Hollie McNeil is one hell of a trainer.
I owe a lot to Hollie, who took this tense, scared, and out-of-practice novice rider and turned her into someone who can talk to a horse with her butt—but I think I also owe my good lesson to getting through this past winter. It was rough. So much harder than the blog describes. The length, the damage, the broken down cars, the being broke, worrying about heating oil and fixing old trucks, scary nights when I was sure the roof would cave in or the barn would blow apart.... But now with this world bursting with green again and I feel like I overcame something big. I made it through my first year as a homeowner and never missed a mortgage payment, or ran out of heat. I kept the lights on, the internet working, and the trash pickup regular. Trains run on time around here.
Tonight I finally brushed myself off. I did it. I got through the winter of 2010/11 and came out the other end a lot stronger. Someone who can set up an electric fence, a sump pump, and has a plow guy on speed dial. There was no tension or fear on that horse tonight because I think I used it all up on far scarier things long ago. So tonight I simply gave into a black saddle. It was the best 35 bucks I spent in my entire life.
After my lesson I drove home to the farm in a blue dusk. There was still enough light to see the whole farm but still do chores under moving clouds and a half moon. I let the sheep from their day pen into the big pasture, where Jasper spends his day. Jasper always perks his ears up like a teakettle is going off when I open the gate and a dozen sheep rush into his turf. Then he rears up and runs with them. It's not herding, or cutting, or even a game of tag: just an equine and ovine romp to better grass. When I call his name he turns and comes right to me. Since he's only 11.2 hands we are nearly at eye level. His head is still above mine on flat ground, but he lowers it and rests it on my shoulder when I turn my back to him. If I walk away he follows and nudges my lower back with his nose. I pet his small head and tell him he's home.
Did I partially buy a scrappy cart pony because I wanted a bit of joy after this godawful winter? Because I was through? Ready to take back the reins?
Damn right I did.