First Ride Magic

Well, the foot of rain we got last night, plus that missing fenceboard like a broken tooth in the round pen wall, will keep Final Call from working today. As you can see from this BlackBerry photo, he is still enjoying the attentions of his harem. . .

They'll be snogging next. . . .

It’s been three weeks since I rode him at the farm in Ocala. Funny story about that. . .

You all know the premise that you never get on a horse that the owner won’t ride, right?

Sometimes with OTTBs you have to throw that out. For one thing, if you’re checking out the horse at the backside of the track, there’s no where to ride him but the racetrack, and that usually isn’t considered an option! You don’t “try” racehorses, you look at them and have X-rays taken, and that’s about as far as it goes.

When I went to see Final Call, the owner tacked him up, took him out to the round pen, and lunged him for me to see. He was a little tiny bit of a crazy man. It was deep sand footing, which tends to throw Thoroughbreds into a tailspin anyway. The exciting part was that the round pen had about ten foot walls, and he could put his head over the wall and see horses galloping on the training track just beyond.

Then she pulls him up and says, “I don’t know how long you like your stirrups,” and proceeds to hold him still (or an approximation thereof) while I adjust the stirrups. This was when I had a little alarm go off in my brain.

“You’re not getting on him, I take it,” I said to her.

“Oh no,” she laughed. “Oh no.”

That’s always reassuring. “Look,” I said seriously. “I have half a dozen horses two hours from here that will need feeding tonight if anything happens to me. I know you don’t want to take on that responsibility. Is he going to dump me?”

She shook her head. “He’s fine. Really. I’m just not much of a rider.”

Fair enough. She probably wasn’t. And anyway – what difference does it make if the owner/trainer rides the horse before you or not? These days, you are just as liable to get a drugged, exhausted horse that turns into a devil after you get him back to your own barn, whether the owner gets on or not. Risk it before you buy or risk after, either way it’s a roulette spin whether or not the horse is going to kill you.

I stuck my boot in the stirrup and swung aboard.

Imagine, if you will, the most slippery, cheapest, cardboard-iest saddle you have ever sat upon in your entire life. Then multiply that by ten and add denim to the mix because I didn’t feel like wearing full-seat breeches all day. THEN get on an OTTB who doesn’t know about the “OT” part yet.

Now, for all of that misery, he was quite fantastic. He didn’t bolt, he didn’t flip, he didn’t buck, he didn’t toss his head back and break my nose (that’s actually my biggest fear in life – well, it’s a close second to the black hole that’s going to open up in Europe when the super-collider is started up.) Those are basically my four qualifications in taking on a horse. If he doesn’t do any of those things, he’s pretty much in.

It took me several minutes to find some sort of balance on that parody of a saddle. We jogged around the ring in a nervous state of slipping and sliding, my hands jerking at his mouth, my legs wobbling about – then muscle memory took over (bless you!) and I pressed my knees into his sides, my hands into his neck, stuck my heels out and well ahead of my lower body, and rode like the exercise rider I’d once been, a decade ago.

And oh – that arched neck, and that round back, and that prancing stride! It all came together – he knew me, and I knew him – and we slipped into a canter (the wrong lead, but who’s looking) and went dancing around the round pen, so pleased with one another that he forgot to stare longingly at the racetrack, and I forgot to be frightened. Love, love, love. Love is a many-splendored thing. Love is a racehorse.



Filed under Final Call, Herd Life, Stereotypes, Training Diary, Training Theory

6 responses to “First Ride Magic

  1. Love is a fantasy.
    Didn’t Pat Benatar sing that? Never mind, you’re too young to know who she is;)

    How does a horse see over ten foot walls? I have visions of a giraffe like monster, craning his eyes over the top..

    Great post! He sounds like a blast!
    I like your four rules. Perfect.

    I PAID to have my nose broken. Just so you know:)

    • Natalie Keller Reinert

      I could never. I could have the most terrifying nose in the world. Cartilage freaks me out. I’m a weirdo, I know.

      I now am picturing the horrible Pat Benatar/80s Fantasy Prostitue Dancers video. Thanks. That’s almost as bad as broken noses.

      This horse- he’s a Northern Dancer. That means that he can automatically add a hand to his height whenever he’s excited about something. It has to do with how uphill they’re built 🙂 He literally had his head over the wall. I’m not making this stuff up.

  2. Well, you know I’m partial to that particular lineage.. Being patriotic and all.
    Handsome guy. The girls must be so happy:)
    Hey, the 80’s had Some redeeming qualities. I’ll get back to you with specifics:)

    He’ll make an eventer, methinks, if he can look over ten foot walls:)

    • Natalie Keller Reinert

      Dear Canada,
      You rock.
      I mean, Bryan Adams is okay. Summer of 69 and all.
      And your national health care is pretty cool, we could take a hint from that.
      I enjoyed having my first legal beer at age 18 at Windsor Race Track.
      Plus GoLightly is like hella funny.
      But you know why you are really freaking awesome??
      Northern Dancer.
      another true-blue Canada fan

  3. Aileen

    love it! I would have just got on bear back! way better then the saddle you described!
    well thats how I work with horses that were abused or are labeled as”unrideable” when I rehab/ “retrain” horses. so maybe I am bias to cardboard like saddles lol Besides that fact it is safer in my opinion and most ppl do not have a saddle that fit there horse correctly, and that might be the Only reason for their horse “misbehaving” in the first place! its a pet peeve of mine (incorrect saddle fitting) and lets admit TB’s are the hardest horses to fit,(besides drafts, so wide!) with there high withers and narrow build (well not all, but a lot of them) sorry for just going WAY off topic!
    I loved your blog! and sounds like you 2 are a great match 🙂 which was the only thing I meant to write as a comment, not a whole paragraph that has absolutely nothing to do with your blog lol… well maybe my rant will be educational to some ppl who might read this comments who are getting a OTTB for the first time! have a professional fit your saddle to your horse 🙂 best advice ever (in my mind lol) might save you from “behavioral” problems… That was a big thing that my baby taught me! he acted like a rodeo horse not b/c he was a bad horse, but b/c the saddle I had on his back (which my trainer at the time told me fit him) did not fit him at all!! and was pinching his poor withers and putting pressure on areas of his back! he was in pain! not bad… even though he had to visible sings of injury to suggest it was pain that caused him to “misbehave”

    🙂 have a great night and I look forward to your next awesome blog!

    • Natalie Keller Reinert

      OH NO – Bareback and I are not friends. LOL

      I would have preferred to have ridden him in an exercise saddle. I didn’t take my own jumping saddle because I assumed he’d go out in exercise tack. Which is the next thing to a bareback pad, I suppose. . .

      I have to admit I am not obsessive about saddle fit – too many years of working for BNT’s with two or three saddles, and that’s as close as you get to saddle fit – one for high withers, one for wide horses, one for everyone else. Not to mention as an exercise rider, just having one little saddle with a half tree, and one bridle with a d-bit, to go through ten horses a day with.

      This horse will be getting at least one bodywork session after we’ve started working, however, and we’ll take a look at saddle fit then, just to confirm that he’s comfortable. I hope to continue the bodywork every so often. He’s been off the racetrack for a year, so I do no suspect any body-soreness issues at this point, but it’s a nice gesture for an athlete (one I would never bother with for myself, LOL)

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