Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A Bright Future Ahead

Michelle knew that at the grand old age of ten and with less than perfect hocks from six years of being over-raced, Grady was never going to be a two star horse. However, Michelle has a knack for “re-jobbing” horses who’d run out of chances at their former careers. It’s always a crap shoot, but with his impressive movement, kind eye and willing attitude there was no reason Grady couldn’t make a great eventer for an amateur with more modest aspirations.

Underweight and out of shape, there wasn’t much Michelle could do with Grady when he first arrived at the ranch until she got some weight on him. Just putting a saddle on his bony back required a lot of consideration and some serious padding. So she took him out on the trails that are easily accessible from the ranch. He hacked out like a gentleman, responsive to cues just from her core muscles and extraordinarily light in the mouth for an ex-racehorse. Most horses off the track will grab the bit, going faster when you pull on the reins to stop because that’s the way they’re trained at the track but Grady didn’t do any of that. (Hmmmm, perhaps that’s why he sucked on the track.) Quiet and willing, he was perfectly content to wander away from home for short trail rides.

Two days later, Michelle decided to take him schooling in Fresno at Ram Tap. She hadn’t planned on taking him but another client’s horse had pulled out so there was an open space in the trailer. What the heck, just trailering him to a new situation is a good test to see what all the fuss was about. So far, he’d shown none of the erratic behavior that made her former client give up on him. The one thing the client mentioned when Michelle picked him up was that Grady had shown a tendency to bolt away from the mounting block. But their dressage trainer, an avid reader, brought a book out with her and after getting on she’d make him stand at the mounting block while she read a chapter. Though he was only at her barn for a short time, the habit disappeared. This told Michelle that the horse was trainable and made her curious to see what he was really like.

The weekend at Ram Tap was clear and bright but without the sweltering temperatures that could make schooling miserable. There were a number of students on the trip so Michelle opted to take Grady out by himself and ride first before teaching. Riding away from the barns to head out to the cross-country course, Grady started spinning and clearly wanted to go back to the group but it was nothing unusual. A lot of horses tend to get attached to the barn mates, especially when they’re away from home in a show-type situation. Michelle easily rode it through and took him out on the course. Mindful of his lack of conditioning, Michelle stuck to her plan of riding him conservatively but man could this horse jump! Grady had only gone over a few fences in his entire life prior to this weekend but he willingly went over everything Michelle pointed him at. She started with a few novice fences but he went over those so easily she tried the training level half-coffin and he sailed over the combination without blinking. He was so much fun to ride that Michelle had to make herself stop after only 5 or 6 fences. In his condition, it wouldn’t be fair to ask him to do more but once he got muscled up, he was clearly going to be a great horse.