There’s been a lot going on around the farm. Here are some notes on a few of them:
1. We’re doing some fence repairs on the farm. In the morning I talked with the workers, Joe, Brandon and Sally, and pointed out which paddocks did not have horses in them. Once these paddocks were repaired they knew to tell me and I’d move Zelador and Zeloso out of the paddock north of the arena so that the southern fence line could be worked on.
I had an appointment in town early in the afternoon. When I returned I noticed the fencers’ truck west of the arena. No panic. I could see them working on the fence adjacent to the paddock the boys were in. I walked to the men and asked how things were going. I reminded them, “When you’re ready to do the fence line east of here, let me know.”
Joe said, “We’ve done it.”
I was flabbergasted and couldn’t form any words.
Finally I was able to say, “What happened?!”
Joe smiled, “Well, we didn’t notice the two greys. They were at the far end of the paddock just over the small rise. When we removed the last board they came thundering to us. I had my back to them and was in the paddock. Brandon was outside the paddock. He saw them coming and said, ‘JOE! Turn around!!!!’”
I asked, “Did they skid to a stop?”
“Boy, did they!” said Joe.
“How did you get the fence done?”
“Brandon and I worked on the fence and Sally held a post creating a barrier between us and the horses.”
The next day I saw Joe at another fence. He said, “I forgot to tell you. After they skidded to a stop, they spun around and pelted all three of us with mud.”
I laughed. I could see the whole episode in my mind’s eye. I told him, “Joe, nothing that those two horses did was by accident. They KNEW when the last board was removed. They knew exactly when to start their skid so that they created maximum astonishment, but still missed crashing into you. And, covering you with mud was the icing on the cake.”
2. Spring Song is four years old and loving learning new things. I decided to introduce the first few steps of “the bow.” I chose to cue the bow from her left side with a wand. Step one: I ask her to lower her head. (click/treat) Step two: while her head is low I ask her to lift her left fore. (click/treat). We walked a small circle, returning to our bow area. I added step three: while the head is down the left front hoof is raised and brought backwards a few inches. She did this happily, (click/treat). I told her she was brilliant and headed to the wall to return the wand. I caught a movement from Spring Song out of the corner of my eye. I stopped and looked at her. The sweetie had lowered her head and was slowly picking up the left front hoof and moving it backwards. I couldn’t believe it! She was practising!!!!
3. It was a quiet day on the farm (actually, all of our days are quiet). I was the only person on the farm and wasn’t expecting anyone to arrive. I headed outdoors, up the bridge of the bank barn and to the loft. I opened the trap door and announced, “Hay coming down!” I had to chuckle. Why would I say, “Hay coming down” when no one is here? Guess I’d heard too many stories about people being paralyzed after a bale landed on someone’s head. Whatever. I heard the bale hit the floor below and much to my surprise someone said, “When you say something, you mean it.”
Turns out Joe had just walked into the barn when he heard me call out. He was a good 20 feet from the trap door, well out of harm’s way. And, you guessed it, I will continue to call “Hay coming down” to what I KNOW is an empty farm!
4. Decades ago when I first started learning about dressage the piaffe and passage quickly became my favourite movements. I observed that not many horses could do these easily and that many riders worked very hard to teach the movements to their horses. When I went to dressage shows (no internet in those days with tons of YouTube videos of Grand Prix horses doing the piaffe and passage) the piaffe was often a shuffle and the passage was almost unrecognizable. Bummer. I remember seeing riders swaying left to right to left to get the horse doing the piaffe. I also remember lots of leg on the horse and tapping with the whip. It wasn’t a pretty sight and the horse wasn’t doing much (and certainly wasn’t rejoicing in the movement).
A few years after we bought Zelador and Zeloso I learned about Albert Ostermaier from Allen Pogue. I bought Ostermaier’s Piaffe and Passage DVDs and learned that Ostermaier had put the piaffe on over 100 horses. Wow!
His teaching technique starts in the barn with the horse learning how to raise each hind hoof when asked. I introduced Ostermaier’s method to the boys when they were about three years old. Now they’re eleven and somehow through the years patiently asking for some hind leg lifting every once in a while has resulted in some really neat piaffe and passage steps. No shuffling with these boys! Tom Dorrance’s quote, “If you think you’re going slow enough, go slower” comes to mind. That approach certainly works with our horses.
Zelador LOVES doing these movements. Our instructor has ridden Zelador a few times recently and announced, “When I want to reward Zelador for a job well done, I let him piaffe and passage.”
5. Currently Zelador and Zeloso are spending their afternoons in a paddock north of the arena. It’s over 100 metres from their stalls in the lower barn. Soon we’ll be moving all six of the horses in the lower barn to the upper barn for the winter, but until then we’ve got a bit of a walk for turnout.Not REALLY a problem, except when sweet Zeloso is given a chance to think independent thoughts…
One afternoon someone was available to help me lead the horses back to the barn. Zeloso was hooked onto his lead line and led from the paddock while I clipped the lead onto Zelador. The three seconds it took me to get Zelador ready to exit the paddock was all Zeloso needed to size up the human attached to him. I do believe he noticed that the human had no gloves on…
Well, in a FLASH Zeloso was trotting away, lead line dangling, human trotting after him. Bummer! I called out, “Stand still. Don’t chase him.” (You see, my horses LOVE to eat and the grass on the other side of the fence was gorgeous. IF the human had stood stationary Zeloso would have instantly stopped and started eating. But with the human giving chase the game had changed. It was no longer the “eat all you can as fast as you can” game. It had morphed into the “let’s leap and bound and explore the farm” game.)
Very quickly Zelador out-foxed me and the two greys were cavorting about. No worries. The farm was totally closed off from the road and all of the other horses were in their stalls. I watched the two disappear from sight as they rounded the far end of the arena and couldn’t help but admire the way they deftly controlled the way the lead line trailed around them. There was no threat of the line becoming tangled in their legs. These two had escaped now and then over the years and were lead line experts.
I had to laugh. This lead line thing brought another image to mind: the horse that happily puts its foot in a bucket of water while standing quietly in the cross ties. Hmmm…if you’re looking to buy a horse beware the loose horse that isn’t worried about a lead line (he’s done this more than once!!!) and beware the horse that loves putting his hoof in water (there’s a good chance that it’s had a leg injury or two).
6. I went to a Newmarket, Ontario craft show and found some wooden tree ornaments that were ready to be painted. AND, you guessed it, the horses painted them. I’m looking forward to placing them on our tree. With any luck I’ll get a photo or two of them.