1. At a smidge past 1:30 today I returned to my office after a meeting and checked my cell phone which was sitting on my desk. There was a missed call from my sister and one from my dad. There were two voice mails. I knew my mother had taken a turn for the worse before I listened to the messages. Sure enough, she's in the hospital, with pneumonia, after falling at home and scaring my dad half to death. My sister's message said she was on her way down to the hospital. I left a return message, asking her to assess the situation upon arrival and let me know if I needed to start driving. My dad said that I didn't need to come, but I wanted my sister's opinion too. I tried to finish up a few things, with my office door closed, as my brain ping-ponged back and forth between work and my mom. Mostly with my mom.
2. I had a lesson on Winston today in the late afternoon. He didn't seem overjoyed to see me and he tested me continually during my lesson. Winston has made great improvement in the two weeks he has been with Sandy. He's more steady in the contact and nicely forward. But, he still tried to dictate the pace, the contact and the gaits. It was a lot of work trying to stay coordinated in my aids: my elbows didn't want to stay softly at my side, instead my hands dropped and they locked. And my brain was still pinging back to the hospital room six hours away.
3. I worked with Winston in walk and trot. Sandy said that Winston's canter has improved but I didn't have any gas left at the end to see for myself. We worked on transitions down from trot to walk, then back up to trot after a few steps. I learned to keep my leg on during the downward transition and then just squeeze to go back to trot. I had been taking my leg off in the downward, and then having to kick back to trot. Keeping my leg on kept the communication open and the transitions were much smoother. Sandy said that I'm being too timid with Winston (true) and that I need to be firmer. I'm good at being firm on the ground; I need to translate my leader status when mounted as well. Fighting with Winston doesn't work; persistent patience does. Once Winston figures out he can't fight and that it's easier to give, he does.
4. After my lesson, I took Winston to the jumping arena and let him loose so he could roll. I unsnapped the lead line and he trotted off to the far side of the arena. I sat on the mounting block in the middle of the arena and watched him roll. He ambled around the arena with his back turned to me. I was getting the cold shoulder, loud and clear. I was afraid that I wasn't going to be able to catch him so I ducked out of the arena and walked towards my car to get a couple horse cookies from the trunk. Winston stood at the far side of the arena and watched me go. And then he threw a fit; racing around at a full gallop, tail so high it brushed his back, head high, freaking out that I was leaving. I got the cookies and walked back to the arena where he was still racing in circles. As I walked up to the gate, he skidded to a stop in front of me and thrust his face at my chest. I clipped on the lead rope, gave him a cookie and led him back to his stall letting him graze on the green lawn as we went.
5. I took back roads back home. My brain was too tired and worried to deal with the freeway. I drove through the equestrian estates in Wilton and Rancho Murieta along roads lined with walnut groves. My cell phone rang and I pulled onto the shoulder to talk to my sister. She was in my mom's hospital room, calling to report that my mom was alert, feisty and comfortable. I eased the car back onto the road and continued my drive through the wine country of Amador County, up into the foothills of the Sierras, and home.