The ground was soaked from two days of rain. The wind had died down, pretty much. And the Doc had said I could ride, just be careful. Had something going on with my left leg, it was swollen twice its size, had always been a weak leg, but this, well this was proving to be a bother. Since they didn't find a blood clot, and further tests were coming, Doc thought, after I persisted, that a little ride would be okay. Of course Ravishin', Robbie wasn't so sure. I don't think either of them would have approved the two and half hour ride it turned out to be.
We stood in the sun to brush, do a few pre-ride exercises, and tack. I used this time to explain to Kessy I was not 100%, that my side and leg were pretty weak. Here I'd like to suggest when you talk to your horse, just talk as you normally would, with perhaps a pause here and there so they can process, just as when you are doing other learning exercises with them. In the pauses, think of your message, see the picture.
Kessy stood perfectly to mount even though I had a bit of a challenge. We use a 2 step mounting block, which we'll need to change now to a higher one. She waited until I was settled and asked her to, "walk on."
There was a new fire road just cut in that week and I had wanted to explore it, even though just to get to it was a 30 minute ride. I told Kessy about it and left it up to her, but as we set out that darn leg hurt so bad I thought, not today. Kessy walked smooth and quiet, never slipping in the mud or worrying about the wind. You may remember Kessy has a big dislike for mud, and a pretty strong concern about wind, but that day, not a sign of those worries. Before too long I felt a bit better and we were nearly to the new road.
The new fire road, freshly cut, was quite muddy indeed and the ditches remained open where pipes would be laid and several pieces of heavy equipment sat along the road. And I mean big stuff. We paused a second at the beginning, letting Kessy take it all in, then I asked her to walk on.
The wet red clay was like grease and Kessy knew it. She walked along carefully and the few times she felt herself slide she stopped. As if waiting, making sure I was okay. Then she'd cautiously walk on, even staying rock steady as she negotiated her way between the parked equipment on a loose rein. I gave her no guidance. Normally this would be a bit of a dance, but that day she never wavered. Even a Catbird flushing out from under the big dozer couldn't get her to bounce.
It is a beautiful part of the forest and even with the wind we were having a grand time exploring it. I suspected this new road might link onto old roads we'd never been able to explore and it did. But holy cow it went on and on. Normally in new territory Kessy does her nervous quick step with a few twists and hops tossed in, but on this day, you would have thought she was in her own back yard. Even negotiating the ditches she walked, one soft step at a time, over trenches she would normally jump.
After a bit of exploring the old adjoining roads through dense woods I figured we'd better get back. My leg had gone numb and we'd be at least an hour getting back. I have this thing I do when my back starts hurting, I fold my arms on Kessy's neck and ride with my head down. Stretches the back and legs. I rode a good portion of the way home that way that day. Of course you can't see where you're going, but Kessy just tiptoed along and I didn't need to see. Never a misstep, slip, spook or worry all the way home. And there were a few mighty big wind gusts. You'd think that was enough for one ride, but I still had to dismount.
We stopped where we always do. I started to swing out of the saddle, but was hit with real pain in that leg. It sucked the breath right out of me … I just let go and fell with a thud partly under Kessy. I think I was a bit dazed. Kessy stood like a rock. Never moved a foot. She watched me though. Our eyes met.
When I was ready, I took hold of the stirrup and pulled myself up. She stood steady even as I grabbed her mane and tugged my way up. I leaned against her for a minute, then we walked to the barn. Well she walked, I hobbled, but we got there.
Oz Dillon asked me to share this story. He liked it, thought folks might find it inspirational when I told him about that ride in new territory through mud and wind with a horse clearly taking care of her friend. Except for how bad my leg hurt, I like it too. I think it's a good example of how our horses really do hear us and are willing to take care of us. They may play and fool around, act silly sometimes, but they know when it really matters and will be there for us.