Performance review

Horse, it’s been another anniversary of the date we met each other, and that seems like a good time for a performance review. I am aware that you don’t care very much what I think about you, except for the part where I give you carrots, but I hope you will consider my words carefully.

There are a few things I look for in a horse. First, ground manners. I don’t appreciate a horse who steps on my feet, bites, or kicks me. Aside from the Incident of 2009, you don’t cross the line, but you certainly keep things interesting by shifting your weight threateningly every time I walk behind you, putting your ears back and making nasty faces, and thinking very hard about biting every time I duck under your neck. On the other hand, you usually walk on the lead line quite well without pulling or balking, except when there’s fresh grass in the spring, and if someone made me walk around on fresh chocolate I have to admit I’d also try to sneak a mouthful or two. I rate you barely satisfactory in this category, because at your age, I expect you to be a role model for other horses, and you definitely are not.

Second, how healthy a horse is. I realize this isn’t something a horse can directly influence, but it very directly influences my bank account and I’m quite glad you are not, in general, prone to illness. Sure, there was that split molar that the vet absolutely had to show me after it was extracted, and you know, if you had been a little more uncooperative, they could have knocked you out for that instead of just sedated you and then my insurance would have covered it, but hey, who’s counting? Oh right, I am. I rate you as satisfactory in this category, but I want to see improvements next year.

Third, I’d like to talk about your attitude under saddle. Since this is your primary responsibility, let’s break it down.

I truly value your enthusiasm. I can’t stand horses I have to push along myself, for one thing, it’s too much like work and this is your job, not mine. However. While I understand that you were bred to race, you’re also the horse equivalent of a sixty-year-old, and don’t you want to slow down sometime? Maybe that’s not entirely fair: You’re slow when we’re going somewhere you don’t want to go.

And about that. I always let you pick the first direction we go, because you’ve never realized that no matter what you pick, I can still get anywhere I want by picking the second turn. I also think it’s hilarious when you have strong opinions about where we’re going, at least, when that strong opinion isn’t a 180° turn back to the stable. I must say you surprised me last month with your insistence on turning around and going for a longer ride when we were already on the way back. That’s just weird.

There’s also the issue of spooking at your own farts, at sticks on the ground, and at invisible things that I can’t even see. While this provides a certain amount of amusement, sometimes it’s embarrassing. Remember the time you were scared of a leaf, and a nice couple picked their dog up, apologized, and went halfway across the field out of their way because they thought it was their dog you were scared of? Shame.

I also have the strong suspicion that you are not actually scared of most of those things. Why? Because other traditionally scary things such as aggressive dogs and gunshots don’t bother you. I will be keeping an eye on this tendency and making notes for next year’s review.

All things considered, you are exceeding expectations under saddle, but only because my expectations are extremely low after fifteen years of this.

In general, your job is safe for now, but you are lucky you were cheap. We will be raising your apples-to-carrots ratio on days when apples are also cheap.

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