It was pretty cold this morning - with a slight wind the wind chill was about 10F (-12C), but bright and sunny. After I did chores and cleaned my stalls, Pie and I went for a solo trail ride. The temperature was rising, but the wind picked up a little, so the wind chill was still probably in the low teens. By the end of the ride, my feet and hands were a bit cold, but the rest of me was OK. We did two big loops away from and back to the barn, and were out for about 45 minutes. We hadn't been on a solo ride for a while, and on the first loop Pie had to overcome the challenge of Scout calling and calling for him - Fred and Fritz were in the barn having their feet done so Scout was by himself and missing Pie. Other than being a little bit sticky on the way out, calling a few times to Scout and wanting to speed up (but no jigging - he never jigs) on the way home (serpentines did the trick for that when asking him to slow didn't calm him down), Pie was outstanding.
Then we did a second loop away from the barn. In an area of the trail where the grasses were very tall (10 feet or so), some animal apparently rustled in the grass next to the trail (I never heard it) and Pie did a really big spook, leaping about 10 feet sideways and around so we ended up facing the opposite direction on the far side of the trail. I really didn't have any trouble staying on - my butt didn't even leave the saddle and I kept my hands still so the reins stayed nice and loose - which pleased me to no end - if I can ride through that I'm good to go even if he does spook. Something that perhaps helped is that I try to keep my legs and back very relaxed when riding, so that if something like this happens I can just go with the motion. What really impressed me was how Pie behaved afterwards. I turned him back in the direction I wanted to go and he just walked past the spook spot and on out like nothing had happened - apparently in his case once the spook is over the spook is over and he doesn't carry tension forward from that point. I've never had a horse like that before - my others, once they'd spooked, would have been worried and tense afterwards. He also stayed relaxed on this loop as we headed back to the barn. Good Pie!
Pie's also practicing untying himself. I tie him to a post next to the barn for grooming and saddling - there's no ring, so I wrap the rope around and then over the top of the post and finish it off with the end of the rope pulled through in a quick release loop. There's a bit of grass under the post, and Pie's figured out how to get loose to get to it. If grabbing the end of the rope and pulling it loose doesn't work, he rubs his nose under the rope that wraps around the post and pushes it up from both sides until it comes off the top. It's fun to watch him work things out like this - he's a smart boy - but I'll have to figure out a more secure way to tie him, although all he does when he gets free is nibble the available grass.
A bit later in the morning, while I was waiting for my farrier, I took Dawn out and we did about 15 minutes of ground driving, both up and down the trails in sight of the barn and also doing some patterns in the arena using our cones. I left her blanket on - she gets blanketed on days like this although most of the other horses don't need to be. She was really good and seemed to enjoy the outing. I was planning on doing some scary object work using clicker and the Desenex spray can she's worried about, but just then the farrier arrived. Dawn got her front snow shoes (she's barefoot behind), just in time for the snow we're supposed to be getting tonight and tomorrow. The shoes look like this (this is one of Maisie's old ones):
These shoes have their advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are the rough borium spots at the toe and heel that provide traction, and the rubber bulge in the middle that flexes as the horse walks, popping out the snow and preventing snow balls from forming. The disadvantage is that the extra traction can put more stress on joints and soft tissues when a horse is playing - the horse is more likely to come to an abrupt stop or put torque stresses on legs. In Dawn's case, the advantages on balance outweigh the disadvantages. She is already in front shoes, and does well in them, and leaving regular shoes on over the winter is a bad idea - they slip easily and ice balls form inside the shoe. She plays very hard, and slipping is a real risk for her, so on went the snow shoes.
Pie on the other hand is barefoot and doing very well that way - he's comfortable even over rocks and gravel although if he were going long distances on rough ground I'd be inclined to put boots on him. Barefoot horses generally do very well on snow and slippery ground, although no horse can go across sheer ice safely and even barefoot horses will sometimes get snow balls if the snow is very wet. Pie had his first-ever trim by a farrier this morning. The farrier confirmed that he had great feet. Almost nothing needed to come off the sole (his prior owner kept him in a pasture that was pretty rocky so his feet got a good bit of wear), the frogs only needed a little cleaning up and the walls needed some trimming. And, what do you know, Pie was absolutely perfect for the farrier (although he did make the "Pie face" from time to time to let me know he was being imposed on!) - I should have known he would do just fine! Good Pie (again)!