I have, mainly in the interest of time, begun taking the horses out in groups of two. Hrimmi and Siggi or Hrimmi and Signy first get taken for a walk. Pete leads one and I lead the other. The horses enjoy this, and it’s good exercise for us all.
After, come the rest, who when the weather’s good, are ridden. If the road surface is questionable, I walk them. Today I rode Tinni around the loop and ponied Raudi. Riding is different than walking because when riding, I’m more aware of the icy sections. I’m less so when on foot. I then don’t give the matter much thought. If a spot looks questionable, I subconsciously gravitate to another. When on a horse, I have to pay attention and with my body, guide the animal to a safer section. They have four legs rather than two, so I have to anticipate what’s coming up next and guide him or her to a safer section. This is even more challenging with two horses because I also have to make sure that the one being ponied is also on safe ground.
Icelandic horses are amazingly sure-footed – in part this is because they have a higher than average amount of common sense. They’re also built low to the ground, which means they have a better sense of balance than their larger counterparts. They also have a larger than average hoof span and leg circumference, which contributes to their overall stability. I was reminded of this as Tinni easily made his way across the down-the-road overflow.
I always walk the horses on the last ten minutes of the ride. This way, they have time to cool down while on the move. It also keeps them from doing a mad dash back to the barn. And additionally, it’s a good time to do a bit of ground work. Today, for instance, Tinni, Raudi, and I worked some on whoa and stand.
I arrived back home, and tied both horses to the hitching post. I then groomed both before returning Tinni to his enclosure. Raudi remained in place because I’d decided to take her out again. Signy was waiting at the gate for me, because she was aware that it was her turn for an outing. I got her out, tied her to the hitching post, and got her ready for her day’s ride.
A year or so ago, Signy was a hesitant horse. She’d go a short ways, and stop. Pete would often have to clip a line to her lead, and urge her to go forward. She then moved out because she liked being ponied. At some point this summer, something in her little horsey brain clicked. Now she’s very forward. I feel very confident riding here because she does not have it in her nature to do anything stupid. Rather, she will either ignore the distraction, or stop and wait for further orders.
Both Signy and Raudi respond well to praise. So I rely on this in what I call our mini-lessons, some of which take place on the walk down the driveway to our mounting area. Both must walk quietly next to me, Signy on the left, Raudi on the right. And both must stop by the gate and wait for me to through first. Then one or the other must follow me. The two horses are not ever to go through at the same time. Signy must stand square by the mounting block, and Raudi, who is on her right, must stand with her nose by the stirrup leather. And both must stand absolutely still when I mount. Additionally, both must remain standing while I make sure that I have the reins in one hand, and the lead in the other. I don’t allow for exceptions to any of the above. If a horse errs, we take a step backwards and again do what’s required. Signy and Raudi are incredibly cooperative about this because they know that if they do as told, they’ll get a treat. Plus, like me, they want to get going. Some days are better than others. But I’m always patient, and always quick to praise.
As is usually the case, we three left the mounting area with Signy the ground pounder moving out at a rapid clip. Raudi followed suit, for Signy has now taught her not to dilly-dally. We continued on to the Murphy Road turnoff, and then a mile out, picked up a trot at the low point in the road. A neighbor driving his pickup went past – in the back was his nasty German Shepherd, who as always, barked and snarled at us. Signy paid no attention, so Raudi paid no attention. We came to the corner, did a big circle at the walk, then again picked up a trot. Both Signy and Raudi were steady on their feet, with Signy setting a fast pace. We continued on at a fast trot for another 1 ½ miles, passing the turnoff to our place. Signy, who used to attempt to make the turn for home, kept on going, with Raudi following suit.
Once on the upper road, we passed by some neighbors. I waved. I must have had a grin on my face – how could I not? I have never before felt as connected with two horses as I did today. Signy is my lucky Irish horse – Raudi is my stalwart companion.
We continued at a trot, over the ice flow, and back the road to our regular stopping point. From there, we walked the rest of the way home.
Yes, five horses is a lot of work, as was evidenced by the fact that I again had to clean the pen after putting Raudi and Siggi away. Getting a fourth, in a manner of speaking, put us over the top. But as I’ve often told Pete, I have never, ever regretted our purchasing Signy. She’s a phenomenal riding horse. And it’s because of her that Raudi and I are now again moving forward at a good clip. Raudi is again trotting nicely. And we (Signy and I) did this without my having to nag her to death.
The horse work day ended earlier than planned because I was even more efficient than usual. I’m now working on a proposal for my how-to book on long distance horse trekking. Living the life and writing about it – it could not be any better than this.
Next: 25. 1/25/13: Moving Forward, Faster