Monday, December 3, 2018

Galloping Gals and Thunderous Thoroughbreds

I love alliteration... and this cranky old horse.
When I pictured Pig's retirement, I never thought he would immediately find himself an old man out to pasture. Unfortunately this is exactly where he is today, due to a combination of his mental and physical issues and my lack of time. Thankfully a year of full retirement seems to have settled him into his new way of life.

He comes strolling up to me in the pasture with a happy look on his face. The fact that I dutifully bring him in and feed him probably helps keep this adorable and useful habit going. His bump-life has continued unabated. It horrifies my barn manager to see how many cuts and scrapes this horse can accumulate in a single week. He may or may not have given himself a bruised cannon bone and a splint this year. Who even knows how he does these things. As he's retired now, the only thing I care about is functional soundness and his mental joy. It's almost enjoyable to treat his bumps and scrapes and laugh about his accident prone self now that his soundness isn't as important.
Don't have to be particularly sound to take this dog and I on a walk!
Speaking of soundness, I've decided Pig only has a few gaits left to him. He can walk, stiffly. He can do a slow balanced canter. And he can gallop. We won't talk about the trot. I like to pretend he's gaited, though Liz generously reminded me that "Lame isn't a gait, Austen."
Looks like a gait to me, Liz!
It's amazing to me how quickly the old man lost his soundness once I stopped riding him daily. His joints have stiffened up a ton, and he takes forever to warm out of his starting hitches. I don't actually ride him that much, and then mostly at the walk. He'll definitely never make the lower-level dressage schoolmaster I'd hoped he would be, but he does have one job he can do.

After listening to friends detail fear of galloping, throwing Jan on Pig this summer, and using the old man to mitigate my own baggage from Bast's bolting, I realized Pig's true calling in life. Introducing: Guinness, Senior Manager of Gallop Confidence Instillation.
He clearly loves his new job.
Basically, he's the world's best galloping schoolmaster.

I tested out his new calling during a recent visit with Liz. I knew she had some reservations about going fast, especially on a horse who both is fast and unfamiliar. Because of that, I warmed him up for her and we started in the ring. I wanted her to get comfortable with him and get used to the double bridle. (Note: He's in the double because right now I'm down to just that and Bast's snaffle. Whoops.)

She giggled her way around the ring, but when I asked her to go fast her reservations became obvious.
So did her need for shorter stirrups, haha!
Having seen Pig throw some of his patented "Pig Tantrums" in the past, Liz was understandably worried he might wriggle too much under her. I assured her that galloping is literally his favorite thing on earth and he will not throw a tantrum while doing it, unless you yank on the reins. I then reminded her that he's quite old and stiff, and his tantrums aren't what they used to be. Being the scientist she is, Liz tested this.
Literally the extent of Pig's "bucking". God I love this horse.
Once we got his reactions sorted out and her stirrups shortened, we headed out to do some more realistic galloping outside the ring. As we did, I outlined the steps to a more confident gallop on this particular horse.
Step 1. Reach up and grab mane.
Step 2. Lean forward.
Step 3. Close your leg and hold on.
Step 4. Stop him by standing up and closing your hand.

Yeah, folks. He's literally that easy. Liz started her first pass with a look of utter terror on her face, but within 3 strides that look had transformed to one of utter joy. Check it out...
Their faces make me so happy! So does her hand clutching mane for dear life, haha.
Once Liz figured out that Pig is basically the master of both go and stop, I could see her start to loosen up and enjoy things even more. Pig started really digging in and taking off at the start of each pass, and Liz just embraced it.
What is it about going fast on a good horse that is so very much fun? Can we bottle it or something?
They were both having such a blast, I just let them keep going and going and going. Even after several gallop passes, Pig was barely breathing hard. He's such a fit beast. I swear to god his cardiovascular fitness is legendary.
"This is my only joy in life. It is not hard for me." -- Pig, probably.
I kept snapping photos of the pair, caught up in their happiness. Then in the final gallop pass, Liz did what was unthinkable earlier in the day. She raised her arms in the air and took her hand off the reins!
Another happy customer! Feel that gallop confidence!
The whole experience of seeing a friend find the same joy this horse has given me over the years was incredibly priceless. I've always been so thankful for his gentle control in the wildest of gallops. Going fast has been his and my happy place for so many long years, and it has felt like something I could not share with others until now. I'm so happy to know he's able to still enjoy going for fun runs in the field, and that I can put friends on his back to feel that same infectious joy.

For more fun (and photos!!), please go check out Liz's post on the adventure.

I want to challenge all of you to get out there this weekend and find your own horse-related joy. That might be galloping on your very own good horse, spending some quality time, or perfecting that lateral movement. In any case, share with me what your favorite things to do with your horse are, and whether you've ever been able to share that with another. (And to anyone out there who needs a good dose of gallop confidence, Pig is currently accepting customer applications.)
Get out there and find your happy place!

21 comments:

  1. He's the best red thoroughbred ever! Cannot wait for spring shenanigans.

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  2. man he might be stiff in some places but check his reach with his hind legs!!

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    1. Omg so stiff. Haha. But yeah, that hind leg has always been there for us. Particularly that left one. The one with the fewest issues. LOL

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  3. is there anything better than galloping a good thoroughbred?!? i think not <3 love the pictures!

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  4. What a good boy <3 The best boy!

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  5. I feel a trip out East in my future!!!!

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  6. I'm submitting my application today! LOL The joy in both Liz and Pig is palpable in those photos!! <3

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  7. Great to see this. I love a good gallop myself. My warmblood Biasini did not have to be taught how to gallop. He must have been a TB in a previous life.

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    1. What a good warmblood! I tend to think a good gallop is good for a dressage horse. Helps loosen up the back.

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  8. Sign me up for his next seminar :) He is the bestest guy.

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  9. I think I'm going to pack my bags and come and visit you guys! That looks like so much fun.

    Also, challenge accepted. :)

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  10. How lucky to have such a horse to gallop on!! He looks amazing.

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