Saturday, June 8, 2013

A Long But Very Good Day, Involving Leading Work and Four Rides

Usually I've not been around on Saturdays much due to music lessons, but the schedule is shifting for the summer, so there I was Saturday morning at the barn.  Once I checked on the boys in their paddocks, I went out and retrieved Dawn.  We had a fairly short ride - much walking and a little trot but she really wasn't happy trotting - she doesn't feel off but rather a bit weird, particularly tracking right.  I'd describe her gaits as a bit "shuffly". Something's going on - although she tested 2-2-2 for EPM (essentially zero), her C reactive protein levels were higher than normal, which means there's something going on.  As soon as her meds come, she'll be starting on some levamisole for 14 days (with a blood test at day 7 and 14 to see if anything's changing) and we'll also test for Lyme.  The good news is that she's eating well and is starting to gain a little weight.

After I was done with Dawn, I went and got Red out of his paddock.  He frequently tells me that he doesn't like being in the paddock, although it's a good sized one.  We started out by ground tying to groom - it took a bit for him to stand, but he made it.  Then we worked for about 15 minutes on his leading and his staying outside my personal space.  His depo provera has long ago worn off, and he's extra feisty from being confined in the paddock, so I needed to reinforce some of our leading/personal space rules that I'd been letting slip a bit.  Some horses, if you let things slip, it doesn't really matter - with Red, it matters.  I reinforced that an arm's length was the correct distance, and that he was to follow and not attempt to pass me.  When I stopped, he was to stop, and when I turned, he was to maintain an arm's length as he turned and followed me, not turn into me - turns to the left are a particular issue for him.  We ended up with some really excellent leading work - now I just need to maintain my consistency so there's no "creep up".

Red and I had a very nice ride - he was extremely forward and engaged.  It took a while for him to settle, but when he did his trot work was really excellent, with very good softness.  I think he was happy to move out.

Another boarder I like to ride with arrived, and invited Pie and me to go on a trail ride - I said yes.  This was Pie's first trail excursion of the year, and we were out for about two hours.  It was a beautiful day - mid 70s, a little wind, sunny and just plain lovely.  Pie was pretty interested in going out, and we ended up having a really nice ride.  There were some good stretches of trotting side by side with the other horse - Pie's trot is so much improved from last year, soft, engaged and forward.  Pie also showed no signs of fatigue - it used to be that he would lag on the way home, but this time he marched right along all the way out and back with no trouble.  We saw lots of sights, equipment for the road project, people walking and running, bicycles and a whole bunch of people doing a workday on the natural area we ride through.  Pie was very good - there was only one point where he became overwhelmed and froze up and got scared - just too much visual stimulation - I felt a spin and bolt was about to happen, so I dismounted and led him for a bit until we passed the scary stuff, and then remounted using a ditch.  He led the way across the wooden bridge with no concern.  On the way home, we encountered several more people and bikes, and Pie was able to tuck in next to the other horse for some reassurance.  I do wonder about his eyesight, particularly in bright light - he may be having some difficulty seeing moving objects clearly, perhaps due to his Lyme infection (Lyme can cause permanent eye damage).  I was very proud of him for doing so well on his first outing this year.

More miles will make a big difference for Pie's confidence.  There are lots of great forest preserves very close to us with good horse trails, and there are a few people at our barn that I like (and trust) to ride with.  My new truck (Ford F150 with the maximum towing package) and trailer (2-horse Hawk) have been ordered and should be here by the end of July, and I hope we'll be on the trails a lot this year.  Red isn't quite ready for the trails yet, but we'll be doing a lot of pasture and close-in trail riding this year to get him ready.

This afternoon, Red and I had another ride - just a short pasture jaunt and some arena walking and trotting.  He's brimming with energy and seemed to enjoy the outing.

Now that's what I call a great day with horses!

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