Saturday, August 30, 2008

Champ and Poppy

Well, I almost rode two horses today.

I got out to the field pretty early, around 8 am. I walked back to the run-in, whistling and calling softly. My horses were in the (large) run in, along with the other horses. My four were off in their own little section, but sure enough, they'd settled in well enough to want to nap in the run in. Anyway, all the horses were in that half-asleep horse trance. I walked in quietly, gave everybody a scritch, and headed back out. All four came trailing out after me.

I got Champ saddled and bridled, then spent a good hour working with him. He was all jittery - in a new place, with me asking him to leave his beloved Silky? He kept trying to circle around and calling for his buddies and generally being a pitiful nervous wreck. It was pretty uncharacteristic behavior, but moving fields has to be a huge upheaval in a horse's life. I worked him through it, I think - we'd explore out from the run-in, then stop for a few minutes, then go back. I'd let him stand near Silky til he calmed down, then we'd turn around and head out again. The first few trips out were the worst, of course, with nonstop whinnying and jiggling and trying to wheel around and run "home," but he calmed down more on every trip. By 8:45 or so, I was just running Champ through his gaits and thinking more about my riding than his state of mind. We finished up with some slow calm walking to cool down, then I untacked him and hung out with all the horses for a while.

I killed all the big horseflies I could find. Must've squashed five or six of those cicada-sized monster horseflies. I worked my way from horse to horse, scratching itchy spots and whacking flies. Again, I was impressed with how calm Dixie has become. She lets me walk right up to her with "normal" body language, scratch most anywhere, and even smash horseflies. Anyway, once I felt like I'd given them enough "hanging-out" time, Cersei and I left.

We drove across the county to Tractor Supply. I needed a helmet and Centered Riding for lessons, and I wanted to get a bag of oats as a treat for whichever horse got ridden. I found a helmet, and settled on alfalfa pellets for treats, and... well... there was a clearance sale on some English tack. I ended up getting another Collegiate bridle, exactly the same as Dixie's, for $24 instead of $99. And a spare pair of reins for $14, instead of $40. I usually manage to resist the temptation to buy stuff just because it's on sale - but that was seriously too cheap to pass up!

TSC didn't have the book. I headed north into Memphis and hit the closest bookstore, which actually DID have the book. Looped back south and back to Olive Branch. It was only noon, and it wasn't all that hot and I was tired of making excuses about Poppy.

He's not actually going to flip out and kill me. He's not even that tall - maybe 16.1? I don't know why I'm so vaguely intimidated by Poppy - he is one of the sweetest and most honest horses I've ever met. And he loves attention. Yes, I don't have a saddle for him, but he's not such a sensitive little darling that being ridden in my normal western-ish saddle would scar him for life.

First, a bit and bridle. I have a 5.5" full cheek single jointed snaffle and a 5.5" low port pelham, and I figured either would work. (And Poppy came with a 6" mullen mouth snaffle, but he absolutely detests that bit, so it's just gathering dust in a box.) I noticed that the new Collegiate bridle was actually a "full" size, but the almost-too-large bridle I'd been using on Dixie was an "xtra full." Hmmm. I fiddled around with bits and buckles for a few minutes and cobbled together a rig for Pops.

Turns out the bridle fits just fine, but Poppy has outgrown the damn bit. Sigh.

Next, I tried my saddle on him. It fits ok, but looks somewhat ridiculous. Like a toy saddle. He's at least 12" larger in the girth than Champ. Anyway, unsurprisingly, Poppy didn't mind the saddle at ALL. I gave him lots of brushing and scritching as a thank-you for putting up with saddle fitting and a too-small bit, then packed everything back up and went to my parents' for the afternoon.

I ordered a 6" hanging cheek french link snaffle from Poppy seems to like jointed snaffles better than solid ones. Hopefully it'll show up soon, fit my horse, and help me communicate with the big lug. I'm actually really excited about riding him! (Yeah, nervous too, but definitely excited as well!)


  1. Why nervous? I like the French link snaffles. Both horses here are in bitless bridles now, but the French link was great from transitioning Raven down from the Tom Thumb she'd been in. Eek!

  2. I'm not sure why I'm nervous. Well, obviously I'm nervous because I worry Poppy is going to kill me, but I'm not sure why I worry about that.

    He's just so BIG, and so un-horse-like. He really is a lot like an imitation horse - his reactions are just different. Like yesterday's story about forgetting to pin his ears! I have never known whether it's because he's a draft or because he's a weird draft.

    I dunno. As I start working with him more, I'll write about him more, and hopefully yall will see his personality too.


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