I wanted to stimulate my horse Cookie's mind and senses today. So, for our daily exercise we left the yard and went to an open lot just down the street from the house. Too bad it wasn't fenced in, or I would have just turned her loose to run and play. She really could have used the stretch out period.
The weather has just been so wet and rainy that we haven't been out of the paddock for nearly a month. I always have safety in mind for Cookie, and knowing her like I do, those muddy times could very well have turned into a disaster had I tried this earlier in the month. The ground has dried out a bit so the footing was fairly firm, yet still sort of gooey.
I put her D-ring snaffle on her without the reins and slipped her halter over top of that for control. She chewed and chewed the bit, so this was a good time to get her adjusted to wearing it without any pressure from the reins.
Then we walked down the street to our little workout area. It's a great place to work most of the time. All the rain has brought up gigantic ant hills here and there and we managed to get into one of them. I had to brush off several of those little buggars from her feet before we could continue.
I then stepped to the side of her and asked for a walk, to which her reply was a trot. I guess walking down there was all the warm up walk she needed. As I let the line out more and more,[ she got faster and faster. She would hump up and buck, toss her head, do these little 1/2 rears and throw her front legs out. Then she wanted to play chicken with me. What fun we had. I stopped her a few times so she could "catch her breath", although it was more for me to catch mine. I turned her around to go the other way and away she went. It was as if we were at the rodeo and she was going to be the best bucking horse ever.
Apparently in our moving around to avoid the ant hills, she got into some of that "gooey" ground I mentioned and about the time she took off, she slid away from me like she was sliding into home plate at a baseball field in a semi sitting position. Hip on the ground and front feet sort of small step walking out in front of her. She stood up and took off again without another thought about it. I tried getting her to stop so I could check her out, but she wasn't having any of that "whoa" nonsense. She thoroughly enjoyed herself and loped and cantered as much as she could. When I did finally get her stopped, I checked her thoroughly on both sides to make sure she wasn't missing any skin, bleeding or had any other problems in movement. Which was sort of silly considering she got up and ran around even more, but in her excitement and adrenaline rush she wouldn't know if she was hurt or not.
I already knew ahead of time that she would be feeling really good and would want to get some cantering time in so I was quite prepared for all of her shenanigans. I also know that her giddy up time is pretty short. She gets the "wild" out in about 10 -15 minutes and after that she's ready to listen to whatever I ask of her. So when I asked for a walk and she gave it to me without trying to go faster I knew she was ready to listen.
Conveniently there is a nicely sloped ditch in this same area to work in. It's great for control going up and down hill, for toning the top line and building leg muscles especially in the rear. At first, Cookie wanted to jump the ditch. I suppose she was still pretty amped up from all of her rodeo moves so it took about 5 -6 times going back and forth across the ditch to actually just walk down and across it. The ditch is sloped 2 ways. You have the sides and then the runoff. It's steeper at the top than it is towards the bottom so you get varying levels. We went down first, and then repeated this for a total of 2 times. We haven't done this type of work in a long time so I didn't want to overdo it with her.
Afterwards we went for a short walk down the street. The different terrain will be good for her feet. Her paddock is 98% sand so there's nothing to naturally trim her hooves or toughen them up. Walking over rough pavement and gravelly sand will help toughen her feet and work off some of the excess hoof at the same time. Being careful of where I lead her so she wouldn't get stone bruises from rocks on the pavement. She did watch a few times where she put her feet and that was super! Before she would just sort of walk hap-hazard and not pay attention.
When we got back home she had almost completely cooled down. I gauge how cool she is by her breathing and the temperature of her legs near the ankles. If they are cool to the touch and her breathing is near normal, then she's cool enough for a little spray down of water to rinse off excess dried sweat and dirt. Then I rubbed her down with some Absorbine. Concentrating mostly on the muscles near the leg joints to help her overcome any stiffness or soreness from her fall. When all was well I turned her loose to roll, eat and drink. Overall it was a wonderful day and I can't wait to do it again tomorrow.
Sometimes you just have to stir things up for your horse and give them something completely different to do. You just might be amazed at how much their attitude and demeanor change.
*Note* I fed her lunch about 2 hours later. She didn't appear to be stiff or sore and was ready to eat, nickering as if I weren't going quite fast enough for her. I'll check her a few more times throughout this afternoon just to be sure she's still sound and then again at tomorrow's breakfast before considering taking her out again. She is beginning to get very itchy virtually all over, but especially on her face. I'm not sure why that is, if it's insect bites or the fly mask she's allergic to. I haven't put anything on her face because she has a tendency to get it in her eyes somehow. I may have to give her some Benedryl per vet instructions. I'll find out this afternoon.
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