A handful of days ago Deli and I moved to a new barn. It was a tough decision for me because I wasn’t unhappy at my last barn. Deli was fine there as well — she had made cohorts out of a pair of goats, for example. But there was one essential flaw from both our perspectives: no trails. Sure, we could ride around the perimeter of a neighboring Christmas tree farm, but it was impossible to move any faster than an uncomfortable stumbling walk because of the abundance of gopher holes. The new barn sits alongside 3000 acres of BLM land — mostly forested — that is riddled with trails and narrow logging roads. It’s trail-riding (and endurance riding) heaven.
Or at least that’s what I’m hoping.
Plus, the barn is also filled with sensible dressage riders. Deli and I can look forward to finally taking occasional lessons, which I’m sure Deli will mostly appreciate for the benefit it will afford to me. There will also be clinics with well known dressage clinicians that I can audit (while reading my law books, of course).
See, Deli and I do ride dressage. We enjoy it to a certain extent and I feel that correct dressage is the ideal foundation for any type of horse. But trail riding fulfills us, completes our partnership, and keeps us looking forward instead of back.
Both of us have problems with this forward-looking rather than forward-worrying or past-clinging outlook on life. When hitting the trails it becomes easy. Like putting one foot in front of the other.
Deli isn’t one of those one-in-a-million bombproof horses. She is wary of strangers. But much of her anxiety stems from being enclosed and shut away without sky and air. She can’t be stalled unless it’s absolutely necessary. And I feel that stalling a horse is rarely necessary. My experiences with Deli have supported this maxim: for instance, her serious groin tear improved by leaps and bounds when she went from being kept in a smaller paddock to being turned out in a larger area. Movement is good for a horse’s legs — it gets the blood where it’s needed! Deli could also use more confidence. I suspect this issue will challenge us most when exploring our new trails. But to teach her to be more confident I have to find it in myself, and in dredging it up from the depths of me, I become a stronger person.
It's one of many sappy examples of how my mare improves who I am.
Anyway, I do understand her need for open space. I’m the same way. I feel jittery in the city and unnerved when I’m surrounded by people. Give me waves crashing, or a wet green canopy, or a wild meadow and I feel secure.
Deli has been at this new barn for three days. We have been out on the trails each day: twice hand-walking and today I walked while my leaser rode Deli on a fabulous 2-mile loop. I’m amazed by the change in her demeanor. She goes from sucked in and inverted to long and swinging. She is excited, buzzing with electricity and curiosity. The anxiety that always seems present in some measure when we are working in the arena disappears. Though she did get annoyed when I would stop to examine mushrooms or a salamander traversing the path and there was no grass for her to occupy herself with. What, she had to wait for me?
She was forward-thinking. And a forward-thinking Deli is a happy mare.
If I could bottle that feeling I would never have a sad day — a happy chestnut mare gives you everything she has to give. From Deli? That’s a lot of laughter, curiosity and love.