Monday September 14 2020
Old Selam was only Hillbillie Willie's second endurance ride of the year. I was a little nervous about the first five or so miles: at his previous ride at City of Rocks, this Standardbred ex-racehorse (owned by Steph Teeter, ridden by me) was hot hot hot, pulling and yanking, rooting, throwing his head up, mouth gaping open or chomping on the bit. He wore me plumb out those first miles, and while it was great to be back in the saddle, I sure wouldn't call them fun miles.
I suspected the bit might have something to do with it; I'd seen some signs on training rides he was no longer thrilled with the bit he's been wearing for four years, so after the City of Rocks ride I experimented, and changed it, from a Kemberwick three-piece mouthpiece to a Kemberwick solid bar with a little whoop-de-do in it. (I tried a simpler three-piece snaffle and he did not like that either… I think the broken pieces now irritate him.) While it's a heavier bit, he seems to be much happier with it. Who knew he would decide he didn't like the bit he's always worn, but there you go.
As at City of Rocks, we rode with Willie's former ranch-mate Smokey and Nance. Jack didn't go with us this time, since Debbie Grose was ride manager and wasn't comfortable riding while managing. But Smokey and Willie had a fun ride together on the 50.
And Willie was a gem throughout the day, even at the start of the ride. He was hot to trot, but there was no yanking, pulling, jerking, chomping, and he was moving along with his head lowered, without me having to ask!
just look at him! ️
Willie looooooooooooves charging along the winding two-track overgrown logging roads through the forest, always eager to see around the next bend, bear or moose or no.
Ooooh that feeling, when your horse is fast and smooth and forward and steady and strong, not spooky (except for coming around that one corner and seeing… two big concrete blocks just sitting right there… where he slammed on his brakes, then jumped back to a trot), powering up hills, slipping to a smooth canter and back to his big trot…
It's taken many years to get him to this point. Of course, he's not always like that, smooth and rounded up, and I call him a continual work in progress, but those great moments, minutes, and miles, are getting longer and more frequent. (Figuring out the bit change really helped.)
Photos of Willie and me by Steve Bradley!
For more stories and photos on this awesome Old Selam ride (that you don't want to miss next year), see: