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We Are Flying Solo

April 3, 2010

Reality Bites. But Only Gently.

Lifeshighway correctly observed the other day as we were talking that I "ride the bejesus" out of my horse. I believe Solo is inclined to agree. He is tired these days. And I need to be realistic -- he is 14 and he does not recover from things as fast as he did four years ago. After several mountain rides and a tough horse trial, he needs some relaxing time. The tough part is balancing that need with our need to stay fit for two more spring horse trials. Now that he is only two miles from my house, I'm also riding him almost every day. Judging from the way he planted his head firmly in the stall corner yesterday, he finds that unacceptable.

Enter Jeff, aka Title One (left). He is an 8 year old Hanoverian/TB cross and the BO's Novice level eventer. However, BO has just acquired a lovely 4 year old OTTB prospect and now has two horses to keep up. And I suspect a solution to my problem is right in front of me. I can ride Jeff a couple times a week and give Solo time to chill out. I also get the opportunity to learn from another horse, who is so absolutely opposite from my red QH that I wonder how they even do the same sport.

Jeff is a lovely-moving horse, with a silky smooth canter that he can click along in for hours. He will jump 3'6" without even appearing to work. But Jeff is quirky. With a capital Q. And probably capital-all-the-other-letters too.

He was started by a cowboy who riled him up then cranked him into a super tight frame and forced him through his paces. Result: irreversible damage to his body and mind. BO acquired him as a 3 or 4 year old and has worked hard ever since to try and soothe his fried nerves. Jeff is sweet as the day is long, but once out of the pasture, I rarely see the underlying worry leave his eye. To say he is sensitive is an understatement -- he will sometimes jump just because you touch him.

I sat on him for the first time the other day. From watching BO ride him, I knew he was a tough and unconventional ride. He doesn't like contact and has a hard time, due to conformation, really packaging himself; he prefers the longer, looser hunter outline. But I had no idea HOW tough he was till I landed on his back.

You can't ride this horse like a normal horse; applying any pressure in his mouth just results in either being ignored or tension. If you don't have every single muscle in your body soft and relaxed, forget any roundness in your trot work. Bending appears to require some level of magic I do not yet have.

In short, Jeff is a huge challenge for me and I think he has a lot to teach me. I am excited and at the same time a bit unsure if I will surmount it. But he will allow Solo some much needed breathers and help out BO while allowing me to still see my horse every day and keep my butt in the saddle with no extra driving. It's been a long time since I have regularly worked a horse besides my own...I have some figuring out to do!


  1. OOO! That sounds like a WONDERFUL way to give Solo some much needed rest! Jeff is a lovly looking boy, he looks ginormous! Just be careful, I realized all my weird/quirky things I had to do w/ my rescue Mojo, actually messed up my riding (esp the trot)and poor Bailey is now having to kick me back into a regular rider! Good luck!

  2. What a great opportunity! I have access to a similar horse (albeit without the amazing athletic ability, and it has done wonders for my riding. Have fun with him!

  3. I am looking forward to this new chapter in your story.