Sunday, December 12, 2010

How to survive winter with horses, part 2

I posted a facebook status the other day that said something to the effect of "I'm remembering why winters with a thoroughbred is trying, at best."

This came on the heels of riding my darling, wonderful and predictably unpredictable thoroughbred. I have to "ride the horse I'm sitting on" with him, and I usually decide the general idea of what we're going to do enough to pick "dressage saddle" or "jump saddle" and then alter that plan accordingly when I'm sitting on him. In the summer, he stays reasonably consistent, but in the winter- ALL BETS ARE OFF.

I decided to really spend some time playing with some lateral work the other day, since he was mostly quiet, fairly forward and in front of my leg. Well, Julia was walking her dogs and they came by, Ari could see them through the tree line. I let him stand and watch and when they went out of view, put him back to work.

Ha. Ha. Ha.

Joke's on me. Gone is reasonably responsive TB and in his place is "flying, one-eyed, giraffe thing." *sigh*

So, we worked through that, but of course, every sound was a horse eating monster, every application of leg an excuse to do tempi changes, every gust of wind a chance to exhibit his Spanish-riding-school-worthy aires above ground, it was an interesting day.

With 15 different horses on my roster to ride each week, you never know what you're going to get when you bring one up.

Horses who are usually easy to catch are suddenly... not.

Horses who are sometimes hard to catch may become your best friend.

My very favorite, however, is when the steady-eddy, always trust worthy, shoves his nose in the halter quarter horse is grazing at the end of the pasture. You walk ALLLLLL the way down to catch Elmer, figuring you can just climb on and ride Elmer back to the gate. And then... Elmer lifts his head in a stately fashion, one you only see in professional pictures of thoroughbreds, pricks his ears, flares his nostrils and slowly his tail goes STRAIGHT up in an undeniable, and very undesirable, Arabian fashion and Elmer does his very best Pepe le Pew impression all the way up to the gate, leaving me standing at the end of the pasture with a halter, a cookie, and a long walk alone.

Another classic is when the normally-must-be-caught-with-a-cookie-or-bucket-of-grain horse gallops up to you as you unlatch the gate and comes to a screeching sliding stop toe to toe and nostril to nostril with you, seeming to say "Hey, Buddy! Time for a ride? Can't wait!" You tentatively slip the halter on and bring Fluffy into the barn to tack up. Fluffy stands stock still and never moves a muscle. You can almost see the glint of evil in Fluffy's eye as you tighten the cinch. You decide to put Fluffy in the round pen for a minute, where Fluffy trots around like a western pleasure pony, peanut rolling and never so much as twitching an ear. Never trusting Fluffy for a minute, you clip on a training fork... just in case... and climb aboard.

As soon as you settle into the saddle, Fluffy takes on a dragon-like quality and you could swear Fluffy is snorting flames. You proceed to try to work Fluffy down in a long trot to try to accomplish something, but all you've managed to do by the end of the ride is post yourself into a frenzied oblivion and Fluffy still sounds like she's going to spontaneously combust at any moment.

And then, of course, there is one that any horse owner will recognize. You go to catch your precious pony, and you can tell, just by looking, that Precious is a little wired today. As you lead Precious up to the barn, you feel like more like you're holding onto the end of the string attached to this:

than leading your normally fairly reasonable mount.

Once you manage to bring the kite back to earth and put Precious in cross ties, Precious suddenly appears larger than life, six feet taller than Precious' normal height of 15.2 and you're fairly sure that Precious has been switched out with a feral mustang from the range. You ponder why you bother to pay the bills that Precious racks up month after month, consider switching sports- from horseback riding to something much safer, like base jumping, cave diving, or even bull running.

After all, it costs more to maintain Precious than it costs to maintain your own life, Precious eats top notch, perfectly balanced and made only with the highest quality, human grade ingredients feed every day while you exist on Ramen and lunchmeat made from who-knows-what. Precious gets designer sneakers every six weeks while you wear the same boots you've had for going on three years and are held together by duct tape and a prayer. Precious gets expensive blankets that end up coated with more mud than you can possibly imagine and you buy your linens at Walmart. Precious gets to see the vet for every and any ailment and you only go to the doctor when you're fairly certain death is imminent. Precious gets everything Precious wants whenever Precious wants it and what do you get in return when you go out to ride Precious for 30 minutes three times a week?

You do a quick inventory- health insurance up to date? Check. Arrangements made for pets should I not return home? Check. Bills paid in case I end up in hospital? Check. Cell phone attached to body? Check. Helmet securely fastened? Check. Body protector? Check.

Then you give Precious a pat and do one of two things (it's like a Choose Your Own Adventure book... remember those?)

A) Tack up, haul yourself into the danger zone and go try to have a decent ride...
B) Put Precious' blanket back on, turn Precious back out and promise to ride one day when the frozen ground doesn't seem as... hard.

Ah, yes. Winter with horses... and its only just beginning!


  1. LOL!! This post is fantastic. :-) I think we can all relate. hee hee

  2. Aw, choose your own adventure books! I had forgotten about those...I remember I would read ahead on both of the options and then choose which one I liked best. Too bad you can't do that in real life.