Monday, November 15, 2010

It's windy today

Actually, it's been windy for the last five days.  It is during windy weather that I don't miss riding. 

Let's discuss grooming.  If you are a boy, disregard this post as you won't have the first idea what it means to groom. If you are gay though, read on. 

Take one beast, roughly 1000+ pounds, hairy, dirty with a brain the size of a walnut.  We'll assume you are poor and have to groom your own horse.  Bring the  horse to the specially set aside grooming area which will have all the mod-coms such as electricity, water, sparkling clean brushes and combs, step stools, clippers, manure buckets, manure shovels and on and on and on to make the cleaning process pleasant. 

Step One.  Assess Fluffy for injuries with a critical eye. Awkwardly bent legs, blood and refusal to get up are all good indications something is not right.  Call the vet.  

Step Two.  Clean hooves.  This means you take a hoof pick and pry all the detritus Fluffy has stepped on/in out of the bottom of her hoof.  Mostly poop, but if you're in a hurry, then there will be mud of  the consistency of cement which will need be removed.  It is against the law not to remove all the detritus.  Just trust me on this.  Note if all the shoes are on Fluffy if she wears them, if not carry on.  If shoes are missing, half off, tweaked etc. call the shoer.

Step Three.  Curry Fluffy.  Some horses love this, others...not so much.  Learn which curry method will keep you alive.  Use a curry brush or comb depending on where ya'll r frum.  A Curry Brush is an oval shaped rubber hand held device with a handle on one side that fits over your hand.  The bottom side has ridges set in concentric ovals around the interior.  The ridges can either be saw toothed like sharks teeth or have kind round knobs.  You guess which one I prefer.  The idea behind currying is to loosen ground in dirt and other unspeakable items from the horses coat and hopefully bring to the top where with a practiced hand you just "whisk" it away the with a body brush which is held in your other hand.   The curry motion is a counter clock-wise moderate, not hard, pseudo-circular motion on the horses hide.  It is followed by a swipe of the body brush to pfft the dirt away.  So it's a little like making circle, circle, circle, then whoosh, cross the Tee.  Proceed from neck to tail, avoid sensitive areas.  On some horses the entire body is sensitive.  Take care to avoid swishing tails and flailing hooves and teeth.  Should a mishap occur, put Fluffy away, feed, blanket and pat, then call the doctor.

Step Four.  Use a non-invasive method to clean off the legs.  A rubber hand mitt with little knobs all over it can be employed to sluice the grime off followed by a nice soft brush.  But understand that you will need something more akin to a wire BBQ brush to remove mud and hair balls if the legs are hairy.  These devices are not allowed however, and you must employ muscle and time to restore Fluffy's legs to clean. FYI, in dirty hair on legs, especially around the lower limb and behind the pastern is also where lots of nasty bugs live.  The bugs cause infections which give you another opportunity to support your vet.  Call him/her.

Step Four.  Take a damp, not wet, cloth and swipe the coat one more time to pick up the rest of the filth.  With any luck you will have removed enough dirt, dead skin and other nasties from steps two and three that you do not create mud.  The goal is to have a nice clean horse.
Step Five.  Manes and Tails.  Let us hope you have the mane pulled.  This means several hairs at a time have been systematically removed using a pulling comb and tranquilizers until the mane is short, about something of a reasonable length in case you ever have to braid it.  It should also be of uniform thickness down the length which I can tell you right here and now is a trick in itself.  So anyway, then you brush the mane against the way it wants to lay, then comb it down.  If it is unruly, use a wet brush to encourage it to lay down.  This never works, but do it anyway.  The same is true for training the mane to lay down by braiding it.  It will look good for a minute, then go back to the way it was.  It's just the way of it.  But you have to try anyway.   Tails should be treated like gold.  That is to say you don't treat it like your own hair.  No, you must separate each strand from its neighbor with your fingers till all the hairs are independent of each other.  Then you spray stuff in it which is really some kind of silicone that makes it slippery and discourages tangles.  If you comb the tail with a comb or plastic brush I think the police come, or at the very least you will get yelled by some busy body who will lecture you ad-nauseum on the evils of messing with the tail...Just save yourself the agony of that particular exercise.  Really.

So now about five hours have passed, you haven't ridden and your allotted barn time is pretty much used up.  Nevertheless you must persevere and get on with it.

Tacking up.

If you have been religiously reading these posts, then you have read about tacking up before cross country during an event.  If not, then here goes.

Place a sparkling clean saddle pad on Fluffy's back smoothing it to make it lie flat.  Depending on your saddle fit, you will need any number of pads of varying thickness to make the saddle fit to the horses back.  Entire industries are devoted to saddle pads, baby pads, half pads, therapeutic pads, cell pads, gel pads, felt pads, wool pads, synthetic pads, countoured pads, shaped pads, dressage pads and so on.  It's really just best to buy at least one of everything and have them lying around in case you need a place for the barn cat to sleep and have kittens.  At any rate let us assume you have the combinations of pads narrowed down to a science for your particular saddle on this particular horse and this particular moment in the fitness of your steed and can now proceed to placing the saddle on top of the pads and spend a lot of time shifting it around till you are satisfied.  Then you can find your girth and buckle it to the "off side" billets on your saddle.  Then you should shift the saddle around some more and go around to the "near side" and buckle the girth to that side as well.  If you have martingales and breast collars/plates to use,  now is the time to sort that mess out.  There will be all the requisite fiddling associated with each of these contraptions too.   It is considered polite not to tighten the girth at this juncture to snug proportions.  You should go over to the "off side" once more and tighten the girth another hole and back around to the near side to tighten it as well.  Repeat as necessary. 

Some people have the luxury of having working bridles and show bridles.  Bully for you.  The rest of us are lucky to have a whole bridle of matching parts.  Whatever your situation, now is the time to maneuver the bridle on to the horse head simultaneously managing to get the bit in the mouth, over the tongue if possible, up over the ears and buckle in place.  For simplicity sake let's just pretend you only need a simple snaffle bit and a simple cavesson (nose band) and if you have to, a flash nose band too.  Hopefully nothing falls apart during this process and you don't lose the keepers that hold the straps in place, or you have employed a judicious use of braiding bands to substitute for them.  You should try to straighten the brow, nose and flash bands to a degree of level.  Then you should inspect your reins.  I shouldn't have to tell you that if your reins break bad things will happen.  For that matter you should have inspected the billets on your saddle and the trappings on your girth for weaknesses as well.  If you have a running martingale to contend with you will need to unbuckle your reins and slip them through the metal rings on your martingale and rebuckle the reins.  With any luck you will only have to do this once because you have mastered the martingale art but don't count on it.

It should be about dark now so have a nice ride.


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