Sunday, February 19, 2012

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Just Hank

Riding my big fat outta shape stubborn pig-headed horse makes me happy.

It's been three full months since I've ridden Hank. He doesn't mind the time off. I've brought him in for the occasional brushing and grooming and the roll in the sandy arena, but he's had no saddle time since our last trek on the trails last fall. Well, the chores were all done, the water tanks were all scrubbed and filled, the hay shed was stocked, and the drylot was scraped clean of the frozen poopturds. It was a beautiful February day: upper 30's, bright sun, and a light breeze. Perfect day for a ride.

I had an argument with Miss Honky Tonk at the gate. She doesn't like to be where Hank ain't, so wrasslin' him thru the gate while butt-blocking The Ass is a practice in a yoga like you'll never get in the city. Hank doesn't mind leaving her behind, and I can't blame him. Women can be so demanding at times.

Hank tolerates. Standing tied, currying, brushing, even combing thru his tail. He may not approve, but he puts up with me. He'll give the ol' stink eye and crabby ears, but he never moves an inch. Every now and again when he's particularly annoyed or bored he'll lift his left hoof and hold it up for a bit. Many years ago this used to bother me. Now it's "just Hank". He'll stand in those cross ties quietly as I get his big Guffey roping saddle out of the tack room and lug it down the aisle. The stink eye shows it's disapproval, but that's "just Hank". He still gives me grief with the headstall. After all these years he'll still lift his nose just almost out of reach. He takes the bit just fine, but he plays this game of his. It used to bother me, but that's "just Hank". We've learned to do things in a way that makes him think that it's his decision. Or, we've learned to do things in a way that makes me think that it's my decision. Either way, we get it done.

We rode around the arena for about ten minutes, warming up his legs and brain. It always makes me smile when he shows me that he remembers. It may not be pretty or performed to Sara's standards, but we get it done.

Finally it was time to head out. Hank is in his element on the trail, whether it be banging thru the underbrush or just going down the road. Bright eyes and happy ears, we head on down toward the pond enjoying the unseasonable weather. As we passed the neighbor's pasture a chubby Arabian gelding came trotting up to the fence, nickering as if to say, "I wanna go too." Hank and I didn't have time to visit; we had miles to make. On down the road we went, the random car buzzing by and Hank never batting an eye.

Have I mentioned that he's stubborn? Yeah. He's got his quirks all right. Like his unwillingness to walk by the edge of the road. He always has to walk in the middle of the lane. Always. I'll push him toward the edge, and as soon as I release my leg he drifts back over. Always. If he laid tracks it would look like we'd been drinkin. I don't mind that he walks in the middle, but I'd like him to ride closer to the edge. Have I mentioned that I'm stubborn?

We finally got off the pavement back by the pond. The road in was all muddy. For February in Wisconsin, mud is a pleasant sight. We're normally frozen solid, like that stuff wrapped in white paper at the back of the freezer. It's a big pond, probably six or seven acres. We made our way around it thru the long dead grasses. Not a bit of snow was to be found. Hank just trucked along, happy to be doing his job.

It's not a quiet event, me-n-Hank. We argue like an old married couple in Kmart. Sure, he doesn't say much, but we talk plenty. I know what his ears say. I know what that corner of his stink eye says. I know his grunts and snorts, his confident swagger, and his hesitant steps. And I talk back. Not that gooshy-goo baby talk crap that I hear so many horse owner use. I talk to him like I talk to you. But if I was talking to you I'd try to swear less.

When riding out with a group, many will ask Sara who I'm talking to. She just smiles and replies, "Just Hank."