Wednesday, November 10, 2010

She made my heart sing today



My husband was very aware of my mood after I came back from riding yesterday. Out of the blue he suggested we go together for a ride.

Off-handedly he mentioned that perhaps Siera could do with another difficult woods session.
Maybe I'd like to catch Opal and ride her?

Opal?
I'd ridden her 2 times in her tenure on our farm. When she came to us 12 [?] yrs ago, she was only to be Rich's mule. A speed mule. Opal hates people she doesn't know, is hard to catch, and has a terrible ear shyness. Yet she can sit down and spin ... and 'walk a hole in a Tornado'. That is mule-speak for the fact she can do a ground covering old fashioned running-walk.

I'd ridden her once in the snow a few years ago because the conditions were bad and Rich had insisted on me taking her. Another time, I took some extra energy off her before we turned her over to my son in law to ride. [She will do nicely with novice riders! Huh?]

I went out to catch the difficult to catch mule. She walked right into the pen when I opened the gate and never turned her head when I haltered her and put on a lead rope.
I take my time and work quietly around mules, Opal is no exception. [My husband can get a bit loud...]
Opal stood like a statue for me to curry, brush, and saddle her. I hummed softly as I grabbed her bridle and slid it up over her ears and into her mouth.
OH, that is right, she is ear shy. I rubbed her ears and slid my arm around her neck and gave her a 'mule hug'.
Badger watched from the grassy patch near the shed. He brayed in protest, I think.

I mounted up and we rode. Opal responded sweetly to everything I asked her too. Her ears flapping as she walked comfortably. She assisted with Siera in a couple spots. She stood quietly while I took some photos.

I'd never ridden Opal with Rich around. As we sat in the creek bottom giving Siera a lesson in water-walking, I reached over and rubbed Opal between the ears without thinking. I leaned down and gave her another soft pat and my version of a 'mounted mule hug'.
Rich watched.

*You know,* he said, *when she was sold to me, John told me that he thought Opal got along with ladies better then men.* He thought a moment. *Of course, I get along with her okay.*

I had to hide a smirk.
When he rode Opal, it always seemed a test of wills. In fact, I'm sure this is one of those times when Opal didn't hear her name as *Dammit Opal*.

On our ride back I brush busted with an eager to please mule under me. She dug into hillsides, crossed downed trees, and walked with an easy speed that only she could do in the rough stuff.
Back home after I unsaddled her, she did something I've never seen her do [aside from me sliding the bridle over her ears without issue]. I stood next to her and ran my hand down her neck and gave her gentle rubs. This is the way I thank my mules for a good ride.

Opal dropped her head and pressed into me just slightly.
My heart fluttered. My heart sang.
I had happiness inside.
I hugged Opal and released her into her pasture. She trotted away without a backward glance.

At 26 years old, I wasn't going to change her. But I now knew that I could use her as a solid back up mount.

I stood with Badger, my arm around his neck and watched the sun sink slowly into the west.

4 comments:

mj said...

Very nice! I think you needed that.

Jennifer said...

I agree, you did need that!
Isn't it funny how mules can be? People who have never known a mule just don't get it. I'm reminded of Fargo, who will test the patience of anyone who tries to even get within five feet of him, yet is so willing and eager to please me. I've noticed a lot of mules will choose thier person, not the other way around.
:)

Val said...

Yes mules do and will choose a person and you cannot force most of them to do so.
There are a few mules we have that I have mutually agreed with them...that we will not like each other!

Lori Skoog said...

Deep down, Opal is a real sweetheart!