Today was a sort of generally awesome day of riding and volunteering. The Lesson
Lesson started with herd-catching Dragon. That went pretty darn well actually. The halter I used was a lot stiffer and slid on quickly and effectively. The same two little treat-beggars as before came to bother me, but backed off fairly quickly once I threatened to thwack them.
Walking back towards the gate, actually a bit away from the herd, I did get rushed at a little by… I think Bronze? He came over somewhat speedily at me from having been quite a ways away from the rest of the group, seeming like he was going to run pretty near me (though I don’t think into me - hard to explain how I knew that, but the body language wasn’t quite straight-on). I just had no patience for it. It was early. Perhaps I should have been more impressed or concerned - but I just really wasn’t. I got the rope ready to seriously clock him, and about the time I finished doing that (at which point he was probably 15’ away) he changed directions abruptly and took a considerably wider path around us. He never even got in range.
Tacking up went smoothly - though slowly as I was doing all of it this time. I picked out Dragon’s hooves again (the joy of being first lesson). I chatted with Jill a little idly.
The lesson itself went very well. After warm-up we spent the first two thirds of it mostly on posting trot - which is becoming much more reliably solid. I have gotten out from falling into being ‘behind the horse’ and the whole motion feels less rough and more reliable. I had much better speed control - I think largely because I’ve gotten better at shuffling around rein length without being so distracted that everything else falls apart.
We then went on to picking at my form a bit on the lead line, and I was formally taught two-point.
Two point just sort of clicked. I found a balance with the leg position which was just very comfortable and secure and was able to get into it reliably. It apparently looked pretty good from the ground as well. I was able to stay up there for a lap around our small lead circle without being forced out of it. Ironically, it actually felt better and less likely to fall forward than some of the times I’ve posted trot.
We also did some lunge work involving focusing on stability/quietness/position of the hands in posting trot while holding imaginary reins and balance challenges. Airplane torso-turns remain my weak area - not dangerously so, but annoyingly so. I need more work on them.
Then my trainer had me two-point along the straight stretch in the arena and practice trot->two point->trot transitions. I tend to not be ready to immediately post after coming down from two-point… or maybe I’m just timing coming down wrong. Whatever, we weren’t picking on it today - just introducing the concept.
Then we did a whole bunch of no-stirrup work at the trot including a whole lot of drop-and-catch stirrups. Jill seems very intent that I get this skill down solidly. I usually catch at least one within a second or two and the other takes me a little longer - but despite being told I’m doing quite well at it she continues to drill it to the point where I’m wondering if it’s a serious safety-critical thing.
We haven’t yet gotten to posting trot without stirrups, but I see it coming.
Jill seemed very pleased with how things went today. I mentioned to her I was thinking of possibly trying to do a quarter-lease or something on a horse to practice with and she immediately volunteered that when I was ready we can look at doing that for one of these horses in the winter - while making it clear that I am not
ready to lease one of these horses yet. I agree with her and was unsurprised - but flatly excited that the possibility might exist in a timeframe that would include her winter arena season.
Of course, after all that I am nearly an idiot and distracted. I do a great job un-tacking the bridle without missing anything or ever leaving control of the horse (Dragon is very forgiving, but other horses here may not be) but after that I get ahead of myself and start walking Dragon out with her saddle still on. Yes, seriously, I am that much of an idiot.
Jill asks me what I’m doing, and I shamefaced realize my foolishness and start rapidly heading back. I remove the tack and lamely explain to the next lesson (who’s finishing their own tack-up and looking at me like I’m crazy) that this is my fourth lesson and I am an idiot. She reassuringly tells me I’m doing great to be able to tack/un-tack the horse at all at this point.
I then forget the horse blanket, but honestly consider that a much more fair error considering I wasn’t even sure we still wanted her blanket on as it was getting warmer.
I will say that a lot of times it seems that Jill is nowhere in sight/mind until I do something wrong/stupid, and then she’s right there catching it. I really do like that about her. Volunteering
After the lesson I rushed off to grab a quick deli sandwich in the nearby town and then drove out to the Rescue Barn. I would have missed it entirely were it not for google maps, which kindly pointed out that the long driveway with the ‘barn closed’ sign really was where I wanted to be.
Open volunteering time had a lot
of volunteers. The sign-in sheet had 25 by the end of the day - plus the longer-term folk who I don’t believe bother to use the sheet. About two thirds of the volunteers there were youths and teenagers, with another third or so being adults. A lot of people seemed to know what they were doing, and I felt a little awkward trying to figure out who was in charge and who I should be talking to.
I turned in paperwork and was asked if knew anything about horses. I explained I had just started taking English lessons but had no real experience with horse care of any sort - though I’d be happy to learn. I was asked if I knew about basic horse safety. I said ‘don’t get behind the horse’ - that was apparently good enough.
It was explained to me that everyone inside right now was actually pretty well behaved and safe - but that every unfamiliar horse here should be treated as potentially dangerous until I knew otherwise. This made perfect sense to me, especially given that this place specifically takes in horses confiscated for abuse (amongst other sources).
The setup there included a number of areas - the largest barn included a small indoor arena surrounded by stalls on three sides. Some of these stalls had paddock areas which surrounded the barn and others were indoor-only. My understanding is most of those indoor-only stalls were occupied by horses with lameness issues, excepting one very scared mule who was with a friend in one of the big stalls working on being around people and the only horse inside I didn’t really interact with - who was cribbing basically the entire time I was there and seemed to be a source of discussion amongst the senior volunteers.
There were some sad scenes. The worst of these was a horse missing an eye that was still very fresh. I was actually warned I may not want to look, but not being at all squeamish I did. He was actually incredibly sweet - not the sweetest of all the horses there, but still shockingly polite and friendly given that he looked a bit a mess. I believe he was one of the thirty or so ‘permanent residents’ who the shelter has no real intention of adopting out and are here for a peaceful retirement.
Beyond the main barn there were several different pasture areas in which groups were turned out, each of which had fairly solid free-standing shelters open on two sides with water-hoses next to them. Then there was a whole separate barn which was occupied entirely by mules, donkeys, and a couple goats. That barn also had a lot of turnout area - but the animals seemed to crowd around inside more than the horses did. One goat kept asking for attention, but I didn’t want to risk getting nipped.
My first job was topping off water-troughs, which was mostly doable from the isles but did involve getting into a few of the stalls. Then I swept the isles for a while, and contributed my tallness towards helping take down some of the summer fans.
The stable overall was in the early stages of preparing for winter, and a lot of things were getting pulled out and checked on. Some of the biggest news was the discovery that one of the storage barns containing blankets had sprung a leak during all the obnoxious wetness that we had been having recently. This had wetted some of the blankets and led to mold. Unfortunately, as mentioned by the lead organizer “I have too many horses with respiratory problems to take any chances” and there was a considerable operation underway to clean, dry, sanitize, and throw away anything that might be impacted.
I ended up getting picked up by that team. Due to the fact we were dealing with mold and were being very careful in how we handled things it was only adult and older volunteers. It was a surprisingly big job that would end up taking our little team of four the entire rest of the volunteering day - every single blanket had to be pulled out, inspected carefully, and if any mold at all was spotted tossed. Anything where mold wasn’t spotted but which was close to any items where it had was slated for an even more careful inspection, and the items which neither had mold nor were close to mold were hung up to air out in the breeze. About a third of the supply was just trashed entirely. Someone was brought up to talk about how the leak would be fixed, then everything that was deemed safe was carefully folded, sorted by size, and re-packed onto newly labeled shelves now sitting on pallets up above the floor.
“Team Blanket” was a lot of hard work, but was also fairly satisfying. I ended up getting on well with the lady who seemed to be leading it up (I think a chief volunteer?) who started talking about things like events she wants to organize in upcoming weeks. They seemed pleased to have me there - and I was thrilled as well.
Notably, one thing some of the more experienced volunteers did seem to be doing was working on desensitizing the horses and a little bit of work in-hand. I’d really like to get to the point where that is on my skill list. That said, that’d be more an item for the future.
So overall - great day with the horses. Another lesson to come tomorrow - though I am not expecting anything terribly exciting.