Maiden Voyage(s)

You guys? Hey, you guys?

I rode my horse. A couple of times now, actually (bad blogger, BAD!). But I rode my horse.

MY horse. MINE. I put MY saddle and MY bridle on him and rode him, without getting bucked off! That, in itself, is worth celebrating 🙂

D and I set off into the woods together on Saturday the 7th. I offered to lead the charge, which may have been a disaster with a horse I’d only known a few days. I’ve managed to turn myself into a relatively confident rider over the years, so I felt okay leading and wanted to see how he did. He was “up” and snorty, but he didn’t offer to spook or do anything naughty while he was so tense. I sat quietly and encouraged forward movement, and he picked a very careful path through the snow dusted trails. While we were winding through the woods, I tested his responsiveness to the bit, and was absolutely THRILLED with how soft and supple he was in my hands. I changed him over to a Myler short shank low port western curb bit, just on a hunch, and I had a much happier critter. I was able to ask him to drop his nose and use his hind end just a little at the walk now that he wasn’t trying to spit the big, fat Herm Sprenger KK Ultra bit out of his mouth! What was also lovely was that even though he was a little insecure about this whole thing, he took direction from me and continued “talking” to me, instead of just tuning me out and reacting to his nervousness. He takes a lot of comfort in the person on his back or on the end of the line, and despite the fact he’s a tenser critter, I haven’t seen him truly hit a point where his brain completely melts out his ears and we’re unable to communicate. Will that happen? Most likely. Will it be fun? Probably not. But, hopefully, at that point, he and I have a good enough relationship that I’m able to talk him down off the proverbial ledge and we’ll be fine.
D and I ran into a few hunters on the way down — both were polite, and one was chatty. Standing still is not one of Simba’s strong points. He’s on a mission, and he wanted to get going on that mission NOW. Tory, who stood quietly while D chatted with the nice hunter man, watched Simba dance around with something like amusement etched into her features. Tory is a few years younger than Simba, but at this stage in the game, she’s probably the more seasoned trail horse!

We continued down the trail and Simba began to relax a bit — enough so that I could look around and remember how many awesome rides D and I had taken together when I was a teenager. It’s been a long time since I was last on these trails, so it was a little bit of a shock to realize I didn’t know where the HELL I was going anymore! Thankfully, D’s been riding these trails for ten years and happily called directions out when I needed them!

D and I switched up who was leading, and it became pretty obvious, pretty quickly, that Simba preferred to lead. He was much more worried and bracy against the bit as I kept a safe distance behind Tory. He kept himself contained until we hit a steep downhill. Tory navigated much faster than we did (mostly because I have a “thing” about going down hills slowly, even with balanced horses!). Simba’s brain began to melt out his ears a bit. Tory and D left our sight (no fault of theirs!) and Simba went “aieeee!” and popped up in front. It was a pathetic baby rear, but it was a rear nonetheless. However, that is a MAJOR no, and we had words. I growled at him, spun him in a few tight donuts, and had him stand for a moment. I got a good five seconds of quiet out of him before asking him to move forward. His brain had reaquainted itself with the inside of his head, so he controlled himself and listened to me as we headed towards D and Tory. He got over it and we continued on our way, but I filed that experience away as something to be aware of during future rides, as it could easily escalate into something bigger if not handled correctly. He responded well to my correction, but that doesn’t mean he won’t ramp it up when he feels the need to test boundaries as time goes on.

Hopefully the first of MANY between the ears shots!

The rest of the ride was fun and uneventful (minus the herd of deer that jumped out in front of us). It was all done at the walk, except for a short but sweet stint at the gait down some new trails I hadn’t seen before. Oh, you guys, can this horse GAIT when he’s set up for it. I must have never ridden a decent Walker, because all the other Walkers I’ve ridden have had a gait that had no “glide” to it. A few times (he can’t hold it super long right now due to lack of muscling) he stepped into the gait, and I about died. We have a long way to go before I can get into really working on his gait, but it’s in there and OH MY GOD IS IT FABULOUS!

I had a pretty tired critter on my hands when we got back, which certainly wasn’t a bad thing. I was very impressed with his first outing on the trails in God only knows how long. He was honestly very good, despite his minor temper tantrum. He responded well to me, and seemed to enjoy being out and about!

He further impressed me the next day, as we went on our first solo outing…down the road…okay, I may have a bit of a death wish, but I honestly enjoy road riding. I like pretending that I’m travelling like people did way back when, and it’s one of my favorite “tests” of just how level headed a horse is. Weird stuff exists out on the roads, like tarps covering wood and dogs bombing out at us and horses galloping up to fences and chainsaws starting and big dump trucks parked on lawns and cars that don’t know how to slow the eff down…and, to be honest, he didn’t spook at ANY of it. He was definitely tense, as I would have expected any horse to be, but he stayed in tune with me. He yelled a bit, which was more funny than anything else, but he got over that eventually as well.

It was really surreal to be putting actual rides on MY horse. It’s still surreal. I never really got to ride Image, so it still feels a bit like a dream. I am, admittedly, waiting for the proverbial other shoe to fall. It’s all too good to be true, and though we have things to work on (which is okay; I think I’d be bored otherwise!)…I don’t have a major project on my hands. I am worried that something is going to take this away from me, because that’s the way my life seems to go. I am trying to keep those thoughts under control, but it’s easier said than done.

I still feel very guarded with him as well. I’m sure it’s simply a product of losing two horses in two years, but I was so enamoured with Image when I brought him home that I am struggling to find a comfy middle ground at this point. I am THRILLED that I can ride this horse, but I think we’ll be spending a ton of time on the ground in upcoming weeks as I firmly believe that’s why the connection I had with Image became so strong, so quickly. I put a lot of time into that horse on the ground, and I will never, ever forget the feeling of him walking up to me and pressing his head into my chest for ear rubs. I don’t think Simba will ever be that demonstrative with affection, but I hope that he and I will develop our own special bond in the years to come. I don’t think it will come as quickly as it did with Image…there was a much different spark there. Don’t get me wrong — I wouldn’t have brought Simba home if there hadn’t been any spark, but it was certainly a different kind this time around. Part of my fears that maybe I’ve hit my quota for heart horses…the other part of me feels that maybe, this time around, it’s just going to take a little more time.

The holidays have been a killer this year, and I am more tired than I’ve been in FOREVER! I have so much more to say, but to avoid boring the masses, I’ll end here and hopefully get another post up before the end of the week (and before I have more adventures to write about!). For now, here’s another image from the little holiday shoot I did with Simba the weekend after bringing him home!

Merry Christmas to meeee!

4 thoughts on “Maiden Voyage(s)

  1. Madeline C. December 18, 2013 / 12:51 pm

    I am so happy for you, I think I've already said that, but I know that feeling when you finally get on and out. Nothing is like it. I'm sooooo excited to see your adventures! By the way, he's friggin a DOR able.


  2. Allison B December 18, 2013 / 3:23 pm

    I love that photo! Ho looks like such a sweetie!


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