Thursday, April 21, 2011

Introducing Qrac de la Font

It's all been a blur. A whirly, sparkly blur! It's been kind of tiring, too. Who knew acquiring a new horse would be so time-consuming? And I’m not just talking time spent with my new horse, but also running around, picking up things that Qrac desperately needs, because although I thought I had enough horsey equipment to cater to an entire polo team, it turned out that I didn’t have a second light cotton blanket, and that Kwint’s girth was too long, and that Qrac could do with over-reach boots, and the lunging-girth-thingy I’d bought (it’s called a surfaix in French; what’s the English terminology?) was way too big, and the draw reins (for lunging, not riding) were not the ones my trainer had in mind, and I was out of saddle soap, etc., etc. Naturally, all these realizations came one after the other on completely separate days, not simultaneously, and, since not all tack shops are created equal, necessitated trips to tack shops spread over two cantons.

Then there have been the niggling anxieties that come with getting to know a new horse. Does my saddle really fit him properly? Qrac is spectacularly short-backed, and very uphill, and my saddle seemed to be constantly slipping backwards because the original girth I was using was a little too long. Worse still, I was cantering around the arena the other day when it suddenly slipped sideways, which was a horrible sensation since I barely knew him and didn’t know how he’d react! Panic stricken, I coaxed him to a somewhat ungainly halt, dismounted and put everything back in place. Qrac didn’t seem overly perturbed. In fact, he doesn’t seem to be overly perturbed by very much, which is reassuring.

Nevertheless, I’ve yet to venture into the big wide open, limiting to my riding to the large indoor arena, although one of the girls who works at the stable took him out for a hack last week and said he was no problem at all. I’m hoping to meet someone to go out hacking with me as, for the time being, I’m too chicken to go alone. My trainer has been amazing, practically holding my hand for the first couple of days, making sure Qrac was comfortable, that I was comfortable, that we were all comfortable together. Transitioning from a horse as gentle, knowledgeable and laid back as Kwintus is a little intimidating. Although Qrac is laid back and very gentle (he loves being cuddled and fussed over), he’s still a stallion, and when we unloaded him from my trailer on arrival from the south of France he was very full of himself, very “ladies and gentlemen, here I am”, swaggering down the central aisle of the stable block like Ricky Martin entering the stage at the beginning of a concert. He was pretty vocal, too!

Yet by the following morning he had settled down nicely, and proved to be wonderfully obedient on the lunge, listening carefully to voice commands and doing exactly what I asked. I rode him for the first time on Monday, two days after he’d arrived, and enjoyed a lesson with my trainer. Again, Qrac showed no signs of bad behavior. Unfortunately, his teeth seemed to be bothering him, so Marie-Valentine
called the “super dentist” and managed to arrange for him to come last Thursday, which was super lucky as this guy is booked up months in advance. It turned out that poor Qrac hadn’t seen a dentist since he was two, and needed extensive work, which put him out of riding action for four days. His face was really sore and swollen, and he couldn’t wear his bridle, so I just lunged him in his halter, which was fine.

By Monday morning he’d made a full recovery, so I had my second lesson with my trainer. It was great! He’s an interesting horse to ride, ever so different from anything I’ve ever ridden before. He’s quick and nimble and very eager to please, yet tends to rush a little, so I’m forever half-halting, trying to bring him back into balance. The left lead canter is pretty good, but the right lead canter is seriously hard work because, apparently, according to the man who stabled him in the south of France, Lusitano/Spanish riders only work the bend on the side where the mane falls! Qrac’s mane falls on the left, hence his preference for bending to the left. I’d never of this concept before (only working a horse on his “natural bend” side), and neither had my trainer. Have you?

So that’s my Qrac news. By the way, someone asked me how you pronounced Qrac, suggesting it might sound nicer in Spanish than it does in English. Well, Qrac (whose full name is pretty posh: Qrac de la Font) is a Lusitano (Portuguese breed), yet he was born and bred in France at the Massa stud farm (which looks like an AMAZING place; I’ll have to go and visit one day). In fact, Qrac’s uncle (or is half-brother? Anyway, some close relation) Gallopin de la Font, is the only Lusitano to have qualified for the Olympics (the link is to his performance in Beijing in 2008). So Qrac’s name is pronounced with a French accent, quite similarly to how we English mother-tongue people would pronounce “crack”, yet with a subtle but very important difference. The “r” is more guttural, and the “a” is more…high-pitched, making his name come across as lighter than the way it does in English! It also rolls off the tongue more quickly, if that makes sense, and generally somehow sounds nicer in French. Also, the word “crack” in French horsey lingo means “champion”, and the only difference in Qrac’s case being that his breeders spelt it slightly more funkily to fit in with the year of the Qs.

Here is a little video I found of Qrac on the internet, filmed at a horse salon in Lyon (or maybe Paris?) when he was five years old, and beautifully ridden by one of the Massa breeder’s trainers, who seems to have no problem whatsoever with the right lead canter! Grrr! I’ve scheduled another lesson with my trainer for tomorrow morning, and am hoping to get him moving just as nicely for me at some point.

Have a great weekend!


Laura Crum said...

He is gorgeous! Wow. Is that you riding him in the photo?

It sounds tiring but fun--and he sounds as if he is behaving very well. I'm excited for you! Though I do know what you mean in that getting used to a new horse is always a little stressful. But soon you'll know him well and that feeling of uncertainty goes away. It seems like you have a very good support system in place. I'm looking forward to hearing lots more about Qrac. (I practiced saying it aloud--you would have laughed to hear me.)

Dreaming said...

Laughing, because I also tried to pronounce his name the correct way and practiced it!

The lunging 'surfaix' is a surcingle in English.

How interesting that they work the horse on the side the mane falls... how strange, I mean! What would they do with Doc - his mane falls on both sides!!

Your horse is absolutely beautiful! The pictures of him are great. I love the first one..."Who me? Eat grass? Naahhh - not me!"

Francesca Prescott said...

Hi Laura! Yes, that's me riding him in the photo. I need to practise keeping my head up. I always look down, it's a bad habit.

He's really really good. I rode him for a little while in the outside arena for the first time this morning, and he was a little more distracted, a little more hyper, but didn't do anything crazy or disturbing. My trainer was there, which was nice, as I would probably have been a little more nervous if she hadn't. The girl who took him out for a hack yesterday said she went with two other horses, including a mare, and he didn't play up at all. I'm hauling him to the farrier tomorrow, so more adventures coming up! Oh, and I can just imagine you practising his name. Qrac. Qrac. Qrrrrac!

Dreaming: thanks for the translation of surfaix to surcingle! And I'm sure you'll soon be an expert in pronoucing his name! Yes, it is weird about how the work the horse on the side his mane falls. However, I don't think they all do that, and I don't think the guy riding him in the video at the horse salon rode him that way, I think it's more recent. We practised the right rein a lot this morning; I was very sweaty!

Laura Crum said...

Francesca--I thought you two looked great together in the photo--I didn't notice that you were looking down--just thought, wow-if that's you, you look like you belong on him already.

I also watched the video of him. Very impressive. I know nada about dressage, but what a, well, magnificent, is the word that comes to mind, critter he is. You must be very proud of him.

Francesca Prescott said...

Thank you, Laura! I feel very comfortable on him, and could sit his trot all day long, which is a nice change from Kwint's big bouncy uber hard to sit trot.

You know, when I was looking for a horse, I stumbled on that video of him completely by chance, and thought, wow, what a beautiful horse, I wish I could find one like that. Pretty amazing, don't you think?

Shanster said...

He's lovely and I'm so happy for you! BIG CONGRATS!! Sometimes things work out so well don't they? Thank-you universe! :)

Alison said...

What a handsome guy and more importantly, you seem to be having fun (and sort of a love affair.) Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

He is beautiful and he seems to be settling in very nicely! You will have so much fun getting to know your new man and learning how to read him and he you!

You look lovely together, as Laura said, like you had been riding him for a while!!!

Looking forward to many Qrac stories!!!

Francesca Prescott said...

Thank you, Shanster! Yes, the universe is pretty amazing. Even funnier is that when I first saw Qrac in the flesh, I had no idea it was the horse I'd seen in the video on the internet, and it was only later, when we went for dinner with the woman who bred him and that she showed us some photos and some video footage on her computer that I put the two together. I could hardly believe it.

Glad you think he's pretty! I took him to be shod today, and my farrier was very impressed :)

Francesca Prescott said...

Hi Alison, you know I'm still having trouble believing he's really mine. I look at him and think, wow! Kind of like when I first met my husband and he took me to Paris for the weekend. You know that giddy feeling?!

Francesca Prescott said...

Mommyrides: I've a feeling there will be quite a few Qrac stories being related here! Thanks for reading, everyone :) Happy Easter! I'm trying not to eat too much chocolate...but those little Lindt eggs are fatal :( Too good!

Sarah said...

So you brought yourself a dream horse, did you? :) I LOFF him! Congratulations!! I can't wait to read more about him.

joycemocha said...

What an elegant fellow!

Enjoy. He looks like a lot of fun! Nice to hear he's such a mellow stallion.

Francesca Prescott said...

Thanks, Sarah and Joyce. He seems to be a very mellow stallion, but of course he has his hmm-hmmm-hmm moments (that low, appreciative whinney!) when he sees a certain mare. He clearly has a crush on her, she's called Guilia, and she's incredibly stroppy and bad tempered, but I guess he likes bossy women!