This is the prep week for getting all of the horses slightly fit for residential camp, which begins on Sunday. My little string of horses to work includes Tres, Wow, my mother’s former pony Evie and Scotch, a perpetually-green paint gelding. I’ve been working all of these horses hunt seat and doing a little bit of jumping, getting back to my own “roots.” Even Tres has been popping over some little crossrails with much more panache than he demonstrated back in January.
Among these four, Scotch has been my special project for a few years–I stuck up for him when no one liked him as a western horse and then showed everyone what he would be capable of as a hunter. Last summer Becca supervised me attempting to start him over fences–generally, he’s got a pretty good attitude about it, he just forgets to do things like pick all four legs up. Or, my personal favorite, he has so much attitude and personal pride about actually making it over the fence without knocking it down that he lands, slams on the brakes, throws his head down and hops. He managed to buck me off last summer with this maneuver and he managed it a second time today.
The first fence, he cleared, threw his head down and propped hard–I, naturally, shrieked, as I do, lost both stirrups, slid way off to one side, clawed my way back to center as Scotch threw his head up and thought about accelerating, slammed my face into his mane and then wound up sitting on his neck as he trotted away. I threw myself back into the saddle as Scotch began to pick up speed and yanked him into a tiny circle, amazed with my own brilliance.
“That’s not going to work a second time…” I warned Becca.
“You’re fine. Do it again.”
“No, really. I’m going to come off if it happens again.”
“Go do it again.”
Apparently my attempts to warn Becca that I absolutely 100% knew this was going to end poorly and that obviously we were overfacing either me or Scotch or both, I figured that maybe she did know best and maybe somehow it wouldn’t happen this time. Needless to say, it happened again and true to form I simply fell off as Becca laughed at me. Fortunately I had succeeded in getting my point across and she very kindly lowered the fence for me to jump a few more times with much better results.
Beth, our lovely new barn manager, came out to observe Becca riding Merlot and me riding Wow, and she showed me a few very simple training exercises that made a huge difference in Wow’s form. It was nice to stand and chat with someone experienced who was pretty mellow about teaching–she wasn’t showing off her knowledge or taking the stance of “trainer” but just sharing some things she thought were pretty neat, which I appreciated a lot. She’s a lot of fun to have around. After Wow had been put through his paces I stood chatting with Beth in the center of the ring, sharing my cross-country experiences from the Bitterroot and the thrills of galloping the course in a line of five, flying over obstacles as the colts thundered along on either side, running with the jumpers.
I’m coming to realize with each passing week that I live “at” the Holler that the most interesting people come through here. Not just the clientele, which is varied and eclectic, but the people who pass through to work for a few weeks, a stop on some crazy organic cross-country tour–not unlike the ranch in some ways. Becca and I went to the Holler last night for pizza and wine and wound up spending the entire night at the bar chatting with my next-door-neighbor Micky and their new “intern” of sorts named Jamie from Cornwall, England. Micky spent a large part of the night telling us the story of himself and his wife-to-be and mother-of-his-son-to-be-in-a-few-months Tammy, which had us transfixed and beaming like a fairytale. Jamie has a summer-long work visa and is simply hopping around the country from cool job to job; he’s here for about three weeks before his next adventure at a farm somewhere in Ohio. He told us a sweet story about an old lady in Elmira who adopted him for an afternoon after listening to him play guitar; she showed him around to the library and made sure he was back at the bus stop in time. He’s lodged right across the dirt road from me though it seems unlikely I’ll see too much more of him–he did just go bouncing across Micky’s lawn in a golf cart but he looked a bit busy.
I had forgotten how much exposure, if fragmented, I’d had to British culture every single summer for the past six years, until now. Say what you want about stereotypically attractive English accents; to me, they sound a little bit like a home away from home, the old sound of the summers on the ranch.