Nash is that special blend of crotchety and loveable that seems to be characteristic of old Appaloosa gentlemen. There are days when he can literally sap the energy out of you, and he’s not crazy about working – but when he’s not working he gets depressed and even crankier. He came to us when he was ten, and only just over a year away from the race track. He spent most of that year belonging to a young girl who barely rode him because, to quote her mother, “If he wants to go back to the barn, and she doesn’t, he always wins.” I can honestly say that everything he knows, under saddle, he learned from me. And today he reminded us how valuable it is to have a well trained horse in our lives!
Decades ago, when I was training my mare, Dani, I discovered one important thing: while training green horses, it’s good for the sanity to have a trained horse to ride. Anyone who has worked with green horses will know that it’s not a straight road. There are curves and bumps along the way. If you are very sure of everything that you do, then you plow ahead, secure that it will go your way … and you can always get another horse if it doesn’t! (I’ve seen this many times.) But, as I’ve said in the past, I live with doubt. As things go sideways, I always question whether I’m on the right path with that horse. Tally’s future has me riddled with doubt. Having one who has made it past all the bumps and detours, and now rides like a luxury vehicle, provides a counter balance to doubts about my own abilities.
For too long, I have been without this balance. Three years ago, Nash and I were on the path to renewing our partnership, after a couple of years with no place to ride. We didn’t get far before an accident left him with a separation of his pelvic floor. His long recovery was complicated by a round robin of hoof abscesses that lasted over a year. We were finally getting back on track when Tally threw me into several months of layup. I confess that I’d begun to despair that I would ever be able to renew my partnership with Nash.
It is on Nash that I make my first ventures back into the saddle. Slowly we relearn our common language, and remember how to dance together. Today was our best day yet. It started with him feeling rather sassy, and loosening up with a few bucks on the lunge. I love watching the old man have a good time! It makes me think back to all those months of pain he lived through – all those times I was ready to declare his permanent retirement. Good to see him being spunky!
Once he was well warmed up, I climbed aboard. We’ve been working slowly toward building us both up. His strength is returning, and today he genuinely tried to comply with everything I asked. I kept it short, but it was light and lovely for as many moments as he could sustain – then it was a soft easy stretch as I gave the contact. Repeated a few times, and I was thrilled. But he wasn’t quite through proving his worth.
Coffee pulled a shoulder, playing too hard with Noble yesterday, so he’s had the weekend off. I suggested my mom cool Nash out, while practicing some steering without reins. Coffee is catching on, but there is no substitute for an old campaigner – one who doesn’t let you “cheat”. Patiently Nash walked around, while she struggled to find the muscle memory for the task. The failed attempts were clear, as he plodded around seemingly oblivious. But, the moment she put the pieces together – magic! Suddenly he went from old manual pickup to sports car with power steering! Each ask was easily and fluidly fulfilled!
Nash seemed rather relaxed and content at the end of the session. The two humans were certainly glowing from that amazing feeling when horse and human begin to move as dance partners. Any doubts that I’ve had about my dusty training skills melted away as I felt the fluid responses to each of my subtle cues. The path ahead may be long – with Coffee, Noble and especially Tally – but as long as I have Nash to remind me what the destination looks like, I can have patience.
Be good to your horses!