Louisville Magazine

APR 2019

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 4.19 105 this dress, and I remember I was like, 'Oh, no, you can't.'" ey started dating in 2011, after she turned 18. ey married in 2016. Back then, her parents didn't like her dating somebody 22 years her senior. What her parents didn't know was how bad she was doing in school. "I knew from the time I was 15 years old I didn't need to be in college," she says. So she cut classes to ride horses. e deception went further. "It was so horrible. I forged transcripts to keep them off my butt so I could continue faking my way through college. And they were just that trusting. It's very sad that I used them that way." But at the time, she thought, "I was doing what I thought I had to do." Finally, at the start of her junior year, she says her parents gave her an ultimatum: straighten up or get out. She packed her car, the car she ended up sleeping in some nights. "I think the longest stretch was probably four or five days. I would just go shower at the YMCA in Buckner," she says. It wasn't easy finding a place to park. Sometimes she'd go over to Phyllis and John Tate's house after they were in bed and park in their driveway. But she never told them she was in trouble. "I didn't want to stress them out with it," she says. Instead, she adopted an adult pit bull mix named Carlos as her protector. He still is. It's a cold day at Dark Horse Training in December 2017, and Carlos is anxious. e black-and-white dog wears a blue coat and stands unmoving, staring into Rocky's stall. Yesterday, the cold weather induced Mary Rose to work indoors with Rocky, and Carlos didn't like it. It's even colder today, so she's in the stall again with the frightened horse. His eyes are rolling, flashing white. Carlos is beside himself. His ears are down and back, the worry in his brown eyes heart wrenching. He cries as Mary Rose approaches the stallion. She wants the horse to become accustomed to her touch. Mary Rose's face is luminous in the Arctic chill, only slightly less pink than the ear-warmer headband that encircles her face. For all Carlos' anxiety, the session starts out well. When Mary Rose extends the flag, Rocky easily agrees to touch it. Just a few days ago, he wouldn't even look at it. Mary Rose wants to touch Rocky's shoulder with the flag. First, she holds it to his nose, then rubs it along his shoulder. No problem. "It's just a huge difference from yesterday," she says. But Rocky isn't happy. He's trembling. Still, he licks and chews. She expands the area she's touching with the flag, rubbing from his shoulder to his rear. e horse seems OK, but Carlos isn't. He's crying. Over the next 26 minutes as Mary Rose approaches and withdraws, Rocky grows nosier, snorting with increasing frequency. One reason horses snort, some experts say, is to express alarm or to commu- nicate that they're feeling threatened. By moving to the other side of the stall, Mary Rose gets Rocky to turn so that his left side faces her. He doesn't like anyone on his left. But she doesn't back down. His eyes show white again, and Mary Rose worries about how his neck is arched. "at could be a tiny, tiny bit of a threat," she says. at's clearly how Carlos sees it. She extends her gloved hand to the stal- lion. Twice, Rocky noses it lightly. She gets the horse to turn and face the other way; he's obviously calmer having her on his right side. is time, he rubs his nose against her hand. e trouble starts when he cannot see her hand. He tilts his head to see it and then bobs his head up and down. "I feel like the head bobbing is him trying to read me," Mary Rose says. "Sometimes that can be threatening. Two stallions getting ready to fight will do a lot of head tossing." Still, she reaches out to touch his mane close to his shoulder and then rubs his neck. She talks to Rocky with a teasing, singsong voice. "I touched your neck! Yes I did!" When she has him turn again to show his left side and extends a gloved hand to his neck, his mouth is near her hand. "Don't bite me," she says, reaching to touch his neck and shoulder. He flinches but doesn't move his feet. At this point, Mary Rose isn't sure what he's doing. "I'm not really good enough to read if he's trying to figure me out, or if he's being confrontational," she says. "Is he really threatening me?" e whites of his eyes show, but she continues to touch him. He sniffs down her arm and bobs his head. "As long as he doesn't bite me, I'm completely fine with him bobbing his head around like that. We're kind of reaching a new level of thinking here." But just what is he thinking? Once again, she's working on his right side and reaching out with her left arm. He shakes his head, snorting. His eyes flash white. is time, he opens his mouth to bite, a little tentatively, and she whacks him on the face. It startles him. He backs up, his hooves striking a loud tattoo on the stall walls. Carlos rushes back and forth, crying. When the horse stands still, Mary Rose once again holds out the flag to Rocky, who is now very jumpy, but he does nose it. Carlos is still crying. e dog runs over to me and jumps up, looking into my eyes as if begging me to do something. When I push him down, he bites me in his fear. Fortunately for Carlos and Rocky, Mary Rose is only in the stall a little longer. "I just have to touch him one more time," she says. She reaches out, touches the horse's nose, gives his neck a quick rub and leaves the stall. "Some of those moments, we're going to have those," she says. "at was great. is was a great day." e quadru- peds clearly don't agree. Mary Rose applies a training technique called natural horsemanship, associated with trainers like Dan "Buck" Brannaman, an inspiration for the main character in e Horse Whisperer. Its practitioners consider the methods gentle, a way to domesticate a horse without breaking its spirit. "We simply do not use fear or pain to motivate the animal, nor do we force the animal into submission," a natural horsemanship website explains. e basis of the approach is the operant condi- tioning, which relies on reward and punish- ment — or in the case of natural horseman- ship, pressure. For the horse, the reward is the release of pressure; Rocky's release comes when he no longer has to run in circles or when no one is trying to touch him. But natural horsemanship is not without its detractors, including the University of Pennsylvania's McDonnell. Remember her assessment of licking and chewing? McDon- nell and others criticize natural horseman- ship for what they say is its reliance on inducing fear. Rather than forming a bond, she says, "It's counter-productive to learning. In order to get that licking and chewing, something bad has to happen to the animal first. It has to either have a sudden startle, or it has to have pressure to the point of fear and confusion." She advocates, instead, something called protected contact, in which there's a barrier between trainer and horse. In this approach, the horse is always in its comfort zone. Mc- Donnell says the method works faster than other approaches and produces a consistent bond between horse and rider. Sarah Low, a past practitioner of natural horsemanship, began using protected contact Oct. 19 to train two mustangs she bought from the Bureau of Land Management. e Blacksburg, Virginia, veterinarian says they're not feral — and she knows feral horses, having trapped more than 150 of them in Hawaii and working with quite a few. But she wouldn't call the mustangs Continued on page 112

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