Spreading the Fever

Novels for Horse-Lovers

The Tipped Z Ranch books feature fictional stories but real horsemanship.

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On Wednesday, we had a fun job. Our barn owner asked us to be there when K’s new horse arrived so we could oversee her introduction to the herd. We headed out a little early, said hi to all our ponies, then rode Steen and Laredo. Both the guys were great. They were fat and happy after their time off in the big pasture. Steen felt willing and peppy as we dabbled with some of the concepts from the clinic. We had a nice long ride. When we finished up, we closed Steen and Laredo into the winter lot (much to Laredo’s chagrin) and brought Piper and Nevada up to the barn. We groomed the girls and hung out until K arrived. She was followed shortly thereafter by a horse trailer.

We put Nevada and Piper out with Steen and Laredo, and went to meet the new arrival. K’s new horse is a bay mare. She’s about 10, and she’s grade, but she’s nicely put together and she’s super sweet and quiet. She’s mostly been used for trail riding, so she’s chill about new surroundings. She doesn’t have much arena experience, so we’ll be helping K get her going on that.

The new horse’s name is Britta. Our gang was pretty curious initially. We did a bit of groundwork with her in the airlock, then turned her out with our four. There was some mild nose-sniffing and then everyone just shrugged and went about their business. We opened up the gate and let them go find the herd. A similar lack of drama ensued upon Britta meeting the rest of the crowd. We’ve had quite a few new horses coming in lately, but the herd dynamic has stayed very mellow.

On Friday, K had her lesson with Brian, so we got to know the new horse a little better. Unfortunately, Britta seems to have mildly strained a hind leg some time after arriving. She’s a tad short-strided back there walking, and off a smidge at the trot. It doesn’t seem like anything serious, but it meant no riding. Brian helped K with a lot of groundwork. Then I worked with her some as well. She is clearly not a horse that has any experience with driving in circles (or any groundwork of any kind), so getting her unstuck and moving was not proving to be totally easy. I had my recent work with the sticky Piper to fall back on, so was able to get her going with some encouragement from the flag. Brian did some work on bridling, since she has a small amount of anxiety about taking the bit.

In spite of the fact that Britta was in a totally new place, surrounded by new people, and being presented with some alien concepts, she took everything in stride. She never got bothered or troubled. She never got anxious. She has a nice attitude, and I think she’s a great match for K. She is happy to try new things, quick to change, and already thriving on the positive reinforcement she’s receiving. She’s got some rooting tendencies and her shoulder was doing a lot of bulging in that first day, but we made progress. K got more comfortable, and a lot of things improved.

Saturday and Sunday we were there to offer less formal support to K. I worked with Britta again for a few minutes on moving in circles both days. On Saturday, she was way way way less sticky. On Sunday she started following a feel. She also started shaping up in the circle, learning to leave with a nice shoulder yield.

Of course, what Brian or I can do with K’s horse is one thing. What K can do with her is more important. Fortunately K seems to be learning just as fast as her new steed. On Friday, K basically could not get Britta’s feet to move forward. On Saturday she could, but making it happen was outside of her comfort zone. On Sunday, she had Britta going in some nice circles all on her own with minimal support from the flag and the peanut gallery (ie: me).

So, I’m super curious to see how they get on together. By Sunday the leg was improved but she was still not looking totally sound, so we still haven’t seen her under saddle. I told K this always happens. It’s like there’s some formula. The more excited you are about a new horse, the more likely it is to come up lame within the first two weeks.

Horseback Hours YTD: 66:40

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