This morning, as I prepare to return to work, I know the exact location and composition of my sit-bones. I can thank Maggie for that, the lovely brown Morgan with two white socks above her rear hooves. Yesterday, as the sun set over the western ridge, we walked, trotted, and cantered the length of the broad northern vale and I learned how to lift myself in the trot and how to keep my seat in the canter. They are Sylvain’s horses and he continuously told me never to do more than I felt comfortable with. He gave me Maggie to ride, who is smart, easy, calm, and very well trained. She also likes to run, but responds very well to the inexperienced rider. I love horses. I never felt uncomfortable on her, in as much as I was never afraid, uncertain, nervous, or worried. My ankles ached, my abdominal muscles strained, and my sit-bones were definitely sending me messages (in verse!), but that kind of discomfort is a tiny passing thing. Would that I could take to people the way I take to fur-people.
Battina flew by on Magic, Maggie’s younger and larger Morgan/Fresian cousin. Maggie is perfect for me to learn about the physical aspects of horsewomanship from, but it is for her brother Magic whom I have an affinity. He is high spirited, though still well mannered as all of Sylvain’s horses are, but Magic is especially willful. You have to earn your right to control him, to decide where you’re going and how fast. When I rode him, he liked the joke of yanking his head sharply down and leaving me dangling over his neck before I could pull him back up. I could tell he was having fun, but I was gaining the upper hand. Each yank pulled me less far forward and met a quicker response. That is the kind of attitude I like to find in anyone, animal or human. I like the challenge of that will, not because I want to dominate, but because I want to earn the trust of an animal who is like me, who doesn’t trust anyone’s will but their own.
Sylvain stopped to check Midnight’s hoof, and stood for a moment, holding the big dark Morgan/Fresian’s neck. Midnight is a big horse, with feathers on his fetlocks from his Fresian ancestry. He looked like a pony with Sylvain’s big arms around his neck, he chin set on Midnight’s mane. Midnight was antsy, riding without his shoes, so we kept to the soft grasses and cool earth in the valleys and stayed away from rocky paths and roads. He has been left behind these last few weeks, to save his tender feet, as Maggie and Midnight stole the show. Today he got to be out and run with his herd, his family.
They are a family, not simply because they are related through their various mothers and fathers, but because they grew up together. When one of them is left behind, they whiny and call, pacing the length of their pasture to try to follow the others. You can see it in how they respond to and try to keep up with each other. Maggie is alpha, despite her smaller stature, the big sister of the three, and Magic and Midnight are rowdy young teenage boys. They bicker like a family, playfully pushing each other’s heads up out of the oats bucket so that they all get a share.
Their desire to always be together is what makes them a family.