Friday, February 10, 2012

"Heaven’s remuda improved by one fine mare", and a love for mares!

Heaven’s remuda improved by one fine mare on February 8 begins the tribute to Whizards Baby Doll, aka "Roxy", on Stacy Westfall's official website. I was saddened to read about the passing of this wonderful mare yesterday, and I can only begin to imagine the grief of her human family. One fine mare, indeed.

And who was Roxy? If you watch this video, then you will remember, and you will know. If you are like me, then you have seen this performance many, many times. Perhaps even dozens of times. It's one of those horse videos that you can't help but watch over and over, mesmerized by the beauty of the connection between horse and rider. Much like this video, and also--of course--this one. Each time, it seems like the rider is nearly motionless, nothing more than a passenger. In the case of Secretariat and Ron Turcotte, that was indeed true (as Turcotte himself has noted). But not with the other two.

The video of Stacy and Roxy showed thousands of people worldwide what was possible with your horse, while the video of Blue Hors Matine has captivated over a million people. But before you can ride a championship reining run sans tack or a gold medal freestyle dressage routine, there needs to be a constant line of trust between you and your horse. This is particularly true for mares, and I would like to point out that both Blue Hors Matine and Roxy were mares.

Mares have a bad reputation with many equestrians--I cannot count the number of times I've heard people proclaim that they will never buy a mare, or that they dislike working with mares. And yes, it's true that mares can be difficult sometimes. But unless your mare has violent mood swings (in which case, you need to contact a vet immediately, because abnormal mood swings in mares can be caused by ovarian pain or tumors), then she is likely a normal mare. If you are a woman, or married to one, then you know that it is normal for women to have mood swings. You have accepted this, and it is okay. So why can't it be for mares?

Limerick herself is a little on the "extreme" end of the normal mare spectrum. When we first got her in 1996, it was quite a surprise to me because I was used to laid-back school horse types. The horse I rode before Lim was an appaloosa mare named Frost, and she was as mellow a horse as you could ride. Nothing fazed her! So to find myself grooming, tacking up and riding a tail-swishing, ear-pinning spooky crab of a mare, it was truly an eye-opener.

Unfortunately, I was initially encouraged to fight Lim when she displayed these negative emotions. I was not comfortable with this approach and felt like it would have been far better, and much more progressive, to instead be patient and soft with her. But as a young teenager in a strict hunter-jumper barn, what did I know...right? It turns out that I had the correct idea.

Over the years I found opportunities to work with Lim in my own quiet way, and before long I was able to do this at all times. She visibly relaxed, and so did I! We were both no longer on guard around each other, and I found her so much easier to work with (I'm sure she would have said the same with me). I loved mares before Lim came into my life, and thanks to Miss Lim, I can now tell you that I cannot imagine not having a mare!

You see, a happy mare is priceless. A mare that trusts you is loyal for life, as long as that line of trust is not broken. A mare devoted to you will do literally anything for you. This is why Lim cooperates so well for me when we go out on the scary trails! I know the entire ordeal is potentially very frightening for her, but with my hand soft on her neck and soothing words whispered to her, she listens to me. She knows that I will not do anything to hurt her, so in turn she does not want to do anything to hurt me. Of course, despite this, I do exercise caution--I ride her in the arena before we head on the trail, and I make sure we are with other horses. You need to operate within the limits of both yourself and your mare.

These days, when Lim is having a moody day, then I change tactics. Instead of forcing a ride on her, I instead give her a massage or pamper her by giving her a bath, or braiding her mane and tail (which she adores--she is guaranteed to doze off), then taking her down to the grassy strip to graze. And the next day I try again. Chances are, she will be more than up for a ride--and give me 110%.

There is really nothing like a fine mare!

I *love* my mare!

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