Took Merlin out for a soap delivery this week, a nice walk down the mountain road to a neighbors estate. I decided to walk with him, not ride, for the trip down the road. Merlin is getting older, grayer, but still game for some riding here and there. He is in good health in general with good feet, but I can sense our time as regular riding partners getting thinner.
Once we arrived up at the home we had set out for I unloaded the 20 bars of soap—packaged well and safe in Merlin's saddlebags—and had time to chat with her while Merlin mowed her lawn. She looked pictures and seemed tickled pink to have a pony-express delivery. When we were done I hopped on his back and road home. A lovely ride, up mountain, walking and trotting under the dappled light of the trees.
Thinking a lot about Merlin recently. This fell pony came into my life the same year I quit my 9-5 job and took up falconry. (I was going through A LOT.) And he is the one who taught me to love trekking on horseback, driving, exploring the world with friends in the saddle. He made me closer to humans in my life, gave me a freedom I didn't know I even craved, and helped boost my confidence in ways I'm still unwinding. Yesterday, while packing up a 20-bar soap order for neighbor, who only lives a half mile down the road, I noticed his age truly showing, after all I did acquire him when he was 16, over a decade ago. His muscles are smaller, his mane whiter, his coat grayer. And yet this boy still carries me about for a mile or two on the trails or roads, with a general happy spirit. I know he is nearing true retirement. And then he will enjoy his years in the pasture beside Mabel. He's been a better horse than I deserved, but the reason I was able to become a better woman.