i do not believe

An animal communicator came to my barn this week, and while they were setting up appointments (well in advance) trainer told me that several people were willing to pitch in to hear my horse’s feels, needs, and communications if I’d be willing to cover the rest of the appointment cost.  I somewhat reluctantly acquiesced — who I am I to keep the people from what they want?  The experience was interesting.  I’ll split it up into a few major sections: the set up, the mildly interesting, the hokum, and the inconsistencies.

Let me preface this by telling you that I’m not religious, or even really spiritual.  I don’t rule out that there is life on other plants, but I certainly don’t buy any cryptozoology here on earth (no Nessie, yeti, etc.).  “Spooky” occurrences never strike me as anything more than the least interesting of coincidences, I understand well-explained engineering explanations for the pyramids and Easter Island Moai, and I don’t believe that people can read minds — animal or human.  Certainly some humans are better at understanding human body language, intonation, verbal language, psychology, and micro-cues better than others that might lead them to a greater insight about that person.  These are all well-described aspects of how psychics “work”.  And I don’t doubt at all that some humans are better at doing that with some animals than others.  But for not one second have I ever believed that a person can read an animal’s mind (in the classic sense that we think of it).

Now? I still do not believe.

Aimee understands me

(Oh, and there’s no media associated with this experience because pictures of my horse standing around tied to a post while someone talks at me are simply not good media.)

The Set Up

I learned very early on in the appointment-making process that people wanted Murray read.  So he was on the list pretty early.  But at Camelot a few weekends ago, some teenagers (and even a few adults) who had recently had their horses “read” by this particular communicator were singing her praises.  The word of mouth from the teenagers was nigh unbelievable.  And, quite frankly, coming from teenagers, it was sure to be unreliable.  If you’re a teenager reading this, please know that I mean you no personal offense.  It’s not your fault, it’s just biology: your forebrain is literally not developed yet.  In fact, it won’t be until you’re around 26.  Teenagers are all, categorically, missing an important part of their brain.  Don’t worry — you’ll grow out of it.

he grew out of it!

I was told that this communicator knew and said things — without prompting — that no living human except the owner could know.  For example, communicator told an owner that her new horse loved his new, monogrammed clothes that she had gotten him — and that girl had literally just received a monogrammed cooler the day before and immediately put them in her tack locker without showing any other humans, but she did stop off at her stall and show her horse his new cooler.  She told another girl that her horse didn’t like his neighbor, and if the neighbor didn’t start behaving soon, he would kick that neighbor in the head to teach him a lesson — just as he had been kicked in the head when he was an annoying youngster.  One horse told his owner that she’d better make sure his insurance was current, as he was feeling a little colicky.  He needed colic surgery two weeks later.

The adults were more circumspect.  One trainer just told me “I’m pretty sure she reads humans, and projects that on to the horse. Because she told me my own goals as if my horse were telling me she wanted to do those things — but I don’t talk to the mare about my goals.”

It’s easy for stories like this to get amplified and exaggerated.  Communicator guesses that a new horse might get a little colicky on new feed and new schedule, horse colics within some “reasonable” time frame, and boom — communicator was right.  Let’s ignore the fact that probably a third of all horses colic to some degree or another every year.  All it takes is one person putting their own experience and knowledge on top of what the communicator says for a) the communicator to take that info and run with it, and b) the stories people tell one another to become full on lies about what did and didn’t happen.

Skepticorn wasn’t buying it.

The Mildly Interesting

I was slightly anxious on my way to the barn for my appointment.  I didn’t know why.  I think it was because I was about to confront someone in a position of “authority”, and that always makes me a little gkrhfk.  Yeah, that’s a feeling.  I resolved not to tell any lies, but not to offer up any more information than I was directly asked for.  I was obviously going to be polite — just because I don’t believe in something doesn’t mean I have the right to be rude — but I didn’t know what kind of ridiculousness I might be up against.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see any other appointments, as I had to work (and the part of one I did see was incredible uninteresting), so I didn’t know what I was in for.

The communicator walked up to Murray, introduced herself to him, let him sniff a few essential oils she offered him, then mumbled to him and made signs with her hands over his body.  She started talking standing next to him, but he wasn’t the hugest fan of her casual touching, so she moved a safe distance away and sat down.

she said his lower back/lumbar was hurting and he wants rads
it’s not exactly a hard thing to “read” — murray has a not-insignificant lump/roach in his lower back that is very obvious right now

The first interesting thing she said was that Murray has a lot of opinions and likes to complain.  That elicited a laugh from me and the eight (yes, eight) spectators watching.  Later she said he had a really big ego (then complimented me for managing it).  I mean, eight people were watching his appointment, sooo….

The second interesting thing was that Murray stood really, really quietly during the appointment.  Like, his head was down, he was halfway napping, and he even gently rested his face on me a few times.  The communicator said he was trying to hide from her, he didn’t want to talk to her, and he felt like he was being “busted”, because he kept putting his head behind the post he was tied at, and positioning himself away from her.  I think that was just closer to where I and barn manager were standing.  I don’t really ever hang out with him tied without fussing over him to some degree or another, and I was very clearly not in riding clothes (another context in which I don’t normally just “hang out” at the barn with Murray), so perhaps that contributed. I’ll do an experiment to that end soon.

The Hokum

I’m not going to be able to list all of Murray’s complaints and comments, since I don’t remember them all, but there were some notable ones.  There were also plenty of moments where the psychic-playing-off-human-reactions stuff was incredibly evident.

For one, Murray reported that his GI tract was feeling great (stomach, lower intestine, upper intestine, and cecum all good!) and his lungs (left and right) are solid.  Um, great.  But his bladder is apparently bothering him.  When discussing his behavior a bit later in the appointment, she asked if he bucked or played under saddle (or something to that effect).  I responded that yes, he can buck under saddle, and we had a brief discussion about when the last time that was.  Communicator came back to the bladder, saying that she had a horse who was a big bucker who stopped immediately after his bladder health was addressed.  I was also assured that Murray is pretty sure the hind end pain isn’t in his hocks (ok thx dude, still going to get them checked out).  She circled back to the bucking later too, and told me that he doesn’t want to be bad, he’s not trying to be malicious (incredibly obvious if you’ve ever seen him going, but will admit that she hasn’t), he sometimes just can’t help himself.

She kept coming back to his mouth as a source of some concern, but couldn’t seem to get any more details about it.  She asked me what my bit is (loose ring French link) and said that was a fine baby bit.  I didn’t tell her that Murray sometimes gets foxtails under his lips in the Spring and I’ve had to pull them out (I’ve checked a few times this year and no problems).  She did wonder if he gets food under his tongue while the bit is in, and I do give him treats while we’re working under saddle sometimes, so that I guess could go in the “mildly interesting” category.

The communicator also asked me if Murray had ever disappointed me.  “Of course he has!” I responded.  I included that I haven’t really been disappointed in him for two years or so, and that a lot of my disappointment was unrealistic expectations.  She said that he felt bad for breaking my heart, and disappointing me “often”.  Often was his word.  Can you say generic?  What horse and rider haven’t been disappointed by one another and lived to regret it at some point in a multi-year career?  Only robots, that’s who.

Murray also wanted me to know that he likes me.  He was worried that I thought he didn’t like me.  I was like “okay”.  I did not tell her that, while I do sometimes wish my horse were cuddlier by nature, I do not give any shits that he may or may not “like me”.  I’m not here to make friends, dude.

Communicator also asked if we show, at what level, and how often.  I said we would be moving up to Novice in August.  She was like “great, he thinks you’ve been at the lower level long enough!”  She got a fair bit of detail from me about it, and we discussed his showing “anxiety” and how Murray thinks he will soon — by the end of the year — be able to meet my expectations and “mental image” of him.

Lest you think these are all the trappings of a “bad” communicator, let me assure you that some people at my barn (and the aforementioned teenagers) think that this woman is very, very, very good.  I’m just explaining in an absurd amount of detail the way that any psychic or communicator works to draw the information out of you.  I felt so comfortable with this woman, and it would be really easy to tell her anything and everything.  And if she’s good at reading people and horses, I’m sure she could, and did, take absolutely every cue that I was offering her — whether it was my crossed arms, or “secret” eye rolls, or the eagerness in my voice when I asked if Murray liked to jump (see below for more detail) — and run with it to get me more info.

Also, he doesn’t like his show name.  Uncertainty Principle, even though he’s earned it, is too much like a black mark — a little too honest, eh kiddo?  Suck it the fuck up, it’s staying.  Murray wouldn’t tell the communicator his true name though.  To which I say, good fucking call dude.  Telling someone your real name isn’t safe.

about as tight as that front end ever gets

The Inconsistencies

There were several things that came up during the appointment that were downright false, or changed through our discussion.

She said his saddle fit is great.  That can’t be true.  I have two wildly differently fitting saddles — they can’t both fit him great.  And she didn’t mention a single thing about tacking up as a problem or complaint.  I’ve only been trying to teach this horse that tacking up isn’t the equivalent of being skinned alive for four years, and he doesn’t have any complaints or suggestions?  Yeah. Fucking. Right.  (She did say he was thin skinned but fucking DUH, thoroughbred.)

I asked her if Murray likes jumping.  Her immediate response was “Not as much as you do.”  I was pretty eager when I asked this question, trying not to be too ridiculous, so it was easy to tell that I like jumping.  It wasn’t like I gloomily asked “does he like to jump” and hoped she would say no.  As we discussed, the communicator said “he feels like he looks really pretty when he jumps, his front end is like this (indicated tight front end with her hands) but his hind end doesn’t follow yet”.  Well that’s not true.  If you’ve seen my horse jump, you’ll know he’s the king of the loose front end but can have a pretty snappy hind end.

She also suggested that one lead change was harder than the other for him.  Congratulations, you’ve just told me something that is true for 100% of the horses on planet Earth.  She said “the left lead, right to left is harder?” and I responded “no, that’s his better change, he struggles left to right”.  “Oh right,” she responded, “he must mean from the left lead.”  Sure, that’s cool, go right ahead and change your answer.

she did say he feels like he can look really pretty and put his ears forward over fences, so that’s something i guess

As we chatted through the jumping thing, Murray’s opinion of jumping slowly morphed from “I don’t love it as much as Nicole does” to “I think we’ll be doing so great at jumping by the end of the year!!”  The communicator didn’t make a big deal about it, and she worked through it fairly seamlessly.  This was the only corner I really saw her get herself in to, and it wasn’t even that hard really — to say that Murray doesn’t like something as much as I do leaves plenty of room for interpretation.

In the end, the communicator apologized to me for having such an awful reading.  Murray was, apparently, very quiet and not giving her much (despite being the type that could complain all day?), so she was really grasping at straws and struggling to hear him.  I get it.  I was skeptical, and wasn’t giving her much to go on, so she could hardly tell me everything my horse was “saying”.

All in all, it probably wasn’t worth the money spent on it, but was an interesting thing to witness once.  And at least it will keep me in good spirits making fun of all the teenagers at my barn who are eating all this shit up.

GoT Bloghop: Murray is Craig Middlebrooks

Over a year ago, Austen started this clever little blog hop talking about our horses as characters from movies (or TV).  And at the time I was like “I don’t know what character my horse is! He’s just Murray! All the good characters are taken! I HATE THIS BLOG HOP!!!”

Never let it be said that we are not well matched in melodrama.

But I finally figured it out!  I now know who Murray’s television personality is.

Murray is Craig Middlebrooks from Parks and Rec.

We all know that Murray just feels way too many feels.  He, quite literally, cannot keep the feels inside his body.

And he is always happy to tell you about them.

Murray freaks out easily.

 

And when that happens, he very desperately needs your help.

His responses to normal stimuli generally fall somewhere between “wildly inappropriate” and “way over the top”.

Especially when he doesn’t want you to know that he likes something.

Lying down is his happy place.

Despite the fact that he just can’t control himself, we love Murray anyway.  He’s just so cute when he’s upset!

alternative pony facts

It’s time, friends. I’m going there.

Alternative pony facts.

Perhaps we should blog hop this?

murrayisadork1

Fact: Murray is jumping like a deranged moose.

Alternative fact: This horse has incredible jumping form. It’s just the best.  It’s the best jumping form I’ve ever seen. The best jumping form in the world. Nobody has jumping form better than Murray.

17077800_10105304791916303_40644998_n

Fact: Spot might kill you for a chicken nugget.

Alternative fact: Spot hates alfalfa and treats. In fact she’s the least food motivated horse ever. Nobody hates treats more than Spot.

hawley05

Fact: Murray is going to bumblingly his way over an 18″ pole.

Alternative fact: This horse is so good.  Look at him leaping over that pole!  He doesn’t want it to touch his feet. He would never touch a pole with his feet.  That pole is probably three feet, no, four feet in the air!  Nobody is more careful than this horse.

nap-02nap 01

Fact: Murray is one lazy sucker.

Alternative fact: Murray is the most active horse with the best work ethic ever! This horse never sleeps! He’s always up and about, doing things, always working, always trying, always thinking.  Nobody sleeps less than Murray.

tiny horse

Fact: Horses are money pits that make their owners crazy in many ways

Alternative fact: Horse are a reasonable and budget-friendly hobby.  Everyone can afford horses!  And everyone who rides horses is totally reasonable and sane.  They would never do anything crazy for their giant pets. Nobody is more reasonable than people who ride horses.

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Fact: … and they are constantly trying to kill themselves, requiring alarmingly specialized care for a giant pet

Alternative fact: Horses are so easy to keep, never do anything strange, and can be left unattended for long periods of time.  An idiot could keep one!  Nothing is easier to keep than a horse!

sunday funday

Murray got some much-needed turnout this week, after a week of being locked in because our pastures were partially flooded from the rain a few weeks ago.  Murray took full advantage by rolling seven times, high fiving himself and the air repeatedly, and then galloping around at full speed with his friends.

wallOh and also licking the wall for like ten minutes.  Not sure what that was about. (Murray ignored his himalayan salt lick for the last six months and literally just started on it yesterday. After two other horses who borrowed his stall briefly had taste tested.)

play01Such a graceful and athletic beast

play07
His butt looks HYUUUUGE compared to his little pin head!

play06run free!

Synchronized rolling with his bestie Cormac…

play02And later, synchronized bucking!

play05Also, some light/casual levitation

play04After indoor playtime Murray got to go out in the big grass pasture with his friends for half an hour or so. This promptly turned into “a few hours” because somebody wouldn’t let his pasture mate’s owner catch him.  Our barn manager had to go stand at the gate for him to acquiesce to coming in for his dinner.

play08

Murray, I love you.

 

nobody falls off the back of a horse

Picture, if you will, Nicole and Murray cruising around a 4 acre pasture after their ride.  It has rained recently, but not in the last day or so.  The grass is green and growing, the ground is soft, and the world smells fresh and clean.

There is an American kestrel sitting on the fenceline, staring intently into a small willow bush.  This fascinates Nicole, our avid young naturalist.  She steers Murray toward the hawk with her knees — riders in fantasy stories always steer their horses with their knees.  Also, she steers with her knees because she is holding her phone in one hand.  Inside the willow bush, starlings are chirping noisily.  The Cooper’s hawk is absorbed in the commotion.

Murray is not interested in the kestrel. He is thinking about grass. Or perhaps water.  Maybe his friend Logan. But definitely not birds.

The pair turn away from the kestrel before getting too close.  They do not want to disturb it.  The kestrel chooses this moment to jump into the willow bush, pouncing upon its prey.  The bush shakes as the birds scuffle within it.

Murray hears the shaking bush – rather, he hears a nineteen foot tall monster shaking ten foot willow trees at him in hot pursuit.  The monster is right behind him.  He does the only thing a sensible creature would do in such a situation.  He runs.  Murray feels that he runs with the speed of the wind.  He runs with the force of a thousand hurricanes. In reality, Murray runs like a small, not-terribly-fast ex racehorse who is a little chubby and not really in shape right now.

Nicole is surprised by the sudden acceleration.  Surprised enough that she loses her seat and is laid out flat behind her saddle for a moment.  She still has a hold of the reins, but has lost both of her stirrups and all semblance of control.  She slides off Murray’s right haunch, holding on to the reins longer than she probably should in a desperate hope to stop the bolt.  She lands on the soft earth and skids through the wet grass, glad she put on her windproof breeches.

Murray reaches the end of the pasture and stops. Nicole is not with him. He turns. Nicole is on the ground. And behind Nicole… there is no monster. There is just a small, insignificant willow bush that isn’t even moving.

He walks back to Nicole. He does not step through his reins. He does not stop to eat grass. He is a good boy.

Nicole makes Murray an extra big bucket.

The American kestrel smiles over its breakfast of starling.

kestrel

dreamscapes

Weird dreams are my wheelhouse.  I’ve had incredibly vivid, often recurring, and (fortunately) lucid dreams for my entire life.

For example, one particularly common one from my younger years involved me running away from a T-rex through a specific part of the private school I attended in Australia.  I was running and running and running, but of course, nothing could get me further from my impending doom.  So I would wake myself up because frankly, it’s not worth it to be scared in your sleep.

Image result for t rex jurassic parkNo, I definitely did not watch too much of this movie as a child (or an adult).

I’ve also had lots of strange, strange dreams about horse things.

When I was younger and didn’t ride, I would dream about everything that led up to riding.  I’d carefully groom and tack up a horse to go on a trail ride, but right as we were about to get on I would be woken up to go to school, or snap out of the dream.  EPIC disappointment.  Sometimes I’d go back to sleep and try to replay the dream from the beginning just to get to the riding bit, but of course I’d never get there.  My brain simply didn’t have the data to fabricate a dream about riding, so it wouldn’t.

IMG_3149Because what brain could really fabricate the shit that ACTUALLY happens to me?!

These days my riding dreams involve a fair bit of actual riding, some general interactions with horses, but mostly an absolute ton of weird shit that just would never happen.

Fairly frequently, especially since I competed my first event, I dream that I’m about to go out on cross country but my horse isn’t with me.  Instead, I run the course on foot and jump all the fences on all-fours.  Shockingly there was never a question of whether or not I made time.

 

I also dream a lot about being late for my dressage tests.  I don’t know why this is so much more important for dressage than other phases, but it is.  Usually it’s just your standard running-late ridiculousness — I’m not tacked up, Murray isn’t groomed, I’m still getting dressed etc. during my ride time — but sometimes there are extra weird things.  Murray will disappear out from under me right as I’m supposed to go into the ring.  I’m lost at a show grounds and can’t figure out where to go.  The funniest one involved me shopping at a really oddly laid out Jo Ann’s fabric for stock tie material, from which I had to then make my stock tie, no more than 45 minutes prior to my ride time.

Even in these dreams I’m like “this is ridiculous!  This is completely ridiculous! I  would never do that!”  Sometimes I don’t wake myself up*, just to see what my idiotic dream self is going to do with the situation.

Most recently I dreamed that I was XC schooling with friends (a very particular group and I knew all the friends and horses, and that part alone was fascinating!).  We were having a lovely time schooling until we got to a funny table that is present on the Camelot XC course (though we weren’t schooling at Camelot at the time; not sure where we were).

IMG_3806This table, to be exact. And it’s bigger than it looks, seriously.

The table was placed on a funny downhill-ish approach, and all of our horses were having trouble with it — everyone had stops.  So we went back up the hill a bit to re-approach.  First, my RBF went to it, and instead of jumping it she somehow ended up laying face down on the jump, planking it (like the fad, not the exercise).  She wasn’t hurt, though her horse was nowhere to be seen.  We walked up to her and asked what had happened, and she said “Oh, I thought I’d try something new as we came up to the fence.”

I personally will not be trying that particular new thing any time soon!

If you have weird horse dreams, I wanna hear them!

* Throughout this post I’ve mentioned waking myself up from dreams, which is something I’ve always been able to do, and until my late teens didn’t realise not everybody could do.  It’s as awesome as it seems, but as far as superpowers go, it’s pretty weak overall.

pop songs that are secretly about horses

(Prescript: I had actually intended to add a bunch more songs to this post, but I fell asleep instead. I’ll just have to finish it another time!)

I don’t really know what pop stars are thinking when they write their songs, not being a pop star myself.  Though there are, of course, some obvious ones.  But, unbeknownst to many pop stars, they are actually writing songs about horses and riding.

Yes, it’s true.  And here is the evidence.

Case the first: George Harrison, Got My Mind Set on You.

The lyrics include (and may be limited to):
I’ve got my mind set on you x 1000
It’s going to take money. A whole lot of spending money. It’s going take a whole lotta money, to do it right now [child].
It’s going to take time. A whole lot of precious time. It’s going to take patience and time, to do it (do it x 6) right now.

What else takes a firm mindset, money, patience, and time?!

IMG_20150124_130840It’s gonna take a whole lot of money…

John Legend, All of Me

The lyrics include:
I’m on your magical mystery ride, kicking [me] out, what’s going on in that beautiful mind
Love your curves and all your edges, All your perfect imperfections
Give your all to me, I’ll give my all to you
You’re my end and my beginning, Even when I lose I’m winning
‘Cause I give you all of me, And you give me all of you

When we were at a wedding I actually told my boyfriend that this song was about me and Murray.  He was like “What songs are about us?” and I was like “ummm… the one before was about me and Ellie?”

But for real, as many equestrians have already noticed, this song is about a pretty badass partnership, that has both unconditional love and great cooperation.  If that doesn’t describe the best parts of an equine partner, I don’t know what does.

One Republic, Counting Stars

For the eventers out there, the lyrics include:
I’ve been loving losing sleep thinking about the things that we could be,
I’ll be counting stars (like CCI 1*, 2*, 3*, etc.)
I feel something so right, doing the wrong thing,
I feel something so wrong, doing the right thing, (making new habits is hard)
Everything that drowns me makes me want to fly (ok, maybe this is not super relevant)

Who doesn’t spend their nights thinking about the big jumps they might get to jump?  I MEAN REALLY.