Baron was skinny when I bought him in November of 08, and he lost a few more pounds over the winter, mostly from stress. There was one horse that bullied him (who thankfully changed barns), and the other horse kept him from grazing at the round hay bales as much as he would have liked. It’s been an ongoing process to put weight on him, one that I’ve found very difficult. He has grass and hay in the pasture, hay in his stall, and he’s the only horse in my barn that gets lunch (an extra 1/2 scoop of grain). Additionally, he’s on Weight Builder supplement. Even with all that, it’s been a slow process of putting weight on him.
I’m finally starting to see a real difference, especially along his topline and around his hips. He’s still ribby, but not as much as he was. The first picture is Baron now. Compare it to the second picture which was Baron in December or January, not sure which. I think he looks a little less ribby and a little fuller overall. His summer coat looks healthy and shiny, just ignore the bite marks on his hip. New horse at the barn and they’re still figuring out the hierarchy.
It’s been like 100 degrees in Georgia, and too hot to ride. I go to the barn and consider tacking up and then I think about how I would feel if someone made me work out in this weather. So I haven’t ridden in almost 2 weeks! I’ve been hosing Baron off and spending some quality time with him, letting him graze in the shade.
I also haven’t been able to do a lesson because my friend with the trailer is out of town. I’m hoping to be able to get out for a lesson this week. My trainer said the arena is not so hot in the late afternoon when it gets shaded over. I can’t wait to start working again. We had such a great lesson last time and I don’t want to lose any momentum! The great thing about Baron is that he seems to pick up right where we left off without a lot of review. He’s a smarty and he catches on quick to what I’m asking of him.
My barn friends and I went for a two hour trail ride on Saturday. Last time I only got to ride for 10 minutes because I had my baby with me, so it was a real treat to get to ride for so long. The trail runs through some open pastures and some wooded areas. The pastures are wide open with even ground and they are great for letting the horses run and blow off some steam. I kept Baron to a trot because I’m still nervous about cantering and having him take off. He would probably do fine; I just have to work up a little more courage!
At one point we were trotting and the other horses started to canter. Baron cantered a few strides and then gave a teeny little buck, I think from excitement. I reined him in and he settled back down to a trot. I’m looking forward to the day when I can confidently canter with him and be fairly sure that I can control him. When that day comes, I want to do a hunter pace!
As I’ve said on here before, Baron thinks mud puddles eat horses. He does NOT like to get his feet wet. Brooke, the black paint, has the same issue. We ran into a sloppy part of the trail with puddles and mud and it took about 5 minutes, but we did get the horses to cross. Gary had to dismount and lead Brooke across, but when he did Baron followed immediately. The more exposure he gets to this sort of thing, the more versatile he’ll be.
I am so proud of him. He is becoming such a fun horse to ride- easy going and calm with a cheerful, happy demeanor. I am still convinced that he is the perfect horse for me!
On Thursday we trailered down for a lesson with Mary. This was the first time I had ridden since the trail ride with the Western saddle on Saturday. With Baron I never know what to expect. He has good days and bad days; sometimes he’s interested in everything but me and other days he tunes right in and we have a great ride. Fortunately my lesson was one of his best days yet! He was calm and focused right from the start. We didn’t even have to lunge him! I hopped right on and we went to work on trot circles. The whole lesson was upward and downward transitions, walk to trot and trot to walk. We did big and small circles and some figure eights.
I am better at upward transitions. Those went pretty smoothly. The downward’s were a little rocky, because I have a tendency to lean forward in the saddle and when he slows down, I pitch forward. The great thing about Baron is that when we’re doing rising trot, if I sit deep in the saddle, lean back and stop posting, he understands that this means to slow down. So we worked on my seat (sitting deeper) and leaning back slightly when I half halt him to a walk. He is very responsive; I guess on the racetrack he was used to listening to the jockey’s cues. He is doing fantastic, now I just have to work on my riding!
I have been very impressed with my trainer so far. She has really helped fine tune my riding by helping me with my seat and hands. Yesterday she stressed having quiet hands, being able to post and move my hips without moving my hands. She said that if I’m posting and my hands are moving up and down, I’m basically jangling the bit and confusing my horse. It’s like static and he has to try and decipher what all the extra “noise” means.
The highlight of the lesson for me was my trainer’s comment that I’m a “very pretty rider.” That is the ultimate compliment for me. There are certain people that just plain look good on a horse. Oh how I would love to be one of those people!
I found this quote on Camera-Obscure’s blog. I like it and it sums up what I’m trying to do with Baron.
For true equestrian art there are no recipes and no tricks, regardless of what saddle we ride in. One has to learn that the greatest attention must be paid to the seemingly easiest things and that that is often the most difficult thing. One of the most important principles for a rider is always to put the horse first, in other words, to look out for his wellbeing in his stabling, care, and training. The moment the human starts working with the horse determines whether he will become a great athlete and artist who will be able to look back on a long, healthy life, or whether his path ends all too soon due to poor handling and incorrect work. With knowledge, time, discipline, and body control it is possible to bring the horse almost without training aids into a relaxed position by honest work. You don’t have to reach the highest level, but you must always have the feeling that whatever you have accomplished was accomplished well and with honest work. Then you and your horse will always be content.
– Dorothee Baumann-Pellny (Im Damensattel: Eine Reitlehre f�r die Frau, Olms Press – 1997; translation: T. Ritter)
Don’t get me wrong, I love riding English whether it’s dressage or huntseat, and I love taking lessons. However, I am a bit of a perfectionist and I tend to be the tinist bit impatient. I am limited on time and money, so my progress with Baron as a hunter has been slow. I’ve had him for six months and he’s just now learning to trot nicely in a circle with his head down. I’m sure someone with more time, money and experience could have done more with him by now. I’m constantly reminding myself to be patient, with myself and with him because we’re both beginners.
Also when I’m riding English, I find that I approach him with an agenda that often complicates rather than simplifies his training. I’m looking for “progress,” some sort of measurable success that proves I’m not wasting my money on lessons! I can’t just enjoy being with him because I’m also sizing him up.
Trail riding is completely different. If he doesn’t flip out and bolt, it was perfect! I get to ride my horse and relax in the sunshine. I’m not worried about my form or his frame; I can simply enjoy being a horse owner!
On Saturday my barn friends and I trailered to a trail super close by and had a fabulous time. I had to work in the morning, so they took my horse and rode him until I got there. By the time I arrived, he was lathered up and calm as could be, happy to follow along with no antics. My friend Gary, who rode Baron until I got there, said he was a perfect gentleman. He had no idea where the barn was, so he couldn’t run back to it!
I’m lucky to have a friend with a trailer, and lucky that he loves my horse almost as much as me. These little outings are slowly turning Baron into a calm, reliable horse I can have fun with. The more experience he has with trail riding, trailering, and being exposed to different environments, the more well rounded he becomes. I was so proud of him on Saturday. Gary’s two horses, Brooke and Rumble, both had little episodes of cow kicking and bucking, but not Baron. He was cool as a cucumber.
So I’m not thinking of switching to Western Pleasure or anything, but I did enjoy trail riding in a Western saddle. I did buy a Western bridle with a curb chain, which Baron wore on Saturday and did very well in. I bought it specifically for trail riding, and now I’m thinking I want a Western saddle too. Nothing fancy, just something to beat around the trails on. I’ve been looking on Craig’s List for a cheap one, but haven’t found the right one yet. Will keep you posted.