What a Parrot Taught Me About Horses.

There were a few dark years (between leaving home and having enough income to support a horse) that I was earthbound with only house pets. I survived it. Barely.

During that horse-less time, a box arrived. It was a surprise parrot -from a friend in Panama. I’m not saying it was a great idea to catch a bird and ship her, I’m just saying that she arrived.

The parrot looked nasty -disoriented, angry, and very frightened.  She was kind of a mustang of a parrot, aggressive and lost. Returning her to the wild wasn’t possible and we didn’t like each other much.

Before long Trixie was eating well, and her green color had improved. Neither of us wanted her caged forever; I let her out not really having a plan of how to get her back in. Short sighted, I admit. She tossed the kitchen, pooped on the art, and pierced the cat’s ear. Twice.

I watched her turn a set of window shutters into matchsticks with her very impressive beak. Parrots might be the Jaws of Death of the bird world.

Most parrots are hand tamed as babies before their Jaws of Death are fully developed. And the fact that she shrieked and cackled in my own voice did un-nerve me a bit. But I am no frail flower myself -I had a strong, rural upbringing…

It was time to try to pick her up and I had enough pride to not use my fish net. I noticed that she used her Jaws of Death beak to test any possible perch, so I got some gloves and approached her. She cocked her head, looked me in the eye and checked the glove perch-ability. Very bad -she seemed more frightened of the glove than she was of me.

Eventually I gave up on the glove, and took one last look at my pasty-white index finger. I screwed up my courage and presented it to the parrot. She stretched her beak wide in a lip-licking sort of way and reached for my finger. I squealed, and jerked my finger back; she screamed in an obnoxious (yet familiar) tone.

I was a bad perch and hindsight was just as helpful as ever. Trixie flew away even more frantic -if that was possible. Hours of domestic destruction followed as I slowly tried to get close again.

Finally I was able to offer my finger but with a little more commitment this time. Skeptical of my perch possibilities, Trixie was very cautious. When her beak stretched open again,  I stood in. I held steady as she tested my finger’s reliability -again and again. It was a firm squeeze she gave me -sort of friendly actually. Then she climbed on my finger and continued all the way to my shoulder. Trixie started a soft sing-song mumble as she sorted through my hair. The standoff was over and we were friends.

I remember Trixie when I see a new rider struggle to find a veneer of confidence pick up a hind hoof or prepare for a first trot. You would think that a thousand pound horse was as scary as a Jaws of Death parrot.

But even a seasoned rider can feel hesitation when a horse is frightened. Then we stand in and let them know we are a reliable perch. Because to gain a horse’s trust, we must first prove ourselves trust-worthy.

Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.

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