Now that they have had a chance to really settle into the new routine, we have begun working regularly with Koda and Toby. Together with Austin, these boys are now fully immersed in the retraining program and we’ve been having a lot of fun learning about all three.
Austin came out of quarantine in May. We had no history on this boy, but quickly established that he had some real anxiety around the saddling process. We spent two months slowly re-acclimating him to a saddle and in the meantime did a lot of ground work, roundpen work, and desensitizing with ropes, obstacles and the flag.
We turned him out to graze several times with a saddle on, ‘moved’ him around the arenas while riding another horse, and ponied him extensively out on the trails. Our goal was to do everything but ride, until Austin grew so accustomed to every other activity that he would be more than ready for something new.
By the time we began sitting on his back, Austin was completely unfazed. We have ridden him in the arenas, where he has been nicely steady at the walk, trot and canter. However, our main focus at this point is to gradually build up his strength and fitness.
During Austin’s first massage back in May, we learned that he had a lot of soreness and weakness in his back. We know that he is capable of nice movement, but it will take awhile to build the strength he needs to move freely under saddle. Mentally he may be ready for more, but physically Austin will need the extra time to develop new muscle and ease lingering sensitivity. In the meantime, we will make good use of our hills and spend lots of time hacking out at the walk.
Austin has been a true gentleman thus far, taking everything in stride and hacking out quietly on a loose rein. He has proven to be very sensible and pleasant to work around in the barn, where he ties, clips, bathes, and stands well for the farrier. Austin is very smart and always tries to do what we ask to the best of his ability. We look forward to continuing with this boy’s conditioning, and plan to get him off-property for a field trip or two in August.
Stay tuned for more on Koda and Toby!