So we waited for the riders to arrive and once Rudy ate and let Vaquero have some hay, he offered to ride Cibolo and see what was up.
About Rudy and horses: At one time when he was younger, Rudy had a horse that was just plain mean. It reared, tried to run him into fences, trees, all of that. After that horse he gave up on them for years, then came back to it, taking lessons and learning all he could.
His approach has always been more firm than mine, more demanding. Not cruel, not at all, but harsher than my approach.
He tried to help me with Canyon, but Canyon didn't respond well. Harshness sent him to the moon.
But although I was concerned about his safety on my freaked out horse, Cibolo seemed calmer. So I saddled him up and during the break he rode him out. First he did some ground work, "hide your rear" kind of things to let Cibolo know who he was. Then he took him out, cantered him, used a quirt on him, and basically rode him.
"There's nothing wrong with this horse," he told me when he got back. "He's just lazy and trying to get out of work."
So I got on him and rode him up the road, even cantered. He did fine. So I decided, relunctantly to try again. I attempted to rejoin the trail ride.
We made it about half a mile before we were back in freak out land.
Then Rudy offered to switch horses. I got on his Paso, Vaquero, and he got on Cibolo.
And we rode. And Cibolo, after a very brief argument with Rudy, rode fine.
"He's just being a jerk. He's got your number," he said.
He rode him for about a mile and a half and I floated on his Paso. Then we switched back before the parade. Cibolo was unhappy about the separation and took his time loading.
I got in the truck, finally. And I was crushed.
So it's not about Cibolo, is it. It's about the rider. About me.
On the road back I was grateful for my mirrored shades.
We talked about leadership. About little things, the things Rudy noticed. The subtle ways my horse was not respecting me.
When we got back, I brought out that fierce, angry, alpha mare. I moved him around like he was livestock. If he hesitated I whacked him with the crop and he jumped away. If his attention moved to the other horses I moved his feet till he only had eyes for me. I snapped the lead rope and made him back with energy and intensity. I was angry, feeling betrayed to be terribly honest, and when I turned my back to him, the tears flowed again behind the mirrored sunglasses on my face.
Because I don't like to be like that. Which is where the soul searching comes in. But more on that in a minute.
Rudy, a real trooper, offered a ride around his ranch for us (after a break, of course) and when I rode on Cibolo he stood still as a statue for me as I saddled him, still as I mounted. No more dancing. He listened, responded flawlessly, side passed up to gates, allowing me to make minute adjustments to his body position to get the gates open and closed perfectly.
We rode around to get memory cards out of the cameras on the ranch. While we didn't see anything other than a few cows, here's what's often out there.
We came back when it was nearly dark. We cantered on the trail a few times, trotted a good bit.
And I was not particularly excited about riding. The ranch is beautiful, the company wonderful, but being on a horse was suddenly not that great. Something inside just had curled up and was either licking its wounds, or dieing.
I don't really know which. I just wanted to handle the situation. To complete my task.
Afterwards we untacked and I referred to Cibolo by his new name, which is an obscenity that doesn't bear repeating. I put him up and walked away.
The next morning we loaded up. Cibolo did not do his usual "one hoof in, then back" routine three times. I did the harsh ground work (again, not whips, but a firm whack on the butt to make him move with energy, back quickly, etc) then I brought him up to the trailer.
He immediately jumped in and waited for me to close the gate.
Which I did.
I hated the energy, the anger, the distance. But really, did I have closeness before? Was it all just an illusion, a game I played in my head?
My real job is in politics. I work with strong men and I'm no push over. I have to be firm and stand up for my view and opinions and bulldoze through things often. When I someone tries to push me around, I stand up and go right at it. I can mow down a room and very few people are willing to take me on.
That's why we call it "work." I don't consider that side of me fun. I consider it necessary at times, and generally try to avoid using it.
Maybe I'm not up to do it in my "off time." Or maybe I don't know how to walk the line between firmness and bitchy, demanding, dominatrix (minus the corset and boots). Maybe I'm an on-and-off instead of shades of grey.
Because I really thought I had been firm enough. But clearly I wasn't.
"You won't have to be like that all the time," Rudy told me. "You just have to establish it."
I don't know. It seems like this is an attitude that you have to adopt and carry around like a scepter or sword. I know the "respect" I get at work requires vigilence because in my business you have to push back or be seen as weak. It is constant. Someone is always looking for weakness. It's exhausting.
So the question is what do I have to do to have appropriate leadership of my horse - and will all the fun be gone if I have to be a jerk the entire time.
For me this is a hobby. An expensive one. We don't have a ranch, we don't compete, and no one else wants to ride but me.
And I'm not sure even I want to ride anymore.
When we got back, I had to re-establish myself with Cibolo because in the old environment he was doing those subtle things that now weren't so subtle. They screamed at me as clear signs of disrespect - dancing, not facing me properly, little bits of resistance. I snapped. I pushed him around with intensity. Made him jump when I asked. Tolerated nothing.
I rode him in the round pen two days later. Trotting, cantering, circling a mounting block in a "drive the hindquarter" exercise. Other than a moment of resistance at the canter, he responded well to everything. No more dancing, no more wandering attention.
At the end of the session he lowered his head and I rubbed his forehead for the first time in three days.
And I cried. Again.
I don't want this to be the only way to be with horses. But I can't forget the ride to Conception. I can't.
I don't know if I'm up to this. But I'm giving myself 30 days to figure it out.