Back in the saddle!

Back in the saddle!
Emilie is infinitely more at ease and in control of the situation than I am.

 

I’m proud of husband and horse this week. The credit for me finally getting on Emilie’s back is theirs, completely and utterly theirs.

I have not been riding regularly since November 2016. My Friesian, Pilar, fell lame, and then she fell sick and eventually, she died. We bought Emilie in February 2017, and a week later, she came down with a volvulus. In July she was finally over her surgery but something had gone wrong in her back: She’d be lame in a completely random leg every other day. After another hospital visit and a move to a farm with far more acreage for her to roam, she was finally declared healthy in late March 2018.

During all that time, I sat on my fat ass. It didn’t get any less fat.

Therein lies the problem. I can barely walk. I do yoga, but after more than a year of not riding, my legs are weak and useless. Last time I tried to get on a horse my knee flat out refused to push off the ground. I fell down, and I hurt my leg enough that I couldn’t walk at all for two weeks.

They make me so proud

I got into water gymnastics to strengthen that weak knee, and the husband built me an 80 cm stepping stair. I can slide from it to Emilie’s back and not have to push off at all. Together, we introduced Emilie to the stepping chair and explained to her that all she needs to do is stand there and open her mouth. Then I’ll fumble around and climb on board while all she needs to worry about is how fast she can eat carrots. Emilie thinks this is a pretty good deal.

My timing is less than ideal, as usual. I can barely cling to her back – forget proper riding! – due to weakened muscles and chronic pain. Emilie is barely saddle broke and has no idea what the signals and cues actually mean. It’s like that old joke – for inexperienced riders we have inexperienced horses.

For now we rely on the things we taught her from the ground while she recovered. Follow the husband. Walk shoulder by shoulder. Listen to verbal cues, they don’t change whether they come from the ground or on your back.

We’ll take the long road together. She’ll help me get my ability to move back, and I’ll teach her what she’s supposed to do. She’s cool with this. She loves solving problems and figuring out cues, and getting rewarded. It doesn’t seem to matter to her whether I’m sitting on her back or on a chair next to her, as long as I keep talking and explaining to her what I want.

The only thing Emilie doesn’t like is the saddle girth. She tenses when the saddle is put on her back and tells us she’s worried about it being tightened. But as long as we just tighten it a few holes at a time and give her time to wait and relax between holes, everything is fine.

That first spring day!

The first proper spring day this year arrived rather late, on April 2. We got up early to visit the horses before noon, but there was no convincing them to pay any interest to puny humans. Not on a day with a dramatic sky and warm, balmy sunshine.

First spring day under dramatic skies.
Dramatic skies is a thing on West Funen.

We could have gone out there and fetched Emilie, of course. We decided not to, however. I know how much that first spring day means to me, basking in the sunlight. I suspect it’s no different for the horses. They paid us no notice whatsoever, and mine is usually quite the attention hog.

I work with Emilie on the basis of fifty percent. Every other time we’re together, we do something I want to do. The rest of the time we do things she wants to do. Today was clearly an Emilie’s choice day, and Emilie’s choice was to stay outside with her buddies and enjoying the sun. And that’s really quite fair.

As a side effect bonus this means that Emilie is usually quite excited to see us; after all, half of the times we’re there, we’re going to do something interesting and fun that she wants to do. Whether that’s grazing the hedgerows, playing soccer or learning tricks for treats, the important thing is that it’s even better than being outside with her friends.

Only one horse could spare us a passing glance.
Only one horse could spare us a passing glance.

Winter this year has been a peculiar affair. The first half of November was warm, then the weather shifted to nonstop rain that seemed to last until February — and then, bam, an eastern wind from Siberia brought us snowstorms and freezing day temperatures. March continued in the same pattern, as if once here, Siberia would just not go home.

The red one. There, behind the white one. That's Emilie. Busy.
The red one. There, behind the white one. That’s Emilie. Busy.

Give it another month and there’ll even be grass in the pasture that’s currently resting.

Winter Wonderland (it’s friggin’ cold)

February is the coldest winter month in Denmark and this week we’re feeling it for sure. I’ve been taking pictures left, right, and centre of the ponies — some of them with the snow of a winter wonderland, some of them without. We do get a lot of snow, but unfortunately, most of it only lasts a few days before melting. Temperature today? Minus five degrees Celsius in the mid-day sun.

Emilie is a beautiful girl in all her hairy winter shaggyness!
Emilie is a beautiful girl in all her hairy winter shaggyness!
Cassie the magical reindeer.
Cassie the magical reindeer.
Winter is cold, cold, cold!
Brrr.
Winter really is cold.
Well, at least the hill’s not slippery when it’s frozen.
Emilie posing with the old manor Billeshave in the background.
Emilie posing with the old manor Billeshave in the background.
That horse is a bit of a poseur on the whole.
That horse is a bit of a poseur on the whole.
Whenever we take Emilie out the entire herd turns up in minutes, just to make sure they're not missing out on anything interesting.
Whenever we take Emilie out the entire herd turns up in minutes, just to make sure they’re not missing out on anything interesting.
Sometimes things do happen, such as best friends playing tag!
Sometimes things do happen, such as best friends playing tag!
Or someone taking on the dreaded challenge of the single cavaletti. Those things are dangerous in the wild!
Or someone taking on the dreaded challenge of the single cavaletti. Those things are dangerous in the wild!
But wherever the road goes, Emilie’s still enough of a teenager to appreciate older and wiser Cassie taking the lead.
Emilie's shape and form has improved so much just in one month of free range grazing.
Emilie’s shape and form has improved so much just in one month of free range grazing.

Ponies in the Mist

Ponies in the mist

The weather is being very strange of late. It’s considerably warmer than you’d expect for January, for one. And with all the rain and occasional snow we’ve been getting, the ground is really wet. Add heat to damp fields, and what you get is bizarre mistscapes as the moisture evaporates, blotting out the sun.

And horses being turned out in the morning to inspect the outdoors arena for the first time. It had grass so … Well, the husband was welcome to exercise himself but the girls were busy.

The world ends 200 metres down that hill. Sorry. Jutland no longer exists.
Emilie was very fascinated by the mistscapes.
I keep saying it. Cassie is grey. In theory.