Monday, April 23, 2012

A Quiet April Weekend

This past weekend was filled with one day of beautiful weather, and one day of nonstop rainy weather. Oh, such is April! On Saturday, with comfortable temperatures in the high 70’s and sunny, Buckshot and I had a good ride. After grooming him, we walked to the arena, full of soft, sandy, perfect footing. I tucked a water bottle into the back of my saddle, below the seat and above the skirt. I made sure to give him a full twenty minute warm up. And after the warmup, he had good energy, and responsiveness. Last Sunday, I gave him only a too-short five minute warmup (my mistake!!) and he didn’t trot or canter well. Bless his heart, at his age, the warm up is the most important part of our ride! After it, he is willing and able to work hard.

We worked on the three speeds of the walk: slow walk, working walk and extended walk. Buckshot has been doing well at them. I decided to make it more challenging by adding collection to each one. So now we have six combinations at the walk: slow, working, extended, slow collected, working collected and extended collected. I am beginning to get the aids for each, so that he will know what I am asking for. I’m not sure Buckshot thinks I know what I want just yet. He’s right. But it’s a good plan. Collection is hard. Stopping his forward movement – slightly - with my reins, but keeping movement through my leg aids, is complex, and subtle. It’s been a long time since I’ve worked with him specifically on collection. I asked the BO if a horse can be collected at the canter, and she said yes, but it is a very advanced thing to do. I know it is well beyond my capabilities for now. So I will work on it at the walk and trot. We had a good ride.

After our ride, Buckshot was quite sweaty in spots, so I sponged him off a bit. It isn’t as good as a bath with full water, but I think it makes him feel better to have the sweaty places rubbed with a wet sponge. He’s such a sweet horse; I love doing things that make him feel good after he has worked hard for me.

Sunday was a cold and rainy day. We need the rain here in Virginia, so I can’t complain. I just got out my winter and rain gear and tried to forget that spring had already arrived. When I got out to the barn, I went up to Buckshot’s pasture to see him. He was wearing a rain sheet, and standing – semi dozing – in one of their stalls. I greeted him and stood by him quietly. I stroked his neck lightly and rhythmically with my nails, and his head dropped inch by inch. I spoke to him barely above a whisper, telling him we wouldn’t ride, but that I would come and groom him in his stall. After a bit, I cleaned the stalls out, and tromped through the rainy pasture to the muck pile. A cleaner stall is always a good thing for a horse. Even if you do it in the rain.

I went back to the main barn and tended to the chores you only do on a rainy day. There are a lot of chores we wouldn’t do at all if it wasn’t for a rainy day at the barn! LOL! I cleaned my saddle and bridle, really thoroughly, really using elbow grease for a change, and wow! They looked beautiful. It’s funny what elbow grease will do. I don’t clean them as often as I should, and when I do, I don’t do quite as good a job as I should. I think of riders who clean their tack after every ride and feel slightly ashamed. But I love my time with Buckshot so much that I cut corners on cleaning his tack. In a quiet, not-too-guilt-ridden part of my brain, it’s a trade off I’m comfortable with most of the time. But on rainy days, out comes the tack cleaner.

Then I gathered up my grooming tools, and some treats, and headed out into the rain again, back up to Buckshot’s pasture. I found both horses - Buckshot and Lucky - dozing together in a stall. First, I took off Buckshot’s sheet and took it to the feed room to dry on hay bales. Then I opened my tote bag and got a curry comb and started grooming Buckshot. He seemed to enjoy it. He has shedded out 90 percent so I didn’t need the shedding blade, for the first time in six or seven weeks. I brushed him with a soft brush instead. Lucky stood next to him, and after a while, I decided that I couldn’t not groom him, so after brushing Buckshot, I started on Lucky with the curry comb. Well, poor boy, everywhere I touched him and curried him, his lower lip quivered in pleasure!! He hadn’t been groomed recently and he loved it. Buckshot kept moving his head around this way and that to watch me very closely, but I explained that Lucky didn’t have an owner who groomed him regularly so I wanted to do this. I think Buckshot understood! LOL! He kept watching me closely, though.

After using the shedding blade on dear Lucky, I went back to Buckshot and combed his mane and tail. Then it was treat time! I gave them both carrots and german horse muffins. They were two happy horses when I left! It was a nice time spent with them, quiet and listening to the steady beating of the rain on the roof, enjoyment of the physical pleasures of grooming and giving treats, as calm and serene and peaceful as having coffee with friends. I couldn’t ask for a better time on a rainy day. Well, now I can go and read your blogs! I’m eager to read what is happening with each of you and how your horses are! Thanks for reading! (Sorry for the formatting not working - I think I have to learn about these changes with Blogger - how this new editor works, what browsers are supported, etc....)

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