From what I can tell, County Island people like to go in circles. They ride us around in circles, in the ridin arena where the circles are generally small and pointless, and on trail rides that go in big circles called loops where all we do is eventually walk in a big circle back to the same trailhead we started out from. In fact, the main thing a prancey horse performs inside the prancin arena is the circle or some form thereof. People get walked by their pet dogs in big circles on what’s called “around the block.” They jog, which is to say, they run slowly away from mountain lions that no one else can see while only wearin half their people-clothes, in circles around the block, too, and they ride bicycle-machines and rumbly-quads and rumbly-motorbikes and all manner of things that rumble and roll, again, in circles. Our own bucket gal does what’s called draggin the arena with her rumbly-quad, which to say, she makes it plod around in very slow circles, smoothin out the sand of the arena, which is basically a really big circle. Some folks even like to twirl ropes in circles, or flap bags around in circles, at horses goin around in circles, inside a circle called a round (which means circle) pen (which also means circle).
Which reminds me of a fairly good people-joke. Near these parts, we got a trailhead called Table Mesa. Y’all know how to say “Table Mesa” in people-Spanish? “Mesa Table.” Don’t make me have to explain it. It ruins the joke part.
Anyhow, since people seem so partial to circles, especially when it comes to workin with us horses, I used my own entirely developed horse sense to decide County Island people could be trained better if us horses made ‘em go around in more circles.
I decided to start my new people-trainin pastime one day when me, Coors and Coors Light was bein pet-sat. Bein pet-sat is what happens sometimes when the bucket gal and her carrot guy ain’t at home for a while, and somebody comes to look after us in our own home-corral. We was bein pet-sat by a half-grown filly of a girl I’d never met before. Now, Coors and Coors Light will suck up to anybody with a cookie, but not me. Some folks might call me standoffish, but that ain’t right. You got to get to know me, and I got to get to know you. This is where the circle comes in.
After supper, the half-grown filly-girl set to removin Coors and Coors Light’s fly masks for the night, as our bucket gal always does, and as our bucket gal done told the filly-girl to do, too. She walked straight up to ‘em in their Ayrab-horse faces, gave ‘em each a cookie, and a quick pat, and took off their masks. Then she came for me.
I started to shuffle off to the other side of the biggest palo verde tree. She shuffled after me. If she stopped, I stopped. If she walked, I walked. We shuffled around maybe three circles around the tree before I stopped first, and considered her from beneath my fly mask. She took a step toward me, showin a distinct lack of submission, and so turned around, and went the other way around the tree. And so did she.
She started to jog. So, then, did I. We jogged around the tree maybe four more times, before I remembered to change direction again, to train my human equally on both sides. I was about to change direction thusly, when the filly-girl cut me off! Now, that showed a complete lack of respect. She reached out, a cookie in one hand, the other hand ready to take my fly mask off.
So I trotted off, a bit faster. She just stood there, maybe lookin a tiny bit hurt, but it’s hard to read a person’s expression with their lack of proper ears and nostrils. She didn’t look submissive yet (not lickin her lips, nor droppin her head) nor tired (she wasn’t hardly breathin hard at all). We sized each other up from our opposite points on the palo verde circle. While I hesitated, she took a soft step around toward me, and so off we went again, me at the most pokey slow jog I could muster, just enough to stay one hoof ahead of her.
Eventually, I guess she got wore out. Dark was comin on. I was damned impressed with her stick-to-it-ness, although it lacked technique and didn’t exactly get the job done. Not once did she call me names, nor try to outrun me, nor even toss a rock at my hind end. She stayed quiet and I reckon about as calm as a filly-girl can be. Y’all know how high-strung they can get. She was told to take off my fly mask, and by god, she tried. I liked that about her — well, not enough to let her take my fly mask off yet, but still.
Finally, she looked at the dark sky, and at me, and at the bicycle-machine she still had to ride home, and she threw the cookie to the ground so it landed at my feet. And she left with a big ol’ sigh that don’t need no horse ears nor horse nostrils for a horse to understand the meanin of. I felt kinda bad, the whole time I was crunchin on the cookie and blinkin at the dark from beneath my fly mask.
The next evenin, she cautiously came up to me, beside my shoulder, so as not to take the direct approach of bein right up in my face. I rewarded her with my best soft nicker. She looked surprised, and put her palm out, cookie side up. I snuffled the cookie out of her hand with extreme politeness. I let her stroke my neck, and then I let her take my fly mask off. I turned my head toward her to try to say, there, that was easy, wasn’t it? That was downright well-trained on her part.
Y’all know what she did next? She reached into her pocket, and produced another cookie! My people circle-trainin had been more successful than a horse could ever imagine! Y’all could almost hear the indignant “Hey!!” comin from the chorus of Coors and Coors Light behind me. They didn’t get a second cookie! I did not expect a second cookie! I considered the tiny circle of it sittin in her hand for a split second before it disappeared deep into my belly. We’d come to an understandin, me and her, in a round-about way, exactly as I knew people preferred. I reckon that’s why it’s called “full circle.”