We had the vet come out a few days ago, he reminds me of my Uncle James and I think that’s why I like him so much. There are lots of different kinds of vets, of course. And there are lots of different kinds of horse people. James was the kind with a calm voice and quiet hands – he had a steadiness about him that put jumpy or nervous horses at ease.
James was always more comfortable in an old barn than anywhere else. He was the kind of cowboy that knew it didn’t matter what kind of saddle you had, or how old your boots and spurs might be. Good horsemanship comes with experience, with worn leather and faded jeans. He would rather have a familiar horse and dog for company out on the trail, honest and reliable, than a high dollar show pony.
The vet, John, knew James fairly well. He has made several farm calls for us since I moved here. He came out in the spring to float a few teeth and castrate our 2-year old colt. John is also the one who made an emergency call for a mare we used to own, Miss Smokin’ Kaylee, who decided to spoil a nice, quiet Sunday morning by running through a fence. He and his wife left church early that Sunday to help, and I’m not sure what we would have done without them. After just a few minutes with her, I could tell he had been around horses for years. He was calm, gentle, spoke in a low voice and ran his hand down her neck in long, smooth strokes. Not only did it calm her down, but it helped me calm down too.
Some horse people like to be the boss. They have heavy hands and jerk with their legs and arms, demanding instead of asking. This makes for a jumpy and a flighty horse. Other people, usually on the more green side, are scared something bad might happen, and remain tense the entire ride. Getting hurt is a bit of a given. You can be kicked, bitten, thrown, run over or run under trees, just to name a few. Horses are herd animals – everything they do is to ensure their survival. And you just have to know how to read those signs and communicate in a way they understand.
The thing I appreciate the most about John is he talks through everything with you. He doesn’t talk at you, or to you, but with you. When he came out to castrate the colt in the Spring, he explained the reason for the dosage to put him under. He showed me how he rubbed the vein with his thumb to desensitize it, before smoothly putting the needle in to inject the anesthetic. About 45 seconds later, the colt’s eyes glazed over. He widened his stance, trying to brace himself, and his head lowered until his nose almost touched the ground.
John eased him over, and the colt laid down with a sigh. He then looped the lead-rope around his back leg and tied it around his chest. After putting on a pair of gloves and washing the area thoroughly, he talked me through exactly what he was doing. I won’t go into detail, but I learned quite a lot that day. And after a few minutes, the colt stood, head still drooping, and we turned him back out in the pasture for the day.
Malcolm Gladwell has a theory that to perfect something, you need to practice for 10,000 hours. Think of musicians, athletes, reporters, what have you. For you to truly master an art or a task, you have to have so many hours, days, years, of repetition for it to really sink in. James had that. Our vet has it, thankfully, and is willing to teach me some too. Sadie definitely has it, and it’s something I hope to learn too. It helps when the thing you are practicing is also a life passion of yours, one that keeps you up at night dreaming, and gets you out of bed every morning!