This past Thanksgiving weekend Buckshot and I had great rides! The weather was perfect- nice and cool (in the 40’s and/or 50’s) with nice sunshine. Absolutely perfect horse weather, I think. Plenty of coolness for their thick winter hair, plus the warmth of sunshine that lures them into turning into horse statues (you know the kind, all the horses in a herd are standing facing the same direction, unmoving and calm, whick looks odd, untillllllll you figure out that they are all standing so that the sunrays hit the long sides of their bodies, and they are, well, dozing, or mellowing in the warmth of the sun…. smile). Perfect weather.
We continue to do our twenty minute walking warm up on each ride. I call it Phase One of our ride. I am learning many patterns and variations to keep it from being boring. We start out with a few revolutions around the rail. Then I might add imaginary cone-bending (the cones are imaginery, but the bending back and forth is real), or small circles just inside the rail or serpentines of varying lengths. We also walk the diagonals of the arena. I’ve added a new pattern where we walk on a diagonal line, from a corner to the center of the arena, halt, do something (either a circle or a backing or just the simple halt) and then we continue to a corner, but on a different diagonal line. On each diagonal line we do something different. Also, I vary the speed of his walk as well, asking for the extended walk after about ten minutes. The twenty minutes goes by fairly quickly, as I am motivated to find new directions and maneuvers for us to do, both to warm him up overall, as well as including turns to warm him up in that way.
After Phase One, when we begin some trotting, Buckshot has been very energetic and willing. He feels enthusiastic about himself! I love to do trotting, probably because when Buckshot is on, it feels like we are flying! Sometimes I think that in my head – wheeee, we are flying! He has a very powerful extended trot and when we are in synch, it’s a wonderful feeling to me. And perhaps to him as well :).
On Saturday, we were alone in the arena. No one else was at the barn and the BO was out of town. In the early part of our ride, Buckshot spooked the biggest, fastest, longest distance ever! We were in the arena, at the gate, and I was just beginning to reach for a rein to introduce a turn to the center of the arena, and out of nowhere – BOOM!- a shotgun blast that sounded just a few feet away! Way too loud. Buckshot turned and bolted about twenty feet to the center of the arena. I ducked down and held onto the saddle pad, all instinct and no thought. He stopped in the middle of the arena. My legs felt like jelly, but I tried to quickly regroup. I hadn’t fallen off or come close (because I had ducked down by instinct into the fetal-holding-onto-horse-like-a-limpet position) but I had to decide quickly what to do: get off? Stay on? Would there be more shots? How worried was Buckshot? First I breathed deeply, realized my legs were shaking like jelly, but Buckshot seemed pretty calm, so I said “that’s okay, boy, we’re fine,” hopefully not in a squeaky voice :). I started walking him, and he seemed fine, just a touch jumpy. Another shot went off (not as loud), and he jumped but didn’t spook. I kept us walking, talking to him (really, myself) the whole time. “It’s okay, I think we can walk just fine, now, we’ll see how it goes, etc, etc. “ I kept him off the rail, just in case the shots started again and I needed to dismount quickly. But the countryside stayed quiet after that. And we went on to have a good ride.
I ordered Buckshot’s Christmas present today – a bucket of his favorite treat in the whole world, the only one that reduces him to an equine mass of nickering excitement- the German horse muffins from Equus Magnificus (see Equusmagnificus.com). He adores these treats, and as I have watched my bucket diminish, I have felt a sadness about running out of these wonderful muffins. So today I ordered him a new bucket. I know he would like me to give him the whole bucket on Christmas Day :) but alas! I won’t. I confess, I don’t really want to ever run out of these treats, he loves them so much! Have you thought of what to get your horse(s) for Christmas yet?