Wednesday, October 29, 2008

My New Project: Meet Oakie!

There's a new horse at the Little Valley.  Her name is Oakie, she's a 12 year old Quarter Horse, and before she arrived two weeks ago, she hadn't been ridden in about three years.

Does she look familiar?  She's Tia's sister!  

She's here, but wonderful Tia, the boss mare, Susan's Good Horse, has been off work since July - and not happily.  She would stand outside the barn door and wait for some attention.  She's gone north to spend a few months recovering at the parental homestead, and Oakie came here in her place.

Susan has gotten some history on this horse. She was showing on the Trillium circuit for a few years in the hunter classes.  This makes me snicker, because Oakie is all of 14.1hh.  She's wee little.  So I'm thinking those must have been some low jumps in the hunter ring!  She spent a few years as a lesson horse, which apparently she didn't like, and then got sold as a broodmare a couple years ago.  Her first filly was just weaned recently.  

Oh, and she's about 5 months pregnant.  This would explain her biggish belly.  

Since she wasn't working, she never really got the baby belly off before getting pregnant again.  She might not get much bigger now until the spring.  I think she's due in April.  We obviously won't be working her very hard!  She's already in good shape; look at the muscles in her hindquarters.

I really, really like this mare!  She is so forward and so responsive to cues.  If anything, I can see why this might have been bad for her lesson horse career. An inexperienced rider might wind up and kick instead of squeeze with the leg, and Oakie would take off too fast.  On her first ride with us, she really tossed her head.  After a few laps around the sand ring, she already figured out that Susan is not a rider who will jerk on the bit, or pull the reins tight and leave them there.  My job now is to continue Oakie's education into her new life.

We want to get her to calm down.  She's super quiet on the ground, but under saddle she thinks she has to start off right away at a bone jarring trot.  I have to slow her down without pulling back on the reins.  I have to use my legs, seat and weight to slow her down.  I imagine my (short) legs becoming stretchy and lengthening around the horse's ribcage.  I breath out and let my waist loosen.  With every step I let my body flex at the waist and absorb the bounce.  I don't post to the trot.  We suspect she'd associate a posting trot with "go, go go!" and we want her to relaaaax.  As we trot along, I'll say, "eeeeasy, girl," as I exhale.  If she really powers up, instead of pulling back, I'll pull one rein out to the side (opening rein) and bring her into a small circle.  At the same time, I have to keep a bit of leg on her so that she doesn't just stop.  There's a real fine line of balance to riding, especially a horse this sensitive. Luckily, I have a sensitive little mare of my own, so I'm somewhat familiar.  

Oakie does a funny little hop into the trot, but she launches beautifully into a lope.  Her lope is heavenly compared to that choppy trot!  She is not as smooth as Tia, and I think that has to do with both training, and conformation.  Susan is pretty sure that Oakie will be easier to ride once she settles in and figures out what we are asking of her.  Already she's tossing her head less, and I do believe that trot could almost be called a jog now.  Under Susan's guidance, she'll be better than ever.  Oakie has had some solid training, and just needs a tune-up.

Soon I'll be working on collecting her, and then some lateral work (sidepassing, haunch and forehand turns).  Of course, it's already snowed twice, so I'll be doing what I can over winter.  And of course, as her belly gets bigger, our work will slow significantly!

One of the coolest things about having Oakie at the Little Valley is the family resemblance.  Tia's two year old daughter, Lily, has identical face markings to Oakie's. Tia's stripe is slightly wider. I'm always marveling at how alike these three horses are.  Oakie's coat is soft and smooth like Tia's and Lily's.  She's just like them!   She's got Lily's huge and gentle eyes, Tia's alert expression, and a wavy thick mane.  Good stuff in that bloodline!

Oakie is just a little bit darker in colour, almost a liver chestnut.  I think it would be fun to get the three of them together someday!

Just for comparison, this is me riding Tia at the fair, September 2007, then me on Oakie last week:

And in case you're wondering... yep, that's a helmet on my head.  You might already know that I hate wearing helmets.  I also hate concussions.  I don't usually wear one and 99% of the time wouldn't have needed it, but I also think it's good to weigh your risks.  We really don't know this horse very well.  The way things are going though, I think my chances of getting launched off of her are pretty low.  

This little project comes just at the right time.  I'm having a hard time leaving the house again, but I drag myself out there four days a week, at least.  Once I'm there, breathing in that horse smell, it's not so bad.  I can cope for just a little longer.


Heidi said...

She's beautiful!

I thought of you, as winter is starting to eek in, and wonder if this winter will be a hard one for you. It's like a double whammy: winter and queries!

Keep riding, and start writing again. Both are good for the soul!

hayseed said...

Oakie does look sweet-and it's true how they all are so different-different feel, sensitivities. You are inspiring me to go riding today-four times a week, that's great! I rode my big mare Sadie after not riding most of the summer. She started to go backwards! She's never done that before. Then my in-laws pulled in the driveway and she would not budge. And she would not stop eating grass. Anyway, it's all my fault, I need to work more with her. It comes back pretty quickly, once they figure out you aren't giving up. And I decided that embarrassment is good for the soul!

CindyDianne said...

She's cute.

JJ bucked me the other night. I got him stopped. But, talk about something that will make a girl week in the knees!

Real Live Lesbian said...

Wow...she's just gorgeous! And looks so much like her sister!

JKB said...

Oh she is so darling! mmmm ponies.

pseudosu said...

You're probably right about her lesson horse experience. Sounds like she's been jerked on and thumped around on a bit. You'll get her tuned up.

Traci said...

She sounds like a Morgan I used to ride named Dancer. Energy for days and I wasn't experienced enough at the time to know how to calm her down. Sounds like you are doing great with her.

Anita said...

She's gorgeous! And she does look like Tia! Love to hear you talk about the horses... :)