Sunday, August 19, 2012

a day of horsing around

Friday morning Brett and I loaded our horses into the back of his red two-horse trailer and we headed up route 22 to Livingston Brook Farm. It was early, around 8AM and we had an appointment for a lesson at 10AM with trainer Dave. The reason for the early start was a catered breakfast by Mark and Patty. We had a spread of fried heirloom tomatoes, eggs, new potatoes, and bacon: almost every bite right out of their own backyard. We sat around the round kitchen table talking about our farms and horses, stories and work while the horses got to know each other in a pasture just outside the front door.

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.

Yee Haw!


Blogger feathers217 said...

Wow , that sounds like one very special day foe sure. As I am reading it I feel as if I am right there with you. Great read to start my day. Thanks Jenna for sharing !

August 19, 2012 at 11:15 AM  
Blogger admin said...

Yes, Dolly is a trooper! Thanks for the post and a peak into quite a fantastic time.

August 19, 2012 at 1:37 PM  
Blogger The Village Queen said...

Sounds like a fun day. Horses are wierd with water, they love to paw in streams and in deeper water you never know what they will do. Reminds me of the time (many years ago) when riding a new to me ex race horse near a lake, without warning he turned and lunged into the water. Unfortunatly it was at least 8" deep and we both went under. Lost good sturrips and my saddle was never the same. But when you plan on horse swimming its a blast, use tack that can be wet and its a great way to cool off in the summer. Lots of happy horses round your parts, lucky girl.

August 19, 2012 at 3:27 PM  
Anonymous Christine said...

Sounds wonderful! PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, let me know when you are doing that again! I would love to join you! Your neighbor, Christine.

August 19, 2012 at 9:05 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

In my experience, it's not all that common to have horses that are such troopers around noisy machinery. Good training and level-headed horses are such a blessing.

August 19, 2012 at 9:59 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

What a great day!

August 20, 2012 at 12:27 AM  

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