He really likes me!

Boulder was an awesome horse today. It was drippy and grey, so Jenn had kept everybody in today, which meant we didn’t have to hunt down the boys. After oohing and ahhing over Wylene’s beautiful little Peruvian Paso longeing in the arena (oh, those gaits!), we checked on Bob.

What a difference the slow feeder seems to have made! He was so much calmer than he usually is when I see him in his stall. He was grazing happily on his Freedom Feeder. Jenn said she put half a flake of hay in his stall this morning and he just looked at it (normally, he shows quite a bit of food aggression at mealtimes). So far, so good….

Boulder was standing in his stall about two feet back from the front wall as usual. He sniffed at my hand when I greeted him, which is a positive step. I saw that he had definitely been eating from his Freedom Feeder, too.

Kim put Bob in the crossties next to Prince, the new Hanoverian in the barn (what a stunning horse he is!) and started grooming. I wandered around, chatted with a couple of folks, and occasionally helped Kim with something.

Jenn brought Boulder out at tied him in the wash rack so they could work on the electric fence charger that lives on the ceiling in Boulder’s stall.  He stood there quietly for over an hour while we fussed with Bob. What a good boy!

Kim got Bob saddled up and took him to the arena to do some riding. I brought Boulder in and started grooming him.

This is not a small task.

Of course, nothing is a small task with Boulder. As usual, he cleaned up nicely. He’s very satisfying to groom because you get such instant feedback as the grey/brown gets brushed out and becomes snowy white. He got the full treatment today: his normal coat grooming, plus a thorough brushing of his feathers, his face brushed (which he loves), and his mane and tail thoroughly brushed out. He did his neck stretches, which he is really growing to like, and then I started saddling him.

During this time, Kim was having a bit of a time with Boob. In hindsight, she says she probably needs to learn how to longe him, as he just had a wee bit too much piss and vinegar at first and really didn’t want to listen to her. They had some “discussions” and she triumphed, eventually getting him to settle down enough to end on a positive note.

I finished saddling Boulder about the time that Kim finished up with Bob. I considered going to the more familiar confines of the covered arena, but decided to try the softer footing of the outdoor arena with Boulder.

Good call, Mike. We had our best ride yet. First, we did a whole bunch of groundwork out there. Another good call. He was chomping on the bit a lot, so I stopped to make sure that the bit was banging his wolf teeth (that’s part of why he was so difficult to ride in the pasture last week). I got him to let me lift his upper lip and look on the left side, and that looked fine. But he refused to let me lift his lip on the right side. I kept at it until he pulled his head back and tried to nip my hand. That was disrespectful and earned him an immediate firm smack on the shoulder, much as a dominant horse would do in a herd.

Herd discipline works, by golly! He immediately dropped his head and calmly let me lift his lip. And sure enough, the bit was right against his wolf tooth on the right side. I tightened the throatlatch one notch and that took care of it—no more chomping. Better yet, the smack seemed to earn me some respect, and things began going even better.

How much better? He followed me off lead for the first time, including multiple starts and stops and turns in both directions. Yay!!!

Kim came out to watch just about the time Boulder got smacked. I was surprised how much her presence boosted my confidence. I decided it was time to start working on mounting, so I crossed his reins over his neck, moved back to the stirrup… and, he tried to back away from me. We spent the next 10-15 minutes working on standing while mounting, just like Mary had done last Sunday, beginning with standing by the stirrup, then with one foot in the stirrup, then with my left foot in the stirrup and me leaning across the saddle.

After he did the latter very calmly a few times, I swung my leg over. He took one step, responded to HO! and that was it. We just stood there for several minutes very calmly. Then we walked off and things went swimmingly from there, including some nice trotting, stops, and even some forehand turns.

Did I mention that Jenn was burning a large pile of debris today? As in, smoky air? As in, occasional small explosions as the fire reached an aerosol container or something? Boulder’s biggest reaction was to jump about two inches in the air at the largest explosion. That’s all he did. Good boy!!!

Boulder really seems to like the sand-rubber footing in the outdoor arena. He went very willingly at the softest leg cues. I didn’t feel quite brave enough to canter in there, but I think he would have if I had asked.

We finished up by riding out of the arena, up the tiny little hill in the pasture, around in a circle, and down the little slope in a steeper section. He did great, so we did it again. Still great! I dismounted and called it a day.

After I took his saddle off, I decided it was warm enough to give him a bath. Back into the wash rack with him. He did really well with the water. I decided to clean and doctor his feet in the rack so I could wash them. Good idea, but Boulder got progressively less willing to pick up his feet as I worked my way around. The last one took several minutes to give a foot.

His feet continue to improve, although it’s a mixed blessing. As the thrush recedes, the grooves are starting to open up a bit more, which allows me to get the hoof pick in there better—and I am finding (surprise!) more thrush being exposed. No wonder the poor guy is tender!

We scraped the worst of the water off of Boulder (can’t find the new sweat scraper I bought a week or so ago, though….) and I led him back to his stall. He was much less balky going over the gravel, which was nice. I put him in his stall and he went straight to the Freedom Feeder, which was good to see.

I finished putting stuff away, and then walked back over to his stall to hang up his lead rope. When I got the door to his stall, he was happily eating from the feeder, which hangs on the back of the door. He saw me, picked up his head, and whuffled me. This is the first time he’s ever done that to me as a greeting.

I think he really likes me.

About Mike

Michael Heggen is a horseman, maker, and thinker who lives in Salem, Oregon with his wife, Kim, and "three to eight cats". He stays quite busy riding, driving, and caring for their three horses, Boulder, Shasta, and Bob. Among other things, Mike has been a fencing coach, police chaplain, computer consultant, aspirant to the diaconate, computer salesman, box boy, carpenter, computer technician, typesetter, church youth leader, copy machine operator, and network administrator. His other interests include juggling, reading voraciously, and (pretty occasionally these days) cycling.
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