Sunday, October 28, 2012

Oxygen!  Sweet, manure-and-fly-spray-scented oxygen!  That was JUST what I needed. 

Yesterday was a lonnnnng day of work.  It was Saturday, but disappointingly, motherhood knows no weekend.  (And in some respects, neither does teacherhood.)  It was filled with laundry and dog grooming and boy wrangling and science notebook grading (oof)--by 4pm, I was cooked.  I was expecting to need to take at least one boy to the barn with me as hubby has been very busy and stressed as well, but he encouraged me to go and have some alone time to recharge at the barn.  Giddily, I thanked him and changed into my breeches, and with some double and triple checking that he was okay with our rambunctious brood, I bolted out the door.

Ah, but when I got to the barn, all the rings were locked--there was a show at the facility the next day, and the freshly dragged rings needed to be kept pristine for them.  No matter.  It just means there will be no boring arena drills or lunging.  Maybe...maybe we should try the Western saddle and a bit of a minitrail ride, mmm?  (I really had an amazing time--hang on, that part comes after the playtime pics.)

But, Tril (and Firefly, for that matter) needed some turnout--well, on the property it was, then.  

He is seriously the most photogenic, show-off of a horse I've ever encountered.  I suppose that's to counter what a ridiculous unselfaware klutz he is.  But ain't he purty here?

I didn't notice his hip or back bothering him too much, but it's most noticeable when he's being asked to use himself and, in particular, on the lungeline. (STILL waiting for a call back to schedule the chiro appointment for him after 3 phone calls...ugh.  That's another story for another blog.)  So, perhaps turnout and a trail ride really was better for him, anyway, at least for this day.

Fly even got her lazy furry butt moving.

Tril does seem to drag that left hind further out behind him...hmm.  Perhaps there is some evidence of the hip/back bothering him after all.

Little red furball seriously turned it on here because she knows I don't like her in the back (where she gorges on others' spilled feed), so she was hauling to get away from big bad ol' me.

Poor Firefly just can't keep up--she had the same problem with Ana.  She learned how to cheat instead--cutting corners to "win" the race to the other end of the ring.  Firefly may not be doing higher math anytime soon, but she understands basic geometry.

And then, suddenly, Tril just stopped and looked at me.  "All done!"  Done it is, then.  Time to tack you up.

I decided to try him in my Western saddle for the first time.  I've heard they can be better for sore backs, and besides, we're not going to be doing arena drills and patterns--why not?  So, I took it down and removed the dusty saddle cover and brought it out.  Tril definitely gave it a nostrilful, but he wasn't too concerned.

One thing I noticed right away was how much taller he is than Ana when I put that thing on him.  I believe they are only about 3" apart in height, but geez, it felt quite a bit more than that.  Apparently my eye is used to seeing that saddle at a certain height, and was thrown off even by the few inches.  Funny, that.

As I was fiddling with the various straps and such, I was confused by an extra stirrup strap--then smiled and said out loud, "Ah, the buddy stir..." And realization interrupted me into silence.  The buddy stirrups were still on the saddle from the last time I ever tacked up Ana--my then-5yro son was the last to ride her.  Deep sigh.  Take them off, move on.  Dust the many white hairs still stubbornly clinging to the saddle pad, despite the washing.  Acknowledge and recognize the grief, and get on your horse.

...and get going on down the trail.

I chose to take him down the beginning of one of the few real trails in the area, as opposed to the loop around the property.  I realized I trusted him enough that he wouldn't do anything stupid, and that he was confident enough not to be afraid leaving the grounds.

So we made a right and paralleled the wash, and we walked a trail Ana and I made many trips down.  We didn't go far--I didn't want to push it--but I did want to test him.  Ana was such an insecure thing; she hated going on the trail alone.  She would be nervous to genuinely frightened unless she was following the butt of another horse.  This path Tril and I rode holds many memories of a jigging, anxious mare who wanted nothing more than to just wheel around and bolt for the security of home.  It's where we had many, many lessons of  breathing, relaxing, listening, trusting.  There was comfort in repeating that lesson with my new boy--who is so very different.

He walked alertly, head up, ears up, taking everything in.  He wasn't afraid, but curious, looking at everything with a cocked ear or turned head.  But forward he went. 

Until...the tree stump.  (Ominous, Halloween-appropriate music here.)

This is the first time I have seen Tril look at something and want to just spin on his heels and head the opposite direction.  It is an odd looking stump, encircled with peculiar wooden-hairy-like things, that could I suppose appear to be a crouching predator if you're, uh, half blind and a prey animal.

"No, Tril.  You don't have to go forward, but you can't go backward.  You can stand and look at it, but I won't push you."  Lessons from Ana.  

He stood, he snorted, he dropped his head low and looked with ears pricked so far forward they nearly touched.  Pause a few seconds, squeeze, forward he'd go a few steps, whoa, repeat.  In what would have taken an absolute bare minimum of 15min with Ana, Tril was up at the stump, nuzzling it curiously, within five.  

"Go ahead, Tril.  Touch it.  It's just a stump.  I promise, it won't jump up at you."  I let him drop his head its full length to the ground to explore, holding on to the rein at the buckle with one hand while sitting back to maintain my balance.  I've seen him explore odd items in the arena--he likes to study them closely like this, touch them, mouth them, sniff them.  

Then, he was over it and ready to move on.

We only went about another 20 feet or so down the trail; I realized I had no idea if he would jig in anxiety going home (and with Ana, the rides home were often double to quadruple the length of the ride out, as I would NOT permit her to dance home--she had to walk, dammit), so best turn around.  As we did, I said out loud, "Now, you're not going to be a jigger, are you?"  Then I realized...probably not a word I want to ever be overheard saying, heh.  Doesn't sound, um, right.  Chuckling to myself, I said, "I aren't going to jig, are you?"

No, he did not.  He walked with a very big forward step, but he wasn't dancing or overly anxious.  In the future, I may ask him to slow down, but I was happy he was walking and had done such a good job--I let him be.  

I was impressed that once we got back on the familiar property surrounding the arenas, he was in no hurry to veer home.  Seriously, Mr. Blueblood Showhorse is going to be a fine trail horse--he likes exploring the world outside carefully manicured rings.  When we got back, I wanted to get pictures of him in his Western saddle:

Gah, he is so stinkin' cute!

Problem with the photos, though, is that Tril--good boy that he is--just wanted to follow me, and wouldn't stand so that I could get a picture of him from the side.  

I got a few affectionate extreme close-ups instead, heh.  He just wanted to nuzzle me here.

I managed this one when we got back on the property--he was distracted watching a truck and trailer set up dressage arenas in the main ring for the show the next day.  

It was a fantastic first trail ride, even if you could barely call it that.  He was so good.  I can't wait to show him the hills, the trails, the creeks, the world beyond fences.  But that will wait for another day.

I untacked him and brushed the residual white hairs from Ana off his back, and smiled.  

Her legacy carries on.

1 comment:

  1. This post makes me happy...both of you branching out into new territory! Good for you. =)