Whats up with Elton? Fall 2012

Elton has been enjoying living out this summer in a large field pasture at Winterberry Farm with a large cozy run-in . Constant turn-out for a horse is a great way to keep them exercised .   Young horses  work off  some of that extra energy. The down side is that determined “eaters” have food constantly if you have lush grass. Winterberry Farm has good grass  and Elton is a determined Eater ! J  One of Elton’s pasture mates for 2 months was Lilith a full sister to Tylord Farm’s  stallion Lord Luciano. ( currently  in Europe )  This amazing filly , here to be backed, was a delightful companion for Elton. They got along well and Elton was instrumental in beginning ponying  her. He also demonstrated confidence and obedience for her when they would be tied quietly for an hour after their work session at the outdoor side of the stable,  trailer loading lessons etc.  

 Maine experienced a wonderful summer with good rains so grass grew well. In addition. with morning dew and rains we often experienced damp underfoot conditions. Elton,  turned four  on June 26, 2012 is still barefoot and has 3 white feet. Most of the summer  and this fall with continuing rain and mud conditions we are vigilant that an anti- thrush product is applied a minimum of once weekly and in some conditions daily to prevent the development of thrush. Preventing thrush with these products is much easier that combating a full blown case of thrush. It is amazing how just a small area of thrush can cause your horse to appear ‘lame or irregular.” While treating the bottom of the foot for thrush we also inspect the coronet bands and area behind his fetlock for scratches which is the same fungus/bacterial infection that develops  on the tender skin in these areas. We cut the hair with scissors or clippers,  and a once a week application of tea tree oil rubbed onto the skin  behind the fetlock generally keeps scratches from appearing. 

 The outdoor arena at Winterberry Farm  boasts exceptional footing that is stable and drains even in the worst weather. Situated by  beautiful trees, fields and dirt roads it is a pleasure to do ring work and be outdoors to appreciate the country views. Since the farm has galloping fields, sand arena , dirt roads for trail riding  and  grass jumping field  I have  had my chance to indulge myself with all of the cross-training  that I so enjoy with all of the developing horses.

 Elton’s ring work has progressed well this summer. He is currently working on the canter tours in the second level dressage tests. Those involved 3 loop canter serpentines with and without simple changes, 10 meter circles and medium canter. In September he also began regularly being asked for about  2 to 4  flying changes a week depending on how he is feeling and what other work he is doing. He piaffes a few steps in hand twice a week . His fifth day of work   in the week is generally lunging or long lining rather than weight bearing.

 With a variety of small jumps and obstacles available and a good set of poles and cavalletti around it is easy to incorporate these into Elton’s work. To develop strength , back lift and improved balance I began setting poles first and then low cavalletti in his lunge circles in Mid-August. He progressed to low fences ( 18 inches or less) while lunging and long-lining.  Elton is not a natural jumper and has minimal interest in this. It is however a good  idea for any horse to negotiate small obstacles  for his confidence, disciple and balance. Learning to trot and canter  over obstacles  and eventually jump without weight on his back is easiest.  It is easy to frighten a young horse by trying to jump them with a rider first. We begin all of our jumping horses by leading  them through and over small obstacles , progressing to lunging over cavalletti, then riding over cavalletti, then lunging over fences and then riding/jumping over fences. It is such an easy progression…. They never lose confidence  and they find balance first  over the fences without the interference of a rider. This work was added in twice a week for only a few minutes ( about 20 minutes)  so not to strain young backs/ligaments. In addition every other week He was ridden in the grass jumping fields to canter and do “ring” work as if he was warming up on grass for a competition. The slight unevenness and the difficulties of riding on grass strengthens them and requires additional balance.

 Elton has been instrumental with socialization for a young stallion that has come from the breeders. A 6 year old breeding stallion has joined our training group and he needs to get used to horses being in close proximity and not think about breeding. In addition he needs a travel buddy for the straight-load trailer. Elton who is quiet and highly amenable to others has been lead by and close to the new stallion and loaded onto the trailer with him. Yesterday I hauled both horses to the local cross- country course. Elton has never been before and the stallion has been improperly started jumping and had been scared but his former trainers. It was a great sunny autumn day and Hyl-Tun Farm made us welcome. We unloaded and tied each horse to a side of the trailer, simulating a competing experience.  Their course was inviting to our young horses. Most of the fences were situated in a grass field with good footing well spaced and with the lowest elements of the fences being placed to be ‘wings” to encourage horses to jump the fences rather that run-out.

 My assistant Erika walked and lead Elton through and over all of the elementary and novice fences  including  ditches, Helsinki, Banks and myriad combinations of logs. The stallion was lunged in his bridle, surcingle and side reins and then with side reins removed we began to walk over the small elements of the course. Elton watched intently as I was able to lunge the stallion over increasing larger fences. The course is so inviting and well laid out that I was able to lunge him over all of the novice and training size  fences including a wonderful log in and out. It was a good experience for these two young horses and we will return to negotiate the obstacles under saddle.

 At this point we are beginning to “harden” Elton to have more endurance and fitness to go into his fifth year. Through the fall we will increase his ride times from 40 minutes to closer to an hour -3 times a week with  increasing aerobic  conditioning. This is always such a fun and exciting time for young horses!

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