September 11. It’s a hard day to get through for our entire country. We all remember where we were when it happened. This day is always a heavy one on my heart. On September 11, 2002 – one year after tragedy hit our country, my father suffered a stroke, the damage done would lead to his passing on September 29. So getting through the month of September is hard for me. Although I’m really good and hiding my emotions when it comes to my father’s passing, this is a first for me, to publicly speak about it. My father’s name was Alfie. Yes, I named my horse after my dad.❤️
I usually try to take this day off from work and spend it doing something my father would’ve enjoyed doing. No, my father didn’t ride horses, but he was an animal lover, and so, what better way to honor my dad but to spend the day with Alfie.
I got to the barn pretty early and spent the morning chit chatting with our barn manager Regina. It was a beautiful day today, sunny, but cool with an delightful breeze. We had decided we were gonna go for a trail ride, so I slowly make my way up to Alfie’s paddock. He sees me coming, I call to him and he comes running to greet me. He bends his head so I can give him a kiss on his nose. I love this horse so damn much.
As Alfie is eating his brunch, I start to groom him. The saddle fitter is coming today, and he needs to be clean. My original plan was to give him a bath, but the saddle fitter texted and said they were going to be arriving earlier than they thought, so no bath today buddy, just a really good grooming. I get him all tacked up and off we go. Regina and Cayman joined us on our ride today, and it was perfect. Alfie is so comfortable on the trail, I even got him to trot on it today.
We come back from our ride, I untack him, and make him some more hydro hay, and brush him again. He’s all ready for the saddle fitter.
For my non horsey friends, let me explain to you what a saddle fitter does. They actually make adjustments to the saddle and/or saddle pad based on the horses body shape. Horses change shape all the time, so adjustments are needed to accommodate their ever changing body. It’s just like humans, if you gain weight, you need bigger pants, if you lose weight, you need smaller ones. A few weeks ago when Alfie started giving me issues with not wanting to move, etc., the first thing I did was check his saddle to see if it was pinching in anyway – it wasn’t, but arrangements were made for the fitter to come out anyway to double check.
When the fitter arrived, she hadn’t seen Alfie in about a year. After she set up her work table and supplies I got Alfie out of his stall and walked him to the grooming stall. Because of COVID, the fitter, her assistant and myself were all wearing masks. As we walked by her she took one look at him and was stunned. She couldn’t believe how muscular he was. Through her mask I could see her mouth was open in shock. She asked what had changed. I told her consistent dressage lessons every weekend at his pace. I explained how I made the decision to keep doing lessons but only at a walk with some light trotting only in straight lines so as to not aggrevate his tendons or feet. I explained all I wanted to do was enjoy him for who he was, and to enjoy riding him for as long as possible.
Again, her mouth dropped open. She told me flat out, what I’m doing is amazing. The weekly lessons are keeping him in such amazing shape and are helping him carry himself well. She commended me for not pushing him beyond his physical ability and for respecting him for who he is. She also said all the body massage work and stretches I do with him are keeping his body in top form. Not bad for a 26 year old horse.
His saddle needed a little bit of adjusting, she said it wasn’t pinching him, but just needed to be a bit more balanced for optimal comfort for not only him, but myself as well.
To hear this professional saddle fitter praising my hard work with Alfie, praising me as a horse owner for accepting his limitations and working with him for the benefit of him, hearing this made me feel so incredibly good.
As horse owners, you have a responsibility to them. You have to make sure all their needs are taken care of. You have to do your research about grain, hay, in Alfie’s case hay alternatives, body massage therapy, finding the best farrier for your horses specific requirements, the list is endless. The most important responsibility – listening to them. Alfie will never be able to comfortably enjoy off property trips. He will never be able to safely canter me around the arena without risking injury. His days of 4 hour trail rides are long gone. But what he still can do, is exactly what we are doing together. I love him for who he is, the fittest senior horse in the barn. ❤️🐴
3 thoughts on “Friday evening diary – a lovely day with my Alfie.”
Never underestimate the value of working at the walk!
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I always tell Alfie, if there was an Olympic competition for older horses done at a walk, we would win. I love to walk. I once had someone tell me that people don’t buy horses to just walk with them. I politely told her that you do when you want to just enjoy them for who they are.
Enjoying and communicating with your horse IS the heart of true dressage. I believe it was the Comte d’ Aure who claimed that he could train a horse so perfectly working only at the walk that they could then perform any movement desired at any gait. A muscle sensor study of the advanced riders at the riding school in Vienna showed they activate all the muscles necessary for work at faster gaits at the walk. So keep on walking!
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