Thursday I was in need of horse time. But I'm still not eager to take Smokey out on long alone rides, and I knew I was mentally exhausted, so I didn't want to do any real training.
I just wanted to be with my horse.
The horses were in the process of getting fed, were done with grain but jonesing for their hay. I filled a bag with hay and hung it in the alley so I could brush Smokey and he could eat.
When I first came to this barn I didn't get the "hang a bag of hay in front of your horse while you tack." I was really against it because it seemed the horses were very distracted. But then I realized that with an endurance rider its all about shoving calories down those horses and you want them to eat. I still have certain expectations of behavior when I tack up and I will occasionally remove the bags, especially if the kids are around.
And you know, they are just fine, hay or no hay bag. They don't revert to really bad behavior of squirting around without hay. And while they are a bit distracted with the hay bag, they know when you're serious and it doesn't take a whole lot to convey that.
Anyway, Smokey was eating and I was brushing and it seemed like the saddle and blanket were even more than I wanted to deal with.
Does this happen to you? Do you go through times where the simplest thing seems far too intense and burdensome?
I grabbed the reins and headed over to the round pen. Smokey was very good on the ground. We did a little testing in the round pen. He was already latched on. So, I rode him in the round pen bareback.
I'm not a confident bareback rider and missed the security of my saddle. He sensed this and was a little all over. I got down, put on my helmet (which I'd forgotten to put on), and tried again. Much better. I relaxed and he was still a little forward. I decided all we were going to do was work on brakes. Sometimes Smokey takes about 5 minutes to get his power brakes on (it's all ABS before then). And his reward would be the minute he have me a nice soft stop I'd get down. we probably worked on it 6 or 7 times, and there it was.
I slid off. I saw that sink in as I took off the reins. Then I sat in the middle of the round pen and sent him off - not to work, just to wander. At first he looked at me, waiting. I changed my posture, "releasing" him.
I wanted to do what I never do. I wanted to sit there and just be there. Soon enough he wandered the round pen, nibbling on a few shoots that had shot up from the rain. He took off spontaneously at a trot. He sniffed different parts of the ground, unraveling what mysteries were buried there. Horses who had run in the pen, working, focusing. Rabbits wandering in for a bite of something different. Dogs who rolled in that spot, then ran off for adventure, possibly involving the aforementioned rabbit.
He hung out at the gate, then wandered toward me. He came up to my left shoulder from just behind me and gave me a few good sniffs. I acknowledged him and he left for more wandering. Then, after a bit, it was time to go. I kissed to him, he came over and we walked together to get his halter.
It was a good time, the kind that makes you think you can get through another day.
As long as you can work some horse time into it.