First Month Blahs

Just when it gets dull – and you know it gets dull for a while there, when all you are really doing is jogging around, and around, and around. I mean, don’t get me wrong, changing directions and doing lots of trot-walk-halt transitions is super fun and all, but after a while you’re craving a bit more excitement. Well, anyway, just when it gets dull, lots of interesting things happen.

Like, your neighbor adds a dog to their menagerie. And it’s a barking dog. A really excitable barking dog. That loves it when horses trot – or walk past – or breathe.

No, this is good, really. You want to face all these distractions at home and not for the first time away at a show. There aren’t generally dogs allowed in the stabling areas at racetracks. And I’m sure that if you have a dog at your barn, it is a Model Citizen and would never dream of leaping up against its chain link kennel and barking ferociously as if it were some sort of guardian sentinel at a crack house in the South Bronx. Unlike, for example, my neighbor’s new dog, unless they are keeping something in their doublewide that I do not want/need to know about.

Anyway, he was pretty good about it, except for the little spaz-out bucking fit on the end of the lunge line. I had to use two hands on the lunge line, it was just far too much work.

Feeling rather reckless and overconfident, I decided today was an excellent day to begin the habit of starting my ride without stirrups. Not crossing them or doing anything extravagant, just a nice leg-stretch. And then there was the spook at the Evil Corner of Death – your arena has one too, don’t deny it! Why do all riding areas have an Evil Corner of Death? More to the point, why should my riding area have an ECoD when it is Final Call’s paddock and I have seen him graze/roll/nap/eat the fence in that very corner? Preposterous. But there you have it – there I had it, and was quite happy to have my nice sticky Kerrits Sit Tites on, too, as we went skittering across the field with our bum under our belly. Quite athletic, when he wants to be, that Final Call.

 – And then there was my dog taking a swim in the pond, that was quite alarming, but we made good use of it by chasing the dog out of the paddock at a very snappy trot.

And just like that, we were out of time, and he’d broken a sweat, not bad for fifty degrees (and I had too, but we won’t discuss that.) And it was more not-so-mundane, everyday ride, in that odd limbo period I like to call The First Thirty Days.

Oh the first thirty days, you bore me sometimes!

Just when you want to have a gallop, you remember that you’re supposed to be training your erstwhile racehorse to do something Valid and of Value to Society, such as perform three different speeds of trot, or jump over large immovable objects at speed. And you remember all the homework that you have to do before you can get back to the fun stuff (i.e. galloping). It’s like the first two years of college. All those prerequisites! Put your head down, blah blah blah. Halt squarely, blah blah blah. I want to work on my major! Running and jumping stuff!

Oh, there are high points. I’m just in a whiney sort of mood tonight. Think of the moment when he puts his head down between his knees and his back lifts up beneath you. Think of the feeling when you take up contact and don’t get an iron pull on your upper body as a response. Think of when you’re trotting along and you sit and his entire body folds up beneath you and halts square and true. Think of the first time he picks up a canter without running like a madman from a fire. They don’t happen every day, it’s true. But they make up for the blahs.



Filed under Dressage, Final Call, Training Diary, Training Theory

12 responses to “First Month Blahs

  1. Jessica

    Very well written! I love this blog post!!!!!! 🙂 I guess the training in the dull moments will make the exciting times more worthwhile in the end. It’s funny how very different an out-of-control gallop and an asked for lengthening of stride and asking for more and feeling that surge underneath you as a direct response to your request may end up with the horse going the same speed, but so much more satisfying with all the work that was put into that! 🙂 Hello excitement from a job well done with just a pinch of adrenaline!

    • Natalie Keller Reinert

      Yes, and you also get the incomparable feeling of knowing that you have A) Brakes and B) Semblance of Control. 🙂 Thanks for the comment and comps, Jessica!

  2. Barb Fulbright

    I love reading your columns first thing in the morning! They always make me laugh, and I can’t think of a better way to start the day! And it’s Friday!!

    • Natalie Keller Reinert

      Wow, Barb, I always did think I’d make a darn good columnist. Thanks for stroking the old ego there! Good, I’ll continue my 2 a.m. writing schedule and give you something to read while the coffee is brewing. I was told it’s best to post a blog in the middle of the day, but let’s be honest, who can write properly when the sun is up? Which leads me to the unaswerable question: If I had an indoor with lights and rode at midnight, would I be a better rider? Perhaps that’s just when my brain functions best!

  3. Laurie

    You are spot on with this one, thank you for your insight and humor. When I am all healed my tall, dark and handsome Trooper and I will be facing the Pond of Terror frequented by pteradectyls – I mean geese. Scary.

    • Natalie Keller Reinert

      Laurie, you raise an interesting evolutionary question here. Pterodactyls are like big scary horse-eating birds, right? Okay. So when Eohippus was tripping his cheerful way across the savannahs, perhaps there were large horse-eating birds at the same point in history? (Stay with me here, kids) And so perhaps horses have an evolutionary imprint upon their brains that birds will devour them and they must run unthinkingly at the first sight of one? Therefore the Pond of Terror=Evil Corner of Death (which has a bush in it full of sparrows now that I think upon it) as it is inhabited entirely by horse-eating birds.

      I shall now proceed to disprove my theory by looking out the window and observing Final Call and the yearlings eating side by side two four-foot Sandhill Cranes. Nevermind. But that’s too much writing to just delete. So think about it anyway.

  4. Ahhhh…the “prerequisite” days (well put!). When I first started working with Legs he had no idea what a “trot” was. Even after I was able to convince him there was in fact a gait between walk and gallop, it ‘twernt pretty for a long time! Balled up wayyyyy behind the bit or running and strung out on his front end – there was no cadence or consistancy at all. I take his wonderful relaxed trot for granted now – thanks for the reminder of what it took to get there!

    • Natalie Keller Reinert

      Bonnie, you get a gold star for the use of the word ” ‘twernt.”

      Behind the bit is a problem I have not had with this particular OTTB. As I touched on previously he’s always above the bit.

      Now my chestnut mare Bonnie (snicker) was the complete opposite. I’m sure she was galloped in drawing reins – which, incidentally, I have no problem with, if anyone wants to bicker with me on that point 😉 – and I still remember the first time that I got on her. I was a VERY nervous re-rider, just back to Florida from NYC and with a yearling baby of my own (human), and hadn’t been on a Thoroughbred in some time. I had been on a few small Quarter Horses in the interim. Anyway I picked her up from OBS and gave her a little time to cool out, demonstrate to me that she was a cribber and manically devoted to her friends, etc., all the good stuff that you want to learn about a new horse AFTER you make the purchase. . . Got on her and she put her nose between her knees.

      Now having been on Quarters (who I am convinced are all diabolical buckers, even my angelic first hunter who probably never bucked in his life) I instantly had a minor coronary and did everything I could to get her head back up. It took me a few minutes to come back to myself, remember my body, and realize that she was rounding her back, not humping it – a big difference in intent and result there!

      Bonnie went on to show me that she would always keep her nose on the ground with great pleasure – long and low was her favorite feeling and I got huge brownie points in group dressage lessons, which were completely unmerited because she’d just been taught to go on her forehand previously, had nothing to do with me, but I took the credit – but when her head came up, one of her manic sessions was coming on, and pretty soon she’d be up in the air, kicking at her tail – oh Bonnie. . . some things you cannot fix.

      Anyway I like ’em with their head up, but that’s more unusual given the expectation that they put their head down against the bit and run.

      What was the gist of all this? Legs has a wonderful relaxed trot? HURRAY! Another success story! We can do this!

  5. Thanks for the chuckle, great description of the ECoD. Fortunately my gelding has yet to meet a corner he didn’t like. My mare, on the other hand, hates all corners. Half siblings, what are you going to do?

  6. Hmmm….pterodactyls in the ECoD…could be…could be. We also have Horse Eating Squirrels of Absolute Terror and Fetlock Munching Bunnies of Doom to consider. The world is a scary, scary place. Especially that danged corner.

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