During Chaco’s rehab sessions, I rode him on the upper pasture when an old timer pulled his truck over to talk with me. “What kind of horse is that? I’ve been wondering for awhile.” I told him Chaco was a thoroughbred, and his jaw dropped before exclaiming, “What the heck are you doing on a thoroughbred? Aren’t you scared?” The whole time Chaco stood there quietly and relaxed. Hmmmmm.
Yesterday, I took the boys out for a short trail ride after several weeks of continuous snow, rain, and mud. The ground is finally dry enough to ride without fear of sinking horse knee deep in mud. I wondered, without much work of late, how they would do. Would they act up? Would they be hot?
Well, for all of you that insist Thoroughbreds can’t be ridden out on the trail, because they are so spooky, skittish, hot and hard to handle, it was a wonderful ride! Chaco is still green on the trail, and he went back to it as if we’ve been riding all winter long. Harley and Chaco stood calmly as I climbed on. I can’t get on Chaco from the ground he is so tall, so I climb onto something to be able to get onto him. They moved off calm and relaxed without one spook the entire way.
When I ride Chaco, I don’t steer him with my reins. I use my legs, and he moves off the leg pressure perfectly. I solely use my reins to keep him square and balanced. I ride him one handed while I pony Harley with my other hand. Chaco has never spooked at anything on the trail. Mind you, I did do a lot of groundwork with him when he came here, and I desensitized him to anything I saw him look at too long.
For instance, he never had a bush touch his tummy before, so I got a branch from my tree that still had leaves and gently rubbed it all over him several days. I would touch his tummy, legs, barrel, put it between his front and back legs with it, and rub his neck and hindquarters with it until he would stand there relaxed and let out a sigh. I left it in the paddock, so he could explore and play with it; this way he teaches himself it’s nothing to be afraid of. I put white rocks all over the paddock area, because white rocks always seem to stop horses in their tracks. Why? I don’t know, but I’m determined to figure that one out. I put down a blue tarp for him to walk over simulating water and to desensitize him to walking on something that makes different sounds. Racehorses generally stay on the most perfect ground all the time that doesn’t make sounds like walking on branches or leaves. I also put out poles for them to walk over, so when we come across a downed tree, no big deal.
But remember, racehorses run, walk, stand with thousands of people running around and screaming while they are in the paddock or out on the track. There is an ambulance that follows them as they race, and this ridiculously loud bell goes off when they break from the gate. As they run at 45mph, people are waving at them, running along the fence, jumping up and down, eating all kinds of weird smelling foods, and wearing all sorts of colored clothing. These horses are desensitized! People wear these insane hats to races all over the country, and if those don’t scare them, not much will.
Today, Chaco moved off my leg nicely. He always listens to me, and he loves to be out there looking at all there is to see. Harley is by his side, and I listen to their barefoot hooves moving across the soft ground. My back and hips sway with Chaco’s as I chant to myself which foot is taking the next step forward. I slow my breathing down, and that is when the smile rises on my face. I get to ride my horses one more time by the grace of all that is good. I talk to both Harley and Chaco as we move down the trail about all sorts of things as my dogs Chewy and Bella follow us. Harley and Chaco ride along well together, their rhythm is in synch today. I love seeing Harley happy and moving along so nicely, and he brings comfort to me having him by my side. They both have come through their issues in such a good way. I’m excited for the warm months ahead of us.
I love my boys. Besides my sweet husband, the happiest place in the world for me is out on any trail or arena riding my boys with my dogs playing behind us. There is nothing like it, and it lifts any sadness off my shoulders. It’s our bliss. There is nothing like this in the world, and I want to share it in whatever way I can with you. So, get ready. I think we’re going to go for some rides!