VCMBH: Generosity

L from Viva Carlos writes: What made you interested in your current horse that lead you to buying them in the first place?

A bit like this
A bit like this

It was way back in April 2012 that my lovely equine nutritionist kindly gave me a copy of Callaho Warmblood Stud’s auction catalogue for the previous year. This magnificent stud is probably one of the best in our country, and the glossy pages more closely resembled a copy of the Sporting Horse than anything else, with double-page spreads for every horse, ample photographs, an honest and in-depth description, pedigree and video clip on an accompanying CD. And the horses? Bred in the purple; glossy creatures free jumping something that looked about the size of a house with ease. “A description of all the horses seemed to be summed up with “well”,” I wrote in my old blog/journal, “as in well-bred, well-trained, well-groomed and well-cared for.”

It was then that I began to dream of my Olympic horse, my A-grade horse, my show horse. Of course, I already had Skye, Thun, and Arwie; Skye is my heart horse, the first horse I ever trusted, my steadfast friend who never let me down and never will. Thunder also crept into a very deep place in my heart and became a friend, and as for Arwie, my go-anywhere do-anything horse, she’s just way too much fun. But I knew none of them would ever be one of those ridiculously talented horses, those creatures that move and sparkle and know exactly how beautiful they are, that jump as if the whole world is their own trampoline.

Magic8
BOOM!

Writing about my dream horse, I said, “God willing, I hope there is one in my future, something big and sparkly with a jump like a waterbuck and the kind of big heart and stunning conformation that could take us to the top of the game, perhaps even international.”

At the same time, I was occasionally riding a young gelding off the track for his then-owner. “To my delight,” I wrote, “I was allowed to ride beautiful young Magic. … Magic is an iron grey three-year-old with a white blaze and socks. He’s still exploding with muscle, having recently come off the track, and he simply ripples all over when he moves. He has the loveliest gentle face and I adore him.” Another excerpt: “The magnificent Magic… [is] only halfway schooled but I think he’s brilliant. He is a lovely grey colour and has a kind face.”

First time I rode him
First time I rode him

And slowly, this rippling, iron-grey horse started to grow on me. Each time I came to the yard I’d look over to his paddock and watch him; most of the time he’d be running, because he was the kind of horse who would just run for no reason other than that he loved it. And he flashed like a sword’s blade, and when I walked past his paddock he’d run over to say hi and nicker, and I’d think he was adorable. I started to realise that every time the Mutterer told me to go ride Magic, my heart would do a little extra hop-skippity-jump somewhere between fear and excitement.

When Magic came up for sale I just knew it was meant to be. He was everything I wanted in my dream horse, right down to his silly white stockings. But I think aside from practical stuff like his soundness, age and suitability for jumping, there were two deciding factors, if I’m being honest. The first was his jump. I was the first person who rode him over fences and I nearly died (either from nearly falling on my nose or from ecstasy), but I immediately knew he was special, just from the way he charged fearlessly at the cross and by the way he felt:

And this is why. Dat conformation dude!
And this is why. Dat conformation dude!

“He’s got the most awesome jump… he floats. … He jumps AMAZINGLY. He feels over a 40cm cross like Arwen feels over a 90cm jump on a very good day. The whole chest and shoulders and forelegs seem to come straight up into your face and he bends his whole body forward and over and it’s such a beautiful feeling.”

The second was his face. It’s a bit stupid, I guess, but when you look at Magic’s face you know instantly you can trust him; trust him to give you his whole heart and soul if you ask for it, do his best to bail you out of any situation and to never be spiteful. I would not call it the look of eagles because it’s something kinder than that. The closest word I can find for his expression is generosity, and he is indeed a kind and generous horse: he is willing to give you everything he has. And conformation, breeding or talent aside, it’s that great heart, willing spirit, and tremendous kindness that will make Magical Flight a horse in a million.

That face
That face

Magic is Jim Wofford’s “partner, not a slave” (as quoted by the instigator of this blog hop). He has that “supreme courage”, and if I can unlock his potential “very skilfully and very patiently” and above all, “trust him with [my] life” then I know he can be amazing.

God willing.

Just trust me, little human
Just trust me, little human

 

 

Ride Above Hate

“I don’t ride this small stuff. These jumps are boring. Maybe I’d do it bareback, then it would be fun.” She said it with a smile, but it still stung, still cast a faint shadow over the pride I felt in my little grey horse. It was the mare’s first show, and we had had a double clear in the 60cm class.

You don’t know my story, I wanted to tell her. You don’t know how much blood and sweat and tears and how many hours were poured into this horse, or how much work and how much guts and gumption it took to get this far, from the both of us. You don’t know how many issues we worked through or how she was afraid of everything and how brave and hardworking this small, freebie, crossbred mare is. But maybe, maybe she did know about the blood, sweat and tears. Maybe she just wanted to feel a little specialness, a thrill of pride, as we all do. So I said nothing, and I hugged my horse and I was still proud, but I still remember it. And it wasn’t even bullying.

Arwen18

“There are so many things wrong with backing a horse at the age of two, on every level,” the commenter splurged, the very text bursting with the heat of their anger. I felt anger rise in me in return, but swallowed it down. I backed my horse when he was two. He is one of the healthiest, happiest horses under saddle I know. So I still ride him and he’s still happy, but I still remember it. And it wasn’t even bullying.

Every day, everywhere, there are people breaking down others with cruel words and angry glares, pouring out hatred and conviction and spite in a desperate attempt to relieve their own pain, belittling others out of their own lack of self-confidence, trampling on others to get onto their soapboxes and spew anger on them from that pedestal, all to find some sense of self-righteousness and quell their own guilt. Desperate posts from crushed horsepeople splatter across the Internet like innocent blood: “These girls won’t stop making fun of my horse. Help.” “They say I’m too fat to ride, but I love it too much to quit. What should I do?” “They poke fun at me because I’m only competing at a low level, but I don’t want to move up. Should I stop competing?”

Enough is enough.

This has got to stop.

Every horse and every rider is unique, special and amazing. It stands to reason: they were all created. God hand-crafted every human being and all of their equine partners, putting inexpressible love into every cell, every hair, every fibre. We are all beautiful, valuable, beloved beyond all reason – all of us, including the bullied, including the bullies. It is time to stop pointing fingers, to start holding out our hands to help, opening our eyes to the pain in this world and to our marvellous ability to soothe it. Judgment, bitterness, harsh words – this all has to stop. The power of life and death is in the tongue. Literally. How many suicides come about as a result of bullying that never turns physical?

Horsemanship is not about status. It is not about warmbloods or Wintecs or keeping up with the Joneses. It’s not about French links or perfect braids. It’s not about right or wrong or brand names or bling or medals or ribbons or river sand arenas. It’s about that perfect early-morning, precious-memories smell of a sweating horse and the creak of the saddle and the slap of the stirrups and the sound a flying change makes when you get it exactly right. It’s not about the regionals or the championships, or palomino or pinto or bay without chrome. It’s about that summer-lovin’ shimmer of a well-groomed mare and that ecstatic, air-savouring flick at the floating end of an extended trot stride.

Horses3

It’s not about bloodlines and pedigrees and breeding and feeding, and leather versus synthetic and booting for turnout and making Grand Prix by the time he’s eight years old. It’s about that star-touching, moon-clearing feeling at the apex of a jump and the whiskers of a newborn foal all tangled with youngness. It’s not about being over-matched or over-mounted or finding talent or realising potential. It’s about the heart-filling smile of a disabled four-year-old hugging the neck of a rescued horse, about the warm-honey feeling in your heart when you perfect the rising trot for the first time. It’s not about chiropractors or training methods or fitness or the heart rate of your horse at a gallop. It’s about the pumping of his neck in front of you and the power of his hindquarters and the way he drinks in the wind like he’ll never get enough of it, like the very breath in his lungs is a celebration.

Most of all, it’s not about equipment or events or disciplines or arenas or facilities or famous names. It’s not even about horses. It’s about people. It’s about that special something a horse excites in a human’s heart that makes them want to speak to a creature that can never, in words, reply.

Just playing around with ponies

We are all horsemen. We all know about the smells and the sounds and the feeling of the furry winter coats when you fluff them up the wrong way to make them ripple underneath your hands. We all know how big the sky is when you’re a horse’s height closer to touching it. We know how hard it is to get that horsy greasiness out from under your fingernails when you’ve scratched a foal’s butt until he croons with pleasure. That’s the greatest thing about equestrianism: Young or old, short or tall, rich or poor, fat or thin, able-bodied or not, we can all be horsemen, and we can all know about the love between a human and a beast, about that silent language we use to communicate across species. At the end of the day we all look into those unknowably deep dark eyes and see the stars, and something in them touches our very souls so that a chord sings out pure and clear.

 

What a beautiful melody we all will play when our horse-touched souls may sing together. Let us reach out to each other with love today. Let our smiles be real, our words as helpful as they are honest, and our actions driven always and forever by that purest and best and greatest motive of them all: love.

Enough is enough. We all love our horses. Let us love one another. #RideAboveHate

Magic6

 

I stand against bullying. If you’re looking for another way to take that stand, click here to see where the #RideAboveHate initiative started. Write a post with the video embedded and tell the world why we should love one another. Spread the word and ride above hate.

Every Little Bit Helps

Or, as it may be, every big bit; it depends on the horse.

There are so many bits out there these days, and even more opinions floating about on the Internet from so many different sources, that bits and bitting can be an utterly bewildering subject. I tend to go with my usual philosophy: the less gear the better, but it depends on the horse, it depends on the rider, and if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

While there are a lot of people out there who deem it a ridiculous cruelty to put a piece of metal in a horse’s mouth, I feel that you can do about the same amount of damage with a rope, Dually or Parelli halter, or a bitless bridle. It’s not so much about what’s on the horse’s face as what you’re doing with it. No “legal” piece of equipment, if properly fitted, should hurt the horse when no pressure is being applied, and the amount of pressure applied is entirely in the hands of the horseman. I would rather see a good horseman with a spade bit than a bad horseman with a halter.

Hands are not my strong point. I am not as soft-handed a rider as I would like to be, but I trust myself with most bits and can listen to the horse and adjust my contact accordingly most of the time. (When I get scared and pull, that’s a different story). I also think about two million times before changing a bit, because in my perfect world, all my horses would go in snaffles except for advanced dressage or reining horses. But when Arwen started to pull so much on outrides that my fingers eventually gave up on aching and just went numb, it was apparent that a change was in order. If she was doing that to my fingers, then what was she doing to her mouth?

So yesterday I put her in my Pelham for our hill work. At first I was going to use connectors, but I decided to give her a chance with the reins on the top ring to see if that would work, since the action is gentler. Once she got used to the idea, she was quite a pleasure; less head-tossing, more brakes, and, critically, much less pulling. I could feel a massive difference; she was still eager, still took the contact happily, but my shoulders and fingers didn’t hate me afterwards.

Giant bit
Giant bit

The best part was that today I could put her back in her snaffle for jumping; the eggbutt has actually grown on me and she goes beautifully in it, plus it looks quite pretty (can’t say the same for the Pelham). She didn’t pull at all; in fact, she was lighter in my hand than before being ridden in the Pelham, so I’m going to go ahead and use the Pelham for interval training this weekend and see how she goes.

Magic has the opposite problem. He was starting to curl up behind the bit and didn’t want to go forward. Plus, he’s bouncy and I have confidence issues on him, so my hands are at their worst when I ride him. The Mutterer recommended changing him back out of the Pelham to his eggbutt snaffle, so I gave it a shot and he felt loads better. He is still fussy with his head and tends to open his mouth, flip his head when he’s upset and poke his nose out when he canters, but not as afraid of his mouth as he was with the Pelham. He also jumped beautifully today; in fact I think I am boring him as today we went up to 75cm and he was nearly taking rails. (For the record, Magic never, EVER takes rails). Tomorrow we’ll put together a little course to kindle his enthusiasm and I might even pluck up the courage to take him out.

Forgive me for the supremely dull post today. I’ve got some more interesting stuff in the pipeline!

Modelling the eggbutt
Modelling the eggbutt