I'm trying to have more balance in my life this semester. Last semester I realized at the end of the year that I hadn't done hardly anything with my horses or my friends...it was all school and family. Both of those things are definitely priorities, but life does need more balance, so I'm trying to find it this semester. Plus, I have a goal this year. I want Griffin to be ridden on the trail this summer. I've been trying to do something with my horses every weekend, at least once. Griffin is a priority right now, and if I have additional time, I'm riding the "old" ones. Kachina is going to have to wait a bit (maybe she'll grow more if I give her more time off :) Not likely...)
Last weekend and the next couple of weeks, I'm trying to get the hooves of all 6 trimmed up. I got Cody at the end of January, Chico and Catlow last weekend. Next weekend is Pumpkin, then Griffin, then Kachina. Then start all over again with Cody. Trimming is frustratingly never ending, but I do like doing it. I like that part of my relationship with my horses. I like knowing them inside and out and since their feet are such a big part of them, I get great satisfaction in maintaining them. I got even more excited about trimming after discussing it with the farrier that works on horses at the vet school. I really like our farrier. He is a really friendly guy, likes to explain what he's doing and how the feet and whole horse work together, and he is not "stuck in a rut" as far as farrier work goes. He learns new techniques, and works closely with the veterinarians in the clinic, analyzing radiographs of hooves to best determine how to help lame horses. I'm hoping to hang out and learn from him more often.
On Sunday I got Griffin out and saddled him up for the 3rd time. I saddled him next to the horse trailer rather than in the round pen because to get to the roundpen means carrying my saddle all the way up there (it's a ways and uphill). I figured that my horse should be carrying my saddle up there for me, so we worked at standing next to the trailer and accepting saddling calmly. He stands really well for the saddle pad (I toss it on and off repeatedly from both sides), but he generally wants to back up when I approach his side with the saddle. I just pull him back forward and swing the saddle up and down at his side several times and back away. Then I do it again, and he stands very well once I start swinging it. Then I swing it up on his back. He stands, but I feel that he wants to step away when I swing it up there. He'll get better. It's only his 3rd time wearing it! Once his saddle is on, he stands extremely patiently while I I fiddle with getting the breast collar on and all the buckled just right. And cinching is smooth.
After tacking up, I dug out my breeching for him to wear. For those who don't know, a breeching is a harness that goes around the horse's rump and attaches to the back of the saddle and to the rings on the cinch. It is worn in mountain riding to prevent the saddle from sliding forward. I used it with Chico when we packed into the Cascades in Washington, and I like to use it as a training tool to get horses used to things touching them all over when they are moving. In the round pen, I swung it around Griffin's rump to get him used to it, then tossed it up on top, attached it to the ring on the back of the saddle, and slid the strap around his rump. He stood calmly, completely unconcerned. It was cold out, and I had to fiddle with the buckles for quite a while to loosen them enough to enlarge the breeching. I think the last horse that wore it was Catlow as a 4 year old, and I couldn't believe how much larger I had to make it. When Chico wore it as a 3 year old, it was even smaller yet! If Chico wore it now, I'd have to make it even larger than I did for Griffin...he has really matured into a big stout horse. Anyway, Griffin was great, although on his right side, I had to follow him for a few steps while he circled away from me (that's his most uncomfortable side), but he stopped and then just stood for several minutes while I got the breeching adjusted just right. When I asked him to move out around me, he did so calmly, paying the breeching no mind, so we did some basic exercises (flexing, yeilding fores and hinds, backing, responding to cues where my leg will be), and then we got out of the round pen (still deep and crusty with snow) and went for a walk.
Back at the trailer after our nice walk, I looped the leadrope through the tie ring and had him practice standing tied while I unsaddled him. He did well. I don't want to tie him fast to a trailer that is not attached to a vehicle, when he is not used to being restrained so near one just in case he were to freak out.
As I walked home through the pasture, Kachina asked to be haltered so she could have a treat, so I did halter her. I lead her through the pasture and on top of the hill. She was so calm until I tapped her on the withers with the gloves in my hand. If the gloves has been on my hand, I dont' think she would have reacted, but as it was, the gloves were now foreign and she jumped back and got all huffy and upset. So I of course had to work with rubbing her and tapping her with my gloves to desensitize her. She relaxed a tad after a bit, so then I led her down and out the gate into my yard and lunged her in a circle for a bit just to practice changing directions and listening to my body language outside the pasture. We still have about 4-5 inches of crusty snow, so she had to pick her feet up high as she trotted around me with energy. Lunging Kachina is an exercise in directing her high energy - she moves easily, I don't have to nag at her, and she doesn't pull on the halter. She is fun to lunge because of that. I couldnt' have picked two more opposite horses to work with out of the Sulphur Springs HMA. She is sensitive, energetic, thin skinned, a flighty. Griffin is more secure, much less reactive, not flighty at all, and he tends to be a little dull at times with cues. Lunging him is a nagging feat if I want him to go faster than a trot. That is something that I have not been working on yet since my round pen footing is not good enough for it yet (with the snow and all, and then the deep sand underneath). I plan to work on that more before I ever get on his back. I want him to move more freely. That stickiness scares me a bit...I find it easier to control a horse that will respond to my cues even if they are fast and flying around, than one that might freeze up and stop responding. I'd rather they go forward than freeze up! But I am not that worried about Griffin. I think things will go quite smoothly when we get there. I think I could ride him at a walk/trot in the round pen tomorrow without it being a wreck, but I want to be a little more convinced that Griffin knows how to respond to me under any circumstances...I'm not in a hurry. I have a baby to think about. :)
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