Thursday, May 19, 2011

Qrac meets Kwintus

Qrac is home! After five weeks at a the equestrian facility where he’d been living since I brought him back from the South of France, I took a deep breath, grabbed my courage with both hands (that’s a French saying, by the way. I just translated it directly and think it came out kind of cute. Does it exist in English?), and, last Saturday morning, hauled him over to “my stables” where I introduced him to Kwintus.

I’d initially chosen to stable him temporarily elsewhere because, as yet, my stables doesn’t yet have an indoor arena, and I thought it would be safer to get to know him in an enclosed area. Also, my trainer lives close by, making it easier for her to come more often than just once a week. It worked out really well, and despite the pickle I got myself into in the two weeks where Marie-Valentine was away coaching at FEI competitions(remember the tumbleweeding I described in my previous “Semi-Floppy” post?), our final week there was brilliant as I managed to have a lesson a day. By our final lesson last Friday tumbleweeding was almost a distant memory. So happy was I that I joked with my trainer about employing her full time! Imagine how cool that would be?! I really need to play the lottery…

Jokes apart, as brilliant as it was to for me to have more regular access to Marie-Valentine’s lessons, I was impatient to take Qrac “home”. For one, I missed seeing Kwintus on a regular basis, and with Qrac stabled at one end of lake Geneva, and Kwintus stabled at the other, it was hard to go to both places in one day. I mean, I could manage it, and did so a few times, but it meant spending hours in the car, leaving little time for anything else. But the main reason I couldn’t wait to take Qrac to live with Kwintus was because he never got any fresh air. His stable was dark and small and dusty and muggy, and I literally felt guilty putting him back inside after I’d ridden him, knowing full well he wouldn’t get any light or air or exercise until I returned twenty-four hours later. None of the horses stabled there were being let out to graze yet, and even if they had been, Qrac couldn’t have joined them because the fencing wasn’t adequate for a stallion. And since I was mostly riding in the indoor arena, the poor guy hardly went outside at all. I lay awake at night, worrying about him, which was probably silly as he was perfectly fine. But still…

Ideally, on a totally selfish basis, I’d have left him there another few weeks, and have continued to take umpteen lessons a week with Marie-Valentine, consolidating the progress we’ve made, stabilizing the contact and the reaching and the tempo. But I wanted him to be able to graze. I wanted him to have fresh air. I wanted him to more room to move around in his stable. And if it meant I’d only see my trainer once a week, then so be it. We’re not going to the Olympics any time soon, so what’s the rush?

Luckily, Stephanie (the owner of my stables) has recently had the small arena fenced in, and so if all hell breaks loose and Qrac goes loopy while I’m riding him (or even just lunging him), he can’t get out and gallop away on a testosterone fuelled rampage. Not that I think he’s going to do anything of the sort, but I’ve got a vivid imagination.

Qrac has settled into his new and improved lodging beautifully. He goes out every morning for about two or three hours, after which he gets a bit bored and bolshy, so he’s brought in again. He seems to be very taken with Kwintus who is now his next door neighbor, to the point where I’m beginning to wonder whether my stallion might swing both ways! Actually, it’s not just Kwintus he’s into; he gets pretty noisy and hot under the collar whenever there’s any equine activity in the courtyard. I’m guessing he’ll calm down in a week or two, as he reacted similarly when we first arrived at the previous place.

As far as working him goes, I began by lunging him in the small, fenced arena for two days. I had every intention of riding him on the third day, only to arrive at the stables to find he’d cast a shoe clowning around in the field and had to call a local farrier to the rescue. I finally rode him for the first time on Tuesday, with mediocre results. Distracted by Kwintus and Coconut in the adjacent field, I had a hard time keeping him focused, and so we did our fair share of tumbleweeding which was a little disheartening , but I told myself to be reasonable and to give it time. And sure enough, the next day he was much better, responding to my “semi-floppyness” and to my half halts, and enabling me to actually ride his hind leg. I was so pleased by how he went that I my self-confidence shot up, and I actually took him for a cool-down ride around the countryside all by myself! And today, after our workout, I repeated this feat of bravery, even pushing my limits by asking him for a trot! How about that? Are you impressed, or what?!

So, all in all, things are going well. There have been some slightly hairy moments, and I’m becoming more and more aware that owning a stallion is far more complicated than owning a gelding. Qrac is a very laid back stallion, but when he starts snorting and prancing and displaying his very impressive equipment I must admit I tend to get a little nervous. Consequently, I’m already considering having him gelded, as I think it will make life easier, both for him and for me. And even if he is an approved stallion, I didn’t buy him with the intention to breed, so why keep his extra bits if his extra bits might cause even the slightest concern?

What do you think? Do you have any experience or advice?


Linda Benson said...

Francesca - I think gelding Qrac will make your life, and his, a whole lot easier. It will still probably take at least six months for all his hormones to settle down afterwards, but imagine being able to turn him out with Kwintus, or any other horse afterwards. Plus, I'm sure he'll be less fire-breathing when you ride him. I think he'll have a much happier life as a gelding, and keep his mind off all that silly stuff. Go for it!

Laura Crum said...

Francesca--Well, I would never have offered this advice unless you asked for it, but my first thought when I heard he was a stallion was "Oh no--stallions are a lot of trouble. Even nice stallions." I have handled numerous stallions in my days working for trainers, my uncle stood several studs, and I have had my fair share of experience with them. I've only known one stallion in all my years with horses that was truly as free of studdy behaviors as a gelding. I am totally sure there are others, but they aren't common. Qrac clearly displays some of these behaviors based on your descriptions, and if it were me, I would geld him tomorrow (as long as I was not interested in breeding him). But be aware that, as Linda said, it will take awhile for the hormones to settle down. Also, horses that have been mature stallions do sometimes retain some of those behaviors after being gelded. But they almost always are less intense.

Francesca Prescott said...

Linda and Laura: I've been pondering this a lot for the last few weeks, and chances are I will have him gelded. The thing is, Iberian stallions have the reputation of being far more gentle and less "stalliony" than other breeds, so I wondered whether the stallion behaviour he displays might mainly be due to him moving stables three times in the past few months. When I moved him from the other place last week he was already much quieter than he'd been a month earlier. Maybe after a while he'll chill out and settle down and tone down the dancing and fire-breathing (love that term! I'd never heard it before!)

Then I think about taking him to potential shows, and think of how nervous I got just with my lovely easy-going, none-fire-breathing Kwintus. I think I might have the answer to my question...

He's actually not fire-breathy at all when I ride him, it's when I'm on the ground and that there are other horses being handled around him that he gets a bit full of himself. I'm fully aware that it will take some time for his hormones to settle down once he is gelded. My instincts are telling me that although he's a lovely horse as he is, he'll make a truly fabulous horse once he's gelded, especially for an amateur like me. Then again, what if I'm over-reacting to this hot under the collar (actually, hot under the halter is more appropriate) stuff, which might diminish once he gets used to his new environment?

I'm kind of all over the place over the issue, but definitely slip-sliding towards the snip-snip.

Thanks so much for your comments :)

Alison said...

I would definitely do the snip-snip. From what I understand about any male left intact (okay, I'm not commenting on humans here) it is not physically healthy for them if they are not being bred, meaning where is all that sperm going?

Good luck with your decision! ("Courage in both hands" sounds perfect to me!)

Gayle Carline said...

I'd vote for the gelding, too. He may indeed be a quiet stallion when he's ridden, but if he gets studdy when you're on the ground or other horses are around, you will have to be on high alert constantly. And if one of the "other horses" is a mare in season, you truly risk injury, no matter how gentle he is. I know a man (large, over 6') who had a stallion pick him up by the hip and throw him out of the way in order to get to another stallion who had issued a challenge. He still walks with a limp. I say this only because you have no interest in breeding him.

Anonymous said...

Francesca: I too would encourage you have him gelded. Riding is to be enjoyed to it's fullest and it sounds like you will always have a little bit of concern, niggling away in the back of your mind, should Qrac stay a stallion. Also it will prevent any accidental "backyard" romances from ever happening and all the concerns that will go with that. Good luck with your decision. And congratulations for going out on the trails by yourself. Little steps will lead to big successes!!!

Francesca Prescott said...

Alison, Gayle and Mommyrides: I wrote a long response earlier, but it got eaten by the internet goblins. I actually spoke to my vet this morning and he explained the procedure to me. He suggested that a chemical castration might be a good option for now, as at this time of the year flies can interfere with the healing process, and make a surgical castration more unpleasant than in the cooler months. I'm going to think about it.

Of course, wouldn't you know, Qrac was absolutely angelic this morning, displaying no symptoms whatsoever. Maybe he senses his goodies might be at risk!

I took him for a several laps of walk and trot on the giant canter ring (kind of like a grass racecourse), accompanied by Steph on one of her geldings, and Qrac seemed to really enjoy it. I know I did.

Thanks for your input, everyone; Mommyrides you are so right about that "niggling" thought in the back of my mind about him being a stallion. I think I'd have a lot more peace of mind if I took care of it.

Anonymous said...

I also agree with the decision to geld, if you have any worries at all, do it! However, if you think you might want to have him reproduce, why don't you look into having some of his semen frozen? I'm not sure of cost or how long it would keep, but it might help you with your decision to geld.

Good luck! Just so you know, I am JEALOUS of Qrac!! I want one..

Jamie :)