Saturday, July 7, 2012

Time and Patience

Hello again to all my blog followers! I know it’s been a while, nearly 2 years in fact, but life has been a little busy and full. But as I recently re-read all the entries I made in 2010, I realized that I still had more to say. And you know that’s life I think. Sometimes taking a break from one thing can propel you to return to it in better form, mentally and physically and dive back in with a renewed sense of purpose. So here I am and hopefully you’re still interested in reading what I am writing!

So over the past two years my life has changed. When last we spoke I had left my horse job and was looking for a new job. I was still feeling burned to a crisp from too much horse “work” and not nearly enough horse “enjoyment.” I can say that now things are very different. I work in an office job and I have been in this position since 6 weeks after the horse job ended. It’s a challenging position and I am grateful to have found a new way of life so quickly and in such a bad economy. The office kept me plenty busy for the first year and Lad was still off with friends on “loan.” 

But by mid-February of 2011 apparently Lad and I got our wave lengths matched up. I got a call from where he was saying they wanted to send him home, and right about then I had 1.) Stood on a scale and 2.) Realized I needed him back! So home he came. And what do you know; he was happy to see me. And I don’t mean like he was looking past me for the peppermints I had in my hand. No, he would come cantering to the gate when I called. I swear. My horse had turned into “Lassie” while he was away! I would end up wiping tears away as I led him to the barn to get tacked up for the first two weeks. 

But the best was yet to come. Our time apart had changed Lad and my relationship. I had learned during the barn job that I missed enjoying a ride for the simple fact I was on a horse doing what I loved. And so instead of grilling Lad with what he “HAD” to work on for this goal or that show or this skill set, I just rode him. Sure we still worked on consistency in the bridle, bending and using his hind end, but in between I would walk around give him mints (mid ride) and stare out over the farm enjoying the sights from the back of my best friend. And Lad had changed too. He didn’t resist work when I doled it out in the new smaller amounts with frequent breaks. And he seemed to like the new system so much I would feel him trying harder and being better. Huh imagine that… give the horse the time and space to “be” and he works harder for you. That was one of those moments when I went home and looked in the mirror and realized “Yep riding is definitely like golf. You will never learn everything before you die.” I laughed at myself for missing something so obvious in hindsight. 

So Lad and I got back in the swing of things, my fitness improved and eventually I felt like taking him somewhere to do something. Oddly Lad and I were able to do much more fluid courses with our new way of relating so going against the grain I chose to take him to a hunter show. And God knows I have never been competitive in hunters, but hey it’s easy, local and cheap. So off we went. And off we came back with a ribbon!!! In a class of 15… so not even a gimme! Huh new way of training works, next thought after that is a constant self-beating for not having tried to chill out YEARS ago, but oh well. So we rode our wave of success and a while later took him out to a couple paper chases. And again, brought home a ribbon! I watched in wonderment as Lad, MY Lad, started populating the ribbon wire in my home office. New ribbons went up nearly monthly to take their place alongside my favorite winning memories of my entire equine career. He won a Combined Test Derby in October and I was just beside myself. (True we were the only entry, but dad and John said it best, “You still could have lost!.” Very true guys. And in years past I have done just that.)

We were entered for an event at Plantation to round out the year of “rebirth” but sadly it snowed and they cancelled. So Lad went on a mini vaca and I sat back and rested a bit. But as happens sometimes in the quiet moments you start to concoct “brilliant” ideas. Ideas that the recesses of your mind make you believe will work out in ways and successes that you won’t have ever believed. And the dark lore of these new fledgling ideas calls to your mind as only you’ve ever heard in the Lord of the Rings. “My precious” idea was to try out this new “brilliant” training system on a new OTTB. And a young one I could train a bit and sell on for LOTS and LOTS of money. And so the search began and I could hear the future announcer’s voices in my heads announcing my winnings with the name of every available CANTER horse’s name in my head.  But finally one stood out. And we jumped in the truck and drove west.

January in Harrisburg, Pa. is not the warmest month. No, in fact on this day it was a whopping 16 degrees when John and I pulled into the backside of Penn National Racetrack. 16 degrees at the track isn’t fun, as my experiences with winters both at Belmont and Fair Hill will qualify. The horses are wild, the people are cold and the day cannot end quickly enough so we can retreat to any machine, device or person whose warmth will work to revive our frozen skin and souls. That morning we tread cautiously into the appointed barn. And I couldn’t help but feel sadness as I witnessed the disparity between the backsides of Belmont, Saratoga and Delaware compared to this barn here at Penn. I know the purses they run for are large here, but the backsides and how the horses and horsemen look where I stood well this wasn’t the “good” side of things.

 I shrugged off the sadness and breathed deep the fresh smell of straw and thoroughbreds in the morning. And about halfway down the shedrow there he was. “Petey.” All 15.2 hands and Zenyatta sized ears of him. For an instant I thought we’d wasted a trip as when one looked into the stall from the shedrow he appeared much smaller than 15.2. What played to all of our advantages was that we were already there and it wouldn’t hurt to look closer. So we went in the stall and I felt myself sink as I walked in. Some former tenant had gotten bored and decided to try to dig their way to comfort, freedom or maybe some other incentive for them was buried beneath the once level stall floor. But now it was a crater within that made a mini skate park for hooves. So once I was “lowered” to Petey’s level I could see he was indeed big enough.

We took his blanket off, all the while he nuzzled me and seemed kind and interested. We led him outside to the level ground and looked at him. He had all the right raw materials in a late bloomer of a body. So with some amount of trepidation we asked if they would jog him for us in the shedrow. Just a few steps if you don’t mind, we just need to see him move. So picture this, a 4 yr. old gelding, he hasn’t been trained at the track or taken out of his stall much in the last 14 days since they decided to quit on him and sell him, it’s 16 degrees and all around the stalls are horses sticking their heads out as he goes by. Yep…. This should light up the place like the fourth of July, but I didn’t care if he was wild, he had every right to be. 

But what we got was a calm horse who willing jogged in hand (Something not all track tb’s know how to do or are willing to do) and only 2 bucks. John and I looked at each other with huge grins, well I think we were grinning there was a lot of wool, polar fleece, scarves and hats involved. Petey came around the next lap and jogged again and we noticed the graceful almost purposeful way he placed his feet. He is not a huge floaty mover as Lad is, but rather a precise and graceful animal with a willingness to perform for strangers in the cold. I knew then we were taking him. And so I walked him around the shedrow myself for a few turns and explained that life was about to change and get a lot more fun. It’s a total guess but since he had finished last in all 4 of his starts, I think this news pleased him. 

The next night we showed up with the trailer, in the sleeting rain and 20 degrees. It was after dark and the wind was blowing. Petey had taken me at my word that I was going to make his life more fun. You ever notice how you just kind of don’t recognize some dominant parts of a beings character until you’re in a rare moment? I mean who didn’t see the determination in Michael Phelps’s features at the Beijing Olympics? You could nearly touch the gratitude and all-encompassing fear in the eyes of those who emerged from the World Trade Center towers alive. And I doubt any of you will forget a moment of personal achievement from your own youth that is so strong within your own mind that you are recalling it now. And on that dark cold night I watched relief and hope cross the eyes of a horse that never missed a beat as he walked willingly into a dark trailer and never once looked behind him as we closed all the doors and ramp. And so Petey joined our brood and headed home to meet his new brother Lad. 

There are more tales of Petey and Lad to come. There will be blogs about the dogs, my crazy life and family and all sorts of things. And this time I promise to deliver for a while. But I think it’s best for all of us to start back and catch up progressively. I would hate to burn out my readers as my job burned me out. All will be revealed in time. And it’s that sense of patience and metering out work in small doses that has literally changed my life and brought more successes than I ever dreamed to me. So here to I will dabble progressively and allow you all a moment between blogs to stop, catch your breath and enjoy the scenery. 

Thank you for reading and stay cool today!


Pic1: Lad and me right after he returned

Pic 2: Meeting Petey in the cold. (Check out those Ears!)

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