Thursday morning my poor longsuffering daddy (who had been subject to the “Daddy, can we keep him even though we already have four?”) and I fetched Exavior and brought him home. I was quite nervous about loading him, considering that he injured his leg on a horsebox ramp and would remember that bad experience, so I expected a few forelegs flying around our ears and so on. He was very good about having his boots put on, though, even on his bad leg, and judging by his high-stepping antics at the weird feeling of back boots, it’s not hurting him. The cut itself has healed very, very nicely with only a thin little scar and some swelling/thickening under the scar (which I assume is scar tissue as there is no heat to indicate inflammation), and there is no damage to his hoof or anything permanent that can be seen on X-rays. I have a lot of hope for him.
He was jumpy about the box and dug his toes in a few feet from the ramp, dancing around when anyone tried to push him on from behind, but I was very impressed that he didn’t rear or kick out at all – he was just scared, and his reaction to the fear was very reasonable. The Mutterer has been working with him for most of his young life, and his patience and firmness is definitely evident in the colt’s trust and respect. Luckily for me, the Mutterer was on hand and smoothly took over to talk Exavior into the box step by trembling step. I felt like such a jerk for making the poor baby do something that obviously scared the living daylights out of him, but it’s all for the best. I kept an eye on him with our horsebox camera for the entire trip and while he was fidgety and very worried, he didn’t do anything worse than paw at the floor of the box.
The oddest part for me was trying to unload him. Our box is so wide that I could turn him around and walk him forward down the ramp, but he froze. Most of the horses I’ve worked with are more than happy to get off, usually with a flying leap or some dragging around of the human, but he just stood there with his poor little eyes wide and staring. When he did eventually go forward he tried to clear the ramp with one big jump. I can only think that his injury occurred when he was getting off the ramp. But with his sensible nature, I think I can school him to be completely relaxed about boxing eventually.
Anyway, the little guy is now safely installed in the round pen, which is inside Skye and Magic’s pasture. They have been making friends over the fence before I try to put them together and then teach Exavior not to run through electric fences. I can only pray that he won’t hurt himself, but I have to let him be a horse, as hard as it always seems. He seems to be a quiet soul so far, with no running up and down shrieking the way some of them do at new places, and even when he’s very stressed he doesn’t rear or turn aggressive. He’s a bit silly about having his ears and back legs handled, but nothing major. I’m sure that once we start to get to know each other, he’ll quickly settle down and let me do what I want.
The rest of the Horde is quite simply thriving. The first rains have come, and while Magic was desperately unimpressed with getting wet (as usual), their grass is starting to grow out and hopefully I’ll have grazing for all of them this summer.
Arwen and I have been working hard on speed and fitness. Because she’s almost a pony, and not a long-striding horse at all, her biggest disadvantage is going to be speed across country when she’s up against warmbloods and thoroughbreds. Luckily, she does have two of the Nooitgedachter’s greatest strengths – stamina and toughness. Arwen will keep running no matter how tired she is, and it’s pretty hard to make her tired. She doesn’t much care what the weather is doing, although she wilts a bit in the heat. She doesn’t care what the terrain is like or what the jumps look like; conditions don’t affect her a whole lot, because she’s tough as nails. But with her tiny stride, she’ll have to be twice as fit as any other horse to be able to get across country without time penalties. Arwen will have to sprint where big horses could hand-gallop.
Our intervals are coming along relatively well; I have been shortening the rest interval and upping our speed every time. We started at 22kph and have managed to get up to 28kph, fairly constantly maintained over a five-minute interval. It’s nowhere near where it has to be – I need her to maintain a constant 18kph over a cross-country course for the lowest level, so she’ll have to be faster on the long gallops if we’re going to be able to adjust through water and combinations. As the levels go up, the speed actually doubles, so we have to push it. Arwen has the schooling, the courage, and the carefulness to jump a safe and clean cross-country round; now we just need speed. This meant that today’s lesson with the Mutterer involved galloping flat-out down the long side of the arena, going to a walk in the corner, walking the short side and then galloping the next long side again. We were going at what I thought was a pretty fair clip, but the Mutterer was yelling “Faster! Faster!” all the time. Arwen of course had a field day; she adores running, and it was insanely fun, just a bit adrenalin-inducing when we were bouncing off the fences. However, it appears that we still weren’t fast enough; “Your ultimate goal,” quoth the Mutterer, “is to make her go so fast you cry.” Point taken; we shall be galloping on our hills and intervals next week.
I’ll actually probably put some galloping work into her dressage sessions as well. After galloping, her canter quality increased tenfold; she engaged her hindquarters spectacularly and actually had a slower canter that was lighter in my hands than before the gallop. She is starting to lose a bit of her pop now, which is not surprising considering that she’s working 5-6 hard days per week on 500g of 12% maize-free pellets. Because she blows up like a balloon, I can’t exactly feed her more than that, but the Mutterer suggested putting her onto a 16% or 21% racing feed. I’ll definitely try it; she might be a bit of a loon on that but I don’t mind holding onto my hat a little as long as she keeps her brain working. I prefer having to cling onto a slightly hot horse rather than kicking the life out of a half-dead one.
Riding photos coming soon!