It was the summer of 2007 when we first met. Her registered name was Laundering Money and she was running in the twelfth race at Sonoma County fairgrounds. One could not help but notice the big bodied mare throwing an even bigger tantrum in the staging area. With no less than four handlers manhandling her in their futile attempts to keep her feet on the ground, a war was waging to get her tacked up in time to race. Fighting for her life, or so she thought, I watched her hurl herself every which way but loose in her attempts to loosen her handler’s grip on her mouth. As I watched I couldn’t help but notice the whites of her eyes literally screaming for help. But with all of the frenzied attention focused on slamming her squarely into a hole that did not befit her, no one cared and not one was listening. Her eyes caught mine and the whites glared out from under her panicked big browns. Finally saddled with grooms running alongside I watched as they jumped the jockey onto her back only to have her just as quickly hurl him to the ground.
Milo is a proud and handsome bay gelding. Part Peruvian Paso and part who knows what, he stands tall even though by horse standards he is quite short. One can barely see his arresting brown eyes hidden beneath a mass of wild forelock. They say the eyes tell all and Milo’s both beckon and caution one to approach with great care. Once upon a time not too long ago there existed a barn-size chip on Milo’s shoulder, one of defiance born from distrust. A nearly impossible burden to bear, Milo retaliated as his attempts to communicate a growing discomfort with his human partners continued to fall on deaf ears and untrained eyes. It was as if no one was listening.
The story is a common one. If you have spent any time in the saddle it has probably happened to you or someone you know. You were on a horse and somehow, someway they knew that you were a little, maybe even a lot afraid to be on their back. Sensing this, at some point during the course of the ride your horse decided to do something about it. Perhaps he spooked at something, drug you through some low hanging branches, decided to run back to the barn, or all of the above. Your horse’s attempt to dislodge you may or may not have been successful. Either way you’re even more afraid to ride and convinced that every horse you get on knows this about you. It’s true, they do so let’s take a minute to look at our equine angst and how we can go about getting to the other side of the equine fear factor.
According to Webster’s the word ‘whisper’ is defined as “to speak or utter softly, using the breath, but not the vocal cords.” We whisper to one another when we want our words to remain hushed and in the confidence and confinement of closely guarded quarters. We whisper to convey secrets, deliver intoxicating revelations, or special utterances of the heart that are meant for only certain ears. So how and when did the whisper come to be associated with horses?