Monday, December 12, 2011

Autumn Ride, Reining Clinic and a Christmas Present

Before I write about my weekend with Buckshot, I have to comment on my pictures on the last post. During the week, I happened to look at my blog and was appalled, I tell you, by those photos! I look terrible in them. Ha ha.

Clearly my camera is broken. The key features I need on a regular basis – the adjustment for a bad helmet day, and for a bad clothing day, and a bad posture day, and a look-too-fat day, all the critical camera adjustments- are broken! I need to take the camera to the repair shop! Ha Ha! I never realized my helmet makes me look like a marshmallow-head! Oh, heavens! I must get a better helmet! Buckshot looked good, but I looked, well, not very good at all. What was I thinking putting those photos on my blog? I must have been momentarily delusional. I thought about deleting them, but I decided to leave them up so others will feel like they look great! (Thank you to Juliette for her kind compliments – she may want to check her vision, though! Just kidding!) Some people are very photogenic, but I’m, well, not very photogenic. I wish I could get a professional photographer to take some pictures of Buckshot and me. That’s on my wish list. Well, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest and had a few good laughs from it, on to the weekend.

On Saturday, December 10, 2011, the Virginia weather was lovely- in the forties and sunny, with a clear, blue sky. I went to get Buckshot from his pasture using my new procedure. Yes, a new procedure. You see, a few weeks ago, something scary happened in the pasture. Buckshot and Lucky were way out in their pasture grazing when I went to get Buckshot that day.

I walked out to Buckshot, chatted with him, put his halter on, and proceeded to walk with him to the gate. Without warning, Lucky started cantering to us, and just as he passed us – too close for comfort – he kicked out powerfully with both hind legs! I was stunned! And scared! His hooves were just a few feet from me. Buckshot didn’t move, didn’t dance around, didn’t get nervous. But my adrenaline shot up as I realized just how close we both had come to a huge kick. I walked Buckshot silently to the gate, never taking my eye off of Lucky, who seemed to have calmed down as quickly as he had gotten excited.

We got out of the pasture and I talked softly to Buckshot, telling him that had really scared me, we had never had Lucky act so dangerously and it scared me to death. Buckshot lightly touched my hand holding the lead rope, in a comforting way. I took deep breaths and as the adrenaline diminished, I decided that I would need a new procedure for the future to protect us from such dangerous antics. I also reminded myself to never go into the pasture with Lucky without a lead line with me, just in case I need to twirl it to keep him away from me if he gets excited like that again. I also knew that I would need to devise a new method for getting Buckshot out of the pasture.

The next several times I went to get Buckshot he was near his barn, and was not out in the pasture, so I didn’t have to use my new procedure. But this past Saturday, it was time to implement it. They were both grazing out in the pasture. I got Buckshot’s halter and lead line and disconnected the lead line. I approached them both normally, calling to them when I am far away so that they would see me coming and not be startled by my approach, walking towards their sides, not their back ends, saying hello, and then going up to Buckshot to pet and greet him.

I put his halter on him but kept the lead line in my hands, not connected to the halter. I started walking toward the gate and he followed closely. I watched Lucky with a hawk eye. I kept the line in my hands so that I could twirl the non-clip end of it if needed (it wasn’t needed). The funny thing was that I think Buckshot thought the lead line was attached! He could see it in my hands near his face, but he didn’t know I was holding onto it for a different purpose. I swear he thought it was hooked to him! How funny! Anyway, that is my new, safer procedure for pasture safety. It worked fine with Buckshot so I think it is a good solution. I need a lead line in my hands. And I need it to not be connected to Buckshot for two reasons. One is if I need to twirl it in the event that Lucky canters too close to me. The second reason is that I want Buckshot to be able to run off freely if Lucky’s cantering bothers or excites him.

At Buckshot’s previous farm, he lived in a pasture with twelve or thirteen other horses, and there were a few times that I walked out to get him, and had several horses start running toward us as we walked to the gate. I learned then to be able to unhook the halter fast, really fast so that if they came up on Buckshot he could run if needed. But I realize now that unhooking the clip still takes time and I might not be fast enough if running horses are nearby. Plus I realize now that a running horse might feel like kicking out, and I could be in his kicking range. So I will be very, very alert to this now, and have a lead line to help if needed.

Back to Saturday. After I safely extricated Buckshot from his pasture, I took him over to his secret patch of heavenly grass we’ve found! Yes, right by the BO’s house is a patch of the greenest, emerald-looking, thick, rich, dense, prettiest grass you ever saw and for the past few weeks I have taken Buckshot there and let him eat to his heart’s content! He loves it! I stand and think my thoughts, and look around, and talk to him, and pet him, and check him for tiny injuries, and just stand and stand and stand, letting him just feast on this rare patch of lush grass. It is my gift to him for being such a wonderful horse. I hope it stays green and delicious for him for a long time.

After his special grazing, I took him to the barn and groomed him and tacked him up. Then we went out to the arena – good footing, hooray! – and started our walking warm up. His energy level was somewhat slow at first. The other student riders came out and we began our class. When we got to some trotting, Buckshot did well. And when we did a little bit of cantering, we were great! I was careful to support him on the turns by holding my inside leg against him and laying the rein over his neck, and he went around the turn without breaking gait. It was wonderful!

Then the class went on a long trail ride through the autumn woods, filled with the picture perfect mixture of crunchy leaves underfoot, cool air, and sunshine twinkling down from above. The only imperfection was the scent – in one swampy section, something had died and it smelled pretty rank. But none of the horses were bothered by the smell. We returned to the barn and dismounted. Buckshot was great!

On Sunday, we planned to go to a reining clinic at a nearby reining trainer’s farm. Just to brag a bit, this reining trainer, D, got back recently from the reining nationals finals in Oklahoma City and he had a great success there – in his class (which I guess was one of the professional classes), he tied with a few other competitors for 14th place. In the nation. Wow – that’s impressive! It was a great competition for him.

So, on Sunday morning, I got Buckshot from his pasture (no need for my new procedure since the horses were not out grazing) and walked him to the main barn, which meant we walked by the trailer sitting there. He did a few semi-loud snorts as we walked by it. I didn’t say anything, just kept thinking about how calm I was.

My theory is that my calmness, deep and confident calmness, even if I know that I am really a little nervous, but covered up and totally disguised with a deep, deep, all-encompassing sense of how very, very calm I am, will help Buckshot if he is nervous about something. I haven’t yet told you the story, the big, big story, of why this matters so much to me. It’s the story of the biggest, scariest thing that has ever happened with Buckshot, and it’s quite a story. You won’t believe it. I wouldn’t have believed it. The BO didn’t believe it. The vet didn’t believe it. But it happened. Buckshot did it. Well, I hope I have your interest peaked! That’s mean of me, I know. Sorry. I will share the story in my next post. I promise. And then you’ll know why acting calm when I think Buckshot is nervous has quite a significant backstory for us.

Anyway, back to today’s story (and I apologize for all my tangents). Buckshot loaded onto the trailer wonderfully (yes, I’m bragging about him again, sorry) along with two other horses and we drove the hour trip to the other farm. I got Buckshot tacked up and mounted and we started our warm up with energy. Buckshot seems to love being at this farm, and always walks energetically over to the mounting block. I got on, gave him his treat, and we walked off with eagerness. Maybe he likes the deep, soft footing of the big arena. Or maybe he likes seeing the other horses. Or maybe he is, like me, looking forward to the work and the cool weather and the wonderful sense of life and satisfaction from a good ride together. Whatever the cause, he seems to approach the clinic with happy anticipation.

We need a longer warm up than any of the other horses so the trainer started giving instruction as we were walking. When we joined up with the group of about eight horses and riders, they were working on stepping the horse into a particular canter lead. We worked on that for a while.

The trainer then had the class do an exercise of cantering the length of the arena, doing a reverse roll back, returning on one lead, break to a trot, pick up the opposite canter and continue around. Buckshot and I did very well at our turn. I was proud of our work (which isn’t really as good as the regular reining horses, who are quite talented) but it was good work for us. That’s what matters the most to me- that Buckshot and I do well for what we can do.

The trainer then turned the class to a different exercise. I can see, he said, that we have something to work on. Many of you are having difficulty cantering/loping your horses in straight lines. So he gave us a pattern, of loping a straight line, stopping, backing, turning around and returning in another straight line. Buckshot and I did great at this exercise! I am really proud of us. We work a lot on straight lines at all gaits, and it showed. He really enjoyed this and worked hard with me. Then the class broke up, and we did a bit more work, followed by cooling him down at the walk. I took him to some grass, dismounted and let him graze. Then we walked back to our trailer where I untacked him, and rubbed him down in his sweaty spots. With his very long winter hair, he gets sweaty easily, so I carry a rag and wipe him vigorously where he is wet. I curry combed and brushed him, trying to help the sweat dry and not get matted. Lastly, I gave him some treats, thanked him gratefully for his work for me, and we loaded the horses and took them home. It was a wonderful day, and I was so proud of him!

Lastly, I have gotten Buckshot his Christmas present. I ordered him another saddle pad. Reinsman makes a tacky-too pad for swayback horses that works very well for Buckshot. His current Reinsman swayback pad is two years old and is still in pretty good shape. I decided to replace it anyway because the most important parts of this pad are the thick foam sections that bracket Buckshot’s spine, and I want that foam to be firm, and not lose any of its protection. So after two years of use, I decided to get him a new one. I plan to put a big bow on it and give it to him on Christmas Eve, probably with some extra treats. Buckshot will likely be more excited about the treats!

What are you going to give your horse for Christmas? Hope you had a wonderful weekend as well!

1 comment:

wilsonc said...

I love reading about how much fun you are having with your horse, and about how much you are learning. You make me want to get out to the barn and ride! The new saddle pad sounds like a great Christmas gift. I'm on a limited budget for the horses this year, so their Christmas gift from me is going to be a warm mash. I think they'll appreciate it :)