“The best way to prove that a stick is crooked is to set a straight one beside it. No words need to be spoken.” – A.W. Tozer
So TRUE! I’m guilty of confusing familiarity with normality. In my mind, a horse with physical or other issues can slowly go from abnormal to normal, from crooked to “straight for him.” He’s still crooked. Once I accept crooked as good enough I quit searching for ways to improve, correct, treat, or recognize what I know/knew is wrong.
Copper, a royally bred, triple-registered, powerhouse of a drop-dead cute dun, was on and “off” in some way or other since he was three years old. There was nothing obvious, I just didn’t like how he started a turn-around to the left. Something about the way he stepped to the side bugged me. I took him to the vet, X-rayed, changed trimming angles and he seemed fine. For awhile.
Sometimes Wrong Has No Diagnosis
Copper always had something not quite right but never the same thing. The official diagnosis when he was about seven was, “He’s a mess.” Vets, chiropractors, and body-workers all found restrictions or reactive spots – but nothing anyone could put a finger on.
Copper competed in mounted shooting and made it another seven years after a case of EPM. He made it six years after being three-legged lame with a fracture or avulsion of the distal end of his right front navicular bone and complicating spur. After changing to whole horse trimming Copper recovered fully from that acute issue. Compared to where he’d been, the transformation was astounding.
Solidly Sound for Him
He wasn’t completely sound, but by comparison he was solidly sound for him. Copper was retired, put back into work, and retired again. I accepted that Copper was just Copper, exercising him when he appeared balanced and steady, which meant he wasn’t obviously off anywhere. But then, for years I described Copper as equally off on all four legs.
There’s a difference between correct and ‘good enough for today’. Whether it’s lameness, saddle-fit, obedience, or level of training, don’t confuse crooked and straight.
There’s a reason the maxim “Familiarity breeds contempt” is oft-repeated. Crooked never leads to straight, even the crooked we’ve gotten used to. It still results in crooked or broken.
Crooked Never Becomes Straight on its Own
In his early teens Copper was GORGEOUS, well fed, healthy, and wanted to play with the other horses. At liberty in the herd Copper never ran, seldom trotted, and stayed out of traffic, taking care of himself. But he WANTED to be a horse.
I didn’t see the reality of his situation when I forgot how Copper used to move, softly, extending his stride comfortably. He’d been in and out of work, retired and brought out of retirement too many times. Except for a few acute issues, there was nothing specifically wrong with him except that he wasn’t quite right.
After months of appearing to be “sound” Copper seemed ready to ride again. He appeared steady, balanced, and eager to go so we saddled and put him on the longe to check him out. He burst at the seams with energy and equine joy. The optimism in our DNA sometimes interprets want to as able to, but they’re not the same.
It was the end of the line for Copper because his body couldn’t cash the check his heart and spirit wrote. I called the vet.
Only then did I realize that I considered Copper’s norm as normal – for him. I’d forgotten how he used to be. He was wrong for so long that wrong became acceptable. Copper lives on in memory, books, and photographs as the Disney-esque imp he was – another one of my precious teachers. The one people picked out of the herd as the most beautiful, even when he was most crooked.
Love Sees What’s Real
Love sees what’s real, not some fantasy. It’s okay to love crooked as long as it’s the best possible reality and your horse is comfortable. Which begs the question, “How do you know it’s the best possible reality if you don’t keep searching for more straightness?”
Copper had a wonderful life but I didn’t appreciate how frustrated he may have been in the last few years. I do appreciate the lessons he taught and will use them to objectively evaluate the rest of the herd, especially the elder statesmen.
It’s difficult to be objective when you forget what normal looks like. It’s challenging to remain correct when everyone around you isn’t. In every respect, see what’s there and know what’s true. Someone depends on your vision.
Check it often.