Saturday, December 31, 2011

me and Keil Bay canter into the new year

Yesterday afternoon I went out and called the Big Bay in for a ride. He was at the bottom corner of the front field, shining his red bay coat in the late afternoon sun, and he galloped right up to the gate where I let him through. The sun was brilliant, it was in the mid-60s, and I figured we would get in a nice daylight ride.

Alas, by the time I finished grooming him, which included an impromptu sheath cleaning (made easy by the new electric kettle I have in the tack room for heating up water!), a layer of clouds rolled in. Suddenly it looked like rain, but I was again determined to get our ride in no matter what.

We went in and did our usual long walking warm-up. I noticed at the mounting block that my fidgeting has subsided for the most part and also that Keil Bay has gone back to his usual cooperative self. "Move up one step," I asked, and he politely complied. "Wait, move back a little," and he did that as well. The only thing that has changed is the way I feel as I mount. For awhile I was feeling like I needed perfect placement of block and horse. Now I feel more agile and more confident. I actually stopped to think about this yesterday. How much the way we feel influences the way things go, in life, but particularly when working with horses.

Our walk was nice. When we warm up, I choose the direction and the patterns but I let Keil Bay choose the pace of the walk itself. I keep a loose rein and if anything feels uneven or stiff I use the corners of the arena and sometimes changes of direction and circles to stretch both of us out. I've also been doing the flexions at the walk as taught by Jane Savoie, and then some shoulder-in via Walter Zettl. These two things work the best of anything I've ever tried to supple Keil Bay's entire body and get us into a very good place to move into trot.

Keil Bay's trot is a work of art right now. The day before yesterday we did some free work with all three geldings and Keil was doing a huge extended trot, landing heel first, and looking like a 3-year old in the arena. Under saddle he is offering his back, putting himself on the bit, and moving into high gear almost instantly. By the time we got to trot yesterday it was nearing dusk and we had a little extreme rounding of head and neck in response to a squirrel that was running through the neighbor's yard. Interestingly, as Keil Bay coiled up all his power and brilliance into one big inner spring, something I could feel in every inch of my own body, I did not tense up myself. I sent him forward up the long, far side of the arena, the side closest to the forest, and enjoyed the power of that coil as it cycled into his trot. When we came around the short side he asked to half pass across the diagonal, so off we went, right back to the scary squirrel area, but he was so engaged he didn't even think about it.

By this time it was dark and we were riding in the light of the arena. I'm usually a bit cautious in the night riding but last night it felt like both of us were so connected, I was ready to canter. I worked into it by doing a big, balanced trot with Keil Bay, incorporating figure 8s into the work, and then as we came around a corner, asked for the canter to the right. I think he was surprised that I asked for it, and he responded by going into a massively forward, engaged trot, so I asked again and he went into his big, bold, forward canter.

I felt like I was 10 years old again, begging to canter and then absolutely thrilled when the instructor said yes. I'm not sure what the canter meant to me exactly when I was 10 but as an adult rider it represents balance and forward motion and going with what feels right. Leaping into the moment. Keil Bay has a gorgeous canter, but it is definitely big and forward and bold, so when I ride it with him, it feels like we're no longer earthbound. If I was a painter I could show you what it feels like: woman on horse sailing over the curve of the earth itself.

We down-transitioned to trot and then walk and halt so I could exclaim for a few minutes, then we changed directions and did the same thing going left. Usually Keil is stiffer to the left but lately that has not been true, and our canter depart was perfect in this direction. I could see our shadows cantering along beside us, and I looked closely at them, because I loved the way that shadow rider looked on her horse. It took me a few seconds to realize: that's ME!

Happy New Year! I hope everyone finds a way to canter, or at least walk boldly with intention, into 2012.


Grey Horse Matters said...

A wonderful ride to bring you into the new year. I love your last line of the post. We should all feel that way going forward.

billie said...

Absolutely, A - Happy New Year to you and all of your family, including all the beautiful horses!

Calm, Forward, Straight said...


You have a lovely way of making every ride sound magical - and indeed they all are. Thanks for sharing. :)

And thanks for the reminders about appreciating how special our horses, and our relationships with our horses, really are.

All the best to you and your menagerie in 2012. (((♡♡♡)))

billie said...

C, you are welcome! How did you do those gorgeous heart shapes? Wow! Those are magical!! :)

Victoria Cummings said...

What a perfect way to welcome the new year! I love your description of this ride - it was magical. All the best in 2012!

billie said...

You too, Victoria - hope your year is wonderful.

Jessica Keener said...

What a spectacular ride and union between two dear friends of life. Lovely, lovely, lovely. Happy New Year to you.

billie said...

Thanks and happy new year to you as well, Jessica!