Last Friday was the first time I rode a horse in a year and a half. And it was fun . . . even though I couldn't walk for the better part of five days!
A little over nine years ago I had to sell my appendix Quarter Horse, Buster. I bought him as a green-broke 2-year-old. Green-broke means he would carry a rider at a walk, trot, and lope--a Western cowboy broke him so he loped, not catered. He had little-to-no steering, but he did have a stop. Buster was the one horse that I didn't want to sell, but I had to sell. It was all about the finances at this point. When I told the trainer to sell him, I didn't expect him to be shipped off to Kansas City and sold within a week. I expected the more traditional timeline of 6 months to a year before he was sold.
I guess I did a good job training him as an event horse.
Buster was a blast to ride. The combination of thoroughbred and Quarter Horse was perfect. He was always willing to try something new--though I do have a busted finger from the time he didn't want to jump the Liverpool and I did (my finger was tangled in the reins--a no-no as you should drop the reins when you go flying). In the ten years that I owned him, I think that was one of the handfuls of times I actually paid a trainer to get on my horse--to teach him to jump Liverpool's.
He was such a good boy. Many times I would be bored working him in the arena that I'd leave the gates open gallop into the arena, concentrate on various types of collection, and then gallop out of the arena to run up and down hills and through the pond. And if you thought I was a kid riding like this, you'd be wrong. I was in my forties. This type of fun kept us both happy.
Ah, he was about as bomb-proof as a horse could get. I still get teary-eyed when I think about him.
Fast forward to a year and a half ago--The horse I rode was a pasture horse owned by my previous barn owner. He was a good horse and eventually, I worked on making him supple--he was like riding a two-by-four, with no ability to bend and he motorcycled around corners (leaned in), etc. It was fun to be riding again, but there was no real 'purpose' to riding this horse.
Fast forward to a couple weeks ago. I was chatting with swim mom Margaret--yes, her name is the same as mine--about horses--coincidence? I think not--and she suggested I ride her horse as she hadn't been able to ride him as often as she would have liked. She also told me that I was in a blue funk (my words, not hers) because I missed the smell of manure, leather and that spiciness that is pure HORSE.
She was right.
Last Friday, I took a 'lesson' (I think Margaret and her trainer wanted to see what I remembered and to know Bounce wasn't going to toss me) on a horse named Blue--a round little roan that rode like another 2 X 4, and then Bounce, Margaret's thoroughbred.
I still got some skills, not mad skills, but rusty ones!
Neither Margaret nor the trainer realized how the horse got the name Bounce. I found this very interesting since I figured it out with his very first canter step!
His bouncy canter nearly popped me out of the saddle!
Afterwards, I went home and took a hot shower and ate Aleve for five days while my inner thighs screamed in agony.
Yesterday, I rode Bounce again.
We had a few conversations about his jigging at the walk--that's where they prance in place, usually in anticipation of cantering. This is not a behavior you want in dressage or the hunters. After trying to figure out how to 'fix' this, I realized what was causing the problem. While you could get him on the bit at a walk, he had a hard time actively walking forward, and Bounce's answer to this problem was to jig.
It took me about 40 minutes, but with numerous shoulder-ins and haunches-in, I managed to get him to stretch his hind legs up under himself to actively walk forward, instead of jigging or trotting. When he kept a nice frame both directions, I stopped for the day.
Shoulder-in/Haunches-in: Normally, horses track in two paths, one for each side of their bodies. With the shoulder-in/haunches-in they track in three lines. For example with a right shoulder-in: the right fore hoof will be on it's own track, the middle track is the left fore and right hind will track in the same line, with the final track being the left hind. This makes the horse have to stretch under himself more to keep the correct angle of the drill.
He'll need work to stretch those muscles every time, but once he understood what I asked, he was very happy to comply.
When I chatted with Margaret's trainer last Friday, she commented, "You need a project horse." That is so true. I love riding, but I love riding with a purpose. Since I don't have a horse of my own, I'll enjoy Margaret's horse for as long as it is mutually beneficial for three of us--yes, I included Bounce in this.
As a thoroughbred, some horses tend to gather steam as they gallop--Bounce does this. I want him to be truly focused on ME and my requests before I take him out of the arena.
But I can't wait until we're ready to gallop around the the property.