Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A lovely Autumn ride... from the rider's perspective

I have taken W.P. Grey's computer away for the day.... new keyboard...I'm afraid he will get mud on it.
Yesterday the awful cold, wet, snowy weather we have been suffering since last Thursday finally broke. Today was the second beautiful day in a row. I was unable to get to the barn yesterday, so I was really looking forward to a ride today. I even snuck out of the office 15 minutes early. Who wouldn't? It is 65 degrees, clear blue sky, sun shining through the golden autumn leaves... perfect.
I ride on my lunch "hour", which means time is of essence. It generally stretches to a lunch "hour and a half", but in that amount of time, I can change and drive to the barn (8 minutes), dust off Grey, tack up (10 minutes) and ride for at least half an hour (1 mile in any direction, and back). Then, basic grooming and wipe tack (another half hour), check his water bucket and hay bag (4 minutes), rush back to the office to clean up, change and get back to my desk.

Mom tries to make sure he gets turned out to "bounce" in the morning on the days I am expected. This is really appreciated, because although I consider him to be well trained and highly cooperative, he still has his moments and "bounce time" is very important, especially if he hasn't been ridden in a week.
As I drove towards the barn I saw Grey out in the pipe corral in the hayfield. He looked pretty grungy and I remembered Mom said yesterday he had coated himself pretty well. I met Mom on the porch and she said she had just turned him out a bit ago, but he was very fussy about going out into the mud.

When I went to get him, THIS is what I found...

I really don't think the photo properly conveys what a swamp monster he was. He made it worse by crowding me and tasting me as if he thought I didn't mind getting mud, dust and grass slobber on my clean polo.

From the time I got my first pony (35 years ago next month) I have clung to the romantic side of horse back riding. I take pride in my horse and my equipment. I do not go riding in old jeans and dirty tee shirts. I believe that a proper grooming takes an hour and does not include shampoo. Stalls should be cleaned thoroughly and deeply bedded. Blankets should be plaid wool and changed regularly. When I think about riding, I picture myself perfectly turned out, cantering along a bridle path on a fine horse with well oiled leather and shiny buckles. And my busy Career Girl schedule does not allow time to deal with THIS....

I weighed my options. I could put him back in his stall and pretend he doesn't belong to me... spend my time with weanling Ace (who was clean). Devote my hour to a proper text book grooming. Get the hose. Scrape off the worst, and enjoy the day. I opted to scrape off the worst.

With a towel and a shedding blade I removed most of the chunks, went over the saddle area and girth with a stiff brush and decided to skip both picking out his hooves ...

and soiling a clean pair of splint boots. I had a dusty saddle pad from last week in the laundry pile, so we used that. I tried again with the towel to de-muck his head before putting on the clean bridle, and off we went.

It really was a beautiful day for a ride. We saw a blue bird, and chipmunks skittered busily through the yellow leaves storing acorns for the winter. We were even besieged by Lady Bugs. I barely noticed the horse beneath me was still encrusted in mud.

When we returned, most of the mud had dried enough to brush out. His furry elbows remained wet and there was a chunk of something hanging from his throat latch. But the steaming towel trick did go a long ways towards removing the worst of the stains. There is still a beige murkiness to the left side of his head and elbow. I put a clean halter on him, double bagged the soggy one and put it in my bridle bag with the bridle and lathered girth to take home for cleaning.

Mom did her part to restore some civilization to the day by having a snack ready when we got back. She brought out fresh apple cider in a decanter on ice along with a plate of cookies, and she and I had a little party at the picnic table under the maple tree in it's golden autumn splendor while a mostly clean Grey horse munched happily at his hay bag. My romantic notions are still intact.



Amanda said...

The gals at my barn harrass me about my rigid grooming schedule that takes at least a half hour both before and after I ride...but they always comment on how great Devon looks. I am curious...what does your routine include? There are times Devon comes in caked in mud and no matter how much brushing, rubbing, wiping, etc, he still looks dusty to me! Any tips? Grey looks fantastic in his "after" shots :)

SmartAlex said...

The first thing I do when I get to the barn is plug the bucket water heater in. Even if I only use it to wash my hands and/or face before I leave it's well worth it.

I have a lot of hand towel sized terry cloth grooming towels. I always try to use the warm water to wash the underside of his tail bone and to wipe his face (he seems to love that) That leaves me with one or two damp warm towels that are great for wiping the dust off. I do have a Dirt Devil hand brush vac but I don't use it that often. The towels really work better on the surface dust.

Use a regular household scrub brush to clean the hooves. They do less damage than wire brushes, and the bristle size seems to work the best for removing any caked mud or manure and they are easy to hang on to. I think I have three. I use them on splint boots and saddle pads too. After you remove the mud a little hoof oil will make the hooves look cleaner. Apply and then wipe off so less stuff sticks to it.

I keep a spray bottle of a Listerine and Baby Oil mixture for spraying the top of his tail and along his mane. The Listerine kills bacteria that will cause itching. The Baby Oil reverses the drying of the Listerine. It also slicks down the little flyaways especially in the winter.