Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Magnificent Merlin of Avalon

Earlier this month, Mom called to see if Mikayla would be interested in coming out to a stable outside of Cottage Grove (named Avalon) to ride a horse - appropriately named Merlin.

Merlin is a BEAUTIFUL, big horse - part Shire, part Quarterhorse - as well as something else that I can't remember. He is about 16 hands tall, 1400 pounds heavy - yes, he's mighty, but oh, what a gentle giant. He originally was "found" in Ireland by the woman that still owns him (her name is Janine) - but he also has Mom who visits him twice a week to ride him as well as "work on him" (doing equine massage). Mom also rides him in the training clinics she attends, as Merlin is capable of doing very advanced dressage skills and he and Mom together are quite "magical" (you know I had to throw that Merlin pun in somewhere).

I know I've documented this before somewhere in the many, many posts I've put up, but I grew up with horses being part of our "family". Despite a hand full of unfortunate "accidents" with horses, I have no hesitation around them, but instead find myself quite euphoric when atop a horse, particularly if its in a trail ride in the midst of nature. Having said all that, though, I have only a fraction of the passion my mom has towards horses, it truly is a kinship with her.
I suspect Mikayla might have adopted the same attitude as myself towards horse back riding. When given the opportunity (especially with Mom) - she'll jump at the chance to be on a horse. And, in contrast to the smaller horse (barely above the pony status) that she rode in 2010 named Pansy - Merlin is big, powerful, and very well trained. Riding him would be a whole different experience.

Merlin is also more eager - Pansy was really quite lazy, but loved kids (Mikayla) enough to put in the required time for a workout. With Merlin, you get the feeling he wants to impress us - and was excited to show off.

In this picture Mom is scratching a particularly itchy spot on his back which made him do this with his lips, our horses growing up used to do that too - it's so fun to watch.

Did I mention he's amazingly gentle - Mikayla had absolutely no fear around him.

First she walked him around to warm up-

And, then she was on top of him - with Mom adjusting the stirrups WAY UP to accommodate Mikayla's little legs.

Isn't he GORGEOUS? I love those fetlocks (the tufts of hair next to his "ankles").

Then, Mikayla was on her own - confidently walking Merlin around the arena. Her posture is so beautiful here -

And, this pic shows Mikayla posting the trot with Mom getting a pretty good workout running next to them for safety. Way to go, Girl!

What I didn't expect when Mom called earlier was that I would also have the opportunity to ride Merlin. She extended the invitation (to me too) in an email earlier this week, and while I felt bad for poor Merlin having to take in the extra "Sunriver Vacation Weight Gain", I couldn't resist. =) It's been quite a while since I've been in a dressage saddle, not to mention ever having ridden a horse with his amount of grace and skill. But, it felt so natural - so fun, especially when Mom suggested (after trotting on my own) that she put him on the lead line and show me what it feels like to be atop him with a canter. Whew, what a ride! (Literally!). My inner thighs are just a tad ouchy today from gripping so hard, not to mention being out of breath after the canter was over. (Mikayla was the one operating the camera at this point, so we didn't get much proof of my adventures - but this will do!)

Ah, thanks for the early birthday present, Merlin!!

And, Mom, thanks for inviting us. Nothing like my 5 minutes of cantering (much less posting a trot) to make me realize just how incredibly talented you are to do what you do that looks so effortless to anyone watching. You both are amazing!

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