It’s been a tough week. Very cold with frosty nights. For me that means leaving even earlier in the mornings to get to work in time, as I have to take icy roads into account. For the horses, it means frozen fields, restricted movement and boredom. Cassie doesn’t cope well with boredom, so she seeks ways to entertain herself. Her highlight this week was pulling the hose out of the water storage tank in the yard. The tank emptied its entire contents of 1000 liters of water into the yard, so I’m hauling water from the house again.
Today, it’s Sunday and at last I have time to spend with my horses. After a week of rushing around and doing chores in the dark, I enjoy the simple pleasures of a Sunday morning. Feeding Minnie and Cassie, and being able to stay around, listening to their snorts of contentment as they finish their breakfast. Cleaning the stables and putting in fresh shavings. Sweeping the concrete footpath in front of the hayshed and stables. Raking the gravel in the yard. I brush Minnie and Cassie while they are loose in the yard, but not for long. They are bursting with energy and they want to run. Minnie chases one of the cats into a tree, Cassie tosses her head and lunges at Minnie and then they race each other around the field, matching each other stride for stride. I feel better than I have all week.
Later, Maíre came over with Ben and Rosie. There are hooves to be trimmed and we want to ride too. We do Minnie and Rosie’s hooves first so they can go off and graze while we take Ben and Cassie out for a ride. It is a misty day and we ride in and out of the clouds that cover the ground. The air is moist and bone chilling cold, but Ben and Cassie are relaxed and after a week spent mostly indoors, I would have wanted to be out even if it had rained.
It is nearly four months now since the shoes came off. Between the weather and the time our horses needed to grow a callous and get used to going around barefoot, we have had very few rides. So far, I have only ridden Cassie in walk. Going barefoot has changed the way I ride. When Cassie had shoes I didn’t really think about the surface we were riding on, unless it was slippery. Now, I am constantly aware of what Cassie does with her feet. I feel it if she doesn’t like the surface under her feet and I feel every stone she steps on. To give her time to adjust I’ve let Cassie set the pace during our rides.
Today I decided it was time to move on. Cassie is fine on the road, she doesn’t mind the tarmac and she walks with a nice, long and regular stride. I asked for trot. It took a moment before Cassie realised I didn’t want her to walk faster, then she moved into trot. After a few strides, she came back to walk. I could feel she was a bit uncertain about the sensation of trotting on the road. I asked again. She stumbled into trot. I experimented a bit to find what would make her most comfortable.
When I was young I had a dressage trainer whose pet hate was the rising trot. According to him the rising trot was invented for people who couldn’t sit to the trot and that from the horse’s point of view it wasn’t helpful at all. I tried both today and Cassie definitely preferred me to sit to the trot. We did a few more transitions and each time Cassie felt more confident. Her trot became even and balanced and when I looked around, Ben was trotting nicely along, not bothered by the road surface at all.
When we got back, It was Ben and Cassie’s turn to get their feet trimmed. Their hooves are looking very good, and after our successful trotting on the road today, I am happy with the way the transition to barefoot is progressing. When their hooves were done, Ben and Cassie joined Minnie and Rosie in the field for an hour’s well deserved grazing together before Ben and Rosie had to go home again.