Dealing with ghouls in the dark

Just a few days past Halloween, and the time change has us working in the dark on weeknights.  This is no challenge for Nash, who I’m sure did more than his share of performing after dark in his six years running on the fair circuit.  Coffee is lucky, because his mom is now home everyday and can work him in daylight.  But, for Tally working in the dark is an exercise in foiling the ghouls in the shadows.

Our arena is not completely dark.  In fact, I think it would be less challenging for Tally if it was.  As it is, we have lights centered on

Tally, no longer bothered by shadow goblins

Tally, no longer bothered by shadow goblins

only one long side, creating long shadows and lots of dark spots.  (We hope to remedy this soon, but for now it’s what we’ve got.) Tally has always found this a challenging situation, sure that every shadow hides a different demon.  Being also hypersensitive to sound, the noises from the nearby road and the neighboring houses add to her general edginess.  I’ll be honest – after two winters of working her while surrounded by shadow ghouls, I was not looking forward to this time of year.  She’s been coming along well, but I feared the backward slide we’d take when the goblins came out.

To be fair, nearly two years ago ghouls really did leap out from the shadows.  We were nearing the end of that first winter of working in the dark.  She was finally beginning to settle, and we got more work than silliness out of each session.  This particular night was at the beginning of the migratory season, and I could hear the customary visitors resting in the field that abuts our arena.  I thought nothing of it, since it is a regular stop over for the Canadian honkers passing through.  As we were working on the lunge, I was pleased with her attentiveness – oblivious to the “danger” that lay ahead.

The first sign of impending trouble was an increased honking from the field.  Again, I was not particularly alarmed, as this was nothing out of the ordinary.  As Tally approached the part of the circle near the field, I suddenly realized trouble was headed our way, with no time to avert it!  The sudden sound of flapping wings was immediately followed by two large geese exploding out of the dark, a mere yard above Tally’s head!  My poor mare!  True to her species, her flight response was immediate!  Fourteen hundred pounds of freight train hit the end of the line at full speed!  Much to her credit, I was able to bring her under control within a half circle.  She stood there, head high, trembling … and who could blame her?!  All her past worries about ghouls in the shadows had just come true, in spades!

There has been another winter since that fateful night, but she has never been particularly settled in our half-lighted arena.  And so we come to this night, our first of many more that will find us working in the long shadows.  Out we went, with me determined but not enthusiastic.  My wonderful mare continues to surprise me with her mental and emotional progress – we had a wonderful session.  Odds were not in our favor – planes flying low, heavy traffic nearby, and my dog exploding over some demon she had found in the dark.  Yet Tally reacted to all of this with no more than an ear flick!  I marveled at the feeling of partnership that continues to emerge in our relationship.  There is an ease and trust I never truly believed we’d reach.

I don’t doubt the ghouls still lurk out there, waiting for their moment to leap out of the dark.  But, somehow, it feels that we’ll be able to conquer them together now!

Be good to your horses!

Lia

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