Sunday, November 20, 2011

Winter Blues.

With friends visiting for the weekend, on Thursday I headed straight from work to the barn. There was a snow-storm on the way in and by the time I arrived the roads were blanketed in the puffy white-stuff and there was a cold wind blowing.

I of course, hadn't thought I'd have the time to stop by to see him and hadn't brought appropriate clothes. Thankfully I could exchange my fancy jacket for a barn one that I always have kicking around the car, however I was wearing little suede 'ugg'-type boots. NOT barn appropriate! The only other footwear in my car? Dress boots that resemble short cowboy boots! It'll do! (Us horse-girls will ride in anything!).

So Moon was happily standing in his field and I led him through the snowstorm in to the barn. His neck was dripping wet and I'm thinking I should check the fit of his neck cover so he can start using it. More yucky weather on the way.

In the barn I gave him a quality grooming since I wouldn't see him for awhile and then grabbed my cavesson to give him a short lunge session. More then anything, I wanted to see if I could see if he was sore.

I started him heading right or clockwise. He went well and I'm pretty impressed for a horse who hasn't lunged in years, if ever before I got him. What was cooler was how much his lunging has changed from when I got him. He used to run around with his head in the air and his neck taught. Now he's actually lowering it and moving with a way more comfortable and relaxed motion.

I didn't see any obvious soreness (he might still be tender when mounted, but we're more sensitive to their movements when we can actually feel them), so I turned him to go the other way.

He Was Stiff. His left hip and leg almost seemed...arth...sorry, I can't even type the word! Probably not that bad, but it was off. And I'm a worry-wart. So to me, it was terrible :P Really, the movement wasn't fluid and I could see it was off. Not sore to me, just stiff. Stuck.

So I started asking him to soften and bend the way my old instructor did, my hand on the lunge as you hold the reins. The whip was timed to help him drive his hind legs more under him, without asking for more speed. More asking for bend until finally...

He pulls the evil rabbit face. On a LUNGE. This is a bit-less cavesson. Just like a well-padded halter really. And there he was going around with his lips pulled back and his mouth open, twisting his head and neck from side to side and down towards the ground. It was somewhere between weird, odd and pretty awesome. Why awesome?

Because it reaffirmed my belief that his open mouthedness is part of him unlocking his joints, jaw and poll. Stretching. He does it before you put his bit in his mouth, he does it under saddle and NOW he does it on the lunge.

And after a few 'rabbit' rounds, he started moving way better. He was tracking up, maintaining the inside bend and able to not rush on the line. I was thrilled.

What did he do next? He started chewing the AIR and dropping his head!

Yeah. Weird.

I know people say that if a horse is gentle chewing the bit they're relaxed, thinking about what they're learning and soft. What does it mean when your horse starts gentle chewing the air???

And no, he hadn't just come from eatting hay or carrots. He was genuinely just chewing air.

Strange horse.

Unfortunately, I was out of time and he was back in his stall to have dinner since W was headed out to collect the rest of the horses for the night.

....and then she broke the bad news : (

There's a new boarder coming to the barn. Who is looking for outdoor board, with just a standing stall for the really bad nights.

...Moon's on borrowed stall time. So when she asked if I'd be okay with him moving out to the paddock to stay with the new boarder when he comes, I couldn't justify for a second saying no. Really, he should have been out there for the last month and a half. I was lucky to have the opportunity to keep him in a beautiful stall as long as I have and I knew that the time would come. I had wishfully hoped that he could have Christmas indoors, but that won't be happening.

Really, he's lived outdoors over the winter for YEARS. W has run-in shelters, he'll only be living with one (max 2) other horses and they'll be well fed and blanketed when needed. So not like he's hard done by. He's going back to his norm.

W said he dad is going to be a little sad since Moon is his favorite horse in the barn and loves getting to bring him out every morning. Apparently he thinks he's the bestest horse : P They might bring him in with the other horses when it's really miserable out, and W is such a softie that I know he'll be well cared for, even outdoros.

Sure have been spoiled, I have : P

So we near the end of the box-stall era. I wish, wish I could afford to keep him in a box stall all winter but I can't justify it.

The thing that worries me now is with the blanketing. He's been in a 220 gram medium weight blanket since it got cold. He has pretty much zero winter fuzz on his body, only on his neck. To put him out full-time now he NEEDS to be blanketed. But if he's wearing 220 grams during the DAY in November, there's NO WAY he's going to be warm in it at night in January when it hits -40. Not possible.

I also can't attempt to leave him naked as 1. I'm not sure he'll be able to start growing enough coat now in time (I mean, they start in September!), and 2. With our training program, I'll be drying him out for years before putting him back out : P

With Christmas coming, I'm not really ready to invest in ANOTHER turnout in a heavy-weight. But on the same note, I don't want him shivering out there. So now I'm thinking I gotta go find a heavy-weight at a good price. I'd do a stable blanket, but it likely won't fit under his mid-weight.

Thankfully, I still get to look forward to the indoor arena, which is why we're there! Tomorrow I aim to be out there riding him (with my video camera!) and back in our regular routine. : ) And keep on the postive!


  1. Rabbit face! Omg, Dee does it too! She does it at the oddest times. Almost always before bridling, but sometimes just when I'm braiding her. She will do it under saddle, even when I'm just riding in a halter. I've often thought it to be some sort of tension release. It's so weird!

    What I did last winter was use a liner with my midweight blanket. Most flexible setup and a lot less expensive than getting a midweight and a heavyweight. I would break out the liner when it got below zero (F). Most of the liners at Schneiders (I went with a quilted liner rather than polar fleece...everything sticks to polar fleece) are made to fit nicely under turnouts with slots for leg straps and that sort of thing.

  2. I agree with Story... layers are probably your best bet. I feel bad now because I was complaining abour our first frost. You're dealing with snow already!

    Bummer about the turnout situation. Hopefully Moon will be just as happy outside. :)

  3. I'm also adding a vote for liners. I've heard great things about the ones from Schneiders also! I can't imagine how you ride when it gets that cold!! I complain when it freezes around here and end up with enough layers that I look like the Pillsbury Dough Boy.

  4. Do you think he chews because his rabbit-faced stretching unlocks some muscles and releases endorphins? When a horse gets a chiropractic adjustment, it often chews. When RoadTrimmers carves out Handsome's impacted bars, he chews.