My Wednesday night group stands about me in a small circle, intrepid nutballs that they are. I had given the option of skipping that evening’s lesson as the temps were probably flirting with a real feel of something like nothing. That would be zero.
Handy Charlie’s wood stove was chugging away in the corner and earlier, Greg was like, nah, it’s fine in the barn, we’re good! Okayyy, guess I better cowgirl up and get with the picture.
This group is mostly my new friend Jane Manchester’s fault. She rode my Huey horse during our car parking season and was determined to not just survive the adventure but get good with it. That meant getting along with Huey and THAT meant making some adjustments.
I like to see my crew live to ride another day and once in awhile I’d interject a friendly suggestion or a really stern one if it looked like the friendly wasn’t going to take effect in time to save her life. Fortunately, she didn’t tell me where I could stuff my advice, would have been tough through all those layers anyway, and before we were done parking cars, she had Huey happy. And, she had me fired up about teaching horsemanship again.
My new barn agreed to let me start a little lesson group and I jumped in with both feet. I know a bit more about a lot of things than I did when I ran my business full time. I know I can’t keep a handle on my carefully guarded and hard fought for peace of mind and serenity if my livelihood depends on horse business. I have a day job for that. No danger of me jumping ship, strapping on chaps and spurs again for any full time ventures.
This then, is a labor of love. Don’t get me wrong, I get paid for it. Adding a little dinero to the equation lends weight to the veracity of what I teach and inspires me to plan my lessons and do it right.
I know some different things about horsemanship and what looks good and right on a horse than I did a few years back too. I am far far from where I hope to be when I take my last ride, but I am a heck of a long way from not that long ago. I am thrilled to find some people who want to play horse with me.
The group hangs in, the horses start to make a change here and there and the one thing I want to say over and over, is this isn’t even barely the tip of the iceberg of what this horsemanship does. Hang in there, even and especially if you struggle a little, what you figure out for yourself, what your horse figures out for himself is worth more than any of the words coming out of my mouth.
I can show what I have learned, give direction, show what it looks like on Royal, who’s pretty smooth with most of what I ask these days, but it’s you, in the trenches alone with your horse that’s got to work it out. The learning doesn’t happen in the lesson, or the clinic, for that matter. It happens later, at home while you try to make things work for you and your horse, together.
As most of you know, my beloved Royal is on the injured/reserved list right now. He’s not injured as such, for a change, we are taking a serious swing at healing a pesky sarcoid that sits right on his girth area where the dressage saddle buckles. We are starting out with a zinc oxide ointment that worked for a friend of mine and tonight, I am cautiously optimistic it’s working for us, too.
He’s not sore from the treatment, not crabby and rather enjoying his recuperation time. I am not one who usually bonds with my horses while they are recovering from injury. I am usually either mad at the horse for doing whatever stupid thing they did that got them hurt, or, I am mad at myself for doing whatever stupid thing I did that got them hurt. Always mad, though.
This has been different. He’s happy to see my truck when I pull in, and it doesn’t always depend on whether I have an apple in my hand or just a halter. I find myself spending time, my arms around his neck, face buried in the fragrant woolly fur of him. No hurry, no agenda.
We did groundwork in the indoor arena the other day. I set up three barrels a few feet apart in a cloverleaf and played games around them. This is a lot trickier than it sounds, involves changing hands on the lead rope, setting the front foot over with timing to keep the horse on the circle, disengaging the hind to help them come around and through. It helps a claustrophobic horse too. I never really played this game with this horse much before, my barrels have been 45 miles south of where he’s been, the past three years.
It was awkward at first, and then we both started getting the hang of things. I am rusty with it too, even though I invented the darned game! As Royal started nicely following a feel around through this one, then that one, I change things up.
The last thing I want is him to get set on automatic and just cut a pattern around the barrels because he thinks that what I want him to do. I want him placing his feet when, where and how I ask him to, and the result gets kind of pretty.
Then, we turn it around and back through them, chin down and in. That was of some concern to my pretty fellow as it caused barrels to come up close on each side behind him, never a favorite for him.
There’s lots of petting involved, just me and my horse, floating around, getting stuck, getting unstuck, figuring out what it takes to move this foot and then that one. Having him trust me to make good decisions for us.
I laugh out loud, such joy to be found in small victories. I wonder to myself how this will look on him when we are riding again, and it matters not. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it and I have no worries. He’s going to be fine.
Walking down the icy slope to his pen, Royal sinks his head and takes small careful steps beside my cautious old-lady ones. I don’t want to bust my butt on the hard ground! I look over and realize I don’t have to bump him back or bend him or do anything to get him to stay with me. He’s just there. He’s been there with me, quite awhile now. If you have read this blog any length of time or know our story, you know just how huge that is. Magick in a very fine form.