I woke up this morning with a lightness in my heart that I haven’t felt for a very long time. I was scheduled to spend my morning working with two horses, then working with a rider and her brand new horse. “What a great way to start the weekend”, I thought to myself as I stumbled into the kitchen to let the dogs out, feed them and make my first cup of coffee.
I finish my morning routine, make up my water bottle and head to the back door. Lainey watches every move I make and as I open the sliding door, she stops next to me, looks up and asks if she can join me. My heart swells with happiness as I step aside and let her go out the door with me. She dances around my feet as we cross the deck and head to the barn. When she gets excited like this she actually bounces around me like a little rabbit, the look on her face is pure bliss, and her little pink tongue peeks out of her mouth as she smiles up at me.
I head into the barn, make up Chance and Buzz’s morning feed and head out to the pasture to get them, with Lainey right next to me every step of the way. It feels like the old days when she had the endurance to help me in everything I do out here, from feeding, to fixing fences, to training.
I let Buzz out after he finishes eating, and bring Chance into the barn. He’s the first horse on my schedule and I quickly groom him, get him tacked up, then swing my leg over to begin our under saddle work. I notice Lainey dancing right next to us, then take her spot on our right side. I take a deep breath, let myself feel down to Chance, and we begin. Connecting through the reins and my seat we start with helping him relax his mouth, loosen his jaw and follow the feel I send down the reins. He gets a little guarded when I connect and will often push down against my hands, but I stay with him, close my hands more when he increases the pressure, and relax as he relaxes his pressure. Every time I look down, Lainey is right there with us, staying with us step by step. I smile down at her, she looks up and me and smiles right back. She knows this routine, and she’s here to help. She anticipates the horse and my needs and gives us the right kind of energy to get the job done. She’s a calming influence when we need calm support, and she gets downright bossy when the horse or I act up. She’s my partner in more ways than one, and on days like this when she feels this good, I feel like it’s a special blessing. I know she’s in the later years of her life and while I am sad when I think about it, I’m extremely thankful for days like today. It doesn’t take Chance and myself too long to get on the same page and start communicating well with each other. He is beginning to trust the bit, and the hands on the other end of the reins, and I’m learning how to communicate better to him without having an internal brace myself. Chance and I navigate a stop together that feels connected and relaxed and I dismount, tie him up, untack him and turn him out.
I go to the other side of the arena to where Karen is standing with Jethro, we get him tacked up. Lainey joins us in our warm up and we walk over to the mounting block where I swing my leg over Jethro’s back, we then stand there together until I feel Jethro’s heartbeat slow down and he takes a nice deep breath. I gently inhale and slowly exhale into the walk and we move off together. Jethro is feeling a little discombobulated today. He usually feels like riding a bubble that is floating above the ground, but today it feels like the bubble has holes in it and his energy is bouncing out through the holes in a haphazard way. I look down and to my right and Lainey is right there next to us, again she is silently matching us step for step and giving us quiet, steady energy. I settle deeper into the saddle with Jethro, concentrate on staying balanced and grounded as we move around the arena.
The indoor arena is feeling cramped to him, he feels unsettled and unsure of his balance. I guide him out of the indoor and to the outdoor to see if that helps. He wants to take off and it’s hard at first to keep him at a walk. I ease him up to the trot, but that makes him scramble a little bit, so we ease down to the walk, but that also feels unbalanced. His owner, Karen, comes out and Lainey goes to her and leaves Jethro and me to figure it out. I let my mind sink deeper into him, I discover he is just having trouble with his shivers, and needs help. So we move a little bit more, and I try to stay out of his way, giving him his head more than I usually do because I want him to try to find his own balance, then I pick up the reins a little, connect and show him a more balanced frame. He likes that and moves in it a little bit, but then he falls apart again and wants to break out into a faster gait. I let him move up to the canter, but that isn’t right for him, so he tries a little buck. I ask him to come back to the walk, we balance ourselves again and I ask him to turn just on his haunches, he does that well, and I can feel the ease in which he does it. We move around the arena again on a looser rein and he holds his balance. I am able to neck rein him as we do gentle figure eights. His legs move in a better cadence and it feels easier to him. We then stop again and I ask for a turn on forehand, it’s hard for him, but he tries! Yay, he gives me a big try so we move off again on the loose reins and he stretches again and yawns a little. It feels like his balanced movement is coming back and the way his body is moving makes sense. I pick up the reins again and ask for another turn on the forehand. He is able to do it easier, we stand there for a moment, then I pick up the reins again, connect and ask him to soften. He follows the sense of softness right back to my hands and I quickly dismount as I’m telling him what a good boy he is.
We stand there a moment in our quietness. Then I pick up the reins again and ask for another yield of his hind end from the ground this time. He floats over to the side effortless and we both feel that it is good. I look up, Lainey is approaching with a smile on her face. We head into the barn with a bubble of connection around us, and I think to myself that I will treasure this morning in my heart for as long as I live.
As we enter the barn I see Kate standing next to her new horse, Sampson. There is joy and anticipation shining from her face as she stands next to him. The smile from my face reaches my heart as I ponder what an honor it is for me to be able to be there at the beginning of their journey together. Life doesn’t get much better than this. A morning spent with good friends, good horses, and a mighty fine little dog. Happy Friday Everyone!