In the rather frantic realization that I’m about six weeks away from riding quite a few horses every day, in a fashion I haven’t done in some time, I decided it was time for some working out. Running is in the works – hey, that takes real resolve. First things first.
Today was scheduled to be an easy day for Final Call – we spent quite a lot of time the past two days working on up-down transitions and canter departures and leads, so I figured a nice long hack to stretch his muscles would be just the thing. But what about MY muscles? (Turns out I don’t have any, but that is skipping ahead.) Time for a work-out.
Someone, and I am fairly certain Someone was Ralph Hill but it has been a while, said a great way to get back into shape before a three-day event was to do your trot and gallop sets in two-point, with your stirrups hitched up to race length (or an approximation). He suggested draw reins but I was going to go a little more accurate and bridge my reins across the neckstrap of the martingale. Call it a dry run for the rides to come.
This is a delightfully fun way to hack out a retired racehorse, let me just tell you!
When I was a bad teenager, out on my bad OTTB, being all – bad, I guess, I would hitch up my stirrups, stand up, and fling the reins, hoping for a good gallop – which I never got. Of course, I wouldn’t find out until later that I wasn’t asking correctly.
Final Call brought back my bad teenager memories, but this time I asked and I received!
As we trotted around the paddock he grew round and arched into the bit, and kind of distracted me from the beating that my thighs were taking as I got used to the cramping position I was in. My hands, wrapped around the reins and neckstrap, held my upper body against his neck. It is a surprisingly secure feel, although at first I felt ahead of the center in a way I never like. I got to test it out when he brushed my stirrup iron against the wire fence and it set the fence pinging and rattling – he darted forward and I stayed with him without effort.
The canter was best, of course. His canter is often very round and collected, and it has been hard to get him to stretch out. But in this position he knew exactly what was expected of him. We went careening around, his head low, his ears back and listening carefully, feeling the lack of space and banked turns keenly. It was as fast and as dedicated a gallop as I have experienced with him, business-like and single-minded.
When my legs couldn’t take any more, I stood up and he whoa’d quickly, coming back down to a walk so I could sit down and relieve my screaming muscles. A few turns and then off we went in the other direction.
We were both blowing at the end, but I’m afraid I was rather more exhausted than he was. He looked comfortable and happy; I looked (no doubt) red-faced and wiped out.
I have a lot of working out to do in the next few weeks! Running, for sure! And more gallops like this one. They’re good for both of us. Thoroughbreds were born to run. I’m fairly certain I was born to do it with them!