I Walk the Line

The days roll past and spring is in the air, along with pollen, my arena letters and anything else that isn’t nailed down. Both March and April came in less as a lion and more as a hurricane, with endless wind and bursts of rain, and through it all Forrest and I continue following doctor’s orders–walking under saddle, 30 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes hand walking in the evening.

It needn’t be boring! As Doctor Gillis prescribed, rehab for Forrest should include changes of direction: big circles and serpentines, changes of tempo within the walk and transitions into and out of halts.

So this is what we’ve been doing. Now, I’m not being 100 percent compliant and I’ll tell you why: I’m not about to saddle up a redheaded OTTB that’s been standing in his stall for 17 hours, eating extra alfalfa as his grain has been cut way back, and then hop on next to the barn and head into the arena. If I had done that, I’d be writing you from ICU. All horses need, I feel, to warm up their back for a few minutes before a human hauls their sizeable butt aboard, so as soon as Forrest is tacked up, I turn on our 30 minute timer, lead him to the arena and hand walk for exactly 6 minutes and then mount up. We begin with a free walk around the arena (not on the buckle, I’m not a complete idiot) and after a few times around and changing rein across the diagonal, I begin asking for different gears within the walk. We begin in a medium walk:

Then stretch into a lengthening walk:

Followed by an extended walk…

And at the end we come back to a collected walk, round the corner, and halt.

I remember Jane Savoie once writing about how she was rehabbing a horse for nearly a year and all she could do was walk. But in Jane’s typically positive way, she thought, If all I can do is walk, than I’m going to work each day perfecting my position! And that is how I address each ride. As always, I work to banish my dropped left hip and have also had a lovely, relaxed opportunity to address this OTTB’s penchant for (imagine my surprise) not wanting to honestly connect into the left rein. He’d be delighted to stroll around with his shoulder bulging right and his nostrils tipping left, so I have been relentless with my right leg, right at the girth, in both directions, pushing that shoulder out of the way, filling out the outside rein, particularly coming into a halt. It is imperative that I’m able to both half-halt and halt with the left rein, tracking right, and tracking left, that left rein can’t be empty! They’ve got to feel even, that my horse is loading and pushing off evenly behind. Only then can a nice, square, halt be achieved- truly, a leg ‘at each corner.’

You know, I had so hoped by this date I’d be competing Forrest- especially at the enticing and new Tryon International Equestrian Center. It is a simply delicious, world-class facility just 30 minutes from my farm. Welp, that’s horses, isn’t it? It’s disheartening to sit on the sidelines, but at least this weekend at TIEC, it is a CDI*** and even though I’m unable to debut my own boy at the lower levels, I can watch and absorb the superb riding of Ashley Holzer, Chris von Martels and Catherine Haddad-Staller, along with several others, all fighting for a trip to Rio, and all practically in my backyard. So, lucky me, after all, huh? I’ll take some pics, if you like!






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