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Thursday, July 11, 2013

The case of the growing (and shrinking) horse and other observations

We are going to take a break from biology and talk about more lighthearted things! 

Which doesn’t mean *I* am taking a break from the biology.  I’m currently working on a muscle post since I became curious about the optimal time for muscle “development” post work when both me and Funder noticed increased muscle on our horses 2-3 weeks post significant ride (80 miles for her, 105 miles over 2 days for me)......So wondering if the visible changes corresponded to some biological mechanism.  And it turns out that muscle is immensely more complicated than I was taught and there are WAY more questions than answers......and I’m convinced at this point that I really should abandon this whole “food safety” career direction and dive into an equine exercise physiology, reproduction, and epidemiology career.....but I don’t even know what that LOOKS like except I could happily spent my entire life researching and writing about those subjects and live in relative poverty doing so and have zero regrets. 

ANYWAYS.  We are NOT going to talk about biology or physiology and upon further reflection, the above paragraph should be cut entirely from this post for the sake of “general interest”, but fortunately this blog has no “editing process” and so the Writer of this blog has decided to keep it in, and the Reader of the blog can skip merrily through it, toe touching down to sample for their interest, moving on to some other well-written-well-thought-out blog that exists at someother URL. 

Right.  Where were we?

I leave for Disneyland Saturday morning and me and the boyfriend have decided to unplug as much as possible for our 4 day trip (we are doing the tourist thing in Long Beach and LA in addition to Disneyland) so likely this is one of the last posts you will see from me in a while.  And....likely when I return I will be in the middle of that mood that is best described as:  “I’m doing Tevis in 3 days and I’m pretty sure I’m not going to live to see it because I’ll have a heart attack between now and then and next time I decide to do Tevis I’ll just run it because then it’s only MYSELF that I’m ruining, not my horse that is probably doing to do just fine and thinks I’m being completely silly and wondering why I’m hyperventilating into her neck all the time”

Ah yes.  What you have to look forward to Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday! 

Disclaimer: I have now realized, approximately 400 words into this post that I *might* have had too much caffeine this morning.  Which means I’ll have an anxiety attack this afternoon, in which I wail and gnash my teeth and swear off any sort of stimulants in the future, no matter how productive they make me. 

Moving on. 

In 2009 at Tevis, Farley was 14.2 and carried 168 pounds
In 2010 at Tevis, Farley was 14.1 and carried 167 pounds

Both years I used the same saddle.  In 2013, the saddle I’m using (thanks Irish horse!) is substantially lighter - probably half the weight? and total weight should be closer to 140-150 pounds.  Yeah!!!!!  I rode in my Aussie saddle the other day and while it is comfy and is HEAVY.  Like....I-don’t-know-if-I-can-saddle-my-own-horse-at-vet-checks heavy.  Will work on that after Tevis.....

The real shocker isn’t the lighter weight that Farley will be carrying this year compared to the past.  It’s that somehow Farley is now 15.1 hands. 


On the Tevis entry form they always ask for the horse height and weight.  The weight is usually somewhere between 800-900 pounds but obviously the height depends entirely on how much effort I felt like it was to put my foot in the stirrup at our last ride. 

I don’t actually know how tall Farley is.  She was advertised as 15 as think.  She has a large wither so it’s a little deceiving. At some point I will actually measure her....I suspect she is just under 15 hands.  Which does nothing for my ego since swinging a leg over her from the ground bareback is still an impossibility (darn my short legged, big thigh genetics combined with her “well sprung ribs”!)

Watching Farley run around is one of my favorite hobbies and so as you may guess, my fav part of heat conditioning is watching her float across the arena at various gaits.

The other day a very pissed off Farley alternately did a flying trot down the long side of the arena, and did pretty circles at a canter as she realized the 20 min session had been extended to 25 minutes (and she was BORED and in disbelief that I would continue this pointless exercise and thus decided to “show me”....). 

It was really interesting to see that, especially saddled with a crupper and a rump rug, she really tucks her hind end and generates power from her hind end now.  This was NOT her way of going when I bought her in 2007. We started doing dressage at the end of 09 and continued for about 1 1/2 years.  Since then she haven’t done any serious dressage for 2+ years, not even a weekly (or monthly) “tune up”.  But watching her fly around the arena, I can still see the difference.  The flying trot and the canter are both being initiated and driven by the hind end, and when I ask for more, she responds with a more active hind end and drive from the back forward. 

Apparently that decision to focus on dressage for 18 months really did have lasting positive effects, that continued even after her losing the visible “static” effects (top line, hind end muscling) of the dressage.

I did have a revelation yesterday that she looks an awful lot like a quarter horse right now.  Not the bulky “Impressive” bred HYPP halter yearling monster, but that all-round smaller ranch horse that you see running around cutting cattle and such.  I guess actually tucking your butt and getting down to business, as well has having a half grown in roached mane will do that. 

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of quarter horses and stock horses - their personalities don’t meld well with mine - but I do envy their apparent ease of flying lead changes and they tend to be easier to get off the forehand than my under-rumped, on the forehand arab that preferentially travels with her nose in the air, or at least as high as her wither. So it was with some curiosity that I watched Farley travel with her nose and neck stretched down, coming under herself at a canter, all on her own. 

Not saddled she still runs around like a freaky arab, but saddled she apparently has decided that long and low is the way to go.

1 comment:

  1. Fee *stands* rump high (by more than an inch, butt-to-withers).

    She *travels* rump low (by more than TWO inches), especially at the trot, even on the trail, even at the finish of a tough 50.

    Dressage is definitely the reason. Hooray!


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