Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Two Hands

If you're a horse person, you know that a "hand" is the unit of measurement we use to communicate how tall our horses are, at the withers.  It is 4 inches.  We measure increments of a hand with a decimal place, but each decimal stands for 1/4 of a hand, or 1 inch.  Thus, Red is 14.3, or 14 hands plus 3 inches, measured from the ground to his withers.

And this has nothing at all to do with today's post, other than I thought of the double meaning in this post's title.  The title really refers to how I rode today - both hands on the reins at all times!

It was positively balmy, and the snow was practically disappearing in front of my eyes on this sunny, 55 degree March afternoon.  Everyone and their brothers were outside, doing something.  In the 10 minutes I spent grooming and tacking Red up, we saw 2 horses, 1 set of joggers, 2 sets of walkers (1 with a dog, 1 with a stroller), and a pair of bikers go past the driveway.  Red was so worked up by being alone in the barn (really?  when did this happen?  I sure hope this behavior goes away once he is more established in the group here.  He is still spending most of his time physically separated but with fence contact to the herd.  He does get some time daily with Rhio and Paco, but we haven't introduced the youngsters yet.) and by seeing all the activity on the road, that he was incapable of standing still, he produced copious amounts of manure in the aisle, and I could see his heart beat pounding in his chest.  And I thought I was going to ride this beast?!

I very, very rarely lunge my horses except to check for soundness and quality of movement.  Today was one of those rare occasions.  Red and I went out in the deep snow and he trotted and cantered until we were both panting and sweating (which really wasn't very long in all that heavy snow), and he had decided he was capable of standing still.  I double-checked to make sure my phone was in my pocket, mounted up, and set off down the driveway.  We turned left and headed up the shoulder of the road to a dead-end gravel road.  He was actually quite good, except for a spook when a pine bough that had been stuck in the snowbank suddenly released and went "sproinging" up beside us.  I'll give him that as a legitimate spook.  We turned down the gravel and kept walking until he was relaxed and doing nice leg yields in both directions, then I let him trot out to the dead-end, and halfway back.  This isn't even a half mile, but the footing is good and it's quiet.  His motor was in high gear today, and I did wish we were back at his previous place, where we had miles of quiet gravel roads at our disposal and I could have just let him go.  I think I needed that release as much as he did, but, alas, it wasn't to be, and we headed back home at a walk.  We met the two horses that has passed the farm earlier, and then I asked him to continue past the driveway.  Oh, boy -this was not in his game plan and he let me know it!  We went just a little farther, until he wasn't fussing, then I let him turn around for home again.  The last 100 yards was the worst part of the ride - he was a ninny and there were vehicles approaching from both directions.  I hopped off and hand-walked him the rest of the way, with an internal sigh "Whew! We made it!" and "He'll be 17 in April - will there ever be a spring when he's NOT like this?" and, then, "Oh, I hope not!  This is my Red and I do love him for all his antics - I just wish I'd had the chance to put 5 or 6 trotting miles on today and settle both our minds with work."

I left him tied in the barn and retrieved Rhio from the pasture.  I got him ready to go, and decided to pony Red along, heading out through the snow along the fenceline and thinking I might try the other portion of the gravel road, which has 2 other properties with horses and can be a more challenging ride.  I hadn't gotten very far when I noticed the middle line of our fence was down, so we went back and I fixed the fence, then decided to put Red back out in the round pen with some hay and just take Rhio out for a quick ride.  Rhio and I also turned left, and he also spooked at a "sproinging" pine bough, and at first he thought we were going to go for a real ride.  He was very forward and ready to move out, and felt fantastic.  We would have had a glorious ride, I am sure.  But, yet again, I was constrained by location (and also by time), and I decided to check out the condition of our woods trail over the hill to the other side where I would have access to more gravel road.  The first people at the first horse property on the road had one of their miniatures out in the driveway, saddled, and had a couple kids milling about, while the mini's buddy was racing around the pasture like a lunatic.  Rhio was all bug-eyed Arab at the spectacle, and was rooted to the spot refusing to move.  The lady called out "Are you training that horse?"  Um, well, he should already know how to walk past this stuff, but apparently, yes, today is a training day.  We continued on to the end, eyed up the snow as still too deep to traverse, and turned for home.  Rhio thought that meant we should get there as fast as possible, and gave me a head tossing display to prove it, but he did stay manageable and we did make it home in one piece.

I did have my camera with me today.  I did intend to take pictures.  I had both hands on the reins the entire time I rode both horses, and was pretty disinclined to remove one of them to fumble around for the camera and take a picture at any point.  So, you'll have to settle with these:
Post-Red ride and pre-Rhio ride.

Warm and damp saddle pads.
It was a great day to be out, and time spent with my horses is always good, but I do admit to feeling a strong sense of unfulfilled longing as I drove out of the driveway today.  My horses and I both needed and wanted to do some serious trotting and really put our minds and bodies to work.  Snow, please, please go away now!

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