Today I was visiting with my friend Trisha on the phone discussing potential horses, events, and hotel accommodations for said events. When I told her that Fason makes Highboy look small she mentioned she had an actual measuring stick, with a level on it, to assess a horse's exact height. I had to ride Dewey in preparation for the Equine Comeback Challenge where he will be presenting his encore performance, and Trisha had entirely too many stalls to clean at her barn, so we decided to meet up at my place in an hour.
Dewey had a lovely ride. I've been riding him in a hackamore and he is so much more focused and balanced than with a bit. I'm sure he needs a dental, so I'll have the vet take care of that when we have our pre-expo appointment next week to make all the horses street-legal with health papers. I experimented with Dewey a little, hopping him over some small jumps and playing with flying lead changes. He did a couple flying lead changes correctly, but then he got tired and discombobulated. As a four year old, sweet Dewey is in the midst of his equine teenage years both in personality and in growth spurts. He periodically gazes at his recently elongated limbs and wonders where they came from and where he should put them. I decided to be grateful for the two nice lead changes he was able to give me. We quit for the day, walking around the back of the arena and then moseying through the fields past the house before returning to the barn.
Next I took Highboy out to groom him. My mission this morning was to remedy the clipper debacle from last week. A week ago I did a cursory clip job on Highboy in an attempt to make him look more like a horse and less like a yak. The lighting in the barn wasn't great, Highboy was wiggly, and I somehow managed to transform his visage into something resembling a yak that had been attacked by a lawn mower. Just as I was finishing with Highboy's reparative grooming Trisha arrived with her measuring stick. For fun we had Highboy stand on the cement pad in front of the barn and got a good, accurate measurement. Exactly 17 hands. We then pondered aloud how a horse can seem so much bigger when his personality is so enormous!
Next we measured Fason in his paddock. He was initially kind of bug-eyed about this tall wooden stick ominously creeping towards him, but after a few cookies he decided to stand still for us. He nearly was off the measuring stick for height, but we were able to assess him at 17.2 hands. Amazing how two more inches and a high set neck can create such presence in a horse.
After visiting for a while Trisha headed home again, and I tacked up Highboy who had fallen asleep while tied in the sunshine. Since putting the ponies out in the far west pasture there is a strikingly different tone to my barn full of thoroughbreds. Normally I blame the young thoroughbreds for all the rough and tumble lip wrestling and subsequent superficial injuries, but I now suspect I was amiss in assigning responsibility to them. Since moving the ponies several acres away, the barn now has a very quiet timbre to it. The thoroughbreds still play and goof around, but overall things are much softer. They don't wrestle and kick so much, there is less racing up and down paddocks, and they are all eating more. I'm now seriously considering the option that the PONIES were the ones instigating all the drama. It seems fitting that the short trouble makers would get the big horses all riled up. Baiting them, then retiring to the farthest corner of their pen to eat hay while the thoroughbreds were left to run up and down the paddocks, bucking and insisting that the ponies COME BACK HERE THIS INSTANT to complete the grappling they had instigated.
Highboy carried his new found mellow mood through our arena ride. We did our regular flat work, and then I hopped him over cross rails while we rode in figure eights. He loves this stuff, the more complicated and the harder he has to think the better he behaves. At the end I tried to take him out for the same pasture walk I'd done with Dewey, but that was too exciting for Highboy to maintain his decorum. He did some bucking and hopping around, but after I yelled at him he quit and I sent him forward into a strong trot. We made horseshoe shapes around the house, trotting up and down the hills, towards and away from the barn. Once Highboy started to ask the right questions: 1 - was this ride was ever going to end? and 2 - was he ever going to be allowed to stop at the barn? I let him walk. He was of course much sweatier than if we had done just our arena work, so I rubbed him down with a liniment wash. I'm not sure he liked it, because he kept turning his head to try and steal the towel out of my hand. Then when I turned him out in the paddock with Dewey and Monty to play for the afternoon, Highboy rolled at least six times in different spots, trying to itch the tingling in his body from the liniment.
While Highboy was working on romping around in turnout (I guess I didn't work him too hard after all), I went to get Fason and tied him for grooming. He is a little grumpy about being groomed around his middle, so I've started him on some ulcer medication. Most of the track horses come with ulcers and so it's a fair guess that he has them, especially considering the long and stressful trailer ride to Colorado. Once he was groomed and booted up, I took him to the arena for the first time. This was a little bit much for him. He behaved himself, but was quite the looky-loo when we approached the jumps, the poles, the tablecloths, the barrels, the pinwheels, the flowers...
I started to lunge him in the arena, but he was too wound up to really think or focus on me. We adjourned to the round pen where he was used to the tires, the barrels, the tarp, and the ball. Once back in a familiar setting he visibly relaxed. I took off his halter and let him roam around while the dogs nestled down in the deep sand and I sat on the mounting block. After checking things out and having a good roll, Fason then approached me all on his own. He nuzzled my back, played with my hair with his lips, and then politely asked if I had any of those tasty cookies on me by chance? I obliged and gave him a couple. I put his halter on again, and we went back down to the arena.