Uncategorized

I Think I Need to Raise Them

When I decided to retire Gem I knew one thing: my next horse would be a confidence builder. I had had a ton of confidence before getting Gem. Probably too much. She taught me a lot of great things, but the one bad thing she did was kill off my confidence. I needed a horse who would help me find it again.

This is his work face. Life is so hard when you live with an adult ammy who wants to work for 40 minutes three times a week. So very hard. 

Eeyore is mostly fitting that bill. His temper tantrums aren’t my favorite thing in the world and I wish he wouldn’t have them, but each ride shows improvement. Last night I threw him on the lunge again and he was fine. I got on board and he was great at the walk. I’m really getting the hang of the walk. Not like Olympic level getting the hang of it, but you know like adult ammy who doesn’t ride as often as she should getting the hang of it. I’m 1000x more relaxed, my hips/seat follow his movement instead of being a rigid board prohibiting it and my elbows stay bent and following. The best thing is that I am using my seat and leg aides and not going to my hands. It is the coolest feeling to me to use my outside leg and rein to get him to turn. I still can’t really wrap my head around how using my left leg and rein gets him to turn right. I’m sure there is some physics/biomechanics lesson in there that I don’t care to unlock, I just think it is a really cool thing.

I moved him up to the trot and he didn’t really like that idea much. He started curling up and shaking his head side to side in his warning that he wants to rear or go flying off. This time I called him on his bluff and booted his orange butt forward. And you know what? He went forward, realized it is too much effort to fight and settled down. He never got as relaxed as last week. He was a bit pissy that the others were put out after dinner and he was made to stay in and get tacked up instead and he refused to fully relax, but he trotted and didn’t throw any more tantrums.

The one trick he did pull back out which he hasn’t done in a long time is hanging on my hands. Apparently it was too much effort to hold his own head up last night. Again, I booted him forward and he responded though remained sulky about it. Life is hard.

My new grass arena. Lovely, isn’t it.? A pro is hopefully coming tonight to quote tearing the entire thing up and redoing it, base and all. 

I had two exercises I wanted to work on. One was exercise 3 from the Jumping Book: a single ground pole in the center ridden as an X shaped figure 8. Clear as mud? Good. It is actually my favorite single ground pole exercise to date. It requires riding a straight line, cutting over the pole on an angle and then creating bend at the far side to turn and come back over the pole on a straight line again. Thus forming the X with an arc connecting the top and bottom. It keeps me honest with my path while fluctuating between straightness and bend.

Eeyore was pretty great about it too. He is so much easier to work with than my Gemmie as repetition doesn’t make him want to explode with firey rage nor does he decide he knows better after one trip and refuse to take input. He just plods along with it. It makes it easy to over work him on something which is a point I’ve been keeping in mind. I find myself not wanting to stop.

I also set up a 2′ vertical down the one side about 4′ off the rail and closer to the gate end of the arena. I figured that jumping him towards home would get him pepped up and the shorter exit would help me keep him slowed on the back side of the fence. No bucking and taking off on landing. Or wait…that was Gem.

So we head towards the little vertical (the highest I have actually jumped in my short lived jumping career, so not so little looking to me) and he is dragging his head and not really paying much attention so the jump comes as a bit of a surprise. Pay attention Doofus. He walks over it.

Ok fine. We come back around, I make sure to give my best attempt to get him ahead of my leg, I look up and prepare to grab mane and….he trots very beautifully over it.

Ok fine. Try again. And again. And again. I could not for the life of me get him to actually jump over the darn thing. He trotted it every single time. I tried closing my legs. I tried clucking. I even tried jumping it for him..not recommended by the way. And each time he politely took it as an elevated trot pole.

Caught Gem and Pete grooming last night. First time in all the years I’ve had them. It was so cute. 

I wasn’t brave enough on my own (the boys were down at the pond fishing) to jack the pole up to higher than I have previously jumped but apparently Mr. Lazy Pants refuses to put forth the effort to jump something that is tall enough to trot over. Point taken. And thus takes me to the start of this post. While he isn’t the perfectly behaved little angel that I dreamed of, he will make me more confident by being too lazy to do anything he doesn’t really have to. Like jump over something he can trot over. Looks like I’m going to get my year end wish of jumping 2’3″ by default. Otherwise I’ll keep trotting over everything.

Uncategorized

Life With Doofus

Florence cancelled my plans to ride a third time last week. The rain wasn’t so bad, it was mostly a casual mist that didn’t end for 48 hours, but the winds were high, the horses were anxious and it wasn’t worth it. Had it been Gem, I likely would have, but I’m trying to build positive experiences as Eeyore and I get to know each other and it didn’t seem like the best bet. I’ll hop on him tonight.

img_6384
Don’t worry, I look like a Doofus when I ride too buddy. We fit. 

Life with him is never dull though. He is a character and after spending near on a decade with Miss Aloof and Mr Scared of the Universe, it is really fun to just hang out with him.

Eeyore is…different. He isn’t stupid or at least not most of the time, but you can tell he isn’t always firing on all cylinders.

img_2789
I’m not different. You are different

For example:

Two weekends ago Dusty looked up to see a strange car pulling down our driveway. The house in front of us was listed for sale and apparently a couple with horses had just looked at it and fallen in love. The issue? It sits on just shy of 4 acres, most taken up by the large house, outbuildings and swimming pool and they have 3 horses. I’m not sure why they even looked at the place as it is not a horse property, but they did. They came down our drive (I very pointedly asked Dusty in front of them why he didn’t shut the gate to avoid this – I’m really friendly like that) to see if we a) boarded – hell no!, b) would sell them the pasture that extends from our house to their back yard – not even a small chance! or c) would lease them that pasture – nope, nope, nope, go buy something that is appropriate.

Anyway…

As we were standing outside talking to them and keeping the nosy agent from wandering all over the place as she was trying to do, I noticed that Gem and Pete had come up to the gate looking for dinner. No Eeyore in sight. Not super odd as the big guy hangs out by himself a lot grazing while the seniors nap. All of a sudden he is seen galloping hell bent up the hill to their favorite napping spot, ears pricked forward and a worried look on his face. He gets to the top of the and stares at the nap spot, empty of horses because they are down by the gate by us.

He screams for them. Looks around with an expression that screamed “OMG! I’m all alone! Its been the Apocalypse. What am I going to do now?!”

Then he looked our way and saw them. He let out a huge happy, relieved nicker and burst into a full bore gallop down to them.

Meanwhile, the Dynamic Duo had obviously also seen this play out and had stood still and quiet probably trying to pretend they didn’t know him and weren’t associated. Dusty and I were keeled over laughing.

I know he was out of sight, but don’t horses have smell? Eyes? A secret sense that tells them when other horses are nearby? He does this all the time too. He will be grazing by himself in apparently oblivious to the word around him and Gem and Pete will wander off. He won’t even realize it for a while and then boom! He does and he freaks out that he is all alone in the world until he gallops around and sees them around the bend, behind a tree or you know 10 feet away from him.

Doofus suits him.

While Gem pretends she doesn’t want anything to do with him, it is all a show. The day I hauled him out to ride, she came flying to the gate nickering and acting all not Gem like once the trailer was pulling back down the drive. I barely got the halter off before she took him galloping off to a far corner out of my reach.  The big orange beast wiggles under your skin pretty easily. Its hard not to love him.

img_3141-1
She doesn’t like him at all…

Pete for his part adores the young guy. Pete would make the perfect horse to baby sit babies. He is playful and kind yet doesn’t let things get too out of hand and will put them in their place when needed. When we first moved here he was boarded with a young gelding and they would gallop, rear and play all day long. I asked Dusty in passing if he thought the old man, now 28, would return to that level once it cooled down and we both thought maybe he had gotten too old.

Well….let me tell you how wrong I was.

Florence brought cooler temperatures and a misting rain that lasted 36 hours. Pete was in heaven with those conditions and picked on Eeyore non stop to play. Of course I missed the massive tail flagged sprints, the farting and squealing but I did manage to catch a bit of the action. It was all Pete instigated too. Eeyore better be in the mood to play one fall and winter hit.

Honestly, even with all the disasters of his early days here, I don’t think I could have picked a better horse to introduce to the herd. Eeyore floats in and out of their romance, choosing to graze right next to them at time sand choosing to wander off while they are side by side. He follows Gem’s lead mostly without question although he grazes more and naps less than they do. None of them have come in with a bite or kick mark yet he plays with Pete when asked.

They can be thick as thieves when they want to be

And me? I finally have a horse that chooses to walk up to me when he notices I’m around. He doesn’t run and hide behind a tree or play hard to catch. If I’m working in the pasture, he is right there supervising my tasks. I love it. I’m hoping he remains sound and continues to be enjoyable under saddle, but even if he had to be retired at a young age he has no worried about leaving our farm. He has wiggled his Big Orange Butt in to a permanent spot regardless of his usefulness as a riding horse.

Gem: I’m sleeping. Hopefully she won’t see me beside Pete. Pete: nom, nom, nom. Eeyore: Oh hello human!

 

Gem: don’t go over there, she will see us! I have my eye on her. She s a tricky one.  Pete: nom, nom, nom. Eeyore: Hello! What are you up to? Do you need help?
Gem: damn, you. Death to all! Pete: nom, nom, nom. Eeyore: Give me scratches? Give me hugs? Love on me!
Uncategorized

Good Horses Aren’t Born. They Are Made.

In an attempt to not make the same mistakes I made with Gem, I decided to go full bore the other way with Eeyore, whose name will not die regardless of how hard I try to make Cruze stick so Eeyore it will remain. The biggest mistake I felt I made with Gem was always assuming the worst and getting exactly what I predicted. You know, the whole self fulfilling prophecy thing.

Trying to do anything in the pasture is hard work this summer. My new supervisor believes in an up close and personal management style. It took me three times as long to clean the water tank than ever before. 

With her, I would find myself thinking “she is going to be spicy, tense and running through me” and voila! she was. Of course, a lot of that was going to occur regardless of my predictions because she was Gem after all, but still.

So when I brought Eeyore home (affectionately called Doofus around the house) I swung that pendulum the other direction and assumed he was the God of all horses at all the things. Which then led to me shoving him in the trailer and taking him cross country schooling at a new to me venue with a new to me group of people a week after bringing him home. Not really that smart because while the mount had changed, the rider surely hadn’t overnight.

With his past history with me of running off or flinging his head while attempting to bridle, I have taken to doing it in the arena where he has room to misbehave but is still enclosed. I wrap a lead rope around his neck just in case. He thinks he looks stupid. I told him if he behaved he could return to being a cool kid again. 

And that mentality caused a lot of the issues I had with him early on. I assumed he would be just fine in a large, open pasture, so I rode him out there and he threw me on my butt. I assumed he would come out and get to work nicely and sedately all the time no matter that he just had 3 months off for painful feet. I assumed he would do all these things regardless of the fact that his entire life had been upended and changed and he didn’t know me from anyone and all because I had spend a lot of money on him and figured he should.

Now I am all for expectations and all that, but there is a level of training, trust and relationship building that needs to occur and I sorta blew by all that on my way to doing all the things. It didn’t work out so well.

Pretending to check out the tack while giving me epic side eye and a whole ton of judgement. 

In retrospect, while I agree that I shouldn’t picture the worst, had I assumed he could do the thing, but treated him like he couldn’t as I tried to find his level of training and the holes in place, well I believe life would have been much smoother earlier this summer. Of course, horses will be horses and Eeyore has his opinions about working hard and what his life should be like, so there will always be ups and downs, but my entire approach to him wasn’t helping matters at all.

That brings me to the present. Tuesday evening I had a terrible ride. I grabbed him from the pasture, tacked him up, threw him on the lunge line in the home arena and watched him be a perfectly sound, gentlemanly gelding. That ended when I mounted up and all of a sudden had a not so gentlemanly gelding who refused to bend, decided moving away from the gate was not possible and began to curl behind the bit, snake his head side to side and pop up a little.

I stood back and watched him stand like this for a way too long time. He had just pooped and remained there like that with all four feet doing very different things and that strange look on his face. Doofus fits him well. 

Even in the moment I knew what I needed to do. I needed to kick him forward, keep him in front of my leg and ride him. The me of the moment also knew I didn’t have the lady balls to do that. As things got worse, I shut him down and just sat there slumped forward in the saddle debating on quitting, sliding off and making his sale ad. I was ready to be done.

As I sat there though, it dawned on me that if I quit now I’d be quitting forever. This wasn’t the most terrible behavior. Sure, it scared me as I wasn’t comfortable dealing with it but I could deal with it. I actually knew how to deal with it. And it was way easier than anything Gem had ever thrown at me. So I thought about it. I thought about my approach with him. How he hadn’t been ridden in that arena in nearly 3 1/2 months, hadn’t been ridden at all in a week and in 3 months prior to that and well…maybe this wasn’t being all that fair.

Not happy. I’m not sure what about. Probably life in general. He wears his emotions on his face quite plainly for all to see. Someone call the ASPCA. 

I took a deep breath and thought about what I could do that would be productive and in my wheel house. Transitions! If he couldn’t handle trotting more than a handful of steps without breaking to canter or acting out, then I wouldn’t ask him to. Instead I would ask him to trot, praise him, then bring him back to the walk and repeat.

At first he tried to break to canter. I told him out loud “Dude, I can literally trot all day. Go ask Gem about that. You won’t out trot me or out work me. Just do the thing and be done”

Is it a problem when you have to literally get the riding mower out and mow the arena? Yes? We have decided to be done with it and get someone to scrape all the “footing” out to the base, put in a real base and new footing on top. Now if only someone would call us back and schedule it. 

It took a while. A long while. But he eventually blew out a nice relaxing snort, took a deep breath and melted under me. For the next 15 minutes we trotted around doing various figures, going over trot poles and enjoying a moment of not fighting. I called it a night after that.

Last night I wanted to ride again. See what I would have to deal with. Would it be the same first 10 minutes of every ride fight? Could I handle it better? This time though I was armed with treats. I’m not a fan of feeding treats and in fact normally I don’t even have any on hand, but I happened to grab a small bucket when I bought some keratex and a second saddle pad because Homeboy sweats through his at the walk. I was especially hesitant to use treats with Eeyore with his already mouthy, slightly pushy behavior, but I read so many bloggers who stuff their horses full of treats and thought why not try it.

I can’t get one of those gorgeous shots of him standing looking regal in his tack. Mostly because he is Doofus and can’t look regal no matter how he tries but also because he follows me around like a puppy. I  adore it. 

Of course this makes me a bad researcher. Too many variables changed between the rides. This time I rode after 1 day off instead of 8 days. The horses were out in the field by the arena instead of kept inside. I had food. Who knows which made the biggest impact. I really don’t care. The result though. Wow.

Homeboy has become an easy horse to handle on the ground which is a huge improvement from when I brought him home. Not as good as Gem, but nearly there and better than Pete. After I groomed him, I offered him a small treat being careful that I would get to keep my fingers. He looked surprised at the offering and took it politely. I began to tack him up and he stood perfectly still.  Typically he bends around and stares at me while I work, not biting but putting the idea firmly in my head to watch out. This time he looked forward, rested a hind leg and let me get to it without supervising.

He should feel special. Gem never had more than one pad at a time. He now has two. I like the fit of this one a lot and the navy looks great against his orange coat. 

He got a treat.

We went to the arena. No screaming for his friends.

He lunged.

He got a treat.

I got on. He stood perfectly still at the mounting block. Typically I have to swing on and then immediately halt him. Not this time.

He walked off, blew out his relaxing breath within 2-3 minutes and then got busy trotting like a pro. He was soft, neither dropping nor lifting his head against my hands, went where I asked off my seat and legs, and even showed me how great he is at bending through the turns and around circles. Sure we weren’t perfect. I’m an imperfect rider, but he did what I asked without a fight.

He still tended to lose all ability to move nearing the gate and took more urging to get away from it, but he was being good about it. Not mean or threatening. Just letting me know he would prefer not to work, thank you very much.

Playing in the water as I top it off. I let him go at the gate and then walked to the trough which is out past the arena. He looked at me, then the horses out in the field and trotted after me. He does know how to make me happy. 

In fact he was so good, that I cued for canter going right and he picked it up beautifully. After a few circuits, I brought him to the trot and then halted. I leaned forward to give him a treat under saddle. This took me quite some time to train Gem to, but he took it nicely and stood chewing in bliss. I let him chew, then asked him to trot and then canter left. After that I halted him, gave him another treat, walked around a bit and got off.

I can’t say the treats were the only thing that changed his behavior, I’m sure being worked two days prior and being able to see his friends helped too, but I am positively certain he was trained with treats as he knew exactly what to do and what was expected once the food came out.

It was, hands down, one of the best, most relaxing rides I believe I have ever had on any horse ever. The only thing that rivals it would be the 3rd loop of the 100 with Gem. Other than that this takes the cake. He was relaxed. He was malleable. He was…above all else…willing. It was nice to have a willing partner under me.

I’ve been on a spending spree it seems. Snagged these new leather half chaps off Tack of the Day for only $30. My Just Chaps, which I loved, finally died a terrible death.

The biggest change in all this though was my attitude. I changed from assuming he was great because I wanted him to be to the mantra “Good horses aren’t born, they are made”. He wasn’t going to be a great horse just because I willed him to be. No. If I wanted him to do all the things nicely, calmly and happily then I needed to put in the time to get him there. To teach him. To show him. He is only 7 after all. Not a been there done that horse. I don’t think he left the barn I bought him from in the year he lived there.

Moving ahead with him my plan is to expect good behavior but treat him as if this was all new, walk him through it, praise a lot, treat often and see where we end up. If the horse I had under me last night comes out to play time and again, I see some great adventures in our future.

Uncategorized

Hoof Update With Pics

Life transpired as it generally does and I didn’t get a chance to hop back on Cruze until last night. I’ll write that up when I have time to fully process the ride. He is sound which is great. He wasn’t very fun which is not. More later when I figure out where my head space is.

For now I’d like to show his hooves after four months of growing out complete with keratex applied twice weekly and a daily feed through hoof supplement. Keep in mind that the Farrier has not touched him since the second week of May.

His right front shows the most change in both the angle of new hoof growth and the level of chipping that keeps occurring.

Doing this on my phone so excuse the odd size and the toddler-esque paint skills

The blue line shows the end of the new growth and if you look at the toe you can see joe scooped up it looks. The new angle is coming in very steep comparatively and in person it makes his foot look elf shaped.

The yellow shows an abscess he formed six weeks ago and the arrow points to where it began. This is also useful to me to see how much the hoof is growing. And it is growing. Quite quickly and nicely. The issue is all that chipping that even keratex isn’t preventing and that makes it impossible to safely shoe.

That is the underside of his right hoof. What I like is that he has finally formed sulcuses beside and at the rear of the frog and while the hoof is still not long enough to even trim, he is finally growing something.

His front left isn’t as dramatic but still shows good downward growth.

The hinds went bare 3 weeks prior to the fronts and the line of growth is nearly all the way out already.

Not too much longer and he will have a new hoof on both hinds. I’m waiting to shoe the hinds until the fronts are good to go.

The goal here isn’t to keep him barefoot long term. I doubt he would hold up sound to anything outside the pasture or fluffy arena and I plan to get him on trails and hunter paces hopefully this fall but definitely winter and spring. What I want is a healthier hoof to shoe and I’m waiting as patiently as possible for those front hooves to grow all the way out with a theoretically stronger hoof wall that will accept and keep a shoe more reliably.

Based on current growth I’d say I’m looking at the beginning of the new year at the earliest perhaps not until daylight savings time begins next spring which I’m fine with as he is sound and able to work now as long as I’m careful about the footing.

He is happy, healthy and sound at the moment and I have a farrier I trust moving forward with him. The future, at least with his feet, is looking bright.

Uncategorized

2018 August Winner

Man, I have been slacking. Life is super busy and I doubt it will get any slower. I didn’t think Wyatt going off to kindergarten would add that much to my day, but it really has. I finally sneaked out a few moments to calculate August and pick a winner, plus um…get July figured out too. Sorry Sarah O!

August had a slew of new people getting out there and getting it done with a total of 31 hours being donated for various jobs from working warm up to scribing to jump judging.

Thank you to all who participated in August!!

aug

My favorite random name picker online chose:

holly

Congrats!!! Please email me your address at agemofahorse at gmail dot com and I will (probably) get your prize out to you shortly.

What did you win? For this month I chose a reflective horse collar with a pouch to place your contact information.

prze.PNG
PC Riding warehouse. Be safe in the waning light of fall

Sadly the light is already starting to fade in the evenings and I always worry about riding at dusk when others may not be able to see me whether in an arena or out for a hack/trail ride. With this collar, your horse will be visible and have emergency information on hand in case they get loose. Use it while riding or when turned out in the pasture or save it for an emergency weather pattern!

As for you Sarah O, shipping to Canada is proving either impossible or insanely expensive for a $20 item. So….you will be getting a link sent via email with a code for a Road ID bracelet. Hope you like it!

September marks the end of the 3rd quarter so get those hours in for the $50 prize package.

Uncategorized

The Ever Shifting Plan

It is so easy to second guess yourself in life in general, but especially with horses where not only does everyone have an opinion, but they all feel like they need to express it plus their disdain for you doing something different.

No related media, so I’m filling in with some around the farm pics. This dude mowed the pasture with me for a full 10 minutes. 

My plan from the get go with Cruze after his hoof debacle was to keep him barefoot until the new hoof is all grown down and then shoe the healthier hoof. It was the best option given my past experiences, horse management style and goals (or lack thereof). It wasn’t the best plan according to a lot of other people, but eh…not their horse.

As time went by, I started second guessing this plan as each day he seemed to remain lame. Should I just shoe him? Will I be causing more harm than good waiting this out? Why buy a horse and then not ride him for months on end? It would be easier to shoe and get to ride now, why am I doing this to myself?

30 acres and they stand right up each other’s butts. 

Thankfully, the Hubby always keeps me real and true to my own convictions and I kept the Big Orange Beast barefoot even though I was tempted to shoe him and be done with all this mess.

The farrier came out last night to do trims. I keep a 6 week schedule although I am tempted to move it back to 5 weeks as the horses are growing a ton of hoof. Well, two of them are anyway. He started with Gem…great feet!!..moved to Pete…chronic white line starting to move back in continue the Thrush Buster twice a week!…and ended with Cruze….um, are you sure it has been 6 weeks??

Cruze’s hooves were no different than when Farrier was last out. Well, that isn’t entirely true. Farrier loved the looks of the new hoof wall growing down on all four and could easily see the line of new growth which is about half way down now. What he didn’t like was that there was still nothing to trim and no hoof to shoe safely. Homeboy chips his feet off like crazy.

Chilling in the hammock with Einstein

We had a discussion as to what was going on and what to do about it. Farrier immediately nixed the idea of shoes in fear that he would rip his hoof off again and we would be back at square one. While I have been patient the last four months with this, I doubt I would be all over again. I ask ed if shoes would help him not chip so badly and actually grow a hoof, but he thought the risk of losing mre hoof due to the shoe outweighed the benefits.

We then talked about trimming and he was on the fence. On one hand he could help the concavity a bit and round off some sharp edges, but he just came sound and Farrier worried he would walk off lame if he removed any hoof at this point. I’m so glad I hopped on him to test him out last weekend because his soundness was a big deciding factor on what to do. So it passed that Cruze walked away from the farrier yet again without being touched. He hasn’t had his feet touched since the week I brought him home in MAY. That is nearly 4 months without having enough hoof to even trim. Ugh.

I need to find someone to bale my pastures. This was growth in the big field while it rested. Hubby says we have a too much grass problem. I say we have a not enough herbivores problem. A nice donkey could help out with all that. Maybe some sheep. Or a pet cow. 

But the good news is that he is sound and Farrier used the hoof testers to make sure nothing was brewing. Homeboy, who is very pain adverse aka a huge baby about every minor thing, didn’t react at all. He is doing well enough as is finally and there is no need to rock the boat at the moment.

Basically, Farrier agreed fully with staying the course: allow Big Boy to grow out a whole new, healthier hoof  that will be more accepting of a shoe and once that is done he will be getting shoes all around with bell boots up front to prevent any new shoe ripping off debacles from occurring. It was nice to hear that he was on board with my own plans and that we can keep on keeping on through the fall and into winter when he will hopefully finally have a healthy hoof to shoe safely.

We talked about long term barefoot and the verdict? Nope, nope nope. If he was a dressage horse and only ridden in soft, fluffy arena footing then maybe, sure. But Farrier laughed out loud at the idea of Cruze being able to go on trails without destroying his feet and coming up dead lame again. Boots are an option, but I’ve been down the boot road before and it was not for me. I’d take shoes over boots any day.

With his rate of hoof growth and where they are now we are looking at probably 6 months before he gets shoes baring any lameness in the meantime which puts us right at the start of the spring season next year. Not too bad especially since we have the green light to get back to work in the meantime. Overall, not a bad farrier visit at all.

Riding/Horses

My Own Worst Enemy

Sunday was the day. At 9:30 in the morning it was already 80F, but the sky was dotted with fluffy white clouds granting a break from the baking hot sun.

Six weeks is a long time to stew in your own insecurities and it took talking everything out with the Hubby to convince myself to grow a back bone, remember that I do in fact love riding, and prepare to load Cruze (who btw is still known as Eeyore around the farm, the name just won’t die)  up and haul out to Trainer’s facility to take advantage of the great footing in her arenas. The footing in my own arena is akin to cement and I didn’t think it was a good idea to test his soundness on footing that even Gem would likely have a hard time with.

Checking out the trailer

Getting Cruze was easy. While Gem and Pete were on high alert the moment the trailer got hooked up, he was clueless and happily munched on the grass until he noticed me and then came walking over in his perpetually cheerful way. I almost felt guilty.

After I snapped the lead rope on he got a little curious but walked away down the hill. Until Gem called out. I have no idea what warning she called but the pliable and happily clueless gelding beside me turned into a squealing and bucking idiot. Sigh. Not the way I wanted to start this adventure. And honestly, Gem needs to get her head out of her butt. She enjoyed her job and we had so many fun times together. It is a bit insulting that she is now so thoroughly enjoying her retirement. Horses.

Being a Good Boy

Fortunately for both our sakes, Cruze isn’t very committed to being naughty and a few times making him halt, back, halt and then walk on got him back to listening. He still squealed under his breath and was tense but he walked without theatrics and loaded up just fine.

The decision to haul out was a complicated one. On one hand, the footing would be better and riding him away from his herd would be beneficial for his overall behavior. On the other hand, my only other experience hauling out saw him be a total freak at the trailer, bear impossible to tack up, and overly focused on every one else and not me. Hauling out added a layer of nerves, but since I love hauling out it was a skill I needed to work on any way.

 

Proof he got tacked up and was such a good boy at the trailer that I could step away and snap a picture. 

All the time out of the saddle had brought about a major insight into the workings of Cruze. He may be a brave horse in a not spooking sense, but he does still need a lot of verbal reassurance that the ground isn’t going to open and swallow him whole. Lots of thoughts to come on this topic, but for now what this meant was that I went very slowly tacking him up, talking to him non stop and gave him plenty of head cuddles. This resulted in him standing quietly, only getting a little wide eyed when I disappeared into the trailer to get a piece of tack and in general being a much more civilized citizen. This is a major win as the last time I took him out and about, I barely got the bridle on without him running off.

Off to the arena we went to lunge with Dusty as back up eyes on the ground. I get a bit overly picky about gaits and soundness and I wanted him there to make sure I was seeing reality. Cruze was a bit tense and looked around a lot, especially when someone else showed up and rode around the outside of the arena, but he listened to all my voice commands every time I asked and was in general pretty good. He did have one bucking/squealing fit when asked to trot the first time in each direction, but settled again quickly.

The best thing? He was sound both directions. No question about it sound. Perfectly sound for the first time in 3 months.

He does make me smile

I hadn’t fully tacked him up to lunge because why bother if he wasn’t going to be sound? It was a quick walk back to tack and then to the arena once again. By now though the other rider had entered and was riding. I never know what to do in this situation. It is a public arena and she wasn’t in a scheduled lesson, but it also seems rude to barge in and start riding especially since she had obviously waited for me to stop lunging and leave to enter. With two other arenas on property, I just diverted to the warm up arena with a few fences up in a line. The footing here wasn’t as deep and fluffy, but was still adequate and it was yet another experience to lunge in one arena and ride in another with a horse in full view but unaccessible.

I mounted with some butterflies lingering, but he stood very still until I asked him to walk off. While he did keep one eye on the other horse, he did not scream out or try to run over to him. In fact, he was a really Good Boy. We walked both directions for a bit while I tested his brakes and bending ability, but since he had warmed up w/t/c on the lunge I didn’t waste much time getting to trot.

Happy to have this view again even if he matched the footing. Camouflage horse. 

Once trotting, I was thrilled with how light in my hands he was. He was accepting a bit more contact without being fussy and was not dropping his head at all. This was the second ride in the Myler Comfort Snaffle and it has made a huge difference in his way of going. So glad I shelled out for him.

Trotting left felt great. Going right, which has been the trouble side, felt…awkward. Not lame. Definitely not the same it felt before, but not as smooth as going left. He doesn’t have the best conformation out there and with all the time off and pain I’m thinking a chiro appointment will be in his near future to help even him out plus a lot of strengthening work. But not lame which was a huge relief.

Always making faces

In fact, he not only felt good enough but was behaved enough to pop him over a small cross rail a few times each direction. Fun fact: this was the first time I ever jumped him in the arena and only the second time ever (xc schooling way back in May was the other time outside the original test ride) and I didn’t even have Trainer there. When Homeboy is being good I feel like I could do anything with him. It is the reason I chose him.

Cruze was great with the fence. Well, he didn’t respect the tiny 2′ cross rail at all and clobbered it pretty good, but was good on approach and the back side and after a few trips over I called it a day.

We took a walk in the woods to cool down and he was very good for that too. Aware of the surroundings and curious, but still mindful of me. I can’t wait to get him out trail riding. 

After 25 minutes he was dripping with sweat and huffing pretty good. Six weeks off didn’t do his fitness any favors, so it was time to end it even though I found myself back to where we began with me never wanting to get off him. Riding him, when he is like this, is just plain FUN. Sure, we aren’t perfect and aren’t working on anything more difficult than w/t/c and cross rails, but it is FUN. Capitol FUN. Never want the ride to end FUN. It reminded me exactly why I chose this particular horse of all the ones I tried and all the others on my list to try. He isn’t fancy and we likely won’t be winning anything, but damn is he just what I need.

And handsome.

It was the perfect re introduction and I couldn’t have imagined it going any better. Trainer is overseas but the moment she comes back I’ll be on her schedule. I have a lot of thoughts to write out so be prepared for that coming up.

My boys

But for now….

We are back in action!!!!!