Friday, January 9, 2015

A Christmas Surprise (Mimi, part 1)

All my horse gear has been packed up and readied for shipment.  However, the move to our ranch property in the Philippines has been delayed for a while.  Still, the last thing I anticipated was an opportunity for more saddle time here in the U.S.  All that changed with an invitation to the Christmas party at Beaver Hollow Farm, the barn where I’ve been riding for several years.  Folks were surprised to see me.  All indications had been that we would already have moved.  But all of us expressed the hope of a few more rides together. 

The barn owner sympathized with the delay, but I could see the wheels turning in his head.  He asked about my new timeline, then hit me with a welcome request.  “Since you’re going to be here for a while, I just got this little mare I’d like for you to take a look at.”  He knows just how to pique my curiosity.  He continued to add “she’s a good little horse, but she’s…. opinionated.”  He left it at that and we continued with the party. 

This past weekend, I went out to “take a look” at her.  Mimi is a 6 year old Tennessee walking horse, black, with a small white snip on her nose, and just a hint of a white spot on her face.  Bruce, a fellow rider, caught her up for me.  As they approached, I could see that she was a bit nervous.  She was not paying attention to Bruce at all.  Instead, her eyes and ears were focused on her new surroundings.  That’s normal for a horse in a new place, but I wanted her attention on me.  When I took the line from Bruce, I spoke to her and shook the lead to get her attention.  It took a couple of times, but she settled in by my shoulder and walked calmly with me to the hitching rail. 

Mimi has been to charm school.  Her ground manners are impeccable.  Before I mounted, I sacked her out with an oversized shirt.  She stood for all of it, obviously from prior experience.  She stood perfectly still for mounting, and I continued the sacking out from the saddle with no problems.  I tossed the shirt onto the fence and began working on the rail. 

The little horse works off of voice commands.  She turns with very little pressure, almost neck reining.  She stops and backs on voice command.  In short, she has none of the problems I’m usually asked to fix.  But, when I asked for a faster gait, she would start in a smooth running walk for a few strides, then switch into a bouncy pace.  We worked on that for a short time, stopping her when she changed her gait, then starting again.  Then I put her away.

A short time later, the boss and I were sitting in the garage lounge area, and he told me Mimi’s story.  He had bought her from a hunter / jumper barn, an unlikely place for a Tennessee walker.  She wasn’t working out for them there.  I suspect partly because walking horse gaits don’t mesh well with the way a hunter is supposed to move.  He has had two people ride her before I climbed on.  She bucked with both, and tossed one of them.  Both had immediately gathered the reins up tight and stayed in her mouth.  I pride myself on having a light touch on the reins, so that issue didn’t come up with me. 

The boss told me that he wanted to enter her in the local fun show next spring.  He also wants to see how she reacts to distractions such as tarps and obstacles.  So that is my next move with her.  We’ll see what develops. 

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