Alfalfa. Does a Body Good.

I am one of those people who is really hard on myself.  When I don’t see results quickly enough, I get all self-blamey about it.  Candace (or, as I called her last night, “Peppermint Patty”) is driving me a little crazy because she’s just not gaining weight as quickly as I’d like. I have to recognize that THIS TAKES TIME.  One cannot do a week of extra feedings and expect to find a show hunter, when the horse is only a few months off the track and a baby, to boot.

Right now Miss Thing is getting a feeding in the morning of the barn grain, a nice bucketful, and has hay in front of her face 24/7.  In the evenings, we give her the same feeding she gets in the morning, plus a heaping dose of soaked alfalfa pellets (seriously those things expand to about 100 times their original size, it’s sort of freaky!), and a topping of rice bran pellets for added fat.  I have this stupid notion that after one serving of that, I am going to see this padding mysteriously appear over her barrel – instantaneously!  When it doesn’t happen I am all disappointed, though I have to recognize she IS gaining weight.

I also had to recognize last night that she is also putting some energy into growing – upwards.  I know Jess had estimated her at 16  hands before but when she came in my eyeballs were higher than her withers (my eyeballs, with paddock boots on, are 16 hands off the ground).   Last night when I took her blanket off, however, her withers were definitely eyeball height.  Maybe even a titch taller than eyeball height.

So I tore around and found a measuring stick (the proper kind with the level thing in it), and measured.  And yes she is the magical 16 number.  Yay!  Of course, my horse is 16.1, and his dress sheet style cooler fits her – OVER tack, and buckled in front – with room for another horse under it.  But then again he is part plow horse, so that should be expected.

In any case, she’s lucky I like her.  I got home last night at 7.  It was dark.  There was not a single soul at the barn (probably due to the snow the other day).  My motivation level under those circumstances is less than zero.  Especially when it is under 30 degrees, and I know that walking down the driveway I will hit that spot where the temperature drops an additional 5-10 degrees (it’s there year round, it just doesn’t hurt so much in the summer!). 

But… I do love this face:

Hullo, I am the most adorable.

So I got changed, trudged down the driveway, and grabbed her.  She gets all excited to come in, and has whole conversations with you.  Where Mikey used to yell in greeting, she nickers.  If you say something, she nickers again.  You can go back and forth with her three or four times, and I really think she thinks she’s talking.

I was in the saddle a short time later, and while she had a bobble standing at the mounting block (I don’t waaaaaaant to!), she was her usual self.  Under the circumstances, I actually would feel uncomfortable riding my own horse – dark, freezing, extremely windy, and no one around.  But on her I feel totally safe.  Her only “acting out” so far has been to whinny under saddle, and that has become much less frequent.  We went to work, trotting on the straightest path possible, doing large figure eights and large circles. 

The whole time I’m riding, I am concentrating on keeping my legs long and connected to her body, and keeping my contact consistent.  I’ve made my neck strap my new best friend, in that regard (though I need to make it bigger – she doesn’t look fatter but the neck strap tells a different story).  Elbows and arms relaxed, fingers closed, opening rein when needed.  I worked on really pushing her at the trot, especially on the diagonals when we had a longer distance to work with.  Forward forward forward.  She is much more responsive now, and not anywhere as lazy as she seemed at first, but it still takes work to get her motor fully engaged.

After about 25 minutes, we did a walk break, but on figure eights and serpentines, as I wanted her to work and use her hind end rather than meander around.  Then another 15 minutes of trot work, this time with me taking slightly more contact and trying to encourage her to stretch down and give to the bit a little more.  We had several moments of brilliance so I ended on that good note, and it was back to the barn 🙂

She still amazes me in that she is very good laterally off the leg, much more so than other horses I’ve ridden.  I don’t get as twisted into a pretzel because she’s easy to move sideways (even though it’s hard to get her body perfectly straight, it’s easy to get her to, say, move out on a circle without popping her shoulder, and that sort of thing).  It’s so nice to ride a horse that doesn’t lean through the turns, and much easier for me to ride better.

She still feels a bit like she has a flat tire behind, but that seems to be improving, so I’m going to go ahead and schedule her for a lesson or two with dressage sensei in the next week, so we can make a little more forward progress.

She will also be getting her teeth done next week, and hopefully this helps her eat a bit faster.  Not that I want her bolting her food, but waiting 40 minutes for her to finish, when it’s 28 degrees out, can be a little trying.  Again, she’s lucky I like her so much!

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3 responses to “Alfalfa. Does a Body Good.

  1. Well she sounds like just about the sweetest little girl ever! 🙂 I totally feel your pain with the slow weight gain, but it will (and is, obviously) happen. Also, my boy is also the slowest eater ever-his teeth float didn’t change that, unfortunately, sigh. I just bring a book whenever I go to the barn, just in case:)

  2. Man, you’re making me shiver just thinking about riding in those sorts of temperatures. I can’t imagine it! She’s one lucky horse having someone who’s so dedicated to her wellbeing, and I’m sure she appreciates all you do for her–especially the alfalfa!

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