What Did You Call My Horse?

Jec Ballou, horse trainer, jec aristotle ballou, western dressage, jec ballou, dressage exercises for horse and rider, jec ballou, equine fitness, beyond horse massage, Jec Ballou
Jec A. Ballou

By Jec A. Ballou

Our barn visitor offered her comments good-naturedly, but still I bristled. She had chuckled at one or another of Corazon’s antics and then called him a male diva. A what? I didn’t share her chuckle, puzzled as I was that anyone could see this leggy Andalusian as anything but majestic and regal, maybe even brawny.

Her description was meant to be warm, not rude. And yet it rang around my ears as just plain inaccurate, borderline insulting. At the same time, I noticed that I was over-reacting, and this worried me. I have worked with horses long enough to know that most equestrians will at some point succumb to “barn blindness,” or a condition of losing objective perspective about their own horses. Now maybe it had happened to me.

Over the next several days, I allowed a very narrow sliver of concession. Maybe our visitor had observed Corazon in a light I had become blind to. I noted his chronic preening for attention, his dramatic flinging of enormous mane and forelock. I clocked his luxuriant flat-on-the-ground naps at no shorter than one hour. I admitted that he will stand motionless for hours on end so long as someone — anyone — brushes his coat and coos at him. His eyelids fall shut, lower lip droops open with a threat of drool dangling. On the rare occasion that something spooks him, he turns a mild reaction in to a large, dancing affair.

I had to admit that he seemed most wildly satisfied when he was the center of attention. Did that make him a diva? Maybe or maybe not. I was, however, seeing him in new light, accepting that he was in fact not 100 percent brawn and courage. There was actually considerable neediness under his large physical exterior. He was prone to occasional episodes of drama and, yes, probably a little in love with himself. This confession may or may not change my approach to training him every day, but it’s useful to have in the background.

We all need these reality checks from outside voices. Without them, we all too easily lose touch with reality. We trick ourselves into believing our horses are more broke, more beautiful, more sound than they probably are. Detaching from reality never bears good results. Our delusion will trickle over to setting goals, or to our lack of goals. Or it sometimes creates a narrow bubble in which we deal with our horses. In some cases, it leads to assuming our horses like or trust us a whole lot more than they do. Staying grounded in the facts will always prove more fruitful, and sometimes this means opening up to an outsider’s perspective.

It took a couple of months, but now I’m pretty fond of Corazon’s description. It takes nothing away from his majestic, muscled status. It actually summarizes that quirky edge that makes him special. So, I’m taking off my barn blinders and owning it. Yes, my lovely Andalusian is a male diva. There. I said it.

Now I challenge you: What description of your horse from an outsider made you bristle – but might actually be true?

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Photo: Shutterstock/Olga I