Growing Up In Stages

Feb 27, 2017 - 2:11 PM

My horses and I trundle along down here in Welly-world, making little nuggets of progress, and soaking it all in.

Ella is working beautifully. I love my relationship with this horse—we’re an old married couple now, and as such we have our little spats because we know how to push each other’s buttons, but I love her and she loves me and we know each other so well that we just move like one organism. That isn’t to say that we don’t have things to work on, because there’s always things to work on. But she’s so solid in who she is now, and I’m putting together work that feels like a finished product instead of a work in progress, and that’s a beautiful feeling.

If Ella is at the end of that journey with me, Danny is at the beginning, and it’s terribly exciting. Danny hasn’t always been the most straightforward of creatures (um, understatement of the century), with his twirl-first-ask-questions-later reaction time, his terribly athletic little body that can go every direction at once, and more than a hefty dose of cheek, he’s been an exciting ride.

But he’s working for me, not against me now. And because he was such a goon, he forced me to take my time on the foundation, which means that now, the work comes from a really solid place.

This is the wonderful thing and the horrible thing about talented horses: we’ve gotten so good at breeding them to do their jobs that the hard stuff is really easy, and the easy stuff is really hard. Danny can piaffe like hell at not-yet-9-years-old, but maintaining the same canter for two laps around the arena, with eight really solid corners, takes an act of Congress.

And so that is what our rides look like: on trot days, we work on keeping the same bend and energy in every step of quite-steep half pass, then on corners and long sides. On canter days, we work on the precise balance of the half pass zig zag, then on a serpentine with simple little flying changes. The Grand Prix work gets punctuated by training level work, and both are taken equally seriously.

Michael tells me I’ll be doing the Grand Prix by fall; I think we’ll wait until 2018. We’ll see who’s right in the end, but there’s no winner or loser in this argument!

Johnny is Danny’s cousin—both grandsons of Jazz—and there are things about them that are so similar—their clever minds, their cheeky but ultimately very kind characters, their fabulous hind legs—but they are so different, too.

Johnny is a vastly more empathetic ride, never one to take advantage of a situation, whereas Danny is sometimes a criminal mastermind. Johnny’s also not as loose and elastic as Danny, and that sounds like a not nice thing, but it’s actually kind of incredible; he’s so balanced and organized, a lot like Ella was at this age.

Johnny is also so mentally solid, which is such a joy, because I can really train on him without ever rattling his cage. He’s made HUGE improvements in his flying changes, which have been the hold up on him, and I was just glancing at closing dates for national shows down here to show him third level, although knowing the way the Cosmos works, as soon as I lick that stamp, I’ll be unable to produce a clean flying change for weeks, so I haven’t quite pulled the trigger yet.

And baby Hurricane is trundling along. He’s another Jazz relation (gee, do I have a type or something?), and had used his terribly clever mind for a wee bit of evil before we came to Florida, so riding the big goon has been delegated to someone young and supple for a while, a fantastic young student of Michael’s who adores H, and with whom he has a wonderful rapport. They’re doing the boring things that produce top-class athletes, building a solid foundation on which we will build an incredible structure.

Hurricane has also grown about three inches since we bought him, and is super loose like Danny, so it’s a bit like watching an extremely elegant octopus on roller skates, on the deck of a ship, in 30 foot swells. Whee. Fortunately, we have nothing but time.

It’s funny, watching Hurricane do the doofus baby things he does, because there’s a sizable gap between him and Johnny, who’s the youngest of a group that all came up together. Johnny is 8, Danny and Dorian are 9, Fiero is 10, and Fender is 11, and that means that they’re all lovely to ride and sensible to sit on and make (mostly) good choices.

My riding-babies skill set has gotten a bit rusty, and as I’ve got a trip planned overseas to young horse shop in the spring, it’ll be quite a culture shift. It’s a little bittersweet, actually, seeing all the horses of that young horse group onto the next stage in their lives, because it means I have to start all over again with another group of terrorists. So I’m savoring the peace for as long as it lasts!

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