Yesterday I was off to work at the livery stables, where Ruach and EJ Studs arecurrently based, as well as the Mutterer, who usually has an extra horse or two in training – always a breath of fresh air.
The horses had all had about a month off because of their AHS vaccinations and the holiday season, so it was not without a little trepidation that I faced my usual ride, Titan. Titan is only four years old, but he is a magnificent stallion. His flashy looks (smoky black pinto, anyone?), strong baroque-type conformation and movement to die for give me goosebumps. He also has a gentle temper, for a stallion; when I first met him about eighteen months ago, when the stud first bought him, he was an unhandled young colt who had no experience of people at all, and now he is successfully under saddle.
However, stallions will be stallions and four weeks’ rest does tend to make them a little ants-in-the-pantsy, so I wasn’t sure how the big guy was going to behave himself.
First, though, I helped out with my personal favourite, Reed. Reed is a tiny little stallion, no bigger than 14.1hh, thanks to a rough foalhood. He doesn’t have Titan’s stunning presence, but the one thing Reed has on all the other stallions is pure temperament. Reed is the only stallion I know who is almost as safe to handle as any mare. He has never tried to bite me, not even nibble, and he hardly ever even neighs at mares, despite being a successful breeding stallion. Plus, he’s plain adorable: dark palomino (dappling in summer) with pinto patches.
Anyway, I have a soft spot the size of China for Reed and had been schooling him intensely for a few weeks before the holidays, so I was pleased to be on him again. I warmed him up for his little rider of the day (a competent girl no older than eleven; Reed can be trusted with even beginners) and took him over a few jumps. I have jumped him up to about 90cm and he is a willing little jumper. Last time I jumped him he was in a bad mood and turned out a few times, and this time he turned out foolishly at a 50cm upright, but I gave him a scolding and rode firmly at it the next time and he popped over happily afterwards.
He was very good with the little girl and cantered placidly around the arena for her, albeit needing a whip at one point when he was feeling lazy. He was also superb taking her over a small crossrail; Reed has never gotten over-excited or been the type to over-jump, and he went over beautifully with no fuss at all. Such a good little boy.
Then it was time to get the handsome young prince of Ruach Stud. The Mutterer led Titan in for me; it’s a most embarrassing fact that sometimes my size doesn’t stand up very well to a 16hh stallion when he’s feeling a little fiery. I usually go around armed with a stud chain, helmet and whip while everyone else is just dragging them around by their headcollars.
Titan seemed to be in a good mood, but I took the precaution of lunging him for about 20 minutes to get the tickle out of his feet. He was good, but had trouble cantering in the 10m ring; he is a big horse with a big stride and not very balanced yet. Something to work on. He has a silly habit of walking off the moment I’ve mounted, without waiting for me to get my stirrups, but we’re working on that. We set off around the arena without any drama.
In fact, throughout the ride, he was really, really well behaved. He didn’t prance at the mares, buck, or chuck his head at all. It was one of the best sessions we’ve had. He was a little upset over being asked to pick up the right canter lead, but I insisted, and he eventually went around nicely on the right lead. In trot he can tend to rush a lot and pull on my hands but I got him into a working trot after a few laps. His frame was stunning as well, he has this fantastic giant arch of a neck and he sure carries it nicely; I love it.
After Titan, I was brought a new ride: a young Friesian gelding named Oscar, whom I hadn’t met before. Oscar is about 15.2hh and one of the most striking horses I’ve met, with an endless mane, thick tail and that trademark jet-black Friesian coat. His movement is also very eye-catching; he always holds his head in and his neck arched, and when he trots his knees seem to almost hit him in the muzzle. Unfortunately, despite its beauty, this gait is extremely uncomfortable. He was super responsive – especially for a Friesian – and quite well-behaved, but that trot! After a few laps my kidneys were on their way out of my ears, even though I was rising.
At least the owners and miscellaneous spectators had their laugh of the day when I tried to get him to canter and Oscar promptly shot into a super-extended trot with a machine-gun type rhythm much too fast to rise on. I slapped on the saddle like a beginner and everyone howled with laughter.
At last I got Oscar into a canter and, whilst he did tear around a bit like a typical unbalanced baby, he didn’t buck or do anything too daft, so I pulled him back to a walk (no extended trotting allowed, this time) and called it a day since my kidneys were ready to hand in their resignation.
Today, it was Thunder’s turn to work. Arwen and Magic are both still off for the next three weeks because of their AHS vaccinations, so I’m taking the opportunity to work on Thun a lot. The Mutterer came over for my lesson, and under his watchful eye Thunder and I practiced some basic reining patterns. He was very good and his canter is starting to improve, although he does gallop a bit sometimes when he feels unbalanced. He also refused to canter on the right lead once, but after a lap of the arena he got the idea and went nicely after that. His rollbacks need work – I only get about two easy steps back out of him, having to pull him back a bit to get anything more out of him.
Hopefully I’ll be getting my Western saddle (Western saddle!! Squeeee! 😀 ) tomorrow, which will definitely be something to blog about! Watch this space. With any luck, in the next few days you’ll have a post of bored pony photos with Skye modelling her new outfit.