Now that Dawn is settling in to the new barn, and Pie and Drifter have been moved to the trainers' place, and I'm getting to ride Dawn almost every day, I've noticed that the joy is back - I look forward to going to the barn, and spending time with Dawn and riding her. Dawn is still very feisty and opinionated and a challenge for me to ride effectively - she needs my help to relax and settle, or at least my not doing things that amp her up. We've got a ways to go with her relaxation, but she's still new at the barn and getting used to things, and it's plenty cold as well - the indoor is unheated and often open to the outside. I was pleased with how she handled her spooking at the people in the viewing room yesterday, and seeing a trainer using a lunge whip while lungeing a student on a pony. I'm really enjoying riding her, and horses are getting back to being a pleasure in my life again.
And Dawn did one of her very special Dawn things yesterday. Dawn is actually my younger daughter's horse, but my daughter's been away at college for three years now and I think Dawn and I are starting to feel that we belong to one another. Here's a lovely photo of how close my daughter and Dawn are - this was taken on a visit my daughter made last summer:
We've come a long way from 2009 when Dawn kicked me in the jaw (almost completely my fault) and I was very worried about being able to work with and ride her. Dawn's doing some of her special things with me that she used to do with my daughter, and I feel honored by her. Some of you may remember this older photo of Dawn doing the "nose rest":
Dawn had already started doing this from time to time at the old barn, but now does it almost every day. It happens when I'm grooming her - she'll move her head so her nose is pressed into my chest or resting on my shoulder, and I put my arm under her chin and she lets her neck relax and puts the weight of her head on me. Her eyes get soft and ears relax - it's like she's looking into me - and she'll stay there for a long time. Sometimes, when her head is on my shoulder I breathe in her nose and put my face next to her muzzle - who could resist this muzzle?
It's a really lovely time for both of us and I think strengthens our bond.
But yesterday, she did something I've seen her do with my daughter, but that she's never done with me before. When we were riding, and watching the pony being lunged and then when we were standing after her spook so she could observe the people moving around and waving to her from the viewing room, she gave me what I call "the look". We're standing there - I'm sitting in the saddle and she's on a loose rein - and she slightly turned and tilted her head so the eye on that side is looking back at me - she looked right into my face. Then she did the same thing on the other side with the other eye. It's a "????" look - as in "is this all right?", "are we all right with this?" I stroked her on the neck and assured her it was. I was very honored that she felt like asking my opinion when she was concerned about something, and seemed willing to take some reassurance from me. It was a very special day for us.