I think I have truly been underestimating my horse.
When I got Pangea, I assumed she'd be up to some light work, some easy trails and low-level dressage, and maybe hunting if she could stay sound enough for it. She's had it very easy all summer thanks to her difficulty acclimating to our extreme heat (and I can't blame her there!), and I haven't really felt as though I've been able to put a real base of fitness on her. She has literally just not worked enough. Now that September is here, praise mighty Mother Nature and her changing ways, we are experiencing a bit of a break from the heat. Or well, we WERE... it is supposed to be 102 today. Barf!
Anyway, now that the weather is hopefully not going to be murderously hot anymore, I've been starting to put a light leg back up on Pangea. I wasn't holding out for much, to be honest - a bit of hunting was all I was really hoping for - but whatever hoodoo magic I've been trying to do for her comfort level seems to really have helped. She is currently casted with packing (which has done wonders for her through this latest wet-dry cycle), is partway through a course of Acetyl D, has had a few massages, and is getting Traumeel tabs daily, just to see what would happen. Something about this seems to be working - she is going into our rides completely sans slow-hitchy warmup, and has energy and power to spare. She usually starts out feeling a bit like a tin soldier, but not anymore. Something is working, and working well. With that big question mark squared away for now, I can start really focusing on fitness and training, and figure out exactly what my plans are with her.
On Saturday, I finally had the chance to go roading with the local hunt. In this part of the (extremely hot) country, we road in the summertime at the kennels, cub in the late fall, and hunt from November to April. It has been too hot thus far in the summer to take her out with them, so I waited until now to do it. Of course, it ended up being another 100 degree day... blarf. Will summer ever end?? Not to be daunted, I swam her on Friday, bathed her all up.... and then watched her melt into a giant, rolling, filthy sweatball as the heat of the day caught up to her. So much for that. I had to get up early early on Saturday to give her a second bathe because it was entierly pointless to try and keep her clean. She lives to be disgusting... it is her sole mission in life to get as sweaty, bleachy, and filthy as possible, every single day. Why I even bother to clean her at all is beyond me, it is pointless!
After her bath and cleaning early in the morning, we rolled out at around 8pm, arriving right at 8:30 at the kennel property. She unloaded fine, ate some hay, hung around, was completely unfazed by the hounds... but LOST IT when a second trailer pulled in to unload their horses. You'd think she had never seen horses before in her whole life, ever. She completely insane! (Turns out she's in heat.... so there you are!) Thankfully, the pawing and screaming fits quickly passed, and she settled back in to munching her hay. Once mounted, I hung around with the other riders in the shade until the first pack of hounds was brought out, then waited anxiously to see what her reaction to a group of running, bouncing, baying hounds would be.
And... it was nothing. She didn't care. At all.
The hounds know not to come up and stiff the horses, but the presence of a new horse was a bit much for some of them, and they had to check her out. She didn't care, and didn't so much as even swish her tail as they sniffed all around her heels. (They were of course given a quick reprimand and backed off, but it was good to see that things like that don't bother her one bit.) They popped out from the brush, they crashed around making noise, they cam running past several times, and still she didn't care. What a good girl!
The best part of the whole ride started between pack walks. While the group of girls was being put up and the group of boys was being rounded up, the riders all went up to the jump field and popped over a few fences. I hadn't jumped Pangea once in the seven months that I've owned her - not ONCE - so I hesitated a bit, not sure if I really wanted to join in. What if jumping made her sore, or what if she was completely nuts? I had no idea what she would do, or if she'd even be able to hold up to jumping at all. But she's been doing so well and feeling so good, and there was a crossrail right in the middle of the field calling my name, so I figured what the heck, let's give it a try.
First attempt, at the trot? Deer jumping bounceflail with me bouncing out of my irons in awkward confusion. Okay... let's try that again. Take two, at the canter... a beautiful, quiet, rhythmic jump. Sweet! A few more times produced the same. Double sweet! Back out in the woods, where there were a series of small, scary stone walls and other assorted jumps? Jumped them all, no hesitations. She did everything with enthusiasm and energy to spare. She was a MACHINE.
I've been missing out. And I've been underestimating her abilities. AND I've underestimated her soundness as well - on Sunday morning, we had a pretty hard dressage school, and she felt absolutely wonderful. She has no stiffness, soreness, or anything to note. If anything, she felt better than ever.
Holy moley. Do I possibly have a candidate for an event horse after all?
I think I haven't given this mare a chance to prove herself, simply because the memory of Gogo has been blocking any sort of forward progress towards showing again. What I want and crave in a show horse is Gogo, period. She was my perfect eventing counterpart... she had it all. She was flashy, stunning in the dressage, effortless in stadium, bold and catty on XC. She was quick and smart and surefooted, and despite her opinionated ways, when we were on fire we ALWAYS won. I loved that partnership, loved the connection we had. I was so proud of her, and I loved to show her off. She was - and still is - my perfect match, despite being gone. Her memory is still vibrant and alive and painful, and I can't take down the bar that I have set for myself and my standards. It has been impossible to consider anything other than her as the ultimate partner, and I have avoided anything that might challenge that idea.
I think this all boils down to the fact that no one will ever be Gogo, and that is hard to disassociate from, simply because I have put her on a perfect pedestal and unfairly compare everything to her. I've not even considered showing Pangea at all simply because I didn't think she was fancy or catty enough to win on a national level, like Gogo did. If I want to be honest with myself, if I am going to show at recognized shows, I want to win them. They are expensive and time consuming, and I don't want to do it unless I stand a good chance at winning. It makes me sound like a horrible snob, and maybe I am. But I'm not the kind of person who wants to buy a fancy made horse just to win ribbons, and I'm not the kind of person who is power hungry enough to do anything just to win. (Clearly I would have bought another fancy pants horse had I really wanted one!) I want a talented animal that I bring along myself from a humble beginning that becomes the perfect partner over time, one that I can mold and create and build up a relationship with as the years and levels go by. I guess it still basically boils down to the fact that I want Gogo. I want Gogo and nothing will ever compare to her perfection in my mind. I can't let it go.
But that doesn't mean I should automatically write Pangea off as a potential show horse. Sure, she's not flashy, but she is consistent in everything that she does - something that Gogo NEVER was. Why couldn't Pangea show locally? Why couldn't we give it a try? If she keeps surprising me like she has been, who knows? Maybe there is more to her abilities than I ever imagined, and I just have to take the time to really believe in her and cultivate that to its true potential. And I haven't. I have loved this mare and not really believed in her at the same time. Her only real flaw, when I peel away the layers, is that she is not Gogo. And what kind of a flaw is that? I could, by extension, say that Gogo's only flaw was that she was not Pangea. It is nonsensical, and I am ready to throw that logic in the trash.
It has felt very good to really sit down and think about all of this. Building a relationship with a new horse is a journey, especially when one has exceedingly painful equine baggage from the past. I'm still not right, even though it has been nearly a year since I lost Gogo. I don't ever think I will be right. But that doesn't mean I should let other opportunities pass me by, simply because they are not Gogo. And from this point on, I intend not to.
By the way, I had the cut the tattered ears from the new (meaning 2 week old) flymask, but it is still alive...