Monday, May 21, 2012

The Sunday Strut

I started Coro on Tri-Hist on Saturday, and yesterday afternoon he had a slightly runny nose but no wheezing, flaring or fluttering.  Truly like night and day. Could it really be that easy? The medication is not super expensive, either.  Not only did he sound better, he clearly felt good, as he dragged me around the arena, doing this little defiant grunt every time he stretched down and blew.  I kept feeling him bunch up in his back and I knew there was a buck in there.  I was right, but I think he really only kicked out.  We worked for a long time until I had more of his attention, and had some meetings with the rail, and then I did some ground work and lessons in patience with him after I got off.  The two TBs who are boarded in the paddock right next to the outdoor arena were out grazing, and they seem to have become a security blanket as Coro was quite unhappy to be working ALL ALONE, or perhaps just without an audience.  In any case you wouldn't think we've been taking dressage lessons for nine months now as Coro looked less like this:

(Gray dressage horse, photo courtesy of JustChaos)

And more like this, a return to his roots (in fact he felt closer to gaiting yesterday than he has in a long time - his little legs were just a flurry while I glided along in the saddle):

 (Caricia de Profeta, Paso Fino mare, photo courtesy Wild Flower Paso Finos)

In other news, I tried out a 13 year old QH mare this weekend who I have not been able to stop thinking about.  There is much to consider.  I think that Coro may have been trying to demonstrate that he is not ready to relinquish his position as Numero Uno.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

In the Distance

This is the post I've had the most trouble writing. This blog, started only a month ago in Coro's birthday month, was a place to extol my love for Coro and gratitude for our continuing adventures together.  It has also served as a laying bare of the truth to myself, not all of which I have shared here.  Coro is 23 years old.  He looks the best he has since he came back to me, he has gained muscle, his coat is smooth (shine is hard won for a grey), his eyes are bright.  There are days he would like to run away with me, days he takes joyfully unnecessary bounds over ground poles.  And there are the other days.  Days he doesn't want to pick up the trot, days he is laboring to breathe, days that he doesn't nose me obnoxiously for treats.  Unfortunately, over the past month we have had more of those kind of days than not.  Last week we canceled a lesson.  He has had some questionable respiratory issues as long as I've had him. While he's had his lungs ultrasounded and his upper airway scoped, no vet has been able to give me a clear diagnosis.  He's been called "heavey" but rarely coughs.  It's been difficult to pinpoint the triggers - colder days, stress, seasonal allergens?  There is also the issue of his heart: Grade 3 mitral valve murmur.  We were given (blessedly) the all clear for light pleasure riding after a cardiac ultrasound last year.  We had the most incredible summer and fall together, including the strenuous group poker ride in October which was one of the best and most memorable days on horseback I have ever had - I was so proud of my boy.  I got to take dressage lessons again, meeting a wonderful trainer with a sense of humor and reverence for these magnificent creatures that works so well with my own.  I was told by the vets to pay attention to Coro, that I can't assume he's being lazy if he stops on me. Delicate heart, delicate airways. There is the constant worry of how much cantering and how many hills are too much for him.  A few times recently I've wondered if I'm wrong to tack him up, to climb on his back.  Now I reach the part where my eyes are filled with tears and I say out loud that my one and only is getting tired, that this renewed passion he's given me might be too big for him.  And so while it feels partly like turning away from him, I have been looking, gazing off into the horizon for another from Coro's familiar back. Maybe we are looking in the same direction. It is a view that is complicated, thrilling, and somehow inevitable. Coro came to me when my first pony was slowing down, and just after losing our stout butter-colored mare.  Another silhouette canters in the distance, on this unbroken circle around my heart.

(I should note that Coro and Notchee will remain with me no matter what else happens.)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day

On this Mother's Day, I share with you a poem I wrote about getting my mom's palomino mare back to her feet after dental surgery.  We didn't know if she would survive the day, but she lived several more years to age 36.  While I lost my mother almost two years ago now, we will forever be connected through horses. 

A Golden Victory
(in response to Maxine Kumin's "Making the Jam Without You")

We have never made jam -
the complicity of sugar and heat -
but we have heaved a horse
from the earth, preserved gold.
Getting your old yellow mare
back to her feet after
her rotten teeth had been removed,
the anesthesia pulled
through her blood like taffy.
We shouldered all our hopes
and determination
that she would shuffle again
through the purpled alfalfa.
That you would ride her again,
her head tossing,
defying her ancient bones
breathing the same air
as the smoky new colt.
Twice she folded
back to the ground,
and we sweated and held back
our wails of defeat, did not hunch.
We yelled at her –
(you had told me never
to yell around the horses)
we crawled almost under her –
our feet slipping on the lawn.
Finally, with one last effort,
we became human pillars -
and grass-stained, panting,
the three of us stood still
under the summer sun.

Mama and Taffy, 1993

Monday, May 7, 2012

Caballo de Mayo

Coro was his usual sweet self on Saturday.  My dad was visiting so he came out to the barn with me and took a few pictures.  Coro is really cute about posing for the camera. We didn't do a whole lot as it was our hottest day of the year so far, and Coro is still shedding out some winter coat, although he did feel like doing a little cantering.  After our mini-ride we took both horses down the road past the ranch house to graze.  They were so happy to get out together, and Coro was so nice for my dad, who is not the horsiest person on the planet.  At one point my dad sort of forgot he was holding a horse and started hopping around waving his arms, demonstrating his banjo-playing brother dancing - Coro didn't know what to think! I hope everyone else had a great weekend filled with riding!

Thursday, May 3, 2012


This photo was taken about two years before I got Coro, and represents the beginning of my love affair with Spanish horses, turning into an interest in Latin culture (another affinity shared with my mother, who adventured in South America as a young woman and was fluent in Spanish), dreams of travel, and the shape of my life.  I had read about the Paso Fino in Western Horseman magazine - who can say what about the chestnut stallion struck a chord with me but they instantly became my favorite breed, and imagine my delight when I located a breeder in nearby Mancos in the yellow pages.  (I later learned that the foundation sire Hilachas spent his retirement in Hesperus, Colorado, probably the reason for the area becoming a southwestern hub for the relatively uncommon breed).  I boldly called the farm owner and he invited us to come for a test ride.  At the time, another horse was out of the question, and solidified by the designer price tags of Pasos in those years.  Undeterred, I tried to soak up the experience of getting to ride one - I laughed as she seemed to glide over the ground, her feet staccatoing over the gravel.  A momentous instant captured against the La Plata mountains, as this sweet buckskin mare cortoed up and down the driveway, who knew that I would go from helmet-less, inappropriate-sandal-wearing teenager riding with my toes pointed down, to later training a Paso Fino gelding myself, always keeping horses close, learning how to really ride, trying to build a career out of them, and discovering who I was from the vantage point of their backs?  

That mare's name was Duende, one of the many Spanish words for which we have no real English equivalent, a word at the heart of their most expressive art form, flamenco. Just one of so many threads that have intertwined and led me to where I am today.  While I now pursue dressage and so prefer a trotting horse to a gaited horse (my Coro seemed to point me this direction in his own way by being decidedly non-gaited despite an impressive pedigree), my favorite breeds now the Andalusian and Lusitano (whose blood contributed to the Paso Finos that developed in the New World), I will always hold buckskins and Paso Finos in high regard.  Next year I will at last travel to Spain - the culmination of so much of what began on that fateful day.  I will get to see Andalusians bedecked in flowers, I will get to hear the intricate strains of flamenco and answer the call of an unseen country that has been beckoning for decades.
  1. A quality of passion and inspiration.
  2. A spirit.
Duende is a concept difficult to define. Duende is used to describe art, particularly Flamenco, and if something “has duende” it means it is a combination of special, authentic, charismatic, and magical, ie. “it has soul”. If a performance (musical or other) has duende it means it has succeeded. Duende is something instinctive, animal, dark and yet in touch with the divine. It is a struggle within the artist which creates true art.  ( from Tertulia Andaluza)