This past weekend we had terrible weather. Very cold temperatures, in the thirties, low, thick, grey clouds, rain to drizzle to mist, to rain to drizzle to mist, with lots of mud underfoot. Gloomy weather trying to produce gloomy moods. But Buckshot is my sunshine and he performed dazzlingly this weekend! Well, maybe that’s an overstatement. But he is the bright spot of my week and my weekend, so, yucky weather or not, I look forward to being with him.
On Saturday, stuffed into my bad weather gear to keep me warm and dry, I found him nibbling hay in his Weatherbeeta blanket. The blanket was wet, but when I put my hand under the blanket, he was dry and warm inside. While the skies took a break from rain, I took him out to graze.
After eating grass for a while, we went to the main barn and I gave him a spa day grooming session. He nibbled hay while I curried and brushed and rubbed him. For some inexplicable reason, my right elbow was giving me trouble – like tennis elbow, I think – and so I had to use both hands to hold and work the brushes. I brushed his wet mane, and his forelock, and then began the rather arduous task of brushing his tail. He had lots of twigs, dry poop and wet poop in it. And while in his spa-day daze, he pooped some more. A bit more wet and fresh poop to clean off. Holding his tail hairs and brushing them slowly, from the bottom up, killed my elbow, so I did only half of the job. I left his hooves til another day when the elbow felt better, hopefully.
The barn we were in was filled with horses in stalls, due to the rainy weather. So when we were ready for treats – because a grooming session is hard work for a horse like Buckshot! - I didn’t want the other horses to feel badly about Buckshot getting treats, so I stuffed them in my pockets. I put his blanket back on him and started walking him back to his pasture. Halfway to the pasture, I stopped Buckshot and gave him the little bag of carrots. Yum! A little later, I gave him the little bag of apple pieces. Yum again! By the time, we got to his pasture, he had had a yummy, cozy, spa-day of grooming and treats. And my day was complete! I went on to help feed the farm’s horses and do some chores, happy and content after spending time chatting with and grooming Buckshot.
Sunday was even colder than Saturday. The clouds were low and thick and grey, spitting mist and threatening any minute to give way to icy rain. Talk about gloomy! When I walked into Buckshot’s pasture, I found him munching his morning hay in the stall. I checked under his blanket and he was warm and dry. I talked to him for a while and told him what I had planned for the day.
I sense that when I talk to him, he asks What are we going to do today? Are we going to ride today? So I always answer his questions. It may sound silly, but do you sense when your horse “says” something to you, or asks you something? I think that we can have conversations of a sort with our horses. I usually sense it when I am quietly with Buckshot, and am tuned in to him without any distractions. I talk to him conversationally, and think that he responds back.
Once the misting rain had stopped for a while, I took his blanket off, put his halter on, told him we had work to do, and headed out. First, we grazed for a while on some nice patches of grass. Then we went into the arena, which was soggy in some places and a little firm in other places. I had my pockets stuffed with his treats.
We did a session of groundwork exercises in the arena. I led him around in various sized circles, some big, some spirals and others, very small circles. We walked squares with very straight lines. We bent around imaginary cones at various speeds and shapes, some tiny cone bending and some big cone bending. We worked on side passing. We did hindquarter yielding. We walked in squiggly lines, for variety from the straight lines. We set up actual cones and did some “touch the cones with muzzle” work.
The only exercise Buckshot didn’t do was doing the bow I’ve taught him. He just didn’t want to do it. He would lower his nose, but wouldn’t move his foreleg forward. He didn’t get a treat after that exercise but we went on to something else and he did fine. After each exercise, I praised him and gave him a bite of a treat. He stayed calm and interested and walked beside me attentively on a very loose lead line.
After we finished the exercises and most of the treats, I took us to the trail head. He was not thrilled with this idea and turned his body any way but forward. I persisted and told him we’d just walk a small ways in the trail and we’d be fine. He finally came along fine and we walked through the gloomy, damp, grey woods. Over the bridge and he was still walking forward just fine. We turned onto a little side trail and walked til it turned into a mud pond, at which point we turned around. When we got to the main trail, we stopped and I asked him which way he wanted to go. He turned in the direction of the barn and we headed back. I stopped him several times on our way back, praised him for his bravery, and gave him a treat. When we left the woods, I was very proud of him. He had listened to me, not gotten anxious, and had walked through the woods. What a good, smart, brave horse he is!
I walked him back to his pasture, stopping periodically for some grass nibbling. Although it wasn’t hard work for him, it had been a good session. We had worked on some things in-hand, and done more solo trail work. He had tried everything I asked of him, except the bow. It was a very good time of learning, attention, praise, talking, and I hope, trusting. Even though it was a yucky day weather-wise, it was a wonderful time with Buckshot. What a good horse! I love him!
After my time with Buckshot, I helped with the farm’s other horses. The BO and BOH were at a clinic so I, with the help of the BOS (barn owner son), fed all thirty horses and got them hay and water. It was a day that made me grateful for down coats, thick socks, leather gloves and my Stormy Kromer hat! I hope you were able to do something fun despite dreadful winter weather!