Monthly Archives: March 2014

In media res, sort of, and always at the canter

At some point I’ll start more at the beginning, but for now, I’ll start with today and just a little background.

Cairo turned five on Monday, March 24 and I’m pretty darn sure she’s not going to grow much taller, but I really don’t care. When I began horse shopping, after painfully selling Baby Huey, my sweet and silly 16’3″ hand thoroughbred, people asked me what my dream horse was. I kept saying I didn’t care about height or gender or color, I just wanted a horse who though he could jump the moon. The most specific I got was thinking I’d like a draft cross or an Irish horse because Merlin, the horse I loved to jump, was an Irish draft and I loved his spirit and boldness.

These parameters, or lack of them are more of less how I wound up buying a sassy bay 15’1″ hand Irish sporthorse filly, who thinks she can jump the moon.

Cairo was bred by my friend Becky, and I used to watch Cairo’s dam, Ruby Contessa at events and point out how much I liked her. Because Becky is a good person and because Cairo is little and way too sassy, I lucked out and got Ruby’s baby for myself for Christmas.

My event trainer, Meika, told me something to look for in a jumper is a horse that likes to canter. Well, that’s Cairo. I think she’d rather canter than eat. When Meika met Cairo, she gave me her blessing, albeit with a furrowed brow and the caveat she had hoped I’d find myself an easier horse. Kari, my jumper trainer and Leslie, my dressage trainer had similar reactions. I’m lucky I ride with incredibly talented and incredibly supportive trainers.

Cairo is not easy. She tosses her head; she swishes her tail; she chomps the bit and demands we stop walking around and just CANTER. But at four she just felt so balanced and so bold, I loved her. Becky let me take her on trial and after a trip to the mountain trail course, a horse show and a group trail ride, all of which she did happily and boldly, I was sold.

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She’s come a long way since October, when in our first dressage lesson all Leslie would let me do was trot on a circle because Cairo was such a wild thing. I tried her in a Micklem bridle and that helped the head tossing. When we started, she was avoiding the bit — tossing her head mouthing it, but never contacting it. Now in the Micklem and with a thin Herm Sprenger duo mullen mouth rubber bit, she’s wanting to grab the bit and strong-arm me into what she wants to do — canter. So today we worked on getting her to give up the bit. and pick up her back.

Certain words tend to resonate with me and today it was keeping my hands dynamic. Outside shoulder back, seat even in the saddle, open the inside rein, ask her to go deep, but not low, and give up the base of the neck, all the while keeping my hands dynamic. By the end of the ride, Cairo was releasing through her neck, picking up her back and reaching way under herself with her hind legs. One minute I’m cantering, and her head’s tossing and she’s up against the bit and the next minute, she uses herself and gets it. Then suddenly for three or four 20 meter circles she’s cantering and really using the muscles of her back to lift and rather than just cantering, we have a gait that feels relaxed and powerful. Now to just do that again my next ride without Leslie chiding me in that Texas accent of hers …

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