Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Spring Has Sprung!

And with it clouds and clouds of shedding horsehair. I encounter more of it every weekend now that I am back in the saddle and working with a lovely OTTB mare named Willow at a facility on Long Island. Willow is one of only a few mares that I have ridden consistently in my time, and her sensitive, feminine demeanor might just sway me to give up geldings for life! Of course to this point I've only gotten her on her good days...I haven't had any encounters of the mare kind while she's been feeling witchy or cranky, so perhaps that joke will one day be on me. But for now, I'm falling in love in the springtime sunshine with her sweet, giving temperament.

And I give big kudos to her owner for that -- she has painstakingly worked to turn Willow from a racetrack reject, dead lame from a chipped up front knee that required 10 months of tedious rehabilitation, to a well-behaved lady who is learning every week more about how to give and bend and transition with the grace of a show ring hunter. I even (almost successfully, due more to my learning her cues than her ignoring mine) sidepassed her at a trot last Saturday. I'd say she's come a long way.

Her biggest issue right now is her canter. She definitely tends to "rev it up" and get racehorsey when I ask her into that gear. She'll come back down and give and collect and then she'll want to rev up and go, go, go. She's also remarkably stiff and difficult to bend (this might partially be a side effect of lingering stiffness in the now healed knee). Circling her at the canter is sort of like riding a pogo stick. Bounce, bounce, bounce in a straight line and then a big lean to the inside at the corner. We'll keep working on it, but I welcome any suggestions about how to encourage her to soften and bend at this gait.

Willow is definitely a reminder to me of why it's so important for racetracks and the racing industry to continue to support efforts to rehome OTTB horses. They still have so much to give once their baby careers are over. I look forward to continuing my relationship with this big, beautiful grey mare, and know that many others like her can offer the same gifts to other lucky riders just like me.

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