At the barn, there’s a little fellow with a crooked back and a withered leg. His name is Little Bit, and it seems like one thing after another happened as soon as he was born. He was the living one of a twins, then something went wrong with his leg, then he got better, then something happened to his other leg, then his dam died before he was weaned (he was close, I think). At his worst, he stayed on the floor and wouldn’t eat. But something kicked in, and he started eating, so he’s still part of the barn today. One leg is thin and delicate and fragile, the other looks healthy enough. One hip is much higher than the other. But he goes out with the two healthy colts — who pick on him. Nip, quick, bite, block him from the water. The kind of thing that makes you want to step in and fix it.
Enter Gene the adult quarter horse. Gene is, I think, between jobs. I don’t know how old he is or which students ride him or what his speciality is (quarter-horsing!), but when the little guys are in turn-out, Leah puts Gene in there with them and Gene protects Little Bit. When the evil colts pick on the weak one, the adult runs them off, takes care of the little fellow.
It’s a three-hanky kind of thing, makes you well up and wonder about stuff, about the emotional complexity of non-human animals. What goes off in Gene’s mind when he sees the stronger ones pick on the weaker ones? It’s not maternal because Gene’s a he, not a she. I used to say that I wish they could talk, but horses talk all the time. It’s knowing how to listen, I think.
And then I come home from a wonderful lesson and I am filled with love, a love that pushes out silly things like concern over money or worries over retirement (I’m never retiring anyway so Ha ha ha!!! I find myself thinking about retirement and money almost all the time these days because I’m doing some work for an insurance client so the language is rarely far from the top of my brain).
My lower leg position is so much better. I think what really made the difference was a lesson I had last month wherein the instructor kept physically placing my leg in the right spot, over and over again: “Here. You want to put your leg here. This is where your leg goes. Not there; here.” And all of this was on Stalker, not Mr. Mopey Mephistopheles.
Another area inwhich I’m experiencing improvement is balance. Wow. Like, who knew I need to improve my balance other than anyone watching me? This seems to have gotten better all of a sudden after Leah asked me to change the diagonal in the air (stand stand) rather than while seated (sit sit). At first, I kept falling backwards which was a Big Clue that I had my leg too far forward. I’m still falling back on my butt but goodness me — I can feel the balance coming along! God, I LOVE riding!!
I want to thank everyone for the good words of support and encouragement as I transition from Gabby to Moe. You’ve got to know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em, which is what my mom said when she retired from teaching at Michigan State University, and I’m glad I didn’t endure (horse-wise) the equivalent of an entire teaching career at a major Midwestern university in the department of American Thought and Language. Anyone out there teach English at the college level? Then you know what I mean. Hm, that was a long-winded way of saying that I’m glad I was able to pass Gabby along. And I’m glad you all thought it was a good idea.
Leah was concerned that with this step (selling Gabby to her), I would regret letting Gabby go; that one day owning my own potential champion would be an asset as my riding improved. She didn’t say that in so many words but between her concern and the comments of others, that’s what I take away from it.
I’m not a champion kind of gal. I’m low to the ground. I like small houses and small cars. I like shoes with a low heel and I like to sit on the floor when I work, knit, read, or watch TV. I’d like to sleep on the ground if it weren’t for the damp and the bugs. Oh, and the fact the ground is hard. I’m like water, seeking its own level, and Moe fits in with that philosophy while also affording me a chance to ride.
We lost a horse yesterday. Chip started to colic the day before, but it passed and all seemed well. Then he went down yesterday all of a sudden. One moment, everything was fine as a small group of us rode horses either in our lesson or just riding in the indoor arena. Then there was a huge noise outside and the huge noise was Chip going down. It was the beginning of the end and in a few hours, it was all over. His bowel was twisted and even though everyone did everything they could (Dr. Johnson arrived ASAP), it couldn’t be helped and the poor horse had to be released from misery.
I didn’t stay around until the bitter end due to a combination of not wanting to see the bitter end and also a feeling of being in the way. Wandering around saying “What can I do? What can I do?” seemed like a bad idea. I was able to help with one of the chores (getting the geldings back into their stalls) which enabled more experienced hands to do more experienced work, and then I left.
So that’s a horse lost, a vet bill incurred, a hole in the herd, an aching in the heart. Leah called to tell me last night and her misery . . .her misery is heavy upon her. How could it be otherwise?
So even though it’s pretty clear to me that my #1 problem with Gabby is that I’m scared of her, I’ll stop complaining about her health. Her blood levels are good according to the doctor and her health is in no danger that anyone can see.
Gabby’s problems remain mysterious. We know we do not have a fracture or a major degenerative joint disease. We might have a bone infection of the withers. But it’s up in the air because if that’s the case, they’re seeing the problem a lot earlier than usual. She’s supposed to come home today and will take antimicrobials and antinflamatories for two weeks, after which time her fibrinogen levels will be checked and we’ll see what’s what. I need to remember to get her blanket in my car. It’s been drying in the garage after a trip to the laundromat. At least I hope it’s dry.
I didn’t even ask for a prognosis although I guess I should have. I have to be informed and ask questions about the future AND I have to take things one day at a time. That’s the way it is with many illnesses, isn’t it? You have to be educated and informed and yet stay in the moment and not look too far ahead (which is where exactly I do not know) and also not get mired.
Balance balance balance.
I am . . . disturbed. Violently annoyed. Pissed off. REALLY pissed off. I am stomping around looking for someone or something to blame because it seems like a lot has changed for me in the last week but it’s so …. so …. so damned intangible that I can’t touch it (intangible things are like that. Noli me tangere). I feel seething discontent. I feel that time spent away from the stable is useless. Is it that horses have taken over my internal life (dare I say “soul”? I would but I’ve got my doubts as to the existence same) to the point where I really don’t give a shaved kitten’s butt over anything else? Is it because I just spent too much money on a new saddle? Is it because I am a writer and writers have to seethe over stuff and whine because it’s in the job description? And no, it’s not my period.
I’m not alone about the wasted time thing, of that I’m certain. One of the other riders at my stable let slip about the gaps between riding, “when I have to go on vacation or something.” Wow. Have to go on vacation? Under threat of incarceration? And yet, I’m afraid I’m beginning to understand. With the exception of a recent trip to Sin City (which was actually very relaxing because the place is so fascist that spending time in room sleeping or cuddling with spouse is an excellent alternative to getting solicited by a machine), the idea of vacation is seeming like more trouble than it is worth due to the time away from horses.
I want to ride Gabby AND I’m relieved when the ride is over.
I wanted to take a break yesterday AND I’m sorry I took a break yesterday.
I want to improve my skills AND I want to get on a horse at a riding stable and just plunk-plun-plunk nose-to-tail down a well-worn path in the vast untrammeled wilderness of Central Ohio.
I want to do something else AND spend some time every day at the stable.
I want a clean coat AND I want to smell horse at all times.
The Art of Conversation with The Horse (or in this case, Gabby), is just today for the very first time ever begining to make some sense to me. I know that you have to ride every minute and you’ve got to use the aids correctly and you’ve got to pay attention, but it wasn’t until today’s lesson wherein I tried very hard to get Gabby to Pay Attention to me that I realized how little riding I’ve been doing compared to how much I need to do.
I didn’t get it because I figured that, dang, I was up on the horse, wasn’t I? And doing my best to listen to my teacher and keep my hands in the right place and my heels down and my leg back and all of that other stuff that I’m supposed to be doing . . . so if that’s not what riding is, than what in the heck have I been doing with increasing frequency for the past two years to the point of it now dominating my life and the lives of those close to me?
I think I’ve just been getting started is what I think, and today was Day One of Conversations with Gabby.
Whilst making circles, I must keep my leg on her nearly all the time but not exactly all the time. Whilst making circles, I have to keep my outside rein steady nearly all the time but not exactly all the time. I’ve got to work the inside one in a back-and-forth, choo-choo-but-not-sawing-motion nearly all the time but not exactly all the time.
In other words, a conversation. Back and forth. Listen and speak. I’ve got to make little adjustments and corrections, big adjustments and corrections or be ready to every single second I’m up on the horse.