Last year I placed a Standardbred filly in a riding home. Her name is Spanish Lady. She came back to me this fall, through no fault of her own. She’s been renamed Ella, and has had some trail miles and walk-trot lessons with kids put on her in the meantime. She’s quite pretty, and sound. She never raced. Her ground manners are a bit lacking though. She is so friendly that she’s pushy and prone to move into your space (even onto your foot if you’re not careful!). She is not the least bit sensitive, and it sometimes requires a considerable increase in volume to make her see whatever point you are trying to make. The flip side of that is that she seems to have no spook whatsoever in her soul. Flapping tarps, logs, jump standards, tires… nothing fazes her. She’s placid about trailer loading. Puts up with first aid treatment of cuts. Stands for bandaging or clipping, etc. So she’s quite a nice sort of horse, but still unlikely to find a home before the Spring. Which was a bit of a problem, given that I don’t have enough hay, we are in the midst of a hay shortage (it’s available, but very pricey!), and I can’t work until January. Especially since I also had Diego come back to me unexpectedly shortly before Ella.
I am listed on the OCTRA website as a mentor, so I sometimes get beginners to the sport contacting me. Veronica is one of those. She is really enthusiastic, and has volunteered at a couple of competitions already. She doesn’t have a horse of her own though. So I offered to lease Ella to her (just out of the goodness of my heart… well, that and enlightened self-interest LOL!!).
Veronica is interested primarily in Competitive Trail. Since heart rates are a major part of the scoring, it’s important that horses, particularly the non-Arabians, have good resting heart rates. Some horses have resting heart rates that are so high that even at rest they would incur penalties (anything above 44bpm). Arabs recover faster than other breeds, so if you can start with a low pulse you probably have a better chance of competing against them.
I pulled out my stethoscope. There was Ella on the cross-ties, pawing quite rudely, demanding treats. I rather expected something around the 44 mark. Ares runs around 40-44. King is usually about 36-38. Dressy has been as low as 28, but she skips beats, so it depends on when you start your count. I put the stethoscope on Ella, and listened for a moment. Well damn. Strong, slow, and steady as a metronome. Even excited, she was 30.
Veronica has only ridden Ella a couple of times so far. It’s dark by the time she’s done work during the week, so she can only ride on the weekends. But she’s coming several evenings during the week as well to brush her and work on her ground manners. And there has been some improvement already. Today, Veronica worked on getting Ella to lead quietly without dragging the human hither and yon, and to stand nicely for mounting. The footing in the round pen was frozen mud. So they could only walk, but Ella was very well behaved once Veronica was mounted. They walked circles, practiced halts and turns, and just had a nice relaxed session.