I must be fickle, because I always fall for whichever horse I happen to be working with – I loved Klondike because he was fun and responsive. Rosie because she was simply magic, Afton because he was so confident to fences, Archie because of his sweet nature and how amazing he was to ride once I figured him out, and Mikey because… well who couldn’t resist Mikey?
So I shouldn’t be surprised when a new horse comes along and I find myself her number one fan. I adore everything about Candace (or as I’ve taken to calling her, Miss Moneypenny – don’t ask why, my brain is just wired strangely). Over the first week of riding her my primary goal was just to get her moving forward. She was slow and quiet, and keeping her going was a real struggle.
I am pleased to report, though, that we now have a “go” button. Now that she is going more forward, it’s much easier to ride her – I can use my legs to get a better quality walk or trot, or move her over laterally, rather than constantly just trying to keep her going. I think front shoes have helped and she is more comfortable stepping out, but she’s also gotten more confident and as a real tryer, she is happy to oblige as soon as she “gets it.”
As she is weak behind still, I’ve been focusing mostly on really making her use herself behind, and travel straight. She tends to carry her hind end to the left, regardless of which direction you’re going, which is a little hard for me to figure out. I’ve learned that attempting to push her rear end over with my left leg sort of works, for a few steps, but then she just moves over more with her shoulders, so I’m having to learn to balance where my leg is and stay really consistent with the outside rein (basically asking for a right bend) to just keep her straight.
As she gets stronger that has improved a lot – thankfully our indoor here has mirrors at every end so I am able to visually keep tabs on things (and because I often feel straight/correct when I’m not, the mirrors are my #1 tool right now to make sure I’m not screwing her up).
Taking my cues from Jess, I’m also riding much more on contact and forward than I usually would at this stage. And I’m using my neck strap. This week she seems to be learning a little bit about stretching forward and down – though I don’t get a lot of it from her we’ve had some really great moments where I can feel her back come up as she starts to stretch, and it feels really lovely. For a horse as petite as she is (she is not short, but she is definitely built like a baby and is quite svelte and petite bodied at the moment), she has a really big stride when she starts to engage, and it feels great.
I have cantered her a few times but because she really needs to strengthen her hind end I’m focusing a lot more on good forward trotting. I will say, though, that her canter is to die for. I have no idea what it looks like, but I LOVE to ride it. She’s very fluid and smooth in her canter, with a nice natural rhythm (especially now that she is more responsive to leg) – it just feels easy and effortless.
Today was supposed to be her first trail ride, but all the rain the last few days made it quite muddy and I’d rather go out without slippery footing as an added variable. Just from leading her through the field I’ve noted she doesn’t like mud (little princess!) though she will happily go right through puddles in the ring when you’re riding her.
She’s also picked up some weight, which makes me happy. Some of the horses we’ve had here have been difficult to get weight on (Archie took a while, for example). She is already broadening and filling out over the back and butt, and I think will be looking much better in another week or so. We’ve been giving her extra feedings with added rice bran pellets and soaked alfalfa pellets, and I think that’s all she’ll need to continue rounding out. Since the only picture I’ve posted of her so far was taken while she was still racing, I have to post one to show what she actually looked like on arrival. They look a little different after they lose all that muscle and racehorse glow, haha!
She has the greatest attitude – nothing seems to phase her at all. Walking up the driveway today all the boys came galloping across the field, tails and heels in the air, and she didn’t bat an eye. All the mares are in heat (including her), but her big “acting out” is to whinny under saddle. She’s learning to respect my space more (she can get a little gung ho about going through doorways and in/out of the barn, so I had to get after her to not get ahead of me or run me over, but she learned that pretty quick!). She’s been ridden in all three rings here, and is easy in all of them (outside she is more distractable but quite good!). She has earned many compliments from people on her attitude, they just cannot believe she’s three! OK, so she’s 4 now by jockey club rules, but her birthday isn’t till March, so she’s still 3 to me!
This one is going to be a superstar – I love riding her, and she has the attitude to go far! The stronger she gets, the prettier she moves, too. I can’t wait to post an “after” video in a few weeks because I know it will be amazing to see the difference from the earlier video!
And if all that wasn’t enough for me to love her, she sort of has a head like Rosey’s, with a “brain bump” I love that.