Last weekend, my darling SO said (after disappearing most of Saturday on a bike ride and then being too sore to move the rest of the weekend) “next weekend is all yours, spend as much time as you want out with the horses.” Well twist my arm and whack me with a sack of oranges, why don’t you? So Saturday I left my darling little monkey with him almost ALL day while I went out to revel in some beautiful springy weather and inhale copious amounts of horsehair.
I was smart, and remembered to stop at a tack shop on the way for a proper shedding blade. And tack cleaning supplies, since my saddle has not been cleaned or oiled since before bringing it over there (so around a year and a half now. Yikes! No wonder it squeaks so much!). On arrival, my first order of business was to take my camera and wander out to get Most Amazing Bay Mare from the field. In no time, I was inundated with bunches of curious, sweet TBs, all nosing and jostling for attention. I also noticed some new guys, which is always fun. I didn’t save all the pictures on here, but here are a few.
Above is sweet Corcho, who came to us from Jess a while back since he needed some time off before getting into work. He was a pretty chill dude and was very happy to receive some chin rubbins and scratchins. Unfortunately, poor Corcho, who mostly wanted to chill out and get rubbed down by himself, was soon joined by a couple others. Most notably, the mare Devon.
Devon is like the Mikey of the giant mare field. If she sees a person, she immediately has to know what they’re up to and get in their face and visit. She will follow you all around the field (and I cannot overstate the size of this field. It’s HUGE.) without losing interest. “Whatcha doing? Whatcha doing now? How bout now?” is pretty much what I imagine her saying at all times. So she came over to see what was so interesting about Corcho
Pretty much every time I tried to visit with ANYONE in this field, Devon had to get in the middle. ME ME ME ME MEEEEE!!! Poor mare. We really need to find her a job soon.
Not that she’s alone in this. Her friend the chestnut mare is almost as bad. The both of them kept following me around, intruding on my attempts to give others attention and love, for about a half hour before they finally decided to go back to eating. I will say both these mares are truly stunning, beautiful individuals, but their personalities are basically just like Mikey and Truckee – a pair of troublemakers and attention hounds.
I’m not sure who this sweetie is. I know I should know this, but I don’t, which is what happens when you don’t spend a whole lot of time out there and horses come and go. He has a seriously adorable face, and was very sweet, though.
At this point, I decided it was really time to get the show on the road and grab my favorite bay mare for a ride. And of course, I realized she was in a small group of four horses clear at the other end of the field. Did I mention how huge this field is? It’s HUGE. Almost half a mile from one end to the other (I checked via google pedometer!). And the hill is pretty crazy big, too. But as is their way, when the TBs saw me coming, they immediately started making their way over to me, because they love to visit.
That’s Crazy. I think. And I’m posting that picture because I wanted to explain the reason I don’t post more pictures – ninety percent of the photos I take end up being extreme closeups of eyes, noses, and ears, where it’s impossible to even identify whose nose is whose. Pictures that are not extreme closeups of eyes, noses, or ears, are generally taken while I’m frantically backing me up as cute TB gets closer and closer and closer. Like this one, of my favorite girly girl?
Yep, I was walking backwards pretty quickly there. At this point I put the camera down for a bit, so I could grab her and bring her in.
To prove that I read, and try to learn, and stuff, while I was riding I was thinking of a couple short snippets I read on Jess’s blog. Things about going forward, how much leg it really takes to get these guys coming up over their backs, etc. So while I was up, I really wanted to think about getting her powering along with her back end a little more. She has great cruise control and a good go button, but I tend towards sticking with the comfortable speeds, instead of asking for them to work a little more. With my neck strap on and hands held still (see? I really have learned, really!) I asked her for just a little more power at the trot than I had been asking for. And it’s kind of amazing, because while it felt awkward at first, as I kept it up (while focusing almost completely on keeping my hips weighted evenly in the saddle and body straight, a major hardship for me), I could feel the quality of her movement changing a little bit. At first it felt a little like running, but after a few minutes I could feel more of a pushing sensation, and I felt like there was more out in front of me than usual (instead of curling her neck, she started to stretch a little bit). That was enough, so we stopped (neither of us is fit), and walked around a bit.
Continuing to remember Jess’s blog (and probably forgetting a million other things while focusing on some small random point), I added leg and tried to work on a more quality walk, instead of meandering around. And wouldn’t you know, you can actually FEEL it when they try to lift up and use their back and belly more? The walk almost starts to feel circular, and connected. And yes, the sheer amount of leg it takes is pretty amazing.
That’s about as far as I was really able to go, since I’m a year and a half into my no-riding-lessons plan to achieve mediocrity. But it’s neat to feel a tiny bit of progress, or achievement, or something. Yes, we did walk slightly better than last time! I want a gold star!
After getting pretty girl back out to her field I wandered out to visit the horses in the other gigantic field (this time about .35 miles across) to see some of the boys. I had it in mind to grab the one I’d nicknamed Possum. He’s been there a while and he seemed like a chill dude, so I thought I’d go for a record and ride two actual horses. On my way out, I met a new guy who is related to good old Truckee. For now I’m just calling him Truckee Two, because they look EXACTLY alike, except new guy has a star.
The resemblance is more apparent from the side, but I didn’t upload that picture. Oops! Unlike Truckee, this guy isn’t totally in your face and business, but he’s new, so give it time. After a few minutes of scritchins, I walked on down the field, where once again the beastie I wanted was at the complete far end. When I was about halfway there, I heard a little whinny behind me – turned around, and there was Truckee Two, following me. Too cute! I waited for him to catch up and we walked the rest of the way together.
I found Possum lounging around near the back corner of the field. And soon, I’d find out exactly how chill he actually is. He was fine to catch, but within minutes, I realized just getting back to the gate was going to be difficult. This guy did not. not not not. want to go anywhere. About every ten feet, he’d stop, and just stand there, with a pleasant look on his face, and say “nope. I just walked three steps. We’re done.” It was almost comical – I felt like I was training my horse to lead again. A couple times the only way I got him going again was by asking him to move sideways, then sideways the other way, again and again sort of like a sailboat tacking to go against the wind. About 80 yards from the gate I found nothing worked. Nothing. He was not going anywhere.
At this point, I was just being stubborn. We’d just taken forty minutes to come back across the field, I couldn’t stop now!
Fortunately I was saved by some other boarders. Possum spied a few horses coming back from a trail ride and a lightbulb went on, and we slowly made it down the rest of the hill as he realized he wasn’t being led off into some horseless no man’s land. Or no horse’s land. Or whatever.
Once out, he got lots of treats and a good grooming, which he really enjoyed, and I got to inspect him a little closer. He’s a good deal bigger than the mental picture I’d had in my head – for some reason I thought of him as around 15.3, but he’s probably 16.2 plus, and will look bigger as he gets fit and builds topline. He has good bone and huge feet, and the look of a real athlete. He was very easy to tack up and once there was a bridle on he led perfectly fine away from the other horses to the little ring.
He was not thrilled by the mounting block, but a few sniffs and some reassurance was all he needed. He was great, stood for mounting (not sure I should ever be surprised when this horse stands for anything), walked off reasonably smartly, and had no issue going by the flapping laundry hanging on the line or the little road cones in the ring or anything.
The next four minutes, though, had me huffing and puffing like I’d run a 5K. He is very similar to how Archie was in the beginning, before we’d really installed a go button. He’ll trot off great for you, but then every step gets progressively slower, and slower, and slower, until it is all you can do to keep him trotting. It was taking a great deal of energy from me to keep him at any consistent rate of “speed.” Strangely (and thankfully), getting him into the canter wasn’t too terribly hard (mostly voice and getting off his back), and he picked up both leads perfectly fine, but again, staying in the canter for any length of time took more and more energy. I was almost embarrassed that I only rode him for a few minutes, but I could check off all his boxes – stands at the mounting block, good brakes (exceptional brakes, actually), good steering, walks, trots, and canters both ways, calm and non-spooky. But seriously, my legs are KILLING me today and it’s two days later. I am sure he’ll be a different horse when he’s fit and whoever is riding him gets the go button in there (Archie sure was – it’s actually the kind of ride I really really like because on those types I never feel awkward or weird about adding more leg or asking for more go). And I think he’s very fancy. But it was such a 180 from riding GG that it made me appreciate her so very much more!
At this point, I was pretty done. I grabbed my horse and pulled some hair off him, gave him a treat and put him back. When I got home and found kidlet needed a nap, I was seriously grateful as I was in the same boat.