Friday, November 27, 2009


My red mare rocks. Plain and simple, she is the most amazing thing on hooves, a total joy ride. Yes, I am totally biased, but then, everyone should be this in love with their own horse. That’s the point, right?
As a pro, this is not the norm, at least not for me. I end up with the unwanted problem children no one else wants, and envy my client’s really fun horses. Until now.
At the beginning, I guess Venus kinda fit that description. She was born at a small, quiet racehorse breeding farm. They had a broodmare who wouldn’t settle live cover, so they tried AI, hoping that if she carried that way, she would be more likely to carry live cover the next season. The result was a bright red half-warmblood filly, and they really didn’t know what to do with her.
I first met Venus on a frozen late December day. She was a gangly, homely 2 ½-year-old filly who was afraid of her own shadow. She was all legs, with a bit of a straight shoulder. Her neck was a little short, and her back so short I thought she would hit her hip with her shoulder blade. But she did have nice hip angles, and the price was right, so I bought her.
At first meeting, she warned me of her nervous nature with a huge, deer-in-the-headlights look. She plastered herself to the back of her stall when we came in. After a little scratching, she decided I was ok, but the other human with the large black nose (or camera, as it was) was NOT ok.

Here she is a 2 1/2, all legs and angles. It isn't a great growth stage, but what a hind end!!

We trotted her around on the frozen ground, and her movement was nothing to write home about--not much bounce and not much bend at the knee. But she kept a steady tempo despite the hard footing. When she reversed, she tucked her hips underneath herself. For the price, I decided to gamble. 
In January, I took her home. She was completely overwhelmed. After 25 minutes and a lot of carrots, we got her into her new stall. I was beginning to think I’d need to carry her over the threshold. Then she called to everyone who walked in the door—horse, human, cat, dog, everyone. She was a 15.3hh doorbell. Actually, she still is.
I groomed and petted her and let her grow up. One unseasonably warm March day, I arrived as two horses were being turned out. One of them bounced a bit in anticipation, floated across the spring grass, then lifted into a powerful, suspended canter. It took me a minute to realize that was MY horse. Somehow that collection of spare parts could really move.
Because of Venus’ timid nature, her early training took a lot of time. No matter what that body could do, I had to train her mind or I would never unlock her potential. When she was confident, she was amazing. When she got tense, her gaits became short and running. Until late in her 6-year-old year, amazing didn’t show up much.
Sometime in her 6-year-old year, she decided that the safest place to be was on the bit. When she competed in that mode, she was fabulous. Then I’d salute, and she would look up, see the judge, and startle. It was like she hadn’t seen the judge before. Funniest thing I’ve ever competed.  

Venus, her 6-yr-old year

At Devon, of all places, she gave me a glimpse of coming attractions She arrived two days early as a companion for a 4-year-old, and was a bit overwhelmed on day one--for anyone who hasn't been to Devon, the show grounds is really, really busy. But day two she handled it all like a finished horse. By day 3, she went into Suitability and rocked my world. Her back was so connected to my seat, it felt like I was moving her legs. I could add suspension, change tempo, anything I wanted.
I was still in the zone when we all stood in line up. Eleven of us competed, so one of us would leave empty handed. They kept calling numbers, and we stood there, getting more and more bummed, thinking “wow, it must have felt better than it looked.” Then they called her number, and gave her a pretty red ribbon. I was totally blown away. That ribbon lives in my small collection of “special” ribbons. 

This year she stayed home to train. The walk-canter-walk is going to take some time to get relaxed, so I decided we didn’t need to show second level. I really enjoyed having one horse that I could work with without a show-calendar-dictated timetable. She had 6 weeks of slow hills while she recovered from Lyme’s Disease, but despite that she is still on track to come out at 3rd next year, unless I decide to stay home and train again. We’ll decide that in spring.
In the mean time, I’ll enjoy the ride.

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