June 10, 2010

The Willy Trial

I need to ride more often.  How does one do that when they don't own a horse?  They lease of course!  Most people not in the horsey world are unfamiliar with this term.  My good friend Jessica pretty much summed it up perfectly; "it's like time sharing a horse".  You pay the owner for a set number of days or hours where you have access to the horse to ride, and you go and ride, worry free.  Other types of leases, that I may be into down the rode are called free leases....now these are anything but free!  You don't pay anything for access to the horse but you have to board them, feed them, pay farrier fees and vet fees.  It's a lot like owning a horse but you can end the lease term and then walk away at the end.  I would lease a horse like this when it gets closer to buying my own horse to get used to the costs associated with keeping a horse but the important thing with these leases is that you get a vet to look over the horse since you will be liable for any vet bills.  I haven't looked into these since I just want to pay a set amount each month to go ride a horse for such and such a day and be done with it for now.

So that brings me to the idea of Willy.  Back in January I was thinking about leasing a thoroughbred mare named Indy.  I rode her and felt she was a nice mount but at the time I still felt really rusty in my riding and definitely a little insecure in my seat.  I declined to lease her and decided instead to take some lessons to get my confidence back.  The farm Indy was boarded at was a ranch that ran a Christian Horse camp and did horse rescue.  It was pretty nice and simple, many of the school horses were up for lease for a few days a week.  Recently I decided I really wanted some alone time riding to reflect on my lessons and to have more time playing around with a horse.  I contacted Susan, the owner of the facility, about coming out to see some of the horses.  I was particularly interested in meeting an Arabian by the name of Willy.

So one Saturday I headed out to the ranch to meet with her and see some of the horses.  She was no where to be found.  Apparently she had left a couple hours before to get some hay and should have been back by our 1pm meeting time.  About half an hour later she finally arrived, in a short cut Cotton dress and flip flops.  Without changing she takes me around to some of the horses, introducing me to warm blood and thoroughbred types.  They all were very sweet horses but I had my preference.  Gone are the days when I rode 16 to 17 hand horses (a hand is 4 inches and the height is measured at the withers, the top point on the back where the shoulders meet).  I really wanted to stick around my comfort zone of about 15 hands; the average size of Arabians.  I particularly wanted to lease an Arab to get to know the breed better; the more horses you ride the more you become familiar with the various quirks.  Willy happened to be an ex-endurance horse, which seems to be a good match for me since I want to get into endurance trail riding.  Endurance racing is a form of trail riding where you race against other horses over long distances.  The shortest being 25 miles but most being between 50 and 300 miles.  If you have ever seen Hidalgo that gives you an idea of what the rides are like.  I liked the idea of an Arabian horse that had that experience to see what type of temperament he had.

Susan took Willy out of his run which lacked a gate so she had to muscle the fencing open, and flip-flopped out with him.  He stood quietly but was too close to her so she started swinging the lead rope at him.  He flung his head up and stepped a little sideways and finally back.  The lady in flip-flops was insane!  Not only for the hour I spent there had she been sidetracked at least three times, with me having to re-ask several questions.  She also seemed a little too aggressive towards Willy in my opinion.  Willy had not moved since she swung the lead rope at him, she'd actually stepped closer to him and then swung the rope at him again to make him back up.  I really scratched my head, horses, particularly Arabs, are sensitive and often just need to be asked to do something one time.  Obviously if they don't listen a harsher signal may be needed but not right up front?  I'd learned with Divine that I had groomed and move around her a little too roughly.  Arabs are smart animals and with that comes a sensitivity that if treated correctly will turn out to be a great strength.  Divine has become a better mare to groom and tack since I've slowed things down and not been so brusque, amazing!  A quarter horse would just stand there half asleep but Divine, she was upset and stating to me, in her own way, "no, no, no, treat me like a queen and I'll do anything you ask.  Force me around and I'll stomp my feet".  I didn't understand this flip-flopping woman but in horse riding there are all types and all methods I guess.  Arabs are a special brand, I guess to those who use some harsher methods they seem really hyper.  I've learned if treated gently they can be a great and willing companion.

Susan showed me the tack room and grooming gear for Willy.  I got to work tacking him up and found him very willing and sweet, just as I had suspected.  I talked soothingly to him and he responded with such a soft demeanor, unlike his actions around flip-flop lady.  I often have to work with Divine at getting her to open her mouth and accept the bit.  Willy just opened up and let me bridle him in one try.  When I got on him I felt very comfortable.  He had nice gaits and responded willingly and quickly to my aids.  Since he was an endurance horse he had not been trained for the dressage head carriage which is more on the vertical.  That was fine with me, I don't recall ever riding a horse in that collected mode before Laurie's lessons but I was young and I rode hunt seat....maybe Laurie is just more awesome an instructor!  I told Susan I wanted to lease him and we agreed on Sunday to meet up and go over the terms.

Sunday came around and she was nowhere to be found.  I again had to find some random person to help me find her.  One lady gave her a call and found out she'd be back a little after 10am.  That really irritated me at that point since our meeting was 9am, why hadn't she called me to postpone the meeting?  The lady stated I could get Willy groomed and tacked up but I didn't feel comfortable considering we had not signed anything and I had not paid my lease cost.  So I waited.  By 10:30am I was fuming and had to leave the facility.  Even if she did come I didn't want to see her and I certainly didn't want to ride Willy and get him upset wondering about my anxious attitude.  So I've begun searching for other lease horses, one such mount that came up in my search is an Arab/Mustang cross in black forest but the lady said she had to use a curb type bit, not a snaffle since the mare tends to want to go to fast.  That's worrisome to me since I feel most horses, if trained properly should never need more than a snaffle or something is wrong.  We'll see, I meet her on Friday.   There is also a quarter horse off Baptist road that I may look at.  I received an email  from the ditsy lady at the ranch with Willy, she didn't exactly apologize but I figure once I get the paperwork done it will be just me and him.  I'll go there on Sunday and see what happens.  I just want to ride at least one more time a week, I wish I could do it everyday but that time will come soon enough. 

More to come!  I have my lesson tomorrow on Divine and I meet Danilla the Arab/mustang cross afterwards!  Hopefully after this weekend I'll have another horse to ride besides my lesson horse Divine.  Oh if only....my kingdom for a horse!

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