Susan and T get up to make their way back to the truck, T hopping along on crutches with the newly shattered ankle Tsunami gave her last weekend. The swelling hasn't gone down enough for the doctor to go in and put it back together. They said it was in twelve or thirteen pieces. The thought of broke bones spook me, so I know I'll never again ride barefoot and bareback. Probably.
"You getting on to warm up yet?" she says.
"I'm gonna get a drink at the concession stand first." Thirsty.
"Well, get me a chicken basket, will ya? and Ketchup."
Susan chimes in that she would like one too. So, me and Nikki scoop up my lucky horse-shoes I've been peddling, and make our way to the stand. I sold six tonight. Not bad. At the stand, I place the order and grab a small little fry basket to squirt ketchup in out of the pump jug.
"Would you like some chicken and fries with your ketchup?" I say as I set the goods in T's lap. She fishes some money out to reimburse me as I'm munching on her fries.
"You gonna get on your horse? They're on 121 right now." Susan says. Yeah, I better go. My horse is dozing, tied to the trailer with her face buried against the hay net. But, she's alert when I get up to her head. I slip her halter off, and her nose-band on. Next, her headstall, gently pulling her ears through and lifting her forelock over the brow-band. I fasten the throat-latch, run the tie-down through her breast-collar and snap it to the front d-ring on the girth. I tighten her cinch snugly and go to mount.
She knows what is coming and she's more than ready. My old little mare dances in circles around me as I finally get my foot in and swing up. I make her stand for a few seconds, she tosses her head and wrings her tail. No waiting games right now, please, she seems to ask. I flick my heel a half a centimeter up and she jolts forward at a joggy walk. I keep her reined in.
We ride to the circle of soft dirt, where several riders are trotting, loping, walking their horses counter-clockwise. A couple of rebels are going their way clockwise, mostly cutting off others and being a slight nuisance. My horse isn't as calm as she was when I got here earlier, when we rode about and socialized, stretching legs after the haul and seeing what was around. I make her settle into nice trot, nice enough for me to sit and not post. She carries her head low and ignores the commotion of horses and seemingly-tandem riding pairs around her. I've been surprised with her tolerance of others getting so close. She isn't known for playing well with others, and she'd try to kill the other horses if penned up with them and left to her own devices. But under saddle, she's a doll. I pat her neck while speaking low, and I say "Good mama. Good girl." She's not my baby if she's three years older than me.
We go back to the truck and the crew. They're on the 130's now. I'm 144. It's almost go-time, so we take up to walking circles kind of close and to the side of the alley. I aim for big, wide, circles. Keep calm. Keep calm. Carry on. My stomach is doing flips. Skip knows it. I'm nervous. Skip knows that too. Her walk becomes a jiggy trot. She's really light in her front, and she is buzzing like a hot-wire. I feel the currents in her, electric girl. I'm nervous sick. Just don't let me hit anything.
I'm feeling floaty when I hear the announcer booming on the P.A. "... please come running. Up next, Number 144, Heather R., on Skip, come riding, and then we'll have 145... Then a drag..."
143 blasts out of the arena on her pony, and I'm up next. Oh, Hell. I point my horse to the alley, she's jigging and I'm sitting deep in the saddle. She balks at the mouth of it, so I swing my quirt and give her a pop on the rump. There's some encouragement for her to move, and she surges forward. I settle onto my little jet-pack; up the alley and into the arena. We blast our way to first barrel, I do a quick "check" on the reins, try to find the "pocket" as we slide around it. My right hand is guiding the way and my left hand is wrapped around the horn of my double J. I try to remember to look where I'm going and as we depart from the first can, I put my left leg on her side, HARD, as I pick up my reins with both hands once again. Don't you dare duck out, Mama.
Our New-Years run at Marshall was a total fail. I quit riding when I got in that arena, and as a result my almost perfect little geriatric mare made a beeline out of the pen as soon as we rounded that first barrel. I might have been just a bit spooked and intimidated, there in that little indoor arena. My run was following up to the run of the all-too-well-known Martha Josey. She was clothed in a getup involving lots of bling, a black hat pulled low, ruby lips, and a deep purple colored duster. She smiled and talked up a polite banter as we waited in the labyrinth-like alley, my horse pawing and jigging (and otherwise making a total ass of herself), while her horse was stock-still as a statue. I was shocked she talked to me, until T pointed out that everyone is a potential client and there's an image to be made there.
But this time, we make it around the first one and on to the second barrel we go. I go a lot wider on this one than I should have, but second barrel is always the one we cream. We chug around it, clean, which is relief for me.
Heading to third, and now my brain has caught up enough to get me kicking. I sit deep, right hand on the horn and round the last one nicely. The clover leaf pattern is done, both of us heading back out the way we came, and I've got my quirt out swinging. Skip's neck is out stretched flat along with her ears. She chugs down the center of the arena... Go, pony, go! As we exit the alley, I'm again sitting deep, deep, a little bit back in the seat, and I ask my girl for a stop. She slows down to a resemblance of a walk, but she's still high as a kite. We need to get ourselves in check before I return to the trailer. Ten minutes later her breathing is almost normal, so we make it back to the bunch.
"I had to walk her down and make sure she was calm before we pack up and go, the last thing I want is for her brain to get fried like some of these others." I never want her to get sour. I use my horse for more than barrels. She's my joyride, too. Pond swimmer. Trail horse. Usin' horse.
"You did good! A whole second faster than your best run a couple weeks ago, I think you're almost competitive!" Susan says.
"Yeah, well my stomach was flopping about while warming up, it happens so fast it seems like my brain gets left outside the arena, I almost can't think! I just, I wanted to make sure not to hit anything."
"Well, you know you did that, and that it's you that's nervous, and not the horse. You just let her do her job. You've already beat yourself from last time, and you're not kicking to the first barrel, or from first to the second, so you know there's room for improvement there."
I nod my head, tie my horse to the trailer, and go to fill up a bucket for water. I watch my mare's little bay ears twitch with each swallow. I'm tired and its almost midnight, but the fever is there, and I can't wait for the next run. I'm already hooked.
This sound greets me as I round the corner; I know instantly who it is. I walk to her and demand a kiss. She swings her nose out the door and touches it to my cheek. I taught her this a few years ago, back when I still knew the location of the trickonometry book. Everything gets misplaced here.
"No, no cookies for you, big brat. You choked this morning."
I turn, walking out the back door to get my old girl. I glance back at the sound of Tammy's hoof raking against the stall door. She nods her head at me and blows, indignant and annoyed. Her blue eyes are wide; with her bald face and "eyeliner" markings, she looks startled. She's beautiful. I turn and walk out the door. Her nostrils flare and she snorts, then hollers, this time. I roll my eyes and swing my rope halter behind me as a gesture.
I shut the back gate when I see the pasture horses are out, and I pick my way across the yard to Skip's pen.
I don't see her until I walk around the side of the decrepit round pen that makes up a side of her enclosure. She picks her head up a few inches from the ground and stares at me. Today she lets me catch her; usually, one of her favorite games is to snort and trot to another corner of her pen when I get within touching distance. I put her halter on and we walk out. she nods her head three times at me, and as I turn to shut her gate, she thrusts her head into the lush spring grass that she couldn't reach from her paddock. I grunt and jerk her head, and she bows up with a jiggy trot beside me as we walk to the barn. She's twenty six, and she doesn't know it.
Susan pulls up as I'm tacking up. Tonya and her son are sitting in the entrance, so she pulls up a chair with them.
"She looks slick from here!"
"I've been scraping off pounds of hair every time I've came out lately, but she still has a way to go," I say as I fight with my bridle. Someone "borrowed" it and partially disassembled it. I put it on my horse, check my phone for the time (6:45) , and swing my leg over, surprised that she's standing for all this without much fuss. I walk out the front.
"Ooh, pretty!" susan says.
"watch out!" I say in the narrow entrance. "hopefully she won't jump on top of you, that won't be pretty!" I say as I navigate between the row of chairs and two barn cats.
"I'll beat her shiny butt! Look, Track and Oscar didn't budge." I laugh at Susan and the dozing barn cats.
I make it onto the training track. I love the track. Three nestled ovals; the outer oval is a dirt track, the next oval is a turf track, and the innermost is speckled with trees and partially used as a hayfield.
I start on the dirt track, and the soft dirt swirls up and around us. It needs to rain. she picks up a brisk, jiggy trot. I keep contact on her mouth to keep her speed in check. She ruts her nose against it a few times and I give her a growl.
She flicks an ear back but stops the motion, and thrusts her head down to cough. My reins are short purple game reins with a bunch of knots, so I lean up to give her some head room. A half of the way around the track, she kicks it up into a lope. I lope the corner and pull her back down to a fast trot. We make it back past the barn and she surges again. I giggle, turn back, and shout to the group, "she wants to go today!"
We pass the opening and I cut off onto the turf track. My hair flops in my face and I'm longing for a bobby pin. She breaks back into a lope and this time, I let her get away with it for a stretch. I pull her down on the second straightaway. We trot it, and this time it's slow enough for me to sit. Her neck is a little damp but she isn't breathing hard. we pass the openings again, and I put my right leg on her. I check her over the low ditch so she doesn't try to hop it, and we ride to the inner field.
I switch my leg and we follow along the fence line, counter clockwise. Where the line of tree-shade ends, I drop my reins and we lope down the field. Reaching the end, I switch my leg pressure and we lope along a concave arc of uncut grass. Again, we serpentine and head in the direction of the entrance. I put my outer leg on her, flick my wrist, and we lope a circle just ahead of the tree area. We back down into a walk for her to catch her breath and air out, and I look around. Everything looks so glowing and golden outside from the sun going down, and the grass is emerald green.
I pick up a lope again on the shaded side of the field. Leg and a lean, different direction. Other leg, we switch again. She's the most responsive horse I've ever ridden regularly. I bump her mouth again and we settle to a trot, exiting the middle and back onto the dirt track.
We turn left and I slow her to a walk. She's calmer now and doesn't speed up when I release contact. I let go of the reins and put my hands on my head, and then my hips. We reach the exit in front of our barn. I don't use it and she flicks an ear back at me and jigs back to a trot. I mumble an "Agh! Quit!" Tonya sees and giggles.
I almost always take the side exit to get off of the track. there is a wide path I use to go back to the barn; it used to be a road, but now Stable drive dead-ends at our place and the road is overgrown with thick grass. Some thoroughbred youngsters pick their heads up at me and come over to the fence. Two greys and a blazed face bay. Skippy flicks one ear, then the other back towards me. She doesn't play well with others. we turn and follow the path to the barn, passing by the training gates and some ancient farm equipment. I look to my left to view the neighbor's vast pastureland. They show western pleasure, and their herd is on the other side of their pond, grazing. The members of the group are fat, sleek, and a myriad of colors. Tobiano, two palominos, some bays and sorrels, and even a funny looking, chunky little appaloosa. The trees around the pond frames the scene, while the sun casts the perfect glow for the ending to a perfect ride. My geriatric spunky mare had minimal fuss, and it's the first ride I can remember from her without any bucking.
I ride up the gravel road to the barn entrance. the three are still sitting there.
"How'd she do?"
"Perfect! I was expecting a little more attitude than what she gave me. It was very nice!" I say as I slide off. I take her bridle off, loosen her girth, then lead her over to a patch of grass with her tie-down/noseband. I check my phone. It's 7:30.
"She probably was just glad to get out." Susan replies.
"Yeah." I ruffle the hair on the back of my head. "me and her both."
Oh Hell. It’s time.
My lovely DeAnna has made a blog, which means I really need to get the ball rolling on mine.
I adore language, dialogue, and wording. I read everything, instantly and impulsively. English was one of my strongest subjects in school, and I really love to write whenever I can. More specifically, I like to type and to tell stories. I tend to be overly descriptive. In spite of that, I hate to do any actual pen and ink writing. My hands protest and hurt every time, but I think it’s all about how I hold my pen; with a death grip. My penmanship is absolute chicken scratch. The really ironic part is that I possess somewhat artistical talents; I can draw, sculpt and paint when I want to, and my hands hardly ever object to this. Also, I’m a lefty. I don’t curl my hand around and write upside down or hold my paper sideways like some, so I get that lovely black smear on the side of my hand and across my paper.
I wasn’t meant to script, so my hands say. Thankfully, there’s such thing as Qwerty.
I intended to have a blog already. Motivation is key, and it took me over two years to make a first post. I made this blog in February 2009. This was back when every day was spent either on the back of/ or revolved around a half ton animal. My job was horse related, my hobbies were horse related, my friends were horse related. This was what this blog was originally for, and where the title came from.
My barn owner has her own brand; it is composed of a straight line and a two humped squiggly sign. It means “The mud below and the sky above,” and that would accurately describe the life here in Louisiana, especially from the back of a half ton beast. This phrase has always stuck with me since I’ve heard it, and I think I’ve manifested more meaning in it than what it originally entailed. To me, this is what it is all about. Keeping the mud below you; whether it be physical or mental mire.
Although life has caught up with me and I’m not as equine involved as I was those two years ago, I still think very much in the terms of Horsaii. The things I learn from horses, I apply to my every day life. There is so much parallelism to be found. It really is a long way down; whether it be off of the back of that half ton beast, or a fall in life. Every year that passes, it hurts a little more to fall than it used to.
So, I try to keep that mud below me, and this is what this blog is about.