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!