Some of the best moments I spend with Dino are had not on his back, but just existing in the same sphere together.
Last week, I took us out to the pasture for a quick lunging session. I had just sustained shin splint injuries in both legs, Dino was coming off of nearly two weeks of vacation, a storm was rolling in, and I just didn't have the time to put in a ride that day. The old man started off stiff and creaky, the same as I do these days after a prolonged break, but by the end of the session he was loose and free-moving. He happily loped around me in a circle, stretching over his back and snorting, while a fierce wind rattled the trees and blew black clouds towards the farm.
After 8 years of partnership, lunging is easy. Some days, like this day, I don't need to use voice commands. I breathe, I think, I move an inch, and Dino responds. We know each other's language, and it's a good reminder for our under saddle training that things don't need to be so loud all the time.
After Dino finished his workout, I unclipped him from the lunge line and invited him into my space. Despite being in the middle of acres of green, beautiful grass and the wind whipping past us, Dino chose to be with me. We played a little; I walked and turned and moved into and out of his bubble and invited Dino to dance with me. He did, and always came back to rest with his head by my shoulder. We watched a flock of crows chase a vulture out of their territory, and felt the pressure change as the rain came in. I rubbed his itchy shoulders and his face. And we existed in a magic moment for a while.