We got out of the arena. It was not the vision of galloping across fields or even trotting up hills; there wasn’t even a saddle involved. I spent about 7 minutes on his back. The rest of the two hours I walked in front of him, holding a lead rope, asking him to follow.
We stepped through snow and over rocks, across creeks and into mud. He grazed on green grass in a stream bed while the dogs sniffed the pine duff a few meters away and the humans sat on our heels, imagining summer.
We did three, maybe four miles. Nothing crazy. He breathed heavy on the uphills but didn’t hesitate. I could see the fat burning and it pleased me. Onward, young man.
On the way back I let him roll in the wide part of the creek. I’ve never known a horse to love rolling in water, but he takes it on with gusto. He paws the water and mud first, as if checking for rocks or other potential injuries. Satisfied, his knees buckle and he lowers himself in, grunting. It never gets old.
In this case he got up muddy and shook, spray illuminated by late morning sunshine. Then on the road he took another roll in the dirt. I laughed until my sides hurt. Everybody was at ease and no one was tired of the routine because this was not part of a routine – it was new and honest and hopeful and in the quiet moments I whispered to him, “play your cards right, buddy, and your life will be full of adventures.”