Before it snows again

Before it snows
Yesterday it was nearly 60 degrees. The light was so beautiful by the pond that we had to stop and take it all in. Zelda particularly likes the stopping and looking at the landscape parts of our rides. Tomorrow it’s going to snow. Again.

When drivers are dangerousII

It’s gotten to the point where I hate riding on the sides of roads because so many drivers are either clueless about horses or downright evil. Giving the majority the benefit of the doubt, I think a lot of drivers simply think of horses as machines, like bicycles, and don’t understand that driving by them fast, beeping their horn, or otherwise scaring a horse can result in a bad outcome.

This poor 4-year old Quarter Horse gelding was spooked by a driver and slipped into a ditch by the side of the road. Not just any ditch, but a horse trap — too deep and narrow to allow the horse to escape.

The rider was able to get out unharmed and luckily the Miami Dade Fire Rescue Team stepped in with equipment that allowed it to lift the horse out of the ditch. It was unharmed.

But here’s the kicker. These guys  get a lot of practice because, apparently, this happens once or twice a month!

“The tech rescue guys at FS 43 created a mock horse built out of steel and concrete [that] weighs 1,000 lbs. It allows the team … to rotate through and practice securing the horse to lift it out,” Miami-Dade Fire Captain Jack Swerdloff said.

Hard to believe that there hasn’t been some educational outreach to try to prevent this from happening so often.

Horses don’t care about potential

Kroni turned out to be a very talented horse, once I found him the “right” job.

Sometimes you’re lucky and you buy a horse that ends up with more talent than you expected. More talent than you, perhaps, need for the type of riding you prefer. And, more times than not, I hear those lucky people lament the fact that they are “holding back” the horse, who could achieve greater things with a better rider.

I read this on a friend’s FB page last week as she talked about her horse:

Honestly, she has so much ability! Sometimes I think she is wasted on me. Not that I don’t love her and do things with her, but she is capable of so much more.

She’s right that she has a lovely, athletic horse who has a lot of ability. But she is certainly not wasting that talent. Nope, this is a sensitive horse with, shall we call, an amount of “exuberance” that many people would not be able to ride. My friend rides this horse beautifully and they have a fantastic partnership. It sure looks like a happy horse to me.

I do understand where she’s coming from because years ago, I said the same thing about my Trakehner, Kronefurst, to my trainer. Kroni was a beautiful and athletic horse with extravagant gaits and a big jump. He also had some quirks, including a tendency to rear and a very defined opinion about how he liked to be ridden. After I said how much more Kroni could have done with a better rider, my trainer laughed and said he was damned lucky to have found me because his quirks might have led to a bad ending.

Patriot's day
For several years I rode him in a Patriot’s Day Re-enactment, rousing the Lincoln Minutemen. I could tell that he wasn’t crazy about riding down into the crowds, but he did it because I asked him.

Let’s face it. Horses don’t understand potential. They don’t hunker down at night and bemoan the fact that they will never gallop around Rolex.

I do believe they know when they’ve done a good job, and I certainly think that many horses like to have a job that they understand and can excel at. But they don’t care about ribbons and they never berate themselves for not achieving the human definition of success.  They want to please their human and that may well be enough. Well, that and lots of turnout and grass.

I bought Kroni with the intention of eventing him, but I only took him to a couple of competitions. He was always fussy with his mouth — partially it was because he had a thick tongue and a low palate; partially it was because he felt trapped when asked for any collection. After struggling with the dressage phase for several years, it became clear to me that this was never going to be his strong suit.

Kronefurst, my Trakehner, found his true purpose in life foxhunting. Here is is in his bitless bridle, waiting patiently for the first cast.

Ultimately, he found his calling as a hunt horse. From the very first time I hunted him he let me know that this was what he’d been waiting to do. Out hunting, he didn’t need to have a bit — he was completely controllable with a bitless bridle. He was bold but never out of control. He jumped anything that was in front of him. And he stood at the checks on the buckle. We had a deal: I would never ask him to do something that he couldn’t do and he would take care of me.

Sure, if he’d had a different rider, he might have won more ribbons but I don’t think he would have had more fun.

If you’re lucky enough to have one of those horses with a little bit more scope than you actually need, just remember that your horse doesn’t care about potential. He only wants to be well cared for and loved, and to please you. So enjoy that extra bit of ability, give him a pat and know that he is only performing for you.

William Fox-Pitt leads after Dressage in Rio

William Fox-Pitt on Chilli Morning
William Fox-Pitt GBR riding Chilli Morning, during the dressage phase of the Eventing Competition of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Fox-Pitt currently is in first place.

William Fox-Pitt and Chilli Morning held onto their leadership position with a score of 37.0. What a come back for William, who had a terrible fall last year. To see him back in the saddle and in such great form is inspiring.

He tells his story best in these two interviews below. Until listening to him, I’d had no idea how much he’s had to overcome in his recovery.

Horses have always been part of my life and I love being around them. During my recovery they gave me something to go for. The horses really got me back to being fit and back on the job.

In the beginning I couldn’t see very well at all and then for several months I had blurred vision. It did effect my riding.

‘The jumping was tricky when you could see one fence that became four and I couldn’t really tell which one I was jumping until the last minute. It’s tough.

I knew Zelda was smarter than the average horse

It’s been so hot here that I try to hose the horses down when I’m at the barn. Only Zelda really enjoys it. Curly will get a tiny bit wet, as will Freedom. Willow will have nothing to do with it.

It’s been hot here. Up in the 90s almost every day. I tip my hats to my friends who are still taking lessons, still competing, and have lived to tell about it. I’m riding, but only in the early morning or early evening when the temperatures are a bit more forgiving.

This weather reminds me of when I was a kid, at riding camp. As a New York City kid, the opportunity to spend eight whole weeks riding every day was about as close to nirvana as I could imagine. I certainly wasn’t going to let a little heat get in the way.

Riding in the shade
I restrict my riding to the shady areas of the field. It’s considerably cooler. You can see Zelda is outfitted with a fly mask, too. She’s a diva when it comes to bugs.

As I recall, we rode twice a day — from about 9 a.m. to 11 and then again in the afternoons. There were no water breaks. I don’t remember ever being given even a sip of water during a lesson. In fact, kids regularly fainted, slipping off their horses or collapsing to the ground when dismounting. I never fell off my horse, but I certainly collapsed once I’d landed on my feet. As a parent, I can hardly believe that was the norm. Of course, we didn’t wear sun screen back then either.

Instead, we were told to add a bit of salt to what we drank in the mornings. Sheesh. It’s lucky that no one suffered from real heat exhaustion.

These days, I’m a wimp. I ride in the shade. I don’t ride very hard. I don’t ride very long. I have water at hand. And, I wear sunscreen.

I don’t think either Zelda or Freedom mind taking it easy when it’s this hot. And at least Zelda really enjoys the shower after.