I left the barn feeling deflated and frustrated. It was the first time I could remember actually being angry at my horse. So much so that I just gave up, got in my car, and drove away.
I felt guilty the entire ride home.
My Thoroughbred has been a little off that week. Not lame, but grumpy and I could tell he didn’t have his head in the game during our rides, so to speak.
We’ve had ruts before in our training progress. But this one seemed to be lingering longer than usual.
In an effort to step back and just spend some time with my horse on the ground, I decided to body clip his shaggy, unkempt thickening coat. It was only September, but being a non-sweater in Florida poses some challenges. Even in the dead of winter, we still have more warm days than cool ones, and I thought a haircut would be a welcomed reprieve for him.
Thinking about it now, I should have known better. My horse was just six at the time. I picked him up out of a field that spring. But his unruly behavior while being clipped upset me.
It wasn’t just that he was ticklish. It was that he was mean.
As this questionably dangerous behavior continued, I finally just quit and put him back in his stall with a shoddy, half-done haircut.
Later in the day my barn owner sent me a video of him lying on the floor of his stall, huffing away furiously as he struggled to breathe and sweat during a particularly hot and humid afternoon. His muzzle rested gently in the shavings. His eyes were glazed over, held half open. He didn’t care at all about his terrible haircut. This made me feel even worse for getting so angry at him.
The next day I decided I would try to finish the clip job. When I arrived at the barn, he looked pretty spry. His eye was bright and he wasn’t huffing nearly as bad as the day prior. He greeted me like he always does, by dropping his nose into my hands and letting me stroke his face. This time I brought back up: my husband came with me to be a second pair of eyes on him.
My horse was apprehensive when he saw and heard the clippers again. But my hubby did a great job just being his buddy – feeding him the occasional treat and petting his nose as I cautiously ran the clippers all over his body.
It definitely was not not my best clip job. There were furry patches at his hips and armpits, and I didn’t even dare attempt his legs or face. But I saw my horse breathe a sigh of relief before he rolled in the dirt later that evening in the pasture.