Friday, October 10, 2008

Cowgirl up!

Ok, so, yesterday when I went out to the field I saw Ross there. (I keep wanting to say "went to the barn" but it's not a barn, it's a field with a house where horses live, so I'm just going to call it "the field" for short.) Ross is a little younger than me and in some way I didn't fully understand intimately connected with the field and the barn. He works at the barn (the real barn, the full-board-and-training place) on the weekends, doing the twice daily feeding, turning in and out, and picking stalls. But he also has two horses out at the field - Blackjack, an ancient QH, and Tequila, a stunningly bad-tempered Walker/QH who reminds me a lot of Champ.

Anyway, he was out there and we were both planning on riding so we went out on the trails. He took Tequila in his new-used Aussie, and I rode Champ. The sun was setting as we headed out, but we didn't care - we came back well after dark. Moon's almost full and the horses know the trails. We agreed to ride again tonight, so I headed back out to the barn about 5.

I found Dixie right away and spent a long time just messing with her. Brushed her down really well, trimmed her mane*, led her around for a while. I led her over to a little patch of brush and broke off a hedge plant branch**. She stared at me all wild eyed waiting for me to whack her with it. I broke off the tip and offered it to her. Dixie kept staring at me for a loooong moment, snuffled the greenery, let out a huge sigh, and tried it. She decided it was edible and I spent 10 minutes just feeding her branches.

*My beautiful show horse is no more. She's yanked out vast amounts of her long white mane on the fences. I'm so halfway-sad when I see white hunks of hair in the fences - she had a gorgeous mane, a good two feet long. But she had such a wonderful mane cause she was always stuck in a stall. I kinda bought her to set her free, and a scraggly mane is a consequence of her freedom - so I'm happy and sad about it. Anyway, I trimmed it to where it's roughly all the same length, about 8 inches.

**I don't know what they are. We country bumpkins call them hedge plants. They make nice hedges if you trim them, and they make small shrubby trees if you don't. Champ loves to snack on them so I don't think they're poisonous to horses.

Ross showed up, so I decided to try to get on the spazz. Dixie went from "relaxed calm happy mare" to "crazy circling beast" as soon as I got a toe in the stirrup, so I got Ross to hold her and got on. I rode her around the field for a few minutes to get the nervous energy burned off while Ross fixed the gate to the trails. Then the BO called - Ross's horse was out, across the street. Argh. Ross headed down the road in his truck and I decided to ride the fenceline and see if I could see where he'd gotten out.

Ross caught his horse, the BO showed up, and the rest of the afternoon was devoted to riding fences. Trust me - this ain't the wild west and it's not very photogenic. Very few sections of the fence have grass near them; it's mostly scrubby little trees and big old trees with low hanging branches and knots of thorn bushes.

It was AWESOME for me and Dixie. I kept having to get off and lead her through the brush and then get back on. We'd ride near her horse buddies (happy Dixie) then away from them (sad freakin out Dixie), then repeat. We'd go fast down real trails, then slow through the trees, then stop while the humans all talked. The whole north fence line of the northern pasture turned out to be falling down, so we ended up moving all the horses from the north pasture back to the south pasture. I got off and led Dixie as I herded my evil twins back down to the south gate.

After an hour or so of this, she was totally chilled out.

I can usually tell a gaited horse from a trotting horse just by watching them move at leisure in a field. Gaited horses, to me, look double-jointed or exceptionally limber or something. It's hard to describe, but yall probably know what I'm talking about! Champ and Silky are gaited, yeah, but Dixie is extra-limber at liberty. She walks like she has Slinkies for legs. She'd never walked that loose under saddle, though - she always felt like she was on the verge of freaking out, like she was super tense and ready to explode. Tonight, finally, I got her to walk totally relaxed. It was awesome! Not actually easy to ride. Like.. you know how when you sit the trot you really work to keep your ass in the saddle and your upper torso steady? It was the same thing, just at a walk.

Also I got a bit of running walk out of her. She usually speed-racks, which is SUPER FUN to ride but not the "ideal" gait. I think (based on what I've read about gaits) that the horse has to be a little more relaxed to do a RW, but even a tense gaited horse can rack. Most of the TWH/gaited horse videos on youtube show racking or pacing horses. I should link some vids for yall.

It wasn't the ride I planned on, but it turned out to be a hell of a lot of fun, and a wonderful "lesson" for Dixie. I am obviously pretty bad about picking out something to actually Work On and Working On It but I do try to remember that I'm always teaching the horse something.

Tomorrow I'll post the story of my Wild Ride on Clipper last weekend. And maybe some gaited horse examples. I am pretty sure that you poor benighted souls just don't know what you're missing and that's why you all (except Sara) ride trotting horses. :P

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feel free to comment!