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We Are Flying Solo

Showing posts with label gaited horse. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gaited horse. Show all posts

June 23, 2013

Time, Energy, Money

All of these things have to line up AND coincide with having a sound horse if we want to ride and advance our training.  I usually hit one out of three...

Encore feels fantastic.  He is sound and solid and bright and shiny, having made real strides forward in the connection department once his rider figured out how to diminish her energy-blocking.  And damn, he looks sexy.  Which you'll just have to take my word for at the moment as I need a new picture.  Oh, and energy to actually ride him.

I iz not gated horze.
My special Solo man, to my surprise and pleasure, also looks like a million bucks.  He is in perfect weight, with a copper shimmer and his trademark Quarter Horse muscle, despite doing pretty much nothing as Amber and I both scramble to keep up with demanding summer schedules.  And just a week ago...why yes, that IS a horse show ribbon he is wearing!  Always one to do things his own way, he placed -- at a Walking Horse show.


You heard me right.  Our farm was hosting a local show with 500 classes (it felt like).  I've enjoyed watching them and have volunteered as well, carrying score sheets, directing riders, announcing, what have you.  That Saturday, I had brought Encore, and then Solo, down to watch the action for a change of pace.  BO exerted his finest peer pressure and threw his Western saddle onto Mr. Shiny's back, so I gave in.  I like to support people who treat and train their horses with respect and kindness anyway!

The English divisions and games had come and gone, so we had to find an appropriate category from what remained of the Western division.  Thoughtfully attired in the pictured bridle with Solo's favourite bit, BO's massive Western saddle (honestly, I don't know how you people carry those things around, LOL!), a very old pair of slightly undersized tan breeches, suede half chaps that are officially old enough to drive, and a slobber-painted tank top (erm, thank goodness the show is casual), we marched in to the Trail Pleasure 2-gaited Go As You Please class with about 9 other horses.  I am sure the judge enjoyed the picture of style and grace I presented.  Where everyone else flat walked and running walked, we simply walked and jogged (oh yes, he can).

I think Solo enjoyed himself; I just wanted him to feel special again and do something for him.  It was hardly taxing shuffling a few laps.  I was not out there to achieve anything and spent most of the class with a relaxed smile, pondering the miracle of walking into a class at a show with no warmup after standing parked in the shade under a tree.  Of course, this was not our discipline, we were just there to have fun and support the "home team."  Our co-inhabitants work very hard at what they do!

This week will find me flailing about in our rivers in search of rare mussels, but after that, the young beast and I head up to Maryland for an eventing clinic, thanks to the generosity of a great friend, with Irish ex-Cavalry officer and Olympian, Eric Smiley.  More on that one to come as soon as the schedule allows!

March 10, 2013

Flat Out Flat Walkin'

Oh yeah, he really wanted to work.  Great pillow, dude.
"Are you riding Solo today?"

The BO's question came as I finished a surprisingly nice ride on Encore and was basking in the t-shirt worthy sunshine before heading up the hill.

"If you want, I have another one for you to ride otherwise," he said hopefully.     

My curiosity was piqued.  My horses are quite the exception at our farm, which is a training and breeding facility for flat-shod TN Walking Horses and Spotted Saddle Horses.  BO and his clients show the pleasure and versatility (yes, with gaited dressage and jumping!) circuit around the southeast -- or as he calls it, "the sound horse circuit," having long since gotten fed up with the unethical training and sored horses of the padded horse world.

I was in the mood to try something new, as long as it didn't try to buck me off.  BO rides many training horses a day and I knew he'd also welcome some help between teaching and riding.  So I slipped a halter on the curiously named Treat (which due to a sharpie slip on his stall card, is now jokingly called least I hoped it was a joke), a rangy little seven-year-old light chestnut with big eyes and a wide blaze, and led him up to my trailer.

I grew up in Saddlebred country, although I did not ride them, so gaited horses are hardly a mystery.  But since they are generally discouraged from trotting and, after 30 years, I find posting akin to breathing, they're just not my thing.  But both the Saddlebreds and TWHs always impressed me with their tolerance, patience, good-mindedness, and heart, even in questionable situations.

Naturally, as I picked up a brush, Threat spotted his pasture friends, ripped the rope of the side of the trailer and took off at a stunning elevated trot, complete with flagged tail, leaving me slightly less excited about this experiment.

Our 30+ crowd, Wildfire and Mama Donkey, were unimpressed by hijinks.
Let's just skip ahead 15 minutes, past the part where he managed to wedge his lead rope between a hind shoe and his foot and I had to cut/vice-grip it out after finally cornering him in an alley so I could even catch him and take his fun away.  Well, he did have some VERY impressive movement...

I put him in Solo's dressage saddle and spare bridle, with a Happy Mouth boucher, as BO said he was fine with anything (to my great relief, I would not have to ride in a Western saddle, as they leave me sore, off-balance, and apologizing to my knees).  Then I got on, took a soft feel of his mouth, and said, "Erm.  Go, horsey."

All I really knew is what I have observed.  BO trains all his horses and students very well, encouraging riding the horse from his hind end to create impulsion, connecting the inside hind leg to the outside rein, balancing with a half halt so the horse cannot lean on you, and moving the hips and shoulders laterally to lift and connect the horse through his body.  Sound familiar?

So off horsey went.  Still enthusiastic from his romp, he stepped off at a smart flat walk.  Still annoyed at his naughtiness, I said, "Fine, but you're going to work at it," and asked him to stay soft and connected in the bridle and moving up with his hind legs.

Within a minute, I could tell he was very educated and light to the hand and leg.  We transitioned among walk, flat walk, and canter (I couldn't figure out how to find running walk) and while he preferred to cheat and lean on me when he could, it was merely because he was quite out of shape and lacking muscle in his topline and butt due to lolling about in his pasture.  When I sat down and informed him he would move up and connect, he did.

He was bright and fun to ride as I explored his buttons.  I ran out of things to do as my brain got tired and gave him lots of breaks when he got winded, although, holy cow, he recovered his breath in about two minutes each time! 

It was a fun romp on "the other side of the fence," and I had to giggle when BO said, "Hey, good job!" --  I replied, "I'm just letting him do whatever it is he's doing, he's the trained one," and BO exclaimed, "Well, that's how you learn!"  If he has a secret plot to convert me, I'm afraid it's destined for failure; my big orange trotting, leaping horses captured my heart forever.   

However, I always relish learning more and developing as a horseman.  Every horse we sit on has something to teach and I thrive on variety.  BO himself is a tactful rider with an excellent seat, impeccable timing, and a soft hand -- I envy his consistency on the horse and will never pass up a chance to develop that! 

Will there be more four-beating in my future?  Well, I hope not on my horses (naughty!) but on those long, sunny weekends where I'm searching for excuses not to go home?  You won't find me saying no to a catch ride.
It was just the right kind of day for...

...synchronized sleeping.