I’ve been meaning to pay tribute to Phylliss for some time. Phyllis is the first horse I rode when I began taking lessons two years ago. She was in her 20s, didn’t like anyone, threatened to kick and bite all the time, and was generally a pain. For my first lesson, I was so keyed up and so nervous that I noticed none of these things. I got her haltered, groomed, saddled, out into the ring and then mounted without a mounting block! Now that I’m more relaxed, I can’t do that anymore but at the time, up I went.
We went around in the ring, we adult learners, 7 brave women clinging to saddles and life and Phylliss was just fine. So I wasn’t a bit worried at the second lesson. I was calm and happy approaching her in the stall — which she understood right away as weakness and so began a series of anti-social behaviors. Ears back, kicking with back legs while being saddled, head tossing and tossing and tossing while I tried to get the danged halter on her to groom her, let alone get the halter back off and the bridle on. I thought for sure she’d try to smish me against the stall wall but that’s OK because I had a plan: Yell my fool head off and then switch to screaming if no one came to help.
I had several more lessons with Phylliss. When my husband came out to watch me ride, I also had Phylliss, so he had had the pleasure of watching me try to deal with a large animal who narrowed her eyes, showed her teeth, put her ears back, kicked at her girth, etc. It was not the most relaxing moment in our marriage (Honey, it’s better now. Really) and as Jack observed, “Phylliss is a pain.”
Another night, I was in despair. I couldn’t do a danged thing. I was tired, scared, frustrated. One of the young students, a teenage girl, asked me if I wanted help. “Sure,” I said, having already observed how much more than I the kids knew. The girl got in the stall with Phylliss and her bridle — and proceeded to turn the air blue with cuss words while she fought with the horse. I couldn’t believe it. I mean, I know how to swear and have sworn on many, many occaisionas, but it’s different when it’s coming from someone young enough to be your daughter. Such language!
After I started riding other horses, I never wanted to go back to Phylliss, but that wasn’t always the case. So on days when I didn’t ride her, I brought her a treat. I even went in her stall to feed her., hoping that since no riding was in store, she’d pick up on my relaxed attitude and stay calm. By this method, I hoped to teach myself how to act. Training wiley Phylliss was out of the question.
I never rode Phylliss again after I put the new plan in place, so I don’t if this self-ruse would have worked.