This past weekend was a long one for us Canadians. Monday was Victoria Day, in honour of Queen Victoria’s birthday. We had two sunny days and two rainy days. For most of us, it is the weekend that officially welcomes Summer. By the third week in May, the threat of frost is gone. Cottages and pools are opened up, crops are planted. Most of us plant our gardens on the long weekend and I was no exception. The construction of our new deck was done in early May so that I could plant without worry of work boots destroying anything. I actually started my long weekend last Thursday and hit the garden centre early to pick up my flowers and hanging tomato plants. I planted Friday and Saturday. The weeding and preparation takes the longest and my back reminded me regularly when it was time to take a break.
I went out to the stables on Sunday, as usual. There was a horse show on Sunday that a lot of people were attending and with others away opening cottages, etc. it was very quiet. My back was a little stiff from gardening, so I had already decided to give Gem a spa treatment instead of riding. I hadn’t seen him since the previous Tuesday. As soon as he stuck his head out the top of his stall door, I knew it was going to be a marathon groom session. Ho-ly crap. He had mud dingle-balls hanging from his mane. The mud swiped above one eye looked like an eyebrow, gave him a quizzical look. As he walked out of his stall, it looked like he was wearing grey boots. After I put him in the cross-ties, I further assessed the situation. He had mud so thickly applied to his butt that it had cracked and his tail had mud dingle-balls hanging from it. Sigh. The mud embedded in his hooves had basically turned to cement. My spray water bottle came in handy, and not for discipline issues! I used it to spray each hoof, letting the water soften the mud. After about 10 minutes, I was able to clean his feet. I think he was glad to see me - he was a bit of a schnook. I was so filthy when I left him, that I could taste dirt and my hands looked grey against the steering wheel.
I went out again on Monday. My back was still stiff from gardening, but I needed to ride. CA did not ride, but she babysat me while she was doctoring up her horse. My back did not cooperate for very long and after about ½ hour of walking and jogging, I had to get off. CA was surprised at the shortness of my ride, but when I explained she suggested that we free-lunge Gem. I had lunged him a few times when we first became partners, but I had never done this before. He needed the exercise, so I was game. I quickly took him back to the old barn and removed his tack, put him in his halter and returned to the arena.
CA met us in the arena with a long whip. I wasn't sure what to expect, so I lead him over the the side of the arena. CA told me to unhook him and when I did, he just stood there and looked at me.
Gem: What are we doing?? Why are we back here?
Then I started to walk away from him and he followed. I thought this was cute, so I started to jog down the track (My Husband would never believe that I jogged!!) and he jogged right behind me.
Gem: What the heck is going on? Have you lost your mind? I am supposed to be in my stall now, eating lunch. Come back here!
We eventually walked over to CA, who had positioned herself in the middle of the arena. CA gave Gem a little tap with the whip on his butt and verbally encouraged him to move out and trot. He looked a bit confused for a split second and then the penny dropped. Off he went. He started out slowly and then picked up his pace to an extended trot, moving out to go large. He kicked up his heels a couple of times. Was he looking at me??? He galloped around us. He did flying lead changes. He zigged, he zagged. His stops were very close to sliding stops (is there reining in his future???). The thundering of his hooves, the snorting, the head tossing. He pranced around like he owned the joint. O.M.G. I think my jaw was open to my chest. He was magnificent. CA continued to encourage him on with a tap of the whip or verbally. He kept moving and for about 10 minutes I was terrified, exhilarated, and in awe of him.
I told Gem “eeeeeeasy” and he slowed right down to a walk. I honestly can’t remember if I told him to “come”, but he walked up to us and I easily attached his lead. I gave him scratches and “good boy!”. I walked him around the arena and then we exited and slowly walked up the lane to the old barn. After a quick brush and picking his feet, he returned to his stall and chowed down on his lunch.
As I watched him munch his way through a flake, I replayed what I had just seen him do. For a biggish horse, he was so elegant and light on his feet. Sure, I had seen him occasionally at play, but most of our visits together are either getting ready to ride or grooming. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but Monday I was up close and personal and I could feel the power emanating from him. I felt closer to him than ever before - is that possible?? Call me crazy, but as I watched him eat, I think I saw him smiling. I know I was.
What was I thinking....?