Full body clip and full winter schooling

One thing I’d figured out in early December was that this year was not going to give me any grace in managing Mocha’s workouts and dealing with sweat.  For whatever reason, the past two years I’ve been able to engage her in intense workouts during the winter without ending up with a dripping wet horse.

Not so this winter.

In past winters I’ve gotten away with a trace clip–essentially, just a trim of her windpipe and chest.  That’s been enough to keep her from sweating up.  This winter I went with a more aggressive trace clip—essentially, the “racing stripe” clip where I shave the windpipe and half her neck, the chest, and then a six inch stripe along her belly and across shoulder and haunch.

That wasn’t even enough, even after I got G’s heavy duty clippers and shaved it back close.  Why?  Darned if I know.  Could be age, could be muscle development, could be weather patterns or haircoat patterns…most horse folks I talk to are remarking on the heavy, thick undercoat they see on their horses.  I saw that thick, felty undercoat as I clipped Mocha today, and I’ve got to say, I’ve not seen that heavy an undercoat in a couple of years.

So today we went with the full body clip.  I didn’t clip her head or three-quarters of her legs.  But her neck, her belly, her haunches and the top third of her legs got clipped.   It took two hours of work.  I stopped after each section to clean the clippers and let them cool while sweeping up hair and brushing Mocha off and feeding her treats.  She needed the break from the clippers as well. It was her first time for a full body clip and while she’s good with clippers, the vibration got to her after a while.  I stopped halfway through and lunged her a little bit to let her get the antsies out.  She reversed quite nicely at the trot on a vocal command alone…first time I’ve tried that without a lunge whip to give her the visual reverse cue.  That tells me we’ve done it enough that she knows what switching hands on the lunge line coupled with the verbal means.

Then once I got done clipping her, we went riding.  The footing in the arena is slick because everything is wet and there’s no way to keep anything dry.  It’s deceptively dry on top with slick underneath.  Winter in the Willamette when it’s raining hard on a daily basis.  Welcome to December schooling.

There’s a reason I keep my Western horse in a snaffle, and December schooling is it.  This is usually the time of year when the footing is either slick (even in the best of indoors) or frozen solid.  December work is walk-trot season, focus on counterbends and lateral work.  Many schooling figures (work around the slick spots in the arena!).  Lots of trot work.

What I find interesting is that, even though my back is totally messed up, I can now sit Mocha’s big extended trot more comfortably than I can post it.

Anyway, we did lots of haunches-in, haunches-out work, two track diagonal, two track on the rail, half pass….counterbend at walk in small circles alternating with regular bend, focusing on changing the bend based on seatbone more than leg or rein (as much an exercise for the rider as for the horse).

And at the end, no steamy, sweaty horse.  I pulled off her saddle, let her go roll, brushed her off and put her back in her stall.  We were both a lot happier about that.  She has a nice heavy blanket and if I have to get a liner to keep her warm, so be it.  Neither one of us was happy about long periods of her standing around with a cooler and all of that song and dance.  I wasn’t liking the way her skin was looking under this hair coat after getting put up after those intense and wet sessions.

She certainly seemed more energetic and eager to work after the clip.  We’ll see what happens in the long run, though.  Nonetheless, I’m looking forward to some respite from an hour or more trying to get a horse dry after a moderately intense work in midwinter.

Just one of those years.

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