a day of horsing around
That video above is Brett and Patty introducing Steele and Ellis to our ponies. It's not easy to see but there's a beautiful moment of equine communion going on when all four animals meet down in the meadow. I was grateful to catch it on camera!
I wanted to thank Brett for all he does for Cold Antler so I was treating him to a lesson with the magical man who brought Merlin back to me. Trainer Dave was going to address some of Dolly's nervous habits during tacking up. Dolly is amazing and responsive once she is in a harness or saddle, but it's the getting her tacked up that is the problem. She moves around, doesn't like the bit, and pretty much runs the show. Dave listened to this story and went to work right away, focusing on ground work and respect. I trust Trainer Dave with all my heart, and knew Dolly would do great. (I already asked him to be the expert speaker at the Farmer's Horse Workshop at Halloween, and he accepted!) While Brett was game for the lesson, I don't know if he expected a huge change in his horse. But by the end of one hour with trainer dave he seemed to have an entirely different animal.
Dave worked Dolly with a lunge line and plastic bag on a stick, his weapons of reason against the herbivore's fussy brain. Dolly had not been pushed around for a while so she required a little bit of extra time, but fifteen minutes into working her Dave was barely touching the line in his hands and Dolly was following him around like a dog. Dave was able to place a saddle pad and saddle on her without much fuss, and less fuss every time he tried it. I couldn't stop smiling at Brett's face, which was constantly beaming in awe at the change as well as taking in every word of Dave's instruction. By the time the lesson was wrapping up Brett was able to tack up his horse without even using cross ties. She stood like a Civil War statue. Patty and I just shook our head's smiling. These animals, and the people around them, are a blessing every day.
When school was over, we tacked up Merlin and Ellis (Ellis is Steele's paddock mate, an 18-hand Warmblood) and joined Brett and Dolly for an adventure. We rode through the woods by the famouse Livingston Brook and then up into the hayfields that span out to a beautiful private lake. We walked our horses right into the water and they splashed and drank as we laughed. We really laughed when Dolly decided to lay down with Brett on her back! It happened like slow quicksand, until she was on her belly. Brett remained calm and just slid off, got her to stand and got back on. (I would have had a fit of panic, most likely). Both got very wet, but no one was hurt. I personally think it was a revenge of sorts for her lesson. (Never mess with a chestnut Mare, folks.) But whatever she had in spite she made up for in how great she was on the trail. That little horse of Brett's was an angel. She put up with a 2.5 hour trailer ride to Washington County, was put up with strange horses, two trail rides, a lesson, and never once gave us a hard time. I think all of our trail horses had a shining moment when a big Farmall Tractor at Maple Lane Farm turned right next to us and went down the road and all of the horses were calm as monks in a monastery. I don't know if that is common, to have such calm animals in such a land of distraction and elements, but we did, and we were darn happy.
And so we rode on, along the paths and tractor dirt roads of Maple Lane Farm across the street and we ended at their barns where four Haflingers were watching us in a starting contest. Merlin and Dolly went right up to the old stone wall to say hello and Brett thought it was a riot, introducing Dolly to some of her clan.
It was an amazing day, full of learning and trotting across roads and farms. By lunchtime we were all tired as dogs and parted with hugs and handshakes. I can't wait to do it all again. And if there was any doubt I was becoming a horse person, well, it was crushed under that mud Dolly laid down in.