Polishing the Ring…A walk with Grace

I have to say sometimes I wish I had an extra 6 hours in the day to write down all the things that transpire in the course of a day. The story would be pretty immaculate.

Take this story for example. It was a wonderful, sunny, brilliant afternoon two weeks ago, and Kirsten was off teaching up in Smithsburg. Grace was quite obviously Jealous (with a capital J!) that I’d pulled Dolly out the pasture the previous day, and I promised her… she’d be next. As Kirsten drove off I told her I’d maybe “Polish the Ring”.

With a border in the round pen, I put a halter on Grace and brought her up to the barn for some much deserved attention and a good brushing of her mane. We spent a good 30 minute in the stall working out the burrs she managed to find from the remotest parts of the pasture, and cleaned her up all nice and pretty for when Mommy came home.

On the way back out to the pasture, I thought to myself… it may be fun if she got a little familiarity with the medieval games we all know she’s going to be a part of.. so off we went into the arena with her on lead.

Grace exhibited no fear. None at all. She walked right down between the two rows of reeds without hesitation, and came to a perfect halt behind me when I stopped. We went around the circle and came back through the “heads” row, weaving in and out of the uprights without missing a beat. We walked over the cavaletti up at the top of the field, and then we trotted in hand back down adjacent to the original reeds. We messed around for a couple more minutes and even had a couple beats of canter running in hand before I felt guilty for Kirsten not being around to play too.

So as I recounted the story to Kirsten later that night, she came up with a Xenophon quote appropriate for the moment “when a horse is shy of any object and refuses to approach it, you must teach him that there is nothing to be alarmed at… failing that, touch the formidable object yourself, and then gently lead the horse up to it.”

Grace was never afraid, but leadership by example is a principle both horses and humans can agree upon.