So Bazaconi’s journey continues. From day one, I had no doubts that, although Bazaconi was going to be a challenge, I would get him to a point where he could go out and compete. During his time with us, there have been moments when I wondered whether I was right. I had no idea what a challenge he would be. After 300 horses entering and graduating through our program, he has been the most challenging, but also the most educational.
Baz has continued his productive life by teaching people about horses and helping people with all sorts of issues like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, drug addiction and mental health problems in general to be able to get in touch with themselves and learn how better to communicate. He has been an ambassador for the Thoroughbred Rehabilitation Program. This is all great, but I still felt the need to complete what I had started and that meant getting Bazaconi out to a competition.
Baz worked along well and continued to improve with almost every ride. When stressed, he tenses up in his back and threatens to go back to his old ways, but with gentle and consistent persuasion, he can be coaxed back to the moment.
I set a target of a small dressage competition for his first outing, not too much atmosphere and no pressure regarding his performance.
The day before the comp, Baz gave me the best work he had ever given. To hope for him to achieve this again at his first outing since his racing days was too much, but based on that workout, I felt he wouldn’t embarrass himself.
We arrived at the location of the competition with plenty of time to warm up and work down if necessary. Baz was more settled than I expected and with horses cantering around, he could only be thinking ‘races’. It was all he knew and it was his last experience out with so many horses in one place. As he ate his hay at the side of the float, a call went up and I looked around the back of the float to see a loose horse galloping out of control around the warm up area. The horse galloped passed Baz, who did little more than raise his head, the horse did a u-turn and galloped directly towards Baz. I stepped in between them and stopped the runaway and to my surprise, he actually listened to my voice commands. It turned out he was a horse that I had previously done some work with and it was nice to see he remembered his lessons and my voice.
Baz was hardly fazed.
It was time to start warming up and I worked Baz in-hand, as I did in every training session. It is important that the routine you use at home is not changed on competition day, particularly at the early competitions, horses are relying on you and their familiar routine for support.
Baz worked well in-hand. I mounted and felt the tension in his back immediately. This was no surprise and how he worked through this tension would determine how the day played out.
Often riders get on their familiar horse and feel this unfamiliar tension and then become tenser themselves. The trick and skill is to relax, if you don’t, your horse has no chance.
Thankfully my days as a Mounted Police Officer and many, many years of high level competition in different sports, makes this ability to relax one of my strengths, but it isn’t one of Bazaconi’s.
Each time Baz threatened to lose his cool, I would defuse him by breaking the alignment of his spine, by bending and flexing in a proactive way. Be positive and have purpose, horses want to be led – be a leader.
With my help, Baz was able to keep it together and as the day progressed, he needed less and less nursing. I would have to say, it was one of my most technically-challenging days riding-wise, in trying to be as accurate with my aids as possible and not letting Bazaconi’s concentration slip for even a moment, but by the end of the day I could tell that with a few more outings like this, Baz would come to hand.
Bazaconi completed the two tests and without taking home a ribbon, I would say it was still a very successful day. He did the best he could for his first outing and I have certainly ridden worse horses.
There was a huge sense of achievement, but a realisation that I couldn’t leave it here. What have I gotten myself in for?
Bazaconi is looking for a home, but at this stage I won’t advertise him openly for sale. I will continue with his work and when the right rider turns up, I will let him go. If it’s you, let me know.”
Photos eddy furlong.