I missed a few horse days, and today was my fix. The day offered blue skies, cool temperatures, no wind, and time to ride. As I approached the barn, I looked to see how far out Reo was in the pasture. He was mid-point, amidst the clumpy mud and water, which meant I needed my mud boots and my stamina. After putting on my boots, gathering a handful of treats, and picking up his halter, I began my jaunt to bring him in. I’m not sure how they even find grass out there, it is so stomped down, but Reo must have found some tasty morsels because he did not respond to my whistles, nor did he even raise his head. When I got within 20 feet of him, he moved his right leg, and I thought, “he’s going to come,” but he only stared. So I turned around as if to leave, and then he walked up to me. I think he didn’t want to miss out on the horse treats I had in my pocket.
Surprise, he only had mud caked on his upper legs and his head. An easy clean up day. My western saddle isn’t supposed to be heavy, at least it was advertised as light weight, but it is very heavy for me. I struggle trying to heft it up over my head to place upon his back. Unfortunately, I usually don’t get it right, and I didn’t today, either. At least I didn’t drop it, or push the saddle pad off, so that was one accomplishment. After struggling and finally getting it on his back, I had to adjust the saddle pad because it had slipped slightly to the side. Once the saddle is on I am good to go. Reo must be a saint to tolerate my awkwardness in saddling him, but he seems not to be too concerned. Maybe he likes me.
Mounting is another concern for me, as I have arthritic knees and a hip joint that is quite stiff. I am always thankful no one watches me mount, because it isn’t pretty. Reo stands at the mounting block while I put my left foot in the stirrup, slowly lift myself up, and basically lay over his neck while I swing my right leg over his rump. Like I said, it isn’t pretty, but it gets me on, he’s fine with my method, and we’re ready to enjoy a ride.
Reo will be 16 yrs old next month, but he’s still not what I would call a totally sensible horse. While he obeys all my cues, he would rather do his own thing, go where he wants to go, and end the ride very quickly. I may be an old woman, but I do not let him buffalo me into quitting my afternoon ride. We practice for 10 minutes in the indoor arena, walking, jogging, backing, and turning. When I am sure he has his brain on right, we head outside to the large, sandy outdoor ring. It’s not his favorite place, because he has to adhere to my instructions and actually do something other than walk. We walk some more, we trot some, we rein to the right and left, we back up, we turn on the haunches, and that’s it. Time to head down the grassy lane and simply enjoy each others company without lessons.
The sun warms my body, Reo’s black coat is shining, his body movement matches mine, and it’s an amazing feeling being outside in the Kentucky atmosphere. I use this time to silently thank mother nature for the beauty around me…trees, grass, horses, sky…just total peace. Not sure what my life would be if I didn’t have these interludes of natural sounds and privacy. I am uplifted in mind and body.
Time to head back to the barn. I have to remind him that he still has to respond to my cues, like don’t rush, walk comfortably, be good. His ears tell me he’d rather not, and his tail swishes a bit, but he does as I request and we safely arrive at the barn. I dismount, loosen the girth, and lead him to the barn. He knows what’s coming now — his grain, good grass grazing, more treats, and returning to the pasture with his gelding pals.
I head home, thankful for all that I have, especially this paint horse, Reo. Tomorrow I visit the Old Horse.