The problem we've been confronting lately is that we now have only 9 grazing horses - one herd of 4 and the other of 5. Charisma's on permanent dry lot and Blackjack is so old and feeble that he can't safely be out with the herd. There's not much likelihood of more horses, and in fact we don't want more as it just means more labor that has to be done at our already labor-intensive facility. We've decided that we no longer want to maximize grass production, and want to significantly reduce labor, so we've moved to grazing each herd in a large, conjoined 5 or 6 acre pasture without rotation, but with frequent mowing to control weeds and improve the ability of the horses to graze all the areas of the pastures. We no longer need our extensive system of electric fencing, there will be no need to set up water - hoses and tanks - for new pastures, and we'll only be using two tanks very close to the barn which will be easy to fill and keep clean. We're expecting some decline in grass quantity and richness, which will be a good outcome considering the girth of many of our horses, although there should be enough grass for the grazing season.
The horses have been demonstrating to us that this should work well. The mares showed me how it works today. Sugar and Misty lingered near the barn for the first part of the morning while Maisie and Dawn were in dry lot - Dawn's the herd alpha and they wanted to be near her. When Dawn and Maisie were turned out, I showed the mares the open gates to the next two pastures, and they happily galloped through all the way to the far fenceline. Maisie is still getting reintroduced slowly to grazing, so I walked out to get her an hour and a half later. I haltered her and let her towards the barn. I heard galloping hooves, and turned to see Dawn, Misty and Sugar galloping up. As they passed us, I made sure they didn't get too close - Maisie stayed with me calmly, and then I let her go and she galloped up after them. They all went to the water tank and took turns drinking. Maisie also had a big drink as well. Then, since Maisie was in the barn, they lingered nearby - I expect if she'd been out they would have returned to the far reaches of the pastures.
The geldings also mimicked the behavior of the mares - they also galloped in for water and a noontime rest when the mares galloped in. Later they returned to the pastures. I actually think the horses are moving more, and more vigorously, with the new pasture arrangement.
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Both Maisie and Dawn got some work today. Maisie and I used the field behind the barn as a pseudo-arena - the actual arena is still a swamp after all the rain we've had. It has a bit of a slope to it, so it was a good workout for Maisie. She's doing well at her speed regulation, so we continued our conditioning work - we did a lot of large circles and big-looped serpentines at the trot, and I allowed her to extend a bit going up the slope. Then we took a short trail ride as a reward.
Dawn and I had some brief fun doing a bit of "crazy walking". Dawn and I haven't done much work together since last fall - we did some work before the weather got colder and then this spring Maisie took all my time. Dawn's my younger daughter's horse, and she rode her over spring break and then has been riding her this summer. My daughter rides bareback, and takes Dawn on the trails. I think Dawn's an amazing horse in many ways, but I'm unlikely to ride her on the trail for the foreseeable future - she's very athletic and reactive and at my age - I'm getting close to 60 - I'm not up for trying to ride her through the spooks, bolts and possible bucking out on the trail. If I were my daughter's age, maybe - I'd also be less breakable if I were younger. But I do think there's a lot of interesting work Dawn and I can do in the arena and near to the barn. If you've started reading this blog after last September, for a description of Dawn's issues and the work I think will help address them, see my post "The Horse Is Thinking About Leaving . . ." Since my daughter will be leaving soon for most of the rest of the summer and then will be going back to school, Dawn and I will pick up our work again. I'll wait to do under saddle work until my daughter leaves, since her riding style is so different from mine, and will do ground and in-hand work until then.
I think Dawn benefits from a work program that is consistent and has some predictable elements every time. So we'll start our sessions with leading and in-hand work (if you search "in-hand" in the label cloud, you'll find a variety of exercises Dawn and I have worked on), then do some lungeing or ground driving, and only then do mounted work. The most important thing with Dawn is for her to be "with you" - doing mounted work when this isn't there would be a very bad idea. Today all we did after grooming was a bit of "crazy walking" - I'm getting over a bit of flu and didn't feel up for more than that - which we both enjoy. For those of you who haven't read my description of this exercise before, it's a leading exercise in which I have Dawn on a loose lead, and then do various things - walk, jog, stop, back up, take abrupt turns to the left or right, turn in circles, etc. Dawn's job is to stay right with me and mirror my movements without getting distracted or running into me. Obviously, good leading must already be established, including backing out of my space or sideways away from me without my having to do much to get that. She remembered very well, and we had a bit of fun with it. I'm hoping for more tomorrow.