And the sun comes out

Today is the third day of sunshine, blue skies, temperatures above 60 F, and holiday from work. I’m sitting on the rubber mats in Salsa’s paddock while he stands hipshot soaking up warmth and occasionally scratching his face on his feed tub.

Let me take a pic with my phone and post it here:

In just three days of relaxed “being outside with horses,” so much has happened. I still have video to cut together from these past few nonbloggy weeks, but for right now, words are the only tool I have to capture the brilliance of today.

I let Rocky loose on the ranch to wander around and graze while I visited with Danielle and Tony, who brought their Mustang up to live with us for a while. Danielle and Tony used to live here and Danielle was the ranch caretaker, and they know Rocky pretty well. Both Danielle and Tony commented on Rocky’s confident exploration of the nooks and crannies of the property.

He walked between a pen and my backyard fence without a problem — a squeeze about 20 feet long and 2.5 feet wide, with one fence about six feet tall and the other about ten feet. He drove the donkeys around the loop, even ducking under a tree while hopping over a tarp-covered pile of debris. He played cutting horse and kept the donkeys out of his open pen, which still had hay in it. He trotted the length of the driveway, where he used to have trouble walking in his bare feet. He grazed, rested, wandered, met Kessler the Mustang through the arena fence, and didn’t even flinch when Erin and Kim showed up in the big truck with the camper shell attached. They drove up the lane right past where he stood in the margins and he just looked casually in their direction.

Salsa has just in the past few days trusted me enough to lean into my fingers when I scratch the base of his mane, and even to take steps to stay with me when I thought I was done. He makes camel faces and last night, for the first time, trusted me to keep Riley away when she wanted to drive him off. It’s hard to keep Riley away as she is an American Spotted Draft and a bossy boss mare; the combination of physical size and space bubble is nothing short of awe-inspiring. I had a halter and lead in my hand and I flapped it at her and clucked, every time she stepped past the treeline, and that worked. When I later went to scratch her, she kicked up her heels, squealed, and trotted away, then glared back at me to make sure I got the point, before ambling back to be petted.

Rock no longer flinches when I press the abscess bruise, and he puts his weight on it and rests the other foot, so I think that means I should get to sit on him soon. I hope this means that the pain in MY right hind heel will go away too.

I was thinking this weekend how different our relationship might be if I could actually just get on him, spontaneously, whenever. Without the formality of walking him to a fence or a mounting block — and for bareback it has to be a high block. To be able to grab mane and swing up at any time, just grazing or resting or wherever, making the various configurations of our two bodies become mundane. Me sitting up, lying back, crossing one leg up, etc. Standing and walking. No halter or anything, just up there, informally. As it is, we are either on the ground or there’s a whole Production that has to go into riding.

I did climb on the arena fence yesterday saying in my Silly Voice “you WANT me to ride you, you know you do, you’re going to come over here and line yourself up, I know you want me to ride,” and then he DID. Just for a moment, before he backed up a few steps to put his nose on my stomach. But he had to walk several steps and do a 180 turn and align his left side with the fence and he did! I was astonished and laughing. I made no move to swing a leg over and just enjoyed that he pretended to offer. I don’t think it was a real offer as he didn’t hold still very long, nor did he look at me expectantly.  But he did want to be near me and was neither annoyed nor afraid when I climbed up there and hovered above him.

I have to get back outside and do the evening ranch hand shift. I’ve been trying to get outside, even if not “doing anything” out there, just watching the horses — and learning, every time I pay attention, new nuances of language, form, athleticism.

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