Anyone for chess?

chess neck

That’s what I thought when my horse shook his mane into equal alternating parts out on the trail last week. We had just walked up a steep section of the firebreak trail atop the rocky hill behind our home. You can see the valley spread out below through the trees and it’s a beautiful view at pink dusk, all soft around the edges. Even the granite boulders and prickly parrotbush gain a whimsical tint. It inspires me to look skyward and ignore the weeds.

Horses, however, are never sentimental.

Well, maybe sometimes

Well, maybe sometimes.
Only if it’s a really nice sunset, though.

Before we reached the crest of the hill, Chappy gave a short emphatic snort as he walked briskly on. His pace gradually slowed as the steep gradient started to wane and the track evened out from rocky gravel to leaf litter. As unfit as we both are, his breaths were coming in shallow and quick, so I pushed him on just a few more metres to a spot where the trees break and there’s a good view of the valley. There, we stopped for a break. He seemed indignant about those few extra steps, and made it known with an extended neck shake (I could actually hear his lips flapping) followed by a power snort, and then the standard head-rub-on-his-knee, followed by another long snorty blow-out. They know how to bring you back to reality: snot comes before a fall.

Anyway, the chess neck would make for a pretty short game of chess with only eight “squares”. Adding more horses to the game (along with the knights) would definitely be an improvement though! The evenly messy mane belongs to Calais, otherwise known as Chappy, or just “you naughty boy!”. Yep, he’s cheeky. He’s a six year old Thoroughbred ex-racehorse that we got off the track nearly three years ago. He’s actually my partner’s horse. It’s been a long journey to get him sound, happy and healthy, but he’s a very affectionate little guy and a lot of fun to have around.

Chappy yawning

Pulling yawny faces.
Image by Broken Toy Shop


9 thoughts on “Anyone for chess?

    • I haven’t plaited up in a looong time! I’ve never been much good at it but I hope to get out competing again this year so who knows… I might get some plaiting practice in πŸ˜‰ I would love to see Calais all spiffed up and ready for a show – he’s never been to one before. Although I suspect he would look quite girly haha! πŸ˜€

      • In encouragement classes plaiting is often optional. It does show respect for the judges and fellow competitors that you’ve made the effort, though.

        I think part of the purpose originally was to prevent the reins from getting tangled in the horse’s mane, which could be dangerous. It also makes horses look more uniform and easier to judge for conformation in a hack or halter class, as you can see the whole neck. Clever plaiting can also be used to hide faults such as a too-long or too-short neck!

        I can’t wait to get back out there competing again! πŸ˜€

  1. Beautiful description about the mane. It does look like a chess board. I’d extend the metaphor even further to say that partnering with a horse (especially a tempermental Thoroughbred like mine) is like a chess game–one in which every move must be strategic and non-impulsive. It’s the contant give and take, the respect and resolve that cultivates the relationship. Your boys are gorgeous and I can see you respect them and have put your heart into their health and happiness. I will be following your blog, and I hope you can follow mine “Ngugi’s Word”– a delicate relationship I’ve been working on with my ex-racehorse.
    I wish you luck and happiness with your horses.


    • Whoops, forgot to hit reply – here’s what I said!

      Thank you for your insightful comment πŸ™‚
      I had never thought of my interactions with horses as a game of chess before… I have always thought of chess as a game of cunning, forethought and skill. The way a person plays is like an extension of themselves and how their mind works. Of course being with horses is the same! Our horses reflect who we are and how we are with them.

      I will take your analogy with me! If I could keep that idea of calm forethought while I am with them, I would be a much better horseman πŸ™‚ I make mistakes every day, but I guess the mistakes are how we learn.
      I am enjoying your blog – you have such a beautiful horse!

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