Autumn elevation

Johnny and Chappy hooning with boots on

In celebration of the first day of autumn! The boys have taken to hooning every afternoon, as soon as I put on their hoof boots. Calais is usually the gleeful instigator and poor old Jonathon sometimes struggles to keep up with the high bucks, quick turns and all the galloping! He is not as enthusiastic about flinging himself around as Calais, who literally trots circles around the old man.

My partner is the photographer around here – putting my shoddy ipod pics to shame! He got some good shots, the horses’ high spirits presenting plenty of opportunities. Ben especially likes photographing horses at liberty, and I think it shows in his best shots. A couple of times it seemed Johnny and Calais might flatten him, but Ben is like a rock, solid and steady and calm. Rocks own the ground they stand on. Horses respect rocks. They go around him, or stop just short.

I always worry about the horses’ legs when they run like this, without any warm-up. Every buck could bring on a shortened stride, a head bob signalling strained tendons. I dread that shocked look on a horse’s face, incredulity that their body won’t work properly and they don’t know why. But horses will be horses. When the boys were footsore and puffy-legged a month ago they still hooned and played, just a little slower. I have to stop myself from calling out “WHOA” as they get closer to the fenceline and they’re still going flat out. Is this going to be the time they can’t stop? The wire fence would cut through their chests like cheese. But they feel distance, speed, space better than I can judge, always propping to a stop with their heads up and nostrils wide, red horses disappearing in a shroud of red dust.

I should have more faith in them both. Calais has an amazing ability to spin. He’ll pivot on his hindlegs while elevating his front end, spin a full 180° on the spot, then race off. This time he spun a full circle, just for the fun of it. Jonathon has never done that. I’ve never seen a horse do that of their own accord before, not in person. Certainly not a Thoroughbred. Every fibre of a racehorse is trained to go forward, forward, fast forward. Sideways movement is truly a revelation for a stiff, unyielding ex-racehorse. These days we do a lot of sideways with our two, it works wonders to calm them down when they’re hot.

Calais’ agility, quick turns and stops make me think that polo could be his calling. Whether he’d be willing to move like that under saddle for a human, I don’t yet know. I haven’t pushed him for much yet.

Johnny running in the paddock

Horses are capable of so much beauty and bravery when they express themselves naturally, freedom and strength in every muscle, tendon and bone… They speak it with all that they are. The ability to channel that joy under saddle would be magic. If nothing else, it is a privilege for us clunky humans to watch them play.


7 thoughts on “Autumn elevation

  1. Do you worry about their legs, all that horsing around (hehe). My sis had so many leg problems. They are pretty slight compared to the massive chests. But, horses survived in the wild before we (I) worried about their legs, so I suppose all is good!

    • Sadly Thoroughbreds have had the physical toughness bred out of them in the quest for more racing speed. Structural soundness comes after speed, so many physical defects have been bred in. If it goes fast and can win the dollars, who cares if it breaks down as a five year old?

      Other breeds have different issues but legs are a big concern for anyone who owns ex-racehorses – tendon injuries and joint stress are common in racing, given the legs are often weak to begin with and many of them race as two year olds, before they are physically mature. For Calais, who has poor leg structure to begin with and was raced a lot, it means everything else has to compensate. Lucky he is good at stopping! Legs that have gone through wire or even metal gates are a horrible sight 😦

      In the wild, a horse with a poor hooves or a leg injury wouldn’t be a horse for much longer 😉 So that weakness was naturally stripped from the gene pool. Wire fences are also a human-induced problem!

      • Sorry about the ranty/preachy reply! 😦
        The racing industry is something I have a lot of big opinions about – for better or worse! I love Thoroughbreds though and without the racing industry having so many cast-offs I would never have gotten both of them for free 😉

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