Monday, March 12, 2012

Weekend Fun!

This past weekend was a long one for me. The barn owner was out of town so I came on Friday morning to feed all of the farm’s thirty horses. After that was done, followed by a few chores, I got Buckshot from his pasture and groomed and saddled him. It had rained for several hours in the overnight and early morning, so the arenas were soupy and not usable. So it was going to be a challenge to find places to ride Buckshot and keep him busy.

We started by riding in the grassy areas around the main arena. First we rode down one side of the arena, then back to the end and over grass to the chicken coop, then back and down the other side of the arena, around the trees and back towards the arena gate. Back to the chicken coop, execute a smooth and lovely turnaround, and back to the arena, and back to the chicken coop. I focused on straight lines, nice turns and keeping us going in some kind of direction. After warming up, we trotted on the grass in one section. The grass felt springy and nice, but after a few trots I saw that we were tearing up the grass a bit, so it wasn’t quite firm enough to keep trotting.

We started down the trail. I had us do new exercises on the trail this time – our “trail work” I called it, to make it sound official (LOL). We stopped on the trail, did a small circle to the left, then onward. Later, a small circle to the right. Later, backing some steps. And then further along, quarter turns and halt. When we got to the turnoff that I now know leads near the stallion pasture, we didn’t take the turn!! No repeat wanted of that!! We got halfway down the trail and headed back to the barn. Buckshot was glad to head back. He had been very willing to do our new trail work exercises.

Next, we headed down the farm road. I decided to use focus and intention, and have us walk all the way down the road to the reining arena. Buckshot was willing during the first half. The second half of the route he wasn’t so sure. I had to keep urging him with “walk on” and an occasional tap on his shoulder with the crop. I promised him a treat at the end. Slowly we made progress and finally, finally, arrived at the reining arena! I was thrilled! And I gave Buckshot a german horse muffin treat. Then we headed back toward the barn. Now, we all know this is the time that Buckshot usually picks up his pace a bit as he knows he is heading home, right? Buckshot loves the return trip. But, for some reason, he was a bit relunctant on the walk back. A few times he tried to stop and turn around, heading back to the arena! I was mystified – what was going on? Perhaps he wanted to ride in the reining arena, which is what we usually do. But it had been soupy wet and not usable. It was unusual for him to walk so slow on the ride back. Oh, well, we did fine. I untacked him and praised him and told him what a good horse he is – we had done new things in three new places that day!! Good boy!!

After I took him back to his pasture, I did more farm chores and later fed all of the horses their dinners. Then, exhausted, I headed home.

Saturday was cooler and sunny. I arrived early and fed breakfast to the horses. A few helpers helped prepare the barn for eleven overnight horses. This farm acts as a horse hotel, and boards horses overnight when their owners are traveling through Virginia. I have seen a lot of various breeds and horses come through as overnighters. So we prepared a bunch of stalls for Saturday night’s very special guests…

My sister came to the farm to ride a lesson horse with Buckshot and I. We groomed and tacked up, and rode in the now usable, drier arena. I worked during our warm up on the three speeds of the walk- the slow walk, the working walk and the extended walk. Buckshot responded right away and did great, giving me clearly different speeds when asked. I guess it is something all horses know, but I was really proud of his responsiveness on this exercise.

When I asked for the trot, Buckshot was a little slow to respond. But when the other horse started trotting in front of us, Buckshot was suddenly very energetic!! He does love to ride with other horses. We went through the trail to the reining arena and it, too, had a soft footing. We spent a half hour there, doing trotting and nice cantering and grazing the horses on the nearby grass. While in this arena, the barn owner and husband and trailer came home, driving by this arena. We waved and went back to riding. Shortly thereafter, we headed back to the barn. Buckshot had done well and I was proud of him. He had a good energy that seemed to fit the sunny, chilly winter weather- perfect riding weather.

After I untacked him and returned him to his pasture, we chatted with the barn owner and did a few more farm chores. Then the work began.

The overnighters were expected in an hour, so we set out to feed the farm’s horses right away. We had twenty of them fed when the overnighters arrived. They used a full size tractor trailer (not a regular horse trailer) for their horses: 7 adult Belgian show horses, 1 Shire show horse and 3 baby Belgians one and two months old!! The owner (a gentleman traveling alone, with so many horses!) opened the side of the trailer as my sister and I took food to one pasture. We looked up and six inquisitive Belgian faces looked out at us, about fifteen feet up!! Wow! After we finished the farm feedings, and turned the horses out to their pasture, we were ready for the Belgians to be unloaded.

Their owner started unloading them one by one and leading them into the barn to a designated stall. Well, the first one I saw must have been 17 hands, absolutely gorgeous and awesome and slightly scary! Just so tall and strong and such thick, powerful necks! Beautiful coloring, with that caramel colored chestnut coat, and bright flaxen mane and tail, and so very, very big!! I was awed!

One by one, each Belgian horse more awesome than the last, entered the barn and went into a stall. And one black, extremely tall Shire mare as well. I know she was 20 hands high! And then the babies with their mothers- the huge awesome Belgian mares with their fluffy, curly coated, spring-loaded babies bouncing next to them! Awesome sight to see!

The horse’s owner and our barn owner got all of the horses in stalls, and my sister and I started filling the stalls’ water buckets. We stood at each stall door and wound the long-snouted hose over to the buckets and filled, often with the thirsty horse drinking as fast as we filled. One of the Belgians was a stallion, and a bit excited about the mare next to him, possibly hoping she was in heat. I had slipped inside his stall to angle the water hose to his buckets better, when all of a sudden I thought “Jan! You’re inside a stall with a huge Belgian stallion who is excited about his neighbor!! Bad move- get out of this stall immediately!!” And I got out quick!! The horses were all nice, of course, but they had been travelling a long time, and were big, and any horse can accidently hurt us. So I got out of the stallion’s stall pretty darn quick! LOL!

It was interesting to watch the horses’ owner move quietly and confidently from horse to horse, checking on them, giving them hay and taking their temperatures (to check that they were fine from traveling). My sister and I just kept filling water buckets and exclaiming with awe at each horse. And the babies! How cute they were! They would jump around and frolic in the stalls. After all the horses were fed and settled, we left, exhausted but excited about seeing such wonderful horses. They are driving horses, and were en route from Florida to their home in Vermont.

After all that excitement on Saturday, I’ll be brief about Sunday. When I arrived back at the barn, the Belgians had already left. I had a good ride on Buckshot and a good, less strenuous day. It was a good weekend with a lot of extra work and activity, and wonderful rides with Buckshot! I hope you had a great weekend also.

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