Thursday, February 16, 2012

Back on the Horse - Part 2

There are only two emotions that belong in the saddle; one is a sense of humor and the other is patience. ~Unknown

Now that we had another family coming to help with chores at the horse barn on Tuesday morning, I thought it would be less work, but I had to haul two 50-pound bags and fill the feed bins as her son was not there and she has a heart condition that causes her to be tired and weaker.

Now the tack has been organized and labeled, so we now can find the tack that fits each horse easily, but I wondered if I really felt confident in saddling a horse.

Now there was another woman with more experience with well-trained horses and horse training itself (besides having been a paramedic which is handy around horses), so I felt confident she would know all the things I did not about riding.

Now, finally, I felt more comfortable with the idea of letting the children ride and Miss Annette had given the okay for Molly, Mack, and Peanut to be ridden that day.

Molly is the lead mare and she lets everyone know it; she only takes a back seat to the lead gelding. Molly has been in season because it has been a warm winter, so she is moody. She is also rather aggressive when she is eating. Most of the less experienced children give her a wide berth, but when she is not pinning her ears back, stretching her neck, and showing her teeth, she is the sweetest horse. She is very well-trained and shows it with a good rider, but getting her prepared to ride can be a challenge. I fitted her halter before releasing them all to the hay, but she was not in the mood to let me catch her later in the upper pasture. In fact, I could not even get near enough to get her halter off. The Princess was very disappointed as she wanted to ride Molly, knowing she was more responsive to her rider.

Mack is an Iceland pony, which is a heavy, draft-type body. He is very easygoing but a bit stubborn, only doing what he is supposed to do with an experienced and determined rider. He will follow anyone walking or another horse, but likes to stop near the gate of the arena and not go at all.

Peanut is the smallest pony with a 100-pound rider limit. Although a bit over that, I have been on him for only a few minutes to see if he would respond to me and he will. He is another stubborn one. Originally, he was cart trained and had not had a rider, so he still is learning what is expected of him.

We need to give the horses about an hour to digest their grains before we can ride so we used that time to clean the barn, stables, and paddock areas. We also exercised the miniature horses. One of them, Blue, was acting up with the other mother. Blue gets itchy and likes to go down for a roll to scratch his back, which she allowed him to do. Usually, he then is as good a gold, but not this time. I was walking out from the barn and she told me he had just bit her on the thigh. I grabbed up his lead and walked him back out to the arena and made him walk with me three more times around, giving the lead a small jerk every time he tried to bite it. He did not try to bite me.

In fact, I have not really been bitten by a horse although we used to have one that tried often at my aunt's, so I might be more prepared mentally for such behavior. I have only been kicked once and I was so close to the horse it was more of a push and he was not trying to hurt me, but warn a young filly about hunting for milk on him. I have not been thrown, but I have been in a number of odd positions trying to hang on, all probably amusing to onlookers. The thing is that I am always on my guard with horses. I have always been taught that horses are most unpredictable when they are predictable.

Before riding there is grooming. There is only one grooming kit to share. Most everyone who works at the barn, eventually gets their own grooming kit and we will be doing that next week when we go on a 4-H field trip to a tack store. However, for that day there were three children sharing one kit, as the boy was helping his father with a plumbing job.

All went well until it came time to pick the hoofs. Since it has been wet, it is very important to clean the hoofs out. The mother asked me to help because Mack had not lifted his hoof when she tapped on the lower cannon (foreleg) area as she had done with her family's horses. Now I have to admit something here. I do know how to clean the hoof, but I have not done one since I was a teenager and then my cousin was the one who handled most of the hoof cleaning. So, in reality, I have had very little experience with getting horses to lift their hooves, but the Princess and I attended a field trip to a farrier's school last year that was very informative and I paid close attention. I just ran my hand down the length of the leg as I had seen done and up came Mack's large hoof. I ended up doing all four of his and Peanut's also.

The family grabbed the saddles, placed them on the ponies, and then asked me to help because the mother did not know how to cinch them, which in most cases requires what we call the 7-11 knot but it may be known be other names. In any case, she was unfamiliar with it and that really surprised me. I began to wonder just how they used to cinch the saddles on their horses.

At this point, I am practically in a daze because I had talked to this woman a few times on the phone and she just seemed so self-confidence but I just did not see it in action. The three girls shared the two ponies with us mothers walking beside or in front of them so the ponies would follow. I rode Mack a short time to see if he would do what I wanted without any leading and he did.

We finished up, cleaned up, put everything away, and left. It was about 12:30 pm and I am so thankful that I have given us ample time on our homeschool schedule because after running an errand, we both showered and had a late lunch. I was really tired and the next day, I was quite sore, like I had done a gym workout. That being my fasting day did not make any better, but I recovered mostly by Thursday.

I should have called Miss Annette that day to let her know how things went, but I was still in a state of disbelief. I realized that I was far more comfortable and self-confident than I thought I was, mostly because I had to be. Ah, but there is more....

~ My Lord, thank you for showing me that I am capable of doing more than I thought I could with the horses. ~

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