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Friday, April 27, 2012

Horsing Around: Equine Therapy Part II

Drifter, the new man in my life.
I am extremely pleased to report that after taking off the month of April because of various appointments crowding my calendar (I try not to have more than one a week), I am once again hanging out with horses! I did a fair amount of research to find a stable that seemed like a good match for me and after first trying to get things set up with a stable that couldn't seem to call me back, I found Sage Meadows, a small riding school just down the street from my high school. I liked that while the school teaches all kinds of competitive riding, the instructor has a background in therapeutic riding, too. I sent an email asking if what I was looking for--needing to take it slow, no greater ambition than learning to ride well--might be a good fit and she said absolutely, that she already knew what horse she would put me on. The thing was, she wouldn't have room for afternoon lessons until June. I emailed back, asking if it would be too weird to ask if I could come groom a horse now and then and was thrilled to learn it wasn't a weird request at all, that I could lease a horse for $35 a day to groom all I wanted! After I've had lessons with her and she knows I have the skill to handle riding a horse on my own, I could potentially lease the horse to ride on days when I didn't have lessons, but I was more than welcome, since I had some experience handling a horse, to come by now to get to know my future mount, Drifter!

Drifter is a very sweet old gentleman who is starting to show his age but still makes a great lesson horse!

Drifter's shedding his winter coat. You
can see how much hair I groomed off him!
And so yesterday I made my way over to the stable to meet Katie, the instructor, and Drifter, the sweet, mellow Quarter Horse who will be my horse companion. I'm pleased to report that I liked both of them. Katie seemed knowledgable, friendly, and was capable of imparting instruction with just the perfect tone. I can tell she'll be a great riding instructor. I also liked that she trusted me! And Drifter is lovely. He's considered "bombproof," industry-speak for a horse that is startled by nothing and is therefore safe for beginners and children. He's been a school horse all of his long life: he's 29, which is a very ripe old age for a horse! Katie had known him from when she was in college; she boarded her horse at the stable where he was a beloved lesson horse, so when she saw that he was up for sale a few years ago, she bought him, knowing he was a wonderful starter horse for beginners. I liked him very much. He's substantially larger than Lacey: he's 16.2 hands high, which means he's 5'6" at the withers, which is where the back and the neck come together. That translates into substantial acreage to groom! Drifter seemed very patient and friendly, though was slightly restless (in a non-threatening way) because he's having an allergy flare-up. He loooooooves having his belly rubbed and would stretch out his neck, his lips quivering with ecstasy! He also loves having his face groomed. I felt completely safe and confident of both my ability to handle him and to make him happy, so it was delightful to spend two whole hours grooming him! Then I got to feed him two carrots and an apple as a treat (another delightful experience) and gave him a dish of special feed (Katie is trying to fatten him up because he's getting bonier in his old age) that made all the other horses jealous. It was a fabulous experience all around.

Drifter loved having the hollows above his eyes rubbed!

Bear and Syd, two of the other school horses,
touch noses over the fence.
I met three of the other school horses, too, and was impressed by how friendly and interested in people they were. I thought that seemed like a good sign. Bear and Beacon were nice, but it's Syd that has stolen my heart. Don't get me wrong, Drifter's clearly a wonderful horse, but my goodness, that Syd is gorgeous! My new goal for my lessons is to get skillful enough to ride Syd! He's a monster of a horse, 17.2 H (that means a whopping 5'10" at the withers!), but friendly and acquisitive. He's a young 'un, just turning eight (most horses are not ridden until the age of four), and when not being "a labrador retriever puppy of a horse" (to quote the instructor), he's proving himself as a dressage and jumping horse. I am not interested in dressage or jumping, but I am decidedly interested in mastering whatever it takes to get me on his handsome, Hanoverian back!

Syndicate, or Syd

This is what Syd looks like in action.

This is what Syd looks like when trying to determine if my camera is edible.

I had an absolutely wonderful time during my hours grooming Drifter and ogling Syd and greeting Beacon and Bear. I can't fully explain how whole and quiet it makes me feel to stand before a large horse, his nose is brushing my chest and his eyes closed in pleasure as I caress his face or how competent, purposeful, and satisfied I feel as I briskly brush the loose hair out of a horse's coat. When I'm with a horse, I cease to feel sick and disabled, I forget I have limitations, my mind does not ramble away to think of other things: I am entirely present in the moment, just a human and a horse enjoying each other's company. There is no other time, ever, that I forget about the migraines. But being in the stable with Drifter--large, itchy, patient, friendly Drifter--frees me from the confines of myself so that I can simply be.

Syd 'n' me. He's nuzzling and nibbling on my shoulder!

From here on out, I can come by any day except Mondays or Wednesdays (Drifter gives lessons on those days) and spend as much time with Drifter as I want. I'm to remember to turn out the lights in the tack room when I'm done and leave the check for my lease payment on the desk in the office, but other than that, what I do is up to me. I can guarantee that Drifter is going to be enjoying Thursday afternoons from here on out and will be quite the well-groomed horse! I will be enjoying Thursdays, too, and look forward to those hours in his company being free of all thought of my disabilities.


  1. Wow what big beautiful horses! I'm so happy for you to have this connection with them and I love the smile on your face. Big hugs and high 5's my friend!

  2. Yay yay yay yay yay! This makes me so happy!

  3. It made me tear up a bit. I miss my horses so much (they were put down last November on my birthday due to health issues). I'm so glad you've found such wonderful new equine friends!

  4. Horsemanship is not just about riding but the relationship you have and to understand them easily.