Today I woke up and decided today was the day. It was time to step up Dulce’s training. We were going to go on our first field trip away from home that had nothing to do with a vet visit thank goodness. Butterflies swarmed my stomach wondering if he was up to it. It seemed not too long ago I wondered if he would make it through the night, and now I was hooking up the trailer for our first adventure.
How far were we going? Only a quarter of a mile down to the neighbor’s arena. Dulce and trailers aren’t friends, and to be honest a lot of thoroughbreds never get the chance to learn how to be calm in a trailer. Often they are tranquilized first before loading. The trip from Kentucky and making him leave his best buddy didn’t help him out at all. Now Dulce needs to learn that even though we go somewhere in the trailer he gets to come back home and be with his buddies. It took awhile for Chaco to learn this, and I imagine Dulce will need a bit of time as well.
I headed up to the pasture to get Dulce, and we had a nice chat on the way to the trailer. It must have helped, because he loaded up beautifully and remained calm. Off we went to the neighbor’s, and when I opened the window all bets were off; chaos erupted. He pawed at the floor of the trailer that the whole thing shook as if the earth quaked. I dropped the ramp, and he lost sight of me. He panicked and he tried to turn around in the slant. Once he saw me, he calmed down a bit. I realized quickly where I went wrong. I didn’t drop down the rear window, so he could see me. Note to self: Never make that mistake again!
My sweet, calm horse didn’t exit the trailer; instead I had a racehorse on my hands. On the muscle he pranced alongside me with nostrils flared. The cat took one look at him and ran as fast as possible in the opposite direction. Me? I had the biggest grin on my face. For some reason I love seeing and working with a horse like this. Maybe it is because this is known to me; it reminds me of the old days with my grandpa and all of our racehorses. Saddle work was out of the question today; groundwork was it.
Once we got into the arena, all he wanted to do was run, so I lunged him. He made his, “Weeeeeee” sound, tossed his head all around, bucked and settled down into a fast canter. We worked all over the arena, and instead of showing signs of tiring out, he seemed to gain more energy. Better hooves, better gut and better teeth created a fiery Dulce.
I watched him run around me in awe. He has such raw power, such agility, and beautiful, graceful, strength. We fell into a rhythm together as we danced our way to the north end of the arena where the steers are. My neighbor is a roper, so he has several steers. Being a bit nervous he stood behind me at first. I stepped forward towards them and then Dulce took a step behind me. He trusts me. Good.
At first I wondered if I should even bring him down here alone, but Chaco is on sabbatical for a couple of weeks as he heals from a bruised hoof. I didn’t want to bring Harley and leave Chaco alone, so I decided to do this solo with Dulce. I thought it might be a good way for the two of us to learn how to trust one another, to lean on one another, and to feel secure in new and different situations.
He spent about ten minutes checking them out before I asked him to walk off. We began lunging again, and again he was hotter than heck. He kept trying to tilt his nose to the outside of the circle dropping his shoulder in, so I kept asking for him to tilt it in towards the circle. After about ten minutes, he had it down. We then worked the other direction doing the same thing. Intermittently, he would call out for the other two before bringing his attention back to me. I’m not sure who got the bigger workout; him or me, but by the end of it we were both tuckered out and relaxed.
We walked back down to the steers, and I felt pretty good about our first adventure together. Maybe it was our second if you consider the trip from Kentucky to Colorado, but whatever way it is we did okay. We had our bumps, which I fully expected. I realized he may be five, but he’s more like a two year old. I kept stroking his neck, and finally his full attention was on me. We’ll get there.
Before I loaded him I made sure that back window was open. After the fourth try, he was in, and a lot calmer this time around. I drove us home, and the other two were at the fence waiting for him. This time no turning around in the slant. He did paw a couple of times, but as soon as I put my hand on him, he calmed down.
Not an hour later did the neighbor to the south of us receive his yearly cattle. Each year over a hundred head come down to this property for a few months. I got Dulce desensitized to them just in time.
Next time I take Dulce to this arena, I’m getting on. Today was schooling. As we cooled out together, I thought about Dulce’s sire. I loved watching him race. He ran with such smarts and easy power. His turn of foot always intrigued me as to what it felt like to ride. I asked the two jockeys that rode him, two of my most favorite jockeys, what their experiences were. Julie Krone said he was sensitive, smart, agile, and really easy to ride. Gary Stevens said the following:
I saw how Dulce turned it up the moment he was out of his home environment, and I can’t wait to hang on and enjoy the ride.