How to Horse

Marley has been back at our barn for just about two weeks and is slowly settling down and remembering what it’s like to be a horse with a “job” – even if his job right now is not super strenuous.

Overall I’m pleased with his progress. I’ve ridden him 5 times and I think each has been marginally better and less dramatic. It’s possible that I’m projecting, but I really think he likes feeling as though he’s going to “work”. He just marches so proudly toward the arena when he’s tacked up – it’s fun to see him have a little bit of swagger.

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While I’m pleased with Marley’s progress under saddle and his health overall seems great, I am a bit concerned about his turnout situation. One of the things I love about our barn is that, unlike many places in California, they actually have sizable paddocks and horses are out from 9am until 4 or 5pm. Marley has a small, flat paddock that gives him enough room to stretch his legs and maybe buck a bit, but he can’t really work up a head of steam – which for now is fine. The past few times I’ve arrived at the barn mid-day, though, he’s been extremely agitated in the turnout. All I can figure is that his old pasture mate – another red-headed chestnut TB – is in a nearby paddock and does a lot of running back and forth. I have to believe it’s frustrating for Marley that he can’t join Gio on his romps.

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The Plan

Marley has been back home for nearly two weeks, and overall he has settled very well.

For the first week we focused on just getting adjusted to being at a busy barn again. Marley is funny – for a TB, he’s very chill and, particularly when he’s in work, can be almost lazy. He is, however, definitely prone to anxiety and if he’s at all “up” can be a bit spooky.

I’m working with a trainer at our barn to help ensure that Marley gets plenty of time out of his stall and paddock even though he’s not in what I would term full work.

I’ve now ridden Marley twice since bringing him back to the barn, and so far so good. I’ve been careful to ride only when the arena is relatively quiet, both so pony man is not inspired to start cantering by some horse jumping a line next to him and so that we can stick to the long sides of the arena without having to make abrupt turns. Most importantly, Marley seems bright-eyed and healthy and he’s moving well.

 

“Home”

Marley is “home” from camp!

 

After several months of a lot of rest, gradually increasing access to turnout, and a few vet visits, it seemed clear that Marley was ready to do more. His leg was looking perfect and and he was sound.

The barn Marley had been staying at was set up perfectly for turnout and light work, but not equipped for longer work sessions and/or real training. I needed to decide whether to bring him closer to SF so I could start gradually upping his workload, or explore sending him to a training facility elsewhere.

After a lot of research and back-and-forth, I made the decision to bring Marley back to our old barn a few weeks ago. I have him on a waiting list for a shed + paddock, but it will likely take some time for that to become available. In the meantime, he has a stall at night and a private turnout during the day. The barn manager has been wonderful and has was able to give him access to a small and almost perfectly flat paddock – it’s not huge, but it’s definitely big enough for him to stretch his legs in (and not so big that he can really work up a head of steam, even if he does try to bounce around). He was definitely tense and anxious the first few days, but he’s started to settle and selfishly I’m so glad to have him closer to home.

More soon about our adventures and the plan moving forward!