Saturday, May. 25, 2024

Amateurs Like Us: The Woo-Woo That You Do

So I’m just going to come out and say it. I have called the animal communicator in the past, and I will do so again. I have not yet personally dialed up the communicator for Cairo, but she has nonetheless talked to them without me.

The pet psychic. You make an appointment and call her (or him, but I’ve only ever talked to women when I’ve tried it) up over the phone, and somehow the communicator dials in through the psychic network and finds your horse, dog or other pet and talks to her.

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So I’m just going to come out and say it. I have called the animal communicator in the past, and I will do so again. I have not yet personally dialed up the communicator for Cairo, but she has nonetheless talked to them without me.

The pet psychic. You make an appointment and call her (or him, but I’ve only ever talked to women when I’ve tried it) up over the phone, and somehow the communicator dials in through the psychic network and finds your horse, dog or other pet and talks to her.

These days I have trouble sometimes figuring out the line between what is woo-woo hippie stuff and what people consider mainstream. Acupuncture? Massage? If it works I don’t knock it. My horses aren’t prone to the placebo effect. As a human I might think sticking tiny needles into me is helpful, but the ponies don’t see needle sticks in quite the same way. 

At any rate, the weekend after I had my glorious dressage-gasm with Cairo where we had such an amazing canter both my dressage trainer and I were speechless, I took Little Miss Sassypants down to my friend Janine’s barn to jump. My barn has a lovely outdoor arena that screams to be jumped in, but Oregon rain has said otherwise. Janine has a great covered arena and lets me come use it.

Cairo was… a little holy terror. Normally a little twerking is to be expected. Cairo is not a mare who will ever relax into her work without a fight, and I respect her need to have an opinion. Her sass is also what makes her so brave cross-country. She is independent, and I love it. We negotiate what good behavior is.

But that weekend, it was less sass and resting mare face and more active pissyness. She executed what I call her “handstands.” Some horses buck to get rid of you. Not Cairo. She trots along then all of a sudden tosses her butt in the air and clicks her heels behind your head, then merrily canters on. She can do that three strides from a fence and then cattily canter over the fence like nothing happened.

I, on the other hand, can get a little rattled. See my distance six strides out? Sure, I’ll try it. Oh, no wait it was like four and a buck and a leap. My bad.

So I did what I always do when Cairo is naughty—assume something hurts. “Is she OK?” I asked Irina Kuzmina who has been, to my delight, using Cairo and me as photographic guinea pigs. Irina, who knows a lame horse when she sees one, watched and assured me Cairo was fine. 


The jumping part was fine. Photo by Irina Kuzmina 

Cairo was sound, even strided and jumping beautifully. But bucking. Ignore it? That didn’t work. Kick her and gallop? That didn’t work. Finally in a fit of frustration I stopped her and just yelled, “Goddammit Cairo, stop bucking!”

Because nothing says, “I’m an amateur at a complete loss,” like yelling at your horse, who is clearly laughing at you.

Cairo, realizing she had perhaps stepped on my last nerve (or more likely because she thought my frustration was funny but was worried we’d go do something stupid like dressage instead), suddenly stopped her antics and cantered over the last few fences like an angel.

I called it good and stopped for the day, and tried not to think about the fact my friend MacKenzie’s mare who is 4 had behaved far better than Cairo, who is about to turn 7 (March 24, to be exact; I’m breaking out the party hats for her).

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But when I got home I fretted because I don’t mind sass but I also do not want to ask an uncomfortable horse to work. (Or look like an idiot yelling at my mare while she smirks at me.) Maybe she was bucking because her back hurt? 

So I called my friend Dan who does therapeutic bodywork, and he came out and gave Cairo a session. Cairo is a darling on the ground and a treat-monger, but she’s not keen on strangers touching her all over. However Dan she likes. I know this because the animal communicator said so.

OK, actually I know it because I can see Cairo melting when he works on her.

Also, shortly after the bucking incident, my friend Janine called and offered to let Cairo in on her next appointment with the communicator. “Sure,” I said. 

Last time Cairo spoke to a communicator it was when the owner of the mare in the stall next to her had an appointment and, I was told, Cairo interrupted and insisted on talking about herself.

My mare is a psychic communicator monopolizer. Maybe she just needed to talk about her issues?

Janine consulted with a woman named Annette, and Annette said Cairo was sore in the lower back and needed a couple weeks off from jumping. I was not thrilled with this diagnosis only a month or two before the late March Eric Smiley clinic I had signed up for.

Janine gently responded she was just relaying what Cairo said. “Well,” I said, “when Dan worked on her last, he found she was more out in her ribs and that area, not low back.”

“Cairo wants more bodywork from Dan,” Janine said.

Fine. 

Dan came out and did another session and told me Cairo was sore in her lower back.

So a couple days off followed by dressage for a couple weeks it is, I decided. I’m sure Cairo thought it was punishment.

Three weeks after our bucking day, after some pretty darn nice dressage rides—the communicator’s advice was paying off on our flatwork—I took Cairo to the outdoor arena, planning to do a couple fences. She was crabby while I tacked her up and then when I got on she made it clear that she had made some plans for some serious bucking, not just handstands. Discretion being the better part of valor, I got off and broke out the longe line.

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Cairo took naughty to a whole new level, and after she jerked me off my feet three times, I finally had one of those “either I let go of the 1,000-pound horse or this is going to hurt” moments, and I had to let go. Cairo gleefully romped around the arena for 10 minutes at warp speed with her head neatly cocked to avoid stepping on the longe line.

Irina, who was nearby doing a photo session with my other horse, Flash, concluded, correctly, that given she had her 5-year-old daughter at her side, it wasn’t a good idea to come in the arena and help. So she took photos.


And there she goes… Photo by Irina Kuzmina 

When Cairo slowed, Irina held her hand over the gate with a sugar lump in it. Cairo, bored of running, stopped for a snack and let me walk up and catch her.

She didn’t even break a sweat. I checked her over, got on, and trotted around a little to prove she really did have to behave, and then we had a nice long walk while I recovered from watching my mare zoom around the arena with my longe line dangling.  

Because I am slightly neurotic I next hauled Cairo over to the vet for a lameness exam. She has a big scar over her right hind hock from an injury as a filly before I got her, so it never hurts to rule things out. My vet longed on hard ground and soft ground, trotted her, palpated her tendons, flexed, checked her back…and sent us home with a clean bill of health, muttering something about hoping he never has to block her out because someone’s going to get hurt, and it’s probably him. There was a lot of tail swishing.

I thought, a little jealously, that my back would check out great too if I’d had all those nice massages!

Somewhere in the midst of all this I did some internal math. Three weeks from the last very naughty session, we were very naughty again. It’s spring. There are three stallions that board at the same barn. Hmmm.

I tried the herbal route last year. Cairo thinks raspberry leaves are great snacks, but they don’t change her heats. When I got her Cairo had a marble in her. That worked for several months, but she soon began cycling, so I had it taken out after a year. 


Cairo and her marble.

Cairo, meet your new best friend, Regumate.

I love bodywork, I’ve had animal communicators tell me things about my horse that they simply could not have known, but when it comes to hormone-induced fits of ill behavior, we are going straight to better living through chemicals.

Camilla Mortensen is an amateur eventer from Eugene, Ore., who started blogging for the Chronicle when she made the trek to compete in the novice level three-day at Rebecca Farm in Montana. Camilla works as a newspaper reporter by day and fits training and competing Cairo into her days.

Read all of Camilla’s adventures with Cairo…

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