Enough is enough and doom and gloom is defeated by sunshine, at least for a day. I put me to bed early, with a forecast like this, I have got to get outside and ride!
Days like this were total early Midwestern Spring time. . . Sunshine over ice, snow and enough mud to make me wish I'd been better friends with the Pilate ball . . . It was great!
A very few hours later, I could sleep no more and up I bounced. Finally true to his promise, the BFLWM produced a beautiful sunny day. I have a lesson coming up on Friday evening with Missy Fladland and though I have serious long and short term financial issues, I decided to keep the appointment as it helps me remember what I am doing all this for . . . Which brings us to Moonshine, my partner in my search for things dressage . . . I haven't been on her since the LAST lesson, back beginning December, which doesn't really bode well for the next one if I don't do something about that.
The inch thick treacherous ice is mostly replaced with sucking mud, a true harbinger of Spring (and fine with me, at this point!) and I joyfully opened up my previously snow drifted barn door to see how things fared in there. It's pretty much under water, a testament to the amount of melt as my barn is always dry (unless I leave the hose running, but that's a different tale) but there were enough dry spots to tie and groom. Here we go!
I picked up a baling twine, as the sight of a halter and lead still inspires more catching adventures than I wanted to mess around with my lovely black mare, and a handful of grain. Moonshine was first in line for pets and treats, a nibble and I walked away, leaving her before she could leave me. Treats for Sasha, who was volunteering for the halter (and later put herself in the round pen AND the barn, do you think she's ready for a job, LOL?), Donovan and back to Moonshine. I rubbed her neck and slipped the baling twine over. It's trickery and will not work for the long run, but did what I needed it to do today. It might be the last time I ever shortcut that mare . . .
She knew she was tricked and came reluctanctly with me to the barn. I proceded with care, not wanting the big mare to fully rebel and pull away, dunno if I could let go quick enough to avoid the nasty and probably well deserved burn I'd get . . . I released to her with each foreward motion and she lightened up a little on the way. Classic, the four year old Quarter Pony I am riding for my friend, Walt, followed us into the barn and I thought, just as well, need to fool around with you a little, too, while I'm at it.
Got Class cleaned up and neatly tied out of the way. This little gal does not have a lot of confidence in human leadership. Sense a theme here? More stories to come of a horse that was built from the outside in, rather than the inside out. I'm going to fix that. She was insecure and shifted her body around, trying to keep track of her buddies outside. An elbow to the ribs when she was rude surprised her, as did the friendly rub when she stepped back out of my space with sharp concern. Now I have her attention, and just gently moved her around while I was removing the mud off that stocky black body. She's the first foal out of my good Chica, bred by a grulla dun Poco Bueno/Mr Blakburn bred stud, and a very nice example of what I think Quarter Pony should be. I did a lot of rubbing and friendly, just asking her to respect my space and acknowledge my presence. Stood her tied, over in the corner and turned to 'Shine.
Now, something odd happened to me while I was grooming Moonshine, and it may be more pivotal than I know even yet . . . Anyone who has ever taken a lesson with me, or watched me prepare to work a horse will tell you I am the queen of the 30 second groom. Get the mud and dirt off of where the saddle goes, worry about the pretty later. I rarely saddle less than three horses at a time, and being efficient in my motions is key to getting the day's work done. Well, I didn't have a day's work to do this afternoon . . . I had one black mare to saddle and see where we were at, together. I started, as usual this time of year with the shedding blade (did NOT use it on her mane, for Heaven's sake, inside joke . . .) briskly removing debris while thinking about my game plan. She wasn't particularly quiet, was also focused on the hooligans, equine and canine raising heck outdoors . . . I untied her, did some hip over and shoulder through, keeping her really bent as we were in the panel stall, and that big girl moved over and around herself to make a Quarter Horse weep with envy (unless you are Donovan, who couldn't care less . . .), back to the post, and now a brush. As I am stroking the thick, dullish winter hair, a shine starts to come through. My movements slow, I work at small spots, removing bits and pieces I would normally ignore, it's nasty out she's just going to get dirty again anyway but I brush her nonetheless, acquainting myself with the contours of her body. . . Found a dread lock in the long fantasy style mane . . . ShowSheen is thawed, grabbed my hairbrush that is just for horses (unless I get a surprise visitor, then it might be for me if I happen to think about it), smoothed and brushed that mane til I could run my fingers through it. Moonshine is still, now, she's relaxing and I start talking to her. I am reading a book I am a little sceptical of . . . this Riding Through the World thing . . . and it talks about acknowledging your feelings to your horses, rather than the "fake it til you make it" so many of us have been taught to do, and not just in the stable. There is something to this, as uncomfortable as it makes me. . . As I am talking to her, those big dark eyes are fixed on mine, and she reaches out and touches me with her nose. Okay, this is not the big epiphanic "my horse understood my pain" kind of a thing that just gets too sappy for me, sometimes, but she did reach out to me. I rubbed her gently, and then full on hugged her neck. More grooming, she's very relaxed now and about half sleepy . . .
That all changed when we went outside. I decided to take her for a trail walk and get her exposed to the great outdoors and head shoots up (no worries about getting THAT neck to lift), tail hefted with an Arab loft over that Perchy butt, and it was prancy dancy all down the road. We worked some circles by the scary earthloading equipment (love Moonshine's expressions of alarm . . . feet move around, she gets a look at the scary thing, and that's about all there is to it). Largest issue was keeping her moving where I was pointing, not allowing her to avoid by changing directions of her own accord and asking for softness on the halter rope. I didn't mind her exuberance, her trot is big and floaty and I think she's going to be so much fun I can hardly stand it. I kept forgetting to reward her tries and made myself bring her in and rub her when she do those hip over, shoulder through's so round and pretty, she almost made think I have that down (doing it differently, hopefully the way Missy showed me, and it's not as easy as it looked! :-))) Worked her on a bank alongside the road, until she paid attention to where her feet landed, paid attention to what I was asking, and in general, paid attention. The walk to the trailer where her saddle has lived all winter (since the last lesson, right?) was much quieter and I had good thoughts I might actually end up on that tall back before all was said and done.
She saddled nicely and why not. Back at the barn, it was push come to shove . .. how would the bridling go? Missy spent a long and proper time getting the mare to put her head down softly, below shoulder level and bridle willingly with full cooperation and acceptance. Could I master the patience I might need to follow in those footsteps? Eyes widen as I approach with the bridle and Moonshine's head drifts roofward. . . I step her backwards asking gently for her to lower, and release her as soon as I feel her body give. . . sure enough the head sinks . . to my eye level . . . my shoulder . . . to my knee. Man, I don't want to mess this up! I carefully frame her face with the headstall, she almost raises her head and I ask if she wants to move her feet. Shine says no and extends her face toward the bit in my hand. I can almost not believe it as I gently slip the O ring into her mouth. A little tension as the headstall goes over the far ear, and it's done. Wow. The memory this horse has is phenomenal. Better than mine, I am pretty sure.
Had a small wreck coming out of the door, danged dog jumped up and nipped her butt as she yielded her hip to me on the way out. Moonshine spun and the mecate rein pulled the wrong side of her face, we were spinning around and I was pretty sure I was going to be on my butt in the mud, ice, snow mixture that greets the feet just outside the barn. I let go. She's OUT of there. Well, this is going to be interesting. Maybe I don't ride, maybe I spend my afternoon playing the catch me game with my fully saddled and bridled mare. Or . . . maybe I just walk up to her, and pick up the mecate with Moonshine looking at me like "what the heck was all that about?" Things are changing, yet again, with us.
Had to kick Sasha out of the round pen, not your turn today, my darling. There are people interested in her and I will gladly let her go to either of those homes. On the other hand, if she didn't leave . . . well how bad would that be. . . anyway, some more, I digress. Stepping up to the mounting block we do a couple light gives on either side, no problem, she completely remembers what to do here. She also remembers she doesn't care for the mounting block and begins to sidle. Normally, I get her "close enough" and go for it. By the time I am ready to get on her, I am 99.9999 sure she's safe and my semi flying mount had Missy's eyes wide, last time around. Today, I catch myself . . . impatience is just not what this horse needs and we are in for the long haul. I, the commitment phobe from Hell have committed to her and a couple select others out there, and I might as well do it right. I move her around, letting her settle when she's willing to come in closer and sending her back out to work when she can't stay. Finally, it's one step at a time and she's in proper position to the block and stays there. If I ever get her to this point, it's NOW finally time to get on and go, right!? Instead, I rub her neck, make noise on the saddle, hug and play with her. She stands, neck level, ears lopped. I pick up my stirrup, she's fine. Now, it is time to mount and I swing aboard. No walking off, no high tense neck, she's an old saddle horse, relaxed head to toe and ready.
We didn't do a whole lot. Walked, trotted some. I did a passenger lesson with the reins figure eighted on the saddle horn. I need to work on my seat and my balance (there's a blog a few months ago that this was my goal but I didn't get there that day) and I rode arms straight out from my shoulders, keeping my chest open, arms straight up, finding my balance points, and doing my winter clumsy chubby best to follow her movements through the knee deep snow at the top of the round pen and the mud and four inches of water at the bottom of it. I could have rode all day but I wanted Moonshine to be as happy about what we were doing as I was and riding the piss out of an out of shape mare isn't the way to do that (though Ginger bears no grudge, you sweetheart, you). I worked a little on using my outside seatbone to ask for the hip to move and then bring the shoulders over, and when I felt some improvement in us both, that was enough. I picked up my reins, asked if there was any back up in there and dropped them like a hot potato as the chin came in and the body floated backwards under me.
I don't normally trust a horse enough to passenger without the reins at least in hand. I'll let them dangle but I want them at the ready should something go wrong. This green mare, who's not been even haltered that I can remember since early December was solid as a rock under me and I have glimmers of what we might become together. I had goosebumps then and I have them now.
Nope, she didn't leave when I untacked and turned her loose. Better yet, half hour later, while filling the tank, I walked up to her out at the hay bale, took some pictures (on my phone, no idea how to get them off to share with you) and rubbed her neck and head some more. If I can stay true to the path, the journey of horsemanship, as I see and understand it, I might get past the Catch Me game with Moonshine yet in my lifetime :-) It's a good goal.
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