Did you all know that it is really hot in Southern California in the summer? We have had WEEKS of +100 degree weather… which… to the surprise of absolutely no one, is not May’s favorite weather. Since my job is still East Coast hours (5AM – 2PM local time), I had been trying to scrape by with late afternoon/evening rides. But even then, the temperature was rarely below mid 90s.
Since May was clearly suffering, our lessons had been focused on getting her to stretch and be supple. In some lessons, we gave up on any kind of cantering attempts. Horse welfare always comes first, but it has been slow, and honestly, wildly uninspiring. Is this a problem? Not really? In my mind, it’s really similar to the few weeks of REALLY cold/wet weather KY always god, where riding was basically a useless endeavor. At least in Cali, I can just hack out when its rally hot.
Of course, the heat broke… and then I was away for a week. Luckily, this meant May was in pro-ride boot camp to get going again. First order of business? Out with the hounds for some cardio early in the morning. And… she was apparently pretty awful. I think a big part of it was just not really working for a few weeks and then suddenly being out in a lot of environment on a cooler morning.
She continued to work all week and then… looked just NQR behind. Luckily, chiro and body work were already scheduled, so we were able to rule out a lot of stuff basically immediately. To the surprise of absolutely no one, May was just telling use she was due for some hock injections, and we got those done on Friday.
Since my trainer is going to AECs, I still wanted to sneak a dressage lesson in on Saturday, so I asked if there was anyone else I could ride. And of course there was. And of course he was a 16.3 warmblood/tbred cross… currently running around Prelim. Honestly, I have always loved this horse, as he is such a talented goofball, but he is also probably the best trained horse I have ever sat on. And polar opposite of May. Narrow! Tall! Suspension! And Suppleness! But also somehow less likely to try to run away with me than her?
It really gave me an appreciation for the type of feel Chloe is trying to get me to achieve. She has such a high standard for how rideable she wants horses to be, and I could really appreciate how accessible the entire horse’s body was to me. Despite him being goofy on the ground, he was super workmanlike under saddle. (until I spent too much time walking around, and he started to contemplate creating his own fun… back to work sir!)
It also… made it wildly apparent how much I like to lean. See, on May, there is a LOT of real estate to sit on, and I have tried to compensate for her being stiff/against my aids by sitting off to the side. With a narrow horse, I literally almost sat OFF the side of him once or twice. Luckily, he was wildly patient, and if my aids weren’t clear, he just ignored me versus like… bucking me off, which he would’ve been entitled to.
The ride wasn’t about trying new tricks. It has been… maybe 4 or 5 years since I took a lesson on a horse other than May, and the lesson was mostly focused on feeling what really solidly installed basics feels like and getting the feel for a different type of horse. What does a horse who is a bigger mover feel like when he is really over his topline and pushing from behind? How do I maintain that? How do I adjust it? How do I maintain that feeling while asking for more suppleness?
And you know what? Two days later? I am still sore hahaha. Mostly my core and my leg muscles I had to use differently on a differently built horse. I am also wildly excited to get back on May and try to recreate even 1/16th of that feeling. At least now, I feel like I have a better barometer for “good, better, and very good.” (I never achieved best, because I completely failed in getting a solid medium trot.)
In other news, not sure if I mentioned this here, but I am starting my search for my next horse. I am not in a wild rush, but at 15(ish), I think May would much rather enjoy teaching someone the ropes of eventing vs. having me push her past her comfort zone. May won’t be for sale. She is a life-er with me, but the plan is to find her a nice leaser who appreciates her special brand of sass sauce.