A Big Red Horse

The essential joy of being with horses is that it brings us in contact with the rare elements of grace, beauty, spirit, and fire. ~ Sharon Ralls Lemon

I have been contemplating all week what to blog about here, but in the end, just simply being with the horses has won out. Rather than expound on training principles or farming habits, I want to share with you all the joy that I gain from being with my horse and give you a glimpse into our world together.

statue

The Big Red Horse himself

My horse is Doc, a 12-year-old American Saddlebred. He came into my life in 2006…it was not exactly love at first sight, but his previous owner will tell you that my eyes fairly sparked from the vision I had for the big red horse. He is stunning to behold. I may be prejudiced, but I am fairly certain that his many admirers would agree. He is only 16 hands tall, but carries himself as though he is 17 or 18 hands tall. His neck rises high out of his shoulders in an elegant arch and gives way to a handsome face with large, vibrant eyes. He has massive shoulders that slopes back into a strong, level back with well-sprung ribs. Through years of hard, correct work he also sports powerful hindquarters that would make any ranch horse owner proud. As you can probably tell, I am somewhat smitten with my big red horse. He is beautiful to watch and carries himself with an easy confidence. I love his attitude, his fire, his kindness. He is sassy, sarcastic, and can be quick-tempered. With time, he has become forgiving and patient, and is as loyal as they come. In short, he is my dream horse, and I discovered this not all at once, but bit-by-bit over the course of nearly five years. Perhaps I knew it when I first laid eyes on him but did not want to admit it, but I am not lying when I say he had to grow on me. And grow on me he did.

These days, Doc is my foxhunting and eventing partner. He took to both sports like a duck to water. Right from the first, he loved these new jobs and relaxed into them unlike any job previously presented to him. It wasn’t just the jumping, it was the covering the countryside at a steady gallop. Having learned his job now, I can establish our galloping pace, find a comfortable balance point on his back, and leave him alone. He will gallop for miles in the same, unchanging rhythm with nary an adjustment from me. It is such a joy to ride!

doc whitehaven

Foxhunting with the Traders Point Hunt

We have not done much galloping lately. In 2012 I was recovering from ankle surgery, pregnant, had my baby, and Doc experienced a very mild suspensory injury while hunting with a friend. It is only just now, as spring comes around again in 2013, that we are both stretching out and enjoying the wind whipping through our hair. We do not run for long stretches these days–Doc is easing back in to the work and I am cautious of the vulnerable tendon. But oh the happiness when we do! He reaches forward into the bridle, just bumping against my hands without getting heavy. His back flattens, his legs fully extend, his neck reaches forward and down. I balance over his back in an upright two point that rests me squarely in the center of his gravity and we merrily tick off the fence posts along our farm’s 3/8 mile race track. A few weekends ago, I even relished a true cross country hack as we cantered across unplanted farm fields, up and down gentle Indiana hills, and hopped over small logs for the first time in months. 2013 will not be a terribly exciting year for us, I don’t think. I don’t foresee having much time for showing. But we will inch back into fighting condition and come back strong in 2014. At least, that is my hope.

If the Big Red Horse has crept into your imagination just now, I’ve accomplished my goal for this blog. Follow along and I will periodically update our story and progress. It won’t be an exciting year, but there is a new foundation to be laid that will allow us to build up to a strong show season in 2014, when I hope to be competitive at Training in eventing and earn some staff rights with my Hunt.

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