CHASITY’S CHALLENGES: After the Winter Break: 3-29-21
Due to the colder and more inclement weather here in Colorado, Chasity has been off her exercise program for about three months. It was time to get back to work! No matter how long it has been between lessons, when you have a specific routine, the equines seem to comply easily because they know what to expect, beginning with going to their regular work station to be groomed and tacked up. In order to keep upper respiratory disease at bay, eye infections and ear problems to a minimum, it is advisable to clean these areas with a damp towel regularly. Be polite and wipe the towel in the direction that the hair lays and clean the nostrils with a circular motion. This repetition will prevent them from getting head shy.
Chasity still thinks the vacuum cleaner is questionable, but she tolerates it now. Not only does it pull the dirt from the skin for healthy hair growth, it also promotes circulation better than massage and does a better job at softening her “fat roll.” I used massage in the beginning when Chasity first came here with her enlarged crest (photo below on the right).
It had become somewhat enlarged again about three weeks ago, but after two sessions with the vacuum cleaner, it has decreased substantially already.
Another valuable therapeutic grooming tool is this simple human, multi-bristled hairbrush. It is not only VERY helpful during shedding, but also works to further stimulate the hair coat and promote better circulation, as well as efficiently removing dirt from the skin. I have found it to be more helpful for healthy hair than any equine grooming tools. The long, thick hair coats of winter and spring stay soft and healthy when I use this hair brush over the entire body. I only clip bridle paths when the weather gets warmer and I leave body clipping for showing. The only other grooming tools I use are a shedding blade to remove mud and a dandy brush to finish the coat. They can have balding spots from rubbing during the shedding season and may even get sores, but I just treat those with Neosporin and they recede quickly. A healthy hair coat will insulate your equine from the heat and cold and protect them from insects better than any artificial products or practices.
Equines do like feeling clean all over and really do appreciate your efforts at keeping them this way…although, they don’t necessarily show it when the first thing they do after a good grooming is to go for a good roll in the dirt!!! Still, they do seem to realize that you care and will show their appreciation in a multitude of other ways…like being happy to leave their companions to go with YOU and stand quietly during grooming, tacking and hoof care!
Feeding is a very important consideration for healthy hooves as are regular trims when needed, usually every 8-10 weeks. For donkeys, it can even be longer between trims when they wear their hooves in good balance. Chasity had hoof issues when she first arrived, but is now sporting healthy balanced feet! Remember that Longears will be more upright and have more heel than horses and ponies…and donkeys will typically be more upright and have more heel than mules.
Fitting saddles can be tricky. Make sure the saddle makes even contact behind the withers and over the back with relief from pressure over the spine. Many saddles sit too high and cause centralized and uneven pressure across the back. Pressure points are easily identified after a workout. The back will be sweaty, but the pressure points will be dry.
Place the saddle in the center of the back, behind the shoulder blade, the girth falling 4” behind the forearm where the skin is thicker and body begins to swell. I have successfully used cruppers with the buckles set away from the tail to hold it in place. The crupper is adjusted with just enough tension so the tail will still be able to rest comfortably.
I am using the neck sweat on Chasity for lunging to promote a decrease in the crest. When bridling, I press my thumb on the bars of her mouth to get it open and protect her ears with my hands as I pull the crown piece to the poll. This promotes trust and keeps any equine from getting ear shy.
On an English saddle there is a small d-ring that I use to tie up the reins.
Then it is off to the Round Pen. I always stay in sync with their front legs when we walk and execute the gates EXACTLY the same way EVERY TIME! All movements are predictable, never abrupt. They comply due to trust.
I adjust Chasity’s postural restraint, the “Elbow Pull,” and then remind her to give to the tension to get the release with a reward of oats for flexing at the poll. Wrangler, “Mr. Curiosity” watches intently…they do learn from each other!
Chasity’s overall posture has changed dramatically as has her movement. She uses her body much more efficiently.
Chasity has strong hind quarter engagement with an uphill balance to promote enthusiasm, endurance and stamina.
A reward is always in order for a job well done. Her forward stretch has improved greatly in one short year.
The lateral stretches are also much improved. After five rotations of walk, then trot, then reverse and repeat the other direction, 3 sets with a 3 minute break in between, then stop. Done once a week is adequate to maintain conditioning.
I hold the halter crown strap in my hand and protect her ears as I remove Chasity’s bridle. Then I slip the bridle onto my left arm, bring the noseband over her nose with my left hand and fasten the halter to the strap in my right hand. This ensures that I can keep hold of her should she try to pull away. Last, I fasten the tie strap from the hitch rail.
I always unfasten the girth on the left, then tie up the girth on the right, slide the saddle back, loosen the crupper from the tail and take off the saddle on the right side. This gets the equine used to being handled from BOTH sides. I always rinse the bits and wipe any dirt from the bridles and saddles before putting them away…saves work in the long run!
I remove Chasity’s neck sweat to see how much sweat is underneath…encouraging! We are definitely making progress!
To end, we do a few more stretches in each direction. These are improving immensely, too!
Then it’s walking IN SYNC back to the barn for turnout in the larger dry lot. They enter the stall, ladies first, and then they both turn around to allow me to remove their halters and to enjoy their last reward. I keep all my donkeys off grass most of the time. I find that they stay healthier and do not run the risk of getting obese that way. They do have large dry lots for turnout on pea gravel every day and a couple of acres of dirt pen for really stretching their legs every other day. They do get some grass when we go for walks, but do not seem to miss it most of the time. They are too busy playing and resting with each other…and looking forward to our next lesson TOGETHER!