Hey All, a great introduction to a great horse and rider team.
Please try to send me your Mouthy Monday submissions...if you tell me to go to your blog and pick something out it's just not going to happen....
After begging my mom for a young horse, she finally relented when I was fifteen and said we would look only at saddle broke mares. I had fallen in love with the Spanish breeds - the Paso Fino in particular - years before but their popularity at the time made their prices unattainably high. I happened to find a ranch liquidating their stock with one unbroke gelding for sale and my mom said we could look at him. When we pulled up the drive, the owner, Sue, had him standing in front of the barn. He was a dark pewter color, gleaming in the sun, ears pricked, nostrils flared, with a haughty gleam in his eye. It was hopeless from the moment we saw him. She told us his name was El Corazon – "the heart" in Spanish - and he had already stolen mine. I led him up and down the driveway a few times – he nudged me with his nose and jumped sideways when the copy of his papers in my hand rustled. “We’ll take him!” my mom announced. She could see that he was the one. He was delivered just a few hours later (giving us barely enough time to stop at the ranch store and buy him a burgundy halter with brass fittings). To this day I hear Spanish trumpets heralding as I remember him being backed out of the trailer into our driveway. Sue handed me the rope. “He’s all yours.” It remains one of the happiest days of my life.
After months of leading, playing games and grooming him proudly, I first tried riding him in January, 1993. It was the day of my grandfather's funeral, and wanting distraction and perhaps all feeling a bit reckless, we decided on the way home in the car that I should get on him. I hadn't been working with him as often through the winter, but we reasoned that I'd at least have a soft landing in the deep snow that covered our pasture. It was a family project: my mom held him, my dad boosted me up onto his back...and I immediately went flying through the air. Coro hunched up and launched me off before I even had my leg all the way over. I landed softly, sure enough...about five feet from the tractor's plow blade. Coro knocked my mom down and gave her a black eye. It was a mess, but it was certainly a distraction, and it gave us something to laugh about, even years later. I didn't get on him again that day, or even soon after. I understood that he wasn't ready, and re-focused on his ground work.
I spent the spring saddling, unsaddling (I had a synthetic dressage saddle that I only recently retired), long-lining, attempting to lunge him (he never got the hang of that as he always wanted to be as close to me as possible and couldn't understand why I kept sending him away from me), leading him through mazes of ground poles and leaning over his back. We played hide & seek and I got him to follow me over ditches and small jumps in the pasture. I remember one day when he trotted alongside me as I jogged down the driveway to get the mail. It made me so happy that he liked my company and wanted to be near me when he had freedom of choice. I took him on walks around the neighborhood and my rancher neighbors would chide "When are you going to ride that horse?"
We did have some setbacks and mishaps. Coro was a handful. After breaking halters, ropes and hitching posts I settled on not tying him, and he was spooky and stubborn - simply, a four-year-old. I remember a lot of evenings sitting in his corral crying, wondering if I really ever would ride him. We considered sending him to a Paso Fino trainer in Farmington, NM, but when I saw the dim little stall he'd be kept in and imagined anyone but me on his steely silver back I couldn't go through with it. I kept dreaming about what his canter would feel like. I read Dominique Barbier's book, Dressage for the New Age, which I'd ordered through inter-library loan and was unlike anything else I'd encountered. It talked about riding visually, letting the horse's personality and mindset guide the training, and it inspired me to press on through the frustration. Training Coro myself, however unconventional and flawed, remains one of my proudest achievements.
By the time I got on him that summer, it was completely uneventful and our real partnership began. He was so comfortable with me on his back that he would startle when I dismounted or the few times he "accidentally" ejected me. He would look at me with alarm as if to say "What are you doing down there?!" Our rides got longer and longer, and soon I was taking him for gallops on the clay where I'd once raced my pony with my friend and her Tennessee Walker. Cantering my silver horse became a reality at last.
There was only one thing missing...he didn't gait. I didn't know enough about it to know if he was gaiting or not in hand, but I knew what it felt to ride and Coro was definitely trotting. I talked to several Paso Fino trainers who insisted that wasn't possible - all Paso Finos gaited naturally! Well, I had his registration papers and I had seen his sire in person, so unless he was switched with another colt at birth, Coro was 100 % Paso Fino and thus, an anomaly. I really didn't mind. I rode him in a special bitless bridle with double reins: one set attached to the sides of the headstall and one under the chin. Coro has always had a beautiful carriage and I think starting him in the Paso Fino headgear was a good foundation, even if he never took a step of corto or largo. He was still perfect in my eyes.
Coro has never been an easy horse, but he's my horse. First on his back and still mainly the only person to have ridden him. My perpetual favorite, always making me smile with his sweet expression and playful attitude. We grew up together, trail riding and taking dressage lessons. One of my best memories of him is riding bareback during a thunderstorm - not the smartest thing, but I was determined to ride that day and we traced gleaming circles in the wet pasture under dark flickering clouds. He was trusting and unafraid - it felt as if we were part of the sky. Our journey together, like his coat changing from pewter to platinum, is ever transforming.
My favorite picture - he looks so big and bold, his dapples like lightning on his hindquarters