Bobo Joined Up

About four or five years ago I took my father to see Monty Roberts, a self proclaimed “Horse Whisperer”. I had read his book and I thought it would be a treat to get to see him in person at the Huntington Civic Center. I took dad as his Father’s Day gift.

Anyone who knew my father would say that he was one of those rare people who had a way with horses. I don’t know of anyone locally who could get more out of what my father referred to as a “junk” horse or one that had been damaged by mistreatment. He was the closest thing to a horse whisperer that Naples had to offer.

Dad was not modest by any means of his talent. In fact, I don’t know which he loved more; the horses, or showing off the horses. Brooks Wells once witnessed dad in his seventies mount a mule bareback with nothing but a halter and a hay string to show Brooks that his mule could neck rein. Brooks, with his razor sharp wit quipped that he was going to tell everyone that the last time he saw Darwin he was showing his ass in the middle of the road.

Anytime we would have a pig roast or a cookout at our family’s pond, dad would use it as an opportunity to have an audience to show off his latest project horse. No one ever seemed to mind too much. Dad was fearless. In his seventies he would still be breaking young horses to ride. A good friend came to me and said that they had called my dad to come get a swarm of bees at the Sundowner Golf Course. He was amazed that dad climbed a tree after those bees. I myself wasn’t so amazed. I would worry and fret over him breaking a hip and be less than amazed at his antics.

I’ve been around horses my whole life but now that dad is gone I realize how much there is I don’t know. I never had to know it because I had dad to turn to.

After dad died it seemed somehow wrong to get rid of the horses. There was so much of dad in those horses that selling them and having to look at empty fields would somehow be a huge constant reminder of dad’s absence. Truth is, I mostly rode horses with dad just to have quality time with him. Dad trained his horses to respond to very specific commands and he really didn’t like people who didn’t know much about horses to ride them. The other thing is that dad liked spirited, gated horses, the kind not just anyone could ride. This basically eliminated everyone else in the family from riding along with him. Now, if we keep these horses, it falls to me. I guess that makes me the reluctant horseman.

During the seminar Mr. Roberts demonstrated that horses have a language and through a series of activities with the horse, within the context of a horse being a fight or flight animal, a horse will let you know certain things. The last of which is when the horse “joins up” with you. When the horse does this he is not necessarily saying that he will be subservient to you, but he is saying that he is willing to be a partner in your new relationship. Instead of fighting the animal or whipping it into submission, the horse now is on your side. The “join up” is the basis needed for the horse to trust you.

A friend told me to come get a horse that nearly killed him. Bobo is a beautiful animal, a little small perhaps but muscled up nicely, not too old, and has a beautiful white coat.

In getting to know this horse he is spoiled and hard headed with a suitcase full of bad habits. After several weeks of acclimating him to his new surroundings and to me, I brought out my Monty Roberts book. Luckily there was a cheat sheet at the end of it.

The fifteen minutes or so that took Mr. Roberts ended up being more like an hour and a half for Bobo and me. But it happened and when it did it was almost magical. This selfish brutish loner of a horse eventually came to me and Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½joined up’. He stood at my side as my newfound partner. As I would walk, he walked by my side, when I stopped he stopped as well and waited patiently for the next step.

I have since rode him several times and often he gets a little scared at unfamiliar things but I think he’s learning to trust me. Dad, if you can hear this, Bobo joined up.

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