When I went out to the pasture the other day, Sovereign had a heart shaped smooshed down mark on his side. Can you see it in this photo? There is something else there too on the right, but the heart is on the left. He has been a little imp lately so maybe the heart was there to remind me to love him up anyway. I didn't fall off, but my thighs and back are so stiff this morning from Wednesday's unplanned bareback canter!
Sovereign likes to look over to the other side of the turnpike because the farm stand there has a petting zoo and he and the other two horses must be able to smell those animals. In particular, Sovey is obsessed with the red Highland cattle.
He can stand and stare at the animals for a long time. I let him do that because nothing ever seems to worry him or make him upset. A few weeks ago, he was staring in his usual way when all of a sudden his heart was beating furiously. I couldn't tell what was upsetting him, because he wasn't looking at the animals anymore. He was staring at a big pole building on the other side of their property. I could not see any movement there, but Sovey was worked up. He turned for home (or so I thought) and started trotting and freaking out. I was kind of irked because his head was so far in my lap it was difficult to actually ride. He didn't feel like he was going to do much and I kept urging him forward but he would just wheel around and look back at the farm stand. His heart was beating hard.
I was on bareback so I slipped off the side which was stupid in hindsight. I have difficulty walking a horse when they are worked up. I am much better on top, but we were close to the turnpike and I didn't want to fall off and lose him that far from home. He was crazy wild and I was never able to get the reins over his head to lead him. I tried, but he had his head up too high. I led him home with the reins over his neck and it wasn't easy. I thought he wanted to go back to the barn because he was worried. No, not Sovereign. He only got worse as we walked home. His adrenaline is very different than most horses I've ridden. He isn't afraid of something. His heart starts pounding because he wants to go see it! He was annoyed that day because I took him away from the excitement. I never figured out what was so exciting.
The next few rides I used a saddle and rode him over that direction. We can't actually ride over to their property because the turnpike bridge is too narrow for pedestrian traffic (or horse traffic!) so we have to stay on our side. Sovereign did not act weird again, he just stared like he always does, quietly looking at the animals.
On Wednesday, I was on bareback, this time with my winter breeches that have a full seat. I grip him well in these which is good and bad. He can read every signal, which with a horse like Sovey, Mr. Mind Reader, isn't always desirable. If I flinch because I heard a loud boom or a truck backfire, he jumps. Normally, in my jeans, he ignores my unnecessary reactions. We had been over to the turnpike and he saw his cattle friend and they stared at each other for many minutes but no fuss up. Then we came back toward home and started down a big hill. I jumped at a noise from the road and Sovey jumped and took off down a briar trail cantering. I couldn't get myself together to stop him so we went flying through some branches and ended up near the barn when I finally got him stopped.
Oh I was so mad - mostly at myself for not paying attention but also at him for taking advantage of the situation. Sovereign is easily my safest horse, but you have to ride him. You can't be thinking about anything else because he will use any excuse to be the conductor. He is unbelievably intelligent and he knows it. If you are being stupid, he will gladly take the reins.
After our small run off adventure I had to keep riding to explain to Sovereign what I need from him. So, I turned him back away from the barn and collected my reins and sat correctly. I bent him around every obstacle I could find at the walk. We curved around trees and the well cap and bushes and imaginary figure eights and the farmhouse and my car and walked right beside the road. I took him back up to the hill and rode him down with intention and at the slow pace I wanted. He responded like a docile puppy. I gave him all the reins by the end and he was bending for me although I only had the buckle in my hands. People talk about mind-bending experiences. This was one. Sovereign makes me ride with my brain. He makes me ride well.