Sandy: A Task or Perk? - Expert how-to for English Riders

Sandy: A Task or Perk?

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Last June, I put my horse, Merlot, on a supplement, which the barn owners happily agreed to give him. He's turned out 24/7, so they added it to his bucket on the fence line at mealtime and he happily ate it. Then a few weeks ago, horses being horses, he and his pasture-mates decided the grass was so good, they didn't need their grain. No amount of coaxing and calling would make Merlot leave his buddies and come to the fence on any kind of regular basis. So I moved to Plan B. Living about 10 minutes from the barn, I decided to swing by in the mornings on my way to work and bring the supplement to him. One side of the pasture faces the road, so the quickest way for me to get to him was to pull into a vacant lot across the street and climb over his pasture fence. I can't say I'd looked forward to this task, partly because getting myself ready and out the door in the morning can be a challenge under the best of circumstances. Another reason: Merlot inevitably ends up sneezing or slobbering on me when I'm wearing work clothes. The visits, however, have turned into a perk. First, they give me a few minutes to take stock of the day and the beautiful scenery?something I don't seem to manage when I'm hurrying out of my house. The farm is at the base of a small mountain, so as I climb the fence and walk toward Merlot, I find myself studying how the trees make a patterned green carpet across it. I notice whether the day is going to be clear or if there's already a haze settling over the field. I see how the morning sunlight slants across the pasture, making Merlot's chestnut coat shine like a penny. Watching how Merlot reacts to my arrival has been interesting, too. Wherever he is in the field, he generally looks up when my car pulls up. Sometimes he's near the roadside fence, so I just hop over with the bucket and let him eat. Other times he's way across the pasture, at which point he may march directly up to me or he may saunter over and stop several feet away, making me close the gap. Sometimes he doesn't come at all?usually that happens when he's at the farthest end of the pasture. After eating the supplement, he lets me primp him a little as I cover him with fly spray and offer him some carrots. Then sometimes he remains where he is as I cross the field back to my car before he resumes grazing. Other times, he follows me to the fence and "helps" me over, nuzzling my backside with his nose. Once, when his buddy Fantom came up to see if I would share the treat, they touched noses, squealed and whooshed past me in a bucking frenzy. This little bit of time outdoors helps offset the rest of my sedentary day commuting and sitting at my desk. And when Merlot softly knickers to me, as he did this morning, the memory of it puts a little smile on my face for the rest of the day.

Merlot hangs out by the fence after our morning "date." ? Sandra Oliynyk

Merlot hangs out by the fence after our morning "date." ? Sandra Oliynyk

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