Sunday, November 08, 2009

Hard to Beat

Today Brian and I returned to the barn. With weather this beautiful, we just couldn't help ourselves. We pulled our horses out of the pasture, tacked up and headed out. Both Steen and Cal were calm from the start, and we proceeded down to the bottom of the strip. We turned around and started heading back up and then Jean on her thoroughbred, Schooley came down the hill and up to us. She said she was going to ride around the surrounding fields for a bit and would we like to come along? We said sure and headed on to the edge of the corn field and away.

Schooley is a large, confident, 19 year-old dark bay, and Jean has owned him for 13 years. He's trained in dressage and is fit, sleek and full of energy. He led the way, and Steen and Cal both followed willingly enough. We made it past the corn-field, then crossed a little bridge, rode around in a soybean field, through the grassy strip between two more corn fields then down a rolling grassy pasture further to the south. Through all of this, Steen was unbelievably well behaved. Schooley is a fast walker, so Steen was never in danger of getting too close. He also remained very relaxed. He was curious about some things, and even nervous once or twice, but he remained calm and responsive, even when Schooley started getting excited and wanted to go home.

Cal, too, behaved remarkably well. She isn't quite the speedy walker the two boys are, but Brian let her jog to catch up every so often and the three of us did just fine.

The weather was perfect. With sunshine, a light breeze and lots of empty farmland all around us, we couldn't have had a nicer day.

Finally, we decided to skirt the corn field again to end up at the bottom of the strip where we started. All three horses got briefly disgruntled because this meant taking a less-than-direct route home, but after only minor disagreements we all got going in the right direction again. Steen led most of the way home, walking calmly - alert but not worried. I was so proud of him I was almost beside myself when we got back to the barn. Not one spook and not one attempt to turn around and go home!

So, this experience has given me high hopes for the future. If Steen can do this now with just one confident horse to convince him leaving his barn bubble isn't so scary, hopefully it's not long before he'll go on his own with just as little protest.

Before returning Steen to the pasture, I gave him an apple. After such a truly enjoyable ride, I thought he deserved it.

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