Thursday, April 18, 2013

No Thoroughbreds - ha!

On Sunday we finally had sunny skies and mild temperatures. The whole family hit the court for three sets of doubles with the horses grazing in the nearby pastures. Maizie had her music playing (which thankfully is our music too - poor honey - we brainwashed her into liking our music before she was five so she doesn't know anything else!) and the birds were singing and the flowers were blooming and the horses were munching. It doesn't get better than this for me. After the tennis, I had a great ride around the farm on Foggy.

Saturday our sweet Sage was visiting from Vermont and she and Brian walked beside me while I rode Pie bareback around the perimeter. Brian remarked that it was too bad we all couldn't ride. I've been thinking about this comment for the last few days.

There probably isn't a horse or breed of horse who is actually "safe" for non-riders to hop on anytime, but very occasionally, I do wish my horses were a little more beginner-friendly. When I decided to get back into horses in 2007, I told my mom that this time round I would like to have a gelding, preferably a slow, calm, quiet horse (does this exist?). I do not believe geldings are inherently quieter than mares. Our last three horses had been mares and I just wanted to have a gelding. One thing I distinctly remember saying was, "No more Thoroughbreds!" 

Hmmm...well, I got the gelding part right! 

This month has been atypical, with crazy, wild behavior from Sovereign, my usual go-to boy for safe rides. Here he is, above, on a Monday bareback ride, but Wednesday's ride on him would not have been ideal for picture taking since he was out of control. I'm not sure if he is worried about the herd of deer who have taken over our farm or something else, but I have to ride Sovereign lately rather than just sitting there like a sack of ...well, you know. 

His rushing requires circles and serpentines. I can get him to walk on a very long rein and he appears to be calm, but it is all an act. He is actually extending and dropping his head because of my body position, but there is no calm snort from him. He never relaxes completely. In fact, just the opposite - if I stop concentrating for a split second, his head comes back into my lap, he starts to jig or full trot and his sheath makes the worried gelding noises as he races around. Then, I regroup my brain, re-position my body, give him all the reins, and he pretends to calm down by dropping his head and lengthening his neck. 

I don't know what is going on, but over the years, other things have thrown Sovey out of balance and we always work it out. We had times when his bridle bothered him so I rode him in a halter for months. He had issues with the saddle so I still ride him bareback mostly. He demonstrated that he hates the cross-ties although he allowed them for the first six months. Now, he stands untied in the forebay without moving a muscle for tacking. This new worrying glitch seems to be external (deer on his land?) but I'll probably figure it out eventually. Sovereign is a great communicator. He'll show me with such tenacity and verve until I finally understand what he is saying - in spite of my being a dumb human.

I rarely think of my horses as "difficult" to ride; they seem so sensible and happy and sweet to me. But, if I look at it from another person's perspective, my horses probably are not completely easy. They are very aware of their surroundings. You can't go to sleep for one second because they will test you. They make me think. They make me ride well. And family and friends can't safely hop on for a quick ride unless I am on the ground leading.

But the upside of having three Thoroughbreds is that the challenge of every ride keeps it fresh. I can't imagine a time when a ride or a grooming session could be dull. My mind can't wander too far while I am with them and that time of constant focus is not tiring or exhausting. Instead it is meditative. There is no room in my brain for boredom or worry or creativity. It just is right now. I think my brain seems empty then, like I am in between conscious and unconscious thought. When I am in that space there is only joy. My horses walk out - they actually seem to strut - they do not dawdle or race nervously - they glide in the most alert, perceptive, interested walk that just makes my heart sing! No Thoroughbreds? What in the world was I thinking?


  1. I love me some thoroughbred too! I have to say there are such things as the wonderful safe anyone can hop on any time kind of horses and they are worth their weight in gold. I may have lucked out with our horse moonlight but anyone from kid to husband can get on him and be completely safe. Yet he has enough go to keep up with me and my tb on the trail. Though as far as breed I don't even know what he is. Conformationaly he will not win any medals. But he can keep my 6 yr old daughter and husband completely safe for hours and hours on trails, the 4-h fair madness, and does anything we ask. If I had to guess he does have some Missouri Fox Trotter in him and he is gaited, which also helps with unsecured seated. Anyways all that to say having an anybody horse around is very nice to have.

  2. All your boys are gorgeous. It's amazing how a horse can go for months or years with nothing to complain about then all of a sudden there is a worried look and behavior. I'm sure you'll figure it out though.

    Thoroughbred's might not be the most beginner friendly horses but then again that might depend on the horse. I had a Thoroughbred mare once who was just calm and wonderful. I think that might be rare though. I'd say for a basically safe horse a Quarter Horse would be best. They do call them the Golden Retrievers of the horse breeds. My two couldn't be less spooky if they tried. Good luck if you're in the market.

  3. Thanks guys for the comments - and, no, Grey Horse Matters, I am not in the market!!!

  4. Ah thoroughbreds... I wouldn't have them any other way.

    I wouldn't hand over the reins to mine either, (he definitely has his moments), although he has given several pony rides recently (with me leading) that were snooze-worthy.

    And then there was other day when I suddenly crashed through the rickety dry rotted turned over bucket I was standing on while clipping Val's bridle path - big crash and I'm trapped in the broken bucket - he didn't even blink an eye.

    Makes you wonder what their definition of scary is... ;D

  5. I love my special TB Dawn, and had another wonderful TB, Promise (who never raced), but at my age they're probably not the ideal horse for me - although there are quiet TBs.

    But QHs vary a lot in temperament - Pie can be fairly quiet, although he has his moments, and to ride him properly you couldn't be a beginner, and Red certainly isn't for beginners and probably not even for intermediates . . .

  6. C,F,S - What a story about the bucket crash. That Val, ho hum to his girl for falling all over the place! So funny!

    Kate - I love your patience and perseverance with your three. They are all different and none easy rides. You inspire me, Kate!

    I figure that I am 46 now and my guys are 7,8, and 9. Therefore, they should be in their twenties when I am in my sixties. And we will have had 20 years together to sort it all out. Really, I am amazed at how safe my rides have been considering that they came when Pie was just three!

  7. Yea...Jules without her Grand TB's??!! NEVER!
    I adore your three and the unique dispositions they have. Sovey's recent swing is perplexing...but all things do change and maybe his eyesight has a little?

    Many if not all horses, no matter the breed, have the herd mentality of "Who's the leader"? And like you said with Sovey, if you are not riding him...he has to take over. I do think there are some horses that can be trusted with a newbie rider...but so many factors go into why.

    I have thought that too...someday a gelding, but it truly doesn't matter does it!

    Your Day on the court and on the back of your steeds...LOVERLY!
    Ah, springtime!

  8. Isn't it so interesting!! Laz I would consider 90% quiet, but SO sensitive that in the wrong hands (a lot my own) it brings out the 10% HOT. It is all about us figuring out their communication and it's so hard, isn't it. One thing with the circles, figure 8, serpentine is, it's SO great because it's moving their ribs side to side and almost giving them their breath, so it may be exactly what Sovey needs-well done. I know, even when I practice yoga, I KNOW I am supposed to breath a pattern, but it's not natural for me as an anxious person so I hold it, and then find I'm tense so I try it again and relax. Sovey may be like that?? ;) He is in the right hands, so that is all you need to know. No, they may not be beginner safe horses but they are alive, active, thinking horses and that is much much better.

  9. Hey Kacy and Kristen - my ottb friends - all of us know, don't we?! Thanks for always putting into words the same experiences I share each day. Makes the journey more fun to know you and everyone else is out there having a blast with our ex-racers!


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