Loading Onto the Big Trailer

We just loaded all three horses onto the new trailer. It’s actually not new of course. It’s an older steel four horse head-to-head with a small tack room in front (my luxury accommodations!).

Dressy went first. And like the professional she is, she loaded up with no issues. It was a bit slow to get her backed into the stall. She’s a long tall girl and she wasn’t sure she could fit in that space. But I inched her in and she was quite cooperative, if careful. Unloaded, then reloaded and she was perfect.

Left her on and went for King. That was a bit trickier. King has traveled in his little white trailer for years. He doesn’t like other trailers though. So we yo-yo’d in and out for a while. And then had to let him figure out how to back into the stall too. He was less cooperative than Dressy about that. But he never panicked. Then he got about a zillion cookies as a jackpot reward. He was very happy. And foaming at the mouth with cookie slobber.

Misha went to get Diego, and that also went pretty well. Diego doesn’t have a good trailer loading history. But she’s been working with him a lot over the last year, loading him in this trailer (it’s been in my driveway with no truck to pull it for over a year). But she’s been putting him in the box stall at the back, and we’ve now converted that to two standing stalls so that we could have an area for all the ride gear and still take all three horses. He was a bit uncertain about having to load with the other two horses in there, and then having to back in. But with some cajoling, we managed to get him in and gave him a zillion cookies too.

They looked quite calm and settled by the time they were all loaded up, and the stalls seem to be big enough, even for Dressy. She does tower over the two Arabs though. Another trailer loading session tomorrow, and then a trip to the Vivian Forest to ride on Friday with Brooke and Misha.

Checked all the lights on the trailer too, and wonder of wonders… they ALL worked. It hasn’t been hooked up for over a year, so that’s kind of remarkable.

Riding My Horses

Yesterday I rode King for a couple of hours in the afternoon. It was a lovely spring day… sunny and warm. The footing is firming up on the trails, and we were able to move out in some sections. King was very relaxed, and we even cantered on a loose rein, which is something I don’t think I’ve EVER done on him before.

Of course, the relaxed canter likely has something to do with the recent change in bitting. I borrowed a Myler combo bit from Misha. It’s a sort of combination of a bit and a hackamore. The mouthpiece is quite mild, but the hackamore noseband seems to have been a revelation to King. Initially I tried it with the reins snapped to the top ring of the shanks, which gives no leverage on the noseband. But I’ve since dropped it right to the bottom ring. Since then, King is being very circumspect about speed.

I hate to rely on equipment more than training. But really, it’s good to stay alive and aboard. King has speed on the brain and he’s very strong. Once you add the increasing fitness to the attitude, he’s sometimes just more horse than I care to ride. It’s really lovely to be completely under control for a change.

After we got back, Misha arrived to ride her horse. She begged me to ride with her. Since I’d ridden King already, that meant Dressy. I was tired and very hungry, so I told her that she was going to tack up the mare for me while I grabbed something to eat. So when I came back out, my girl was ready to go.

REALLY ready to go as it turned out. She was very snorty when I first got on, and we did some zigging and zagging while she spooked at Misha’s car, a rock, the cell phone tower, and rustling leaves. But she was very willing to go, and trotted right out as soon as I allowed her to. I forget sometimes just how much fun that horse is to ride. With a beginner, she’s quiet and steady. But with me, she’s fast and forward and competitive. Diego, Misha’s horse, is not used to Dressy’s trail trot. No Arab can trot with her when she gets in gear.  And Diego was not at all happy about it. He sulked way behind. To the point that Misha got a bit concerned that something was wrong. But whenever we put Dressy behind, he perked right up. Then of course he’d trot slow, and Dressy would lose patience and we’d cruise past again.

Dressy had a grand time, trotting up a storm. It makes me laugh when she’s like that.

Downhill Skid

Brooke and I went out for a nice ride today. The weather was lovely, and we were out for nearly two hours. We planned to go across the road and explore the trails over there. But when Brooke got on Dressy, the mare was a little snorty. So it seemed wise to make one loop around the farm until Dressy got over her excitement. She settled down after that and we headed over.

The ice has almost all melted off the trails and in some sections they were dry enough to have a few short trots. But larger sections were still soggy and slick. So it was pretty much a long walk. We did have one moment of excitement when we almost fell down a hill. It looked reasonably dry and not too steep, so I started King down it at a very slow walk. He seemed fine, so I told Brooke to go ahead and come down after us on Dressy. Just about that point, King lost traction and ended up sitting right down as his feet skidded out from under him and we careened down about 10 feet. I yelled at Brooke to stop, but it was a bit too late. Dressy had a skid of her own going and went sideways. Thank goodness, Dressy kept her wits about her and Brooke just sat still and let Dressy extricate the two of them. I thought they were going to broadside a tree at one point, but she crouched and jammed one front foot down to the side and managed to brake herself. You wouldn’t think an ex-racehorse would be so trail-smart. But she’s awesome. Brooke too actually. She kept herself perfectly still, didn’t say a word, and just let Dressy get on with it. Cool-headed kid.

King rescued me too of course, but King’s got a lot more years on trail than Dressy, so I take him for granted. Both horses had to go back up the hill at an angle through the trees to get traction and had to do a bit of bushwhacking to get back on trail. And both kept calm and thought their way through it without any panic.

I do love my horses.

Dressy’s Girl

Dressy has a young girl riding her right now. Brooke is 16, and is planning to ride her in competition this year. She comes every Sunday to ride (and to clean my barn… which is really quite awesome!). Dressy is a very affectionate mare, and Brooke pampers her. So Dressy is really in love with her girl.

Brooke is learning basic clicker training principles. Dressy is of course highly food motivated as well as being affectionate. So they are making good progress.

Last Sunday, they worked on trying to get Dressy into a bit of a frame. While she’s lovely to ride in many ways, Dressy is not a naturally collected or supple sort of horse. She’s a Standardbred who raced for quite a few years. So she raced in an overcheck on the pace (a gait similar to a trot but a bit faster). Which means that she tends to want to carry herself with her head up and her back hollow. That’s the opposite of what you want to see (or feel) in a riding horse. A horse who is hollow like that doesn’t bend well either, which makes them something of a hazard to your knees if you are riding on a winding trail through trees. She has improved a lot over the last couple of years, but having the last year off has allowed her to revert somewhat.

The trails were (and still are) just awful out there right now. Ice and mud. Still. So I told Brooke she could ride Dressy in the round pen and work on basics. Circles and suppling exercises. The footing is slippery, so it all had to be at a walk. Then I looked out to see that she’d started clicker training her to put her head down and walk in a frame. Dressy was very enthusiastic about it all and got herself a bit overbent on occasion. But it was obviously a happy and productive day for both of them. Brooke was glowing at the end of the session, totally impressed with Dressy’s brilliance. And Dressy just looked smug. And full.

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The Queen of the Universe

Here’s a slideshow of Dressy Gal, my Standardbred mare. Black horses are often difficult to photograph well. But Dressy seems to be a bit more photogenic than most. Maybe it’s because she’s so remarkably shiny all the time. I’d love to take the credit and say it’s all the great care I give her. But really, she always looks like that.

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