October 15, 2013
We have been very blessed this past week with some remarkable fall weather: warm cloudless days replaced by crisp starry nights. Ample sun and enough green in the grass that one’s thirst to be outside cannot be satisfied.
It’s a wonderful time for reflection on the farm. Our yearlings have been sold (except the few that sell at Fasig-Tipton next week) or shipped to their next phase. Our work developing their bodies and minds complete.
I love the analogy that yearlings this time of year are like high-schoolers graduating to college. College for our equine athletes is the process of being taught how to be ridden. Not only learning to trust a human on their back, but also how to respond to signals from a different bit, from a shift in the rider’s weight; and from a different routine. Their pasture turn out will likely be more limited now as they translate their herd instincts to their new environment on race day and at the racetrack.
Unfortunately, I have not spent time teaching a horse to be ridden, however I have asked a lot of questions with those patient practitioners and am very thankful for the insight they have provided. Some will “line drive” horses, where they will walk behind them on long lines and walk them around the farm, teaching them to respond to signals from both sides of the bit. Other’s will do the same process in the lunging ring. What I find fascinating is that while each one’s practice is unique they all maintain that patience and understanding with the young horses is of utmost importance.
Our hope is the time spent in the fields, running, playing, and competing stays with them; much like my parents hoped their lessons stayed with me when I left for college. Such that when they enter the paddock on race day they come in proud and focused, their confidence apparent but not distracting. For me the race is the manifestation of their herd dynamics, played out on the track for us to be inspired. We work everyday to reinforce their confidence.
On the farm, the yearling’s stalls will be cleaned and freshened for the weanlings to move over next month. The fields will get a rest as the crew awaits next year’s class.