Adjusting to Horselessness

It sounds like a bad disease to me, this “horselessness”.

It kind of feels like that, too, to be entirely honest. I have put a very firm, will only change if something spectacular falls into my lap, took myself off of all sale groups of Facebook, “at least one year” clause out there for my next horse. I will not even begin looking until next spring, at the earliest.

In the meantime, I’m going to flounder around a bit until I can figure out how to re-adjust to no longer being a horse owner. I know it’s not the end of the world, and I know that horses are a luxury, not a necessity, but the little girl in me is waving her arms frantically going “THIS IS THE ONLY THING YOU HAVE EVER WANTED EVER WHAT ARE YOU *DOING* YOU BLITHERING IDIOT?!”

She’s not wrong. My main dream in life for as long as I can remember was to have a pony of my very own. I did that, and for awhile it was awesome even with the struggles that Image threw my way. Then I made a booboo and didn’t listen to my gut and ended up burning myself out.

So, burnt out but sad little old me is just going to throw herself at the mercy of all her friends who have more horses than they know what to do with. Thankfully, that has worked in the past, and is working again as we speak.

Meet Tank.

No, I’m not joking. His name is Tank. Mostly because he IS a tank.

I emailed L last weekend going “heeeeelp I am horseless and feel like a useless human being! Throw me on something that won’t kill me!” Of course, she obliged willingly! Saturday dawned a bit cool and a lot overcast, but I hustled up to northern MA, shoveled a few paddocks, and then ducked into Tank’s paddock to say hello.

It’s been awhile since my first thought about a horse was “aw, how sweet!” Tank greeted me quietly, picking his head up from his hay. He had a gentle, albeit slightly reserved, air about him. I scratched his withers and neck and he leaned into it, pointing his upper lip just enough to let me know he liked it. If anything, he reminded me of GP.

My heart of stone softened. But just a little.

I pulled him out of the paddock and groomed him. He stood quietly, despite not knowing me or really knowing the routine, as he’d only been at L’s for a few weeks. I threw my rope halter on him, and we went out to the ring to lunge.

He had a bit more of a gas pedal than I was expecting, but he was soft and tried hard to respond to my cues. It was more of an awkward fumble than the easy “dance” it had been with Simba, as he and I had figured each other out, but he was listening and balanced on the line. He struck me as smart and willing to please, but not super willing trust just He didn’t offer any funny business on the line, so I shrugged and tacked him up.

It was funny seeing this big, stocky, WIDE Quarter horse decked out in my tack. My bridle fit him everywhere but the browband, but I wasn’t going to fight with all of the Chicago screws that adorned L’s western tack. I figured one ride with a slightly funny looking browband wouldn’t kill him. L and S had arrived home at that point, and they, too tacked up their horses, and we all walked out to the ring together.

We had a few moments of “you stand there, I stand here, stand still so I can get on”, but once I swung on, he stood still. It took me a minute to re-adjust…Simba was like riding a two by four, and while Tank was definitely not the roundest horse I had ever ridden, it was a HUGE change. It took me a few spins around the ring to really remember how to sit a horse like that…and to remember how much better I feel with a horse that has some substance to him underneath me.

I found out quickly that while Tank was a relatively easy, push button ride, his finessing had been ignored. He was a camp horse and/or a lesson horse at one time, and it showed. His mouth had a lot to be desired. We spent some time re-establishing what a bend was, and how to not lean on my hands when I ask to slow down or stop. He cut corners like it was going out of style, and I decided that cantering corners (the ring is long but not super wide, so the corners are tighter than I’m usually comfortable with) was not a good idea for the first ride out. Outside of that, he was quiet, responsive to leg, and even had a bit of a neck rein to him. He had a comfortable jog (even his bigger trot was sit-able), and a lopey canter that he picked up with a mere kiss.

The last time I looked through big red ears was GP.

When it came to my own riding, I was pleasantly surprised to find I was not all over the place. I felt MUCH more at home on a horse that had some bulk to him, and thus felt more relaxed through my back and thigh. I was able to sit the trot without much of an issue (or, er, so I thought…more on that in a moment) and cantered around on a loose rein. Simba had taught me that micromanaging my horse’s every move was No Fun, and it seems to have translated well. I was able to effectively use my leg and seat to communicate my thoughts and Tank seemed to be listening to them by the time my “quarter ran out” for ringwork. I checked in with L to see if he had been out on the trails by himself.

He hadn’t.

Oh well. No time like the present, right?

Off we went. He balked once at a puddle in the driveway, I pushed him through it, and that was that. He didn’t question me again. Over anything. I was prepared to have discussions and negotiations…and neither thing happened. Good ole’ easygoing Quarter horse!

He was a total gem out on the trails. He has a Quarter horse walk (so. slow!) but had enough pep in his step at the trot and canter that it didn’t matter. He was happy to trot along without a care in the world, and was surefooted enough to trot down some hills and through a stream. He moved off of my leg enough so that I barely had to touch the reins except to ask him to come back into a slower (and therefore comfier!) trot. I couldn’t resist a couple of canter sets down the long, flat, straight away part of the trail that I loved to gallop with GP just a few years ago.

We were cantering along at one point and I saw a big branch down up ahead. Tank had already shown me during the lunging session that jumping was NOT his thing, so I chose to ask him to slow down. I had been up in a rough two point to save my back a bit after so much trotting, and went to sit back down. At the same time, I started to say “walk.”

Now, L had told me that she thought there may have been some reining training in there at some point, because he occasionally “sat down” when you asked him to stop from higher speeds like he wanted to slide. I had forgotten this tidbit of information.

The second the “w” left my mouth, Tank SAT and sat hard. I squealed and very nearly went shooting over his head. Thankfully, my seat is okay-ish and I was able to grab hold of the pommel of my saddle as he came to a screeching halt. Holy shit, it’s been a LONG time since I had a horse that practically sat its ass on the ground to come to a stop. I can ride that when I’m prepared for it, but hoooo boy there was almost some dirt eating going on with that one. I started cracking up the second I was able to push myself back into the saddle. Tank looked back at me like I was nuts.

I had a shoot to get to, so I reluctantly turned Tank around after that and we cruised home. He didn’t bat an eye at the deer bounding off into the woods next to us (I did), or the gunshots coming from the gun range that is next to the trails we ride on (again, I did). He stood quietly for me to dismount, hung out in the crossties, and lead back his paddock without needing a lead line.

Good pony!

It was a good ride, despite the agony my back, shoulders and hips were in the next day. I can’t remember the last time I rode a horse that wasn’t gaited (and yes, even a badly gaited horse is more comfortable for me than a trotting horse!), so trotting that much maaaay not have been the brightest move on the planet…but it was fun, and I felt GOOD afterwards. It didn’t feel like it had been a chore and that I was forcing myself through every movement.

So, little girl inside my head, sit down and pout for awhile because horseless is going to be the norm for a little while. I’m not sure I really LIKE the idea, but that’s the way it is right now…and I’ll learn to be okay with it.

Especially if Tank sticks around, at least for a little while!

Happy Trails

And just like that, I am horseless again.

Couple of last shots in the paddock

Simba went off to a new, easy-going life in Vermont Sunday morning. He’ll be doing gentle trail riding and living the good life with pasture and a new pasture buddy. He stepped up into a strange trailer like he owned it and off he went. It was quiet and without fanfare, and I sent him off feeling confident he’ll be a happier critter for all of it.

I am…I don’t know what I am right now. I’m ecstatic he has a good home. He deserves it, because he really is a lovely horse. I was not sad to see him go, as he’ll be happy, so there was nothing to be sad about there. I was sad, however, to realize that I will no longer have a horse. Simba stressed me out and drove me nuts and made me want to knock him upside a head with a two by four sometimes, but he gave me something to focus on and something to fill my time with. That will take some getting used to.

I don’t know, exactly, what’s next for me at this point. I know that no matter what, I’m taking some time “off”. It will be at least until the summer, if not until next fall, before I even think about looking again (unless something I can’t resist falls into my lap, but even then, it’ll have to be something spectacular). I have learned my lesson the hard way. I don’t intend to repeat any mistakes, ESPECIALLY because the selling of horses is miserable and I do not ever want to do it again.

Dork pony…and yes, that black blur is yet another photobomb by Dolly the Border Collie.

It’s been a long year, and I am welcoming the break. I am going to miss having something to occupy my time. I’m going to miss stalls every weekend. I’m going to miss riding the trails, seeing my aunt and uncle all the time, riding with friends whenever I wanted…but, at the end of the day, I am relieved. I am relieved he has a better home, with someone more suited to him all around, and who seems to click much better with him than I ever did. She got on him and he relaxed in a way I hadn’t ever seen him relax immediately with me. I am also relieved that I no longer feel pressure (from myself!) to ride and work with a horse that I didn’t enjoy. That was extremely hard, and it put me in a mental space that wasn’t good for anyone. We had good rides (hell, we had great rides!) but it wasn’t ever the same.

I will still be riding, I’m sure. People are already throwing horses at me to ride, left and right. Hell, right after seeing Simba off and doing stalls for the last time, I went up to NH to ride with J on one of her Paso Finos. I got to ride the funniest, weirdest critter on the face of the planet named Benicio. I didn’t stop laughing the entire ride, because he was full of ants in his pants but was a gentleman the entire time. We had some rousing gallops and I was reminded as to why, exactly, I LOVE that breed so very much. He had the most deliciously perfect corto (for me, anyway), with a longer stride than most, a lovely canter, and a hell bent for leather kinda gallop that leaves you squealing with delight.

In short, it was a reminder as to why I do this. My only motivation in life for as long as I can remember has been horses. For a long, long time, it was just to own one (ANY horse at all, I didn’t care about the specifics). I’m a hell of a lot more picky now, but the dream is still there. I’ll figure it out.

Eventually, anyway.