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Adventures of Sihr Brigadier Mac V ("Sonny") - Braver & Braver

Finally, spring in the Las Vegas valley presented itself, other activities on the home-front began to slow down some, and it was time to get out on some more trail rides. I couldn't wait. A few days ago, I loaded Sihr Brigadier Mac V ("Sonny") up (er, rather he loaded himself, which is a far cry from taking 5-10 minutes to load just a few months ago. Now, he jumps right in as if to say 'Where we goin' today Mom?'). I trailered him out to a really nice desert trail southwest of Vegas, with plans to meet up with a riding buddy. We were a little early, and the trail-head parking lot was completely empty. I thought to myself, oh boy… this could be a challenge. Sonny had never been unloaded from the trailer into an empty lot with none of his trail buds there at all. Well, here goes! He backed out of the trailer nice and slow and easy, stepping down calmly, and I tied him to the side of the trailer in the usual spot. Sonny looked around and saw nothing but baren desert all around him. Then, he let out a big long sigh to which I raised my eyebrows in pleasure and relief that being alone out there to him was just no big deal. I hung his grass bag and some water in front of him, and began grooming and saddling him up. Soon my friend and her horse arrived, unloaded, and saddled up. It was a super relaxing morning, no one was in a hurry. We mounted (and YEY, Sonny stood completely still for the mount this time… the training is working!) Off we went on the trail in search of the wild mustangs that live in this general area. The first few minutes of the ride Sonny was a bit excited and on the muscle having not been out for a while, but nothing that a few circles and hip yields couldn't correct. Then he settled into a nice even walk-cadence, hip swinging and head slightly bobbing in full relaxation. He liked being in the lead, so we held that position for most of the ride this time. Things that really got his attention before barely received a glance this time (dead trees shaped like monsters, cholla cacti lining the trail, strangely shaped boulders that appear from around the bend unexpectedly). He noticed these things for sure, looked, and then moved along cautiously but calmly. At the top of the plateau we found out that it wasn't such a calm day… the wind was really howling up there! At one point, it blew my cowboy hat off from behind us, stampede string and all, and wham!, it hit Sonny right on his pole between the ears, and then flew off rolling on the ground in front of him. He flinched…I braced. Then, suddenly I realized… Sonny hadn't moved an inch. Talk about spooking in place! My heart was racing at first. But, his calmness reassured me that I could trust him. Be still my heart… braver and braver… I love this boy.

Then, yesterday another trail ride opportunity with some other friends at a different and more mountainous location presented itself. This one a little longer and more challenging. I couldn't wait to get Sonny out. More new experiences for him, for which he questioned, but then listened to me and accepted the task. More bravery, more trust. We did quite a bit of bush-wacking (through the bushes and trees where no actual trail existed). Up some pretty steep hills with very loose ground, and back down the other steep side. Sonny found his feet and took his time, except one hill he decided to do what the horse in front of him did, and canter up the hill. I allowed him a few strides at the calm canter to give him some impulsion. And, then asked him to taper down to a walk before we reached the top. The horses were all huffing pretty good once we reached the hilltop, so we stopped and let them rest and think. As the three of us old gals sat there on our mounts, sipping water and sharing stories during the 'break', I found myself slowly stroking Sonny's long soft mane just in front of the saddle horn. He likes that, so I have kind of made a habit of it. It made me think of Lester Buckley when he rode Sonny's sire, Major Mac V at Varian Arabians farm one time and stroked his mane as he talked to the participants. As we moved along we came upon a steel pipe 'gate' on the trail which the forest service installs with the intention of keeping motorized bikes and ATVs out, those low pole boxes about 15 inches off the ground and about 3 x 5 feet in diameter that humans and horses can walk through. Sonny had never even seen one of these contraptions before in his life. So, I told the other gals to go through first on their much more seasoned horses and I would follow closely behind. Sonny stopped dead just before the point where he would otherwise put a front foot over the pole and into the box. I moved him in a circle and without hesitation, dismounted to hand-walk him through. (These 'gates' have some sharp edges at the tops and I wasn't up for accidentally impaling myself on them.) We walked through together with no refusal or hesitation at all. Once through, my friends and I agreed he should try again. So, I turned around and hand-walked right back through that gate again, and again, no hesitation…even though this time we were walking away from his friends. On the opposite side, I quickly re-mounted and headed straight through the contraption in the saddle, thinking to myself that my trainer would tell me not to give him a chance to even think about refusing. Voila! Sonny, lifted his feet and calmly one foot at a time stepped cleanly through the box, expressively looking at those poles every second of the way. We continued through and received cheers of congrats from our friends, and Sonny got a hug of delight around the neck from me in the saddle, with scratches under his thick mane as an added bonus. My friends told me his expression was as if he KNEW he'd done good. Braver and braver.

The rest of the 8 ½ mile ride was a wonderful adventure, some fun things to practice, and in such beautiful country to do it. Up and down big boulder steps, over logs, up and down hillsides, through thick trees overgrown into the trail, over bushes that tickle and scrape the belly of the horse, crunching clusters of pinecones under foot. Sonny was the leader most of the way back to the trailers, and loved being there. His walk was a nice working clip that says "let's go somewhere", as he looks to the left, and to the right alerting me to some deer off in the distance scurrying away up a hillside when they heard our hooves crunching along in the rocky wash.

Each ride (on the trail or in the arena) gets better, creating an anxious desire for me to get on this 5 year old boy again. With every ride we encounter something new, something scary, something challenging. And, with each ride Sonny's confidence grows, and my trust in him gets stronger and stronger.

Braver and braver… both of us, together.

Sonny crosses the trail gate for his first time.
Out in the west we meander.
The Adventures of Sihr Brigadier Mac V ("Sonny")
Adventures of Sihr Brigadier Mac V ("Sonny") - Hol...

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