In November, I made my first horse friend! As I’ve talked about extensively before, I’ve always been nutters about horses, but mostly haven’t had the opportunity to work with the same horse repeatedly. Vacation trail rides are fun, but they don’t teach you anything about working with horses, and as long as you can manage to stay on top of the horse, you’re doing fine. I really would like to improve my horsemanship (both riding and on the ground) and get a real taste of what horse ownership is like, and luckily, my friend Marita was in need of someone to work her horse, Poppy.
Poppy is a ten year old 14h high Arabian mare (which means she’s so short she’s technically a pony!), she has the loudest neigh in the barn, and she has a lot of strong ideas about how things should be and some attention issues (she’s way more interested in where the other horses are going than any person)–which is fine, but Marita wants her to be more mannerly and understand that she’s participating in a conversation with the person working her, and can’t just issue orders (Don’t brush my belly! Don’t pick my feet! Don’t let your legs touch my sides while riding!). I’ve already learned a lot: bringing her in from the field and haltering her, leading her, and doing some liberty work–getting her to walk/trot/canter in a round pen in the direction I choose at the speed I choose with no physical attachment to her.
Working with Poppy under Marita’s supervision has also garnered some personal insights: that I can be too nice and let certain adorable horses (and less adorable people) bowl me over, that my asks tend to be wishy-washy because I want to please but that is a hindrance to communication, and that I need to be firm and establish boundaries. Poppy is smart enough that she will test those boundaries, to see if she can get me to move by jamming her head into my space, and it’s my responsibility to stand my ground and communicate to her that if she has a problem with something I’m doing or asking her to do, she is always free to make it stop by moving her body away from me, but that it is not an option to move me instead.
As mentioned above, Poppy has some issues with being ridden and my horsemanship is not good enough to stick on her back if she decides she doesn’t want me there, so it’s going to be some time before that happens–if it ever does. In the meanwhile, there is another horse in the barn, Africa, whose owner cannot get out to the barn often and has given Marita and I permission to work her, so I’ll be spending some time with her as well. I don’t know if that means riding or not, and I’m not particularly bothered either way–I can always sign up for riding lessons and get more experience that way. I do know that Poppy day is the best day of the week–I’m excited to get up and go to the barn and see all the horses. The first time Poppy called to me from the field, I was on cloud nine. It just feels like fate that this short, loud, black horse and I (short, loud, wears lots of black) ended up friends. Prepare to see a lot of Poppy everywhere.