The week after the horse show Sarah experienced a pulmonary embolism. She was rushed to the emergency room in time and is doing well now, but she is on anticoagulants and blood thinners and is very limited to what she can do with the horses. When she was still in the hospital she asked me if I would consider riding her 4 year old gelding that the Finals show which is at the end of September. My first thought was “No Way!” this is the horse that Sarah started as a yearling and the last thing I wanted to do was to mess him up. But then I thought about all the times that I’ve ridden other horses and how much better it is for Grace; I’ve always increased my expectations of her after sitting on something that is a little more respectful. I agreed to come out and ride Max with Sarah last Friday which would be followed by a lesson with Edward who was visiting on Monday.
Max is just dreamy! He is a joy to ride and seems so much less complicated than Grace. When I put leg on him he pushes up into the bridle. When I sit deeper he rocks back on his hock and slows down. When I ask him to move his hip, he moves it! What a difference from the sassy little mare who questions me each time I ask her to do something. I was nervous about riding him in front of Sarah but ended up having a really good ride. I then had an excellent lesson with Edward on Monday during which I had a moment when I realized that I am actually a good rider! I could feel when I needed to move Max’s shoulder or hip even before Edward would tell me to do it. Edward gave me some really good exercises for keeping Max on his hind end and helped me to learn to stop driving with my seat and allow Max to carry himself. At the end of the ride I told Sarah that I was pretty sure she gave herself a blood clot on purpose! She’s been telling me for 6 months now that I need to ride Max, even going as far as calling him my new horse. I kept putting her off but after sitting on him I see what all the fuss was about. I told Sarah that when I ride Max I feel like I can actually ride and she pointed out that Grace is not doing me any favors.
I have a very emotional relationship with Grace; she’s been my only horse for the last 13 years and many times I have made sacrifices in order to hold onto her. I’ve always wanted for her to have the chance to shine, I think she is an amazing horse and I’ve wanted the chance to shine with her in competition. I still think she is an amazing horse, but I also am well aware of her limitations, this became very clear after having such good rides on Max. I had a lesson that afternoon on Grace with Edward; the ride was much more of a workout than the ride on Max. We did get some good lope strides in and Edward once again gave me some really good exercises to keep Grace back on her hind end. Sarah let me know that if I want to back off on showing Grace that I am more than welcome to show Max. It is a thought that I am putting at the back of my mind as I am still not ready to give up on Grace.
I went back out to Sarah’s on Tuesday to ride Max but got home too late to also ride Grace. I made sure to put her back on the priority list on Wednesday. Grace was different from the moment I sat in the saddle. Her walk was slower and more thoughtful. Edward had told me to ride her in draw reins, something that I haven’t trusted my hands to do in the past but after getting a good feel for it during our lesson I felt confident. This time when I asked Grace to move her hip she just moved it, no head tossing, back hollowing or grunting. She was oddly respectful throughout the entire ride. Her lope was the biggest surprise of all, it was an actual lope! We worked on a counter canter exercise from our lesson and I could feel her load her hock the entire time. I then had the same ride tonight on Grace after riding Max at Sarah’s. The only change in the last week is that I am riding Max. If I had known this would be the result I would have started seeing other horse’s much sooner!