Monday, December 31, 2007

Mixed Bag

No Riding But.....

No sooner had I finished up with the horses this morning and turned Tucker out in the ring--the pasture and every place else truly wet from yesterday--when I checked my phone messages to find that my electrician had indeed stopped by earlier.

I must have just missed him. I figure he parked his truck on the driveway opposite to where my bedroom is and then walked in to look at my ring lights because I never knew he'd been here. His men were coming by in about an hour to change the lights over to something far more reliable than the ones I had. The halogens were constantly going out and I'd had them fixed a number of times--far more times than the hours I'd used them would ever have justified.

Now the morning was really tied up. With the men working in the ring I couldn't ride and I had to put the Boys out in the pasture so they didn't "help" the workers by nudging the ladder and generally making nuisances of themselves.

It took them several hours to finish the job. In the meantime, I decided to hook up the digital cable box, which took a bit of work as the TV is in a large corner cabinet and the working space was tight. Then, of course the box didn't work.

I called the cable company for help and after a few efforts, they finally decided to send a technician who would come sometime between 3 PM and 5 PM, but he'd call first so I needed to stay near the phone.

He did call at 3, and arrived soon after to find out that I had taken off a short cable connection that needed to be on the box. Mind you, NO WHERE in the directions for setting up the system did it mention this little wire. Nor did is show this little wire in any of the wiring diagrams or pictures of the box set up. Bummer. I apologized to the cable guy who said he understood because this kind of thing happens all the time. Perhaps it's time the company rewrites the directions for set up so people don't keep making the same mistake I did.

By then it was feed time, so I took care of the Boys and decided to wait until dark to see how the new lights worked.

Well, they are not as illuminating as the original lights but they work nicely, giving me more than enough light to ride, covering nearly all of the ring except the far eastern end, where I don't tend to work too much in the winter because of the places where the water collects.

These are "dusk to dawn yard lights," designed to go on and off automatically according to the daylight, but I have them on switches and turned them off after I'd looked things over and.....

Dragged the riding arena. My new drag is really nice and does the job in half the time, but I know it is to little avail as it is supposed to rain again tomorrow. The soggy surface is OK for riding and dragged it's even better, but the repeated rain is just waterlogging everything.

I'll have more puddles to deal with for sure. *sigh*

Even though the day would have allowed it, I opted out of riding anyone. Things just got too complicated around here. Maybe the rain won't start by morning and I can squeeze in a short school. If not, I really did waste today.

I'm not at all sure Tucker cares one way or another.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Just a Line

Long Lines, That Is

I had an afternoon party to go to, so I just had time to work one horse after church today.

Who else but Tucker?

I set him up in the long lines and got some really nice work. I can't quite manage the lines behind his rump all the time as if he gets at all fractious, I simply cannot run with him since my knees are SO bad. We did do a bit of work that way, but in the end I put the outer rein up into the turret to finish up, allowing me a much better sense of control over where he was going.

Good work, though, and I must admit, he certainly is capable of getting his hind end well under him and might even get some "air" time out of his stride when he gains the strength.

No issues with the stifle when he is on the lines. If it's not too wet to ride tomorrow, I will be interested to see if he is happier. I started the omeprazole yesterday, so if the ulcers are kicking up due to all the turnout restrictions, he should be a more willing partner. If the stifle is bothering him, the ulcer meds will do nothing to cheer him up.

Rain, sleet and a bit of snow in the afternoon and evening, but the roads were just wet, not icy. Good thing as my party was about a 40 mile drive from home and it was really dark and soggy on the way home. I did have a good time, but might have stayed even longer with all my longtime good friends if I had been more sure about the weather.

If tomorrow is OK weatherwise, my electrician claims he will be here to change my ring lights to something far more reliable than the first ones he installed. Stacie mentioned she might come as well, so it may be a busy and fun day.

"Stardust" is definitely a winner, Caroline. Second time viewing on DVD is just as much fun as the first time in the theatre. Great present for your birthday!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Visitor for a Ride

Nice Day Again

I went to the chiropractor this morning and then went to the cinema to see "Enchanted." It's a fun film about a cartoon country princess who is magically transferred to New York City. I liked the film but not as much as "Stardust," another romantic fantasy. Since it was an early show, I was home again by around 12, time enough to put Tucker out after the sun came out.

My friend Stacie called to say she would like to come and ride. She'd visited her horse, Lucky, who it still in rehab after his surgery for removing the dead bone in his leg, and figured she'd make a day of it by coming over.

I did a quick pick up of the front of the house and then went out to do some barn work--using the tractor to clean Tucker's stall and pen since the mud is so icky that using the wheelbarrow is a real challenge. Thank heavens for the tractor. It is fast becoming one of my greatest treasures.

Stacie arrived and she saddled up Toby while I tacked up Tucker. We spent about a half hour in the ring, with Tucker trotting most of the time while Stacie eased herself along on Toby. She hasn't ridden now in nearly a month, so she mixed up some trotting and cantering with nice walk breaks which I am sure Toby appreciated. He was really a good boy, but Stacie did discover that her leg aids had to be subtle or else she would get some unexpected half passes and other lateral moves.

Tucker was pretty cooperative although his did put on the brakes twice during the ride, trying to tell me he'd had enough. Fortunately, a tap of the whip behind the girth encouraged him to go on. I suspect his back/stifle just get tired and perhaps start to ache a bit so he chooses to stop. There were a few moments of excitement, though, when Chance decided to rip around the outside of the ring, putting on quite a galloping/bucking show, destracting Tucker into two or three attempted bolts. Toby hardly batted an eye. *sigh*

While Stacie kept riding, I saddled up Chance and then rode him in the ring for about 10 minutes to settle him down. Then the two of us rode out for a short hack in the woods. Chance led the ride, quite happy to be in front. Toby didn't mind being second horse. I think his philosophy is that if there are any monsters lurking about, they will pick off the lead horse and give him the option of escape "out the back door."

We finished up, came inside for a bit of supper and watched two of the dressage videos Stacie had brought with her. One was of Rudolf Zeilinger riding and 8 year old in all the Grand Prix movements. The horse was extremely talented, not entirely confirmed in all the exercises, but impressive nonetheless.

After the dressage we watched the DVD of "Stardust," and I think I enjoyed the film as much as the first time I'd seen it. Definitely better than "Enchanted," so my initial impression was confirmed.

'Twas a nice day had by all.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Full Day

Nice Weather

Lovely day, but the ground was still saturated. I took the chance and put Tucker out in the ring and pasture with Toby and Chance anyhow. It seemed as if the pasture wasn't too mucky and the ring was just very wet sand with puddles.

Then I went off to get the cable TV boxes to switch over to digital cable--which was going to be a requirement soon anyhow. The boxes are quite large, about the size of a DVD player, so I am going to have to be a bit creative as to where to sit them. The living room one MAY fit on top of the TV or, if that fails I think I can sqeeze it on the shelf next to the DVD/VCR player. Saving that job until I have the energy.

Then I went to the tack store to return the too small horse boots and to see if they had a pair of sandals like I got my one cousin for my other cousin. Luckily they did, so I got them for her as a belated Christmas present.

Stopped by a local restaurant on the way home to view an art show my friend--teacher next door to my room at school--particpated in with her wonderful watercolors. I also bought a take out lunch of a delicious turkey burger.

Ate and then headed out to the Boys. Rode Tucker first, about 10 minutes in the ring going over the cavaletti a number of times for his stifle. Then we went out into the woods for a nice little hack. He was an angel so that was a great ride.

When I got back, my friend the plumber was here to look at the spigot in my barn that was leaking and spraying water all over. We chatted a bit and then I took Toby out for a hack. We rode back to see if the flooding was flooded only to find it was fairly dry. I can see the water mark on my monitoring sticks, so there was water back there, but it has receded--a good thing. I was afraid it might be really wet but so far, better than expected. Toby was angel #2.

Brian, the plumber was still there when I got back and he'd managed to change the washer in the spigot, so the leak is fixed. Yea! Then he went to the outside spigot to work on that while I saddled up Chance. I had fully intended to take him on a hack too, but as soon as I mounted in the ring, he took off in a quick trot so I decided to school him instead. Good thing. He is far from really trained at this point so he quickly reverts back to head up, can't turn, hang on the bit mode. By the end of about a 20 minute session I was getting him to put his head down and approximate a fairly good turn in each direction, so it was worth the time. I promised him a hack either tomorrow or Sunday, provided he cooperated by being a little more settled. Not quite angel #3, but wearing a halo, nonetheless.

Rode three. More than enough for one day.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


Miserable Weather

It was one of those misty, drizzly mornings. It wasn't really cold, but the dampness made the existing cold go right through every bone in my body.

I fed the Boys and just after I got back into the house, who should pull in, but my farrier. I had called him yesterday to check to see if his Christmas package had arrived as I'd had problems with something else I ordered. I had casually mentioned that the Boys were about due for shoeing, but no rush and lo and behold, there he was the next morning.

I had my own trailer partially backed up to the barn in slow anticipation of gathering the strength and energy to unload the grain I'd bought. When Scott found out I had to unload it, he volunteered himself and his assistant, Kyle to do it for me! Yippee!! In about ten minutes the grain was in the feed room and I was able to move my rig out of the way so Scott could back in.

We had a really nice time talking as he shod Tuck and Toby and Kyle trimmed Chance. Kyle was really pleased because he said it was the first time he'd managed to get Chance trimmed on all four without any problems. Apparently Chance has a limited attention span and starts to fuss after about three feet are done. He is not very good about being corrected, as I too have noticed because he either gets scared or pulls a bit of a willful tantrum. I have seen hints of this in his training but haven't yet really pushed him so far that we have a real confrontation under saddle. I have seen it on the lunge or long lines, so I know it's there. I think it may just manifest itself in a "try to go the other way" instead of a Tucker Bucker fit, but I'll save that for another time.

The only trouble with all the conversation was that I was totally chilled to the bone and beyond by the time Scott left. I came back in, made a cup of tea and ended up under my polar fleece blanket with the gas fireplace on for several hours until I warmed up again.

By mid afternoon, the drizzle had fizzled, so I headed back out to ride Tucker. The ring was a soggy, puddly mess, so it wasn't the best ride. Twice, when I changed direction, Tuck balked, laid his ears back and really threatened when I tried to get him trotting again. It is either the fact that his stifle is still sore--so I may need the vet out again--or some ulcer action as a result of the change in his turnout because of the mud.

On the plus side, each time, I did get him going again, and a light tap of the whip behind the girth didn't seem to inspire "airs above the ground." Also a plus was that he was super going over the raised cavaletti--good for building up the stifle, and he did not act crabby about his canter departs. Something is definitely bothering him physically, and I opt first for the stifle at this point. If so, he is just going to have to push himself through it. I will ask the vet if there is something else to do at this point besides just legging him up.

After about a half hour of work, I took Tuck out for a super short hack in the woods, just looping the trail behind the barn. He was delighted as it gave him a chance to ignore me completely and stop to pull what little greenery is left on the vines off to eat. We may have to work on that, but I indulged him today as he has been so deprived of proper turnout and the potential browsing it affords.

The soggy slop kept me off the other two Boys. It's supposed to be kind of warmish the next few days, so I should get some work in on them, but right now getting Tucker's stifle in shape must be my priority.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Tired For Sure

OK, OK, Claire.....

But I think it was the Christmas festivities as much as riding Tucker.

I was definitely worn out today. I fed the Boys in the AM, came back into the house and caught up on some email correspondence. Then I just kind of hung out until later afternoon.

I gave Tucker a really good lunging session. He trotted for well over 25 minutes and also did the raised cavaletti 10 times in each direction. My knees were pretty sore, and I was tired out, so I just worked him as the other Boys snoopervised.

"Snoopervision" included Chance's stealing Tucker's sheet and dragging it off with the full intent of tearing it to shreds had I not managed to scare him out of the dastardly deed.

All well and good for that sheet, but when I went to feed in the morning, Tucker was naked and his other sheet was lying in a heap in his little run in shed pen. The center back seam was totally ripped open. Now one has to wonder how that happened, unless a certain chestnut youngster had somehow "helped" him undress.

I think I now have two of the newer orange sheets torn asunder. I do have a sewing machine, so eventually, I may be able to repair them, but for now I am just kind of mixing and matching suitable turnout gear. There are supposed to be showers over the next few days, so everyone is back in waterproof "jackets."

Here's hoping my stamina increases along with Tucker's fitness. Winter isn't the easiest or best time to be dealing with fitness issues, but we'll manage. It's a matter of doing a little at a time.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Ride

Well, At Least One

I rode Tucker in the ring for about 25 minutes. He was nicely forward to start and stayed that way for about 15 minutes of work and then stopped. Actually, he didn't stop entirely, he just stopped trotting, walked on nicely but balked at trotting again.

I diverted his attention by changing direction and then started the trot back up, suspicious that his stifle was bothering him again. If so, I am not surprised, because he hasn't been worked in nearly four weeks since I was sick. If his stifle muscle is weak because of the lack of fitness, it might start to bother him.

I know for sure my own knees were aching and very tired when I got off, so I had sympathy. Still, I need to get him legged up, so we will just have to press on. He was remarkably level headed after all the time off, so that was very positive.

One ride was all I managed, though. I decided instead to lunge Chance and Toby instead. Good thing because once I finished up the barn work and came inside, I was exhausted. And, my body was aching. I figure I will be a bit sore tomorrow, but I too need to press on to regain my own fitness.

Tomorrow, I hope to ride two horses and perhaps ground work one.

I also finished setting up the new drag and, after spending an hour poo picking the arena, dragged it so I had a really nice riidng surface. I do suppose some of that work contributed to my physical condition, but it had to be done.

I went to my cousin's house for a wonderful Christmas dinner and just got home now--about 10:30 PM. As always, good food, good conversation and good company. When I drove my aunt home we toured the neighborhood to look at the Christmas lights.

The Boys were all nestled in their stalls when I got home and Chance was napping in Toby's stall--why not his own, I'll never know. I gave them their late night snack and a big red juicy apple as a Christmas treat.

A good time was had by all.

Monday, December 24, 2007


To One and All

It was a nice enough day, and I was busy.

Went to the feed store to stock up on horse feed and bedding. Took the trailer, so I had room for lots of bedding.

Came home and it had dried out enough with the wind that I could turn Tucker out into the pasture and ring instead of just the ring, so he was able to spend the afternoon with Toby and Chance for company.

Used the tractor to clean the stalls and get a better job done with the run in shed. Still more to do, but I didn't over do. I bedded each stall with two bales of shavings, so the Boys have a nice place to nap tonight. Put night hay in and also doled out a bunch of carrots with tops for everyone as well.

Then I headed back to the house to finish up the outside decorations. Garlands and lights on the fencing with red bows at each post, and a garland and bows on the back porch.

Back inside I vacuumed and did a bit of superficial cleaning so things are at least neat and I wrapped the presents for my family gathering tonight.

I guess you have figured that by now, it is getting late in the afternoon and I haven't managed to ride a horse yet. I won't even try. Tomorrow I will clean the riding ring and perhaps drag it while the Boys are eating breakfast and then, perhaps manage a ride or so before going to Christmas dinner.

Gabriel will be coming for lessons on January 19, so I do need to get some work in, but I am still getting pretty tired pretty quickly, so I will have to build up my stamina again.

In the meantime, I intend to have a Merry Christmas and I hope all of you have one too!!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Rainy Sunday

Outside Events Curtailed

Miserable weather kept me inside. I did however go to church, sing my solo, and then go to lunch afterwards.

I had a ton of compliments on the solo. No one really realized I had written the song as well as sung it, so this time, I told people instead of being modest. The neat thing was that the lyrics perfectly suited the pastor's sermon which came right before I sang. He told me afterwards, it was almost as if we had planned it.
"Saw a star in the sky and I wondered, did I
What its glorious beauty would bring.
Heard a voice from on high and I wondered, did I
How its beautiful message did ring.
And I wonder why all the angels fly
In the blazing heaven above,
Proclaiming to the waiting world
The gift of God's boundless love.
And the night is filled with the Prophecy
And the promise of His Word
That unto us a Child is born
The Savior Christ the Lord."

More verses but the melody is very pretty and written for a soprano, which I am. If I could figure out how to post the music--I have a digital version of the accompaniment, I would, but you will just have to imagine....*G*

Anyhow, another neat thing as that the assistant pastor told me after the service that it was so beautiful, but better than that, there was a pregnant woman visiting from Virginia in the congregation and she said that as I was singing she saw her baby kick for the first time. The pastor said it had to remind us of the nativity and how the music might have inspired her child as well. Kinda cool.

Went to lunch with the after church choir gang and had a meal to hold me all day. When I came home I kind of napped for a while as it a hopeless cause to try to do anything outdoors. And again, I was very tired.

I did finally go out tonight to see if the Shop Rite Supermarket had carrots with tops...most carrots around here have the greens trimmed off when you buy them...which is my traditional horsie Christmas gift. (Sh-h-h-h-h. Don't tell the Boys.) I also got them some apples and am finally ready for Christmas Eve treats. I also put up the greenery and lights, including the star on the barn. I may not have the fence done in front of the house, but the important lights are up, so it does look a bit Christmasy around here now.

Better almost late than never.

Saturday, December 22, 2007


Cleaning Frenzy!

Did the east two stalls and about half the run-in (mostly old hay--soggy etc.) this morning. The tractor was the key as it saves me from having to push the wheelbarrow.

Then I went to the chiropractor, got adjusted, went to the pet food store to stock up on cat food, hit a mall store and then made it to my luncheon date at 1 PM. Of course, my three friends were late, but when they did get there we had a grand time. Good company, good, intelligent conversation and Perkins home cooked food--which is pretty good for franchise meals.

Afterwards, I did a little shopping and got two poinsiettas for my house.

Came home and cleaned Tucker's little run-in shed, his stall, and bedded the other two as well. I do need more shavings but will get them tomorrow along with a load of feed.

So, aside now from the rest of the eastern run-in and the riding ring which needs a clean and a drag, the barn is slowly getting back to order. I still have to reorganize and sweep the feed room--still suffering from the Tucker attack-- straighten up the aisle and put up the Christmas lights and star. So, I have two days.

Fortunately, at the moment, I feel pretty good. My voice seems cleared up so I should be able to do a pretty good job on my solo tomorrow morning. This is a piece for Christmas I have written and my choir director arranged. I am very pleased with the result as it is very pretty.

It may rain tomorrow. If so, I guess the riding might be curtailed, but if not, I hope to spend at least a few minutes on a horse or three.

It's been so long.

Caroline, my doctor said whatever the virus that's going around is, it is lasting for weeks with everyone. Guess it must be some new mutation or new one altogether that no one has any immunity to. Interesting how the body develops its own alarm system and then invents the antibodies needed to fight off the invader. I would suspect a "brand new" enemy might take a while to figure out the exact weaponry needed to fend it off. So far, victory seems to be assured.

Friday, December 21, 2007


Oh, Well....

Evening report on Friday confirms I am running a slight fever again.

When I came home, it was drizzling and chilly, but I thought, perhaps I could still do the barn, or part of it.

I had a cup of tea and a bit to eat and suddenly began to feel really tired. I lay down for what I intended to be a short nap. 3 hours later I woke up and had to drag myself out to feed the Boys.

Suffice it to say the barn is not done, nor is anything else. And my temp is a bit over 99F.

Think I am in for the night.


Will They Go Aglay?

Ok, here's the plan. Today, since we have a half day of school, there will be enough daylight to get the stalls properly cleaned.

I need to do it today so that if I do manage to throw my back out, I can get a chiropratic adjustment before Christmas as, for the first time ever--and good for them--the office is closed on Christmas Eve. I figured I might as well do the heavy work today.

I also have to get grain and bedding, so I may do that tomorrow morning early. I have already scheduled an adjustment at 11:30 AM on Saturday, so I do need to get up and out in the morning, as sometimes moving some of the grain can also make my back a bit dicey.

As for riding--I may either get in the saddle on Saturday afternoon, or perhaps wait until Sunday. The weather is taking a turn to the warm and only showers are predicted over the next few days, so I can be a little free about all this. The benefit of Sunday is that there will be no hunters in the woods. I am sure Chance would love a trail ride. Don't know about Tucker and Toby, but we will see.

I plan on taking it slowly as far as the riding goes. The horses have now nearly had a month off--unintentionally, of course, but that puts their fitness down considerably. As for my fitness, there's little to be said. I don't have any.

So, that's the plan.

Unless, of course, Tucker loses a shoe in the meantime.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas Spirit

But No Horsing Around

Still haven't done anything with the Boys. I am hoping I will feel well enough on the weekend.

I do have a major clean the barn job ahead of me as it really is a mess. The tractor is going to be busy.

I managed to get the outside of the house partially decorated to it doesn't look so dark and dispirited. I still have some more garlands and lights to put up, but I think I need some more extension cords. Whatever I manage to do with the ones I use the year before, I'll never know, although at least three of them were in the barn being used for the fans. I had to leave two there for the heated water bucket in Tuck's stall, so I guess I am going to need to buy some more--again. *sigh*

I just set up a fiber optic tree in the house and my cats are rather active and destructive of such entertaining objects as tree ornaments, so that was an easy set up.

We had a really nice teachers' luncheon in school yesterday, and I am going to lunch with some good friends on Saturday. But, while I was sick I somehow managed to lose about 5 or more pounds and I don't want to put them back on. I am going to try hard to curb my lust for Christmas cookies and all those tasty sugary treats of the season.

That's going to be interesting. *G*

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Made It Through

Lots of People Sick

Something is going around because apparently a lot of teachers are ill. I am still not 100% and was really tired when I got home, but I am definitely better. I just need to take it easy.

Tucker was able to go out with the Boys having the run of all the paddocks and the barn yesterday and today. The ground is frozen, so there is no mud. He really seemed happy about that. This morning I almost....almost forgot to put him out and as I came out of the house to leave

It's just as well that I am not even thinking of riding since the ground is so hard and since I've been sick I never dragged the ring after the bad weather. The footing in there MIGHT be rideable at a walk if it had been dragged and then frozen while well groomed. But, that didn't happen.

As it is I am going to have some major poo work to do once things thaw out--probably by the weekend and the week of Christmas break. The barn is still in tatters and I have decided that since the Boys are not forced to stay in, it can be a bit messy until I am fit enough to do a good job of cleaning. I will definitely be using the tractor to carry stuff out to limit my physical efforts.

I love to have the barn all clean, snuggy, and well bedded for Christmas Eve in case we have any special guests needing a stable for the night. Hopefully I will be able to manage this year.

So many little things I usually do right before the holiday have fallen by the wayside. My house is still not decorated. It looks kind of dull compared to all the Christmas lights around. Setting things up is usually a pretty quick job once I drag all the decorations up from the basement. Might manage a bit of it tonight. We'll see.

I also have a star and garland to adorn the entrance to the barn. That too is a pretty quick job, just a little physical.

Well, it's not Christmas quite yet, so I still have time. Bit of shopping yet to do and.....s-h-h-h-h, I have to buy some special treats for the Boys too. Don't quite know about the kitties. Might find them some of those furry mini mice--really lightweight and they bop around easily.

So little time so many deeds.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Gone Away???

No Fever

And I felt pretty OK, which was a good thing as my church vesper service for Christmas was tonight and I had a solo to sing.

I managed to keep my voice intact through the whole service, and then went to the part afterwards. It was not a riotous group, as we mostly sit around and talk, and eat. The eating was good as I haven't done much of that in the last two weeks.

Poor Tucker was stuck in again for the day since it was raining and windy all day long--Britain take note, as I have just suffered a nor'easter (winter storm) here. If it's going your way, expect lots of wind and wet. The other Boys stayed in all night with their doors closed since the wind and rain were coming from the east. But as the day wore on and the storm passed, the wind shifted from the west, so I let them out. They ended up mostly the the stalls anyhow as it was very nasty out.

Tomorrow, if I am still OK, I will try school. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, thank you for all your concern and good wishes. Being laid up for two weeks with whatever flu like thing I had is no fun. It was nice to "hear" your voices encouraging me to muddle through.

Saturday, December 15, 2007


Fever Soared

My temp was over 102F early this afternoon. To make it more depressing, my doctor called with the results of my blood tests which clearly indicated I was sufffering from a really nasty virus, not an infection, so antibiotics would definitely be useless.

Needless to say, no real horse news. Unless Tucker's getting himself wedged in the tack/feed room is a story. The Boys were supposed to be locked in the ring/pasture today. My friend's sons were over to do some work for me--clearing the evergreen branches that had fallen in the ice storm, fixing more broken fence, and putting the water heater in my tub. One of the boys had told me that the horses were in the paddock area.

While this was not good, since that's where the mud is--Tucker's shoes--I was feeling too lousy to go out to herd them back. It wasn't until later that I looked out to see Tucker's head sticking out of the tack room. EEK!

My tack room is elevated off the barn floor by about two feet, with a plywood floor--the middle section of which is now covered with a layer of 1/2' plywood to cover the hole Tucker made when he fell through years ago. (He was smaller then....) The room is 10 X 10, but there is a tack cabinet on one side, the feed bins, and on the other, two tool cabinets. Once a horse is in, it's impossible to turn around, so bacing out is the only real option.

However, Tucker had managed to knock things down behind him on his way in, so there he was, happily munching on the grain while totally stuck in the narrow quarters.

So out I trudged, dragging myself to the rescue.

I have to admit, keeping my voice low and calm may have helped because Tuck just kind of stood there watching me as I asked Bill's son to move the tractor out of the way--it sits under the run in shed part that is just outside the tack room's outer door. Then, with no fuss, I opened the outer door, and Tuck stepped down and out onto the lawn as I breathed a sigh of relief. The tack room was trashed, the feed was a mess, but my horse was safe.

We herded him back into the paddock and all was well--presuming his shoe is still on. Whew!

Friday, December 14, 2007

On the Mend

I Think....

I have now taken the entire week off from school. I have over 170 sick days "in the bank," so using the time was no issue. The problem is leaving my students with substitute teachers.

They are generally well-behaved but it's not fair to leave them without real teaching for so long. Thus, I have become a "cyber teacher" for the week. I have what is called an "eBoard" which is a simple website accessible through the school website where I post assignments. Today I have given them an extra credit Christmas assignment which offers them two possible extra credit test grades.

My seniors were supposed to attend a peer matinee of the dance concert yesterday, but due to bad weather--sleet, snow, ice--school closed early and the performance was canceled. They were really looking forward to it as I got a phone call from the vice-principal on Tuesday when the student came to her to ask what they were supposed to do since I wasn't there.

Seniors have a performing arts requirement they must fulfill for graduation and some of the other teachers did not do any of the work needed last year so I have one class where we have to do everything this year. Kind of a bummer, but I will manage. I did add at least one option to the extra credit project which will allow them to complete a part of the requirement, so perhaps they will grab on to that and run with it.

Meantime, I think I am finally recovering.

I certainly hope so. Sunday is the Vespers service at church and I have a solo. Right now my singing voice is OK, so I need to take my vitamins, etc. to keep it OK at least until then. I may also have a solo next week in church if I so choose. I have written a new Christmas carol, my director has arranged it, and I can perform it Sunday if I want to.

Getting sick is bad enough, but being sick just before Christmas is a bummer. My outside decorations are not up. My house is a mess. The barn is a mess. The horses have knocked down part of the interior fence, a good size evergreen limb has fallen in front of the carport where I store my hay, and I am not quite down with my Christmas shopping.

The shopping will be a cinch once I get back in gear, but the rest....yeech!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Still Not Well

Went to School Anyhow

I wasn't bad in the morning. It was early afternoon when I started to feed badly again.

Some Tylenol helped me make it through the day. Yeech.

I have NEVER been ill this long. Flu, according to the school nurse. Not much to do but wait it out. Take vitamin C. Airborne, colostrum, whatever.

Poor Tucker had to stay in. Nasty day. Rain. At least he has some room to walk around.

Even if the shed were not dead I don't think I would have turned him out.

Sighing off.....sigh.......

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Dead Shed

It Doesn't Look Good

Glad I got some pics of the shed while it was still up. It is presently a skeleton lying in the arena.

The wind sheared many of the bolts holding it together. Amazing to see what the power of nature can wreck on the constructions of man. The kind of gusts we had were unusually strong, but what could I expect? I don't tend to cry too much over spilled milk and remain optimistic that the shelter can be revived. If not, I own Mark a big apology for all the work he did helping put it up, and I'll just go on to find something else to provide some kind of protection for Tucker if he has to be left out in the ring in questionable weather.

Meantime, after my friend Bill's two great sons sorted out the shed mess, they decided to fix my broken fencing. I had one very badly set fence post in the riding ring and one broken one. I was using corral panels as replacement parts and had already replaced two other posts myself.

When I had my barn built, the builder did most of my fencing, which I had bought from a good fence company in Pennsylvania. (The state west of NJ) We ran short when I did a bit of paddock reconfiguring and needed more fencing to enclose the riding ring. The builder got some fencing from someplace else and those posts were not as well cut as the ones I bought. Since it was interior fencing, it really didn't matter security-wise, but darn if the horses didn't manage to do some pretty heavy duty destruction by playing "Fence" (a game where they spar over a fence) , cribbing, (Toby's specialty), and general scratching. (Fences make great places to scratch those hard to reach spots.) Once one post went, two more followed. The last post was, for some strange reason, set in cement and far more shallow than all the others.

Fortunately, when my pasture was fenced, there were extra posts--from the good company--and I'd managed to buy a bunch of decking lumber matching the size of my fence rails, so I had plenty of supplies. The two young men made short work of setting the new posts.

I did let them use my tractor which seemed to thrill them both--made sure each brother got to drive it a little. It was actually the best way to knock loose and remove the one broken post as I had discovered on my own earlier. And it was the best way to move the "corpse" of the shed's fabric cover--a heavy chunk of vinyl fabric--out of the ring so certain horses would not find it the perfect play toy.

I didn't do much work at all myself. Later, I went to get some grain and only bought half my usual order so I wouldn't have too much to unload. As per all of your advice, I am trying hard to take it easy until I am fully recovered.

So, aside from watching the Boys watch the boys working on the shed, I have no horse news to report.

Except that Billy, the elder son, told me he'd had a bad dream the night before that he'd been chased by a horse and had to climb a tree to escape.

Fortunately, this time, at least one dream did not come true.

Then again, I did lock the Boys out in the pasture while the bulk of the work was being done.

Friday, December 07, 2007

And It Continues

Still the Fever

I have never had any kind of illness last this long. Either my being older now is having an effect, or else the viruses are just getting more determined themselves. I do feel a bit better and my temperature is lower, so that's good.

Meantime, I hope to have a load of hay delivered this afternoon. The guy next door has found a young man who will bring a load over and stack it in my carport for me. Yippee!! It will be nice to see the shed full again.

Tomorrow, weather permitting, my friends two sons will be over to see if we can get the shed back up. However, now the forecast is for rain, sleet, and snow, so I don't know if that will happen.

And, I have a ton of poo picking to do in the barn. I have not been able to clean for the entire week as just getting the basic chores done was a mighty effort.

I'll have to see how I feel later today because Tucker may have to stay in his stall and little pen when the bad weather rolls in and he really does need a clean place to hang out.

Frustrating being sick. My sympathy to anyone who has a chronic illness limiting what they can do. It must be so hard to get things done.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

And Yet Again

Still Sick

I went to school yesterday, which was a mistake since I felt lousy.

Then I had a doctor's appointment for my metabolic testing and all the test results were skewed by my running a fever. Doctor told me to go home and go to bed. He gave me a note to stay home the rest of the week, so I am.

Nothing to report on the horse front, needless to say. It snowed about an inch yesterday and the Boys were stuck out with no shelter--no biggie as they have sheets--longer than I intended because I got caught in a horrendous traffic jam on the way home.

I had opted to take the road parallel to mine as turning directly to my road from its cross intersection is really hazardous. But, I was sitting in traffic for nearly a half hour only to find that I couldn't get to my road from that end as it was police barricaded. So I turned around and headed back to the intersection option which was also all tied up and barricaded. I turned anyhow and told the officer I lived on the road and he let me get home--finally--more than an hour later than I should have been.

The Boys were quite pleased to see me, but not really too upset. I'd left them plenty of hay in the morning and there was still some left, so they didn't starve.

I did move the tub with the heater over to the ring, so they also had plenty of water.

Not perfect, but if I can get the shed out of the trees and set back up this weekend, it won't be half bad.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Still Under the Weather

Was I Running a Fever?

My chiropractor thought so when he adjusted me today. I stayed home from school again and just totally crashed on the couch all day.

Meanwhile a howling gale outside carried my little run in shed over the fence into the trees. I can't quite move it myself, so I have to wait until one of my kind friends has the time to help out.

The Boys were not too keen about the "treehouse" but finally managed to work their way past it to go out to the pasture.

I am still keeping Tucker on restricted turnout, in the ring and pasture only as long as there is no mud. Toby and Chance are out with him when the pasture is open, but he stays in the ring by himself if the pasture is too wet. What I still have to do is hook up the water heater in the water tub I've put in the ring. It hasn't been cold enough to freeze the water solid in it yet and the temps this wekk are supposed to moderate a bit. So, I guess I have time.

Meanwhile, I feel to tired to ride. Whatever bug I am fighting is certainly determined to keep me out of action.

I do hope to go to work tomorrow, though. It's a little hard to teach from a remote location.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Nothing to Report

Snowy, Sleety Day

I suppose I could have ridden, but it was just so miserable today. A coating of snow in the morning promised winter was on its way, and then all day long either a light fall of snow or sleety rain kept things pretty uncomfortable outside.

I am battling a cold as well, so I just wanted to stay warm.

I did pay my pasture rent for the year and, at the Christmas tree farm down the road where my farmer sells fresh cut trees, I puschased a grave blanket for my parents' grave. I took that to the cemetery and placed it, adding some lovely holly springs and evergreens from home.

When I finally got back in the house, I just kind of crashed on the couch.

Stacie called this evening to let me know she had brought Lucky home, or at least back to the NJ Equine Center where he will be spending the month.

The only worrisome thing is that the vets a New Bolton were a little concerned about how sore he was. I guess they would have hoped to see him feeling a little bit better after his surgery.

Otherwise, nothing to report. I guess I was "under the weather" in more ways than one.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Update on Lucky

All is Going Well: Lucky Update, Yesterday's Post Below

Stacie called me last night to let me know Lucky came through his surgery well.

The vet was pleased to find that the damaged/dead area of bone was small and he cleaned it all out. He was also very optimistic about Lucky's recovery because it was apparent that the necrotic bone was caused by an injury, not arthitis. It seems some horses have chronic arthritic conditions that can kill the bone and he was worried about that in this case, but he found no evidence of it.

Lucky now faces a four month lay up. One month in the stall. One month hand walking. One month of restricted turnout. One month of walking under saddle.

This is posing a bit of a puzzle for Stacie right now as she has three horses at home and whenever one, especially Lucky, is separated from the others the lone horse is very upset. She is also concerned about the restricted turnout, because even though she has a round pen for that, she doesn't think Lucky will settle to a "quiet" turnout by himself.

Right now, she will be stabling him at NJ Equine Clinic, as I said, for a week or so. Then she may move him to a layup barn near her house. The trouble with all of this is that it will cost more money than keeping him at home.

The good thing is that this has all happened in the winter, so losing the riding and training time is not as painful as it might be during the better weather.

As they say, "Every cloud has a silver lining."

Friday, November 30, 2007

Just A Little Lunging

Slow on the Uptake

Me, that is, in getting out of school. For some reason I didn't leave until 45 minutes later than I could have.

Which meant it was getting dark by the time I got home.

So, I set up one more trotting pole (cavaletti) in my line to make four and then added a small, about one foot jump along the fence line.

Tucker seemed really interested in working, so I took his sheet off and draped it over the jump to make it more interesting. Now, Tucker watched the draping, but that didn't make him any less ready to do silly spooks every time we circled past the obstacle. Toby and Chance, on the outside were being silly about it as well, so I suppose they encouraged Tucker. However, when I led Tuck to the jump, it only took a second for him to walk over it as quietly as pie--such a good boy.

I gave him a good lunge session with a good number of trips over the four cavaletti and the jump. As last night, he was nice and forward with a good, strong looking stride, and a very positive attitude. He was very quiet about the jump and, even though he played a bit about not going over the poles every time I sent him to them, I think he really had a good time and a good little workout.

I lunged Toby next and he too was lovely and quiet, especially over the little jump. This was good because he often gets revved up when jumping and starts to gallop and buck. Tonight, he was calm and responsive, continuing his winning streak of being the master of ground work.

Chance seemed to hanging around for some attention of his own, so I took him out last. The poles were set for Tucker and Toby, each nearly a hand taller than Chance, but the kid did just fine. As long as he kept striding forward with some energy, he was able to make the distance. His stride must be potentially longer than it looks because when he hit the right distance to the first pole, he had no trouble reaching all four. I took him over the little jump too, but it's pretty clear is didn't have much of a clue as to how to time that. Were I going to do some fence schooling with him, I'd have to set up trot poles before the fence so they would dictate his striding and he could learn to find the best spot to jump from.

All and all, it was a nice set of lunging sessions. I am really pleased to see how well Tucker seems to be moving, so I am wondering if perhapd his stifles or sacroilliac might not have been a little sore before the stifle issue flared up. Right now, he looks super.

And I am impressed with Chance. Looks like he as some potential to be a bigger mover than I thought.

And Toby? I am endlessly pleased to see how well he goes. He was the first horse I trained from the very beginning, and it looks as if I didn't do a half bad job. *G*

Thursday, November 29, 2007

News Of All Sorts

A Really Mixed Bag

I rode Tucker tonight and he was very forward and enthusiastic. We trotted for about 20 minutes, repeatedly going over the cavaletti and he never once even thought of backing off.

Even though he laid his ears back a little at the canter departs, it certainly was not exactly resistance, but more of a "commentary" since he cantered easily off on both leads. This was a huge improvement over last week, before his second acupuncture/chiropractic treatment. I would say he feels almost as good as he did before the Axel Steiner clinic, so that is a good sign he is nearly recovered.

When I stopped to take a break after the 20 minute trot, Tucker headed for the gate to the woods and stood there, kind of "leaning" towards the trail. When I tried to turn him away, had a a very mini tantrum, making it quite clear he wanted to go OUT for a hack. I finally convinced him to move to the center of the ring where I dismounted, tied his reins up and told him to wait for me while I went back into the barn to get my neon orange jacket--an essential for riding during hunting season. When I came back out, he was waiting for me. I remounted, trotted him over the cavaletti four times on each hand, and then headed out to the woods.

Tuck strode out in a bouncy, happy, forward walk and we had a perfectly lovely ride along his "safe" trail. It was great!

Then, I rigged up Chance in the long lines the way Gabriel had used them on Tucker just to see if it made any difference. While I do think it encouraged Chance to use his hind end a little better, he was very inconsistant and somewhat resistant in accepting the rein contact. I am not sure if it was the configuration of the lines through the lower rings, or my not to certain understanding of exactly how to create exactly the right response from him. Overall, it was a good session, but I'll have to do it a bit more to see if it will help him or hinder his progress.

I long lined Toby next, with the lines set up as I normally use them. What more can I say? He was practically perfect in every way.

Now to the other half of the mixed bag.

My friend Stacie has a lovely 8 year old warmblood cross, Lucky, she has owned and trained since he was a yearling. He has been very successful at the lower levels of dressage and has the potential to move on up. Stacie has been taking clinics and lessons to move up and things were going really well.

Then, a bit over a month ago, at a Patrice clinic, Lucky suddenly went dead lame. Since then, Stacie has numerous vets examine him, take xrays, prescribe treatments, inject him, etc. and nothing has brought him sound.

Finally, this week she took him to New Bolton, The University of Pennsylvania for a bone scan.
Well, as it has turned out, Lucky has a portion of dead bone on his front cannon, near the fetlock joint. The theory is that at some point he seriously bruised his bone there and the injury eventually killed the healthy bone. I did just get an email from her telling me that the necrotic tissue is only about the size of a dime, so it's not very big yet.

The only course of treatment is surgery to remove the dead bone and then a long layup until, hopefully, the damaged bone heals and grows anew.

Lucky is going to have his surgery tomorrow (Friday) so all good vibes are appreciated.

Stacie hopes to trailer him out of Pennsylvania on Saturday and set him up at the New Jersey Equine Center where he can be cared for while she takes a seminar in saddle fitting she had planned weeks ago.

I told her I'd try to visit Lucky at the Center at least once while she is away. In the meantime, I am saying a few prayers to help him along through the surgery and then, of course, to a speedy recovery. Hopefully, he can come back to being sound so he and Stacie can continue their dressage career together.

He's a sweetie pie, and Stacie is a very special person. I wish them both well.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Super Evening!

Line Up For Success

Tucker really had a great lesson last night!

Gabriel is a super trainer on the long lines for a start. Now, to all interested, he uses the lines on the lower rings and does bring the outside line behind the horse’s croup. He has a specific purpose for this as he uses that line to both help engage the hind end by pushing it along and also to bring the hind end in to encourage the horse to step forward more with his inside hind leg.

According to Gabriel, most horses are usually a “little slow” with the inside hind as it is the leg to take more of the horse’s weight when he engages. So, bringing the haunches to the inside encourages that leg to step under more quickly, and while at first the horse steps a bit laterally—like a haunches-in—eventually, he can be straightened with the leg stepping more under.

This gets a big tricky to explain. The outside rein also acts to control the outside shoulder, again, at first, with the horse in a counter bend on the circle. Keeping the outside shoulder from falling out keeps the horse from evading by letting the hind end’s energy “escape” to the outside. If you have ever tried to turn a horse that does not want to turn by just using the reins, you can perhaps understand the concept. When the horse’s head bends in the direction you want to go, if there is nothing to hold his shoulder and body from going in the opposite direction, he will go where he wants to go with his head bent where you want him to go. Using counterbend with the long lines keeps the horse from using that against you when you ask him to engage.

Now, a quick word about why I am not keen about using the lines behind the croup. At one point, Tucker bucked up, and sure enough, ended up with the line between his hind legs. Gabriel, who is very quick on his feet, unlike me, dropped the line and managed to maneuver Tucker out of trouble. He had a lucky break when Tucker somehow stepped out of the potential tangle, but still, it did happen. It was the only incident, but it’s the kind of thing that always worries me whenever lines are too near a horse’s legs.

Because he can run, Gabriel was also able to work Tucker on some straight lines, some serpentines, and some slight lateral work at the trot from behind. He was really pleased at how Tucker was taking the contact and more and more working from behind.

Both of us marveled a bit at how cooperative, attentive, and responsive Tucker was. He only got upset a few times and that seemed to be mostly because he just didn’t understand what he was supposed to do. I could see him trying to figure out every moment of the session and he completely focused on Gabriel the whole time. By the end, as he was standing, he had his hind end under himself as if it was just the most natural and comfortable way to stand square.

Gabriel was very complimentary both of his attitude and of his ability. “He really can do it!” he said, going on to suggest that Tucker is perfectly capable of the upper level work. As Gabriel had just spent some time teaching another horse to piaffe on the lines, and in working with Cindy Ishoy and her husband Neil, has gained a lot of good insight into longlining skills.

Tucker is, of course, no stranger to the lines, as I trained him on them before he was ridden. Still, for him to work in a new way with someone else working him was delightful to see. I can only do about half the exercises Gabriel did with him as I cannot physically run with my bad knees. Still, I can do some of the circling work and intend to add it to my training repertoire, such as it is.

Another interesting discussion after the lesson involve just how “high” the horse should be when working the piaffe and other in hand exercises. Apparently, Neil want his horses to be round and low as he begins to ask for the half steps. This, of course, brought up the evil word “rolkur” as we talked about how “deep” the horses needed to be. Gabriel said Neil seems to want the horses to reach to their knees, and said you can visibly see the horse’s back and entire frame round in the exercise. He said the rolkur he has seen seems to close the horse’s neck to its chest.

To my mind, by asking the horse to stretch “down and round” the neck is lengthened instead of shortened and does encourage the horse to lift his back accordingly. Rolkur tends to overflex the neck into the chest, and may well make the horse surrender to the bit, but it does not necessarily engage and lift the back.

I won’t get into the whole debate here. I do know every horse I have ever taught to stretch down and round loves it and chooses that as a way of relaxing after a workout.

Tucker seemed quite pleased with himself after the lesson. His eyes were soft, content, and decidedly friendly. I am hoping that part of that was that his back—stifle and sacroiliac—are finally feeling better.

I guess I’ll find that out when I next ride him.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Back On

Now On to My Lesson

Quick update. Scott was here and put a new shoe on Tucker this morning.

Tuck spent the day in his little run-in shed pen. I will be taking my lesson at 9 PM tonight at the indoor about 20 minutes drive from here.

Will report back when I get home, unless I am too tired, or tomorrow. We are going to do a long lining session.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Don't Want to Talk About It

The "Shoeless Wonder" Strikes Again

Despite all my efforts at limited turnout, Tucker managed to pull his shoe again.

I turned him out for the night after the ground was frozen, but somehow, somewhere, he lost his shoe. I had put him out in the ring and pasture--both nice and dry with good footing during the day, so I suppose I should have left him in for the night, but I always worry that his water will freeze and the outside tub has a heater in it.

So, he may have lost the shoe during the day....but who knows. I spent over and hour scouring the property for it to no avail.

Thus, Sunday was spent on the hunt for some kind of boot he could wear. There is a new brand called the Simple Boot in my tack store, so I bought a pair in what I thought was the right size. I took them home, tried them on Tucker and found them to be too big. Off I went, back to the closer store (Rick's Saddle Shop has 2 NJ locations) to trade them in. Fortunately the next size seemed to fit so I turned Tucker out for a frolic.

He was bounding about like a kid, romping in the still dry pasture and ring for most of the afternoon.

It was getting late so I saddled up Chance, schooled him in the ring for about 10-15 minutes, just working on improving his steering, and then we headed out for a short hack in the woods. He was a happy kid at that.

I took Toby on a short hack next and then saddled up Tucker for some trotting in the ring.

To the right, with his booted hoof on the outside, he felt wonderful. He was really forward in his trot and seemed quite happy to move out. Then, I swapped to the left rein, with the boot on the inside. Oops....he was super uneven with a decided limp.

Now I am kicking myself for being too sore after building the shed to ride him when he still had his shoe. He certainly didn't look lame when he was running around by himself, with the boot on, so I am wondering if just having a boot on one foot and not the other would throw his balance off that much. OR, was something bothering him in the hind end related to the last acupuncture.

Considering that without a shoe on one foot he shows slight lameness, I am supicious that the boot just throws his stride off. But why just going to the side with the boot and not the other? While I am not sure the boot is a perfect fit, I did not see any evidence of rubs from it when I took it off to put him in the stall for the night.

Does the boot slip a little when the inside hoof takes more weight? Was his foot sore? (Although, if so, why did he feel so super going in the other direction.) Needless to say, I am full of questions. Worse, I cannot even experiment by putting the other boot on his right foot to try him with two boots to see how he feels because today's weather has taken a drastic turn for the worse and it is pouring rain.

So, unless my hero Scott shows up to replace the shoe, I will be off to my lesson with Gabriel on Tuesday night with no shoe. The ring at Pat's is a good, soft surface, so I might just opt to have him go without the boot. We had planned on longlining anyhow, so the stress will be minimized.

I do need to ride Tucker as much as I can so we can get his stifle muscles toned up. Once more the foot fairy has intervened to cause problems. My ground is dirt and the only places I can ride him are dirt footing or the sand of my ring so Caroline's suggestions about his going barefoot would be a problem. As well, when he was barefoot as a yearling/two year old, he had problems with bruising and cracks, all of which disappeared with the shoeing. My super excellent farrier does not believe he is a good candidate for barefoot either--he's had lots of experience with people going barefoot, so he is a fairly good judge. Although, at this point, he might get so fed up with the lost shoes......*sigh*

Since it is raining, Tucker is in his stall for the day with the run-in shed pen to walk around in.

Turnout is an essential for horses, I feel. Keeping them stall bound is bad for health, soundness, and attitude.

Somehow, I have to figure out how to keep Tucker in regular work through the wet winter.

Of course, if I had a few million spare dollars, I could buy a big farm, build and indoor ring and a roofed turnout area with perfect footing and keep a farrier on staff....."dream a little dream with me."

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Shed is Up

The new shed. It took over 5 hours to set up.

More Than Five Hours Later

My friend Mark came over to help me put up the shed. Thank goodness. It would have been impossible to do it by myself. As it was, Mark and I had quite a time with it working as a team.

With me the weaker link. Mark did most of the heavier lifting and the ladder climbing construction. He also organized the parts and did the bulk of the figuring out the instructions, though once I saw how the thing was shaping up, I added a good number of useful alternatives and did manage to contribute to the brains end of the operation.

We really did work well together, so that was good. The shed is 20' long, and 10' wide so we left both ends open. That way any horses inside could escape from either end. I do have end flaps in case I eventually want to move the thing to another spot to store either hay or my tractor.

This is a Coverit building I bought about 4 years ago at a Horse Expo. It's been sitting in my garage waiting for a use since then. It has a rounded top and a fabric cover. The frame is made up of steel tubing that had to be bolted together. That's where most of the work was. Then, the cover is pulled over and cinched up at the front and back, and laced to the frame inside. The only thing we did not do was anchor it down. We had an issue with the anchoring system supplied because it just didn't seem to work in my ground. I need to come up with an alternative that is not dangerous to the horses, yet will hold the structure down in case of heavy winds. It will be OK for now, and Mark suggested should heavy wind be forecast, I could drive the tractor inside and tie the building to it for now.

I have no idea if any of the Boys have gone in it yet. Chance and Toby were free to during the night, but Tucker was locked in his stall. I'm going back out to turn him out in a little while, so when I do, I will report more and perhaps get a picture.

Scenes of "Discovery." First, Tucker says, "Hey, I'm not going near that thing!!" Moments later, the "Gang" starts to check it out. Tucker's in! Then, the scene from the far end of the ring so you have a sense of perspective about the size of the area.

The Boys reminded me of my cats in a paper bag or their "cat tunnel." Once they decided the shed would not really eat them, they ran through it several times, playing.

The novelty wore off in about a half hour and they were off to eat the hay I had put out in the pasture.

The shed has 8 feet of clearance, so Tucker might have to keep his head down, but he seemed just fine about it.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Turned Them All Out

In the Ring and the Pasture

My set up allows access to the pasture directly from the ring or paddocks, so I closed off the muddy paddock gate, opened the sandy ring gate and turned all three Boys out in the ring.
I put another water tub at the edge of the fence and hay out in the pasture.

No shelter, but when it's nearly 70f and sunny, who needs shelter. I couldn't ride Tucker anyhow because of the acupuncture and since I was going to Thanksgiving dinner at 2 PM, I opted to just let the herd enjoy itself in the nice weather and pretty solid footing of the pasture and ring.

The temperature is supposed to drop into the 40's tomorrow. I have a male friend coming over to see if the two of us can put up the portable run in. Once that's up, I can leave the Boys on the good footing whenever I want to without worrying about shelter...I think. The shed is 20' X 20' so we will just have to see how it works...and if we can get it up.

My vet mentioned putting boots on Tucker to keep him from pulling his shoes. So, if I did get some, they would have to be the kind the horse could wear over his shoes for turnout. I am not overly keen on the idea unless things get really bad here as far as the footing goes. Usually, it dries out, but we have just had too many days of these soaking kind of showers and no sun to help out. But I do kind of like the possible ring/pasture shed solution.

Tucker is staying in at night with the little enclosed shed area. The other Boys have the two stalls and a run in roof too, but the run in on Tucker's side is the one that best shelters from the winter storms.

So, if I put up the shed where I want to, it will be oriented in the same direction as Tucker's shed and give Toby and Chance the same kind of winter shelter. All in all, it could end up being the best of situations for everyone. The shed will go in the spot where the Boys tend to hang out if the winter weather is blowing in, so they might even use it now and then!

Thanksgiving is a national celebration for giving thanks. It's loosely based on the first dinner the pilgrims had on American soil when they arrived safely after a long sea voyage from England. They thanked God for their safe arrival and for the bounty the new land appeared to provide. Eventually, it became a national holiday when many businesses close so families can get together to share a meal. Lots of charities and churches make up food boxes with turkeys, canned goods, and all other kinds of food to give to needy families. As well, dinners are served to needy people, people in hospitals, shut ins, elderly people and just about anyone anybody can find who needs a Thanksgiving dinner. Restaurants serve up special menus, and those who don't have families of their own are usually invited to somebody's house to celebrate. There is a big parade in New York City with huge helium balloons of critters and movie characters (Shrek debuted this year) and US football games are played all over the place.

Thanksgiving also is the beginning of the Christmas holiday season. At the end of the NY parade, Santa Claus arrives in a big sleigh, reminding everyone that Christmas is on its way. From now until then, there will be Santas in all the shopping malls so little kids can sit on his lap and tell him what they want for Christmas. Tomorrow is known as "Black Friday," the day most stored hope to make a profit for the year and end up "in the black, " rather than the red. Some stores are opening just after midnight, others at 4 AM, and most at 6 or 7 AM with all kinds of special big sale prices on the things people want to buy as Christmas presents. It's really a crazy shopping day I am going to avoid. I don't have all my presents yet, but I do know what I am getting for people, so I certainly don't need to stand in long lines at the checkout to get them.

I've gone out on Black Friday once or twice to just see what it was like and I can tell you, it can get pretty wild out there. Apparently some of the stores that sell computers and gaming systems already have people camped out in tents in their parking lots to be the first in line for some of the bargains.

My local saddle shop is having a drawing for a 42' LCD TV on Saturday, so I may go there just to get a ticket and try my luck. I figure that too will be a pretty wild scene but I'm used to that. He just had drawings for 2 $1000 shopping sprees about a week ago and one for a lawn tractor this summer. So far, I did win a nice nylon halter in one of his promotions, so you never know.

So, that's my country and its quirks. We are a silly lot, sometimes, but every now and then, we do take time to just step back and thank the Lord for all our blessings.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

So There are More Layers Than an Onion

And Tucker Has Them All

Interesting. When my vet examined Tucker, he found him sore on the left stifle and also "out" in his sacroilliac. When I expressed some surprise, he said, "Sometimes you just have to peal away the layers to get to the root of the problem."

So, Tucker had some more acupuncture and was none too happy about it. He was very reactive to the needles this time. Dr. Klayman said for some reason, horses reactions do vary. Sometimes from day to day the same horse will react differently. Today, Tuck was not a happy camper.

I cannot ride him tomorrow, but turn out is OK, so he is again in the riding ring until late feed.

The ground is drying quickly, but we are supposed to get more rain and I am not too optimistic.

Dr. Klayman suggested some kind of hoof boots. So far I have not had much luck finding a brand to fit Tucker. These would have to go over his shoes, stay safely on for serveral hours so he could frolic with the rest of the little herd. Anyone have any recommendations?

In the meantime, I am keeping him in the arena in the sand. So far so good. But he really does need the social interaction and play time with his buddies. Horses are meant to be herd animals, not solitary creatures.

I will work it all out eventually. It will definitely be interesting to ride Tuck on Friday to see if he feels any better.

For those in the USA, Happy Thanksgiving! And for those who do not celebrate our national holiday, I wish you the spirit of the day. May you too remember to give thanks for all the gifts you have and the love you share.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Wetter Then Wet

Rained Out

It wasn't actually raining when I got home tonight, but it was wet. When I say wet, I mean wet.

We have now had several days of rains. These are not the kinds of heavy rains that run off, but the on and off kinds that leave puddles over and over until everything is coated with a layer of water. Where the mud is not getting deep it is slippery--so much so that taking the wheelbarrow to the manure pile (muck heap) was pretty risky, especially with my bad knees. I did a pretty minimal job of stall cleaning as a result, focusing mainly on the stall and runin where Tucker is confined so at least that was nice and tidy.

I did not ride in the watery arena, but I did turn Tucker out there. And I did some free lunging with him, trotting him around me for about 15-20 minutes. He was actually pretty cooperative and made long ovals around me as if he were on an elastic lunge line. I don't know of he was acting out of habit in response to the lunge whip or was actually enjoying my attention and having a reason to stretch his legs. Either way, he was really good and, despite a few bucks and leaps when I tried to reverse him--he galloped past me several times before I could manuever in front of him to ask for a reverse--it was close to a real training session. Since it was in the full sized arena, not a round pen, he could have run off to the far side of the ring at any time, but instead he just kept circling around me.

When, I guess, he'd had enough, he started closing the circle in around me, bringing it in to 10-15 meters, all the while keeping up a nice forward trot. Even when I tried to push him back out with both the whip movement and my body language, he insisted on coming in closer and closer. So, I finally lowered the whip and stopped moving. Almost at once, he stopped too, turned to face me and then just kind of walked in for a pat and some extra special praise.

I left him out for several more hours just to walk around and relax.

I have a potential plan for the winter. Since my riding ring is about 20 meters longer than a regulation dressage ring, and since it has some chronic low spots which tend to stay wet in the far end near the pasture, I don't often ride all the way to that end. I have, stashed in my garage, a portable shed I bought a number of years ago as a kind of emergency run in shed. This is one of those fabric over a metal frame shelters made for horses or to be used as storage areas. I plan to erect it in that end of the ring as a run in.

This is kind of a two fold idea. First, if it's muddy like this, I can turn Tucker out there during the day and he will have shelter, something I consider quite important. Normally, he and the other Boys have the two run in roofs and their stalls, but there is no way to set it up so that anyone turned out in the ring can get back to the barn. This way, he could have a nice little place to hang out should it rain when I am not home.

The second part of the idea is that, for some reason, that corner of the ring is often where the little herd wants to shelter when there is a storm. Now, with the new run in shed on the west side of the barn, they have been going there a lot more, but this would also give them another place to go in case of bad weather instead of standing outside with snow and icicles hanging off them.

Then again, since the portable would only take up one corner of the ring, they could still hang out there outside with snow and icicles hanging off them if that's what they wanted to do.

All I need now is a pair of strong young men--my friends two sons if possible--to get the shelter up for me.

I also needed some hay to tide me over the weekend. Thursday is Thanksgiving here in the US, and, as it turns out, my hay supplier next door is taking a long weekend break. I did managed to stuff seven bales in my little car tonight just before they closed. Apparently, someone else is coming to get hay tomorrow, so I too may manage to get seven more bales on the way home from school--half day due to the upcoming holiday. But, I will have to hurry as I need to get home so I can trailer Tucker over to see my vet.

Busy day ahead.

Monday, November 19, 2007

I Am So Fortunate

My Wonderful Farrier

I hadn't been home from school for more than 20 minutes when up the drive came my horsehoer.

Scott Previte is not only one of the best shoers around, but he really does go out of his way to help his customers. More than once I have needed a shoeing job before a show or a clinic, and he has always somehow found the time to get me going.

Tonight was no exception. We had a chat about what to do with Tucker, stuck with the realization that he is not really a good barefoot candidate, especially since I need to keep riding him. Scott explained that Tuck's upright hoofs (he had a clubfoot as a foal and the ligament surgery to correct it, but his natural angle--xrayed, by the way--is just a little steep) he is the kind of horse who pulls his shoes off if anything intereferes with is breakover--such as getting stuck, even a little, in the mud. Scott said he has three or four horses like Tucker and he was surprised he hadn't had calls from anyone else yet.

The ground is really wet and, even though my barn is on a hill, the mud has taken hold anywhere it's level enough for the water to sit. Even the hills are slippery.

Scott got a new shoe on and I turned Tucker out in the sand riding ring for a while to let him stretch his legs. I think "plan B" is to keep him in the stall and run-in shed until things dry out--if they ever do before spring--and let him out in the ring in the early morning before school and when I get home at night. I will, of course, also exercise him as the weather permits. It's not perfect, but at least he won't be confined to the stall.

Hopefully, when I go out for late feed later, both front shoes will still be on. *sigh*

At any rate, I am extremely thankful I have such a wonderful farrier. Fortunately, Scott lives about 8 miles away, which is a big plus, but when I consider he has come here on Sundays and even once on a holiday as well as late at night to fit in an emergency appointment for me, I am still overwhelmed by his efforts.

I have an appointment with my equally wonderful vet to do some more acupuncture on Tucker on Wednesday, again at the barn where I take lessons. It's an easy trailer ride over and saves me part of the farm call fee, so it is a great solution. I called just this afternoon to get an appointment so once again I have managed to luck out, or just pick one of the best veterinarians in the area! Dr. Klayman and his associates rock! (sorry, that's a bit teenager, but it fits)

Hopefully, a second treatment will restore even more of Tucker's positive work ethic.

I am keeping him on the U-Guard powder and will give him some omeprazole this week so the possble stress of limited turnout will not cause ulcer problems.

So many issues to deal with. I am ever grateful to have the Boys in the back yard so I can tend to them myself. Otherwise, I would just be worrying.

Well, I still worry. Right now I am thinking about shoes staying on in the riding ring.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Shoe Flies

No News To Report

It was cold and rainy most of the day.

When I finally managed to go out to the barn to at least lunge Tucker for his stifle, I soon discovered he was missing a shoe.

I didn't notice it until I had him out in the ring on the lunge line as I'd hooked him up out in the paddock. He was every so slightly uneven. I thought it was too strange for him to actually be limping because of the stifle so I checked his feet and sure enough, one naked front hoof. Just enough difference to make him take some uneven steps. Not lame, just not balanced. His hoof still looked great, so he didn't do much damage taking off the shoe. My farrier only uses four nails, usually, so the hoof holds up pretty well.

Frustrating as this is what happens when the ground gets wet along with his feet. All the moisture just makes them too soft to hold a shoe. Unfortunately, as we have discussed here, he really does need his front feet shod--Thoroughbred, cracks, other issues--so barefoot, even for the winter is not really practical. I'd love to have him barefoot for the winter...but considering the problems he had when he was barefoot as a youngster, I don't think I could take the chance.

The trouble is the weather and the footing. My farrier would prefer he stay in when it's wet and muddy. I'm never keen on keeping a horse in to start off with. Then, I don't want to have to keep him in all the time as that will actually be counter productive to getting his stifle strengthened. Going up and down the little hills in my paddocks and pasture are too good for him.

I called my shoer who is an angel about fixing things. Maybe he has some ideas.

Tucker is in now and I will keep him in until--if ever, things dry out a bit. If we can get the shoe back on, perhaps I can lunge him in the AM before school and then work him again at night. But right now, without the shoe, I really can't do too much with him. I will have to see if at least one of the boots I have will stay on his foot for some exercise. I haven't yet found a brand that seems to fit him properly.

Too miserable to ride anyone else.

The weather looks bleak for the rest of the week too. Ugh.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Think He Might Need Another Session

Half an Hour of Trotting

I think Tucker might need another acupuncture session. He was a little more crabby today about the first trot transition and not at all happy about cantering. Although the canter departs did get better, when he cantered on the left lead he really did want to carry his haunches out. To me, that means he was trying to keep his right stifle from having to "twist" itself under his body.

I was able to hold him straight, but I kept feeling him trying to evade, so I suspect he is a little uncomfortable. I will call my vet on Monday and hope we can arrange something before the lesson on Tuesday of the week after. If not, the plan is for in hand work in the lesson, and Tucker seems perfectly happy to do that. I think my weight on his back helps create the discomfort in the joint/muscle. When I worked him on the lines the other day, he was really carrying himself with very little effort.

Having dealt with Russell R.'s stifle issues for nearly 20 years, I am confident this will come right and be quite manageable. It's just that in the meantime we will probably have a few bad days to face.

I rode Chance in the ring for about 10 minutes of trot schooling and he really is improving with his acceptance of the bit. If I keep up the "lining/riding/lining" pattern, I think he will come along really quickly. We went out on a slightly longer hack along the edge of the woods, back to the flooding area, and then back through the woods after the ring session. As it is supposed to rain tomorrow, I don't know how eager I will be to ride him, so I figured I treat him to the trail ride today.

As usual, he was a good boy. He was a little more tentative today, as if he wasn't quite as confident as usual, but he was fine. I even trotted a little on the field path on the way back. Out there, he really takes a good hold of the bit and stretches his head out, so that is good.

Toby was very clear about not being interested in any work today, so I left him alone...aside from the obligatory carrot.

When I was done, I went out and cleaned out the drainage "ditch" on the woods side of the arena. I have a low spot there and drain the water into an abandoned groundhog burrow on the other side of the fence. If it does rain, that should help the ring dry out faster.

Hope it's just showers tomorrow. I really would like to get some time in under saddle to see how Tucker acts. I guess I'll just have to wait and see.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Well, That Was Interesting

Three on the Loose

I came home from school yesterday to find three horses loose on the back lawn, and both of the big gates open.

H-m-m-m-m. I am a bit confused about the gates. I did drive through them on Sunday to drop off the rubber mats I bought, but I know I at least closed them behind me as Tucker and Chance were VERY interested in what I was up to. Did I not completely chain them? Or, did someone else open them....that's a disturbing thought. For now, I will just chalk it up to my stupidity.

The good news is that the drive through bump gates across the driveways stopped the "Gang" from escaping to the road where there surely would have been some serious consequences as traffic is both bad and fast on my road. My Aunt, who lives next door said The Boys didn't even try the gates when she saw them, so that is a relief.

The other good news as that when my Aunt saw the horses out, she tried to convince them to stay in the back area, but all that happened was she was nearly licked and loved to death by, from what I can tell, Tucker and Chance. She said they came right over to her and just wanted to be hugged. Toby likes attention too, but he is not quite as nosy as the other two. So, that is kind of sweet.

The bad news is that since it was raining, my back lawn is now a mess of muddy hoofprints and depressions and "slide spots." I guess I will have to get that new drag put together asap so I can try to level out the worst of the messed up grass before it hardens/dries up, and plant some new seed. I do walk the horses over the lawn there when I trailer them places, so the area is not pristine, but three frolicking horses can do quite a bit of damage when they are tromping all over on a great adventure. This is not a big lawn area, perhaps, at most a quarter acre right behind the house. It will survive.

When I drove in, Tucker and Chance came right up to my car and tried to "hug" me too. I don't know if they were worried they were out or if they were just happy. I closed one gate and as soon as I went in the feed/tack room to get dinner, the whole little herd galloped across the grass and into the paddock through the other open gate, so getting them back in where they belonged was no trouble at all. Silly boys.

I am excited to find out that Gabriel, my trainer, loves long lining and in hand work. He seems pleased that I want to work Tucker in the lines at our next lesson. This is going to be fun. Tucker is not quite the "long line master" Toby is, but he still understands the concept and, as I've said before, does work pretty well in them. I will be very interested to see what Gabriel proposes we do and how Tucker will take to the training.

So, now I have even more to look forward to for our lesson on the 27th.

In the meantime, I did not work the horses yesterday as it was damp, raining, and downright unpleasant outside.

Besides, they'd had plenty of exercise mangling my lawn.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tuck on a Line

Silly Boy

I just longlined Tucker tonight, taking a break as I had to go to a meeting later on.

What a silly boy he was. His pace, attitude, and frame varied from "baby horse on the forehand," to "lazy horse in a jog," all the way to "stunning dressage horse in an elegant, elevated frame." Add to that an occasional "buck off" and you have the gist of the session.

Towards the end, I asked for some close in work trying to introduce the idea of stepping towards the piaffe in hand. Tucker is too quick to react to the whip by bolting forward. Not that I've ever hit him, but he just responds by trying to run.

This time, though, I just tapped his hind end at the walk and when he took a big trot step under, I eased him back and told him he was wonderful. After about four tries, he took one trot stride almost in place and I stopped him praised him to the ultimate and ended the school.

My knees will never carry me through too much close up work in hand with him as I simply cannot run or maneuver myself alongside him to help him understand what I want. I will have to see if Gabriel has worked horses from the ground like that and perhaps at our next lesson we can do a bit of in-hand work. I think it would be good as it will help Tuck understand about bending his hind legs and, if done in extreme moderation without a rider will help his stifle build up while at the same time not putting too much stress on his joints.

Too much of this work is very hard on a horse, but a few steps here and there, now and then, should be a plus for him.

It is supposed to rain tomorrow. That's OK as I have choir rehearsal and before that a photo to be taken for the church directory.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Sunset Rushes In

But Before Darkness Fell....

I managed to ride Tucker in the ring for about 20 minutes of trotting before going out in the woods for a lovely little hack.

He was far less resistant today and after only one minor false start, moved into the canter pretty willingly. As well, he only gave a minimal protest before trotting off, so I am guessing he is feeling either physically better or mentally more confident that he can do work without hurting. I cantered for twice as long as yesterday on each lead and he felt fine. Again, I am shortening his frame and asking him to carry himself somewhat, but still have not really challenged him to the upper level frame. That will come again when I feel his muscles are strong enough to allow him to do it without risking the stifle.

Tuck was both eager and relaxed on the hack. There were some hunters in the far field poised for the deer to come out to feed, but I may have scared them all back into the deeper forest. Fine by me. I hate to think of any animal being killed, for whatever reason. I will not deliberatly interfere with a hunter, and I will always wish them well when I meet them in the woods, but if their prey escapes, that's just fine with me.

I had just recieved my new lunging surcingle so I wanted Toby to be the first horse to wear it and he did so proudly, working like his usual perfect self in the ring of light created by the two working lights in my riding ring. (I called my electrician today and will have to hound him about this, but I need a better lighting system.) I had some trot poles set up and Toby was heading for them on his own. What can I say about the longlining master? He is just too good for words.

I long lined Chance as well, veeing the lines onto the upper rings at first, but then deciding into the session, that putting them on the lower ring encouraged him to stretch "out" and to the bit rather than "up" into the bit. Once he did the lower stretch he relaxed his back much more and his stride was longer and slower. I did have to shorten the distance between the trotting poles for him. Even though he does have a good length stride, the hand difference in height and his shorter legs were, at the moment, having trouble negotiating the distance I had set for Tucker and Toby. He did manage it a few times, but more often, he was taking a "baby stride" between the last two poles to avoid hitting the poles. I moved them less than a foot closer to each other and he was fine.

Chance did get a little tired at the end of the session, something I am not used to with my Thoroughbreds. They seem to keep going no matter what. Chance breaks his gait and slows WAY down. It is one more interesting contrast between him and the big boys.

Watching him canter on the lines does encourage me to try a bit more under saddle as he has a nice neat canter with pretty good natural balance.

I am so lucky to have such good horses. They may not be the most breathtaking movers, but they are really fun to train. Even with the challenges Tucker has offered, he has been a good horse to train.

Who needs a "10" mover when you can ride a "10" personality?

Monday, Monday

And Back At School

It was kind of hard rolling out of bed to go to work after a week off, but I managed. I had a pretty good day at school, but it surely was hard watching the sun starting to drop lower in the sky as I headed home. By 4 PM it was looking pretty bleak.

Still, I saddled up Chance as soon as I changed my clothes and took him into the ring for a short school. The longlining is making an impact already. He put his head down, rounded on to the bit and trotted off. His lateral suppleness is not there and I have to work my legs and body weight to get his correct bend in the corners, but on the straight sides he felt great--EXCEPT when we passed the gate going out to the woods. That was like a magnet to him.

So, after the school, I headed out for a short hack. He was eager at first until he realized we were heading along the same trail we'd taken on Saturday. Then he slowed to a snail's pace. I let the reins hang loose to let him make the choice and as soon as we reached an intersection, he headed off to the left, towards the lake. Once we'd veered off the old trail he perked right back up and stepped off again. I didn't take him around the lake as I was a little worried about all the mud and water Toby and I had encountered--the ATV's and minibikes have really messed up the footing where it used to be dry. But we did take the little trail on the ridge. He was happy until we turned again for home when he slowed back down. I've never had a horse go slower on the way home in all my life. It really is kind of fun.

I rode Tucker next in the ring as darkness began to fall. I put some linament on his stifle before we began to work. He was still "sticky" at the trot depart and laid his ears back a few times, but once he got going he felt fine. I had a similar problem asking for the canter, and at first on the left lead, he was very crooked. When a horse has a right stifle issue, it often shows up in left canter as on that lead, the right hind must step "around" and under, putting an extra lateral strain on the stifle joint. Later, though, when I asked for canter again, he was straight on the lead, so I suspect he is either having "pain memories" or twinges that go away.

I also put Tucker into a tighter frame towards the end of the session, getting him to step more into the bit and carry himself more on his hind end. Surprisingly, he actually seemed more pleased to go that way. I wonder if getting him to really lift his back actually balances the weight and makes it easier for his joints to carry him. I'll go for that a little earlier in my ride today to see if it makes him happier.

Toby supervised all the riding, and I gave him the night off. My annoying ring lights were not working well at all, with two light fixtures not working again. I've had trouble with them ever since they were installed. That will teach me to listen to myself instead of the professionals when setting up something like that. I had wanted a different kind of like and got talked into these. They are totally unreliable.

That reminds me. I need to call the electrician to see what we can do about replacing them with what I should have gotten in the first place. *sigh*