I saw her again and it had been 7 years; and at that time 7 years ago she was but a pinprick in the foothills. It’s evening at the ranch and there is campfire. The women talk horses; we talked about horses present and horses past; about mares in foal and yearlings just learning, about those who retired and those who had died. When I asked about her they pointed to the hills, and when they did two chestnuts and a bay came trotting down the hill. “There she is.”
Sienna. She remembered me. She stuck her nose in my face and blew hot warm breath in my eyes. This horse I knew from 10 years prior when we were both 15 years old. Sienna, the large and doe-eyed chestnut mare that lived her former life in the city. She was purchased by a rich white lady. When I was a kid I rode this mare, rode her around in circles or in the field jumping fences or in the streets. She was a good horse and I don’t think I ever fell off of her.. the mare did have an affliction for rearing up on her haunches and it did scare the woman. The horse got given to the ranch. Janice worked with her and took her in as her own.
“Yes, she had a lot of problems.” From her pigeon toes to her distaste for bridling, we talked about it all. “We have a good farrier,” she said. “He fixed her.” I recalled how the best farrier in the city disowned this horse as a client after she kicked him. “Yes, our farrier would do one foot of Sienna’s, go trim another horse, do one more of Sienna’s feet, and then come back the next day to finish off her rears.”
Janice really loved Sienna. She saw the willingness in this mare, it was just wrapped underneath pain and fear- the life of a misunderstood horse. Trust does not come overnight. Trust has to be earned.
“Last year I introduced her to cows. We were herding. She wouldn’t look at them, but she was a gem. She did everything I asked her to, and then some.”
Janice said I ought work with Sienna. Guided by another girl, we set out with halters to find the herd. Marleen whistled to the trees and she found her horse- a beautiful black young Clydesdale cross- Atlas. She called for Sienna but Sienna wasn’t there. I set out wandering zig-zagging in search. Marleen pointed across the hill to a brown dot by the cabin- “I’m not sure,” she said.. “but that might be her.”
We wandered across the way.
In the arena we did ground work. It’s a bit like dancing. It’s all about footwork, the movement, keeping tune with your partner, locking eyes and winking. Sienna had come a long way since I had last worked with her. I could tell she was listening, unfazed by all the action. We were in an arena with four other horses, surrounded by green fields dapples and greys, roans and bays.
When the time felt right, I threw leadrope over her neck and tied it. I walked Sienna to the block and I ran my hands over her back. And then I hopped on.
Damn. It felt good to be on a horse again. I hadn’t been on a horse in a year. I rode bareback in a rope halter. Sienna was soft and supple, attentive to my every move. I walked her around in circles, yielded her on and off the rail. We did turns on the haunches and turns on the forehand. I asked her for a trot and she trotted. It took me a bumpy circle to find my seat, but I found it and we were in sync.
I asked her to give and she gave. I sat deeper in seat and she slowed. A bit of leg and she followed through. A turn of my head and she went. A pat on the neck and she relaxed, a bit of rein and she loosened. At 24 this mare was light as a feather. At 24 she appeared to be aging backwards.
Patience. I’ll reiterate the well known gospel; Patience is a virtue. Give a horse what she needs and she’ll give you more in return. All Horses are Good Horses.