Final Call’s balance has been improving steadily. When I say balance, I mean “not falling on his face when confronted with an ungroomed and not entirely even surface.” And also “not constantly on his forehand or with his head straight up in the air.” Balance – there’s a lot to that word, isn’t there? Basically everything you could want in a horse.
Naturally, coming from the racing life, Final Call was more accustomed to a beautifully raked surface, a perfect blend of clays and sand custom-made for his polished and gleaming hooves. And the turf – oh, please, where to start? It doesn’t even begin to resemble my summertime paddock, desperately in need of a mow and pocked with depressions and tiny hills.
Even more distracting to this city boy is the slight slope that my paddocks rest upon. The back field where I have done all his preliminary work has just the slope to the pond, and I can avoid it if necessary. The front field, that I have just added to our exercise options, is one very gentle, nearly imperceptible grade.
Now that he is carrying himself at all three gaits, and even, sometimes, in up AND down transitions, it felt like time to ask for a little more thought on these hills than “OH My GOD the ground isn’t STRAIGHT! HEAD IN THE AIR, RUN!” This just feels like a juvenile response. I know the kid is only five but jeez, come on, a little athleticism please.
Fun game: four poles on the cardinals of a twenty-meter circle, along the aforementioned gentle slope of the front paddock.
Because Final Call is five, and a Thoroughbred, and in love with life, he decided at first to jump each pole as we went over with them, which had me laughing so hard I couldn’t actually do much about trying to put him back into a proper frame or anything useful like that. There’s something about his youthful exuberance that makes me throw logical, sensible, thoughtful riding out the window at times. (Maybe you didn’t notice from all the galloping I do!) I let him cavort around a little and then got down to business.
The results were pretty good. He started to accordian a little bit, shortening up and rounding around my inside leg to make the downhill turn, and lengthening going uphill. He also decided on the correct, if less interesting, tactic of just trotting over the poles, rather than jumping them.
Already ridiculously fit (who’s up for another eight mile ride? Anyone? Hello?) There was a good amount of sweat on his hindquarters, so the right muscles seem to be doing the job.
A little more concentration, a little more balance, and a little more comfortable to ride. We’ll be push-button in no time!