Oh, poor and neglected Bear… so right after my last post I trailer Bear out to the really easy trail, and did the “pony him off the old mare then switch and pony her off him” trick. It’s working better and better! He is getting used to her being in a different position, it really frustrated him to have her back by his flank for awhile. We even trotted down the trail a bit and he settled into a nice relaxed trot on a loose rein. Such an nice treat. We also got out to the arena and had a very productive workout both on the lunge and under saddle. We’re starting to get the hang of half-halts to rebalance his trot, but after all this time off and sporadic work his canter is very weak and off balance. He just needs to get into shape again.
That was at the end of September. Then the first Monday in October I started a new job, spent most of my free time doing wedding stuff for a friend, and then spent over a week house sitting. So I have hardly even seen Bear!
Winter is coming, and with that all sorts of new needs to meet. I feel pretty good about his feed and keeping his weight up better than last year, but I still need to figure out a couple things. Firstly I blanketed him last year, and with that blanket he hardly grew any hair. He’s out in pasture full time, but has a shelter to get into so he doesn’t absolutely need to blanket for rain protection. I mainly blanketed to keep the heavy winter coat off since I was working him at nights and wanted to make sure he’d dry easily if he really got worked into a sweat.
~He was almost always clean except his neck and legs, which were covered in mud because he lies down and rolls often.
~He grew very little hair and looked sleek and pretty and never got lathered up from work.
~He is naturally a lean athletic horse and I think the blanket helped keep weight on him.
~The extra time and hassle to un-blanket and then re-blanket during the days (as long as it was warm and dry enough).
~He is VERY hard on blankets. His blanket from last year was fixed twice and when he broke it a third time in early spring it got retired to emergency blanket status.
~His shoulders got rubbed.
~He runs around and plays a lot, and blankets, despite being for turnouts, are not designed to be galloped in.
So this year I haven’t started to blanket yet, and it’s starting to get pretty cold at night. So far he is not fuzzy, at least not like the old mare. I’m curious to see what kind of winter coat he would get, but I’m afraid it won’t be much. I think I may have convinced myself to start blanketing again, I just need to see what I can do to address some of the problems.
Secondly, I need to figure out a riding schedule. I don’t have the night classes in the indoor with him until January, I work too far away now to ride at lunch, and pretty soon it will be dark by the time I get home. I am looking for places that let you haul in to use their indoor at nights, but that gets costly on a regular basis, so maybe just finding a trainer that will give after work lessons which I am willing to spend money on. I am seriously considering setting up lights at home, but the pasture is not as flat and safe as arena footing. Night trail rides (in safe, level, non-cougar places of course) would be a good challenge, but really I shouldn’t do that alone.
Thirdly, which really ties right into secondly, I will get out to ride more often if I could take my boyfriend along. The old mare is crotchety and set in her ways, so she’s not actually the best beginner’s horse. She is well trained with me on her, and I feel confident that she’ll do anything I need, but she puts up an attitude when my mom rides her. She also can get very anxious and prance on the trail when we turn towards home. SO in many ways she can make herself a frustrating horse to ride. That leaves three and a half year old Bear as the better beginner option. Of course that seems silly, which is why I haven’t actually made this happen yet! I had been hoping to have my sister get on him first since she’s more of an intermediate rider, but she’s pregnant and not allowed on horses. So eventually I will make Bear and the boyfriend into riding buddies, but I think they are both going to find it boring because of all the safety limits I put on them! To start out they won’t be allowed off of the lunge line or lead rope (I plan to pony them down the trails). Even with these restrictions I want to make sure Bear is 100% mentally and physically back into working mode. (Having a beginner bounce around on his back will be easier if he’s got a strong back and a balanced trot.)
So I have a whole lot to think about! Well I hope to be back on the boy in the next few days