Older horses need to be more horse - photo courtesy of proequinegrooms.com

Older horses need to be more horse – photo courtesy of proequinegrooms.com

Many moons ago, I somehow ended up being at the right place at the right time, and I ended up taking a Grand Prix dressage horse named Miguel home.

My goal was to learn the FEI movements on him, and perhaps one day string them together in a test.  I never showed Miguel, and never really wanted to, it’s just not my thing.

The first thing I learned was a big heaping pile of humility.  BIG.  Having ridden for the better part of three decades, I was on a horse that I could not get to canter from the trot.  For several months.  Luckily, we figured it out and eventually learned a boatload of other cool stuff!

The second thing that I learned was that older horses sometimes need to be more “horse”.  I decided that Miguel’s life in a show barn needed to end,  it was time he lived in a big paddock and was allowed to roll in the mud and buck and fart when needed.  This worked for him.

Items three through one million of the things I learned from Migs are too many to name, and are the true value of a well trained horse.  The movements, the cues, the angles, the fine tuning, the adjustments, the suppleness, the transitions, the seat, the lightness, the FEEL of riding.  You can’t read this stuff, watch it in a video, or have someone explain it to you, because you need to experience it.

The one million and first thing that I learned was how much I love trail riding and how the previous million lessons pale in comparison to just plain gratitude for being in the saddle.  Migs is the furthest thing from a spring chicken, but as long as I have owned him we have exercised six days a week.  At age 21 he was still doing the GP movements and was fit and sound as a fiddle.

Trail riding was always something we did in between sessions in the arena, and now it’s a daily routine.  After a severe health scare last year, trail riding became our only form of exercise.  Some days I walk alongside him, some days I ride him.  Other days I ask for a trot and we gallop along the hay fields and orchards.  Not on the bit, not in a frame, just galloping.  Because we can.

Trail riding -  photo courtesy of proequinegrooms.com

Because we can – photo courtesy of proequinegrooms.com

Every day that he remains healthy and happy is a blessing, a gift, a sacred amount of time that he and I go exploring together.  I carry a phone with me for safety reasons, but texts and calls are not answered.  I might play some music, and most days we share some conversation, some sugar cubes, and wander where we want to.  Sometimes other ladies from the barn come with us, and sometimes I long for the hour that we are out there alone.  The trail is our place to be present together, not worry about anything, and simply be.  It’s heaven.

Liv Gude
Professional Equine Grooms