On Monday John and I took Boomer out of his pasture area and up the road to an open field by the gate to the big field. The road is about... well I don't know how long it is... maybe 500 feet? Anyway, I wanted to continue longing Boomer in new environments so that he becomes familiar with change. He longed well and respected the size of the longe circle, not pulling out or dipping in. I was a bit surprised because he had only ever been longed in enclosed areas. So, that was a great feeling! The grass was long and delicious and we let him graze after we longed for a short time. It was really hot and I didn't want to work him too much, just enough to stretch his legs.
The most important part of this exercise was our walk on the gravel. Boomer was very bothered by it and his feet were very obviously tender. I did some research online and found some information on natural hoof care websites that pretty much stated the obvious. The ground he walks on daily is what his feet are prepared to handle. I feel like we have two options for strengthening his hooves, either walking him every other day on the gravel road or putting pea gravel in his shed. The first option seems to be the best so far because it would not require any extra time or money. I also read that in the summer it is a good idea to flood their food or water area so that their feet can soak and get needed moisture every once in a while. I did this and Boomer was slightly put off at first but quickly decided that his food was worth getting his feet wet for!
On Tuesday I went out in the afternoon while John was at work and I longed Boomer in the paddock. I have decided that the best training schedule would be to ride him 2-3 times a week, working on walk and halt transitions and longing him the other days to work on introducing the canter.
After a warm up of walking both directions 2 laps, trotting both directions 4 laps, walking to reverse and trotting more both directions, I asked Boomer for the canter to the right. He was frantic, excited, picked up the wrong lead, switched leads, and couldn't maintain the gait or the circle. I tried again going to the left and he picked up immediately and cantered gracefully for 3-4 laps on a perfect circle. I tried the right again, then left, and ended on the right. Overall it was a really good exercise. I was happy to know that he has a balance issue because that is easy to fix, all it takes is time! The reason I am going to really start working hard on the canter transitions from the longe line is because it is an off-balance gait which is difficult for young horses to master. The added speed is exciting for them and it is hard for them to focus. I would rather get him used to cantering calmly with me on the ground than try to introduce the weight of a rider, the physical cues, the speed, AND the gait all at once. So hopefully in the next few weeks I will be walking and trotting him and maybe after a month we will be able to canter! While I am first riding him I will stick to the arena and round pen and will slowly move to more open spaces, like I did with longing him.
John and I payed Boomer a surprise visit Tuesday evening around sunset just to say hi! Boomer was very sweet and affectionate and was a willing photo participant.