When I first met Linda, she had two blue barrettes in her hair. One on the left and one on the right, holding back her thick, graying hair. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen someone wearing barrettes and I was thoroughly delighted.
Linda was featured in the February issue of The Rural Voice. She’s the barn swallow lady who spent hours at my place, nailing up devices to encourage the swallows to nest in my horse shed/barn. I thought she was marvellous.
That afternoon, while I stamped about trying to keep my feet warm, we chatted about many things and it wasn’t long before I had an invite to her horse farm near Harriston for a riding lesson. My daughter, you see, has a new horse and though we’ve had horses for years, I don’t consider us “horse people” in the way that we have innate knowledge of how to train a horse. My horse was a seasoned pro when I got him and he convinced me I was a natural. I’ve since learned on less-trained equines that Blackjack was very generous in obeying my unrefined requests. Boy, do I miss that big, black, gelding.
That expression, “You don’t know how good you have it until it’s gone?” Truth.
Now we have Cody, the quirky horse of unknown parentage with a friendly and willing temperament. He’s on Instagram as Cody the Quirky Horse! It’s in our best interest, and his, to learn how to refine our requests.
Turns out, Linda knows how to ask horses things. She has three big, black, Clydesdale crosses at her horse farm. Plus a giant arena and a hugely-generous spirit. Off we went on a Sunday afternoon to visit her place for lunch and to improve our horsemanship. This included a line driving lesson to start the process of training Frankie The Pony to the cart.
We met 20-year-old Brutus, the head honcho and Ariel the smart, 19-year-old mare, and led both to the arena to receive our lessons. I was given a rudimentary line-driving lesson with Brutus, who hasn’t been line driven in over a dozen years. He must have the memory of an elephant (and wasn’t that much smaller) for he responded with alacrity. Brutus, like Blackjack, made it so easy for me. A trained horse is worth its weight in gold and given Brutus’ size, he’s one valuable animal.
The rest of the time, Maria rode Ariel and polished her sit, her hand placement on the reigns and her asks. It was lovely to watch; my beautiful blonde daughter on this gorgeous black mare.
Then, in a corner, the mare decided she didn’t want to listen. No drama. No bucks. She just decided to turn the other way. Linda was issuing instructions at a decidedly higher decibel level and Maria was trying to prevent the horse from cantering into the wall. Linda wasn’t having it. She told Maria to get off, launched on the horse herself and made the mare turn into that corner a dozen times. She has little ones riding that horse, you see, and cannot risk this colossal queen of horseflesh deciding she is going to rule the world.
Through it all, Linda explained what she was doing and why. There was no cruelty. Just leadership and direction, which the mare acquiesced as part of her natural understanding of there being an “alpha mare’ that takes care of the herd. Linda is that alpha. I think it was the take-home message of the lesson – “no matter what, you make that horse listen” for it’s good ... and your own. When Maria resumed her ride, the mare floated around that corner. No more shenanigans.
Linda got chatting with Karin, who is not a horse lover. She took a ride but doesn’t thrill to it like the rest of the females in our family do. Linda asked her, “What is your favourite animal.” I expected Karin to say “dogs” and she answered, “cows.” Karin likes cows! She goes to the barn almost daily to help her dad with chores and it’s one of the highlights of her day.
Meanwhile, a purebred German Shepherd is watching the action from the corner, a cat in heat is making rude noises from the corner of the barn, the strong pickles from lunch are making me burp and everyone’s feet, except Linda’s, are freezing.
Cold feet and a ticking clock indicated it was time to go. Saddles came off and the horses were led back to their pasture after much petting and praise. We popped back in the car with heat turned full blast and off we went.
It was a simple experience really. Maybe you are wondering why I am writing it. Certainly, I’ve thought long about why it has lingered as a profound experience in my mind. I think I have a few ideas:
• It’s a surprising pleasure to make new friends in middle-age. I have a wonderful circle of people I love in my life and to add a new friend is like an unexpected gift you look forward to unwrapping.
• There’s something about watching a tiny woman take on a giantess and win. Her confidence was empowering to all of us and reminded us about the manifest order of things. Specifically, in our case, to develop Maria’s confidence to make riding a Cody a positive experience for both of them.
• Kindness and generosity always works. It brings out the truth and best in everyone and uncovers interesting facts. Karin loves cows. I did not know. Note to self: Keep asking questions, Lisa! Finally, it was those blue barrettes. Three blue barrettes! They were different shapes and sizes, equally spaced, pretty as sapphires, holding back that lively hair.
As I ponder the value of seeing how other people live, friendships, developing skills, connecting with wise creatures, spending time with my daughters and controlling the inherent power of a big horse, I have to say it wasn’t just a one-barrette-day. It was truly a “three-barrette kind of day.” ◊