Feather and Lauren at their last show.
We try to get to trainer Dev’s a couple times a month. He occasionally does some lessons in a rented arena much closer than the 170 mile round-trip trek to his place and we always try to jump on those opportunities. Feather has been just getting better every time we have her out. We are extraordinarily pleased with her year-long progression from baby fences to some real sizable jumps.
I recognize for Bruno to make the same kind of progress he has to get to the trainer, get to various arenas, get some exposure in the show ring doing something and just get used to the routine of a show horse. When Lauren and Dev wanted Feather to attend this week’s lesson, I stubbornly said no! I wanted Bruno to go. Lauren was concerned about a new arena and a lot of horses. Exactly why we should go there, told her. Dev wanted to have enough time to devote to the young horse, which I appreciated but held firm to wanting to get him to a lesson. Each lesson stacks upon the previous. Each repeated effort at schooling results in acceptance and lessons learned.
Dev agreed to let him come and we were slated to ride last night. I got home, changed clothes and got ready to help Lauren load Bruno. When we first got Bruno he loaded easily into our trailer. Most race horses are hauled a lot of miles from an early age. Perhaps because the last year has been spent hauling him only to the vet (where pain was usually involved), Bruno has become a reluctant loader. Not as bad as Feather was, certainly, but not a horse Lauren can just walk into the trailer without a helper on the ground (that would be me) urging him on from behind. Once we get him loaded until the trailer is on the road, he does a rendition of the musical “Stomp” which threatens to send him through the floor boards. It is pretty great.
We pulled into the nice facilities at Creek Colony Ranch. Bruno was soaked in sweat from the trip north. Lauren added a stud chain to his halter and took the big horse for a walk around the grounds. He had his head up and was looking but was not inordinately spooky or difficult. They headed into the arena where Amanda was already working her horse. I was worried about the six foot by eight foot giant mirrors hung on the ends of the arena so the rider can observe their position. But I need not have been concerned. Except for a little spook at the passing tractor, Bruno was fine. I held onto him while Lauren quickly tacked him up. I’ve got to tell you, holding Bruno in an open space is a more than a little daunting. Unlike Mickey, he has never offered to bolt, but seriously, at 17.2+ and now over 1500 pounds, I am sure not impeding his plan in any way if he choses to run. Thankfully he didn’t!
Once onboard, it was apparent that Lauren’s month of regular saddle time coupled with Dr. Criner multiple chiropractic adjustments had helped Bruno immensely. His flat work was nothing short of amazing-I am bragging a little here but it was nice to hear Dev exclaim, ‘he looks great, you would never know he ever had an issue with anything’. He was round, soft and responsive. The left lead at the canter is still difficult to get him to pick up. My theory is that race horses run to the left. His bad hoof was the left front. A coffin bone infection is super painful. I would not want to pound on that foot either. After some urging, he did successfully pick up the lead. Things were going very well, indeed!
Bruno working softly and quietly down the line.
Then the jumping started and just like at home over the cavelettis, Bruno had no interest, no regard and no desire to jump. Run through the jump, sure. Bulge out, away and avoid the jump, he had that down as well. But just jump a couple of little jumps, not what Bruno wanted to do.
It was (is) still sticky hot in Houston. Bruno was literally dripping sweat. Lauren thought she had a touch of the stomach flu and being outfitted in leather boots, polyester breeches and a helmet while trying to hold onto a freight train, not a good combination. It is simple to say hold the horse in a straight line between the two jumps (like 70 feet) but doing it proved to be a much more difficult exercise for Lauren.
It is tricky as well in that you want to make the horse understand that running out on a jump is unsatisfactory behavior but the thought of giving Bruno even a slap on his butt was a little frightening, given his size and speed. I clearly understand (just do not like) that Bruno is a young, inexperienced horse. He also has a bit of a personality, which normally we like. He does not know how to jump, may not even like jumping and yet that is the career we have chosen for him, so he best learn how to jump and like it!
Gee, I am reminded in a way of a complaint my guest blogger Michelle had in my last post. So, we have decided Bruno’s future, are giving him instruction in it and he surely could do his part by just jumping a little fence. Huh. Maybe I should slow down and let the horse have a little time to get used to jumping, used to bending, used to having his pace regulated instead of racing the wind.
By the end of the lesson, Dev was up in the saddle. For all his year’s of experience and superior strength (to Lauren anyway, not Bruno) he had to do some mighty manipulation to keep the horse straight down the track between the two jumps. We got a couple of solid, well jumped jumps and called it a good lesson.
Bruno was dripping sweat, breathing a little hard and fatigued. Feather was pretty much a natural over fences, from first jump on. Bruno is not a natural. Perhaps he is just waiting for a fence that will give him a little challenge. We can only hope.
Getting a pretty good jump in.