It’s odd. I unloaded a whole boatload of bad memories with my post about Smoke.
I feel as if I went ten rounds with a psychotherapist. Pouring the memories onto the page opened them all up, like old wounds. I still feel the same perplexity with Smoke now as I did then, and it’s been a long time indeed since I owned him. Animals (in which I consider ourselves) with emotional issues have a way of sticking in my brain long after the pain/emotional/rationalizations etc have all been dealt with.
I also feel a little guilt. Horseman are taught from the first day that ‘it’s never the horse to blame’. But I did nothing to that horse that would explain his responses. None of us around him did. No one mistreated him, beat him, did anything that would hurt a horses’ heart or soul. Oh, hell no. June would quite happily allow her mare, Spree, to plant a giant hoof in your head, and then bitch you out for your brains spilling onto her freshly swept barn floor.
In Smoke’s case, he came to us fully demonized, with a chip on his shoulder the size of a redwood. He was smart enough to conserve his energy, meaning, in hand, he was fairly reliable. He would crowd you at the manger, if you gave him a chance, but you could pick up a hoof without complaint, groom him, etc. It wasn’t until the end that he tried to kick me, but that’s another post.
Smoke never tried to get along with us. He never was friendly, or outgoing. He was a horse’s horse.
I had never before and have never since known a horse like him. I cannot think of a good memory of him. Oh, wait, I do. He disliked dogs, and having a horse that will go for an aggressive dog is a valuable thing to have.
Somewhere deep in my mind there’s a bell, tinkling in the depths of my subconscious, telling me I know what was wrong with Smoke. But I’ll be damned if I can summon it. For the moment, as well as at the time, I can only say that Smoke was an evil horse. The ex was an evil man. Perhaps they were meant for each other, I don’t know. But, as with the ex, when Smoke left, he took his malignant, black cloud with him. I was never so glad to see a horse board a trailer in my life. And yet-he managed to pierce my heart, the one I listen to when I am with horses, one more time.
As he boarded the horse trailer, he cast his eyes back over his shoulder-and again, they sought me out. I was the one who could hear him, only me. He whinnied. It was almost a call for help. It tore through my resolve like a bullet through butter. It was as if he was saying, oh, no, not again, why are you sending me away? But this is how sociopaths work. The only emotion they possess is that of self pity. Smoke had it. The ex had it, in spades. It took me many years to get over the ex and our divorce. I suppose this is the same process.
Because what he said with that whinny was not “I’ll be good”. No. It was merely the call of a horse going into a new situation. Perhaps it was almost dismay. Now I’ll have to train an entire new set of apes.
To cut to the chase, he went to a very good home, with people who understood Appaloosas. They had several. We warned them of his problems when we realized they were serious. We told them he was NOT a beginner’s horse. The man who bought him was a tough, no-nonsense cowboy who sized Smoke up with a practised eye. They kept him for a week before they told us they were keeping him, go ahead and cash the check. And six months later, they sent us a letter, saying how happy they were with him, how well he fitted in, and he was ‘everything you said he was.” The pictures they sent of him showed a horse grazing in a pasture with other Appaloosas. He looked content.
So I have no reasons for guilt. We couldn’t handle him. They could.
In cases like this, when I know someone has a bad horse, or just can’t get along with the one they have, or their horse has “issues’, I say:
The world is full of good horses. Don’t waste your time on a bad one.