Horses don't think everything that moves or makes a noise is trying to hurt them. They think everything is trying to kill them.
They can't help it. They are born with thousands of years of instincts. The instincts of their ancestors who lived in the wild and behind every bush could be a mountain lion waiting to pounce on their back. Waiting to make a nice equine pastrami on rye out of them.
Jazz has a bad case of the instincts. Really bad. Even though we are exposing her to anything we can think of, Plastic bags, tarps, pool noodles... you never know what is going to rock her world. Something simple like me putting on my hoodie in her presence, or when Wendy is riding her around the arena, Jazz sees me sitting on the bench watching, the next around I am lying on the bench. Hey, I was up since 1AM and I wanted to close my eyes and work on my tan. I didn't know the small act of lying down was going to cause so much turmoil.
We have to remind ourselves that she is just a kid. She hasn't seen it all yet. We have to teach her that there are no mountain lions in Las Vegas. There may be some predators on the edge of town, but they have to cross the strip and dodge the daily arrival of KLM 747's at McCarron to just get to her.
And even though she lives a short walk from the former homes of famous mobsters Bugsy Siegel and Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, there is no contract out on Jazz's life. There is no chance of her being "Whacked". But she doesn't know that yet.
We have spent a lot of time ground working and exposing her to all kinds of things that move and make a noise. Just training to live without fear. The painting training has been put on the back burner until we can make her comfortable in this world.
Yesterday was very windy and heavy rains were on the way. So a perfect day to set up the easel and put a brush in her mouth. (She is still a long way from actually having paint on the brush.) Things were going great and she started making strokes with the brush on canvas. This was HUGE. I can teach a horse to hold a brush in the mouth, I can teach a horse to touch it to a canvas, but I have no idea how to teach them to make strokes. You can't make a horse paint. They make all kinds of stuff to make horses do what they don't want to do. Spurs, bridles, reins... but there is no tack store for painting horses. No devices. To teach a horse to paint, they have to want to paint.
So when she started making strokes on the canvas, I was thrilled. She wants to paint! She is still a long way from loving it like Metro did, but she is on her way. But we are in no hurry to get her there. Metro painted full time. This is only going to be a part time hobby for Jazz. There is no Today Show in her future. We are just going to do it for fun. And if she decides that she doesn't like painting, that is fine with us.
I bought Jazz a new easel to work on. Nothing big, nothing fancy. Since painting will only be part time for her, she is not going to have her own studio like Metro did. And since it is always sunny in Las Vegas, we will probably be painting outside, "En Plein Air" as we snobby artists like to call it. That's french for "outside". So her easel is portable. Picture a camera tripod with an easel on top.
Everything was going well. She had no problem with the new easel, as long as it didn't move or make a noise. But when we decided to call it a day, I did the unthinkable. I picked up the easel and began telescoping the legs back so it would fit back in the back. In Jazz's world that was the equivalent of a meteor hurling toward earth, killing all the dinosaurs and taking Jazz along with it. She freaked.
So now that the easel with telescoping legs represents a giant anaconda in Jazz's mind, we have something new to work on. Now whenever we do our groundwork exercises, that easel is going to be set up in the corner of the arena. It will always be in the corner of her eye. And whenever we take a breather from exercise, whenever we stop to catch our breath, we will be doing it over in the corner next to Jazz's easel. It want take long for her to realize that standing next to the easel with scary legs is the place to be. Not out in the middle of the arena, running around in circles. The corner with the anaconda will be the place that she craves.
Ron Krajewski is a professional artist and lover of horses. And sometimes those two worlds combine. You can see Ron's artwork and follow along with his blog at RonPaintsPets.com