Sunday, July 22, 2012

Like Walking the Dog (Except Even Better)

I've had some really good times with my three horses lately.  The weather has stayed hot, but just short of awful, although tomorrow we're supposed to to 100F yet again, but I think for only that one day.

Dawn and I had a very nice ride this morning.  We worked for a while in the indoor arena, which had been freshly dragged - I love being the first one in there and defining our diagonals, center line and circles - like being the first one to walk in fresh snow.  Her softening work at the walk and trot was more consistent - she's got a sore area on her mid-neck that I spent some time massaging before we rode and I also concentrated on keeping my posture up and open - if I'm stiff in my neck and upper body it's guaranteed that she'll be stiff and braced in the same areas - and on breathing deeply, which made a big difference to her. Then for fun we rode out into the mare pasture - Dawn is good about opening gates - and had fun trotting and cantering around on the parts that weren't too steep.  Dawn seemed to enjoy the canters out in the open and was very forward and responsive.

In the afternoon, I had a fun outing on Pie with two friends. We did the short trail around the pastures - that's probably a mile or so - and then we went into two of the pastures that weren't in use but that had been recently mowed.  The footing was good, there was a breeze and we had lots of fun trotting all over in a group - sometimes in a line and sometimes abreast.  All the horses - Pie, a Freisian and a Kentucky Mountain gaited horse - seemed to have a really good time. (When I was a kid I loved to pretend when I was riding my horse that I was in one of my favorite Westerns - like Rawhide or The Virginian - that gives away how old I am for sure.  Today it felt a bit like riding in one of my favorite movies that involve horses - lots of fun!)

Then Red and I had a good grooming and massage session and went for our hand walk.  Today, we did the entire perimeter of the mares' pasture on the inside - this involved some uphill and downhill which he negotiated well, although he tends to scuff the toe of his left hind when going downhill.  We hadn't done this full perimeter before, and it takes us close to some houses and treelines. I like giving him a job - like checking out the pasture and its fenceline - so our walk has a purpose for him.  We found a cast shoe yesterday and a fly mask today.  He was great, walking along just perfectly - he did spook slightly and spun around me in a half circle at one point, but we just kept on walking calmly after that.  This is a remarkable improvement from when I first had him, when he would spook and bolt and pull and fuss on the lead even leading the short distance from the old barn to its outdoor arena.  Now he leads beautifully - he seems to have confidence in me and my leadership now and to have really bonded with me.  I've had mares and geldings, and this to me is more like the very close relationship I now have with Dawn.  Pie on the other hand, although he acknowledges me, is more aloof and distant and less overtly interested in interacting with me - I don't mind this at all since it's who he is.

Red seems to really enjoy our daily interactions - he seems to me almost like a big red dog - he's very engaged, and alert and interested in what I'm doing, and really wants my attention and time.  If he gets enough attention and interaction, he's happy, if not, he's upset and calls and even bangs on his stall door.  This has nothing to do with food, since I don't feed treats to any of my horses and Red prefers to stay out of his stall with me even when there's hay available.  Red is one of those horses who really looks you in the eye - there's a real intelligence and presence there.  I'm very honored by his developing trust in me - when I got him he didn't trust people to keep him safe and always felt he had to be in charge to stay safe - now he's willing to listen and relax.  A huge change - Heather had a lot to do with that, for which I'm very thankful.

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