Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Look of Eagles: a Guide to the Feisty Horse

I always say that Courage poses dramatically. It's his version of a vice.
any excuse to use this picture

On more than one occasion, I've been told he has the "look of eagles" that you hear old-time horseman talk about. It makes sense when I think about it--in a lot of ways, Courage is one of the bravest horses I've been around. He is afraid of nothing. He'll occasionally startle, less frequently actually spook. He always wants to understand a situation and once he understands, he's unflappable. Spooking isn't his problem. OPINIONS are his problem.

In short, he exudes character out of every pore of his very-fine body.
when your friend doesn't know you're taking ass shots
That can be a good thing--early on in our tenure at our current barn, I was riding outside on a windy day. As we approached the gate of the arena, a GIANT tarp flew straight up in the air above our heads about ten feet in front of us. I prepared for last rites, but Courage didn't even blink.

Tarps aren't scary.

But character doesn't exist in a vacuum either. It's not secret that Courage LOVES his Eskadron bandage liners. I bought him sweet XC boots that are air-ventilated with non-slip lining. Pretty great idea right?
super cool boots

Guess who hates non-slip interiors with every fibre of his sculpted body?

Yeah he bucked more in his one attempt wearing these than I've seen him do in the rest of his life together. Put him back in polos and liners, BAM, bucking gone.
matching game on point
It's no secret how sensitive Courage is--I've gone on and on about how if I drag my shit to the barn, he will promptly lose his. This year, I've worked very hard on zen-master status, but Courage has taken to reminding me that he has shit too, and he'll flip it just whenever he pleases.

You doubt? I went to catch Courage out of his field the other day, which is something we do with zero issues. He ate the cookie I offered, then flung his head up and FLEW backwards like I was a horrible horse abuser.

I didn't react.

Then he walked off, flicking his ears back at me.

I talked to my friend and didn't look at him.

He walked a fifteen meter circle and stopped at the furthest point from me.

I chatted and laughed with my friend about her horse.

He walked between us, stopped square, and looked DIRECTLY at me.

We pretended he wasn't even there.

He walked forward and stopped a little closer to me.

I took one slow step towards him.

He pinned his ears and moved off briskly.

I went back to chatting with my friend.

He stopped on the far edge of his circle and looked at me.

After about 10 minutes of his YOU CANT CATCH ME CUZ WILD STALLION PLZ CHASE antics, he walked right up to me, I haltered him, and we went to work.

In every line of his body, you could see him waiting for me to get mad, chase him, give him ANY excuse to go flying around like a lunatic.
yeah i cherry picked a better shot
It was basically the same routine under saddle. He had decided that he wanted to pick a fight, so he blew sideways (because trotting omg) and DARED me to do something about it. I didn't kick. Didn't pull. Didn't react. Just kept posting around the circle.

It wasn't our best work ever. Trotting on a floppy rein with his nose poked out is not wildly attractive, BUT you know what he didn't do?

Flail. Bolt. Spin. Rear. Or even buck.
yeah not posting a shot from going right
It's taken over a year, but we finally got through a day of OPINIONZ without any major theatrics or trainer rides to prevent them. That. Is. Huge. Last year, he couldn't have kept it together. Last month, I couldn't have ridden through it without having a full personal meltdown. Instead of giving up on each other, we've just kept trying and figuring each other out.

It's still not always pretty, but we got it done. The "look of eagles" comes at a cost and maybe finally, he's decided that he can trust me a little, even when he doesn't want to, and things will still be ok.


  1. "Courage has taken to reminding me that he has shit too, and he'll flip it just whenever he pleases"
    So great, love your descriptions of him.

  2. Horses with opinions are so entertaining. And humbling.

  3. You are on to something. My biggest problem is engaging the fight. I get sucked in all the time. The reason my trainer says oh he'll be fine with your daughter it's you and him that have the issues. Good on you for figuring that out so early on.

    1. I swear I'm turning into one of those super annoying zen people who never get ruffled about anything because of this horse. Just like "ok thanks for telling me how you feel" and letting everything roll off.

  4. Love it! Dear gaud that horse is making you earn it. :)

  5. I have a post coming up about my very sensitive horse as well.... This is GREAT stuff to remember for the sensitive souls. Sometimes it doesn't matter if you accomplish greatness on a particular day so long as you avoid disaster. Timely post for me!

  6. I love this post so much. Especially "WILD STALLION PLZ CHASE". Apollo does that with his pasture mate, and it is hilarious. Way funnier than when he does it to me. ;)

  7. Is the look of eagles specifically for TBs only? I've never had one that had it... just a bunch of lumpy heads!

    1. Haha now that you mention it, I've never heard it applied to non-thoroughbreds, but I don't actually know the answer.

  8. Yeah that "look of eagles" usually comes with a lot between the ears, lol! Glad that you've figured out his mind games ;)

  9. gotta love those expressive honest horses... mostly haha. but omg he didn't like the boots?!?!? that's f*ing tragic :(

    1. I may force him to like them. Jury is still out.

      Def don't want to ride through the bucking tho.

  10. Great job not engaging him over the field drama.

  11. This makes me appreciate that my sensitive beast just prances to express his anger. While annoying I never feel like I could come off... Courage is lucky to have found you.

  12. LOVE your mental approach on this!

  13. Hero and Courage are pretty far apart in the spectrum of sensitivity and how they express their feelings.. but like once a year Hero will have a day where it's clear that he knows he's bigger and stronger and doesn't have to listen and that he's only been going along with it the whole time because he's nice. Perhaps that is his look of eagles haha.

  14. I see the look of DIVA in his eyes. Sparkle filled.

  15. Love this post! Went to the barn today to watch my trainer ride Ellie and it was the same concept- Ellie snarks and trainer does not react, just asks her quietly to do the right thing. Look of Eagles for Courage....mine is just a Princess.

  16. Jackson is 1/2 TB, and I'm FAIRLY sure he and Courage share exactly that TB lineage down to every last DNA strand. It sounds like you have come A LONG WAY BABY! And picture wise it is obvious!
    The boot thing made me laugh. I emphatically am not a polo or wrap fan. I can do the nicest wrap EVA', (try having to bandage and wrap for 3 months due to injury, but, (and you can well imagine, as I'm not a deck it out our "look" for an hour b/f I get on type of gal) it isn't something I want to do EVERY TIME I RIDE. And I love boots. BOOTS. I want all the boots. Jax? Put boots on him and he lifts his back legs up to his stomach and tiptoes around like he is on burning coals. Case in point. I got a full set of Dalmars. I lOVED them. LOVED em. OH NO. No. We have since sold them and I have a picture. Thanks for the memories Dalmars, you were sooo nice. Same with those LURVELY Equilibrium wraps. :\ Just ordered DSB's and Woof Smart Event boots (cause, I've literally sold like 8 pairs or so, so why not try more than one at once?)..... TOES crossed.


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