Technically, it’s fall, my favorite season of the year. But days like today seem to lack the beautiful colors and perfect weather that I love about fall. Thick clouds blot out the sun, casting a gloom over the barn that hints at the shortened daylight hours ahead, while a cold breeze whips through every crack, reminding us that winter is just around the corner. This weather finally got me to buckle down and pull out the assortment of colorful blankets the horses will wear all winter. It was time to decide who would wear what this year, and what new ones I’d need to buy.
Luckily, I have a new working student now. Hanna is leasing Cava and helping me in the barn. We worked together to get the blankets organized, try them on horses, and try to sort out a light, medium, and heavy weight blanket that fit each horse. Cava was the easiest, everything too small for the boys became hers. Then I went through the various 76 and 78 inch blankets that Liam and Diamond wore last year, picking out the 76’s for Liam and the 78’s for Remy. It seemed a perfect system, until I realized Remy’s almost 17 hand body must be made up entirely of long legs! The 78’s hung off him, while the 76’s fit him perfectly. Unfortunately, I guess being the youngest son has it’s disadvantages. The 78’s are still earmarked for him, when he grows into them. He still has a lot of filling out to do, and I think by next year he will fit his hand-me-downs perfectly. In the meantime, I probably will have to pick up another sheet and medium weight 76 for Remy to wear this year that he can “hand-down” to his older, smaller brother, Liam, next year. No wonder I end up with so much stuff!
After all the clothes were tried on and distributed, I got Remy tacked up for a ride. I’ve ridden him almost 10 times now, doing relatively short easy rides about 3 times a week. We’ve worked on walk, trot, and whoa, and basic steering. He’s been starting to understand that he should follow the rein and give to the rein, instead of pulling against it, and he whoa’s off my seat pretty well. Days we don’t ride we work on ground manners and have bonding time, hanging out, grooming, hand grazing, and playing in the arena together. He’s learned to lunge and sort of free lunge, and he’s getting good with the words for “whoa”, “walk”, “trot”, and 2 days ago started with “canter” while free lunging. Daily we work on weight gain, complete with a tempting warm bucket of soaked beat pulp, alfalfa cubes, fat supplement, and carrot pieces. Remy seems to approve of this schedule, and he has slowly built up fitness and weight. It’s hard to believe I’ve had him a month already, but he’s made very satisfying progress. Today was the icing on the cake.
Since the weather has been bad, the horses haven’t gotten to go outside for a few days. Since Remy isn’t doing a full work schedule yet, yesterday all he did was get hand walked for 20 minutes or so. And today there were other horses working in the arena, so I didn’t want to lunge him. I figured I’d test just how great his amazing mind really was. And he lived up to the challenge. I got right on him, and we went to work, doing some walking and steering exercises while navigating two other ottb’s cantering around. Remy would look at them curiously, but never offered to do anything more. When it was time to trot, I wasn’t sure how he’d handle being passed by a cantering horse after all the days cooped up in a stall, but again, he proved to be fully trustworthy. And on top of all that… he gave me the most wonderful reaching into the bit ever! His mouth was super soft, his neck relaxed, he followed my hands and moved away from my legs to bend both ways, and I felt his back start to come up under me. It was the most wonderful feeling, and he was able to maintain this new balance for surprisingly long stretches!
Then I got a beautiful walk transition from my seat, and he stopped and sighed as I told him (yet again) how wonderful he is. This horse just blows me away how kind and willing he is, he has an enormous desire to please, and is very smart about figuring out just how to do it! Even as he stands for a picture, he is totally relaxed and yet completely tuned into me.
Next I got on Liam just to let him move around a little. He’s been working hard the last week, and we even went to take a lesson last weekend, so I’ve been wanting to give him a day off but haven’t since they haven’t been able to go outside. Today I just let him walk around and stretch his legs, wandering around sniffing things, not doing any real work. He is sporting a new browband though, since he was jealous of Remy’s new one, so I tried to get a picture while he was trying to steal cookies out of my cabinet, but it’s just a little blurry. The browband actually has assorted pastel colored crystals (not stripes like they appear in the pic), mostly blues and greens, and it’s quite lovely on him.
Next up was Cava, with Hanna on board. It was Hanna’s first ride as my working student, but she’s ridden Cava twice before. For Hanna and Cava, it was pretty much love at first ride. Tonight was no disappointment. Hanna got Cava warmed up walking around on a loose rein, taking her time since Cava hasn’t been turned out in a few days either. Then as Hanna picked up a little contact and started to ask Cava to bend into the outside rein, the beautiful partnership between these two became clear. Hanna is a quiet, tactful rider with a good seat and Cava appreciates it and responds well to Hanna’s aids, despite Hanna’s minimal dressage experience. As they moved into a trot, we worked on getting Cava to stretch down into a longer, lower frame by moving her out off of Hanna’s inside leg into her outside rein on a circle. Then Hanna began to use her seat and posting to slow the trot, like an exaggerated half halt, and Cava responded by stepping further under herself with her back legs and taking a steadier feel on the reins, creating a better connection over her back. The two of them are a beautiful partnership and I am excited to see them progress as they get to know each other better.
After all three tb’s were worked, we cleaned tack, fed beat pulp mash, swept the aisle, blanketed the ponies, fed carrots and apples, kissed the ponies goodnight and (after odd random events left me without any lessons to teach tonight) headed home for some well deserved rest. What a great day!