I had the most magnificent ride on Huck. The rain finally cleared off, and while it rained, it truly wasn't enough to do more then wet the ground for a few hours. So, when the skies looked clear, I went out to grab Huck, and get his ride in before the end of the day.
Huck has been acting NQR recently. From his mannerisms I assumed it was a stiff back. It's very common in horses built like he is, very high withered, medium head set, and a moderately short back. I have checked saddle fit, checked pads, girths, and just about anything that would cause him discomfort, and he says it's all good. I did have a problem with his feet looking a bit damp, so yesterday I treated with Thrush X (nasty stuff, but hey, it works). Today, his feet were dry and he didn't give me any problems with them at all. In the past, he has tried to pull them away from me when I got down into the crease.
Well, maybe it was his feet this whole time?
So, I get out, give him a bit of a lunge, and he's acting lazy. Nice... lazy is good! I go to climb on, and he does this head up, tense body thing, but a few seconds of petting and waiting, and he relaxed. We walked off, and he stepped out just fine.
But nothing can be so easy. Huck decided that he didn't WANT to work today. He was ready to go in the barn and eat hay! Everytime we passed the top side of the arena, he would side pass or drift out to get as close to the gate as possible. After a few rounds, he realized that I will block him if I have to, but I prefer to be a lazy rider, and have a lazy ride.
Now, in the middle of all of that, there were some other things going on. Huck decided to nibble the stirrup, which he does. I would counter flex him away from the stirrup, and he'd stop. Finally, I had enough. I grabbed a nice soft padded cavason, and put it on. The cavason is a nose band that reminds the horse to keep its mouth shut. It can be put on tight enough to prevent the horse from opening its mouth, but I don't use it that tight. I want to fit a finger between it and the horse. That was all it took, and Huck gave up the mouthy thing. Granted, he did manage to get a nice nip on me in there, but that was my fault for not watching when I know he has this habit.
But, over the course of an hour and fifteen minutes, Huck finally realized that acting up wasn't getting him out of work. He began to "talk" to me, and informed me that he doesn't like the deep sand, he prefers a harder footing, and wanted to stay on the more packed areas (remember it rained today). Then he realized that if he balked at the gate, I just turned him to it, and backed away from it, so he had to work HARDER.
He informed me rather clearly that he doesn't like working too hard, he wanted to stop. So, when he was nice, relaxed, and easy to handle, I called it quits. I dismounted on the far side of the arena (since he wanted me off at the gate, I needed to get off somewhere else) praised him, and finished up. I didn't make it out of a walk today, but that's ok. We're talking, he's relaxed, and we had some good stuff happen. By the end of the ride, dear Hucky boy was good as gold.
Not a perfect day, but a very good end to it. I'm pretty sure these boys will end up as wonderful horses. Mainly because they are both so smart even though they are so different. It does look like, though, that while I'll get to spend saddle time on Huck, Rooster will need some holes filled in. Mainly it's his reaction to fear that needs to be completely rewired.
After Huck's ride, I spent some time just being friendly with both of the boys. Ok, and Jae was sucking up to the other mustang, Nakai. Huck took his love, but wanted his groceries more, but Rooster finally started showing an interest in me for more then the food I give him. I'm hoping that this means his spook earlier got his brain going, and we'll have a fabulous ride tomorrow.
Here's hoping it doesn't rain too bad. If I could only find a way to get the grass wet, but not the arena!
A Note about Sugarbush Draft Horses
I see it over and over again, and no matter how many times it's said, it's still wrong. "Sugarbush Drafts are just an Appaloosa Draft Cross". Uh.... no. The Sugarbush Draft Horse was a breed created many years ago in Ohio. While the initial cross was made using Percherons to Appaloosas, in the many generations following, the breed has been solidified into a consistent type. Saying these horses are "just" a draft cross makes as much sense as saying that AQHA horses are "just" a Thoroughbred cross, American Cream Drafts are "just" a dilute Belgian, or that Morgans are "just" a grade.