Friday, September 20, 2013

Trails & Arrows

I have been taking Merlin out for trail rides as much as possible lately. My reason is that this Sunday is a Draft Club meet up and drive, and if I can't fix my cart I'll be riding Merlin along with the gang. This will be a seven mile trip, all told. Nothing we can't handle but I'd like us both in shape for it. So every day I load him up with some extra gear; saddle bags, cantle bag, horn bags, and me. That's a hefty load and we take our mountain trails which are never, ever flat. It's been good for him, and for me. The more time you spend on a horse the more you learn from each other, and about each other. For example, I know Merlin will take any possible opportunity to eat. We're a like that way. He has at times totally avoided apples on trees and maple leaves in his face long enough to fool me into thinking he is sated. Then at a full canter in an open field he'll stop dead and lower his head for a bite of white clover and that is something that teaches you about a good seat fast. When I ride Merlin I trust him, but I know he is still an animal with his own brain and plans, so I learn to sit deep, heals down, body ready to move with his own center of gravity, to sway and adjust accordingly.

Yesterday I brought my bow along, slung over my chest. I brought one field-point arrow and held it the same way I would hold a dressage crop. I couldn't help but laugh at myself a bit there, a technique for another time and place, but totally useful. I couldn't feel farther from a dressage ring at the moment though. I was in beat up carhartt pants, an old paint-stained shirt, bow on my back and riding a laden pony. We weren't out hunting, just target practice. We'd ride and at a walk I'd drop the reins and try to get Merlin to stop by my butt along, sinking in deep and saying whoa so silently you'd think it was pillow talk. I'm no Merida just yet, there are no handless gallops with a full quiver, but a girls got to start somewhere. I'd shoot at a tree or a post, something I could still get from horseback without getting off. Merlin puts up with it all, long as he can stop and eat from time to time. A war horse he is not. He's a farmer's horse. And that will do.

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