Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Ottawa...and their ponies!

I'm back, which means I'm back at work. Haven't been out to the barn yet since yesterday was raining, and I was way too lazy this morning to go out before work. It's hard when you just slept two nights on a coach car of a train journeying across two provinces, with only a 30 minute break to step outside and walk around.

Ottawa...and it's horses. That of course was my main goal of things to see, though I'm still a bit disappointed in the RCMP stable tour. My first suggestion for those going, is to arrive around 8:30 and hang out near the outdoor ring. Just before 9 am when the place opens to the public, the new recruits go riding and you get the opportunity to watch them. Very neat.

So on the tour, I learned that the horses are all 16.1 - 17hh because shorter horses are too weak to carry a rider like the RCMP. Yip. Even though these folks aren't wearing suits of armour, just stubben saddles and a bambo lance, they apparently weigh a ridiculous amount, that no 15.1 hh horse could cope with. I nearly snorted when my tour guide told me so! I mentioned my own 15.1hh quarter horse, and was pleased to hear that QHs are short, stocky and thick, lacking the speed, grace and refinement of a TB/Hanoverian cross....thanks.

Needless to say, the tour guide was a joke. Had never even noticed that the wall of plaques containing "all the musical ride horses that had passed away", only started in the 1980's! Yes, since the ride started in the early 1900's, only 15 or so horses have passed on. : P PAY ATTENTION folks! Nothing better then watching her try to rationalize through it...For everyone's information, the new stable in Ottawa didn't open until the 80's, hence these plaques were all from those horses that passed away from THIS stable. Shocking.

I was also taken aback that RCMP riders no longer require any previous riding experience. Anyone who is in the RCMP can apply and enter the program, for I *believe* a 3 year stint. During this time, they'll train you in how to ride over a period of 9 months, riding 3 hours a day, every day (not sure if this includes weekends). At the end of this time, you head out with the group to ride the musical ride all across Canada.

So, many of you are wondering, HOW someone with no previous experience could mount one of these creatures and do the ride after only 9 months of training?

Now my tour guide informed me that most people could be great riders if they rode 3 hours a day for 9 months. Apparently, that's all that separates most of us from the truly great riders of this world...

I would counter that my coach rides far more then that, and it's only her constant riding, training and practicing that gives me confidence in her abilities. 9 MONTHS?

It's the horse. Some of the horses have been on the ride for up to 15 years, and we all know with the right pre-training, these creatures can be obedient and easily perform a pre-set series of moves, regardless of the riders on their back. It is likely therefore, that their training is more in staying aboard and looking comfortable in the saddle (sitting the trot, posting, learning the patterns) then in truly gaining riding skill in a well balanced way. The multitude of more advanced moves that many of us seek, bring a horse onto the bit, learning collection and extension and piaffes is NOT what these riders are here for. And after 9 months, they are capable of looking comfortable on horseback and these seasoned veterans (the horses) make them look wonderful in front of the audiences of people, who could never tell if they were on the wrong posting diagonal anyway.

Yes, it sounds awful, but it's necessity. Everyone gets a chance...

I did get to go visit the horses in their chain-link fence paddocks, which were worn and more dry mud then grass. Poor buggers. I was a little surprised by the quality of some of their hooves, with chipping and breakage, though it almost seems that the dryness coupled with working on hard terrain would be an obvious cause.

While the paddocks all had signage up warning not to feed or touch the horses, they all came to the fence to visit. Which meant I was able to snap some pictures, and really adored one particular horse named Boots. He was curious and friendly and very hard not to touch. He really made me miss home and my MoonSox.

There was also a small jumping arena and cross-country course, which looked awesome. Set-up with small cross-rails and the perfect sized log jumps, I desperately wanted to take one of these guys and go for a ride. Oh, if only!

After wandering through the RCMP facility (the indoor arena is no bigger then Coach W's), and getting to look at all the pretty horses, which included ones as big as 18hh, and one born in 1985, the oldest still on the property, I headed off to Apple Saddlery.

It was over 15 kilometers, but I was thrilled to do it. As I mentioned previously, I managed to snag an awesome brown hunt coat, which was originally priced at $195 (yes, I should snap a pic of the price tag!). Now I'm chomping at the bit to try a show or two, though I need some gloves, a shirt, show breeches and to break in my riding boots. MAN are they tight after a week of walking and a long day on the train!

Apple Saddlery really is a nice store, though it was hard to find help. Busy granted, which is great since it was a Friday afternoon, and most people should be out working.

I also watched my first Saddlebred racing which was neat, though I wouldn't run out to see it again there. The Rideau Carlton Raceway is NOT the most impressive, and reminded me a lot of home...and home isn't very impressive!

I'll have to snap some pics of my fancy new show clothes next time I decide to play dress-up. Hopefully we can find a show that suits our fancy in the next while and test ride them. Oh the excitement!

So, tomorrow is out next lesson after 2 weeks out of the saddle. It's supposed to rain, but I'm hoping we are able to show some good progress and the break helps us get back on track. I sincerely hope to get some serious riding in the next while, despite the appearance of all those bugs!

Enjoy the Ottawa Pony shots!

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