Monday, November 1, 2010

Bonding with Rufus

Post-worming & bot-fly removal for Sunny & the farm herd and Rufus and his group, T had to go do actual work for his Monday student-torture (a.k.a. bio-chem exam), but J wanted to ride and I was game. Rather than put another 8 gravel miles on Sunny's shoeless feet, I opted to borrow T's ride and take Rufus.

I figured, even though I wasn't practicing on Sunny, I'd still get a ride in, and Rufus needs the miles just as much, if not more! He had the whole rest of the weekend off, after all.

We've been discussing the possibility of switching Rufus from his mild grazing curb to something that will allow more precise communication. He can be a bit stiff through his shoulders, and since bending is on my list of things to practice anyway....

I could have gone with the full-cheek snaffle I use with Sunny, but Rufus is accustomed to, and comfortable with, a curb, and what I really wanted was something that would let me isolate sides of his body better than the curb. I opted for a Myler comfort snaffle with slotted D cheeks. With the reins snapped into the slots, the Myler snaffle still allows very mild curb action. The difference is that where a regular snaffle's jointed hinge would have a potentially harsh nutcracker effect, the middle "barrel" hinge in the comfort snaffle allows the cheeks to swivel independently when a rein is lifted or lowered, but not to collapse together like a scissors when picking them both up. That avoids the possibility of jabbing the point of the hinge into the roof of his mouth. (I do use it with a flat leather curb strap, but buckled on as I would for an O-ring snaffle, where the only purpose is to hold the cheek pieces. It isn't there to provide any stop, it just keeps the whole works from potentially sliding through the horse's mouth. )

It would be Rufus' first ride on newly sharp-shod feet, and as much as he hates the farrier's visits... Well, let's just say that getting him trimmed & reset absolutely regularly makes a huge difference, and we'll have to stay on top of the farrier to make sure the schedule doesn't get bumped later and later as it did this time.

The new shoes were an unqualified success. We jogged or loped the majority of the 8 miles, and not only did Rufus not break a sweat, but there was none of the slipping and tripping he'd been doing when the ground got even slightly uneven.

One of the biggest differences was in his lope departures. Instead of flinging himself up and forward, sliding and popping from lead to lead, he was lifting and settling nicely into a lovely, if forward, rocking chair gait. He favors the left lead and needs really clear cues to take the right. He also doesn't "slow" lope quite yet, but a gentle half-halt worked to slow him down for a few strides at a time.

Downward transitions? The horse can STOP. Unfortunately, the first time it wasn't because I asked, but because his companion slowed down. Ummm - ouch!

After that, I asked for verbal warning from my riding buddy, or called the halt myself. Using lots of leg and riding firmly through slowing down was much more successful. And definitely less painful, as it didn't involve a jarring meeting with the front of the saddle!

The bit? Worked fine. I liked it, and Rufus didn't seem to mind it. We had a couple of squiffy moments - pheasants flying up, etc., and I didn't have any issues settling him, so control wasn't an issue, but loosening his neck and shoulders will take more time than one day's riding, and obviously, T's going to have to give it a try and see how they pair of them get along with it.

Sunny's feet? I'm reluctant to shoe, since I'm not sure how much longer the weather's going to hold. He's by no means sore, and for arena and field work, he's fine. But gravel road miles are going to catch us in short order, and I'll need to make some sort of decision soon...


Anonymous said...

That's a bit a lot of horses like - and a good choice for a horse that's used to a curb. My Pie is currently barefoot and we'll see how he copes with our hard trails, but so far so good.

SunnySD said...

It's amazing how different their feet can be!