Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Thigh Master

Lately I've been earning a few extra dollars by going over to my ex-coach's place once a week and riding a couple of horses for her. Sue has so many young horses in training (including several recently off-the-track Thoroughbreds) that she and her assistant could use a little extra help. Of course, I was happy to take Sue up on her offer, though from the outset it was agreed that with my arm and neck being prone to pain and injury I wouldn't be riding any super-green greenies.

I've gotten to know the string of horses on "my list of rides" quite well. Most of them are veteran show horses that just need a weekly schooling so they're tuned up for their owners' lessons. Ryan, Oliver and Rainey are the most solid packers. They are tall, lanky, big-moving geldings with lofty trots and lumbering gallops. Each one is a teenager, and they're very much the point-and-pray type of horse. All I have to do is pick up my 12-foot canter stride, aim for the jump, push my hands into the crest, assume my two-point position and sit still. When we approach the corner, I do a little half-halt, think, "Hmmm... I believe we need a lead change here," and voila! It happens. And just think: I'm getting paid to ride these horses!

The last few weeks Sue has added Charming's name to the list of horses she'd like me to ride. Disposition-wise, Charming is a doll. Even though he's only been off the track for less than a year, he's settled right into a leisurely lifestyle. That's probably because he doesn't have the heart of a race horse. Seriously, I could outrun him. Charming would much rather doop-tee-doop-tee-doo around the arena on a soft rein. Even though he still has a tendency to canter on an ever-increasing length of stride (we're starting to work on collection and adjustability), he never gets going very fast. Breaking a sweat is not on Charming's list of Things To Do.

Besides an amicable disposition, Charming is also rather pleasant to look at. He's a solid bay, sort of a nut brown color, and he has a genuinely sweet face with a kind eye. Perhaps I shouldn't mention that he has a set of ears that would make Eeyore jealous, but then, some of my best show hunters had lop ears, so I find that physical trait endearing. But the one aspect of Charming's conformation that troubles me most is his narrow frame. Truly, I'll bet he stands about 16.3, but he's still got the typical off-the-track appearance of a giant Greyhound. Over time he'll gain weight through his mid-section. Plus, he's only 4 so he'll also beef up as he matures. In the meantime, however, I refer to him as The Thigh Master. Why? Because in order to get "in the tack" when I'm riding him I have to really close my legs around his willowy frame. When I dismount, I can feel the burn. Literally. But I guess that's another benefit of riding horses that aren't over-stuffed baked potatoes like Wally: my thighs get a work-out. And all the better for wearing shorts during the summertime!

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Anonymous said...

Aww... That must be really nice getting paid to ride nice horses! , I know how you feel i rode this one thoroughbred in my lesson, and he was sorta skinny, like the "thigh master" sounds, i sure felt the burn, it probably didn't help that my teacher had me doing stirrup leathers and two-point but boy was it fun!

Anonymous said...

Haha, I sympathize with you! Bucky isn't narrow at all, but he MAKES me work. If he throws a buck, you had better hope I'm hanging on with my thighs...... This time last year I wouldn't be caught dead in shorts, and now..... let's just say I bought a couple pairs of REALLY short shots. :D

But I've ridden a two-year old once who had NO muscle tone, Poor guy, I wrapped my legs around him and could hook my feet under his belly (did I mention he was about 11 hands high?) just so that my feet wouldn't drag.

I couldn't walk right for DAYS after I rode him.

Cindy Hale said...

Yeah, who needs a gym when we have these narrow-bodied horses to ride? And riding in a two-point on such a horse is even more challenging. Almost makes me wonder how the jockeys and exercise riders do it day after day!