Friday, December 31, 2010

Snow for the New Year

The cats and I are doing the couch thing again today. I hemmed and hawed this morning before daylight, debating risking the roads to fill the hay feeders again since the forecast is inching up toward 12" - history says the plows won't hit the gravel roads Sunday or Monday.

We had a brief window of clear before the blizzard kicked in again, and I was tempted, but it's really hard to judge how badly things have drifted in - town weather is rarely the same as conditions outside the city limits. Often it's better, sometimes it's a lot worse.

If nothing else, I figured calling to check and let them know I was on my way wouldn't hurt. I'm glad I did, as J said she'd feed for me this afternoon and tomorrow if necessary. Which makes me feel a lot better. If I was going to go, it would have had to have been then - at this point, the wind is holding at about 25mph at the moment, but I can barely see across the street it's snowing so hard, so I think the window has closed.

Tortilla soup is bubbling away in the crock pot, bread's baking, and I have pears that need to be made into... muffins, maybe? Or possibly pie - haven't decided yet. Something to make the house smell good, though.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Angels with snowy faces...

Or abominable snow beasties, perhaps? It's hard to tell the difference sometimes!

From mid-30's Tuesday and Wednesday - I took advantage of the nice weather to get the five of them wormed.

It's just plain nasty.
I was supposed to give blood at the 4-H drive this afternoon, but when the called to say the drive was ending early due to inclement weather, I stopped in there before chores. Lighter by a pint, but newly outside of two chocolate chip cookies, I headed out to feed. (T says forking hay isn't heavy lifting, although I suspect the blood-drive personnel might disagree.)

Thankful for 4-wheel drive doesn't begin to cover it. We had freezing rain before the snow started, but the plows either hadn't run yet or the wind was just covering up all traces too fast to tell.

I left the truck running while I distributed enough hay that they should be fine through Saturday if I can't make it out tomorrow. They should still be able to reach the bale once they've cleaned out the feeders.

They seemed to be warm and snug behind the tree grove, despite their snowy overcoats. They were all enjoying an afternoon snooze when I arrived.

I'm crossing my fingers it stops before we get the 8" they're predicting for tomorrow. Until then, the cats and I are enjoying the couch!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Holiday rush

Or maybe that should read sugar rush, because that's what I spent the majority of yesterday on. Friday morning was a run to the store for baking supplies and a few Christmas presents. Friday afternoon was two batches of fudge and a batch of cherry mash (cherry fudge with Maraschino cherries layered between dark chocolate fudge with pecan bits). Saturday morning was - almost - the last of the boxing for mailing, a batch of cookie jar ginger snaps and mini-shortbread cookies and getting all of the sweet stuff boxed up for the vet clinic, garage, library and assorted other destinations.

T has a cold, so he was banned from the kitchen, but he made the post office run for me, bless him! Haven't touched the cards yet, though.

The cats are thoroughly enjoying the holidays. Although their space under the tree has been taken up by packages, the boxes arriving and going are endlessly fascinating.
This box came from my folks - Yancey, their dog, is a cat-eater (or she would be if she had the opportunity) so when they visit we set up gates and she goes in her crate at night.
The box must have retained some Yancey smell. As soon as it was open Nunu started sniffing the air and as I took the presents out, commenced digging through the packing to make sure it wasn't concealing anything suspicious. Once she'd ensured it was sage, she made herself at home. Mabel checked it out, too, but Snowball just supervised from a safe distance in case the actual dog appeared.

T suggested we just tape the box up and send Nunu to Yancey for Christmas... One of them would enjoy that, the other likely not so much! Apparently Yancey's been checking all the incoming packages on that end for furry occupants, as well - but I don't think she takes naps in the boxes afterward.

The ponies, meanwhile...
Are eating their fool heads off. They greeted me enthusiastically yesterday and left off their afternoon naps to join me at the feeder. I wanted to make sure they could still reach the bale okay, and ended up distributing a bit, not that they really needed it.

We're supposed to have 20's today, so if there isn't too much wind and T's feeling better we may try riding. It's looking pretty gray at the moment, but we'll see how it goes.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Escapees on Sunday

Sunday's clear morning turned into overcast and gloom before noon - not that I'm complaining, as the temps at least nudged up out of the negative numbers once the clouds moved in. With the thermometer still hovering around -3' at 9am, my morning's planned outing - to go observe C's science fair project (something to do with resting and active heart rates in horses) research in progress was on hold. Even with the prospect of a heated arena to use at the end of the trip, no one was really that enthused about trailering the 12 miles over to the trainer's for a non-emergency.

So I decided to be productive and start my Christmas baking - five loaves of fruit cake (not my favorite thing, but my dad and a couple of other family members request it every year) with properly whiskey-soaked fruit. I'm late, so it won't get its full three weeks of post-baking liquor-drenching before mailing, but it's done. It's different every year, since I never remember exactly what I added to the batter the year before. This year I'm trying jalapeno jelly instead of the peach/apple/apricot/cherry I've used in past years. The batter raw was tasty, so hopefully the finished product will be likewise.

While that was in the oven I contested with the cats for the Christmas wrap. They finally were satisfied with their own piece to pounce on and punch full of claw prints. Silly critters!

Then I tackled two batches of fudge, one with a cup of Andes Candies mint pieces for flavor, and one with a half bag of Heath English Toffee bits; neither with nuts, because I used all of those up in the fruit cake. I use Carnation's fudge recipe and have yet to have any issues with graininess or failure to set, even when I experiment with random additions like the Andes Candy bits. Taste testing says the Andies Candies were a definite hit. I don't like toffee, so I'm not thrilled with the other batch, but T gave it two thumbs up (and had to be threatened with losing a few fingers to keep him out of the pan, so I think he did actually like it - LOL!).

I was just starting to bundle up for the afternoon's horse-checking expedition when the phone rang - it was J, the farm owner letting me know that she'd penned all the horses in the lot except the one on the wrong side (!) of the fence. The neighbor's cows had apparently pushed their way into the east horse pasture trying to escape Saturday's wind, and she didn't want the horses getting in the way of the removal efforts. Sigh...

I plated some fudge for her, then headed out to see what the damage was. Thankfully, other than Thunder, who was indeed completely on the wrong side of the fence, and the other four miffed ponies who wanted out of the lot and back at the hay bale post haste, all was well. The cows were back where they belonged already, Thunder was happy to be reunited with the other four and had only a small scuff mark from being driven over the feeder (green paint on his back hooves gave that exit route away). I rearranged the gates to hopefully discourage further escapes and let them all back out. T'll check them again tonight, but I think now that the weather's calmed down and the panels are secured differently, they should stay where they're supposed to.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Healing nicely!

Back in early October we arrived at the farm to find Amyra with a really nasty gash midway up her barrel.

From this...
Oct. 9, 2010

After stitching...

After a week

After 20 days

Dec. 10th - after 2 months

Not too shabby! I don't think it's even going to leave a mark.

Fall, Meet Winter - aka "Hello, Blizzard!"

Talk about dramatic weather changes!

What you can't see in the pictures is the temperature difference - not to mention the multiple extra layers I had on Saturday!

Friday afternoon we had 40's - yesterday we saw single digits and wind gusts to 47 mph. And snow - not lots, fortunately, but less than an inch of snow was still enough to leave a 2 1/2' drift across our front walk and have the plows running non-stop to keep the emergency routes clear.

Thankfully in the country the roads were much better. The snow stopped by late afternoon, and we headed out to make sure the horses were weathering things okay.

With the wind out of the north, they have the shelterbelt to serve as a windbreak, and were tucked in contentedly at their bale.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

I'm such a wuss!

It's cold out there! I haven't ridden in two weeks. The horses aren't minding the cold, but unlike PrairieRunner over at Just Another Day on the Prairie, I find it much more appealing to stay inside and torture the cats.
Yes, those are antlers. Honestly, I expected much more reaction - she's apparently decided that when the camera flash goes off - she gets fish. She thinks this stuff is wonderful. The cats got for Christmas last year, and will likely again this year-

at least if Snowball has anything to say about it!

We did mend a bit of fence where the deer had run through the top wire yesterday. The horses were having a grand time blowing and snorting and just generally being silly - storm coming in... Too bad my camera got cold. I got a few of these, and then it quit. Brrr!
So that's the weekend here thus far - now I'm off to catch up on everyone else's activities!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

8 mile Saturday and weekend wrap-up

Is this a happy face, or what?
C and I had a riding date on Sunday. Unfortunately, the bright sunny morning turned into a grey, cold, blustery afternoon. And we left about the same time the sun vanished behind the bluster. Still, the temp was in the 40's - well, almost - and it seemed a shame to not put some miles behind us.

Going away we were riding with the wind. We decided to do our usual route in reverse, which one of us should have had the foresight to realize was a very poor idea. Brrrr! Right into the wind all the way home.

Mainly we walked and talked, but we did a bit of loping on a nice smooth sandy stretch. Sunny picked up a right lead when I asked, and held it much better than he has to date. I only had to bump him back up again twice. I think regular outings agree with him!

C had Lightbulb, her barrel horse - he's long and lean and catty-quick. She was thrilled that he was content to lope along relaxedly, as he doesn't always do relaxed. Lightbulb's stride is so much longer, he was taking one stride for every one and a half of Sunny's.

We walked the majority of that last two miles so the horses would be completely dry when we got home ('Bulb sweats easily, especially in his winter woolies). Between the dropping temp and that wind neither of us could feel our fingers when we got there. Sunny was very pleased to load up and head for home, and I was equally thrilled to crank the heater in the truck!

I thought about riding Sunday, but not for very long. Too many things to get done around the house, but I did squeeze in an hour of grooming and pasture clean-up.

How many horses do you see?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Horse trailer Friday

Since I had yesterday afternoon free after the guys got on the road, and Sunny was squiffy about the trailer last week, I decided to spend a couple of hours working on loading. Not just with Sunny, but with the other four at the farm, as well.

Every time Sunny's gotten in the trailer lately, he's gotten a workout. So I figured it wouldn't hurt to let him be the "monkey-see, monkey-do" horse with no actual work involved except hopping in and out of the trailer a few times. Too bad for him he decided to be uncooperative, as he got a workout anyway!

Rather than stepping in nicely, he tried angling himself around the trailer. I circled him a few times with no joy, so rather than let him continue to be sticky about it, I retrieved the dressage whip and used it to extend my arm so that he knew swinging sideways wasn't profitable.

His highness enjoying some trailer time.

Even with Sunny being a pill (although by the end of the afternoon he was walking in and out as per his usual) Star watched with interest, thought hard, and then decided that inside was by no means a bad place to be.

Taking a moment

Her trailer experience has been very limited, and was a long time past besides, so walking in and out politely was great.

With Solitaire, who has never been in a trailer, my goal wasn't actually loading but just familiarizing her with things without traumatizing her. When she's afraid she tends to freeze, then freak out (which has in the past involved flipping over). Not a horse that does pressure situations well. I just asked her to step up to the trailer, let her investigate, and then backed her away. Then I did "touch-it" with the clicker and the end of the dressage whip from inside the trailer, but never asked her to step in. From snorting and blowing, she gradually started checking things out, and when she was visibly relaxed about things I put her back.

Sunny got loaded and unloaded in between each horse. Thankfully, his initial "I don't wanna," behavior was short-lived.

Thunder, bless his heart, remembered the trailer being a very rewarding place to be, and stepped right in with no hesitation whatsoever. He's ready to go for a ride. :)

The last victim was T's Amyra, and she loaded, albeit with a bit of snorting, nicely, as well.

Considering Sunny's reluctance to load...

Not wanting to overthink things here, but - I know a bad trailering experience can make a poor loader. But T and I are both careful drivers, especially with horses on. I don't think he's been banged around any more than would be caused by road conditions - yes, we do a fair amount of hauling over gravel, but we do our best to avoid any that are badly washboarded or full of potholes and ruts.

But Sunny's generally the first horse in, and he's right up next to the front wall of the trailer - I wonder how much noise the halters and bridles hanging on the hooks in the tackroom make? Trailers aren't the quietest places to be anyway, but I might try hanging some rugs against that wall for padding to maybe cut some of the racket. It can't hurt...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Packing for hunting

Rufus and T are headed west this weekend. It's the long planned, much anticipated hunting with horses trip. This will be their first year, although everyone else along (including the horses) are old hands at all this packing and tracking business.

T was to have gone last year, but a family emergency changed plans at the last minute. This year he was bound and determined nothing was going to spoil his fun.

I did lobby successfully for him to leave the big truck and trailer home with me - I want to ride, too!

Rufus is sharp shod - I'll have to get a picture - for good traction on potentially frozen hills.

T had his list compiled. Need I mention the phone calls if I'd seen, variously, his compass, his long underwear, the missing wool socks he knows were in his drawer last week... At least he knows were the guns are!

I got to make the list of horse-type extras and make sure they were packed.

Basic extras on my list include:
  • halter & lead - spare set in addition to what Rufus is wearing
  • headstall & reins - and spare set
  • saddle/breastcollar/cinch/pad
  • cinch & latigo (spare set in addition to the ones on the saddle)
  • saddle pads (2 extra)
  • box with assorted bucket clips (carabiners), saddle strings, twine, electrical tape, etc.
  • human/equine medical supplies - although since they're going with a large-animal vet, and he's taking his truck complete with vet box, I'm hoping they'll be covered in that department!
  • buckets (2 minimum)
Brushes etc. are already in the trailer, and since J is took his truck complete with vet box, I kept my emergency kit here so that I'll have it if I need it. Hay and grain was already packed, and I didn't need to send the portable corral, as the place they're staying has a barn and corrals - talk about glamping! The humans get to stay in a house with electricity, heat, and a real bathroom. So much for roughing it!

They were loaded and off about 1 PM yesterday. T called this morning to say he'd gotten a deer - they hadn't been out with the horses yet, just walking to scope out the lay of the land.

Monday, November 8, 2010

SSA Mister Jimmy (a.k.a. "Jim Bob")

Did a bit of poking around and found a couple pictures of "Jim Bob" in show shape strutting his stuff. (Scroll about halfway down the page to where half-Arabians are listed, or just do a find for "Jimmy".)

Apparently, driving plans aside, he's for sale for the right (unlisted) price, so if you're in the market, feel free to make an offer - LOL! He seems to be a very nice boy, at least on limited acquaintance.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sunny's Sunday

I'm not a huge fan of the time change. It gets dark way too early anyway!

I monkeyed around a bit with Sunny on Friday, but as you can see, nothing serious.

Saturday afternoon's ride route was mainly gravel, and we were clipping right along as the daylight faded. With no shoes, I didn't want to push that hard on Sunny.

This afternoon C and I rode the same route a tad more sedately with Sunny and Bubbles. We loped where the footing on the shoulder was dirt rather than gravel. I concentrated on just getting the lead I asked for and then keeping him in gait and steady until I asked him to slow down.

Trotting, I asked him to soften and step under himself, instead of getting hollow and sprawly, trying to stay consistent myself with hands and seat, sitting up, not forward.

At one point, C asked Bubbles for a nice slow lope, and then gradually increased her pace. I had Sunny trot, and asked him to extend. Bubbles was galloping, and Sunny still had gears left - SO COOL! But the footing got bad, so we slowed back down.

We saw lots of pheasants, a few road hunters, and one slightly terrified bunny rabbit - the horses seemed to be enjoying themselves, and I know we did. It's hard to beat 70's and sun, especially in November. Definitely a day to be thankful for!

Lesson 4: "Jim Bob"

I opted to leave Sunny at home again this week - and ended up riding a Country English horse by the unlikely name of Jim Bob. I've never ridden, or even considered riding Country English, but as you'll see, the big action was pretty much a moot point anyway.

Jim Bob is lovely, although a bit of a puller. Apparently a previous rider taught him to lug badly on the reins - my assignment was to successfully get him to soften - while remembering all the things I tend to do consistently wrong regardless of who I'm riding. I was sporadically successful... Clever E, to put me on a horse that will pull if I'm not working to fix MY habit of giving away my hands!

Can you see the hunt seat lessons resurfacing?

E got on first and rode for a few minutes to give me an idea of how JB goes. A Dutch Harness horse/Arab cross, he's big and round and upright. Like Nick, the horse I rode the last time, he's been to Arabian Nationals a couple of times (Country English and Native Costume), but also like Nick, JB is now headed for a second career. He's going to be a driving horse.
A less forward horse than Nick energy-wise, with E on board, he looked plenty firey, and I admit I was a bit nervous, as powerful as he appeared snorting and blowing, high-stepping around the arena.

Once I was on, although his bigger stride and upright front end made it feel like I was flying, he was really very smooth and comfortable to ride, and I never had the slightest feeling of being out of control.

As you can see, (I wish I had some pictures of E riding him for contrast) with me riding him, JB looks a lot more hunter than country! And although I didn't have to work to make him go, I didn't get more than a few brief snip-its of the action JB showed off with E.

That's okay, though. I'm learning - and a lot of what I'm learning is where MY issues are. The lessons are definitely making a difference in my confidence level, and hopefully in my riding in general. The good news is that I have fairly consistent bad habits. The bad news is that they're pretty ingrained.

For example, for the last several years when I ride I always end up with a lot of lower back pain. To the point where if we're trail riding and doing a lot of walking, I always end up getting off and walking about half the time.

I'm starting to realize that the main cause isn't only lack of riding and nerves making me tight - it's also HOW I ride. Instead of sitting up and breathing, tightening my abs, tucking my butt under and squaring my shoulders, I tend to collapse forward, stiffen through my lower back, and give my hands away. I need to remember POSTURE - to stay both fluid and firm.

So if Sunny pulls, rather than me softening to him, I need to keep driving him forward into my hand until he softens to me - if I automatically give him more rein, all I'm going is reinforcing the pulling. makes sense, doesn't it? Sigh...

After my lesson we headed over so T could ride Rufus. I borrowed C's Casper, and we just had time for an 8 mile loop before it started getting dark.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Rufus and the farrier

I keep pondering Rufus and his aversion to the farrier....

Personally, I LIKE new shoes. But for Rufus, chaps, nippers & especially shoes seem to be the monster under the bed - a big hairy deal!

Sunday his behavior as I groomed him before our ride was an absolutely typical for him: doze while being brushed, give each foot politely when asked; ready and cooperative for each hoof. He actually anticipates slightly, shifting his weight off the next foot in line, propping the toes of the back hooves as each front sets down.

I dug and pried at caked in mud and crud, each foot loose in my hand, horse relaxed against my shoulder.

This is the same sweaty, whites of the eyes showing horse that spun circles, popped his front end, and kicked at the farrier last weekend.

Checking his feet for rocks after the ride was a replay of his earlier behavior - each hoof raised easily for my hand when I asked. He's not just like that with me, he enjoys being brushed and fussed over, feet included.

He never seems at all worried about the farrier initially - he's fine with being greeted and petted, at least until the man gets out his tools. It's I start hauling the grooming tools out a rattling box and tapping on his feet when we ride? Maybe...

Monday, November 1, 2010

Bonding with Rufus

Post-worming & bot-fly removal for Sunny & the farm herd and Rufus and his group, T had to go do actual work for his Monday student-torture (a.k.a. bio-chem exam), but J wanted to ride and I was game. Rather than put another 8 gravel miles on Sunny's shoeless feet, I opted to borrow T's ride and take Rufus.

I figured, even though I wasn't practicing on Sunny, I'd still get a ride in, and Rufus needs the miles just as much, if not more! He had the whole rest of the weekend off, after all.

We've been discussing the possibility of switching Rufus from his mild grazing curb to something that will allow more precise communication. He can be a bit stiff through his shoulders, and since bending is on my list of things to practice anyway....

I could have gone with the full-cheek snaffle I use with Sunny, but Rufus is accustomed to, and comfortable with, a curb, and what I really wanted was something that would let me isolate sides of his body better than the curb. I opted for a Myler comfort snaffle with slotted D cheeks. With the reins snapped into the slots, the Myler snaffle still allows very mild curb action. The difference is that where a regular snaffle's jointed hinge would have a potentially harsh nutcracker effect, the middle "barrel" hinge in the comfort snaffle allows the cheeks to swivel independently when a rein is lifted or lowered, but not to collapse together like a scissors when picking them both up. That avoids the possibility of jabbing the point of the hinge into the roof of his mouth. (I do use it with a flat leather curb strap, but buckled on as I would for an O-ring snaffle, where the only purpose is to hold the cheek pieces. It isn't there to provide any stop, it just keeps the whole works from potentially sliding through the horse's mouth. )

It would be Rufus' first ride on newly sharp-shod feet, and as much as he hates the farrier's visits... Well, let's just say that getting him trimmed & reset absolutely regularly makes a huge difference, and we'll have to stay on top of the farrier to make sure the schedule doesn't get bumped later and later as it did this time.

The new shoes were an unqualified success. We jogged or loped the majority of the 8 miles, and not only did Rufus not break a sweat, but there was none of the slipping and tripping he'd been doing when the ground got even slightly uneven.

One of the biggest differences was in his lope departures. Instead of flinging himself up and forward, sliding and popping from lead to lead, he was lifting and settling nicely into a lovely, if forward, rocking chair gait. He favors the left lead and needs really clear cues to take the right. He also doesn't "slow" lope quite yet, but a gentle half-halt worked to slow him down for a few strides at a time.

Downward transitions? The horse can STOP. Unfortunately, the first time it wasn't because I asked, but because his companion slowed down. Ummm - ouch!

After that, I asked for verbal warning from my riding buddy, or called the halt myself. Using lots of leg and riding firmly through slowing down was much more successful. And definitely less painful, as it didn't involve a jarring meeting with the front of the saddle!

The bit? Worked fine. I liked it, and Rufus didn't seem to mind it. We had a couple of squiffy moments - pheasants flying up, etc., and I didn't have any issues settling him, so control wasn't an issue, but loosening his neck and shoulders will take more time than one day's riding, and obviously, T's going to have to give it a try and see how they pair of them get along with it.

Sunny's feet? I'm reluctant to shoe, since I'm not sure how much longer the weather's going to hold. He's by no means sore, and for arena and field work, he's fine. But gravel road miles are going to catch us in short order, and I'll need to make some sort of decision soon...

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Injury update

Healing nicely!

Lesson 3 : Sunny, and a short trail ride

I debated long and hard, but finally decided to take this week's lesson on Sunny instead of one of E's horses. Since Sunny's outside all winter and it's too cold to clip, I want to get at least a few lessons in before it gets too cold to have him sweaty and hot. (Not that he sweated much yesterday!)

I popped him in the trailer and headed over to Mt. Vernon. Arrived to a yard full of cars and trailers - a busier weekend, which was nice, as I got to watch part of the lesson before mine and all of the one after. Saddleseat, but still highly educational.

Sunny was a bit fidgety, but more alert than anxious since he's been there before. E has a pair of young German Shorthairs, and as I saddled one of them presented the two of us with a fresh deer leg.. yum!, NOT. Yet again I'm thankful Sunny lives with sheep (sorry if it's callous, but sheep seem to die a fair amount)l.

We hadn't gotten much chance to practice, but I'd worked on bending and asking him to step under himself more, and E said he could already see some improvement. The lesson proceeded much as the previous two, with more work on bending and counter-bending. Counter-bending is HARD. But we're improving, if only a tiny bit. Still, progress is progress.

And more turning on the haunches and then just moving the hips. Asking him to move just his back end is something I've actually worked on a fair amount, and Sunny remembered - it was nice to do something correctly! Moving just his shoulders wasn't quite as pretty, so we'll continue to work on that.

Then we worked on cantering. Which last time was terrible. While this time it was better, if only because he didn't fall on his nose, it still needs work.

BUT, I did manage one nice upward transition, and a couple better downward ones. Our biggest issue is falling out of gait after about three strides. Partly me, partly him. I automatically drop forward into two-point, and since he's already heavy in front.... When I remember to sit up and deep and breathe, we do much better. And he didn't try to run out, buck, or do anything seriously squirrelly - not that he's ever done that, but then, we've never had much focused arena time, either.

E offered to let me come practice with Sunny on Fridays if the arena's free, and I think I'm going to take him up on it. And he's going to check into a possible ride for me up north so I'll have a chance to practice what I'm learning during the week. Don't know if that will pan out, but it was still a nice feeling to hear he'd suggest that someone else let me ride their horse.

Post-ride I headed over for a trail ride with C, and we moseyed about 4 miles. As the day faded, the wind picked up and it cooled off quite a bit - the horses were looky, but more interested than leery. We did short collecting and softening sessions as we rode, trying to work some of the hollow out of his trot. I can definitely tell the difference when he steps under himself more - getting his nose tucked in and his backend up under himself even slightly is a vast improvement.

Sunday is worming and de-bot-fly-egging now that we've finally had a hard freeze. Maybe another ride, if the weather cooperates. :)

Senior Pictures

I wish I'd thought to include horses in mine!

Friday morning I had the pleasure of helping a friend with her senior pictures - you have to love someone who says, with complete sincerity, "Well, they said I could only change outfits three times, but they never said how many times I could change the horses'!" And proceeds to organize her wardrobe (and theirs) in a completely efficient fashion.

Riding last fall down along the river we passed a giant slab of rock. C announced then that THAT was where she was having her senior pictures taken. We laughed, silly us. She was quite serious.

C brought her two rodeo horses and her reining/English project horse. (She hasn't quite decided which what they're going yet). The day was gorgeous: blue sky, light breeze, low 60's... getting to the location was a bit of a challenge, as the giant rock on a shelf overlooking the river was slightly less reachable with truck & trailer than on horseback. But dad persevered, and after a bit of route hunting and people and equipment consolidating into the truck, we made it.

Don't watch if you get motion sick easily!

My role was trotting (often literally) back and forth with tack changes and/or horse changes, fluffing tails and hopping up and down to produce properly prick-eared expressions.

Dad got a workout, too. (That's a towel on a stick he's waving while running back and forth.) NEVER let anyone tell you all barrel horses are freaky spooks. The two geldings were the definition of laid back and quiet.

Relaxing at the trailer between their shots

In fact, antics we tried to get them to look perky would have made quite a highlight reel, and I'm extremely glad I had the only other camera!

C's going to have some fabulous pictures! And I had a great time.

Finally done, heading back to the trailer.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Injury update: Amyra goes home

Amyra's been bunking at the vet's place with Rufus and a few calves for company the last two weeks while her gash heals. She's adapted to the new environment and people like a trooper, and (unlike Rufus) took the forge noise with complete equanimity. (She didn't get shoes or a trim, since she just had her regular pedicure a few weeks back.)

I tied her up near-by where she could watch the goings on, since none of the horses at the farm have ever had shoes. Other than a few wide-eyed moments when things fired up, she just watched and hung out. So since she's been there she's: seen and heard a donkey and daily passing trains, had strangers catch her on a regular basis (so the calves could be fed without horse-interference), and had a chance to interact with horses other than the ones she was raised with. All of which she's handled really well for a horse that has minimal experience with the world off the farm.

But the gash has healed enough to take the stitches out, and while it's still cosmetically not gorgeous to look at - darn dead camera batteries! - it's healed nicely and shouldn't leave a scar. Which meant she could go home. So last night we loaded her in the trailer with Sunny (after giving them a minute to get reacquainted) and headed back to the farm.

In about two weeks she should be okay to go to the trainer. A month behind schedule, but better late than never!

Weekend update 2... new shoes for Rufus & trail riding with pheasant hunters

Sunday was murky and cool in the morning - blowing fog and threatening rain, but Rufus was scheduled to get his shoes reset, which he really needed. A task ultimately accomplished with better living through chemistry, as he was determined to be completely uncooperative and really didn't like the forge.

I suspect he's had a bad experience with a farrier at some point in the past, as he's perfectly willing to give his feet to anyone for picking out, hosing, tapping on, etc. But let the man (or woman) with the tools and the apron approach, his eyes start to roll, he gets tense, and eventually turns into a horse-shaped basketcase. Shoe-removal and trimming we managed with patience and persistence, but the combination of shoes, cold, raw weather, the forge fired up and roaring put it over the top, and rather than letting him really panic and getting someone hurt, we opted for letting him stand a bit and calm down, and then taking the edge off before things went bad.

Baby steps - shoe removal and trimming went marginally better than last time, but we're obviously not there yet.

Drugging him to put shoes on is NOT something I want to do long-term. I want to stress here that no one was rushing, the farrier was completely patient and willing to work with Rufus without resorting to smacking and swearing - which I wouldn't have tolerated anyway - and Rufus had no problem with the farrier until he bent over to actually work on his feet, so it wasn't the man himself Rufus was reacting to.

We're working on his issue (batwing chaps and a ball peen hammer anyone?) and I'm open to suggestions if anyone has any - it would almost be easier if Rufus had problems with everything to do with his feet. But the other 99% of the time he's fine....

That, thankfully, was the major drama of the day.

We were planning to ride in the afternoon once if finally warmed up slightly, but T wasn't feeling well, and J had an emergency vet call. Still, it was too nice a day not to go, and there were still two of us fancy free, so around 2 PM I hooked up the trailer and headed over to collect Sunny.

C and I rode about 8 miles, mostly walking and talking, but with the occasional faster foray where the road was soft enough. We saw and were passed by scads of pheasant hunters, easily identifiable by their blaze orange vests & caps, scowling at us as they drove slowly along - the nice ones slowed down even farther to avoid pelting us with rocks and bathing us in dust; the real jerks sped up.

At one point just after a truck passed us we scared up about twelve hen pheasants out of the corn stubble. But we heard nary a shot the entire ride.

The horses were content to walk along loose-reined and relaxed, enjoying the (finally) mosquito and fly-free air. When we got back we switched horses for a bit, and it was funny to watch Sunny arch his neck and tail - he was really thinking hard about the different rider! But he minded his manners and C complimented the smoothness of his trot, which is something coming for a staunch QH-rider.

All in all it was a lovely afternoon. No pictures because my camera battery died, but maybe next time.

Weekend update 1... hay and Lesson 2,

The weather forecast Friday called for rain after 11 PM - which was actually a welcome prospect, as we haven't seen much wet since sometime in September (strange to be hoping for rain after the downpours of spring and summer!).

A call from T in the afternoon canceled my evening riding plans - friends had 400+ small squares of really lovely grass hay still on the field and no one to pick them up, could we help? Absolutely!

Three of us headed over with our truck, hooked to the hay trailer, and commenced stacking. Lucky me - and I say that in all sincerity! - got to drive. Even at 45-50 lbs, I'm not sure how long I could have stacked. We put nearly 200 bales on the trailer...

maneuvered the load into the machine shed undercover for later unloading, and headed back out. This time with directions to pick up the "old" Ford grain truck, drop the sliding gate off the back, and load it. Again, I got to drive....

By this point it was dark, and the "old" Ford is, as it happens, not only a manual transmission, but possesses a split rear axle. Hmmm.... it's been at least 15 years since I drove anything with a clutch other than a lawn mower, and the cab had no interior lights, dash or otherwise, whatsoever. Still, once I figured out I could start in 2nd gear, and how to baby the gas pedal on take-off, I managed. Just pity poor T, who was stacking for that load! But I didn't throw anyone off, and we loaded around 100 bales on that before things got a bit tippy.

We did two more loads, one on our pick-up, and one last pass (with a few more hands to help) with another truck and (I kid you not) an actual covered wagon - the farm owner has mule teams - and all but 16 bales were loaded and under cover for the night. We left our truck parked in the barn and headed home in one of their trucks.

And of course, we had no rain the entire weekend.

Saturday I had my second lesson. I rode one of the trainer's horses this time, a 13-year-old Arab gelding who answered to Nick. Nick's past career involved showing to a fairly high level with junior riders, but in recent years he's been primarily a lesson horse. I was informed that he was very forward, and in possession of all sorts of buttons, but I was going to have to work to do things properly - otherwise he'd do pretty much as little work as possible. Good to know.

We started with the same things E had me working on with Sunny - bending, counter bending, reversing through a counter-bend at the walk, and moved on to the same exercises trotting - along with several reminders to watch my diagonals (sigh). After I could keep him pretty much consistently collected, we moved on to sitting trot and trot/lope transitions.

The longer I rode, the more came back, and the easier it felt. It helped immensely that Nick was very honest about doing what I asked when the cues were right - and I could really feel the difference when he hollowed, bulged a shoulder, or alternatively, softened and collected in response to something I was doing. And E was great about waiting to see if I could feel a problem developing and fix it myself before he prompted me, which I greatly appreciated.

Three things I need to work on:
  • rolling my shoulders up and back more (and remember to take deep breaths)
  • stop giving away my outside shoulder
  • relax my lower back (!)
To practice with Sunny:
  • Nice, round circles
  • Counter-bends to reverse directions on a circle (I kept doing them wrong or really poorly until I finally managed to get my head around circling to the left with a right bend, looking left and turning left all at the same time).
I have another lesson next weekend, so we'll see how I do at retaining everything I learned this time!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Belated weekend update

Rufus and Amyra,
"You're letting us out now, right?"

It was a semi-horsey weekend, which was lovely. No time to do much except help doctor Amyra on Friday. "Help" being a euphemism for fooling with Rufus while T doctored. He and Amyra have their system down, and she's really good about it.She has managed to pull all three drain tubes out, but for the most part it looks really good. It's funny to see her up close to all of J's burly Quarter Horses. Long mare that she is, she looks really petite and dainty.

I did hop on Rufus for a few minutes bareback Friday and Saturday evenings. He was a bit baffled, and it was easy to tell he'd not been asked to actually do anything much except follow the closest adult before without wearing a saddle, but once he got the idea he was happy enough to mosey wear I pointed him.

Sunday was busy again, but I couldn't turn down the call suggesting a group ride on Sunday afternoon. I had the trailer hooked up and ready to go earlier in the day, but ended up not collecting Sunny when the time got moved up. T couldn't go, so I rode Rufus - and then of course after I got there we ended up waiting 45 minutes to leave. I would have had more than enough time to swing by and collect Sunny. And shhh... don't tell T, but I really prefer riding Sunny if given the option! Grrr!

Speaking of Sunny, I swear he's getting wider by the day, although some of it's winter coat coming in. The pasture at the farm looks extremely bare with only 4 horses in it. With four of the chestnuts absent, the color balance just looks wrong. They're hanging much closer together, too. And getting extremely fuzzy, which is timely. We had our first hard frost the other night. I love fall, but wish it didn't come with shorter days!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Good-bye ladies...

News, news, NEWS, remember?

Well, yesterday three of the mares went north. A month or so ago someone contacted the farm owner interested in locating horses with Royal Zaltar breeding. He'd sold her a mare 15 years ago, and was wondering if she still had her, or knew where any of her foals might be.

The answer? There are several of the same breeding grazing right out in the front pasture.

Long story short, he came down and looked at the mares and liked three of them very much.

We said goodbye to ASA Copper Pennie, ASA Sauds Foxie, and Sauds Sahara Fyre FS yesterday morning. I (of course) forgot my camera. :( I took a few cell phone pictures, but haven't managed to get them to upload, darn it.

They loaded up like the ladies they are, and with promises of pictures and updates, and to contact her if he ever decides to sell them, they were off for new lives.

It was hard to see them go, but good to have three of them settled somewhere where they'll be well-cared for, safe and valued.

Pennie & Foxie

News, news, news!

Long time - no post.

For quite a while it's seemed as if I was re-playing the same non-news every weekend. With no horse time during the week, I was just drifting along. What does that mean?

Time to make some changes! Which means I finally have news.

NEWS 1) First change? I'm going to be taking some lessons. We asked around earlier this summer to locate a good instructor for M to take some lessons and heard nothing but good things about one trainer in particular. We stopped in, checked it out, the place and the horses looked good. M liked him, and I like him, as well, and he started going pretty regularly. Which meant he was riding, but I still wasn't.

So... for my birthday last month T got ME a lesson :) - but more about that in a minute.

NEWS 2) We'd also decided the time had finally come to get Amyra started. Unfortunately the trainer that started Sunny for me is no longer taking outside horses. But the trainer at the lesson place is - he works primarily with Arabs, does both western and English, and is willing to work with T and Amyra both. He also offered the use of his (heated!) indoor arena this winter if we want to ride so that Amyra keeps getting worked.

All good, right?

Well, we were supposed to take her over yesterday and. And of course, 5 minutes before we walk out the door the phone rings. It's the farm owner - can we come out right away? Amyra has a really nasty gash in her side.

Gory pictures!

Yep, sure 'nuf. Clear down into the meat. Definitely fresh.

And not something we wanted to leave open. After a good flushing with cold water and some betadine we loaded her and Sunny up and headed for the vet.

Drugs are good!
Cleaned, flushed and shaved
Tubing to provide drainage and support for the stiches

The horizontal tubing provides support and keeps the
skin from puckering and scarring.
All but done - silver spray over the top of that, and she was just waking up.

After an hour or more at the vet, it was back in the trailer and over to the trainer's. She won't be staying for the time being, but we figured show and tell would be worth more than a s0-sorry phone call. And I still had that lesson scheduled...

Amyra and T hung out along the rail while I had my lesson.

T took some video - not gory, but not so pretty, either!

The first thing to go, 5 minutes into the lesson was the bitless bridle - swapped for a slow twist snaffle. Which definitely got Sunny's attention. He actually did really well with it, and I'm going to switch back to a snaffle for regular riding. E checked his teeth, said they don't look bad, but he'll let me know when his equine dentist comes next and I can get him floated.

We did lots of small circles working on bending, counter-flexing, a bit of half-passing, some transition work, moving shoulders and hips independently... Some really ugly sprawled out, awful canter work, which was more my fault than Sunny's.

Sunny's lazy. The head flipping and hollow are avoidance. In working to NOT get a hot Arab, I've by-passed control and encouraged Sunny's lazy streak. While I have instilled quiet and calm, I've also created a horse that needs to be pushed.

Which isn't news to me, and isn't awful - actually, I'd rather have one I need to push. But I do need to fix it. And hopefully now I'll be getting the tools to deal with that effectively.

As far as me? You can see how collapsed my shoulders are, and that's only the beginning if what I need to work on as far a position... Anyway, it was a VERY good lesson, I left with lots to work on, and lots to think about. Aside from the laziness, E had some nice comments about Sunny - he liked his attitude (other than the lazy moments) and how he's put together.

I'm going to alternate lessons on Sunny (for Sunny) and lessons on one of his horses (for me!) - which means I'll be riding!