Friday, May 13, 2011

Pedicures and Practice (and Head Protection!)

As the farrier was coming out yesterday, I headed out to the barn after dinner and thankfully pulled in just as she arrived. Already tacking up at the rail was the Saddle Club, though this time Carole was missing. I have to admit it seemed a little awkward, maybe because typically there’s no one out but me when Moon is getting his trims.

D was awesome as usual, despite the strong winds that were blowing. I swear it felt more like February and not the middle of May. The air was chill, and we were all wearing our winter parkas, and myself, I was donning a toque (that a funny Canadian knitted hat, that keeps your head and ears warm).

The paddocks are drying up nicely, and I managed to get Moon down from the hay pile without his hooves becoming covered in muddy poop, something I’m sure every farrier hates. Granted, D would never complain, but it just seemed a little rude overall. If I could, I would have hosed down his legs to make them that extra bit of clean.

He was looking mighty fine from all the grooming lately, almost appearing to be dappled over the rump. Who knows with him and his funny coloring. D trimmed his hooves, noting that the timing was perfect, and he does have a decently fast growth rate. Bang on 6 weeks. I always love trim days, as they remind me of haircuts, and how light and free you feel afterwards. I’m happy to think that he’ll have nicely trimmed toes in his lesson next week, and coupled to his shiny coat, he’ll look like the star that he is.

His blown out ‘abscess’ that I noticed last February is nearly grown out, which makes me happy. Then he’ll have nice clean hooves, without any big imperfections. I REALLY need to get that bridle path trimmed in on him, along with maybe some mane pulling as he has quite the locks.

All the while T was helping the Saddle Club get their horses ready for some ground work. This is a sticking point for me, as I’m not entirely sure what to make of the situation. I have an overwhelming sense of desire to help, but it’s hindered by 1. Moon deserving my time first, 2. An uncertainty that I can provide help, 3. If my help is wanted, 4. Past experiences that make me leery of unbroken youngin’s, and 5. Not being sure it’s a good idea to have 14 year old girls with little or no riding experience or training, working with 2 year old horses.

I am glad that T gets the help in training them, and when it comes to ground work of leading them around on a line with a saddle on, I think it’s great. Granted, I’d want those girls in helmets from the time they catch them till they put them away, but I’m a recovered neurosurgery patient from a severe horse accident, and it makes one biased. At the end of the day, if their parents aren’t restricting their riding/handling because they don’t have helmets on, it’s not likely I can have any enforcement. Nor do I want to start ‘coaching’ these kids helmetless and find myself in a legal nightmare when a skull cracks open. It sounds terrible, and I know hundreds and thousands of people ride all the time without helmets on, but it is my number one pet peeve. Not even pet peeve really. I get this gut wrenching, bone chilling fear run through me when I see it, envisioning all the terrible things that could happen. And I only envision them, because I’ve been at the wrong end of a pair of hooves. Really, I don’t want any kids getting hurt, losing their love of riding, or no longer being able to. Or parents banning their kids for life because of an accident. Or T getting sued because of something. I really am a worry-wart.

So, I’ve been thinking of bringing out my old helmet for them to use, since it actually looks like a riding helmet. Granted, it’s seen its share of spills, and there’s no guarantee that it’ll fit them. But I imagine it’s better then nothing! I also emailed H to see if she’s seen my other old helmet, as it too could be used. Which covers 2/3 heads, making me a lot less stressed.

I’ll refrain myself from commenting on why their parents, having come by to visit and watch, haven’t made the move to strap helmets on these kids heads and threaten to never let them return if they take them off. Especially considering one can by a brand new helmet for $50 these days…

Again, refraining myself…

Mr. Moon had his hoof trim complete, and I sent D off with her payment, and a promise to return in 6 weeks. She did, before leaving, show me a couple of stretches to do with Moon’s back legs, as he’s quite stiff in the back end, and really could use more mobility. This will help make him easier for her to trim, as well as making him more comfortable during the process. Add to that, it’ll help with his overall flexibility, even when riding.

One stretch is to lift the back leg, and apply pressure to pull it backwards. This is done by placing your thigh behind the lower leg, and pushing gently. Very gently. Ease them into it. Hold for 5 seconds and release.

The other, is to pick the foot up and pull it ahead by the toes. Again, stretching slowly and holding for 5 seconds. She suggested doing them after a warm-up ride, and I’m now going to make this part of our post riding routine, every time.

Trimmed and looking nun-finer, I gave Moon a good grooming (he’s getting so soft!), and tacked him up. I feel happy knowing that his bridle fits properly now for sure (W raised the nose band 3 holes on Wednesday, and I’ve loosened it one hole so he can open his mouth more, as she suggested.

I pulled the knee blocks off my saddle, as it made the panels come out pretty far, and can’t help but feel like they sit too far ahead of me. When I pull my legs out and let them fall back naturally against Moon’s sides, they’re WAY behind the knee rolls, almost so far back that they’re not resting on the saddle flaps!

Regardless, I got him tacked, and he continued to give me dirty looks and turn his nose in to me, making me wonder if he was considering biting me. This of course, makes me worry that the saddle doesn’t fit well, and the pinching or pain that comes with it is making him unhappy to be tacked. Hmmmm…

So out to the grass paddock we went, T telling me not to worry about making divots as she plans on putting in sand this summer anyway. One of the Saddle Club (Lisa, if I’m not mistaken) was hand walking one of the little guys (Cheyenne or Mocha…they look the same to me), so I promised not to run her over, being okay with working in the same ring together. I REALLY wanted to put out some poles, but knew I was getting ahead of myself.

As usual, he was a brat to mount, whacking both his front and his hind left legs on the mounting ramp. No blood visible, but I sure was unhappy that his misbehaviour could cause him injury. Ger.

T came over and held him while I got on, and I’m comforted a bit knowing that it’s really not me, but rather him. T has said she’s had problems with this in the past, and all I want now, is W to show us some solutions. It does no good to be irritated with your horse before you’re even ON him!

We worked for a good 30 minutes on bending, him doing beautifully to the left at a walk, and marginally okay at a trot. With the fierce winds, it was difficult to get him to not toss and rush, and to the right, we did absolutely awful. We managed it a few times at a walk, but the trot was a corner-cutting mess, complete with the occasional attempt to boot me off. Oh Mr. Moon.

Frustrated, I worked around the outside of the ring, trying to get him deeper into the corners. Two laps were good, the rest were just a mess. He wanted to race like the wind that was blowing, and we were both getting frustrated. Me because I wanted him to be soft and supple and relaxed in the crazy wind (yeah, that’ll be the day), and him wanting to be head-high, ball of fury running wild.

So out to the back field we went him more then a little unhappy with me, since he was still being ridden. There’s a nice high and dry grassy spot right at the back, and I asked him for a canter. What I got, was a lot of bucking and attempts at bolting, which I have to think I sat out pretty well. He’s not a mean bucker, and doesn’t really get that much air to cause you any issues. To be honest, moments like that make him kinda fun to ride, reminding you of the importance of sitting tall, maintaining leg contact, and really staying passive through your seat. For 12, he still has get-up-and-go.

I made him trot when he refused to give me a nice transition, and finally kissed him up into a really beautiful canter. It was so beautiful, that for what I think may be the first time on him, I was able to sit deep in the saddle and roll with it. No half-seat. It felt AWESOME! And was amusing too, since on the drive out, I was thinking about how much trouble sitting the canter had always caused me. Back in my polo days, I always rode in ½ seat, until I became so familiar with Hobo (the horse I always rode), that I knew his rhythm and one day just rolled my butt into it, and a beautiful sitting canter. And had thought to myself “I wonder when I’ll be familiar enough with Moon’s beat, to sit his too?”

Of course, perfection doesn’t last long on a horse, and he cut the corner, fell into a bucking fit, and tried to run off. From there, we just worked in figure eights, circling in the opposite direction whenever he tried to run off. Keeping him in the canter was difficult, but we made it work, without any spills or injuries. Finally we settled down to a walk, which I was grateful for since the strong wind and exercise was giving me a sore throat, and my legs still burned like crazy from the previous day’s lesson.

Let me tell you, horseback riding is a painful sport. I once read a book as a kid that said every ride should end with a hot bath and a mug of rum. I swear it was in a children’s book, but who knows. No joke, there is NOTHING more necessary after truly working your muscles then a warm bath. The first day is never so bad, but the second and third are murderous. Riding yesterday, after the lesson the day prior, illustrated how weak my muscles were, as my legs flopped everywhere.

Today, I can’t sit cross-legged, I walk with a stilting gait, and I feel aged. That being said, I’m super excited to be developing these muscles again. I know it won’t be long until the pain fades, and hopefully W can find me some more training work that makes them sore all over again. The pain makes you feel like you did something!

Rode Mr. Moon back to the paddock gait when we were finished, doing a little neck reining just to make sure he still remembers it.

I would LOVE to do a trail class with him someday, and thought, “Hey! I should open this gate from horseback!”

Moon got close enough for me to unhook it and then I swung it gently. By gently, I mean it opened all of 3”. And Moon spooked, jumped and side stepped away.

Brought him back, pushed it again, he spooked, jumped away, and I could tell he was thinking “You nuts woman!”. It was then, that I realized the electric fence was shorting (based on the popping noise coming from the ground in front of us), and Moon had to step in this area when I pushed on the gate. I have a sneaky feeling that this added to the problem, and I decided that I’d walk him back up to the gate, but NOT attempt to push it open again. It took two little encouraging squeezes, he walked up, I patted him, and then dismounted. I’ve therefore added this to my game plan, intending on getting that gate open while not dismounting before summer is up. Test #1 of trail class, right?

So I just untacked him and checked over his legs again for any injury from the mounting fiasco. Seeing he was fine, I shared two birthday carrots with him, of course, making him do carrot stretches to get them! We finished up with the stretching exercises from the farrier, and on the way back to his pasture we worked on lead line and making sure he stopped when I stopped. He did lovely.

By this time the girls’ dad’s had shown up, and they were chatting with T and the girls. I put my boy in his pasture; he had a drink and then came back for a treat or two. I really love him.

Not wanting to interrupt the conversation (and holding back a twinge of jealousy that my parents were never truly horsey folk, and that at that age I never had access to these horses to ride and groom, with parents that would drive me there then hand around chatting about them), I waved goodbye, tossed Moon’s halter on his hook, and grabbed his bridle for a good oiling.

Only managed to snap two pictures, and I’m sure neither of them is particularly good. Need to work up the courage to start filming us while we work…

With that I got in my car and headed home. 2 hours at the barn, and felt pretty accomplished. Ironically, I got home to discover I may no longer need to worry about the temptation of my MPI cheque having on showing…as it may now be spent on a pop-up camper that we found. Going out to see it tonight, and while it needs some repair it would be excellent for us. Hence, no more MPI cheque. And I really hope we get it, as then I might be able to spare myself the long drive back and forth from the barn…

Another good note is that my boss okayed me starting at 8:30 on Tuesday’s due to Spanish class, so I will be able to more then likely, squeeze in a horseback ride before work. Means I’d need to leave at 7:45 from the barn, 1 hour of riding is 6:45, 15 minutes of tacking is 6:30, meaning if I left home at 6 am, I’d have plenty of time!

Two rides in one week already. Now to patiently wait for next week’s lesson to come around again!

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