A Walk Down the Road

August 27, 2006

August 12, 2006

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I’ve got a little bit too much on my plate these days getting ready for our biggest event of the year. I’m working without Mike’s help for the first time in five years and it isn’t easy. Since it wasn’t raining this evening and as a reward for persevering through the issues, I went out and got on Griton for a few minutes. It’s been raining so much lately I haven’t had a chance to do that in probably a week and I need to keep that connection with the horses to maintain my sanity when Mike isn’t here. He said during our last phone call he was glad I had the triple troop of dogs to follow me around with their little doggie parade and to keep me company in the house as well.

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After I shamelessly hinted, Mike ordered me a beautiful navy blue bareback pad so that I could return Griton to the world of riding without putting a saddle on him. It was so lovely, I ordered Griton a bitless bridle to match it. He has no fear or hesitation about this bridle and he seems to enjoy having me on his back as much as I enjoy being there. He has come a long way in the last year.

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If you look closely at these photos of Griton, you will see a star-shaped white dapple on his left shoulder. I like to think it is Star’s sign that Griton is here with his blessing. I have been doing a good bit of alternative work with the horses this summer, experimenting, trying to reach them on their terms instead of forcing them with ours. Things it has been suggested might make a good book if I can figure out how to put what I do by feel into words others can understand. Griton is an amazing example of this work. I have never had a rehab horse respond quite like he has and it almost seems as if he has truly been reborn without a past of abuse.

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I feel like we are having language lessons instead of me training him something. He completely understands that we are learning to communicate…I ask him for something and then wait, and wait, and wait, while he thinks about what it might mean. And then finally he responds, ‘do you mean this?’ and I reward him for trying whether it was the response I was looking for or not. He is quickly learning there will never be punishment again in his life, just praise for every effort he makes and so he tries even harder.

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Griton has become a quiet and mature horse this summer and at first it worried me, was he not feeling well? Were his stifles or his foot hurting him again? But I think he just finally finished growing up. He was such a persistently annoying prankster when he came here, always harassing the others, pulling most of Corazon’s tail out to bait him into a game of chase. When I would take him for walks to strengthen his stifles, I would see his shadow behind me, big lips reaching out to grab the back of my pants in play. I believe Griton did not have a chance to grow up when he arrived in our human world at roughly two years old. He was put to work immediately and worked hard enough to cause scars all over his body. You can see some of them as large white patches in these photos. When he came to live with us he got a new herd and it seemed as though he picked up life from where he left it in his home group. He has had the benefit of being raised by Corazon, the kind and tolerant leader, and by Mike and me, the humans who taught him people could love and respect him unconditionally. What a touching experience he has given us.

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He is reaching that magic place where he is becoming excited about each new thing I show him, eager for the praise and the rewards. He is always watching for us and comes up as soon as he sees me heading out to work with him. So this evening we took our first walk down the road. It wasn’t far or long, but we did it without fear, without a saddle on his back or a bit in his mouth.

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Well it has been a pretty hot and dry summer here. There hasn’t been too much to report until now on the Paddock Paradise experience so I haven’t updated lately. So, here’s what has been going on.

The trials and tribulations of managing horses with differing dietary needs….

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Until last week I was still allowing the horses access to the pastures at night to graze and putting them on the track during the day. I was doing that because I have a just turned yearling and I wanted her to have the benefit of grazing thinking it was best for her during this period of growing. The problem though is that my other three were getting too fat. I also noticed that my mare was lacking energy again. During the day they weren’t really going on track much, but just hanging out at the barn resting. Then we stopped getting any rain for the past 3 weeks and the grass is pretty dried up, so time to just take them off the pasture all together. I guess I needed that last push. Old habits die hard.

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I decided to put them on track full time with hay spread in little piles in a huge circle. I put out hay in the morning and in the evening because my work schedule doesn’t allow time for me to feed more than twice a day. I also purchased a scale so I could weight the hay and make sure I do not overfeed, as I have a habit of doing when I am “eyeballing” it. I also put my filly in a paddock for about an hour in the morning and evening to eat some hay on her own (just to be sure she is getting enough).

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So the verdict….

I was expecting my mare to get grumpy about not being on pasture at all anymore. I was also worried about them eating all the hay quickly and then being without forage for many hours until I got home. Well, so far this has not been the case. My mare is very perky and happy (even with it being extremely hot, humid and buggy). They are spreading out their hay intake throughout the day because when I get home at night (or go out in the morning to check) there is always a few morsels left here and there. But the best part is they are in constant motion. Ok, I am sold. It took me awhile, but I am thrilled with this so far and even when the pasture comes back in this fall I think I will just continue to use the track full time.

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Next….

I can’t wait to see if this helps with some self trimming of hooves. I have added more gravel around the barn area. It has been so dry that I have not been that motivated to spread more gravel on the track. It is so hard and packed on its own right now. I will do more graveling this fall when the weather cools down some.

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So that is all for now. I have just included some pictures from this summer of my horses in different places on the track. Thank you Carmon for your inspiration for being more diligent to carry my camera with me more. Your stunning photos of your horses has really inspired me.

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