Monday, July 14, 2008

Last Night I Met John

Jet has been doing extremely well out on the trail this past week. We graduated from short rides around the tree farm to over an hour up into the hills. There were a couple of women who showed up in the parking lot just after I did on Friday morning; they invited me along on their little jaunt and I was thrilled to be able to accept. Finally, someone to ride with!

Jet followed along as they led us up what was supposed to be a new trail recently cut. The two horses ahead of us were a bit slower than she is, but we managed to stay out of trouble and not crowd the little quarter horse mare too badly. We weren't far, perhaps 20 minutes, when we ran out of trail. So around we turned, and now Jet was in the lead. Considering this was her first time in the trees, and first time with other horses, I must tell you I couldn't have been more pleased! She stepped right out, crossing logs and mud holes and never once looked back to see why the others weren't right there with her. The quarter horse mare had a hard time keeping up, and she balked at the mud in one area, so I stopped Jet and we waited for them. Jet stood patiently until they caught up, and off we went again.

The following morning I was alone again. I headed up the steep mountain road until I came to a new trail off to the right. There were moguls, or gully washes, that rose up, then dropped down and rose immediately back up; four foot drops that took some thought to cross. Jet sized them up and then up and down we went! On the trail were shadows and logs and twists and turns. The only time she hesitated was when we came to a drop over a big rock, which had tree roots jutting out around it and a big tree on either side. She stood patiently and waited for me to tell her what she should do. Considering her inexperience on the trail and the fact that I was alone, I opted to turn her around and head home. No point in getting her into a spot that might scare her, although I sincerely doubt she's have had any issues. Better safe than sorry, and we ended our ride on a very positive note. I don't believe I've ridden seasoned horses that were as much fun or willing to head out like this girl is!

After four days of good rides with Jet, I gave her Sunday off and pulled Sandy out of his semi-retired state. This is the first time I've saddled him up in three weeks. I lunged him in the round pen a few minutes, then climbed on board. He was fine. Relaxed, walking and trotting with his head low. I tossed him into the trailer completely saddled and headed down once more to the tree farm.

Darling and I had been there earlier in the afternoon with him, and I'd led him around last week once as well, so he wasn't completely unsure of where he was. I started out on foot, then climbed on board as he seemed quite settled. It was a very brief ride; just around one tiny loop that went from the service road, down a little trail through the trees, and up to the parking lot. Probably not even five minutes. Sandy trotted right out when asked and was pretty relaxed for the most part. The wind was blowing the trees about just a little and I thought maybe that would have him thinking things were going to pop out of the shadows, but he did fine.

Back in the parking lot we met John. John is a young man of about 12, I'd guess, who asked his mother as they were walking past if he could touch the horse. She said no, but I turned and told them it was okay with me and I led Sandy over to them. The mother smiled and asked John if he wanted to pet Sandy.

John said yes, but looked unsure. John, you see, is autistic. His gait was lumbering, his legs somewhat stiff and he came hesitantly forward. His arm was outstretched and rigid, like a branch more than flesh and bone. Many horses would have looked with concern at this boy, but Sandy dropped his head as the young man reached awkwardly out and touched his forehead. John's mother probably didn't realize it, but she had a smile that out shown the sun at that moment.

I told John that Sandy was a mustang, but I don't know that he understood what that meant. His mother did, though, and she was amazed when I told her that four months ago this horse was still quite wild and fearful of people. Her sister (or was it cousin?) has horses, and she thought Sandy to be beautiful. John wandered away, then came back with the same stiffness to pet Sandy again.

I think Sandy may have a future with kids like John. It's something I saw in him while training at Curt's; when the sweatshirt was over his saddle and slipped off, he'd come to an immediate stop. I wondered then if he could become a therapy horse, and I'm even more inclined to think so now.


Linda - Nickers and Ink said...

Heartwarming post.

Mustangs can be pets too! ;-)

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Jessie said...

Sandy is such a good guy. Glad you are out and about riding your horses! That's more than I can say for myself these past few weeks. The rain has been on and off and the bugs have been terrible! I love the scenery surrounding your horses as well! They are a lucky bunch.

Mrs Mom said...

Maybe I am a sap when it comes to kids and horse Tracey, and kids with special needs... but you had me dewy eyed here, picturing Sandy responding to young John so calmly and gently...

I swear, horses KNOW. They just KNOW.

Way to go with him. He is really turning out to be an amazing fellow, and it is just incredible that he is still with you!

Katee said...

I love this part! When you get through the gentling and initial training and you start figuring out what this horse is going to be when they grow up. Jet is looking like a super trail horse or maybe even an endurance prospect. Sandy might be a therapy horse, which would be awesome.

That's quite a pair of horses you have.

Pony Girl said...

Sounds like you've been enjoying the countryside. I am sure Sandy will be a natural on the trails! It's in his blood, after all!

I used to volunteer at a equine therapeutic horseback riding center and it was really rewarding. Horses are great physical and emotional healers for diasabled children and adults. Not to mention the rest of us! ;)

Anonymous said...

Sandy is such a good pony, we need more like that in my centre! Most of "our" horses are old guys, ex-pacers, racehorses, sporthorses, hacks etc, who are having a fabulous retirement giving pony rides & getting the best of care. Others are special ponies like Sandy, naturally careful & understanding.

I've only been riding with the RDA [Riding for the Disabled Assoc of Aust] for a few months but it's made a huge difference to me - physical therapy-wise it's brilliant, but I'm also feeling other differences in myself - confidence, esteem, calmness ... Those kinds of changes are pretty big deal at my age!

There aren't many adult riders at my centre, mostly kids. When I see these kids with major intellectual or physical disabilities, their courage & determination, & the glow that emanates from them when they're with the horses, it makes me get the biggest lump in my throat. Cos I know I have the same huge grin & glow too.

- Jules

Gecko said...

I was getting warm shivers and teary reading about John. Jet sounds like a very sweet horse and I'm sure he'll be loved wherever he ends up. =)

Reading this post reminded me of what's probably one of my favourite memories of my gelding, Bundy. About 3 or 4 years ago he cut his leg really badly, and to get his needles, a few men had to hold onto his ears. Ever since then he's unsure of strange men, and of having his ears touched by all others but me. I went over to my neighbour's who had a friend over, and her son (maybe 4y.o?). He really wanted to pat Bundy but I didn't know what he would do, so he was patting him without any problems, I was so happy I kissed Bundy on the back of the ear(what I do when feeling affectionate towards my horses, LOL!). The little boy saw this and immediately wanted to do it too. 'Oh No' i though, this isn't going to go well. But Bundy lowered his head to the ground and let him kiss him on the ear. The little boy was thrilled but not as much as me. =D Our horses make us so proud at times don't they! It's what I imagine it would be like when your children achieve something.