Two good-lookin’ hawrses….

First, the gear report:

HoofJack
The draft-size cradle worked much better, and my body positioning was better today. Boulder still hasn’t figured out that he can actually let some of his body weight rest on the stand, so eventually he gets tired and tries to put his foot down. We did make some progress, though. I used it to pick his feet, to help get his boots on, and to medicate his feet at the end of the day. It has some purple stains on it now from treating Boulder’s feet (all four today) with gentian violet, but the HoofJack did make things easier for me, including giving me a better look at the thrush.

Cashel Soft Saddle
When using the pad that is an accessory for this saddle, I couldn’t get the cinch tight enough to keep the Soft Saddle from slipping when I attempted to mount up. A neoprene cinch (instead of a sheepskin-lined cinch) would probably solve this problem. The Soft Saddle by itself stayed in place, though. The supplied stirrups were just too small for my feet, so I had to switch in my big stirrups. The stirrup “leathers” are a tiny bit too short for me, but not uncomfortably so.

Riding with the Soft Saddle was a very different experience. It was indeed very much like riding bareback, but with a bit of extra security. The ride was very good for my balance and seat, I think, and it was very comfortable for me. Boulder seemed to like it well enough, but more testing is needed before I can say for sure. We walked and trotted and did just fine. As Boulder’s feet improve and my riding skills improve, I think cantering in the Soft Saddle would be quite a trip.

Boa Hoof Boots
This was the first time I rode Boulder in the covered arena with the boots. I was a bit underwhelmed, but I don’t think the problem is the boots so much as it is that the footing in there just isn’t as forgiving as the outdoor arena. Boulder never gimped, but I don’t think he moved as well as he did in the sand foot. I did introduce the additional variable of the Soft Saddle, though, so I guess I need to gather some more data.

On to horsey news….

My time with the horses today was rewarding. I introduced Boulder to the big red bouncy ball (30″ Stacy Westfall ball from Weaver) that lives in the arena. He never spooked at it, but he was none too keen about it at first. I spent quite a bit of time with him on the ground with it. It took quite a bit of coaxing, but I eventually got him to nose it playfully a few times, including while I was riding him. By the end of the session, I got him to the point that he would sometimes bump the ball with his knees. I think it’s going to be awhile before he will actually kick it, though.

Boulder did more liberty work today in the arena, including following me (on command) as I walked away, as well as staying at my elbow from a stop. We did some work bareheaded, some with a halter, and even some with saddle and bridle (reins secured). If you’ve never had a horse freely work with you like this, it’s hard to understand how magical it feels.

I tried something different today and did all my grooming and medicating on Boulder in the aisle of the arena barn with him tied up by a lead rope instead of using the cross-ties in the main barn. I don’t think this will work well when there is a lot going on in the arena barn (which isn’t very often), but otherwise Boulder really seemed to like it better. As I was grooming him, he was free to move his head around more and express pleasure when I found an itchy spot. He had just enough slack in the rope to be able to turn his head around to gently nuzzle me if I was close enough and he was especially happy.

Boulder has a big fan in the mother of one of the boarders, Sue (owner of the newest horses, Joey and Newman). Sue’s mother is in her mid- to late-70s I think, and thinks Boulder is best thing since sliced bread. They actually sat and watched us ride around the arena for five or ten minutes. Given my low level of riding ability, I know they weren’t watching me! Even with pasture stains on him, Boulder is a handsome boy….

Before I left, I stopped in to say hi to Bob. Everyone was in their stalls for the day, and this being a rainy day, Bob was a mess of dried mud from his morning spent in the pasture—and, of course, happily grazing away on his Freedom Feeder. Even though his winter coat is coming in nicely, I just couldn’t stand to leave him like that, so I grabbed curry and brush and groomed him in his stall. Bob loved it! No halter or any restraint, but he stood happily for grooming—even ignoring his beloved hay to enjoy the grooming. Five minutes (or so) later, he was a good-lookin’ hawrse again.

Bob was even happier when we did “stretchies” and he earned some horse treats (the new alfalfa-raspberry ones). He does a pretty good job of stretching with out treats now, so I am going to start using a treat or two at the end of the session instead of to lure him into each stretch. Sometimes Bob drives me nuts because he can be so herdbound, but then we get some time together like this, and he is really rewarding.

Such is life with horses (and just about any other living creature, including people).

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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