As February draws to a close and hopefully, its relentless rain and raw weather, I bid adieu to off-the-track Thoroughbred Gem, as he returns to his mom, Deborah, to take over the ride. I know this fox hunter enjoys his life of following the music of the hounds across endless countryside, and keeping that in mind I have tried to vary his training so that many of our sessions are out in the open he so loves. On hacks and hill walking—even on trail rides—there’s no reason a horse can’t be ridden with his shoulders in alignment, a bit of shoulder-fore positioning or shallow zigzags of leg yields across a field. Correctly executed, this creates a suppleness and strengthening that results in ease of movements when we’re actually inside the sand box. Yes, even foxhunters can perform a half pass! Training is training, regardless of terrain. And so if you don’t have access to an arena, take heart—you can still engage in correct work with your horse.
Straightness was my biggest focus with Gem, and truth be told, any horse I ride. He is Deb’s heart horse and as I mentioned in an earlier blog, a straight horse will remain sound for a longer time than a chronically crooked horse. I’m delighted that our targeted work outs have resulted in a horse who is a pleasure to ride in both directions and far more balanced after two month’s training.
Deborah knows that when she begins riding Gem again she must work on her own straightness—like me, she has a dropped hip—but that isn’t anything that can’t be overcome by disciplined attention. She’s also knows that in order for Gem to remain balanced, she’ll have to figure out how to maintain it. But isn’t that true of any horse? Best of all, she’ll have her happy, healthy BFF to take back into the hunt field. And happily for me, my saddle won’t be gathering dust as I watch her hunters depart down the driveway: After a 2 year search, I found myself a new pony!