Monday, June 03, 2019
After retiring, I acquired horses, while knowing little about them and simply wanting a horse. Skipping forward, after a few years of having older horses (they taught me to ride), I wanted a young horse. Having heard breed aficionados say Morgans are very dependable, I decided to find one–not modern high-stepping and fancy, but a foundation Morgan–the real deal–a horse with genes flowing from the likes of those that once carried Custer and his soldiers into battles.
A good choice and one well-proven over the nine years since bringing Sunni home, and the six years since adding her older sister Rosie. They’re “old style” full sisters with similar ways of working. They’ll do the job: go everywhere, climb mountains, ford rivers, and take care of a rider. Yet, they have different personalities, with Sunni easygoing, affable, unflappable, and Rosie, a “lead-mare type”, bossy and anxious. My still-novice skills find Sunni easy to work with, and Rosie often challenging.
Many retirees choose to ride fast and smooth, gaited horses. Years ago, when my back lost strength and made it difficult to ride a trotting or cantering horse, I settled on “horseback walks”. When those became boring I learned to drive a horse while also having Sunni trained for driving. True to her steady nature, Sunni safely hauls cart and me through our neighborhood’s three-mile loop. Rosie also is trained to drive, but I mostly confine working with her to our property. Since she can be skittish, I’ve hesitated driving her on neighborhood streets.
Rosie and I do practice, however, and after she drives on my property until almost weary, she pulls me to the front of my home at the end of a cul de sac, from which a quiet paved street extends a quarter mile. Although tired, Rosie is alert, walks the street slowly, ears erect, head hyper, and slightly jumpy at new sights (e.g., plaster bears guarding my driveway). After she’s seen everything, I ask for trotting over the now-familiar street section, and she does well. Such outings to the street have expanded her comfort with our quarter-mile and increased our combined confidence.
Yesterday, nearing the corner where we usually turn around, I asked her to continue forward, which put us onto a busier neighborhood street. Her head went high on uber-alert as she trotted forward, wavering between a side of the road and its middle, until with urging, back to the side. To my surprise, her forward trotting continued without running us into mailboxes or becoming frightening. Rosie stayed responsive to the reins, handled an oncoming jogger, and also a car coming toward and passing us.
Heading down our street toward home was exciting. My worrisome horse had handled the expanded neighborhood driving! Although we’d not been surprised by deer, bicyclists, or dogs, we had achieved a new level–and it’s another step toward my secret hope of someday driving the mares as a team.
This isn’t a story wholly about Rosie, it’s also about her collaborator. I can feel intimidated whenever she “seems so much horse”. I’ve worked to overcome this with help from our driving trainer who can handle any horse. Future work in the neighborhood to expand our territory will reveal better Rosie’s capabilities, and also strengthen my driving skills.
Dear Friends, it’s tiny incremental steps that lead to learning, accomplishing. Diana