Back In the Saddle

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Some big stuff has happened over the past two weeks! It’s amazing how the little things can pile up when working with a young/green horse.

Life was a little crazy over the past two weeks so I had to forgo writing during week three. Among other things, Wikus, our cat who was dumped in our NC neighborhood was having a little bout of his recurring urinary tract infection. He’s pathetic…

Wikus

So I put him on the Rx food, quarantined him in the bathroom and waited for it to pass, like it has in a few times before. But this time, it was more serious…

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Peeing blood! Yikes. So off to the vet, some fluids and pain meds to set him straight. But a little more time consuming than I had planned. So no week 3 post!

Let’s re-cap.

Week Three Roundup

Alice had both her hind shoes slip off during transport, so one of the gracious barn workers pulled those shoes the day she arrived. After 30+ years with horses I still cannot pull a shoe off a horse. I find it is a very valuable skill, but one I am not going to learn.

After three weeks of the dry Colorado climate and our long walks on fairly rocky terrain, the back feet were officially worn down as far as they could be without causing lameness. So I decided to give her some time off from walks and round pen work. It would just be grooming and grazing.

Plenty to work on. She still isn’t a fan of the clippers. We have good days and bad days. It was seeming that the bad days were getting more frequent. Then there were the baths.

Alice Bath

While she is really good about untangling her legs from the completely annoying and pointless hose, she isn’t really a fan of, well, standing in the wash stall and she especially hates being scrubbed. Oh she dances, trots in place, and wiggles uncontrollably. Honestly, I don’t care. She isn’t being bad, she isn’t being dangerous, what she seemed more than anything…is bored.

Alice Bored

Week three made me realize how bored she was. More than me I think. The farrier was due out but then it snowed. Yep. Snow.

He did make it out the next day. Phew. Though she was no angel for the farrier. Very good for her front feet, but a bit of a bitch for her hind feet. The farrier thinks she was just sore behind. I’m skeptical. She also was exposed to her first taste of hot shoeing. She wasn’t hot shoed, this time, but he heated up a shoe and put it to some trimmed hoof and let the smoke waft over her. She did not like that, but I think she’ll come around.

Woohoo! Four shoes! Lets get to work. I’ll get a little more serious with ground work, really start working her a little more. Longer hikes, more serious round pen work, and finally teach her to lunge on the line.

Day after her new shoes…

Lost shoe

She lost one in the round pen. Ugh.

Luckily the farrier was there within 15 minutes! Now that’s service!

Week Four and Endless Possibilities

We started the week strong with learning to lunge. She was great, voice commands and everything. The right lead of course was challenging. If I could get her to pick it up quietly she was good, but if she had ANY speed at all it turned into a running scramble. Tense and legs, neck, and body in all directions. But that is to be expected. I usually could get a few strides of quiet canter and we would end on that. Baby steps.

We also went for some long hikes up Table Mountain. We didn’t make it all the way to the top, but pretty damn close. Usually a 1.5-2 hour hike, so it’s a serious endeavour.

And she seemed thrilled. Happy, content, relaxed, and more amiable to the other less vigorous tasks, like clippers and bathing. Not perfect, but much more patient and less reactive. So clearly work is her friend.

I had been eyeing a saddle for her for a few weeks. My prestige was too narrow and I hated that saddle so I sent it off to be sold by High End Used Saddles and she happened to have a County Stabilizer, almost exactly like my old saddle for sale, except with the upgraded leather. Boom! Also a great price. So I ordered it.

When it arrived I thought for sure it looked too narrow. But I figured the only way to find out for sure is to put it on her. I told Josh, if it looks like it fits, I’m gonna have to get on her to find out for sure. Honestly I thought the chances of it fitting was slim.

But, turns out it looked like a pretty good fit!

So I guess that means I get to ride!

I put her on the lunge first. She was not reactive to the saddle at all, but as usual she was reactive to the right lead.

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But she settled down. And it was time to get on.

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The moment when you are at your most vulnerable, one foot in the stirrup, the other leg about to go over. As my leg got to the other side, she shot forward. But not mean and I got her back real quick. So overall it was a success. Glad I had worked on standing at the mounting block the first few weeks she got here!

She was responsive to leg and hand. Not over reactive. The first few transitions she would shoot her head up in the air, but relaxed after a few strides. Trotting home was rushed, but she walked when asked. It was a short ride. The saddle fit and she was amazing!

The next two days I did a little more trot, a few circles and we cantered. Day two of riding we cantered to the left. She was a little tense initially but settled. Day three, we cantered both directions. To the right, as I suspected, was a bit of a shit show. But I bet by next weekend, a few more rides under our belt, she won’t have any tension issues at all.

Here is a video with some of day two and three. Our first attempt at the right lead isn’t pretty, but we got a few strides of nice, soft, relaxed canter. So I call that a win!

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The first two days I rode her I lunged her first. I didn’t think she needed it. But I did. I needed to see her, just for my own peace of mind. The third day, no lunging.

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Our third day included out of the ring time, which I hope to do more of over the next few weeks. More trail rides, less ring time! She has the bridge mastered, though she prefers to eat grass when standing on it.

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I really hadn’t planned on starting to ride her yet. But I listened to her and since she isn’t out on 40 acres with a herd of other horses, she really only has me. So I figure it’s my job to make sure her mind and body are happy, content, and not feeling cooped up. She gets outside everyday and has a run on her stall. But if there is one thing I feel I know about her so far is that she is happier with a job. So while I’m going to take it easy over the next few weeks, I think she’s gonna be a happier horse with some mind and body work.

There is one other thing I have vowed with this project that is Alice: I am going to forgo gadgets. No draw reins, no side reins, and no martingales. It’s like the organic, non-gmo horse training. I’m not in a hurry and the thing is, I want her to think this is fun. Not a job. Lets admit it, even if we love what we are doing, if it’s a job…it just isn’t as fun as a hobby, activity, or passion. Even if those turn into a job, it still ends up being a fucking job. So I want her to love being ridden, jumping, flat work, trail rides. So if her head is in the air, instead of forcing it down with draw reins or martingales, I’m gonna figure out what I’m doing wrong, what she’s unhappy with, and/or what is wrong with the activity.

Because in the three days we’ve done the whole interspecies travel, well, we both seem pretty happy. So I really want to keep it that way.

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So there you have it. I can’t wait to see what we get done next week!

What a good pony!!!

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