19 April 2009

Memories--The Mare Who Taught Me

Lemon and me in 1974

I found this little mare in 1971 at the military stable at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. She'd been for sale for a year without any takers. She wouldn't longe, but she would buck, bolt, refuse jumps, and generally behave badly.

On the advice of others, I asked the guru of Fort Leavenworth his opinion of her. Master Sgt. Roland R. Richmond (ret.), former head farrier for the US Cavalry, said, "Not a mean bone in her body." When I then asked him if he'd shoe her for me, he said, "Too old to get killed by a horse" and walked off.

Young and intrigued, I bought her and renamed her Twist of Lemon. She quickly taught me that intelligent, generous horses become calm, eager learners when rewarded for good behavior. She also taught me that punishments and attempts at "control" typically backfire. Together, we both learned a lot, although I learned more from her than she ever learned from me.

Six months after I bought her, Sgt. Rich walked by and said, "Shoe your mare. Two p.m., Friday." I've never had a higher honor in my life.

Update: 4 August 2015

I should have added that before Sgt. Rich started he said, "Been watching. We'll do it your way." That meant that no punishment was involved. Not even any yelling. When she cooperated, she got verbal praise and rubbing and then Sgt. Rich and I would have a cup of coffee before he continued.

We went through three pots of coffee and he didn't finish until six p.m., but by then Lemon had figured out what we wanted. Sgt. Rich charged me eight dollars, and Lemon, the terror other farriers had thrown and hogtied, earned the last slot of the day, the one a tired farrier saved for a horse with perfect manners.

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