Have you ever had one of those friends that is a serial prankster? You love them but sometimes you just wonder if you really want to be friends with them because constantly watching out for Whoopy Cushions and laxative-laced food is exhausting.
I have a horse like that. I love Stormy Jo Mero beyond description. She is my best friend in a way a human can’t be. We know each other’s minds and bodies better than a pair of lovers. We can step up to do battle like a single formidable creature. She is me and I am her. My heartaches are cried out on her mane and I skirt her idiosyncrasies and support her psychoses. She does the same for me. We are a onesness. When the chips are on the table, she is the horse I count on…but when the pressure is off, she is a serial prankster.
This spring she tweaked a tendon sheath on a back ankle slipping on a rock while helping me sort out a colt. She took the summer off and is the size of three hippopotamuses, in spite of how hard I have tried to manage her diet to Jenny Craig standards. You should understand this mare can snatch a mesquite bean off a handy tree as she passes by it at a dead gallop to head off a cow and never change her stride or stop watching the cow. I have been trying to leg her up gently by leading her on long trots from another horse. Apparently this is boring for a serial prankster.
This morning I saddled Annie, put Stormy on my left and Skeeter on my right. We made one half-mile lap around the pasture and I looked down and Stormy’s eye was twinkling.
“Oh, Hell!” I thought. It’s gonna be one of those mornings with Stormy Jo.
Sure enough, half a lap later, Stormy accelerates. I immediately took the bait and lengthen Annie’s step to match her then check her back to the rate I wanted. It would have been a smooth and correct correction with any other horse-just not with the horse that knows me better than I do. As soon as Annie’s stride lengthened, the trap sprang. Stormy locked up all four legs, the rope ran through my hands, and the triumphant victory dance of the serial prankster began.
Stormy has a special way of crow hopping where her back rolls elegantly and her following heel snaps just so in a way that is akin to a thigh-slapping he-hawing cackle of a successful jokester enjoying the success of a well-laid prank. The withers rolled. The heel snapped. I’d been had…again.
At least I was smart enough not to reward the fat leprechaun by acting like I cared and managed not to even look her way as she went rollicking off on her own. You have to maintain an air of some sort of dignity when you have been had…
I finished working the other two, went to the barn and unsaddled and sent Jeff to catch Clown #1…because I know good and well my bestest darling isn’t going to let me within 50 yards of her… it’s an intregal part of the game after all.
Jeff retreived her. I saddled herself, The Royal Queen of Jokes, because…well, a horse just shouldn’t be the size of three hippos. And…I was annoyed with the prank. I haven’t put a hackamore on Stormy in a long while. This morning I had one in my hand when I saddled her. I could ride her in anything from a spade bit to a hay string, so I just put what was handy on her head.
When Stormy was young, I had a little pencil bosal I rode her in. It was a little small to put a proper feador on, or maybe I was too lazy to rig it out right, but whatever the excuse I used was, Stormy, in her infinite pranksterness, discovered there was a quick bobbing motion she could make with her nose that would slip it over the top of her nose, then she could duck her head and leave me with reins in my hand watching her rollicking off to the mesquite brush with my saddle belly-laughing hysterically.
As soon as I turned to lead Stormy, the former escaped member of my trot set this morning, out of the barn to continue her physical education, I felt that nose-bob. It was hot. It’s been a long week. I was tired. I was done with pranks.
I spun on my heel to deliver a piece of my mind. The serial prankster realized she had taken her games too far, that I wasn’t laughing. I wasn’t playing along. I was angry.
There is a piece of telephone pole rolling around my barn about 18” long. I have used it to mount really tall horses or for a mounting block for guests. It had gotten moved out of place. When Stormy realized her jokes had gone too far and she was in real peril of my temper, she ran backwards as fast as she could from me, trying to figure out how to appologize in time to save her ample posterior from a bridle rein whopping up against it. In her haste, she failed to notice the mounting block in her flight path and reversed right over it, wrapping her back legs around it, flipping over backwards, rolling around like an upside-down cockroach until she fetched up against a support pole of the barn and stopped floundering, paused to look her deepest apologies to me, regain her feet and stand, sheepishly looking at me.
It’s kind of like being married to an alcoholic. My best pony is a serial prankster. She isn’t misbehaving out of meanness, but out of pure humor and enjoyment of mischief. She opens the feed room door. She slips out of halters and bridles. She has about forty different strategies for slipping into other horse’s stalls to steal their food. She won’t come to the barn if the trailer is hooked on to the truck. She will plan an elaborate escape at a barrel race just for the fun of getting to show-boat her cleverness all around the parking lot. She just can’t resist the temptation for a good joke. I’m never really sure if I’m a victim, an enabler, or both. What I am clearly not is in charge…at least not unless a random chunk of creosote-soaked-pine randomly appears like a magical pumpkin to even the odds for me!