Thursday, June 28, 2012

Why He Is The Best

I just entered Coro in a FB contest for Trail Blazer magazine asking for a few lines of why your senior trail horse is unique - my aunt saw and her entry is far better than mine, so sweet.

She wrote:

"I don't have an old trail horse, but my niece does. His name is Corazon. He deserves to win, because true to his name, he has captured her heart. His devotion to my niece has helped her through the death of her mother. His affection, that only a devoted old horse can give brings so much joy to her life. She rides her 24 year old Paso Fino on trails in Colorado, and her good old boy even tolerates dressage riding in the arena. He is a go to horse, but it was recently discovered that he has a heart murmur and she fears his trail riding days may be limited. I hope you choose El Corazon, Lara's love, for this heart horse has added joy to the life of the best person I know. Thank you. "

Monday, June 25, 2012

Triple Digits

We have had triple digit temperatures in Denver for the past three days.  Thankfully it didn't get quite as hot where my horses are and we were able to enjoy a warm but pleasant trail ride with two barn friends on Saturday morning. Our three geldings get along great together, and although we got a later start than we intended, there was a little breeze and it didn't feel too bad. Our horses (particularly Coro) were peppy and we took a nice break in the shade halfway through. Coro was happy to be in the lead but I made him go in back part of the time, too, where he was forced to slow down his speed-walk. Our little group's one incident happened pretty immediately, after we took our second cut off the road. The trails are numerous so they can be confusing, and it's easy to get trapped in a non-ideal spot. Coro was wearing his Easy Boot Trails for only the second time - the first time he stumbled and fell in them so I've been nervous to try again, but his poor little toes are sensitive to rocks so I knew we had to give it another go. He did fine, even with a little trotting. Anyway, there were some pretty big step-downs over tree roots and rocks on a narrow path through the pines and Coro handled them like a pro. B. was a little nervous as Beau is an ex-eventer and thinks he needs to jump anything that looks remotely like an obstacle or ditch, but with some coaxing walked over the step-downs and we thought we were out of the woods, so to speak. Then we came to a place where the trail was eroded and cut in, Czar and Coro were in front and got through it okay, and in fact we didn't give it much thought at all until afterwards. Beau is much bigger and we heard a shout from behind us from B. as they went over. We turned around to see Beau scrambling as his hind end fell off the embankment, about 3 feet, and sank into soft sand up to his stifles, followed by his front end. His front feet were on solid ground, but he was still trapped in the gulley. B. stayed on and waited to see what Beau would do - he struggled for a moment, then stilled, trembling and breathing heavy. B. was in line with the trail so was able to just sort of step off, then went around in front of Beau to encourage him forward. He gave a mighty heave and freed himself, they got back on the trail and we looked him over. He was shaken but okay. Really scary! The rest of the ride went smoothly, and everyone enjoyed themselves. We went through the pasture with the Arabians, and while I don't love the idea of riding with loose horses, it's the only option now as all the main routes are fenced off. The horses were in the lower valley and didn't bother us. Coro didn't break a sweat until we were almost home, and was still so full of energy that we did zig-zag leg yields across the road as we neared the barn to keep him focused. Such a good boy. I'm so thankful that he is feeling better.  S. and I got the horses put away and cooled off in the ranch house before I headed back to town for a feed run and spent a while longer feeding carrots to Coro and Notchee. I find these days that once I'm at the barn, I don't want to leave.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Anniversary Photos

Here are the rest of my favorites...

Hearts and Dandelions

I've been keeping quiet about the new mare here, but the vet check is in the morning and she could very well be in my barn by tomorrow afternoon...

She is a five-year-old, 16'1, bay half-Andalusian, sweet as can be.

This blog may need a re-design :)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Sneak Peek

Here is the first release from my photo session with Coro. I'm delighted by the way my happy boy is captured.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Horses Everywhere

I had a couple of trial rides last week, and liked one mare enough for a second look - I'll be having a lesson on her tomorrow evening.  Exciting stuff, but of course I'm trying to be level-headed about it all.

I spent most of the weekend on and around horses, and couldn't have been happier, leading me to believe that I'm on the right path by expanding my equine life.

On Friday, in addition to a quick ride on Coro before his trim and my appointment to see aforementioned mare, I got to ride one of my favorite horses, a 17 year old Andalusian owned by a friend of mine. It had been several years but I know Lumina recognized me and we picked up as if we'd ridden the day before.  My friend has all kinds of obstacles set up in the arena: a bridge, a rope gate, a jousting target arm, a pedestal and ground poles. Lumina is just made of try and I had her going in a beautiful trot. We had a lot of fun playing with the obstacles and I grinned the entire time.  That mare has a heart of gold.

On Saturday I met up with a barnmate and her TB, Beau, for a trail ride. Beau and Coro get along really well and although Beau is eight inches taller, Coro speed-walked his way in the lead for the whole ride. Both boys were really good - it was wonderful to be out on a summer day.   Coro had energy to spare.  When we got back, my barnmate helped me bathe Coro - he is afraid of the hose but I managed to give him a pretty good sponge bath and shampoo his tail for his modeling debut. I gave Notchee a real bath - she danced around some but was generally good - and let her run around in the outdoor arena, though after she came charging up to me several times she decided she mostly just wanted to hang out with me by the fence. She is a funny horse.


Sunday afternoon it was back to my barn for my portrait shoot with Coro. I arrived early to do some touch-up grooming but he had stayed surprisingly clean. He really does love all the attention. I put gold glitter in his mane and tail and polished his coat to a silvery shine. My friend brought her son who was a big help with prop duty and horse-attention-getting. Coro was just a gem - so patient with everything and hamming it up. We did several different settings and two different outfits, and Coro tolerated (I would even say enjoyed) getting dressed up with a cowboy hat, a yellow scarf, and pink flowers (not all at once). After that we went into the arena and got some of me riding bareback. I can't wait to see them! 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A Dark Jewel

I want to take a moment to memorialize a very special horse who was lost yesterday.

Desdemona was a young Canadian school horse at a barn I worked at over ten years ago, a horse with a gentle enough soul to carry kids around as a 3-year-old.  I took her on as my special project, wanting to preserve her extraordinary nature by sparing her being pulled and bounced on all day.   Missing that incomparable relationship with one horse, weary of hopping on something different constantly, Desi gave me that stability and the feeling of a horse that was mine during my time there. 

I have ridden probably close to one hundred horses in my life, and while they each had something to offer and teach, few have touched my heart like that mare.  Only a handful would I have liked to have as my own, and while it wasn't a possibility at the time, I would have bought Desi in a heartbeat.

She was a dark bay mare with a star and a lovely strip, an elongated triangle with the point toward her nose.  She had a delicate face and a refined build.  She was one of the kindest horses I have ever met, her generosity astonished me on so many occasions. 

One day when I was clipping her, I nicked the edge of her sweet ear, drawing a spot of blood.  I felt terrible, and rather than pulling away, she angelically lowered her head to let me try again.  I promised to do better.  I started her over fences and early on she took a bad stumble on landing and fell to her knees; I barely managed to stay on.  We took the jump again, and despite the scare she offered no hesitation. She was that kind of horse.

In the deep of winter when I would have evening lessons I would take her from her stall, scrape the icicles off her belly and sit on her in the arena to stay warm.

My favorite memory of her is getting to take her out on a conditioning ride with two other trainers on a couple of fancy imported warmbloods.  We took the horses to the polo fields and let them open up into a true gallop - the last time I have done so.  She didn't have to be asked twice - we flew over the earth and the velocity made my eyes water as I leaned over Desdemona's neck, her black mane whipping against my face.  She was pure speed and freedom; I trusted her completely.  While the warmbloods stayed keyed up for the rest of the ride, Desdemona came back to a peaceful walk.  

I started dressage work with her and when I said goodbye we rode a quiet test in the outdoor arena, a precious, reverent ride I knew would be our last. She was perfect and giving, as ever. 

I was overjoyed when I learned later that a mother and daughter who were among my favorite students had bought Desdemona. I couldn't have imagined a better match for a horse so deserving of her own people.  I am so deeply saddened for their loss. 

Thank you, Desdemona, for your beauty and grace.  You will never be forgotten. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Fear and Resolution

I tried a horse on Saturday that was the stuff of my dreams on paper - under-saddle PRE mare - and even more stunning in person. From her back, though, and even before, I knew she was not the horse for me, or perhaps more importantly, that I was not the person for her. Losing confidence like that I can feel like I don't have any business with horses at all, but luckily that fades quickly and I remember there are plenty of horses I have trusted and been able to ride well. 

It was more disappointing than I expected - an example of that inevitable disconnect between the dream and reality of horses and riding.  For most of us it is a deeply passionate affair rooted in childhood and, in a sense - fairytale.  We can't help but create these lofty dreams and images of the ideal creature, the magical communion.  It's why it can be the most soaring fulfillment - a connection both earthly and otherworldly - and also heartbreaking - a fall you can feel in your bones and soul.  The unrealized dream of bonding with my mother's horse.  The diminishing dream of my reunion with Coro (anything but endless is crushing).  There I was, the decades-old dream of an Andalusian (who will always be the ultimate fantasy, with their noble eyes and royal heritage - why do you think they are always in movies?) within reach, and yet slipping almost immediately through my fingers like smoke.  The day took on a heaviness reflected in the darkening skies, and my hopes of a renewing ride on my beloved familiar boy were swept away in thunder and lightening.  I met up with friends later for a birthday dinner, but I was distracted and pensive. I had another full day of horses on Sunday, and I wondered if I hadn't taken on too much.

But Sunday morning came with a welcome, if inexplicable sense of positivity. I woke feeling the thread of possibility glimmering with fresh dew, and I wanted to follow.   Since I was venturing south, I had arranged to have breakfast with my oldest friend at her house in Palmer Lake - a beautiful rustic cottage tucked in the trees.  It's interesting how my sense of perfect habitat has changed over the years - I envied just a bit their wilderness perch.  We chatted over pancakes and fruit salad, talked of our respective new additions: my horse search and her pregnancy - still hard to believe my friend of twenty-five years will be a mother before the year is through.  A Halloween child, perhaps! A shorter visit than I would have liked, but still a wonderful opening to the day.

I went on my way to a farm in eastern Colorado, where my trainer was presenting a "Riding to Music" clinic in the afternoon. I wanted to catch some of the other trainer, but they had already finished the horse work and were just having an informal pre-lunch discussion.  The clinician said a few things that stuck with me - common sense but worth remembering. One was "Small steps prevent big mistakes."  I found that reassuring since I often have a self-imposed pressure that I should be doing more and faster, but there is no reason for it.  He also said that he never, ever wants a horse to buck under his control. He does not believe in "getting the bucks out" on a lunge line.  He said he would rather turn a horse out loose if it has any inclination to buck.  I'm not a huge fan of lunging myself, just because I'd rather be riding or walking with the horse, but this made a lot of sense to me.  My trainer's introduction was very emotional for me.  She shares my same reverence for horses, my awestruck appreciation that they let us ride them at all, the philosophy that we owe them, not the other way around.  There were some good laughs thrown in to lighten the mood.  It felt so good to be in a room of similar-minded people, blinking back tears, breathing in horse sweat and Show Sheen and knowing that, yes, this was without a doubt where I belong. 

I watched the two groups of riders, the horses' varying reactions to the music, each gaining confidence and relaxation as they learned some patterns and discussed using music as a training tool and creating playlists for your horse - things I've already been working on with myself with the help of my trainer.  I admired the amber-eyed Morgan, the grey Quarter Horse, the Paints, the Percheron cross, the black Appendix and the palomino.  I admired them all.  And then I drove back to my own barn under alternating blue and grey skies and spent a deliciously leisurely few hours with Coro.  His breathing was quiet and easy.  I groomed him thoroughly, brushed his forelock the way he loves and leaned against him with my arm slung over his back. this is one of the perks of a short horse.  I swept his back clean and put his saddle and bridle on, a process I could do with my eyes closed, the ritual of it so calming.  In no hurry.  I talked with my barn manager about my horse search, my discouraging ride, while we both smiled at the ever-lovable Coro.  He told me one of the barn cats had jumped onto Coro's back going after a bird that was already there - I so wish I'd gotten to see that! We rode indoors since it was so hot, I played our music, and I just settled into his sweet trot, his willing sighs.  I let the reins to the buckle and steered with my seat - we did circles and serpentines and leg yields with no hands.  He had a bounce to his step for a Gipsy Kings song, a swing to his back for Rodrigo y Gabriela.  The thunder began to rumble again and we cooled out as the wind started to knock at the doors.  I untacked him and let him eat the long grass by the picnic table as the storm blew in, utterly happy and at home.