Saturday, May 19, 2012

Springtime antics at Slide Mountain

Calabar watching from the safety of his paddock
Happy Preakness day from Tuolumne, California where it is a beautiful, sunny day in Gold Country. Dry air, though, unlike what Maryland is probably like on race day.

We had our own little race yesterday up here. Well, Calabar and Lena did anyway. Steve and I stood and watched and made mental notes to ourselves for next time.

Lena trying to tell if she knows those other spotty horses she can see
Both horses seemed very relaxed and calm as we saddled them up. Like last time, I carried Calabar's bridle--intending to do some circles on the lead line to see where his head was. My own little safety check as it were. As it turned out, his head was on the fluffy soft footing that was PERFECT for rolling after being in a trailer for five hours the previous day.

Instead of calming down as he moved around me on the lead rope, he was actually becoming more agitated. Hm, that was odd as he will almost always relax after a few turns--especially if Lena is still near by. Turning my head to check on Steve and Lena, I suddenly felt the height of the lead rope in my hand drop several inches. And there was my big brown horse, in his saddle, rolling. It couldn't have been very satisfying, but he didn't care.

There are several routes I could have gone here, but first the saddle had to come off so I could wipe him and it off. Unfortunately, as I was taking off his saddle, Lena decided she also needed to roll off the travel grime. With Steve in the saddle no less.

Realizing we weren't getting anywhere with them until they got that (and more, as it turns out) out of their system we unsaddled them and let them loose together.

Woosh! After more intense rolling, they began chasing each other. I was headed over to the side to get out of their way when I heard, "Calabar, NO!" Fearing doom, I turned to see my big brown horse doing laps in the vegetable garden in the center of the arena. Now, luckily, Ike and Cheri had just begun planting--late this year--so there wasn't a lot for him to step on. Miraculously, he didn't step on anything--still don't quite know how that happened. As I attempted to guide him out of the entrance to said vegetable garden, he slowed to a stop, faced the two-or-so-foot-high railing and popped over it with ease.

And then the race was on.

It was like the Kentucky Derby, only with spots.

Calabar actually tired out before Lena did, but kept after her. At one point, he actually charged in front of her and turned her on the fence. That's my big, brown cow pony! Of course, then she passed him again and he reached out and bit her, which I believe is frowned upon in the big races.

After a few more minutes of all out speed, Calabar signaled he was ready to quit--ear and eye pointed at me, looking in at me with big, tired brown eyes. I walked towards them both and he stopped in his tracks and walked over to me. Lena wasn't quite so cooperative, at least until she saw me lead Calabar off, but she let Steve catch her shortly thereafter.

Then, oh yes, they got saddled and ridden some more.

Having Lena lunge Calabar may have been one of the best training tools I've ever used, actually. I'm much easier on him than she is. Things were a little more subdued this morning and we saddled and got right on and had pretty well behaved horses in the arena and on the trail.

Now, yes. This is probably not the best way we could have handled it, but on the other hand, I can certainly see their point of view. The paddocks here are big, but are on a slope and don't have the nice sandy dirt they have at home, where they are both  very regular and serious rollers. Plus they are in a strange, wide open place and rolling can mean vulnerability.

The footing in both arenas is deeper and softer than what we have at home (to protect the bones, joints, tendons and muscles of the cutting horses here) and, apparently, irresistible. Not that they tried today, mind you. Today they stood still while being saddled and walked into the arena without a hint of dirt sniffing. --Calabar gave me the most lovely, smooth uphill canter we've had in a long time--happy ears, gentle breathing--and then a trail ride to boot.

Next time, there will be some sort of running loose when we get here--though we will endeavor to spare the vegetable garden for sure. Running loose and rolling to get the traveling wigglies out before asking them to do something really seems only fair. I have to get my traveling wigglies out, too, though I usually stick to a walk and some yoga.

After our ride this morning, and after confessing the story to Cheri, she suggested we take them down to the covered arena and let them roll again. They now think they are in heaven. Lena even got all the way over, which--while her withers are not as significant as Calabar's--is a mighty feat nonetheless. There was, however, no racing. There was only a little half-hearted trotting. And then they were both happy to return to their paddocks for water and the rest of their breakfast.

He just looks sweet and innocent
Never a dull moment with these two, which is probably good all things considered. Ike did ask how high he should build the fence around the garden, though. Um? Calabar once supposedly jumped four-plus feet?

The only pictures so far are these, from me while on the ground. I should really start having a photographer come with us, I swear, but that might lead to far too much embarrassment. Then again, it might be worth it.

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