Today I escaped the full body velcro of my family for two and a half hours and headed to the barn.
It was a beautiful day, if a little chilly. Fortunately I have finally figured out the right combination of clothes to keep me warm - I don't really have cold weather gear since we get about 10 days of really cold (under 40 degrees is where I draw the "really cold" line) weather. Who needs gear when you can walk with your hands under your armpits for 10 days.
But, after pulling chilly weather luck on yet another horse feeding morning, I decided to figure out how to stay warm. Tights, jeans, socks, four shirt layers, a vest and the biggest coat my husband has, along with a hat, rabbit lined gloves and scarf. Toasty.
When I pulled up to the barn I was surprised to see an empty paddock where four geldings (including mine) should be. Then I realized that the "gate" was down and they were out in the pasture.
The pasture at our barn is not a large flat field. It's more of the sloped rocky hill side so common here in the Texas Hill Country. But I was undeterred. I was confident that I'd find my horse and bring him up without a problem.
Have I mentioned I'm an optimist?
I headed down the hill and saw Cibolo, head down in the sparse grass, grazing away with his BFF, Arab-Amigo. Two other geldings, the sorrel, Amigo, and the roan, Chico (known for his reluctance to canter) were grazing off to the side.
I clicked my tongue and Cibolo looked up and then headed straight for me at a quick walk.
This is a rather dramatic turn of events. Starting (as near as I can tell) with the time we began doing the sacking out, Cibolo has stopped trying to evade me at the urging of his BFF. This was the third time in a row he walked up to greet me, and Arab Amigo came too. I delivered a carrot to each (I thought I'd need an incentive if we had to play chase the horses on the hillside) and, with halter on, began leading Cibolo up.
Then everyone thought this was the dinner bell and began to head up the hill too. Cibolo didn't follow them, though, staying at the proper distance on his lead and calmly following me up.
To me, gathering a horse out of the herd can be the most dangerous time. I'll never forget reading about a champion barrel racer who was killed by her horses who got worked up when she was setting them out to pasture. So I keep a careful eye on what messages the herd is sending.
Sorrel Amigo and Arab Amigo ran up the hill. Arab Amigo was clearly surprised that Cibolo was hanging with me. Behind us Chico was making his way up as well.
Then I saw it coming. Arab Amigo ran down to herd everyone up the hill. I dissuaded him once, but he made another pass, convincing Chico to run and I prepared to let go of the rope and get out of the way as Cibolo pulled to go forward. I knew the pressure this time was too intense.
But before I let go I pulled quick on the rope, then let go, calmly stepping aside.
Cibolo, who had started to run, turned, tense, and faced me. His lead rope was slack at his feet.
His muscles were tight, ready to go but he looked at me. He wasn't sure, but he stood there, still looking like he wanted to bolt. But he didn't bolt.
He looked and waited for me to tell him what to do. Like I was in charge.
"It's okay, Cibolo. Good."
I picked up the lead rope and gave him a rub. And we walked up, him following respectfully and calmly, and together we headed out to do some work.
And proceeded to have a nice time.