We’re Not Perfect: The Great Halloween Wreck of ’23.

In my online Barnie group, we do performance art around Halloween. My horse, Bhim, along with Edgar Rice Burro, Arthur, the goat, and I started work on our plan. Then, we had an epic wreck. But at least I have it all on video!

We started by assembling the parts. I got some cheap and tawdry hats and a black tarp for Edgar. Next, I needed a plastic skeleton. They cost more than you’d think, but I wanted one that was dimensional. I scrolled until I found what I wanted but in a smaller cheaper version. Probably the right size for my horse, so I ordered it. The one that spends the most doesn’t win where performance art is concerned.

If you follow this blog, you know Bhim is a rescue who came for training ten years ago. It was slow work considering his level of anxiety and fear, but about then Edgar Rice Burro asked if he could have a horse. It would be hypocritical to say no, and truthfully, Bhim was not adoptable. He wasn’t even halter-able. He is simply the most terrified horse I’ve ever had the opportunity to work with. I consider that a plus.

So, Edgar got his horse. Then last fall, after years of hiding behind Edgar, Bhim stepped out and gave his first calming signal. Hallelujah, I thought, he was finally ready to do more. I bought a harness. Now, ten months later, the change in him is nothing short of miraculous. He surprises me daily. He offers to take his halter, and he wears a harness and drags a noisy singletree from his traces. It’s huge for a horse so fearful and reactive that he wouldn’t let me stand behind him.

Back in January, I invited people to follow our journey online. I use a GoPro or camera glasses. I wanted them to see what I saw. You can imagine the sometimes-dizzy quality of the video, but it’s real-time communication, with voiceovers to describe what’s going on. I post a video of every session we have. That’s how I have a record of the Great Halloween Wreck of ’23.

That day Bhim harnessed at liberty. I had the skeleton on the ground tied to a rope. Just for good measure, I duct-taped a short purple jump whip to the skeleton’s hand. Consider it Affirmative Training humor. Bhim barely glanced at the skeleton. After all, he is only afraid of two-legged live things. Last, I put his bitless bridle on and we were off. It started well. Isn’t that the way? Bhim angled himself so he could watch the skeleton mumbling along behind him. We walked through two gates, no problem.

Then, in a flash, Bhim bolted, and I let go of the lines. It would have scared him more if I held on and lines on the ground don’t scare him. As he ran an arc, the skeleton’s head detached and bounced into a water tank, separating the jaw and sending it rolling end over end farther. At the next gate, a foot got caught and the skeleton’s leg sailed high into the air. Finally, the skeleton’s rib cage caught under the muck cart just as Bhim reached Edgar, who was eating brunch.

I was not heartsick with guilt and didn’t feel sorry for him. In hindsight, I don’t think I over-faced him, or that he spooked at something in the environment. Bhim being stuck in a panic mode isn’t new. He has a tendency, as some horses do, to explode sometimes. It’s a release, no different from a yawn. Just louder. Ever noticed that horses are better after spooking? It kickstarts deeper breathing, it relaxes tense muscles. So, I told Bhim he was good, untangled the skeleton, and asked if he could walk on, the remains of the remains still dragging behind. We picked up the plastic leg on the way. Edgar, who was curious about what the big deal about the pond pen was, came along. When we got to the scene of the crime, I untied the skeleton and took Bhim’s harness off. Then I rounded up the skull and jaw, trying to reassemble things, expecting Edgar to quote Shakespeare, as he does from time to time. “Alas, poor Yorick…”

Bhim quietly stood near the debacle, slack lead, soothing himself by licking and chewing. His eyes were soft. This is how I know he can do this. He is learning to manage his emotions. This is what good work looks like. All horses come apart; the question is, can we help them find a way to come back together?

Two days later, I left for a three-week clinic trip while Bhim grew his wooly mammoth coat. When I got home, the Dude Rancher asked if I knew there was a child’s skeleton hanging in the barn. Well. When you put it that way, it probably reflects poorly on me.

The finished goal of good work is to make it look effortless for the horse and human. You know they edit the videos we see online to look perfect, right? People rarely post the “before” attempts or the messy middle parts. Only brilliant success. The next part of it is our fault. We gasp at those videos with awe and envy. As if it’s magic when we should recognize what long hours of patient training look like. Not a false reality that excellence comes without challenge. As if we don’t make more progress on hard days.

We should brag, but instead, we’re hard on ourselves when training takes time or when accidents happen. Watching perfect videos seems to compound our frustration, and poke us in the eye. Then add the compilation videos of people (who deserve to get bucked off horses) flying through the air. All the wreck videos horrify us, but we can’t look away. We remember them too well and scare ourselves.

Why do we take moments out of context as fact? Only seeing hard days is just as deceptive as only posting the wins. The goal should be to watch it all, with optimism. One instant in time, good or bad, is never the ultimate truth. Neither kind of video illuminates the best, most important part; the creative process of finding ways to cut the task into small pieces to work on one at a time. It’s when the actual relationship happens. Training horses is an art, not a reality show. Each horse requires something different from us each day. Dwelling in nebulousness is real perfection.

Our goal should be the long game, even as we know the destination never changes. One day, the animal dies. Too ghoulish? Or is it the best reason to not hurry our time? Let’s make an art of enjoying the journey. Then, let’s keep reminding ourselves of it every grateful day.

And don’t feel bad for the Infinity Farm Performance Art Troup. Soon, the internet will brim with photos of horses dragging fir trees through the snow with Christmas carols oozing in the background. The red and green holiday. With a little luck, a horse with tinseled bats flying around his ears will drag some percentage of a child’s skeleton through a snowbank with a vampire donkey, a devil goat, and a witch floundering along. We are many things, but never a moment late.

Available Now! Undomesticated Women, Anectdotal Evidence from the Road, is my new travel memoir. Ride along with us on a clinic tour through 30 states, 2 oceans, and 14k miles with me and my dog, Mister. It is an unapologetic celebration of sunsets, horses, RV parks, roadkill, diverse landscapes, and undomesticated women. Available now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and signed copies from me.

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Anna Blake

23 thoughts on “We’re Not Perfect: The Great Halloween Wreck of ’23.”

  1. So you had a happy halloween!!! Right?
    I got a large size chuckle out of the skeleton disaster & Bhim’s AND Edgar’s reaction. Honestly Anna, That sounds like so much fun!! Maybe for all 3 of you and, likely the “uninvolved” characters probably hanging their heads over the fence nearby.
    A learning experience even – for someone maybe. I get the impression that the “Dude Rancher” doesnt partake in these fun times!

    • If I didn’t have fun, I wouldn’t be a trainer, so yes. We have a good life together. Never dull. The Dude Rancher does wonder sometimes. Thanks Maggie, for joining the fun.

  2. This was perfect-I could ‘see’ everything! Great writing! I am currently experiencing the many colorful segments of my wonderful ‘face plant & glasses scratching’. I was putting my horses in our lower pasture when my big horse decided to harrass my little horse, the little horse decided to turn & run which pitched me to the ground, leading to my ‘face plant & glasses scratching’. Definitely one of the less-enjoyable times!

    • I keep giving myself black eyes from face plants, I hear you! Gates are dangerous places for humans… Heal well, thanks for sharing.

  3. Anna,
    That is the BEST Hallowe’en Story I have read — at any time. Brilliant, hilarious, thoughtful, even somewhat contrite —
    in terms of your feelings toward your beloved pony. What also comes to mind? Brave, persistent, loving, dedicated.
    You are all of those things. Thank you for sharing…


  4. Hahahahahahahahaha…
    The head rolling off, the unhinged jaw …and holy moly…a MINOR scare with recovery in record time! All points to great work, you and Bhim taking the time it takes. Way to go, for all involved. (I e never met Edgar, and I love him).
    I appreciate the reminder to not fall into the trap of what one is currently seeing is real forever. We’re not static and neither are horses. It can be difficult to remember when watching a perfect moment that it is the result of trying, failing, rethinking, trying again etc. (in other words all these people are SO GOOD and I suck.) …Said with much humor….😆

  5. I hugely regret I did not see that video! But since I am reading this in a public place, laughing out loud, and people are starting to look, perhaps it’s a good thing! I also regret that the majority of humanity can’t enjoy the magic that is horse and that those that do so often don’t seem to enjoy it either. Thanks to you for making it fun. “Let’s make an art of enjoying the journey. Then, let’s keep reminding ourselves of it every grateful day.” Amen, Anna! And let’s keep having fun!

    • Kathy – the “majority” just has no clue as to the magic that is horse. I’m guessing since most here are women – we all are well aware of that magic from the time we became aware of what a horse IS! (I dont remember when that was – just always there). And after 85 years – its a long dang time – never-changing.

      • Maggie — You have an 85 year-old horse?! Wow! 😉 I know that mare is still as beautiful as she always was. That’s also the beauty of horses and those of us who adore them. The spirit that resides.

  6. Loved this story Anna! Sitting on the couch laughing out loud. ( good thing there is no one close to wonder what is going on!) You have such an incredible gift to write and I so appreciate every story and life adventure you share. Love how you remind us that building a relationship with your horse is not a straight line! I was feeling a little down on myself today after riding my fabulous little mare and feeling a bit stuck on moving forward with a relaxed canter. I needed to be reminded that this relationship is a journey together and to be patient and know that not everyday will be a a step forward. Every setback is an opportunity to try something new, find a new way and help me grow in my skills. Thank you Anna

    • Thanks for the kind words. I enjoyed writing it.

      Have you tried riding her on a neckring (with bridle but the reins slack)? Usually works well.


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