This past weekend, late January, offered up two very pleasant mid-winter days. Saturday had pleasant temperatures in the forties, no sign of any rain or snow, and sun peeking through some clouds. The kind of day where I arrived at the barn fully layered up in shirts, fleece, vest and jacket, and proceeded to take one off, then another, then put something back on, hat on, earmuffs off, hat off, gloves off then on- that kind of day. The main arena was usable; a little wet, but not frozen solid, so it was usable.
Good news awaited: the BO said we’d go to the reining trainer’s farm the next day for a clinic. But-surprise!- she couldn’t go; she needed to stay and have her regularly scheduled lessons as many students were dying to ride in non-arctic conditions. (Oh, no, I thought. She is the expert, my mainstay, the person I know I can rely on to handle anything that comes up with Buckshot or any horse, the person I can turn to for anything. I felt unmoored when she told me she couldn’t go. What would I do if anything comes up? I was worried, but I didn’t say anything. I told myself that the BOHusband is an expert horseman and could also handle anything that comes up, but you know the feeling, oh, my ….)
I turned my attention to Buckshot - went on to play with him, groomed him, tacked him up and we walked in the soft arena. The rest of the class prepared their horses and we walked in the arena until time for the class to go out on the trail. A lovely trail ride; Buckshot was calm, happy. We arrived at the field arena and found its footing to be quite nice. Since we had been walking for over twenty minutes, I trotted Buckshot. He felt good under me; I think he felt good in himself.
In the back of my mind, a quandary floated. If the BO didn’t go with us to the reining farm, how would I tack him up at the reining farm? She had helped me last time, by tacking him while I held his lead line. It took both of us to do it. I hadn’t yet tied him to the trailer as the other horses did, because, well, I didn’t know how he would do being tied, and I wasn’t too willing to try it. But as I rode him on Saturday, a lovely, calm, sunny day, I thought, well, today would be a good day to practice tying him and tacking him up by the trailer. Everything is calm, lovely, without problems. Yes, today, I will do it! I will practice with him! I will summon up my best trainer-attitude – yes, of course, we will get this done, and if something comes up, we’ll deal with it successfully and creatively, but overall, Buckshot is a good, reliable horse, it’s just been my apprehensions that have prevented me from addressing this, so today, I will, we will. And we did.
After the ride, I got our halter, lead line, a bag of carrot pieces, and a bag of apple pieces and led him over to the trailer, telling him that we had a bit more work to do before we were done. I first had to figure out how to get the bridle off, and the halter on, without any help. Well, it wasn’t very smooth, and once Buckshot realized there was grass all around his feet, well, he was very distracted.
But I got it done, and tied him to the trailer. No panic, no pulling back. Good boy! I took off his saddle and pad and laid them on the ground. Then gave him treats. Good boy. Then I put the pad and saddle back on him. And I got his bridle back on him, and the halter off of him, again, in a confusing maze of leather and cotton lines, trying hard to keep them separate, and keep him from eating, and stay calm, but in the end, he was tacked up again. We walked around for a moment, and then back to the trailer. We did it again, and more treats. He did fine, and when I finally led him back to the barn to really get untacked, I was very proud of both of us. We had done it! Practiced tying at the trailer, and tacking up! Great discovery, about Buckshot, and about myself- I am able to move beyond my apprehensions of something new with him, and channel a calm, trainer-like attitude! Great self discovery!
The other thing I had to learn on Saturday was the correct safety steps of loading and unloading horses on the trailer (something I had always left to the expert BO). She explained them to me, and Saturday night I went over them in my mind several times to commit them to memory. I wanted to be able to competently help the BOHusband on Sunday.
Sunday went great! I got Buckshot groomed, and I didn’t panic when he started to blow at first sight of the trailer, or when he appeared nervous during grooming. I stayed calm and remembered that a little nervousness of the horse is fine and doesn’t mean he is getting agitated. He acted reticent just a tiny bit as the BOH loaded him on the trailer, along with two other horses.
But after we arrived at the reining farm, he came off the trailer fine and I walked him around competently, and then tied him and proceeded to tack him up. I had to ask the BOH for help getting him bridled but that was fine. And Buckshot definitely didn’t want to stand still when I tightened the girth (need to revisit our clicker training on this again), but we got it done, and got mounted and walking in the arena.
We had a great clinic; after our twenty minute walking, we did some good trotting and some good cantering. I didn’t do very well at all on the canter to the right; I was stiff as a board and pulling on the reins and didn’t feel I had any control going to the right. I will have to work on that, when we are able to canter again. But I did very well at the canter to the left, and I felt great about it (since we hadn’t cantered in weeks). Overall, it was a great session.
When we were finished, Buckshot’s chest area was wet with sweat; since he has a long coat, he sweats easily. I had thought ahead to bring a curry comb and brush so I brushed him. I wish I had thought to bring a towel as well, to try and dry him a bit. After I got the bridle off, and the lead line was around his neck, he used all one thousand pounds to easily drag me over to some grass he absolutely had to nibble on. I tugged, and tugged, and realized that it’s all in the positioning. I moved the lead line up behind his ears, and then I was able to gently steer him back to the trailer to remove the saddle. Then we walked back to the grass and he nibbled happily. We got back in the trailer (with me remembering all the new steps!) and had a tired, but happy ride back to the farm. I got a tired but strong Buckshot out of the trailer and we went back to his home pasture, where he immediately walked purposefully over to just the right spot, and down he went, to roll. And my “aging” horse even rolled all the way over! How cute! I hope he isn’t too sore today!
It was a good weekend where I discovered a few valuable strengths in me, and more good things about Buckshot. He’s a good horse. And I’m still learning. (LOL)