Monday, November 4, 2013

Not loving the time change

Fall is my favorite season, it really is. The leaves are crispy, the sky is extra blue, and the heat finally fades off. And the days get short

I haven't posted much lately, primarily because this is supposed to be a blog about riding, and hours spent on top have totaled zero for way too long.  I've missed it, and felt guilty about not checking in - although not as guilty as I have about the four-foots going unridden.

On the plus side, I may have finally found someone to at least contact about lessons.  On the downside, the drive will be longer than ideal.  Still debating whether to take the plunge now or wait until spring....

At any rate, my new goal is to get back to posting.  With that in mind, a quick recap of the missing weeks to follow shortly.  For now, having morning chores done and supper in the crockpot, it's me for coffee, shower and the drive to work.   Because paychecks are good things.

Friday, October 11, 2013

In the spirit of giving...

The barn cats presented me with the back half of a rat yesterday morning.

So thoughtful.  Now that I know they give a rat's a--, if I could just convince them that coffee is a MUCH better way to wake up... lol!

Off to feed the ponies.

Shoo Fly!

While I haven't been riding, the ponies have been enjoying their pasture time. So have the flies.

Maybe this is normal for KS, but the flies have been really miserable this summer. Poor short-tailed Rufus is particularly plagued. And for whatever reason, he more so than the others was getting crusty, fly-irritated eyes. I had a couple fly masks left over from when I tried using them up in SD, so I thought I'd at least see if one would fit him, and if so, if it would help.

Unfortunately, both were sized for slim-headed Arabs, and didn't span his broader face well. (No, I did not just call him a fathead - lol! Although... There have been occasions!) At any rate, I ordered a two more in horse size, not being entirely sure what he would be comfortable in, and figuring if he was going to wear one I might as well torture them - er, that is to say, make them all comfortable.

After two months of wear, here's what I learned:

 Fly Masks
Models left to right: Rufus, Sunny, Thunder, Amyra

Arab-sized Farnum without ears: Sunny and Amyra
Price: $14.99 and up

The two I have are the older style, with the soft fuzzy binding around the nose part, but the single hole for the horses' ears is made from a stiffer cloth. (The ones they sell now look to be about the same, with the exception of the softer binding around the ears.) They have a broad elastic band that runs under the jaw about where the throatlatch on a bridle would hang and velcro closed on the lefthand side.

Sunny wears one very comfortably and doesn't object at all. It fits him well, and he's only rubbed it off once. Amyra is less pleased about hers. She tolerates it being put on, but I think the binding around the ears chafes. She's learned she can roll and rub her head on the ground and scrape it off, and quite often, she does. (And I spend the evening wandering through the pasture playing "find-it".)

What I like: the mesh is semi-opaque from the exterior which helps it double as a sun shade, and they seem pretty durable. I've hand-washed them a couple of times and nothing has come apart. I also like the single, broad hole for ears & forelock. It makes putting them on in the dark much easier.  What I like less:  On both horses, they gap around the nose, which means sneakier bugs like mosquitoes just fly right up underneath.

The verdict: I'd buy one of these again for Sunny, but not for Amyra - although I think the newer style with the fuzzy ear-hole binding might be an improvement she'd find more comfortable.

Horse-size Cashel Fly Mask, Standard without Ears: Rufus
Price: $19 and up

This is a softer mask than the Farnums, with smaller, lighter mesh and a soft felt-like binding at the noseband, around ear and forelock openings,and around the jaw line. I ordered horse size, and it's plenty big.

Rufus has a wider head than the other three, but not a long one. Length-wise, the mask comes further down his face than the Farnam's do on Sunny and Amyra, which is fine. Width-wise, the mask is a little large; it would comfortably fit a much wider-headed horse, but I don't think it would adjust down any more for one with a narrower head. It doesn't have an elastic closure like the Farnums. Instead, the two sides overlap under his jaw, with an overlapping velcro closure. It would still pull off easily if he snagged it on something, so no worries there.

Rufus doesn't appear to have any objections to the fit, and his eyes are MUCH better now that he has some protection from the flies. What I like: The forelock hole and the softer mesh.

What I don't like: I'm not completely crazy about the closure design. While it sits in the right spot, when it's adjusted to fit him correctly, the velcro tab overlaps poorly, and Sunny has grabbed it and provided hands-free assistance in removing it a couple of times. The verdict: Despite the closure, I've ordered a cob-size with bright orange mesh inserts for Amyra from Smith Brothers. (At $21.99 it was a tad more expensive, but I wanted something in a different color so that I could tell the masks apart easily in dim light, especially since she'd take a smaller size.)

Professional's Choise Fly Mask without Ears: Thunder
Price: $17.95 and up

With soft, breathable mesh panels across the top of the nose and forehead area, and the attractive black piping around the lighter, gold & black flecked mesh, this mask takes "most attractive" hands down.

He still looks bug-like, but at least he's a prettier bug-headed horse - lol Thunder hasn't managed to lose it once, either. Like the Cashel, it closes by wrapping under the jaw, with a single wide velcro tab that overlaps and sticks to the loop-pad sewn to the left cheek side.

Initially I really liked this mask - the label said machine-washable (although I haven't tried that and probably won't). And from the outside looking in, it appears to provide really good visibility (I can see Thunder's eyes well), and he seems to find it comfortable. He hasn't managed to lose it or knock it askew yet. What I don't like: It has a two ear-hole design, but no opening for a forelock to go. I generally tuck Thunder's out one of the ear holes, but it's not an ideal solution.

Repellents & other stuff:

I've been using Pyranha spray, for the last couple years, but may investigate other options next summer. I think Rufus may be getting sensitive to one of the ingredients :( I don't like putting it on their faces, either.

Which brings me to Mug Balm Face Shield, by Mane Tamers, it's a horse-specific sun screen and bug repellent in one. Since I've been slathering Water Babies SPF 50 waterproof sunblock on Amyra and Rufus's noses almost all summer (is it sad that I've used almost three bottles on what's really a very small area of two horses, and haven't yet gone through 3/4 of one on me?), and it does nothing for flies, I was excited to run across this product, and decided to give it a try. At under $9 a bottle, it's actually cheaper than the Water Babies stuff, too.

The bad news is, they (all) strongly dislike it. I think because of the smell. I think it smells pretty good - very fresh, but strongly peppermint/citronella-y. Personally, I'd happily wear it rather than the human stuff since it's not sticky or tacky after it's rubbed in. It does, however, have a somewhat gritty feel. At first I thought I was just picking up dirt off of their muzzles, but it's actually something in the lotion itself. It also has a much lower SPF.

I've been applying it liberally to all four, given it's purported fly-repelling properties, and I've noticed that both of the pink-nosed ponies are pinker nosed than usual at the end of the day. Sigh.

As long as I'm hitting the highlights of fly deterrents, I might as well cover the Fly Predators, too. I placed an order for 5 months worth, with the first order to arrive in April. (It arrived just in time for the last snow of the year - lol!)

Anyway, in a nutshell, while they might work really well if I ONLY had four horses, but the 75+ head of cows that share a fenceline also have to be contended with.  No way can I afford Fly Predators to cover that number of critters, so I can't really say how effective it was using them. They probably made a dent in the face/heel fly problem, but I didn't notice a substantial uptick in the fly presence after the last shipment.

Much more visibly effective (and economical - T says they use them around all the dining facilities on the bases in Kuwait to keep the bugs down, too) are insecticide-free fly traps - the kind where you add attractant & water?  Those suckers really stink, but they sure do fill up with flies quick. I started with a handful of the disposable ones, but ended up picking up the refillable kind and a bottle of bait at Orschlen's, and I sure haven't been sorry.

Would love to hear what you all do for fly problems where you are - do you fly sheet?  Use feed through products?  What works & what really doesn't?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Seeing Stars

Wow! Can't believe it was the first week of August I posted last.

Not much that's exciting has occurred in the meantime - which is good from the perspective that excitement isn't always a good thing, I suppose. The ponies have been enjoying the last days of summer winding down. The nights are getting earlier, and the mornings are definitely getting darker. I'm dishing out cat food, grain and morning supplements in the granary with the help of a light, and on moonless mornings my headlamp sure comes in handy. Then it's out among the beasties in the dimness, distributing feed pans and velcroing on their fly masks.

Thankfully, the fly masks do fit under their halters so I can get those on while they eat.

Our morning parade is now made by the light of the moon - some days it's bright enough to cast shadows and Squeak looks almost yellow when springs out to attack my feet and risk squashing as I trip my way back to the barn. Not sure why, but I never seem to fall over anything on my way TO the pasture with my hooved escorts.  So far the morning trips have been mostly uneventful. One morning we spooked several deer and sent them careering off into the brush. Another morning it was a cow and a brand new, still wobbly calf. We gave her a wide berth, but she was surprisingly unconcerned.  The horses had all the native wildlife spotted before we started, apparently, because other than pricked ears they didn't bother reacting.

They aren't quite so blase about the newest potentially encounterable obstacle though, perhaps because it's of the equid persuasion. The cow folks have four small donkeys, which until very recently they've kept up at their home barn. For whatever reason, possibly because the (this year's) baby is getting bigger, they've decided to turn them out with the cows.

"Egad!  I think it's moving - what in the world is it?"
The initial spotting of the new "holy crap, that's not a cow!" critters occurred on a bright, windy afternoon. Mutual snorting and retreat on both sides of the fence. So far, we haven't met them in the dark, but we did encounter them coming up to drink last night as I brought the ponies back down. Again, much with the snorting. Thunder particularly grew about a foot. He's the only one that hasn't seen a donkey up close and personal prior to, and he was NOT impressed.

Small, but incredibly cute
 I'm not too concerned about them interacting through the fence, but am hopeful the "run away!" mindset continues, at least on the little guys' part - meeting them up close coming or going  might be slide over into the bad kind of eventful, as I suspect one's an uncut jack - didn't investigate personal bits to determine for sure yet, though. (Only two of them are really interested in being friendly, but they do know about treats - lol!)

No riding to speak of - I keep resolving to do better, but so far it's been less riding and more other chores that need to get done.  Fingers crossed that Mother Nature continues to provide us with a long fall, and maybe I'll get my list of have-to-do knocked down and get back to the fun priorities!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Slip & Slide

It really does rain in Kansas - who knew?  The good:  the seared brown pasture has turned completely green.  The bad:  the footing is abysmal.  Good:  it's cooler, hanging in the 80's.  Bad:  the humidity is also in the 70's and 70's. 

Also in the good column, some of the seeds we planted when my niece was here this spring actually came up - no thanks to me, since I didn't water them at all.  But the rain arrived in time, and they're gorgeous.  No idea what they are, but I need to find out, because I want some more for next year.

I've managed two actual rides, one on Amyra and one on Sunny.  Amyra continues to relax and get more settled, and we even managed a walk partway down the driveway without her eyes popping out of her head.

I laid the ground poles out for Sunny and must have gotten the distance right, because he trotted them without tapping a one.  A solid evenings work, and in the new saddle, too.  He seems to like it, and it's pretty comfortable for me, too - have yet to test it on steepish hill (I'll bet it slides), but just the fact that it's not so long is an improvement.

It's getting darker in the mornings.  Not a good sign, since it takes me at least a half hour to get everyone fed and moved around.  I'm thinking soon I'll be getting horses shuttled over by headlamp-light.

I picked up 50 small square bales a couple weeks ago, and I've been giving them a few leaves in the evening - even with the grass coming back, they're happy to see the hay.  And it means when I holler for them, they come running.

Well, usually.  Sometimes it means the bugs are extra bad, and sometimes it's just that edgy feel the weather gets that sends them running.  Tonight it was the latter.  They raced up, slid to a stop, stayed just long enough to be praised, and pounded off again. 

On the second pass I managed to collect them and skidded our way back. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

No Obligation? (a.k.a. "Free" Horses)

It's twenty 'til two and the thermometer says 106'.  Too hot to be outside, although the horses seem happy enough to be out where there's a breeze, eating.  I'm sitting here going through pictures....

I had an interesting phone call from an old friend yesterday: the lady who bred Sunny, Amyra and Thunder.  We stay in touch - I send her pictures periodically, and we exchange cards and phone calls.  She had some news and a question.  Back in 2010 she'd decided she was done breeding, but she still had 6 mares and Thunder.  She ended up selling three of the mares to a gentleman up north who liked their breeding.  Sadly, word through the grapevine was that he passed away early last year.

Recently, she received a call from a women who inherited two of the mares: Sahara and Foxy.  Sahara had never been ridden.  Foxy had been started as a three-year-old, but based on how she reacted when I saddled her and rode her, she'd not gotten much beyond 30 days.  Very gentle, no buck, but basically clueless....

So, this lady has been boarding them, but now she's wondering if my friend would possibly like the mares back.  It seems that she hadn't realized that horses would cost so much money ($250/month board) and she doesn't feel comfortable riding Foxy without her getting a refresher from a trainer (another $250-300/month) and having Sahara started would be an additional expense (!!!!). 

I wasn't in any position to take on any of the mares when they were sold, but I've always said I'd like to know what happened to them, and if they were ever for sale I'd take them if I could, so my friend called me.  "I want to stress that you're under no obligation to take them," she said. "I just didn't want you to find out they were available later and have you say you would have wanted them."  My heart sank.  While I'd love to take them, with the drought here, four horses is stretching our available pasture as it is.  Honestly, four is probably more than we need.  Because as the lady with the mares now knows, there is no such thing as a free horse. 

It's no consolation that my friend isn't taking them back either.  (Thunder was her last one, and he came with me.)  She's passing on some names of folks that might be interested, but that's all she's able to do at this point.  If wishes were... enough money, more rain, and the ground to feed them all on....

These are two nice, handle-able mares, at least last I was around them.  They're both past the young-horse sillies, but neither of them is elderly.  They're both papered, sound, have good manners, they're easy to catch, worm, give shots to and trim.  They load.  They tie.  They both love to be brushed and fussed over.  But...

If you aren't intending to breed them or just let them stand around in a pasture to look at, they're going to be a very tough sell because they don't ride.  Makes me sad...

Slipper Feet

Shetland pony toes...
The farrier came earlier this week.  It was 102' in the shade.  The ponies were more than content to stand politely in the shade and get their feet worked on.  We were his last stop, and I'm sure he was more than glad to be done for the day and crank the AC on his two hour drive home.

We were talking about how hard the ground is - he asked if we had rocks in our pasture because Sunny's feet were so chipped up.  Nope, the ground is so dry it's like concrete, though.  They've all been wearing the edges off, and stamping flies sure doesn't help.  Taking a breather between horses, he pulled these hooves out of the truck for show & tell.  He'd trimmed the pony the night before - poor little thing was walking spraddle-legged so she wouldn't hit her belly with her feet...

He said he had to use a hacksaw to trim off her toes before he could even start to make her hooves look right, and would be making several trips back to adjust angles so that she wouldn't continue to walk on her heel bulbs.  The owner wanted to know why he couldn't make her feet pretty immediately.  Some people should NEVER own a horse of any size!!!!! 

With the new goal of riding at least one horse per evening, I rode Thunder Wednesday after work.  He's got 'whoa!' down cold, that's for sure.  I'm thinking he's going to make a great trail horse, as he seems happiest when he's exploring new territory.  I rode all over the yard and up around the tractor trail out to the cow pasture.  The other three stood at the gate, Sunny whinnying occasionally, but Thunder paid him no attention.

I wrapped up in the orchard where I could do some circles and worked on walk-trot transitions.  He wasn't real enthused, and I'm thinking I may get the bumper spurs out next time.  I need to reinforce my heel enough that he doesn't fall out of gait whenever he feels like it.

Thursday was an exceedingly long day at work.  My brain was mush, and getting focused enough to direct four additional feet just wasn't in me.  I retrieved the horses, did my chores, took a shower, spent some lap-time with Nu-nu and fell into bed.  Day two and no horse ridden.  Yeah, I'm a great goal setter, but apparently not so great in the carrying out department... sigh.

With the new gate into the pasture I've been able to go from leading all four of them at once up the road and back, to leading two at a time cross country.  (I'd take all four, but the creek bed crossing is narrow, steep, and not really safe for more than three of us to navigate simultaneously.)

While my folks were here we experimented to see what the reaction would be if I took two and left two behind, and while there was some whinnying, nobody tried to climb the fence or push the gate down, and some hollering from the ones left back has continued to be the extent of the fuss.  I expect it helps that once they have their halters and leads on, they know they're going.  Well, that and the fact that it's been too hot to want to race back and forth.  

I've been round-robining the pairings so that nobody always gets left behind and they don't have a designated "partner".  Considering that the pair leaving is completely out of sight for half the way - it takes about 5 minutes round-trip for me to get up and back - none of them have even thought about charging the gate or dragging the human on their way to catch up to the other two, I'm giving them a gold star for manners. Even Sunny.

Friday night we hit 104' again, and the fly hatch from Thursday morning's token sprinkle was vicious.  Once we'd navigated back through the herd of cows that had decided the creek pasture with it's shade trees would be a cooler option the horses headed into the barn immediately.  Between the heat and the bugs, I couldn't justify dragging any of them out to torture.  Today's supposed to be a repeat, but tomorrow's forecast is for 90's, so I'm thinking maybe I'll load up and head in to the arena in town, ride all four, and get back on track.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


I asked Jennifer over at How did this happen? how she stays motivated to ride.  Even with the temps and humidity she has down there, she rides.  Regularly, and with intent.  Sigh.

And her answer makes a good point - several, in fact.  These are expensive critters, and since they're all able and so am I, they should justify their presence by more than looking pretty.  Not to mention, despite what the uninitiated may say, riding is good exercise, stress relief (mostly) and just plain makes me happy, darn it.

With all of that in mind, and cooler temps still hanging around, after supper we collected Sunny and Thunder, brushed and tacked, and hopped on.

When I really stopped to think about it, Thunder's had maybe 20-25 rides.  Eric said it took the first two weeks for him to get Thunder to the point where he'd built up some trust (strange man issues), and then I know the horses got at least two days off every week, so...   And I'm not counting my few in the pasture last year.  Last night was my second on him since we got down here, and when you consider all the riding he hasn't had in his life, he did great.

To give us something to do other than just shuffle around in the dust in circles, I set up the ground poles in a square with one extra leg, and put out two orange cones.

Mostly I wanted to work on forward, since the last time he had those balky moments.  He still had a few, but this time I was more prepared and less worried about giving him a solid bump with my heels.  And since I had to bit the bullet and leave the safety of slow sometime, we trotted, too.

In both directions.

After Sunny, who love him to death, but that doesn't fix short-coupled does not have the smoothest trot ever, Thunder's like floating.

And the ground poles phased him not at all.

Did he want to go stand by the gate to the barn lot?  And was he far more content to stand still than go?  Yes.  But he was also pretty darn calm and he listened. 

It probably also helped that we had company.

And yes, there was a LOT of dust.

So - what motivates you to get out and get on?

Monday, July 1, 2013

Of Tarps & Tiny Bandits

When I bought Sunny he was too young to ride, so we did a lot of groundwork.  One of my favorite things to play with was the tarp.  The other day I was trying to think of things to work on with all of them, and it dawned on me that I hadn't run through the tarp with Sunny in ages - probably just as long for Thunder, and not as extensively. I couldn't remember ever trying with Amyra, and I know for sure never at all with Rufus.

Initially, Thunder was the only one who'd come over.  Sunny was sure I was going to catch him and ride him, and hovered suspiciously behind the other three.

But once he realized that I wasn't going to put his halter on and ride him, he waded right in, walked across and presented himself to be clicked and treated.

After a brief inspection, Thunder was happy enough to stand on the tarp, but preferred pawing and poking at it with his nose to walking across it.  He didn't catch on to the "follow me" game Sunny and I were playing. 

I can actually stop Sunny in the middle, then ask him to turn 360' in place without stepping off the tarp.  Good practice for trail class, if we ever actually make it to a show

He'll also wear it.  And monkey-see, monkey-do, Thunder was willing to let me drape it across his back, as well, since the blue flappy thing didn't eat Sunny.  Although he did a bit more eye-rolling.

Rufus wasn't worried about walking on the tarp so much as he was worried about getting in Sunny's way.  He certainly came right up and checked it out readily enough.  I think he would have walked across, too - but he wasn't willing to push in where Sunny was.  And he wasn't excited about the tarp leaving the ground.  Amyra, pretty much like-wise.  She experimented with putting her front feet on, but once I picked it up she backed off to a safe 10 foot distance and watched.

Next time I'll tie them up and work with them one at a time.  Especially Sunny.  He's a good example monkey, but once he figures out there's food and very little effort involved, he ends up being more of a deterrent than a help.

In any case, something fun and low-key after the trailer ride the night before. 


Later in the evening, I went out to bring in my clothes off the line and sent a small something scurrying into the underbrush at the edge of the yard and up a tree.  

These are too small to be the ones we've seen trying to raid the cat food can, although I'm sure that's very likely what I interrupted when I opened the door - no mom in sight, although they're pretty young yet. I'm guessing maybe the harvesting surrounding us currently moved the family in to the tree grove around the house. Very cute, and hopefully the whole family will move back out into the fields once the harvesters finish!

Pony outing - pics

Rufus & Sunny on arrival

The ground looks a lot better in the pictures!

Sunny showing off his collected walk

Time for a break
Thunder checks things out

Somebody else's cones - good idea, though

More investigation

Amyra's dust bath

Homeward bound

Pony outing

Wow, do I have some reading to catch up on!  That'll teach me to stay away from my computer - everyone has been doing interesting stuff!

Not so much here, although a lot has been getting accomplished.  But the weather finally unexpectedly took a turn for the cooler, and on Saturday evening after finally getting the last few remnants of moving stuff out of the horse trailer (ask me about the 45 minutes I spent weaving backing up the driveway - better yet, don't!) when we brought the ponies down from pasture in the evening, we popped them directly into the trailer and headed for town.

I've been wanting to take them in to the arena at the fairgrounds for a while.  They haven't been in the trailer since we got here late last fall, but all of them walked on with no hitches, and we were off.  In town, it was windy but only in the 80's.  Parked with the trailer pointed so that the two left tied to the trailer could see what was going on, we saddled Sunny and Rufus and ventured forth.

It's a big arena.  Nice fence, lots of space.  Unfortunately, while it had been disced up, the dirt looks to have a lot of clay in it, and it was left in big clods of busted up crust with pressed in tire ruts.  There is a nice soft track around on the rail where you could tell people had been riding, but most of the middle was a walk-only zone.  Not sure I'll be repeating the experience on a regular basis.  Hopefully closer to fair time they'll have it worked up better, because no way would I want to show in it in that condition.

We rode anyway since we were there - the boys were very good, and so were Amyra and Thunder, loafing at the trailer.

Nothing real enthusiastic, since changing directions involved leaving the track, but some walk, trot, and a very little canter.  Sunny's still inclined to be sticky on taking the left lead, but he's taking both easily out in the pasture so I'm hoping it's more habit than being out of adjustment again.  We had some nice stretches of collected walk, and briefer periods of collected trot.  I didn't ask him for too much - haven't ridden him enough for that to be fair, but he was willing to round up without any head-shaking or nose-poking - happiness :)

Mostly though, we just let them check everything out.  The gates at the far end were open, and Sunny was convinced he should be able to exit stage left.  No wanting to head back to the trailer and buddies for him, there was GRASS down there with his name on it. 

When we were done, I ponied Thunder around so he could get a good look at the bleachers and announcer's stand, both painted a brilliant white, the latter with bunnies under it.  My dad walked Amyra out into the middle to look around. She promptly stopped, dropped, and rolled.  I'm guessing she thought it was like turn-out time back at Eric's.

Pics later - no time to upload before work :(

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Excuse my hiatus

Wish I could say the whole time I haven't spent posting I've been actually posting (on a horse).  Unfortunately, not.  Other than a Sunny-ride back and forth to pasture on a couple nights, none of them have been ridden since weekend before last.  Which is certainly no way to reach my summer's goal of riding all four of them regularly! 

All is well, but between weather and flies and projects and general busyness and lack of energy they've gotten plenty of attention but no riding.  Not much of an update from here, but hopefully more to report soon!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Bath day

So yesterday we had our first triple digit day.  When I read the forecast Monday night, I filled a couple big tubs with water Tuesday morning.  Sure enough. 106' here (warmer in town) with 40 mph winds - blast furnace, anyone?  The horses were standing behind the barn swishing when I got home.  Nasty flies, even with the wind.

It was down to 99' at 7:30 - a good time and temp for baths.  Not soap and water baths, but sun-warmed water rinses with some tea tree wash I got back when Rufus was so itchy but never had the opportunity to use.  It's supposed to be good for skin, and since it doesn't require rinsing off, I figured it would be a good day to try it out.

Sunny was our first victim.  The directions said to mix approximately 2 ounces of wash in two gallons of (preferably warm) water.  I mixed a bucket - it didn't look like enough to wash a whole horse...  Maybe I should get him wet first? 

Initially he wasn't thrilled and sidled away from me, but when the wind hit him and cooled off the spot I'd just doused he stopped moving.  By the time I was ready to rinse him with the tea tree stuff, he was standing still just stomping the flies.  While I worked on his body, my mom used a stiff bristled brush to work it through his mane and tail.  That definitely felt good.

It was warm enough that he was drying off almost before I could do the second side.  While my mom finished up, I collected Thunder.  I was anticipating the same sort of sidling that Sunny had done, but other than one sideways glance at the bucket when I poured it across his back, Thunder appeared to enjoy his turn.  And once she realized I wasn't expecting to stick her feet in the bucket, Amyra stopped making her usual cranky face and looked almost unconcerned.  Or at least as unconcerned as she ever looks. 

But Rufus took the gold star - although giving it to him would have required waking him up, because he went to sleep.

Post-wash once they were dried off I fly-sprayed them and turned them back out in the orchard pasture where they could roll on grass and not dirt.  Dried off, they were really soft as if they'd been out in the rain, and they smelled a bit like herb tea.  Have to say, that was the easiest bath-time I've ever experienced.

No pictures, thank goodness!  Setting a new fashion trend in shorts and knee high rubber boots I definitely was not - lol!

Monday, June 10, 2013

It's so undignified!

Could have called this post the Many Faces of Amyra, but Rufus is in here, too.

Amyra and Rufus both have white and pink noses.  They sunburn when the days get long. 

Which doesn't make either of them really appreciate sunblock.

I don't really blame her - I don't really like the feel of it going on either. 

Rastafarian Rufus
 Rufus prefers to combat bugs and sun with his own personal brand of sunblock - a nice mudbath.  After the last rain he came in wearing enough mud beads for several nice mud pies.   My mom was kind enough to de-mud him, which he thoroughly enjoyed.  In fact, I suspect had the mud not dried up overnight, he would have rolled in it again just for the extra attention.

Amyra, on the other hand, is not so copacetic about her time spent soaking in the bucket. 

That expression says it all, doesn't it.  Actually she's been pretty good about it - only tipped the bucket over once. 

Good Sunny, Bad Sunny

My nephew Z came out Friday evening with his lab Zoie.  She got to run and play in the yard and pasture until it was time to bring the horses home, then got tied up, as she's never seen a horse before.  They've seen a lot of dogs and are generally unconcerned, but I didn't want her getting kicked.  We figured an introduction on leash would go better. 

Anyway, walked over and retrieved the ponies.  Z's never been around horses - he's excited to learn, though.  He led Rufus back, and we tied Amyra and Rufus up.  I soaked Amyra's foot while my mom showed Z how to brush Rufus.  (Amyra popped a small abcess earlier in the week, and I've been soaking it nightly in warm water, epson salts & betadine.)

After Amyra was done, she went back in, and I pulled Sunny out.  Rufus thoroughly enjoys being brushed, and hadn't so much as twitched while Z brushed him.  After a quick brush-off for Sunny, we saddled them both.  I thought I'd picked a saddle that would work for Z, but realized I'd mis-judged the length of his legs pretty badly.  He's 13, but not tall - I couldn't get the stirrups high enough.  He hadn't brought any boots, either, but I did make him put a helmet on.

With my mom on Rufus to demonstrate, and me coaching he spent probably an hour walking Sunny around.  I laid the ground poles out and they walked over and around them.  Sunny was SO good. 

He listened, turned, stopped, all with his ears pricked and without a bobble.  Towards the end, Z really wanted to try trotting, so at that point we did switch saddles to one with shorter leathers.  I clipped the longe line on Sunny and Z gave it a shot.

He actually did pretty well, and was starting to get the hang of it, but I could tell he was also starting to get a little sore - Sunny, too I think. (Sunny doesn't have the smoothest trot, and Z was doing a fair amount of bouncing.)  We called it a night, the ponies got a skiff of grain for being so good and we headed up to finish the evening with Smores.

Of course, Sunny being Sunny had to follow up his stellar evening with a morning reversion to his 2 year old days.  There were storms blowing in, and all four of them were on their toes when we went down to feed.  The other three were minding their manners, but Sunny was convinced that there was SOMETHING in the trees behind us that was going to get him, and he didn't want be last in line as we walked over to the south pasture.

By the time we got to the creekbed crossing, I was pretty sure there was no way I was navigating successfully across with two horses, and since Rufus was still behaving himself I waited until my mom and dad had Amyra and Thunder down and through, warned them, and let Rufus go to take himself over.

Which of course made Sunny even more frantic.  We spent several fraught moments going around and around in the bottom of the creekbed, me determined that he was NOT going to charge up the bank, and him just as determined that he was.  I won.  Mostly.

By this point, Sunny's twitichies had communicated themselves to Thunder who was also behaving like a twit.  My dad had Rufus and Amyra - still sane - through the gate and unhaltered by the time we had the other two idjits half the rest of the way to the gate.  Sheesh!

Once loose, they ate about two bites, then took off as if we'd lit a brush fire under their tails.  They spent the next five minutes rocketing around the big pasture as fast as they could go, bucking and kicking and caroming off one another like pinballs.   It was quite the sight to see.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Listening Horse

We ventured out into the orchard pasture tonight - it was a beautiful evening, with just enough breeze to discourage most of the bugs.  Sunny and Amyra again.   Tonight at the trailer Amyra actually moved around - which, with most horses I wouldn't be thrilled about, but with her it's a sign that she's actually relaxing.  I can work on relaxed and standing still later.  For now I'll take not stiff.

Out in the bigger space I wasn't sure what to expect.  But right from the first her neck wasn't as knotted.  We walked big circles, played follow the leader with Sunny, and eventually I asked her to trot.

Her head popped back up and it took five minutes or so of going around in figure eights and circles before she started to relax again.  And probably that long before we managed a nice round circle.

She's so responsive that she picks up on every bump and shift I make, and she wants to do whatever you're asking her right now!  Which would be lovely, if I was actually telling her to do all of the things she thinks I am....

It's unfortunate that I'm used to Sunny who takes a LOT of leg, and doesn't concern himself overly with my sliding around.  Perhaps she'll cure me of that.  In any case, we spent a fair amount of time trotting.  If we managed a circle that felt relatively smooth, I'd asked her very softly to walk, and let her have a nice loose rein.

She was still very aware of where the other two horses were.  And if I'd let her she would have eased her way over to the fenceline closest to them and stayed there.  But she wasn't insistent about it. 

Back at the trailer she did her bracing thing again briefly.  But all in all a really good ride.  Not sure how much actual riding my mom did - she sure spent a lot of time taking pictures!