Cairo and I have been together one year. More or less. I joke that I’m like a chick with a new boyfriend — my friends are all “Hey, let’s hang out.” And I’m all, “Nah, I’m gonna hang out with Cairo tonight.” Luckily most of my friends ride, so this doesn’t come across as rude and weird.
Cairo learns in leaps and bounds. In the past month or so I feel like she’s made some huge leaps (literally and figuratively). I got her on a three-month trial last October. Here’s where we were at the Halloween show:
And this is where we started in May:
And this is us in September, where we ended the season.
Leaps and bounds.
We did the EI show to wrap up our season and per Meika’s instructions, did our stadium at Training level. I was more than a little nervous — it’s been two years since I did Training with Huey and I was just as apt to be sitting on the fence as jumping over it — but Cairo thought nothing of it. She loved it. She was adorable and had a crowd of teenage girls oohing and ahing as she leapt and swished. Ironically, the height did not back her off, and we still took some rails. We got a ribbon, 8th I think. Honestly, I was so excited to jump my little sassypants 3’3″ I barely noticed! Between that and some seriously bad dressage with head tosses and tail swishes galore I was simultaneously delighted and stumped. Cairo is so athletic and so … well Cairo.
Right before I bought her, Cairo’s breeder had taken her into get her teeth done. She’s only five, so I wondered if some of our recent connection issues were tooth related. I felt like we’d been making progress and then in July, around the time we did Rebecca, we were backsliding.
I made an appointment to get her teeth done for right after EI. The conclusion was that while she had nothing major going on, she had some sharpish edges. The dentist also gave her a bit seat. I would say she was 80 percent more interested in connecting with the bit within a day. Lesson learned: Cairo is getting her teeth done every six months.
Right after that, Meika came down to Oregon from Washington for a clinic. I asked if she would hop on Cairo — no one but me has jumped her in a year. Meika did, and she said the same thing Leslie said the first time she rode her, “Oh! She’s not nearly as hot as she looks!” Meika waited out the distances and Cairo’s arc was miles better. I got back on and waited an extra beat longer than I felt was “normal” and it worked. Better bascule. I would canter up to fence and Meika called out “Believe” and I would wait. Lesson learned: Sometimes Cairo, it’s not you, it’s me.
The next week it was time for a lesson with Leslie. Leslie hopped on her for the first time since March and deemed her “talented” and a “kick in the pants.” Leslie worked on getting Cairo to loosen at the base of her neck and give. Cairo showed her appreciation for this by attempting a small, slow-motion rear. Let’s call it a levade. But she gave. Leslie suggested I try a loose ring French snaffle, and I was dubious — Cairo tossed her head and resisted anything but a rubber Mullen from day one.
I tried the snaffle (bribing her with sugar per Leslie’s suggestion) and Cairo was a gem. I’ve been trying so hard to get her to contact the bit consistently I got oblivious to that she was actually sometimes seizing the bit on the left, and as Leslie puts it, riding me. Cairo isn’t afraid to work hard, Leslie says, but she prefers to choose the work. Lesson learned. Horses grow and change, don’t get set in your ways, experiment a little.
Then the next week it was over to Karianne’s — I wanted to catch a ride with her before Kari left for Vegas to show down there. Kari has all kinds of ways to help a horse’s bascule with fence setting and her very careful, explicit directions and everything was just coming together beautifully. Cairo happily went through the combination and over the mini-Liverpool under the oxer (which looked HUGE to me in the indoor but Kari pointed out was smaller than the cross country jumps we do). Kari eyed her larger Liverpool with a gleam in her eye and said we would make that a goal for the winter.
And it is winter. It’s getting colder and I’ve clipped Cairo and I realized I have all these months with my little mare to grow and learn more lessons.
And clip silly things onto her butt.