Nine Rides in a Row

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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It’s funny how sometimes a change that feels tough can work out for the best. It turns out selling Laredo was one of the better horse-related decisions we’ve made in a good long while. Though letting him go felt so sad and so hard at the time, the results, so far, have been positive.

First, there was the getting him ready phase. He was already pretty dialed in with everything when we listed him for sale. Nevertheless, we spent the month between when his ad went live and the day he left riding him more days than not. That was fun, and it brought him up to a level of polish that was easy to enjoy.  Knowing the end was near made the whole thing a little bittersweet. But it also made me think back on our early days with the kid as a 3-year-old. From here, it’s really easy to appreciate how far we’ve all come since those days.

Last ride on the kid

Second, there is the rather stark fact that when we go to the barn now, we have only two horses.

Sometimes easy isn’t ideal

For a couple years before Laredo left, we trundled along in an easy default. We’d go to the barn, grab our two horses that were both  broke and sound, and do a somewhat lazy ride. Though we’d check in with Piper or work with her on vets and treatment, or talk about Nevada and dabble at working with her, we had no consistency with either of those two.

Piper’s gone now. And while we’re still not entirely sure what our long term plan for Nevada will be, now that’s she’s one of two we’ve been bringing her in every day.  For the moment, we’re going all the way back to the beginning and trying to think of her as a brand new project.

Meanwhile, Steen is 19.  After the harsh winter, relentlessly wet spring, and dry summer, I can tell he’s feeling his age for maybe the first time. He’s fine, but some days his energy is low. He’s not holding up to long, hard rides in the heat. So while Brian’s been putting in long, challenging sessions with Nevada, I’ve found myself running out of horse a little.

Me and Steen hanging in there

Happily, opportunities abound

Right before Laredo left, a new horse appeared at our barn. He’s a 12 year old Arabian named Aslan. It turns out he’s picked up a few behaviors under saddle that are not quite ideal. The result is he hadn’t been ridden in over a year because his owner is scared to get on.

When I ended up in a conversation with our barn owner that led me to believe Aslan’s owner might be eager for some help, I defied my typical ultra-introvert tendencies and offered it. The result is we’ve got 30 days to see if we can get this guy reset and going nicely under saddle again. We’ve done groundwork with him for a week and Brian climbed on for the first time two days ago and I rode him yesterday. So far things are going incredibly well. I think he’s a sweet, willing, intelligent horse that just needs some better tools. He’s already changed a ton.

And happily, that is not  the limit of horses we don’t own but nevertheless have access to. We have two long-term students who are more than thrilled any time we put some extra training rides on their horses. So I’ve been riding Arlo and Rosa and Aslan, plus helping Brian with Nevada and enjoying Steen.

In short, momentum is up

I always track the amount of time I spend riding. But the last few years, the resulting numbers have been nothing to brag about. With the triple whammy of Piper’s navicular, Laredo’s cough, and my accident coming off Nevada, we just got unbelievably stuck. We felt like we had no good options for any of those three horses.

Honestly, for a while it felt like we’d never move forward again. But problem by problem, we figured it out. We found Piper the ideal home for her condition. Then we worked systematically to understand and support Laredo’s needs and then place him in a life where he’d do well.  With those two enormous hurdles behind us, Nevada suddenly does not seem nearly so daunting as she did even a month ago.

Best of all, it’s all gotten fun again. Brian and I are talking horses all the time again in a way that’s fun instead of stressful. We have half a dozen different plans for our next phase. We see potential everywhere. I’ve ridden a horse 12 of the last 14 days, with 9 consecutive days of riding in a row. In July, I logged 11.5 hours in the saddle. That’s not much compared to what we were doing a few years ago, but it’s the most I’ve ridden in a single month since August of 2016.

More than anything, feeling ourselves on the upswing again has reminded me that life so often goes in cycles. Our years of accelerated learning and so many lucky opportunities were followed by a few years of struggle.

This is how it goes. You learn different lessons from the low points but that doesn’t mean they’re any less valuable.

But maybe best of all, Laredo is doing great. His new owner is active on Instagram. It’s so fun to get to see him thriving in his new life.

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