The Perfect Pair
Joanna is in her mid thirties and neighbor to Patty and Mark. She and her husband Greg are new farmers, and just moved to their land a few years ago. She's got a green thumb and already works on a big farm here in the W.C. She knows the ropes. I got to know her this summer though helping with haying and general dinner parties and hanging out with the Livingston Brook crew. She caught horse fever, and wants a sturdy horse to ride, plow and drive with. Her heart is set on a small draft like a Haflinger or Fjord. She is, however, a little nervous about taking the big step. I understand that, but I also know that the best way to get over hesitation is to blindly dive into the thick of experience. I think Patty and her will check out the mare this weekend and she just might be the third member of our little private riding association.
That sounded dirty. You know what I mean.
As for my mount, Merlin and I are a perfect pair. We're both deeply stubborn and convinced the other one is being a jerk. These last few days I have been working with him, trying to get back into the habit of regular training sessions and riding, but it's tricky. I left the world of arena's and instructors who demand proper alignment and now I am finding myself in the equine version of home schooling. I use the occasional trainer when I get in over my head, but my new coach is my farrier and he shows up in a pickup with a cowboy hat.
I know with Merlin's training sessions I need a plan. If I don't have the entire event set into systematic activities with small goals it is a waste and I get frustrated. Working with Merlin is like climbing a ladder. I can move up, but one rung at a time. When I am patient and methodical, amazing things happen. But if I get frustrated or over my head, I just end up with my butt on the ground.
Today's goal was simple. Do groundwork as long as it takes to have a responsive and calm horse, then mount up. Once mounted, perform a pre-set routine of tasks on the road and then end the session with a big smile. Today we managed to do just that. I had him groomed, tacked up, ground-worked, and we rode much better than the day before. It wasn't perfect, it rarely is, but even when Merlin wanted to argue and do his own thing, I managed to remain calm and patient and get my way. We use a simple snaffle bit, a lot of circling, and my big fat stubborn streak and eventually I win out. I think back to last March when just sitting on Merlin's back and walking around the arena was scary. It took a lot of miles together, but through amazing instruction from many people I have a horse I understand. We are a team now.
I don't know if Joanna will get the mare or not. I do know that she, like many of you, has a big dream and is just apprehensive about the commitment and the trials ahead. I think a lot of folks make decisions based on such fears. I know I do. Everything you read about on this blog, every trail ride and every move cross country. All of it is done out of anxiety. But it's not done with a fear of failure or mistakes, but a fear of regret. I worry a lot more about missing out on experiences than I do about bruises and permission. Sometimes that has worked in my favor, sometimes not. But when it comes to horses I am proud of my giant, crazy, leaps towards the team Merlin and I have built. This time last year he was a pipe dream. Now he's just my pipe.
Point being: Joanna, ride on.