Friday, September 09, 2011

lessons in riding, 8: infinity

This morning someone sent me THIS LINK - it shows a keeper saying goodbye to his long-time elephant friend, and her incredible reunion with an elephant she knew from 20+ years ago. It also reveals the relationships humans can have with animals, as well as what we take away from them when we remove them from their natural families and environments.

I was in tears only a few seconds into the video. And I'm sure no one will be surprised when I point out that the same is true of horses and donkeys. They form attachments, have complex relationships, and it matters to them when those are broken by humans buying and selling and not always considering what it means to them to be shifted around that way.

The day got crazy and I had ten different errands to run and things to do. I started feeling a bit frenzied, like I wasn't all the way in my body any more. Around 6:30 this evening I decided it was in my best interest to go out and see if Keil Bay was up for a ride. 

When I got to the barn he was in the back field, out of sight down the hill. I called out his name and instantly his handsome head popped up. "Come in and let's have a ride," I called out, and he picked up a big bold walk and in about a minute was at the gate to the barnyard, ready to oblige.

I knew I needed to get moving and groom quickly so I could get into the arena before it got dark. I often get lost in the grooming, and we enjoy that, so it's not a bad thing, but today I really needed to ride. Keil cooperated by lifting each hoof for cleaning before I even got to it. He craned around when I sang a song about the two of us dancing to the classical music on the radio. He was ready to go, just as much as I was.

In the arena I hopped on. There was no time to waste fidgeting with the mounting block. And then I was in the saddle. My feet found the stirrups and almost that quickly, I was grounded. 

All the frenzy drained right out through the heels of my boots. I noticed a couple of huge horse flies swooping and warned them off. They left. We proceeded with a very relaxed walk. I had no desire to "train" or "work." I just wanted to find that nice place Keil Bay is so good at taking me to - where my inadequacies as a rider melt away and our shared crookednesses don't matter one bit.

The dressage markers are still stacked in one corner of the arena from my pre-hurricane prep, so we used the entire arena initially and just walked. Relaxed walk, with changes of direction across the diagonals, stretching and moving.

A small herd of deer emerged from the forest in our neighbor's yard, in full view, close to where the pony and Cody were grazing. Keil Bay looked and peered and then we turned the corner and he forgot they were there.

We gradually picked up the walk and moved in to the actual dressage "rectangle." We did a little leg yielding but mostly I wanted us to walk and get into a nice rhythm, as if we were on a stroll. I alternated between taking a little contact and going to the buckle, and in about 15 minutes Keil responded to the slightest touch of my legs with a trot. 

About that time a V of geese flew right over us, low, so that we could not only hear the honking but heard the wings as well. I thought of Wendell Berry's poem. Quiet in heart and in eye clear. What we need is here.

Keil Bay let me know he was warmed up by becoming perfectly responsive to my legs. I only had to think of touching him with them and he went into his signature trot, on the bit, powerful, but very controlled. I sat. I didn't bounce. My feet hung almost weightless in the stirrups.

The moon is waxing and gibbous and it rose up over the tree line by the A end of the arena. Each time we came around I felt its luminance.

We moved into a very small bit of work on the 20m circle. And then we went out again, on the buckle, happy, in near darkness lit by the arena light and the nearly full moon, grounded.

In the barn Keil Bay stood in the doorway of the tack room and waited while I took off his bridle and his saddle. He was perfectly patient as I took off my helmet and put the whip away. He took his alfalfa pellets and his oats and lifted his hooves one by one on cue so I could check them. He stood while I brushed him down. 

And even when we were done, and he was free to go, had been all along, he stood. We had our moment of stillness together and then I opened the barn doors so he could join Salina and the donkeys in the grass paddock. 


Grey Horse Matters said...

I love elephants. The video was so sad and yet happy at the same time. I'm glad to see they were together again after so many years. For whatever time they have left they will have each other.

Sometimes a ride is just what we need to ground ourselves again. You and the big bay had a lovely moonlit ride and everything was right with the world again.

Matthew said...

Wonderful imagery.

Those deer were still browsing across the fence when I went out to feed. . .

Máire said...

Billie, that is a beautiful description of your ride. You and Keil Bay have found real harmony together.

I must check out that video.

billie said...

A, I loved the part in the video where the two elephant girls were walking together through the big field. They looked so content and so attuned to one another. It made me happy to see that.

WRT the moonlit ride, it was interesting that last night there was not even the slightest bit of spookiness on Keil's part nor even the idea of such a thing in my mind. At one point a bat flew like a stealth jet by my head and I felt so much in the zen zone I just watched it, almost like a bullet in slow motion.

That's definitely where Keil Bay takes me - my brain empties out and time slows down.

billie said...

Matthew, the deer seem to love that spot. I have seen them there before, but usually not when I'm riding.

billie said...

Maire, it means a lot to me that Keil is the kind of horse who can go without daily rides and still be the same elegant, attuned partner he always is. I hope, and it's my aspiration, that he thinks the same of me!

Máire said...

That video brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for posting it.

billie said...

Maire, I don't think I will every forget those two elephant girls walking together through the field. It was such a sweet, touching sight.