Sunday, December 31, 2006

Over the Water and Through the Woods

Out on the Trail Again

I took Toby out first today. I thought I'd check to see just how bad the trail around the little lake in the back was. It was.

This is a restored sand mine. The State of New Jersey took a lot of time and effort to change the big hole the mining company had left into a neat little natural lake. At one time, there was a nice pathway all around it. Over time, the mini-bikes and ATV's have rutted it up to the point that there are numerous places where the water just settles into big swampy mud puddles. It is near to the swamp proper, so the land does not drain well to start off with, but at one time, except for a patch in the back, the trail was nice enough that I could trot.

No more. Picking your way along trying to find some good footing in the water, or trying to avoid the water for better footing takes total concentration and a careful walk. Toby is wonderful about it all and will go willingly through the water if need be. But we had to be cautious since it was hard to tell how good the ground was under us. It might be OK again in the summer if we have a good dry spell, but for now, I think it's far too much of a challenge for Tucker and I'm not too keen on taking Chance there either.

When I got back, Chance and Tucker were playing tag in the arena, behaving like a couple very silly cl0wns. I looked down at Tucker's feet and sure enough, he had pulled a front shoe. I found it a few feet away, lying in the sand.

Perfect. The last day of the year, and, since rain is predicted for New Year's Day, my last chance to ride him out on the trail with some dry footing and he had to lose a shoe. I guess I should have ridden him first instead of Toby.

So, I saddled up Chance and once more he eagerly headed out for adventure. This time, I took him down the trail to the lake but instead headed up along the ridge. We had to pass the horse-eating monster gray rock, but Chance never gave it a second look. Quite a contrast to both Toby and Tucker who are totally convinced the boulder has jaws and is going to jump out to get them.
Once again, Chance proved himself a super trail horse.

I told him when we got back that he was already a "trailmonger," and soon he would be a "trailmeister." What a gem of a horse he is.

So far, all looks to be in line for a really good New Year. Here's hoping all who read, and all who visit, and everyone who never sees this blog find 2007 to be prosperous and full of joy.

Happy New Year to All!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

On the Lines

Ringwork for a Change, or a Chance

I long lined everyone this afternoon.

Chance didn't particularly like the lines' insistence that he keep his head down, but he only threw two totally mini-tantrums. Nothing to even discuss. Once he figured out that he needed to work that way, he was just fine. I must admit, he is a nice mover in all three gaits and tends to stay nice and forward. He really is a honey.

He has put on some weight and is starting to look better fed. I'm still not sure how much he is going to grow and develop, but only time will tell. What is fun is that when I call him he comes right to me, even if he knows we are going to work. I guess the difficult start he had in life and all of Lauranne's loving care when he was a newborn has convinced him that humans are really OK. He is definitely one of the friendliest horses I've ever met.

Tucker was lazy as usual, requiring a bit of persuasion that "forward" was the best way to go. I had some really nice work from him until the turret on the new surcingle broke. That limited some of my more refined rein aids. But, to Tuck's credit, he didn't take advantage. The biggest problem I had was trying to keep him from overbending to the bit and getting too low in the process. I will have to work that out because when he is correct and up, he looks great!

Toby was, as usual, virtually perfect on the lines. Years ago, he told my animal communicator that he like to long line because he could see me. He never takes a wrong step. In fact, he was so good, I changed the rig to a direct rein instead of a "vee" connection on the surcingle because he was to quick to come round on the bit. I don't ask him to carry himself in an upper level frame much since he has retired from competition. No more FEI for him. He's quite happy doing the lower level carriage. And yet, if I want to, I can do any one of the upper level exercises with a minimum of effort if I ever want to play. Tempi changes are a cinch for him and all the lateral work is just as easy.

Guess I can use Toby to remind me of what I need to do as I move Tucker up the levels--and maybe even Chance, my happy little trail horse.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Rockabye, Babies

Why Outside?

I just got home from a vegetable shopping trip to the farmer's market, and found the "kids" of the herd bedded down in the paddock on the old hay.

This is not the first night I've found them snoozing out there. However all three stalls are nicely bedded in clean straw for Christmas. You'd think that would be the preferable bedroom. But no, they have to nap outside. The temperature is still pretty moderate, 46 degrees or so. I guess being outside is just more fun--kind of like camping.

Chance is a trail junkie! Nick came over to do some work today, so I set him to unloading my 54 bales of hay while I did some barn work. The Boys were out in the pasture. After a bit, they saw me at work and decided to investigate. When I finished and set Nick on another task, I took Tucker out for a hack on the same trail where we'd met the ATV yesterday. When I got back, Chance was at the gate, hanging over it with a longing expression on his face. I took Tucker in and Chance stayed at the gate, staring out into the woods. I unsaddled Tucker and called the kid in. It wasn't until I told him that, yes, we too could go out on the trail that he decided to come to me.

Once more, he proved himself a star. This time we even trotted a bit on the way out. He was definitely eager to go and totally disappointed when I turned into the first woods trail--the one he's been on before. I guess he was looking for adventure. Once we were in the woods he kept looking for new places to go. I think I will have to take him out to the tree farm sooner than later. At this rate we'll never get any ring work done, but I'd rather have him happy than trained. He's still a kid and deserves to have some fun in his life. Plenty of time to learn how to do that "dressage stuff."

As for Tucker, we had a milestone on the trail when I finally tried jumping one of the fallen trees across the trail. It was more of a "trot over" than a jump, but he was both quiet and bold about it. Later, we explored a bit, mostly because, like Chance, he wanted to investigate the path ahead. I had a bit more time for him, so we went up the lane that used to go to my grandmother's house--now bulldozed after falling down--then turned around and came back. If it weren't so darn wet, I'd love to see how he'd be about going around the lake, but I have a feeling the footing is under water. I'm not keen about riding anybody on that kind of terrain.

I gave Toby the day off. He made an evil face at the sight of a bridle, and practically smiled when I walked away with it.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

How to Ruin a Lovely Hack

ATV in the Woods

Oh, well, it had to happen sooner or later.

My luck with Tucker ran out this evening. We were having a lovely hack through the woods after a nice school in the ring. As I was in the last curve before the little trail heading home, I saw headlights out in the area near the lake. Sure enough it was someone on an ATV (all terrain vehicle) and, unfortunately, they were headed our way. I trotted Tucker down the path to the little trail and turned off, but we weren't fast enough. The ATV bore down on the road we'd just left and Tucker started to get riled up. I could feel his back start to hump and since I know I cannot sit more than one buck, I dismounted as fast as my cricketly knees would allow. He bounced just a little as the ATV went by, and then settled down in my hand. I had to lead him home--a short walk, but surrender nonetheless. With him, it's better safe than sorry.

He was a little silly in the ring because my cousins next door were setting up a target to shoot at with their air rifles--another annoying distraction. But Tucker does not focus entirely on his work, so their activity set him into a couple spooks. I was nearly done by then anyhow, having worked for a bit on collecting and extending both the trot and canter on either rein, so their presence encouraged me to go out on my hack a bit sooner rather than later. Had the timing been different, I might have met the ATV in a spot where we wouldn't have been able to escape.

ATV's are illegal in the State Park, but that doesn't stop them. Signs are posted all over and there is a stiff fine as well as confiscation of the vehicle if they are caught. Trouble is, there is usually no one to catch them. They have ruined some of the trails and, in the summer, often ride around the lake in the back eroding its banks. It's just one more frustration to quiet rides.

On the other hand, I took Chance out again on the longish trail, all the way to the back of the Park. He was amazed to see the field on the other side and had a good time. So good that I'm not sure he really wanted to go home again. He is the first horse I've ever ridden who actually goes slower once he knows he's headed back. We met a guy with a pickup truck--also illegal out there as there are no motorized vehicles allowed--and Chance behaved well. Usually, when Toby and even PJ met such "out of place in the woods" things, it was a bit of an adventure. For Chance it was an interested shrug of the shoulders. Cool. I think he's going to be fun guy to just get on and go whereever I want to go!

I took Toby out to the Christmas tree farm and had a nice little trot on the dirt road out there. It was still sunny then and everything was just glowing. There are still quite a few trees left, and I hope they will grow nicely this summer. Alan, the farmer who runs the farm, works hard and deserves a good crop. He also leases the land to me I use for my pasture. The surrounding farmland, now part of the State Park, used to belong to his grandfather and has been farmed by his family since about 1900. It's great to see farming pass down from one generation to the next as it's a dying "art" here in New Jersey--the Garden State.

Ah, well tomorrow I have to go get hay in the morning. Perhaps if I ride when I get back I won't run into any distractions.

At least the ATV's won't have their headlights on. *sigh*

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Another Day, Another Trail Ride

And Some Schooling

I rode all three Boys again today.

I worked Tucker in the ring for about a half hour. Even without my spurs, he was pretty well forward. I think my aids are a bit more refined and subtle when I do have the spurs on, but he was willing to go without too much effort on my part.

I did the shoulder-in, ten meter circle, haunches in on both reins several times, suppling him up and he became pretty solidly round in a more elevated frame. I still need some "eyes" on the ground to give me a better evaluation, but he felt good nonetheless. If I ever set up the acrylic mirrors I have materials for, I will be able to see how we look, but for now, I need to rely on "feel." I also did a fair bit of canter/counter canter on each rein, finding him more likely to break on the right lead if I wasn't careful to keep my driving aids on. Then I experimented with a few canter/walk/canter transitions. Overall, he was far better at them than the last time I tried them about two weeks ago. Interesting. It must be as much an intellectual exercise as a physical one since he remembered the principles even though he is no fitter than he was then. I finished up his school with a hack through the woods to cool off--over 40 degrees f again--warm for December. He was angelic.

I decided to test out Chance in the field to see if his calm, but interested attitude on the trail was a fluke. I must say, I am impressed with his quiet eagerness. I think he really enjoys the adventure. I still don't feel totally capable of steering him, but he never feels out of control, so it's no big deal. We went out onto the farm field road, circled around a bit in the cornfield, then looped back onto the road to head home. All of about 15-20 minutes, but out in the open. He was an absolute star.

On the way back, I let him have a mouthful of green grass at the edge of the field. That was amusing, because he couldn't manage to chew it with the bit in his mouth. All the way home he walked like a drunken sailor, totally focused on the grass instead of where he was going.

That left just enough time to take Toby out for a short trail ride. He tried to duck away when I showed him the bridle, but once he was saddled, he headed right for the gate and we had a nice forward ride. One little spook at something lying beside the trail marred what was nearly perfect, but that's Toby.

All in all, another good day in the saddle. I think I'm getting spoiled.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Into the Woods and Out Again

Trailing on a Winter's Day

I took all three Boys out for trail rides. With all the rain, my arena is very wet, and since I haven't been riding, I just wanted to have some fun. Besides, once Chance saw me take Toby out, he was hanging over the gate to the woods, with a longing expression on his face.

Toby and I went out to the back to check on the flooding. There is still water in the trees, but it is slowing receding. The Turnpike runoff may still be causing some problems, but without the warehouse water pouring in, the situation is so much better. It's still sad to see land that was once dry now part of a swamp. The once lovely trail along the power lines is ruined. It may dry out this summer, but now I wouldn't risk riding through.

They are going to widen the Turnpike again and under the new enviromental laws, we may be able to force them to take care of all their runoff instead of dumping it into the State parklands. I still have to write up a letter to send them, but I did speak up to the engineers at a Turnpike information meeting. I do miss riding back there as it offered a nice option for a good little ride with a place to do some galloping if I wanted to.

Tucker was just a little uncertain when we started out, but he settled into a good walk as we went along. Again, I only stayed out for a short ride, but it was fun nonetheless. I was a little worried because when I had gone out with Toby I met a young couple along the trail. who were on their own adventure. They were on a treasure hunt using a GPS unit. I have to look this up, but apparently, there are web sites where people set up the hunts. They go out an plant treasures somewhere and others have to navigate their way to find them with the GPS. The couple was heading for one more treasure in the very direction I was going to be riding Tucker. I'm not sure how he would have reacted to seeing or hearing them tramping about in the forest, but luckily, I didn't have to find out. Now, of course, I wonder if they did find the last hidden treasure before dark.

Chance was feisty and showed a bit of temper as we began our ride. I had to open the close the gate from the saddle. His skill at this is still limited since he doesn't back well and also doesn't yet have a clue about going sideways. Getting out to the trail was no problem, but when I tried to turn back to refasten the gate behind us, he wanted none of it. He was totally determined that we were going OUT on the trail, not back. He was tossing his head and plowing against the rein, putting on quite a show of refusing to do what I wanted him to do. For good or ill, compared to Tucker's tantrums, this one was totally non-intimidating. He doesn't throw himself around and he doesn't feel at all as if he would buck or rear. I just gave him a minute to think about it, walked him on a bit to a wider place and pulled him back around to the gate. Silly boy.

He is a gem on the trail, and had I wanted to, I think I could have taken a new route with no problem. But, it was getting a little dark, so I stuck to the short path. If it's nice tomorrow, I may try another trail with him. I am a bit limited, but I can stay out for an hour if I go around the fields. I'm not into really long rides anyhow and generally use the trail as either a reward or just a way for all of us to relax for a day's work.

I am really happy to be able to hack out all three by themselves. I think in the long run, Chance is going to be the best of the group out of the ring. He is already showing an lust for adventure and seems to pretty sensible about it. If so, he will be the perfect horse for me! I need one I can just have fun with whenever I want.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Up To My Neck In Christmas

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

What a pain in the neck having a pain in the neck is. I got adjusted on Friday and Saturday. I felt fine until late on Christmas Eve, while I was in church. Christmas morning, today, I woke up with neck problems again. I am now wearing my neck brace and it seems to be helping.

Christmas dinner is at 4, so I don't know if I have time left to do anything with the Boys...again. I was planning on riding early but just couldn't manage as I was sure a headache was coming on.

I don't think they mind too much, but I do know both Tucker and Chance do enjoy the adventure of being ridden. Toby is a bit harder to read. He seems to enjoy our outings, but he often plays hard to catch.

I found a new farmers' market not to far away and bought the lovliest carrots with lush green tops. The ones I got at the supermarket were pathetic compared to them and the good ones were half the price! At any rate, the Boys are being treated for the holiday with sweet carrots and delicious apples. I already got them their orange sheets as the long lasting presents, but I they they enjoy the temporal reward of sugar on their tongues. The way they dive into the treats is quite something.

We can learn a lot from horses. Their world is full of simple pleasures and simple solutions. They are clear about expressing their feelings and somehow manage to work out all their conflicts directly and honestly. I often wonder how much better off we all would be if we could face the world ourselves with their perspective.

May we all find Christmas in our hearts to last the whole year through!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Better Late Than Never

In the Saddle

Finally, I managed to ride. My neck was OK, but not perfect. I am going to need an adjustment again today, but the riding had nothing to do with it.

Tucker was a good boy. I finally feel as if he is a normal horse as far as the riding goes. I feel confident getting on him even after a layoff and I can count on him to do the basics with no fuss and bother.

Challenging him is another matter and he will always be a bit annoyed with that. Last night it was asking for a proper reinback. He will step back, but not more than two strides before he either stops or tosses his head. I was a bit more insistent this time, but careful as well. Reinbacks can be very dangerous as one of the most common evasions is rearing. The rider needs to be cautious about both rein pressure and insisting the horse keep its head down.

Fortuntate, Tucker is quick to let me know when he is upset or ready to blow up about something so I managed to keep the exercise low key. Besides, he'd already tried some walk pirouettes for me, so perfecting the backing was not an essential success for the ride.

I rode Chance for a bit as well with the goal of getting him to keep his head down and his back a bit round. He picked it up at the walk pretty quickly. The trot was another matter, but quite amusing. He is such a quiet guy that his biggest evasion is to just slow down and eventually stop. So, to say it was a stop and go process is pretty accurate. However, we did get approximately two circles in either direction in a bit of a frame.

They were approximate circles for sure. Chance has a tendancy to fall into his inside shoulder, particularly on the left rein. My mistake is dropping my seat to the outside trying to push him over so that my inside leg gets shorter. While a lot of body English will take him over to the outside that way, it is far more effective long term for me to drop my knee on the inside and push him over from my inside seat bone.

Bless Lockie Richards for teaching me that one. He always had a way of making what seemed like a difficult problem into an easy fix. I probably have hundreds of skills in my training bag of tricks I learned from him. He was a master horseman, trainer, teacher, and above all, a true gentleman.

What is lovely now it that I have three horses I can pop on to ride any time I want to. While Tucker is a bit less reliable on the trails, it's a pleasure to just mount up and know I'll accomplish something during each and every ride--and, if I don't want to accomplish anything except have a wonderful time, I can do that too!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Back in the Groove--Maybe

Work and an Unhappy Morning

I lunged Tucker and Chance last night at about 10 PM. I do have lights in the ring, and having the horses home does have its benefits.

I'd done some Christmas shopping after school and I got my hair cut, so by the time I got home it was dark. Then I had to wait an hour after I fed the Boys before I could do anything. So, I ate my own supper as time ticked by.

Tucker was great, with none of his bucking nonsense. He had started to pick up that habit on the lunge and would break away from me to gallop off with the line trailing. I am hoping he has decided to give up on that one.

Chance was a little angel. He lunged nice and forward in both directions for a good stretch. He did take the wrong lead several times on the right, but it was easy to correct. I guess, like most horses I've known, he is "left hoofed," and just is more comfortable on the left lead. He actually looked quite comfortable going on the right, so I don't see it as a big issue. Since he's not yet ready to canter under saddle anyhow, I'm not at all worried.

Toby gave me a scare this morning. He was pawing a bit in the stall, then he went out to roll before he finished his breakfast. Then he lay down in his stall, and later went out to the pasture and lay down again. Colic.

I called the vet, and called school to tell them I wasn't going to be in in the morning.

The vet got here in about 40 minutes. Sure enough, she found a big gas bubble in his intestines. We decided to be extra careful, the vet gave him a small dose of banimine and then we tried to tube him with mineral oil.

That did not go over well.

Toby is generally a star for the vets. Tubing was apparently over the line. AS Dr. Perez tried to insert the tube in his nose, he get more and more angry. I knew, even with the twitch I couldn't hold him and he had backer her into a corner. I've also seen him strike with his front hoofs when he gets really mad about something, so with discretion the better part of valor, we decided to stop.

Dr. Perez gave him a sedative. In a minute or so, Toby's head was nearly on the ground. Even then he resisted the tube, actually refusing to swallow it. Somehow, with me braced under his chin to hold his head up, the doctor managed to get the tube down into his stomach and administer the drench.

I watched him for about 45 minutes after she left and he seemed to be feeling much better, so I headed off for school.

Believe me, there will be no errands after work today as I will head straight home to be sure my Boy is OK.

The last time this happened was right before a major snowstorm struck. It can't be the weather this time as it's clear and sunny today.

Here's hoping all is well.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


Superstition Abounds

The weather was gorgeous today and yesterday and I still didn't get in the saddle.

Yesterday, Nick came to work so I did some other chores while I directed him in moving some fill around. I let him drive the tractor, so he was in 7th heaven. Boys and machines are a magical combination.

Today, I have another excuse. My church held its Vespers service at 4PM and I sing in the choir. About ten years ago, I took a trail ride on Vespers day and had a bad fall, breaking my wrist. Since then I superstitiously treat Vespers Sunday as a jinxed day for riding. I am always extra cautious.

Today, since we had to be back at church at 3 PM, after getting out of the morning service at 11:30. I had to make a quick run to the supermarket for some supplies for the choir party after the Vespers service, so by the time I got home, I didn't have all the time I needed to work the Boys. I opted for another day off instead of rushing around trying to get something done.

I made my two dishes for the party, did a little barn work, a little house work, and before I knew it I had to feed the horses and go back to the church.

It was a lovely service with a little too heavy program of instrumental (bell choir, brass choir, youth band) and not enough singing (our choir only did three pieces out of at least 16 performances) but the Christmas story was as rich as ever. This year was just reading of the scripture followed by related musical pieces. We sang, Lo How A Rose E'er Blooming, En Natus Est Emmanuel, and One Bright Star.

The party after was, as usual, a fun affair, with good conversation more than a few laughs, and good food. Gotta love a holiday that consistently brings all those benefits!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Still Not in the Saddle

Wasting the Weather...

...but it just seems every day brings something new to do.

Yesterday, I was back at the chiropractor. My neck is getting better, but it just keeps going out. It's something I do when I am asleep. I'll get adjusted after school and then I am going to try wearing the neck brace/collar tonight to see if that does the trick.

I am going to dinner tonight with the friends who mounted a political campaign for Mayor of my town. We worked so much togther that we formed a bond of sorts. And, we are planning to make some more political waves in the next election. In the meantime, the candidate suggested we all get together for the holidays. So we've picked a nice restaurant and plan on having a good time.

The bummer about being busy is that the weather has been scandalously perfect fo riding. 50-60 degrees f., just enough rain to keep the footing soft but not muddy, and no appreciable wind. I had to take the Boys' sheets off for the day both yesterday and today.

I keep hoping the lightweight sheets from Chick's will come, but so far, no luck. The current orange sheets are just too heavy when the temps are so high.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Temporary Surrender

Here's the house at night. Not too bad, eh?

...To the Holidays by a Neck

I went to the chiropractor Monday, then the doctor for metabolic testing on Tuesday with another chiropractic tune up.

Am am metabolically unbalanced again, but not so much. A slight adjustment in my supplements should set things right. It may explain why my adjustments weren't holding. Or, I may be fighting off some kind of bug. Or, it's the weather. Either way, it should sort itself out in a day or so.

In the meantime, I haven't ridden. I don't think the Boys care. They are just hanging out in the sunshine or the rain....since that's what it did today. They also "supervised" the hanging of the Christmas decorations on the barn. I have an overhang by the door--the end of the run-in shed on the east side of the barn. I put up a green garland with lights. Then I went to add the star and found it wouldn't light. Luckily, I had purchased a string of white, LED mini lights, so i replaced the star's malfunctioning lights with them and voila! I now have a truly white star above the barn. Cool.

I did the house decorations last night and did the house fence tonight. I have to decide what to do with the rest of the LED frosty white lights I bought. I am thinking of using them on the fence. Of course, by the time I decide, Christmas will be here. *LOL*

No pressure to ride as apparently Chris will not be down again until Spring. I'm not sure what exactly is going on, but I'm sure I'll find out. All I got was an e-mail from Stacie who apparently spoke to him.

No problem for me. This time of year it's really hard to keep a regular riding schedule anyhow. As long as the Boys are happy, they can play, frolic, and eat. And I can just sit by and watch.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Slight Glitch in the Progress

Shadow Monsters in the Forest

I rode everyone out in the woods yesterday. Lovely weather and a nice day slightly shortened by a bunch of errands after church gave me at least two hours of riding time.

Trying to ride three horses in two hours is an interesting chore, especially since in-between mounts the unridden beasts went back out to the far side of the pasture. So each capture required a hike.

Toby and I went out first. About 30 yards into the ride, he stopped, threw up his head and stared worriedly off into the farther woods. I caught a glimpse of a leaping shadow which I presume was a deer. Deer are very dangerous to horses, you know. *VBWG* We call them "fangtails" around here because the real danger is that they run away, their little white tails pointing straight up looking ever so much like a shark's tooth. Thus, they are a they run in terror from the big horses. Don't ask me. Toby tries to go the other way when the deer are going another way altogether.

Fortunately, the shadow disappeared and we were able to have a safe ride.

Chance, all innocent and eager, was delighted to go out for his ride. He trotted a few times in his enthusiasm, but when I chirpped to him he came right back. Good thing. Without confirmed steering, I wasn't too keen on trotting amongst the trees.

Third ride out was Tucker. I opted for taking the trail from the opposite direction because I had spied a white paper plate in the trees, lying just so the sun shone on it. A shining white blob in the treeline, very visible is exactly the kind of thing that makes Tucker silly, so I decided to have it at his back on the way home.


We were over halfway through the ride when the leaves rustled up ahead and, from Tucker's head up "uh oh!!" reaction, I have to suspect the shadow deer was back again. I am no fool. Meeting a deer on Toby is bad enough, but to see one from Tucker's back would be to not be on Tucker's back for long. I nudged him a bit forward, patted his neck, got a stride or two more, then another balk, one of those head shakes of his and I decided to circle back. So we headed back down the trail we'd come on.

While I am a little disappointed, I am also content that I never pushed for a dangerous battle and, by circling off onto another little side trail to make the reverse, I made the choice of going back, not Tucker. This way, I never made an issue of his balk and just pretended we were heading where I wanted to anyhow.

Having been dumped off from one of his bucks, I can tell you, I do not want to repeat the experience too many times. It's far better for me to find a way to avoid the explosions. Since he was angelic for the rest of the ride, I will still give him good marks. He's not the perfect trail horse, that's for sure, but as they say, "He'll do in a pinch."

Saturday, December 09, 2006


Day to Play

Chris didn't come today. Karen's horse is still not quite up to par after being lame and Michelle isn't quite up to riding at the moment. That left too few of us for it to be worth the trip.

Fine by me as my day was growing more confusing as it went on. I spent the good part of it wondering whether or not the repairman was coming to fix my gas fireplace--again. So I cleaned up a bit only to find a credit card bill I had neglected to pay on time because I was having the neck and migraine problems. I sorted that out, fortunately, and began to do a bit of cleaning---far more neglected than the credit card bill. Then, Nick, the young man I've hired to do some work called to let me know he would be over in about an hour.

So, I was stuck at home. Waiting for something to happen.

Nick called again to tell me he was lost. He's still not familiar with the roads around here. A bit later, I called the gas company to find out if the repairman was really coming--which he wasn't--and then finally made it outside to do horsey things.

Nick's arrival circumvented riding for a time as I had to supervise him into beginning the job of leveling at least one stall and resetting the rubber mats. Over time, the stalls had developed sunken places. I had to get him his tools, try to find a pair of gloves that fit him--never did--and then help get the stall stripped.

Finally, with the day waning fast, I saddled up Chance--who kept trying to "help" Nick, and give him a short ride. Still no luck on getting him to drop his head, but that will come with time and patience. I think I need to long line him a bit more.

Tucker was waiting for me when I got back into the barn. So I saddled him up. Whatever was on his mind I'll never know because when I put my leg on, he balked. When I pushed some more with a totally loose rein, he reared up a bit and still wouldn't go. So, I turned him around and offe he went on the left rein. He was still off and on a bit crabby but did some most obedient work overall.

I am just a little concerned that his hind feet may not be completely comfortable. I had his hind shoes pulled with the last shoeing, hoping for a bit better traction on the ice and snow--should we have any. He may not be quite solid on them. The ground has been frozen for at least two nights now and with all the hoofprints left in the mud hardened into bumps, it might have given him some discomfort. I'll keep an eye on him.

The temperatures are going up again this week. Hopefully I'll get some good rides in.

Friday, December 08, 2006


It's Happened Again

The week before my trainer is supposed to come down to give lessons, and I end up flattened with a migraine, preceded by several days of a miserably sore neck and meetings I needed to attend.

So, guess what! Tucker hasn't been worked since Tuesday when I long lined him, and Chance hasn't been worked since Sunday.

I don't really worry too much about either one, however. Chance is a quiet fellow and doesn't have enough training to show off. As for Tucker, he has more than once proven he is quite a solid ride after some time off. He's pretty fit, so he won't get worn out, and I am sure he will do all he is asked. It's nice to feel confident about it all for a change.

Then again, Chris, my trainer, is coming to my house, if plans work out as anticipated. (It will all depend on how many of his other students can ride since at least two horses have been laid up for at least a month with injuries.) It is hunting season, and if the deer hunters are out and about, that may distract Mr. Easily Amused Tucker. (Does that spell MEAT?) Chris drives down from Massachusetts, some 5 hours, to train us, so it's not worth his while unless he has a full schedule. Here's hoping as I am not sure the weather will hold for another shot at lessons at my house until Spring. This is the only way he can teach me on Tucker and Chance and give Kelly, the young rider from the farm across the woods a lesson as well.

In the meantime, the heavier weight orange sheets were much appreciated last night as the mini snowstorm blew in. Who knew? It was cold enough for winter blankets this morning, but the sun seemed to be warming things up again, so the sheets stayed on. I keep hoping the other set of lightweight orange ones will show up soon. They would be perfect over a blanket.

Don't know if Iwill ride today either. It all depends on whether or not the winds have died down. I can't tell much from my tiny windows here at school, but the tree branches still seem to be dancing.

Just my luck.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Orange Sheets

But Not All Flourescent

Well, one set of orange sheets came yesterday. They are of good quality and lined, so they have a bit of weight to them, much like a Warlock.

Toby and Chance are now sporting them for hunting season. Tucker, though, is still dressed in the lighter weight sheet I ordered from Chick's Saddlery. It is a brilliant flourscent orange, much brighter and much more visible than the other Boys' coats. It is a lightweight, unlined waterproof sheet and I must say, I am very impressed with its quality, appearance and price.

Hopefully, I will be getting the two others I ordered as well because if ever there was a safety sheet for hunting season, this one is it. I can put another sheet or blanket under it for added warmth if I need to, and if the weather is warmer, as this season seems to be, it is still suitable. If Chick's doesn't get the orange ones in this week, they may send me pink ones instead. While the herd won't match, I don't think any hunter will mistake one of my Boys for a deer dressed in these colors.

Monday is the off riding day and I was back at the chiropractor in the morning. Then, after school, I had a young man drop by who is going to do some work around my little farm. I need some good strong muscle power to do some floor leveling under my very heavy rubber mats. I also have some muddy spots that need fill and a fence to repair.

Nick seems enthusiastic. His dad, whom I met at the chiropractor, wanted him to do some good hard work somewhere, so hopefully, I will be able to get a few of the chores done that are just too heavy for me to handle.

The weather seems to be holding. My trainer, Chris Warner, should be coming down from Massachusetts here to New Jersey on Saturday. I am hoping we can have a lesson at my house. That way, Chris can see Chance and we can work him a little. Kelly, the young rider can also hack her horse over to take a lesson as well. She teachers little ones in the mornings and can't afford to lose the income to take a morning lesson with Chris. Usually, we trailer over to a farm with an indoor about 20 minutes away. If the weather is nice, we can use my ring, save the trailering and solve the problem of how to do three horses since my trailer only carries two.

Addition from Tuesday, December 5

I long lined Tucker and he was a doll. He really is a beautiful horse and I think he is finally maturing metally to match his physical presence.

I put the heavier orange sheet on him too because it is much colder than anticipated. Now everyone matches. Cute little bundle of carrot-like horses.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Two Days in the Saddle

In and Out of the Arena

My neck still isn't right, but at least the headache part is gone, so I was up to riding again.

Not Friday, though. By the time I got home the rain and wind were already starting, so I just gave up and let Mother Nature have her fun.

But it didn't rain too much, so the footing in my riding ring was great. I rode Chance first and challenged him with a much longer session of trot. Little by little, the steering is getting better and he is offering to drop his head now and then. Obviously, his tempo is far from steady, varying from very forward to slo-mo, but in general, I was able to keep him trotting.

I totally confused Tucker by asking him to start off with his head up. He just stood there, his feet planted to the ground. He closed in on a tantrum and reared a little, but I put him into a tiny circle and finally got him going. As an experiment it was a failure. Once I stretche him down and pushed him on, I could elevate him with far more success. He still tries to stop on his forehand, but I am more and more able to correct that.

I worked Toby in the ring as well. I just ride him in an easy training level frame now, but it's so much fun being able to do flying changes whenever and wherever I want. He is a blast. What a great horse to learn from.

Sunday, the day before deer hunting season, allowed me to ride out into the woods again. I took all three of the Boys on the same 20-25 minute trail. Everyone was perfect, although I have to remember to steer Chance a bit more than the more seasoned fellows or else he kind of wanders off the track. He really acted as if he was having a good time. What a sweetie.

I have ordered flourescent orange sheets for everyone. Tucker's arrived on Friday. I had an older small one for Chance, so he is in orange, and Toby, for now is in red while we await the United Parcel Service delivery. Equiteric notified me they shipped on Friday, so with luck Toby will be in safety orange in a day or so. I always worry during the deer hunting season.

I must admit, Tucker stood out like a lightbulb in the pasture when I saw him as I came home from church. The orange is absolutely electric. I'll have to try to get a picture when the whole gang is similarly dressed.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Down and Out

Out of it By a Neck

If I were in a horse race, I would have lost.

I just spent the last two days visiting the chiropractor and physical therapist for my neck. Every once in a while this happens and something goes "out" and will not stay adjusted.

This morning I woke up with a headache and a neck so stiff I couldn't turn my head. I called in sick to school, and called the chiroprator.

Off I went. By the time I was done with all the treatments, a good hour and a half had gone by. This time I think we found the right combination of treatment. However, it is now 5 PM and I am just getting over the last of the pain.

Phooey. It was an absolutely gorgeous day! Temperature up around 70 degrees f. So I lost out by spending the day crashed in bed.

The boys enjoyed it instead. I saw Chance and Tucker horse wrestling several times. Tucker and Toby are muddy too, so rolling must have been in the daily activity plan. I'm sure they didn't mind not working. I have to console myself with the knowledge that there will be other nice days to come, though not in the immediate future.

A cold front is coming through tomorrow with wind and rain. Still warm until Saturday, but wet again. Then it's supposed to drop to the 40's. That's still not bad, but quite a sudden change.

I will be feeding some nice bran mashes tomorrow night, and putting the sheets back on the Boys.

The deer hunters will be out in force on Saturday. Hope they don't rile up the herd too much.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Nice Weather for November

Warm Enough for Shirtsleeves

What a shame I have to work all day! Teaching teenagers just doesn't compare to the fun of teaching horses.

Well, unless the horse is an opinionated, sensitive Thoroughbred who will not accept a too strong aid. I shouldn't complain. Tucker has improved so much since I first began working him. Then, if I applied my leg in anything resembling a kick he would rocket launch up in the air. Now, he kind of snarls, naps a bit and then, when I apologize, gets on with it.

We have been working on those canter/trot transitions, heading towards perfecting the canter/walk/canter transistions required in second level. His balance on the downwards is a bit better on the left than on the right, but there is improvement each time out. He is a very clever horse. Once he figures out what I want and how to do it, he will find a way to accomodate so I will hardly need to give any aids at all. When I do a lengthened canter on the long side, all I have to do is sit a little more strongly at the corner and he comes right back. It's one way of using the Thoroughbred's sharpness to advantage.

I nearly panicked a judge right out the booth one time on PJ. He had a huge canter extension and to her, it looked as if he was going to fly right out the end of the ring. Instead, when I got to the corner marker, I just sat up and he collected back. Used to do the same thing with Russell in the hunter classes when they asked for a hand gallop and then a halt. I never had to pull him up, I just sat up, and he sat down in a dead stop.

Toby is super at the transistions too. And, he is a joy to lunge. I just gave him a light work tonight and had fun "kissing" him on and "chirping" him back in the trot and canter. As happy as he was with the praise for a job well done, getting a carrot was even better.

It was dark by the time I saddled Chance up, so I used the lights. That caused a very black horse and rider shadow to track with us around the ring. I think he found that a little disturbing, but certainly not worth a spook. So far, his biggest reaction has been a little eyeballing and a slight bend away from the scary thing. If this attitude keeps up, he'll be a master trail horse before the winter is over.

I just walked him this time as he was a little unsure out there. With the bats flying around--must be warm enough for bugs--and the shadows, I decided to play it safe. I did some rein work teaching him to give to the bit. We're still a long way from perfecting that as to do it right takes a lot more time and patience I have yet devoted to the project. Still, we're making some progress.

Chance likes his carrots too, as does Tucker. Right now, they are a requirement after every work session. I guess I'll be keeping the carrot growers happy.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Doing My Own Thing

Or So Say the Boys

I didn't ride today. Monday is usually the off day.

However, when I got home from school...where I teach...I found three horses in three distinct locations, quite separate from each other.

Chance was happily munching hay in the front paddock nearest the house.

Toby was in his stall doing who knows what.

Tucker was out in the far pasture nibbling at the little shoots of leftover grass.

Quite independent spirits, these fellows. Or else they had a family squabble when I was away.

No one was injured or the least bit upset. I'd accidently left Chance's indoor stall door open, so when I went in to get the feed he was at the tackroom door ready to come in to help. Mind you, the tack/feedroom is elevated from the rest of the barn by about a foot and a half, so he had to step up to try to join me. So far, I've been able to catch him before he gets all the way in.

Not so with Tucker when he was younger. He managed to get all the way into the room and there was no way to get him out aside from backing, which he didn't want to do because of the step. It one point a hoof even went through the floor. Not a pretty picture. Somehow, he wiggled himself to turnaround, though I have no idea how and got himself out before it was a total disaster. Ever since, I've had to watch things.

Everyone came into the barn for food, so all is well there. I guess each horse is confident enough in his own skin to not need the herd all the time. It was just kind of unexpected to find them so happily separated. Silly boys.

I have ordered orange turnout sheets for everyone. Hope they will be here by Friday as I expedited shipping. Deer hunting season starts December 1, and it always makes me nervous.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Into the Woods

And Out Again

With all three Boys!

Chance came to me first in the pasture this afternoon, so I saddled him up and off we went on our first real official full length trail ride in the woods. I have the short trail, the medium trail, and the long trail through the park. The times range from about 15-20 minutes up to a half hour just following the roads without any side trips. Chance and I took the short route. He was wonderful! The only thing that gave him pause were some of the mudpuddles in the path. These have been made by the mini bikes and ATV's that illegally ride through the State Park, creating ruts in some of the wetter spots. I didn't mind that at all as the footing is very slippery and uncertain near the water and Chance was being more careful than scared. He really seemed to enjoy his excursion and almost acted as if he didn't want to go back through the gate to get home.

Toby was quite pleased to go out as well because I let him graze on the patches of long grass along the edge of the field. He is a bit naughty about grabbing for it sometimes, but I feel since he is in semi-retirement, he is entitled to be bad now and then. We took the longish route and had another lovely time in the springlike weather. Nearly 60 degrees f in the end of November.

Tucker stuck his head into the bridle and reached to take the bit into his mouth. I guess after seeing the other two Boys being ridden, he didn't want to feel left out. He was just a little silly about the Blox I had used to prop open the ring gate to the woods, but once we were out, he stepped boldly along. Fallen trees and other unusual looking things along the trail do distract him a bit, but he was as good as gold. What a pleasure to be able to let him amble along on a long rein as we enjoyed the beautiful autumn day.

Animal Control came to get the beagle after church this afternoon. The officer said the shelter knows how to get in touch with the guys who hunt the dogs around here. Apparently, they are always losing the little fellows. This little guy was so sweet. I hope they come to get him soon and treat him well. Otherwise, I have a feeling he'll show up here again. I think he liked the Dog Chow and Milkbones.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Hunters Did Me In

Found a Beagle

I went out to work the horses this afternoon and found a little lost beagle bedded down in my hay barn.

Poor little fellow was all tuckered out and quite happy to see a human. He had an ID tag, but when I called the phone number it was a disconnect. Then I called information on the address and still got nowhere. That left me no alternative but to call the police. Apparently the animal control officer was not available today, Saturday, so the little guy is locked in my garage with nice bed, a bucket of water and a tummy full of leftover beef stroganoff. I only have cat food about, so I hope someone comes to get him. If not, I will go get some proper dog food until the animal control officer comes.

I took a drive around the country block and left notes on all the trucks I saw parked in the usual hunter spots, but it's dark now and no one has come by to claim him. I took off his shock collar, but left the ID one on. The police have all the information that's on it. I can only hope his owner comes looking for him tomorrow. He's not happy in the garage, but at least he's safe.

So, that left me precious little time before dark to work the Boys. I lunged Chance and Tucker with the side reins...very loose for Chance and tucked up for Tucker.

Had to laugh at Chance. On the right rein, not his favorite, he pulled a quick 180 and tried to escape. I had good control on the lunge line and got him back on track pretty quickly, but he surely was a clever guy pulling a quick stop and a roll back to change direction. Looks like he could have a cutting horse future. *lol*

I finally talked to his real human mom, Lauranne. I have assured her he is in good hands and she has promised to send me some pictures of his horsey mom and of him as a foal. That will really be fun as I have never had baby pictures of any of the horses I've owned. I have promised to keep her updated both through this blog and snail mail. I know how hard it was for her to give him up for adoption, but I always try to do the best for my horses, so Chance has a good home here.

Apparently, he had been backed an ridden a little before he came here. That's good because I gives me all the more confidence that his quietness is real and not just confusion. He is a sweetie.

Thanksgiving goes on forever here at Follywoods. My Boys are the best!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Rain, Rain Went Away


The forecast called for rain into yesterday afternoon. I was still raining at 1:30 AM.

The sun was out by sunrise.

Fortunately since my land is on a bit of a hill and above a very absorbant aquifer, things dry out quickly. My ring wasn't perfect, but it was good enough to ride in by the afternoon.

I took Toby out on the trail to seen just how much flooding there was in the park. It's been an ongoing controversy in my Township because the warehouse development to the east has been flooding land in our State Park for nearly three years. I have been battling to protec the area for about that long. Now, however, a new warehouse complex has built huge infiltration basins to hold the stormwater runoff and the 4 1/2 million gallons of runoff are no longer going into the parkland. I ride out after every big rain to see how things are progressing. I guess Toby's getting used to the chore as he seemed to be having a good time.

I worked Tucker in the ring. We are working towards the second level tests. The big change is the simple change of lead--canter, walk, canter. Tuck always wants to fall on his forehand into the trot instead of working off his back end. He is certainly strong enough to do it well, just lazy and looking for the easy way out. I had some fairly nice transitions on the left rein pretty quickly as he carries himself with better balance on the left. The right was definitely more difficult. I made a few overly strong corrections to keep him up on the downward and he didn't like that much. I felt bad about it, but he wasn't responding to the lighter aids.

He is an opinionated fellow with a strong sense of justice. I apologized to him for being too strong. I know it sound silly, but I always get the sense he is offended if I overcorrect him. In the end we managed two pretty nice canter/walk/canter changes on the right so I stopped, took him back to the barn and gave him a nice fat carrot.

I rode Chance for about 10 minutes again. It's amazing how quickly he is progressing. Three trot circles this time in each direction. I do have to do some give to the bit work, though. I find it very disconcerting to have his head way up in the air when I am riding him. Still, I never feel as if he is going to do anything dangerous.

It's just me and my "control freak" personality. *G*

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Counting My Blessings

Angels in My Barn

Tucker strikes and angelic pose all snug and warm in the barn on a cold, wet Thanksgiving morning.

And they all don't have four feet.

My farrier, Scott Previte, came today, Thanksgiving Day, to shoe my Boys. This was not an emergency call, but he decided since I had the day off and he had the time, it would be a good day to get the job done.

We brought Chance out first. Scott was gentle and patient with him every step of the way and Chance behaved like a dream. He was a little unsure about putting his hoof on the trimming post, but with Scott's quiet assurance and handling, he figured it out. I think he won Scott's heart with his attitude and friendly personality.
To the right, Chance poses angelically.

For part of the time, Tucker was on the crossties watching the whole thing. He can get a bit antsy when he is being shod, but today, he too stood like a gentleman. We decided to pull his back shoes for the winter, so we'll have to see how they hold up. Since the ground is still soft, it's a good time to try. I always shoe with borium studs and snow pads, but I thought perhaps bare feet in the back would be a better option for the ice and snow this year.

Both Tucker and Toby have had problems with full cracks down their front hoofs, so we can't really take a chance on letting them go totally barefoot. PJ's feet were fine, so for the last several years of his life, he was barefoot, and I hope to leave Chance unshod for as long as possible.

Toby was the third to be done and he was his usual princely self. What a joy to see three horses so well behaved for the shoer. With Scott, his assistant, his great border collie, Jack, and my three sweeties, I had five angels in my barn for Thanksgiving.

My blessings abound.

And the top angel, Toby pauses in his favorite pasttime of cribbing...his one allow me to take his angel portrait.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

What to Do In the Dark

Happy Feet

I hate this time of year. As a teacher, I do get home a little earlier than than average 9-5 worker, but once December starts to loom, darkness creeps in too fast even for me.

Last night, I had just about enough time to ride Tucker before needing lights. I do have lights for my arena, though they are a bit unreliable. I made the mistake of listening to the installing electrician's advice as to what kind of lights to put up and, as usual, he was wrong. I intend to replace them someday, but for now, they'll do.

I am working on getting Tucker to balance up for second level. He can do it, but is pretty much confused since I've concentrated on a longer and lower frame for so long to encourage him to stride forward and use his back. Still, he is trying and his little tantrums when he gets frustrated are minor. I think he's finally growing up.

I put Chance on the crossties thinking I was going to either lunge or ride him for a short bit in the gathering gloom. Instead, I decided on a pick up your feet and hold them for the farrier session instead. Well, I soon discovered that a harsh word or correction is not the best way to handle this kid. He is very sensitive. I guess I have another horse who needs soothing explanation and complete patience. He sort of picks up his feet, but not as obediently and responsively as I expect from my horses. So, we worked on that a bit and I held his hoofies for a span, tapping on them with the hoofpick. I do hope to keep him barefoot for as long as possible, but my farrier does need to use tools on him and I don't want him startled by any of them.

All the horses I have had have been expected to stand well for the farrier. I do not believe the owner or anyone needs to be there to hold a horse having its feet tended. So far, aside from some of Tucker's impatience, it's been generally a non-issue. Russell, my first boy, could have been tied with sewing thread and would never have moved. PJ was the same, and my veterinarian's nickname of "The Prince" for Toby holds true whenever he's handled. Tucker is high energy and has been a little more difficult, but lately there's improvement. My shoer is a meticulous craftsman and an expert horse handler, so he's worked with Tucker too. He's not a bad horse, he's just impatient--but time and age is taking care of that. I certainly don't want Chance to misbehave. Good farriers are a treasure and we horsemen need to do everything we can to make sure each visit they make to our barns is safe and productive.

Tomorrow there's supposed to be a Nor'easter blowing through. It's Thanksgiving, so bad weather is a sad turn of events. Still being with family for the holiday can make up for even the cloudiest skies.

May you and yours share the love of the season, and don't forget to put an extra carrot or apple in your horse's feed bucket.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Day Off for Everyone

And a Trip to the Chiropractor for Me

As I have some chronic neck and back issues of my own I go fairly regularly to my chiropractor and some physical therapy. So tonight, things felt a little "off," and I took the night off to treat myself.

I do suppose stripping the stalls and toting four wheelbarrows of fill to help get rid of the mud by the water trough didn't help. *G* Ah well, someone has to do it and I don't see the horses stepping up to get the chores done.

I am starting Chance on some Weight Builder as I would like to see him a bit chubbier as winter rolls in. Trouble is, since I was hurrying to the chiro right after I fed this evening, I didn't supervise or close the stalls. As I was pulling out of the driveway, Chance was outside happily munching hay and Tucker was in his stall with his head in Chance's feed tub.

That's all I need--Tucker the blimp eating Weight Builder.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Into the Woods

Trail Rides for Everyone

It was cloudy and cool, but a dry Sunday. Since it's the only day when there are no hunters about I took the opportunity to take some rides in the woods.

Toby and I ventured out first. He was a happy camper, especially since part of our trail ride routine is to find some nice patches of lush green grass and graze for a bit. I checked out the flooding in the back of the State Park. There is still quite a bit of water there even though the warehouses are not, at the moment, draining their floods over. But it was horribly wet all summer and now that the ground is supersaturated there is no place for the water to soak in.
Toby enjoyed the outing as he always does, and we both came back with smiles on our faces.

Tucker and I headed out next. I took the trail he's been on most to keep his comfort level high. As we neared the turn back home, he decided to go the other way. So, off we went along the rim of the old sand mine. He was happy and interested as we walked along until, at trail's end, we saw the boulder! This is a fairly large gray rock. It has definite horse eating qualities and although we have passed it before, I decided to take the safe way out and cut across the woods to the trail back home when Tucker balked. Considering that was the only flaw in our ride, I had more smiles as we rode back into the arena.

That left Chance. He was very interested in the gate and what lay beyond, so I saddled him up, propped the gate open, mounted up and offered him the option of a little trail ride. Eagerly, he took me up. We weaved our way along the little side trail out to the cut cornfield. The footing was a little deep because the farmer has plowed up to the edge of the woods. I think Chance wanted to trot, but I checked him back to a walk with a chirp and he listened beautifully. About 200 feet up, we turned back into the woods trail heading home. The ride was all of about five minutes, but the kid was an angel. He was brave, curious, and forward all the way. I'm not quite sure how much control I would actually have if he decided to do something silly, but to be honest, he doesn't feel as if he would.

So, back at the barn, I was wearing an even bigger grin.

From the looks of things, Chance will be a super little trail horse and an equally fun ride for just about anything else I want to do with him. Tucker is getting better and better about going out and Toby is still my ace.

Could it get any better?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Dry Weather

And A Nice Saturday

Except for the hunter with the whistle and his three very disobedient beagles.

The Boys were so riled up this morning that they would not settle in to eat breakfast. As I was trying to get them in, a car stopped on the road, blasting its horn. In short order, three beagles came romping across my property, setting the horses into another frenzy.

Then, sure enough, I heard that whistle again in the far woods. A bit later there came a hunter, whistling and shouting to his stubborn hunting dogs that had now found my neighbor's house and his geese and chickens. Plenty of noise and shouting later, things resolved themselves as the hunter and the beagles hiked off together back into the depths of the park.

By then, Tucker had eaten his food and Toby's food, so I had to lock Toby in with a new meal and convince Chance it was safe to eat in his own stall.

Needless to say, I waited until later in the day to ride.

I put in a good school with Tucker. Then I rode Chance for about 15 minutes and added some figure eights at the trot. He did quite well. It's still a bit disconcerting when he carries his head way up high, but he is quiet enough, so I just try to ignore it as I encourage him to drop down to the bit now and then.

I lunged Toby and he was quite happy to jump a little jump I'd set up for him. He even did it one extra time on his own. Tomorrow, with no hunting on Sunday, I'll take him out for a trail ride.

Fun day, nonetheless.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Fast Learner

The Boy is So Clever

I rode Chance again today for about 15 minutes. This time, we did 2 1/2 circles in each direction at the trot. He was already much more responsive to steering and also to the leg. If this keeps up, I will be able to take him out for a short trail ride very soon.

I also finally have the information from his former owner and am trying to get in touch with her. From what I read she absolutely loved Chance and hated to give him up. However, circumstances and what was best for Chance pushed her to put him up for adoption.

He is living the good life now. I will do all I can to make sure he is well cared for.

I rode Tucker as well. Right now we are concentrating on first going well forward and then shifting his balance to his hindquarters as his front end elevates. This will be the beginning of collection so I only ask for it with about a 20-25 minute training session.

Afterwards, we took a five minute hack into the woods which was extended when Tucker decided there must be some kind of horse-eating monsters lurking in the completely empty cornfield--where the corn is cut so you can see for acres. So, we balked, tried to go backwards and then just kind of minced along at the reluctant schoolboy's pace.

Then when we got back home I rode into the arena. Toby and Chance were by the other gate. Who knows what it was, but the two of them suddenly bolted like maniacs across the paddock.

Tucker tried to take off with them.

There I was aboard a bolting horse with my reins too loose to do anything. Thank heavens for good solid fences. I managed to reel him in before he careened around the corner.

Well, it does prove one thing--Tucker can go forward when he wants to!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Still Soggy

At Least My Footing Holds Up

For now, anyway. As the winter progresses it stays pretty wet even though the ring is sand. Too much water and the horses get down to the clay base underneath and then can slip.

I long lined everyone tonight. Chance is already getting the hang of it after only two sessions. He is quite a clever fellow.

Toby was, as always a star. I started him in lines at age two and we did a lot of work before I ever rode him. He once "told" the animal communicator he liked lining better than riding because he could see me. Interesting. To this day he is an absolute star in the lines.

Tucker was good but lazy. It takes all kinds of encouragement to get him to go forward. He did look great once I got his hind end engaged, but I think I got nearly as much exercise as he did chasing him into the bit. I also started him in the lines, but I don't think he enjoys it as much as Toby does, so he isn't quite as willing. He didn't cut up though as he does when he's really bored, so that was good.

Possible thunderstorms coming through tomorrow and the danger of high winds, although we are on the border of the worst part of the weather front. Hopefully the heaviest storms will be south of here.

I have a friend who lives south, though, and her land does not drain like mine does. (I am on a bit of a hill and my ground is high aquifer recharge which means the water soaks in pretty quickly.) I know she was really wet yesterday. If those storms hit her area, it's going to be terrible. I feel sorry for her.

Hope I'll be back in the saddle on Friday.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Visions of Drier Days

Rain, Rain and More Rain

The thing I hate most about winter is that when it rains it doesn't dry out. Soggy ground and mud puddles do not encourage much good riding.

I did long line Chance today in the rain, though, just to see how it would go. We had a few false starts and a few little tantrums, but nothing too dramatic. I must say, when he puts his head into the frame he is quite a looker and his movement is really nice.

To the left you can see him on a dry day under the apple tree.

Now, here is a picture of Tucker, also on a dry day.

The fence behind him is four feet tall at the top rail. As you can see, he is taller than that at his back. At 16.3 hands, measured just there where his mane ends and his back begins (the wither), he is 5'7" tall.

Chance is 6" shorter and, as you can probably see, considerably thinner.

Tucker (Doitright Tobe) is now six years old and it's amazing how much he has learned since I started him off. He finds most of the work and exercises we try pretty easy, so I think he will have a good career as a dressage competition horse.

Toby, To Be Or Not To Be, pictured to the left just kind of hanging out in the barn in his summer fly sheet, is now 16 years old and semi-retired from the show ring. He stands at 16.1, two inches shorter than Tucker.

He is the herd boss and runs the farm with an iron hoof. At the same time, he is watcher and guardian to his herdmates. When I ride Tucker off the property, he calls for him and worries until we get back safely.

Very athletic and talented, Toby has a huge stride and very smooth gaits.
To see PJ and read his story, look down the blog for other posts.

I have been priviledged to own two other special horses in the past--Russell R, and Sudden Impluse (Si) who died from colic within months of my buying him. Russell and I were blessed with twenty years of companionship and Si won my heart in a few short weeks. I have been so lucky in finding lovely horses each and every time I've gone out to find one for myself.

Fate has been truly kind to me.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Another day.....

Another circle!

Beat the rain to ride today.

I worked Toby a few minutes in the ring to try to get him a little fitter and then went out for a short trail ride. T

hen I rode Tucker. I was going to do the same thing, but Toby and Chance had decided to wander into the arena while the gate was open and they thought Tucker just looked too interesting to leave us alone. So out I went.

Won't we ever get a break? Someone was target practicing again today. The gunshots made Tucker a little nervous, but all in all, he held himself together nicely and we had another lovely ride through the woods.

Mind you, this is a big deal as he has bucked me off out on the trail before. When he settles down, he is really a delightful ride out there. Hopefully, he will keep his head together as time goes on and we can enjoy the winter in the woods when my ring footing is frozen.

That left Chance. I saddled him up and got on. I must say, he is a quick learner. Already he is getting the idea of my leg aids and moved right off when I squeezed. Steering is a little better, but until I do some serious ground driving, I won't expect dramatic improvement. This time when I asked for trot, he was far more willing and I actually managed two full circles on each rein. Again, I only rode for about ten minutes, more than enough for a three year old.

The rain came soon after I finished and will probably continue through tomorrow. Ah well, I did have a good weekend.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Shots All Around

Guess Horses Can Get Used to Almost Anything

It was a gorgeous day today with warm sun and blue skies.

It was also the beginning of hunting season for small game. When I got up to feed the horses, Toby was very restless. He kept leaving his food to go out to the riding arena to stare out into the woods--the State Park partially surrounding my property.

I soon figured out why. Some hunter was blowing a whistle to call his hunting dog. I have to wonder if it was the same little beagle that dropped by here a few years ago as I was trying to get ready for a show. Hunter whistling, calling and shouting--beagle frolicking in my paddocks, completly ignoring his master while my horses bounced all over the place, totally unsettled.

Then, there were the gunshots on two horizons.

I decided to wait to ride until later in the day when only the hardcore hunters would still be out as they are not quite as zealous as the early birds.

Bad call. At that point, someone in the sand mine across the street must have been target practicing, because the shooting was relentless.

Still, by that time, the Boys had been out all day and seemed fairly immune to the kabooms. I did cancel any attempt at even a short trail ride, though, and worked Tucker in the ring, focusing on good forward energy, even when we passed the gate that leads out to the park. He only jumped once at a gunshot, so I guess he can get used to distractions given enough time.

I was going to long line Chance, but the weather tomorrow calls for rain, so I took advantage of the weather and got on to ride again. This time, I carried the dressage whip and just tapped him gently behind the saddle to get him to walk off. It worked perfectly. Daring more, I tapped again and said "trot," and after a few false starts managed to make it around a full circle on each rein at the trot. A fine start because he was completely calm about everything and even managed to steer a little better.

I opted for safety with Toby and just lunged him. What a great time that was! He is such a lovely mover and so steady on the lunge. Working him after Chance is like driving a luxury sports car after pedaling a tricycle. I trained Toby from his two year old year, so we have 14 years under our belts as compared to a week or so with Chance. Now all I have to do is start all over again with the new kid and try to get the same results.

Chance is the third young horse I have started from virtual scratch, or perhaps the fourth, if I consider that my first guy, Russell R., was going on three when I bought him. PJ was four and had been on the track, so he was well used to going under saddle. Toby had had a rider on his back, but no real training, and Tucker was a yearling with no experience at all. Chance had been lunged and supposedly backed, though I don't have confirmation of the details yet. Still, he's a "blank slate" and it's up to me to write in all the details.

Here's hoping I'll do everything for him.

New Beginnings, Taking a Chance

The Little Guy

I put a young rider up on Chance yesterday and he was as quiet as a little lamb.

I still don't have all his information from Crossed Sabers, but I do recall a note on the site saying he had been backed, so I took a chance. My young rider is very experienced with an excellent seat and that "no fear" attitude of youth. Since I had Chance on a lunge line, I was pretty much in control, but there was no need--he never batted an eye.

Today, Friday, I decided I might as well get on myself. Again, Chance stood quietly when I leaned over his back, so I swung over. Nothing happened. Nothing--including any kind of movement at all. He stood stock still. And stood. And stood.

I had to laugh as I realized he has no clue about leg aids. And, since I have only lunged him about four times since he's been here, he also doesn't have much clue about voice commands. I finally wiggled around enough to get him walking, but then next obvious flaw came into focus because I also had no way of steering him.

So many people think you just leap on a horse and off you go. When you mount a youngster for the first time, all of that goes out the window. Totally green horses have no comprehension about even following their heads when the rider pulls on the rein.

That's why I normally do tons of ground work before trying to ride. In Chance's case, things are a bit backwards mostly because winter is coming and I want to take advantage of the nice weather and super footing we're enjoying right now to get him used to a rider. That will give me the winter months to do the ground work and some good hopes of having a nice little riding horse by Spring.

We managed five or so nice kind of erratic circles in each direction, with me using my weight to get the turns. The nice thing is that Chance seems to want to move under where my body goes, so by leaning right or left with my seat, I was able to get him approximately where I wanted him to go.

All in all, we worked for about 15 mintues or so. I don't know of the Ansur Carlto had something to do with it, but Chance didn't feel as small under me as I expected. The saddle does have big knee rolls compared to the Classic, but it doesn't make very broad Tucker feel too wide, so maybe Chance has more to him under saddle than he looks.

Either way, it was a fun experience. I plan to get on him every day for at least a month as long as the weather holds, sometimes just to sit and do the "give to the rein" exercises. That, coupled with some good long lining sessions will have him going in short order.

How nice to have a quiet little fellow.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

In Honor of PJ's Memory

The New Adoptee

PJ's Folly can never be replaced, but in honor of his life, I have adopted a youngster who needed a home.

Romantic Chance is a three year old American Warmblood who had been under the care of Crossed Saber Stables for several months now. Taking a chance on Chance, I adopted him.

I had been told he was 16h, but when he arrived, he measured at only 15.1, so he is, in comparison to Toby and Tucker who stand at 16.1 and 16.3 respectively, quite a little fellow. Still he is only 3 which leaves a year or so for growing up and definitely time for filling out.

On the plus side, he is straight legged, and not a bad little mover. If he has a good solid temperament, I hope, at the very least, he will become a good general riding horse and a quiet hack on the trail. At the most, he might make a nifty little dressage mount.

Only time will tell.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Sorrow at Follywoods

PJ's Folly Passes Away

On Saturday, October 7, 2006, I woke to the tragic sight of PJ's body lying in the paddock near the barn. After nearly 27 years of life, with over 22 of them in my care, the old fellow's great and generous heart finally failed him.

He had overcome a nearly fatal colic in August and been named a miracle horse by the vets at Mid Atlantic Equine Hospital. Unfortunately, the miracle lasted for only two more months.

There was no sign of struggle. It looks like he just dropped and died soon after. For that I am grateful, but the pain still tugs every time I think of him.

PJ was one of the kindest and gentlest horses I have ever known. He had a quiet strength and giving spirit. He could certainly be a handful, especially if his excitement got the best of him, and he was not always an easy ride. But there was not an ounce of meanness in him. He was always ready to try, and gave his all.

I was blessed in owning him and sharing many wonderful years in his presence. May the pastures of heaven be ever green for him and the grass swift beneath his feet.

Rest in Peace, my sweet boy.

Monday, June 19, 2006

With a Capital "T"

I Should Have Called Him "Trouble"

My aunt, who lives next door, nicknames Tucker (Doitright Tobe) "Trouble." This is mostly because, as a young rambunctious horse, he is always stirring up some kind of action out the in pasture behind her house. Today, the nickname fit too perfectly.

When I went out to feed this afternoon, I found the metal gate that closes PJ's stall off from the aisle of the barn lying outside his stall under the run-in, with a horse shoe lying on top of it.

Don't ask.

I don't have an answer.

Obviously, it was Tucker's shoe, neatly pulled off his right front hoof. Of course, I have him entered in a show on Tuesday. Of course, I was getting ready to go to a dinner party. Of course the gate was bent to the point of being unsuable. Of course Tucker looked quite pleased with himself, although I must admit he did seem at least a little wary when I picked up the bent gate to see if I could rehang it.

He never ceases to amaze me with finding ways to get into mischief. Bad enough that he should have taken the gate out of the hinge rings holding it up, but to pull off his shoe?????

So now, the temperature is soaring into the 90's, I have to leave him in his stall all day so he doesn't break his hoof up before I can get the shoe back on. I put in an emergency call to my wonderful farrier, but I haven't yet heard back. If worse comes to worse, I can get the shoe put back on at the horse show.

Times like this I guess my aunt it right. Is should have called him "Trouble."

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Starring PJ's Folly

PJ's Folly In the Show Ring

PJ's Folly competing in FEI dressage. I believe this is a Prix St. Georges test.

Always a bit nervous in the show ring, PJ never did quite show his full talent to the judges. He had an amazing trot with a huge extension. Surprisingly, for a Thoroughbred, his canter was a bit flat and lacking rhythm. Still he did super changes and had a ground covering stride.

I purchased PJ when he was five as a replacement for another lovely young horse, Sudden Impulse (Idaboy) I had lost to colic surgery. PJ's temperament was touchy at first and he would even attack people in the stall. I soon realized it was likely he had had some bad handling on the track, so I simply ignored him and used considerable patience to convince him people were really OK.

At first, training PJ was a challenge. He'd be good one day and bad the next. Equine acupuncture was a brand new discovery at that time and I was lucky enough to have one of the first practitioners in our area. After his first treatment, PJ was a changed horse. Apparently, his body and muscles were so sore he just could not do the work I was asking. Regular acupuncture and later chiropractic treatments kept him content as we continued to train and compete.

PJ retired as a moderately successfull Intermediare I horse. We never quite mastered passage and piaffe under saddle, but in hand PJ would offer a really engaged piaffe. Had I been a better trainer, he may have gone to Grand Prix as he had lovely changes and a wonderful trot. Tension often blocked his extensions in the ring, but his extended trot on the trail was so big, every other horse we ever rode with had to gallop to keep up. His schooled canter was a bit flat, but when he galloped he had huge strides. It is a complete mystery to me that whoever trained him for the track had not discovered the power of his gaits.

Now, some unsoundness issues related to old track issues keep PJ mostly rettired in my back yard. We still take short trail rides now and again, enjoying the State Park behind my house and looking for mud puddles to play in. (Any ride in water with PJ can guarantee a soggy rider. My first horse, Russell R, taught PJ how to paw in the water and he hasn't forgotten a single stroke.)

Now a closet cuddler who still will act tough in the presence of witnesses, PJ loves "chinnies" when I just stand with him scratching his chin and lips. One of my friends who'd know PJ from when I first got him saw him after many years a month or so ago. She said she'd never seen him looking so happy.

What a great legacy for a special horse who deserves a happy home after so many years of trying to please.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Let's Meet The Boys

Toby and PJ grazing in the pasture.
Fly sheets are the order of the day as
summertime hits New Jersey.

PJ's Folly is a bright bay gelding, born in 1980. He raced few times with on third place finish. From the Midwest, he was bred out of Your Host's line and looks a lot like his famous granddad. With large bone, he doesn't look like the typical racing Thoroughbred but rather like a good solid warmblood. I guess his bowed tendon ended his racing career, but I will never know the full story.

PJ refuses to talk about that. As far as he's concerned, his real life began with me. A replacement for a horse I lost to colic surgery, PJ became mine when he was five years old. We've been together ever since. Now retired, PJ competed through FEI Intermediare I with moderate success.

To Be Or Not To Be was registered with the Jockey Club as Art's Ruler. He is the son of Pappa Riccio a noted New Jersey stallion. A bright chestnut, he resembles his father but is a bit smaller at 16.1 h. I purchased him as a two year old when his owners decided to get out of the racing business, so he never set foot on a race track.

The boss of the herd, Toby is very opinionated but also very kind. My vet calls him "the prince" because he is always so gentle and easy to handle. He is very athletic under saddle but also spooky about strange noises. Riding him is always a bit of an adventure. Toby also competed through Intermediare I, but some of the upper level collection was difficult for him. He's still sound but semi-retired to trail rides and lower level work. He has proven a super teacher for riders who want to hone their dressage skills.

Doitright Tobe began life as a racing prospect but he was born with a severe club foot. His mother's owner took him to Purdue University Vet School to have his check ligament cut to correct the defect. The surgery was an amazing success. Today, it's almost impossible to see any sign of clubbing in his left front. Of course, I have a wonderful farrier to shoe him.

Nicknamed Tucker, this boy is a dark mahogany bay standing now at 16.3 h. He came to me out of pure luck. I was browsing the Internet, found the Cross Sabers horse adoption site and saw Tucker's picture. At that time he was just a yearling. Something about him intrigued me and when the agency had an adoption special his fee was lowered, I applied to adopt him. The first time I ever saw him in person was when he was unloaded from the trailer after a long haul to New Jersey from West Virginia.

Still silly at times, Tucker is a very intelligent, sensitive and eager learner. We've had a few problems learning to settle in the warmup ring at shows, but in the competition arena, he is proving a more than able fellow. I am hoping he'll have a bright future and eventually compete at the upper levels. Currently he's still working at First Level , but I think by the year's end he will move up to second.

Tucker posing for a picture before a ride. Not the safest approach to tying a horse, but rescue was right nearby in case of trouble.

The saddle is an Ansur Carlton, a treeless dressage saddle. Now if we could only wake Tucker up.......