But I'm still unsure how this is going to turn out. I put my camera away at this point, wanting to have my hands free for the unknown. Bob is such a sensitive horse; I've never known a horse such as this. He's been known to run away at loud voices. He gets upset if he's around a horse being disciplined. Loud noises cause him to flee (forward at a fast pace).
Will the bond we've built hold up through this event? I will bank on that bond and hope for the best.
As I walk Bob into the indoor arena I speak to him the entire time. My voice is quiet, my speech is slow, my tone is assured. My physical movements are the same, quiet, slow and assured.
My friend hasn't arrived yet. She will be joining me on this day with her horse. The indoor arena is dark and empty, somewhere in the distance faint music plays on the barn radio. Bob and I are alone and I can feel his uncertainty about all of this.
We walk around the arena. I hold the lead rope gently yet I'm prepared. The rope is folded in my hand so it won't wrap around and hurt my hand should Bob suddenly bolt. As we walk I let him stop and smell whatever he wants until he decides he's ready to move on. We take all the time he needs.
Eventually we make it to the other end of the arena and go through the gate. As we walk through I'm able to reach over and turn on the indoor lights. We continue to the outside of the arena. We are now on the opposite end from where we first entered. There are two people nearby trying to unsuccessfully load a horse in a trailer; it's not going well (at all). Oh Oh...best to go back inside and wander to the other end of the arena. I don't want the noise and activity from this event to set Bob off. Need to keep this positive karma going.
With the lights all on, we visit all the mirrors on the arena walls. As we stop I ask Bob, "Who is that pretty Sorrel horse?" I laugh out loud, I sound like I'm talking to a 2-year old. I hear the sign that all is going well, Bob replies with his first slobbering sigh. He is starting to relax.
We continue with more slobbering sighs and then a good, long blow. I laugh, smile and give him pats.
My friend arrives and gets on her horse. We walk next to her for a few rounds. I notice the people who were loading their horse have left. With no reservations and a large feeling confidence I haven't felt in eleven months, I go over to the arena wall where Bob's bridle and my helmet await, "just in case" I decided to ride. I've decided...
Bob takes the bit without any issue. I check the cinch and we walk to the mounting block while I make sure my helmet fits firmly on my head. The mounting block...this is where I still have issues with confidence - that final commitment of swinging your leg over the saddle; it's always a challenge for me. I ask my friend if she'd dismount and "spot" me as I get on. She's off and waiting. It's time...
Bob stands quietly as I swing my leg up and over. Ahhhh, I've missed sitting in my Crates saddle on Bob! We stand there for a few moments while I settle in. Time to ride...
We move off at a walk - it's a fast walk. At first I'm a bit concerned about how quick our walk is. Then I smile and laugh out loud, echoed by a slobbering sigh from Bob. I remark to my friend that I've forgotten how Bob moves. Where Elvis is western pleasure slow, Bob is sorting cow fast.
This is just how Bob moves, there is no threat. I relax. I don't walk off in a straight line, I use by legs to move him to the right and left. He immediately responds. I forgot how easily he moves off my leg. It's a joy.
Another friend joins us and the three of us, mounted on our horses, walk around the arena side by side chatting and catching up. I move away from my friends to do a few rollbacks. They are picture perfect. Bob hasn't forgotten. I am smiling ear to ear.
My friends are observing us. They tell me Bob looks great but that he appears to be a little weak in his front end. There is no longer any stumbling or falling so we determine this is because he hasn't been ridden in such a long time. They suggest we walk over poles to build up his muscles.
I could ride him forever but am sensitive to this being his first ride in a long time. Too soon it's time to end our ride. It's hot and he has sweat running down the sides of his back haunches. He turns his head to the sweat and then returns to look at me, turns his head again and returns to give me "that look". He wants me to rub the sides of his rear haunches where the sweat is running down, it probably tickles. I rub and he closes his eyes in happiness.
We say our farewells and head to the trailer. He hops right in and we head home. I laugh as we drive down the road because I can see him sticking his nose out the side of the trailer. I am so happy!