Monday, November 22, 2010

Tacking room cleaning and working through distractions

Yesterday another boarder and I cleaned out the tack room and reorganized the blanket rack.  I complained to her one day several weeks ago that my blankets were getting moved around, and we talked for several minutes about how disorganized the blanket rack was.  After hearing nearly the same complaints from other boards, she decided to schedule a morning for us all to come clean up the tack room.

Unfortunately, she and I were the only ones who showed up, so there was only so much we could do.  We focused mainly on the blanket rack, since that was the source of the biggest problems, and because it was pretty clear that many of the blankets, fly sheets, and saddle blankets on the rack had been abandoned (or at least not touched in a very long time).  Case in point: When I was moving one of the saddle blankets, a dead mouse fell out from where it had burrowed into the pad and died.  Ugh!

We found lots of stuff buried on and behind the blanket rack and in other corners: buckets (one with a dead spider in it the size of a half dollar), an old spray bottle, an old bottle of iodine, an old set of coveralls with lots of duct tape-mended holes, 8 or 9 saddle blankets, two fly sheets with gigantic holes in them, and even a covered cat box and a cat bed that looked like it had been home to a family of mice for some time.

We piled all the miscellaneous junk up just inside the door, with a sign on the board for people to identify and claim anything that is theirs — what else are you going to do when people don't care enough to come help?  We also divided the blanket bar into ten separate spots, labeled them, repositioned a few (obviously never used) trunks to make some more room, and swept the entire tack room thoroughly.

It took us a couple of hours, and by the time we finished, my horse was standing by the gate whinnying for me every few minutes, clearly confused as to why I was not paying attention to him.  I was tired, but I decided to ride anyway, so I groomed him and tacked up.

Although it was sunny, it was a little on the cold side, with a cold breeze, so we rode inside.  His old pasturemate, Mozart, and his owner were also getting ready to ride.  Panama and Mozart are always so happy to see one another.  Then one of his favorite girlfriends, Lady, and her owner came in to ride, too.  He and Lady haven't gotten to be turned out together in months, so between her and Mozart, he was really quite distracted.

Panama has two levels of distractedness: the looky kind, where he wants to look at everything else and has trouble focusing on what I am asking of him, and the rocketship kind, where I can feel that he is ready to blast off at any minute.  Yesterday was definitely the latter.  He was constantly wanting to spin and chase after Mozart and Lady, especially when they were trotting or cantering.  I won't trot him at all when he is like that, so we walked  A LOT.  We did little circles every time he tried to speed up, figure 8s, and worked on bending and dropping his head.  Eventually he calmed down enough that I felt comfortable asking him to trot, but it seriously took 25 minutes of walking for us to get to that point.

The thing about Panama is that once he gets over it, he's really over it.  I didn't have any more problems with him after that.  He didn't even try to speed up when Lady cantered by us several times.  We got some good trotting in, and even got to enjoy a short (and rather disorganized) canter.  By that point, we had been riding for nearly an hour, so I decided not to pursue a better canter — I had just wanted to reward him a little for settling down so nicely.  We walked and trotted a little more to work him down from his excitement over cantering, then walked a few laps to cool down and called it a day.

We have a playdate scheduled for tomorrow and another lesson on Wednesday, so I've decided to give him (and myself) today off.  If all goes as planned, though, we should be able to get a lot of good riding in over the next week or so!

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