Thursday, October 4, 2012

Food (and photos!) for thought

After a drought of a summer here in Ohio, Mother Nature has graced us with a pretty rainy fall...which is great for the plants, but bad for my riding! I managed to get Emmy and Cool both out for light walk/trot hack yesterday despite the rain. Cool was a ball of energy since the pasture was under water and he didn't get his usual 8 hour turnout...I really can't wait to have an arena to ride them in again! Emmy was perfect (as usual) although I have noticed that she's getting a bit sulky in her old age. I wish I had the money to inject her hocks and fetlocks so that she could feel young again! As soon as I get myself pinned down with a "real job" that's making decent money that's one of the first things on my list of "horse spoiling." She's never had any work done on her in the past 10 years that I've owned her, save for a massage once, and I can't even imagine how amazing she would be with some maintenance. I mean, come on. The horse can still easily jump a 2'9" oxer...can you imagine what she would do with new hocks? Buck me off that's probably what!

I'm seriously itching to get started working on Cool this winter. He puzzles me so much with his movement, body type and mindset. When you first look at him you instantly think "good gracious...that is the most nonathletic horse known to man kind." He's at inch too short in his legs and his back is 8 miles too long. He's over at the knee and his pasterns are too upright. Riding him only confirms that first impression...he walks so stiffly that there is zero swing in his back. World's best equitation horse right? Haha! But seriously...he's got no shoulder movement, no sweep to his walk and no swing. It's really weird to sit on. But then you turn him out and watch him let loose and play in the pasture and you go "holy crap! why can't he do that under saddle!?!" It's all a big ploy...that horse can go from a stand still to a dead gallop, barrel race through the corner and come back to a lope, LOPE across the paddock and do a perfect flying change, then run full speed again down the long side for a sliding stop right up to the pasture gate, where he will stand for a moment, then roll back 180 on his haunches and take off in a medium canter and let out a buck that could clear a working hunter fence. I'm not joking...that horse gets vertical (thank god he doesn't do THAT under saddle...) It's breath taking to watch.

Last winter, when I did get him going a little bit, I took him for an over fences lesson with a local A circuit hunter trainer who really liked him (despite his laziness). He's not ultra correct in his jump, but my absolute favorite things about him are that a) he's not scared and b) his canter is SUPER consistent. He had only jumped maybe 3 times ever and we did canter bounce poles, bounce cross rails and then made a little course of 4 jumps (bounce on the long side to a diagonal vertical, roll back to the opposite diagonal vertical) and he never even blinked. I have a feeling that there is greatness deeeeeeeeep down inside him...we just need to fight his halter Quarter Horse breeding and figure out how to unlock it! He's tough like Johnny was, but in a totally different way. Cool is bullheaded and belligerent, but in a strange, sweet kind of way. Johnny tried his heart out but just didn't always understand.

Probably the best that I ever got him to look under saddle last winter...and this was inconsistent at best.

The one time that we free jumped him...this was his first time really jumping anything. He's not naturally very tight up front, but neither was Johnny at first - I had to teach him to pick his legs up. At some point in my life I am just going to have to accept that Emmy is a freak and 99% of all other horses do not jump like her! Not too bad for (literally) a first attempt though.

 One of Johnny's first "real" jumps. No, I am not riding him and no, I do not advocate jumping without a helmet. This was a friend of mine who wanted to jump him. I remember watching him jump and thinking that he was dangerous with his front legs.

Johnny - Six months later (yes this one is me)
Johnny - 1 year later (also me) He always had a hard time getting that right ankle to tuck. He's got a big osselet or something on the outside of that fetlock...never really had it check out, but it limited his mobility in that ankle.
Johnny - Two years later. These legs are a little more "tucked" and not quite so "up" as I would have liked, but if I remember correctly, the height of this jump caught him off guard a little and I got jumped out of the tack a little (Johnny is the only horse to this day that has literally almost jumped me off his back. He was like pogo stick sometimes!)

Recent photo of Johnny giving a lesson in his new home. See? His front legs got better! There IS hope for Coolio! On a side note: check out that right ankle? His new owner injected his right navicular bursae and suddenly he jumps square...apparently that was what he really needed all along!

...compared with Emmy's freak jump. This was taken in June, so yes, she is 25 years old in this picture and the jump is 2'6". Not too shabby for an old lady!

More tomorrow.

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