Between the belated rainy season, and whatever horrid bug my coworker so generously shared, it has been many weeks since I was in a saddle. This long weekend (our college had Friday off for staff to get a spring break) was timed right to get back in the groove with the horses!
Of course, with spring comes the inevitable annual shedding of winter coats. I’ve spent the past three days picking hair out of my eyes, mouth, clothes, and even my food as it falls there from who knows where! Everyone is looking rather patchy, as they make the seasonal transition – but no one more than Noble. His transition from winter red to summer chocolate leaves him looking rather mangy, as the dark color comes through the red in random patches. During the early stages he looks perpetually sweaty. As much as I hate the mess, I always look forward to the shiny summer coats.
Horse hair isn’t the only thing that has me itchy – I’ve also been itching to get back in the saddle for a while. My last few rides on Coffee were lovely. The pieces of the puzzle are finally starting to come together in moments that begin to feel like a dance. The inconvenience of weather and illness put all of that on hold. Adding insult to injury were the daily barrage of Facebook discussions and videos – good and bad. It only made me all the more impatient to renew my own work.
You can imagine how good it felt to finally see the world through a pair of pointed ears! Saturday’s ride was light, but lovely. Coffee had a good hard play, so I kept the work at a walk. Soft, responsive, mobile, and fluid – it couldn’t have been better! Weeks had passed, but you would never know it. I was tempted to move on to trot work, but he was still wringing wet from his play time, and I was exhausted from a long day’s work on the place.
Day two was more challenging – such is life with horses! No sooner did we enter the arena than our neighbors, whose property abuts the arena, decided to move a bunch of junk around with their Bobcat. Coffee didn’t seem to pay much heed on the lunge – certainly no spooking – but was definitely tight under saddle. Almost immediately there was a loud bang and Coffee scooted forward. We regained composure quickly, but the tension was there.
The first few trot transitions were nearly bolting (Coffee has a history of running away at the trot, and it reappears now and then). So, lots of walk work and transitions before relaxation finally came. A couple of nice transitions into a soft trot, and it seemed advisable to end on a good note. Two light days, but some lovely moments. I am really looking forward to seeing what he does this year!
One issue we have to resolve with Coffee is keeping his bridle on. From the beginning, he has known how to shake his head and lose his bridle, nearly any time he wants! We have tried everything with the equipment we have – with or without a cavesson noseband; with
or without browband; with or without throatlatch. Nothing has helped so far. The one thing that works is to have the lunge cavesson over the bridle. The jaw strap seems to be the one difference, so I am on the lookout for a bridle with that feature. I found one from Denmark, but they don’t sell in the U.S.
Coffee has unusual anatomy that makes this easier than it should be. Tiny ears, with narrow bases, set on either side of a poll that has no discernable arc to it, and in front of a broadly arched and tightly set atlas. Everything else having failed, we more recently had removed the browband, which seemed to keep the bridle too far forward. That seemed to have done the trick, until this week. On Thursday, mom was leading him one moment, then holding a dangling bridle the next. Today, given a little play time before I mounted, he ran to the far end, gave one shake, and off went the bridle!
So, it appears the pocketbook may take a hit as I experiment with contenders for the “stay on Coffee’s head” contest. I posted the problem on a classical horsemanship group, and have had a host of suggestions – from simple to very pricey. This will be just one more learning experience in a lifetime of living with horses. I will keep you appraised of our progress.
Enjoy spring with your horses!