Everyone Ought to Have a Pokey Pony

Well, sometimes Lucky is a bit too lazy. He is not the world’s most motivated horse on the best days. The bugs are not helping at all. Now I’m getting eaten alive. Saturday, we took a long walk around the track, and the toughest part was convincing him that if he kept moving, the bugs couldn’t get him. Or at least not as effectively. We didn’t do much in the way of galloping or even a canter, and there was much bending at the walk. He was also perfectly happy to stand very still for his bath (with the nice Finish Line shampoo with tea tree oil, which smells very nice) because the water meant the flies had trouble landing. Sunday, I lunged with the side reins again. I actually saw something that might be dropping the head and engaging with the bit. Progress! I don’t think, though, he is ever going to be a big-moving hunter with a sweeping trot. His hind end does not work that way. As he seems to harbor ambitions of growing up to be a cowboy, this is probably not the colossal problem it might be elsewhere.

Monday I had the chance to hack out on a pokey pony. Yes, an actual pony! 13.1 hh. Over on Chronicle Forums, I’d mentioned that I was trying to find a western saddle for Lucky. (Someone, please stop me from buying that barrel saddle with the teal ostrich seat and teal heart cutouts? Must…resist…cute….) COTH poster fordtraktor let me know she had an old barrel saddle I could try, and since she doesn’t live far, if I wanted, we could go for a hack when I came by to get it. As I will rarely pass up a chance to ride a new (to me) horse, I said sure! The saddle, underneath the dust (it has been honorably retired for a while!) is red leather basketweave, and does clean up nicely. Now to see if it fits (maybe after Labor Day it’ll get cold and all the bugs will die!) After taking a look at the saddle, we went for a leisurely hack. I had the pleasure of riding one of those ponies who is big but little. I believe 13.1 is technically a medium, but as fordtrakor put it, she’s like a Quarter Horse body on short legs, and I didn’t have any issue with taking up leg. Pony might have had an issue with having a rider who is strong enough to make her actually trot (which can be surprisingly big when she wants it to be!) and even a bit of a bone-jarring pony canter. Even then, she still could only get halfway around the arena before fordtraktor’s Big Bay TB (to go with her Big Bay QHs) swept on by and lapped us. I know, pony, it’s tough to be short. It’s wonderful to actual go riding with someone–I’m used to hacking out by myself and working in the ring alone, to the point Lucky was moderately fried by having four others in there for the clinic this summer. Hopefully she can haul up to visit (as I’m tow-vehicle-less for now) and Lucky can get some thoroughbred company. (Maybe it will encourage him to speed up a bit, too. Then again, probably not.)

“He Was Something Like a Racehorse Undersized”


He was hard and tough and wiry – just the sort that won’t say die -
There was courage in his quick impatient tread;
And he bore the badge of gameness in his bright and fiery eye,
And the proud and lofty carriage of his head.

Or not, precisely. But at the BO’s suggestion we tried her Australian saddle on Lucky today. This is the first saddle I’ve ever put on him where he genuinely looked a little bug-eyed at the bulk of the saddle. That, or the size of the flaps, which go very far back over his flank compared to the PDN or the McClellan. I was surprised by how heavy it was-it’s been a long time since I’ve hefted anything bigger than a synthetic western onto a 15hh horse (Lucky never feels so much taller than Dino and Takota to me, but then I had to get the saddle UP.)

He walked out okay, so I figured I might as well try it. I think, ultimately, Lucky was more comfortable with the saddle than I was. I’ve sat in it before on Trudy (the resident red-headed mare) and didn’t really like the feel of having those “fenders” for lack of a better word almost over my thighs–it had the unnerving feeling of being strapped in. Actually riding out in it, I had the strangest sense of being in a saddle midway between a dressage saddle and stock seat. My butt thought it needed to be back on my pockets, but my legs couldn’t quite line up with that. I wound up in a sort of half-forward seat, never quite adjusted comfortably. I also forgot my crop, and with that much leather between my leg and his side I could barely get my heels on. Of course, this was pretty much fine by Lucky! For all it was cold and windy he was generally all right, though he had a very looky moment at a flyaway sheet of newspaper. He also definitely remembers turning around barrels, and considers an upended bucket and acceptable substitute (tomorrow I might get the barrels off the cart where they were moved for winter storage.)

I didn’t ride for too long. I don’t think the saddle was heavy enough to be dangerous for him, but it just wasn’t comfortable for me! Lucky did his best falling-asleep-underneath-you impression while I stopped to talk to P-Nut, Vandy and Sky’s owners as they were going out to the pasture. Of course, that might have been a hangover, as the dentist was out yesterday and everyone (except poor old P-Nut, who’d been done by the vet the day before along with that ‘delicate’ cleaning some geldings need sedating for) had their teeth done with the help of a few ccs of Xylazine. Lucky’s teeth, by the way, are quite nice, and at the floater’s request I passed along the name of the dentist who did the major work on him for future referrals (as this dentist doesn’t do serious power-tool fixes as Lucky required last year and was happy to have someone to call.) The day before that, the vet was out for spring shots and Coggins, so if we want to go anywhere he’ll be legal! All we need is a trailer and somewhere to go. I’m starting to think it might be good to find a schooling show and simply go for the experience, even if I end up not riding, just so he gets the idea of traveling being something routine.

We did take a walk in the hayfield after I unsaddled him (and found the Aussie saddle is almost as tricky to get OUT of as it is to get on him, and lifting it off his back, rather than dragging it over, was another reminder of how tall he is!) I thought about a walk in the woods, but he preferred someplace he could snack as he went along. And anyway, with the wind, I wouldn’t be surprised if a tree came down on us. Lucky had the pasture all to himself when I left, as his three buddies were all getting their turn being ridden (or tagging along after his girlfriend, in P-nut’s case–he’s touchingly devoted).) When I got home I found one of my sheds with the doors banging open and my plastic watering can I’d left on the bench by my door halfway across the yard. The trash bin was also on its side, but then for all it weighs when I’m having to drag it to the road it seems to blow over if there’s just a stiff breeze! The dogs got an extra-long walk, wind or no wind, as the rain passed us by and the rumored s-n-o-w seems to have also given us a miss (lucky us). I think I have succeeded in wearing them out (as I got up for a bowl of cereal while writing this and Tucker, who is firmly in the ’round is a shape’ camp and never misses a chance at food barely even looked up.) I just wish wearing them out didn’t involve wearing me out!

Spring Fever

We’ve gone from the “blizzard of the century” to unseasonably warm in a matter of about two weeks. Lucky for me, Tractor Supply was having a clearance on grooming tools and I got a metal curry, because when I arrived at the barn, I had a brown and tan horse instead of a plain bay. Yes, someone discovered the mud. So in addition to a hairy horse, I had a dusty one, as most of it had dried. Which at least meant he didn’t smell too bad and it came off nicely. Of course most of it went up my nose, and what didn’t went on my coat and jeans, but such is spring.

I think I also have a fat, as-sassy-as-Lucky-gets horse. Today I put the saddle on, and I brought out the pelham on suspicion I might need a bit more leverage, as the ground is soft enough for some actual work but it was cooling off enough he wouldn’t be sweating just from standing around, fuzz or no fuzz. Most of the arena was slop, but the grass side was soft but no standing water. Lucky is definitely out of condition, as the expression goes. I know he’s not too chubby because the girth cinches on the same holes, but he definitely had to act like like the entire business was a massive chore, and required tons of effort. He spent a lot more time bent out, watching, than going forward, and I probably rushed the decision to canter as that resulted in more up than forward, with head-tossing and a very tucked-under, scooty butt. So more trotting, and a long series of serpentines at the walk. We did get some canter later that was more like a canter for a few strides, and I cut him some slack. He IS out of shape, and the footing wasn’t the greatest, and of course the grass part of the arena is on an incline, so too much work would not be fair. It’s probably time to have the dentist take another look, and I’m thinking once he’s a little further along the shedding process and the weather is for sure cleared up, I’ll call the massage therapist to give him a spring tune-up before we get back into three and four days a week and some barrels and jumping.

In bringing out the pelham, I put together an old bridle and was missing pieces. Just the cavesson, so I decided not to bother. And while it looked kind of funny it didn’t otherwise affect anything, as I don’t use a flash or a martingale. I found myself wondering, if you aren’t using any of those, what purpose does it serve, anyway?

Chillin’

At some point, yes, I’m going to the barn. But yesterday, besides work, there were whiteouts on the roads. Today, they still haven’t plowed on my road, and the “high” temperature today was about 20. Since we don’t have an indoor and Lucky resembles a yak at the moment, there wouldn’t be much point in any case.

Tomorrow, however, I’m hoping to get out there, and bring Lucky an early “real” birthday present (his actual foaling date was February 12.)

Here’s a sneak preview:

And thank you for all the good thoughts for Mr. Jet! He seems to be doing much better. Here is a picture after he came home from two nights at the vet, being inspected by Mr. Marcus:

If You’ll Indulge Me

I realize a lot of posts recently are basically me gushing about what an awesome horse I have. Well, in fairness, Lucky IS an awesome horse. Today was very, very hot, so I did not set out intending to ride for long. As much for me as for him, as I really don’t want a repeat of the heat prostration episode. I always feel torn between the sense I’m not doing enough, but not wanting to do too much at one time. Today just enough was some circles (generally in the vicinity of twenty meters) and changes of direction across the diagonal at the trot, and more canter transitions. Lucky still cross-canters at times. He apparently went out for a trial with a dressage barn and was sent back because he didn’t want to swap leads behind. Their loss, my gain. But we managed our first circle at the canter today that more or less bent the correct direction and stayed the same size.

We also jumped again. This time, we had rails down, but on the first try, he did in fact canter to the oxer and take it without a stop. I wouldn’t exactly call it a back-cracker, but it was a jump. I need to work on my landings, though–in the interest of not slamming his back or mouth, I’m not exactly sitting down per se. It’s probably a better workout to do everything in two-point, but when the fences get higher or he decides to make a last-minute change of direction, I may be in some trouble. Not that I anticipate the former happening for a while, though he certainly shows more interest in the higher fences than poles or low crossrails. He’ll also canter off, or stop, after a fence, whichever is asked for.

And I really do need to borrow a Western saddle, and sort out a Western bridle (since he seems to exhibit a distaste of some sort for snaffles, or at least the cheek pieces as he’ll go nicely in a jointed kimberwicke, the trick will be figuring out a bit) and see what he thinks, because he is dreadfully, dreadfully quick to catch on to the idea of barrels. Given the heat, we didn’t do much today, but after jumping twice we tried a couple runs around the cans. I started with a trot, but Lucky didn’t object to picking up a canter, or to stretching out a bit after the last barrel. And when I turned him back to try again, he picked up a canter on his own. He’s still not flexible enough yet to really turn and burn, but he’s more than willing to try. Which, truth to tell, is more enthusiasm than he’s shown for jumping. Maybe the competitive drive translates.

Happy Trails!

Guess who went for a walk in the woods all by himself? Well, whose name is the title of this blog? It was hot again, no surprise, so I wasn’t planning any serious work with him, and no jumping. Just to keep myself honest, I switched my stirrups (I really need a second set of irons and leathers) and used the all-purpose saddle today. I can jump in it, but it’s a deep seat and a straight flap so it doesn’t lend itself. Instead of going into the ring, I unlocked the back gate and we rode straight out. The trails in the woods are well-maintained, but there are still leaves, branches and trees that have come down, plants that grow out into the trail. And of course you can hear any noise from the neighbors, or from the horses in the pastures behind us.

Lucky was a champ. He was not bothered by the unusual footing and the noise it made, things brushing along his side, my occasionally ducking down flat on his neck to avoid branches (or spiderwebs; I hate spiders.) He even stepped over a downed log and was unimpressed when he stepped on it (lazy feet) and the weight made the end, in the bushes, move and make noise. We stuck with a walk, and it was no problem. He was so good, when we came out of the first loop at the far corner of the track, I gave him a little three-furlong hand gallop, letting him pick the lead. (Note to self: swap the stick to the RIGHT hand to get him to swap, as when he carries the right lead around the turn he drifts WAY WAY out and the track isn’t wide enough for that.) I walked him back along some of the other trails, including the one that parallels the big pasture where Trudy, Takota and Dom live. Lucky ignored hoofbeats, and the squealing when Takota was busy reminding everyone that he is boss. I’m not sure Lucky would have been quite so phlegmatic if one of them had charged the fence (Dom likes to pace the fence when someone’s riding along it, probably feeling left out.) But no one did.

Just to make sure he remembers we DO need to work for our living, I took him to the ring for a little work. He is getting better at trotted figure eights, and while cantering them is still a little beyond him (he’s not quite flexible and balanced enough for smaller canter circles) we were able to try a simple change across a long diagonal. Lucky remained unflappable even when the wet towel I had around my neck slipped out and bounced off his rump.

I sponged him down and put him back out, with peppermints, when we finished. Tomorrow, if I go out, it’ll be more ring work. But tomorrow’s the first day of the county fair, and the only day of it that I’ll be off work, so I’ll throw my boots in the car when I go and if I don’t spend all day at the fairgrounds I might head out for a quick ride.

Back to work!

Well, as much as we’re working. It’s hot and humid and more or less miserable out, though at least by the time I got to the barn it wasn’t raining any more. The horses were in, as there had been thunder, and I’d figured they would be. The BO prefers to put them away if the forecast is for storms, and I feel better about it. It’s a tough call, since they all have run-ins, but I read so many horror stories on COTH about lightening strikes that I feel better knowing he’s inside. He was not exactly overjoyed to see me, as that usually means work, but he did come out, and avoided stepping on Nanook, who had developed a fascination for being underfoot around big horses.

I had figured even if it was raining, I would at least be able to fit Lucky’s new tack. On the theory that racing bridles are made to fit Thoroughbred heads, not big fat warmblood heads, and being literally out of room to punch holes on his throatlatch on the other bridle while needing an extender for the flat cob-size, though the cheekpieces and cavesson fit, I ordered a racing-bridle set and yoke from Poor Man’s Equine. I also found a very reasonably-priced rubber mullen mouth racing D from an eBay store, both of which arrived while I was out of town. The first problem I encountered was that when I put the yoke on, it hung down around his knees. So, holes need to be punched.

The bridle, meanwhile, fit just fine. When I got up, I discovered just how long racing reins are and why exercise riders knot them up. I also noticed just how much rein you have to take up to get to the rubber grips: more than enough that you WILL have contact with the horse’s mouth. Lucky seemed to like the new bit, or at least he held off his usual constant chewing until the end of the ride. Since everyone else was still inside, I took full advantage and we started off in the pastures. Lucky moved out more, either the week off or the new bit, I don’t know. And he’s definitely improved at picking up the canter. We had more room in Trudy, Dom and Takota’s pasture, and even the scary woods of doom being right alongside didn’t seem to bother him much.

The BO had left some of the jumps up with maybe six-inch “verticals” (on the very bottom hole of the standards) when we went in the big outdoor, and after a complete circuit in both directions at the canter, on the appropriate leads, I put him back in a trot and pointed him at the jump. The first time through, he slowed to a walk again, but a second attempt got a sort of bouncy hop/halfway to a jump at the trot. He’s rubbing the rail a bit, but he came at both fences (at ninety degrees to each other, so going the long and short ways of the ring) and went over with much less “You WILL go straight” from my leg. I even felt brave enough to go at it from a canter. He dropped to the glacial trot and near-pause right before the fence-but he went over, and to my delight he picked up a forward-moving trot immediately on ‘landing’ without my asking. So on that note I decided he’d done enough, and we had a long walk around the place on the buckle, followed by a bath. Nanook nearly got a bath as well, trying to stick his nose in the soap bucket, but when Lucky put his head down for a sniff he decided the tack room was the place to be in a big hurry.

The storms seem to be passing, and hopefully the weather will hold, as if everything goes as planned, Lucky will have a visitor tomorrow.

And when I have a chance to sit down with wireless, hopefully there will be pictures tomorrow, and I can do my second “Horses of D.C./shameless vacation picspam” post.

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