by Laura Crum
We have been having a run of those beautiful November days that everyone who writes for and comments on this blog have mentioned lately. Sunny and seventy degrees—perfect riding weather. Since we have had a lot of rain here previously, both our local trails and the big roping arena where we ride with our friends have been too wet to ride on. The tides weren’t favorable so the beach was out (those who ride on the beach—a favorite winter destination of ours—will know that it is far more pleasant to ride at low tide than high tide). But my small riding ring here at home--which faces south and has sandy ground that drains well-- was just fine. So my son and I decided to exercise our two horses here.
This isn’t my favorite kind of riding, as those who read this blog know. I like to ride outside of a pen, and if I must ride in a ring, I like to have a few cows to chase and at least ride in a big well-groomed arena where we can lope around almost like we’re outside. My own riding area is a one hundred foot round pen, lined with railroad ties, and with a small, round vegetable plot in the middle. Two people can have a hard time staying out of each other’s way on what’s essentially a very small riding track.
My son and I determined to try an exercise where we attempted to stay on opposite sides of the circle. If one walked the other walked, if one trotted the other did so…etc. This gave us something to focus on and kept us out of each other’s way. So we rode like this for almost an hour, interspersed with some walking side by side.
We talked a little—to each other and to our horses. Mostly we were quiet. The sun shone, little breezes blew, the footing was excellent. We walked and trotted, we loped a little. Sometimes I stared off at the opposite ridgeline, where we trail ride so often, glowing in the autumn light. The horses behaved perfectly. We didn’t train on them in any particular way, unless you count making them stay in whatever gait we chose and go where we pointed and stop when we told them. They do this without argument, mostly, and on this day, after several days off, both of them were happy to move out in the sunshine and showed no sign of reluctance, though both can be reluctant about this sort of exercise when they get too much of it. But today they were happy to be out and moving and did not consider it boring.
After we rode, we turned each horse loose to graze for awhile (also my older horse and our boarder—all four got their “turn”). I smiled while I watched them munching in the sunshine, seeing how happy they were, but it is another moment that sticks in my mind.
Trotting around the ring on my sturdy little horse, keeping half an eye on my son to see that we were observing our “positions” and that all was well, the sun and wind in my face, I had the sudden moment of clarity. I bet you all know exactly what I mean. You don’t get it every ride, and it isn’t always about riding. Often its just some little moment with your horse that seems unimportant. Certainly I would not have said that trotting around my ring was anything special to me.
But in that moment it all came rushing in. How happy I felt, how lovely it was, that this is what I have horses for. My horse and I and my son and his horse were all perfectly happy on this pretty day in the sunshine. The rhythm of Sunny’s gait (and no, he’s not particularly smooth gaited, though when he feels good like this he has a lot more natural impulsion, which makes him smoother), and just moving along together through the soft air was such a delight. I almost laughed out loud. We were all having fun.
We kicked up to a very forward lope (for Sunny) and Henry volunteered a lope, too. The horses obviously liked our game—each tried to “catch up” to the other which made these basically lazy little horses a lot more lively than usual. My son and I were both grinning from ear to ear as we loped along, checking as needed and then kicking up, holding our positions.
Such a little thing—our game in the round ring. But that’s what its all about for me. I’ve had these moments many times on trail rides, loping around the roping arena with our friends, watching the horses graze, stroking Sunny’s muzzle…etc. But every time it happens I’m grateful. Its just this complete awareness of how much I love having horses, how much they mean to me, how happy they make me. If I have any goals in my life with horses, its to be aware of those moments and follow the path that leads to them. And they can be just as simple as trotting around the riding ring with my son in the autumn sunshine. Ain’t it amazing?
How about you? Any special moments lately? Its always fun to hear them.