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Livin’ Large: December 2011

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By Katherine Walcott, Illustration by Jean Abernethy

“Go big or go home.”
Anonymous

Rodney is my first skyscraper horse.

Initially, we were told he was 17 hands and 2 inches, or 5′ 10′ at the shoulder. I had seen him ridden years before, so I knew he was large, but not that large. I am not a fan of excessive size in horses, particularly in Thoroughbreds. I am not a fan of anything built so far outside design specifications. The prepurchase vet measured him at 17 hands and 1/2 inch. Engineering practice holds that a measurement exactly halfway between is rounded toward the even number. Over time, the up-rounds and down-rounds average out. That means I should say 17h 0″. I try to avoid hyperbole, but I can’t resist. Rodney is 17h 1″.

When I was a tall but scrawny college student, I aced equitation classes on a 15h 3″ Thoroughbred. I evented a friend’s 13h 2″ pony. I looked like Ichabod Crane, but I wasn’t too heavy for her. Twenty-plus years of marriage to an outstanding amateur chef have added much-needed poundage. I finally have a figure that would have filled out a toga. But I no longer look good on the little ones. On Rodney, I look good. We fit.

Our first adjustment was to add a third rail to the wooden post and rail sections of pasture fencing. After construction but before horse arrival, it looked like overkill. Who could possibly need a 5′ high fence? Then he arrived. Yup, he really is that big.

As reported earlier, I’ve taught him to lower his head for halter/bridle management. I wouldn’t bother with a smaller horse. Besides, it’s good for his psyche to get his head down out of the clouds whenever possible.

I keep a small plastic stool nearby when I groom. He dislikes brushes near his face. When he giraffes, I can reach but have to strain, which does not contribute to an atmosphere of harmony. Instead, I hook the stool over with a foot and step up without missing a stroke. He gives up fast.

Or so I thought.

Between drafting this in October and posting it in December, we hit yet another low point. When the sniveling was done, we reorganized his feed and put him back on gastric medication. As a result, he is relaxing in places we didn’t even know he was tense. He is now able to raise his snoot completely out of my reach. I’m so pleased with the increasing flexibility in his back and neck that I just laugh as he waves his nose about and I flail ineffectually for purchase. That’ll teach me to be cocky.

When people hear his height, they say it’s a long way to the ground. I find that when falling off, it’s always a long way to the ground, no matter the size of the horse.

We bought larger blankets. However, we would have needed new blankets for any horse. During her intervening singles phase, Mathilda laid claim to every blanket in the barn. When she was young and sassy, she sneered at blankets. As she grew older, she grew more comfort lovin’. Now, on cold nights/warm days, she has talked us into swapping out intermediate blankets/sheets between her heavy night blanket and the full frontal of mid-day. On super cold nights, she gets double blanketed. In my next life, I want to come back as one of my horses.

Written by Virtual Brush Box

December 22, 2011 at 12:41 pm

One Response

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  1. I hunted a 17:2-ish Holsteiner the last couple of seasons, a free lease from a friend who was tired of feeding him and afraid to ride him. Delightful horse, although with a wicked spook both under saddle and on the ground. Celestino, aka Jelly Beano.

    But when I tore my Achilles last March and sent the horse back to his owner while I recovered, folks asked if I’d be fetching him again once hunting season started this year. I thought about it, and finally decided that the combination of HUGE (I’m 5’4 1/2″) and SPOOKY meant more effort than I was ready to expend. Granted, I loved leading the field on this gorgeous big bay guy, but the humiliation of hopping around, lowering stirrups, trying to find big rocks, etc. was more than I wanted to repeat. Now I’m hunting a 15:2 PMU baby, much easier for those of us who are altitude impaired.

    Nancy Williams Ambrosiano

    December 26, 2011 at 7:19 pm


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