Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Perfect Pair

I see another summer of arrows and saddles ahead, and the tell tale sign is a black mare named Ebony. She's a draft pony for sale on Craigslist, and while she sounds like a dream (and a perfect match for Merlin) she's not destined for Cold Antler Farm. She's a possible horse for my good friend and neighboring farmer, Joanna.

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.

10 Comments:

Blogger Deltaville Jamie said...

Your post made me think of a couple of things. First, that maybe I need to force myself to go ride the horse in my back yard that I haven't been on in a year and maybe it will help me throw off this blanket of melancholia I'm presently wrapped in. Second, I think farrier's are the best instructors. My first horse was a terror- an ex racer who was 17 but still 3 in his mind. It was my farrier who gave me the tools and information I needed to get things to click. And third, I thought of this stubborn pony I rode at lessons. He was a perfect gentleman at shows and a perfect jerk anywhere else. He'd stop dead in the middle of a trot and he'd continuously fart while you posted so it was similar to riding a whoopie cushion- if one rode those. Thanks for your post, I think it's what I needed to get some motivation.

February 7, 2013 at 7:57 AM  
Blogger R'Eisen Shine Farm said...

here here!! Joanna, no matter when you decide to get the right horse for you, it will be a transition and a challenge. Our girls are settling in well, but it would be a lie to say it's all been easy. There are no perfect moments- only opportunities. I'm not saying to leap- i'm just saying that the distance never feels any shorter the closer you get to the cliff. :)

February 7, 2013 at 8:57 AM  
Blogger Paradise Found Farmgirl said...

Sounds like you are doing a great job with Merlin.

In my experience "Winter Horses" are different creatures than "Summer Horses". The cold and blustery weather makes them more "up" and much less likely to do what you ask them to do. Plus, it is hard to keep them in regular work and routine when the weather gets bad. Hang in there Spring will be here soon.
Heather in PA

February 7, 2013 at 9:03 AM  
Blogger jules said...

Deltaville Jane: Girl...get on that horse! In my darkest, the thing that kept me going was going to the barn, grooming and riding, cleaning stalls, leaning on that horse. Riding that horse became something that was necessary, like having to walk the dog. Horses make nice yard ornaments, but they really need to be ridden to utilize their full potential. Bonus that it lifts the spirits. Get on out there!

February 7, 2013 at 12:34 PM  
Blogger jules said...

Sorry, Deltaville Jamie!!

February 7, 2013 at 12:36 PM  
Blogger Rosie said...

Remember to review those DVDs they will make perfect sense now. Once you are finished I will send you the next bunch...
Good to hear it's coming together. Remember it takes lots of wet saddle blankets to develop a great horse, and a good horseman, time and consistency. You don't need and arena. Just put in the time.

February 7, 2013 at 5:22 PM  
Blogger Sharon said...

Yes Jenna, you know what you need to do with Merlin. Regular, daily work is the most important way for the two of you. I know that you will do your best, he will respond to you. As I used to tell my small daughter about her pony, you are the boss.

February 7, 2013 at 10:25 PM  
Blogger Sarah McCollum said...

My rescue Belgian has put on another 60 pounds in just under 5 weeks, we are saddle shopping, shes broke and sweet and my dream come true! Thanks Jenna I will never forget your post about following your dreams last summer...It changed my life!!
Sarah

February 8, 2013 at 10:25 AM  
Blogger knob creek farmer said...

Beautiful photograph!

February 11, 2013 at 12:52 PM  
Blogger knob creek farmer said...

Beautiful photograph!

February 11, 2013 at 12:52 PM  

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