So I'm in New England, which at this time of the year should be buried under 2 feet of snow. It's not, and on top of that, it keeps warming up so we've got this dreadful freeze-thaw-freeze-thaw thing going on, and it's raining instead of snowing, so we're getting Mud Season AGAIN.
I don't have access to an indoor ring. Huey gets turned out with his BFF, a pinto pony mare who makes sure that she moves his big butt around the paddock frequently, just to remind him that she can. Huey's got his shoes off for the winter (on absolutely everyone's advice around here - BO, dentist, farrier, vet).
I haven't ridden him in AGES. The arena is sand, and sometimes it has some icy spots (one of those "torrential rains followed by dramatic temperature drop" days) and sometimes it's soft and mushy ("torrential rains followed by warm-up") and sometimes it's rock hard ("temperature drop without rains").
I was riding him, even barefoot, for a while, but then someone told me that the footing was probably too hard to ride (this was a rock-hard day), and then the ring was flooded, and then there was ice, etc. etc. etc. The weather here has been 100% psycho and it's driving everyone nuts. But the upshot is that I haven't ridden Huey in almost a month. (going to give another one of those sad faces, because he's SO much fun to ride and I MISS it).
Now, he's getting turned out, and that's it. This is because I don't really know what is reasonable to expect to do with him when the weather's all wacked. I don't know what is "safe" and what isn't, and because I love him THAT much, I just assume it's *not* safe until I hear that it is. So right now, he gets turned out, and I go almost every day and bring him in and groom him and pick his feet, and do some carrot stretches, and give him some massage.
He's not as mellow and relaxed when he's getting groomed as he was, say, when we were riding 4 times a week. He puts his head in the air in the ties, and is more prone to freaking out about odd noises (like the barn cat, or the barn sparrows, stuff he is exposed to ALL the time). Yes, he's had his regular dental maintenance, the farrier is due week-after-next, he's not gone off his food, he seems happy with his paddock buddy, he's not flinchy anywhere in particular when I'm grooming him, he just used to hang out in the ties and blow his lips a lot, and now he's acting like one of those TBs you see going to the starting gate at the Kentucky Derby.
I'm assuming this means he is probably not getting enough exercise. Should I be lunging him? Does it need to be on a rope, or can I put him in the arena and free lunge him (he knows "walk" "trot" "canter" and "ho")? Is it OK to do that when the arena sand is hard? How can I tell if it is safe to put him in the arena and make him exercise? There is a round pen - should I use that instead of the arena?
Ordinarily I would ask this of my trainer, but with the holidays and all, I haven't seen her in a couple of weeks. Haven't seen the BO, either - I know she's on the job, but our paths haven't crossed. I'd been waiting until I could consult with a local expert, but it looks like that isn't going to happen soon, and I want my boy to be happy!