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January 23, 2014: Of Men and Machinery

Today we began, at 1 p.m., to prepare the horses for their daily jaunt. As we do every day, we haltered them in the pen, tied them to hitching post and trailer, put some feed at their feet, groomed them, cleaned their feet, and tacked them up. It was as I was putting Tinni’s saddle pad in place that I heard the distinctive beep, beep, beep, meaning that Mr. Road Grader was coming through. I had mixed feelings about this. On the one hand I was glad that he was taking care of what was a very slick surface. But on the other hand, I was annoyed because it meant that most likely we’d have to postpone our ride.

In such instances, I defer to Pete, who has a pretty good sense of where the machines are going and how long it’s going to take them to get the job done. His thinking was that we could make it to the trailhead (which is a half mile away) if we left our place immediately after Mr. Grader went past. I didn’t ask him what we’d do about the return trip; rather, I figured I’d then also trust his better judgment. So this is what we did. I walked Tinni and Raudi down the driveway and up the road, and Pete walked Signy and Hrimmi down the driveway and up the road.

We walked at a brisk pace then slowed when we got the Oceanview/Murphy Road intersection. My heart was in my throat as we crossed Murphy because the surface was like glass. I wasn’t worried about the bigger horses since they have ice shoes. Rather, I was worried about Hrimmi who is barefoot. My hand went to my mouth as three quarters of the way across, she slipped in the rear. I yelled to Pete that Hrimmi was having a hard time, and he stopped. Then, after deliberating a bit about whether to continue or go back, we decided to continue. It was then that Hrimmi, wisely, and of her own volition, elected to walk on the more snowy roadside. This was a deliberate, and calculated move – and I saw it. I was really impressed because she showed so much common sense. And she’s not even two years old yet.

We turned right at the trailhead onto the trail. Pete unhooked Hrimmi and we both mounted. He rode Signy and ponied Raudi, and I rode Tinni. It was as I was gathering up my reins that I heard it again, beep, beep, beep. Again, Mr. Road Grader rumbled past.

We had a good ride – all the horses were feeling energized, so it was a fast ride on a relatively packed down trail.

Then, upon arriving back at the trailhead, we heard it again, beep, beep, beep. The question that we then had to consider was, do we wait at the trailhead for Mr. Road Grader to finish up and leave or do we go for another ride? We finally decided to go for another ride.

Upon our return, Mr. Grader again appeared, this time going in the other direction. Then, if that wasn’t enough, Mr. Sander came up behind him. So now it was beep beep, beep beep, beep beep. We waited another fifteen minutes and then both Mr. Road Grader and Mr. Sander returned from whence they came.

If there was any compensation for lost time, it was that the road was safer to walk on for our return trip. The ice had been pushed to the side of the road, and the top surface had been
sprinkled with gravel.

Later, when we were talking about this incident, Pete said something very revelatory, which was that when you’re out on the trail with animals, you have to be flexible, meaning be ready to adapt to the situation at hand. I agreed – in fact, I immediately thought that truer words were never spoken. Had we (for example) gotten our knickers in a knot about the delay, the horses would also have grown impatient. And had they grown impatient, there would have been a higher likelihood of an accident. Instead, we remained calm and bided our time. Another good life lesson for both us and for the horses.

Next:: 24. 1/24/14: Dog Trainingo—Ryder’s First Year: Inside the Border Collie Mind