If you’re looking for excitement, look no further than Sunny Florida! Where it is 85 and fair one day, 55 and breezy the next, leaving your horse infinite possibilities for tomfoolery and general mayhem. Even tempered? How about bad tempered? Looking for a little airs above the ground? Well friends, your ship has come in at last. In sunny, sunny Florida. . .
Oh who am I kidding, it was a great time. Not least because it was the evening I enlisted the services of the farm photographer (he also fixes fences, repairs trucks, and feeds broodmares, truly a well-rounded individual) and we were hoping for some nice illustrations of a sweet, relaxed OTTB performing a beautiful long-and-low jog, nose on the ground, rider’s hands on the buckle. We got a few of those. In the end.
But really, it was more excitement than I had counted upon.
When you put a lunge line on Final Call, you get an instant picture of how much work will be required. If you only need one hand to lunge, and a whip to get a half-hearted canter out of him, you are in for a decent ride with some hard work – because he won’t want to move, and your poor legs will be screaming for mercy by the end of the ride. If, however, he bolts immediately into a flat-out gallop and accentuates hard turns with a few crowhops or bucks, requiring two hands and no whip, well, then . . . lunge him a little extra, won’t you? One of the reasons I always lunge is to get an idea of where his head is at, since no two days are the same. (Another is simply to check for soundness.) At any rate, this was a two-hand day.
I am sure I thought he’d settled by the time I put my boot in the stirrup, but thirty seconds into the ride and I had my reins bridged and my seat and thighs glued to the saddle. Good heavens, was that an evil attack alligator in the corner? (I’m starting to think that alligator was taxidermied and put in my paddock for someone else’s binocular gaze and singular sense of humor – “They think it’s a real alligator! How dumb can people get?”) I found my stirrups much more quickly than I do most rides, and gave him a boot into the trot. Fair enough, I think, we’ll do some trot work right off the bat and find our balance. He had the day off yesterday, it’s cold, benefit of the doubt, blah blah blah –
I did something I am fairly certain I’ve never done with a green OTTB. I sat down hard, kicked him into a gallop, and ran his little legs off around the paddock for about ten minutes.
Of course I have a reason. How could you doubt me? It’s simple: this horse has amazingly high head carriage, and a short back, and when he gallops, being a racehorse and all, his balance is superb, rocking off of his hind end beautifully. At the trot, however, he’s off-balance, flinging his head about, being rotten – much easier to get his nose between his knees and throw in a little capriole. At the sitting canter, I had a much better chance at riding him aggressively forward, putting shot to all his aerial plotting, and wearing him out just a little at the same time.
And it worked! Eventually. Just look at his sweet little nose on the ground. Isn’t he CUTE? And so entertaining. . .
Bad rides can be fun, kids. Every now and then perfection can get boring. Gosh, he was being well-behaved. It was rather entertaining to see his naughty side today.