“Approach with patience and do NOT rush the bonding experience”, read my horse training manual. I took this advice way too much to heart. After 11 months Harley and I were still frolicking in the field, sniffing saddles, and meandering sunlit quiet forest paths cushioned with fragrant pine needles. Plop plop went his feet. Softly chewing whatever vegetation came along and piqued his interest, like a placid equine Buddha, content with all around him.
No demands, no expectations, a vacation from all and any stress. Best friends, enjoying traversing literal and figurative paths together.
“Ya ever gonna ride that horse?”, queried the barn owner, straw hat slipping over his eyes as he munched a stale stalk of old hay. “I’m bonding”, I replied. “It’ll make saddle work a breeze when we get to it.” “Huh”, snorted the old farmer in amusement. “Just throw a saddle on him and be done with it.”, chuckling as he left. Diligently, I worked Harley in his circles, building up his topline to carry my weight. My mind carried beautiful visions of graceful canters and soaring flight over moss covered logs. Plop…plop…plop went Harley’s reluctant hooves.
Then…it was time. After much good natured teasing about Harley’s vacation from ‘any real work’, I put on his saddle and lowered myself slowly onto his back. Would he buck? bolt? spin around and dump me in the dirt? Cautiously I prepared myself for a wild reaction to the indignity I was inflicting upon my steed. But Harley was…well, Harley. He promptly lowered his head and began to chew on a small patch of grass. “We’ ll have none of that”, as I firmly coaxed him into a trot. Heaving a sigh from his very depths, Harley moved out about as eagerly as a housecat asked to cross a raging river.
In my mind he moved along effortlessly with smooth daisy-cutting flip of his sleek hooves to the admiration of all watching. In reality, his hooves dragged reluctantly in a somewhat drunken stumbling gait as he listed from side to side like a galleon on a stormy sea. His admirers were indeed captivated. Placing bets on whether he would make it around the ring at all, they struggled to remain on the fence rail laughing at my poor stumbling confused boy. But after a few circuits of the ring, Harley’s blocky head came up. His big splayed feet evened out. Harley lifted his back, found his rhythm and we were off! Trot, canter, walk, trot…my little horse- that-could chugged right along proudly looking incredibly pleased with himself. He even popped smartly over a tiny jump! “Oh Harley, you’re a RIDING horse now!” , as I hugged my smart friend. Harley batted his long lashes and blew out lovely warm hay scented air. For today, he was a beautiful star; this wonderful day that Harley became a Riding Horse.