Friday, August 19, 2011

Temporary downtime

Sorry for the silence - it's been anything but quiet and peaceful here lately.  In the last week I've started leave, packed up and moved all my apartment stuff home, picked the kids up in KS.... No time for riding, but the boys don't seem to mind.  Too bad for them, the break's only temporary - now that I have more free time, they're next on my agenda.  Back soon with more news!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Nobody to ride with the weekend, so the boys and I were on our own.  Saturday I wormed them both and just hung out for a while. 

This morning it was 63'!!! - the sun didn't come out until nearly noon, and it stayed in the 70's.  Perfect.  I saddled up and headed out.
I figured I'd just test the waters and see how things went.  We started out heading south past the pheasant hunting lodge - no hunters, but they occasionally rent the place out of season for events.  And apparently today they were getting ready for either a reunion or a wedding reception, because they had a big pavilion set up.  Hmmm.... Sunny's noticed it, so it's too late to turn around now!

Sunny's eyes got a bit wide at the pavilion roof billowing, but what did he pick to booger at?  The big green electrical box in the ditch on the other side of the road... sigh.  Guess it snuck up on him.  Thankfully, Thunder didn't pick up Sunny's twitchy-ness, and we managed to make it past the green monster and on across the intersection before the two little girls that popped out of the lodge had made it off the deck and across the yard. 

They were really cute with their long blond ringlets and poofy red dresses, but neither the horses nor I were quite up to the shrieking and bouncing right then!

We trotted the better part of the next mile between deep ditches full of algae-green water, frogs, dragonflies and rider-high cattails.  I know the water was over the road that way this spring, but for some reason it hadn't occurred to me that everything would still be so wet.  Being between those ditches made me a bit uneasy.   The boys are good with cars, but there was nowhere to go if something did come up on us unexpectedly.  And I didn't really want a bath.

At the next intersection we turned north.  And the breeze died completely.  My plan had been to make an 8 mile loop if everything was going well - there's not much traffic out that way, and there's a really lovely tree-lined mile with a couple of concrete bridges to cross...

But the flies were awful.  And suddenly any air that was moving was moving the same way we were.  The road was rough enough, I didn't want to risk trot and stone bruises.  So when the mosquitoes decided to descend, as well, I turned around.  Still no breeze, but at least once we were back onto a smoother bit of road, we could trot.

We tippy-toed back between the ditches, and snorted our way toward the the pavilion and opposing electrical box.  Neither obstacle was quite so terrible faced in the homeward bound direction, and somebody corralled the twin red-dressed tinies on the porch this time.  We made it past in good order with only a bit of hesitation. 

Back at the driveway, I'd intended to turn in, but the breeze reappeared, so I figured why not - we went another half a mile or so down the road, then turned around.

Back at the trailer. 
Saddle marks :)
Okay, I know it's silly, but I still get a kick out of it!

So all told, an hour of riding, and we covered about 5 miles.  And we got back just in time - as I unsaddled, I could hear thunder off in the distance.  Lightbulb! That's why the flies were so sticky and the breeze went away.  Storm coming in.  By the time I put the horses away the thunderheads were stacking up blackly just to the west, and the wind had picked up.  A fast moving system, that's for sure, the whole sky was grey by the time I got home - still no rain, but lots of rollers rumbling away, so it's close.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Friday, August 5, 2011


One saddle!

Hooray!  I've had my Simco Arabian saddle down at the local western store for a couple months now, and I haven't had a chance lately to stop in and see if they'd managed to sell it.  Between the Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo and Main Street's Crazy Days in July, they get a lot of customers, and I've been crossing my fingers someone would see it and fall in love.  I was in last weekend, and I didn't see it, but they were super busy and the two ladies working were swamped, so I didn't ask.

T stopped in on Monday, and they have a check for me - a bit less than they'd listed it at originally, but even with their commission taken out, it should be more than my minimum, I think.  And a bargain for whoever got it - Simco doesn't make that exact model anymore, but it's probably closest to their Working Arabian saddle, or to this one with the silver laced cantle, but without the tooling.  I bought it used in excellent condition a couple of years ago and put a few more miles on it, but the gelding I bought it for sold.

It's a nice, light, solid, well-made saddle, perfect for trail and/or local showing - and you know what?  I absolutely hated riding in it.   Strike 1, on Sunny, it rolled even worse that the saddle I'm currently using; strike 2, the swells were nearly non-existent.  I don't like the bear-trap style saddles, but I do like something in front of my leg.  Sitting in it always made me feel as if someone was getting ready to push the "LAUNCH" button.

Anyway, I now have one less saddle to store, and some extra cash to spend...  I feel some tack store retail therapy coming!   :)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Making way for ducklings...

On my way home Saturday...

A family was crossing the road

A wonderful reminder of a childhood favorite, Make way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey.

Mama duck was quite proud of her brood of twelve, and wasn't at all quick to waddle them on across the road and into the ditch.

Sticky Sunday

Hot and just plain ugly sticky - it was 75' at 6 am, and you could see the water hanging. I loaded Sunny and Thunder and headed over to ride with J & C, hoping for a repeat of Saturday's breeze.

See the haze hanging out there already?

Unfortunately, although there was a bit of air
moving it wasn't enough to cool anything off.

We were hoping to leave by 8 am at the latest, and we almost made it. C isn't a morning person. Although she gets some slack - her barrel run the night before didn't finish until sometime after midnight. But 15 minutes one way or the other wouldn't have made much difference anyway.

I wasn't really that serious after last week's ride when I commented that Thunder was so good, next time he could go along saddled. But... the thought was percolating.... And when he was so nonchalant about the saddle on Saturday, I decided to see how Sunday morning went, and if it looked reasonable, I'd go for it: I'd saddle him, too.

I tacked Sunny up first, to minimize the wait and fidget time, then Thunder, walked him a bit from the ground to make sure he wasn't hunchy, then hopped on Sunny and the three of us moseyed out.

The big question: how did it go?

Well, taken overall it was a gold-star day.

It was HOT, so we walked a fair amount, but we ran through the rest of the gaits a time or two, as well. We still didn't do any loping in a group - mainly were footing allowed we leap-frogged around one another every now and then.

We did the whole 8 mile loop again, only backwards this time. Thunder did crowhop once, about three jumps worth, when he finally decided to try loping instead of just trotting.

Dang, but that horse has a SU-PERB extended trot!

Bucking was pretty much a fail, since he didn't have that much leadrope to work with. He basically stopped pulling as soon as he encountered resistance, and that meant he couldn't really get his head down - I just reined Sunny in and tugged his face around. As soon as he softened, I let him have some slack back. Sensibly, he quit almost as soon as he'd started. I straightened both horses out and on we went with barely a bobble. At a guess, one of the stirrups clipped him and/or the cinch felt different loping than it had walking and trotting and gave him a bit of a start. Overall he did well - C said at one point that if she didn't know better, she'd assume he was a broke as the other three the way he behaves. Needless to say, that's not an assumption I'll be making any time soon - LOL!

Sunny gets a gold star, too - he's being an excellent example for Thunder. None of the stuff that Rufus looked at the day before rated an eye-roll or a snort. And he worked off my legs and responded really nicely during Thunder's little episode.

Both boys were much better with the hose post-ride, too. I think they've figured out that cool water feels pretty terrific when it's warm.


Are you shaking your head over the fact that I ponied Thunder saddled after only a few minutes wearing a saddle and only one previous time along? Well, here's my thought process:
  1. He's 7, not a baby: his brain is grown up, and so is his body.
  2. He has been saddled a few times in the past, just not recently. On none of those occasions did he show signs of being broncy. (Any saddling worries were definitely more in my head than his!)
  3. He was patently unconcerned about me flapping stirrups, squeakings and creakings and seat pattings, or any wiggling and tugging on stirrups I was doing - he was paying attention, sure, but not spooked.
  4. Being ponied in and of itself obviously didn't phase him. He's respectful and responsive when led on the ground. Being ponied didn't change that.
  5. I don't have a round pen or access to a good space to safely free longe him saddled (or unsaddled for that matter) to let him work the kinks out, and I didn't really want to run around and around the pasture with him, although I did trot him saddled in-hand with no issues.
  6. At the trailer Sunday morning even in the semi-unfamiliar environment his overall demeanor was relaxed, not tense, anxious or irritated. Had he been, I probably would have worked on that for a bit, then just ponied him along unsaddled and called it good.
  7. The two people I was with are both excellent horsemen - okay, one of them's female, but I'm sorry, "horsepersons" just sounds funny! - on solid, broke horses with calm, easy-going dispositions. Both of them have experience starting young stock. Either of them in a pinch would have been able to take over ponying and/or provide assistance if necessary. Had the combination been different, or had there been additional riders along, I probably wouldn't have risked it.
  8. They were again considerate of my wishes in not doing any loping all clump together. That kept herd pressure to "race" down and minimized the risk of collisions or wrecks during any broncy moments. When he did decide to crowhop, I had all the room I needed to maneuver without worrying about running into or over another rider.
Add in the fact that Sunny is sensible, quiet, and generally pretty steady as well as familiar with the route we were taking, that Thunder is used to following his lead, and that it was hot and fairly calm weather-wise.... Well, taking the next step just felt comfortable to me. Thoughts?

In which a saddle is (finally) worn

What a weekend! I haven't had so much fun, or been quite so pleased with the boys in quite a while. ALL three of the boys :)

I rode 8 miles on Rufus with J and C. The horses - well, mostly Rufus - were feeling energetic. It was hot, but not quite as sticky as it's been thanks mainly to a nice stiff breeze. Rufus was spotting potential "Arab-eating" monsters on all sides - not to a naughty extent, but he certainly did try to head off in all directions at once a time or two. Brainless moments aside (horse-eating cows??? Really? Rufus, you live with cows - sigh...), it was a lovely ride.

Oddly enough, the whole way these little bronzey-gold - as opposed to the hand-wide black and white monsters circling the ditches - dragonflies kept trying to land on the tips of his ears. Being buzzed by glittery bugs didn't bother him. Just the cows, the odd attack bush, a couple of obviously hostile frogs... Guess he was feeling good!

He loped out ahead of the group willingly, was able to stay back without too much anxiety when someone rode ahead - he's still wanting to slam on the brakes if someone else slows down when traveling at any speed, but I was prepared and for the most part managed to keep his forward momentum up. He's getting a LOT better but I have to say, I'm looking forward to the day when he's a bit less effort! We finished hot, but relaxed, with plans to go again Sunday, but earlier so as to avoid still being out at noon.

By Saturday afternoon it had heated up into the high 90's, but still with the breeze, and I'd promised myself Sunny and Thunder weren't going to get left out of the fun. So... in the late afternoon I headed out to the farm and caught them up. Saddled Sunny English and spent about 40 minutes working on bends, counter-bends, backing patterns through cones, and a tiny bit of diagonal practice for yours truly. Not so sure anything was a spectacular success, although we were starting to sort one another out again - too much trail riding, I guess. I've gotten sloppy and inconsistent, and I could tell. He wasn't resisting so much as confused.

I did learn that I can successfully lean down and re-set cones without getting off while using the English saddle - he's so mutton-withered, leaning that far over with my western saddle is an invitation to sliding sideways. And how cool to know I can rely on him to stand there while I'm stretching down without stepping right out from underneath me, too!

For Thunder's turn, I finally bit the bullet
and snugged the cinch.

You know what? Complete non-issue. I didn't give him a lot of time to stand and think about it, just headed over to the cones to give him a focus other than his new corsetry. Apparently, I needn't have worried. He really couldn't have cared less. So I ran through groundwork stuff with him for 15-20 minutes and decided I'd had enough par-boiling. I was literally soaked to the skin. Bleh. Unsaddled, brushed both of them as dry as possible given the heat, and turned them back out.

By the time I got everything packed up, they were down eating. That haze? High humidity - I heard on the radio on my way back into town that the heat index was running over 100'. At 6:50 in the evening.

I'd hoped to squeeze in a shower, but C was running in a Blazing Barrels/SDBHA at the rodeo grounds, and it started at 7 pm. It was still so icky hot, I figured I might as well go I was. Stopped at home long enough to drop the trailer off and drink a bunch of water. Of course as it turned out they were running behind, so I would have had lots of time for a shower. But then again, I'd have needed another one by the time I got home anyway, so it was probably just as well.

About 80+ riders, and a bunch of people were running exhibition... then the peewees... And C and her friend had drawn numbers in the 70's. Which meant a long wait - good thing I never mind watching barrels! Thankfully they reversed the order for the second go, and of course by then a lot of trailers had pulled out anyway.

C finished in the money, just, and she would have done better if she'd rolled her time from the first go. But she took it in good humor, declaring she was glad of the practice the additional run offered. There were 2 runs in the 15s, but not very many in the low 16s. I obviously need to go be supportive more often - I'm not very quick at catching the subtleties. Missed leads, bad entries, and late turns, yes; but the nuances of form, not so much. Still it was a lot of fun to watch, and once it finally cooled down I got to enjoy some supper (brat w/ plenty of mustard, and lovely golden fries w/ ketchup, YUM!) that I didn't have to cook!