If you’d told me four months ago that before the end of the year I’d be riding Qrac, my nine-year old Lusitano, alongside bulldozers, streamrollers and pneumatic drills I’d have said you were mistaking me for someone else. If you’d insisted, gone on to say, “Seriously, Cesca, you’ll see; pretty soon you’ll be cantering around an outdoor arena while workmen dressed in fluorescent clothing clank about with tools and giant pieces of equipment! There will be a giant crane swinging overhead, lorries rumbling in and out of the property loaded with all sorts of building materials. There will be welders creating mini firework displays in dark corners, giant sheets of plastic flapping about in gale force winds. You name it, there’ll be it! And you’ll be riding in it!”
By then I’d probably have checked your forehead for fever, whereupon you might have nodded knowingly and carried on telling me fairy stories about Qracy and I plodding past cars and tractors and miscellaneous trucks on country lanes, reins long and loose. You might have mentioned us ambling past curious cows, trotting and even cantering along dirt tracks flanked by apple orchards swathed in anti-hail nets swelling and whooshing in the breeze.
Pff! At this point I’d have been really worried about you, potentially suggesting a quick trip to the hospital.
The thing is: those fairy stories came true. Since moving to our new stables in mid-August, Qrac and I have experienced all of the above and more. My spooky, pretty volatile Lusitano and I have had to learn to cope with living and working on a building site, with trail rides mandatory when heavy rain turned the arena into a gloop-fest.
Frankly, when I took the decision I hadn’t given much thought about what it might be like working him in conditions that, at times, have been pretty crazy. If I had I’d probably have decided moving him early was far too inconvenient, not to mention dangerous, and I’d have sent him down to the south of France to his breeder (Elevage Massa) for a few months of training. Had I done that, right now I’d probably be on my way to Les Arcs-sur-Argens to pick him up, returning with a finely-tuned horse well-versed in the art of beautiful half-passes, magnificent flying changes, and in possession of a far more established, far more balanced extended trot. Viewed from a purely dressage point of you, this would have been great. But I’d have missed him like crazy.
And you know what? Now, less than two days away from the official opening of the fabulous new installations, I’m really happy Qrac and I were here to witness the construction almost from start to finish (the foundations were down before we came). Sure, there were some pretty hairy moments the first few times I worked Qrac in the paddock with bulldozers bulldozing away approximately two metres from the rail, and buses and trucks zooming by on the adjacent road. He spooked. He spun. He tensed up. He wasn’t always one hundred percent with me. But thanks to all this commotion we've both been forced way out of our comfort zone. Qrac has developed coping skills he never knew he had, and I've gained so much confidence.
But I’m ready for an indoor arena now. The past two weeks have been particularly trying; the outdoor arena is pretty much frozen due to insane northern wind bringing us arctic temperatures. Hacking out is horrible, the wind so strong that Qrac has to put his head down and really turn on his rear engines to get us back to the stables. Still, seen from a positive perspective I know I wouldn’t even have considered riding him outside in such conditions! But when you’ve got to go, well, you’ve got to go. We’ve gone, been pretty blown about, got somewhat rattled in a couple of areas (the clanging flagpoles and flapping flags at the village dump, the hail-nets covering the apple orchards, the bamboo hedge near the vet’s house, and various renegade plastic bags), but made it back to the stables without too much ado.
How about you? Have you been forced out of your equestrian comfort zone and reaped all kinds of benefits?