“At camp they had me ride the pony. She was a little bit bigger than Cowgirl. They had me ride her because she was a brat for everyone else.”
“How many times did you get the ride?”
“Four times. I rode Pony three times and the fourth time I rode a big, black horse named Caesar.”
“What was the name of the pony.”
“Yeah. Isn’t that lame? The pony’s name was Pony.”
I’d been away on vacation and Claire had been at camp, which gave her a lot to tell me about as we groomed and mucked and tacked up.
We had Meera with us as well, but she generally remains silent.
Claire was set to ride Freedom, Meera was on the pony (Cowgirl) and my mount was Stoney, the plan being that we were going to ride the long way to the arena, through Clark’s field.
The staging area at the Jensen’s barn is about twenty-five yards down a slight hill from the gate, which leads out on to the pathways. When the horses are feeling lively and the riders are able, we can zip up the hill at a leaping trot and we did so, which caused Claire to let you a jubilant “Yippee!”
I call Claire the “slalom queen” because of her ease at galloping, full speed, up miles of trail. 70 feet of brisk trot for Claire is hardly cause for celebration.
“Claire! What was that about?”
(We were now making our way through the gate.)
“For a whole week I didn’t get to trot or canter! We could only walk.”
We made up for that at every opportunity on our route to the arena and made it there in record time.
Haley met us at the arena. School has started for her and we won’t see her for another six months, but she got one last Clinton groundwork lesson for Claire in. I don’t know what it was about because I was watching Meera careen around the arena on Stoney and was trying to convince her to keep her butt in the saddle when she cantered. (She’s in the habit of “floating” on top of the horse; not a wise idea should the horse decide to stop unexpectedly.)
Meera was picked up from the arena, but thankfully Claire was able to help me get the ponies back to the barns. As we were saddling up, Claire said, “Can I ride Cowgirl?” Her request gave me pause only because she is passionately attached to Freedom. Cowgirl was perfectly happy to be ridden rather than ponied and I was perfectly happy to not have to pony her. She’d been throwing herself at Freedom all afternoon and by throwing herself, I mean this literally. At one point she launched her hind end with such intensity that her hips crashed into Freedom’s shoulder. Since he is almost three times her size, the impact was of no consequence to him and, as usual, he was thoroughly perplexed by her behavior. But with me in front on Stoney, Cowgirl second and Claire on Freedom after that, the ride home would have been a constant tug of war trying to keep the enamored Cowgirl from throwing herself at Freedom’s feet.
As usual when we are in a hurry, we took Westwind Way (rather the “canter hill’, a.k.a Via Arline). At one point, a well meaning soul lined the entire length of Westwind with a thick layer of mulch. This delighted Freedom no end and every time we ride up Westwind, without fail, Freedom pulls off the pathway for the express purpose of making a pit stop at his most favorite of all “horsey litter”. As often as not, Stoney joins him and fairly often Cowgirl as well.
This particular afternoon, Stoney and Freedom peed in unison. Cowgirl had shown no interest. When they were done, we gave her a minute to think about it before we walked up and thought she was content, but then Claire said, “Wait!” Sure enough, Cowgirl (with Claire astride), stepped off the path. But she didn’t step off in just any spot. She chose to pee in precisely the same spot as Freedom had. The only reason we could make of it was that she was marking Freedom as “taken”.
The rest of the ride was uneventful. Cowgirl and Stoney were put to bed at Quail, then Claire on Freedom and myself on foot headed back to Campo. Out of habit, something I do to ensure the safety of young riders, I walked out in front of Freedom, signaling him to stay behind me. I got about ten feet and thought, “Wait a minute! This is Claire.”
“Claire, why don’t you just go on ahead of me.”
She gladly acquiesced and started to trot off. Four steps into it, she hollers back to me, “Can I canter?!”
Except for the paved part on Robleda, she probably cantered all the way home.