Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sand Angels

The arena where I ride my horses is the natural sand that was already here on our property when we moved here, and I only had to get a fellow with a bulldozer to shape it  up and crown it so that it is level and drains well. This top soil of sand is huge reason we chose this land and it has made a nice inexpensive footing for many years now. Today as I was warming up my mare Kitty, we were walking around and I was looking at this sand and reading the clues left by footprints of critters who had been there recently. There were Joline’s hoof prints, (she lives in this paddock and waddles around on the sand and occasionally rolls in it),  but there were also those of the fox who lives close by. Canadian Geese web prints were closer to the barn, as were some from the calico cat that stays around the barn during the winter months. 
These tracks will be erased with the rain coming tonight and slate will be clean again, but I find its an amusing way to spend the time letting the horse get its muscles warmed up and its brain tuned into what we are going to work on for the day. Once warmed up and somewhat on the same page with my horse, I pick the reins and begin making our own tracks in the sand. Today I came extremely close to adding a nice big imprint of my own to add to the others, and I am really glad to say that I didn’t. 
I have been sidelined for several months and off the horses for months until recently. It was last week that I ventured up onto the saddle again, first on Kitty and then on Sunset. It was so good to be back in the saddle again. It just felt great. I did not do too much as I was a bit hesitant to push my luck in getting bucked off of an unworked horse and I could tell that my cardio condition was pitiful as I gulped in air after trotting once around, but it was so good to aboard. 
There is something about settling back into a familiar saddle on a horse one has ridden many times that feels so real, so comfortable, and it never fails to make me wonder why I am not there all of the time .Every horse has a different back and barrel shape to sit on, and so even though I might use the same saddle, they are all unique and identifiable without looking at them. Finding the one that really fits your legs and seat is like having a baseball glove that is worn and shaped to perfection. Both Kitty and Sunset are easy for me, not too big and not too round, easy chairs on hooves.
In reality I can not be on a horse twenty four -seven, and really wouldn’t want to be, but, once I have picked up my stirrups and gathered the reins, and told the horse to walk on, the feeling is sublime.  I can feel my blood pressure drop immediately and my focus on the horse and our shared communication becomes the zen moment of the day for me. 
So today, the weather had taken a break from being cold and blustery and was a lovely shining blue from the kitchen window, when I glanced out at the day. I could hear the Purple Martins happily chirping away on their house pole and I saw them flitting in and out of the gourds. I had been very worried that their arrival had been premature and that the past many days of being almost near freezing as a high temp, had been their downfall. I had heard very little music from them and I had not seen them flying around to catch the bugs they catch on the wing. Today, though with the warmth of the sunshine, once again, they were happy, and so was I. Tea downed, it was off to the barn to feed the beasts. 
Once most of the hay had been cleaned up it was time to ride the two hay burners. I tacked up Kitty and headed to the arena, where I began my warmup, and track and clue observing. I was thinking to myself how nice it was to have an older mare like Kitty, and her younger buddy, Sunset, that I could have laid off for months and hop on and not have to re-break them. I was wrong. I had forgotten about spring break. That’s what my friend Cherry calls it when a perfectly well mannered, educated horse turns into an untrained, boisterous, rambunctious, death weapon under saddle. This tends to happen on days like this in early spring after days of misery. The sun is up, the sky is blue, and the silly horses just feel good, too good.
After I had finished our warm up, I picked up the reins and asked for a little trot work. I should have known better when Kitty volunteered to canter. Okay, I thought, wrong lead but balanced and nice, so I let her continue. Then we got to the corner and suddenly counter canter wasn’t as much fun and so Kitty tried to change leads and got all discombobulated. I was letting her sort out where her legs were, when all of a sudden she got her self on the correct lead and I felt a sinking feeling as I felt the welling of power gathering underneath me and it was not a good feeling.
Kitty has been ridden by two people in her life, me and my instructor, Jeff. In all of her fifteen years with me, she has bucked once and that was to avoid stepping onto a huge cottonmouth snake. I stayed on then and never since then has she given it thought, until today. I have seen what she can do in the pasture and I felt some airs above the ground were on the way and hoisted in some rein length, but was too late. Kitty went well up into the stratosphere, came down, went up, and was on the way down when I realized the next up was going to be without me aboard and there was a nice piece of unmarked sand below with my name on it. I was getting really close to becoming a snow angel. 

In desperation I yelled “NO” at her, and quite amazingly, she stopped, on a dime. She lowered her head and wouldn’t look around to me as she always does when she knows she did something right. We stood there quietly for a few moments to let my beating heart settle, regained my stirrups, and asked for canter again and we finished on a good note thankfully. 
Sunset was in a bit of a similar mode but offered no buck on her outing. She did give consideration to taking me for a real quick ride back to the barn when the young horses in the next field took off, but I had been expecting such and reeled her in before the launch. So I survived to ride another day, and I am mighty grateful to be writing this to say so. What silly beasts they are and I will be back in the saddle again on the next sunny day, and hopefully stay there.

Another day in paradise was just topped off with a kitchen window fly by of a Bald Eagle a few minutes ago. I got a really good look at this gorgeous and enormous bird and, its bright yellow eyes. You just never know what you will see out here, so I try to keep my eyes open for rewards like this.

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