I thought Valentine was limping a little when I let him out of the barn this morning. As I watched him throughout the morning, it seemed to me something was wrong. Although he is more of a loner, this morning he wasn’t eating when I put out hay and he just stood there next to the other horses looking sad. And he seemed to be standing funny but it’s hard to tell with him. He’s such a big Walking Horse, with dominant hips. Worried, I haltered him, walked him up the muddy hill to the barn, and hosed off his feet and legs while he ate grass in my back yard while I had a look. Everything seemed normal. So I dragged him away from the yummy grass and took him for a walk down the street. It’s not the first time. In fact, I do it pretty frequently to exercise the horses and to keep them familiar with things that otherwise might spook them, like the neighbors barking dogs, cars and tree stumps. After a nice walk I was able to determine that he’s walking normal and there is no swelling and no visible lacerations. Maybe he was just still from being in the barn all night. He drank a normal amount of water, ate all of his overnight hay and his poop looked okay. After returning him to the barn for further observation, I noticed he was eating hay, though I gave him the best we had.
I did notice it’s time for a hoof trim and some new shoes. I want to check into those shoes that are slip-resistant on pavement, too. The street in front of our house has some elevation and Valentine seemed to slip a little on the smooth pavement.
Incidentally, in the photo above I am not holding the lead rope correctly. I figured this out eventually, that you don’t want the rope wrapped around your hand because the horse can move suddenly and then the rope would tighten around your hand. There are times when the safest thing to do is to let go of the lead rope and you can’t do that when it’s tight around your hand.
So do you take your horse for walks down the street?
Temperatures were in the upper 50’s today, warm enough to make me want to be outside, doing chores I’ve been putting off. One of the fun chores I’ve been putting off is saddling up my horse Moonshine to get her familiar with having a saddle on her back. She had been ridden by previous owners but not often. In fact, the first time I “rode” her, she reared up and dumped me off the back. I’ll have to write about that someday. I’ve ridden her since without incident, but hardly at all. It’s time to start enjoying this pony from a saddle. In the absence of a round pen, which we’re working on buying/building, we have a few options for working our horses. We could longe them (halter and lead them in around in a circle with the lead rope, using a whip to gently coax) and saddle them and walk them around to get them familiar with having a saddle on their backs again. We did some walking today. I have this new saddle and wanted to attach everything and adjust it for my horse. The first thing I noticed was just how stiff my new saddle is. I mean it’s like a pair of new cowboy boots that needs breaking in before it’s comfortable. Next, it occurred to me that riding horses is probably not something you decide to do when you have a half-hour to spare. It takes that long just to brush your horse and strap a saddle on. (We weren’t in a rush or anything – I just had this revelation that horseback riding isn’t something you could probably do on your work lunch break.) Although it took us a while to strap this new saddle on, Moonshine was patient. This is the first time in a while she’s had access to all the yummy green grass in our yard so she was content just standing there eating. Once we had the saddle on and adjusted, of course I had to sit on her to make sure the stirrups were long enough. I admit, I’m still a little nervous getting on this bolt of lightning but this time I had my cowboy boots and long jeans on and figured our lawn was soft. I didn’t ride her but I mounted her 3 times without incident. Mikki and I then walked her down the street past some neighbor homes. She seemed to not want to go near the caged yappy dogs down the road but reluctantly agreed after some coaxing. We’ll have to keep up the walking to desensitize her to barking dogs.
As I mentioned in Vacationing with horses on my mind, I recently spent some time in Arizona and got to ride a horse while I was there. As I’m riding along at dusk, some pit bull comes running over to us and the first thing I think is “crap, what if this horse is afraid of dogs and takes off?” Fortunately for me, that didn’t happen. The horse I rode was pretty laid back and didn’t mind all the other dogs we encountered on that ride, including lots that would wait until we were near their fence and then run out towards us, barking viciously. That’s how I need Moonshine to be.
So for now, we’ll be walking our horse like a dog. In fact, Mona over at the Horse Approved blog wrote about that very subject earlier this month in her post Walk Your Horse Like a Dog. Not only does it get them familiar with your neighborhood and your tack, I have to agree with Mona that it’s good bonding time.