The Aspiring Hairdresser

I am a little obsessed with the appearance of the Horde right now. First I was chopping off a few centimetres of mane where the bridle sits (admittedly I lopped off several inches of Arwen’s because I thought it made her look like an Arab; two weeks later with the new hair standing up it made her look even more like a mule than normal). Now my attention turned to the tremendous billy goat beards growing like weeds on my native mongrels’ chins. Not very flattering except perhaps to Clydesdales and Arwen in particular was looking more like a demented bush donkey than ever.

So I got a bee in my bonnet, and, after checking with the Mutterer that the unsightly hair did not serve any vital purpose (like whiskers or the long guard hairs in their ears), got out my scissors. The horses took cover. At least, they would have, if they were more smart and less tolerant.

Dancer post scissor attack

There was no way I was practicing on Skye or Arwen and Rain would kill me if I messed up Siobhan, so I started on Dancer.

Poor Dancer.

To her credit, she was very well-behaved and didn’t stir a hair, but if she had had a mirror she would have; the end result was a beardless Dancer with her jaw cut in zigzags. Thankfully there is still plenty of time for her hair to grow back before Thunder and Achilles move down to the ladies’ paddock or she would be absolutely mortified.

After my practice session on Double D, Arwen’s haircut thankfully came out looking more professional and less like she had gotten into a brawl with Edward Scissorhands. In fact, I even like the clean-cut look.

Maybe Arwen likes it too because she was very, very well-behaved yesterday. I rode her very briefly in the arena, working as usual on getting the correct lead (more on that later), before taking her out. We have been having a lot of issues around going out lately; many of her old problems like spooking, jogging and head-tossing reared their ugly heads and it was not without a touch of nervousness and a fervently whispered prayer that I rode out. The prayer was answered; whether it was the beautiful, quiet, warm weather or the ride in the arena first or just her mood, she started out perfectly. I quickly relaxed and, as always, she relaxed in sync.

Arwen may not be the most forward-going or responsive horse but she is definitely very

Bad picture of Arwen after haircut

sensitive when it comes to feeling her rider’s emotions; if I’m tense, impatient, and jittery she completely explodes on outrides, spooking at her own shadow. If I relax, ride with a loose rein and admire the view, she does the same and takes me on a nice ride instead of fighting all the way.

In the arena she’s also very quick to realise just how far she can push her luck with a certain rider. She doesn’t take terrible advantage of an inexperienced rider, but she does have a lazy streak, so she will dawdle and cut corners off and put her head between her knees if you let her. If you give Siobhan or Dancer an inch, they’ll take a mile. If you give Arwen an inch she’ll only take that inch but inches add up pretty quickly if your mount takes every single one of them. With me, she’s not very cheeky, because she knows me and she knows that I try very hard to keep her in line. With beginner riders, though, she can be a pest; not unsafe, but frustrating and lazy. And she’s different with every single rider. Pretty good with Rain; all right with the most assertive out of my three students; deplorable with the others.

Please can I have an apple? Please? Pleeeease?

Back to the outride, even though we came across a little duiker and I’d taken Blizzard along, both Arwen and Blizzard behaved themselves impeccably and we even had the courage for a little gallop up the hill. The rest of the ride was spent in a gentle walk, but for about 100m I let her run a bit and she didn’t buck, shy or bolt, her ears were up, she stopped immediately when I asked her to, she had fun and all round I was impressed. Keep up the good work, Arwie.

At our lesson on Wednesday we were both a bit befuddled; our flying change of Tuesday was an absolute fluke and we cantered figure eight upon figure eight struggling to get our heads around getting the leads right. The Mutterer changed my inside-leg-banging-shoulder technique to inside-leg-rubbing-flank and she cottoned on quickly, but we still had a bit of trouble. Probably more the rider’s fault than the horse’s.

Siobhan was a bit bratty during our lesson, too; she is getting very lazy when it comes to cantering and refuses to canter more than about two sides of the arena at a time, and that’s on her good side. The answer, of course, is more schooling; I only ride her once a week and then Rain will ride her once or twice and I’ll use her for a lesson. But I don’t have the time. Achilles has been a paddock ornament for months, Copper is looking to go the same route, Thunder and Secret are being despicably neglected and as for Dancer… The trouble is that I would far rather just work with Skye, Arwen, Thunder and Secret without messing around with all the others. Don’t get me wrong, I love them and love working with them, but I keep feeling that I’m only doing half a job with all of them. That’s why I need to sell them.

There is one horse, though, that I’ll never sell, and that of course is God’s horse, the golden

Fluffy baby Copper

Skye. I really, really miss riding her, but she’s very happy and healthy and I can see no trace of lameness when she runs around in her paddock, but the Mutterer recommends a real proper rest, so her holiday will continue. Enjoy it, Skyecat – you deserve some time off even if you don’t want it.

Today was a day off for the rest of the Horde as well, since I was off to Bushwillow Stables to go ride somebody else’s steeds. The latest addition to the livery stable is an American Paint stallion with the most striking colouring I have ever seen. Reed is palomino, but with beautiful dapples like a dappled grey, and with big white patches to boot. A palomino paint. Add a huge white blaze, innocent dark eyes and a friendly nature and you have me hooked.

I helped with teaching a lesson to two of my favourite part-time pupils, two sisters with a huge sense of humour, on lesson horses, the feisty Pumpkin and my favourite giant thoroughbred ever, Double Reef. My ride for the day was Pumpkin’s part-thoroughbred, part-Appaloosa bay roan daughter, Firefly. She’ll be about five or six now and hadn’t been worked for a while, plus, as I led her into the arena to saddle her, a group of grooms were loading some pigs to go to auction and said pigs were squealing blue murder even though no one was hurting them, so Firefly was thoroughly unhappy by the time I convinced her to quit running over me and dragged her to the ring. We gave her some time in the lungeing ring to settle, but she was still jumpy when I saddled her up. The pigs had long gone, but she had decided that that corner of the arena was filled with horse-eating monsters and stuck to her conviction. So we spent half an hour dealing with The Corner. To her credit, she was mainly just trying to avoid it and only actually shied or bolted twice, so it wasn’t too bad. By the end of it she was going around the corner without doing anything stupid, just mincing along a bit nervously.

I was okay; I won’t say much for my riding (OK, it was bad), but confidence-wise I was better than I expected. I hate being nervous. As a beginner I was pretty confident, but then again, as a beginner I only rode the greatest horse in the world (i. e., Skye). Then along came Achilles and my world fell down around my ears a little bit. But since meeting Jesus and becoming a Christian, I have Somebody to lean on. I’m not all alone anymore. When I’m really struggling, I just say a silent prayer and feel the angel riding pillion with me wrap his arms around my middle.

It helps to know that even if I fall off and break my skull or backbone or whatever, it’s all been planned. It’s all in God’s hands, and they’re the best hands there are.

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7


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