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!

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