One time, I was out there by myself on a horse named Chief. Well, Chief had done his business on a crosswalk around 6th and Oak, and I cleaned it up, and I look back and there was just one apple sitting there on the sidewalk, and I had already put my little scooper back in the saddle bag. So I figured, I’ll just walk over there and kick it out of the sidewalk. Well, he was facing north, and the barn was north, and I haven’t a clue what I’m doing. So I walk out, kick it out of the way, and turn around—and he takes a step. And my heart just sank. I took a step, then he took another step. Then I took another step, and he just took off. He ran down 6th Avenue, crossed Burnside, down the north park blocks—just headed home. I was just walking down the street with my head down, and people would pass and say “Officer, didja lose something?” and I thought, “One day this will be funny.”
We don’t have very many injuries out there. Recently a horse slipped on the MAX tracks…he just stepped in the wrong place. There’s people that do things to the horses…years ago, we had a couple of horses stabbed. But that was a long time ago. For the most part, people try to hit the horses with things, but it’s not the norm. And that generally happens when there are crowd control problems, and things are going sideways.
My horse is dependent on me. A human partner, I figure he’s pretty much figured out what he needs to do. But I have to explain to my horse every time one needs to be done. Some of the older horses that have been doing it for a while, they pretty much know their job. So we put the younger guys on them, because the horses will pretty much take care of the rider. (But they’ll also take advantage of them from time to time, most definitely.) And if you’re not working on the relationship constantly, it’s not going to be successful. You have to put the time and the commitment into your partnership. Because if not, he’s gonna know it, and it’s not gonna work.
Horses are masters of intention. That’s how they’ve survived for thousands and thousands of years. They’re huge animals, and they can feel a fly land on them. They’re very sensitive, and they’re very intuitive. They pick up minute details, and they can feel tension. If I’m having a bad day, I gotta make sure when I go in and see my horse that all that’s behind me. If not, we’re gonna have a bad day together…he’ll sit back in his stall instead of meeting me, and think, “This isn’t good, what’s your intention?” And then you lose trust, and you gotta start all over again.