Monday, May 5, 2008


Sometimes it feels like I'm stuck in a rut with my riding and sometimes I feel like I'm making great progress. The spill last summer really put a damper on my riding for months, but I seem to be getting past it now. It helps to have a trainer who is sympathetic to this older rider and isn't forcing a time-table on me.

We had a great ride with our trainer on Saturday. It didn't hurt that we had managed a lesson for six days in a row--no rain, no wind, no holidays, nothing to interrupt the work while we were making up lessons for all of those occurrences. Ace was relaxed and ready to go, and even the "Day of the Horse" events taking place across the street didn't bother him--much. The static feedback from the microphone and loud speakers sounded like firecrackers and his ears perked right up. He got over it and I got on.

I had him ready in time to spend around half an hour warming him up before Gayle got to the barn, so we were able to get a lot more done in the alloted time. I took only the first hour of my 7:45 yoga class, but thats when most of the stretching gets done, so it worked out well for me.

The extra work outs Ace is getting from Gayle and Ashley are really paying off. He's moving off my leg and I can get him to trot without holding a motivational tool in my hand. He really feels far more forward than he has in a long time. He's keeping his back up and his head down and when he starts reaching under himself, he's got a very powerful trot. I'm still having a little problem falling forward, but I'm working a lot harder at leaning back and engaging my abdominals to stay in the saddle. One of these days I know I will have to go back to the Schleese and won't have the false sense of security of the western saddle.

We've learned we cannot say "Good Boy." Ace has decided those words mean he can stop. He's done a good job and the job is over. Not exactly, pal. He can be quite adamant about not moving forward after hearing those words. When he is moving, he'll take any direction in the general vicinity of his hoop to mean "oh, I can go inside the hula hoop and be safe and get treats." I've gotten much better at keeping him from going into the hoop when I don't want him to. He is very funny. You cannot convince me that horses don't have a sense of logic and can't plan their actions.

When we were finished working, and Ace had a chance to romp in the arena on his own, I got his weekly bran mash ready. I added a lot of water, so it was a very soupy gruel. He went diving in to find carrots and I swear he had slop all the way to his eyes. I have no idea how he keeps the stuff out of his nose. He nickered at me between forays to the bottom of the bucket and I just kept telling him "keep that dirty nose away from me." He stained his sock when he wiped his mouth on his left front leg.

We went to a birthday party on Saturday evening where I had a long talk with a friend about the Kentucky Derby. She knows a lot more about Thoroughbred breeding than I do and said that Eight Belles' sire is producing big, fast babies that break down at an alarming rate. She can't understand why anyone would breed to him. That information makes me even more upset by what happened, as has the more explicit reports of what happened to the filly's legs. One can't help but think that money means more than anything to people who engage in this sport. Kay also thinks that it will be a freak if Big Brown wins the Triple Crown. She and I are both waiting to see what the reports on his feet are coming out of the Derby. I haven't seen or heard anything yet.


Grey Horse Matters said...

It sure sounds like everything is coming together with Ace and you. The lessons sound very productive and I'm sure you're having fun. It's good to hear you have a trainer who will take it slow and work with you at your speed, that's really important for us older riders. My guy Erik used to do the same thing by the way, if I said 'good boy' that was an immediate stop, I learned to not open my mouth when riding. He would also turn his head around to my toe looking for a treat, he was a real character.
I agree with you 100% about the whole racing industry, that's all I can say, except I'm not watching this anymore. I think it's a shame what they are putting Big Brown through, the people who own him haven't a clue what's going on with his feet. They are in it for the money as are many others.

M. C. Valada said...

It is so hard to avoid verbally praising Ace, but Gayle and I find ourselves spelling out things, much like people do with young children. I'm convinced it does equally little good with the horse.

I read several articles today about what happened on Saturday. So far, nothing has been written about Big Brown's post-race feet. I know from my own experience with Ace's front left foot that pads do make a big difference. My problem has been rocks, not 5000 pounds of pressure per inch, which is what one racing expert says the thoroughbreds exert when they run.

billie said...

Had to take time to comment - your rides sound lovely!

One trick I have learned about the "good boy" thing (we have horses who think it means whoa, too) is to teach them that when the tone of voice goes up at the end, it's praise but they must keep going. If the tone goes down, as it generally does when we're loving them, it means, well, just that, and there's no imperative to do anything.

It works for us, although I must say we sound like some kind of bizarre birds chirping "goodBOY" with almost a little shriek at the end.

M. C. Valada said...

Thanks, Billie, we'll give it a try.