The thing about Thoroughbreds is, they get into athletic shape wonderfully quick, and then they get so naughty you wish you hadn’t gotten them that way to begin with. But they feel fantastic.
(Final Call’s version of bad is to need a little extra reminder that he needs to walk, not jog everywhere. I admit it could be worse.)
Being a young fellow yet, his metabolism is enviably quick and he is proving “typical Thoroughbred” in his tendency to show his ribs. Although I don’t dislike his light weight, I certainly don’t want him to drop any more. His abdomen is already tight and tucked up, glowing with fitness, but as is so often the case with these athletes, we walk a fine line between physically skinny and mentally loopy.
I think there is nothing so perfect for Thoroughbreds as alfalfa – in the right quantities, of course – and I keep weight on winter horses at pasture with free-choice alfalfa blocks. It’s great for broodmares and youngstock. I wasn’t quite sure how it would affect a horse in training – mentally, you know – but figured it was worth a shot. While he was living out twenty-four seven, I didn’t notice any changes in his behavior.
But summer has come, and the sun is intense, so he and the yearlings have to come in and waste their valuable loafing hours in the barn, being bored, and miserable, and whining about how mean Mother is. Horses tend to lose weight when you bring them in suddenly – unfortunately, I imagine it is the stress – so I bumped up his alfalfa ration considerably at first. I know, I know, sudden confinement plus doubling his protein intake – recipe for disaster. But I was fairly curious about how naughty he’d actually turn out, too, so I decided to risk it. (Final Call makes me experimental, I’ve told you that before!)
Well, it was almost a non-issue. Consider all the factors I changed at once: 12-hour confinement, extra alfalfa, cutting out longing sessions, regular jumping – and a little jigging and jogging is nothing. Here’s what we didn’t add, and this is what I find significant – there is still no bolting, bucking, rearing, spooking, plunging, or other anti-social behaviors. Notice you haven’t heard about the Evil Corner of Death lately? I guess I killed the ECoD mystique when I stuck a jump, with a canter pole in front, in that corner. The ECoD is now the Sweet Corner of Jumping Awesomeness.
Because that’s the one little thing that gets Final Call high. Not the alfalfa, not the leg-stretching after being confined all morning, not the endless canter transitions as I try to get that a bit prettier (he still doesn’t have a beautiful transition, but we’re getting there), but the jumping. Oh, it feels SO GOOD, I can feel him thinking. We have to go back to all the green horse basics for the first few jumps of a session. After he has had a few abrupt downward transitions from trot to walk just before the trot poles, he remembers his brain and plugs it back in.
He’s a lot more horse than he was a month ago, that’s for sure. There’s more power and more attitude to go along with those shiny new muscles and those spiffy new super-powers (I’m sure he thinks jumping is a super-power.) But there’s heart and kindness that can’t be drowned out – he’ll always just be a “good” horse, if a bit “Thoroughbred-y.” There’s those of us that like that, you know!