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Maybe it's true that horses can read your mind
By Ed Jones
I DON'T understand why my wife, Peggy, loves horses.
Dogs and cats, I get. They curl up next to you in hopes of a tummy rub. An occasional playful bite is the worst damage they're likely to inflict.
But an animal 10 times your size that could whack you into another world with his hoof if he's having a bad day? No thanks.
And yet Peggy loves horses. Most days, you'll find her at the barn in southern Stafford County owned by our dear friends, John and Gaye Copley.
She comes home with stories about her young Morgan horse, Churchill. But she mostly tells them in a strange, horsey language. She speaks of things like "lead changes" and "collection." My typical response is: "You don't say."
Maybe I should pay more attention, because at the core of the horse world is something we all should care about. Gaining the trust and cooperation of an animal that could easily overwhelm you requires diplomacy, leadership and a certain amount of intestinal fortitude.
I'm OK on the first two. It's the third one that trips me up.
Maybe I need to learn more about the equine world. After all, Peggy isn't self-taught.
Her trainer, Nancy Huffine, has worked with horses all her life. Her background in the military brings special skills to the horse world.
She is precise and kind, but always the leader. She thinks like a horse--an alpha horse.
She also has a "bedside manner" that doctors should emulate. Once, when Peggy called her in tears because Churchill was suddenly going through a "teenage phase," Nancy drove to the rescue from Fauquier County in 20-degree weather.
She brought Peggy a cup of hot coffee, and then quietly starting working with Churchill, as you would any teenager testing his newly discovered power. Before you could say "whoa!" Churchill had reverted to his more easygoing self.
One of the things Peggy and Nancy talk about is the round pen. That's a small circular, fenced area where the horse can be controlled by a long whip that's used as an extension of the arm, not as an implement for hitting the horse.