Harley is a different horse when we're riding with Echoe and Michelle. Echoe is his best buddy and trail riding mentor. In his mind, always follow Echoe (even when you and your rider can barely fit), do what Echoe does (stop and munch), and always take the shortest route home (even if it mean bushwacking through the deadfalls). He likes to quarter Echoe, almost like he's being ponied at the track. This also means Michelle can reach out and give him a rub, or he can rub his sweaty head on Echoe's side. So in an attempt to get Harley to lead, I had to switch him with my 12 inch leafy birch twig (doubles as a fly swatter). He reluctantly stepped out, only to fall back when he realized Echoe wasn't right behind him. Sometimes it's easier to just give in, especially when it's 85 in the shade, and so humid the rocks are sweating. Harley can be a handful though, if the pace is anything but a walk. Suddenly his racing life comes back, and he needs to pass Echoe (even if the trail is only one horse wide), or run up on his rump. This doesn't work so well, so I need to be out front. Then his canters are much less of a snorting, dash, and more relaxed.
Our July 4th ride was hot and steamy, but he was a good boy. Dashman, the dog, had a blast, jumping into every bog wallow he could find, and scaring the bejeezus out of Harley when he splashed out of each mudhole. Good dog, Dash! Oh, settle down, Harley! Poor John was across town, riding little Nina and spending as much time going sideways as forward. As a treat, he can ride Harley late this week.
I killed a little time this weekend looking at Harley's auction history online. I knew he sold for $50,000 as a youngster at Keenland, where he went into training at New Episode Training Center in Ocala, Florida. They must have had high hopes for my boy since this is the facility that trained Funny Cide. A year later, he was sold at auction for $8000. He ended up at Suffolk Downs in claiming races. Oh, how the mighty Halawa Moon had fallen. He may not have had the speed, but he's proven to John and I that he certainly has the staying power. And now he's living the life of Riley in our corner of Maine, munching grass (and lots of grain, in true Thoroughbred fashion), going out on adventure rides, and hanging out with the gang. The biggest stress he faces now is how to get past those scary goats or giant boulders without being eaten! I think he knows he's landed in a safe place, with lots of mollycoddling and friends.