Noticing the little things can make your day, or make a big difference to the horse. When I came to the barn yesterday, Fritz and Fred's owner was there, grooming Fritz on the cross ties. She lives a long way away, and has two small children, so she doesn't get out as often as she would like. The last time she was out was on Sunday, when she and Fritz had a very hard time on their trail ride with Sugar and her owner. Fritz can sometimes be nervous on the trail, and is prone to little things like jigging, but he really doesn't have melt downs. On Sunday he had a true meltdown - tail swishing, threatening to buck, threatening to bolt and even carrying his owner at one point out into the prairie a ways off the trail. This happened midway through the ride - before that he was fine. She got off and walked him the rest of the way home - she said he had stopped thinking and she was afraid he would hurt himself or her - but he never really calmed down.
Yesterday she excitedly called me over. She said that she thought she had solved the mystery - when she was grooming she noticed a small sore on his girth area near the bottom that hadn't been there when she groomed on Sunday. Ouch! To me, this is one of those great examples of the benefits of careful grooming. Apparently he had developed the sore during the ride. So yesterday, she changed saddles and girths and also put a fleece cover on the girth. This girth actually didn't touch the sore area once she was mounted. And Fritz was fine on his ride!
Now about Charisma. A little over two weeks ago, Charisma managed somehow to incur a slight soft tissue injury to her right front fetlock area - she was never terribly off, just reluctant to move out - her gaits are normally very free. Our chiropractor, who is also a vet, figured out what was bothering her. Charisma is in regular work, but she's 20 now so these things can be expected from time to time. So for two weeks she could only work at the walk and had her leg iced every day. She's fine now and back to working at the trot and canter. Charisma has always been slightly toes-in in the front - not a lot but just enough to notice. She's barefoot, and she tends to wear the outside front edges of her front feet more than the rest. This is more noticeable as she gets close to needing a trim. In the mornings when I turn out, I've been noticing that she's a little more toes-in than normal with the right front as she stands in the door of her stall waiting to be haltered. The wear on the right front - the breakover - is in its usual place to the outside of center but is more pronounced than on the other front. I mentioned this to her owner, who could see it too. I expect it is compensation for the injury - we'll have to see how she uses it after her farrier appointment this morning.
And finally, I love to watch the interactions of the various horses when they're grooming. Maisie and Dawn are in the small paddock this morning waiting for the farrier. When I turned Dawn loose, she had to move Maisie around for a bit to prove her superior status, then they settled down to graze. And then Maisie did what I call the "grooming invitation". A higher status horse that wants to groom will just march right up and ask a lower status horse to groom. Since Maisie is lower status, she has to ask (carefully) and see if the higher status horse would like to - it's very polite. She took a few steps towards Dawn - not too close - and stood there looking towards her (not directly at her) with her ears not fully forward but on Dawn - sort of an attentive "earing", or questioning, but without "staring" in horse terms. Dawn took up the invitation immediately and they started grooming.
There's so much more to being with horses than just riding them or working them. If you hear of a job out there meeting my specs, let me know!