When we got home from the horse show yesterday it was only about noon, but Lauren and I (and probably Feather) were wiped out. Horse shows involve a lot of work, long hours, painstaking patience and manual labor. And I am just talking about my part which isn’t even on the horse. From start of show to close, it is a kind of nervous, frenetic activity. I love the shows but am always glad to pack up and go home.
I started threatening Lauren in the truck while we were pulling the trailer home. “You know, Bruno hasn’t been ridden since Thursday.” It was hot, humid and mid-day. Lauren had been riding hard for three days. Riding Bruno was no where on the “what I want to do next” list. But I also knew that come evening Lauren would want to go visit her boyfriend and Bruno would have gone another day without work.
We try to work all our horses (except Kid) at least three times a week. Feather and Bruno get four trips. Bruno was long overdue. Dr. Criner was due Monday and if we didn’t want a crazy Bruno meeting her at the gate he needed to be worked. The sky was overcast and threatening. I think Lauren was praying it would rain and she would get a reprieve from riding but the rain held off.
About 3:00 pm we headed out to the barn. She got Bruno cleaned up and ready to ride. I got to clean the stalls and the barn while she got started. I had to think it through, hum, riding Bruno and falling off or cleaning the stalls in the stifling humidity. I went with the stalls.
Mr. Kid had followed Bruno out to the arena (of, course) so he was observing Lauren’s riding in my absence. He said they were doing okay but that Bruno was still having trouble with his left lead. Kid said he could still pull both leads on command at age 31 and had no idea why the big, young thoroughbred was having so much trouble. “Youth, these days, Mr. Kid, not up to your standards!”.
We had set some caveletti poles for Jordyn and Snow to work on. I moved them up so they were each 12 inches high and grouped three together (about 36 inches across). I asked Lauren to trot to them and see if Bruno would catch the correct lead over the jump. He did! It worked perfectly except for the first three times when Bruno thought the better plan was to go around the funny white poles stacked on the ground. Or the next time when he thought he would just charge straight through the poles. All good ideas but not what Lauren wanted. Finally, he was consistently catching his left lead each time over poles. But we always have to take it a step further.
So, we reversed him and headed him over the poles moving to the right. Bruno’s response was the same. First, avoid the poles, then scatter the poles, but whatever you do-do not jump the poles. It is at times like this when you have heard the stories of the OTTBs that just jumped first time out perfectly, that make me wonder if we will ever get in the show ring with this horse. He is definitely not what I would call a natural!
It was a good exercise in that there were no jump standards to direct Bruno through, just the poles setting a foot off the ground. Lauren had to concentrate and focus to get the big horse to the spot she needed him to be in. I would yell, “Turn him, use half the arena!”. I would hear, “I am, he is just not turning!” He is not unlike a freight train that once he is set on a path, it is a little difficult to change his course.
I did remind her that except for the last few weeks, he essentially had been off work for almost a year. He will have to learn to accept her leg, for him to learn to feel her shift in weight, the subtle pressure on the reins and what it all means.
I think the best part of the day was just how we laughed. This big, ol’steamroller of a horse was just moving down the arena. Sometimes he was perfect. Other times he just totally disregarded the silly white poles and sent them flying in all directions.
I challenged Lauren that I want this horse (who has been pretty much sound for at least a month now-I am knocking on wood here) to be in the show arena doing something before the end of the year. Sometimes you just have to put your dreams out there and then make them happen.
The next weeks and months should be telling for our Bruno. Absolutely nothing I saw yesterday would make you bet that this horse will ever win anything in the jumper arena. But this horse has had a way of surprising us so hang on for the ride. It may be a bit bumpy for a while. If we can channel all the energy and spirit Bruno has to offer into a responsive horse, we will be unstoppable. Today we are still picking up scattered poles!