Wednesday, May 28, 2014
I was at the barn on Sunday morning, an hour early for my ten o'clock ride. The school horses have a fifty-five acre pasture now, with a rolling topography that hosts well-spaced oak trees, a coyote den and several rather territorial deer. It can be quite a hike to gather up one's horse and bring him back to civilization. My ride was already in, so I was able to sit in the shade and be a spectator for a while. There's always something to observe and learn.
Boots was the horse listed next to my name on the board. I'd never ridden him before. He had some unexplained discomfort in his mouth on Friday and they've been working him in a bit-less bridle, to let him get over whatever it is. He's a visibly forward ride at the best of times so I didn't know quite what I was in for.
Transitioning to a new horse is always interesting. There's the initial comparison of how much horse you have underneath you. Is his neck longer or shorter than the horse you're used to? It's a bit weird to have less in front of you than you're used to but it only takes a few minutes to get past that disorientation. The roundness of a horses body affects the position of your legs. Again, as soon as you start working to apply your aids your muscles adapt and you find yourself on a familiar planet.
There's a short test period, learning how sensitive a horse is and how much leg or hand are likely to get the desired results. Having no bit, on a horse who usually had both bit and martingale, I was somewhat tentative about our first trot and canter. I was not sure I'd have the option of slowing down again once we started going faster. I asked for trot and worked on returning to walk just by slowing my body rhythm down, no rein contact at all. We achieved that a few times and I started to relax.
Riding is ideally a mind-body experience. We look inward to achieve "The Zone" of harmony and communication with another, much stronger and larger species. Sometimes, if we "think" what we want a horse to do, we can make it happen with subtle muscle movements and shifts of weight, to which the horse responds. That is the Nirvana of riding.
The opposite end of the spectrum is when a horse anticipates or does something we weren't quite meaning to happen. I've been known to pretend that that was what I wanted, just so that (in my mind) the horse, and others around me, would still think I was in charge.
The lesson went well. We didn't disgrace ourselves riding a course of trotting poles and then canter work with simple change transitions and a few small jumps. We finished before the day heated up too much, washed down our sweaty horses, applied fly spray and released them back into the pasture. We always watch as they canter gently away up the hill, in search of the rest of the herd.
Back at home, after my shower, I had a peaceful lunch and then forced myself to pack a few boxes. Our move is looming. We will have to step it up a bit once TAO comes back from France.
The sunshine was calling me outside and I felt I had earned a respite. The birds have flown from the nests on our balcony so I didn't feel guilty about taking my book and lounging on the chaise for a while. It was quickly too hot and I have no desire to be a lobster red example of sun-stupidity. I went down to the pool, at the bottom of the garden, for a very quick first dip of the year and a significant cool-down. As I luxuriated in the relatively chilly water lapping around my shoulders, a family of Orioles perched on the phone wires above me, looking questioningly at me as if wondering why i was bathing in their pond. It's rare to see these dressy gold and black birds. I'd never seen one in my life before moving here and I've never seen more than one at a time. I don't know if our new neighborhood is Oriole territory. This visit made my day.
When I move, I have a lot of plants in pots so I have an instant garden that comes with me. I'm surrounded by familiar faces, although in a new setting. Landlords and realtors forget that the sumptuous floral surroundings are mine, and portable. They are left with the clean, but naked seeming, architecture that was there when I arrived. Not all is taken. There are some specimens that have grown large and been planted in the ground. I do leave more garden than was there before. There's a Rhododendron near the front door, and an azalea in the back garden, that was first given to me as a hostess gift, to put on the dining table. It had already expanded into my largest pot at our last home. it is a permanent resident here now and will stay behind when we leave.
There's a Cecil Bruner climbing rose that I planted last year. I had one that accompanied us from house to house for a long time. From 4" pot given to us on Lovely Daughter's first birthday, by my best friend's mother, to the rambling climber in a half barrel that embraced the chimney stack and made the front page of a local newspaper for an article on curb-appeal. We stayed ten years in the last house and the roots grew through the bottom of the barrel and anchored that rose to the ground. I trained the branches along the wooden fence and it spread out on either side. It would have been cruel to move it but it was hard to leave it behind. Both our daughter (then in her early twenties) and the Mother of my best friend were sad that the relationship had ended. I drove by that house yesterday. It's being demolished. They're down to the foundations and the garden is a wasteland. My current Cecil Bruner is being transplanted and will change neighborhoods with us. My other rescues will be my Hawaiian Ginger plants. I already have some in pots but will cull half of those that have spread to embellish the slope above the pool. I'll divide out some flag iris as well. I have a variety of unique colors that I enjoy too much to abandon.
The rest will be decided by time and energy. I have some native plants, such as Mallows, but they're easily replaced and grow quickly so I'll probably not reverse-garden those.