Friday I thought I should give Black Elk a bit of a rest, an easy day. I had always wanted to get him used to walking behind the marsh, as I plan to ride there. It's a very claustrophobic trail dense with salal and overhanging branches. It is pretty though with views of the marsh and after about 1/4 mile opens up into a meadow which was the origonal homestead of the Tompstons family. I had taken Rascal there about a year ago, and by the time we got down that trail he was ready to blow up, and in fact through a fit bucking and cantering in circles around me. Not fun!
Even Cassie taking off in the bushes didn't bother him.
Black Elk led like a water flowing behind me. Not a worried moment. We stopped on occasion to let him eat a bit of green grass. I was amazed at his composure and emotional fitness. I wonder about this quality. I was so careful with him to respect his 'thresholds' and not push him when he was scared. We used the clicker for clearer communication, and I let him go at his own speed, sometimes taking quite a long time to grasp issues. But what I saw happening was once he got it, there was a willingness and eagerness to do as I bid that I did not always see with my other horses. But most of all it was the level of trust that seemed to grow as a result of never scaring him, of waitng and asking, of respecting him in his process.
I have made this effort with all my horses but I think I have gotten a bit more sensitve with each horse.
Black Elk looking back toward Turtleback in Deer Harbor
So around the marsh we went, through the meadow where he got to graze and down the gravel roads I hope to ride him on soon. Nothing bothered him. He'd look and maybe bulge a bit away from somethings but was calm and respectful.
Now, I have trail riding issues. Almost 30 years ago while taking my daughter trail riding, she fell off and nearly died. Two weeks in intensive care in a coma, two more weeks until she could talk. She suffers physically to this day from that accident. It was the worst thing that had ever happened to both of us. I strive not to define my life around that accident, but it's a struggle every day.
Prior to her getting hurt, I thought galloping cross country over fences alone in the evening was a blast. I always rode the trails alone, and was basically fearless. I fox hunted and I evented. Untill that day. What had been my pleasure and greatest joy now brought up fear and grief. I sold my horses.
The Old Apple Truck on Bullocks Farm
It wasn't until 10 years ago that I had a horse again. My husband spent years putting horse ads in front of me. Eventually we started looking, and eventually we bought. Naturally I chose an alpha mare, who was a redhead and a thoroughbred. She was a terrible choice for me at the time. but she taught me alot. Why I could ride her in the arena prior to owning her, and not once I got home, is a long discussion. She forced me to find a new way of relating to horses, to learn about Natural Horsemanship, to study Parelli, and of course, she taught me about myself. My journey with horses is truely a healing journey. Isn't it always a lot more than just the desire to ride?
So, now after all these years, I have a horse who has emotional fitness and I feel safe enough to consider riding the trails. One more step in that healing.