Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Less than a week of fall

From absurdly gorgeous on Halloween to bone-deep cold this prior Saturday? Welcome to Chicagoland.

Limerick had her feet done on Saturday and by the time the farrier was done, I was so cold that I couldn't feel my toes and my jaw could barely move when I asked him about her feet. I had to go home to warm up, and was not ready to head back to the barn again for two hours (and by then, everyone was gone, it was dark, and I had to ride alone in the indoor arena).

Lim's feet are excellent; my farrier is very happy with them. The left fore isn't perfect--the toe needs to grow out a bit more--but everything else just about is. He applied the Sole Guard on the fores again but said that we will probably leave it off next time due to her soles thickening.

I will probably have a new set of radiographs taken in March or April to see how the foot is progressing. I am hoping that we see nice, thick soles and zero degrees of rotation! I'll also probably have her blood checked for insulin resistance, then once everything is all clear, talk to my vet about letting Limerick graze without a grazing muzzle.

When the gates to the grassy section of the pasture are first opened in the spring, the barn guys let the horses stay out there for a half-hour for a week, then an hour for a week, and so on so forth. Then for the rest of the summer, the horses only go onto the grass after noon.

But! Why am I talking about spring? The chill of winter is upon us, after a total of 5.4 days of lovely fall weather.

As a rider (or perhaps it's the English blood in me--thanks, dad!), I have always been somewhat resistant to the chill of winter. I will complain nonstop about being cold indoors, and on the couch I pile myself with trillions of blankets and cats. But when it's time to go to the barn, I put on my layers and go. Once outside, after an initial shiver, the cold is mostly forgotten. The trick is to keep moving! I only truly freeze when I hold Lim for the farrier or vet.

Sunday was a gray day, gray and windy. The trees were mostly bare and a blanket of golden leaves covered the ground, too wet and low to run away with the wind. The indoor arena was crowded but I decided to ride Lim in the outdoor. No one was out there and the west half of the arena was covered with leaves, which was oddly tempting. I wanted to ride Limerick over those leaves, I had to! I would!

And so, once tacked up, I walked her to the outdoor arena. Head high, mane blowing in the wind, she was a horse enlivened by the chill. I got on her back and her head was so high that her neck seemed half as long as usual; I felt I could touch her poll without leaning forward. A year ago, I would have fretted and worried that she would spook.

But now I know that if I fret, then she will, then I will become nervous, then she will be nervous, then I will be worried, then she will whirl and spook at every blade of grass bending in the wind. Instead, I stroked her short neck.

"That's a good girl," I said. I encouraged her to walk at a quick but comfortable pace and left the reins just slack enough so that she felt no tension in the bit, which is another absolute way to light the fire beneath a Thoroughbred! Yet I did not hold the reins by the buckle, for her neck was so high and to do so would be foolish (there is always that chance she will take off with me, after all).

She looked around and I let her. At times she craned her head around so much that she almost walked into the railing surrounding the outdoor arena, and only then did I make her face forward again. There was plenty of time. Like me, Lim has a wild imagination and if I don't allow her to get a good look at things, she may worry and fret about those things because she cannot see them, cannot understand them and her mind tries to fill in the blanks.

(Yet at the same time, if she is staring at something very dark and impenetrable, like thick shrubbery, I ask her to look away before she begins to hallucinate boogeymen jumping out of said object. Honestly, if we are alone, and sometimes even when we aren't, I will hallucinate such things, too!)

I asked for a trot. Within fifteen minutes, her head was down low and she was giving me an energetic, smooth trot.

The wind lifted my helmet off my head. The wind made my eyes run and sting. The wind blew Limerick's mane straight up. We trotted and cantered over those golden leaves on the west end of the arena many times and each time, I got a childish thrill out of it.

Tomorrow my husband may record me riding. Once a week, I get back to my dressage basics and ask for some collection from Lim. I would like to do more but she does not need the practice; it is old hat to her, and there is no point in demanding more than she'd prefer to give.

If my poor, sick husband is up to keeping our recording date, and I don't look too silly, maybe I will post the video on here.

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