Next stable. We went there to go see a 4 year old dark bay stallion. He had this amazingly cute hind sock that just made him perfect.
We took him out and saw him running free, but there was something off about his hindlegs in canter, so we took him back in. And that’s when Bieke and I started opening stall doors (lol) and there he was. You guessed it, Big Red.
This really gorgeous, huge, chestnut stallion. You wouldn’t believe how stunning and calm he looked. He just lifted his head and stared at me and Bieke. And when I walked in, he sniffed me, and then continued nibbling his straw, completely unperturbed.
Bieke and I just looked at each other and nodded. We wanted to see this guy move! So I took him out. He just calmly followed me out and didn’t put a foot wrong. When we let him loose in the arena he started floating and we both just melted. He wasn’t used to groundwork, but he responded so well to what we were asking him, it showed promise. We definitely wanted to see him ridden. We couldn’t see anything wrong with his gaits, actually we couldn’t wait to sit them! So we brought him back to the stable, saddled him up, which he stood perfectly still for. And his usual rider warmed him up. Then Bieke got on.
I’m not going to lie. I was a bit apprehensive. I’d never ridden a stallion before. And the way I’ve been trained around horses, stallions were big and wild and kind of scary. But I had just spent the summer around two of Bieke’s stallions and they weren’t scary. So as I stood there watching the rider and her work with him, I just told myself “He might be a stallion, but first of all, he’s a horse.”
So I put on my big girl pants and I got on this mighty steed.
Suffice it to say, I was sold.
We went back to the stable and showered him, took pictures of his legs and hooves to send to some friends for second opinions. My mom jokingly said “I guess we’ll be going home with a big red horse huh”.
And then we left for lunch.
Every single horse we saw afterwards we were just comparing to the Big Red horse. They didn’t stand a chance. But still, we needed to see what else was out there.
The next few stables showed us really decent horses. One was this stunning 5year old dapple grey stallion. Just *gorgeous*. When we brought him out he was pretty frisky. The round pen was very small, a little too small, but he was really used to the space and immediately started showing us his moves. He reacted well to me asking him to change gaits and direction.
But. There’s a but.
But he did strike out a number of times towards me, and towards Bieke who was standing outside the roundpen.
We did not like that at all, because I intend to do a lot of groundwork, and liberty work, I wasn’t inclined to think too favourably about him.
So we moved on.
The next stable we saw had these two very handsome young stallions. But it was late, it had gotten dark and we decided to come back the next day to see the oldest of the two. The youngest of them had pigeon feet (I don’t know if that’s a term for horses?)
The both of them were incredibly well behaved and so so sweet. But they just didn’t wow us. The oldest of the two was started and so the next day we came back to see him ridden and ride him ourselves. The owners of that stable were such nice people.
The father took an immediate shine to Bieke, and started to show her the old carriages he had. The second day when we arrived he was dressed in his Sunday best and immediately offered her drinks and snacks haha, we weren’t offered anything! He had definitely chosen his favourite (:
We rode the young stallion in a field (terrible ground, covered in stones and so uneven). And he was fun to ride, but again, didn’t impress either one of us. (Sadly the field was huge and my mom couldn’t follow us around and take pictures/videos. So no ridden pics of this one).
Then we went to another stable to go see a very promising young stallion. I was very excited about this one. He was exactly what I was looking for. Coat color, height, training level, movements… It was all there.
So we went, and damn it, he was just gorgeous in real life too. And so proud looking. They were going to put a serreta Weymouth on him and so I asked if they had another bridle. Luckily we had left the finca with a couple bridles and a saddle just in case. So I offered to use the bridle we had brought, that had a simple snaffle.
The guy who was going to ride him was *SO* worried. He’d never ridden this horse with just a snaffle. His anxiety was honestly, a little funny… Let me clarify, I wasn’t happy or amused at his fear, I even told him that if he was truly worried about the horse’s reaction to just the snaffle he could ride in his usual bridle. That we obviously didn’t want to endanger him! But it was just funny how this guy felt he really couldn’t ride this horse he rode everyday in something else than this super heavy bridle and bit.
And would you know it, this young stallion was EXEMPLARY in just a snaffle. He didn’t put a foot wrong. Not in the least. His self carriage was beautiful, but wrong. As you can see. Ridden much too deeply, but he did carry himself with that typical Spanish pride. The owner of the stable used the same word over and over.
“Muy noble.” And yes, he was very noble.
I just couldn’t wait to jump on and ride this beauty. Jumped on. He was very calm and welcomed me on his back. Just walked around for a bit. The arena was rather small, and so the corners were very tight. I was trying to get him to bend a little and just couldn’t get him to move away from my leg. Not the biggest shocker as my legs aren’t quite as strong as they should be. But then I tried to make a 10m circle and that also didn’t work. Bieke started making fun of me and was coaxing me through pretty darn basic movements on his back. Nothing worked.
Me: “This guy is a little rigid, I can’t seem to make him move any other way than straight ahead.” Which only made her laugh more. And me too. I was sat there on this gorgeous horse that just wouldn’t give me any bend what so ever. So after a while of trying we decided she would give it a try because well, I’m more than willing to admit she’s a much better rider than me, and that my riding muscles are more or less non-existent at this point. So… she jumped on.
AND WOULDN’T YOU KNOW IT. HE DID….. NOT BEND!!
Cue all around hilarity.
It wasn’t me. It was the way he had been ridden. It was really a pity because it was like having a log between your legs. No bend what so ever. It was really disappointing as I really liked him from the ground. He was *super* responsive to groundwork, immediately engaged and responded to what I asked him.
So in the end we decided against him. We didn’t feel like his rigidity was only a matter of ridden work. We felt it also had to do with his body and that we would have a *VERY* hard time to work that out of him and to work towards lightness and forward impulsion.
And then we had lunch.
This was a difficult moment for me because I had to decide between either going back to see Big Red or go to another stable to go see three more horses that I was very excited about.
And no, there was no way to do both. We were having lunch at the mid point between both. And both were an hour and a half away from where we were, and in the mountains the sun sets even earlier. So… Here I was with a pretty difficult decision in front of me. Either go see a horse I knew I really liked to have another ride with him, or go see three unknown horses and gamble a bit.
Lunch was great. The food was scrumptious. But I couldn’t really enjoy it.
By going to see Big Red again I was effectively limiting my options to him and only him.
If I went and saw the other stable, I could possibly add a couple horses to the “maybe” column.
Sometimes you just need to be honest with yourself. If you’ve found what you’re looking for (or didn’t know you were looking for) why keep looking for more?
Ever since we’d seen and ridden Big Red we kind of knew, knew that he was the one.
As my favorite character would say:
It’s time to toss the dice!– Mat Cauthon, The Wheel of Time
So I tossed the hypothetical dice and we went back to see Big Red. I wanted to ride him out on a hack to see how he felt outside.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little apprehensive. Riding a strange horse, in strange country with a stranger? (Well, he would turn out to be my husband about three minutes later haha, but a stranger still). I was still wearing my big girl pants though, so I just had to grab my courage and jump on again.
And boy did he deliver. I was hacking out, on a stallion, with another stallion, into the hills. And neither of these boys put a foot wrong. There were dogs, flags, birds flying out from the bushes, and people playing obnoxious music loudly. Big Red was steady through it all.
We trotted, we walked, we cantered through fields, cantered around olive trees and stood under three paragliders.
By the time I had come back from the hack, my mind was made up. This was it. This would become my horse.
We rode back up the hills and all I could think of was how it would feel to ride him on the Belgian coast, what it would be like to ride him in the rain.