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!