Meet Laea, a five-year-old Arabian mare who floats when she runs and has a smart, darting mind.
Laea belongs to Tim, who wanted a young Arabian for endurance riding. She’d spent her earliest years on an Arabian farm near Charlotte; when the owner died, all the other horses found homes. No one wanted Laea, however, because she had a crooked tail. She went to a foster home, where Tim found her and took her in. He didn’t care what her tail looked like; he saw her capacity to go, go, go.
That go combined with spookiness made her a challenging green horse. One trainer got her started so Tim could get on her back, but she still had a long way to go. Tim learned about Cooler Horsemanship and brought Laea to Flintrock Farm for 60 days of training this spring. Both James and Kate helped her advance by leaps and bounds, teaching her how to focus, relax, trust, and gain confidence. She proved to be a highly responsive student, albeit with strong opinions.
When Laea’s training finished, Tim decided to keep her at Flintrock for a few months, figuring the busy environment and big pastures and trails would be good practice for her future endurance career.
Meanwhile I found myself without a horse while Mystic recuperated from a strained tendon, and asked if I could play with Laea now and then. Tim generously agreed. I began doing simple groundplay—lunging at walk and trot, sidepassing, backing over poles—and fell in love with Laea’s extreme sensitivity. Playing with her was like driving a Maserati (or how I imagine it would be).
Her desire to bond and her quickness at mirroring movements made me curious what she’d be like at freedom. Jane, who is a master of groundplay and freedom play, had the same thought. We did a fun session one day, with Jane keeping Laea moving until she joined with Tim. She got a good workout in the process, though I had the sense she could run for another 20 hours.
Riding Laea requires a bit of bravery on my part. She’s as wiggly as a fish and spooks easily (i.e., she recently ran straight into a gate when a herd of deer dashed through the pasture).
The other night I put a bareback pad on her, gave her the loosest rein possible, and let her explore wherever she wanted, nose low to the ground. I could literally feel her gain confidence, and I relaxed accordingly.
She now navigates a tarp with ease and puts her front feet on the pedestal, even taking me up on her back. She’s learned to hop over jumps instead of bump into them and freak out.
However much Laea has learned, I’ve learned way more from her. She’s taught me to refine my body language, to understand that sensitivity requires only a whisper, to take infinite joy in every one of her accomplishments.
After six weeks of stall rest, Mystic is back to his usual self. Yesterday I took him for a stroll around a capacious pasture, with Tim and Laea as our riding companions. I watched with motherly pride as Laea walked with a low head, looking relaxed and curious. I realized that a piece of my heart lay with her, even as I felt supremely happy riding my beloved, unwiggly horse.
I guess that’s what horses do. Steal our hearts.