It’s President’s Day, and I’m taking the day off.
Actually, I’m sitting in a dark room, drinking tea, and making tweaks to a 100,000 word manuscript that has been consuming me for several months. I’m drinking a lot of tea.
So I’m going to dip into the archives and share with you this post from May 17th, 2010. I was still living in Florida, had been training Final Call, my OTTB, for five months, and blogging about it here at Retired Racehorse for just as long. At this point, Final Call and I had wrapped up our first hunter pace (which we won, I might add) but were still spending most of our time on dressage work. But every time we found ourselves in a pattern, something would happen and we’d be forced to switch it all up again. But in this case, we had found at last the pattern that made us happiest…
Experiments, Comfort Zones, and Not More Longe Lines.
Final Call makes me somewhat. . . experimental.
Possibly not the best word choice, but work with me.
You get into a pattern with a horse, and sometimes you stick with it. It’s a safety thing. It’s your comfort zone. And stepping out of your comfort zone can be the scariest thing in the world, but also, of course, the most liberating. Doors don’t open until you rap very hard on them – or perhaps knock them down.
If it hadn’t been a rainy wet winter, and my round pen wouldn’t have been flooded into Lake Okeechobee, I wouldn’t have been so experimental with Final Call from the very start. I was forced straight out of my comfort zone and to ride him in a large paddock – I don’t have a riding ring, as this is a small breeding farm and just set up for that.
If I hadn’t decided to write about Final Call, instead of keeping to myself in case someone made fun of my training techniques – and yes, that was my initial fear, and I can’t believe no one has called me out for something yet – I wouldn’t have connected my instincts with the actual riding I was doing. I’ve been riding by the seat of my pants for years. Putting it into words has been fascinating.
And of course, there’s a whole domino pattern here with Final Call, and the blog, and the opportunity to go to New York and work with racehorses first-hand, so that this blog can involve into something that I think no one else is doing, which is explaining the life and times of racehorses so that all you happy OTTB adopters and owners can apply that to your training at home.
But more immediately, I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone with Final Call yet again, and done something I think everyone aspires to – I’ve stopped longing.
I think most of us longe our horses as a safety measure, so the horse can blow of steam (real or imagined) and get their bucks out. There are other good reasons, of course – if you want to see how they’re moving, or use side reins for a little bit. I had reached a point where I was longing with side reins to flex his body and blow off steam. But no one wants to longe forever. Don’t we all want to reach a point where we can just hop on the horse in the stall and go off for a ride without the preliminaries? (Only mount up in the stall if you have a nice high ceiling like I do!)
And of course, the only way you can find out if your horse is up for the challenge is to just, well, do it.
It can end one of two ways: well, or badly. Whether or not you believe it will end well is probably a good indication of whether or not you should give it a shot…
Ours ended well, and I’m happy to say it’s now our new routine. Instead of schlepping out to the round pen and running in a circle, I swing on board in the stall and go out to the paddock for a nice long warm-up walk. Yes, it’s a big, head-swinging, pricked-ears walk, maybe with a few steps of jog mixed in. He’s happy, he’s having fun – which is more than I can say for the longe line warm-up. So far, I love life without longe lines. I’ll let you know how it works out.