It was my birthday this weekend. I started my birthday month (yes, month!) celebrations on Friday evening. A girlfriend hosted a dinner party in honour of my birthday. I have been celebrating and laughing with this core group of friends for over 25 years. How awesome is that? Saturday My Husband and I went for a lovely sushi dinner with another couple. I actually introduced them to each other over 20 years ago and My Husband and I stood for them at their wedding. Cool, eh? There will be lots of vodka sodas over the next couple of weeks. I am up to the challenge. :-)
Sunday there was a Fun Day at the barn. Boarders and lesson people competed for little prizes in Command, Poles, Barrels, Key Hold and Apple Bobbing. It was awesome seeing all ages competing. I think the oldest competitor was 65ish and the youngest 11. The sun was shining, temps were around 17C with a sight breeze. Perfect.
Gem and I did not compete. A number of people tried to cajole us into competing, but I held firm and declined. Today was the day; I had other plans for Gem and I. :-) I did not want to share my plans with anyone, in case I jinxed them. There was a lot of excitement in the barn as everyone got tacked up. I could tell that Gem was a little pumped by the activity. And when everyone was finally out in the front paddock warming up, he was anxious to join them. Not so fast, handsome.
I walked him to the arena, past the spectators and the riders warming up. After his initial look at everything, he turned his attention back to me. We were alone in the arena. We warmed up and eventually worked our way up to a lope. Yes, lope. By myself. In the arena. He did try to give me the business initially, but he eventually agreed that loping was a good thing. :-) My butt was in the saddle - a good sign. It was awesome!
After we loped a couple of circles each way, I noticed that the warm up period was over in the paddock. I decided to take advantage of this. I dismounted and walked Gem right through the paddock to the trail obstacle course on the other side. All the competitors were there, standing around waiting for the competition to begin. We walked through the crowd to the mounting block. He stood perfectly still as competitors walked around and behind him; I mounted him without issue. Good boy!
|Gem giving the stink eye to the loose horse.|
We milled our way through the crowd (maybe 20+ riders??) and did some of the trail obstacles, loosening up and getting used to all of the noise and horses. He was friggin amazing. Nothing bothered him and he did not resist at all. He was attentive and I felt really connected to him. Some of the horses from the herd heard the excitement and came to join the party, walking in amongst the competitors. There was the odd squeal, and one horse did sort of give Gem the business as we stood there, but both he and I dealt with it.
We stood at the fence and watched most of the barrel competition. Lots of cheering, clapping, yelling and whistling. Gem stood majestically, facing the spectators on the other side of the paddock, patiently waiting. OK, it was time. I took a deep breath, turned him around and started walking him away from the crowd of competitors. We walked along the perimeter of the front field; our first time walking on our own, in a field. No riding buddies, no instructor. Deep breaths. I admit that I did talk to him as we walked in the sun; in fact, I might have been a bit of a Chatty Cathy. :-) He politely listened, he ears twitching back and forth. When we got to the bank of bushes at the end of the field, we crossed the bottom of the field and walked back up to the paddock from the other side. His head was low, one ear front one ear back, head occasionally turned slightly to look at me. It was awesome.
So for the rest of the afternoon, we alternated standing and cheer on the riders (he stood perfectly still each time), going through some obstacles (he is getting really good at backing up through the "Z" layout!) or I would walk him around the field solo. My confidence continued to increase and at one point I actually did a slow jog down one side of the field and back!! :-) I even walked him through a small pathway to the Loping Field, thinking that I might even try jogging him around the field on my own. I know! Crazy, eh!!. Unfortunately, there were a number of herd horses grazing there and I didn't feel THAT confident about riding around them. That day will come. :-)
As our ride came to an end (time to set up the potluck!), I realized that he and I had been outside for over 3 hours! I took him over to the apple tree next to the paddock. The last few weeks, our routine has been that before we head to the barn, I stand up in the saddle and pick some apples for him (all of the apples on the lower branches have been eaten by the other horses). I can no longer reach apples this way, so now I walk him right into the tree, stand up, grab a branch and start shaking it. Apples fall and he chows down, slobbering his version of apple sauce all over the place. :-)
As I untacked my handsome boy, I didn't want our time to end. It was such a perfect afternoon. I think he felt it, too. He actually let me give him a lingering hug. :-) As I was driving home and reflecting on the day's events, I came to the conclusion that this was probably one of the best times Gem and I had had together. Sure, there have been great lesson experiences and trail rides, but this particular afternoon was just him and I. No one else. We did everything on our own. And it was OK! You know, I knew it would be. I had started forming my plan to ride the front field by myself on Saturday afternoon and did not deviate from the plan, even when I had people trying to shame me into competing. :-) I visualized it over and over again and I believe my determination helped my confidence when the time came. My goal of riding the trails solo is within reach! Awesome!!
And, just to put the cherry on top of a terrific weekend, I donated the outstanding amount still needed for the purchase price of a 20-year old draft cross that was to be shipped today from a feed lot to slaughter. She's a very well-trained, lively girl and I am delighted that she will be given a second chance. It's difficult when there are so many that need to be saved, but in this case there was a foster ready to take her if the kill buyer's fee could be paid. She is now safe and in foster care until she can be permanently placed. How awesome is that?!
Have a good week, everyone!