Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Whole Neighborhood Was Out!

I took Rhio out for a solo ride today, which is something I need to make sure we do on a regular basis.  He MUCH prefers to go with another horse, and although we manage alone, he does make it abundantly clear that he is not happy.

I had a few things to try out today, so tacking up took longer than normal.  I gave up on trying to get my horse clean, though, and just made sure the areas under tack were relatively dirt-free.  After de-tangling his wind knots, I braided his mane in a single running braid.  For some reason, Rhio absolutely hates having his mane braided in the narrow vertical braids that I normally do for cooling purposes at an endurance ride. He constantly shakes his head while I put them in, and seems aggravated by having them in place.  As a rule, I remove his braids as soon as we are done with our ride.  The running braid worked great today and he didn't seem annoyed by my placing the braid and I got zero head shaking during or after.  Hmmm!  I may have to work on my technique a little, but this might be his new style for endurance rides :)
Pretty boy! (This is the cleanest spot on him because it's normally protected by his mane.)
So why did I braid Rhio's mane today?  There are two main reasons, the first being that it was very windy and it seemed like a good way to help retrain his twisted mane out of its wind knots.  The second reason is to keep all that hair out of the way of the reins, as I was planning a little experiment riding with 2 bridles, and therefore 2 sets of reins.  And, of course, I think he looks pretty braided!

I have been having some issues with him listening to me and respecting the hackamore in situations where he's very amped up and wanting to go forward faster than I want him to.  He has not actually done anything that qualifies as certified bad horsey behavior, but he has not been the relaxed, easily rated horse I'm used to.  Once again, I'm contemplating using a bit with him (I've gone through the bit vs. hackamore debate with him at least once a year and so far keep coming back to the hack) and thought I'd see if I could ride him in a version of a double bridle so I had both options.  My version of a double bridle consisted of Cricket's headstall with it's low-port, solid mouthpiece, short shanked curb (a "grazing" bit) which has a leather curb strap with Rhio's regular hackamore over it.  Rhio's hack is adjusted a bit higher on the nose than the bit, so the curb strap on the bridle and the curb chain on the hack did not interfere.  The shanks also seemed clear of each other, so I decided to ride with this set up.  Thankfully, all my reins have snaps at the ends and I was able to put blue reins on the bit and my normal black reins for the hack, so it was easy for me to distinguish the two.
Green is the headstall for the hackamore. Black & tan is the headstall for the bit. It didn't seem too annoying to him to wear them both.

They don't actually interfere!
The other two things I tried today were rub-related.  Rhio is getting rubs on his sides from the very worn sheepskin stirrup leather covers I have; the back part of the sheepskin is worn away completely into a sharp edge of stiff leather which is between my calf and his side.  I really need to replace them.  But I also need to replace the stirrups "leathers" that I use (which are biothane)... so it's easier to just keep using the same old getup I've been riding in for years.  So, I removed the sheepskin covers to see if, with my half chaps, I could ride without the covers. [The answer, by the way, is "not in the current configuration - ouch!" I need to reverse the direction of the leathers and see if I can get my buckle on the outside of my ankle instead of rubbing against the front of my ankle as it did today.]   The other rubs are on his hind pasterns from the gaiters on the easy boot gloves.  He got these last year as well, and I was using vet wrap beneath the gaiters with good success.  Today I tried nylons, but left the toe intact and slipped them over his hooves.  They simply slid down to the bottom of his pastern and didn't stay under the gaiter to protect his pasterns at all!  I think I need to remove the toe and just have a tube that will sit on his pastern, so I will try that on our next ride.
Rhio, who is not girly in any way, sporting nude nylons under his hind boots. I hope the other horses just thought it was dirt (not hard to imagine with this boy!) and won't make fun of him in the pasture!

The light area with a dark rim where the hairs are actually broken off shorter than the rest of his coat from the bare trailing edge of my sheepskin leather covers. Also note the big buckle on my leathers, which was eating my ankle for dinner! Yikes! I can't have the buckles up under the saddle flap either, which is where they would be on an English saddle, because in that position I have a big nasty lump under my thigh.
So, finally we're ready to ride!  It's so warm (upper 60's!) that I don't even bring a jacket with me, and therefore forget completely about having treats along.  Too bad, as today would have been a perfect time to utilize Rhio's treat-centered motivation for some behavior modification.  We set off out the end of the driveway and he balks slightly, which is usual for him.  We walk (slowly & with many attempts to veer off to the right or left in the hopes that I wouldn't notice him turning around) down the road to the first paved road crossing, about 3/4 mile.  We practiced our circles as Abby taught us, and his unwillingness to go away from the barn was about normal for him.  Once we cross this road, he usually stops arguing to go home and will move forward willingly (though still not at the pace that he would volunteer when headed home).  Today we crossed the road to encounter a pair of girls on chestnut horses coming toward us.  Lo! Now, this is exciting!  Rhio pricked his little ears as stiff as they would go and moved out to meet them like long lost friends.  I said a quick hello but didn't let him stop (we don't actually know these girls or their horses), and as soon as he realized they were "leaving" him, he basically threw a fit.  He refused to turn away from home, and would only go in reverse, and tossed his head, swished his tail, etc. Neither piece of headgear had any effect, and I jumped off to lead him away in hand.  Getting out of sight around a bend, I was able to remount and we continued forward without fuss.  He was happy to trot, but not quickly, and threw in a big mournful whinny for his long-lost, barely-met "companions."

As we got further from home, his behavior & pace improved.  We met another pair of riders, again unknown to us, at our turn-around at the second paved road and we were able to walk along and chat with them briefly.  With their permission, Rhio & I left them at a trot and he was soon rocking along just as easy as can be in his little canter...until he realized they weren't coming with us.  Luckily we were still headed home, so it didn't take much convincing at all to get him to continue away from his second set of long-lost companions.  About another mile down the road, we meet yet another rider, this time known to me but the horses didn't know each other.  We stopped to chat, and meanwhile the first pair of riders came back and turned away from us and the second pair of riders crested the hill behind us.  This was great because now there were various sets of horses moving in different directions, and he had to continue on by himself (again, we were going home so he didn't fuss too much).  What a great and totally unplanned training day!  We rarely run into other riders, and those we do are known to us.  The whole neighborhood seemed to be out riding today.

I used the bit a few times, and he seemed a bit more responsive to it than to the hack. He did not get all tense & worried as he has in the past when I've ridden him with a bit.  I was pleased that the two reins & such didn't seem to interfere with each other and I was able to manage them fine.  I did have to hold the black reins of the hack in my left hand while using the bit, as those reins are very long and seemed to want to ride with a big loop hanging off one side of his neck, which seemed like a safety hazard (he might have been able to somehow get a front leg through that long loop).

We made it back to the barn without incident, and then I did the unthinkable - I asked him to continue on past the driveway!  NO WAY he practically shouted, and once again he was throwing a fit.  I did not have to get off this time, and with some circling and instant release of pressure when he was facing away down the road, it seemed that he caved to my will more quickly this time.  We carried on at a nice trot, then stopped to chat with the neighbor.  Again when I asked him to leave her driveway, he balked.  It only took about 2 corrections this time to get him headed away from home again.  We hustled over to Red's barn to visit (by the way, the beaver are enjoying the 6 feet of open water at the edge of the pond and gave us a big tail THWACK going & THWACK - THWACK coming... not a very horse-friendly animal, the beaver!) and Rhio got to "graze" the green shoots poking up in the lawn.  (Mmmm, fresh munched grass makes the best horsey breath!)

Our return ride home (minus the beavers) was relaxed, happy, and easy, including a little canter.  There was no rushing, no franticness, no head way up in the air - it was a fantastic end to what turned out to be a very good ride.  It was a mentally challenging ride for Rhio, and I think he did really well.  I used my GPS as usual to record our time, distance, and speed, which I will dutifully record in his log book, but the physical wasn't the point of this ride at all.

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