George Morris would have a stroke…

… If he saw my horse. You know how he is about cleanliness and perfect turnout. First, Baron has rain rot AGAIN. I thought I had cleared this up, but I found another patch on his left hind leg last night. It’s a pretty nasty patch; most of the hair fell out when I massaged it. Listerine seems to be the “miracle cure” according to Chronicle of the Horse forums (only the amber color), so I’ll be trying that ASAP.

Second, I found a couple bald patches. One is on his rump and the other on his foreleg. The hair has thinned to the point where I can see the grey hair underneath, but the skin looks healthy- no dandruff or inflammation. I started a thread on the Chronicle forum and the concensus seems to be that he is probably shedding out his winter coat before his summer coat has had a chance to come in, hence the thin or bald patches.

It really bugs me when my horse looks all gnarly. I don’t want people to think I’m not taking care of him! This winter I focused on keeping him fat and I succeeded. I guess next winter I will focus on keeping him fat AND keeping him meticulously clean so as to avoid the dreaded rain rot. I don’t suppose there’s much I can do about the bald patches!

1st Bareback Ride!

Yesterday at the barn I skimmed over my barn chores so I’d have time to hang out with Baron and let him graze in the spring grass. It was such a pleasant evening, the temperature was perfect and everything was quiet around the barn. I decided on a whim to see if Baron would let me ride him bareback. I haven’t been riding at all for about a month because I’m 33 weeks pregnant, but bareback is something I’ve really been wanting to try and for some reason I decided last night was the perfect time. As far as I know, this is the first time Baron has ever been ridden bareback. I think this because: 1. Racehorses are typically not ridden bareback. They’re expensive animals and no one messes around with them or rides them just for the hell of it. When they’re being ridden, they’re being worked.  2. I tried to hop on Baron bareback a couple months after I bought him and it totally freaked him out. I did manage to get on, but he did a mini-buck and a bunny hop and I slid off before he had a chance to unseat me. He has NEVER acted like that under saddle, which makes me think bareback was a whole new experience for him.

So once I decided that I was going to give it another go, I led him over to the mounting block and laid my body across his back and rubbed his neck. I was shocked when he stood as still as a statue and let me lean on him and eventually throw one leg over his back. This is the horse who will under no circumstances stand still to be mounted. It usually takes 3 or 4 times of leading him up to the mounting block and trying to mount before I’m able to do it. As soon as he feels weight in one stirrup, he moves off. So needless to say I was thrilled when he stood stone still for me. Now keep in mind that I’m over 8 months pregnant and I have the equivalent of a basketball under my shirt. At first I didn’t think I would be able to mount because my baby belly made it so awkward. But after a few minutes, Baron dropped his head to graze and cocked his leg behind him. When he did, his shoulder dropped just enough so I could slide onto him fairly gracefully. Think graceful like an elephant, not graceful like a gazelle, ha ha! Once I was on, he took a couple steps and then started grazing again. 

I can’t tell you how thrilling this was for me. It was so peaceful and quiet with the sun going down and me sitting comfortably on my horse’s back while he enjoyed the new green grass. It was one of those moments where I was SO GLAD I owned my own horse. You can’t just hop on someone else’s horse bareback for the hell of it! It was the kind of moment where all the barn chores in the cold, all the farrier and vet bills, and all the worry that goes along with horse ownership is 100% worth it. Just me and my horse, hanging out.

What’s your moment with your horse? What makes it all worth it for you?

Book Report: “The Man Who Listens to Horses”

I found this book at Goodwill in hardback for $1.75. I love Goodwill. You never know what sorts of treasures you will find. I enjoyed the book immensely; you may remember that I’ve watched a lot of Parelli stuff and read as much about him as I could online without actually paying him anything. Monty Roberts is considered a forerunner of Parelli, one of the original “horse whisperers” who taught a different, kinder approach to starting horses. The Nicholas Sparks book “The Horse Whisperer” took a lot of inspiration from Monty Roberts’ life and techniques.

The book is Roberts’ biography and it tells the story of growing up in northern California and being heavily involved with rodeo and Western performance horses. He also spends a lot of time in the book talking about his observation of mustangs in the wild and how he learned a way of communicating with them based on their interactions with each other. He learned how to “speak horse” essentially. Monty’s biggest contribution to the horse world was figuring out a kinder, more humane way to start a totally green horse with a bridle, saddle, and rider. He can take a wild mustang that’s never been handled and within 30 minutes have it calmly bridled, saddled, and willingly accepting the rider. I have zero interest in starting unbroken horses, but I was fascinated nonetheless. Oh, and Monty doesn’t call it “breaking,” he calls it “gentling.”

The book is a great, easy read and I recommend it, especially if you’re interested in natural horsemanship!

Had a nice visit with my mom…

My mom came to visit from North Carolina for 5 days. We had a great time together; she even came to the barn with me and visited the horses and cats while I did my barn chores. Now my mom is not a horse person. She’s been horseback riding a whopping total of two times, and both were bad experiences. The first time she ever grazed the back of a horse was as a child, maybe 7 or 8 years old, and the horse happened to be a Thoroughbred racehorse. I don’t know all the details of the story, but the jist is that the horse took off full speed ahead with my mom hanging on for dear life. That experience left her with a lifetime fear of horses.

Her second experience came as a college student while she was doing an art internship out in Colorado for the summer. She and some friends went on a trail ride up in the mountains to see a ghost town. The horse my mom was on was somewhat headstrong, and again she felt completely out of control and at the mercy of the 1200 lb animal underneath her. That trail horse was probably a good, solid trail horse and he probably sensed how nervous my mom was and took advantage of that. We all know a horse will see what he can get away with!

My mom surprisingly had a great time at the barn. She IS a cat person and she loved on Hugh and Lou, who reveled in the attention. Baron was very polite and on his best behavior. He was in his stall and held his head still so my mom could pet him. I groomed him very fastidiously in anticipation of my mom’s visit, and of course he rolled on both sides the day before she came so he was FILTHY when she saw him. But he behaved like a gentleman and my mom said before she left that she had fun at the barn and she was less afraid of the horses than she thought she would be!

You know Spring is coming when…

Your horse is losing clumps of hair when you groom him! I didn’t give Baron a bath this weekend, but I did groom him pretty well, especially his legs. When I went over him with the curry comb, big puffs of hair and clouds of dust were coming off. He hasn’t had a bath in months and he is sooooo dusty. His coat is so full of dust that it doesn’t have a lot of shine to it. His legs had thick Georgia clay caked on and I got most of it off, although his white socks remain a dull shade of orange. Lovely.  And it’s not like I don’t groom him! He gets brushed really well at least once a week, but when a horse rolls as much as mine does, there’s no getting him clean without a good ole fashioned bath.

On a better note, his weight gain is evident when I groom him. He used to swish his tail and pull his ears back when I used the currycomb on him. He was so bony, I’m sure it was uncomfortable, especially over his ribs. He’s fattened up enough to where he doesn’t seem to mind the curry comb. No ear pinning and no tail swishing. Yay!

Looking forward to the glooooorious weather…

It’s supposed to be 65 degrees in Georgia on Saturday. It’s been such a miserable winter, I am thrilled to have some sunshine and a hint of spring. I am now 30 weeks pregnant, and I would love to go on a trail ride or even do some arena work, but I probably shouldn’t. I can tell from my last couple rides that my balance is off. I can’t take the risk of falling and being put on bed rest for the remainder of the pregnancy. So instead of riding, I was thinking of giving Baron a bath, at least washing his legs off really well. His white legs have been orange all winter from the clay/ mud. Will post pictures hopefully!