GrazingMuzzleWEB.jpgIn August 2008 my vet put Zelador on a diet and ordered me to get the basket-weave type of grazing muzzle for him. Slowly, but surely he lost some of the extra pounds. A week before my vet read me the riot act my blacksmith commented, “Zelador is quite rotund!”

It was oh, so sad to have to muzzle my young horse. There’s nothing quite as beautiful as looking out over the property and seeing the boys grazing on the lush, green hills. I never had problems with Sherlock (a Thoroughbred) and Kye (a Quarter Horse/ Appaloosa). They could graze for ten hours every day and maintain a safe weight.

I got to thinking about this Zelador (Lusitano) weight problem. I came to the conclusion that the answer lies in the Iberic Peninsula; the area where the breed originated. That land is ROCK and the words “lush” and “grass” don’t often go hand in hand.

The good news is: my vet approved of Zeloso’s weight, but pointed out that when his growing spurt was over he, too, needed careful monitoring. To help me with this task, she gave me an equine body weight/tape measure. (The thing barely got around Zelador.)

The muzzle went on. As the weeks passed I noticed small rub marks on Zelador’s face. I added sheepskin fuzzies to the crown and nose areas.

A few days ago Bill said, “We need to get a grazing muzzle for Zeloso and put Zelador’s back on him.” The main challenge was to find where I stored Zelador’s muzzle!!! I knew I had it hanging neatly… somewhere. I asked Bill to look in the basement. He came back empty handed. I sent him to the tack store to purchase Zeloso’s muzzle while I searched for Zelador’s. Found it!!!

Bill returned with the 2009 model. It’s new and improved. It comes with its own halter which is lighter in weight than our halters. It also has over two inches of padding along the inside of the top. Zelador’s has an inch and I added a fuzzy at that spot.

The halter has a clasp that serves as a break-away safety feature AND a second clasp came with the muzzle…just in case we needed to replace the original one.

This morning I headed to the barn with both muzzles. I’d added a crown fuzzy to Zeloso’s.

I introduced the muzzle to Zeloso by putting a carrot in it. He eagerly stuck his nose into the basket and ate the carrot. Bit by bit I put carrots into the muzzle and slowly placed the halter section on his head. He sneezed and kept eating.

I turned both boys out in the paddock and walked away. I learned quite some time ago that a watched horse never does what you want it to do. Several times during the day I checked on the boys (from a distance). They were both grazing and calmly munching throughout the paddock. Whew!

Zeloso’s free longeing:

Much to my surprise Zeloso is actually free-longeing around me, changing direction and coming in when called. He’s doing this at the walk and the trot. He’s not leaping about. He’s not trying to drop to the arena floor and roll with his tack on! He’s actually watching me and enjoying our free longeing game.

The calmness he displays in the longeing disappears when I ask him to come and step up on the low platform. He’s decided that the best approach is a fast one. He leaps towards the thing and I quickly say, “Slow.” I have visions of him flying through the air, sliding over the platform and landing on the arena floor. I figured that the second time I asked him to step up, he’d do it quietly. But, no. He approached it with the same enthusiasm EVERY time I called him to it. This is the “laid back” brother. The one who takes everything in his stride and doesn’t over-react.

I took him to the critter box and asked him to pick up the pink bunny. He did. He carried it to the low platform, dropped it in the dust and stood waiting for his treat. I asked him to pick up Kermit and he enjoyed twirling it as he walked to the low platform, dropped it in the dust and waited for his treat.

I rolled the small ridged ball ten feet from us and he walked to it, picked it up, walked a step or two towards me, dropped it, picked it up, walked, dropped it and finally stepped up onto the low platform.

With all of these successes I led him off the platform, preparing for a bow. When he was two years old we taught him to bow by standing on his left side. From this position he bent his left front leg and extended his right one. But since the vet diagnosed the suspensory tear in the right front leg we decided to NOT ask for an extension of that leg.

I stepped to his right side and placed the wand near his right front leg. Once last summer I showed him how to bow with the right front leg bent and the left front leg extended. I was wondering if he’d remember that session. As I was wondering he dropped lightly onto both knees. (Now, that wasn’t expected!!! However, it was interesting.) Before he could do something else “original” I clucked to him. He rose up off the floor and stood on his four legs. Hmmm…

Today Zelador was a different kettle of fish. I usually free longe him and include canter circles to help him get the wiggles out and increase his ability to focus on me. Today I only walked with him, then got in the saddle. He was responsive until I brought him to the Working Equitation gate. This obstacle is one that he totally understands and enjoys doing. I was quite surprised when he decided he’d never seen a gate, had no idea what to do AND wasn’t the least bit interested in listening to what my aids were asking of him.

I must admit that I was talking with a friend as I approached the gate. I do know that “the horse pays as much attention to you as you pay to the horse”. In my defense, I was talking about the gate!

I tried again. He backed up and ignored me.

I got off, took him to the far end of the arena and free longed. Zelador had a wonderful time. He eagerly cantered and threw in some tiny bucks. After a few minutes I was back in the saddle. We walked here and there. Did the shoulder-in, travers, counter-shoulder-in and renvers. I approached the gate. He was his old self: calm, cool and very proud of his expert maneuvers through the obstacle.

To end our session I asked for a right lead canter. I sat quietly, held the reins softly and with a slight loop in them, placed my left foot a bit back and pretended that I was on the ground, cueing him. As we were trotting a twenty metre circle I said, “Are you ready? Can….TER.” He understood perfectly and cantered the best under saddle canter he’s ever done.

The Working Equitation Clinic with Kimberly Garvis is May 30 and 31. Can’t wait!!!