Meet the Inmates Part 4 – Ayko and Valentine
While I feed the stabled horses, Valentine and Ayko wait impatiently, Valentine at the gate; Ayko keeping a respectful gap between them. You can see straight away who the boss is with this pair! They live right beside the barn, so they are next to be fed.
Valentine has already appeared in this blog a few times. She made a minor appearance in my very first trip to spectate at a French dressage competition, which was also her very first outing. Then there was the trip to a much bigger dressage competition in Aix and the weekend adventure when I went along as groom to the international centre at Vidauban.
Valentine is seven now. She arrived at the farm to be broken for a client in 2013. She was not a difficult horse, but it was clear straight away that she was very sensitive! Not long after she ‘graduated’, she and her owner had a difference of opinion, with her owner unfortunately falling off and breaking her shoulder. So she came back to Alexandrine, to continue her education while her owner recovered. But her owner had a long hard think about things and decided that, with two small kids, she’d be better off with a ‘made’ horse rather than a youngster, so Valentine was put up for sale. Alexandrine forms a bond with every horse she works with, and by now her connection with Valentine was huge! So she did the logical thing, and bought her. Much to everyone’s delight, really.
Valentine is officially Selle Francais, but in fact her breeding is pure Hannoverian, with the renowned Weltmeyer II appearing in her pedigree – he’s her paternal grandsire. By one of those weird quirks of fate, she was born at Les Bayles, the very first Gite Equestre where Anne and I stopped when we did Le Big Trek.
Right now, while Alex continues to adjust to Life With Julia, Oriane is working with VaVa. She’s been competing in dressage and showjumping competitions and attending lots of clinics and generally just learning loads from her. In fact, she has learned so much that she has now been accepted into the instructor training course at Saumur!! Cool, eh? So in the autumn, Oriane will head off for new adventures and Alexandrine will pick up the reins again. She will surely be adjusted to Life With Julia at that stage. Mind you, my two are in their twenties, and I’m still not sure I’ve adjusted to life with them. It keeps CHANGING!
Anyway, now let me introduce Ayko.
Ayko is Oriane’s retired old boy. He’s a 23 year old French trotter. I wouldn’t have guessed it from his build – he seems quite chunky and solid, to me. The only other ex-trotter I knew was very light-boned, but I guess there are many difference types, like with TBs.
Oriane has had him for eleven years. She credits him with igniting her interest in training and managing difficult horses. Which is to say, he was not a straightforward ride when she started out with him as a teenager! He went from the racetrack to someone who did Spectacles Equestre and from there to Oriane. He still couldn’t canter when she bought him, but he learned eventually! Oh, and I forgot to mention that he was her first horse. Yup, it could have been a disaster. It wasn’t.
He went to Haras La Cense with his mom last year when she went to do her Equitation Ethologique diploma. Now, he’s at the farm while Oriane provides the rest of the maternity cover for Alexandrine (yes, it takes two of us to replace her!). He’s a sweet old boy who moves stiffly around his paddock, following Valentine wherever she goes – and ducking when she takes a swipe at him!
He and Oriane have just started to learn clicker training. After one brief session, he understood that he was to ‘touch’ the flag. So while the body may be rusty, the brain definitely is not!
He looks for a cuddle from me most days. I’m happy to oblige with a tummy scratch or a good rub behind the ears.
Sometimes he seems a bit sad.
I wonder if he knows that his Girl has grown up and is moving on.