Sometimes I forget what beautiful and fancy horses a lot of these guys are. With Mikey, I’ve come to think of him as a little round chunkster, sort of quarterhorse looking and adorable, but he’s been the class clown in my head for so long it’s hard to take a step back and view him objectively. I did that last night – our barn owner walked by and commented that he’s looking really good now that some of the chub seems to be getting replaced by a little muscle (he had dimples in his butt when he came in, a product of the excellent grazing over at Green Grass Acres). That caused me to look at him more carefully. He’s a small horse, and round, which is sort of deceiving. Under that he really has quite good conformation. His hip and SI joint line up almost perfectly, he has a long pelvis, and his hamstring attaches low giving him lots of rear end strength. His stifles and hocks are lower than his elbows and knees. He really has a beautiful shoulder and his neck is set on almost perfectly. If he had not hurt himself, I really think he would be an amazing prospect for any discipline. He certainly has the mind to handle just about anything, and once you show him how to do something he’s a pro.
When riding yesterday I got a little taste of it at times. His balance and confidence is improving along with his strength, so when he starts to take longer, slower steps (and a couple of times, some really big canter strides), it makes me think all things would have been possible with him.
Of course, when I realize how neat horses are I almost always have to go looking up information on them – their race record, pedigree, and for siblings. Mikey is out of a mare named “MimiofMiami” who had five other registered foals. Of those, his five year old sister has quite a record. “Nobody” is still racing up at Penn National, where she came in second just a little over a week ago, and has amassed six figures in earnings.
Of course, looking up Mikey has made me realize that time flies. In my head, he’s been with CANTER for four-ish years, and can’t possibly be more than eight. He’s actually ten, and recently had his six-year anniversary with CANTER. This does not seem possible. But apparently, it’s true.
What THAT means is that since his last race, six years ago, he did pretty much exactly nothing until one trail ride last summer, and being brought into work now. I had experienced some worry about some hitchiness he seemed to have that I couldn’t quite pinpoint – was it the left front? right hind? foot soreness? I tend to second guess when things don’t feel 100% right despite the many experiences I’ve had (or watched) where horses simply needed time and work to build strength (especially in the back end). And knowing about his past injury has made me nothing short of paranoid about any step that doesn’t feel perfect.
Now that I have a little more time riding him, it seems this stuff is getting better as he gets stronger. So the prescription is more trails and walking up hills with a rider. The hills over at Fat Horse Farm are pretty impressive, but as he hadn’t actually had to carry any weight up them (ever), I think there was some significant strength to be gained in his back end.
So, with all that in mind, here’s some video from yesterday (including his game of “follow the person” at the end). And one of these days I’ll figure out how to sit in a western saddle (hint: it does not involve leaning forward and rounding the shoulders).
or a link for those who need it.
He’s learning to steer much better already, and isn’t losing his balance on turns like he was even two rides ago. He is getting much better with his transitions and I’m finding his taking bigger, slower steps now so that everything is getting much more comfortable. So for the next week the plan is – hills, ground poles, and long slow rides. We have a couple great hills of varying steepness around, my plan is just walking up those slowly (the long, not too steep hill, we’ve cantered up a few times when we were out riding in a group, but he needs to walk or trot slowly up that one). Since he’s great on trails, have to say I’m looking forward to it! I’ll have to get more video of his new stream-crossing and stepping-over-logs skills 🙂
(also sorry for all the yelling in the beginning of the video, it just cracks me up how when you yell to him, he yells back!)