Monday, May 05, 2008
A bright cool green spring day, a year of Phoenix, and all that new pasture...
He's been my horse for a year now. I have to admit that for the first few months, he wasn't quite the sweet horse I'd chosen. There was nothing wrong with him, he was never ever mean in any way, he just didn't look all that happy.
He'd had the same owners since he was a little 2 month old foal. No wonder he was a little off!
We had a couple of rough patches. I wasn't surprised by it. Disappointed sure, but I know it could have been worse. I had an entire rough year with Champ when he was 4 and I was 18! This was nothing.
Last fall, I could see a change in Phoenix. He'd totally softened up. He'd perk up his ears when he saw me, and lean into it when I brushed him.
I adore him.
He has such lovely manners. I attribute much of these to his previous owners, kind gentle and knowledgeable people who put excellent care into their horses. I'll give Phoenix some credit too though, because he just does not have a mean bone in his body.
Saturday was spring De-worming day. This means that I grab a horse's top lip, stick a plunger tube into the corner of the horse's mouth, and shoot some sticky medicine in as far as it'll go. Then the horse stands there looking indignant and humiliated, chawing on the gooey stuff for a few minutes. The end result is that those pesky intestinal worms will die off and pass through the horse.
It was raining hard that day. The corral, being clay, was a big sticky muddy mess. My horses were dripping wet and dirty!
The next day was bright and sunny with a cool wind. The corral had dried up just enough for Phoenix to find a rolling spot. He rubbed his cheek in the dirt, rolled from one side to the other three times, and got up covered in dirt. This is the part about spring that I just hate: that corral always seems to be wet. They trample on their hay, then won't eat it. Their legs are crusty and dirty. Add to that all the winter hair that hasn't blown off of them yet and I've got a mess to deal with. I don't ride much this time of year. I'm too busy cleaning up!
Spring also means GREEN GRASS. Despite having close to three acres of pasture, we don't like to let them out there too soon. Hooves can really wreck the pasture, and those greedy teeth can destroy what's just started growing... and has to feed them for the next 6 or 7 months. That's not the biggest potential problem though. A horse who eats nothing but hay all winter will get a severe shock to the system going straight to grass. It can cause loose stools, colic (worst bellyache in the world), or laminitis (painful hoof problem). We put them out this time of year for the afternoon only. After a few weeks they'll be out there all day. At the very least, they'll be crappin green for a few days. But oh boy are they happy!
(and look at the muscles in that little lady's butt!)
All a horse really wants to do in life is eat green grass.
I had to give them a half decent brushing first. I complain about all the dirt and work, but I rave about how much I love grooming even more. Phoenix makes it easy. He took his head out of the hay feeder, and leaned his neck into the brush. He lowered his face so I could flick the dirt off his cheeks. I dug into his coat with my curry comb and he stood there, blinking, enjoying.
I haven't really done any training with either of them since last fall, but sometimes I have to stop and be happy about what we have accomplished, no matter how small. They're both kind and respectful. When I needed to back him up, I just tapped Phoenix on the chest and he took five backwards steps. I said "Whoa" very softly and he stopped. I love that. I really don't have time at this part of my life to deal with unruly rebellious horses. I'm too old to be disrespected.
I think my expectations have changed -improved- in the last few years. I used to think that the improvement in my horses was due to Champ getting older and mellow, and the Little Lady simply being a sweet little thing. I suspect I may have had something to do with it. It comes down to little things like expecting a horse to back up a few steps when you put the hay in the stall, rather than come at you with his teeth out and ears back, grabbing at the hay. It's about not letting a horse crowd you when you lead him. It's about spending a minute to rub her ears or scratch his withers when you could just bolt for the warm house after chores.
My Dad, who cares for them during the week, isn't a real affectionate guy with the horses. I'll catch him giving one a pat now and then, but I don't think he adores them like I do. He likes them and likes having them around. I like how he won't take a lot of attitude from them. He expects them to behave. They do.
I have two lovely horses. I appreciate them and want to give them a good life.
After I'd brushed a bucketful of loose winter hair off them, I walked over to the pasture gate and pulled the chain. They were on their way over, heads low, ears up, hoping, hoping YESSSS! that this was the day they'd be allowed to get out on that beautiful pasture.
How can I describe that awesome moment when they run out to the pasture?
Trot, gallop, crowhop... aaaaand... EAT.
Oh, so good.
mmfff chomp fmmm mmmm mfff snort chomp.