This past weekend we had cloudy but cooler weather in Virginia. Hooray, I thought, cooler weather to finally ride without sweat dripping everywhere. Alas, Saturday brought a day of cloudy, drizzly and rainy weather. Cooler, yes, but hardly riding weather. So at the barn I prepared Buckshot’s stall for grooming with all his favorites – a flake of alfalfa hay that he loves, fresh water, and all my grooming tools.
When the rain stopped momentarily, I went out to his pasture to get him and bring him in for some fake grooming so that I could spend some time with him under a roof and so that he could indulge in the alfalfa. We had a good time together. I noticed quite a few very tiny bumps on him, on the base of his neck and on his chest. What could these be, I wondered? I sprayed them lightly with Eqyss Microtek. He was somewhat wet from the weather so I didn’t do a full, regular grooming, but I took my time with the curry comb and brush and mane and tail brush. He had a nice time and when we were done, and he had eaten most of the hay, I walked him back to his pasture. Oh, well. Some days are like this. I cleaned my tack meticulously later. And had a chance to sit and chat with the barn owner, who is my instructor, about various riding techniques.
On Sunday, the weather forecasters called for some sunshine, and no rain, and the lovely cooler temperatures. But it turned out grey and gloomy instead, although without any rain at the farm. The farm was quiet as the BO and her husband trailered a horse to another farm for a few month’s of new riding work. Buckshot and I had the arena to ourselves. Since the BO was gone, I decided in the interest of safely to stay in the main arena and to forego any adventures by ourselves on the farm road or in the trail.
Buckshot and I had a great ride. In our phase one warmup we did circles around cones, and serpentines and some patterns at the walk. After twenty minutes, we added trotting and Buckshot offered a nice, energetic trot. We alternated trotting seven or eight strides with walking seven or eight strides. We even worked more on our walking, alternating a collected walk with an extended walk. He responded nicely to my requests. We tried several patterns, one of which I have now decided is too hard, and we don’t like. It requires sitting trot for two strides, then halt, then posting trot for two strides, then halt. It isn’t any fun for either of us so that pattern is cancelled. Other patterns were more fun and varied and we did several of them, with me patting Buckshot with praise after his efforts.
I tried another cantering technique on Sunday. In my opinion, cantering is very complex, and requires the rider to do many things at the right time. In the beginning, I thought I just had to give the correct aids, but as I have learned more, I realize there really are more aids and more techniques to think about. Getting him to canter, getting him to canter on the correct lead, continuing to canter, rating the canter, preventing him from speeding up, etc. All of these require me to do certain things at certain times. This is quite an education for me. So I am trying not to learn it all, up front, but to add a bit more aids, or guidance, little by little, as I go. The latest, little additional aid occurs at the end of the arena, when I am trying to go around the curve of the end of the arena and go back down the opposite long rail. A book suggested you have to support the horse through the curve by engaging my inside leg, at the girth, and laying the outside rein over his neck. (This was from a book of western riding exercises so it used neck reining.) Buckshot does neck reining so I alternate with him, two handed neck reining at times, one handed neck reining at other times and two reins English-style at other times. He responds to all of these so I don’t think I am confusing him. Sometimes when I am cantering, I use one-handed neck reining because it seems to allow my seat to stay well with the saddle and for me to give him the right amount of loose reins/ rein support for his mouth (which is a balancing act I am still very conscious of working on).
So, back to Sunday. We have a pattern we do that involves walking then trotting down the center line, then at the end of the arena, turning, coming to a walk, and then picking up the canter down the long rail. As we did it the first time, I moved my inside leg to engage him, and laid the outside rein on his neck. And he seemed to go very well around the corner at the canter. We tried it several more times, just cantering without a specific pattern, so I could try these new techniques at the corner, and Buckshot did wonderfully! We went one and a half times around the arena at the canter, handling the corners well, for the first time! I was thrilled! I brought Buckshot to a stop, rubbed his neck, laughing and praising him so excitedly! How wonderful it was!! Both of us did great! We worked on some more patterns, at the trot and trot/ canter, with plenty of rest times in between.
To introduce something new, I then designed a reining pattern for us. I started us at one end of the arena, walked to the center, then did two fake spins, one to the right and one to the left. I really don’t ask Buckshot to do real spins because of his age and to protect his aging hind legs, so we do small, tight circles. Then we trotted to the other end of the arena, still on the center line, and turned left and took up a canter. Down the rail we went, to almost the end, at which point I said loudly, “Andddddd….. whoa.” The “and” is my way of letting him know a change is coming. He stopped, after a few steps, which is fine for him, and then we did a rollback and started cantering back the same way we came. Around to the other long rail, and another “Anddddd…. Whoa” followed by a turn around and more cantering. At the short end of the arena, I switched to a trot and led us in a large figure eight, using the whole arena. We stopped in the center. Wow! Buckshot did great at all of it, trying hard, and giving his all. I was immensely proud of him! We rested, and did it again, and rested again.
Then we did our phase four, which is cooling down at the walk. When I dismounted, I praised him again with such appreciation. What a day! What a wonderful ride! Buckshot was just absolutely terrific and he worked so hard for me, what a wonderful horse!!
When I untacked him, he had a little bit of sweat on him under the saddle and on his girth line, but I didn’t feel right about rinsing him off, in case he didn’t dry thoroughly by the evening hours. During the day it was in the sixties, so I thought that it could go down into the fifties. I know that isn’t very cool temperatures, and I was probably being extra cautious with him. But instead I took a towel and rubbed him for a long while, alternating with using the curry comb, to help dry him off. That worked fine and when I walked him back to his pasture, he was only a tiny bit moist.
I hope you had a great time with your horses over the weekend also!
Now, if I could ask your advice about a winter preparation, what do you do year to year to make sure your winter blankets maintain their repellency? Two winters ago, I bought Buckshot two Weatherbeeta blankets (Orican Freestyle) and since I’ve never had blankets before, I am just wondering what others do. During the winter, when one gets dirty, I switch it out for the other blanket, and I take the dirty one to a cleaners that does horse blankets. I’ve never thought much about the repellency being worn away. Today on a website looking at bits, I noticed an article about horse blanket care and according to that article, I may have been doing it all wrong, and losing water repellency in the process. The cleaners use their regular detergent (oh, no, the article forbids that) and may even use a dryer (another no no). I haven’t bought anything to refresh the repellency. So tonight, an hour ago, I pulled one out of my closet and sprinkled it with water drops. Most of them stayed beaded up on the blanket. I just rechecked the blanket and about half of the drops are still beads; the other half have been absorbed. That makes me think I need to refresh the repellency. What do you think? What do you do for this? Do you use a special formula, or do you buy a Teflon-like spray at the grocery store and spray it? Your suggestions are appreciated! Thanks!