Sunday, October 30, 2011

New old duds

I may have ridden another horse this weekend, but Sunny and Thunder didn't get left out of the fun completely.  I've been window-shopping for a cooler for Sunny. 

I have a good turnout, but I've never actually had an opportunity to use it - the horses' coats are thick and wooly enough that they never seem cold, even when it's really bitter.  But If I'm going to keep taking lessons, I don't want to haul him damp, therefore the cooler.

Before I actually order one, though I wanted to do two things: 1) re-measure for size, and 2) make sure he remembered how to wear a blanket without flipping out.
Got anything else you want me to wear?
I shouldn't have worried.  
He was completely unflapped.  

I'd forgotten about this old wool stable blanket, but when I ran across it looking for something else this morning, I figured it was perfect for a refresher course.  Not much is going to hurt it.  And actually, ugly as it is it's still really solid and if fits both boys well.  Slightly moth-eaten in a couple of spots, but nothing a patch or two won't cure.

Thunder takes a turn

Once Sunny'd been a good Monkey-See, I let Thunder have a go at being Monkey-do.  And he did a great job.  Having a heavy, flapping thing draped on top of him didn't seem to worry him in the slightest.  After a few test flops, I buckled him in and walked him around.  The wind was gusting and flapping things, G had the skid loader running in the farmyard... not a snort out of him.  Which is pretty darn good, all things considered.

Next time I take along the turnout - it's fiber-filled, puffy, and rustly.  That should make things more interesting.

Not Sunny!

Not Thunder, either.
Buddy & Caspar
 J and his wife went to KS this weekend for a visit with C and some K-state football.  Before they left he asked me for a "really big favor" - I was thinking he wanted me to check the cows' waterer or maybe feed the cats.   Nope, ride the horses.  He's going West River for hunting season again with both of these two, and he doesn't want them losing condition.  Since he worked late much of the week, he'd only gotten in a couple of rides, and he didn't want them missing any more miles. 

Twist my arm... lol!  Especially since the pheasant place next door is crawling with hunters this weekend, and I knew I wasn't going to get a substantial ride in with Sunny.

I figured rather than dragging all my stuff out, I'd just use his saddle, since I'd ridden in it before and we ride the same length.  Saturday afternoon was grey, but not windy with temps in the mid 50's.  I caught both horses, intending to saddle them both and just pony Caspar.  At least part of the plan went according to schedule!

I neglected to factor in two very important things: the height of Buddy and the weight of J's saddle.  I'm 5'10".  Buddy... let's put it this way, when I stand facing Buddy's hind end, I can't see anything but butt unless I'm looking up.  Then I see sky.  And J rides a roping saddle that has to weigh at 50 lbs stripped.  (At least as much, if not more than the 50 lb bag of cat litter I hauled to the basement this morning!)  Add the cinches, heavy-duty breastcollar, and the - full - saddlebags he'd left attached, and whoa, Nelly!  I felt like the proverbial 90lb weakling at the beach getting sand kicked in my face by a big hunk of leather.

I heaved, huffed... finally paused to consider... maybe if I just took the saddlebags off? After all, I wasn't going to use them, right?  That would have to help.  Lighter by about 10 lbs, I tried again with slightly more success.  Only slightly, because the saddle pad fell off the other side the first two times I managed to hoist the saddle all the way up.

Thank goodness for patient horses - Buddy stood like a dream and eventually I managed to him dressed - by which point I needed to shed a layer.  My arms were tired.  Caspar lucked out - he's shorter, but the his saddle looked just as heavy.  He could go naked, because if we didn't get moving soon, it was going to be dark before we got back.  Besides, I needed to conserve energy for getting that sucker back down off Buddy once we got back!

Off we went, and it only took moments for me to realize why when J ponies Thunder it always looks as if he's giving him a half-mile of lead - he is.  Buddy's huge.  His neck alone has to be as long as Sunny's back from mane to tail.  Caspar's not short, but looked at from my new height he was down there a ways. 

I've joked before that riding Buddy is like driving a Cadillac - not only is he insanely smooth, but he's incredibly responsive.  He doesn't lift into a lope, he sort of glides into one.  J rides him in a low port copper-mouth curb which is basically there for show, he works so well off leg cues and weight shifts.  It's kind of scary. 

The only fly in my ointment?  Caspar is not nearly as pleasant to pony as Thunder.  He walks a bit faster than Buddy, which wasn't too bad, because my plan was to hold a fairly steady jog - J's instructions were to make them sweat some.  And jogging worked pretty well.  Loping?  Not so much.  Caspar wanted his nose in front.  I think my arm is about an inch longer than it was on Friday.  But eventually we sorted ourselves out and had a nice ride.  They both broke a light sweat, just as ordered.

Today was a repeat of Saturday with the addition of a strong NW wind.  I needed my extra layer, neck gaiter and gloves, even with the bright fall sunshine.  And settling into the saddle I could feel every inch of my thighs from spanning Buddy yesterday, not to mention my shoulders and arms from hoisting J's saddle. 

Speaking of saddles, I wasn't doing that song & dance again.  I took mine along.  And realized yet again the size difference.  Sunny's fat.  The cinch was still a snug fit, but the latigo is long and the back cinch on the last hole was just loose enough to pass muster.  Sunny's breastcollar is normally set on the fifth hole on both sides.  At full extension it wouldn't reach around Buddy's chest.  I swapped out for J's, and decided that wasn't going to work, either - too snug.  The D-rings on my saddle sit back further, apparently..  Oh well, no hills to speak of on our route, so I was willing to risk it.

After an hour or so of tack experimentation, we  were finally under way.  The horses weren't exactly frisky, but the wind noise had them looking at things, and I could definitely tell they'd rather have been headed homewards.  I was stiff enough, I can't say I wouldn't have felt just fine at home on the couch, too.  But after the first mile, all the kinks were out and except for it being a brisk, enjoyed the rest of our ride.

Can't say I'll be unhappy to back to my usual ride, though.  Comfy as Buddy is, I like Sunny's faster trot and brighter action.  And the fact that the ground is MUCH closer - lol!

Friday, October 28, 2011


Eyore, playing "spot the donkey"

Buddy's efforts at disguise?  Not so successful!

Rufus - isn't that face just squeezable?
Nap interrupted - sorry, Caspar!
One word: WHISKERS!

Fall Color - yes, SD actually has some :)
Needed a break yesterday a.m., so I drove out to check on all the four foots.  As you can see, they were having a much more productive day than I, lol. 

Feeling a bit more on track, I actually managed to get some work accomplished with the rest of my afternoon.  Although actually being home to move the trailer when the road grader went by was probably the highlight of the rest of my day. (And his - he actually got to do the whole street for a change!).  Of course, once all the dirt was raked up and redistributed, the surface was is loose and dry that every time a car goes by it looks like pea-soup fog out the window.  So much for clean vehicles - I guess I should be thankful it's chilly enough out there that all the windows are closed!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

An electrifying experience - dryer sheets explained

Sarah over at Between The Fenceposts asked about the dryer sheet remark in my previous post - I was going to comment back, but then I thought, well maybe there are other solutions to what I'm pretty sure is a common problem this time of year... Why not ask and see!

Because it's definitely that time of year again - I'm zapping myself on the car doors, the cats bounce off my lap when I pet them, and the ponies' yank their noses (and assorted other spots) away when I brush them.  None of which makes for a happy me: zaps hurt, cats flinging themselves off my lap leave painful skid marks, and brushing is supposed to feel pleasant not painful.

My solution, for the horses at least, is throwing a box of cheap dryer sheets*** in the grooming tote.  When I pick up a brush I grab a dryer sheet and hold onto it in the same hand as the brush.  I tend to keep an extra in my coat pocket, as well for when I head out to do a pasture check.  Just running it over manes and tails really helps cut down on the snap, crackle, spook.  And since the sheets last for more than one grooming session, it's a relatively inexpensive trick.

***One important caveat - dryer sheets are toxic to dogs (and I'm guessing other critters, too) so be careful not to drop them where they can be grabbed and swallowed, and to dispose of them properly when you're done using one.

Another option, especially if your horses wear turnout blankets, is to spray the inside with a light coat of static guard - be sure to let it dry - before you put them on.   And if you don't like carrying the dryer sheets or don't like the possible dog-ingestion risk factor, you can always spray the static guard on your brushes before you groom.  (I kept forgetting to bring it in with me and ending up with frozen static guard, but if you're somewhere warmer or have a heated tackroom, it's probably a better alternative.)

I'm sure I'm not the only one who's had this problem - any other solutions anyone would care to share?

Chasing Daylight

Bolted out the door just before 5 last night, popped the boys in the trailer and headed for J's.  The only thing I really don't like about fall?  The days get so short!

By 5:30 we were saddled and trotting down the road.  The temps are heading downwards this week - the 60's of this weekend are pleasant history, although there's no precip in the forecast yet.  We rode through a steady north wind in the 25 mph range. Thankfully not too cold, but I was glad for my neck gaiter and gloves as the sun dipped lower.

And I was wishing I'd remembered my reflective vest!  Even keeping the horses at a steady jog, we were racing the sunset to finish before dark.  The traffic was much lighter than the weekend - just a few locals, all of whom are used to riders and slow down considerately.  The boys don't fuss at headlights front or back, thank goodness. But I think I may invest in some reflective gear for them, as well.  There are some interesting items at Caution Horses that look intriguing, and I'm pretty sure I've seen some elsewhere, too.

The deer are starting to move - or rather, since the light is fading earlier, we're riding more in their moving window.  We spotted several does crossing fields or the road in front of us headed the draws and shelterbelts to bed down for the night.  The combination of fading sun and fall colors made bushes and clumps of dead grass really pop along the ditches.  In conjunction with the rushing and constant rustling of the wind, the fallen leaves crunched and rattled, keeping all the horses alert and on their toes.  No moseying, day dreaming ride this night

I read somewhere once that the trot for a horse is the easiest gait to maintain - after last night, I believe it.  Except for a pause here and there to watch the wildlife, we were jogged or medium trotted the better part of eight miles.  None of the three were puffing at any point.  Thunder, who I ponied unsaddled, sweated the least - his neck was barely damp midway through, and he was completely dry when we got back.  Of course, he was doing the least work.  Buddy was wettest of the three - he's largest, carrying the most weight, and in general sweats pretty freely anyway.  Sunny was warm, too - neck and flanks, mostly.  But after walking the majority of the last mile he was damp under his saddlepad and cinch, and that was it.  No lathered horses here.  Riding fairly regularly, along with 24/7 turnout in big pastures really makes a difference. 

By the time I finished currying the saddle marks off and getting both their feet checked for rocks, Sunny was dry and fluffy enough to have static sparks stinging my fingers.  Time to get out the dryer sheets, I guess.  I am going to invest in a couple of coolers, though - once their winter coats come in completely, getting them dried off is going to be more challenging and I'm not a fan of hauling them damp in the cold.

And that's the riding report from this neck of the woods for yesterday.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Finding frame and frost

Not too much to report this week.  It's been pretty much routine around here.  Hard frost meant time to get the fall worming done and bot fly eggs removed.  We picked up 25 small squares and got them stacked in the barn out at the farm.  Large rounds have been coming in right along, and there should be plenty of hay for another cold winter and extended "spring" of rain and mud.  I'm hoping 2012 isn't a repeat of 2010 and 2011, but we're prepared, just in case.

Didn't get too much riding in, but yesterday was too gorgeous NOT to get out.  I rode about 8 miles with J and a couple of his vet student interns.  The wind was brisk enough to make long sleeves feel good, although the sun was out and the temps were in the high 60's.  Everything's so dry and rattly that it was a mostly silent ride as far as conversation went.  Unless you were almost someone's hip pocket, it was almost impossible to hear anything that wasn't yelled. 

The horses had that pre-storm, on-their-toes feel to them.  Not just mine, either.  They were all looking twice at almost everything, from the laid-flat roadwork signs, to the same-old, same-old cows.  Steady-Eddie Caspar was about as animated as I've ever seen him, foraging ahead snorting with the rest of them.

One thing they weren't though, was hunchy.  Not that I'd have expected any of J's horses to be, but Thunder....  Other than one rebellious scoot and swing to get farther away from a passing tractor, he ponied along pretty as you please, though.

Of course, the tractor evasion could have been fairly dramatic - we were on the stretch of the road that runs between to rather marshy, water-logged areas with deep ditches on both sides full of algae-slimed water.  When Thunder swung and hit the halter he ended up facing Sunny, who was not thrilled.  Luckily I saw the shy coming, and I was already spinning Sunny around to the left.  We made a tight turn against the road-edge, managing to miss falling in, pulling Thunder along as the tractor rattled past.  Then we "chased" it down the road for about a 1/4 mile.

To help keep Sunny occupied and focused on me I worked on asking him to collect for short periods.  I'm beginning to feel a difference when he steps up underneath himself at the walk.  Trotting... well, he's still nose-poked out hollow too much of the time, but when I ask him to round up he's finding that soft spot much more quickly and maintaining it for longer.  Starting to get that engagement is darn cool.   

For whatever reason it seemed as if there were a lot more hunters out this weekend than last.  At least pheasants are hunted with shotguns rather than rifles, so I can worry a lot less about spent bullets!  We were passed by multiple trucks with men and dogs, and rode by one group of 4 or 5 guys lined up walking a field.  They paused and tipped their guns to rest for us to pass, which was thoughtful of them.  Not everyone is that considerate.  I've more than once been out riding and had people driving towards me slam on the brakes, hop out and shoot past me.  (Road hunting is legal in SD - but not within so many yards of livestock, buildings, or where it's posted.)

Back at J's Sunny and Thunder dozed on their leadropes by the trailer while the four of us stood and chatted, enjoying the sunshine. I don't know about you all, but I'm crossing my fingers this weather holds a while longer.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Opening Day

Sometimes a little guilt goes a LOOONG way.

Today is opening day of East River pheasant season in SD.  Straight up noon, and the shooting starts.  The cars and trucks full of blaze orange-wearing occupants are out cruising the countryside much earlier, of course.  And wives all over the state (and elsewhere) - me included - become hunting widows until the sun sets.  Store run sales and hordes of women head for the malls and shops with credit cards and checkbooks at the ready.

I'm not much of a shopper, so I usually end up spending the day at home doing housework and making dinner while T's off tramping through the bushes having a good time.  Do I play the guilt card?  No, but I think he might have been feeling just a smidge guilty anyway, because when I suggested he might be available before noon, to help me out with something, he agreed.  

I wanted to ride and practice my "homework".  Needless to say, riding the country roads after noon this time of year is a risky proposition.  But until noon?  It's still quiet.  I wanted T to run the video camera while I rode.  Too bad I forgot to charge the battery last night.  

But at least I remembered the Canon, so we made do with that.

How far over can I lean, I wonder?

He's trying really hard - too bad I keep getting in his way!  It's difficult NOT to look down.  And I could tell how stiff I was getting, because my feet were loose in the stirrups.  Watching the video back bears out what I was feeling, but couldn't seem to correct. 

I guess on the plus side, now that I'm getting the hang of what it's like when we're both working together,  I can at least tell the difference when I'm wrong - now I need to start listening to that internal voice saying, "Breathe.  Relax your shoulders.  Sit up straight.  Don't look down.  Better!".

When I was through T wanted to try his hand.  He and Sunny have a history of not clicking so well.  And the English saddle is definitely not his thing.  But today was a happier day.  Sunny's ears did flick a bit at the weight difference, but he stepped off solidly enough.  They did figure-eights and circles at a walk while I coached on aids and hand position and tried to explain contact.   What T absorbed of Eric's lesson wasn't exactly what I recollected, but we "agreed" to attribute that to the variations between English and western aids.  (I'm pretty sure I'm right, but I'll let Eric sort us out, lol!

Combat boots and all
When T was done, I hopped back on, collected Thunder and made a few loops around with him in tow.  Finally got some video of him in motion, and Blogger says it's 2mb too big. :-(  Guess we'll have to try again another day.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Lesson Day: Amyra goes back to school

T had Amyra ready to go when I finished up.  We'd been talking about how things had gone on Tuesday, and since T will be leaving soon and I'll be responsible for keeping her going, I really wanted to see Eric ride her again so I could watch what he's doing.  She's very lightsided and responsive, but seemed to get flustered so easily....  As you can clearly see, light Sunny is NOT, and his resistance is more about passive and stiff than active and energetic. 

Anyway, Eric offered to ride her first.  She's so athletic!  But definitely more than I want to deal with until I'm clear on what the cues are.  We watched and kept asking questions about how and why and what, so Eric kept riding, showing and explaining.

While he was talking, I was trying to listen and take mental notes since it was too windy for the tape to pick up well, but here's a quick look.

Amyra's not a passive, easy horse.  She's very prima donna, and always has been.  Wearing a saddle hasn't changed that in the slightest.  Watching her ridden it was immediately apparent that she's going to be one that tests and doesn't just go along quietly.  When she resists and doesn't get what she wants she has temper tantrums.  If that approach doesn't work, she'll refocus and cooperate.  Until the next time...  With Eric she doesn't get away with it, and he's quick to give her the opportunity to get unflustered and back on track.  I KNOW I'm not that sensitive, that quick, or let's face it that good.

As we watched and learned I commented to T that I would feel a lot better if she stayed at Eric's for another month.  If he can keep riding her, she'll keep progressing and maybe I could take some lessons on one of Eric's reiners so that I have some clue what I'm doing and I don't royally screw her up.

When presented with our thoughts, Eric concurred - of course, it's good business for him, but I think it's what's best for Amyra, too.

Rather than T riding Amyra, Eric asked if he would be open to riding one of Eric's finished reining horses and getting the feel of what he should expect.  T's never, ever had an actual riding lesson. His experience has been of the, "here's your horse - don't fall off," variety - he's learned from watching, asking questions, figuring Rufus out, and by taking in whatever information I could explain coherently.

But this is a man who will actually stop and ask directions - one of the many things I love about him and that trait translates to other arenas as well, thank goodness.  I watched and shivered as it got cooler while Eric coached T through the correct way to cue for a lead, a simple, slow spin, and finally a flying lead change.  The irritating part of all this?  T's position is better than mine, and he retains and applies what Eric tells him better.  Of course, since he doesn't have all of my years of doing-it-wrong muscle memory, I guess I can forgive him, lol!

T made me promise not to post pictures, unfortunately.

So stay tuned, I guess I'll be learning to ride a reiner.

Lesson Day: Making progress...

 We had more moments like this last night.

But we still had more than a few like this.

Both of us are improving.  I'm finally figuring out which part of my butt I actually need to be sitting on, and I can actually feel Sunny round and give me his face when I get my chin up and my back straight. 

T filmed us. I forgot to remind him to keep the segments short, so I have a bunch of four and five minute videos.  Too long to post, so relax, you're all safe, lol.  

But even here you can see how heavy Sunny is in front.  Still his walk is better than it was, and he's getting a (tiny) bit less sprawly at the trot.  As my position gets improves, it'll get easier for him to maintain some sort of frame - amazing how that works!

Cantering, except for transitions, is all about me right now - Eric had me holding the reins in one hand and making a windmill of the other arm.  It's amazing how much that improved things, terrifying as it was to do he first time!  

Eric also showed me a very simple reining exercise that involves bending into a reverse and then bending back out to help get Sunny lighter on the forehand.

By the end of the lesson it felt like things were clicking - and Sunny actually earned himself a, "You know, when he's collected and working, he's actually kind of cute," from Eric.  High praise?  Not yet, but we'll get there!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A.M. Check

We went out early this morning to check on everything at the farm.  It will definitely be a few days before we turn the three of them in together.  Amyra is solidly in heat - she's feeling flirty and the boys are hanging close, but no one's squealing when she's on the other side of the fence.  No sense adding hormones to the equation, though. 

The pasture Amyra's in is fairly well grazed down, which is okay since she's been dry lotted or in a stall this summer.  We left her with hay and fresh water, and we'll probably stop by again later this evening.

She's pretty - interesting, that is...
We each have another lesson set up with Eric for tomorrow evening - separate, rather than simultaneous, so I'm should actually be able to take pictures this time.

Lesson night & Amyra comes home

After much debate on the best, safest way to reintroduce the four-foots to one another, we closed off one pasture, leaving the boys with access to two and the lot.  Amyra will have her own space for a few days.

And thankfully, we were smart enough to do this before we left, because it was dark when we got home.

I had a lesson scheduled, and T would work with Amyra in the other end of the arena while I rode.  Thunder would stand and guard the trailer - far better than leaving him home to run the fences!

We pulled in to Eric's place early - which was fine with me, as Sunny was still sporting some mud from the other day's rain.  I'd have plenty of time to get him cleaned up, let Thunder scope out his new surroundings, and maybe even catch a bit of the lesson before mine.  But by the time I had Sunny saddled, the arena was empty.  T and Eric were in the barn getting Amyra ready, so I even got to warm up.  Not that it helped much.

I ache this morning.  Even though I've been riding a lot more regularly this summer, it's a whole different ball of wax having someone calling out corrections for all your sloppy habits!  On the plus side, Sunny's doing far better than last year.  He's starting to collect and round his back for short periods - especially when I manage to stop flailing around and lock my elbows and release with my fingers and breathe and stop being stiff in my back and keep my shoulders back and roll my hips down and lift through my rib cage and.... you get the picture.

When we finally got to the canter portion of the lesson, left lead was fairly pretty for a change - yes, he actually picked up the left lead.  And maintained it.  The right was not nearly so nice, which surprised me.  He'd pick it up, take about five strides, and collapse into a trot.  We worked on it until I could keep him there and transition him down intentionally, but it was still pretty yucky.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the arena...

T and Amyra are still sorting one another out.  She's extremely light and quick.  VERY responsive, and still green enough to get flustered easily.  Eric was keeping an eye on the two of them, and would occasionally call out a suggestion.  While Sunny was getting a stretching break, he traded places with T and showed us both what he's been working on with her, explaining cues and what he expects from each, and what to do if she doesn't respond to the cue.  He'd showed T the other night, but he wanted me to see as well.  Then he had T get back on and go through the same series of exercises.  T got the same litany of reminders I did, and annoyingly enough, remembered and put them into practice better - GRRRR!

Then it was my turn again.  Since Sunny's stepping under behind more consistently, we worked on getting him to lift his shoulders and lighten in front.  Which also involves me remembering to sit deep into my pockets and not lean forward.  Engage the walk, get a nice round transition to sitting trot and maintain on a half-arena circle, and round transition down to a walk, lather, rinse, repeat...  While I worked on that, he switched his attention back to T and Amyra, calling out reminders to me from time to time.

It was about two hours of work, spotted with stretching breaks for the horses while Eric explained what he was looking for and what he was seeing.  It didn't take long before T and Amyra were starting to function more as a team rather than two opposing forces.  The riding Sunny's been getting showed, too - even though he was working, he wasn't all that sweaty when we finished up.  Amyra, on the other hand, was soaked, but I think some of that was her initial anxiety over the different rider. 

Thunder spent the time relatively patiently by the trailer.  Eric thought he'd make an impressive hunter if he lived up to how he's put together.  -Poor Sunny - wonder what he's actually built for! LOL!

Even in the dark, all three horses were happy to load up.  At the farm we turned Amyra out, and then walked the boys up to the main gate to put them in.  They had a long drink and then moseyed on out - all three of them were grazing quietly when we left..  No snorting, squealing or fussing across the fence, which was a lovely bonus of two of them being tuckered out already. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Walk-About Weekend

In which one of my nightmares comes true: the boys take an unscheduled excursion...

Last week the lady that owns the farm had asked if I'd be interested in driving down to Kansas City with her for the weekend.  She had a family event to attend, her husband had to work, and with I-29 still closed, a 6+ hour drive becomes 9+ hours.  She didn't want to make the trip by herself, and it's been a while since the two of us have had an opportunity for a road trip.  Since T was also headed out of town (Manhattan for a K-State football game), I said sure, why not?

So there we were, smack in the middle of a 2 hour detour down IA-59 when her phone rang.  It was her neighbor (the one about a half mile away), "Are you missing something?  Your horses are in my yard.  Want to come get them?"  WHAT!?!?! 
The neighbor'd just gotten home.  It was pouring rain, blowing to beat the band, and she couldn't catch them.  Her husband wasn't home.

Since I was sitting in the car, the farm owner's husband was at work and unable to leave (and doesn't do horses), and T was with J on the way to Kansas we spent a few hurried minutes comparing names and phone numbers of people we could call who a) might be available and close enough to help, and b) that we had in our phones. 

It was an absolutely awful 10 minutes.

We were 4 hours away.  Nothing we could do except send what help we could round up in her direction.  And wait.

Thankfully she called back fairly shortly
to report that she'd finally managed to corral them safely.   

Since we didn't know where or how or when they'd gotten out, and the farm owner's husband wasn't going to be home until well after dark, we asked if, if it wasn't too much trouble, the boys could possibly stay until Sunday afternoon when we'd be home to check fences.  Other than being freaked out and blowing, she said they appeared to be fine - no marks on them.  T and D have horses, too (it was the trainer's place they ended up at, thank goodness) so when she said they were okay, that was huge relief number two.  And she said it would be fine - bless her - if the boys stayed in their round pen until I could collect them Sunday afternoon.

My other thank you sent heavenward was that we'd decided NOT to pick up Amyra late in the week. Since we were going to be out of town, I didn't want to risk it, so at least SHE wasn't in the mix, too.

So, we got home about 5:30 today, I changed, threw a saddle & bridle and two halters in the car because T (my T) was driving and the truck was still in Kansas, so I couldn't just pop them in the trailer, and headed for the trainers'.  No one was home, but the boys started whinnying as soon as I stepped out of the car.  They followed me along the round pen to the gate, and practically shoved their heads into their halters. 

I checked them over pretty thoroughly, and other than being muddy here and there and sporting a cockleburr or two, they really weren't any worse for wear that I could tell.  Saddled and pointed toward home, we covered the distance in short order at a steady working trot.  The farm owner was waiting for me, and we penned them in the top lot until we'd had a chance to walk the fence - her husband swears up and down he didn't leave the gate open, and we couldn't find anything down or loose. 

BUT, during the weather Friday the power was off for a while.  And even though they never have, I suppose they could conceivably have jumped the (four strand, chest high) electric portion of the fence if they were spooked enough.  G had had a round bale feeder tipped up on end in one of the pastures, and it was blown all the way across and tipped into another interior fence - if it suddenly started rolling in their direction, maybe it scared them?

They were happy to be home, had a good drink at the waterer and then tucked their butts to the grain bin as it started to pour again.  They might not have been phased by their outing, but I think I lost a few years! 

We left a nice thank you card and gift for T and D for coming to the rescue, and I'll stop by tomorrow and thank them in person. 

Other than those few heart-stopping minutes in the car, it was a fun trip and I'd gladly do it again.  But maybe I'll nail the boys' feet to the ground before I do!

It was a complete fluke that everyone who would ordinarily have been first on the list in case of a horse emergency was simultaneously out of town, but I suppose not completely unlikely.  So what about you - how deep is the list of people you have to call in an emergency?  Do you have a list?  Is it in your phone? 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

I'm so jealous!

T's having all the fun this week.  I get to spend three days in meetings on the opposite side of the state, and he's moving cows AND he gets to ride Amyra first.  Grrrr!

Yes, we're finally getting our horse back.  Or rather, T's finally getting his horse back.  You might remember several months back - in April - Amyra went off to the trainer for what was supposed to be 30 days. And life happened.... 

The trainer's schedule filled up with shows, clients that show and/or want their horses shown and are therefore slightly higher priority for him - no hard feelings though.  I can completely understand his need to do what's long-term beneficial for his business.  And we're not guiltless in her extended stay, either.  In between times we had several completely unexpected changes at home, and although we've dropped in to check on Amyra throughout the summer, schedules just completely haven't meshed.  Long story short, she's ended up staying with the trainer a lot longer than either party planned on.  There were pluses and minuses to that.

But T is going over tomorrow to ride her, and he'll have a couple more times to do so with the trainer before we pick her up on Friday.   Pictures soon, promise!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Shhh! Don't tell Mother Nature -

Can't believe we're still enjoying temps in the 80's and summer-like sunshine.  Crazy!  Although we could really use some rain.

When the phone rang this morning with an invitation to join some friends on their year-end 4-H trail ride, I couldn't resist, even though I couldn't talk T out of watching football and into riding with me

The ride always starts at Sunny's trainer's place just down the road 1/2 a mile or so from the farm, making it easy to just ride down and meet up with them.  I took the trailer out anyway, since it was already hooked up.  Didn't want to forget anything critical this time!

The actual ride goes back past the farm and winds around a section split into four quarters where the north/south/east/west mile roads cross.  The ground is all owned by the pheasant hunting lodge that borders the farm to the south.  It's a beautiful location to ride, especially in the fall before hunting season starts, because they mow nice wide strips that are perfect for riding - the holes are easy to spot - and you can also spread out into the long grass if you want to.  The terrain rolls gently and the fields are varied: corn fields, shelter belts, grassy strips, marshy sections with cat tails... there's even a creek/stream bed to cross.

The ride was supposed to start at 1 PM, so at about ten minutes til I was trotting down the driveway with Thunder in tow.  I ended up waiting fifteen minutes or so for the last riders to get mounted.  Not a big deal, though - standing and waiting patiently is good for patience-building.

There were probably 25 of us riding, ranging in age from around 5 to 80+.  The majority of the mounts were Quarter Horses.  A couple of paints and a lone Appaloosa rounded out the group, with Sunny and Thunder being the only Arabs.

On the road the group spread out, and Sunny and Thunder walked along politely with no issues, but once we turned off things tightened up.  Sunny isn't at his best in crowds, especially when all the horses are strange.  And the crunchy leaves we were riding through made the other horses sound a lot closer behind us than they actually were.  I maneuvered my way to a spot on the edge of the front-most clump of riders, and let Thunder serve as a buffer.  With a clear escape route in front and to the right of him, Sunny settled down and quit jigging.

Thunder, bless his heart, just walked along taking everything in.  All those rides with J and C have really been good for him.

After things finally spread back out
We rode for three hours, mostly at a walk.  It didn't take long before I remembered why I spent a fair amount of time getting off and walking when I used to do this sort of ride more frequently - too much time in the same position at a walk, and my right foot goes to sleep.  Poor Thunder - I kept stretching my leg out in front of his nose.  But with two of them to juggle, I wasn't getting off to walk!

The next exciting moment came at the streambed crossing.  No water, but the bottom was still a bit muddy.  Only ankle deep or so, but there were a few horses that weren't enthused about crossing, so of course things packed back up again.  Sunny was doing better with the crowding by this point, and both horses cocked hips and waited. 

I wanted to cross where the sides were fairly low, since I didn't want Thunder jumping.  Once the refuser in front of us was finally convinced he wasn't going to die if he got his feet muddy, I pointed Sunny at the bank and gave him his head.  D (the one who started Sunny years back) was doing trailmaster duty on the other side.  Sunny decided he didn't like the look, or the squish of his first step.  He didn't suck back or jump, but we did get to the other side a LOT faster than I'd planned.  Thankfully, Thunder came right along, and UP! the bank we went. 

D's comment as I patted Sunny's neck, "Well he should go across that - he must have crossed it a few hundred times before!"  The two of them logged a lot of miles at the pheasant ranch that summer.  And Sunny and I will be back there again practicing in that streambed until he can WALK across, but as crossings go, it wasn't the worst we could have done.

D spent most of the ride shuttling back and forth between the front group where his daughter and her friends were leading us, and the later-most group where his wife was riding.  It gave him a chance to visit with everyone - many of us were riding horses he's started or "adjusted" with 30 days riding.  He commented on how quiet Sunny is getting to be, and also how calmly Thunder was handling everything. 

Riding a combined strip through corn
destined for the Corn Palace murals
I'm still hoping Thunder's owner will finally have him started properly, and if D would be willing to take him... well, let's just say I have my fingers crossed.
Strung out on the trail
We finally wound our way back to the gravel, and back past the farm to the D's place.  I hadn't brought a halter for Sunny, so after thank yous and see you soons it was back down the road through the stragglers towards home.  With all the other horses headed in the other direction, Sunny was convinced we were going the wrong way.  He dragged his feet until we finally passed the last of the riders, then perked up once he finally realized where we were headed.

Tired ponies
Thunder hasn't learned Sunny's trick of resting his head on his leadrope to sleep yet, but his nose was propped on the trailer.

This is why I ALWAYS check their hooves   
Seven completely clean feet, and one big rock.  In Sunny's off hind wedged in next to the frog.  Feet clean, saddle marks brushed off, fly-spray re-applied, the boys were very happy to hit the waterer and mosey down to their tree to nap in the sun.  And I was equally happy to park my behind in the truck and turn the AC on for the trip back to town. 

Hope everyone had an equally wonderful weekend, pony-infused or not.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

You see the oddest things at Wal-Mart...

Yep, that's a duck.  In Wal-mart.

Wearing a duck diaper, no less
Candy the Duck 
 She has her own FaceBook page, if you feel like looking her up.
We rode for about 2 1/2 hours this afternoon.  J wanted to check the fence in his big alfalfa field before he turned the cows out, and then we made a 6 mile loop out and around.  It was windy as all get-out, and Rufus was an absolute squirrel.  He made one big lunge while T was holding Buddy (J was off fixing a low spot in the fence) that popped Buddy's reins loose.  Buddy, of course, promptly decided that heading back home was the wisest course of action.   But the gate was closed, so he couldn't actually get where he wanted to go, so then he decided keep-away would be fun.  The three of them made a few trips back and forth before Buddy let himself be recaptured.

Between Sunny and Thunder my hands were already full, so I declined to participate in Buddy's game of chase-me.  Actually, I was surprised at how well Sunny and Thunder ignored the other pair's ducking and dodging around, especially when the rest of J's horses came thundering down the other side of the fence to see what all the fuss was about.

Even once we were out on the road T and Rufus were really not having a good day.  After about three miles of fussing and sashaying, combined with more tripping over his own feet, T decided that rather than risk the uncertain footing down the dead mile with Rufus being such a pill, he was going to head back.  We offered to turn around, too, but he was pretty adamant we keep going, so....

J and I continued on around without any more excitement. He was riding in some longer grass, since Sunny and Thunder were occupying the track, and he almost rode right over the top of these.  
Some sort of gentian?
I looked them up in the wildflower book, but since I didn't actually pick any...  Anybody recognize them? 

T called just as we were reaching the end of the dead mile, wondering where we were at.  Riding sans companions for a while gave Rufus something to focus on besides being silly, and T ended up meeting us at the top end of the dead mile.  Which made me feel a LOT better.  

I got dust in my eyes and had to pause and cry into my sleeves until I could see where I was going again.  The guys were already a bit ahead anyway, as we'd also stopped to inspect some potentially Arab-eating fluffy clumps of  weeds and a squeaking, flopping mailbox flap. 

No problems with being left. They didn't bat an eye at the very dead, extremely smelly coyote we passed, either.   Sunny and Thunder were happy to wait while T and J continued on.  All that leapfrogging we've been doing with some of us loping ahead , some hanging back, catching up and passing, etc. is really paying off.  Even when the other horses were clear out of sight neither of them fussed, just continued on at an easy working walk.

Back at the trailer they both got a couple handfuls of grain for being such good boys.