Monday, December 27, 2010

A Bit Of Whimsy

I've started to dig my arena out. I have to use a lot of care, as I don't want to disturb the footing. I only took off the first 6 inches of snow in half the arena. That doesn't come close to clearing the arena, but hopefully the decreased volume of snow will melt quicker, enabling me to use at least part of my arena sooner.

In the meantime, I have to figure out something to do with my horse. Spider, you see, likes to have a job. His job is being ridden. When he doesn't have a job to do, he starts to invent jobs for himself. Like, herding the chickens, tormenting the other horses, trying to remove the stall doors and other generally undesirable activities. These behaviors are generally kept to a minimum by the simple fact that Spider has three acres to roam. On his three acres he can usually graze and run and keep himself busy. Today, however, his three acres are covered in a foot of snow. He is confined to a small area that has been beaten down just outside of the barn. So, he has been herding chickens, tormenting Vinny and Matilda and really just being obnoxious.

His need to do something became very apparent when I went out for evening chores. He was dancing around, trying to get my attention, biting the other horses and just generally being a pest. But what could I do with him? Everything is still snow covered.

I took him out of the pasture, intending to try to lunge him in the snow. The minute I had him out, he calmed down. It really seemed that all he wanted was some attention. And that's when I had a sudden idea. An idea to do something I hadn't done in many, many years.

On a whim, I decided to ride bareback through the snow. I didn't have his bridle with me, so I would have to ride with just the halter. But, snow is soft... I've fallen off into it before with no injuries. And so I hooked up two lead ropes to Spider's halter and led him over to the mounting block.....

I honestly have no idea what came over me. I have never ridden Spider bareback. I have never ridden Spider through the snow. I have ridden bareback and through snow before on other horses, but not for many years. But, I had an idea in my head. And once I have an idea in my head I always follow through.

I had to fish the mounting block out of the snow drift it was encased in. Then, after freeing it, I was confronted with another obstacle. All those many years ago, when I used to ride bareback, I had much shorter horses. Even with a mounting block, I need a stirrup to get a leg up over Spider's back. I had no stirrup. The only way to get on was to hop from the mounting block to the horse, then swing my leg up. I was not sure how Spider would react to that. But, I have experience with mounting from the ground and mounting green horses. I put that to work.

From the mounting block, I leaned over Spider's back. He flicked his ears back, but seemed otherwise unperturbed. Feeling bolder, I hoisted myself halfway onto his back, as though I were getting an unbroken horse used to my weight. Again, no reaction other than an ear flick. I decided to go for it. I hoisted myself up, then somehow managed to wiggle my leg up and over Spider's back. It was no mean feat, but Spider never moved a muscle.

Once I was up, I found a comfortable spot on his back and off we went. We only walked. I tested my brakes, they were there. I tested my steering, it was there, too. We were on!

Originally I intended to keep him to the part of the arena I had plowed. Spider, however, had other ideas. You see, when we hack out I tend to allow him a lot of liberty. Normally in our rides I choose the pattern, duration and speed of our travel. But when we have an easy hacking day, he's always allowed to choose our path. I figure that as long as he's a good boy and isn't choosing the barn as our destination, what's the problem? I would not allow just any horse this sort of liberty, but Spider has never steered me wrong.

And so Spider set off through the snow drifts. We just cruised along, Spider choosing our path through the snow. We cruised around the arena, down the driveway and back, then around the front yard. I made a few corrections in our course along the way, mostly just suggestions of where to go. I trusted Spider to find the best footing and make his way along.

It was marvelously invigorating! I can't remember the last time I had so much fun riding. And we never went faster than a walk! I honestly felt like a kid again, full of the wonder and magic and sheer joy of riding a horse. It was a truly magical bit of whimsy on an otherwise cold and dreary day. And it reminded me of how lucky I am to have horses in my life.


  1. Really Beautiful, and whatta good boy! Yeah, the whole Mounting Bareback thing kinda holds me back. Miles is a full 2 inches taller than my last horse, whom I had to SCRAMBLE to get on bareback. Good motivation to get in shape, I suppose. Glad you had a great ride!

  2. Oh, that sounds soooooo wonderful!

  3. I think there is nothing more magical than riding through the snow. What a wonderful thing to do!! We are so blessed to own these amazing animals.

  4. How wonderful! Good for you, and isn't it great to know your instincts are still alive and well? I love it when a hunch comes up that pushes you into an unforgettable experience with your horse. Really fun post to read!

  5. What fun! Used to love that myself.

    Now, however, the mounting part has become insurmountable. I even had trouble getting on Chance--who's only 15.3h bareback--let alone Tucker at 16.3+.

    Still, your post brings back fond memories. Bareback is the best way to ride in the snow and the landings are soft--just in case. Glad you got to enjoy the experience again, in all its whimsy.

  6. Sounds like you had fun - good for you!!

    I'm working on an elegant bareback mounting experience - hopefully one day. It has improved (a bit) with practice :)

  7. Wow! Good for you for just going with it. It sounds magical - a winter wonderland. And what a good horse you have - bareback and in a halter when he was feeling so good.
    Doug, my husband and I, sometimes use a step ladder to get on our draft cross bareback, or sometimes I lead her to a picnic table and stand on top of it :)

  8. Woaw sounds marvellous, makes me want to take my Red mare for a ride. Thanks very much for an inspiring post.


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