Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Suspicions confirmed

When I set out to sell Otto, I wrote a fairly long, detailed ad. If you're on the PNER yahoo list, you probably saw it. Contrary to old-time horse trading practice, I tried to be honest about him: He has great ground manners, but he can be unsure of himself under saddle. He is nimble as a mountain goat but bullheaded as a… bull. He is 7 years old physically but immature mentally. And, oh yeah, he was born to do endurance.

Funny to me that his buyer had never done an endurance ride. He is not the kind of horse I would recommend learning on. But there you have it. Laurie had liked the looks of him from the first time she saw him. The fact that the first time she saw him was about a week after I bought him is just icing on the cake.

Brian and I took lessons from Laurie for a while before life (and Brian's seemingly random work schedule) got in the way. We've kept in touch on and off (life remains crazy), and she was interested in buying the beast.

[There is something that I should acknowledge before we go any further: I realize that most of what is "wrong" with Otto is a direct reflection of shortcomings in my riding. Some was nature and a lot was nurture. On the nature side is his hot, high-spirited breeding, his intelligence, his quirk bump (if you subscribe to TTEAM horse phrenology) and his tenacity when it comes to testing behavior. On the nurture side was my over-reliance on my hands. Bad hands make bad horses, folks.]

Laurie took him on a trial, and loved him. She would leave me messages or send emails about his hair-raising behavior: tantrums both going in and coming out of the arena, choosing his own trail with no regards for her hands or seat (this is a horse who is happy to run headlong even when his nose is touching your knee), calling to every horse he saw, hollowing out, snatching the bit, kicking, bucking, rearing and flat out refusing to do circles and figure-eights… seriously. But at the end of the message she'd always tell me that she loved him.

Between her, Ernie, Annie, and Heather's sister, Hope, I've come to accept that some people just like difficult, high-energy horses. They find exhilaration in what I find exhausting.

So back to my suspicions. Last week I got an email from Laurie that proved to me that Otto really was the endurance wunderkind I'd suspected. She told me:

• She took him to the Oregon Outback ride to do a 50 (which I've never done with him or any other horse).

• Because of a serious tantrum they started 30 minutes after anyone else.

• They still came in 6th.

Now, I already knew that Otto came with a "search and destroy" feature. He hand-galloped 20 of the 25 miles of Mt. Adams last year for that very reason… and also because I couldn't stop him. (See above, haha.) What I did not know, but suspected, was that the longer distance would give him more opportunity to catch up. The problem with a 25-mile ride is that (duh) you only have 25 miles to work with. A winning ride time at a PNER LD in the mountains is usually just under three hours. If you're 30 minutes behind the last rider, there just isn't time to do anything about it.

At 50 miles, a slightly above-average pace means something. :)

So anyway, I'm proud of Otto for finishing a 50 and proud of Laurie for surviving at any distance, especially a 50. I'm a little sad that I didn't get to be the one to bring out Otto's full suspected potential. On the other hand, part of me is relieved that I am not the one riding him through the tantrums anymore.

Laurie took Otto to the beach after the ride. I think 50 miles, followed by deep sand, finally tuckered him out. (Photo by Laurie.)


In other news, I got my 250-mile badge in the mail today. Yay me!

Here's to another 250 on a horse I really like. Fingers crossed—the cast comes off on Friday afternoon.


  1. I hear you LOUD AND CLEAR (loudly and clearly?)! I did more than 2,000 miles with a horse who scared me (because I am stubborn/dumb)...and when I got Fiddle, I stopped riding Toad. Because as *nasty* as she can be, Fee isn't dangerous or scary (to me). She is a fun ride, because I can relax and enjoy the scenery and still get home before dark. Not in 6th place, probably. But who needs top ten when you can have fun?

  2. 250 mile badge? Where does that come from? I guess I haven't made it that far yet! :D