Sunday, February 14, 2016

All four Corners

I remember how revolutionary it was for me to hear that all four corners of the horse should reach equally. A supple, balanced horse does this. A tight upset horse cannot. Understanding the theory is a long way from knowing what it looks like though now that I know I can't imagine not knowing.

A horse in balance glides, loose joints move easily. They don't get hurt as often and they are not so likely to injure you, either. There is a flowing, rippling quality to the movement.

Back in the day when I would asses horses for a living either to purchase for myself or a client my absolute top goal was to survive the experience. Shortly thereafter on the priorities was not get in any kind of wreck whatsoever. Usually watching the owner handle and hopefully ride the animal would tell me everything I needed to know. Almost all the errors I saw were human created and the horse would do whatever it could to either get along or protect itself.

I'd watch the long suffering things throw their heads, hollow their necks and backs, pound around in a spine jarring gait under ill fitting saddles, big bits and hard sitting riders. I don't so much judge people for what they don't know though I do get a bit critical over willful ignorance.

My theory almost never wrong is that if the horse would put up with all that, I could probably get on, ride safely for a couple minutes to see what it knows and then strike a deal. I've bought some darned nice horses worth the money through people not having a clue what they have.

I've talked before about a little sorrel mare named Penelope and how she is the benchmark for what sitting on a broke horse feels like, There is something that happens when you get on one and they settle smoothly under you. There's no movement of feet but the weight shifts and you fit together like one beast.

Yesterday, that happened with Royal.

Following our wreck in September, I've hung in there for my return to ride date. Doctor wouldn't even discuss it with me for the longest. I was good, no way I was going to risk healing of something this important. I stayed off and mostly away from the horses all these months. There was enough pain and discomfort I knew the medical advice I was receiving was sound. Finally, I get the nod. Second weekend of February, it's on.

I had it in my head to maybe start out with a different horse. Use one of Greg's at the barn less likely to throw in some cold backed pyrotechnics, one that had maybe been ridden in the past four and a half months.

I get my two yesterday never even entertaining the idea of riding something else. My plan was spend the day and ride them both. Huckleberry is moving stiffly and I am not sure I want to throw the heavy western saddle twice. At this point I am not 100% certain I can throw it once.

I smile while digging the thing out from under pads and the assorted English saddle. My good bridle missing in action all this time after the clinic is hanging from the saddle horn. It's developing into a really good day. Sabrina, I've brought it home and the next time we see it, your gorgeous mecate will be in place.

I grin bigger as it's uncomfortable packing the saddle into the arena but doable. Fully rigged it weighs give or take 50 pounds. My wrist scowls but it doesn't wimp out and quit. I'm good with that.

The boys enjoy the dry soft sandy indoor while I finalize a deal on my trailer. Really good day, now eh. Trailer is sold, truck shopping will kick into highest gear so that money does not find itself other places and me no truck.

I go in, seek them out. They're done rolling, bucking, playing, farting and snorting. Now we stand, the three of us.. Huckleberry reaches over and snuffles me. Royal stands close. We breathe and I am loving this moment so much I don't really care if I do any other thing all day long.

Curious about Huck's movement, I slide my hand down his leg and ask for his foot. He politely hands it to me and I flex the ankle. The frog is retracted and he's sitting up high on his heels. They are way past due for a mani/peddy session. No wonder this horse is sore. I set the foot down and it must have hurt, as Huck flinches and pins his ears.

He glares at me in an owly fashion. I rub his neck but he's not having any and shakes his head at me. Okay, you need to move off, big boy. I don't get bully with him but I do make him leave and create a safer distance between us. I am not sure what's behind all that posturing but it's a silly person that ignores it.

After he figures out ears forward and soft eyes will let him come back, we do that.

Grooming is Zen time. I go over every inch of them, noting scars, nicks. Huck is sore over his topline. I've been thinking chiropractiry in his near future and I will make the appointment tomorrow. You can't train pain and this horse is not right, so he is mostly going to sit and hang out until I find out what's going on with him beside short toes and high heels.

Royal is calm. His affect is of a been there, done that saddle horse. I saddle, checking him closely while I tighten the cinch. I snug it up in stages, not taking a ton of time but watching my horse.

I make sure it won't go under his belly and cause us another problem, I pull halters and move both horses around. I fully expect Royal to blow up and buck the knots out of his back like he has done when first saddled for a long time. I can't even remember when that started or why I didn't think it was remarkable . . .

He doesn't. Trots around, Arab floaty, sassy nose in the air but not tight. Peter had commented during the clinic that Royal might not ever find the need to blow up like that again. I'd filed the thought away to revisit as I wasn't sure but watching my horse move comfortably, in balance told me he could be right. Then he tucks that nose and shows me the beautiful self carriage I love so much.

I put Royal through every test I know. I tried to spook him, suddenly flapping the flag in his rearview mirror. I did groundwork, circling him around, drifting the hind. That's asking the hind to reach further than the front requiring some athletic stretching and can't happen if there are knots.

I told Greg if I were assessing this horse back in the day, I'd already been on him for about three minutes to make sure what I was seeing was real, would have been off before the owner realizes what a nice horse they have. He'd have been in my trailer heading home.

No more putting it off. The horse is ready to ride and so am I.

I climb up on the mounting block and he swoops in to pick me up. Stands steady, square. I mess around, treating him like a colt. I move stirrups, lean over, flap offside stirrup. He waits patiently.

Okay, foot in, don't mess around. Get on, get settled. My stirrup leathers are stiff from sitting and it takes a minute to get my right foot in the stirrup. Royal doesn't care. He's so solid under me. I sit and appreciate him.

Pick up my right rein,ask him to flex that way and look at me out of his right eye. Yep, I see you, Terri. There you are.

To the left, yep, you are over there too. He is content, Neckline relaxed. Well Greg, I say, we aren't getting very far like this and I suppose it's time to ask him to move before he does stand here long enough to get tight.

He steps off like the broke saddle pony he really is. There is nothing in the world like being on your coming home horse, the one that sits so deep in your heart it doesn't matter what you have to go through to make the partnership work.

We work easy circles at the walk. I ask for a soft feel and he's there. We work at holding it. I don't fuss at him, let him find his way. We trot circles, do some serpentines, ride simple dressage patterns, move the hip and front end around. He's not as bendy as he is when we are in shape and neither am I.

We are willing partners though. There are no spooks, no big eyes or gasps at shadows. He doesn't care about noises or anything at all. I was thinking I'd stay on him and ride forever.

Greg needed to leave the barn and in the interest of being smart, ending on a great note, I decided not to keep riding if there were no one in proximity to at least be able to tell the story.

My horse is happy. He is enjoying being with me. What a long road that has been. Worth every mile.

People thought I was crazy to keep riding in the clinic after I got hurt. I am so glad I did. Both of my horses ended on good notes there and so did I. I will always tighten my own cinch and ride my own ride. I will listen to what my horse tells me.

Yesterday, he told me we were balanced on all four corners.

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