We’ve actually gotten out for three rides in the past week. The weather is still somewhat inhospitable, but it’s drifted into the tolerable range. The key is layering. Yesterday was the nicest day; in spite of fairly gusty winds the temps were mild and the ground condition was good.
We’re easing back into it after a couple months of almost nothing. Sully has visibly lost muscle tone, and me, well… So our rides are consisting of a lot of walking with brief jogs and an occasional lope sprinkled in. Cementing our communication has been my main focus. But Sully is one of those rare horses that you could stand in a field for a year and not touch him, then throw a saddle on him and go. He forgets nothing. And what he does “forget,” you can rest assured it is a conscious choice! Some of that selective memory stuff, like, oh my gosh, I’ve never seen that boulder before! Deer?! What the heck is a DEER?! You want me to put my FOOT in that mud puddle?!
Meanwhile, back at the pasture, there’s Sully grazing peacefully around the base of a boulder with a herd of deer frolicking around him and his foot in a mud puddle.
Yesterday’s ride was fantastic, though. We started with a brief longe session; at one point I dropped the line, and his circle was getting larger and larger, and his trot was getting faster and faster. Then it dawned on me that it hadn’t yet dawned on him I’d dropped it! So I brought my body language back up as though I were still holding the line, and I gave the whoa command. He did a couple more strides and came to a stop. Ha! Sometime’s it’s nice that he’s not the sharpest tack in the pack. Once we mounted up he was a little lazy, but as I’ve learned gradually how not to nag him, he’s gradually learning to respond the first time I ask. So though I had to remind him a few times that we were walking and not napping, overall he kept a consistent pace. We went by the dairy with a little gawking, but he neither tried to stop nor spook at anything. Then I rode him for a quarter of a mile with absolutely no rein contact, steering and changing speeds (up and down transitions, they’re called) with my legs, seat, and voice. I like to think that in the event of an equipment failure like a rein or headstall breaking (and it has happened to me before!) I could easily bring the horse down to a stop with something other than the bridle.
We rode up to the house here, or to the top of the drive, and met up with Mom. While she walked down to pick up Blue, I took Sully up to the area where the cow guys have been leaving the white plastic bale coverings all over the place. These were strewn all over and flapping in the wind. I was hoping to get Sully to stand quietly next to one while it twisted and rattled. He walked up to over the first one. The next one he stopped on top of while the wind whipped it at his belly and legs. He stood there, and after a moment, pawed at the plastic like he wondered what was underneath. We walked on, around and over all the different pieces, and he never even flinched. The herd of cows and calves was a few feet away, too, watching with fascination. Sully’s attitude toward the whole thing was pretty amazing.
We had an equally uneventful ride home. It was great.
As we barrel towards spring and grass, I’m down to 4 bales of hay in the barn. The 65 bales we started with have lasted well, but I’ll have to run for another load to get us to May. We easily used half the hay that we have in previous years, and Sully’s weight is where it should be right now. The farrier and I have missed one another a couple of times now, but he’s scheduled out on Monday to get Sully’s feet back in shape; maybe then I can get them back into his boots! He’s not had a professional trim since Thanksgiving, though I have trimmed him once and rasped him a couple of times. I’d like to take a couple of pictures to demonstrate before and after. The farrier’s also bringing me some plastic hoof pads that I’ll hopefully use to repair the grazing muzzle; I’ll document it for those of you who are looking for a way to extend the life of your muzzles.
This morning we’re making a feed run before the weather sets in. A rare 62 degrees today, and thunderstorms in the forecast!