Annie and I took a road trip earlier this month to present at the Harmony Horse Expo, a fun and educational weekend full of training demos from trainers and other horse professionals, hosted by the Denver Dumb Friends League Harmony Equine Center. This impressive facility rehabilitates and adopts out abused and neglected equids that have been removed from dire situations by law enforcement.
I was happy Annie and I were invited, and although I was there as a presenter, I couldn’t resist combing through their used tack sale. I ended up buying an old Stubben dressage saddle (like I need another saddle!).
I’ve ridden in many, many different dressage saddles over the decades after getting on random horses at clinics and expos. There are few that I have liked, but I love this Stubben. It is balanced and close-contact—without all the bulky padding that many dressage saddles have that pushes my leg back and tips my seat forward.
I can’t wait to restore this deserving old saddle to its former glory with some Leather Therapy and copious amounts of good old fashioned elbow grease. Then, the only problem will be finding a dressage horse to ride. I’m afraid my dainty, quick-footed, 14-hand-even cow pony won’t be a good fit for this saddle.
In the meantime, back at my ranch, I enjoy the slower pace of life that summer brings my horses and me. Because of the over-the-winter fitness plans, the horses are all fit as a fiddle now, and they are ready for their peak riding activities of the year.
Casper and Rich will be traveling to clinics and ranch horse shows on the front range, plus traveling occasionally to work with a trainer on cattle. Lucy’s big bay horse, Abner, is ready to climb some serious mountains when they make their summer pilgrimage to ride in the Sangre de Cristo mountains next month.
Leonard, Lucy’s palomino gelding, is graduating from his 6-month treatment plan for mild kissing spine. During that time, he has had IRAP for his hocks and stifles, a different saddle and pad, and a major reconditioning program using my bitting system to engage his abdominal muscles and rebuild the atrophied muscles in his back. He is now pain-free, buffed-out, and moving better than I’ve ever seen him. Although Lenny’s days of riding in the high mountains are over, it’s great to see him healthy and strong again!
All our horses are out on irrigated pasture every day now, greatly reducing our hay bill for now. On cooler days, the horses are turned out to pasture early, but if it’s going to be really hot, we work horses first thing in the morning before they’re turned out. At the end of the day, they line up, ready to go back to their stalls and cushy bedding for the night. It’s an idyllic daily routine, and one they seem to thrive on.
The horses are always ready for the next thing on their agenda, even when that means exercise and riding. They love the continuity of a daily routine and knowing what comes next, but they also enjoy a break in the monotony, and the enrichment that comes with a variety of activities throughout the day.
Training time becomes an interesting change of pace during the day, with plenty of people and other horses hanging around—it’s kind of like being invited to a party. They also get a nice spa treatment and rubdown, plus a sense of accomplishment and praise for a job welldone.
We are so fortunate to live in this natural splendor and to share our lives with these noble creatures. Yes, it’s a lot of hard work, with a long chore list that starts over every day, but watching the horses frolic in the fields and witnessing their contentedness is a good return on that investment for me.
I’ll do my best to enjoy our horses and the lazy days of summer while I can. Soon enough, the grass will dry up, the days will get shorter, and the hay bill will soar once again.
Enjoy the ride!