Welcome 2017!

Every year I sit down and go back over the previous year. I think about what I want to make happen in the new year and settle on a “Word of the Year.” In 2015 my word was Inspire. I spent that year really making head way with Billy, riding him on the trails and going to Colorado for a week long Level 3 Freestyle/Bridleless course. It was a fantastic spring/summer!! Even if I did break my arm on April 1st.

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Then I had my confidence shaken while riding, in September and broke my other arm. Though I didn’t need surgery this time, it really broke my heart. I thought I wasn’t worthy of horse ownership. I cried. A lot. That was a difficult winter. So when I sat down to look at the past year and come up with a new word I was searching for peace, harmony and contentment. My word for 2016 was Calm. I was needing to spend some time getting centered again.

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Calm: a state of tranquility

I read lots of books that would help me figure out a few things. I spent lots of undemanding time with Billy and I knew that I wasn’t going to ride anymore. It was a bit of a struggle to admit that to myself, but I wasn’t enjoying riding. I was worried and tense and scared most of the time I was sitting on Billy. Trying to find my Calm while feeling so tense and scared was difficult.

On top of those feelings I had to balance my family. I homeschool my two boys, neither of which are even remotely interested in horses, and try to keep my hubby happy, knowing he doesn’t like horses. At all. My two accidents put a dent in my ability to homeschool, do my housework, cook and clean AND spend time with Billy. Not to mention bring in a small amount of money every month to PAY for my horse addiction. Things were not working out. My hubby was upset with me and we fought. A lot. I made the extremely difficult decision to find Billy a better home with someone confident and fun and understanding. He needs LOTS of understanding. He is definitely a one-of-a-kind horse.

Choosing to let Billy go to someone who would ride him was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made – and I have sold and re-homed horses many times over the years. Billy was one of my heart horses. Luckily I am not the type of person who believes we only get one heart horse in our lifetime. In fact I have had 7 heart horses so far and believe I have one or two standing out in my pasture right now. However, Billy was a very special boy.

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Billy would lay down on command and was well known for his funny faces.

Billy wasn’t happy just being a pet and because he was so young, only 5 years old, I knew he would thrive with someone that would ride him. He found a wonderful home up in the mountains at a guest ranch. The owners of the ranch are kind, compassionate people. When they met Billy and he put his big old head on them they wrapped their arms around it and gave him big hugs. The wife had a pocket full of cookies for him. They are both the real deal and thought Billy was just about the neatest horse they had ever met! He would have lots of horse friends at the ranch and there would be lots to do and see. There would be no chance of him getting bored. I made it a point of delivering him to his new home so I could see him settle in. They were very impressed when we pulled up with my tiny two horse trailer. (In order to shut the door Billy would have to stick his head out the front window!!) Billy was so good. When I opened the back door of the trailer he waited patiently for me to ask him out. Then he stepped out slowly, one foot at a time, calmly looked around and then walked quietly to the arena. The arena is surrounded by big dry lot pens full of horses and Billy’s eyes were WIDE open taking it all in. We walked around a bit and I showed them a few of his talents, including laying down on command, then I let him go and he went around making friends. He immediately befriended a horse that usually doesn’t like ANY horses. Within a few minutes they were sharing a mutual groom over the fence. His new owners were amazed!

When we drove away I was crying, but Billy didn’t even look for me as I left. Before he would follow my vehicle, whinnying, if I left him anywhere. I had a good feeling about this home.

I kept in touch all summer but couldn’t bring myself to go see him. Every time I thought about it I would cry so I figured it was better for both him and myself to let him go. This was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I’m sure when my boys leave for the military or college I will feel the same way.

I ended up being very surprised at the people that no longer wanted anything to do with me after I found another home for Billy. First the loss of Billy then the loss of some of my “friends” was almost too much. So many times I wanted to walk away from this blog and delete Facebook all together. I can’t say why I didn’t.

I think watching me feel so heartbroken was hard for my Hubby – after the initial anger he felt because I feel the need to have a horse. He watched me struggle for a bit and then casually mentioned miniature horses one day while we were out fixing fence. (One of the many reasons he doesn’t like horses!) I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of that myself! I had been dreading the idea of living without horses. (Something I am NOT good at!) And I had never stopped missing my minis.

So…

He opens a window.
When God closes a door he opens a window.

I called my Mom to tell her my great idea of getting minis again and she offered me her two minis, Sky and Zorro! My good friend Katrina offered me back Captain Planet and walla! I was the proud owner of miniature horses again.

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Sky and Zorro arrive!

I found Bonnie for sale on Facebook (good thing I didn’t delete it!) and soon I was the proud owner of 4 miniature horses!

The ponies and ME!
The ponies and ME!

My mom also gave me her little show cart and Sky’s harness. I have spent some time upgrading parts of the harness and also bought a little easy entry cart. This winter I bought a gaming sled and had an attachment built so I can put my easy entry cart shafts on it. This way I can enjoy some sledding with my ponies! I am looking forward to lots of hours in the cart and sled this 2017.

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Other things I have gathered over the summer and fall are a miniature horse Hoofjack, mini horse Easyboots and a pair of miniature horse Cavallo boots! Miniature things are so cute.

I came across an awesome wholefood horse feed this year as well. I was thrilled to have a local feed store agree to order some and begin carrying it. My ponies have flourished on it!

All four miniature horses after eating Crypto Aero Wholefood.
All four miniature horses after eating Crypto Aero Wholefood.

The girls and I did a lot of hiking and walking this year. Until my health made it too painful for me… This fall we didn’t get out as often as I would have liked!

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I have been struggling with some different issues for the last few years. This was my “Year of the Doctor” and I found out I needed to have a full hysterectomy. I was scared but also hopeful! Scared to have that much of my body removed, but hopeful that I would have energy, no more pain and be able to resume my walking! So for the month of November and much of December I recovered from surgery. It really cut into my time with my ponies, but allowed me to work on my website/blog. Many changes happened around here during that time. Hopefully they were all good!

I love making graphics. So I started making lots and lots of graphics for my website:

And I have made lots of Young Living graphics too:

Someday maybe I’ll make money doing this! I really enjoy blogging, photography and graphic design.

I have been thinking about the year 2017 and what I would like to make happen. I will get Sky going in harness again and we will spend some time sledding around the fields and driving on the roads, getting ready for some mountain driving this summer. I am even kicking around the idea of another driving book, this one centered around sledding and mountain driving. I am going to start Bonnie ground driving and wearing the harness, going slowly with her so she is confident. It’s important to me that she enjoy the process so she can enjoy driving! I’m going to keep watching Zorro grow up. He is getting so handsome! One of my grandma’s little mares is bred for an early summer foal, so I am looking forward to that baby. It will be a half sibling to Zorro.

So back to my “Word of the Year” – I’ve put a lot of thought into it… After lots of deliberation, doodling, jotting down notes and making a word map, I have settled on the word MOXIE. Moxie resonated with me in two ways. It made me feel energized about the year ahead and made me feel excited about learning even more about horsemanship, horses and driving!

My word of the year!
My word of the year!

I am very excited about 2017. I see many great things happening in the next year and I plan to meet it with lots of vigor and pep!

If you feel moved to do so, please share your word of the year in the comments below!

 

I’ve started both girls on hill therapy. They are both over weight and need to bump up their exercise a bit. I am still starting them slow and easy because I don’t need any lame ponies. So for now they are trotting each direction for 2 minutes with a 1 minute rest between direction changes and after they are done. This one minute at the end gives me time to make up with Bonnie if she has gotten emotional.

On a side note: I am so so proud of Bonnie! We were gone for 12 days straight when we went to Alaska to visit my best friend Teresa. Then I didn’t make it out to the ponies until the second day we were home. Only to check on their hay and water. I was so tired! But when I re-approached Bonnie was just as easy to catch as she was when I left. And the fly spray continues to be a non issue! Whoot whoot!! Slow and right beats fast and wrong. Every time.

Anyway, hill therapy. Hill therapy is very interesting and can help a horse really learn how to use it’s body. I did it with Billy with awesome results. I’ve changed it up a bit with the girls because I don’t have a hill. To start with I’ll have them trot over a couple of rails, two on each side of the circle. That’s been interesting as they both kind of trip over and trot ON them. So clearly they need to start to pay attention! Then I will move them onto jumping a jump, one on each side of the circle. I’ve started them slow and easy but they will work up 5 minutes each direction trotting or cantering with a 2 minute rest. Hill therapy looks like this:

  • Daily for the first week. By the end of the week I’ll have them up to 5 minutes
  • Then three times a week for the second week.
  • Then weeks 3-6, two times a week!

If you are doing this with a big horse you can’t ride them for this six weeks as they are changing their back muscles. It can make them quite sore and if you ride them you may injure their back or stop the good changes that can happen with this therapy! I don’t ride my minis of course and neither are driving right now. I can still take them for our walks so our schedule won’t change much. If I was driving them I would give them a break from pulling during this six weeks.

Bonnie is doing very well. She backs up beautifully. Her send needs some work as she wants to either freeze out there or come back in, bounding! But I am working on my body language to be sure she totally understands what I’m asking. She wants to be pleasing so if she doesn’t do something I’ve asked then I’ve asked her the wrong question or wasn’t clear.

Sky was interesting today. Last night when we did this she was so responsive and soft on the line. Today she was dragging her feet, breaking down into the walk, tripping all over the rails. I attributed all this to her feeling resistant to what we were doing. She would have rather just stood and ate the hay in the middle. I have hay there for them during our break. They can come in and have a little snack! I don’t want to be giving them lots of treats as they both need to lose some weight. This hay is not their favorite so they kind of munch on it.

I am so excited to see the changes in these girls over the next 6 weeks! This will be so great for Bonnie’s confidence. When I was doing this with Sky on the first direction, Bonnie was loose. When I asked Sky to back up, Bonnie went back so quickly and smoothly! When I stopped asking Sky, Bonnie stopped too. Then when I sent Sky out on the circle, Bonnie just stood there on the edge of it and watched the whole 2 minutes. It was so cute and I was bummed I didn’t get that on video! I think Bonnie will be a great liberty horse as long as I can convince her not to leave me!

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The girls when we were all done with Hill Therapy! I love how they both want to stick with me even after I’ve had them do something they may not really want to do.

As I watch Bonnie go from scared to confident I’ve been thinking about her feelings. Natural horsemanship programs talk a lot about how the horse feels about what we are doing. Are they engaged, connected and responsive or do they feel like we are doing things TO them? That is the question I ask myself every time I DO anything with Bonnie.

Don’t get me wrong. There are times I just have to do something to her so we can get something done. For instance if we are walking and she starts to have a little temper tantrum about the walking, then I will show her that her temper tantrum takes more energy than the walking. If you were watching this exchange I’m sure it would look like I’m doing something to her and not with her. And I know that she feels that way sometimes, but when she finds neutral again she immediately calms, finds relaxation, licks and chews and will even trot out and lead us down the road.

However there are many more times that I can help her through an issue by listening to how she is feeling and then waiting. Every single time I wait she will calm down and I can continue on. That did not happen at first! She gave me very few green lights. I started to get frustrated and knew that wasn’t going to help either one of us so I contacted my favorite Parelli Instructor and in so doing found out that we had actually moved forward by leaps and bounds! It’s funny how things can look so different when you are standing in the middle of it all. Obviously she had made changes and so had I… I just couldn’t see them until I made a video!

Today I gave the girls a bath. This was Bonnie’s second bath with me. Her first bath was all drama, running around in circles, snorting and striking at the water, spreading her legs wide and trying to leap away, sometimes leaping on ME! I would wait and give her time to think, but as soon as the water came near again she was on the move! That day I did not get frustrated and just took my time, but didn’t feel that we made any head way by the end. She did not get on board with my idea at all! Today everything was different! She stood quietly… not always calmly but she was actively searching for that calm feeling. She did not try to run away, she did not walk on me, she did not leap around. She. was. awesome. I swear I nearly burst with pride for her! She let me spray and spray her, I sprayed her legs, her belly, her girly area, her back, her butt, high up on her neck by her face and her chest. Everything. She took it all in stride.

As I was bathing her I was thinking about how I’m sure she has had other baths in her life, before me. But the difference between those baths and the two she has had with me is that I was thinking about her feelings the whole time. I was trying to help her find peace and calmness within the bath. I was rewarding every try and every time she was calm. When you go about these simple tasks with that in mind it’s amazing how the horse will change and how much faster you can get through these simple tasks!! It’s so much easier to help a horse find calmness than to argue with them every time you need to give them a bath. Or spray them with fly spray. By the way. She stands perfectly every time I spray her with fly spray. I can spray her legs, her belly, her back, her neck… every where!!

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I had to put this one in! I love Sky’s face!!! She is always putting her nose up by my cheek so I can kiss it. Adorable.

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Tonight Bonnie and I had a lovely play session. It was short and sweet, just the way we like them!

I focused on staying very calm and centered in my body first and foremost. I’ve noticed that Bonnie really doesn’t like to be touched so I figured the Friendly Game was a good place to start. If my hand offends her, I thought I would start with the stick and give her a little more room. She responded beautifully to this! Her ears were forward most of the time and she was really thinking and responding. Most importantly she was not REACTING!! I was so thrilled.

We moved onto playing with the bridge. Bless her, she thought I wanted her to jump it, so I kept it positive and didn’t reward for the jump, but kept smiling and using my “bridge” word which is “Good.” I decided to get her to look at the bridge a bit and placed a bunch of carrots there. I also wanted to work on getting her to see me pointing and begin to understand that when I point something is going to happen and it’s always good. Finally with lots of encouragement she began to understand that there were carrots ON the bridge and all she had to do was eat them. It was fascinating how long it took her to understand this! Sky understood immediately and ate many of the carrots. So funny! Once Bonnie started to look for my pointing finger she started to crunch up the carrots quickly. When she had this we walked away from the bridge and went to jump a log a few times.

I started to introduce her to the driving game and with a bit of encouragement she was starting to understand my intention of moving away from the pressure versus when I was playing the friendly game and she could just hang out. This pony is SMART.

When we went back to the bridge, she tried to jump it once and then I saw the light bulb come on and she put a foot on it instead! Whoot Whoot!! I asked her to get off the bridge and then to come back up and in a short time she offered BOTH front feet all by herself. JACKPOT! She got a handful of cookies for that.

We walked away from the bridge and I took off her halter. She politely turned her head for a couple of carrots. I put the halter and stick on the ground and went to move the bridge as I noticed there was a lot of grass growing under it, Bonnie was standing with the halter and stick and string, just investigating them. She nibbled on the stick some and nudged the halter around. She walked on all of it with her front feet and then finally came to see what I was doing with the bridge. Talk about a happy ending!!! I love when my horse stays with my and the equipment instead of hurrying away at the end of a session.

Smart smart Bonnie!

When I got Bonnie she was due for a hoof trim. I could tell by her feet that she had been living on soft ground. We have hard, rocky, sandy and dry ground here. If I didn’t trim her as soon as possible I was risking her soundness.

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So even though she had only been here two days as was still very skeptical of everything I was doing, I opted to trim her. I set it up for success as much as I could and she handled it very well.

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I believe she is innately a RBI (Right Brain Introvert). She wants to please me and tries her best. If she is worried she will spook, then freeze. If I wait for her she will come out of it on her own. If I push her she will blow up and become extroverted. She is highly reactive right now so my first responsibility is to prove to her that I am a person she can trust 100% of the time. As I build her confidence in me she will become more responsive and less reactive. The ultimate goal!

So I choose to move slowly but deliberately. I give her lots of time to think about the things we are doing. I wait for the lick and chew before I move forward in our sessions and the time between the scary moment and the lick and chew is getting shorter and shorter.

She came to me a “hard-to-catch” mare and now is one of the first to greet me. (It’s difficult to beat Zorro… he RUNS to me every time he sees me!)

Today when I trimmed her she was much more confident on her left side and very unconfident and spooky on her right. Most horses are and I’ve noticed this in our other sessions so I just worked more calmly and gave her more think time on the right side. We ended our session with a few carrot pieces and some nice grazing time. (And a little photo shoot!)

So onto the collages!

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As you can see above I was able to get even more toe off. I am very happy about this because the length of toe before was pulling her heel forward and putting pressure on her tendons. I have  LONG way to go still but we are getting there!

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Her toe on this side is very thick and bumpy. I’m not sure what is going on… maybe an abscess? An old abscess? I’m not sure but I’ll be watching that spot very closely. She will stand with her hind feet stretched out behind her often, so I’m interested to see if she stands more square after today’s trim as I was able to back her toes up quite a bit!

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I am very happy with her fronts. I got all the toe off that I wanted and she is standing much better.

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You can see that she needs to grow out that old bumpy, lumpy hoof. It was trying to flare out and pull away from her white line, so I’m so happy that I got her when I did!!

I love this little mare and can’t wait to see what we can accomplish once our partnership is set up. I will take the time it takes so we can have a long happy career together! One that we can BOTH enjoy!

We have making so much progress in our sessions! Today Sky, the little mama, did so great on our ground drive. She does very well as long as we are moving, but when we stop, she melts down into a temper tantrum. Today she was digging and digging and digging and when that didn’t work she started rearing! Once we worked out that little tantrum, I just had her move her feet whenever she wanted to. When she would start to slow down and look to me, I would have her move a little bit more, just to test our connection, then I would bring her in. Then off we would walk. She falls apart emotionally when we turn towards home, but is great when we are leaving. As soon as we turn towards home she is whinnying and calling for her baby and trying to drag me or run me over or muscle me in the direction she wants to go, which funnily enough is sometimes not the way to get home! I just keep her feet moving and do lots of pattern interrupt until she can connect again. Her connection time is getting better and longer. We do not go very far from home right now because she is not ready. We are just right outside the property on the public road for now, but we will get there.

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Captain Planet has improved by leaps and bounds. He leaves the farm without any calling for Sky or Zorro and doesn’t even look back as we go down the road. We play point-to-point to encourage him to put his head down. I have also taught him the head down cue so when I need him to relax I’ll ask him to put his head down. He will immediately blow out, lick and chew and reconnect when I do this. He is doing so awesome. We take lots of sit-down-eat-grass-breaks to reward him. He doesn’t like to be touched or petted, so scratches are not a reward.

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Zorro can hardly wait for his turn. When I get back to the dry lot he is waiting at the gate,  he stands quietly while I get a halter and walk in to get him. Today he actually put his nose in the halter all by himself. I LOVE this colt!  I spent some time brushing him and then we wandered all around the farm yard, checking out the horse trailer, the hay stack and seeing what Billy was up to. Sky will call a little bit but Zorro doesn’t even glance that way. I let him lead us around today and we just checked out lots of things that he hasn’t wanted to even look at before. He’s so brave and confident. And handsome.

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Captain Planet is an interesting little guy. He has had some really good days and some days that make me say, “How interesting!”

I’m determined to figure out what makes him tick. I truly believe he is innately a RBI. But he has moments of feeling left brained and then becomes a little bit dominant. Sometimes when he starts to think about being dominant he will switch to RBE because I don’t think he is very confident. In fact I would say he is very unconfident.

Between the baby– Zorro–and Captain, Zorro is mostly the boss of the pen. I love to watch how that works. When Sky is let in with the two boys in the evenings she immediately takes over the pen and they do everything she says or thinks. But during the day, Zorro is the boss. It cracks me up because Zorro is only a yearling and Captain is 9! Clearly in the horse world, age does not make one more brave or more confident.

Today I decided it was time to really start with Captain’s training. I’ve been waiting for Billy to go to his new home so he doesn’t have to watch me playing with the ponies, but Captain really needs some help with his confidence! Feed time can get interesting with him because he is so skittish. He races around and around instead of just calmly eating his feed while I play a little friendly game with him. So I calmly follow him around while he is dashing here and there acting like a wild animal. It’s so interesting because when he finally gives in, he is totally fine with me gently rubbing his face and scratching under his mane. He just doesn’t like to give in to that at first. Zorro calmly stands and eats his morning feed while Captain is running around like a mad man. Even if I have to run a little bit to keep Captain from getting to the feed while he is feeling crazy, Zorro will just stand quietly.

(side note: Billy DID stand and watch us this morning. Sigh… Then he went back to his breakfast.)

So, I started with the friendly game with the stick and string. I walked away from Captain and just gently slapped the ground back and forth in front of me. Captain bounced around at the end of the rope like a ping pong ball. He would dash in front of me and then leap behind me. It was almost like reeling in a fish. I just kept walking and calmly slapping the ground until he stopped moving his feet. Then I immediately stopped and just stood, breathing. At this time Zorro came over to help. I started slapping the ground again and Captain began bouncing around. Zorro didn’t care about the string slapping the ground at all so, Captain stopped bouncing and started to follow! I immediately stopped and stood calmly, breathing.

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I started the process again and Captain thought about running, looked at Zorro and changed his mind. Zorro was chewing on the lead rope and once in a while chewing on ME but was not bothered by the stick and string. I figured I would play friendly with him as well and started to lay the string along his back and neck, letting it slip down his face and tossing it around his legs. He stayed completely left brained and didn’t mind at all. When I would scratch him with the end of the stick he enjoyed it. Captain watched all of this so when I started to lay the string on him he stood still for it. His head was high and his face was tight. He did not relax and lower his head for a long long time. I got really good at rhythm and relaxation for myself and Zorro! Finally I got a tiny bit of head lower and he licked and chewed so I immediately stopped and we just stood quietly.

I did some more friendly game with the stick and string until Captain could lick and chew a bit more. Then I decided it was time to start the “head down cue” so Captain can start feeling more left brained more of the time with a little support from me. I tapped the stick just in front of his withers, on his neck, and supported by applying a little downward pressure with the lead rope to help him lower his head. He has gotten so much better at that! When I first brought him home he would not lower his head for any reason other than carrots. So I started to feed him all the little carrot pieces down at ground level to encourage head down. Then I added the porcupine game with the halter and lead rope until he understood and lost some of his opposition reflex. He has TONS of oppositions reflex. It’s been so interesting!!

He started to really understand the head down cue so I began giving him little handfuls of alfalfa hay pellets each time he lowered his head. At the end he was able to stand quietly with his poll below his withers, breathing and licking and chewing! When I took off his halter he was super relaxed and happy. Finally!!

I took the pressure off of Captain by mixing up the play session and including Zorro. That was huge for Captain. I equate it to when Pat Parelli is playing with a reactive horse that needs a break, he will turn to the audience and spend some time just talking. He is actually still playing the friendly game with the horse at the end of the rope, it just LOOKS like he isn’t doing anything. To the horse turning the pressure off is HUGE. I included the cats in our games today too which gave Captain a break in between friendly game sessions.

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I plan to do this for 7 days in a row and see how Captain improves. I’ve noticed that by session 3 many horses will regress and become reactive again. I’m interested to see if he will do this as well! Does this happen to you?

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Clearly having Zorro there to be totally confident and calm really helped Captain calm down. Thank goodness Zorro, the calm one, is the dominant one here! I can see how watching Captain be reactive could make Zorro feel crazy too if he wasn’t the one in charge.