Delta is an 15h2 8yo dapple grey Irish Draft mare - intelligent, light, sensitive, skittish. She lacks what Fort Paillard calls "calmness". SHe draws her confidence from her rider. If she doesn't feel happy with her rider, then she'll shie so quickly that he or she will come off for sure. If the rider is tense, then Delta is tense and unpredictable. Despite her kindly temperament she is no novice ride. One treats this girl with kid gloves. Although if you are indeed competent, she'll go on the bit and make a stab at all the fancy dressage movements.
However, her role in my life is to mix it with traffic and the community. Like her predecessor she's to be a go it alone, anywhere I deem to go, any terrain, in town or in countryside, any weather, hack. She must remain calm and collected at all times. She is still learning her trade.
Today its been miserable. It rained incessantly this morning and although she had a raincoat, she hated it. The barn owner had brought her in early for the dentist. She doesn't like being handled by strangers and when I arrived I could sense she was tense. Whilst she stood untethered in her stable, the dentist inspected her teeth, at first without the brace, whilst I stroked her neck. The technician and I chatted whilst Delta's teeth had their regular rasping. He had his unprotected hand in her mouth whilst I stroked her neck and back - all whilst she was standing free.
Later I put her out in the field - in the miserable cold wet rain.
At 4 pm I brought her back in from her field. She had been standing by the gate- she didn't like the weather but really it was really too early to come in. She had not had time to graze the field. Nevertheless she had been clearly asking to go back into her stable, so I took her in.
At 8.00pm I went up again to put her to bed. She sniggered as I arrived and I went over and said: "hello". I gave her a hug. She nudged me for an apple or two. I made up a small tray of pasture mix, a drop of local honey and some marsh mallow and garlic mix. Into the bowl I dropped a couple of sliced windfall apples. I took the bowl over to her in the stable and whilst she ate I stroked her back and neck. We shared her supper. She finished her meal and asked me with a nudge for another apple - which of course I had in my pocket.
I checked her water. I made up a haynet of steamed hay. I looked her over. I turned out the light and said "Good night - see you in the morning." I got a lick and a light nudge.
The other 6 horses in the barn had looked on throughout this process - which is a nightly occurrence. They have their own owners. DiDi would have been very jealous if I had gone near them. I am her human - not to be shared with them.
Tomorrow we'll hack out. I'll tack her up in the stable and together we'll walk to the mounting block. She'll stand still whilst I mount and adjust the girth. I won't have held the reins to lead her at any time; she will walk freely alongside me. The routine is all too familiar. Even the route is constant - she's not ready for the big wide world yet.
She knows the daily routine. She expects her tea. She draws her confidence from my presence and my calmness. I am allowed unfettered familiarity with her even in her stable. Of course I am disobeying most of the rules in the BHS manual. DiDi is pampered and sheltered. After all, she is just a horse - but she is my horse. Without me I firmly believe she is pretty much useless for work outside of the arena. She would freak out and be a danger to herself, her rider and onlookers.
This is the same horse that had me off her back three times within the first two months of my owning her. She was, as I now realize, terrified after being moved away from her previous owner. It took me months to recognize her fundamental timidity, I had thought she was just a stroppy mare. I was wrong.
Nowadays when that wretched German SHepherd dog comes racing at her, she stands and does not run. She trusts me and pretty much she does what she understands me to have asked her to do.
So ladies, you've got to give time to the horses in your lives. If you come to be as lucky with your new horse as I have been with Delta, then indeed you will be blessed.