We like to travel on the buckle. I hold just the end, just in case.
Wordless communication continues. I tell him, I trust you. I tell him, enjoy. Relax. Go. Go on.
And so the neck is long and the stride longer. And we go.
Through trees draped with moss. Past stumps of questionable virtue, but I offer assurance, or else scolding, and so we go on.
Along the river, we drift over and stand for a bit, watching. And then move on, downstream, the water sound rushing past our cocked ear.
This is familiar ground. But always, something is new, something is different. And we notice.
Sometimes we merely observe. Sometimes we halt abruptly and stare in concern. Because a closely observed object can be cowed. Sometimes the iron neck must be massaged until the threat diminishes, until the sparrow departs. And then, only then, can we go on.
Sometimes inching, sometimes even backing, rewinding, withdrawing. Sometimes striding again, or lifting into a brisk businessy trot. On.
I hold the buckle still, always. Because things happen. Because reassurance may be needed. Because choices may require dissent.
Years have taught me to gather an instant, to seize that second and hold, hold for the moment, pause for the thought to determine our course.
(Bees, for example, are an excellent reason to flee at speed. We are in full accord on that.)
But rarely do I condone flight. We are fast, we are agile, but we are also smart enough to hold ground and assess.
I like leather. I like the way it slips through fingers, while offering purchase. I like the weight, the texture. I love the scent, I love the ritual cleaning of harness. I love the investment in communication, in adornment, in communing.
Reins come in many styles. I like a simple texture, a lace, as a gauge of transit. But with multiple reins, they had best be smooth, the curb slim enough to be distinct, to sit lightly on my finger.
At work, the reins balance between my crooked fingers and his mouth. I prefer light, but some horses want more, they want a firm support for their bit, for their body, for their balance. He wants me to know when he is mouthing his bit. He has a very agile mouth, always busy, nibbling and mouthing everything within reach. He unties knots, removes tools from back pockets, carries buckets, relocates brushes. I pay attention to his mouth, always. It is endlessly inventive and curious.
Once I rode in a halter. In a group, we all rode in halters and a single lead, changing pace, changing direction, lifting the forehand by simply raising the lead. It was remarkable.
But he and I, we don’t have time to sustain that confidence, that strength of communion. So we go back to a bridle, to reins.
In our own way, alone together in the woods, we commune. We have lengthy conversations with no words. We stand knee-deep in the creek and we sing our happiness together.
Until it is time to move on. Time to go home. Time to be done for today.
So I gather the reins. I close the leg. He sighs, gives me a chance to reconsider, and then, we move on.
He moves back to the trail, back to the circuit, inviting more exploration, unwilling to be done.
But I am done, I am used up for the day, and I intervene.
We turn for home. The reins are shortened, the direction is clear, the control is exercised. The decision is made.