May 17th update
Yesterday (the 16th) was Chance’s day to be ridden, however, when I went to get him I noticed his left knee was somewhat swollen. He was moving fine, seemed happy, it didn’t hurt for me to touch his knee and he was trotting around the field on his own. I am guessing it’s a bug bite. I have some lumps on myself from ticks or something in the grass. But I didn’t work him, just in case. He was also off today (17th).
Rode Zola today, and have to say, for all my complaints about not steering, balking, face-making, etc., Zola is really good. There are not too many “green broke” TB fillies that can be pulled out of a field, tacked up, and ridden without any real issue. Especially after having a day off. Knock on wood, Zola has never tried to buck or do anything else bad. Despite the fact that we are in a huge field, she has not tried to run off, or play.
I venture to say that if she were being trained like the average racehorse, she would already have been galloping for quite a while. While I confess to being a timid rider, the real issue is the mental state of the horse. I am not timid when I trust a horse. For me it’s not enough that the horse “does” something. I need to know the horse understands what it’s doing, accepts it as okay, and is relaxed about it. There are many horses at the track that “do” things, but do not satisfy those three criteria. Good evidence of this is the loose horse on the track. A horse somehow loses its rider, then runs up the track, the wrong way, so panicked that it doesn’t even see where it’s going. These loose horses are not publicized of course, but they often die, and kill or maim others. For those who saw the movie “Seabiscuit”, the accident where Red Pollard’s leg is shattered, is not far out fiction.
Many horses race and never win – despite having talent – because they really don’t understand what’s wanted. They run because they’ve learned to run, and because all the other horses are running. When whipped, they don’t understand it as a “signal” to go faster, they see and feel it as punishment. They can’t win for losing.
If anyone doubts this, just talk to people who have bought, rescued, or somehow acquired an off-the-track Thoroughbred. They will tell you how the horse doesn’t even know how to stand still when mounted. How it was nervous, high strung, over-sensitive, etc. Many OTTB’s fail at new homes because it’s erroneously thought that this is how Thoroughbreds are. It’s not that racehorses are crazy and just want to run, it’s that the poor things are not trained – they have no idea what’s expected of them and so are in a state of stress and anxiety.
In considering why a TB’s education is so poor, I can site time. Everyone’s in a hurry to get the horse to the track. Exercise riders who break babies, should know better, but don’t seem to. Perhaps the athletic ability and strength to stay on and ride a half-trained horse makes educating the horse seem unimportant. Perhaps they think a calm obedient horse won’t have what it takes. Personally, I think a horse who is calm and educated is more likely to run well.
That said, Zola was great today. She stood still for mounting, and never balked once. Never even thought about it! She was calm, energetic, relaxed, and when I asked her for a trot it was nice and relaxed. If that continues, galloping won’t be too far off.