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February 18, 2014: What Horses?

A few friends have recently asked me if because my life seems to have gone to the dogs, I’m going to get out of horses. My very quick response is “Nope.” In fact, I haven’t even pretended to give the matter any thought.

The running joke is actually that Pete has the dog gene and I have the horse gene.

So, the horses have not become a secondary interest. My rationale for spending as much time with the dogs as with the horses is that it’s winter, and the horses are getting their winter break. By this I mean that they are now being

Alys and Raudi emerging from tunnel at Twin Lakes, CO

ridden only six of seven days of the week.

My only riding six days a week could by some be construed as being neglectful. However, I would argue that I’m remaining connected to the horses even while spending that one day on the ground. Feeding, watering, mucking, giving each one a once over and a scratch on the withers – all at least three times a day – are central to maintaining a very important connection.

Pete and I both will in April rightly be able to claim that we’ve ridden all winter. We were stymied for a few days by the fact that the driveway was icy, meaning that we were unable to get Shoeless Hrimmi out. Pete solved this problem by putting great quantities of sand and salt on the driveway, thus making a safe path for our filly. The road’s been sanded regularly, so walking the horses on it hasn’t been problematic. As for the trails, they’ve remained marginal. They haven’t been too post-holey nor slippery. However, the terrain has remained uneven for the past month or so.

I have noticed that if I get out of the habit of riding Raudi that I’m less apt to want to ride her. But, ride her I must, because she needs the exercise. I have dealt with this problem by (before riding) bringing to mind specific instances in which we have done well together. For example, I picture us going over the aqueduct in Leadville, Colorado, and our going under the overpass in Twin Lakes, Colorado. Yes, there is so much we have done well, that really, my being anxious about her misbehaving is rather absurd.

I rode Raudi yesterday and today, and in fact I had two wonderful rides. We went out with the other three horses. Both times, I rode out front, thinking that it was good for her to have to take the lead. And in both instances, she maintained a slow to moderate pace, appropriate for the uneven trail conditions.

The most amazing thing of all, as was demonstrated in both rides, is how connected we have become. When I ride, she communicates to me that all is just fine by snorting softly. And I do the same, by telling her that she’s doing well by giving her a scratch on the withers or a word of praise. I also now always carry hay pellets, and when she does something quite well, I immediately give her one or two. Yesterday was such a day. We were heading home on the snowmobile trail when Hrimmi charged up behind us and kept going, at a full gallop. A lesser riding horse would have taken off after her. However, Raudi kept going at the same steady pace. I of course stopped and rewarded her – right then, she and I both knew that she had done the right thing. This of course increases the likelihood that she’ll do the same in the future.

So what’s ahead? We now have enough daylight so that we have plenty of time to ride. I can again write in the mornings, take the dogs for a hike at mid-day, and go for a trail ride in the late afternoon. Previously, I had to juggle my schedule some in order to get the ride in.

Pretty soon, the trails will be soft, meaning that we might have to forego riding on them for a bit. Otherwise, we’ll trash them. We might have to resume road riding, and pony Hrimmi for a bit. But not yet.

All this to say that, yes friends, the horses are still as much at the forefront of my attention as are the dogs.

51. 2/20/14: The Writing Life: Rasmuson Proposal