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Riding Again After a Long Winter Off for both Horse and Rider

Julie Frykman

Posted on March 05 2015

Off Track Thoroughbreds are special! Am I biased? Yeah, possibly.

I'm on a sort of love high at the moment and just wanted to share. My OTTB In Classic Fashion, aka Calvin, had the winter off due to fusing hocks, and well let's be honest, it gets darn cold here in Northern Illinois with no indoor arena on the farm, so I was all too willing to give him his time. With time off it can begin to feel like a lot of "firsts" when getting back into the swing of things.

Months off for both horse and rider can be rather intimidating when it comes to the first ride back. Not to mention I'm without a saddle, as I'm on the hunt for a larger seated saddle that fits us both well, while being budget friendly. Six months off and bareback on a very forward horse, who in the past has been a bit touchy about a squirmy butt on his naked back, doesn't sound like a very good recipe for a successful ride back. But although I had some reservations, I honestly feel our bond has grown and our trust in each other is allowing me to push us.

He danced a bit while I lined him up to the mounting block, I got him still, threw my leg over and pulled myself up. He jumped slightly forward, as expected, to the sensation of me on, but really recovered nicely as I talked to him. Within strides this normally forward horse was walking on the buckle! After a long walk warm-up we had some quick, yet fun, 20 meter trot circles both directions and ended with hugs, rubs, and one huge smile! We walked back to the barn, actually I think I levitated back but can't prove anything :)

He has since been to his first horse show outing of the season. I attended the show as a vendor, so it was nice to take him with no expectations of showing, just for him to come and have a good experience, which he did! He settled nicely into his stall and I took him out periodically for walks around the grounds to confront the commotion of people, horses, loud speaker, music, generator noise, tents, etc., etc. Certain actions would send him into a jigging frenzy, but at no time did he make me feel I had no control. He allowed me to correct him and he would settle himself. I was delighted in the progress of this first show outing of the season, and because I'm also a working wife and mother, this is only our third or fourth show in total!

Then came the true test of how much he had retained over the winter. Friday we had our first dressage lesson together since last October. I was astounded at how easily he went back to work! Again, we warmed up at a nice walk, not rushed. During our trot work he went nicely on the bit, when he wasn't it was because I wasn't doing my job correctly (I have a tendency to hold and therefore he braces against me, shame on me). By the end of the lesson we were doing the canter I had only dreamed of last year! On the bit, fairly steady and rhythmic! We were much better when on 20 meter circles, again because of my holding issue. So my trainer made me canter the long side as I shut my eyes and just felt the motion and relax, of course only after I looked at her like she was nuts! But we did, and it was a delight I can't even put into words. The power, rhythm, gracefulness, and TRUST was beautiful!

I love this horse more and more every year. I love the fact that he makes me earn everything he gives me. He wasn't an amateur friendly, dead broke horse that anyone could ride. No, he has been called "complicated, a princess, exceptionally forward, etc". Yet he is the epitome of an OTTB; he has unbelievable heart, willingness to please, and one of the most affectionate horses I have ever known.

Why do we love them so passionately? Maybe because they make us earn it, and in return give us everything they have!

xoxo Julie - Equestrianista Founder

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