To say that I was apprehensive when May climbed off the trailer last Monday would be an understatement. It was one thing to transition from NJ to KY. The climates are somewhat the same and the only real risk factor was the transition from no grass to grass, which being unemployed at the time, was easy enough for me to manage.
With the move to California… we may as well have moved to another country. In my barn search, I managed to find somewhere that allowed May to live out full time in smaller, private turnout. I think my ideal situation for her here would be full turnout in a bigger field with a small group of horses, but it wouldn’t allow me any ability to control her eating. With May, diet and exercise have to go hand in hand to keep her healthy. So the smaller, but still generous, turnout in a field next to a bunch of other horses seemed like the best compromise.
In fact, most days when I go out to see her, I find her hanging out with her neighbors, enjoying each others company. Of course, if she starts to seem unhappy with the arrangement, there are plenty of options to make changes. Even in KY, she was rarely with the rest of her herd in turnout… unless the rest of the herd was close to the largest round bale.
Of course, the weather gods were not on our side either and temperatures climbed well into the 90s every day since May moved here. With her winter coat already starting to come in, I was a bit concerned about how she would handle the heat. I showed up to the barn a couple of times near the warmest part of her day to find her chasing after the farm workers, asking if they would give her more food. (I kid you not, she trots after the farm trucks as they pass her field.)
The only issue we have had are some puffy, weepy eyes. Honestly, after nearly 3 days on a trailer and then moving to a dry, dusty environment… I was not overly surprised. The eyes themselves looked fine, but I grabbed the number for the vet (who lives NEXT DOOR) and kept a close eye on it. After a couple of days wearing her fly mask, everything had returned to normal.
I’ve even ridden her a few times. For our first ride, I crashed a group lesson that Susan was having with a couple of other women at the barn. (For the record, Knight is as adorable and sweet in person as he looks in photos, and Susan puts all my equitation attempts to SHAME.) While I wasn’t nervous about how May would act, I hadn’t been on a horse in nearly 6 weeks, and I wanted to have a set of experienced eyes on the ground in case May felt less than spectacular.
And honestly? She felt good! I was a bit of a mess, so nothing felt AS GOOD as it had, but she definitely wasn’t the issue. Even our new trainer (C?) commented on how good she looked coming off a trailer. The lesson was pretty low key, W/T/C, a touch of easy lateral work, some pole work, and one crossrail. All easy enough stuff, but C had a lot of comments about my bad equitation habits. UGH. Things to work on. By the end, May was a bit sweaty, but nothing terrible. So she got a quick hose off and put back in her pen for the night.
The second ride was a solo ride. I figured it would be good to go explore the paths, the big arena, and the XC course a bit. It was a bit funny what May would look at. Palm trees and sprinklers? No problem. Hoses on the ground (there are MANY of these in California), those got a side eye. The only thing she actually spooked at was a tumbleweed that moved. Then she realized it kind of looked like hay and wanted to eat it. Over all, a nice easy 30 minutes hack around the grounds.
Friday brought our longest ride since she got here, a trail ride! When asked the question, “Do you want to ride down the river bed (currently dry) or along the ridge to see the sights?” I probably should have asked more questions, but enthusiastically agreed to the ridge.
Turned out, the ridge was actually the fairly narrow ridgeline of a small mountain. A small mountain we had to climb up and down. Did I mention I have a fairly strong fear of heights? Because… yeah. I did manage to A) survive and B) get a pic! I think we were out for a solid hour and half, but almost all just walking. May was still POWER WALKING by the end and had barely broken a sweat. (Big thank you to the KY group for keeping her in shape!)
Our last ride of the week happened on Sunday. I just wanted to get some real ring work in, asking her to be a bit more flexible and work on myself. I think the total “work time” of the ride was 20 min, but she gave me a REALLY good feel. The footing in that arena is a big deeper than she is used to, so I wanted to work her until she was loose and listening but not until she was tired and straining.
During one of our walk breaks, another woman in the ring (on a very fancy warmblood) was asking me about her. People always ask a lot of questions about May, so I didn’t think anything of it. Finally though, she asked me if she was for sale, as the woman was looking for a horse for her husband. Ahhhh…. thank you, but no. It took me WAY TOO long to make this one, and she is way too special to me.
We hacked back to the barn, where I found May was… basically not sweaty at all. But she did get a good bath to get all the dirt off of her from the week. A couple of cookies too, just for being the best girl. And then back in her field. She gave her friends a quick greeting, drank some water, and popped up a foot to take a nap… clearly so stressed.
Overall, I couldn’t have hoped for anything better from May as she settled into her new home. Multiple people have commented about how well she settled in, and she seems totally content. This week, the weather is finally going to break to a bit cooler, so I think she will be even happier with the lack of heat.
Our first real lesson is scheduled for next week, so a few more easy rides and hacks in before we get back to business!