Wednesday, September 8, 2010

practicing my english

"See, this is why we call it Burdock Meadow," Hollie said to me, half joking and half surprised I didn't pull the seventy-jillion burrs out of Sunny's tail while I tacked him up for my lesson. Sunny's a chestnut Appendix, a regal looking animal in his english saddle and bridle. But it's hard to look good when your personal assistant doesn't realize you have stickers on your butt. Hollie was joking, but she made her point: grooming is head to tail, not just where the saddle goes. I've almost got the tacking part of the lesson down. I can brush backs, pick hooves, pick out and adjust the right pads, lifts, girths and saddles. I can put on the bridle and halter: but I never thought to check his tail. I blushed a little and apologized in some rushed bit about not-knowing-about-the-tail. I made a mental note.

Last night was my best lesson so far at Riding Right Farm. For one, long, side of the arena I did my most-correct, most-comfortable, and most-chilled out posting trot yet. I beamed as Hollie praised me. For weeks I'd been coming to lessons tightly wound and over-working my body. I was nervous being back on a horse again. It had been since college that I rode regularly. (I'm cautious by nature, so having a 1,000-pound animal below me that could throw me at whim had me a little tense.) But tonight some part of me gave up the fight, gave in. For the first time I was at home up there, even for a dozen yards. I could tell it was correct because it felt effortless. I trotted with Sunny, not on him. For a moment my mind was clear and I understood everything he was doing and he tolerated me beautifully.

Within a few more laps and circles I was back to overworking, poor hand position, and over steering. But I'll get it eventually. The point is progress was happening and all it took was letting go.

When the lesson was over Hollie let me un-tack Sunny alone and left me a lantern and instructions to return him to Burdock Meadow. The meadow was on the other side of the farm and it was already after 8pm and dark in New York. After I put away all my gear and Sunny was back to just a halter. I thanked him and gave him a kiss on the nose. I pulled every burr out of his tail. He stood patiently. A good man.

The barn was ours for a minute. I turned on the lantern and we walked under the stars to the meadow. We walked slow and I could look up and around me. At the trees starting to yellow, at Sunny's large brown head just to my right. I opened the gate and removed his halter. The rest of the night was his to do things horses do. I thanked him again for helping me relax, let go, and just be present with him for a few moments tonight. He turned around and trotted off into the dark. I headed back to the stables with a lantern in my right hand, and was smiling. I didn't know horses could be buddhist.

18 Comments:

Blogger daisy said...

Oh, how I miss riding. It sounds like you're coming along. It's such a unique experience feeling so "one" with another animal not of your species. Enjoy, Jenna. Enjoy. daisy

September 8, 2010 at 6:36 AM  
Blogger The Sprouting Acorn said...

Your taking the horse back to the meadow brought to mind poet James Wright and "A Blessing."

September 8, 2010 at 8:08 AM  
Blogger katiegirl said...

You're making me want to get back into riding. It's been since college for me too...

September 8, 2010 at 8:10 AM  
Blogger doglady said...

This sounds like the most wonderful evening a person could have. I haven't ridden or handled a horse in twenty years but your description came alive in my mind as though it was yesterday. I could hear the hooves crunching the gravel and the snort as he left to go out for the night. You've got a great thing going. Savor every moment.

September 8, 2010 at 8:25 AM  
Blogger treehuggers kitchen said...

This is one part of the farm life I have yet to attempt. I have always wanted to ride a horse, have never done it. It sounds very peaceful...thank you, Jenna.

September 8, 2010 at 8:53 AM  
Blogger kristina said...

Hey I heard about this on npr the other day and thought you would get a kick out of it! http://www.nhpr.org/weed-dating-speed-dating-your-hands-get-dirty

September 8, 2010 at 9:38 AM  
Blogger Diane said...

The Zen of riding a horse is a beautiful thing. And if you have your own horse, it's even stronger, because you've had years to get to know each other and become attuned to each other's movements. It's addicting, so be careful! You may want a Cold Antler Farm horse of your own after this, so you can mount up and inspect your acreage whenever you wish. : ) My own horse passed away 9 years ago, and we were so close I just don't have the heart to get another one -- I think she was irreplaceable.

September 8, 2010 at 11:02 AM  
Blogger Becky said...

I've always found that riding horses is 90% mental and 10% physical. When I first started to ride I couldn't relax enough to keep my butt in the saddle-finally I was able to stop trying so hard and just let it happen. Such a great feeling-enjoy every minute of it!

September 8, 2010 at 11:50 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

It sucks being allergic to horses.

September 8, 2010 at 12:14 PM  
Blogger bookjunky said...

All animals are buddhists I would think.

September 8, 2010 at 1:20 PM  
Blogger Margaret said...

The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man (or woman).

Old horseman saying

September 8, 2010 at 2:03 PM  
Blogger Jo said...

Your post made me smile. I grew up with horses in a field of burdock. They stayed out of it most of the time but we had one that just LOVED the attention he got when he came to the gate with his forelock and mane in a complete tangle. They KNOW what will get to you. Every day he would get into it until we took the scissors and just cut it all off. He moved on to other games. I miss the smell of them most of all.

September 8, 2010 at 4:10 PM  
Blogger Arlene said...

Horses are wonderful animals. I love taking care of them more than riding them, I think. Sounds like a beautiful night.

September 8, 2010 at 5:38 PM  
Blogger Debra said...

Sunny was the name of my first horse, my first love . . . thanks for letting us live vicariously through you.

September 8, 2010 at 7:41 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

Yes, I think horses are on some level, buddhist. There is even a book titled "The Tao of Equus"!
Your 'oneness' with the horse will come in time. You have a great affinity for animals, so it will come.

September 8, 2010 at 10:02 PM  
Blogger Julie F. said...

I raised a goat like Finn, who also had his horns. He'd hook his horns on the woven wire fence & pull till the staples popped. One day, I was out mending a patch of fence & he came up behind me and affetionately rubbed his horns on my legs. He would do this when his horns were growing & were itchy. I was wearing shorts, that day, & he left a gash in one of my calves. I had to find another home for him. Luck to you, Julie F.

September 9, 2010 at 12:16 PM  
Blogger lmel said...

Ah yes, the best way to end the day, watching the sun go down from the back of my horse, then brushing him down as he munches on grain, the bats taking flight in the twilight. Right here, all's well with the world.

September 9, 2010 at 2:00 PM  
Blogger Bean said...

I board my horse, Pixie, at a natural horsemanship facility. Each time I'm out to visit, play or ride I return her to her pasture with a sweet hug, kiss and words of thanks. I thank her for being patient with me, working with me and following me on this journey. Yes, it's very buddhist. :)

September 10, 2010 at 9:57 AM  

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