Horses I Have Known: Part 11
I've always been a fan of bays. Of course, when I was a child, I wanted the infamous "white stallion," but a few weeks of horse grooming in my youth convinced me I'd rather have a color that didn't show the dirt quite so much. *L*
Russell was a bay. PJ was a bay, and as leaders of the "Bay Boy Raiders" at one boarding farm, they always charmed me. But, when the time came to start considering a new horse, I forgot about color.
The barn manager and her husband were in partnership with a guy named Pete on a young racing prospect. He was a yearling they called, "Pete's Horse," and one day she invited me over to see him. There, in the paddock was a pretty yearling cavorting about. He was incredibly athletic in his movement. I told her then if they ever decided to sell him to let me know.
A year later, she told me they had decided to get out of the racing business and the now two year old was for sale. Too much money for me, though, so despite the offer, I passed. A few months later, she was back with a lower price. I made a counter offer and soon, we'd struck a deal half way in between. "Pete's Horse," (Petie, registered as Arts Ruler) was mine. We had him gelded, and after Russell passed away, he filled the empty stall in the barn.
A bright chestnut with two white socks behind, Petie definitely needed a new name. Then, my friend Jacquie, knowing I was a Shakespeare fan suggested, "To Be Or Not To Be," from Hamlet, since at the time I wasn't sure if Petie was actually going to be a dressage horse. The name was perfect, and from that day on, Petie became Toby.
While he had been sat on by a rider, Toby was completely green. I decided I really didn't want to do much with him until he was three, at least under saddle, so I began all kinds of ground work with him. We rapidly progressed from simple lunging...where Toby had a determined habit of spinning around from the left hand to the right and bolting off...to long lining.
I had learned the basics of longlining from Lockie, honed my skills on PJ, and by the time I started working Toby, I had pretty much mastered the basics. Toby was a talented, athletic, and bright student. It didn't take long before we'd mastered steering, stopping, and moving nicely along at all three gaits. I tend to line on a circle around me--some people call it "double lungeing" --but at the walk and slow trot, I will also work the horse from the side or behind on straight lines, serpentines, and all kinds of turns.
By the time Toby was three, he was a pro on the long lines. I had no idea how much of a benefit it was until I hired a young rider to do the first few training rides on his back. After her first ride, she came back into the barn and said, "I thought you said he was green. He rides like he's already a trained horse." By the second ride she was already cantering him. After a week or two, when I was sure he was comfortable about having a rider on his back, I got into the saddle myself.
There was no question. The longlining had done the trick. Toby was indeed well past the point of being green. He did ride like a trained horse.
But if you think such an auspicious start was the beginning of an easy road, you are mistaken.
The true training of my red headed boy was going to be a challenge.