Even though it was my day off, I awoke at my regular time. I made the mistake of reading a leadership book at work last week, which spoke of time wasted while sleeping. "There's plenty of time to rest when you're dead" it quoted. True enough.
After finishing my household chores, I jumped in the car and headed to the barn. Arrive at 9 am. The morning was still cool, and the paddock was a giant swamp thanks to a couple of recent rains.
I gathered up my MoonSox, and hosed down his legs and hooves. They were mud-caked. I wasn't pleased to see that his left fore was flaring again and had a rather large split up it. Some of the toe was also chipped away, and his heels were peeling on all hooves. One hind hoof was also missing a big chunk. Oye.
Groomed, flysprayed, brushed and given his multivitamin, I decided to see what I could do with my current saddle.
I pulled a thicker pad out of my trunk, which previously I wasn't using because I was concerned it made my saddle too tight on Moon. Keeping the wide gullet in, I used this thicker pad to hopefully get the gullet somewhere between medium-wide and wide. Placed further back where it should be, I had about 3-fingers of space all around. Hmm. Not bad.
I used a method I had stumbled across online (not that I believe it), and crossed my elastic girth buckles before doing them up. Someone claimed this would reduce the girth sliding forward...
Standing back, he looked good. My saddle still sucks, but it was an improvement. I hoped on (one lead rope again), and rode him for a bit. It DID slide forward, but instead of into his armpit it stayed slightly further back...perhaps 4 fingers width. The gullet with me in the saddle reduced to about 1 and a half to 2 fingers, which was better then before. While it was still on his shoulder, it seemed like the thicker pad and slightly further back position was more tolerable to him.
So off we went.
We rode up the large ditch beside the highway and over to a little path T had told me led to an old quarry. We have an abundance of limestone (aka. Tyndall Stone) in my area, and these old pits were left when they finished mining. It's all open-pit mining, and leaves little water holes with time.
The path was a bit narrow, but Moon took it like a champ. He still wasn't relaxing into the bit though, and I kept working on him, following W's guidance from class. Keep my hands high, ask then relax, and don't lock my legs.
Midway down the trail, he finally just relaxed into me. Instead of looking everywhere, he left a nice bit of pressure on the bit, his neck was horizontal and he just moved along at my pace. Finally. Even cooler, was that I could START to see some topline muscling on him! It's about time! Granted, it's not a lot, but from where he started, I'm happy to see any.
We rode the remainder of the trail 'on-the-bit', and I worked hard to see if I could push him to lower his neck just a little bit further. Overall I was really pleased to be able to push him a bit and still maintain contact with the bit. Thanks to our shadow, I was also able to see that he wasn't open mouthed or gapping, a nice improvement.
At the pits, we stopped for a bit of a break. There were ledges of limestone jutting out over the water, and little craggy paths down to the water. The water was a beautiful ocean blue color, reflecting the clear sky overhead. The trees circling the area cut out any wind, and the entire picture was just serene. It was a perfect reminder of how short and fragile the summers are, as yet another one drifts away on the fleeting breeze. There may not be many more of such pleasant mornings.
The ride home was equally uneventful, save for some broken glass on the trail. Always makes me nervous, and I'll be happy when we have our new hoof boots in. I did stop to check his heels and frogs for shards once we were clear of the area, and he seemed fine.
Coming along the highway, there was a nice path made by the quad riders. Moon had given me some nice trots (without throwing his head!), and I knew we were both itching for more.
So I let him out.
It's moments like those that I remember he's bred for speed.
Full-out gallop, covering ground like it was nobody's business. The wind stung my eyes, and I couldn't help but smile. He felt strong and solid, and happy beneath me. Yes, he's a tubby QH. Yes, he hasn't got a ton of training. But omg, he has some of the most ground-eating movements in his little body.
I rocked him back to a nice canter after a bit, and he provided willingly. I'd struggled a lot with a nice canter seat over the years, but Moon makes it easy. I could have ridden that gait all day. He just floats.
(notice that his girth 'sweat mark' isn't up in his elbows for once...)
Finally I figured I best not stress out his only recently improving legs too much, and brought him back to trot. He remained sound to my feel, and after a bit I brought him down to walk. All gaits completed WITHOUT throwing his head up or having a tantrum. Hmmm...saddle fitting better? Legs feeling better? Rider feeling better? Maybe all three.
Though, when I looked at the sweat marks on his back, and the dirt marks on his pad (embarrassed to show just how dirty he is!), it's clear that his saddle is bridging. Badly. Not that I didn't suspect it already, so now it's back to hunting for a saddle and maybe now for a bridging pad. So much to always buy. I DO have a lead on a saddle, and am just waiting to hear back on the gullet size. Finger's crossed!!
Back at the barn, I trotted him out in the round pen, and still didn't see any lameness...granted, I still need to rewatch the video. I hosed him, cold poulticed just in case (didn't feel any heat) and let him graze on the last of the green grass we'll see for awhile.
It really was the perfect way to end an extra long weekend.
Tomorrow, our first lesson in 2 weeks. Here's hoping he's got his A-game on, and maybe we can FINALLY canter! : P Not likely, but a girl can hope.
Now, from all of you, some more advice on blanketing...
Obviously, if I don't want to spend 4 hours every evening drying my horse off in the dead of winter after exercising, I'll need to either blanket to reduce hair growth, or clip to allow him to cool and dry faster...which requires blanketing.
So what sort of blankets do I buy?!
Should I get him a light weight waterproof turnout, and a couple of different weights of stable blankets to put underneath depending on the weather? Or should I buy a couple of turnouts in different weights? Or a waterproof rainsheet and a couple of different fleece sheets to layer up?
Ponies are so needy!