Anyone remember from the first part of this mini series (you can catch up with Part 1 here) that in our search for a new horse for me we had a list of things we desired from a horse. Now everyone creates a list and then when you read it back it sounds like you may was well be looking for Pegasus…. and you don’t want to spend too much to buy him either!
A recap of the important bits:
16-16.3hh. Safe in traffic. Hacks alone or in company, Goes first or last out hunting. Sensible but not a ‘Kick-along-Bob’ and must be a gelding.
Tony had a list of things he didn’t want in a horse for:
No mares, nothing over 12 years and ideally not Thoroughbred.
Our search had been reasonably short at just a few weeks and we’d only physically seen 4 or 5, one of those was completely by chance when we went to see a hunt coat when the lady happened to mention she had something that might fit the bill. Sadly it didn’t, and neither did the coat actually, but it was an amusing trip to say the least.
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I knew I was rusty, to say the least, but so far I’d happily jumped on the ones we decided were worth more than just a look at over the stable door. I’m definitely not one for time wasting and I see zero reason to get a horse out of it’s stable and ride it if I don’t like the look of it. I think that’s disrespectful to the owner and I’d rather be upfront with them and say that I don’t think it’s the horse for me. It’s surprising how many sellers appreciate this approach too. I just don’t feel obliged to jump on just because I’ve driven for an hour to see it. No point. Obviously if I’m unsure then invariably I got on and then let the decision be made after. I’d rather wait. I’ve had enough horses in my life to know what I like and what I don’t.
Then a horse came into a conversation between Tony and a friend of his. On paper we shouldn’t have gone. At all. He was just about 16hh, full TB and yes, you’ve guessed it – an Ex-Racer. Raced on the flat between 2-4, then over the jumps until he was 5 he left training to go to a Point to Point yard. The day we saw him he was just a few weeks coming back into work to prepare for another season of Pointing. So he was a bit tubby, pretty unfit and as he’d spent a summer out with yearlings he was missing at least half of his tail.
Anyone remember that list from the first blog… the one that said over 16hh and not TB.
I liked him though. I loved his sweet nature in the stable towards a total stranger and I felt at ease with him on the floor. This part was pretty important to me. I’ve had too many in the past that thought squashy me or intimidating me and my little legs in the stable was fair game. I didn’t need it back then and I certainly didn’t want it now being a bit old and rusty round the edges. This little chap was a gem though. I went back the next day and rode out, we had a short canter too. The speed and his way of going didn’t worry me. I smiled. Quite a lot really. He bobbled along on a long rein and although he was a bit lazy in walk he went past so much without giving it a thought. He wasn’t dull, he was just safe on the roads. Ideal.
However was this little bright chestnut TB, called Tiny, really for me? Was Tony really going to be able to ride him if needed? A long conversation with him back in his workshop after I was back began. We had others lined up to view that weekend, all miles away and all a lot more money too. We could see all of those, and more, and potentially none of them would tick as many boxes as this chap had and he was certainly ticking boxes.
Then we were given the fantastic opportunity of a weeks trial with Tiny and we decided we had nothing to lose.
He came home a couple of days later, on a foul wet and windy afternoon too. We did what you aren’t supposed to do with a new horse and pretty much went straight out on a hack. With a week’s trial we were both keen to put him through many situations (while bearing careful as he wasn’t fit) and see just how he coped and how we got on together. So off we went on our first ride.
The farm has a grass runway on it and it’s the only safe route off the land and into the lanes around us.
However it’s a runway that resembles grass gallops.
Tiny, bless him walked up the gallops, sorry, runway ,as the wind howled and the rain started to bite too. Although he was tense under me he just about contained himself and I just tried concentrated on breathing and talked the whole way up there. Not that anyone would have heard me in that wind. As soon as we were on the road he relaxed and went into racehorse string mode… eg follow the tail in front.
He was totally solid on that hack. Over the next few days we hacked in company, went out alone, he was shod, he went autumn hunting for a couple of hours and behaved really well. In the stable he continued to be lovely and he never fretted about being on his own or indeed being out with another – which is something he probably hadn’t done much of in the past. OK so he doesn’t understand a true contact but I’d seriously go without pretty circles and floaty paces in the future in favour of the horse that merrily went past the local carnival float moving up lane or the horse that when introduced to the plane that uses the farm runway decided to lick it’s wing.
Boxes still being ticked…
On the final day of our trial we hunted again. He’s much more alert to hunt than hack but that’s generally normal behaviour but I was finding him a little too keen for my liking. He was stopping but there was a little too much leaning going on.
We had a pretty strong canter at one point but in typical racehorse style we rather leapt into a speedy get away. However in doing so I somewhat clonked my hand against his withers and my thumb bent back to a rather silly angle. So now I was on a keen ex-racer, galloping in an open field with a left hand that wasn’t working much. Thankfully a pretty long field with a rather large hill at the end, so I turned up it and he stopped.
Yay for a reasonably unfit horse and a large hill!
We called it a day not long after this, as it was clear I wasn’t able to hold the reins at all, however Tiny hadn’t put a foot wrong really.
Tony is a Master Saddler by trade and we’d joked all week about Tiny wearing hand-me-down parts to his bridle etc. We were adamant we wouldn’t spend a penny until we’d made a decision on his future with us. On the way home from hunting I turned to Tony and asked him to make me a bridle.
Now it was time to start building the relationship, gain his trust, learn to accept his orangeness (and BOY is he orange) and that his past life has left him wanting to go from zero to flat out when on grass and hopefully retrain aspects to make him a more rounded riding horse.
Oh and I needed to leave the ground too. It’s been longer that I’ve not jumped than it has been since having a horse at home. Age and mortgages can play havoc with your desire to leave Terra Firma.
I’m pretty sure this is going to be one heck of a journey… or ride…
Oh and you’ll be pleased to learn that I discovered what a Universal bit is too. More on that in the future!
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See you next time!