Monday, September 19, 2011

Bareback, biting, and changing colors

I had a busy weekend, and forgot to blog about my horsey day Friday.  I had quite the busy day — a doctor's visit for a medical study I'm participating in, a short visit to my barn and bareback ride on Panama, and a visit and grooming session with Rondo.

With Panama, I didn't have as much time as I'd wanted, but I did get to ride for about 20 minutes or so. One thing I noticed was how easy it has gotten to sit the trot bareback.  I'm not needing Panama to trot quite so slowly anymore (though I still don't like him to go too fast).  This is all with that pad, of course — it's not nearly so comfortable (for either of us, I think) without it.  If I try to sit the trot in the saddle, however, I can't do it, with or without stirrups — I just can't convince my back to move the same way to absorb the trot, and I feel like the saddle is forcing me to tip forward (not to mention it's slippery).  It's amazing how much easier it is without the saddle.

Panama is also becoming much more sensitive to my cues now that I'm riding bareback.  For instance, I can ask him to drop from a trot down to a full halt, and he does it, within a couple of steps, no more.  This is BIG for us.  I don't know if it's because I'm sitting back more, or he can feel my cues better, or what, but everything we do — from leg yields to halts — is better when I ride bareback.

Now I just need to get up the gumption to try cantering bareback...

Oh, and by the way, I solved the mystery of where all these bites on Panama are coming from.  Apparently Sammy, who has been low man since he first joined our "herd" of three, has decided to make a play for the beta horse position.  I saw him bite Panama — hard — on Saturday when I stopped out at the barn to check on him.  Sammy started to go after him a few more times while I was there, but I chased him off.  Poor Panama...  I know it's natural herd behavior, and they'll work it out, but I still feel bad for him!

I finished up my horsey Friday with a visit to my in-laws' house and a short grooming session with Rondo.  I didn't have time to work on lunging him, but we had a nice visit nonetheless.  He and my mother-in-law's young horse, Montana, came running up to me when I walked out into the pasture, which was encouraging — Rondo hadn't done that yet, and although I think he was just following Montana's lead, I gave him lots of praise in the hopes that he'll pick up on the idea.  Of course, then he decided to play the "I'm taller than you" game, but I persisted until I got the halter over his nose, and this time it didn't take as long.

Rondo is shedding his summer coat with enthusiasm now, and he's getting steadily darker as it comes out.  He's not finished yet, so he'll probably get even darker, but every week I'm taking a new picture to record the changes.  I'm fascinated and pleased with all the little changes — Panama's coat really doesn't change color much from season to season, and although I know a lot of horses' coats do, seeing it up close is something new for me.

Here is how he looked a month ago, before he started shedding his summer coat:

Rondo, a bay roan gelding, in his summer colors

All the roaning gives him a silver sheen (except for his head!).  And Friday:

Rondo, a bay roan gelding, as he sheds his summer coat and starts to grow his winter coat

He's only partway through the color change, so I expect it'll get even more obvious as we get closer to winter.  I also noticed, interestingly, that he has a lot of black hair in his coat on his neck — you can see it in this picture if you look closely.  I don't know if it is new hair, or just that with all the roaning in the summer, it wasn't as noticeable.

As a final note, Rondo is getting much better about me handling his feet.  He still seems to need some help realizing that he has to shift his weight in order to give me a foot — I usually have to butt my shoulder up against him gently as I'm reaching for his foot (I also say, "Foot," so he knows what I'm asking — a verbal command I've always used with Panama, too).  If I don't use my shoulder, he doesn't seem to shift his weight on his own.

He still fusses from time to time about his back feet, but it's usually when I first handle them that day, like he's still testing a little bit. On Friday, he got smacked on the hip for "paddling" with the first back foot I picked up, trying to shake me off — after the smack, he didn't fuss at all, and gave me each back foot the instant I asked.  Silly horse!

I love my horsey days, days where I both ride Panama and work with Rondo.  I haven't decided for sure yet whether I'm going to take Rondo, though I sure do want him, but even if I just help my mother-in-law find a home for him, Michael and I are thinking about bringing him to my barn as soon as another corral spot opens up.  Wouldn't it be nice to be able to have my "horsey days" every time I go out there, not to mention I wouldn't have to drive an hour each way to get to my in-laws' house!

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