Monday, May 2, 2016
Things are a bit quiet on the green to 100 front lately. After a successful 30 miles at the Old Dominion No Frills I came home and dug into the rest of my life which is immensely busy right now.
And dug in is appropriate because my husband and I are building a dog fence at home and I dug a few fence post holes last week. I also began my college spring term which is more concentrated teaching schedule as classes are condensed into a 4-week term. My faculty chamber music concert was May 1 so that included extra dress rehearsals and some last minute practice (the concert went well by the way!).
Despite some plans to get on my horse and at least stretch her legs after a few days rest, the heavy occasional rain with thunderstorms (which I did not have the mental or physical energy to push through) I only rode once last week- a day I went out super early to get in some miles before work.
My horses look fantastic with their sleek fresh coats almost complete. And I know Khaleesi is in great shape.
I read one rider who has a rule of 2 weeks rest before a 50 mile ride…… And I talked to a very successful rider during the No Frills who said he used to over work his horses and wished he would have learned sooner the concept of rest being more valuable than too much training. But I am finding that rest is one of the hardest training concepts for me!
I have stolen moments at the barn, and spent a little time Sunday morning (pouring rain) doing some adjustments to my saddle (new sheepskin on my leathers and adding new rings to custom fit my favorite pommel pack). I’ve spent a few minutes walking the fields and scratching the horses favorite spots.
And the small amount of downtime I went back to review the Chinese element types to see if I have a better guess as to which personality Khaleesi is.
The five types are Earth, Wood, Metal, Fire and Water. I am not completely certain how much scientific value these types have but I do believe that horses have personalities and these descriptions can be helpful in how you see the horse and its needs. And it’s something to think about when the weather and free times to ride don’t coincide!
I started with process of elimination. What is she definitely not.
She is not a water horse. Water horses can be intelligent and brilliant performers but are very sensitive, tend to spook easily and have to be constantly in motion. They have a tendency toward fear and intense reactivity. Without a clear solid handler these horses can seem unpredictable and dangerous. Many Arabs fit this and I think that is part of why they are so good at endurance – they are constantly moving. It would be a stretch to fit her here.
She is not a fire horse. Fire horse need to be at the center of attention (ok, this part might be true) they love to be groomed and bathed and told they are beautiful (nope – she tolerates grooming but would rather be left alone). Makes a wonderful show horse but often too hot for some handlers without the experience or emotional control to deal with their outbursts. I don’t see Khaleesi as this hot, sensitive or prone to emotional outbursts.
She is not a Wood horse. These horses love to run and are breathtaking competitive athletes. These are often the thoroughbreds you find at the racetracks- but I think Faygo is a wood horse. She has two speeds – moving along and fast- and there is a joy in her canter especially when she kicks into the next gear, bares down to the ground and flat out runs. She will always try to win that race off even if she is about to die from exhaustion. When working at the basics the wood horse gets bored easily and becomes willful. That is Faygo to a ‘T’. She is very smart and once she gets something you are wise not to continue to drill it. She will revolt and stop giving you what you ask for. Having a wood horse in Faygo makes me pretty certain I don’t have one in Khaleesi.
I don’t think Khaleesi is an Earth horse. Though there are some points along our journey I’ve wondered. Earth horses love above all respect and food. (Hmmm, both my horses love food). They are solid citizens and can be seen as lazy but do not have to be, they do not tend to push themselves to succeed. What they lack in ambition however they make up in willingness and stamina. They are not complainers and you have to be on the lookout for ill fitting saddles or physical issues that develop – they will often soldier on through discomfort (this doesn’t fit… Khaleesi is pretty opinionated if she isn’t comfortable). They tend to be big boned and heavy horses (Khaleesi is a bit leggy and not very heavy boned) and often Bay or dark in color. I think we are getting closer, but I have come to believe she is not really lazy or unmotivated, and she doesn’t really exhibit a laid back “let’s all get along” vibe to me.
That leaves Metal. These horses exhibit shiny coats, noble heads and strong backs and are often striking to behold. They exhude self-confidence. (Yes. I always felt Khaleesi is full of self-confidence from the first time I laid eyes on her).
Aloof by nature these horses don’t enjoy being pampered and are quite happy on their own. (Absolutely- she puts up with grooming but I can almost hear her when I rub her head <sigh> “don’t touch!”)
These horses are strong and durable and are not big picture thinkers but do best when a job is broken down into small elements (like the parts in a well tuned engine). They are strong and athletic but not necessarily fast or agile. They often win through consistency over brilliance. (Check).
They can seem to take the longest time to process new information but once they get it they have the best memory and it will stay with them forever. Once you are sure a metal horse understands the request and has responded correctly give them plenty of time to process. (Licking and chewing, yawning and thinking – Khaeesi does this more than any other horse I’ve seen)
Not everything fits- for example they say metal horses are often less flexible and I see Khaleesi often scratch her head with her back foot like a cat and she is very flexible.
Here is one of the websites I used to read up on the 5 types:
Understanding that she is prone to this temperament can help me in a few ways:
First it is a goood reminder that she needs time. I just read a FaceBook memory from a year ago when I was just beginning to extend her mileage on trail rides. Each new expansion brought a tired toddler the last few miles. She was more prone to bratty behavior if another horse invaded her space bubble and less responsive to my requests. She did fine in the long run but it took patience to let her process everything. She is very solid – and always has been- but needed time to grow incrementally into what was being asked of her.
It also helps me to accept the fact that she can learn to tolerate a rub as a reward or the fact that I need to be able to rub her forehead and more importantly be handled anywhere by vets and farriers but she may never like it. NOT touching her and release of pressure may be my best training rewards. She occasionally does like a good scratch, and she communicates clearly where and when she wants to be scratched. I’ve seen this over and over when people meet her and want to touch her. Who doesn’t want to touch a horse!? Her ears go back and she tolerates it but doesn’t like it.
As we head toward our first 50 mile on Saturday I am getting quicker at packing and we will do an easy ride or two to keep her legs stretched and mind engaged. I suppose a little rest for my body is not a bad idea either as my leg improves every day and I’m probably back to 75% normal now. Susan reminded me recently that we sometimes forget our part in the team when it comes to taking care of ourselves. I need to be mentally and physically rested and fresh as well.
I have some excess nervous energy in apprehension of this unknown territory (it’s starting to sink in… 50 miles is a long ride… Longer than I’ve ever ridden in one day… It seems so normal because im around people who do this all the time… But it’s a good 20 miles more than I’ve ever ridden in one day!!) I’m headed into and I’m grounded from my go-to coping-release which is running. So I’ve felt inner turmoil generating and I don’t like the energy it creates. Each ride this year has been preceded with a panic dream. The first was trying to run and not being able to run fast enough and letting my horse down. The second one everyone else had horses but I had a bike and at one point I lost it (or it was taken – that detail is fuzzy) and still couldn’t find my horse. This morning was a dream that Khaleesi died in an epidemic that took a few local horses. I was relieved to wake up from that and realize it wasn’t real.
But I have great friends who have collectively said “you’ve got this” and some who’ve even been able to say “and I’ll help you” and a few who have reminded me that “Kahaleesi has got this!” And when the nerves and energy start churning those all help immensely!
Yeah. We got this girl. Solid as metal.