"The Outside of a Horse"
Alicia wasn't entirely sure
what kept bringing both of them
back to the pony club.
She just knew that she and
Judd enjoyed the activities
and the companionship.
After Darelle had turned them on
to mountie training techniques,
they had made a game out of it,
because a calm pony was
a safer pony to ride.
Today's activity was water play.
Liam Birtwistle had set up
a big blue tarp for the ponies
to explore, and his sister Fionnuala
had brought bubble making supplies.
They started by letting all the ponies
sniff and paw at the tarp. Predictably,
Hightower wouldn't go anywhere near it
because it looked like water to him.
Cloud was curious. Snowflake grabbed
a corner and tried to kill the poor tarp.
Spot and Proudfoot were so laid back
that they barely showed any interest.
Judd, of course, knew what a tarp was
so he just sniffed it politely and then
waited for the lesson to begin.
The children led their ponies
over the tarp (or tried to) and
then the ones who felt ready
mounted up and rode across.
Judd strolled over it without protest,
his ears tilted lazily to the sides.
Then Liam turned on the sprinkler.
Most of the ponies shied at first
but soon grew used to it. Hightower
hung back. Cloud, who loved water,
pranced around so much that Siobhan
had trouble staying in the saddle.
Judd was so big that the spray
didn't even reach his back.
Over time, the water formed
shallow puddles, and then
deeper ones, eventually
filling the entire pool.
Cloud was the only one
who made it all the way through
with the pool filled, Judd having
gotten tired of wet feet.
Fionnuala stood to one side,
blowing a few small bubbles
that drifted over the field.
Some of the ponies moved away
from them, but once Snowflake
started chasing them, Judd
soon joined in the game.
He snapped at the bubbles
and snorted when they popped.
"Bleh," he said, flapping his lips.
Alicia laughed. "They're soap bubbles.
Soap doesn't taste very good," she said.
"If you want to chase them, then try
hitting them with your nose."
It took a few tries for Judd
to get the hang of that, but soon
he was catching them easily.
Then Fionnuala turned on
the bubble machine, which was
little more than a barrel full of water
and baby shampoo with a leafblower
to force bubbles through a towel.
Soon it churned out mountains of foam.
Laughing, the children romped
through the suds. Most of the ponies
just sniffed around the edges, but
Cloud plowed right through.
Judd whuffled at the foam,
decided that he didn't like
the taste any better than
the single bubbles, and
Alicia kept an eye on him,
but couldn't resist romping
through the suds herself.
When she turned around,
Fionnuala was building
a giant bubble wand from
a broomstick and string.
Then the young woman
demonstrated how to make
bubbles by opening and closing
the long loop of the string.
Judd took the dry end
of the broomstick in
his mouth and swung
his head back and forth.
It took him a while to learn
how to manipulate it effectively,
but then he made huge bubbles
just by trotting around with
the thing in his mouth.
Watching him made Alicia feel
relaxed and happy for a change.
"I don't know why it's so much fun
coming here, but it is," she said.
Fionnuala turned and smiled at her.
"Maybe it's just that the outside of a horse
is good for the inside of a human," she said.
Alicia watched Judd frisking around
the grassy field with the broomstick
in tow, trailing a long series of
bubbles the size of beachballs.
Even though he had the outside of a horse,
he had the inside of a person. He needed
opportunities to be both, preferably together.
"Yes," she said to Fionnuala, "that could be why."
* * *
Liam Birtwistle -- He has fair skin, blue eyes, and short blonde hair. He is the older brother of Fionnuala. He runs a pony club.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Horseman, Expert (+4) Enthusiasm, Good (+2) Leader, Good (+2) Spatial Intelligence, Good (+2) Strength
Poor (-2) Not a City Boy
Fionnuala Birtwistle -- She has fair skin, blue eyes, and long wavy white-blonde hair. She is the younger sister of Liam. She breeds horses and ponies, also helping her brother run a pony club. Fionnuala is currently training a palomino paint filly named Butterscotch. She is so pretty that she keeps attracting blokes who want elbow candy, and can't handle her outdoorsy lifestyle -- whereas the kind of practical blokes she'd like all seem to think she's out of their league.
Qualities: Expert (+2) Naturalistic Intelligence, Good (+2) Beautiful, Good (+2) Graceful, Good (+2) Horsewoman, Good (+2) Kind
Poor (-2) Attracts the Wrong Kind of Bloke
Hightower -- He is a brown Connemara gelding who stands right at 14 hands. His rider is Hermione. He is fast for a pony due to his height, near the maximum for pony competition. Hightower detests getting his feet wet, hates the rain, and is impossible to wash with a hose.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Fast, Good (+2) Agile, Good (+2) Pony
Poor (-2) Hates Water
Cloud -- She is a Welsh pony, white flecked with gray. Her rider is Siobhan. Cloud is fond of rolling, with or without a rider. She particularly enjoys rolling in mud or dust. She loves water, though, and is undeterred by river crossings.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Precision, Good (+2) Pony
Poor (-2) Loves to Roll
Snowflake -- He is a gelding, a British spotted pony. His rider is Arran.
Qualities: Good (+2) Clever, Good (+2) Pony
Poor (-2) Nose for Trouble
Spot -- She is a Shetland pony. Her rider is Pippa.
Qualities: Good (+2) Patient, Good (+2) Pony
Poor (-2) Slow as Mud
Proudfoot -- He is a Fell pony gelding. Like most draft ponies, he has a phlegmatic temper. So he is shared among the youngest and least experienced students. His standard gait is a smooth amble. If prodded vigorously, he will trot briefly and then drop back to a walk.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Unflappable, Good (+2) Pony
Poor (-2) Lazy as a Sloth
* * *
Mountie training teaches horses to stay calm under stressful conditions. Watch a video or read instructions on how to teach your horse this.
Training for water tolerance works best if you go through stages. Make your own water obstacle with boards and a tarp. First introduce your horse to the tarp. Then fill the tarp with water. It is easier to get horses into water on a hot day when the water feels good and they are thirsty. Sprinklers make great practice because they make noise, move, and spray water all at once. Some horses love playing with sprinklers.
See the most bombproof horse on the planet.
Horses may practice with blowing bubbles or suds.
Foam parties can be fun, but there are risks. For safest results: use a hypoallergenic foam solution or baby shampoo instead of harsh chemicals, wear sensible clothes or bathing suits instead of fancy outfits, play on grass instead of a smooth surface, and be sober instead of drunk/stoned. You can buy or make a foam machine.
Giant bubble makers are fabulous and come in various styles. Again, you can buy or make one. Judd's model looks like this. Note that giant bubbles require a different solution; it must be strong enough to hold all that air inside. There are many recipes to make at home, or you can shop for various brands. In my family this typically turns into a fun physics lesson too, because we are nerds.