The learning curve on feeding our two big boys has turned out to be a tricky business. Although they look like twins in the pasture, they obviously are two entirely different horses with unique metabolisms and eating habits. Sovereign is thinner and less interested in grazing or eating in general. (Too busy philosophizing about the distant view and the novel he is working on). Pie is a little piggy and is filling out nicely. His personality has taken on new twists and turns (literally) because he is feeling his new-found energy. I rode the Pie today and he was a very good boy. Fortunately, under saddle he is sensible and continues to choose to listen to my gentle guidance. Still, I feel him wrestling with his urge to be a naughty boy! As he nears his ideal weight we will have to balance our portions of grain very carefully. He reminds me of a child who has eaten too many cupcakes! He is what we like to call "feeling ginchy".
Sunday, March 29, 2009
The misty morning gave way to a very pretty afternoon light that reminded me of England. Our large open field outside of the pastures looked so inviting and I couldn't decide who to ride first. I groomed and tacked up Sovey while Pie munched hay in the paddock. Then Sovey and I started out on our adventure! I mounted outside of the ring and walked slowly around the outside of the fenced area. Pie followed right along with us like the Thoroughbred-penny-puppy that he is. We had to make our way along unfamiliar ground to get to the open field and Pie would occasionally canter to catch us, but Sovey was calm and wonderful. Baja was always good too when horses cantered up on him from behind and we all thought that was because he had played polo. Maybe racehorses are just so used to turmoil behind them that they don't get too upset. Once in the field Sovey pulled and moved faster as he went away from the barn. He certainly isn't barn sour. He is so excited to investigate the whole farm. Again, I am trying not to hurry things too much, but with such good horses it is tough! I am a firm believer in carefully exposing a horse to new experiences in small increments. Sovey is so ready though! He wants to see the world! I rode around the field a while and then headed back. Just as we returned to the forebay a simultaneous flash of lightning and crack of thunder boomed overhead. Sovey and Pie both acted as if they didn't hear it!!! I hustled them inside the barn and promised to give Sovey his after-ride grazing tomorrow. Poor Pie didn't get to go riding today.
Friday, March 27, 2009
Here are the two cute "mudballs" who enjoyed rolling after last night's rain. We groomed them while they grazed this afternoon but it was a dirty business. Dust and grit was flying and when we finished they looked like medium bays rather than their true sleek dark color. I rode Pie first and then Sovey, and from up top I saw mud splatters that we missed behind their ears! Spring!
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Riding is no fun if I don't think the horse is enjoying it too. I have been worried about Sovereign in this respect. He is such a great boy under saddle. He is quiet and responsive, but I have been wondering if he is enjoying himself. Pie, on the other hand, is like a giant roly-poly puppy, happy-go-lucky and innocent, goofy and naughty and ready for the next adventure. Sovey is so good - almost too good, like he is afraid to have fun. Well, today he had fun!! I rode him in a new pasture and I purposely left the gate open. After a few minutes I rode him outside the fence to walk around. We walked around the pasture, behind the barn, around the apple tree and down the driveway. He loved the diversion. He was animated and enthusiastic. His whole demeanor was different. I had an inkling that he was itching to get out and see more. He wasn't nervous or excited in a bad way - no prancing or jigging - just bright-eyed and happy! Hooray!
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Pie and Sovereign have been here a month! It is difficult to believe that it has only been a month because we are so attached to them and they have adjusted to their new home so quickly. In addition, their retraining lessons are going unbelievably well. I am purposely trying to slow down the lessons to make sure they are really understanding everything, but it is hard because they are such quick learners! Really, I guess they are just so willing. The kind temperament in both horses seems amazing to me. In one month, they are calm and happy. They lead around the barn and pastures at my pace and without the chain. They hand-graze safely. Both stand for grooming in the cross-ties or in the pasture. They stand to be tacked up. When I ride, (without a bit) each horse calmly walks under saddle in the ring. They both respond to my legs and seat to bend in large circles at the walk and smaller figure eights. Both halt and stand for the dismount. Thoroughbreds are smart, I know, but these two are kind, smart, and well-adjusted.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Sovereign and Pie are the very best of boys! This morning while it rained, Mom groomed Sovey and I groomed Pie. They love the attention. You can't groom a horse too much - it is so great for their coats and for your relationship with them.
In the afternoon, the sun came out and I rode The Pie. Our farm is directly across from an auto-auction that operates on Thursdays. There are loud speakers and engines roaring, yet Pie was a perfect little angel. It is difficult to believe he is only 3 years old. He feels tightly wound, and of course, he could pull a few stunts if he really wanted, but he kept to our task. At one point, he decided that he was done. He stopped and shook his head up and down. He wanted to quit and he wanted me to get off. I, ever so gently, pushed with my seat and urged him to walk forward. He responded and slowly lost interest in the idea of stopping. He made a choice to be good and I rewarded him with many pats and "good boy" exclamations. We only walked, but he is listening well so far. He stopped for my dismount and stood perfectly. Oh, he is a joy!
Sovereign was equally fantastic. This was my first day riding Sovey. He carries his head high like he is walking out to the starting gate at the track. With the car auction PA system blaring, and Sovey walking out like that, it can be a little daunting. Still, I trust him and the Bitless Bridle. He walked around the ring and bent perfectly around my leg like we do this all the time. For the first time out, Sovey was amazing. They are the two most wonderful sweeties ever. Mom and I treated them to a well-deserved grazing outside of the pastures.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
I groomed Pie and tacked him up this afternoon. I put his Bitless Bridle on and his girth loose so we could walk around the ring together. I am not a fan of lunging so my groundwork consists of walking with the horse in tack allowing him to get comfortable in the space without a rider. I have been working with both horses this way for a few weeks, so they are used to this routine. Pie had been fairly antsy earlier in the day, so I didn't intend to ride him. During our walk, though, he relaxed his neck and lowered his head. He gave the telltale sneeze/snort/sigh of calmness. His natural curiosity and good nature took over and we "investigated" the step-stool. With him in such a good humor, I tightened his girth a tiny bit and put a small bit of weight on the saddle. He seemed fine, so I gently mounted. Pie walked on a loose rein (of course, he doesn't have a bit in his mouth anyway) for a few laps of the ring. A car raced by on the road and Sovereign was trotting a little in the nearby paddock, but Pie did not get flustered at all. He was so wonderful! I wondered what he would do when I used my seat and legs to ask for a figure-eight. He bent right around perfectly. This did not surprise me. I believe that all horses know how to bend properly. We, as riders, just have to learn how to ask properly! We walked for a few minutes and I dismounted. He walked forward a little when I kicked my leg over, but it wasn't too bad. We will work more on the dismount later. I was thrilled that he did so well. Sovereign was nodding his head with approval while I grazed Pie after our "ride". I hope Sovey does as well when it is his turn.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Friday, March 13, 2009
The unique (and delightful) personality of each horse is beginning to emerge. Pie is younger than Sovereign only by a year, but he is more playful and silly. He always is the one who initiates play. In addition, Pie is obsessed with smells. He loves the smell of my toothpaste in the morning and he likes to smell my jacket, hair, hands, curry, anything he can get his nose on. The funniest thing I have ever seen is how much he likes to smell his own feet when I pick them. If I start picking out a front foot, slowly I will see an upside-down lip and muzzle squeeze in between my arm and the hoof. It is Pie trying to smell his own hoof! Then I do the back feet, and he can't reach, but when I get around to the other front foot, here comes the muzzle again! He is a bird!
Sovereign is more serious than Pie. When he is in the pasture he stares out into the distance. I joke that he is writing a novel. He is calm and meditative. Even though he is only 5 years old, he seems like an old soul. Nothing gets Sovereign too worked up - even the silly Pie-Pie can't get Sovey to react. When I groom him he puts his head down low and loves me to brush behind his ears. He usually carries his head so high - I like that during grooming he is trusting and puts his head down for long periods of time.
Above is a photo of our dog, Eby, on one of the bridle paths. It won't be long now until I am riding the boys out there. My fair-weather photographers (Brian, Maizie, mom) have gone missing until warmer weather arrives so pictures of me working with the horses are scarce! Below is a lovely bridle path in summer.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Monday, March 9, 2009
It won't be long now! The birds are singing and the grass is getting green - Spring is almost here! We worked Friday, Saturday and yesterday in the Bitless Bridle. After grooming, I put the bridle on as if I was going to ride, and walked Pie around the ring and around the outside of the pastures. He responded well. Sovey is learning that when Pie disappears, he comes back. Then, I groomed Sovereign and walked him. He, too, did super in the bridle. Pie is a little worried when he is left behind in the paddock, but he is doing better. The repetition will help to reassure him. I am anxious to start riding, but I know not to rush them. At least the ground is softer now, if I get tossed off!
Friday, March 6, 2009
Wednesday the boys stood perfectly for the farrier. Certainly, ex-racers have been trimmed and shod before at the track, but bad habits and old fears still could have been lurking. Happily, none emerged. Pie and Sovey were calm in the cross-ties for their trimming. I kept them barefoot.
Yesterday, they had a new scary experience to learn about - tree trimmers. We had a tree trimming service come to the farm and top all the trees around the barn. Bright orange and loud, two trucks with grinders and cherry-pickers descended on the property when the boys were out in a nearby pasture. The noise was deafening and the machinery was high in the air. I stood with them at first and reassured them that it was ok. Obviously, left to their own devices, the horses would have sorted it all out and calmed down eventually, but they would have run around like nuts and cut up the pastures. Instead, by taking the time initially to reassure them, I saved our pastures and helped to ensure my safety when I am riding cross-country and we meet the inevitable tree trimmers! The horses grazed happily for hours and the treemen commented about how calm they were with all the commotion. What joy they have brought us!
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Even though it was barely 20 degrees, Pie and Sovereign did very well with today's lesson. After the boys had been turned out for a while together, I led Pie out of the pasture on the lead for hand grazing. We have a nice patch of grass within view of the pasture that Sovereign was still in. In a barn with only two horses it is sometimes difficult to separate "best friends" for riding. I would like to make that transition as smooth as possible without the whinnying, racing, and fence walking that can occur. Sovereign was initially upset, but he quickly resumed his own grazing in the pasture. I nonchalantly walked Pie around for about ten minutes and sometimes we popped out of view. Sovereign was calm. Then, I switched and put Pie in and took Sovereign out. Pie was not as relaxed as Sovey had been. Pie did not whinny or scream, but he did trot and canter the fence line for about 3 laps. Then, he just stood and watched us. I gave each horse another go-round, walking away farther this time with each of them. Pie was not worried at all the second time he was left behind, and he even walked away to get a drink in a far pasture. I am thrilled with their progress! There is nothing worse than getting all tacked up to have a peaceful ride and a stablemate is screaming his head off.
Monday, March 2, 2009
Our weather has been cold, wet, and windy. Some areas of our pastures are a muddy mess. Pie and Sovereign love it. Each day they roll like little pigs in the mud. I groom it all off in the late afternoon and they roll again the next day. They get their faces so muddy that only their eyes peek out. I know they are going to roll again, but standing still for grooming is a good lesson. The farrier is coming soon so we can use all the practice we can get. They make me laugh with all their antics but I can't smile because all the dirt goes in my teeth when I am currying them! Ugh!