Thanks to the incessant rain I haven't been able to ride for about a week. The arena has stayed muddy, and while I CAN ride in the mud, I choose not to. I have a grass arena and those divots don't do much for the overall surface of the arena. Besides, riding a horse overly concerned about their footing is not very productive and really, not much fun.
Gabe was amazing on our last ride. Quiet, really working through, dropping his head and raising his back while really working that hind end and responding nicely to my requests for shoulders in around the corners. We've been working half halts, too, and those are getting better and better.
There was no head tossing, silly spooking or sudden forward and unexpected movements. There was no "teenage snottiness" when I asked for something, no "Yeah? Really? Why should I? I don't really want to and you can't really make me, you weak little midget," attitude from him at all.
It was the fifth such ride since winter ended and the horses went out on grass pasture full time. My pastures are lush enough that I don't have to supplement hay at all. They go out for 12 hours, come in for their evening meal and stay in for the night, and go out again in the morning. And Calypso...she's a freaking air fern. She's getting just about a handful of oats and pellets and she's still getting FAT. And I never, in my entire life, thought I'd own a fat Thoroughbred.
As I was riding last week and Gabe was so FABULOUS it suddenly hit me...he's been absolutely wonderful since they've been on grass and not getting any alfalfa at all. None. I feed a 95% alfalfa mix through the winter. They need the extra energy to stay warm and I'd rather have my horses come on the other end of winter fat rather than too thin.
Since I've had horses in Illinois I've always fed an alfalfa mix hay...usually mostly alfalfa with a few wisps of grass here and there. We live in an area that is heavy on the dairy cattle and so alfalfa is just what's most readily available and inexpensive...that's what I feed.
Because I've always fed alfalfa, I've also always discounted the belief that alfalfa makes horses silly and hot.
I'm rethinking that idea.
It didn't really hit me until after the last ride that Gabe was almost a completely different horse since being off the alfalfa. Quiet, workmanlike and willing, no matter what I asked of him. I'm not saying he's hot and crazy otherwise, just tends to behave a heavily on the "baby" side with the silliness and spooking and head flinging.
On the other hand, it could also be that they are out in a huge field for 12 hours a day and now he's having to constantly be on his guard and watching out for Chief and Calypso instead of just standing in his paddock quietly and alone. Seems they ALL do a lot more running and bucking in the pasture than they ever do in the paddocks.
So, who knows the root of the attitude change...could be one or the other, could be a little bit of both. Could be a bit of maturity finally entering his silly little boy brain.
But I do know one thing...when he's on and listening...he's HOLY WOW!!! I ride around the arena grinning from ear to ear and just so thrilled with every huge, powerful stride he takes. There is more than one moment that passes that I have to shake my head in amazement thinking that "Wow! He's MINE!"
Then cold terror rushes through me as I think about screwing up his training so bad that I ruin him forever.
But, the moment passes and I continue to grin like a mad woman.
I'm surprised I don't come back from the ride with gnats stuck in my teeth more often.