Monday, February 21, 2011

Dr. Metro and Mr. Meteor

I own two horses. One is a gentle, slow-moving, 8 year old thoroughbred with the body of a horse much older. His racing days are over, but his body still shows the wear of racing. He has bad knees, makes all kinds of grunting noise when he is asked to trot. He is retired and he knows it. He only does what he has to, and that is usually under protest. He is suitable for beginning riders. I would not hesitate to put a five-year old child on his back, because he won’t go any faster than a slow walk, if he has anything to say about it.

My other horse is a lightning bolt. Only riders with experience dare get on his back, because he is a rocket, and you better be prepared to go fast. He is perfectly sound, and full of himself. He can go from 0 to 40MPH at a drop of a hat.

My dilemma is that both of my horses occupy the same body.

On most days he is just Metro. When I ride him it is at an unbearably slow pace. He is in no hurry to get anywhere, and when I ask him to go faster, it usually results in a toss of the head and some equine four-letter word muttered towards the fat guy on his back.

Then there are days when he is Metro Meteor, Stakes horse. Winner of $300,000 and still wanting to add on to that total. He changes personalities faster then Clark Kent can take off his glasses. It is like he can smell competition in the air, and wants to be a part of it.

After the last Fun Day competition at the barn, when Metro turned into Metro Meteor and we had to scratch him from the events, I was determined to take a different approach to this one.

We arrived at the barn early. I was not planning to ride in any events, but I was hoping to, depending on what horse showed up. I was hoping to enter the trot competition in the barrels and poles. I think Metro would do well in the trotting class, where as the trotting class would be beneath Metro Meteor.

It all started out well, with my plan of slowly acclimating him to the day’s activities. I walked him out of his stall, and down the gravel road in front of the barn on his lead line. So far, so good. This is farther then we got last month, before he got the whiff of competition and morphed into a racehorse. We walked around the far end of the arena and entered through the door to watch the horses warming up.

Still calm. Last month he was kicking out at anyone who passed close to him, but today, his head is down, and he is taking it all in stride. We walked through the aisle way and out the other side with no fatalities. This might just be the day.

We headed over to the outdoor arena where there are more horses warming up. I will get him in there and trot him in a few circles and see how he does. We headed into the arena, and then…
Metro began to change.

It was like “Bad Moon Rising” was playing on the jukebox and the Dr. Pepper guy was turning into a werewolf. (American Werewolf in London reference.)

His tail went straight up in the air, his mane stood on end, and his winter hair puffed out like I just pulled him out of the dryer. His neck and chest swelled to twice their normal size.

And he began to dance. He did the dance that only REAL racehorses know how to do. How to jog in place and not actually go anywhere.

This horse that just 2 seconds earlier, was dragging his nose on the ground a step behind me, was now 2 times his normal size and floating like a butterfly on the end of my lead line.

He was beautiful. I spotted my wife on the other side of the fence, and just had to yell out “Hey Wendy… Look what I have!”

The other people in the arena, probably sensing that I had too much horse on the end of my rope, reminded me that there is a round pen right across the drive.
They didn’t know that my horse lives here and we are perfectly aware that there is a round pen, but it was a heck of an idea anyway.
So out of the arena I led my dancing horse.

We entered the round pen, took his halter off and pointed to the fence. This is his cue to walk to the edge of the round pen and await further instructions.
On any other day, the further instructions would be me pointing the direction I wanted him to go, and trying to get him to go faster in that direction.

But Metro already new what direction he wanted to go and how fast he wanted the pace, and that pace was FAST.
He did a couple of bounces 4-feet off the ground and then took off like a bottle rocket.
I have cantered him in the round pen before, usually with a lot of protest from Metro, but this was a whole new gear for him.

He was running his own private Kentucky Derby, only in a 60-foot circle and I was in the middle of it.
He was going around that round pen so fast and digging in so hard, I was afraid he would lose his footing and go sliding into the wall like Apollo Ono after he just clipped a South Korean’s skate.

I didn’t know what to do. I thought about trying to slow him down or change his direction, but by the time my brain told my feet to step in his path, he was just a blur going by me. So I just let him run.
I glanced up at the other riders, who by this time had stopped what they were doing to watch this crazy horse set the short track record at Bristol.

If I can’t slow him down, maybe I can stop him. I tilted my head, and looked at his butt. This is his cue to turn in and come to me in the center of the round pen.
Which he did… at full speed. My heart stopped as he came to a sliding stop right in front of me.

I scratched his head and looked up at the people watching. They were now looking at us and talking, and even though I couldn’t hear, I knew what they were saying.
“He’s not planning on riding that horse, is he?”

Not today, he is too much horse for me.

Metro Meteor may never come down to my level of competition, but if my skills ever get close to his, we are going to win some races.

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