My Standardbred mare, Dressy, went over to live with Brooke at the beginning of January. Brooke rode Dressy in competition for one season a couple of years ago, and the two of them got on remarkably well. Dressy likes to be worshipped. And Brooke worships. A match made in heaven.
She spent a week or so just working with Dressy on the ground before starting to ride her again. I think there were a few moments of more than optimal excitement in the first few rides. Brooke made the mistake of thinking that Dressy would be calmer in the arena if there were other horses. Then decided to try cantering the mare while all the other horses were cantering. Ex-racehorses are not always so good at calmly proceeding, at speed, in a crowd. However, Brooke managed to deal with her and decided that perhaps riding alone was a better idea after all. At least for now.
Yesterday I went over to observe a riding session in the arena. Jen and Anastasija came with me. I took my camera. But of course it was very dark in the barn and in the arena. I took lots of photos and most are so grainy and dark that I couldn’t really rescue much, even with Photoshop. But I post them here purely as evidence, not art 🙂
Dressy seemed happy to see me (or the carrot I was feeding her maybe). But I think she was just as pleased to see Brooke when she showed up. Apparently my horse doesn’t need me at all. She’s looking good. Freshly trimmed feet, glossy coat, and in very good cheer.
She was good in the arena. A little speedy at first, but Brooke got her dialed down within a few minutes. She walked her until she stretched her head down and relaxed. Brooke commented that she never had to put any leg on the mare to get her to go. Nope. That’s for sure. All you do with Dressy is think about trotting, and away she goes in a huge Standardbred power trot. After some walk/trot work, Brooke finally pulled out the big trick. The thing that had her glowing with pride. Dressy. Cantering. “Good MARE!” I said, out loud, and Dressy’s head whipped around to look at me inquiringly. Jen and Ana both cheered and Dressy looked over at them too, ears perked. “Oh yeah? Yeah! I AM a good mare!” She marched over to me for a scratch and then carried on. She does love an audience.
I was impressed. She couldn’t hold the canter, but she stepped into it almost every time Brooke asked. A couple of times she made it right down the long side and around the end before it fell apart. It’s not a good canter yet. But it’s far better than I expected after this much of a layoff. I didn’t see her pace even once tonight. Not that she paces under saddle much, but if you ask for canter when she’s feeling tense, it’s a toss-up whether you’ll get pace or canter. So the sheer volume of canter steps tells me that Dressy is feeling calm and confident with Brooke.
She has her going over a very small set of cross-poles too. Dressy doesn’t appear to be at all concerned about the jumping thing. She was always a very confident jumper on trail, going over logs and banks. So I expect that she’ll do fine once she figures out the mechanics. I tried to get decent photos, but it was just way too dark in the spot with the little jump.
After she was done riding, Brooke hopped off and stripped the tack to do some groundwork. Dressy was very attentive (clicker training will do that) and very cheerfully practiced a few things. Primarily the new trick they are working on… a bow.
Brooke’s mother asked me if I missed Dressy. She seemed a bit surprised by how emphatically Jen, Anastasija, and I all replied in unison, “YES!” She’s a mare with a huge and quite endearing personality. Despite how much I love The Queen though, she is having a great time with Brooke, and getting some very valuable schooling. She cannot be a distance horse anymore due to her metabolic issues with heat. Horses that lack a career are horses at risk. She’s a strong, athletic, intelligent mare with a big engine and a bit of spook. Not to mention that she’s a Standardbred pacer, which turns most riders off before they even see her. That’s not a recipe for a safe backyard trail horse or a school horse for beginners. While I certainly don’t plan on it, if something should happen to me, this could be her ticket to safety.