Thursday was the day; poor Arwen was starting to suffer under her typical Nooitie winter coat (i. e. strongly resembling that of the average yak). She sweats like a pig and feels the heat, too, so there were no two ways about it – that coat was going to have to come off.
So she was scrubbed to within an inch of her life and then clipped. She was a hooligan, but I shall give her the benefit of the doubt and blame it on the poor guy I had holding her, who is one of the farm workers. He has been saddled with the duties of grooming my client horses because he is patient and not afraid of horses, but he will most definitely not be holding a horse for a clip again. (A bit too patient, I’m afraid). Once Arwie figured out that she could go merrily in circles without any consequences she did so, with the result that not only are her head and legs left unclipped as usual, but she also has an unflattering hairy patch on her stomach.
Either way, we accomplished what we needed to; I have a shiny pony that can work in comfort,
Arwie has a bright pink blankie,
and we both have a reminder as to Who we belong to and why we do what we do.
The shaven beastie, much as she detested her clip, is evidently much happier to be ridden. It can’t be nice to work out in the equivalent of a winter jacket. Her stamina has dramatically increased and her attitude towards the end of a session is markedly more perky. She was superb in her flatwork session on Friday, including one (semi-accidental) flying change while we were practicing canter leg-yields. Today she even carried the Mutterer up and down hills for two hours without breaking a sweat anywhere except under the saddle.
Magic put in a wonderful jumping session on Friday, too. I put the sticks up to about 80cm and he was still popping over without any fuss. I’m now faced with the next dilemma of Magic’s education: His confidence is fine now. It’s mine that’s holding us back. I’m still grabbing his mouth in panic at the base of the fences, and he’s still not deserving it, because he is quiet and reliable and knows his job. Poor old Magic, he doesn’t deserve me, but he does have me so I assume the King has a plan for us. Our session, though, actually went extremely well because I concentrated really hard on giving him my hands nice and quietly. Reciting Psalm 23 out loud helped a lot. It forced me to relax, prevented me from micromanaging, and gave Magic a calm, confident voice to listen to, which means a lot to him. When I stay out of his face, he is simply amazing. He carries me to the jump, takes off at a good distance right out of his stride, and glides effortlessly over.
After Magic, I rode dear old Vastrap. Last time we jumped, I faceplanted rather painfully into the first element of a combination, so we were both a bit shaken and I pushed the jumps all the way down to 40cm. I find it’s always better to play it safe and have a good experience or two before building back up and onwards. Anyway, I needn’t have worried, because Trappies was his usual saintly self and popped over everything very well. He did get a little panicky after a few jumps (I assume he remembers me shooting up his neck and eating the pole) but nothing major. Vastrap is good practice for Magic, because he doesn’t easily overreact and is generally less scary, but he still appreciates a nice quiet hand at all times. Arwen, either by personal preference or being trained by a newb like I was, prefers a quite strong contact, so she’s no help except for my courage.
Yesterday was Storm Horse day. I hadn’t seen him for over a week and I think I had forgotten how beautiful he is. I was so excited when I saw him looking over the fence at me that I totally forgot to greet his owner, just grabbed my saddle off the back of the Mutterer’s bakkie and vanished. Storm Horse insisted on smelling me thoroughly before allowing me to touch him, just to make sure I was me. He was a little more spooky on the ground than usual, especially about having his bridle put on (methinks that in the period between the Mutterer backing him and my meeting him, somebody has twitched his ears), but once I was on he was absolutely impeccable. He makes me smile every single time. When I walk up to that horse there is nothing in the whole world but him and Jesus and me.
Another of the Nooitgedachters, a glorious filly that we shall call Arwie Junior because she looks almost exactly like Arwen, was my second ride for the day. Junior has been backed for less than six months, but she could already score fairly well on a Prelim dressage test and scrape through a Novice, too. She has a natural aptitude for dressage unlike any I’ve seen before, putting warmbloods to shame. Today we worked on leg-yields for the second time ever and got walk leg-yields all the way across the arena on the diagonal, as well as a little trot leg-yield from the quarter line to the track. Such a pleasure to ride her. Her greatest flaw is also her greatest strength – her tremendously long stride. She sees no reason to shorten it when moving at full extension is so much fun, but it’s improving.
The third Nooitie of the day was a little chestnut mare with a real Nooitie brain. She’d never been handled, apart from being fed apples and having her nose petted, when we first met her and in two sessions I was riding her around the ring without any tantrums. This time we finally got the canter on the correct leg all the way around the arena, once on each rein. Canter has been a bit of a sticky point for her; she is a laid-back slowpoke type that I think will do well in a riding school.
Today was a more relaxed day; the Mutterer and I took Arwie and Thun for a long outride. It was an entirely new venture for Thunder as we went up the public road and onto a neighbouring game farm, then up and down some rather steep and rocky hills and through the indigenous scrub there. Despite being dead nervous for the first ten minutes, Thunder soon hit his stride and fell into step beside Arwen with that beautiful, swinging, relaxed stride that I love so much. I could ride his walk all day long and not get bored. He had no major incidents, just a few minor spooks, which I felt was very impressive of him. He had to deal with a lot of new things, including strange dogs running up and barking, eland, springbuck, wildebeest and ostriches (HATE OSTRICHES). Arwen was also very good; she remains a bit spooky even with the Mutterer, but was much more forward-going than the last time he rode her, and seemed to carry him without any effort at all. (Although he could probably knot his ankles together under her belly).
(Footnote for foreigners: This thing is an eland, the largest of all antelope. I don’t know their exact mass, but I know they’re as tall as horses and can jump really freakishly high. Also that when a herd of them takes off running, most horses entirely lose their brains).
I was so happy with my little Thun. He was an absolute pleasure to ride, forward, relaxed and confident in his good moments, merely jittery in his bad ones. He’s developing into the horse I need, the one his mother has been for me for so many years – the horse that you can saddle up and ride into the sunset without having to worry about being bucked off, or about frame or rhythm or engagement, and spend a few hours in our glorious little corner of Africa concentrating only on praising our amazing Creator God and keeping the horse between you and the ground.
Glory to the King.