Monday, July 21, 2014

Back in the Saddle Again

July 19:

I rode Ben today.

I RODE BEN TODAY!

Yep. Overcoming the fear issues that sap my will to ride, even at the low levels Ben can offer these days, today I groomed, tacked up, and rode the mighty Benster. Getting on meant a small twinge of hip pain and a larger twinge of panic, especially as (a) he moved off before I was completely in the saddle, and (b) I discovered that the stirrup leathers were about three holes too short, from letting someone else ride him a while ago. Fortunately a bystander took care of the leathers so I didn't have to dismount and get back on, and off we went around the ring.

Walk, walk, walk. It took a bit to get my sulky lower body half settled into comfortable position, and I had to fight a constant urge to curl forward into fetal position, but walk we did. Other than bowing mildly away from damp patches in the ring dirt from water bucket dumpings, Ben was his normal placid self. Big spiderleg-gaited placid self.

I'm afraid we got in the way of a lesson going on once or twice, despite my best efforts to steer clear, but as time passed I got more relaxed and began to actively enjoy it. Towards the end of our ten minutes or so, I even asked for, and got, some easy trot steps in each direction -- notably more comfortable turning to the left, I might add. Not surprising when you consider it's his left hind that's much the worse.

Ben wasn't exactly blowing when we finished (nor was I, amazingly enough), but I'm sure that was plenty for now. He was also quietly pleased with himself, even without my showering him with kisses and praise. We'll have to do this again sometime.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

July 21:

Another day, another ride. Ten minutes aboard the Benster, after three or four leading him, tacked up, around the ring to get his back warmed up before mounting. The fear factor has diminished, which is great. The few jog steps in each direction I tried were as much as either one of us needed to do. It was a pleasure to feel how well Ben remembers his job, how easily he turned just off seat and a hint of leg.

No one else was in the ring when I dismounted, so I untacked Ben and turned him loose to putter about. He rolled, puttered, and of course chose the farthest corner from the muck bucket to dump in. I swear he did it just to see me trudge the diagonal length of the ring, to and from, with muck fork. But he did (after a lengthy pause to ponder it) come across the ring to me when I held out his halter, and stick his head into it, when it was time to put him back out in his paddock.

Best of all: Before mounting, my left hip and leg were bothering me. By the time I got off, and walking around afterwards, they felt much better. Could be this riding thing will be therapeutic -- for both of us.

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Monday, July 14, 2014

I Didn't See This Coming

Big shocker in the feline tribe this morning: Stanley offered Sally a headboop! And she didn't rip his face off!

Ever since he arrived as a four-month-old three years ago, Stanley and Sally have been enemies. She tormented him when he was a kitten; he tormented her when he grew big enough to turn the tables. It got bad enough that I had to keep Sally in a separate part of the condo for a while. I also sent Stanley's brother back to the shelter, since (a) he was even more aggressive toward her, and (b) when he couldn't go after Sally he started harassing Pumpkin. (Stan's brother did get adopted again, so it's all good.)

After a few months I tried letting Sally out into the general population again, and it worked. Mostly. There were still episodes of shrieking, chasing, furiously flailing paws, and so forth, but no blood, and the intensity diminished with time. Lately there's been little to no drama each day; the two can warily pass within feet -- then inches -- of each other without one or the other launching an attack; and in the morning, in that drifting stage between awakening and arising, when I turn on the bedside TV to catch the news and weather, I've had them sitting facing each other, perhaps the width of two hands between them, purring as I scratched each head. One sometimes will even tentatively sniff toward the other before pulling back out of pawstrike range.

And this morning? This morning there they were, sitting maybe three inches apart, purring as I scratched their necks, when Stanley cautiously stretched out toward Sally in a slow-motion version of his usual hard-swooping headboop. He paused almost within touching distance; she looked at him but didn't repulse him; he eased back; they both continued purring and contemplating each other for a moment more, then went on their ways.

I was shocked. And pleased. I still don't think they'll ever be friends, but this is a BFD!

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