Chapter Four

Lynx has made good progress with his new herd mates. He now spends his idle hours turned out, enjoying green grass and room to run. He must remain on the fringes of the cavvy but the others now tolerate him there. He has even made a friend, Teak, who towers over him but hangs out with him nonetheless. They can often be found standing side by side, sharing their tails to swish flies off each other about twenty yards away from the rest of the bunch.

It has been fascinating for me to watch Lynx make his adaptations; I have worked with horses having various handicaps before but this is a grievous one and I am getting in on it as the horse is in the process of learning to adapt—not after he has made his bargains with his new life.There are life lessons here, not the least of which is that this is a process for Lynx which will continually evolve. The way in which he handles a challenge now may look much different a year from now.

One of the changes I have noticed is that his head carriage has begun to shift. These days he carries his head at a more pronounced angle than when we first picked him up. It must give him a more panoramic view and is now quite noticeable. It makes me wonder how I as a rider will have to adapt to him. I try to find straightness and balance when I ride but I’m thinking that in Lynx’s case I’ll probably have to settle for him to have the ability to see where he’s going. Crashing into a tree or tripping over a cow could be seen as a failure even if he was perfectly straight when it happened…

Something else I have seen Lynx do as he learns to live on the right side of normal is to use his left jowl to feel his way along a new surface. I first saw him do this on a hay feeder but didn’t realize it was a purposeful act until a few days later when I turned him into a different pen while sorting some cow/calf pairs. This pen contains a squeeze chute, a head catch for calving heifers and is configured about as straight forwardly as one of those cornfield mazes people pay five bucks to get lost in. When I put Lynx in it he walked along the perimeter, checking it over with his good eye then turned around and brushed the entire length of it with his left cheek. He even stopped once to double check a corner of it. I’ve since seen him do this to enough surfaces to become convinced it’s deliberate.

He also uses the left side of his head to keep track of me when I’m working around him. It isn’t rude or obnoxious but he occasionally reaches around and gives me a light bump with his chin. I’ve had to come to terms with this since I’m the guy who is always harping on others about letting their horses shove them around. But I have learned not to take this as disrespect; no correction is needed, it’s just something Lynx does to assure himself that his human is where he belongs.

There is something else he does, something I find truly amazing. When we’re doing our groundwork he is pretty much a normal colt on the right side; his actions and reactions are all within the normal range. But when we switch sides his perception heightens and his focus is like a laser beam. I came up with a grand plan before I first sent him loose around the round pen. Knowing that horses like and will often move in time with rhythmic sounds, I tapped the leg of my chaps with my fingertips to give him a pace. I soon discovered I didn’t need to. I can’t imagine how he does it but Lynx can match my footfalls perfectly on his blind side. He changes gaits up or down right on cue and the topper is that when it’s time to come to the middle, he hooks on as well or better than just about any other three-year-old I’ve had. 

I wish I knew how he manages it. I can’t help but think it’s the perfect juxtaposition a lot of us need to see. One on hand he has the advantage of all his senses. He uses them well enough to get by. He has certainly not failed; he has achieved, well, the average. On the other hand he has less than what other horses are given to work with. It is a challenge he must meet. By focusing on what he’s got left and maximizing its potential he has achieved something great. In this way he is honoring what has. I think that is the lesson. I admire him for it.     I want it for myself.

Next week—first ride 

Lynx (center) and his new friends