Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The latest rides

It’s been a great past few days for Limerick and thoughts of showing her next summer have definitely been renewed!

I have ridden Lim four more times since I wrote “The saddle is no longer dusty”.

On the second ride, she gave me another nice rolling trot.

For the third ride, we were in the outdoor arena with three other horses—Lim’s boyfriend, a Saddlebred, and a 16.3 Thoroughbred gelding. The Saddlebred was as high as a kite, as usual, and full of spooks. Lim’s boyfriend had a couple moments of his own. Lim herself was full of energy but didn’t spook once, which surprised me a little. Normally, if she has this much “go” and another horse in the arena spooks, she will spook as well (herd instinct and all). But no! She didn’t even glance their way.

However, she didn’t like the Saddlebred. Lim is peculiar about other horses. Over the years, I’ve found that she does not like the following:

Small ponies
Medium ponies
Average-size ponies with enormous, out-of-control Thelwell-like manes and tails
Dapple grays
Fleabitten grays
(But apparently young solid grays are OK)
Ehh, some chestnuts are OK, some are not
But god forbid if a liver chestnut goes near her!
Miniature horses
Tennessee Walkers
Probably any other gaited horse that Lim has yet to meet
Gigantic chestnut sabino warmbloods
Blue eyes
Just a hint of Appaloosa
The slightest indication a horse is *gasp* a Paint!
Any and all mares, no exceptions! Whatsoever!
(With the exception of a certain young solid gray, circa 1999)

In other words, anything besides a bay, very plain chestnut (Thoroughbred preferred, Quarter Horse accepted) dark bay, or black gelding is greeted with suspicion. Lim would probably like stallions of similar appearance but I haven’t had the opportunity to get her close to a stallion, nor do I desire such an opportunity.

Back to the Saddlebred. At one point, I was trotting Lim (nice rolling trot again) and the Saddlebred was cantering around the arena in the high-kneed, fetlock-snapping norm for the breed. The Saddlebred passed us around the curve at one end of the arena (about fifteen or so feet away from Lim). Lim pinned her ears for a brief second. Still cantering, the Saddlebred moved over until he was in front of us, along the rail, and pulled away.

Suddenly Lim went into an extended trot! I drew up on the reins.

“Whoa girl,” I said, but I was very pleased with her trot. It was very unlike her to move into such an extended trot on her own. She’s done what I call her “Standardbred trot” but not an extended trot. She was feeling great! She was going as fast as the still-cantering Saddlebred, then closing the gap between us. When she was about fifteen feet away from the Saddlebred’s haunches, I began to pull her away from the rail, lest she run the poor horse over (or spook him, which is probably the more likely scenario).

Lim pinned her ears, put her head down, gave it a shake, and with a goofy sideways mini-buck, moved into a quick canter.

This is how a real horse moves!

“Stop! You goofy thing!” I said, pulling her down to a walk. What she had done was horrible! What a bad girl! So rude! But I laughed. And later, laughed about it some more.

For the fourth and fifth rides, since Lim was moving so well at the trot, I decided to ask for a canter.

I’m not supposed to, per my vet, but I know my vet is an extremely cautious woman. By now I have figured out that the Limerick on the lunge line is very different from the Limerick under saddle. On the lunge line, Lim is very lazy. Once in a blue moon, she will throw in a little spook or act silly. But of course, never when the vet is watching. Lim is so trusting of me that past my voice commands, she will not do much more on the lunge line, no matter how intimidating I try to look with the lunge whip. She knows that I’ll never touch her cruelly with it (that said, when I substitute it for the so-called “carrot stick”—an absurdly-priced orange stick that looks like a short version of a lunge whip and is marketed as a “tool” for natural horsemanship sessions—Lim will lick her lips, back up accordingly, and pay it all the respect that another horse would pay a “carrot stick”).

Anyway, back to the canter. It was as if she had been waiting for it all along. All I had to do was start thinking about a canter and she became excited. I let the reins loose just a bit and she jumped forward into a lovely canter. Because it was our first time cantering since May and I wanted to ease any possible stress on her, I sat (stood?) in the two-point position (butt just out of the saddle, back straight but tilted a bit forward, eyes ahead, leg secure, yada yada—oh, for you non-horsey types, just turn on the Olympics and watch a re-play of the cross-country jumping segment of the equestrian events. The riders gallop along in a two-point position).

But whoa, did she want to go! I had to shorten my reins so much that I did indeed look like an Olympic cross-country jumper. She kept asking me to let her gallop. But I didn’t let her. Another time, but not now.

The true test was a clockwise canter. For the past couple years, she has been off at the clockwise canter. She will try to hold it but cannot, and will often break into a fast trot instead of the canter when I ask for it.

But this time, once again, all I had to do was let the reins go and she flowed right into it. Not only that, but I had to hold her tighter than I had going counter-clockwise.

Something was different, something was effortless and we both felt it. I could hear Limerick in my head—Wheeeee!

I think she is happy to be ridden again, even if the rides consist of mostly walking, a little trotting, and barely one lap at the canter. I truly think she feels better than she has in a long, long time. She is energetic yet not spooky, happy to be working, and a great pleasure to ride. Over the weekend, my farrier finally proclaimed her hind and right fore feet perfect, and her left fore as almost there. It’s amazing what a difference balanced hooves can do for your horse.

Now you know why I want to show her next summer! With some training, she will be ready!

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