WiseAssWallace is a beloved guest columnist for Cayuse Communications. From his pasture in southwestern Colorado, he’s on a quest to improve horse-human connections and make lives better for his fellow equines. In this installment, WiseAssWallace discusses helmet ideology and practice.
Dearest Humans, if there is one thing I envy of you, it’s words. All day long, I talk with tail swishes, glances, feet placement, and ear position. Just once would I love to verbalize and share my inimitable wisdom.
I was contemplating your wondrous mode of communication while letting the splendid words, panacea and panache flow through my mind. Why were panacea and panache flowing through my mind?
Let me tell you:
I watched this week as two riders took my pasture mates out of the paddock and proceeded to saddle up and ride. Or, shall I say, attempt to ride?
In the first scenario, the human seemed agitated. I say this because it took her a few minutes to get a halter on my gelding friend, who is usually quite amicable. She then struggled with the saddle as well as the bridle. It seemed like she was rushing, though I didn’t sense a storm or a predator in the area, so I’m not sure why she was agitated.
My friend thought there must be a storm or a predator nearby, too, because of how this human was behaving. He started shifting around and getting worried.
I watched as they started riding. She reached for the gate, nearly lost her balance, and then accidentally spurred him. The weight shift and the dig to his flanks further worried my friend and he scooted forward, trying to make sense of it all and trying to get away from whatever the problem might be.
To his great relief, she came off.
Other humans came running and there was a big commotion. I thought maybe there was mountain lion in the barn or something. They gathered around the human and I heard one say, “Thank goodness you were wearing a helmet!”
I learned what a helmet was by seeing them point to it. The rider even took it off and kissed it. It seemed that this plastic cap-with-strap was a veritable panacea for the humans. While we equines thought the whole incident was pretty messed up and scary, the humans seemed pleased at the outcome, thanks to this almighty cap-with-strap.
The second scenario was just as quizzical to me and my buddies:
This cowboy, all dressed up with chaps, buckaroo boots, wild rag, and cowboy hat, came into the paddock to halter my equine associate.
I watched as he proceeded to saddle her. There was something not quite right. Maybe he smelled fresh grass or was flustered by flies. I watched as he glanced in a window’s reflection to check his outfit, and then walked past some girls playing with their ponies.
What he didn’t notice was the balloons they were inflating. Nor did he notice the increasing irritability of my friend, his equine partner, as she heard these weird blowing sounds from the girls. I think she was fretful about leaving us, too, because she was tossing her head and winnying in our general direction.
The guy, full of panache and proud as a peacock, still didn’t notice her anxiety and I’m thinking, ‘oh, Lordy, here we go again.’
He mounted up just as the girls let go of their fully-inflated balloons. The ponies took off in all directions. The mare jumped sideways and spun, trying to get away from the commotion. The dude found himself in the dirt, watching from ground level as the girls giggled and ran after their ponies.
He rubbed his head and wobbled as he collected himself and his hat. The fashionable cowboy looked better on the horse, but he just walked with her, and not in a straight line either. When he passed the reflection, he didn’t look.
In closing, if I could speak to you, dearest humans, I would tell you that us equines don’t know if you are wearing a helmet or not. We don’t care if you are wearing a helmet or not.
We do care if you are unbalanced, nervous, out of shape, and/or slow to react. We do care if you are distracted, preoccupied, or otherwise not aware of what’s going on with us and with the moment.
These are some elements of riding and partnership that we think you should be focused on. Check yourself. Or, as one of my favorites, Will Shakespeare would say, “The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.”