Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Mellow Murray and Mischievous Maggie

Sunday, March 7th
Another beautiful, bright day. This time there's not even a whisper of wind to offset the surprising warmth of the bright March sunshine. I've decided to ride both horses today.

I start by taking Murray on another ride up the road (I make sure the gate to Maggie's paddock is well secured before saddling-up). This is the second ride in a row up this road, which means that Murray already has the lay of the land, that he's memorized the exact spot where we turned around last time, and that (if history runs true) he's bound to be slightly more neurotic this time.

After a few minutes, I urge Murray into an easy trot, might as well open his lungs and get the blood pumping. We reach the first house, a large (roughly 80 pounds) yellow dog runs towards us, barking steadily. His owner tries half-heartedly to call him back, but Murray doesn't spook, I call out that it's a beautiful day, and the dog stays in the yard. All-in-all, not so bad.

After that, we explore a side-road where the frozen ground has yet to soften up under the morning sun. We pass a house which I think may belong to a bootlegger. I see another large dog roaming the road up ahead. Murray and I decide to retreat.

We make it back to the main road, to the spot where we turned around yesterday. Murray makes one attempt to turn around and go home, but after a few seconds he gives up the protest and willingly trudges on. We ride the full length of the road, and he's an absolute gentleman.

The only time he throws a bit of a tantrum is when we run across another horse, in a pasture. Murray is frightened to death of the meek-looking quarter horse. For an instant, he's actually frozen in terror. Then, eyes-wide, and neck raised, he tries to run backwards down the road. The set-back is only temporary though. Warily, he lets me urge him past the small, non-threatening fellow-equine.

On the way home, Murray walks quietly on a long rein-- no dancing, jigging, or stupidity of any kind. It's possibly the best, most relaxing trail ride we've ever had. I'm positively beaming when I get back to the barn, and I'm even more pleased when I take him down to the ring to find that the footing is dry enough for us to trot a few circles.

Me, to Dave: Look, I'm riding my horse, in my ring, in March! I can't believe it! Actually, I can't believe I have a riding ring, at home, in my backyard.

I'm still on a high as I tack-up Maggie. I consider riding her down the road, but a little voice in the back of my head pipes up: "Is it really a good idea to ride a horse, who's only had someone on her back three times, on a road, in the open, by yourself?" Good point.

I take her down to the ring instead. I make Dave come with me. I consider getting on right away, I mean really, my biggest problem to date has been getting her to move. She's kind, lazy, unambitious, and halts abruptly the minute you yell Whoa! On top of that, she's probably not even fit enough to attempt a to buck or rear. Again, the voice chimes in: "She does seem to have much more energy in the paddocks these days. She's trotting and even cantering regularly, and I even saw her do something in her paddock that could have been called a buck. And don't forget yesterday's shenanigans". Ok, I'll lunge her first.

Well, it's a good thing I know enough to wear gloves when lunging. I ended up with mild rope burn as it was.

I turn Maggie lose on the lunge line, and instantly she's trotting, not waddling like usual, but actually trotting, only she's not turning as she should, she's continuing the length of the ring. I haul as hard as I can on the lunge line, but she dives her nose down and hauls harder. The only way I hold onto the line is by slipping my hand through the loop at the end (I know, not safe), and by running to keep up with her until I can force her to stop by making her run into the fence. We battle it out like this for about 20 minutes. She trots, canters, bolts, completely ignores all shouts of "Whoa!" and raises her heels in what can definitely be considered a serious buck (a hind-end that large can be pretty powerful).

Finally, I get her to stop, well, I get her to trot on a circle small enough that eventually she has to stop. We're both out-of-breath and sweaty. My arms feel like lead. I'm too tired to lunge her anymore, so I decide to get on. She jigs and fidgets while I mount. She trots off once I'm on. I try to stop her, and with some effort she halts. When I ask her to walk again, she squeals, shakes her head and gives a halfhearted (thank goodness) buck. This goes on for another 15 minutes. When I finally get her to walk around the ring once, in a cooperative way, I decide we're done.

Murray, you can be difficult, sometimes impossible to ride, but today you were an absolute dream.
Maggie, I'm not sure what to think of you. You're just too full of surprises-- and not all of them good.

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