Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Big Horse Episode I

Rocket got his own blog so in all fairness, I suppose I ought to devote one to The Big Horse. The Big Horse, Raffles, is not really all that big but he thinks he is. At 16.2 he's on the smallish end of the Warmblood scale but if machismo entered into it, he'd be off the chart. Raffles, Raphael, is a Swedish Warmblood who is actually branded as such, though you can only see the mark in the Spring and Fall as he starts shedding. It's as if the Swedish Warmblood society didn't want to wholly admit he was one of them. Not that I would blame them. He's a dunderhead. A damn fool. But also, gorgeous, athletic and my pal.

Raffles was sent to me sight unseen. He was a donated school horse to my alma-mater and he was geting the pink slip. The head of the program called me and asked if I'd like to take him in. He'd been on stall rest for a year after a suspensory ligament injury and in the meantime, they'd received more appropriate horses for lessons. She told me he was black, that he had funny colored eyes and that he was a "10" mover. "Sure", I said, "Send him up." It wasn't until after I'd agreed that I found out he also had a habit of putting riders in the rafters.

The first impression I had of him was that he wasn't black but he did have funny colored eyes - very light almost gold colored. He was dark bay and as I was to find out, like a chameleon, he changes colors during the seasons. In the Summer he is almost buckskin and in the Winter almost black but still a bay. People that have only seen him at horse shows during the Summer, don't even recognize him in the Winter. What is recognizable in any season, is his big trot and his big spook.

I encountered the spook first. After being in his stall for a year (and eating oats because they thought he was allergic to corn) he was a little high strung. To bring him back to condition, I had to begin with hand-walking. Hand-walking that horse was like walking with a keg of dynamite over hot coals. Once, I sneezed during a walk and he went straight up in the air doing his best Black Stallion impression. He got away from me once, during a walk, when he spooked and then dragged me through the mud like I was water skiing until I fell and he sprinted back to the barn. After that, I thought it would be better if we hand-walked in the arena. With a chain over his nose. And a second leader. Even then, if a leaf crinkled - he'd snort and leap.

Eventually, we both survived hand-walking and progressed to light riding. I had been riding Rocket who I was so in tune with that I could just think about what I wanted to do and he'd offer. Riding Raffles for the first time, I thought " This is like going from driving a Ferrari to driving a box of rocks." He was stiff and clunky and much broader than Rocket. This was going to take some getting used to. And it's apparently going to take more than one post to tell his story. This will be continued...

Oooohhh - a cliffhanger....

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