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January 10, 2013: Home Schooling Part II—Crossing Ice Floes

I doled out a lot of gold stars today, for the horses these took the form of treats. My day began with my going to yoga. Class begins at 7:15 a.m., so I’m getting up at 6:45 a.m. I call this teacher training. This month the focus is on hip openers. I have extremely tight hips, so even simple things that most people can do, like crossing my legs, one over the other, is incredibly difficult. Today the poses seemed doubly difficult, maybe because I’m still congested. Sometimes I can get in the zone. Then there are days, like this, when class just seems to go on and on. I later gave myself a gold star, rightly knowing that the real reward would come later. This would be better-than-average rides.

The school day began (I should get a bell and hang it on the shelter and ring it when the lessons begin) with Pete and my taking Siggi and Hrimmi for a walk around the loop. I intentionally had us go the long way around because I knew that we’d have to deal with creek overflow. I was right. We came to it and Pete walked Siggi across. Then I followed with Hrimfara on the lead line. It was slushy on the top, and slippery underneath. Like yesterday, Hrimmi put her nose down, so as to better balance herself. She stopped just once, to paw at the slush and drink the water that seeped into the depression. Then she carefully made her way the rest of the way across. I gave her a gold star for her efforts.

We got to our driveway, and Hrimmi sashayed over to the enclosure. I swore,

Tinni preparing to cross the overflow

Half-way across the ice--note the other horses' tracks

because I thought that she was going to race up the hill and into the deeper snow. (This was something that I didn’t want to deal with.) Instead, she walked over to the near gate and stood there. I walked over to her and opened it. She walked into the pen and joined the other horses, which were finishing up their breakfast. The alterative would have been to follow Siggi over to the hitching post; this is where I’d previously set out hay. Both Pete and I were impressed that Hrimmi elected to take a shortcut – going up to and through an out-of-the-way gate. Hrimmi of course got a second gold star for showing us that she is capable of reasoning.

I next groomed and tacked up Tinni. I rode him down road, to the overflow, and then asked him to stop and stand. He stood as still as a statue as I took a photo of the road’s surface. Tinni got two gold stars, one for standing still, and another for walking so carefully across the now more solid ice. We returned home and got Rainbow, who needed to be taken for a walk. We then went out onto the nearby trails. The surface was punchy, so I walked Tinni. He later got yet another gold star, this one for being so willing.

Lastly, I went for another ride, this time riding Signy and ponying Raudi. I thought about bypassing the ice floe because I just didn’t want to have to deal with getting horses over it. But then I decided that this would be another excellent home schooling opportunity. Both Signy and Raudi could practice crossing a slippery surface in a familiar environment. As it turned out, this was no big deal. Signy marched across, and Raudi followed behind her. Both had obviously earned their day’s gold stars.

We went around the loop at a brisk trot and then prepared to go for a longer ride down Murphy Road. Signy did put up a bit of a fuss when we came back to the turn leading to our place, but I kept her going straight. Once by the road, she again picked up a nice trot, with Raudi doing the same. We continued in this fashion, Signy the powerhorse motivating Raudi to be more forward. We made it home, and both horses waited by the gate until I lead them through it. Then, and only then, did they get the remaining two gold stars.

Of course, a gold star means nothing to a horse. They are pretty smart, but are at a loss when it comes to understanding metaphor. Knowing this, I substituted treats for stars. The treats, then, were a form of positive reinforcement. Some days, like today, this hardly seems like enough. I can only hope that somehow my five horses are able to comprehend what joy they bring me when, like today, they do everything right.

Next: 11. 1/11/13: Hoofing It