Saturday I went for my usual feeding of the horses at our stables. I was still laughing at some posts I read over at 7MSN and thinking how boring my life seems by comparison.
Let me explain.
It was a gray day, one of those that makes you think the sun was just a figment of your imagination. Usually when I pull up to the barn it's like a scene from a prison movie where all the inmates are rattling their tin cups against the bars demanding food.
I respond by telling everyone to keep their tails on.
This time no one was asking for grain. They where all looking off in the distance.
Well, that weird, I thought, organizing the grain for the usually most demanding horses.
With my first set of feed ready I stepped out and poured the grain in the buckets.
And no one came to inhale it.
So I looked at what had their attention. It was an intruder. A large one.
I tried to remain calm. Surely it was just my imagination.
Eventually the intruder made his way casually toward the barn where I continued to measure and pour grain. He decided to check out the hay.
At this time, I'd like to point out that my grandparents had a farm, not a ranch. Farms are where you grow things that don't walk around with pointy things on their head. The most dangerous thing on the farm were the feral kittens we tried to befriend.
So I don't really know how to approach one of these things. I mean I've watched my share of westerns, but I've also watched some bull fights. Given that, it seems to me these things can go either way.
I tried to call the barn owner, but she was out of town for the holiday. I tried to call the ranch next door, but all the phone numbers on the posted list are out of date. I called other feeders, but no one was around.
It was me and the bull.
Fine. It's just hay.
I let him eat while I finished my chores, hoping every time I heard a truck and ATV that it was someone who had noticed they had misplaced 700 pounds of Chuck.
Or whatever his name was.
But no one came.
Then it happened. He came in to feast on the alfalfa.
I always think of alfalfa as the creme brulee of feed. Special. Saved for those horses who do something extra or had earned a retirement where alfalfa was a sort of daily gold watch.
No way was this ... interloper with horns... going to eat our horses' alfalfa! I grabbed a manure fork and chased him out of there.
And, much to my surprise, I was not impaled.
He headed over to the house to see if there was anything else of interest, then disappeared completely as if he was just an errant Thanksgiving guest, late, lost, and finally, full.
After all that excitement, riding was almost an afterthought.
Except Lily decided to test me. She started by making as if she was going to bite as I tacked her up. I was so surprised I thought she must have some pain. I took off the saddle and poked and prodded. Nothing. No tender spots. No pain in her back, her neck, nothing.
Then I realized this is what she used to do with her previous owner - who eventually would get intimidated into not riding.
The minute I firmed up, she stopped. We rode out a bit, and to say she was resistent would be an understatement. But I know the worst she'll do is turn. Remembering the 5 minute rule, I corrected consistently and pushed until we got to a point where I felt she was listening consistently and no longer resisting. We stood there for a minute, then returned. A few more turns to remember that we don't trot back to the barn, and we were done.
Then Cibolo. Same thing. A bit resistant. But now I was in boss mare mode, so it went smoothly. We did a little trail riding in our familiar area - because I'm taking my time with him - then into the arena for cantering.
I was trying to use another rein on his halter but it didn't work - in fact I think it just confused him and at one point he went into a series of side steps - or was it a crow hop? - in a canter because of the pull on that set of reins I had foolishly put over the horn. So I dropped those second reins, did some very strict movements, since I wasn't sure if I was getting resistance, fear, confusion, or all three.
We kept it simple. One step forward. One step back. Two steps forward, two back. Side pass. Then off for some cantering. Got what I asked for so I ended on a good note, a little tired from all the things we were working on and my unexpected issues with Lily.
As we walked in from the arena, Cibolo got confused and I was not signaling very well. I turned to him with some exasperation and I heard, in my head, as clearly as any words I've had spoken to me, in a soft tone "I am trying." I was taken aback. Cibolo had his head at my level and his gaze met mine.
I moved in toward him and he dropped his head in my hands. I'm trying, he "said" again.
I know you're trying, I said out loud. I know.
I'm trying too.