Although I’ve spent many hours with Thunder working in the confines of a lunging ring or arena, the ultimate goal has always been to turn him into a reliable hack/trail horse/whatever you want to call it. While the thrill of showjumping and the concentration of dressage have their appeal, I’m afraid my idea of a perfect ride is out in God’s amazing creation with a good horse between my knees and my Beloved by my side. Skye has always fulfilled my love for outrides, but I know that even the best horses don’t stay on Earth forever. Besides, my Beloved needs a ride too, so it was quite thoughtful of God to give me steady little Thunder three years ago.
Five years ago, a scary fall off an unruly stallion gave me a nervousness for riding out that has still not quite dissipated. The arena is still my security blanket, with the comforting thought that should my horse take off there’s a limit to how far he can run, and safe footing to run on. On outrides, though, a bolting horse can go over rocks and into holes as much as he likes, if you can’t stop him. And with that nervousness I nearly gave up on the idea of schooling Thunder as hack altogether.
But my God is with me and outrides with my Beloved are awesome, so when the latter came in on the scene, I started working on Thunder’s outrides with renewed vigour. We have been going out on and off for almost a year now (Thunder and me that is, my Beloved and me have been going out steadily), and while a long way from a relaxed hack, he’s starting to become an enjoyable ride.
On Sunday my Beloved and I took Skye and Thunder for our first long outride since I had that fall off him in January. I know that the fall rattled him just as much as it rattled me; he’s scared going past that spot lately, and had been spooky and silly on outrides since. But the only way past his nervousness is through it, so we arranged our outride with me on Thunder and my Beloved on Skye. Once the two boys had had a serious man-to-man talk (“You will not buck or run away or spook or try to throw her off in any way, or scare her or hurt her, kapish?”), we set off through the glorious fields of six-foot-tall, pink-and-white daisies known as kosmos.
It was a beautiful windless sunny day that makes you wish that summer wasn’t over, and everything smelt like kosmos and horses and leather, and we walked and talked and laughed and had a few long, awesome lopes and Thunder was a jewel. At first, every time we loped, he set off at a flat gallop for the first two steps, but with my Beloved keeping Skye well under control, he soon settled into a nice lope. We rode through the farm next door and took an unfamiliar route, but although he was a bit looky and felt nervous a few times, Thunder didn’t shy or bolt.
I kept my reins quite short, and both my hands on the reins most of the time, instead of riding him on the approved floppy Western rein. Although I know he should go on a long rein, he has bolted with me a few times like that; with contact on his mouth, I can stop him bolting before he even really gets started. Towards the end of the ride, I could take the contact away and ride with one hand because he was more relaxed; I know that riding him like this could slow down his progress on riding with a loose rein, but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make to prevent having any more scares on him with bolting.
Then yesterday I took him for a solo outride, always more nerve-wracking because he doesn’t have the moral support of his mommy and I don’t have the moral support of my Beloved, but he was awesome. Again, I kept a contact on his mouth, but as it turned out, I barely needed it. He startled once, but didn’t spin or bolt. We even went through the forest for the first time. The forest, which is very dense and full of weird rustling noises, is always a spooky place for youngsters, but Thunder seemed calm and even happy. He walked briskly with his head up and ears pricked, interested in his surroundings and perhaps a little wary, but not frightened. It was wonderful.
I love my baby horse. Yes, we have a long way to go, but he is only three years old, after all. Thank You, Jesus for answering my prayers with this beautiful bay gelding with the heart of gold.