Another busy time. School holidays, husband away and I am still at work. I come home to Ben. He walks up to me, and stays. We greet, scratch, he sniffs all over my hair, yawns, relaxes with his head leaning against my arm and we stay together like that. Those moments are priceless and all the more precious as a year ago he would not have done that. He was not so open or so soft and often had a hint of aggression hanging around him.
A few years ago I read a little book by Tom Widdicombe called Be With Your Horse. It is a gem of a book and first alerted me to the obvious fact that the best way to reward your horse is to stand with them, doing nothing, just being. I remember winter nights in Mali’s stable at her livery yard just standing with her in the dark.
I thought I would spend this year competing Ben in TREC events. Due to a long winter, lack of time and saddle issues this has not happened. I will re-join the riding world after the holidays. Thankfully I work part-time and with my youngest daughter going to school this year I will have more time. But I will not have an agenda of competition. I will work to increase Ben’s fitness, strengthen his back, improve his suppleness and also to have fun. It is so much nicer to take things slowly and stay away from outside pressures, which, at my stage, why should I worry about anyway?
Last Sunday, Ben and I had our first trec of the season. We met outside a pub in a quiet village and headed off in pairs at 10 minute intervals with map and compass. Ben thought he was hunting. He was convinced that the rest of the hunt was just around the corner and jog-jog-jogged along to try and catch them. Gradually he settled and walked on a loose rein, myself and my partner then got lost (!), forgot to use a compass, found our way back eventually.
Ben did not enjoy that ride. He sweated up a lot during it. After cooling down, I put him back in the trailer. By the time we were home he had sweated up again. A few days later when I went to ride him again, he took one look at me with my tack approaching and herded Rosie out of the way. So, tack down, time to reconnect. Which I did by leading from behind and then a long, long pause as we looked at each other across a distance. I squatted on the ground. Ben blew out, lowered his head and watched me. We waited. I walked up, gave him and Rosie a carrot and walked away. Later I returned, stood by Ben, rubbed his neck, then his head, he moved his head around behind me and surrounded me in a horse “hug”.
The next day, we reconnected again with a look across a distance. I tacked him up at liberty. We walked up to the back gate, Ben’s breathing getting shorter. So I stopped, stayed close to his head, he calmed, we went outside, we had our ride, which included some nice grazing time for him and back we came.
Today, Ben did not want the tack. He turned away when I produced them. I let him go. I went to where he stood and groomed him at liberty. He especially liked me at his mane and tail. I scratched him all over, watching for his reaction. He did not like me at his back.
This has raised a lot of questions for me, which were lurking around in the back of my mind.