Monday, January 30, 2012

Sunny with Slush

Woke up at 5 a.m. to temps already in the 40's, and it only got better from there.  No wind and sunshine.  Amazing.

Irresistible riding weather.  At noon I hauled the English saddle and the rest of Sunny's stuff to the car and headed out.  Interrupted the boys' nap time, but I wasn't too concerned about that.  Sunny's had upwards of two weeks off, so I was curious to see what I'd get.  He heaved a big sigh when I buckled his halter on and plodded along through the sloppy lot beside me. 

Once he was clean(er) and dressed, I picked our way down the slope of the driveway carefully - muddy spots interspersed with tire-packed snow made the footing less than ideal.  But Sunny's hooves cut into the slushy top layer much better than my boots - the advantages of four feet!

I shed my vest before I got on  (I'd already ditched a sweatshirt) - even just my turtleneck felt like too much, but taking that off too wasn't an option - lol! 

The snow in our usual field was a pristine blanket 3-4" deep and semi-slushy.  The snow wasn't balling up in his hooves, and Sunny didn't seem to be having any difficulties keeping his footing, but I decided as we shushed along the curve of our first big circle that we'd stick to walking and trotting - no sense taking a chance on him slipping or hitting something hidden in the snow.  I know there are no holes or big rocks out there, but the level snow was disguising several substantial dips and with only memory telling me where....

Ten minutes of warm-up, then I worked on getting him collected and really differentiating rates of walk.  Shoulder in, haunches in, and some spirals.  Sitting trot, and more collection - I did my best to just feel how collected he was getting, rather than tipping my head down to see what his head and neck were doing.  He's gotten much less heavy in front - especially considering where we started last fall.

All told, about 40 minutes - he's not getting as much exercise as he was, and the footing was increasingly sloppy.  Even just walking and trotting, the periods of collection were hard work - he was happy to pause for a breather periodically, and to take the opportunities to stretch I offered.  Overall an excellent ride, and the weather is supposed to be just as nice tomorrow so we should get to go again.  I'm sure he'll be thrilled.

Our post-ride circle...

Back up in the lot I left Sunny guarding a post after I brushed him and checked his feet for driveway gravel.  Thunder's turn - oh, nothing major, but I've been doing some thinking, and I decided I wanted to try him in the same type of bit I use on Sunny, rather than the D-ring snaffle with rollers that I'd put on him previously.  Since Sunny's bridle was right there handy, I figured no better time than the present...

You know, I learned something that surprised me - their heads are the same size.  Appearances sure are deceptive.  I would have bet money that Thunder's long face would require letting the buckles down at least a hole on each side.  Not so.  It must be Sunny's dish that makes his face look more petite...

Not his color, but the size is right

Anyway, I definitely like the way this headstall in combination with the full cheek snaffle fits Thunder much better.  The bars on the D-ring are straighter and thicker, and it was clunking against his teeth when he mouthed it which I really didn't like.  The slightly narrower, more shaped fit of the bars on Sunny's bit let him nom-nom-nom away without any painful sounding clunking noises.  Once he'd had a few minutes to chew, I did some bending exercises with him, and he was much quicker to respond, so I think practicing in the sidepull halter did some good, as well.

They both seem to have enjoyed the afternoon as much as I did, because they were hanging over the gate when I left.

Hopefully they'll be as pleased to see me tomorrow!

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