Lily with her fancy braid.
One thing Trail Rider told me to do was to ride Smokey. Ride him a lot. (He actually said Maybe he'll buck you off hard, run off with you spooked...that'll cure you of this crush Harsh, right? LOL)
So after working with the kids on Thursday I rode Smokey by myself on the trails by the barn. We'd done some round pen work, but this time no one was on him first. We rode for 10 minutes, just up and down the trail, at a walk, trot, and a short canter. I found it was tough to get the steering right with him, so I focused on my legs, focused on my hands.
Even when Smokey and I were not quite communicating, I never felt that old anxiety I've had when things go wrong. I was able to rate him down, bring him in.
We kept riding and slowly got the parts working. We ended on a good note.
That night I found myself thinking of something I read on a blog - I think it was Beth's blog, Fearless Riding - that you must trust the horse.
Trust the horse.
And that's what it's been about for me. I trust Lily - except for her canter, which is chargey and I have to work on. And that's the only place I only have trouble with her and, of course it's all linked together.
Lily: You realize I'll get this braid out of my hair in about 10 minutes.
Trust the horse.
The words of the barn owner echoed in my head - the thing about Smokey is that I trust him. He never does anything stupid.
Friday the entire family left for a trip leaving me ALONE.
ALONE!!! This never happens! I was now facing 3 days on my own.
Since it had be a perfectly horrible week in many, many ways, I was thrilled that I could indulge myself in horse time. When life's stresses are this intense it's horses where my world resets. Where perspective comes back. Where I remember that everything in this life is just temporary and you must make the most of the moments gifted to you.
It's something that can be hard to remember, until you get with a horse.
So my goal. Ride horses every day and remember to trust those horses. Give the horses the trust - which is what they give you when they let you put that bit in their mouth. Of course you have to earn that trust with them every ride...
I took Lily out that evening and we worked on trotting and transitioning. It took a while, especially since Lily has not been ridden in months because of her coffin joint. But I trust Lily. Even if she gave me one cow kick as we were going. I shrugged it off.
I trust her.
By the end of our session we were going up and down with only energy. No more cow kicks. That's when I learned that the key to Lily's collected canter is to cue softly. A big cue means we are racing barrels and we need to GO.
This morning I headed out for a big day. The plan - we were headed to the lake to ride. I'd ride Lily, Stephanie would ride Cibolo and Smokey would come with the barn owner. Then about half way we would switch and I'd ride Smokey and barn owner would ride Lily.
Lily and I had a few tough moments as she blew sideways twice, once during a trot canter transition. Her canter had been tough to sit and I was just a mess. When she went sideways I came down hard - but Lily moved back under me and we were back in business, with just a minor bruise that would come up later.
Damn, I thought. I can't ride a canter? Yesh.
Then, at the end of the trail it was time to loop back. And I'd ride Smokey. During the entire ride I saw Smokey stay quiet and handle every position on the trail.
Usually the horses are pretty fired up heading back. They know this trail. They know when they are headed back.
We started out with some trotting and cantering around the big field at the end of the trail. Now Smokey's canter, I could ride. I felt that feeling that I had on Woody, that laughter and joy bubbling up. After our second loop I started to feel how to rate Smokey, how to bring him in.
We headed out for the trail ride. It was one of those rides - like TR says, a hall of famer.
At one point a deer or 'dillo, or something stirred in the bushes. Smokey remained calm. He was remarkable.
Later near the trail end we were back to going sideways. And I figured out what I was doing wrong. Then we trotted all around the parking lot, controlled, consistent circles.
And then we all went for a swim in the lake. Lily was a little more comfortable in the water, Cibolo was hysterical, groaning and moaning with pleasure. Smokey was part submarine, sticking his entire muzzle in the water, blowing bubbles.
It was an incredible day, and incredible ride.
Tomorrow TR and I and C are off to our lesson with Dave - during a cow sorting clinic. I wasn't supposed to be in a cattle sorting clinic, but sometimes things just work out that way.