You can take the thoroughbred off the track, but you can’t take the track out of the thoroughbred

What an awesome weekend! I dragged the hubs and son to Aiken horse-show early Saturday morning to volunteer at Sporting Days, and although we were given a fairly uncomplicated Training level combination, we still saw some exciting action. My favorite are the young riders–they are absolutely fearless, and they come in screaming hot…you think there’s no way that horse will get his act together and get over that big jump, but these horses are amazing. I’m not going to say these young riders shouldn’t be riding at these levels (and I’m stereotyping here, but I saw some pretty cool, calm, & collected young riders as well). Heck, if I’d had a Training or Prelim horse at that age, I’d probably have been one of those riders I’m talking about now. But, as a Mom, I ask parents to be sure their child’s trainer isn’t pushing them to move up too soon. Most of the falls we saw this weekend (and this is often the case) were young riders in Training or Prelim. That’s my soapbox comment for the day. But, I digress.
We were at 11 A & B for the Training & Prelim action, and I got a handful of good shots. My telephoto lens was a hand-me-down from my uncle, so I don’t get sharp-quality pics from a distance, but I did get some up-close shots of a few riders you might recognize!

Some of you may recognize this face...

Some of you may recognize this face…

Will Coleman, anyone?
Yep, it was star-studded action, much-chagrin to my poor husband who had to endure my barely-contained squeals of excitement. “Oooh! Honey, it’s Kim Severson!” Or, “Aaaahh! It’s Caitlin Silliman on Callisto!” And many, many more.
Phillip Dutton on Winter Colony

Phillip Dutton on Winter Colony

Jessica Bortner-Harris on Pretty Hip Hop Hotty

Jessica Bortner-Harris on Pretty Hip Hop Hotty


All this cross-country action had me itching for competition. Sadly, our finances don’t allow wiggle room at the moment, but I keep aiming for horse trials within reach just in case. So, yesterday, since the hubs was available to watch the kid, I took Johnny out on a conditioning ride. I had every intention of wearing the helmet cam, but it didn’t get charged in time, so no dice. It’s too bad, too, because the BM’s daughter (we’ll call her LN) came along on project pony. If you’ll recall, project pony is a smallish 15.1hh AQHA. Just keep that in mind. We took off on the trail at a leisurely warm-up walk with LN trailing behind on Owin. I will say, he did a fantastic job of staying within spitting distance of Johnny, considering Johnny has a mammoth walk stride. Now that Johnny knows Spanish Moss hangs from trees, he assumes it’s on every tree. He swiped at nearly every pine branch within reach–hoping for a mouthful of horsey cotton candy.
When we reached the ‘gallop stretch,’ I explained to LN my plan. We weren’t sure how Owin would react to being outrun and potentially left behind, but LN is a solid rider, so I knew she could handle him galloping flat-out. Our gallop stretch is about a two mile-long stretch of sand-based dirt road. There are only two major curves, making it perfect for a good conditioning gallop. At some point, I plan on marking 100 meter stretches, but that hasn’t happened yet. We’d already done some warm-up trot sets, so we were walking for a bit before we galloped. I wish I’d taken pictures–in one 50 meter stretch, I saw deer, turkey, raccoon, and hog tracks. Yes, I’m from Arkansas and notice these things.
Johnny broke into the nicest left-lead canter we’ve had post-injection. His head was down, his neck was up, and his back was as round as a butterball turkey. He was stretched nicely into the bridle and was going exactly the way I’d pictured. And then Owin caught us. And, those of you with OTTBs know what happened next. I had Johnny bitted with the Nathe–I don’t need much, but it was like having Silly Putty at the end of my reins. I managed to just barely hold him together using my entire body until we reached the end of the 3:30 mark. He was breathing hard, but he had plenty of gas, so I let him go. I let him choose how much he wanted to give. At first, he just simply stretched out into a good breezing gallop. But, as Owin found another gear and caught up to his flank, he switched leads and left Owin standing still. And then, it felt good. So, he gave a little more. And that felt good, so he hit the next gear. Owin was so far behind us at this point, but now Johnny was simply running for the love of running. I think my grin went from ear to ear. There’s no greater feeling on horseback than sitting on the back of a thoroughbred who is running for sheer love of running. I hated to shut him down, but the gate at the end of the track was looming ahead, and he was breathing pretty hard. His racetrack training came right back to him as he dropped down into a canter, then gradually eased into a trot. I didn’t even have to touch his mouth–I simply stood in the stirrups, patted his neck, and said, “Ohhhh, good boy, easy now.”
Before his tie-back surgery, that little run would have ended as soon as he managed to beat Owin. And he’d have been exhausted afterward. But, though I can still hear a significant noise at the canter, he can breathe 10x better now. He was amped up after that run and ready to go again after a few minutes. So, after 8 minutes had elapsed, I brought him up to a nice quiet canter again. This time, I explained to LN that we weren’t going to gallop–just a good stretch of medium canter. Once again, though, she let Owin reach Johnny’s flank, and we had ourselves another race. Sigh. You can take the thoroughbred off the track, but you can’t take the track out of the thoroughbred. 🙂 After a much shorter gallop, we headed back down the trail towards the barn.
Johnny had a little pep in his step the whole way.
With the impending wet weather rolling in this week, courtesy of the winter snow storms to the northwest of us, I doubt we’ll get in much riding time. However, we’ve got a little massage therapy scheduled for tomorrow afternoon, and another visit from the vet on Thursday to check out Johnny’s stifles. I’m going to have a competition-ready horse very soon–now I just need the financial backing to get him out there!

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3 comments

  1. redheadlins · March 3, 2014

    goosebumps just reading that, love love love a good gallop!

  2. L. Williams · March 3, 2014

    Yeah, I’m not up and up on eventing, but I love the courses, so it must have been a fun day 🙂

  3. Shelby · March 6, 2014

    Poor husbands! Haha, they are such gentlemen about it though, which is so nice! That gallop sounds amazing!

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