Posts Tagged ‘Tennessee Walking Horse’

Just Relax!

Today’s Tip: Check for pain as a cause for problems. If that’s not it, it’s probably you!

I’ve said that I was concerned about Pretty’s teeth. I’ve also said she hasn’t been doing much of a walk this spring. Her teeth have been fixed. She was happier, but still not doing even a nice, forward, “working” walk (not quite a flat walk, but more than a dog walk) without pacing. Today I figured it out. After a few trips up and down the driveway (I’m REALLY eager for the mud to dry up!), she wasn’t quite so jumpy. I let up on the reins a little just to see what she would do if it I didn’t try to “hold her in.” Yep, that fixed it. Sure, her head was lower and her nose farther out. No, I don’t think she’d do a full out running walk, or even a flat walk, in that frame (no collection, she’d be all-over-sloppy). But I got to enjoy her walk again! I have some church events the next couple of nights, so I’m afraid I can’t ride again until Thursday. I’m hoping we can then go for a REAL ride down the road.

Charging Isn’t Always Forward

Today’s Tip: The “big picture” should show your horse improving over time, but day-to-day improvement isn’t always going to happen. Tackle each day as a new day. Read on to see how today’s ride went.

Today I got my horse back. Normally that would sound like a phrase that led into a good story. Today, not so much.

So far this year Classy has been an improved version of his usual self. He was less spooky, more forward, and less heavy on the bit. Today the first two were still more or less true, but he was definitely heavy on the bit again. Not only does this mean leaning on it and not setting himself up as well as I’d like, but it also means that his balance is too far forward.

I don’t have a nice flat place to ride, so I ride in the most arena-like area in the pasture that I can. The whole thing slopes, so half the time we’re going downhill. Although this doesn’t help create consistency or a decent gait, it can help with some things. I suppose if I look at today optimistically, it means that the slope gave us something to work on in our upcoming rides. He simply didn’t balance going downhill. He’d pick up speed and be much harder to stop or slow down. Think about walking down a medium slope. A slight down slope you probably don’t really notice and a steep hill you probably pick your way down carefully. A medium slope, though, you’re likely to start walking and eventually pick up speed. You have to execute a fair amount of control to stop or slow down. That’s what this was like. To fix it, Classy needs to shift his balance to his back end, which should happen if he gets lighter on the bit. Well, technically the weight shift comes first, the the bit part is what is a little easier to notice.

This was a frustrating ride for me because he’s been doing so well. We’ll see what the next few rides bring. It’s really easy for me to want to say, “You didn’t do this last time!” and get mad at him for regressing. Every ride is different, though. Hopefully by the end of the summer he’ll be better. If not, then I seriously have to re-evaluate myself. Just because he regresses for one day, however, does not give me reason to panic.

I’ll keep you updated on what I hope will be improvement in our next ride!

The Ups and Downs of Life

Today’s Tip: The right horse for you, right now, might not be the perfect horse or even the horse you’re looking for. Read about where I’ve been for the last week and who has been buying horses!

Cats Sunning

This is what a lot of our weather has been like lately. Yesterday and today it was actually about 80*! It makes for nice weather for cat naps in the sunshine.

No, I didn’t fall off the face of the earth. I haven’t even been off on some fun spring break vacation like so many others I know.

Actually, I’ve just been busy…mostly with homework. As much as I thought school took over my life when I was a full time student, it seems to have more of an impact, at least on my well-being, now that I have to work AND do school.

Anyway, last weekend I actually rode more horses in two days than I have in any one weekend for a long time, maybe, possibly even ever.

Really I just got a good ride in on Classy. I got the new-to-me saddle cleaned up Saturday morning and took that out to RideAbility for some real arena work. The jury’s still out on the actual fit, but I was using a thicker pad than normal, so using my regular pad may make it just right. We’ll see.

Hiding from the wind

As nice as the weather has mostly been, yesterday was quite windy (about 25 mph I think). I went in the shed to get some hay for the horses and all four of the cats were passed out on the new hay. By the time I got the camera, they'd woken up (and their "demon eyes" came out), but they were stil in their kitty pyramid.

The ride itself was great. He was working well, I decided to start increasing his strength by waiting longer to do a free walk (let him stretch his neck) and by riding a little longer. It started raining a little bit when we were out there, but not too bad.

When we were done, the two other riders who were out that day and I played musical ponies. They were going to switch to get the horse in need of strengthening some trot work, I wanted to ride the new one to correct a glitch in her behavior that I had seen, and there was just a third horse and rider to complete the circle. Then since one got to ride my horse, the other wanted to as well, so we switched again. So I got to ride a Morgan/Clydesdale cross (she’s like a mini-Clydesdale – adorable!!) and a Quarter Horse. While I love the smooth ride of my TWHs, it was kinda fun to do a little nice trotting.

Sunday I went out to a woman’s house to look at a foxtrotter mare she got last fall. She’s an experienced horsewoman, but not with gaited horses. I don’t have a ton of experience with foxtrotters, but I went to take a look anyway. She’s a nice little mare…well, not so little…but it is a transition from a perfect, reliable, elderly Appaloosa. I think she just doesn’t see any point in wandering around in circles in an arena when she could be outside. I can’t say I blame her!

Had this been a test ride for a prospective horse purchase, I probably wouldn’t have recommended this horse. She isn’t really nervous, but a little jumpy at times, and the woman can’t really afford to get hurt so seems a tiny bit nervous of a spooky horse. Also, she doesn’t seem to have much of a foxtrot. That may change when we get somewhere with a longer, more open stretch. It does, however, make life slightly more difficult if you have to mess around much with gait and you don’t know much about the gait to begin with. The horse seems safe, though, so we may find that although she’s not the perfect horse, she may be the right horse. That’s how Pretty was for me – not what I was looking for, but has turned out to be what I needed! This woman, her horse, and I will get together to get some more work done with her, and hopefully they’ll become a pair just like the woman was with her last horse.

Since the weekend, today’s the first day I really got to do anything with the horses. I probably could have yesterday, but with 25 mph winds, I didn’t even want to be outside. I had hoped to ride two tonight, but time got away from me and I just got in a ride on Classy.

If I didn’t know better, I’d swear someone switched horses on me over the winter. I’ve mentioned in other posts that he’s been doing really well with things like setting his head, collection, and responding to the snaffle (which he doesn’t always do so well). Today I rode him in the pasture. Normally he’s all skeptical about the distance from the other horses, the trees by the fence, the corn (or remnants of it) in the field on the other side, whatever might be across the road and on the other side of the field on the other side of the road. Oh, and did I mention that grass might be growing, and therefore ready to eat him? Today, though, he just went about his business. Sometimes he’d pick his head up and look at something, but generally he just did what he was supposed to. Next to impossible! Toward the end of the ride a woman came walking down the road with her little white horse-eating dog. That kinda threw us for a loop for a little while, but eventually he calmed down all over again.

Never Assume…

Today’s Tip: Never assume that your fence, or really any facilities, are in sound working order. Read on to find out how some unexpected damage occurred.

Today was I was getting on a horse no matter what! It helped that we got out of work on time and I didn’t have any other seriously pressing stuff that had to be done.

Of course Jack Frost thought it would be SUPER funny if today was in the 30’s, so it was a little chilly for my taste. Had I not been so darn stubborn, it probably wouldn’t have been so bad. Choosing to just wear jeans with no other layers, my legs were a little numb (yes, I’m a little bit of a wuss…). Oh well, that’s what horse people do!

Today was the day to shake the dust off Pretty and get her moving. I love that horse. I’m used to horses that are pretty good, but do little things like take a few steps forward when you get on, sidestep at the scary pine trees, get distracted about being alone, spook at the…well…I don’t know what. Pretty did have some issues when we got down almost to the river (the very back of the pasture), but mostly she just went where she was told, when she was told to go there. I didn’t think I’d ever have one of those!

We do have our own challenges. Pretty has a weak neck. It’s long and thin, but not very muscled. A long mane also makes her look kind of droopy if she doesn’t hold it well. So our first goal is to try and build some muscle in that neck. Classy needs the same work, but he doesn’t have as far to go. She also lacks, as many Tennessee Walking Horses do, a foundation for actually getting on the bit and truly collecting. It doesn’t help that she’d naturally rather be strung out, she’s just long and loose like that, but we’ll get there! She did pretty well for a first time out.

You know when I mentioned we were almost down to the river? Yeah…that’s because I noticed that the lowest wire of the electric fence was loose. I followed the fence down the long end to the back of the pasture and it was drooping the whole way, even down to the ground in some places. Why? Not really sure. I think the snow might have just weighted it down too much. I don’t know why it didn’t in the past.

As much as I trust my fence to hold my horses in where they belong, I’m constantly reminded that it’s not going to stay dependable on its own. I’m glad I was out there today to notice. Better get it fixed before the horses go back out on pasture in the summer!

This same concept also applies to other stuff in the barn and pasture. I’ve found nail heads sticking out that my horses never found, but a guest horse did. Found things sticking out in weird angles on doorways that were causing strange cuts on lower legs. A friend recently mentioned finding some “stray” sticks left in the pasture after a tree clean-up that were causing scratches when her horse rolled on top of them.

Just be sure to check your pasture. Want to multitask? Take a ride around the pasture, go for a walk and get some exercise of your own, or do whatever else makes sense where you are! Even if you don’t own your horse’s home – that doorway story, that was where I was boarding. Check your horse’s space there too!

Confessions of a Shopaholic

Today’s Tip: Never underestimate the importance of good fitting tack. Read on for my mistake and my recent solution!

My actual confession should probably be that I don’t normally shop as much as I have been lately. This is the second post this week about buying horse-related stuff, and that doesn’t count the time I spent at the mall today!

The other confession I have is that I found a way to cheat the system!!! Maybe it’s not really cheating, but it’s kind of against the intended system.

I love Craigslist – free online posting with no frills or much skill needed, you can sell almost anything to give new life to items rather than sending them to the dump, and you can buy things they need that may be more unique that what they’d find in the store or simply cheaper than they’d buy new. What I don’t love is that there is a limit to what is practical to search. You search by location, usually a single city and its surrounding area. It’s mean for finding local stuff,  but sometimes you want something specific and it’s just hard to find it locally. The site will search nearby areas, but that’s it. There is no way to search ALL of Craigslist.

Then along came Google. I searched “search all of Craigslist” and there were results! My favorite of those I tried was My New SaddleCraigLook.com With this fabulous site, you can search the whole country in one simple step. And thanks to this, I was finally able to find the Western saddle I’ve been looking for!!

A number of years ago I purchased a nice Western saddle – nice as in my color of preference, decent tooling, a little bit of silver, and decent quality. Unfortunately it never fit Classy very well, especially since he’s put on a few pounds since I bought it. This became particularly evident after a trip to South Dakota a couple of years ago. My husband rode Classy for a whole week. That fall, when his winter coat came in, he had two distinct white spots on either side where the saddle caused too much pressure. Poor baby!

Since that trip I’ve been looking for a new saddle. Tennessee Walking Horses are often tough to fit with a Western saddle. You frequently need a rounded (or otherwise shortened) skirt so it doesn’t interfere with the hip of this (ideally) short-backed, long-strided horse. Also, the trees of Arab saddles and other saddles typically designed with smaller skirts often don’t fit in the tree. I’m no saddle-fitting expert, but it’s not hard to tell that the front part of the saddle is pinching when you can’t fit your fingers underneath it no matter how hard you try. Pads can help, but they never solve a poor-fitting saddle.

As a general rule, I wouldn’t recommend purchasing a saddle without trying it on your horse and seeing for yourself that it’s in good condition (not just the look of the leather, but how well it has been cared for, if the tree is still solid, etc.). However, I was looking for a Tennessean saddle since I’ve used them on Classy before and know they fit. The one I found was a decent price and I saw photos demonstrating the quality, so I know even if for some reason it doesn’t fit, I should be able to resell.

As I sit here counting the hours until my new (used) saddle arrives at my doorstep, I can’t stress enough the importance of good fitting tack. Classy might be 15 years old, but I expect to get a LOT of good riding years out of him still. Just as people start to become less resilient to beating up their bodies, so do horses. No horse should have to work in pain or risk injury due to the wait of your entire body pushing down on a couple small points on their back. A horse whose body is no longer as young as it once was possibly even has more to lose by being subjected to poor-fitting tack.

As a footnote, and additional confession for today is that I totally missed a perfect day for being outside and working with the horses. It’s the season of Lent, so we wanted to be at church. Too bad Mother Nature wasted her dreary day on a Tuesday and a gorgeous day on a Wednesday! Even if the weather isn’t as good tomorrow I will get out with the horses. Hold me to it!