It has been a cold and rainy month here in Maine and Elton has been facing a lot of adjustments. He was already sleek and shed out on arrival and so he is back to his rain/wind sheet. Thank goodness it also keeps a good deal of the mud off him.
Last year Elton spent most of his year pastured with herds or turned in with Aryzona. He is now in a grass ‘run” ( a long narrow pasture of grass by himself but next to others) at Knowlton corner Farm days. For the moment it was the best solution to keeping him safe . Aryzona who is used to being turned out 24/7 w as out day and night in Florida and Elton kept her company as she was not good by herself. Coming home to Maine he needed to begin the process of getting used to being stalled nights and out days. It is always a transition for a horse to learn to do this. His lack of “herd” in the pasture and separation at night must be faced but can sometimes be stressful and problematic. It took some time for him to ‘settle” in the stall nights as evidenced by his lack of pattern to his manure in the stall. Finally he has gotten used to his stall and the manure and urine in the stall is mostly in the same pattern in the morning.
Although he had been worked in the covered arena in Florida, He has not experienced training daily in a completely closed arena such as is available at Knowlton Corner Farm. When there has been a lovely day I have been tempted to go outside as Elton is very reliable but I know that this time must be spent day after day getting him really confident in such an enclosed space. For horses started under saddle outside there is a very clear necessity to work a horse consistently in an indoor arena and gain confidence as the completely closed walls and lack of window is great for a trainer and a good training situation but claustrophobic for a horse that has not yet gotten used to this situation. Elton is doing well and I am thrilled with the closed walls as it allows me to begin to introduce the in-hand work that leads to the piaffe. I had begun in Florida but the walls of the arena are only 3 railroad ties tall and with young athletic horses they think about “hopping” over the wall.
Gary Severson the Saddle Doctor was due in town at a farm across town where I work sometimes. I arranged to trailer over and meet him to have Elton’s saddle adjusted. The saddle had been adjusted in February when Gary was in Florida and taught us about saddle fit and adjusted our saddles at our Florida Dressage Experience Program. Elton has matured and muscled so much the saddle was sliding forward as he gained muscling through the wither area. Elton was a very good boy standing on the trailer with his hay and water for most of the day and then coming off and being ridden in a completely unfamiliar outdoor arena and standing quietly for his saddle fitting and “ body work” by Gary. All around a productive day!
This week we have done a similar routine trailering to Amanda Smith’s farm to meet up with Dentist Steve Scotia. Elton had just lately been slightly grinding his teeth as his 2 year old molar caps have been falling out and loosening. In addition for the first time ever, I had experienced him unsteady and snatching some in his connection. It is always important to check their teeth if you start to have connection or contact problems.
Dentist Steve said his 2 year old molars were going out and the last one came off as he was working on Elton. In addition Elton needed his Wolf teeth removed. Elton received three quarters of a c.c. of Dormosedan IM as a tranquilizer. In twenty minutes he was ready for Steve, who also rubbed clove oil on the gum area to numb sensation locally. Wolf teeth like wisdom teeth can cause a good deal of ongoing troubles. One wolf tooth had erupted but Steve said the other was ”blind” . It was growing at an angle under the gum and would not ever show but would cause bitting troubles later. In a few minutes Elton was finished up and alert enough to accept a treat from Dentist Steve. Wolf teeth are generally removed between the 2nd and 3rd year or are removed by the vet when horses are castrated. For the next three days he can be worked but with no bit. My plan was for him to have a day off after and to concentrate on some of my in-hand work which I can do with his halter and to work on some free lunging and de-sensitization Environmental Training in the in-door arena.
Elton will shortly see the chiropractor as some horses tend to struggle a bit with the dentist and can get their necks or TMJ out of joint. In the photos of Dentist Steve working you will see the speculum which is the metal devise that allows s the horse to have its mouth partially open but he cannot clamp down and close it. The horses teeth rest on it like a mouth guard for an athlete. It is necessary for safety so the dentist can put his hands and tools in the horses mouth.
Elton has had a lot of new experiences this month. He seems un-fazed with it all and I am grateful for his generally happy co-operative attitude. His under saddle work continues
with just a few minutes a day of riding three or four times a week. He is actually carrying weight about 20-25 minutes now. His forward work is still Training Level like including walk, trot and canter in both directions in a Training Level frame. His leads are still asked
on the corners from the trot. He does turns on the forehand handily and he has started leg yield at walk but in “classical “position which means turn left on the centerline and go left ( more like ½ pass). I am confident his connection will be more consistent now after the wolf teeth removal.