Due to the perfect fall weather, including mild temperatures, blue skies, and gorgeous trees in full autumn wardrobe, Natalie and I went to ride our horses today.
That’s right — our horses. Natalie’s summer camp borne horse addiction escalated into her very own horse in a matter of 5 months. I’ll have to write a full post about the horse shopping experience later. For now, here’s a picture of Graham. His name bounces between Graham Cracker and Teddy Graham. It’s a s’more pun, because the kids at the stable started to call Max “Marshmallow” a couple years ago.
It felt amazing to be back on Max after life hit me with one road bump after another last week. I had been worn down to the point of just hiding in bed. Nothing cures impending depression like blue skies and a fuzzy horse.
Max has become pouty, because I’ve been spending so much of my barn time hovering over Natalie and whatever horse she’s riding. Where Natalie can just walk into the pasture and halter Teddy Graham, Max takes a little more convincing on my part. He’s been warming back up to me, but it’s taking awhile. When it was just me going to the stable, I could walk up to Max in the pasture at any time of day and he would stand still to be haltered. Once he decided I wasn’t giving him enough of my attention, he started treating me like every other person and running around the pasture like a ninny.
Our new routine involves me joining him at the round bale cage, giving him a treat, sharing a couple head bonks, and giving him neck scratches. Then, I show him the halter. After a few minutes, he sighs and walks to the pasture gate. We stand at the fence, watching the tree line, the riders in the arena, the other horses, or whatever else looks interesting. When he’s good and ready, he gives me a look and drops his head. That’s when I can ease the lead rope around his neck and offer his halter to him. He’ll push his nose through on his own. That’s a big part of my relationship with Max on the ground, making our time together positive and giving him the opportunity to choose to be with me. The only other alternative is chasing him around the pasture until I want to scream and he’s bored enough to stop running. On the bright side, our ritual grows shorter with each repetition.
Max was great in the arena. I wanted to canter him, he was being so good. I noticed him acting a little toothy, though. I have a pattern of wanting to canter him when he needs his teeth done. I’m going to learn from my mistakes and set up a dentist appointment. He needs his fall shots, anyway. I’ll canter him soon enough. Gosh, what will be the next big struggle in my life once I’ve overcome the cantering hurdle? It’s been there for so long.
Natalie wanted to take the boys on a “trail ride” after our arena time. Their pasture is the only flat space on the farm, other than the arenas, so it’s where the kids get to go for “trail rides” after their lessons. I usually think of trail rides as a little game trail through the woods. Pasture rides seem like they should be called pasture rides.
Our pasture ride was lovely. Max and Graham seemed weirded out by having us on their backs in their relaxation space, but they got over it quickly. It took me the longest to relax out of all four of us. I’m turning into one of those old people that’s scared of … anything that could kill me. Fortunately, Max is turning into an old horse that’s used to babysitting me. We toodled around on loose reins, with a bump bump here and a bump bump there. Natalie decided to have Graham climb the big hill in the corner of the pasture. I was a lot worried about getting down, after I humored her by climbing it halfway. Max took me down like a champ. I stood in the stirrups and leaned back, and he slowly put one hoof in front of the other. I have such a great horse. By the time we had walked the whole pasture loop and were going back through the big gate, Max was taking huge relaxed strides that matched my deep breaths of being in a zen state.