Monday, January 16, 2012

January Winter Rides

This past weekend the weather here in Virginia was more winter-like – cold, in the upper thirties and forties, with lots of sunshine. Great riding weather! Buckshot and I took advantage of it and had some adventures. On Saturday, the main arena’s footing was rock hard from rain a while back and some freezing temperatures. So, after walking briefly in the arena and the grass outside of the arena, we took off on a solo ride in the trail for our walking warm up.

I carried a crop just in case Buckshot would stop and didn’t want to walk forward. I only had to use it once or twice, very lightly. We walked into the trail and down the first few sections just fine. At a fork, we headed off the main trail and up a hill to a ridge in the woods.

(The past few times we have ridden alone in the woods, Buckshot wanted to take this fork and go up the hill, but I was uncertain of the footing – heavy leaf cover on the ground hid what was below. So before I went to get Buckshot from the pasture, I had walked the trail by myself, up the hill, to check the footing and to orient myself in this part of the woods to navigate it safely.)

So, up the hill we went. And walked around various sections, and hills, before turning around and returning. Buckshot did great. A few times he was hesitant but he always responded to my “walk on” and kept going. As normal, when we headed back, he walked a bit more purposefully. I rubbed his neck and praised him for his bravery!

After our short trail ride, we walked down the farm road as well. We made it about three-quarters of the way before turning back. Again, as in the trail, there were a few moments when Buckshot hesitated, but he listened to me and responded, and then when we turned back, he happily walked on. Both of our solo rides were good for us. He is growing in trust and I hope he is gaining more confidence. Unfortunately, I do need to bring a crop with me as it is a bit more of an aid than just my legs. My reins are English, buckled reins and don’t work well to tap his shoulder.

We returned to the main arena and waited for the horses and riders for our class. Then the class walked through the woods to the reining arena, which had nice soft footing since it got a lot of sunshine. We worked there for a while. Trotting Buckshot was great, and we did some very nice cantering. I did very well keeping my butt in the saddle, steering him with focus and intention, and working on having soft, giving hands, especially at the turns.

Buckshot responded very well, especially at the left lead. Cantering on the right lead is much harder; steering him is harder since he tends to want to turn to the inside, and if I try hard to keep him straight it feels like I am just pulling on him mouth terribly. I hate that feeling and don’t like to pull hard. But he has a big moving canter and I have less good control on his right lead. Overall, it was a wonderful day- a lovely day to ride with the cool temperatures offset by the sunshine, and one arena with soft footing to work on various things with Buckshot. A good day!

On Sunday, I was given a very nice gift by the BO- three small name tags with Buckshot’s name (and mine) on them! I love them! I put one immediately on his bridle, where the browband meets the cheekpiece. It looks wonderful! Sunday’s weather was colder and windier than Saturday, but the sun was shining so it was nice. But I think I saw Buckshot’s first cold weather mood!

After I brought him to the barn to groom him and tack up, he walked around the stall, not interested in the hay on the floor, which is unlike him. I got him some alfalfa cubes to munch on, and he did eat them, but still he paced around the stall much more than normal. We could hear the wind whistle through the barn walls, but I didn’t notice it too much because he is generally fine in windy weather. I cut short his grooming, because of his pacing, and tacked him up. The last thing that I put on him was his bridle.

We started out of the barn and toward the arena. Well, the minute we were out of the barn he started shaking his head like crazy! And he seemed excited, almost agitated (but not blowing), walking faster than normal. Well, what is this, I wondered? I looked around for something new, or out of place, that could cause this reaction, but didn’t see anything. He continued to shake his head vigorously, like he was trying to get something out of his ears. I didn’t know what to think, didn’t know what was wrong with him. Luckily, the BO appeared just then and I told her about his agitation. Of course, he had momentarily stopped doing it when she appeared. LOL. She mentioned that maybe the name tag jingling around was bothering him. I didn’t think of that – it never occurred to me that the name tag would bother him. I didn’t think it was even touching his skin since I had attached it over some leather that would prevent the tag itself from touching him. But it must have felt different and maybe had a tiny bit of a new sound to him, and he wanted it off!!

Unfortunately, I had attached it with pliers so it wasn’t a quick and easy thing to just stop and remove it. So I decided to just keep going and see if he would get used to it. Eventually, in about an hour, he stopped doing any head shaking so I think he finally got used to it.

We had a nice ride, with the BO and BOH on their horses, at the reining arena. Buckshot was still a light flighty or antsy, so I got us trotting with purpose. We just did a few canters. I tried something new on the right lead, to see if it would help us. Since he tends to turn inside and make a bit of a right circle (but too small of a circle), I shifted my weight a tiny bit to the outside, to see if that might help. I think it may have helped a very small bit. I will have to keep trying it before I decide if it works.

Earlier on Sunday, I had asked the BO her thoughts on why Buckshot’s right lead is not good. Is it his conformation? His age? An old injury? My relatively-new skill level at the canter? Was there anything I could be doing as the rider to help him more?

She thought that it may be a touch of arthritis, and his age. We discussed whether he needs some treatment, or whether we should continue to watch him. He still gets up and down well, and he rolls completely over when he rolls, so those are good signs that he doesn’t have much arthritis at this point. And with my twenty-minute walking warm up, he isn’t stiff in any way when I ride him. He gives a trot or a canter 95% of the time I ask for it. The only difficulty is that his right lead canter is much more difficult than his left lead canter. So for the time being, I don’t think he is uncomfortable with arthritis, and thus doesn’t warrant treating for it. I don’t want to give injections of glucosamine just to improve one aspect of one gait.

So I’ll keep watching him and if and when it is time to treat for arthritis, I’ll do so. In the meantime, I’ll keep working on our cantering and enjoying the heck out of him – he is a great horse!

In fact, he is such a great horse that back in November, when the weather started to turn cool, and I was carefully watching for the cool-weather moods, he didn’t have any. But yesterday, with cold temperatures, wind, and a new, weird little thing hanging from his bridle, he finally did show normal, cool weather horsey-moods!!

I read some interesting tips on Julie Goodnight’s website about helping to cue for a difficult canter lead. I’ll report them as I try them out.

I finally saw “War Horse” this past week. I give it a B. I wasn’t that thrilled with it; in my opinion it is mostly a war movie with a bit of of a horse story thrown in, than a horse movie. I also bought the Buck Brannaman movie on CD. I saw it a few months ago in the theater, but after our reining trainer recently recommended it, I decided to buy it and watch it again. It is quite moving, interesting and thought provoking for me. What a life he has had.

Hope you had a great weekend!

1 comment:

Grey Horse Matters said...

Your trail ride sounds wonderful. So interesting that Buckshot had a mood that involved his new tag. Guess they get used to things one way and don't like too much change. Good luck with his right lead canter. I'm sure it will be fine. No horse is perfect on both sides. One side is usually stiffer or less flexible than the other. He may have a touch of arthritis. But that's easily treatable if the vet diagnoses it.