The Horseman’s word

Every craft has its secrets, the tips it passes down through the generations. Now I’m the generation that never had to work horses, but my father had over twenty years of working them.
Back then the big work horses were pretty well trained and as they were worked most days they tended to be used to being handled and they were used to being driven and to following instruction.
Now, an awful lot of the horses you see about now are rarely handled. Yes someone will come in every day and feed them, check their water, and perhaps even groom them. But whereas the old work horse would be harnessed and worked six days a week, a lot of riding horses now might not be ridden every weekend. So frankly a lot of horses now are pretty idle and poorly behaved.
What brought this to mind was remembering a conversation I had with a chap perhaps ten or fifteen years older than me, one lunch time in Ulverston Auction Mart. He’d been working with an old chap who had been a horseman back in the days before tractors. They’d driven up the lane to get to a field to fix a gap, and they’d passed this lady struggling to get her pony into her horse box. Half an hour later, the gap fixed, they drove back and she was still struggling to lead it into the horse box.
The old lad stopped the tractor and said to my informant, “Let’s get her loaded.”
The pony would walk up to the foot of the trailer ramp, put its front hooves on the bottom of the ramp and then refuse point blank to go any further. A not very large lady struggles to physically manhandle a fat pony up a ramp.
So the old horseman took over. He had my informant stand on one side of the pony’s head, the lady on the other, told them to speak nicely to it whilst he pushed gently.
My informant held the lead rope, but had his hand on the halter by the pony’s cheek and was trying to get it to budge by speaking nicely to it. To be fair, the pony seemed to appreciate this but was still not moving. The lady owner was listening carefully to everything he was saying, just in case she learned anything. Then suddenly the pony shot forward, straight up the ramp and into the trailer. They hastily shut the gates and got the ramp up before it changed its mind. The lady, genuinely grateful, thanked them and drove off. My informant turned to the old horseman and asked, “So what did you do.”
“Well lad, when you get an ‘orse like that as won’t move, grab a handful of nettles in your cap and lift its tail with your other hand. Then slap its arse with the nettles.”
There are some things they don’t teach you in college.


One thought on “The Horseman’s word

  1. M T McGuire July 4, 2013 at 9:36 pm Reply

    Total and utter class. Mwahahahahaaargh.

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