Happier Horse Days (Volume 88, October 5, 2004 - May 1, 2005)
Sunday, November 28, 2004
Finally, sunshine and an end to the rain. Actually, it only rained Friday and Saturday. Yesterday we had our first snow showers of the season.
But today was great. I was outside more or less non-stop from about 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m., except when I took a shower and ate half an omelet prepared by Mr. Ellis. It was in the upper 30’s and it felt like the 60’s. Ellis and I are so darned hardy.
I cleaned the stalls, of course. Then Ellis and I had a couple little outdoor projects to tend to. One was lowering the horse grain feeders (now on the back wall of the “veranda” instead of inside the stall area). I was mostly moral support for Ellis, the laborer. Next he got the ladder and we unclogged the gutter running along the veranda, two days late for the recent rains. Oh, well. We had to unclog the frozen leaves using buckets of warm water and the cut end of a kid’s hula-hoop. Our team effort worked. My hands got a bit cold but it was just so amazing to be outside in the brilliant sunshine after so much darkness and gloom. I changed my boots and put my hair back and grabbed my Parelli halter, lead rope and carrot stick. I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to play with the horses.
Dewey was my first victim…
I first started teaching him to sidepass towards me, using the carrot stick and string to make a loop around first his hind end, then his shoulders, then his ribs. He actually moved towards me without too much resistance. I’m not sure how to get from there to having the horse move towards me with no rope — but it was fun doing what I did.
I got on Dewey by mounting from an upended barrel in the pasture. I rode him bareback with one rein. I practiced the point-to-point exercise with one rein, which involved going in many small circles until I could get him to my goal point. (In that exercise, you can't flip the rein back and forth over the horse’s head, it has to stay on one side.)
Dewey quickly grew pretty bored by this, so I took him out of the pasture and saddled him. He needed to move his body, I could tell.
So we cantered all the way down the hayfield and then trotted all along the creek path, and back into the hayfield, and back up the center path, and around the mowed figure eight multiple times. God, a horse with impulsion is such a blessing! Dewey was so energetic and willing today — but never out of control.
Then we cantered all the way down Creek Lane. I think this is the first time since I’ve owned horses that I was smiling broadly, delightedly, while cantering. I felt like my seat was secure, I loved Dewey’s rocking horse motion and the feel of the wind on my face on this brisk, beautiful day. Rabbit ran along beside us and I loved that, too.
I had a great time. This week-end Jeannie and Roger moved two of her horses across 171 so they’re now in with Candy the Cow on our side. I let Dewey meet Chester and a little bay mare over the property line. The mare squealed and wheeled so I quick backed Dewey away from the barbed wire fence.
Dewey and I had one final canter back down Creek Lane towards the barn. Rabbit again ran along side, this time bucking like a rodeo star, and kicking out. It seemed he really needed some attention from me so I rode him, too.
I brushed and saddled him while Dewey enjoyed his post-ride reward of grazing in the front yard.
I backed Rabbit through the gate into the arena. I didn’t prolong the ground work. I did the point-to-point thing with Rabbit and he was amazing! He was reading my body language precisely and/or neck reining and he’d go right to whichever post I was focusing on. Also, we did the one rein indirect/direct turn exercise. Both horses were good at that.
I asked Rabbit to trot down the center path of the hayfield. He started cantering; I let him. He can’t maintain a canter like Dewey, yet. He’s kind of choppy and he drops back into a trot before I’ve asked him to. But we trotted nicely down the path and back into the figure eight. He tried pretty hard today. He does not have the stamina I think he should have but still, overall I was pleased with our ride. We had to backtrack and go on a search for my glove. I thought it had dropped out of my pocket but it turns out I left it on the shelf in the poleshed. While we were searching for the glove, Rabbit did his one bad thing of the day.
I was riding him in a hackamore. When we got near the creek, he put his head down and just went off the steep bank, down into the creek. Apparently, he wanted to eat some tall grass down there and get a big drink of water. I could not pull his head back up or force him to go where I wanted. I suppose I should have punished this action — but I let it go. Partly because Ellis had let Boomer out and he was complicating my ride, what with his barking and chasing after Rabbit.
Rabbit is so brave when it comes to obstacles. He’s amazing. I have to pursue jumping with him. His talent demands it.
I did bring Rabbit back to the point where he’d veered off my path, after he’d had his drink and snatched snack. Then we ended the ride by crossing the creek the opposite way and taking the front path all the way from one end of Creek Lane to the other. Rabbit got to see the two new neighbor horses, too.
I squeezed both horses between the trailer and the hay bales inside the poleshed and then between my truck and the stall wall. They are both so much braver than they used to be.
Rabbit got his ten minutes to graze while I fetched Dewey’s lunch.
I am so enthralled by my two amazing equine friends. And we’re just at the beginning of the good times, really. I had such a nice day. All thoughts of Christmas and cooking and baking and art and my sore leg and my sore hand and my newly contracted cold and sore throat and my tiredness completely left me for three and a half hours.
It truly wasn’t until I stepped back inside the house that my throat suddenly hurt and my congested nose made me miserable.
I just got sick yesterday, possibly from Don Christopher. He was flipping scriptures randomly and came upon Boaz three times. He took this as a sign that he must visit Ellis yesterday. When he arrived he had two black eyes — more accurately, he had one yellow-green eye and one deep purple eye. He denies any barroom brawling and claims he has a sinus infection/cold. I’ve never seen anyone’s eyes look like that from a sinus infection. Don’s no liar, though. And I think he made me sick.
I had an atrocious night, salvaged only by giving in to my insomnia. I transferred to the guest bed and spent the night reading A Year at the Races, Jane Smiley’s newest work of non-fiction. I’m not into the whole Thoroughbred thing, or racing, like she is.
But she has some good insights through out. She talks about horse personality traits, or as Parelli would say, horsenality traits. Horses, she says, will be one or the other of each of these paired traits (and of course some will have aspects of both or varying degrees of extremeness of either one):
Of course, Rabbit is dominant and submissive, curious and fearful, energetic and phlegmatic, and friendly and aloof.
Dewey is submissive (and dominant), curious, energetic and friendly (and aloof). But mainly they are both perfect, for me. Our journey together is perfect. I am so grateful to God for horses.
There may be one million horrible things going on in the world, or ten trillion. But there are still horses and I HAVE TWO OF THEM LIVING HERE WITH ME. What a miracle! I am so humbled by my great fortune. And thankful beyond belief as this Thanksgiving week-end comes to a close.