But the truth of the matter is that he still finds hard ground very uncomfortable, and I'll be curious to see how he feels once Winter sweeps in (next month? next week? tomorrow?) and freezes the ground.
I think it's safe to say that although our riding partnership is not at an end, he is definitely going to need to scale back the hard work in the future.
So where does that leave him? On the prowl for something productive to do. Because a Walker without work, is a Walker who needs a reality check.
Enter Walker's Careerpath 4.0 (because I consider WP, loping crossrails and "creative dressage" to be careers 1 through 3).
Walker is going to be a therapeutic riding horse.
My barn owner is really involved with therapeutic riding, and let me tell you, it is not just a pony ride. They do a ton of different exercises with the children to get them working on their motor skills as well as mental skills, etc. She is building a new facility on her property which will be 100% devoted to therapeutic riding.
This means she needs horses. And what kind of horses does she need? Bombproof ones.
She tells me that they do everything from walk across bridges, through obstacle courses, under things hung from the ceiling, throw basketballs at horses - you name it. But she also expects these children to work as hard as any rider. They follow the Canadian paraequestrian riding program and she teaches them dressage specifically.
But she also has one little boy who has limited capacity in one of his hands. She thinks he would benefit from a Western saddle and a horse that can neck rein, which her current English therapeutic riding horse cannot do without a meltdown.
Apparently, while I have been listening to her explanations of the program and contemplating Walker's potential use there, she has been thinking the same thing. She has been watching him and thinks that he just might be suitable.
- You could totally throw a basketball at him. You can walk him under, over, through, into anything. He is afraid of nothing. It's almost amazing how bombproof he is.
- He LOVES kids. And he has always been uncharacteristically well behaved around them. He can sense that he has to be gentle and so he is. Yesterday he was waiting for supper and saw a child playing across the street. The next thing I know, he is cantering across the pasture so he could stand on the other side of the fence and watch her. He loves kids because he loves to be adored.
- He is a Western horse who can neckrein. He is perfect for this kid who requires that. Besides that, he has an extremely easy jog which would make him an ideal candidate for teaching kids to trot (she has some kids who do rising trot!) but who are unable to ride a bouncier horse. And being the laziest beast on the planet, he will never run away with anyone.
The best part about it is that my barn owner makes sure to work closely with the horses to make sure that they are suitable for the activities they are asking of them, and if there are certain things they can't do, she just uses another horse. It would be a great opportunity to give Walker something to do and it is something that would not put much strain on his feet.
So he is going to have the Winter off as planned, and come Spring, if my barn owner still thinks that he is suitable, we may have a new adventure to discuss.