Friday, July 1, 2016

So Very Happy

This morning I went to the barn to ride. It’s been a long, hard week of work, lots of rush pages to proofread, lots of long hours and late nights, but this morning would make up for it, I’d decided the night before. Getting on a horse would be my reward.

Boy, was it ever. Because I rode Ben.



Ben, 24 years old, with arthritic hocks, sagging suspensories, kissing spines, hasn’t worked in years. Paddock potato. Honorably retired years ago. That Ben.

But! He putters about his paddock looking completely sound. His back is still unswayed. The last time I had his hock arthritis checked by the vet, he was remarkably comfortable even off his daily dose of bute. What harm could a few minutes of walking around the ring do?

None, as it turns out, judging by his happy ears during and happy face afterwards. He was unfazed by being tacked up and mounted after his long layoff; stepped right out from the mounting block when I asked, cheerfully went wherever I requested, and had that quietly contented look afterwards of a horse who knows his job, likes it, and enjoys having done it.

So I rode my horse. My own horse. My amazingly responsive horse. As much as I adore little red Finny, as much as I adored the late stalwart Royal, they couldn’t give me what Ben can and always has: Near-telepathic lightness to the aids. Just a shift of the hips, a softly laid leg on his side, and Ben glided into a curving turn. Shift again, lay the other leg gently on his flank, and he curved back the other way. Ditto for response to rein aids; just hint and he responded. Egad, but I’d missed that!

And his walk, oh, his walk, oh, his big, swinging, springy walk! Little horses are a helluva lot easier to dismount from, but they just don’t, can’t give you that long swinging gait. I didn’t realize how much I’d missed it till this morning.

Now, this does not mean I’ll be taking Ben out for hours-long hacks. (For one thing, the deerflies are out now, sigh.) If he’s to go back into work at all, other than this kind of one-off once in a blue moon, he’ll need to be reconditioned slowly, carefully, inch by watchful inch. I’m thinking five-minute walk rides for a week or two before I even begin to think about upping the time, and forget about trotting at all for the foreseeable future – got to get his back, his muscles, his joints all used to carrying a rider again. I’ll also be talking to his vet, maybe have her come do an exam to tell me what’s safe to try.

But if he can come back into work, if he can get up to, say, half-hour walk rides, that will be enough to make me very, very happy.

Because it’s Ben. Ben, who looked like this back when he was in regular work with me, and perhaps will look like this again:

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