Tuesday, June 8, 2010

An appointment with Raja?

What an interesting morning!

Last week a dance friend of mine, an older gentleman who is a bit frail but who is very interested in horses, came by the barn for a quick visit. We agreed that he would come again today to spend the morning grooming the horses and getting more comfortable around them. “James” hasn’t been around horses since he was a boy, and not much even then.

James was half an hour or so later than we had talked about. Before he showed up, I headed down to go get Galahad. On the way there, I passed the geldings pasture. I could scarcely believe my eyes: Raja, my skinny old friend, was standing by the gate all by himself. He was staring out at me and (I’m not making this up!) looking worried, like I was late for an appointment and he was beginning to think I wasn’t going to show up.

So I put Galahad’s halter on him and got him out—what else could I do? And of course, though I hadn’t thought about it, Raja was the perfect horse for my friend to work with. He’s the gentlest soul, a perfect gentleman, and needs a good feeding: just like James himself.

Here's my question for you: What do you suppose the odds are that this morning, of all the mornings I've been out there, Raja would be standing there waiting expectantly? He is normally halfway out in the pasture, either by himself or with Midnight and a few other friends. I have never, in more than a year, seen him stand by the gate. And no, his owner hadn't been there and just turned him out, or anything logical like that. Coincidence? Or what?

Horses are far more intelligent, more sentient, than we usually give them credit for. Raja and I have lately shared several very odd experiences that confirm, for me, what Linda Kohanov talks about in The Tao of Equus and her other books. Horses have ways of sensing and communicating that have nothing to do with language, and that are not limited by distance. I actually have no trouble believing (despite my years of scientific training) that Raja positioned himself there because he knew he was the best horse for the job. That, and the thought of fresh, spring grass and clover....

When James finally arrived, I gave him the task of grooming Raja, who stood quietly and contentedly and never threatened to step on James’s toes. I handled my pushy old black horse Midnight. Then the four of us walked out to the lane to graze. It was very peaceful, and James and Raja both really seemed to enjoy it.

It was quite a lovely morning—cloudy and cool, without the rain that had been forecast. The grass, despite the heat, is still lush and the clover is in full bloom--very nourishing for body and soul. After a while, we brought the horses back and put them both out in the pasture. They wandered contentedly off.

James and I then went down to get Galahad, who had been cooped up for the best part of four days. I wanted to ride him back down to the arena barn, past the place where there was a tractor loading shavings into a big trailer. It’s always good to get him used to noises and spooky things.

Galahad let me get on him with no trouble, though I could sure tell he was full of energy after being in his stall for that long. He was just fine on the ride down, past the noise and commotion. But when we got to the indoor arena, he decided to act up.

For a minute, I really thought James would get to witness me being bucked off! It’s a pretty unnerving thing to feel the front end of your horse come up, then to have the head and neck disappear between the front legs as the back end leaves the ground! I really don’t enjoy that any more now than I did the first time he did it, and especially not bareback.

Fortunately, I didn't come off, and I did manage to get him to do some work for me: turning on the front and hindquarters, sidepassing (not too well, but at least both ends were moving at the same time), backing up, moving forward without tossing his head. I didn’t push my luck too far, and pretty quickly I had him back out of the arena. Then I did feed him, and we put him out in the pasture with his buddies, where he bucked and caroused for our amusement and his own.

A lovely morning it was. James is good company, and I do hope he’ll come back again to hang around. I got home just before a storm hit—we had torrential rain for quite a while, lots of thunder, but mainly wind—it harvested a whole bunch of ripe apricots from the top of the tree in the front yard. A good day!

[I really must get more photos of old Raja!]

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