Sunday, February 10, 2013

First Ride of Many

Well, we survived the Snowpocalypse. I had to dig my car out of two feet of snow yesterday afternoon once T had snowblown us out. I'm not a snow person by any stretch of the imagination, and I ESPECIALLY hate this much snow at once...but it was pretty. It also forced me to, you know, relax...and do laundry. And get my room clean (ish).

My car is playing hide and seek...
This morning, however, I was officially stir crazy. I woke up at eight and left the house slightly before nine to go to the barn. I may have been just a little anxious to see my horse.

When I got there, the three geldings in the front paddock were rough housing. I watch Ray rear up and box with Gus. I sighed internally, because I'd have to walk Image through the crazy younger geldings who had no idea what "personal space" meant.

I quickly grabbed Image, who was waiting for me at the gate. He snuffled my hands, quietly accepted the cookie I had for him, and happily stuffed his face into the halter. I hustled him through the gate, and made a beeline for the outer gate. Unfortunately, I wasn't fast enough -- Ray, with his annoying two year old tendencies, immediately came over and began harassing my poor horse. Image, being the good boy that he is, simply stood there until Ray decided it was time to rear up and hook his hind legs over Image's back as we were walking towards the gate. Image, having had enough, struck out with his hind legs and nailed Ray right in the stomach. Ray huffed dejectedly and trotted away to go and harass Gus. Served him right, and made me never want to enter that paddock without a dressage whip. Butthead!

It wasn't long before I was running him back out to the paddock, naked and unbraided. He and Austin trotted around the paddock for me, tails flagged and manes flying. Unfortunately, the day was super bright and sunny, which isn't the best for photography in an awkwardly shaped paddock. I only got a few decent shots before we were all huffing and puffing from running around in the snow.

His ears are so fat and wide and adorable. I'm so glad he likes having them rubbed!!

Holy adorable horse, Batman!

I walked him back in and settled him on the crossties while I did stalls. In between each stall, I glanced at my saddle. A lot of people had made the comment that deep snow is always good for a first ride -- less likely the critter will be able to do anything. It'd also been three weeks since he came home, and there wasn't much on the ground that he wasn't comfortable with -- something I had not foreseen. Not to mention, I was itching to check to make sure my square backed saddle wasn't going to be an issue for him.

So, after some though, I pulled my saddle out. If I got tossed, at least it'd be into nice, fluffy snow. I didn't actually expect to be thrown off, for what it's worth...however, I was hoping that the deep snow would help hinder his ability to shoot out from underneath me.

It took me some time to saddle him up, between readjusting the girth to the appropriate hole on the off side, and adjusting the bridle so it fit properly. I kept his rope halter on under the bridle so I could lunge him a bit out in the snow. We trekked out together, and he didn't give me an indication that he was in any way uncomfortable or upset. Quite the opposite, actually. His ears were pricked and his eye were bright with interest.

I pushed him out around me, and he moved out easily. The snow was deep -- almost up to his chest -- so his normal quick pace was definitely slowed by the fluffy powder. I did a few quick revolutions each direction, before deciding it was time to climb on up.

He stood quietly next to the mounting block, letting me fuss with the saddle and check the breastcollar. He didn't move a muscle as I swung into the saddle. The second my butt hit his back, though...

Kaboom!

He lunged forward, head up and back tense. I had barely gotten my stirrups by the time he threw a good few crow hops in, and a decent little rear. Before he could throw anything else my way, I turned his nose to my boot, and directed him in a few tight circles. I did not let up on him until I left him giving to the bit instead of bracing against it, which only took a few extra turns than I was expecting. I allowed him to straighten out, and he stood at attention, his sides heaving and ears tipped back towards me. We stood like this until he dropped his head a fraction, relaxing his back muscles just enough for me to be comfortable asking him for forward movement. I kept my leg off of him, and clucked.

Kaboing!

He hopped forward, and broke into a frantic pace. I circled him until he gave to the bit. Lather, rinse, repeat for a good five minutes. After that, I got a few decent strides of a reglar, albeit tense, walk before having to ask him to come back to me. He was huffing and puffing something fierce, the deep snow making it even more work than usual for him.

He had flat walked for a good half of the ring, so I decided to give him a break and go out onto the plowed part of the property. He walked tensely, obviously waiting for me to do something unkind to him. I kept my hands quiet, the reins loose, and my legs off of his sides. I sang and chattered at him as we walked back and forth along the dead end road, letting him catch his breath. A few times he became tense and picked up a faster pace, but a gentle reminder brought him back down to a walk. During one of his moments of forward movement, however, he gave me a beautiful, comfortable four beat rack -- not a bouncy pace, not a trot, but a lovely rack. I was really impressed that he was able to pull that out at all, given his lack of proper muscling for gaiting. That gives me a hell of a lot of hope for future work on his gait, once we're able to give him confidence that no one is going to harm him.

I entered the ring once more after he caught his breath, and was able to get one full lap of a loose reined flat walk out of him. I called it a day there. The second I hit the ground I showered him with praise, rubbing his forehead just the way he likes it. He had worked himself up pretty well, and definitely needed some time to cool out and dry off. I spent the next hour rubbing him down and grooming him, and maybe giving him one too many cookies.

I'm glad I got on him today. If nothing else, it gives me a baseline to work with for when the weather truly gets better, and I was able to reaffirm in my own mind that this horse has been mishandled in a big way at some point in his life. He is tense, stiff, brace-y and waiting for something bad to happen. I will be spending a lot of time on the ground with him with his bridle on, flexing him to both sides for now. I hope to, before spring really comes, have a chiropractor come out and give him a thorough once over, just to make triple sure that there isn't anything bothering him physically.

It was also good, but really sad, to find out that my lovely Bob Marshall treeless saddle is too long for him with the square skirt, and hits him in the hips. Ugh. I don't know what I'm going to do about that, but that's something I'll have to figure out.

A final thought, before I settle in to watching Castle and surfing Imgur until I fall asleep -- I am angry. I am angry at the asshole who did this to my horse. If I could hunt whoever it was down and smack the shit out of them, I would. This horse does not need a harsh hand in any way, shape or form. Even scared and waiting for the worst, he obeyed my commands and tried hard to do the right thing. It makes my blood boil to know that he was mistreated in this way. He stood with me in the paddock for a bit, letting my lean against him and breathe him in. He rested his head on my back, and when I pulled away, I realized I had woken him up. He is sweet, smart and responsive. There was NO REASON for this horse to be treated this way.

However, there's nothing I can do about the past. I can only shape his future, and I am honored to be the one that's going to be able to help him. Today was a good start in the right direction.

Here are a few more pictures from today of him modeling his shiny leather halter that a good friend and coworker bought for him.

Dirty critter. Can't wait until spring so I can clean him up!
Blue is his color, if you hadn't already guessed ;)

2 comments:

  1. I am so proud and so jealous of you. I wanted to do the same thing today but the hard part is, our outdoor isn't fenced. It's a dressage arena, which is cool, but not for young horses like mine with "issues". I can't wait to read more about it and I'd love to come meet him sometime!

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