The ski bound mother of several episodes ago called and requested my help at her place whilst she took herself off to Twin Rivers in central California for a horse trials. With her were going the offspring she whelped and two of the now three ponies currently in residence. Because there was now no cat, the danger of any animals finding themselves in mortal peril seemed to be Nil. I'll stop right here at firmly state, that 1. I didn't kill the cat and 2. Nothing died that shouldn't have.
So the "now renamed horse show mother" requested my appearance the night before she planned to leave so she could get me up to speed with the news that there would be four horses and one pony that needed my attention. Two of those horses required actual hand walking and care. One of them had colicked earlier that week, and prior to that had managed to damage itself from being alone and tried to jump some unattainable height over a fence in a pasture not meant for jumping and had a litany of injuries and maladies that will bore you stupid and it doesn't matter anyway. The other one was recovering from a bad tendon and had realized that he was on the mend and the danger of having to go back to work was imminent so he managed to incubate an abscess in his right front foot. The abscess info. will just have to wait for a time when I can give it the spot light it deserves. Just know that they are crippling, involve farriers and vets and $$ and a really unreasonable amount of care and time.
Lemme tell you something. Hand walking horses is not that much fun. God invented Euro-cisers for a reason and that reason is that horses have very little regard for the insignificant human gamely holding on the rope which is attached to a head collar which is meant to give the illusion of control when handling horses. Allow me to state, categorically, that if a horse decides to be afraid, has a tantrum, insists on a different direction at a different and much accelerated speed you have no chance at all of maintaining any control at all. Period. Now you can employ the use of chains and all the other devices meant to give you the upper hand, but should the notion cross the mind of a beast weighing over a thousand pounds and said beast has the brain the size of a walnut...well just accept you are toast. Anyway. While the reasons for hand walking are many, for our purposes, the horses needed hand walking because (wait for it) that was the only exercise they were allowed! Imagine the possibilities. For perspective, imagine you have spent months and months and months getting yourself in shape; you have worked out for hours a day - every day and you have muscles rippling and your coat is shiny and you can have all the food you want as long as it's what ever the current fad is for feeding and you are full of energy and are raring to go. Then let's imagine that you sprain your ankle, or your hamstring, or quad or something that makes you limp. Suddenly you locked in a 12 x 12 stall with no activity at all except for twice a day when some idiot shows up to take you for walkies. um um um Using your human imagination visualize a kite on a string or a run away train...you get the idea. So anyway as I was saying hand walking = no bueno. And yours truly had not one but two to contend with.
Now that I've regaled you with what can happen let me just pop the bubble and tell you that both horses were pretty good and marched around the arena with me 500 times each twice a day and the worst that happened was when the Great Dane involved herself in the walkies and encouraged the bad jumper to just move along a little more vigorously by jumping up and down and snapping at the heels. Really such rudeness. The Great Dane then was locked in a stall. Bad dog. Sorry but that's about it for the walkies bit of the weekend.
Two more horses...One had just been racing her little heart out at a track in southern California only the previous week and needed some "down" time. Racehorses are made fit to race others of its kind for many furlongs and trained to come out in first. And this involves a lot of speed work and high energy feed and little else. So when a race horse is through racing, it needs a little time or a lifetime to unwind. Essentially it needs to learn that it won't have to run like mad every time it comes out of it's stall and that it can learn another job. So it just has to chill. Part of that regime may include being turned out. You know all those pastures of emerald green with miles and miles of board fencing and all the mares and babies that are turned out together to romp and gambol? Fantasy. Well for the most part. I've seen those fields and they are in Kentucky. And they belong to Sheiks and stuff. Anyway your new off the track thoroughbred (OTTTB) will likely not have seen a pasture since it was a yearling because it will have been in training to run and run and run. And when it is not running it is standing in a stall. And it may be slightly crazy. So now you have this horse and you turn it out and it goes nuts. If it doesn't damage itself, it will scare the ever living daylights out of you if you go anywhere near it. It will run and buck and rear and spin and charge and generally make an ass out of itself, but it still out weighs you and it still has a teeny tiny brain so you have to be mindful of these things and hope someday it will tire and you can put it in a stall until the next time. Happily this new horse did none of those things and just calmly walked out, waited while I took the halter off and politely walked away and then rolled in the mud. Sweet little thing.
The last horse belonged to the horse show mother. And he too was off the track, but was a little further along in his rehab. and could be ridden and worked on the lunge line. But he had some little quirks like biting and kicking and weaving. Weaving you say? Like with a loom and what not? No, I say, not like that at all. More like dancing. But usually only with the front legs. So the horse stands and then begins to shift his weight from one front leg to the other in a rhythm. The really good ones cross their legs and never break the tempo. It's annoying. So anyway this horse had all those fun traits, but I like him anyway and since my fitness isn't what I'd like it to be yet, I opted to lunge him. His name is Kilo. He's gray. Lunging. So you put some sort of a device be it a halter or a bridle on the horse (a bridle is what I used) then you thread a long rope through the rings of the bit over the head and attach it to the other side of the bit with a snap. I also used a surcingle which is a strap which goes on the back and buckles like a girth. It has lots of rings and doo dads on it that you can attach stuff to that also attaches to the bit or what ever and give you slightly more control and makes the horse work in a frame that you'd like to adopt whilst you are riding. So then you, the horse and this load of equipment will make your way to the lunging area and the horse will go around in circles with you in the middle holding on the of the rope. You will ask the horse to walk, trot and canter for hours and hours, or so it will seem while you dizzy yourself in the middle. And that's about it. Of course being a horse the opportunity will present itself to misbehave and kicking out a you, turning in on you and just plain breaking away from you will occur. Not too much you can do about that except constant vigilance.
And finally we have the pony. Ponies are smaller that horses, no surprise there. This also means they need smaller girths, bridles and the like. But most of all if you plan to ride one it is a good idea to have a bridle and a girth that fit so you don't endanger yourself any more than necessary. Happily the pony in question had a bridle. Not so happily there wasn't a girth in the joint that was small enough for it. So what I had to do was put about 400 saddle pads under the saddle and find the shortest girth I could and then cautiously hop on board and balance like I was walking on a mattress. So you may think that riding is just sitting while you are taken for a ride. Well the taken for a ride bit is true, but there is a bit of motion too. And while I was perched on top of 400 saddle pads, the saddle itself was just not tight enough to minimize the sway. So I tried to stay in the middle, stayed on and the pony was exercised and I dropped my cell phone somewhere in the process and the event was over...for the day. And that was Thursday and I repeated all the above for the next two days. And it was good. And I got paid. And I didn't kill anything, or lose anything.
Friday night I went to dinner with horse show moms parents. It's so rewarding to spend a couple hours with your friends parents. You get a lot of ammunition for one thing and then you get a lot of insight as well. Lemme tell you something horse show mom, I know things you don't even want me to know now. What a heady feeling of power.