Monday, December 02, 2013

The Farrier and the Flag

I meant to post about this a while ago, but somehow never got around to it.

A couple weeks ago, the farrier came out. We needed all four horses trimmed, and Brian had to be at work, which meant I had to handle them all alone. It was cool and had been wet the day before, and I suspected our steeds might be on the fresh side.

Our farrier is absolutely fabulous, and I feel lucky to have him at our disposal, but he lives over an hour away and he tends to give a window for his arrival. So this time he said he'd arrive between 9:30 and 10:00. No big deal, except that means I feel like I need to have all our horses in and ready to be trimmed by 9:30, even though chances are better that he'll arrive on the later end of that window.

So, I went out with a plan that was contingent on no one else being there, and was happy to see the barn parking lot empty. I brought all four horses in, ferrying them two by two from the pasture to the indoor arena. Then I tacked Steen up and climbed aboard with the flag in my hand.

I've worked horses from Steen's back with the flag only a handful of times, and I've never tried to do anything particularly precise before. I started out just moving the three horses I wasn't riding. I wanted them all to move around and warm up before the farrier arrived. It was a little bit of a challenge to keep them all together, and to convince Steen he wasn't to participate when the group surged ahead or got uppity. In general, though, I was surprised at how well everyone did.

Then I stopped driving, and Laredo, Bear, and Zoey grouped up in the middle of the arena. I then worked on cutting one horse out of the group, moving it to the rail and keeping it moving without allowing a return to the herd.

It was interesting to see how our different horses reacted. I did Zoey first, and this was tricky because Steen didn't want to crowd Bear the way I needed him to in order to get her split off. We went around and around quite a few times, with her not really leaving Bear's bubble. Finally I booted Steen into the space he didn't want to squeeze into, and we got her off onto the rail. We practiced going and stopping and changing directions. Then I made her stand still while I rode up and touched her all over with the flag and rubbed her neck and face. She was uncertain about that at first, but settled down quickly enough.

Laredo was the easiest. He was very attentive to my position on Steen, and quick to stop and look at me when I got in front of his balance point. After I moved him around a lot, he had no issues with me riding up and touching him all over.

Bear was not a big fan of the entire undertaking. He was the grouchiest about going, and the most motivated in terms of getting back to the middle. This was during the phase when he really wasn't feeling well, so I tried to keep things pretty quiet and low-key with him, just encouraging him to walk around and loosen up so he'd have an easier time lifting his feet.

It was just over half an hour before the farrier arrived. When I heard him pull up I hopped off Steen and pulled his saddle, and we got to the trimming. All four horses were polite and relaxed with their feet. So it turned out to be a fun way to get four horses warmed up and in a good frame of mind with a minimal investment of time.

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