This past weekend – July 16-17 – had some wonderful Buckshot moments in them. I’ll give a few of the Saturday highlights and share a little bit more about Sunday. First, Buckshot’s rain rot has been cleared up! Hooray! I gave him a bath after our Saturday ride, with the medicated shampoo. When his hair is wet, it is silky smooth and I can feel every tiny bump on him, and his bumps have gone! It has taken two months of daily treatment, weekly shampoos and tool cleaning, but it has finally cleared up.
The other highlight to mention has to do with Buckshot’s new sense of exploration. As we did our walking warm up, we stopped in the center at one point. After a moment of standing still, he began to drift over to the open gate. I let him go, to see where he wanted to go. We walked out of the arena, he took a left turn and walked by the closest barn. As we neared the second barn, where he and I do his grooming, he turned in toward it. I could see the barn doorway was at my eye level, so I gently steered him away, and turned him around, to which he responded willingly. But I had to laugh and wonder, why did he want to ride back into the barn? We have never ridden into the barn, naturally. (Now that I think about it, at the barn we used to be at, and which he lived at for years, it wasn’t uncommon for riders to ride in the barn aisle. The aisle was very broad and very, very tall.) How funny that he wanted us to ride right into the barn!
Here is the exciting thing – we then went back to the arena and did a few more minutes of work, and then I decided we’d go exploring down the farm road! This is the road that leads to the farm’s other arena, off in a distant hay field. I haven’t been able to get Buckshot to go down the road by ourselves yet, either riding or in hand. But with his newfound confidence, I decided to try it. We headed to the road. I could sense a bit of uncertainty on Buckshot’s part – he wasn’t walking with quite as much purpose as when he was walking us to the barn. But he listened to me and we started down the road. At about one-third of the way down, he made a left turn and detoured toward a pasture gate. So without missing a beat, I led him in that direction and then turned him back toward the original arena. No argument, no discussion. If that was as far as he wanted to go, on that day, well, that was fine with me. Next weekend we’ll go farther, I’m sure. So back to the arena we went, and continued our work and our riding. We had a great ride, overall we rode for two-plus hours! Buckshot had good energy at the trot and the canter. So it was a great day for us! Good boy, Buckshot!
On Sunday we were scheduled to go to the reining clinic. When we first started going, many months ago, I would walk Buckshot by the already-in-position trailer, in route to the barn for grooming. He would snort or blow when he saw the trailer. After grooming him, he had a lot of energy. Excitement energy? Worried energy? I couldn’t tell. But I addressed it by taking him in the arena and doing a lot of little exercises in hand. Circles, backing, walking in squares, walking diagonal lines, anything and everything I could think of. And it definitely helped. It got his mind on what we were doing and off of the big trailer nearby. Then, and this was, again, in the early days of going to the trainer’s, as I walked him to the trailer, where the BOH was waiting to walk him into his partition, he would start trotting and partially prancing. He would get on the ramp and stop, and after about 1-2 minutes of just standing there (no snorting, no quivering, no resistance, just standing still), he would walk forward calmly and get into his partition.
It is so interesting to me, now that we have done this twelve to fifteen or more times, how he is different. Now, when we walk by the trailer, he doesn’t snort. He does make the tiniest blow sound, barely a normal blow sound. After we groom, we go out to the arena and he has just a bit more energy. We do our exercises and stay busy until it is time to load. He seems very calm. But as I walk him over to the loading ramp, and to the BOH, he still does the partial trotting, partial prancing thing. Then he walks onto the ramp, stops for appx 1 minute and walks in calmly. He is funny. But I really appreciate how easily he loads. Recently I saw some other horses being loaded and they were quite a handful! After that, I remembered how wonderfully easy Buckshot is to load and I so appreciate it about him! Good, good boy!
At the reining clinic, the trainer wanted all of the participants to go, one at a time, into his round pen and lope without reins. The idea was to help us feel the rhythm of our horse’s canter, without the diversion of reins, to help us with our seats. After watching the first rider do a great job at this, it was Buckshot and my turn. We walked through the many-chuted configuration of pens (Buckshot did fine going through these tight quarters), to the gate, which had a pipe frame overhead. Buckshot went a little quickly through the gate, and I bumped my head good on the pipe overhead. But, luckily, my helmet took the hit, not me. Hooray for helmets! (And as an aside, I do wear my helmet even when riding with the other western riders, none of whom wear helmets. I remember one day a few months ago, at the clinic, and I realized of all the riders there – about 8 or 10 – I was the only one wearing a helmet. For a moment, I felt conspicuous, but I shrugged it off. I am a committed helmet wearer, and plan to always be one.)
Anyway, back to the story. I’m going off on so many tangents, sorry.
Well, Buckshot and I were in what seemed like a teeny-tiny round pen. The trainer is very nice and accommodates Buckshot’s age and if needed, limited capabilities, and so he said to me to just do whatever I felt comfortable doing in the round pen. I wanted to lope, without reins! That’s what I wanted to do! But I’ve never successfully cantered Buckshot in a round pen for more than just a few strides, and sadly, we’ve never really loped, that beautiful, slow, controlled canter that these reining horses do so nicely. We just canter- strong canter. I know as I develop my skills at the canter, we may be able to do a more controlled canter, but it isn’t in my repertoire just yet. But maybe this was the day, I thought hopefully! I started Buckshot trotting and he did well, and then I kissed and tried to get the canter, and, well, it fizzled. I only got a few strides from him and they seemed to me to be so fast, and he seemed to be running right into the pen sides, and well, suffice it to say, we didn’t lope. But we did what we could, so I didn’t feel too badly about it.
We left the round pen and went to stand with the other horses and riders. A few minutes later, I guided Buckshot over to the arena (and this reining arena is very, very big), and decided to just practice our canter. We cantered quite well, one time we went all the way around it, with me keeping a good, decent seat and steering him! Wow! It was wonderful! We did a bit more cantering after a break, and I felt it was just such a great day for us. We did accomplish some good work, even if it wasn’t in the round pen.
Later in the class, we were at sort of a break, and I decided to take Buckshot back into the round pen and try the lope again. We wove our way through the pens and to the gate and again, Buckshot slid into the pen quickly. I walked him around the pen and could instantly feel his nervousness. He just didn’t seem comfortable in the round pen at all this time. I don’t understand why, but regardless of knowing why it bothered him, I rode him out and back to the arena. His nervousness immediately went away. Still, overall, it was a wonderful day and weekend for us – with some new adventures and great riding work done, and rain rot gone! I hope you had a wonderful weekend with your horses as well!