Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Beautiful mornings

We helped out some friends with farm chores this past weekend so they could take a weekend away.

The mornings were chilly, but watching the sun come up was worth it.

We were down hooking up the float in the water tank one morning, supervised by four of the horses, when their heads swiveled around and then three of them took off across the pasture to tail a coyote until he ducked under the fence and headed off.

Bubbles hung out with us.  Even after we could no longer see the coyote, we could track his progress down the fenceline just watching her, unconcerned but alert.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Move is a 4 letter word, and a Thunder update

That's right, folks... we're moving.  Bags, boxes, cats, horses & all.  To Kansas.  Sunny & co have a few more weeks in SD while we finish packing & get things horse-proofed.  We haven't set departure-day yet, but it's looming.

The house here is a disaster.  It's amazing how much stuff one can cram into a not very big house - and since the one we're moving into is smaller, down-sizing isn't just a nice idea, it's a necessity.  I'm hoping that once everything is finally pitched, donated or packed I'll be finding more L-ove in my M-ove.  Right at the moment I'd just take a sufficiency of boxes the right size!

On the positive side of moving, the new place is an acreage and we'll finally have the horses at home.  There's one big pasture already fenced that will do fine for this winter, and a stone run-in shed/barn with a good roof.  And a couple smaller spaces that lack fence but will work with temporary electric for day-time grazing until we can get permanent fence up.  We'll have some fence work to do - mostly cutting trees back - but for now we'll be able to run electric on the inside of the existing fence.  

In the meantime, life continues - between getting everything we want to get done here accomplished before the weather turns, and getting the new place move-in ready, there hasn't been much quality pony-time going on.  Today we took Rufus to get shoes and Sunny got a trim.  A dual-purpose visit, as the farrier was at Eric's and we could check in on Amyra and Thunder.

Rufus stood nicely for his turn.  Sunny was not as cooperative, although he did have the excuse of a very rambunctious horse playing in the indoor arena directly behind him.  After the third time we'd been peppered by flying chunks of dirt, Eric retrieved Jackson, who was having way to much fun racing around, bucking and snorting.

The word is that Thunder was initially leery, but is coming along.  He's unsure of strange men, so that didn't surprise me.  After Rufus and Sunny were done and back at the trailer, I went back in to check on Thunder - his stall is very close to the crossties we were using.  Sunny had walked in and out without any sign of being aware Thunder was there, but Thunder was anxiously watching down the aisle where Sunny had disappeared.  It was sad.  

Other than being anxious at having been deserted by his buddy yet again, Thunder looks good and was definitely happy to be rubbed and have his itchy spots scritched.  T visited Amyra while I made nice with Thunder, and then we loaded up and headed out.

Hopefully I'll get back over soon and be able to take some pictures of all this progress he's making!  In the meantime, back to my boxes.

Friday, October 26, 2012

First Snow

Okay, so it's October - nearly the end of October even - but still, the white stuff yesterday morning was sort of shocking given the fall weather to date has been sunny and unseasonably warm.

And the white stuff wasn't pretty and fluffy, either.  It was cold, damp, grey and blustery out there.  The snow was just wet enough to sort of stick to everything.  Raw gusts slapped at us, periodically sending globs of semi-frozen slush smacking down - invariably catching the gap at the back of my collar and running ice water down my neck.

The ponies looked resigned, tucked out of the wind with their coats all fluffed out.  They followed us up to the bale to see what we were up to, but didn't linger.

It was chilly up there, and the rattling noise of slush-balls letting go to fall on dead leaves and dry underbrush had them pricking their ears and swiveling their heads around to see what was sneaking up on them.

Moisture = good, but I sure wish it would have come earlier in the month as a nice, warm rain!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Best Evening!

No long ride yesterday, but in the evening we fooled around bareback in the pasture for a while.

It was a gorgeous evening - sunny, crisp with the scent of dust and fallen leaves hanging in the air.  With me on him, Sunny was - as usual - unconcerned about where Rufus was.  We wove around the pastures side-by-side and played follow the leader, taking turns leading. 

Nothing particularly fancy, but the first time we've ridden together since T's been home.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Pony update - Saturday PM

Had a bad moment yesterday afternoon when my phone buzzed with a new text from Eric - I immediately had visions of Thunder through a fence or flipped upside down in the crossties...  Thankfully, although horse-related his message had nothing to do with my spotted boy.

Sunny and Rufus continue to coexist uneventfully if not cheerfully, at least on Sunny's part.  Poor Sunny - he doesn't want Rufus too close to him, or people, for that matter, but he doesn't want him too far away, either.  Yesterday morning when I checked them Rufus was at the hay feeder and Sunny was loafing under the big tree nearby.  Both of them nickered at me, but I missed hearing Sunny's high-pitched whinny peeling out in greeting. 

Sunny was of course absolutely fine with me rubbing his belly and scratching the itchy spots around his ears, but when I walked over to do the same to Rufus, Sunny took exception and started to run him off.  Not acceptable.  So I stayed with Rufus, and every time Sunny approached with his ears back I chased him off.

It took about three times before he stopped and stood, staring at us mournfully from about 10 feet away. After I'd loved on Rufus for a while, I walked him up to the waterer.  Given Sunny's behavior, I wanted to make sure Rufus had had an opportunity to drink - where the waterer sits is sort of a V, and he might not have wanted to risk getting stuck in there if Sunny was stalking him. 

We went up the hill, trailed at a respectful distance by Sunny, who plodded along behind us with his ears tipped back, flicking them forward hopefully every time I turned my head to glance back at him.  The fat lambs were scampering and bouncing around in their lot - they share common fence and a waterer with the horses.  Rufus keep an eye on them, and a weather eye on on Sunny, who was sort of hovering back near the corn bin.  I was keeping an eye on Sunny, too, and he knew it

Rufus sniffed at the water, but didn't seem too interested in drinking - not sure if he just wasn't thirsty, or if the water didn't taste like what he was used to.  He didn't seem overly worried, though.

When Rufus headed back down, I ran interference through the narrower part of the lot by the gate, and then walked with Sunny out into the pasture.  When Rufus showed signs of coming over to visit, Sunny pinned his ears again, and got himself chased away.  Herd dynamics are fine, but he will respect me when I'm standing there and learn to mind his manners.

Maintaining a respectful distance

Also a resentful distance

When T and I checked them yesterday evening - taking Rufus up to the waterer again, where he did drink, but not in a hadn't-had-anything-to-drink-all-day way - Sunny was still crabby.  But Rufus isn't sporting any nip marks, and when he wanders off Sunny trails along behind him, making sure he's not left behind. 

I'm hoping to get a ride in this afternoon, which should give them something to commiserate about - lol!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Thunder goes to school, and Rufus comes to visit

Meet the family's new addition!

Yes, that's Thunder - and now he's really one of my boys!  My first order of business?  A month at the Eric's to really get him going under saddle.  We took him over yesterday.

We collected him - and Sunny.  My biggest worry about taking Thunder was having Sunny running the fences, so once we had the boys on board we headed over and to pick up Rufus.

I had a plan...

It was nap time when we got there.

We woke Eyore up - he was laying down behind Buddy, but popped up before I could catch him snoozing.

Rufus was sleeping, too - but unlike Eyore, he wasn't inclined to disturb himself on our behalf.

T woke him up and once he was haltered, convinced him that he really was going to have to stand up.  Silly horse!

On board for the first time in over a year - they made a circuit of the pasture before we loaded Rufus.

Doesn't he look thrilled?

At Eric's, we unloaded all three, and turned Thunder out with a small herd Eric's more easy-going horses.  

Sunny was not pleased.  Rufus was unconcerned.  Thunder was baffled, but accepted being sniffed...

 And followed...

 And sniffed some more... with equanimity.

Back at the farm, we unloaded Sunny and Rufus and walked the pair out for a tour of all the gates and fences.  All my mental fingers were crossed that the two geldings, who've been ridden, hauled and tied side by side more than once, would be satisfactory company for one another. 

Sunny called for Thunder, and Rufus looked around with big eyes, but with halters and leads on they ignored one another.  After a full tour, including hay feeder and waterer, we walked them into the bigger of the fields and slipped their halters off.  

Rufus was unconcerned.  Sunny's initial reaction was very un-sunny, but unfortunately typical of him.  But Rufus didn't appear to care. After an initial nose-sniff, he just walked off.

We watched them interact for quite a while, and everything thankfully!!! looked calm. 

They meandered around the field, nibbling at whatever green they could find, Sunny occasionally sniffing at Rufus, and Rufus continuing to ignore him.  We monitored the situation until nearly dark, and an early a.m. check this morning found them both in dozing in the sun.  So far so good!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Successful Saturday

I won't lie - I'm looking at the pictures in this post and breathing another sigh of relief at having Saturday crossed off the calendar.  I'd promised to help a friend move her horses - C's been boarding at a place near here which she loves, but which - unfortunately - is over an hour from where she lives. 

What with gas prices and everything else continuing to go up, she started looking for places closer to home this summer.  After much searching and visiting, she finally found a really lovely place less than 15 minutes from where she lives.  Clean, well-kept barn, nice indoor arena, two outdoor arenas - a smaller one with trail obstacles and a larger, unfenced one with really good footing and what appears to be good drainage. The hay is good, the pastures are big and the number of horses in each is low.  And most importantly, the owner had space for two geldings in one of the pastures - which was perfect for C.

They set this weekend for a move-in date, but C's truck has been having some problems, so I offered to move her if she still needed a hand getting the horses and her trailer over there.  Saturday morning we met bright and early at the old barn, both of us bundled and shivering slightly.  It was all of 20'  BRRRR!!!!

After a half hour of finagling - I had the wrong ball up on the hitch and for some reason the left turn signal didn't want to work - we had things hooked up.  At which point she mentioned that one gelding has had issues in the trailer, and the other gelding had never actually been in that particular trailer.  

I decided to let her do the worrying - we weren't in any hurry, we had the whole day to work with, and both horses have been hauled extensively all over the country.  And when the time came for them to step on, they loaded like perfect gentlemen without any issues whatsoever. 

The trip itself, other than one wrong turn and a detour through a Casey's to get headed the right way again, was completely uneventful.  We pulled in at the new place about an hour and a half later, both of us badly in need of a bathroom, but with all peaceful in the trailer, thank goodness!

After locating the owner, we unloaded without incident and walked Max and Trinity back around the barn/arena to the large, L-shaped pasture they'd be sharing with three other geldings; a black bay and two sorrels, all quarter horses, and all tucked into the run-in shed, in the sun and out of the wind.  Their ears pricked up and they sauntered over to the wide, red metal gate to nicker at us.   

"These three are pretty laid back.  You should be fine.  Go ahead and walk them out past the hay feeder and turn them loose.  I'll run interference," the barn owner said.  She opened the gate and shooed the three geldings back out of the way, and in we went.

They followed at a mostly respectful distance as we walked Max and Trinity into a stiff, chilly north wind out past the run-in shed and the round bale feeder to the top of a long slope leading down and then back up again to the end of the pasture.  When we slipped the halters off, Max and Trinity trotted a wide circle around us trailing the other three residents like a comet tail.

In the face of the wind, as Max and Trinity continued to investigate their new home, the three geldings gradually lost interest and headed back to the shed.  The horses in the surrounding fields raced down 5-strand electric fence - electrified top and third strand - to exchange greetings, but kept a respectful distance off the wire, and neither Trinity or Max was disposed to get close, either. 

We hung out for nearly an hour watching them explore, making sure they located the water tank (heated) and continued to play nice with the three geldings.  None of the five seemed disposed to start anything, so eventually we decided to go get some lunch.

We returned to find them all standing around in the sun, sharing the shed's wind-break effect, so C gave me a tour of the barn and we got the trailer parked neatly in line with the others and unhooked before we walked back out to check in again.

They all came over to the gate to say hi, obviously having worked out somewhat of a pecking order as evidenced by the occasional flicked back set of ears and some unhurried but respectful moving aside going on. 

All in all, it was a singularly uneventful moving day - just the way I like them!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Lesson Day: Sunny, and other stuff

It's been hectic around here lately.  T's home, which - although his year in Kuwait went faster than either of us thought it would - has still been an adjustment for both of us.  I was very glad, especially with the way things seem to be going in the Middle East, to have him home. Now if I could just figure out where to store all the paraphenalia that came along with him - lol!

For the past two weeks we've been doing farm chores morning and evening.  And if you've ever wondered, 200+ sheep eat a lot.  I was closing the gate in the evenings and letting the horses out to eat grass along the driveway, but midway through this week they found the alfalfa bales.  Apparently they're much tastier than grass.

So for the few evenings they've been hurrying up to the lot gate when the truck pulls in, and then staring mournfully - and accusingly - at me when I don't let them out to graze.  Which I would, if they didn't immediately make a b-line for those enticing alfalfa bales! 

I haven't had time to ride much, but I did squeeze in a lesson on Saturday.  In preparation, since I hadn't actually saddled Sunny in two weeks, I tacked up English Friday evening after chores and lunged him lightly.  I found a new-to-me CWD breastcollar with elastic inserts on ebay for a song a while back, and I wanted to get it adjusted properly for Sunny.  Mission accomplished.  My thought was that if Eric has us jumping again, I wanted extra assurance that the saddle wasn't slipping (whoever first called a horse's barrel a barrel sure hit the nail on the head there!) but didn't want anything impeding his shoulder, either. 

Sunny's still swapping leads to the left, but seemed ready to move out and focus otherwise, and I hopped on afterwards to work on a few stirrup-required things like leg position, two-point, etc. that I haven't worried about since my last lesson.

Pre-lesson at Eric's, C and I rode and chatted for a while catching up on all the goings on.  Eric just re-did the outdoor arena fence with big railroad ties and 5-bar sucker rod fence to shoulder height.  It's lovely - but the some of the rings of exposed red granite gravel around the post base eat chestnuts, apparently.  Sunny was initially convinced that the gravel around the north - and only the north - side post bases would get him and deserved to be snorted at and given a very wide berth.  For some reason, the gravel rings on the other three sides weren't dangerous at all when looked at from either direction.  Sheesh...

When Eric came out, I quite visiting and collected Sunny up.  And promptly heard, "He's off - more than usual - in his right hind.  His hock looks a bit puffy..."  Sigh.  I hadn't noticed anything abnormal when I wrapped his legs.  I stopped, got off, and we both took a closer look.  Sunny does have capped hocks - not dramatically, but he always has some puffiness.  I'm not sure when exactly he managed to bump, kick or otherwise connect with something hard enough to acquire them, but he always a small amount of swelling, and has had for a long time. 

He didn't have any heat in his hock, and he didn't seem to mind it being probed, flexed or stretched.  The verdict was, keep going, take it easy, and see if he'd warm up out of it.  So I got back on much to Sunny's disgust and we finished warming up.  Then we did what felt like several hours of sitting trot.  From there, Eric had me working on half-passing, which, after I managed to sort out that right is my other left, got dramatically better with each attempt.  At least I amused my (small) audience. (C hung out to watch, and Eric's next victim - sorry, student - and her mom had arrived early.)  It's always nice when you have an audience to watch you screw up, right?

By that point, Sunny was moving more freely, so Eric had us trot through the cavaletti a few times.  By the third loop I could feel him setting up and stretching through his back as we went across - very cool.  Then Eric set up a small x for us to trot through. Again, Sunny's first reaction was leave slide marks stopping because, holy cow, mom!  That's different than it just was! 

The next round, however, I managed to remember to look straight through the standards, and kick!  And over he went.

It took a lot less time than the last lesson - only those two complete refusals, and a couple of stalls where I was still able to kick him over.  And he only knocked the rails down twice this week.  I really wish I'd thought to grab my camera, although I'm sure it wasn't exactly pretty.  But it was FUN!   We didn't tackle anything much over a foot high - Sunny could comfortably trot over even the rail Eric set up - which was absolutely fine with me.  Still a blast!

I don't remember my long-ago jump lessons being fun - more like terrifying.  Although the feeling of surprise and relief that I'd survived after every lesson was sort of invigorating....

I'm finding that with the jump to focus on it's not as hard to remember to look up and around my circle, and to keep looking up during transitions.  My upward transitions are much, much better than they were.  And it's really making me focus on keeping my lower leg consistent, because if I don't Sunny either breaks or we don't get lined up properly for the jump.

We stopped after a particularly enthusiastic effort from Sunny, and he was very pleased to walk his cool down.  He was actually sweaty - but not breathing hard at all, since he'd done enough proper jumps to get plenty of breaks throughout. He was very quick to recall that a real "jump" resulted in a chance to walk - lol!

After Sunny was cool, brushed off and napping by the trailer, I went over to visit Amyra and Buddy, who's rejoined the outdoor crew after our show "season" finished.  They're both looking fat and shiny and pleased with themselves, and would have happily stood to be fussed over for any length of time.  Then it was time to load up and head for home.

Sunday morning Sunny was playing in the pasture with Thunder without favoring anything, and his legs were both cool to the touch with no puffiness anywhere, so I think my lesson here is probably not to do any more lunging the night before a lesson, and try to get more steady riding in so he stays legged up.