|He looks so happy and relaxed--dinner time!|
Perfect, but not easy.
Calabar, is smart and affectionate but he is not a push-button horse. It used to be that he was not easy for me to stay on, and there were more than a few times we parted company in spectacular fashion. Now that I ride better, he is challenging me mentally as we work on increasing his skill-set from trail riding and meandering around the arena to a little dressage work. "How much do you want me to trot in that circle, change directions and keep going? Okay, I did that can we do something fun, now? Like eat dinner?" Luckily, our goal is not the show ring--or if it is, I'm not in any particular hurry to get there--and we can take lessons and try things to see what works for us.
|Cross over in back!|
But all of it takes commitment, patience and at least a little time--even if your goal is just to hack around on trails. In some ways, it might be better not to take too much time--barring injuries--to at least get your new OTTB settled into a new routine away from the track. Forrest, for example, had hardly any down time and he is an eager beaver as far as work goes and has managed to stay sound. (Except for a self-inflicted gate injury, that is.)
Calabar had a couple years off before I got him and he perhaps thought retirement suited him. It doesn't. He is a much better horse now that he gets regular exercise and attention, even if we have to argue a little sometimes about how much is too much. He was a sprinter, you see, so we affectionately refer to his attention span as six-furlongs long. I use that limit to our advantage, though, because honestly it matches my own. There really is only so long I can do one thing and it seems we are twinsies in this regards. It also helps me to push him past his limit, teaching me to stay focused just a little bit longer each time until we get the right thing. Or at least a little closer to the right thing. Then we do something else for a little while before returning to what we need to work on. It keeps both of us entertained that way and we still make progress. That's a trick I wouldn't have if it weren't for the big brown horse and I suspect it will come in handy with other horses I meet.
Luckily, except for one abscess and the mystery football knee, Calabar has (knock wood) always been sound--even on his bowed tendon. Sometimes he is sore and stiff, especially in winter, and sometimes after a tough trail ride he likes a little liniment and a day off. So do I, so he gets both. I view his aches and pains from the perspective of my own aches and pains. He's an ex-super athlete, and like a lot of us--even those of us who were only mortal athletes--there are places that hurt if we sit still too long. My knees are actually noisier than Calabar's and the worst thing I can do to them is sit at my desk all day. The more we learn how to get him in frame, the better his body will work, too, but mainly it's important to keep him moving. I use yoga to strengthen my own core and stretch stiff parts and walk nearly daily for cardio. In fact, Calabar is my inspiration to stay in shape and keep my weight down--he has to carry me after all, so I try to do my part to make it comfortable for him. If I'm strong and active, I'm more able to move with him--or at least stay out of his way--and that makes us a better team.
|"K, you were right. THIS is fun!"|