or place for anger when training horses.

Later, she mentioned, as a friend, that in other areas of her life, she wasn't always as good at using aggression  effectively, the way she can with horses.  Sometimes, she finds herself backing down.

There are other areas in my life where I have less trouble being aggressive (than I do with adorable pets):

For years, I served on a local committee; and before that, as an advisor at church.  I never minded speaking up or challenging people on any subject. No one who has been on a committee with me would call me a shrinking violet.

And yet, the trainer, who has known me for almost ten years now, sees me as an utterly benign character, which she expressed less pointedly. "I've never seen you angry," she said.

"We've never been on a committee together, have we?" I didn't say that, but if I had thought of it I would have.

With horses, the rule is clear: use as little pressure as possible, but as much as necessary.

Horses correct each other through aggressive behavior, which, once they've made their point, can be followed up with a simple reminder: "You do know that this hoof is for, right?"

Case in point, it wasn't me who got Cooper to run in the round-pen, but Tanner, my Palomino. Tanner was damned if he was going to be the only horse running around in circles, so he nipped and prodded Cooper into motion, and kept him going the same way.  (I, being a sentimental fool, felt sorry for Cooper and let him out of his lesson early.)

The next time Cooper was in the round-pen, he was with the trainer and me.  We were firm and consistent.  And, thanks to Tanner, Cooper knew what he needed to do: Move his little feet!

In the round-pen, we used a whip.

I know what it feels like to get hit by this whip, because I have accidentally smacked myself in the face with it plenty of times.  It stings, sure, but it's not like getting flogged on a whaling ship at sea.  It's not skin-ripping lashes.  It startles, it delivers a sting, and it leaves a trail of disordered fur--or, in my case, a temporary red mark on my face.

In a broadly related aside, I was driving to my son's wrestling tournament yesterday, when, over the radio, a man from Sutherland Springs, Texas, said he used to feel safe because he lived in an obscure town, far from a city or any obvious target for terrorism, domestic or otherwise.

But, he said, after the shooting at his church, it became clear to him that such horrors could be visited upon anyone, anywhere, at any time.

Like, for example, at a wrestling tournament in Cross Plains, Wisconsin.

On the radio, they said that w all need to be prepared to respond in a situation where there is a shooter. We should think it through in advance, so that we're prepared to respond appropriately, should the need arise.

On the drive to Cross Plains, I thought about what I would do if I was standing near a door and a man entered the gym with a semi-automatic gun, and I had a fraction of a second in which to act appropriately.

I would stomp on his knee as hard as I could to dislocate the joint and get him down.

I thought about my elbow, and where it might make the most impact.

I thought about how much damage I could possibly do in the space it would take the shooter to turn  his gun on me.

My response would have to be instantaneous and surprising.  The shooter might assume that I was too terrified to act, and that would be my only advantage.

Was there anything that I could use as a weapon?  Keys would be good, but I don't have metal keys anymore, only a key fob in the shape of a suppository.  Advances in technology had disarmed me. (I used to walk to my car at night with a key-clawed fist.)

Arriving at the middle school, I parked the car and rifled through my purse. I found a comb with a long pointy handle that would do for a shank. As the gunner steps through the door, I would pounced on him from behind and plunge the handle of the comb into his jugular artery.

Thus armed, I entered the building with several clear plans of action.

However, I ended up sitting far from the door, perched on the bleachers in plain sight, my back against the wall.  I surveyed my options, but  could think of nothing I could do that would neutralize a shooter, short of shielding myself behind a lunch box and a felted-wool pocketbook.

With horses, (unlike maniacs with guns), I can be prepared and it won't be just vain-glorious fantasies of violently heroic feats.

As things progress with Cooper, I approach the little horse...I stand by his side, comb my fingers through his unruly mane...My heart melts, but I bear in mind that I do have an elbow, and I am not afraid to use it, should his mouth come swinging around in my direction again.

Bite mark with bruising. Lesson learned.

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