While I’m training a horse I spend a lot of time pondering the horse’s personality, motivations, intelligence and trainability. I like to think that all good trainers do that. I don’t know for sure, but I like to think it all the same. Eventually, I end up with a pithy description of the horse and its traits, and quite often a running dialog of events during any given training session. I’m pretty sure good trainers don’t do that. Whatever.

Xena Warrior Cheerleader

So when I dubbed the large bit of four-legged loveliness, pictured to the left, Xena Warrior Cheerleader, the name was quite appropriate. She’s pretty; she’s peppy; she’s got all the high-kickin’, fancy-steppin’, killer moves; and she really is the fluffiest pompom on the cheer squad.

After selling my broke horse Jilly this spring and finding myself with pretty much a whole new set of horses, I’ve been contemplating intelligence and trainability a lot. (Jilly was both remarkably intelligent and disturbingly training resistant, so it’s probably a knee-jerk reaction — or trepidation.) While riding Xena the other day I decided that the best way to describe her is that she is a little more intelligent than she comes off — not a whole lot, but some — and she’s definitely more trainable than she sometimes seems, too.

The problem with her trainability is that her pretty little brain quite often runs like it’s on a Starbuck’s high; as if she’s too busy checking her pedicure and talking on her cellphone with her BFF arranging a party for spring break while negotiating traffic in her custom convertible Hummer to recognize a learning situation when she’s asked to figure one out. If she were that stereotypical teen-aged girl, she would be talking, preening, flirting and texting almost constantly while going about the business of her day

She’s definitely the most expressive of my three current horses (that includes Charlie and Tazz), and I can hear her running dialog emanating from her brain.

Yesterday, I was supposed to meet a couple friends for an early morning trail ride, and since Xena hadn’t been hauled anywhere since last fall, I decided to start early with the loading. It took only 10-15 minutes to get her in the trailer, so I figured, hey, I have time to make this a training session and unload/reload her a few more times to get her loading more automatically.

This decision was like an engraved invitation to a hissy fit. That lasted 45 more minutes. The pinnacle of her performance was to fling herself about like a 1,300-pound spoiled brat.

All I can say is: In lieu of patience, use stubbornness. And she who is the most stubborn SOB gets her way — so we made it to the trail ride. Eventually.

And what did Xena think of all this?

“Oh, hey, Pam. Whassup, chicky-dude? Wow, we’re going somewhere? I certainly hope not in that trailer. Say, thanks for putting my pretty blue halter and new lead rope on me, but I don’t think I want to get into that trailer. Nope. I’m clauster-whatever-ic. Hey, Charlie, what’s that word. Y’know, th— wuh? Hey, human, you don’t have to be so rude. How would you feel if I interrupted your conversa—No, I’m not going to get in there. You can make me lunge over here all you want, but I’m not getting in. No. It’s icky. It still has a few crumbs of Tazz’s poop. Hey, Tazz your poo—Wuh? Oh, you got the whip out? Stop goosing my butt with that thing, human. There, I’m in. You could’ve just told me you were serious about this loading business instead of all that stupid work and clucking at me and tapping me on the butt with your hand. BTW, before you close that door all the way, you should know that I had to overcome a lot of those phobia-things to get in he—Oh, you’re letting me out? Cool.

“Well, I guess we’re done for the day. Tough one that, how ’bout some oats. I—what? You want me to get back in there? No. I’m not touching it. Not touching it. Not touching it!

“Fine, if you’re going to make me work that much, then I’ll get halfway in. No. No further. No way. I think this is against Geneva convention laws. No further. I read in Horse Vogue that 99 out of 100 horses lose training when they are ridden away from home. No. You can’t make me. No, no, no! There, I’m in. Happy? Now I’m outta here and you pushing your puny human weight against that door can’t hold me. See! I really am Xena Warrior Princess, the mighty figh—No! I’m not walking forward again! I hate you! I’m gonna back up forever, and I’m doing this because I want to—not because you’re making me! Fine, fine, I’ll keep backing up. This means nothing to me. So now I’m quitting. OK, if you’re going to be that way about it, I’ll keep going. I can be good at this. Uh, thanks for stopping. Fine, I’ll walk up there and put my two front feet in, but that’s it. Now, I’m backing outta here. Cripes, you’re huffy! Fine! I’m backing backing backing backing. [Gasp!] I’m breaking a sweat. Ohmigawd! There’s so much sweat it’s, like, trickling. down. my. leg. I won’t tolerate this—OK, yes, backing. Straight line. No problem. Check out my rhythm. I’m good. Yes, now, I’m going forward, still sweating, but I think I can take a break here with my front feet in the trailer.

Whew, caught my breath, now I’m backing outtaaaaa…my old position on this trailer loading issue. Not backing out. Don’t be ridiculous, I’m right here. Thanks for the goose in the rear to remind to step forward one more time. But that’s as far as I’m going. Can Tazz come with? Hey, Ta—wuh?! I was paying attention. See here’s another step. Um, Pam, my butt muscles are sore from standing half in this trailer. Here’s another step. I mean, those glutes are screaming tired, man. How ’bout another step, just to relieve that cramp. Y’know what? This is a stupid idea of yours to load one stupid step at a time. Geez, I’m gonna hop in here and stand at the front of this lovely flat compartment. You just close that door there behind me. Any time there, slow poke. I’m ready to rock and roll. Tallyho, babe.”


We got there. We rode. We conquered the day. Everybody lived. No one even got hurt. I had fun. She loaded fine. We came home. The End.

A successful day is one completed without total mayhem at pam[at]viewfromthenorth40.com