Tuesday May 15 2018
After a year of successfully going down the endurance trail, and a good start this year (he won his 25-mile ride at the Owyhee Tough Sucker in April), now it’s time for Hillbillie Willie, Steph’s off-the-track Standardbred, to start going down the trail right.
He moves along easily, and fast, and easily fast and fastly easily, just like an ex-racehorse would, but he can be high-headed and heavy on the forehand - especially when he gets excited, when those hooves go CLOP PLOP CLOP PLOP CLOP PLOP CLOP PLOP.
If he can learn to drop his head, round up, get his balance better underneath him, it will likely keep him going sounder longer… and that’s what most of us want in an endurance horse, right?
So I’ve gone and done it, committed (see, right here in writing), to work on it. Aarene Storms and her Standardbred Fiddle are my inspiration; she says that getting Fiddle to ‘lighten up’ was huge for them.
I’m not great at it… kinda clumsy at times. So it’s a bit of me and Willie learning together at the same time, working out a language that gets the results.
Connie got him started on the dressage-type work in the arena, giving him the idea of what’s wanted, and I’ve taken it from there, more or less. No, I don’t enjoy arena work - it’s work, and tiring, for Willie and particularly for me - but the good thing is, I really do see just a little improvement day by day.
Willie’s starting to carry his head a bit lower on his own, he can hold a round collected shape longer, and I can now often get it while trotting down the trail, even in company. And it’s all getting a wee bit easier for him to do. Of course, the big test will be getting him to be able to do that and relax in an endurance ride… which may be a ways down the road. He raced for 2 years, and probably trained for 2 before that, so that instinct is not going to be so easily erased or replaced. But we're on it.
So watch that topline. He's grown a wee bit of a butt from working and endurance riding hills for a year, and his giraffe butt has mostly disappeared. One day, we may see his body changing shape for the even more better.