Alexis, I gotta tell you, you're a woman after my own heart -- Mugs
Goofy Barrel Horses~
I've been able to ride for the last few weeks. Older kids had played outside while my husband took care of our littlest one. The practice pen was pretty soggy, so I've been long trotting the fence line of our hay meadow. Just building up his air, trying to get him legged up again. He's an easy keeper in more than one aspect. Carry a bucket of feed by him, he'll gain ten pounds. Ride him consistently, he'll get fit and stay that way for months at a time. Consistent is not always a term used to describe a barrel horse, but it fits him to a T. He had been turned out for over a year, before I got back on him a month ago. Turns out, sometimes geldings get maternity leave, too!!
He's spastic. Cribs. Kicks the fence or stall wall when he eats, but only if there is another horse too close. Plays with everything, ruins buckets on a regular basis if he can get to them. He has a large "bubble", as I describe it, he likes his own personal space and hates for other horses to crowd him. Whether in the pens or in a warm up arena, he wants his bubble unobstructed. Sitting on him can be problematic for those who don't pay attention...he'll bite, he'll kick. He squeals, curls his lip at other horses that get in his bubble. Most folks wouldn't put up with that much nonsense from a horse, but I do.
I know I can leg him up, haul him to a jackpot and make a solid run. He'll make the same run every time as long as I do my job. Sit up, hustle. Give him a good pocket, don't pick at his face and let him work. He loves it. I stay off of him until 2 or 3 runners before us, my nerves give me away. Either he picks up on my nerves, or he knows my name when it's called!
A few circles to the left, one or two to the right. This is the only horse I've ever owned that can be warmed up in less than 10 minutes. Anything past the 10 minute mark and he starts to worry. A long warm up scatters his mind, the shorter the warm up, the sharper he'll be when we run. He's quiet as I pick his feet out, put on his boots. No nonsense now, it's go time and he knows it. I tighten my cinches and he begins to get antsy. We stay close to the alley, but don't face it or turn directly toward it. My hands get damp as I listen to the other horses come in and out of the alley, go through the gate. It's our turn. I walk him on foot to the alley to keep him quiet. They call my name and I swing up on his back, screwing down tight. He knows what's up. His heart is beating so hard I can feel it through the seat of my saddle. He tucks his nose when I ask him to collect, but scatters side ways as we go....he wants to leave the world behind and run.
He straightens out as I bump his side with my foot and aim him up the alley. Those around me probably think I'm nutty as can be, an unbroken stream of words come from my mouth, talking to him the whole time. "Not yet...not yet. Easy babe, easy, easy, not yet, not yet, shhhhhh..." He's popping up and down, not from pain or from being sour, just from the anticipation.
Three more strides with all four feet on the ground and we're through the gate. Reins as far forward as they go, smooch, kick, hustle hustle hustle. First barrel, tell him "Eeeaaaassssyyyyyy" at our rate spot, sit as deep as I can, push my hand to his ears, leave his mouth alone, he's got this! He digs deep and flings himself forward, reaching for the second barrel, running hard, stretching out all he can, it's a big pen. Rates good, slips a little going into his turn but takes an extra stride and saves us both.
I can hear my little boy yelling, "Go momma go momma!"
We turn the third barrel in text book style, a perfect pocket, no wasted motion at all. He hurtles away from the last barrel, running for the thrill of it, because he wants to, not because he's been made to. I keep my eyes up, watching for the timer line, hustling him all the way until we cross it. I ask him to slow down as we cross the line, sitting deep in my saddle, talking to him again.
He slows to a trot, then a walk. Heaves a huge sigh, then walks back down the alley like we do this all the time. Back to the edge of the warm up pen, I step off. Loosen cinches, unwrap legs and take off boots. I can hear my kids coming. I throw my six year old son up on him, and he cools my horse off for me. Looks are thrown my way that clearly question my motives, but they're misdirected. Now that his job is done, he drops his head and walk off like an old plow horse, uninterested and uncaring.
Some wouldn't put up with his nonsense, but I will. Till the day he dies.