I have seen Gem twice this week. Both times I rode in the arena because of the frigid temperatures.
The first ride (Sunday), I was a bit anxious. I hadn't ridden Gem in a week at that point. But to be honest, it had been an exhausting few days with my mother and seeing to her needs and I had nothing left to give. Gem gave me a little attitude when I was getting him ready, so I was expecting him to be frisky. Reduced turnout time due to bad weather was probably a factor. I felt very tired as I walked him up the lane to the arena. Gem was nickering and prancing a bit and I was not looking forward to having to convince him to behave. But, something strange happened. As I positioned him next to the mounting block and asked him to stand, his eyes softened. He stood nicely as I mounted, and waited patiently until I asked him to walk on. And, that's what we did for most of our time together; just walking, doing squares, circles and some bending. He was very well behaved.... and kind. The reins were relaxed and his head was low. Whatever worry I had about him being frisky vanished and I let my mind clear. I felt my body start to relax and the pinched look on my face disappeared. It was...... a great ride. Could it be that he realized how emotionally and physically drained I was? Did he see it in how I walked to the arena? Could he have heard it in my voice? He just seemed to know what I needed out of that ride.
It was bitter tonight and when I arrived at the barn, my headlights reflected off of the solid ice that covered the lane. Great. You see, we had +10C earlier in the week (I know!! Crazy!!), which melted a ton of snow, followed by rain and then the temperatures plummeted again. Lesson was cancelled this week due to the insane weather. LA had a truck load of fine gravel dumped on the lane and around the barn. Thank goodness! Walking would have been treacherous without it. However, a horse slipped this morning on the icy pathway to the turnout areas, and fell. He wasn't hurt, but LA ordered another truckload of the gravel and had it distributed along the paths this afternoon to help the horses maintain their footing.
My frame of mind was much better tonight as I got Gem ready. I had had a very productive week at work and had ended the work week on a good note. I was looking forward to riding, even if it was just going to be walking in the arena due to the low temperature. As I opened the gate leading to the lane, Gem stopped. His head was up, ears forward and there was a bit of anxiousness around his eyes. I asked him to walk on and he refused. I spoke quietly. Gem lowered his head and started sniffing and examining the icy road. Ah, he was nervous about the ice! Perhaps news had spread amongst the other horses of the mishap that one of their turnout mates had experienced on the ice. :-)
I tried to reassure Gem that it was OK. I asked him to walk on. He was hesitant. He took a step, but stopped, again lowering his head checking the ice. He took another few steps, walking beside me but stopped again. Then, instead of walking beside me, he moved behind me. With a little encouragement, he continued to walk behind me all the way to the arena. Perhaps he felt that if I could walk safely following a certain path down the lane, then he was going to follow in my footsteps. He trusted me to take care of him.
It was another good, relaxing ride. We walked around the arena with DH's Mom for about 1/2 an hour before the cold took it's toll. Gem was relaxed and his straight lines and turns were very good. After a sniff of the ice when we left the arena, he followed me back up the lane to the barn. And for a horse that doesn't appreciate displays of affection, he allowed me to hug him to my hearts content when he was in the cross-ties - he usually get fidgety when I do this.
I feel there has been a subtle shift in our relationship. Even though these two rides were not "busy" physically, Gem and I seemed to have moved up a notch in trusting and understanding what the other needs. Yes, it really has been a good week. :-)