Friday, August 27, 2010

Riding Chewie

As I mentioned on my Narrawin blog, one of our new additions is Chewie, a 20 year old Paso Fino gelding. His proper registered name is Bachue Bravo and he originally hails from Florida, where he was shown in his younger days.

Chewie has lived at OliVaylle, in Victoria's far west. In 2000, he and a bunch of other Paso Finos came to Oz. When I worked at the farm, I used to take Chewie out riding. He was always a bit of a handful. The sort of horse you give to the visitor who brags about his riding skills (hehe, not for long...). But he could go all day, had endless gait, carried himself beautifully and was super-feather-light in the bridle. A horseman's horse, quirks and all.

Anyway, cutting a long story short, my friend Jorge is retiring and all his horses are going to have to go to new homes. I brought home a young stallion and will go back and bring a couple of mares, too. And Chewie, the white tornado, he came home with me as well.

We had grotty weather since coming home from the trip to the west, but last weekend, the clouds opened for a bit and I decided to see how Chewie was feeling. So here is the report of that first ride in oh, over four years:

I took out the white tornado today :-)

It was the first day of pleasant weather all week, and I'd been itching to grab Chewie and do a road test. So after harrowing a couple of paddocks and feeding up, I went and got him. He's quite friendly and walks up to me in the paddock, which is nice.

I tied him up the rail outside the shed. He looked at it as though it could turn into a snake any moment, and couldn't quite be convinced that the little puddle near it wasn't home to alligators. But he didn't pull back, although there was a fair bit of wriggling and at times he stood like a mountain goat, and with his eyeballs sticking out. Silly fool :-)

He looked at the saddleblankets with suspicion, and the saddle with disdain, and he bunched up and got all fidgety when I did the girth up. I did it up nice and slow, and he started breathing again. I walked him a few steps, but no explosion, so I tied him to the rail/snake again (with the alligators watching him!). Got the bridle out and decided to untie him to avoid problems. But he actually took the bit politely and voluntarily. Yeah, he fussed with it a bit, but didn't have issues. Got my hat and as I walked up to him he had that "oh-oh! I know what THAT means!" look on him.

I took him for a walk past the front of the house, past the stone lions and potplants (scary!), past Max and some haybales (NOT scary), then girthed him up again, asked if he was OK and got on. Surprisingly, although he had that glint in his eye, he stood still. Felt a bit like a stick of dynamite with a lit fuse as he walked off, but then sort of settled a bit. I was reminded just how light he is in the bridle :-) And then off we went.

He went really well. To begin with he was a bit cold and his step was very short and a bit choppy, but after a couple of minutes, he moved really well. The tracks around here are a bit sandy, so that's what he's used to.

And we motored along nicely. And because he's out of condition, I asked him several times to slow down and walk. And miracle of miracles, he did! Only for a minute maximum, before picking up speed again, but walk he did. On a loose rein, no less.

We did a round trip through the forest past Yvonne's place. She was just going out for a walk with her pup Nemo. I stopped and talked for a couple of minutes, and much to my surprise, Chewie was ok with that. He didn't even fidget. How's that??

Off we went again, past some heavy horses, two big grey part Percherons. Well, they had never seen a little grey horse move funny like that (though they have seen gaited horses, nothing that moves it's legs as fast as the grey tornado!!), and they got a bit stirred up. Chewie didn't dignify them with a more than a glance.

Down the road, coming home from the other direction, he was giving me hints that he wanted to go back, but must have realised we were heading in the right direction, as he suddenly picked up even more speed. Perfect gait. Sewing machine precision. Fantastic!

Then we came closer to my place, and Ramirez was moving about in the corner paddock. Suddenly, Chewie decided that something there looked awfully scary. Couldn't tell if it was Ramirez, the letterboxes on the corner, a treestump or the road signs. In any case, we had a Chewie moment: stop, turnabout, head off at high speed. Whoa! I had to correct direction and speed a couple more times, and then he figured all was ok and started hiking along again. All the while, I was laughing my head off, and calling him a silly old fool ;-)

But we did again manage to walk for a bit, in fact the rest of the way along the driveway. But not quite up to the scary tie up rail or the alligators in the puddle. So we compromised and stood a couple of metres away from it while I dismounted. The rail wasn't so scary after that, and he had no issues waiting while I brushed his (rather sweaty) coat, and then got his feed ready.

So there you go. First ride on Chewie in ages. Sadly, no photographic evidence. But we'll take some footage next time I take him out. All in all, I had the impression he actually enjoyed himself mostly. He was alert, forward, moving freely. Not fruit loopy at all. I really enjoyed the ride.

It's not often that I just go for a fun ride, mostly it's to work young horses. So this was like a special treat, especially as the weather was almost spring like. If he doesn't happen to have a "moment", he is a proud horse with capacity for many miles. He really carries himself well. He looks very different under saddle, compared to standing around in the paddock. Anyway, I'll forgive him a lot of "moments" for all the good sides he has. He's a fantastic horse, a bit like a highly tuned race-car with a a few quirks. And therein lies the fun. But I think I won't volunteer him for others to ride ;-)