Keeping My Horse Mellow

By Terry Golson

Tonka has a reputation at the boarding stable for being a quiet, well-behaved horse. Among the staff, he’s a favorite. What’s not to love? Tonka is adorable, affectionate and easy to handle. Which is why it surprised the heck out of the barn girl on Friday morning when Tonka pranced out to the paddock and then proceeded to show her his rodeo moves. She couldn’t believe how high off the ground he could bounce, or how she could hear the wind from his hooves whooshing past her ears. (This is why you always teach a horse to enter the paddock, turn around to face you, wait as the lead line is unsnapped, and only then move off after you’re given the okay!)

I’d warned them about this. When Tonka doesn’t see me daily, he gets antsy. They were skeptical. No longer.

It’s not like Tonka is ignored when I’m not there. The barn girls chat with him when they lead him in and out. He’s fed hay several times a day. He has horse friends on both sides of his paddock that he dozes near and plays nosey games with (they even pull each other’s face masks off.)


But, horses have best friends, and I’m Tonka’s. I’m the one he hangs out with while he grazes in the field. I’m the one that grooms him – horses put a lot of emotional stock into their grooming buddies. I’m the one who challenges him to be athletic in the ring, and his partner when he goes outside the boundaries of the farm to see new things. Tonka notices when I’m gone.

Last Wednesday and Thursday I stayed home with my broken foot elevated and iced. On Friday morning, Steve drove me to the barn. Tonka told me that I hadn’t been there in forever and a day. He made it quite clear that his face was itchy.


Tonka said he’d been starving for grass.


Steve ferried me to the barn daily, and now I’m able to drive on my own. I groom Tonka until I see that soft look come into his eye.


Yesterday the farrier came and set on new shoes. Tonka liked that. He likes her,


and it made his day a little more interesting.


I’m now getting around without crutches, but I’m moving carefully on my walking cast. I’ve taught Tonka to walk slowly next to me and let me use his neck for support.

Tonka isn’t getting the exercise that he’s used to when I’m able to ride, but burning off that energy is only a piece of why he has a reputation as a mellow horse. Daily attentive and affectionate interactions are what keep that calm look in his eyes. He hasn’t had a rodeo since Friday.

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