Edward has, as all horses do, an almost preternatural ability to read humans. When I think about a horse like Edward — really, when I give thought to horses in general — I am filled with amazement that they allow us to do even a quarter of the things that they do. So when they test their boundaries with us, I should really be more surprised it doesn’t happen more often.
Edward arrived at SAFE quite skeletal, a result of poor nutrition and poor luck — his respiration was so bad that he required daily nebulizing. Most times, when horses first get to SAFE, they are quite subdued. It takes some time for them to come into themselves, aided by calories and vet care and clean, stable environments. So for the first little while, Edward was to us a sweet, if not somewhat sickly, boy, who stood calmly for his medications and nickered when you approached his gate. Ventipulmin syrup, a medication administered to help with his breathing, was a particular favorite of his, and he practically couldn’t get enough of the syringe.
But as his health improved, his personality began to truly blossom. In his past life, he had been poorly halter started, and had experiences with people where he had learned that he was in control of their feet, not the other way around. So when people began working with him, he was pulling from the box of tricks that he had known his entire life — he knew nothing else. One of his trademarks was being difficult to halter. Half-way through haltering, he decided that he was actually not interested in the proceedings, and would make a quick getaway. Then it became a matter of approaching him again — easier said than done — once he chose fleeing as the move of the hour. There was a period of his life where only Terry had success catching him. Everyone else, he learned he could get away from, and would exploit that with frequency.
Reader, I have to admit, at one time, haltering Edward weighed heavily on me. My initial unsuccessful attempts to catch him had the deck stacked against me, and he absolutely had my number. I’m sure he could hear the nervous beating of my heart as I approached, and he could certainly sense the trepidation in my approach. I knew what he was capable of, and he knew that I knew. Catching horses is a funny thing — in most instances, it’s a mindless task, but in some cases, it is a challenge that overtakes your thoughts. Or, my thoughts. To get Edward more comfortable with being caught, he first had to get caught, and if the latter couldn’t happen, then the former wouldn’t.
But there are always solutions. Until he learned to be caught by others, he would have to wear a nylon halter, something that you could clip a lead onto without having to fiddle with the production of haltering from scratch. This provided a quick and easy way to catch him, and then practice with the rope halter. ‘Caught’ with the nylon halter, even if (and when) he tried to make a break for it, you could reel him back in and try again. Soon enough, he learned that his quick escape no longer worked the way it once did, and at the same time, learned with each knot tied that being caught by others was really not that big a deal. Soon enough, the nylon halter was retired, and good old Eddie was getting caught just like any other.
On occasion, with a new person, Eddie will reach back into that box of tricks and pull out one of his old moves, but the foundation we have laid for him during his months here at SAFE makes it so he comes back to his current self rather than living in the past. Each time we work with Edward, we help to empower him with a new set of tools so that he no longer has to resort back to his old box of tricks, and these days Eddie is quite a wonderful citizen.