Dawn and I have been doing some nice walking rides - she's brimming with energy and I think delighted to be working again. She's getting a day off after the farrier this morning, and we may get one more ride in on Saturday if it's not raining, and then she'll get a few days of rest while I'm off on what I'm calling the great horse search road trip adventure. When I get back, we can start adding trot work back in so long as she stays sound with increasing work.
Yesterday I slipped on Dawn bareback, as I didn't have much time to ride, and we did a few moments in the arena. Then Misty and her owner came out for a bit of lungeing - I think that Misty's owner hasn't ridden her in over a year and has barely done anything with her - she's not that secure or confident a rider and I think is a little worried about riding - she's come off Misty a few times on the trail. It was good to see them out, and Misty was very well-behaved, just walking and trotting around as nice as can be. Dawn and I had left the arena in the event galloping or explosions were coming, and we saw Sugar and her owner starting down the trail. Dawn very clearly asked "can we go too?", and even turned her head to one side and then the other to look directly at me - she often does this when she's asking a question or is looking for reassurance. So we went a bit down the trail with Sugar - we would have gone farther if I'd had a saddle (for security in the case of sideways teleportation, spins or bolts), but it was very chilly and windy and not the best day for a bigger trail attempt while riding bareback. We rode next to Sugar - Dawn is fine leading but will kick any horse that gets in her (very large) bubble from behind, and if we follow Sugar tends to balk. Side by side works, although at anything more than a walk Dawn will often kick at the horse next to her. (She's one of those horses who needs a red tail ribbon in the warm-up or show ring.) I was sorry we didn't have a saddle as it would have been fun to push the limits a bit as I think Dawn's trust in me is growing.
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So, my trip for the great horse road trip adventure is set - I'll be seeing Peppy (horse #20) on Sunday afternoon, and then Pie (horse #12) on Monday morning and River (horse #10) on Monday afternoon. Then I'll know what I've got, or not. I'm looking forward to the trip (although not the driving down the interstate) - I've enjoyed talking to these three sellers on the phone and will certainly enjoy meeting them and their horses in person.
I know what I'm trying to recapture with my new horse - that special feeling of "this horse and I can do anything" that I had when I was young. I've been thinking a lot about a very special horse I had from the time I was 14 or so until I was 17, when we moved and my parents wouldn't let me take the horse with me. The horse was a cremello mare that I called Snow. I don't have any pictures of her here, although there is at least one at my parent's house that I should snag sometime. She looked like this - this is a photo of another cremello (although, looking at the jaw, this may be a stallion):
She was absolutely bright white all over, with the pink skin and blue eyes that go with the color. I have no idea of her age or if she was registered or not, but she was clearly a QH. We got her at a run-down stable out in the country, and as soon as she came to the (also very run-down) barn where we kept her, she promptly developed strangles. She recovered, and she was my special companion for several years. I rode her bareback, I rode her Western, I rode her English. She would go in a hackamore, a snaffle or a curb - she didn't care and was always responsive. We did little horse shows where she cleaned up in the pleasure classes as well as the gaming classes. We went on lots of trail rides - she'd go anywhere at any speed I asked. Her only odd trait was that she'd paw and try to roll if you took her into water. She clearly had had some reining training - she could do some amazing sliding stops and roll backs. I taught her to jump - she was happy to do that too and could easily clear 3'6". She was laid back but energetic when asked - the perfect mix.
Part of this was Snow and part of it was my complete confidence that she would do anything I asked. These past several days, as I've been thinking about riding other horses, I've even been remembering how it felt to ride her and what the view was through her white ears - these memories are very vivid even though they're from 40 years ago. Noble, my old QH who died this summer, was often the same - he was always willing and always available, and a complete delight to ride, although a somewhat more nervous horse than Snow. But no matter how nervous he was, he would always do what I asked - I took him on trail rides and we even did a bit of jumping although he was too old at 17 to do much of that. He loved to run, was extremely fast and would eagerly race other horses if given the chance, but would slow and stop when requested. Here's my favorite picture of him, from two years ago:
It's been a bit of a hard year in my horse world - with Noble's death at age 30 in July and Maisie's permanent retirement this fall. But I'm feeling encouraged - I think, either now or next spring there's a new horse waiting for me who will give me the opportunity to recapture some of those youthful feelings. In the meantime, and after I get the new horse, I need to continue to ride Dawn as if she were the horse I want and expect her to be - calm, confident and my partner (although always my younger daughter's horse first). The more I do this, the more Dawn becomes that horse as the strength of our partnership grows. I'm hoping to take both Dawn and the new horse, whoever he or she turns out to be, to the Mark Rashid clinic in Wisconsin next May - I've got two slots in the clinic reserved already - it's a whole winter and months away, but I'm already pretty excited about that!