Friday, January 15, 2010

more reasons why I love the Big Bay

I told him at breakfast that once it warmed up fully we would have a ride together. When I got back out to the barn mid-day, he was lying curled up in the front field, soaking up sunshine. My daughter tried to take a picture, but my camera battery died the instant she pressed the button.

I walked into the front field with his new Micklem bridle in hand, and he stayed curled up until I reached him and rubbed his head. There is something special and sweet about rubbing the Big Bay's star while he is lying down. He let me get that bit of magic, and then he stretched full out for a moment and then carefully stood up and shook himself off.

He stood sniffing the new bridle and the booklet that I was consulting to make sure I got the bridle adjusted correctly - it's made differently and I wanted to get the buckles set just right. We worked together to get it fitted, and then I removed it and told him to enjoy the hay daughter was serving while I groomed him in the field.

When I went back to the barn to get organized for tacking up, I realized my saddle was having some issues - the cold damp we had did a number on the leather and it needed a thorough cleaning and conditioning. So I called out to Keil that I was going to clean the saddle and then we'd ride. I pulled up a make-shift stool, turned on the radio to NPR, and got to work.

Once I got everything ready I brought Keil in and tacked up. We haven't ridden in about 5 weeks, but Keil was wonderful. No fussing, no fidgeting. He seemed intrigued by the new bridle and walked with me into the arena. We had a little issue with mounting. The same issue - when I haven't ridden in awhile I get extremely obsessed with the mounting block being in one very precise place in relation to the stirrup. And then I hesitate as I start to mount and Keil steps back one step with one foot, which puts him off square and I stop to move the block.

All this would be alleviated if I would just go buy a 3-step block! But I'm stubborn and I feel I should get over the obsession, which gets better anyway if I'm riding regularly. So we played the game for a minute and then daughter came out and I asked her to just stand at Keil's head, which always works too.

Alas, when I put my foot in the stirrup, it slid almost to the ground. I hadn't buckled it back after cleaning the leathers! Yet another instance where Keil likely knew something I didn't, and instead of checking everything, I kept trying to do what wasn't working.

In any case, I fixed the buckle and got on, and that was that.

We had a very unstructured ride, only walking, and mostly focused on relaxation and just getting back into the swing of things.

One thing stood out though - Keil was walking with a huge amount of freedom in his shoulders, with his head and neck relaxed and ears curious and alert. There was a forwardness to his motion and his general physical demeanor that I loved. I kept looking at his front end, noting the position of head and neck, and also looking at his shadow. Something was different and better.

I'm not sure if it's just Keil being in a good place or the addition of the new bridle. We certainly didn't try anything strenuous or fancy, but as we strode effortlessly along the arena, me practicing an exercise I sometimes practice, which involves just letting my eyes hit a point and then Keil goes there, straight and in balance, with mostly no aids required, I realized that we were doing what I think of as the perfect "working" walk.

We looked like one of those old photos or sketches of a horse and rider walking with purpose and yet pleasure down a country lane. Keil's attention was with me and yet we noticed the neighbor cat walking toward the woods, the crash of a deer in the opposite direction, my daughter mucking out a stall, and various other things that went on around us. We noticed but weren't distracted, as if we were on a path to somewhere important, but there was no rush to get there, and no reason not to enjoy the things blooming up around us as we went.

There were no thoughts of dressage or work or anything like that. No getting on the bit, no fussing with position or trying to achieve a goal. I suppose you could view it as Keil Bay and I not trying to accomplish anything at all, and succeeding at that. But it felt too like we had transcended something and were simply, but brilliantly, enjoying a piece of our journey together.

What more could I ask for? The Big Bay takes me where I need to go.


Grey Horse Matters said...

I'm so happy to read about your ride. The way you describe the whole experience is simply perfect. You and Keil Bay seem to have had a beautiful journey together for a space of time.

It's funny I thought I was the only one with mounting issues. Everything has to be just perfect. Erik was trained to stand like that for me, Dusty on the other hand is difficult. For now j. stands at her head with treats and I don't use the stirrups to mount. Just throw my leg over like a bicycle.

Love the stirrup incident. Very funny, it's amazing the things we do sometimes. I once went to mount Lifeguard and j. never let a bridle be too tightly buckled, guess I overdid it because when he put his head down the bridle fell off! He calmly looked at me as if to say, "nice job".

Hope you have another great ride soon.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant on many levels. Glad that you got to enjoy the warmer weather with your horse!

billie said...

Arlene, it's been since returning to riding in my 40s that the mounting thing has been true - but for some reason it has become worse in the last year.

Keil never had an issue with mounting until I started getting fidgety this year. I feel almost certain I've created the problem by stepping up, starting to mount, hesitating, and then he seems to think if he steps back one step it will help.

I can fix it if I can do the trick where I put my left foot in the stirrup and keep it there, but lately I haven't been feeling nimble enough to do that!

Today when I rode he stepped back and I decided to just stand on the mounting (every time I typed mounting in this comment I first typed "mountain" - which is sort of what it feels like!) block and see what he did if I just stood there.

He backed up until his eye was even with mine and just looked at me, like, "we have a communication problem here, don't we?"


It was nice to be in the saddle two days in a row. An even warmer day tomorrow, so let's see if I can make 3 be the charm!

billie said...

Thanks, Wendy - I hope there's some warming going on for you too!

Jane said...

*happy sigh* I felt like I was on that ride!

There's something about the working walk that snaps everything back to go for me. Whatever problems I was having, (mostly mine) stop happening, and I sync up with the program.

Thanks for sharing...

billie said...

Jane, it's easy to get caught up in the extended trots and perfect canters, but the big swinging forward walk is really the foundation, and you're right - something about it snaps everything into a sort of zen moment of awareness.

Even seeing Keil Bay do his big panther walk across the paddock or pasture makes me happy, but riding it is something else. :)

ponymaid said...

Billie, please keep us updated on the intriguing bridle - the woman is thinking of getting one for Doc and Molly to share. She is also thinking of getting me a sort of bitless driving bridle affair - I insist on having my tongue over the bit - I feel much more comfortable, in control and unworried that way. I think bits are something that make more sense to humans than to equines...

jme said...

oh, doesn't that big, loose walk just take your breath away? nate has a walk like that at times and it makes me giddy, and i have no idea why!

i love those days of sort of riding meditation where it feels like horse and rider share one mind and you can ride just with your eye and intention.... trying to help students discover that feeling i used to refer to it half-jokingly as 'using the force' ;-)

it seems like that's the place where all the 'real' work springs from and i've started to strive for that kind of relaxation (or as close as possible) before, after and in between work sessions. not always possible, but something to hope for...

i still have to try riding in the mickelm, but after your successful day in it, i will have to give it a try!

billie said...

Sheaffer, please tell The Woman that the Micklem is quite lovely. The only thing I don't like about it are the plastic bit clips, but since I don't plan to use it with a bit, I won't need to use those. Keil Bay likes it so far, and it is well-fitted when adjusted and much better than simply using clip-on reins with his halter.

If only I didn't need 3 different sizes for the 3 geldings! I would love one for each of them.

billie said...

j, that big, relaxed walk is amazing to see in any horse, isn't it? I love your image of "the force!"