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 :(