Tuesday, June 19, 2012

cantering towards life!

Yesterday morning I met Patty at her farm early. We had carted with Steele the day before, and today was all about hitting the trail with our horses. The entire day was a magazine shoot of perfection, and I can't thank Patty enough for her encouragement, trailering, and time.

We picked up Merlin and getting him on the trailer was easier than ever before. The training with Milt, and on our own, has created a new experience for Merlin. He gets on with little fuss, sometimes ahead of me. It's so satisfying to see that money and time and effort spent fixing a problem, well, fixed. I am hoping to get a trailer soon, as I need it to take Merlin up to War Camp on the 30th. I'll find one in safe condition, certainly. I will barter or buy one used, whatever comes first!

Here's a video of the first part of our ride. Right before I hit record we had trotted up a steep climb out of a wooded path along a brook. The feeling of walking gently through the forest on a horse you love and trust, and then breaking into a bit of changed pace and bursting into open land and light felt like a movie script. Here we are on the half mile pasture walk to the lake. And yes, we got wet...

We walked out of the pasture and into the woods. Tree branches grazed my head. This is not something a woman of 5'3" feels often. I touched maple leaves and felt like a giraffe.

Steele headed down into the lake and here is where I got nervous. Merlin isn't a fan of water, and getting him to walk through puddles is sometimes hard. But when Steele started heading into the lake, Merlin did too! And suddenly the two of us were on top of splashing and stomping happy horses, drnking and dipping their snouts in lake water and using their front hoof to dig and splash. Merlin and Steele were having a ball. I was still a little nervous (Merlin slipped once getting out and I didn't fall in) but we did it. Woods to pasture, pasture to lake, and now were were off to walk hedgerows, dirt roads and other fields. We walked and trotted mostly. The sun was out, but not hot. the flies weren't bothering the boys much at all. Merlin was coated with fly spray and ear Swat, and Steele (who gets bothered by flies more) was in a mask.

What you see here is Merlin's road pack. It's a saddle bag that sets on his saddle's cantle. It has a pouch large enough to hold things like a poncho, pocket knife, snacks, first aid kit and your phone and straps to tie on a wool sweater. It also carries two quarts of water for the rider. I'm a fan of it. As trail riding takes up more of my summer, I am looking forward to packing snacks and gear.

Back to the ride: we moved across the farmscape, taking in the new corn shoots, and rolling hillsides. Merlin now felt as natural below me, as calm, as my own Dodge pickup. I was feeling a little cocky and would give him heel to trot alongside Steele's large walking stride. Patty and I talked. She and I are people who focus on gratitude and positive things. No talk of war, politics, ill-intended gossip, or fear on those trails. We took in the sunlight, the smell of cut hayfields and horse, and made statements about the beautiful weather, swapped horse tips, talked about the men in our lives and families. It was textbook delightful. There is enough anger, suffering, and fear in the world without us having to surrender to it. If you want to hear about it, "be informed" then turn on the news or pick up a paper. Invite a scared person over for dinner and listen to how horrible the world is. I am losing my tolerance of intentional negativity. Every day, every minute, you choose how to life your life and see the world. If you are kind, compassionate, and honest about your feelings those kind of people and experiences wrap themselves around you. To this I am a living testament, this blog certified proof. A happier life means choosing to be a happier person. It doesn't mean running away from reality. It means having the guts to create your own.

Whew. Anyway, I was so wrapped up in the conversation I didn't even think about it when Steele started to canter up a steep slope. I just gave Merlin a bit of leg and he loped up right after his big brother. I rode that canter as if I had been born to it. All those months of riding lessons, trotting in circles, had taught me enough of seat and leg to remain calm and communicate. It felt amazing, to be on a galloping horse, MY horse, out in a feral trail ride where only our whims told us where to go.

And all of this, the horses, the ride, the lake and that unexpected burst of cantering. All of it was happening on a Monday morning. To someone who spent the last 8 years of her life surrendering every single Monday to Paid Time Off or someone's company: it felt so much deeper, that freedom of the day. I WAS in my office, on the back of a running black gelding in the place I call home.

When we trotted back to her driveway I hugged that horse for a long time. He's worth every penny, every drop of sweat, and every board carried to make him a barn and pasture fence. He's magic to me.

And to those of you reading about this at home, those of you who wish with all your heart You had a horse to ride? You can ride too. I promise that if it is something you want it is yours to have. I don't care if you live in the middle of Boston and don't have a car or a spare twenty dollars to your name. You are online now, aren't you? Well, search for stables, trail rides, and lessons in your area. Look for places you can can get too (or close too) by foot, bus, or car. ASK through email and phone calls if you can exchange hard work (muck stalls all morning?) for a half hour lesson or a trail ride with a group already paying with horses set aside. Ask that cousin in the country you visit to show you how to put on a bridle and pick feet. Walk to your neigbors with horses and tell them you think they are wonderful, and would love to get a barn tour. Go to the county fair and ask the girl with he draft team about her local club. Do you see what I am getting at? If you want something, you need to start dialing numbers, asking friends and family, and putting time ad sweat into it. I have no doubt that anyone who wants to ride will.

I know a woman at the stables who gave up her cable and cell phone to take a lesson a week and is saving for a horse and fencing of her own on her small acre homestead. She'll make it happen.

I'm not lecturing, I am making that promise. You can have your farm, your horse, your goats, your chickens. You can have it as soon as this weekend (in some form) if you start making emails and phone calls now. Live around here? Call or email ME! You already have a resource! One couple new to farming is trading a bin of pumpkins and possibly a pig to come to the Farmer's Horse workshop here in the fall. Another couple who owns a t-shirt comapny is printig up the fiddle camp shirts in exhange for coming to camp. This farm is how I make my living, but it is also dedicated to you, the readers. I want anyone who wants what I have to have it, too. I will do whatever I can to get you there through words, encouragement, workshops, and stories.

Go get your own canter started right now, and don't let a single person tell you it isn't yours to have. You won't hear anything to the contrary here. I know it is yours, just go ask for it and receive it with gratitude. It is yours.

Brigit's Fire, it is.

39 Comments:

Blogger Karen Rickers said...

They say that loving yourself is the start of a lifelong romance, but for me (and obviously for you as well), loving a horse (or a dog) has the same rich reward. I'm remembering sweaty lather on an equine neck with fondness after reading your post.

June 19, 2012 at 8:13 AM  
Anonymous cowgirl said...

Nice. You are inspiring me to tack up my boy. Not today, though; it's going to be in the 90s AGAIN. Well, it IS summer and it IS good for my corn!

Carry on.

June 19, 2012 at 8:16 AM  
Blogger macbew said...

Great post! But what exactly is Brigit's Fire? I've not heard that expression before.

June 19, 2012 at 8:57 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

It's an expression of determined affitmation. Like, "By God, it is!" or "Darn Tootin' she will!"

Brigit is a Celtic Goddess/Catholic Saint known for her healing and sacred fire.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brigid

June 19, 2012 at 9:03 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Morning Jenna, sounds like you had a wonderful time. May I make a suggestion from a safety point of view from an old Boy Scout? Always keep your "pack" on your person instead of your horse. We live in a "horse rich" area of the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee and there are many occasions where horse and rider become "parted" for various reasons. May people have learned the lesson that when your horse throws you and runs off with your survival gear, you are left with nothing. For that reason it is best that you keep at the least your phone and water on your person. Enjoy Merlin and the life you are living. Your ARE an inspiration to others.

June 19, 2012 at 9:23 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Jenna, sounds like a wonderful ride. You two are getting to know each other as horse and human should. From the perspective of an old (and I mean that) Boy Scout, never have your survival gear on your horse, have it on your person. In the area of the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee where we live there are many horse operations. It is a usual thing to hear of horse and rider being "parted" by accident and the horse going back to the trailer leaving the rider standing or laying on the trail with nothing. Your phone and water do you no good if they are with Merlin and he is gone. They need to be with you. I know you are riding mostly with others, but the habit of keeping your survival gear on your person needs to be established so when you start riding alone you will be prepared. Just a hint to a good friend. Stay safe and be Blessed and keep writing.

June 19, 2012 at 9:30 AM  
Blogger farmhousewife said...

loved this post; it is so true! It's great to be connected (via the www) to others who are proactively moving towards their dreams; opinions of others be-damned.

I always enjoy reading your writing, Jenna, thank you for putting it out there.

June 19, 2012 at 9:37 AM  
Blogger farmhousewife said...

loved this post; it is so true! It's great to be connected (via the www) to others who are proactively moving towards their dreams; opinions of others be-damned.

I always enjoy reading your writing, Jenna, thank you for putting it out there.

June 19, 2012 at 9:37 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

There is nothing like a good ride to turn a day or a week around. Like you I use riding and jogging (and yoga too!) to clear my mind and set myself in a good place. I too cantered for the first time on Friday- and my smile lasted all weekend! It is so empowering to feel the great beast under you and have a clear head and purpose on the horse. A few years ago I am sorry to say I was a bit of a shell, afraid of everything. Today I am counting down the days till my next riding lesson and 5k. I am signed up for Antlerstock in October- I can't wait to meet Merlin and Jasper!

June 19, 2012 at 9:39 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

thanks all!

June 19, 2012 at 10:05 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Congrats Elizabeth!

June 19, 2012 at 10:05 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

And Mike, good good point! We'll share the gear, and I'll keep the stuff like that close to me.

June 19, 2012 at 10:06 AM  
Blogger Meredith A said...

a note on your equestrian lingo, cantering and galloping are different gaits. cantering is a 3 beat gait while galloping is a 4 beat gait.

merlin's four gaits are: walk, trot, canter, and gallop.

this is important in ring work when you'll want to pick up the correct lead when cantering. i imagine with merlin's experience he has auto lead changes but its necessary to note, especially in the show ring!

June 19, 2012 at 10:08 AM  
Blogger DarcC said...

Hey! I still have my trailer earmarked for you, just don't know if I can get it there before the 30th, I WILL send you pics this week!

June 19, 2012 at 12:14 PM  
OpenID domesteading said...

Great post! I am jealous of your lush meadows and lakes, it is SO DRY and HOT where I'm at. Hey where'd you get that snazzy saddle bag? I'm about to switch to an Aussie saddle (from a borrowed Western) and I'd love to comfortably carry water etc. with me.

June 19, 2012 at 1:50 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Darcy I am VERY interested!

June 19, 2012 at 1:59 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

And I got my bag from Chick's. Here is the link!

http://www.chicksaddlery.com/page/CDS/PROD/FSB990

June 19, 2012 at 2:00 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

See you at Northern Region. I'll swing by to see Merlin in action between beating up on the boys. :)

June 19, 2012 at 2:03 PM  
Blogger Big Sky Chicken Ranch and Victory Garden said...

Yah! I love it. No time for intentional negativity. I often get chided for ignoring the news and not staying "informed". Sept. 11, 2001 cured me of watching TV news in the morning. Your post inspires me to do even better by reading less "info-tainment" and idle internet gossip.

June 19, 2012 at 2:33 PM  
Blogger Bovey Belle said...

Ah, now you're starting to really enjoy your riding. The freedom is what it's all about. It will get better and better from now on, promise.

June 19, 2012 at 2:59 PM  
Blogger The Kelly's Adventures in KY said...

Absolutely LOVED reading this! I am so happy for you! You are so right about choosing to live happily. Way to go! Merlin is such a fine steed, and I'm glad you both can share such a wonderful time with Patty and Steele.

June 19, 2012 at 3:14 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Sarah, I am hoping to make it to War Camp with Merlin. Not sure if I will have a trailer in time. And I don't think Patty can give up a saturday to escort us. I will be there for certain though, as an archer of Glenn Linn.

June 19, 2012 at 3:50 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

If you are looking for me, ask for Creowe (Crow) Mackenzie.

June 19, 2012 at 3:50 PM  
Anonymous Pooh Overalls said...

What a way to make me re-evaluate things in my own life! I've been making a lot of excuses for not expanding my homestead (suburban TX zoning restrictions, school aged children, fear of failure, etc.). My kids follow this blog and have really enjoyed it and have started to take more responsibility for the few animals we have. (I asked them where they wanted to go for summer vacation and they said "Miss Jenna's Farm" LOL) Maybe we're all ready to take on a little more. I would love to try bees! (Anyone with kids and bees have any experiences to share?) Time to get back on the horse and grab life by the reins! Why not?

June 19, 2012 at 3:54 PM  
Blogger Elaine said...

you are so right; there is nothing more amazing than to be on a galloping horse ......!!

June 19, 2012 at 5:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Hi Jenna.
When you say ..."Steele (who gets bothered by flies more) was in a mask" do you mean that he is more sensitive to flies and their bites? I am curious as my horse is black and due to his dark color, seems to attract a greater number of flies.
Lisa in Maine

June 19, 2012 at 8:22 PM  
Anonymous Jackie C said...

This blog inspired me to actually look up riding lessons in the Las Vegas area. But knowing nothing about horses, except I wantMerlins twin, I don't know if I wanted English riding or Western, or what type of lessons? I just want to ride my horse to the grocery store and pickup the mail, that sort of thing.

June 19, 2012 at 8:26 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Jackie, I think it matters less what style you want to ride, than your goals. It sounds to me that you want basic lessons in the horsemanship 101 world. You could get that from either a dressage school or a western ranch school. I suggest calling around and telling people your goals. and judging the schools and instructors by their response. Go with whatever teacher makes you feel comfortable.

My own bias is towards english, and only because it focuses so much on seat and general horsemanship. You use less saddle, less reins, and less bit. Your skills will translate over to western easily and make you a better rider. Western riding is just as nuanced and particular, but starts you off in a saddle like a couch with a horn to hold onto with heavy bits.

I suggest trying both schools out, maybe a lesson at each style, and decide which feels right to you. Also understand I never took a single Western lesson and am uncomfortable in western saddles. So I am bias as all get out!

June 19, 2012 at 8:56 PM  
Blogger seagrrlz said...

One time I was riding a horse that was really too big for me. I wasn't tall enough to mount him without a box. He decided to go swimming with me along. I was able to keep him out of the really deep water but only by dismounting. In the water. Of course, I then couldn't get back up on him. I ended up walking back to the stable, sodden with him coming along behind me.

Sounds like you did much better than I did lol.

June 19, 2012 at 9:36 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

LOVED this post!

June 19, 2012 at 10:27 PM  
Blogger greendria said...

This is why I read your blog! You rock. You are inspiring. You motivate me. You help me. You make a difference

June 20, 2012 at 8:06 AM  
Blogger redhorse said...

Jackie C,

I don't know much about Vegas, but there is a rescue in the area called Shiloh Ranch. They have a lesson program, they rent horses for trail rides, and of course, they always need volunteers. It seems like a good way to learn a lot about horses and do some good for them too.

June 20, 2012 at 9:09 AM  
Blogger Meredith A said...

keep in mind many western horses are ridden in hackmores, bitless bridles.

the bit it horse specific, many are multi discipline.

June 20, 2012 at 1:02 PM  
OpenID kindsofhoney said...

Just wanted to say that I love seeing horses and horse tack and just, all that horse-world stuff on your blog. It's a lovely addition to this blog and I'm sure an even lovelier addition to your life! Thanks for the inspiration. I just saw a team of gorgeous, Amish-trained Belgians for sale and though now is not the time (it really isn't, but I DO have a plan), it has made me more determined than ever that I can have this draft-powered farm of my dreams!

June 20, 2012 at 1:08 PM  
Blogger PattyW said...

Steele just happened to have a few bad fly days in the pasture. Flys were biting his ears etc. - thru the spray. Merlin has a built it fly mask aka very long forelock!
Bits= entire courses can be written/taught. Steele will use a driving Bit- Liverpool or an o-ring snaffle for dressage, or a grazing bit for trail rides or a rope halter or even nothing- naked- I've ridden him on trails with any of the above and bareback with nothing at all. It all depends on what you and your horse work best with together. Each bit offers different types of pressure and various amounts of control. I have friends that drive with o-ring snaffles on their huge drafts. Hackamores- tho bit less can be just as harsh as a bit tho on the sensitive areas of the nose.

June 20, 2012 at 9:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just to clarify- I took two years of Western Riding- not at all like a "couch with a horn to hold onto". In fact you get marked way down if you use the horn at all. We also used more neck pressure then bits. You want them to feel the reins before the bit ever moves. You want to be comfortable in your saddle and on your horse the style you learn matters not.

June 21, 2012 at 4:47 PM  
Blogger redbird said...

“A happier life means choosing to be a happier person. It doesn't mean running away from reality. It means having the guts to create your own,”…love it. Found that I’ve more and more started making a concentrated effort to shut out the stuff I just don’t need and seek out the things I do…such as like minded company to go bluegrass jamming or horseback riding, and making time for the simple pleasures, etc… Still living in reality, but it’s a better one.

Sounds like a fantastic ride with good company. Love the fancy pack.

June 21, 2012 at 8:19 PM  
Blogger redbird said...

Jenna, have a small, totally non-confrontational question concerning these bits…I’ve heard you refer to heavy bits a lot with western riding. True that some do use a few spade bits and such, but they’re usually old, old school trainers in my experience…the kind who still like to play John Wayne. The majority of the trainers I’ve met never touch the things. I’ve trained my fair number of horses western style as well with nothing but a bosal and then moving into various snaffles. Plus good riders don’t use the reins much when riding western either. Where I board now there are over 30 horses all ridden western with no “heavy” bits present. The good ones never go to the heavy Spanish style bits. It could be a totally different western scene over on the east coast though. When you mention heavy bits with western riding which bits are you referring to?

June 21, 2012 at 8:22 PM  
Blogger CarolG. said...

Just wanted to mention that back when I did a lot of trail riding in my English saddle I use a bota bottle to carry water as it appeared to be much more comfortable for my mount if it bounced against him. This method also lends itself to easily directed streams of water for hand washing (hold the bottle between your knees and squeeze if you are alone), wound cleansing and other purposes.

June 24, 2012 at 7:23 PM  

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