Not quite a Run for the Roses

Casual acquaintances who are vaguely aware that I like horses might expect some sage comments on today’s Derby. People who know me better are probably well aware of my opinion that a two-minute sprint is simply anti-climactic the week after Rolex. Since the weather was beautiful today, rather than getting sucked into the Derby hype, I chose to spend the day outside catching up on some badly needed chores. But first, the highest priority of the day was some quality saddle time with Crossbo, for the first time since I brought him home two weeks ago. It just wouldn’t seem right not to ride on Derby Day.

For our maiden hack around the farm, I decided it would be prudent not to try anything too exciting. And we stuck to that, far more than I expected.

It had already become clear to me that Crossbo, while beautiful and a good jumper and an all-around cool horse, unfortunately had a pampered show-horse’s unfamiliarity with the great outdoors. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to coax him across a stream in his pasture. In the last few days, we’ve gotten to the point where he crosses it fairly willingly when lured with grain, which is an improvement, but not quite good enough.

Today’s ride was at least peaceful; Crossbo’s unreasonable phobias don’t cause any extreme behavior. At no point did I have to remind myself that I don’t bounce as well as I used to. He was totally unfazed by traffic on the road. There were various goblins around the farm, but his reaction was a wary eye and not uncontrolled flight.

Early on, we encountered a couple of mud puddles that he thought we should go around instead of through. And I unwisely agreed that was an acceptable compromise. Things were cool after that, until we encountered a stream that we couldn’t go around, and Crossbo said we weren’t going through it, no way, not today.

While I know it’s not a good idea to ever let a horse win a battle, I decided the prudent course of action here was to pretend that this battle hadn’t started, rather than escalate it to the point where it obviously was a battle which I wasn’t going to win.

Instead, we went back to the previous mud puddles, and spend about an hour going back and forth through them, with gradually less reluctance. It would be nice to report that after that, we went back and splashed through the stream, but I decided to save that for another day, keeping in mind the concept that it’s always wise to end a ride on a positive note.

The rest of the day was even less exciting than walking back and forth through puddles, being spent attacking the dense growth of grass that grows faster than it can be cut in April. As the sun was setting, I did make one small concession to Derby Fever. I buzzed a patch of mint with the weedeater, and then stood in it inhaling the released aroma and swigging from a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle; the pure essence of mint julep without the sickly sweetness of the usual mixture. Then, since Derby Day is nominally about horses, I wandered out into the pasture with carrots, peppermints, hugs, and kisses for my three boys. They seemed to appreciate the attention and didn’t seem disappointed not to have a blanket of roses. I’m sure tomorrow’s newspaper will tell me who did get the roses; I don’t even care enough to try to find a website that would tell me now.

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