Do you know the feeling you get when finding out someone else speaks your language? Or when something you are looking forward to finally happens?
June 14th 2015 was a day I looked forward to for many reasons, and that was even truer during the night before. Instead of sleeping, I was laying down in my car, with the seats flattened, in my sleeping bag, silently watching Allegria de Los Cielos, while she was tied at the side of our trailer. Because of how she was behaving, I felt I could not rest and close my eyes, so I was looking forward to the sunrise, which was also the start time for our ride, the Descanso LD 25 spring 2015.
Circumstances like these may seem odd to many, but it is very familiar if you have ever ridden in endurance rides. This was another one of the many adventures I lived with this horse in the past six months. Allegria is a 9-year-old Mangalarga Marchador mare from Rancho de Los Cielos, Riverside CA. Her owners Therese Longo and Jake Martinez had her in training with me since January. In the past year we also had gone to Las Vegas, where we won the title of 2014 Mangalarga Marchador Champion Mare for the West Coast. We had gone to some rail shows, trail classes, a cowboy challenge and rode in a few parades, we may also go to the Rose Bowl Parade in 2016 with the AERC Parade Riders.
Getting back to our night to remember, unfortunately, it was not because of positive reasons, instead I was getting very concerned about the chance of not being able to participate in the ride that we have been training for.
At our arrival at base camp, I set up a great corral for Allegria, with an electrified fence, hoping that she would have been able to walk around and have a good night rest, before having to race the 25 miles of the ride. My plan did not work; Allegria was tied at the side of the trailer, and was literally rearing, bucking, kicking up in the air, and making everyone around us concerned about her safety. I cannot say that I was not concerned, but there was a detail that was very strange in this scene, Allegria was not pulling on the rope to which she was tied, and was not shaking the trailer, she was really trying to undo the rope without hurting herself. I decided to keep a very close watch on her, but did not want to untie her from the trailer. I was sadly looking at the large, comfortable and empty corral I had just built. I had let her loose in that space, as I do at the times when I need to rebalance a horse’s energy by communicating with each other through movement and space, the language of horses. I think that the feeling I get, when I hear someone speak Italian, is comparable to how horses feel when they can express themselves freely, and I often give them this opportunity, because feelings are important in any relationship, even between different species. It worked for a moment, but Allegria still did not consistently calm down when at the side of the trailer. At that point there was no chance I was going to put her in the corral for the night. At nighttime, while I would be asleep, she would have probably evaded, and I would not have been able to find her in the darkness.
Many thoughts came to me, about my relationship with Allegria and her behavior. She seemed to get more active in trying to evade the rope every time I was not in her eyesight, while if I stayed up close, she would rest her head in my hand. This was something that I had already experienced with her at events, we had very good times and even the worst time I had ever had at a show. It was the Fiesta of the Spanish Horse in Burbank, California, when we got disqualified because she decided to crow-hop in the ring, when the judges asked for canter.
So, on the night before our 25 miles ride, I was tired, sleepless and cold, but I still walked her twice, and at four I decided to put a light blanket on her, because the temperature had dropped to 48 degrees Fahrenheit. I was really ready for a nap, but sunrise was approaching, and so was our ride.
This time, her problem was being inexperienced about spending the night tied at the side of the trailer. In our past rides I had her in a corral, one time the electrified one, the next one it was a pipe corral. In both cases, I had the luxury of sleeping and being rested for the ride that was to begin.
At four fifteen I was still watching her, exploring the orange blanket, and hoping she would let me get a nap. Once again I was too optimistic. She was sniffing the blanket closure on her chest. It certainly had the smell of my hands, but the attention she was putting into the action had a purpose, I just did not know what it was. I could not see very well in the lack of light, but clearly saw the orange blanket slipping off her back, and Allegria carefully stepping out of it, like a girl would step out of a dress. I began laughing, and had to put my boots and sweater on to go out to see her. The blanket laid on the ground, the latch was untied and intact, the belly straps were still latched, and the front was damp. She clearly had found the way to open the front strap and express her wish not to be covered. I filled her nibble net with fresh hay and one more time hoped to get some rest while she was having her breakfast before the ride started. This time I fell asleep to wake up one hour later.
Enthusiasm makes miracles happen, we gathered up the energies, had a great ride, and finished in the top ten.
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