In a fit of romantic spontaneity, I decided to take Sully out for an early morning hack. Early is when I’m already at the barn to feed him and Chuckles the calf; 7:30ish on most days, except weekends, when they have to wait a little longer. I wasn’t sure how Sully would feel about this unsavory change of routine. After all, it meant he would be denied a morning of hay-gorging and napping. Those activities would have to wait until — oh my gosh — mid-morning!
I did the usual chores, then brought him inside for his breakfast, something I do periodically but not always. When he saw me come out with the halter in lieu of his grain bucket, he casually turned around and walked into the far corner. I whistled and waited, every bit as casual. After a moment of deep thought and a good constitutional, he meandered back to me, stuck his head into the halter and followed me into the barn with a heavy sigh.
I gave him his grain and his hay net so he could have a bite before our workout. He was a little surly with me, but I spoke to him sternly, in my I-mean-business voice, and he settled.
I took my time getting him ready, bringing each tack item out and allowing it to sit in his eye line for a few minutes before applying it to his person (horsedom?) I even put his polos on all four legs, just to give him time to adjust to the idea that this wasn’t going to be a normal morning. He was cooperative enough.
I longed him a little longer than usual, and to my surprise he was completely attuned to my commands. He worked out a couple of bucks, did his yielding and backing exercises on first command, and I decided we were good to go. It was only 8:30.
Now, for the things I learned.
Spurs don’t work when evil swine are involved. I suppose this morning was our first trek past them without any company, and apparently, with no one there to impress, well… The more I dug in in an attempt to get forward movement, the faster he backed up. Somehow I finally won, but I’m not sure how. Anyway, we ended up with the evil swine behind us and both unscathed, relatively.
I can sit a flying spook. Flying spooks happen when you’re loping up the road, imagining that you look like Godiva (only wearing clothes, but the clothes aren’t your typical grubby jeans and horse-beslobbered jacket, rather something white and spotless that flows in the wind like your long, golden locks) when all of a sudden a donkey, who’d been sleeping peacefully hidden in his roadside pasture, bolts into sight. It’s like flushing quail, only way bigger and scarier. Your graceful gallop becomes a panicked leap and spin and before you know it, your mount is booking it back the way he came with a rider (you, in this case) hanging on for dear life and hopefully not squealing like a little girl. I was still aboard, and did get him turned and past the flushed donkey fairly quickly.
I can sit a jump. This is a big one. The only time I’ve ever fallen off Sully on the trail was when he jumped a fence rail that he could have easily stepped over but chose not to. That one resulted in Sully standing over me as I lay on my back in front of him. Today, it was a ditch. Not only a tiny ditch that I could have stepped over, but the very same ditch that we calmly walked over just two days ago. Fortunately, I felt him gathering himself in time to anchor my butt in the saddle. He jumped over that thing like it was a 7-foot fence at the World Equestrian Games. Yeehaw. I have to say, it was exhilarating after the fact.
Finally, when one comes in from riding and is stiff and cold, do not try to step over the 18 inch threshhold while holding 30 pounds worth of tack. What MIGHT happen is your toe might not quite clear that confounded piece of wood, sending you falling into the stall and scraping up the entire right side of your body in the process. I can ride 1800 pounds of fresh horse without injury, and then nearly kill myself in the barn afterwards. On second thought, this isn’t a new lesson.
We rode 4.25 miles in 75 minutes. It was a great ride. Spontaneity paid off. This time.