Climbing

Change is rustling over the idyllic hills, singing in the wind, humming in the silent song of roots and blades as the grass awakens to the touch of new life.

As spring spins into summer, the slumbering world continues to reawaken. Siobhan, always quick with her shedding, is the first to grow her full summer coat and shimmers like beaten copper, her night-black mane a sharp contrast against her bright coat. The whiter heifers appear to have been washed as the dirty old coat falls away; Unicorn, Pearl and Florence Nightingale have all justified their names again. The goslings have grown from adorable fluffiness into goofy adolesence with queerly mixed feather and gigantic, ponderous feet. We had our first real thunderstorm, too. It came at night and it charged over the hills like an army, and it left behind the soft, rich blush of Highveld green.

More change came with a rush of Rain’s ballet exams; believe it or not, I did ballet for eight years. I never much liked doing it, but I do adore watching it. After I quit, I found myself hanging gloomily around the hall during Rain’s exams feeling like a lost puppy, until I ended up becoming the stage hand. Cranking the curtains open and closed is not a job to be undertaken lightly; nor is running across a stage in riding boots, carrying a very heavy Christmas tree and trying to make no sound at all.

Comedy aside, it was brought to me with a shock just how much Rain is growing up. She’s thirteen now (and often acts it), and there’s a depth to her dance, a maturity that was not there before. Her very first dance was the most difficult, Major Medal II (I only ever went up to Gold I). Dressed in a flowing, sky-blue gown that matched the colour of her eyes exactly – a gown that, I may add, you would have to bribe me into wearing, and even then it would have to be a very big bribe – with her loose hair in a golden cascade down her back, adorned only by a simple, bright blue flower, Rain looked like a princess. And then she began to dance, a most beautiful contemporary dance to the most beautiful lullaby. And then Firn sat behind the curtain and wept quietly to herself because it was all rather overwhelming.

She’ll still be my little sister, but she’s not going to be a little girl forever.

Afterwards came a moment of charming contrast as Rain, dressed in her purple Silver III dress, complained that she was going to get wet and Dad came up with a splendid solution.

More changes come on the equine front, too. Do you remember Magic? And here’s an older post about him, too (scroll down to “Much Ado About… um… Everything”. I quote: “VERY cool horse…” “… I think he’s brilliant…” “… such a beautiful feeling…” “… lucky enough to get the opportunity to ride him…” “… it was amazing…”

Such is Magic, a young thoroughbred gelding. Such is Magic, who has become available for sale or lease. Such is Magic, who has yet to be discussed tomorrow morning and is still waiting for his fate to be declared, but suffice it to say that said fate may have me in it somewhere.

By the way, my parents are the awesomest parents in the whole wide world, and I’m not just saying that because they’re offering to buy me my dream horse. They’ve made me work – a little – for what I’ve got, but they’re willing to work alongside and to dream with me. They’re not just my parents, they’re great friends, and I can never be thankful enough for them.

Part of their “Magic conditions” was first and foremost, sell some horses. So I made the heartbreaking decision to put Secret on the sale list, too. He’s got a superb temperament and a really kind heart, and if I didn’t have Skye and Thunder and Arwen already, I’d keep him without even thinking about it. But to be fair, there’s nothing he can do that Skye and Thunder and Arwen can’t do; it’s pretty pointless for me to have another colt to get under saddle and I wouldn’t do anything with him in any case. He’d be a fun ride, but I already have my fun rides – Skye and (later) Thunder. Still, when he goes, a hefty chunk of my heart will go with the doe-eyed little dark bay colt.

Some very nice people who are interested in him and Dancer came to look at them this evening, and they may even take riding lessons with me and need my help backing the twosome later on, which would really be ideal. I’m going to miss all of them – Achilles, Copper, Dancer and Secret – but especially Secret. However, they are all going to make great horses for somebody with more time than me.

His mother’s son

And the bright side is that I’ll still have three awesome horses, which is a lot more than I deserve and certainly more than a lot of people have. There will be my beloved Skye, best horse ever, best four-legged friend in the world. Thunder, gentle giant, patient, willing, the beautiful young gelding I’m raising myself. Arwen, sweet, silly, sharply pretty, my junior jumper and first ever competitive project. And – maybe – God willing – possibly – perhaps – a certain silver thoroughbred called Magic, a horse to take to the highest level he can go in competitive showjumping. (Squeeeeeeeeee!!!) It’s all tentative right now, but if it works out, Magic will end up with a good home, his owner will end up with peace of mind, and I will end up with my dream jumping horse.

Although Arwen still has a lot to say for her in terms of jumping ability and talent. I was jumping her again today – she will have a lot of work for the next six weeks, as the others have all been vaccinated against African horse sickness and need to be rested – and she was going superbly. The Mutterer and I clipped her last week. With her increased workload, she simply wasn’t coping in her thick Nooitgedachter coat, and although it was something of a mission (Clippers, Arwen announced, are Scary) it was worth it. She looks gorgeous and apparently she feels gorgeous too, and she doesn’t sweat anywhere near as much.

I set up a triple combination of three simple 60cm uprights 9m (theoretically two canter strides) apart. Arwen and I always had trouble cantering triples, but lately her rhythm has been much improved, and today she popped over the jumps without any trouble at all. She tends to drift to the left quite a bit, but she didn’t stop, didn’t get flustered and didn’t run out. As long as I focus, get the strides right, and do my job she does hers. Arwen is like that; a really honest horse. What you give is what you get.

I ended our combination work by raising the last jump to about 80-90cm, making her think a bit. She had no problems at all, cantering and then trotting effortlessly through the combinations.

Arwie’s getting good at these pictures

Then, time to practice the bigger stuff. I set the jump up to around 0.95-1.00m, approaching in canter from both sides, and she had no problems, jumping it calmly and clearly from both sides. She was going so well that I decided to challenger her and raised it to somewhere between 1.00 and 1.10m, which is quite a jump for Arwen, but a height that I’m sure we can achieve – after all, at one point I despaired of ever getting her over 80cm. The first time we both got our strides wrong and panicked and she jumped straight into it, kicking the pole down and taking a bit of a rap on her legs. Thankfully she was wearing her bandages, so she was fine, but it must have been unpleasant; she stopped the next time round – Arwen usually stops after pulling a pole.

The next time I pulled myself together. I got her in a strong, fast canter and stared over the fence instead of at it, standing up at the last strides and planting my heels in her at the right take-off point. Arwen did what she always does; exactly as she is told. With no fuss and no extravagance but a workmanlike willingness, she tucked up her forelegs and jumped beautifully. She proceeded to jump increasingly well from both sides and we ended the session on a really high note.

Times are changing, the world is shifting and sometimes it’s hard to keep on top of it all. But there are some things that do not change, and three of the best are Jesus Christ, family, and good horses.

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