Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Muck and Yuck

This is Getting Old

I took Toby out on the trail and rode back to where the trees were flooded. I has now been perhaps six months since the new warehouse infiltration basins were finished, stopping the warehouse runoff from crossing over into the Park.

The trees are still under water. Then I rode into the woods and discovered that the patch of trees there was also still flooded and the vernal pond is also still also connected to some of that overflow. This is a potential ecological disaster for all the frogs/amphibians that use that pond to breed. Vernal pools, by definition are created by natural rainfall and are supposed to dry up at some point each year. Otherwise, when waterfowl fly in to use them, they bring fish eggs from other waterbodies and the fish begin to breed in the pool--a consequence of the pool's being perpetually wet. The fish eat the amphibians' eggs killing off the breeding of the native population.

That particular pool/pond is usually filled with all kind of singing, chirping, frogs in the spring. I really hope it will not be a "silent" spring this year because of all that warehouse water.

But, enough of frogs. On to horses.

The "yuck" and the "muck" were on the trail. It was a good thing I took Toby out first because he is very sensible and cautious in bad footing. The thaw created a layer of very slippery mud even in the woodland paths. Toby soon figured out that if he edged over to the side wherever there was a good layer of leaves, he had much more solid footing. So, I generally let him pick the places he wanted to step except when it was so close to a tree that my knee would have been slammed. He was an angel about it all and we had a nice ride.

But, that ride clearly told me not to take either Tucker or Chance out as someone would have ended up falling. That meant tackling the yuck in the ring. Not slippery this time as the thaw is now deep enough to keep the clay from being a problem. But, there were puddles of water all over the place.

Mr. Idon'twanttogetsplashed attempted to weave his way between the puddles all around the ring. Let me tell you, Tucker is a very agile young man who can move his feet in all kinds of interesting patterns to avoid water. He also has an infinite variety of gaits within gaits to cope with "puddle avoidance."

Now, when I really insist that he go straight, I can certainly make him offer some fairly good work in a wet arena, but it is humorously entertaining just trying to figure out what he is doing when left to his own devices. He has a "tranter" (a trot/canter gait), a skip, a jump, and some very curious lateral moves. Wonder if any of them would be useful in a muscial freestyle? *G*

I ended out ride with a little mini-hack on the trail immediately behind the paddock, just kind of looping out and back. Since he seems to enjoy going out, I thought it was a nice little reward for trying so hard in such yucky conditions.

I didn't work Chance today, but if the predicted rain holds off until dark tomorrow, I will try to give him a bit of a school. It may be my best opportunity for another three or four days as the storm coming across the country this week is supposed to bring heavy rain, with flood warnings posted for much of our area. My ring can't take too much more, or we'll be swimming out there.

Guess I just have to wait to see what happens.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Oh Well It'll Dry Up Sooner or Later

The lower level of ground is still frozen, so the upper layer where the snow finally melted has no way to soak in.

In essence, the ring was unrideable. Very, very wet on the surface down to the clay layer and no place for the water to soak in. Just plain slop, and likely slippery in spots.

So, I opted out. Did some drainage repair after I fed the Boys. Did a bit of poo picking and called it a day.

I opted to leave Tucker out today which was OK because the ground did not totally thaw, but tomorrow for sure he will have to stay in during the day. It is supposed to be well above freezing for the next 10 days with some rain in the forecast, so the mud will be back with a vengeance.

From reading the EE board, mud has been the order of the day in many places in Britain this winter as well. I have frankly never quite seen my land this bad because I am on a bit of a hill with very well drained soils. The water table is just too high.

My area is part of a high aquifer recharge area adjacent to the Pigeon Swamp State Park. The aquifer is the underground water supply, a complex system of layers of sand, clay, rock and hollows where Nature stores her water supplies. Across the street from me is a now closed sand mining operation. It is, in essence a 140 acre lake created when they mined the sand and struck water. The larger area is a sensitive eco system which protects the headwaters of several major drinking water supplies.

I am part of an environmental group dedicated to protecting and preserving this area from development. Battles have been going on over industrial and warehouse developments less than a mile away, within siight of my house across the NJ Turnpike.

So, as much as I may complain about the rain, snow, and mud, it is a vital part of restoring our water supply. While the horseman in me may whine, the environmentalist lifts her face into the raindrops and grins.


Monday, February 26, 2007


That's All I Can Say

Put down an inch or two of wet snow on semi-frozen ground, and then add some rain, but not enough to wash the snow away. Bring the temp up to just above freezing, so it stays soggy. Then for the night, chill things off.

Slop. Slush. Frozen slush.

Next day, bring the temp up to well over 40 f and what will you have? MUD! Slippery, slimy mud. Gee, I can't wait.

Tucker will have to stay in so he doesn't lose a shoe. Chance is unshod and Toby is usually Ok. I just feel badly about Tuck. He is a good boy about staying in, thank goodness, but I can't imagine it isn't frustrating for him.

I can only hope the ground thaws out enough that the ring footing is bearable. If so, I will turn him out there when I get home from school. As well, if most of the snow melts so ice is not a problem, and it goes back down to freezing at night, he can go out then to stretch his legs.

Need I say that I did not even consider trying to ride today?

Times like this, I miss boarding where there is an indoor handy. But, I always felt riding was an outdoor sport, so I guess I will stand on principle and remain a victim of the weather.

I can't quite figure out the herd dynamics here. My aunt who lives next door tells me that out in the pasture, Tucker and Chance are bosom buddies. Tonight, when I came home, Chance and Toby were hanging out together and Tucker was in the other paddock by himself. Yesterday, Toby and Tucker were joined at the hip and Chance was off by himself. When I took Chance out on the trial, Toby kept calling for him. Last week, Tucker and Chance were a'frolicking all over the paddock.

Either I have a totally versatile compatible group, or these guys are just strangely independent/dependent personalities. At least they get along.

Better than lots of people I know.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Three in the Saddle

Hacks in the Woods

The footing was OK in the ring. Not great, but OK. The trick was that we were hitting the base below the sand, so there were a few slippery spots. The base is a clay intensive dirt and when only the top thaws, it can be slippery.

I rode Toby first and headed right out to the trail. He was a little cautious on the still semi-frozen ground. Other than that and his determined insistance on stopping for a graze at the edge of the field on the way home, it was an uneventful ride. When I got back, I trotted and cantered a bit in the ring, just to stretch him out and give him a little real exercise. What is funny is how certain he is about getting a carrot once he's untacked. There is no doubt he knows that's the deal we struck years ago and he intends to hold me to my promise of a carrot after every ride.

I saddled Chance up next and put the running martingale on. (Thanks for the reminder, Claire) I think it needs a few more holes to be a little shorter, but it did help some of the head flailing. Again, I had to laugh. I mounted up, headed around the ring and as soon as we reached the gate to the woods, Chance made it very clear that he wanted to go out. He balked, napped, and was very insulted when I insisted we go on around the ring. I trotted him for a good stretch. He started out really fast--some of it my fault because I kind of leaned forward and went with him. But he is a little quick at the onset anyhow so it's easier to just let him go a little and work him down. Eventually, I sat more upright and slowed my posting, giving him short checks now and then and he slowed considerably. Too slow at times as whenever I crossed the centerline he tried to stop. Still the steering was so much better and he put his head down into a stretch fairly easily. It is far from steady, but balance and time will fix that.

When I felt he was no longer overeager to go on, I brought him back to a walk and headed for the gate. Out we went for a hack. He was quiet and calm. There was only one little hiccup when something ran through the dry leaves in the treeline. I think Chance gave a little skip for one stride, then shrugged his shoulders and went right on.

Chance is shedding like crazy, so I gave him a good raking with the shedding blade when we got back. I think he enjoys that and also enjoys his carrot. I guess I'll have him spoiled soon too.

That left Tucker. I swear he has grown. I will have to measure him on a perfectly level surface one of these days--my barn aisle is not--but a quick check today suggested he may actually be closer to 17h than 16.3. All I know is that he is BIG.

We had a nice school in the ring for about 20-25 minutes with some good trot work and some nice canter. I did a spiral in at the canter starting on a 20 meter circle and closing it up to less than 10 meters. Then, I did a bit of leg yield to open it back up to the 20 meters, really engaging his hind end. From that, I will eventually work up to the canter pirouette. In the meantime, I need to do some "square corners" at the canter to get him to lift his shoulder around. The idea here is to ride a square instead of a circle, getting the horse to bring his forehand around ahead of his hind end at each corner. But that is for another day when the footing is really solid.

We headed out on the trail next. Darn if that scary noisy leaf rustling critter wasn't back in action in the same spot. Tucker did a complete 360, ending up with a snorting stop facing the woods where the "critter lurked." I am pleased to say I sat it out quite securely and wasn't even shaken. It took a few more circles and lots of neck stroking to get him to go on as he would have preferred to head home at that point, but as soon as I got him moving again, he dropped his head and settled in.

The rest of the hack was quiet until we were nearly at the end of my fenceline when, we came face to face with........another horse and rider!!! It was Jay, a guy from the barn on the next road over with his superquiet trail horse. Tucker was an absolute gentleman--calm, quiet, and polite. Two years ago, such an encounter would have sent him into a tizzy. Today, Jay and I had a nice chat while both horses stood quietly. Jay told me he may buy a 5 yo palomino. He will be retiring from the NJ Fire Department very soon and thinks he will be able to keep on leasing this horse, buy the young one, and have a lot of time to spend with the both of them.
That'd be great! I have his number somewhere, so the plan could be to trailer the horses somewhere to do some trail rides. It would be nice to have someone to ride with once in a while.

Back at the barn, Tucker the new trail star, chomped down his carrot with delight. Then I bedded all three stalls with fresh shavings and fed the little herd as the snow began to cover the ground.

Yes, snow. It doesn't look good. I'm not sure how much we are going to get, but the ground is already white and it's only been snowing for a little over an hour.

Oh, well. As they say, "There's nothing you can do about the weather."

Saturday, February 24, 2007

A Short School

Too Nice Not to Ride

The footing in the ring was really good, depsite the mud puddles.

So, after I cleaned the stalls, I saddled Tucker up and worked him a bit.

Again, I concentrated on getting him to stretch out into the bit so his back muscles would lengthen and stretch out. With the better footing he was more consistent, but Toby and Chance kept frolicking about and that would excite him a little.

Now, mind you "excite" meant that Tucker would raise his head rather then keep it in the lower, relaxed frame. He only offered one little quick step when Chance bolted past the gate, but otherwise, I would give him high marks for not overreacting to the silliness going on around him.

I put him into a first level frame for a bit and got a lovely trot. Then, I tried some canter--walk--canter transitions. Again, it was better left to right than right to left. He just doesn't balance as well on the right lead and when I ask for the downward he tends to fall into a trot instead of balancing into a walk. However, since I haven't tried this exercise in a while, I certainly can't complain. By the end of the session he almost had it. I definitely need to refine the half halt before the downward and that will help a lot.

Once we'd worked in the frame, I let him stretch out again and this time he was far more ready, willing and able to just "hang" out there where I wanted him to be.

I would have taken Toby out for a quiet hack in the woods, but when I showed him the bridle, he headed the other way, so it was pretty clear he wasn't interested.

It was just as well. By the time I finished feeding I was beat. I am not over my cold, so taking it easy was probably a good idea.

There may be a storm headed our way tomorrow night. If so, that's the end of the good footing for a while again.

Glad I took advantage today, even if it did wear me out for the time being.

Oh Well....

...Not Quite, But Getting Better

I felt awful this morning. Even feeding the Boys was a chore.

I stayed home from school and spent virtually the entire day in crash on the couch mode. Good thing. There was no way I could have taught a class today. I hope my kids were good for the substitute, but I was too miserable to think about it much.

Needless to say, I didn't ride. I'm not sure if I had been well that it would have made a difference. It was cold and windy all day. The temperature was supposed to be above freezing, but the wind was really strong. By early afternoon I managed to go back out and change the Boys out of their sheets and back into their winter blankets. I don't know if they were cold, but I felt better knowing they were more warmly dressed.

Plenty of hay for them is also the key in this kind of weather. At this rate I will go through my new load pretty fast, but it's too important to the horses to worry about the extra expense. As long as they keep cleaning it up, I'll keep putting it out for them.

Tomorrow may be a little better weatherwise, but there may be another storm coming in from the West by Sunday. It looks like a similar pattern to the last one that hit us. Once more a front from the West and something else coming up from the South. Again, they don't know if it will be rain, freezing rain, snow, or some kind of combination. I still have the water containers full, so I am about as prepared as I can be.

I'll say it again, Spring must be on its way sooner or later. Wish it were sooner, but it looks as if winter intends to hang around for a bit longer.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


Turns Out I Have a Cold

It's been two years, but I have a really miserable cold.

Sniffing and sneezing are one thing. Feeling like a limp dishrag and all achy is another.

Got where I am going?

I didn't do anything with the horses again.

To top it off, I am losing my voice. I managed to make it through the day teaching, including two periods of reading aloud for about 40 minutes each. I am not at all sure I will go in tomorrow, though. All I really feel like doing is cuddling up under a blanket so I can feel sorry for myself.

It this my blog, or my whine?

At least Tucker still had two shoes on when I got home. He is covered in mud and looks to be the only one who really had a good roll in the slop. Then again, I didn't look too carefully at the off sides of Toby or Chance when I fed them. They looked fine from the near side, at least. I am sure I am living a fool's paradise thinking they were clean.

I did rain for a spell today, so the ring is even sloppier than it was yesterday. Again, rideable, but messy. I will try to console myself with that thought. There will be better days to ride, when I feel better.

Soon, I hope.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Too Tired

And Lovely Warmth

It was close to 50f today. The fast melt has turned a lot of the ground to mud. I am going to have to decide about leaving MrLoseAShoe Tucker out. I hate this.

I had a bad day at school with some parent issues. My vice principal ended up handling things but I had to keep going back to my computer and grade books to produce all kinds of records. With that and another false alarm fire drill--someone claims the birds are setting off the alarms???--I lost all of my prep time so I got nothing done except teaching all my classes. Which would be fine if I didn't have a bunch of other things I needed to do.

By the time I got home, I was mentally wiped out, so I decided to forego the riding. It's probably just as well since the ring was really, really wet. Plenty of water and plenty of very soggy sand. It was, in essence, a very sloppy mess.

Since two light bulbs had burned out in the barn, I spent the time changing light bulbs. Now, to me, this is a big deal because I don't like heights and I don't like my shaky wooden stepladder at all. Combine all that with a at least 12' barn ceiling, and you have a very unhappy light bulb changer.

I am proud to say, I got both lights changed despite my shaking knees.

So, once more I can see out there at night. Yay!

Now I am off to church for the Ash Wednesday service. I sing in the choir, but am a little worried tonight because I seem to be in the cough/throat stages of a cold. I am fighting it, but I don't know at all if I can sing. Not so bad tonight as the music is a cinch, but Sunday we are doing a more difficult piece and I need to be able to do it well.

Just had a cup of Chinese medical tea, a decongestant, and an extra prayer. *G*

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Thaw's In

At Last It's Warm

Well, "warm" is relative but somewhere in neighborhood of 40f feels like a veritable heat wave at this point.

The ring was sort of thawed, at least enough to have a bit of a school before dark.

Since Tucker is the horse of the hour, I rode him. Again he was pretty steady considering how making a circle consisted of hitting lovely sand, soggy sand, soggy snow and not so soggy snow. We managed about 20 minutes of walk, trot and canter with me concentrating on sitting up correctly and using my seat as I was supposed to.

Tucker is a little frustrating about keeping his head out and neck stretched within the parameters Patrice set for us, but maybe the erratic footing has something to do with it. I must admit that his canter is much more forward so perhaps, when the ground settles down, the trot will be more consistent too. I did have some nice moments where I could feel him really using his back end in the trot, so it's there. Guess I'll just have to be patient.

Now, the fun thing was that this time, Tucker was pulling a Chance when we tried to pass the gate to the trail the first time. So, once I had managed our schooling session, I headed for the gate and he, quite eagerly let me know he wanted to take a hack.

Out we went and just before sunset, we had a lovely hack in the snowy woods. He was a perfect gentleman and I was glad I'd decided to take him out.

By the time I got back it was a darkening dusk, so I opted out of riding anyone else. Had the footing been better, I would have used the ring lights and given both Toby and Chance a little school, but it just wasn't worth it.

A few more days of temperatures like this and all will be well again. The weather forecast looks pretty good for the temperature, but there are showers predicted off and on for the next 10 days. The ring will still be fine as even when wet, the sand is OK for riding. However the paddocks and field will be a mess.

Then, I have to start worrying about what to do with Mrloseashoe Tucker.

Poppycat came for breakfast. He was extraordiarily wary of me, but he did eat eventually. I opened the window a crack in the sunroom where Mitzi (mommycat) is still being held captive. By the end of the week I hope to let her back outside...unless she decides she wants to be housecat....not.

Monday, February 19, 2007


Poppycat Appeared!

Poppy showed up about a half hour ago. He was very wary, but he was here and I gave him a nice big dish of canned cat food--salmon.

I have left the trap near where I feed him under the horse trailer. Both ends are tied open. Over the next week I will keep putting his food closer and closer to it. I may even put the roast chicken carcass inside it near one of the ends. If I can get him to step into it, and begin to feel comfortable about its being there, I have a chance.

I need to do this before it gets too warm and all the little prey animals are back out of their burrows. Poppy needs to be a bit hungry to risk the trap.

I feel better that he came. I was afraid I wasn't going to see him again.


It is well below freezing again. Bummer since I have the day off for Presidents' Day.

I need to go get a load of hay which means hitching up the trailer, no fun in the cold. And I surely can't ride since everything that was wet is now solid ice.

Today, however, is supposed to be the last day of the Arctic blast. Tomorrow the temperature should be over 40 degrees in the afternoon and stay above freezing into the night.

I'll have to change the Boys over to sheets in the morning before school, as their blankets will be far too warm. The sun feels good even today, so tomorrow will be amazing!

The ice and snow should melt pretty quickly. The ring will be pretty soggy, but rideable.

Then again, am I going to have to leave Tucker in because of the mud??? Phooey.

I did order electrically heated water buckets in case I have to leave the Boys in when it is cold--should we have a sleet storm and ice all over the place---but I won't need them if Tucker is in because of mud. The thaw will be in.

At last. It's been over three weeks.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Success and Failure

With Stray Cats and Thoroughbreds

I am so digusted with myself. I decided to set the trap to catch Poppycat tonight. I figured I'd put him in the large cage inside the house in the sunroom where newly spayed Mommycat (Mitzi) is waiting until the deep freeze breaks.

All well and good. I put the food in the trap and withing a few minutes Poppy was trapped. Delightful. I picked up the trap and headed for the house.

Thud, thunk, the back door opened as I had apparently not tied it completely. Out he went, galloping madly for freedom towards the woods. Rats. I feel the fool.

And what's worse, now that he knows it's a trap, what are the odds I will be able to catch him again?

Not good.

I've put the trap near where I feed him with both ends open. If he ever shows up again to eat, I will put his food in the trap. If he wants it, he will have to go in. For now, though, he will have an escape route. It's going to take a lot of time, but eventually, I hope I can set the catch and get him.

I am a total idiot to not have made sure the escape door was secure. I am SO disappointed and angry with myself about this. I really want to get him neutered so there will be no more kittens born from him in the wild and his life will be better not having to roam about looking for lady friends. All I can say is, "Damn!!"

On the successful side, I got another ride in on Tucker. The ring was semi-passable, but it never did get as warm as yesterday so the footing was not great. I trotted a little bit, then gave up and decided to head out on the trail again.

This time, all was quiet--no ATV's. Tucker was quite bold and even tried a little trotting in the snow. He is quite easy to control and once we hit the rutted area, I brought him back to a nice walk. He did slip a little on a slight incline, but he kept his head and settled down to being very careful the rest of the way.

Then, on one little bit where the snow was nice, he offered another little trot--very slow, very cadenced and very much like passage. It was only about eight strides or so, but it felt absolutely lovely. Someday, I hope he will offer the same when I ask for it, and if he does, then I will know we have a shot of making it to Grand Prix.

Ah well. Dreams and nightmares all in one day. Wonder how far poor Poppy ran before he stopped?

Will I see him tomorrow? Ever?

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Well, Sort of a Ride

Snow and Slop

The air was warmed up and some of the ground had thawed, but the ring had a mixture of sand and solid snow.

I decided to tack up Tucker and try a little ride, even if it just meant walking.

What a good boy he was. We managed a fair bit of trotting. Nothing perfect as the footing was too irregular, but Tuck kept going as well as he could. Once we were warmed up at that and going as steadily as possible, I decided to try a bit of canter in the far end of the ring where there was mostly snow. Again, the boy was a star and actually handled the canter even better than the trot.

In the warmer weather, he sweated up on his neck pretty quickly, and since he had headed towards the gate to the woods with a certain determination when I first got on, I decided to take a short trail ride.

Out we went--to the field, along the edge of the field by the woods, with only one stop. Something in the woods was bothering him a little. But he was happy enough to head into the wooded trail where we made it to the halfway mark. And then, I heard it. The sound of an engine revving and it was coming our way.

I didn't take a chance but got off quickly. Sure enough, along came an ATV right up the trail we had been heading down. Bless his heart, Tucker didn't jump at all but kept his eyes fixed on the machine as I held him. At that point, the only thing left to do was head for home on foot as I wasn't sure I could get back on with my knees bothering me as much as they do.

While dismounting may not have been necessary, I am just not sure how Tucker would behave if confronted by an ATV right in front of his face. He honestly does get scared of some things and I never trust the ATV riders to stop or slow down for a horse.

The fact is, they are not supposed to be in the State Park at all. But, since there are few park rangers or police to patrol the trails, there is nothing to do about it. There are signs posted all over and if they do get caught there is a stiff fine and their vehicles can be confiscated. I keep wishing that the rangers would spend a month or so in concentrated patrol, enforce the law a few times and maybe discourage the illegal riders. Aside from scaring my horses, they rut up the footing terribly, create mudpits in the forest and mow down saplings and bushes. There is no regard at all for not damaging the natural environment.

With the evil ATV gone, I hiked home, tucked Tucker back in his blanket and saddled up Toby. We had a lovely little ride through the woods totally without incident. The nicest thing was that when I called him to go for a ride he came right over to me, so I know he was as happy to go out as I was.

I opted off for Chance this time. Perhaps I will work him tomorrow. I may lunge him a bit, ride in the ring just a little and then give him a trail reward. By then the edge should be off him and he will be more settled. He never really feels dangerous, but it is disconcerting when he trots off out there and I don't have real brakes.

All and all, considering the footing, it was a good day in the saddle. The forecast promises the rest of the week will be even better once a cold Monday passes.


Friday, February 16, 2007

Boys in the Snow

And a Little Rant

This a a picture taken of my road and the lake/sandpit across the way. Just figured it was time to post a winter shot to spruce up the blog.

First the rant. I have in Internet friend who had a lovely big horse named Tetley. Due to some soundness problems he had that required flat land instead of the hills where her farm was, she wisely decided to get him a new home. All seemed well when she placed him in a beautiful facility. (This is all in Great Britain, by the way.)

To her horror and mine, she discovered this week that her beloved Tetley had been dreadfully starved. She has managed through the dedicated work of her husband, to get Tetley safely back home where, I pray, he will recover.

I am beside myself about this. I know my friend cares deeply for her horses. I have shed many tears as I have followed this terrible story. I can only hope the person responsible for this crime will be punished as she deserves. In the meantime, Tetley and his "mom" are in my prayers and I am sending all the moral support I can.

Meanwhile, back on the home front, The Boys are fat and sassy and not being ridden. I have a picture of them in the paddock by the barn. Toby is the only one who did not destroy his lovely silver blanket. As you can see, the other two rebrobates are dressed in different outfits for the duration. The color is not true as the sunglare off the snow tricked the camera. Toby in the silver is at least as chestnut as Chance with the white face.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Snow, Thank Goodness

But Cold, Nonetheless

Well, we missed the rain and sleet.

The snow is only about 3-4 inches at the most, and even though we had a little freezing rain, it did not create the icing here I was worried about. The rest of the area may have gotten more of everything, but we lucked out.

School was closed, and rightly so because in the morning the roads were horrendous. This morning we have a one hour delayed opening as well. Another good move because the rush hour will not be pleasant.

The Boys fared well. They spent the most part of the precipitation under the run in shed on the west side of the barn out of the Nor'easter's winds. I'm glad I put the roof on that side when I added the extra stall to the barn. Before they used to hang out in the arena where there wind was blocked by some trees. This is much better protection, and they use it.

Maybe I will take some pictures tomorrow before I go to school. The snow isn't particularly pretty, but it is snow. If I had my way, it would be the last snow of the season.

But then there is March. As I recall the worst snowstorms we have ever had have been in March.

Wish I hadn't said that.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Snow or No Snow?

Or Sleet or Rain?

Well, it's snowing now, and everytime I look at the forecast it changes.

I would be happier with snow than sleet and freezing rain. That worries me. I have already filled two water cans and have four more to go, paranoid that the power my go off and I will not have water for the horses.

I have drinking water in the house, and a gas fireplace to keep warm. With a gas stove to cook on, I am fine. But well water doesn't work here without a pump and the pump needs electricity. Losing power has always been a worry, but this time of year, having horses makes it a serious concern. I have plenty of feed and hay for the Boys, but water worries me.

I do have a generator, that, with a bit of coaxing, should work just fine, so my panic is not total.

But, if things ice over and the Boys are not safe out, then I need to keep them in their stalls. And then, I have to worry about the water buckets freezing up during the day when I'm not home.

I guess I have lived in the country too long. One of my fellow teachers at school was quite taken aback when I mentioned my concerns. A power outage had never even crossed her mind.

It's not as if I am miles from civilization, it's just that country folk sense of self-reliance at work. If I can't take care of my own place, then I am some kind of failure. Thus, the cupboard is full, and all the water cans soon will be.

Now, the best gift of all would be for Mother Nature to change her mind and head the storm far out to sea.

Blanket Bizarre

But I Need A Bazaar

Whatever went on today before I got home continued once I was home. The evidence was plain to see, and the Boys were still being silly.

Chance's lovely new midweight blanket was torn asunder. It had a big flap ripped open in the back. Worse, with the weather prediction for snow, sleet, and rain, he really needed a blanket. Even worse, just about all the blankets I have are 78" and he wears a 72".

The riot that must have started earlier was still in session with all three Boys a' frolickin' in the arena where the sand was soft and the footing lovely. Good spirits or something sent them all galloping and leaping about.

I went into the barn for a minute, and came out to see Tucker, naked, rolling in the sand. There, next to him, lay his nice new turnout. This was indeed a puzzle and a pain because I had intended to ride him and all the romping had made him sweaty and now, sandy.

I carted his blanket inside, then snagged him and led him in. Fortunately his coat is like teflon, and most of the sand brushed off nicely. We had a lovely school with some nice forward work in a proper stretch. Then I did some canter work with canter plies. The nice thing about that exercise is how it makes his hind end engage and his forehand elevate. Once happily done with those, we walked for a while as I discovered I really haven't done much with turns on the forehand on him. So, we worked that for a bit, added some turns on the haunches and some walk half pass and then called it quits.

Back to the blankets. Somehow, the escape artist had managed to break nearly every buckle on the blanket and without repair parts, it was now just a useless hunk of fabric. Out to the blanket repository in the carport. There, I found the brand new blanket I had gotten on sale this summer. 75" Maybe Chance size, maybe Tucker. A BIG 75", so now Tucker was dressed in blue.

Down into the basement on another search, I found the old Goretex blanket I had used on Tucker when he was a baby. Still in pretty good shape, it was missing the surcingle, but desperation breeds invention. Some baling twine and an extra leg strap soon supplied the parts, and to my relief, the Classic Coverup fitted Chance to a T.

Thank heavens I have so many blankets around here. My other options would have been two sheets or a lightweight blanket with a waterproof sheet over it.

Of course, there is no guarantee any of these "clothes" will be intact tomorrow. Then again, the ground is frozen once more and perhaps that will slow down the shenanigans.

In the meantime, I guess I will just have to see if I can repair the wounded garments for the next round. Tucker's will just need new hardware. Chance's will be more of a challenge. It may be too much for the sewing machine so I might have to stitch it by hand. Some iron on patch fabric might reenforce it.

Then again, what will ever protect it from horse teeth?

And what about that swelling on Tucker's chest which looks suspiciously like a hoofprint?

Stay tuned for the next episode of: "Bad Horses Gone Wild."

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Another Day, Another Ride

Kind of OK Footing

The ring was OK in some places and hard in others, so I only worked Tucker for about 15 minutes in the arena.

That was after I took Toby out on a short trail ride and rode him in the ring for about 5 minutes. He was a bit cautious in the woods, so I am not sure if it was the hard ground or just a little cold weather and "I haven't been out in a while" anxiety. He was a good boy, though, so all was well.

Tucker was super in the ring, but I wasn't too keen about how hard the ground was. The sand was nice on the sunny side but I could still feel that the cushion just wasn't there. The freeze is deep and the thaw wasn't enough to soften up any more than perhaps two inches of sand at the most. Put that on concrete and it isn't enough give to do too much schooling.

Being a bit daring, I saddled Chance up. He was eager to go out on a hack in the woods. Too eager. He was on his toes and kept trying to trot. Normally, that kind of behavior wouldn't bother me, but Chance is still not reliable to the bit and throws his head around if I check him too much. Since his steering is still kind of questionable, I don't feel I have all the control I need when he gets a little silly. Since he felt like he wanted to take off instead of just walk, I turned around and headed back after we reached the field. He did try to scoot off once even then, so I think made the right choice.

Back in the ring, we just walked. This time we concentrated on steering. Chance is pretty good to the right, but when I try to circle left, he falls in with his inside shoulder and his whole body follows. I discovered pretty quickly that my tendancy to correct him by pulling him over to the right was dropping my weight into my right seat bone. Wrong. What I needed to do was weight my left seat bone and push my left hip forward towards his outside, right shoulder to correct the left shoulder drop.

Worked like a charm. But is sure wasn't easy. I had to concentrate because he kept trying to put me on the right seatbone so he could fall in. The lovely thing was that when I did it right, he softened his back and jaw and seemed quite content.

Times like this, I have to keep telling myself I really do know how to ride. I also have to keep telling myself to ride correctly. It's as much brain power as it is muscle.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Got a Ride In

...Of Sorts.

The ring thawed out enough to do an easy ride.

Leave it to Tucker to spoil things. For some reason, he decided he just was not going to go past the gate to the woods.

Something early in the morning had upset the whole gang because getting them settled in for breakfast was a game of musical stalls. Toby never did eat everything and kept going out to crib on the fence.

Whatever it was held power for the afternoon as Tucker simply balked and refused to go forward once I was in the saddle.

I was not happy, so I got off, went in and got the lunge line and whip and worked him in a circle by the gate until he stopped leaping and spooking every time he passed that side of the arena.

When I got back on, he was far from settled, but I was able to trot him around in a stretchy frame making him overbend to the inside each time we passed the "scary spot."

It was cold. It was windy, and the footing was uneven, but really, the nonsense was totally uncalled for. By the time we were done he had worked up a bit of a sweat, so after a walk I put him in his stall with the sweatsheet on.

Later, when I turned him back out, the Boys were still a bit agitated.

I guess I need to be a "fly on the wall" out there just to see what goes on when they get so silly.

I dragged/raked the arena, so tomorrow, if it is again above freezing, I will have a nice surface. I may drag it again then, so when it freezes back up, at least it will be level.

There is potential for some snow by midweek and then a break in the really cold weather by the end of the week. This time of year, you just have to take it as it comes.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Still Waiting

...For Some Kind of Thaw

The ground is still as hard as granite.

However, the temperature is not quite as frigid so it is a bit easier to be outdoors.

I stripped all three stalls on Wednesday. In the process, Tucker tossed his head and clipped me right under the chin. Great. Whiplash and a slightly dislocated jaw. I worked my jaw to get it back in line but I knew I was in trouble with my neck.

Sure enough, Thursday morning, I awoke with the beginnings of a bad migraine. I went to school but by the end of first period, I was totally sick. I had to leave. I went to the chiropractor to get the vertebrae adjusted, but by then it was too late.

I spent the rest of the day in bed. Miserable in head and stomach, as so often happens with my migraines. It took until Friday morning for the last of the irritated nerves to settle back down.

I was out of it and woozy in the morning, so I ended up calling in sick again. I hated to do it, but I just didn't feel well enough to drive in, let alone teach any classes. I hope they managed to find a substitute to cover my classes. I did email in some lesson plans, so that was kind of OK.

By early afternoon, I was nearly back up to par. I still think I could use another adjustment, but I will see if I can get an appointment on Saturday.

I had been doing so well up until the head clonk. The "activator" adjustments were holding and I was feeling pretty darn good all around. I hope the horsie whiplash doesn't set me back.

In the meantime, I will just have to be a bit more careful and remind certain big horses that big heads need to stay out of my face and space. *G*

Monday, February 05, 2007


Everything is Solid

The ground is like granite and there is ice everywhere the water lies.

I think today will be the worst with a bit of moderation towards the end of the week. But the weatherman is saying the cold will not break until around the 16th.

So, all is not conducive to much riding. While I can trailer out to an indoor, right now it's too darn cold! 16 degrees, 8 degrees at night? (-8 C, and -13 C for anyone out there.)

The boys have nice blankets and free access to the barn. My water trough has an electric heater, so that stays ice free. I have one of those coiled hoses I keep in the house, but I do worry that the barn water might freeze. If so, I have either an electric hair dryer or a heater to put by it.

I wanted to buy some heat tape to wrap the pipe, but the only stuff they had was a heating wire and you had to wrap the pipe in insulation too. Since the faucet has a leak everything would get wet and I don't know if that would be bad. I need to investigate a bit more.

Meanwhile, the truck went in for service to fix the heater fan. By the time it's done, it's going to cost me $400. Swell. Just what I needed, another bill.

It never ends.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Practice Makes Perfect

Well, Sort Of

I managed a ride yesterday.

The ground was thawed and it was starting to sleet, but it was my only chance to practice my new found skills.

Tucker was a bit slow on the upswing, but once we got going he was very forward. I rode in the Ansur Classic which encourages a bit more correctness for my leg and found it fairly easy to hold myself in what I think is the proper position.

My elbows at my side and the elegant upper body posture are another matter and something I really need to concentrate on.

Since Tuck's posture was a little "up" I had to work a bit as well to keep in in the level stretch but when he was there, his trot was exceptional. I'll have to ride a few more times to see if his foward, soft stride is really going to be as easy to get as it was or if he was just in his own "forward" mood.

Either way, I was quite pleased.

I did find myself being bounced a little on some of the transitions down and some of my "ups" were pretty darn sloppy as well. But, I wasn't asking for much frame or much contact, and I didn't have my spurs on, so Tucker's responses were not quite as quick as they usually are.

Besides, I was focusing more on me and what effect my position and seat were having on him rather than expecting him to be perfect.

So far, so good.

And so far, too darn cold for most of the rest of the week to expect to get in the saddle. Temperatures are barely above freezing today--hoping the sun will be warm enough to melt some of the sleet cover--and by Monday, the high is only supposed to be about 20 degrees f. Worse yet, I think there is a wind coming with the Arctic air.

I will be taking the truck in for service Monday. The heater fan is not working. 4500 miles on the truck, waranty expired on things like that, and the fan doesn't work? I'm hoping it's something stuck in there like a squirrel's nest or something. Otherwise....I need an emoticon for flying away dollar bills. *sigh*

Friday, February 02, 2007

Just a Little Adjustment

Makes All the Difference in the World

I rode in a clinic with Patrice Edwards on Tuesday. I was an eye-opening experience.

First and foremost, Tucker was an angel. This may not seem significant, but to me, it was tremendous. So far, in his life, Tucker has been at two showgrounds, one indoor arena, and home with me. Yes, he did spend several weeks with Kenny Harlow in Virginia, but that was not the cure-all for his bad behavior in strange places. Frankly, he could get quite scary, and I was worried as to how he would behave in a new place with only minimal preparation.

While my friend Stacie was still having her lesson, I was able to lead him around the arena a few times. He only startled at a door with a window in one corner, but otherwise seemed more curious than afraid. I mounted up and began to ride him a bit. Twice he made his head tossing, front leg strike, little squeally buck threat but he also let me quickly correct him. Then he was fine. After about five minutes I tried trotting and aside from trying to join Stacie's horse on his circle by running a little into the outside rein, he settled in nicely.

By the time Patrice was ready for me, he was a perfect gentleman.

Here's where the real fun begins. Patrice complimented me for working with Thoroughbreds. Apparently many people just don't want to bother. I told her about Tucker's wicked buck and she had an interesting insight.

Because Tucker has a short back, bucking is very easy for him--something my trainer Chris had told me before. Then Patrice pointed out how the saddle was just nearing his 18th vertebra--where the ribcage ends--and how pressure at that point can jam the horse's back and create, as she termed it, "a pretty vicious buck." Furthermore, when the horse is tense, his muscles contract, shortening the back more, so that it is even more likely that his rider will end up sitting close to or on to that sensitive spot. So, a tendency to sit back when he is tightening his back will only exacerbate his desire to buck. I laughed and said, "I guess that's all the more reason to sit in the front of the saddle."

Once that was established, Patrice began working on my position. I haven't had a lesson in months and even then, Chris does not work much on my position, concentrating instead on the horse. I knew I had gotten sloppy, but I did not know how making some subtle corrections would make so much difference in Tucker's way of going.

Patrice explained that he needed to stretch his back muscles. I have always asked him to go down and round, but apparently, his conformation will do much better with a more stretched out, foreward and not so low posture. Luckily, all the training I've done with him paid off here, because I was able to easily put him in the frame Patrice suggested and just as easily keep him there.

I wish fixing my own posture was a similar piece of cake. Again, I am not far off correct, but just enough so that I have to keep reminding myself of just where all my body pieces have to be.

A gifted teacher, Patrice does have all kinds of simple, clear ways of explaining what's correct as well as ways to help the rider remember when she is not there. My leg needs to be stretched longer and more foreward in the thigh. I need to focus on keeping my shoulders up and back. And I need to close my elbows at my side. Absorbing the horse's movement through a flexible pelvis was not too much of an issue once I corrected my leg. I do need to think a bit of more lateral movement at the trot and a kind of "oval" rotation at the canter. Otherwise, all is well.

One of the more interesting concepts I haven't quite grasped yet is "feeling the horse's lips" at the top of my hand instead of his bars at the bottom. While I do understand the concept, I'm not yet sure I have a handle on the execution. If the ground is thawed tonight, I need to get on and think about this one a bit until I can actually feel what's happening.

Because she knew I had a lot of riding/training experience under my belt, Patrice finished us up with the "canter plie" exercise. Once more, I was absolutely delighted with Tucker's responsiveness to my aids.

The idea here is to canter in a circle. Then, ride up the center line and ask for a leg yield movement. Since the horse can't acutally leg yield at the canter, he should step under a bit more with the leading hind leg and then, you push him foreward, increasing the hind end engagement.

So, canter on the right lead. Leg yield to the left, and when the right hind steps over a little, engage forward.

We worked both reins at this, and even though Patrice thought Tucker would be more difficult on the left lead, he picked it up very quickly and in short order, we were done schooling.

Patrice also said that since Thoroughbreds muscle up very quickly, it was important that I not drill him too much on exercises. She does not want him to develop too much bulky, inflexible muscle but rather more elastic muscling created by variation.

I was delightful to find Tucker moving more freely when I made adjustments to my seat and posture. I was also revealing to find how much better he was at going softly forward when the stretch was modifed to a more level elevation.

But best of all, it was marvelous to have him so well behaved, attentive, and utterly responsive to my slightest aids. It made everything so easy.

Could I be more pleased? Unlikely. The kid was a star!!