Testing, Testing…Part Two

After recovering from my graceful slide on the ice, I was glad to have my feet on crunchy snow that offered lots and lots of traction. Image stood next to me, surveying the surroundings. I gathered up the end of the rope, and quietly asked him to move out around me.

Wheeeee! The critter joyfully hopped away from me and picked up a beautiful, four beat rack…for about three strides before switching to a pace. Still, my heart sang. I love this horse for his personality and his attitude, but the gaited thing is a really, really big perk. My aunt D, mentioned in previous posts, started my obsession with gaited horses, and I haven’t looked back. Don’t get me wrong, I love me a good, stocky Quarter Horse…but it’s my dream to some day own a barnful of various gaited breeds. I am a trail rider at heart, and have a ruptured disc in my spine from a (surprise!) horse accident when I was fifteen. The thought of gliding down the trail without having to post is lovely! Of course, Image swapped back and forth between a lovely little rack and a pace around me, which was just fine. He hasn’t been worked regularly in quite some time, and it’s much harder for a horse to keep up a lateral gait than it is to pace or trot. Working on that will come much, much later.

After a few revolutions on one side, I asked him to stop. He threw on the brakes and pivoted in towards me. Getting him to move out to the left was a little stickier, but he eventually hopped away from me and  settled into a swingy walk. I pushed him for a step up in gait, and again — few strides of a rack, and back into a pace. Once or twice around, and I asked him to whoa. He turned in towards me, ears swiveling back and forth. The gears in his brain were going, that’s for sure.

All of a sudden, I hear that tell-tale high pitched squeal. Oh, for the love of all things furry and fourlegged…

The Evil Mini Twins had escaped, yet again. I threw my training stick into the snow, and picked a slow path across the driveway again, Image in tow. All of his body language was reading “what in the ever loving hell are THOSE?!”. I don’t blame him. Minis are furry little devils. They are painfully adorable, yes, but they are undoubtedly Satan in tiny equine form.

The two of them high tailed it away from us the second I got within grabbing distance. I swore loudly, and ushered my poor, bewildered horse into an empty stall. I grabbed two lead ropes, and headed back outside.

The photographer in me wished I had my camera. The horse woman in me was blurting out every cuss word in the English language. The minis galloped around me gleefully, their tails flagged and nostrils flared. I knew chasing after them would just cause more of an uproar, so I plopped down on the mounting block to watch. They zigged and zagged all over the place, doing perfect lead swaps and beautiful sliding stops. It wasn’t until one did a flying leap over a snowbank that a lightbulb turned on in my head.

I abandoned the lead ropes and hustled back into the barn. Image was also watching the show, his entire body tense. He was NOT a fan of these little critters in any way, shape or form. I gave him a hasty, apologetic pat on the nose before grabbing the bag of gingersnaps that B had sent with the little black horse. I stepped back into the sun, whistled, and shook the bag.

Zoooooom. In record time, I had two little minis standing in front of me, waiting impatiently for the cookies I held in my hand. Gotcha, you little buttheads.

Instead of putting them back in their pen, I barricaded the two devils in a stall. It took some doing, as the stalls are only shut by stall guards, which they could easily duck under. I had to move some L’s tack tubs in front of the door so they couldn’t slip under the guards. I, begrudgingly, gave them both a cookie, before rescuing my distressed horse from the next stall.

In the interest of training, I let Image investigate the wee little horses. Moonshine promptly stuck her nose out to touch his, and all hell broke loose. Moonshine squealed indignantly, and Image wheeled around in shock. I was completely unprepared for this, and had no time to react. Unfortunately, in his haste to get away from the little mare, he ended up on the “wrong” side of me, with the lead rope stretched across his neck and withers, essentially giving me no leverage. Shit.

He began to move off, intent on getting the hell away from the minis as fast as he could. It wasn’t long until he hit the end of the line, the pressure hitting him across the neck. He jerked me forward, and my first instinct was to bellow out a very firm “Whoa!”

Test number…good lord, who even knows by now: he stopped. Dead. He looked back at me, eyes wide, unsure of his next move. I gave him no time to figure it out, before righting the lead rope and giving his forehead a good rub. That could have been terribly messy, as he was headed for the door and the very icy ground, but his brain clicked on when he heard my voice. It was a very tense moment that turned out very well. I counted my blessings.

With one final glare at the minis, I decided it was time to just take a walk. Image, who has not had any sort of work in at least five years, did not need to do much else physical at this point. I had pressed some buttons, gotten some wonderful responses, and have a bit of a game plan for when the ice melted and we could really start working together.

I headed down the driveway with him, sticking to the snow covered bits, and turned onto the road. L lives on a quiet, dead end street that has a trail head at the beginning of the road, so I figured we would walk down and walk back, simply to work on stopping and backing when I ask. When we hit the end of the road, he was walking with his head anchored to my shoulder, stopping immediately when I asked, and backing softly off of body language. He had an ear tipped towards me the entire time, even while surveying his surroundings with curiosity. He faced a scary orange traffic cone, and strange railings on the very short bridge that crosses a creek without a single mis-step. If anything, he approached them boldly, without any sort of hesitation. He was more interested in poking the orange traffic cone with his nose than spooking at it.

We reached the end of the road, with cars whizzing past on the main drag. He didn’t give them a second thought. Instead, he inspected the giant snowbank in front of us, touching it with his muzzle. I was feeling a bit silly at that point, so I climbed up on the snowbank until I was level with his head. He blinked at me, slightly bemused. If he could have shrugged, he would have…and then he climbed up there with me. I burst into laughter as he stepped up next to me, which caused him to look at me with an even more confused expression. I kissed his nose gleefully, before hopping down. He followed, still obviously confused as to why the whole thing had even happened, but happy to indulge his obviously insane new person.

We walked back up the road at a leisurely pace, without much of an agenda. I allowed him to stop and sniff things if he looked interested in an object, but he mostly walked along with me, his head swinging side to side to take in his surroundings. He was curious, but not alarmed in any way. I love that about him, as GP was probably one of the most bold horses I have ever met (well, unless a deer was present…but that’s a story for another day).

Sunday was borderline magical, if you edit out the whole devil minis part. I had zero expectations of what I was going to find when I started pressing buttons, and was pleasantly surprised to find that someone, somewhere, at some point, had taught him the very basics of being an equine good citizen. He was certainly rusty, but with just a few repetitions, I was getting a soft, “yes ma’am” response out of him, without having to put on a lot of pressure. He attempted to do everything I asked of him, even if he was unsure, and that is the most encouraging thing I have seen so far.

I left that afternoon after a long snuggle in the paddock. It was still bitterly cold, and I had been fighting off a headache and a sore throat all day. Unfortunately, I am typing this from my bed, as whatever that was morphed into a flu-like bug that hasn’t let up since then. I’ve had to write this in intervals, so I apologize if it’s come out a bit choppy. Being upright doesn’t agree with me for very long!

Of course, all this time staring at my ceiling has meant I’ve spent approximately 20 out of 24 hours every day thinking about my horse. I hate being so far from him, but hopefully, with recent developments, that will change within a month or two. That is also a story for another day. For now, I’ll leave everyone with this:

A very kind friend/fellow boarder at the barn sent this to me. I spent a few minutes squeeing in delight before passing out again. Ten internets to the first person who can identify what’s different about him! 
Now, just a countdown to Friday, as I will be spending the weekend up north again so I’m not spending a hundred million dollars on gas. As for right now? I need to lie back down before my head explodes!

Testing, Testing…Part One

I woke up Sunday morning to this:


Best wakeup call ever? I think so. This is Blue, the world’s sweetest Border Collie. If G and E weren’t so attached to him, I would have smuggled him home with me years ago. 
Of course, Blue decided “get up time” was 8 AM. I sighed, and flipped my laptop open to kill some time. It was only 10 degrees outside, and while I’m pretty hardy, I’m not about to go galavanting about outside if it’s that damn cold. The weather channel promised that it was going to be a balmy 25 degrees when 10 AM rolled around, so I picked that as the time I would head out to see my horse.
“Okay. I suppose we can snuggle first. BUT THEN IT’S TIME TO GET UP RIGHT??”

It felt like an eternity, those two hours before 10. All I wanted to do was rush over and make sure Image was okay. I contemplated texting L to check in, but figured she would still be asleep. I also didn’t want to come across as the completely insane horse owner (although it’s pretty obvious I am). So, I surfed the web, updated my bulletin board friends about how well Image had trailered the day before, and refreshed Facebook like it was going out of style.
When 10 am rolled around, I was out of there like a bullet. I thanked G and E profusely, with promises of pictures and updates on Facebook when I got home. I stuffed my bags into the car, rather haphazardly, and made my way back to the barn. Today, I planned to simply groom him and spend some time with him. I was not aware that it was about to be a day full of somewhat trying situations for both of us!
Twenty minutes (and a hasty Dunkin Donuts stop) later, I clambered out of the car. The cold air was sharp in my lungs, but I couldn’t have cared less. Out among the sea of chestnuts (and one lone grey), stood my black beauty. He was looking in my direction, having watched my car pull in. I called out to him in greeting, before heading to the other side of my car to pull out my jacket. 
I turned around when I heard a squeal…a very high pitched, non-gelding like squeal. It took a moment for my eyes to truly see what I was looking at: two minis — two very adorable, very furry minis — stood on the wrong side of the fence. The smaller, roan looking critter was flirting shamelessly with the goofy grey gelding named Gus through the boards. The rounder, stockier mini with the bold white face and two blue eyes was watching me as I headed, as non chalantly as possible, towards the escapees while fumbling for my phone. L picked up after a few rings, her voice fuzzy with sleep.
“Hi. The minis are out. Safe to assume they’re not supposed to be out?”
“Garble mumble frumb hngh. No.”
“Kay. I’ll put them back.”
I quickly put my things in the barn and played Mini Round Up. Sassy, the stockier mini with the bald face, trotted right up to me with an expression of “Oh, hello. Come to play, have you?” The smaller, roan mini gave me the hairy eyeball as I caught her, less enthused with the idea. I stuffed them back into their paddock, and took a walk around the fence. There didn’t seem to be a spot where it was obvious they had got out, so I decided (read as: desperately hoped) that someone had forgotten to latch the gate.
It took me no time at all to grab Image’s halter and head out to his paddock. He met me at the gate, barely allowing me to duck under the electric cord before frisking me for cookies. Smart stinker. I dug one out of my pocket (he has a fondness for gingersnaps, a bag of which B generously gave to me) and offered it to him. He lipped it up as I slid the halter over his ears.
It was a bit of an ordeal to get him from his paddock to the barn. There is another paddock that we have to walk through, full of goofy, somewhat socially challenged horses. Gus, the aformentioned grey, is a lanky sport horse gelding with personality oozing out of every pore. He must be all up in your business, at all times. Ray, a pretty chestnut Zippo Pine Bar bred Quarter Horse gelding, is two years old. That, in itself, should explain pretty much everything. Rodger, a chestnut Appaloosa gelding, is the lovable eccentric old man of the group. If you breathe near him wrong, he’ll take that as an invitation to run in the opposite direction. Keeping them all at bay, while walking Image through the paddock, takes a little bit of coordination…and the use of the Handy Dandy Dressage Whip. 
We made it through with any further mishaps, and entered the barn. Test one of the day: does he cross tie? We were about to find out. I casually positioned him in the aisle, and clipped the ties of his halter. He didn’t bat an eye. Good boy.
I made quick work of dragging out my grooming box and beginning to rub the curry comb in wide circles through his thick, fluffy winter coat. The Cowboy Magic spray came out, and so did the Miracle Groom. Image stood, albeit with a bit of concern clouding his eyes, for the whole thing. It wasn’t until I got a phone call from a friend, and stepped outside to take it, that things went a little sideways.
I hadn’t even started the conversation before I noticed Moonshine slipping through the fence. I cussed loudly, startling my friend on the other line. I hastily explained my predicament, before hanging up and heading out to wrangle the runaways. Sassy, upon seeing me, flounced up and stuck her nose directly into my cookie pocket. It sucks that they’re so damn cute, because I was more than slightly annoyed by this point. I stuffed them back into the pen — again — and fixed the fence. I willed them to stay put.
Test two of the day: during the time that I had left the barn, I heard Image shuffling around uneasily. Being in the barn alone was not his idea of a good time, and I don’t really blame him. Strange new place, strange new experiences, strange new tiny snorting fluffy things running around underfoot…I’d be a bit freaked out, too. I walked back into the barn and he visibly relaxed, his head lowering a few inches and the whites of his eyes disappearing. Again: good boy.
I replaced his flat, nylon halter with my rope halter. Now, let me clarify something: I am no trainer. I’ve ridden quite a few horses, and done my fair share of watching DVDs, TV shows, and clinics on training, but I will never, ever call myself a trainer. I pick up bits and pieces from various clinicians that I like: Clinton Anderson, Chris Cox, and Stacy Westfall are my “big name” influences. I don’t drink the natural horsemanship Kool-Aid, but some of the practices have a strong basis in common sense, which is my favorite method of training. I do prefer working in a rope halter when working with a horse on ground lessons, and it allows me to refine my aids quite a bit more than a flat, nylon halter does. I was interested in seeing what, if any, “buttons” had been installed in this horse for simple ground work. I had no intention of pushing him hard, but wanted a rough idea of what I had to start with.
Test number three: we walked across some shallow ice on the way to the ring — you know the kind that shatters and cracks as noisily as possible under your feet? I internally readied myself for a spook, while keeping a calm and casual demeanor as we walked forward…and I got nothing. An ear flick, maybe, but that’s about it. Almost every horse I’ve worked with has reacted in some way to that noise, so I was duly impressed. We continued on our way to the ring.
Test number four actually caused me to have a minor heart attack. I had carefully picked a path through the driveway that put us on as little ice as possible. Image is relatively sure footed, but I am a self-declared klutz. If ice is involved, it’s 99.99% likely that I’m going to hit the ground, at least once. We were literally one step away from the crunchy snow covered ring, when my foot hit a hidden, very slippery slick of ice. I went down to my knees. Oh. Shit.
Image stopped dead, his feet rooted to the ground. I was panicking at this point — oh, my effing lord, I am underneath a horse that I barely know and am probably going to die any moment — so it took me a few extra seconds to get myself upright. Image still didn’t move. It wasn’t until I laid a hand on his neck and told him it was okay that he relaxed and moved forward with me. Once the panic left my brain, I was able to see that he stopped to think instead of reacting immediately. Insert proud mama smile here.
Part two will consist of working with him on the lunge a tiny bit, Mini Horse Escape number three, and the walk we took down to the trail head. Part one is ending here, because the death plague is getting the better of me, and typing is becoming a chore. I don’t recommend getting the death plague. It kind of sucks, in case anyone was wondering.
…I guess having the death plague doesn’t stop me from being a wise ass. Oh well…!

Dreams Come True

Yesterday dawned a bright, cloudless day. A shallow dusting of snow from the night before covered the lawn and driveway. The sun would be deceiving, if you hadn’t looked at a weather report in recent days — it was bitterly cold, with a wind that took your breath away. All in all, a typical New England winter day. Normally, I despise anything that forces me out into such weather. I am a self-declared cold wuss.

Yesterday was an exception. I got of out bed that morning and didn’t even notice the cold as it nipped at my toes. I was going to get my horse and there wasn’t a damn thing that could bring me down.

I got myself ready and threw a bag together, as I was not going to be driving back and forth to the barn all weekend if I could help it. Image is stabled a good hour away from where I live, and I was hoping to find some poor, unsuspecting soul to put up with me for the evening so I could be at the barn bright and early Sunday morning. Shortly after making sure I had all the essentials packed (which included Castle DVDs and my laptop…hah!), I started loading my car. Not too long ago, I moved my entire tack collection out of L’s barn. I honestly didn’t think that I’d be back often enough to warrant taking up so much space in her tack room. Of course, when I decided to board Image there, I sighed internally…now I had to move everything back. So, I packed up my saddle and various other important things into the backseat of my Chevy, and made my way to New Hampshire.

L’s father G, and his girlfriend E, were kind enough to offer to trailer Image to L’s. It took us a little while to get organized, and it took us a little longer to get to B’s (courtesy of me not knowing my right from my left very well…ahem), but we eventually got our act together and arrive at B’s no worse for the wear.

B was, as I expected, a little quiet and downtrodden. I know that my excitement was so strong that it was probably a tangible being I was carrying on my shoulders, but B was about to watch a part of her heart get trailered away. I know she believes in both of us, but I was — and am — empathetic with her feelings.

G and E stood up by the trailer as B and I went down to the barn. Image’s bright blue halter and lead line dangled from my hands. She opened the gate to the paddock, and I went and got my horse.

He stood under a tree, his ears pricked and eyes soft. His halter was already on, and after feeding him a cookie, I snapped the line into place. A quick halter change later, and the bright blue of his new halter popped against his dark coat. I lead him out the barn door, and towards the trailer…towards the start of something completely different for both of us.

He quietly hopped on the trailer amidst the calls from his Appaloosa pasture mate without a second glance. A few hugs later, and I was waving to B as we headed down the road. It was about 30 seconds later that I burst into tears. I felt a bit stupid, but the emotions whirling around got the better of me. They were happy tears, mostly. I tried not to think about it much, but it really hurt my heart to know that my mother — my biggest cheerleader growing up, even though horses were definitely not her “thing” — wasn’t here to see this. So, combine all of that together…and, well, kaboom. I got over it relatively quickly and spent the rest of the drive watching the back of the trailer like a hawk.

I barely remembered to shut my car off when we got to the barn. Then, I nearly did a face plant when I hit a patch of ice in my haste to make it over to the trailer. Thankfully, I managed to keep myself together long enough to unload Image…who, again, did not put a hoof wrong. He looked around, his nostrils flared and ears pricked, but didn’t seem truly upset. The gears were working in his head, though — the confusion was mirrored plainly in his eyes. I tangled my fingers in his mane, and he tipped an ear towards me as I told him that things were okay.

We turned Image out with a chestnut gelding named Austin. From there, there was quite a bit of mare-like squealing from my very stout, manly looking gelding. It lasted for maybe ten minutes, before Austin and Image were tentatively sharing a hay pile. The goofier horses in the front paddock jostled for position along the fence line to stare down the newbie, in hopes of enticing him to come say hello. I ducked out of he paddock to go unload my car and get ready to head to G and E’s house to spend the night.

Austin and Image making nice.

Shortly before I left, I picked my way across the paddock again to take Image’s halter off, and say good night. Before I had even latched the gate behind me, I felt his muzzle on my cheek. He stood in front of me with a sweet, inquisitive expression on his face. After sliding his halter off, I spent a few minutes rubbing circles on his neck, laughing at the way his lips twitched in pleasure. My phone buzzed in my pocket, and I took it out to answer the awaiting text…except, I suddenly has a black and white nose reaching towards the source of the odd buzzing noise. I couldn’t help but laugh as he inspected my iPhone, his whiskers tickling my hand.

Goofball pony inspects loud buzzing object.

It took some self-control, but I finally decided it was time to leave before my nose fell off due to frostbite. I kissed his nose one last time, promised to see him tomorrow, and turned to leave. I was a bit shocked (and charmed!) to realize that he was following me, his nose level with my shoulder. I couldn’t resist kissing said nose about ten more times before leaving the paddock. I made it to the far gate when I heard a nicker from behind me. Incredulous, I turned around — he was standing at the fence, his ears and eyes trained on me, watching me go.
Damn horse has me wrapped around his hoof already.
I spent the evening at G and E’s drinking a little too much wine and laughing with them. I could not wipe the smile off my face. It has taken me 22 years, but I have made my own dreams a reality. There was a little black horse in a paddock not too far away that was mine — and, more importantly, I am his. It is a glorious, surreal feeling that hits me at odd moments. 
Tomorrow, I’ll detail the discoveries I’ve made about him in just a few, uninterrupted hours of interacting with him today. As for right now, I am going to bury myself under the covers and try and sleep, because the cold I thought I had expertly (hah) avoided last week may be making an appearance now…


He loaded beautifully, unloaded without a hitch, met his new pasturemate with minimal mare-like squealing, and charmed me all over again.

I am exhausted and have had a little bit (okay, a lot a bit) too much wine tonight. So, in lieu of the big, “yay my pony is home” post that I want to write, you will all have to settle for this for the time being.


The word “tomorrow” can hold such a positive connotation. Tomorrow is the start of a new day, a new adventure, a new life…it can be the bringer of happiness and riches aplenty. Everything and anything can happen, and while that does mean that tragedy can strike, most of us try to focus on the fact that tomorrow will be better.

Today, I sit and realize that tomorrow really does start a whole new chapter for me. Tonight, between bursts of writing, I am doing laundry so I can stay closer to the town that I’m moving Image to, packing up my car with everything I’ll need to move to the barn immediately, and doing boatloads of laundry because I just returned from Texas. I am doing this late evening scrambling about because I will be spending the next two days settling my horse into his new home. MY horse. Not someone else’s — MINE. I don’t have to share him (which is an incredibly infantile thing to say, but it’s the truth). No one else will be riding him for now, and when the time comes for someone else to ride him, I’ll have full say over who gets that privilege. I get to build a bond with him and know that I am the only one working on building that bond. Tomorrow, I will get to become something I have always dreamed of: a horse owner.

Of course, tomorrow also brings the terrifying side of being a horse owner. I get to decide what he eats, and how much. It’s up to me to make sure he’s getting the proper nutrition. I get to decide his health care, his hoof care, what supplements he’s on, all of the training decisions (with a buttload of input from more experienced friends)…and the eventual decision to say “enough is enough” if something tragic happens. This part of my new life makes my hear skip a beat, and not in a good way. Admittedly, I am terrified. This creature is about to depend on me for nearly everything. I’ve been an independent person, without anyone that truly “needs” me, up until this point. My every action and decision was for me, myself, and I. Now, I must factor in this other being. Sometimes, I have moments (or a day or two) of paralyzing doubt. Can I really do this? Am I honestly ready to be the person this horse needs? Panic fills my stomach and I wonder if I’m making a giant mistake.

Then….then, I catch sight of his picture, either on my phone or next to my desk at work. The panic melts away. I go back to daydreaming about burying my face into his neck and picking tangles out of his tail while he naps in the cross ties. I think about the first time I get to ride him down to the river on a hot summer day. I smile at the thought of his off-kilter, tear drop shaped marking on his nose. It’s not going to be perfect — I’d actually be a little worried if things went perfectly — but it’s going to be incredible.

So, instead of zeroing in on the negatives, I am dancing around the living room, folding laundry and rejoicing on Facebook. Tomorrow is the day this little black horse becomes mine.

I am singing: “Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you, tomorrow. You’re always a day away…!”

Nothing is Perfect

I should be packing right now. Monday morning, for the first time in three years, I’ll be taking a vacation — a real, honest-to-goodness vacation. I am excited, nervous (I’ve only travelled alone once. Is my Country Mouse showing…?), and so, so relieved that I will not be reacquainted with my desk at work until next Tuesday.

Instead of packing, though, I am here. Today marks exactly two weeks until I will become responsible for something other than myself. Sure, I have responsibilities at work and to the various people in my life…but they do not depend on me to survive. It’s exhilarating and terrifying all in one breath. Some days, I am so excited I can hardly sit still. Other days…well, other days, I wonder what exactly I’ve gotten myself into.

When D and I were driving up to New Hampshire last weekend, she cautioned me against expecting everything to be roses and rainbows and unicorn farts (that may be slightly paraphrased, for what it’s worth) – my romantic writings in this blog were one thing, but reality was much, much different. My immediate, slightly affronted response was “Of course I realize that!” Of course I realized that things weren’t going to be perfect, and that there would be challenges. I know nothing is perfect…right?


The conversation changed to another topic, but my brain turned the sentiment over, under, and around in circles. After grudgingly admitting to myself that my writing was a bit (okay, a lot!) flowery, I turned to D’s warning. Did I REALLY understand what this horse was about to bring into my life? I knew what I saw in this horse, but was I making trying to make him into something he was never going to be? Maybe I was.

I don’t know what lies ahead for us. I can guess, and I can plan until my head pops off…but at the end of the day, I don’t have a damn clue as to what’s truly ahead of us. I have predictions, and my gut is telling me that at the end of it all, we will work it out…but I’m no psychic. I wish I was. It’d certainly make life a lot easier.

What it comes down to, is this: I believe in this horse. I believe that he can be more than what he is today. However, believing is only half the battle. I understand that there will be struggles. I will get frustrated. I will wonder what the ever loving hell I’ve gotten myself into. There may be days where I think we’re perfectly in sync, to only be followed by days that find us on completely different playing fields. There will be laughter, tears, confusion, and road blocks. Mistakes will be made. Progress will be celebrated. This will be a journey. God only knows where it will end.

I am ready, so bring it on.

Visiting the Critter

I saw my horse yesterday.

It’s still weird to have the word “my” in a sentence, when referencing a horse. GP was “mine” in every way but legally…so it still felt like a bit of a lie. It is a surreal feeling. After nearly 22 years of wanting one of my own, it’s really and truly happening. Some day it may sink in. Today is not that day.

Anyway, I saw my horse yesterday.

Saturday started with a busy morning full of running around to the barn that Image is to be boarded at to drop off my first board check, and then to the office to pick up a helmet one of K’s students had purchased, and then actually to K’s to drop it off and kiss soft pony noses. From K’s, I traveled all of 2 minutes to my aunt’s house to bring her to meet Image.

We were set to arrive at B’s at about one, so it gave us some time to chat and for me to harass her menagerie with my camera. D, for as long as I can remember, has always had a critter or two…and sometimes more. Her beautiful house and barn in northern Massachusetts causes of a wave of nostalgia to wash over me every time I set foot onto the property. Of all my family members, D is the only other one who was bitten by the horse bug. When I was a child, I would beg (and I mean beg) my mother to call “Auntie D” to see if we could go see her horse (and later on, she would add many dogs, some cats, a few birds, a couple goats, and a few pot bellied pigs…all well loved and well cared for). I love all of my relatives, but I feel a special connection with D, as we share the one thing I hold most dear to my heart. I have had a lot of influences when it comes to my horsemanship skills, but my foundation has D written all over it.

D’s pretty Missouri Fox Trotter mare, and opinionated Rocky Mountain Horse gelding

I had to bite back unintelligible squeaks of delight when I met him. So. Stinkin’. CUTE.

I was excited to have a pair of fresh eyes with me yesterday. I know what I see, but having more than one opinion to mull over is always beneficial. The car ride up was full of discussion, mostly about horses, with various life musings peppered in between.

We arrived at B’s a bit (okay, a lot) late, but she was as laid back as ever and waved off my apology. Introductions were made as we headed down to the barn. I could see two black fuzzy ears tipped towards us. My heart skipped a beat, and I felt ridiculous. This is a horse, I reminded myself firmly. Chill out.

When we entered the paddock, we were immediately accosted by Murray, the big Appaloosa gelding with the curiosity of a toddler who’s just learned to walk. Everything is something to be explored, mostly with his nose and mouth. He is adorable. I, apparently, think obnoxious behavior is adorable. That may explain a lot about me.

Image stood off to the side, giving the group of us the side eye. I approached slowly, and he wheeled away, completely unsure of my intentions. I didn’t blame him, to be honest — if three humans showed up in my paddock and stared at me, I’d be a little concerned too. I retreated a bit, fussed with Murray for a minute, and approached his shoulder. He stood quietly, and when I began scratching that spot right behind his withers, his eyes began to soften. There’s my boy. I snuggled into his neck, planted many a kiss on his nose, and fussed with his mane. I may be twenty two, but the horse crazy teenager still lives on in my heart and soul.

This horse slays me with cute. I’m grateful he likes having those wide fuzzy ears rubbed, because they are irresistible!

We stood in that paddock for maybe an hour, and he slowly warmed up to all of us, coming to stand in the middle of our semi circle. He became the quiet but funny horse I am slowly coming to know, begging each of us in turn for cookies. I fell in love with him all over again.

If this picture doesn’t convince you of his dorky sense of humor, I don’t know what will…

We had all begun to freeze our butts off at that point, so we headed in and spent some time talking and laughing with one another. Dusk fell, and we headed back into Massachusetts so I could drop D off.

Her assessments deserve a blog post of their own, when I have more brain cells available to devote to explaining my thoughts coherently, but they hold a positive connotation. Tomorrow, I will dive into that. Tonight, however, I will curl up in bed (with my electric mattress pad cranked up!) and remind myself that I am another day closer to putting his new bright blue halter on him and taking him home.

When It’s Right, It’s Right

I drove to New Hampshire that sunshiney day in late November, my heart beating hard against my chest. I was honestly terrified that I was going to look at this horse, and realize that I had made up that feeling of connection in my head. I gripped the wheel with white knuckles as I drove down the winding back roads to rural southern New Hampshire. I don’t think I truly took a breath until I was parked in front of B’s house.

B came out to greet me with a warm hug and a wide smile. We picked up a lively conversation as we walked down the barn, passing through the pasture with her sweet old man Appaloosa gelding, William. He trailed behind us, his nose pressed against our pockets, as we approached the barn.

I peered around B’s shoulder, my heart hammering so loudly I was sure she could hear it. She opened the gate (thankfully, completely unaware of the internal terror that I was fighting) and there he was. His big, wide ears pricked forward and he raised his head from his pile of hay to observe us pick our path across the pasture.

It was cold that afternoon, but the sunshine was gorgeous.

I could romanticize this moment in so many ways, but it was honestly just a pure, simple moment of reconnection. He met us at about halfway to search us for cookies, his bewhiskered muzzle tickling the palm of my hand. He didn’t move off when he realized that we didn’t bring him anything good to eat…instead, he stood, his ears swiveling like antennae, his eyes bright with interest. I moved around him and began scratching his withers. He rewarded me by stretching his neck out, his lips twitching with pleasure. B and I giggled. My racing heart quieted. The nervous feeling melted from my body. This was good. This was right. I hadn’t made anything up, and I wasn’t making a mistake. If anything, this was going to be the best decision I have ever made for myself.

B and I stood out in that paddock for an hour or so, chatting about various things and watching Image and his Appaloosa buddy, Murray, antagonize one another. Every few minutes, he would amble back towards us to double check that we weren’t hiding anything yummy in our pockets. Every time he approached, I found myself doing things I wouldn’t do with any other horse I didn’t know well: I leaned against his sun warmed shoulder, wrapped my arms around his neck, and bent down to kiss the splash of white on his nose. He stood quietly for each display of affection, unphased by my antics. In fact, at one point, he reached out towards me, his top lip wiggling against my nose. He didn’t shy away when I started laughing…if anything, he leaned closer and continued his comical display, his ears trained on the sound of my laughter. B, watching the entire exchange take place, shook her head in slight disbelief. She claimed she had never seen him be so openly affectionate with anyone. I couldn’t have fought back the wide smile that broke out over my face, even if I wanted to.

The boys harassing each other.

Another hour or so later, I slid back into my car. I had done nothing but stand next to him in the pasture, running my hands over his inky black coat. I hadn’t asked anything of him, other than to tolerate my affection and to look pretty for my camera. Still, I felt like I had accomplished a great deal in the matter of a few mere hours. The most important thing – the one thing that had plagued my worries since the day I decided I was supposed to be his new person – had been achieved. There wasn’t a single doubt in my mind that this was meant to be. From that day forward, I finally allowed myself to daydream about what was to come. I saw cold winter rides, bundled up like a snowman as we gallivanted through freshly fallen snow. I saw summer rides in the river that ended with him grazing and me reading a book under a tree. I saw trail rides with friends, full of laughter and living in the moment. I knew that this was far in the future and that there was a lot of work ahead of both of us…but it was there, and I couldn’t wait to get started.

A few weeks later, in the midst of the hurry and scurry of the holiday season (and long, demanding 10 hour days at my customer service job), we settled on the date he was due to be moved: January 26th, 2013. Almost exactly 11 months since GP passed. I began counting down the days and preparing for the biggest life change I’ve had in a great while.