November Ride

One of my neighbours who lives down the road and around the corner stopped by and asked if I’d like to go riding. It is a beautiful November Sunday and the Packers don’t play until four, so I said yes.

I found my willing mount happily nibbling on some hay and she came over for the apple I had in my hand not knowing that I was bribing her for capture.

It took several minutes to chip away the thick mud stuck to her body that she’s accumulated from her daily roll in the mud. It takes fifteen minutes just to make her look slighly acceptable. She was still horribly dusty, but her winter coat was coming in beautifully making it impossible to get her clean again until Spring. I picked her hooves and then got my saddle.

I hoisted the old, but lovely saddle that I’ve had since childhood onto Autumns back and we both grunted with effort. I pulled the girth around, but it simply wouldn’t fit. She’d gotten very chubby in the past few months. Gearing up for winter is my guess.

Brent gave me a leg up and I sat on the untethered saddle while Brent pulled the girth towards the buckle. After several efforts we managed to get the saddle firmly secured to the horse.

With my ball cap and a pair of sunglass firmly on my head I was ready to ride. Autumn and I ambled down the driveway for the short walk down Bowen road to the comfort and safety of the closest farm side road called Sider Road.

My new riding companion lives about a mile down this road. Autumn and I sauntered contently smelling the scent of sunshine and witnessing the fields were coldly bare, as all the soy beans had been recently harvested.

It’s always a sign of winter when the beans are gone. It’s the last thing to get picked up before the hard frost starts to set. It’s a sign of winter and comes along with early sunsets and is a good representation of a Canadian farm year.

I’m always fascinated by the fields and their progression through the years. The sleepy winter wheat, the first seeds of spring hay and late summer grains and corn. Finally, the beans get picked up and from then on we can expect colder weather and snow.

There is no better way to see the countryside than by horseback. You get the scents and slow visual survey that nature deserves.

I arrive at Susan’s farm at exactly 11 o’clock as planned. I can see her riding in her sand ring and she waves. It’s a very enthusiastic wave and I am warmed by her friendship. Susan is a little nervous about going on the road with her horse. She has a traumatic history of riding on the road and saw her horse killed by a car when she was very young. Decades later she’s still determined to overcome her fears.

We walk placidly down the road chatting effortlessly as we learn we both rode horses at the same local shows and we both know the same horse people. She remembers my horse Sam and we are bonded by the traumatic loss of our best equine friends.

We ride back to her farm and she asks if I will ride her younger mare. Susan has had back surgery two years ago and the mare can be frisky. Susan’s husband comes out and between the three of us we manage to tack up the pretty bay mare and I ride her around the sand ring.

Susan and her husband stand close talking as I ride and it feels like a lesson or preparing for a show. I’m reminded of the wonderful nervous tickle of excitement at the thought of showing horses.

I think the little mare would make a wonderful children’s jumper as she’s short backed and collects well under her body that gives the jumper their bounce. I’ve always loved jumping.

My mare Autumn is enjoying the attention of Susan’s gelding who is lavishing her with soft nickers and love. The two watch us in the sand ring and after they decide the mare is not being harmed they return to a pile of hay. Autumn is delighted.

After the ride on the young mare we decide to try it again next week. I tack up Autumn and prepare for the short ride home. My mare is tired, but nickers as she walks down the road. She’s torn between her new friends and the old ones waiting for her at home. She meets the goats with a gentle whinny and retires back into her field to relax.

I come home to Brent’s friend Phil splitting wood in the back field, my dad fixing his truck in the garage, my sister and her son raiding my fridge while Brent and his friend David take a look at the greasecar kit on the truck.

It’s a typical and wonderful Sunday on the farm.

The next day I’m a little sore in my lower body. My legs are stiff as I get out of bed, but I smile at the thought of riding and the sweet smell of sweat and effort combined with earth and hay. The smell of horse always brings me comfort.

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