After the fall

Photo © 2021 Sasha Hoffman ~ Edited with Prisma app

Chapter 21

So, we had a setback. Raven was not ready to be ridden without some more communication work on my part. She was not confident with me on her back, just as she was still not quite confident with me on the ground. I had pushed it too quickly, again with the assumption that since she had been ridden in her sale video, she must be suitable to hop on and go for a walk with another horse. Nope.

Back to the drawing board we went. I worked on spending time with her just grooming in her paddock, taking her out for hand grazing on grass, and teaching her voice cues on a lunge line so she would more easily connect what I asked while riding with the gaits I asked for on the lunge line. She wasn’t very keen on being lunged–I would ask her to move on a circle and her feet stuck. She would go up–rearing when I asked her to walk away from me. It was an odd thing; she could be very clingy to me on the ground, and not want to leave me in the arena (she did not like being chased away). Part of what we worked on daily with just leading was her penchant to keep her shoulder pushed into me when alarmed by something, and generally spooking on top of me. She was very sensitive, so I had to be very gentle and aware of how much energy I put towards asking her to move away and walk in a circle around me, not backing up, not coming in toward me or turning her hindquarters away. I realized that despite the fact that I’d lunged her out at her quarantine ranch, it may have been her own pent-up energy that kept her flying around on the line and not any knowledge of how lunging worked. Thinking back, those lunge sessions were pretty out of control, with her just bolting into a canter and me trying to bring her back down again. I was still discovering that my assumptions were useless; Raven didn’t know what I was asking for because she hadn’t been taught, or it had been such a long time that she was unsure of herself and how to respond.

For the next two weeks, I took it slowly with her and tried to teach her, and she caught on with enough repetition. I even bought a book of horse tricks and began doing some of the stretching exercises with her. I didn’t even think about getting on her again yet. After a few weeks of free lunging and on-line lunging in the indoor arena, and the bonding time I was spending with her, Raven started following me around at liberty. She decided I was her person and she wanted to stick with me. She was coming up to me in her paddock as well when I showed up. There were small steps of progress, and I appreciated the bit of trust I had earned.

In another week I would be riding at the Women in the Wilderness clinic I had signed up for back in January, so in between my work with Raven I was riding an experienced senior gelding named Boots to get back into riding regularly again. Boots was a loud-colored red Appaloosa and wonderfully responsive and patient with me. If ever I needed a confidence booster after the fall with Raven, it was now, and Boots was the gentleman to help me with it. I had ridden a friend’s horses sporadically before buying Raven and very little other than sitting and walking on Raven herself before I took a dive, and I wanted to get back into the swing of it.

Boots © 2021 Sasha Hoffman ~ Edited with Prisma app

The weekend of my 36th birthday, I packed my bag, my riding clothes, and my little two-person tent to head up to Cashmere, WA, where I had signed up for the Women in the Wilderness clinic at Rendezvous Ranch back in January. I had exchanged a few emails with the woman who owned the ranch and ran the clinic, and I had told her I would be coming up on Thursday afternoon since the clinic started on Friday. I was excited to have a new adventure and learn more about horse camping, which was something I dreamed of doing someday with my own horses. Raven was staying home, and I would be riding one of the ranch’s horses for the clinic.

The drive to the ranch, nestled in the Cascade Mountains, was breathtaking. It was springtime and the grass was lush green on the hills. There were pastures and animals everywhere I looked. I made it to the ranch and parked near the barn. There were some girls there riding their horses up the road, but otherwise there weren’t any other people around. There was a woman that had been talking to the girls before they rode off, and I asked her where the owner, Chris, was. She directed me up to the outdoor arena behind another barn. I saw a woman there finishing teaching a riding lesson in the arena. I waited until she noticed me as they went to leave the arena and asked if she was Chris. She said she was, and I told her, “I’m here for the Women in the Wilderness course.”

“It was canceled and moved to June,” she answered. My stomach dropped.

I had signed up for the May course in January but had changed my cell phone number in the meantime and had not thought to update it. We had emailed back and forth, but there must have been a misunderstanding as to the date. I looked at them again and now realized the emails we exchanged had a subject line of “June 24”. I had taken the weekend off of work and driven three hours to get there. I was about to turn around and make the drive back, thinking my adventure had ended before it even began, due to crossed wires of communication.

She could’ve said, “Sorry for the confusion, see you in June.”

Instead, Chris said, “I had a horse camping trip planned with a friend and you’re welcome to come with us!”

In the story of me and Raven, in my 2019 year of magic, this was the first woman named Chris who would come into our lives and make a huge impact on our progress, though this weekend had nothing to do with Raven at the time. I accepted her generous invitation and off we went on an unexpected adventure.

Photo © 2021 Sasha Hoffman ~ Edited with Prisma app

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