Monday, August 8, 2011


I noticed a ding and some swelling on Starlight’s right hind leg the other night.  Either she got kicked or was knocked into something during a tussle in the stable.  So, she has had the week off.  She has shown a fairly normal stride despite the injury, but I’m not good at detecting subtle lameness.  When I start watching legs for lameness, unless it’s really obvious, first I get hypnotized by the fascinating movement, then I end up thinking all the legs look lame.

Tonight the swelling was considerably down and she seemed to be walking normally.  But it’s still a little swollen, and although I wanted to ride her, I figured, why rush it?  We have our whole lives to ride.  I can wait another few days until the swelling is gone.

A ride, many moons ago.
So, besides riding Hudson a couple of times this week, I pulled DeCato out  for some work.  I had started DeCato the same time I started Starlight, last December before ice and cold shut us down for the winter, but due to there being only one of me, and due to Starlight being so fun and cooperative, DeCato went on hold.   It seems like a long time since I had her walking and trotting under saddle, around the arena at our old house.

Sure enough, she was very rusty, not cooperating much at the longe line work I attempted.  We did walk and trot in both directions, but most of the time she was staring urgently back toward the barn, and when someone whinnied for her (Dee, I think), she about came apart, whinnying back and stopping all work.

DeCato is a funny one.  I swear you could light a firecracker behind her and she would just move aside as if to say, “Oh, were you doing something back there?  Here, let me give you some room.  Carry on.”   I can drape her with a tarp, rattle bags, make a clamor, do a rain dance with a tom-tom, and she doesn’t care at all.  It’s as though, as long as I’m creating the racket, she is fine with that. 

But new objects along her path are sometimes cause for a major freak out.  And being away from the other horses is extremely stressful for her. 

So, we have our work cut out for us.

When Dee whinnied, DeCato stopped paying attention to me, whinnied back and stood still, staring at the barn.  I could not cajole her into forward movement with the longe whip, sound or body language.  But I kept working, telling her that one trait I have that helps me succeed as a horse trainer is always being more stubborn than whatever horse I’m working with.   

I finally decided I couldn’t get enough “crack!” sound from the whip with my left hand, so I crossed my arms and put it in my right hand.  With the stronger hand working it, I finally got enough action and noise behind her butt for DeCato to say, “Oh, all RIGHT. I’ll trot in your damned circle.”

A few rounds of that and we stopped.  So, after success with this, albeit wan, we took a walk together to the pond and back.  Leading her in strange places in the past has sometimes been difficult, but she was good for this trip.  Despite being a mare who locks up at times, she does like fast, forward movement when she feels safe, and has a lovely, long walking stride.  She's a mustang, but my horse dentist supposed she might have a bit of Tennessee walking horse in her ancestry.    

I’m pretty sure, if we had someone on a calm trail horse in front of us, that I could get on DeCato right now and take her out on a long trail ride without issue, even though she has only had a few short rides under saddle.  She’s that kind of horse, happy enough with whatever we’re doing, as long as there’s another horse there.   Yeah, she’s herd bound, but we’ll work on that, and sometime in the near future, she’ll be a good little riding horse.

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