So when I moved back to the ranch, one of my big goals was to start riding again. It had been about twenty years, give or take. I’d gone on a few beach rides in Mexico and Ireland, that kind of thing, but no serious riding since I sold my own horses and moved away to college.  My uncle Chano, who lives on the ranch too and is a horse trainer, said if I wanted I could have his twenty year old quarter horse, a big, 16hh-plus red chestnut by the name of Hammer. Hammer was bred by my uncle and born here at the ranch.  At age three my uncle took him to Mexico to race, and he lived there for five years or so.  Then he brought him back, and trained him in the Spanish style of dressage.  He was shown extensively throughout California and ridden in parades and exhibitions.  He could piaffe with the best of them. But then he was retired. So when I came back, Hammer wasn’t being ridden, he was pretty much just a pasture pet, and was starting to show his age. But hey, a free horse, big enough for me and perfectly trained. I said sure!

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Hammer, so named because of his big head. I don’t think it’s THAT big…

That was last fall. First we got his teeth floated, which is when the vet uses a tool to even out the molars in the back to give them a better surface for grinding down hay and grass. Then I went out and bought some LMF senior horse feed, which has all kinds of glucosamine and chondroitin and amino acids and some sugar to help keep older horses in good condition. It seemed to be working, but it was also winter. He was scruffy, usually in a tatty old field blanket, and still looked like an old fella. I did start riding him gradually, just walking on the trails. I think he enjoyed the stimulation, but he was an awfully mellow old timer.

Today I finally got to go for a ride again after almost two months, and I wish I had a before picture to show you of the old man. The spring pasture and the senior feed have this boy looking stunning!

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I, on the other hand, could still use quite a bit more ‘conditioning.’

Not only does Hammer look great, he’s suddenly full of energy.  He was prancing and spooking and at one point broke into a canter out on the trail just to show off. Now that’s more like it!

Anyway, it was a great ride. Sun shining, dogs running. Back at the stable, Hammer got a long overdue bath, and then let out for a nice roll in the tall grass.

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While we were putting the tack away, Chano told me, “You know, Hammer has another name.”  “Oh really?” I said. “Yes, we used to call him ‘Touristo,’ because of all the places he went after he was born here.”

“Touristo,” I thought, “I can relate.”

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