Friday, March 30, 2007

Parental Contrasts

What a Day!

Did I teach today? I'm not sure.

My morning began with an appointment to speak to my principal about the horrendous play debaucle. But, in order to do that, I had to track him down and then I became embroiled in the great "What the heck did the computer program do to the 3rd marking level progress reports?"

We are required to send reports on students who are in danger of failing for a marking level. Somewhere along the way, the master program lost some teachers had submitted. I compiled a list of all the kids in my classes who never got a report from me to give to the computer techies this morning. Between then and this morning, somehow all the missing reports are showing up in all kinds of places, including on my version of the program which had been a blank the last time I'd looked at it. Go figure.

I had followed up with letters, so that meant parents began to call the school to talk to me. Yippee. There is only one phone for teachers to use during the day. But so what. Every parent who wanted me to call wanted me to do it after school.

Right now, I have two piles of papers to grade on my desk. The first one is work that was handed in on time. The much larger pile is work that was handed in weeks late as a result of the notices I sent home. I left it there for the Spring Break. This time I wasn't going to spoil my vacation by grading papers, especially various forms of papers I had finished grading weeks ago.

On a nice note, most of my students handed in their reviews of the performing arts play. They really, as a whole, did some really good writing. Every one received an "A" for following the required format, and I may have handed out perhaps six "B's" on content for the students who neglected to have specific details--actors' names, etc.--while all the rest earned "A's." I was really delighted.

I have given one set of the reviews to the performing arts teacher so, if she chooses, she may share them with her classes.

Oh, yes, she too consumed a good part of my morning as well. Yesterday she fell off a desk and was knocked unconscious. They took her to the hospital in an ambulance. This morning, she was back in school!!!! She kept insisting she had to get the set down. On my break, I went down to the theater to check on her. She was in pain but still plugging away. I tried to get her out of there, but she was stubborn about getting the work done. I told the kids who were working on the stage with her to keep a keen eye on her and off I went to try to do something about it.

Frustrated, I finally went to the nurses' office and told them what was going on. Fortunately, the nurses are pretty sharp and decided on the spot that without a doctor's note releasing her to be back at work, there was no way she could stay. So that sent the Vice Principal down to escort her up to the nurses' office. I found out later that she surrendered with a whimper as by then she was really not feeling well. Thank goodness they sent her home. Apparently she had a mild concussion was supposed to be resting for at least 48 hours.

Now, the fact is, that had I not intervened, apparently none of the administrators would have even bothered. Come on!! The woman had been hospitalized the day before! It was an accident on school property. The paperwork hadn't even been filed in the nurses' office yet. Why in the world had they let her out the main office door when she signed in?

Well, I guess for the same reason that they yakked on their walkie talkies all during the play. 'Nough said on that topic.

At dismissal time I ended up in the Guidance office at the request of the counselor who has been fielding calls from a very problematic parent. The result was my sitting there, holding the phone away from my ear as she screamed hysterically at me for a good ten minutes. I felt very sorry that she was so upset, but there was nothing I could actually do to fix things except listen from afar. She is very upset about what she feels is an unwillingness on our part to handle things with her daughter to her satisfaction.

To make it even more uncomfortable, her poor daughter was there as she was yelling at me. So now I had an upset mother and an upset daughter. Fortunately, I managed to calm the mother down by letting her know I was worried that she was so upset and that the problem in my class was an easy fix that the daughter and I had already discussed over a week ago.

Between phone calls to the upset mother, I made a call to another mother who was concerned because her son was doing his work and it was all his fault. She advocated absolutely every rule and concept I try to uphold in running my class and told me if her son missed doing his homework or an assignment, I should do whatever I needed to do to penalize him, including giving him more work to do.

Mom #1, therefore was demanding we all bend over backwards to make all kinds of concessions to her daughter including letting her make up work well past all deadlines. Mom #2 didn't even want me to accept work from her son if it was even a day late.

Somewhere in between would be nice, since these are teenagers, but when you consider that my class is supposed to be college prep, one has to wonder just how many college or university professors are quite willing to accept excuses from their students for missed assignments.

By the time I left school and did a bit of shopping, all I have managed to do since I got home is feed the Boys.

I think my brain has fried.

I may just do a bit of lunging. Or not....Again.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Ah Well.....

...Lazy Me

I didn't work a horse today.

The adult cosmetology class was open after school and I needed a haircut, so I stopped in. It's always a kick having a student cut my hair. Even though they are nearly ready to take the State exam and quite competent, they are so cute and unsure about haircuts, especially mine. They never quite believe me when I tell them...."very short."

My young lady was doing a pretty good job, but she finally called the teacher over to help out and was surprised to find out I really did mean "very short." The teacher, a good pal of mine, has a funny story about one time when she was cutting my hair, demonstrating a "razor over comb" technique, and looked away for the briefest moment. When she looked back, I heard, "Uh oh!" She had trimmed the back of my head way too short. The only solution to even out the almost bare spot was to shave my head close all in the back. Well, it was very hot that June and I absolutly loved it. Ever since then, she has no worry about the length of my cut.

I didn't get home until going on 6 PM, so I fed the Boys and kind of crashed. Guess I am still recovering from yesterday's whirlwind.

The Boys do seem to love the new hay. So far, every scrap is getting cleaned up. I am not completely sure the bales are as heavy as the bales of the other hay, or that the price is a good buy compared to the grass/timothy mix my regular hay supplier sells. Once I get the little trailer set up for the road, I will go to my regular guy to pick up a few bales of his timothy/grass mix to see how it compares in price, size, and horselove. No sense in getting the expensive hay if they will happily eat the other stuff.

My trainer, Chris, was supposed to be coming down this weekend for lessons, but now he may not be because there may not be enough riders to make it worth the trip. I was looking forward to having him meet Chance and watch us together for a little mini-lesson. Right now, that's all up in the air.

Guess the kid and I will just have to keep on doing our thing by ourselves. No problem, but it would be fun to have a second opinion. Watching Chance on the long lines, I really think he is going to be a nice dressage horse. He has a nice forward trot and good rhythm to his canter. He really does look pretty when he drops down into the bit. I am kind of excited with what I see.

But then again, I love him, so my eyes may be a little starry when I watch him go. *G*

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Long Day Ends in a Ride

One Thing After Another

James and I were on the radio this morning, WRL1600, a station in New York City.

Everyone says we did a good job. The questions were tough as the hosts really did want to know why no one had stepped to yet to preserve the farm. I frankly don't have an easy answer. There are all kinds of forces at work and forces not at work all at the same time. The big issue comes down to money. The developer wants a nice profit and the public justly does not want to offer more than the land is worth.

During the interview, I covered most of the fight for preservation questions and James did his usual brilliant job of fielding the historical questions. When the listener called in one person suggested that it was a good idea to develop the land, suggesting the slavery issue should be buried under asphalt and new homes. James was super on that one, reminding the listener that like the Holocaust, slavery must be remembered as a lesson of history we must all never forget. It was the perfect moment.

The interview evoked some interest from some very important people but as of now, I don't know where we will be going with their involvement. At the moment, people can best help by calling, emailing, and writing the Governor and other public officials who might be able to facilitate the land purchase.

Later Bill, James, and I were interviewed and filmed for the New Jersey Network television station. This was quite an experience and now I can add to my resume that I assisted as a TV production assistant!

Actually, I stood in for the camerman's absent intern and held a reflector which helped divert sunlight to light up our faces during the interviews. I found it all fascinating.

The whole process took over two hours. Lots of film, lots of talk and all for a two and one half minute slot on the air. They may try to get four minutes instead as everyone agreed it was a really great story. Guess we will have to wait and see as it may not air until Friday.

On the way home, I picked up four bales of hay from across the road to see if the Boys liked it. It really is lovely hay and so far they have gobbled up the flakes I gave them. I will be careful as it is not like what they have been eating, but it might be a winner. We'll just have to see if the novelty wears off.

Since I had given Chance a fairly good workout yesterday, I gave him the day off and just schooled Tucker. He was again nice and forward and worked nicely off my leg. Again, I put him into a frame and worked him a little on the bit. It was only after I was nearly done that I realized I had never buckled his noseband after bridling him. He was a little strong in my hand, but certainly not out of control or unresponsive, so I was pretty impressed. Evidently he is not setting his jaw against my hand.

All in all, Tucker is turning into a very interesting ride. He tries very hard to do as I ask, but will be very quick to let me know if I have, in his opinion, treated him unfairly. If I make too strong a correction, he will sort of "scrunch" himself up, lay his ears back and refuse, for a stride or so, to go forward. Once I pat him and apologize, he will then go along as if nothing happened.

He does not like to repeat exercises too many times, and usually doesn't need too as he picks up things very quickly. While he does tend to anticipate, he is not anxious about it and does not overreact the same way Toby and PJ used to do. He doesn't jig or get tense about it but simply offers the exercise before I ask and is perfectly willing to change tasks if he finds out that is not what I want him to do.

I am hoping that as we build a bond he will become a steady, reliable performer. Right now his big flaw is tht tendancy to spook at unexpected objects. While he doesn't hold on to the spook once he realizes it's OK, the stop can be jolting and often gets his feet glued to the earth for far too long as he considers things.

Maybe he'll grow out of it. And maybe he won't.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Three On the Lines

Beautiful Day

So everyone worked on the long lines.

I am hoping Chance will get the concept of giving to the bit and stretching down under saddle if he has a few lining sessions. Today he was bouncing up and down with his head until he got a little tired and then he settled nicely into a little frame.

All was well until I put him on the right rein. The trot was OK, but when I asked for canter the temper tantrum started. He'd bounce up and down, stop and try to turn. Fortunately I've long lined enough that I can usually catch things before they get too bad. I eventually managed to keep myself a bit behind him on the circle using the whip to remind him to go foward when he tried his balk and spin tactic. He does have a stubborn streak, that's for sure and he tried his little jam to a halt trick quite a few times before he decided it was better to do as I asked and do a complete circle at the canter.

Part of the problem is his getting physically tired and part is his getting mentally tired. The total lining sesson was no more than 15 mintues, but at 3 years old, that probably was an eternity to him. I have to push him a little beyond his limit each time to increase his strength and concentration.

It was hot today, so after the session, I hosed him off and it's clear he doesn't like that either. Oh well, it's all part of his education. At least he was nice and clean.

Tucker was excellent on the lines and gave me some good solid work. He was nice and forward and very sharp to my commands. He worked up a good lather so he too had a bath--not his favorite, but he will accept it as part of the program.

Toby was, as always, the long lining star. He was soft, forward and completely obedient, ending my horsey day on a high note. He had a hosing too, so I locked him in his stall for dinner as I did the other Boys.

When I got home from my EVA meeting, Tucker and Chance were lying in their stalls, sound asleep. I felt a little guilty turning on the barn lights. That got them up, but their eyes were all squinty and sleepy. They were so cute.

Tomorrow will be a busy day. James and I are supposed to be interviewed on a NY radio station in the morning, and a bit later, a NJ TV station is coming to film a segment on the farm.

The stir caused by the article in the Times just keeps boiling.

Monday, March 26, 2007

I Really Mean to Work the Horses....


But I may not.

So far, my day. The school board candidate I am supporting dropped by to bring back the reading glasses I'd left at her house and as I was putting up her campaign sign a lost tractor trailer stopped to ask how to get to an address on the next road south of mine. He was now headed in the wrong direction and there is absolutely no place to turn around on my road, so I tried to figure out how to get him where he wanted to go.

Managed to leave on time for school. Second period, my prep time, I went down to the auditorium area where the play was being performed for our other two schools. Chaos. The kids were being terrible and the performing arts teacher was a wreck worrying about her actors. I stayed for two periods helping out as best I could and offering her moral support and a sane voice to try keep her calm.

Ah, yes, I had also written my letter to the principal about the mess last week and that cheered everyone up a bit knowing I was going to battle for justice.

Morning gone. Gave the test to 4th period since they'd missed it the day of the play because no one had bothered to assign a substitute teacher to my class. Periods 5 and 6 went down to the auditorium to take a tour of the set and tech stuff from the play--all graciously hosted by the performing arts teacher who is an absolute angel to teach my kids after her horrible morning.

My 8th period kids had heard all about the article in the Times, so I explained the whole story to them and then taught them how to write a Haiku.

Then I had to rush off to the doctor to get another laser therapy treament for my knees. Kind of neat, actually, so it will be interesting to see if there is any really significant improvement.

Then, I came home to find two messages from the local papers about the letter to the editor I had written regarding the school board election. Then, I called Bill to find out that the Times story had kept him hopping all day with phone calls and all kinds of email messages. To top it off, we found out that James and Courtney, the reporter, had been contacted by a Philadelphia radio station to do an interview tomorrow morning! 7:30 AM broadcast at: Way too cool!

Then, the phone rang and it was the guy I had called about a utility trailer he had for sale on the next road over--south where the tractor trailer was supposed to go. He wanted to know if I was coming to buy it. So I unhitched the horse trailer and drove the truck over.

Of course, buying things in the country does require some socializing, so we all kind of stood around and talked for a while. He and the woman with him were SPCA officers, so that was really cool. We talked horses for a bit and then dogs when the guy who owns the house on the corner came out to join us with his labrador who had been a breeder bitch for the seeing eye people.

Then we hitched up the trailer and I managed to drive it home without any trouble--no lights on it because my wiring hitch didn't match.

By now it was getting late, so I fed the Boys. Once fed, they couldn't work for at least an hour, so as time crawls on and the sun sets, I haven't managed to do anything with any one of them yet.

I do have lights. Do I have the energy?

Tomorrow it's supposed to be warm and sunny. Sounds good. So does supper.

Maybe not tonight.......

Sunday, March 25, 2007

How to Drive a Tractor

Into a Door

Like the title? Want a lesson? Forget just how far the front end loader sticks out then then go to strip a stall.

I guess I can blame the mud a little because the tractor did slide a little, but sure enough, I crashed the front end loader against the side of Tucker's stall door and cracked the wood where the door was hinged. Duh!

So there I was with a heavy door hanging by one hinge and a sharp piece of wood sticking out with the bent screws that had once held the other hinge. Looked like a job for Super Friend! That's my conservation save the farm cohort, Bill. Bless his generous heart, he came over after dinner and in short order moved the hinge to a section of good wood and the door was fixed!

I suppose I could have figured out how to repair it myself, but first I'd have to collect all the right tools, make a plan, think about it, and then discover I didn't have the right tools yet, so I'd have to get more tools.....I am not an efficient operator, as you can tell. Bill is.

Hey, at least I got the stall done and managed to clean out about half of the run in shed area.

Which left precious little time to really ride.

So Toby and I went out for a hack in the woods. Then, as Bill arrived, I was getting Chance ready for a long lining session. For some reason, Bill spooked him badly in the barn.

Now, there are two theories on this. Bill did have a cigar, which may have upset him, or he was genuinely scared of Bill himself because he had been badly handled in the past by a tall man. Considering what I know of his past, I tend to think that might have been the trigger.

At any rate, I got him settled down, and gave him a very short school on the lines, getting him to stretch down into the bit. Then, I brought him in to make friends with Bill, who was absolutely great about gently petting him and telling him what a beautiful boy he was. All that praise and a few carrots won him over and by the time we were done, Chance was nuzzling Bill's hair, perfectly content and relaxed.

By then, Tucker had decided that going far out into the pasture was the best way of avoiding work, so I let him have the day off. Once I let him know he wouldn't have to do anything, he came back in to see if he could mooch a few treats and get a bit of attention.

I am not worried about riding him every day as his work has gotten very consistent lately and he certainly is not having any problems with fitness.

On the public front, I have now been quoted in the Sunday New York Times. The article about the Van Dyke farm was published today.
It really is a lovely article and covers all the important issues about saving the farm. Apparently people are noticing it because three people from church mentioned it this morning, and Bill heard from several other people about it at home.

Now we just have to wait and see if it sparks any action.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Never Go In The Tack Store During a Sale

But I Did Anyhow....

Actually, I went back to get some more grain and alfalfa cubes at 20% off. Then I also bought some seed for the pasture at 20% off. No problem there. All that was legitimate.

The trouble was that I decided to visit the tack store across the street from the feed store--both the same company with the 20% off sale.

Honest. I was good. Sort of. It seems Kerritts had designed these prototype breeches with some really grippy seats and'd like them, Claire. And instead of being $109, they were on sale at $30. So I had to try them on. And they fit. So, I had to buy them. And there were horse treats on sale at two for one, so I had to get them too. I had to. Honest.

When I got home, the prospect of unloading another 700 pounds of grain was a bit daunting. I played with the computer for a while, watched a movie and then went out to try out the breeches.

Stuck like glue. They would solve your slipping problem in a minute. I schooled Tucker for about 20 minutes or so, just basics to keep him nice and forward. Patrice had told me Thoroughbreds muscle up quickly and even my regular trainer, Chris, thinks 20 minutes of good work is better than an hour of OK work.

The ring was not great. There were mud puddles all over and enough sloppy spots to make Tucker pull his "I am a sissy" routine, but he did work just fine everywhere but in the water, so I won't complain. He is definitely more forward than he has ever been and is not hanging back from my leg. If I can keep up this momentum, I think we will be making some really good progress this season.

Since I knew the trails would be really wet and the ring was not the best, I opted out of riding the other two fellows.

I am going back to school tonight to see the play again. As much to support the teacher and all my kids who are in the show. They really love it when their teachers take the time to show up outside of school time for them.

This time, I will just try to sit back, relax, and appreciate the intellectual challenge of the script.

Hey, at least I know where the best seats are!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Rain, Rain.....

...Didn't Go Away....

But, to tell the truth, I could have ridden and not gotten saturated.

But, once again the evil migraine was lurking. I guess this week is one of my bad ones. I got adjusted AGAIN this morning and then went back to school for some terribly uninspiring workshops--the kids had the day off--and never did quite recover.

Instead, on the way home I stopped at Motor Vehicle to renew my registrations on the horse trailer and the car, just missing a long line of other citizens with the same idea, and then went home as it really started raining in earnest.

I fed the Boys, and as I did, the skies let up again, so had I really wanted to, I could have managed a school or two. Nah. I went in and lay down with ice packs and heat on my head and neck.

I'm feeling better now. Sometimes once the nerves are irritated, is just takes time for them to settle down.

I did not yet write my letter about the performance. I did check a few facts with other teachers to confirm everything and it turned out I was right on the mark about all the seating arrangements. The Vice Principal actually took the tape off seats the performing arts teacher had absolutely marked as bad so he could seat our kids there. A third teacher who was down there apparently had it "out" with him later that day and told him off as well, at which point he apparently conceded he might have made a mistake. I'll draft the letter this weekend so it's ready Monday. I am not going to let this one slide.

The show is going on tonight and tomorrow night, so a student who really liked it and wants to see it again, can, but I'm not sure many will go. Getting transportation is the first problem and the fact that the play is such an intellectual challenge is the second. We are a regional school district that covers an entire county, with students from many miles away. It would take a pretty good committment for anyone to get there for an evening show.

Including me. I was going to go myself tonight, but I'm not feeling up to it, so that leaves tomorrow night. Even when I am up to par the piece is a difficult experience, so I won't blame any student who doesn't go back to see it. Hopefully I will feel OK, as I really do want to support the cast and crew. Many of the kids are in my classes and are truly and rightly proud of their work.

One more little rant. If you are familiar with PowerPoint, the computer presentation software, you will understand. Why is it that people think putting a lot of words on a slide and then reading them to a group is a good way of presenting material to a large group? Dozens of slides with words--read word for word and provided to the crowd in a handout as well? PP in the hands of people with no creative imagination or concept as to how VISUAL presentation is supposed to ENHANCE material is a crime to human intellect.

Do you think I could become rich hiring myself out as a consultant to teach people how to make effective, enlightening, and, above all INTERESTING presentations using PP?

Maybe when I retire?????

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Lovely Day

Warm as Toast

However warm toast is, it was today--in the 70's.

I checked the hay on the way home. Good price and it looks to be high quality. The question will be whether The Boys like it. It is grass and timothy and they are used to a grass/timothy/alfalfa mix. I play to buy a few bales to try them out. The price is good and the transportation is a cinch from just across the street.

I rode all three boys starting with Toby. I worked him in the ring for about 5-10 minutes and then headed out to the woods. Some of the footing was mucky, but on the whole it was pretty rideable. Toby, though, decided it was slow, cautious going. I didn't bother arguing with him. I was kind of nice to just laze along.

I was going to take Chance out too, but when I started a bit of a ring school, he was very unsteerable. I ended up just riding circles in either direction at the trot forcing myself to position my seat exactly where it needed to be despite his considerable effort to put me where he wanted me to be so he could try to flop himself all over the place. He is not being bad, but is just trying to find the easiest way to balance instead of the best way. By the end of a 20 minute session, he was going nicely, so I left it at that, dismounted gave him a good grooming and a nice fat carrot.

I schooled Tucker for about 15 minutes, just asking him to go forward at all three gaits and then went on our "safe zone" trail. He was a delight, nice and forward, and, except for one scoot forward and some invisible monster along the way, a nice reliable ride. I'll expand our territory to the longer trail soon, giving us a few more options. He's been on it before, but I want to keep his confidence at maximun so that every ride out there is enjoyable.

School was a bummer this morning. Our juniors went to the play, which would have been fine if the vice-principal had not decided to run things down in the auditorium. The way the stage was set up, there was a projection screen on the left and in order to see it, the audience needed to be either center or left.

In his stubborn "wisdom" of how to run things, the vp seated all our students on the far right. No amount of arguing with him, reasoning, or even a plea from the drama teacher who knew exactly what she was doing, could change his mind.

He seated about 100 students from two other campuses in our system in the center, leaving several hundred seats center and off to the left completely empty.

Some of our students who ended up stuck way in the back rows could not hear the dialogue and were additionally annoyed by the vice principal and his cronies yakking on their walkie talkies during the performance.

Now, mind you, this was a part of the required curriculum and the students knew they were going to have to do some sort of assignment related to the show.

I complained to the academic supervisor from the Board Office (my school's boss) and will be filing a letter of complaint to my principal and higher up if needed. The whole thing was very badly handled and, as usual, the students ended up suffering for it.

The play itself was very difficult under the best of circumstances, and even though I had prepared my classes with several days of dicussion and introduction, the handicap of the seating arrangements spoiled a good part of it.

The show was beautifully staged and well acted too, so there was no fault of the performance itself.

The ignorance of our administration in this situation is inexcusable.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Good Footing

But It Needs a Grooming

The ring was very rideable tonight. It is amazing how fast the ground dries around here when the base is not frozen.

I do need to rake it with the drag, but I will wait another day as I also had a dozen bags of feed to unload. The saddle shop had a 20% off everything sale so I stocked up and will go back later in the week for another 10 bags or so.

Back at home after the shopping trip, I saddled up Tucker and rode him for a schooling session. I am not quite sure I am doing all the right things when I ride according to the Patrice Edwards' rules of the ride, but he was nice and forward the whole time, so that is always good.

I did find him trying to toss my seat off to the side on the right lead canter depart which was interesting, so he may be not quite "through" with his right hind. If he puts it slightly to the inside on the strike off to avoid pushing from straight under, that would twist my hip forward and put me onto the left seat bone. I focused on sitting very straight after that and got some better departs.

I think the layoff of nearly a week puts both of us off our mark a little. I know I don't quite get that "one with the horse" feel immediately, and have to concentrate quite a lot to get my seat to sink down around the horse. It is probably a consequence of being a little stiff in some of my joints. Ah, to be young again.

I didn't try to ride anyone else this time. The spector of 600 pounds of feed to unload was enough to make me think I didn't need to wear myself out riding.

Tomorrow is supposed to be warm and sunny. So, I guess I won't have any excuses--except that I still haven't had a chance to check out that hay for sale across the road.

So little time. So much to do.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Just Watching the Ice Melt...

And Waiting.....

Actually, to my surprise the ring melted first. The sand must have really absorbed the sunlight.

However, it is very soggy. But on the upnote, it is going to dry out pretty quickly.

My shoer came yesterday and did the Boys so everyone has "new feet." Toby and Tucker have front shoes only for now and Chance is barefoot. I'd like to keep him that way if I can. It looks as if his feet will hold up nicely. Toby will stay bare in the back, but I will likely shoe Tucker again in the back as dressage requires a lot of work off the hind end. I know the barefoot argument, but I have found my horses go better with shoes. Both Toby and Tucker have full length cracks in their front hooves that have caused issues in the past. I am not sure they would hold up barefoot. I let PJ go barefoot once he retired, but he had good walls. He did have navicular, sidebone and ringbone, though. Still, I think barefoot allowed him to find the best "trim" for his feet on his own. He still limped a bit, but it really wasn't much different than when he was shod with corrective shoes.

I woke up on the brink of a migraine this morning so I didn't go in to school and opted for the chiropractor instead. I am feeling a bit better now, but the headache still nags. Guess I'll just kind of take it easy for the rest of the day.

The stalls do need a good stripping. Trouble is, the wheelbarrow will mire down in the slop and I don't think the tractor will do much better. That means I will be adding to my little manure pile by the ring gate. Once more I will have gargantuan cleanup tasks once things dry out. Both run in areas need a really good cleaning too. The front end loader does scoop some up, but I always end up having to fork a lot in. I am not looking forward to the work.

Today and tomorrow are supposed to be a bit chilly--in the 40's with some wind--but Thursday is going to warm up. Perhaps Spring will actually hang around this time???????????

The performing arts department at school is putting on A Bright Room Called Day, a play by Tony Kushner with a background set in Germany as the Nazi party rises to power. My 11th grade students will be attending a peer matinee on Thursday, so I have been teaching them history and literature at the same time, trying to prepare them. (11th graders have US History 1 which does not cover the 20th century.) They play is very intellectual, so I am hoping I can give them enough to help them appreciate it.

Our performing arts teacher is amazing and all her students--who will be in the play--are being groomed for professional acting careers, so they are quite good as well. Now all I have to do is assure that at least my part of the audience is receptive and trained. I made up a study guide with resources from the Internet for all the classes--including the ones from our other schools who will be coming to see the show. If the supervisor gets the materials to them, their teachers need to use them to prepare their classes. The artists are always concerned when they have to act before their fellow students as they are not always the best audiences. I've done all I can, now it's up to everyone else.

Never a dull moment when you are teaching.....

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Lovely Day

Good Friends and Reporters

The New York Times reporter came today. She was a lovely young lady named Courtney who was well prepared and showed a genuine interest with plenty of enthusiasm for learning all she could about the Van Dyke farm, our efforts to preserve it, and, of course the story of the slaves who lived and worked in New Jersey from the 1600's to 1860--and some beyond.

The old farmhouse on the property has intact slave quarters on the upper floor and extensive historical documentation of its past. Our super talented and dedicated James has been researching stories of South Brunswick's (my township's) slaves for over seven years now and is a wealth of well documented information, much of which we all shared over a long afternoon.

Courtney hopes to have an article in the Times by the next weekend, provided the photographer comes between now and then. The publicity could jumpstart some more active interest in the farm's value which might help speed along the preservation movement already underway.

But, simply getting the story of slavery out to the public is important too. Most people believe that slavery was purely an institution of the Southern US states, those which became part of the Confederacy in the American Civil War. The facts speak quite a differents story. The Northeast, especially the large farms, depended on slave labor right up the the war as well, but that story has not often been told. This is a rich and fascinating history our students need to learn. If the news article brings the tale to light, it will be important in so many ways.

Needless to say, with the dreadful footing I didn't even bother trying to work the horses. They don't seem to mind as long as I keep them well fed. Plenty of hay, grain, and water and work just becomes irrelevant. *G*

My only problem of the moment is trying to clean the stalls as I can't push the wheelbarrow anywhere. If the ground had been frozen before the snow, I might be able to shovel a path, but as it stands, below the snow/ice stuff is mud. I am making a pile just beyond the barn by the ring fence. When things dry up I'll be able to use the tractor to shift it out the the bigger manure pile.

Just another winter frustration.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Snow Update

More Then Predicted

Today will be digout day.

We got more snow than predicted.

First, though, and now underneath several inches of white stuff, we had a layer of wet, sleety stuff which has now almost frozen.

That means the top layer sort of shovels but the bottom layer just sticks solidly to the ground.

It's going to be interesting to see how the tractor handles it. The front end loader is pretty heavy, so I can hope it will be able to cut into the bottom once I get out onto the driveway.

Of course, first, I will have to dig a path from the barn where the tractor is parked....

More later....

And now it's later. 1 PM on Saturday.

The snow did not plow well this morning. There is a pretty good layer of ice underneath. I scraped off the snow with the front end loader in hopes that exposing the underlayer to the sun would melt the ice.

So far, so good. I will wait another hour or so and see if I can get the slush cleaned up a bit. It is not too worrying since the next few days are supposed to warm up, but the night is going to bring cold enough temperatures that whatever is on the gound will freeze up to solid, hard ice.

All in all, it's a good thing it's so late in the season. Had this storm hit in January, we would be in for a long haul of ice underfoot.

Because the road department salted liberally yesterday and then plowed several times already today, the road is clear down to the pavement. No travel problems around here.

Still, I really don't have anyplace to go, so I think I will just stick around here and do some house work.

The horses are basking in the sunshine, but the riding ring is a real mess. There is water/ice stuff lying everywhere, even moreso than usual, as I do have two low spots I've been working to level. It doesn't bode well for drying out any time soon.

I have been invited to a friend's house for corned beef and cabbage to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. Neato! I get to dress up in green and have a nice evening out.

Guess I have to take back what I said about not driving today. *G*

Friday, March 16, 2007

Snow, Sleet, Slop

And the Winter Blankets Back On

No point in fighting it. Winter came back with a vengeance. The roads are a mess, the ground is white and I can see big pools of water underneath it all in my ring and lower paddock.

I put the winter blankets back on The Boys and I'm glad I did. The sleet was cold and even though the sheets are waterproof, the cold was getting through the fabric since there is no insulation.

I think Toby was hogging the west side run in shelter, letting Tucker in now and then but generally keeping Chance out. The barn itself was blocking the worst of the northeast wind, but the poor little guy did not look too happy. I brought him in an put him in his stall with some hay and water, which immediately sent Toby and Tucker to the east side of the barn into their stalls.

They had plenty of hay from the morning, and since the water trough is on that side too, plenty of water. I let them decide whether to be in or out since, as bosses, they make their own choices. Meanwhile, Chance was quite happy in his stall on the west side, content to be inside.

I drove out to the market to get some more bird seed for my little sparrows, chickadees and juncos, and bought some carrots and apples to spoil the horses even further.

We have at least two inches of snow, perhaps more. It would have been really bad if the rain from last night had been snow instead, but this is a combination of snow and sleet and is really heavy and wet. It's supposed to keep on falling throughout the night. By morning, I may have to plow out with the tractor.

The good thing is that the temperatures will be moderating pretty quickly, so we probably won't have too much ice to deal with and the snow will melt fast.

I shouldn't complain too much as north of us may get as much as a foot of snow. Ours will be a nuisance more than a disaster.

Ah well, as they say, you can't change the weather. Guess we'll just have to put up with it.

A New York Times reporter was supposed to be coming tomorrow to do a story on the Van Dyke Farm--the farm the EVA, my community action group, is trying to save from development. The old farmhouse actually has intact slave quarters upstairs, and we have many documents tracking the history of the slaves held there back in the 18th and 19th century. Looks like her visit may be on hold until Sunday. If James reads this, I hope he takes note. His expertise is essential to the story.

Speaking of--if you do read this, James--it might be a good idea to bring your "Amy" narrative to the meeting. We could do a little show????

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Three for Two

The Assembly Line Continues

I had some more laser therapy tonight, so I was home later than normal.

It was supposed to be raining, but for some reason the bad weather held off long enough for me to start up the riding assembly line again.

The footing was ideal so I started Tucker off in the ring. The goal was to get him sharper off my leg and more immediately forward from my aids.

His walk was super, the trot good, but then, when I tried a halt/trot transition, he pinned his ears and squinched himself all up with his hind end going sideways and a definite threat to buck or kick out. It is almost as if he resents my leg at times like that.

This time, I did not coddle him but drove forward with my seat and a decided growl with my voice and after a few more "squiggle" steps he trotted off. After that, he did not question my aids again.

It did a good number of transitions--trot/canter, walk/canter, walk/trot, halt/trot, working trot/lengthened trot, working canter/lengthened canter--and through them all he stayed forward and obedient to the leg. What I need to do is overexaggerate these exercises for a week or so until he forgets the ears back resistant trick.

Once I felt he had the idea, I decided he deserved a nice hack in the woods--especially since it would probably be the last time for another week that the footing out there would not be soggy and slippery. Heavy rain is predicted through tonight changing over to wet snow by Friday night. Tucker was surprisingly forward even on the trail, with a brisk walk I had to check a bit in some of the still muddy places.

Toby was next and we took the same trail in the opposite direction, so it all looked new. He seemed quite pleased to be out again and we had a nice little ride.

It was after 6:30 by the time I got to Chance, but it was still light enough, so we too went out on the trail in the same direction I took Tucker. He was a little bouncy, but easy to check, so all was well. I do have to laugh, though, as he is still at that stage where his body tends to follow his head. So, whenever he glances off to one side or the other, unless I correct him, he kind of starts to wander the trail. If you looked at his tracks, you'd think he was a drunken sailor. He has also decided that grabbing a snack on some of the still green laurel is part of the ride, so he keeps an eye out for tasty morsels. This too leads him off track, so I too have to keep alert for greenery along the way. It just makes a more entertaining ride.

I dressed everyone in the heavier sheets, but I may change back over to the winter blankets in the morning. It all depends on how cold it feels. The temps will be dropping down to near freezing at some point, and then the rain will change to snow.

All in all, it's going to be a real mess.

And yes, mashes for everyone at the late night feed tonight.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Assembly Line of Horses

Everyone Went on a Hack

After my doctor's appointment today, I was home by about 5:30. I changed clothes quickly and went out to the barn.

Now, if yesterday was warm, today was summerlike for sure. My car thermometer read 82 f when I left school. I felt really guilty because I had left lightweight sheets on the Boys since the forecast was for the low 60's with showers in the afternoon.

No showers and 20 more degrees. Yeech.

I decided since it was so warm that I might as well just take whomever I could ride before dark out on a hack in the woods.

Did you know it is possible to ride three horses in the space of just under and hour and a half as long as you treat it like an assembly line?

Pull off sheet. Put on saddle pad, then saddle. Bridle up. Use mounting block to climb on board. Open gate, and head out to the "shorty trail" about 20 minutes max.

Blessings upon living on top of the aquifer as the ground had dried out considerably since Sunday. The footing was not perfect, but the mud was minimal and nobody slipped.

Tucker was first and we had a nice quiet trip. I followed him with Toby and again, a nice quiet ride. Third came Chance and once more, a nice quiet ride. The only little glitch was a pair of young men who were hiking back from the lake and Chance did have to stop and have a good look at them. He decided quickly they posed no danger and marched off towards home as a good trail horse should.

By a bit after 6PM, everyone got a quick groom with the shedding blade, a nice flake of hay, and evening feed. With the time change, it was still light enough at that point to enjoy the warm air. I left the sheets off for now and will put them back on when I go out for late snacks.

The weather is decidedly frustrating, however. Tomorrow, rain is forecast with flood warnings out. The rain is supposed to get heavy, and continue into Friday when a new cold front will come through dropping the temperatures into the 30's. There is even the possibility of some sleet.

I always take special care with the Boys during such drastic weather changes. Selecting the right "outfits" is, of course high priority, but I also watch their feed. I make sure they have extra hay available, and I give them hot bran mashes to aid digestion.

Seems to me I have been doing that a bit more than usual this winter.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Warm and Dry

And a Sweaty Horse

Lovely weather today, so, of course I had a meeting after school. I am on the committee to select members for the National Honor Society and today we were making the final selections.

Still, with Daylight Savings Time, I was home in plenty of time to ride at least one horse before dark. Needless to say, I chose Tucker.

I left a little jump up so we could play in between dressage schools, and he was quite good about some quiet jumping. I continued working on some of the Patrice Edwards exercises with some success, but I must admit, I need to get Tucker more off my leg and energized to the aids before I am going to accomplish much. I didn't have my spurs on, so that is all my fault.

My fault as well when I decided to use the jump to try a few flying changes.

Let me put it this way--until Tucker jumps forward off my leg the changes are just a pipe dream. He did swap leads left to right over the little jump, but I had no such success right to left. He is perfectly happy to counter canter on either lead and has no worries about needing to be on one or the other to keep his balance.

So, I decided to use just the rail on the ground, after he knocked it down, to see if I could give him the notion that he could change from one lead to the other over the rail by doing it through the trot.

Good plan, but in order to accomplish anything out of that exercise, I needed an immediate depart when I gave the aid. Granted, by then he was a little tired but still....there should not be even two trot strides after the canter aid.

The sad fact is that he is not quick enough off my leg, and a sluggish transition is practically no transition at all. Ah, well, at least I know exactly what I need to work on.

He was lathered after the ride so I kindly went into the house and filled his wash bucket with nice warm water and a good smelling linament brace. I sponged him off, put the cooler on and he promptly scooted out through Chance's stall instead of into his own. Within 30 seconds he had rolled and undone his lovely bath.

My kind mood wilted at that. I took him back out and simply hosed him off with cold water. Since he was already wet, it hardly mattered much at that point.

As I write, he is in his stall with hay and water after his dinner, wearing the cooler and simply waiting until he dries off again. It is still fairly warm out, so he will be just fine.

Tomorrow, it is supposed to be even warmer--close to 70 f. I do have very lightweight sheets for them to wear. I'd let them go bare, but the forecast predicts showers in the afternoon. The sheets are waterproof, so I'd much prefer that to muddy, wet horses when I get home.

Spring in New Jersey--totally fickle.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Beautiful Day...

...And I Bummed Out....Sort Of...

Went to the chiropractor this morning as my back was out. Yesterday, when I was lunging Tucker over the jump, he galloped on and I was too far back to stay with him without running. Since my knees do not let me run, I was pulled sharply forward in a kind of twist as he turned and I had to let go of the line.

Poor Tuck cantered on a few more strides and then came over to me all worried that he had done something wrong. He hadn't. It was all my fault, as I promptly told him He was much less enthusiastic on the last few jumps, being very polite so I had no more trouble.

But, I think I pulled my back out then. Either way, I was sore enought this morning to need an adjustment. Yep, my pelvis was out, as were a bunch of vertebrae in my shoulder and neck area.

Fixed. But, after school, I had an appointment with my knee doctor for some laser therapy. Interesting. I could feel the little cells getting all active in my knees when the red light hit them. A little heat coursed through as well. If it helps, it will be great. Theoretically, it can help inspire the stem cell therapy to add cartilege and the prolotherapy to tighten my ligaments. I have nine more treatments to go, so we'll see.

The upshot? I was home a bit after 5 PM, which was the old 4 PM before the time change to Daylight Savings Time (weeks earlier this year), so I had plenty of time and daylight to ride.

Instead, I picked the stalls, then picked the riding ring--it's part of my turnout area--while the Boys were eating, and finally decided that after all the money I'd just invested in doctors to keep me sound, I'd bag the riding for the night.

I have to go to a meeting later anyhow, so that's even more lame excusing for not working anyone.

By the way, have I told you lately that Chance is adorable? He is very curious about everything I do in a friendly, non-intrusive way--unlike Mrbuttinsky Tucker. He just has such a sweet personality. He is really quite a handsome boy and I have hopes he is going to be a really nice horse for my golden years.

And he is golden. I can't wait to see his summer coat. I have a feeling it's going to be pretty.

In the meantime, the shedding blade is getting a lot of exercise.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

ATV'd Again

Now They've Made A Muddy Mess

I thought the day would be a nice one for trail rides. Granted, it had rained again last night, but the ground has thawed enough to start draining, so I had hopes the footing would be OK.

Tucker wanted nothing of being caught, nor did Toby, so Chance was first up. I saddled him and then took him out to lunge to take the edge off. He was, as always, a good boy. I heard some engines in the woods, but when they stopped, I figured the ATV riders had loaded up and gone home.

Out we went. The ground was a little slippy on the trail out, but not too bad.

Then, I was in the woods proper. These are trails created years ago wide enough for a car. They may even be old Native American roads or pathways made by the old settlers. Regardless, they are lovely tracks to ride on with leaves covering the ground.

However over the years, the ATV riders have rutted them up so that in several places there are good sized mud puddles where the water collects. Today, it was way beyond a few places.

All along the way there were deep tire tracks and exposed, deep mud. The footing was terrible. This went the entire length of the primary trail, with deep ruts all over the place. Poor Chance had a hard time trying to find a good place to put his feet it was such a mess.

To say I am disgusted is an understatement. There is no way this will be fixed as the season wears on unless these guys stay out of there. The ruts will keep getting worse and when things finally dry out, there will be uneven rutted footing everywhere. I used to mountain bike through there before my knees got bad. I couldn't do that for sure and I would think even hiking through there is going to be tricky.

Chance was a star about it, keeping a level head and being very careful, but I opted out of taking either Tucker or Toby out after that mess.

Instead I lunged and set up a little jump. Toby was first and was quite enthusiastic about jumping. I have worked him over fences and he is the kind of horse who pops you a big out of the saddle as he really uses his back. I put the fence up to about 3 feet just for fun and he took a couple lovely big leaps over it, quite pleased with himself. Were he not so spooky, he would have been an amazing eventer. I suppose had I wanted to, over time, I could have cured his "Gee I have to look at that before I jump it" attitude, but dressage is much safer.

Once I got Tucker going on the line, he was pretty forward and gave me some super canter. Then I headed him for the little fence and he was quite bold about it. His jump is much more like Russell R.'s was. Smooth and the kind you could sit to all day. Even over the biggest jumps, Russell was easy to sit. I don't know if it's purely conformational or jumping style, but I see the same thing in Tucker. When I put the fence up to just a bit less than 3 feet, he was as smooth as glass over it and made it look as easy a pie. I have a feeling he would be more courageous, but again, I think most of my jumping days are over. I pop over a few now and then, but competing? Nah.

I do think I'll add some jumping schooling to my program as it is good for getting the horses to use their backs and hocks.

But Chance will just have to wait. He is still three until the summer--I don't judge their ages by the calendar year, but their real birth month--and I never jump a horse that young. I must say, he was very interested watching, and his dad is quite a picture over a fence. I will be curious to see if he inherited that form.

The pile of shedding horse hair is getting deeper in the barn aisle every grooming. Spring is surely on the way!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Call the Vet!!

But We Lucked Out In the End

When I went to the chiropractor, Toby was lying down in the paddock. Since it was warm and sunny, I didn't think twice about it.

When I came home, he was lying down inTucker's stall looking very unhappy. Then he started to roll, and from the mud and shavings in his tail and on his sheet, he'd been rolling a lot.


I got him up, which took a bit of encouragement and got him outside. He started pawing. I walked him a bit and he kept pawing and looking uncomfortable. So, I called the vet.

She was about 40 minutes away, about to visit another farm, so she told me she would be about an hour and a half if I needed her. She suggested I lunge him and just monitor him.

Since he was quiet again, I did a few chores and kept an eye on him. He pawed a bit, walked around seemed Ok, but then lay down on the hill by the arena. This time, Tucker would have none of it, went over an prodded him back to his feet, then herded him off to the end of the paddock.

I got the lunge line, brought him in, took off his sheet and began to lunge him. At first he was very sluggish and kept putting his head down as if he was looking to go down. I trotted him for about 10 minutes and then...he passed some gas--a really good sign. A moment or so after, he brightened considerably and began to trot out better.

At that point, my vet called me. I told her the developments and also that his temperature was at about 98 degrees, a bit low. She said that was OK and wanted to know if she needed to come. I told her that as of then, he looked a lot better. I'd monitor him and call her if I felt he was worse.

I decided to ride Chance a bit, so I let Toby go into his stall with a carrot, which he took eagerly--another good sign, and a flake of hay. In about 15 minutes, he dropped a nice pile of manure that was of a good consistency and good color. To any horseman who understands colic, this was an excellent sign that his digestive tract was working properly again.

I rode Chance for about 20 minutes in the ring, working on my seat to control his steering and turns. It took a good part of the time before he decided to drop his head and lift his back under me, especially since I didn't pressure him with all kinds of corrections. When he did offer on his own I praised him mightily. I am hoping he will figure out that carrying himself well is far more comfortable than moving with a stiff back. I'd rather he discovered much of it on his own, because that way he will be far more willing to offer than if I have to keep telling him. We finished on a nice note and went back inside.

The phone rang. It was my vet again, checking up. I told her all looked well and she assured me that if I needed her later I should not hesitate to call. So far, so good. I am going out to dinner in a bit, so I'll check him before I go and again as soon as I get back home.

I schooled Tucker for about a half hour, working, as well as I could, on the exercises Patrice taught me. I am not 100% sure I had a handle on everything, but I kept my focus on my position, no matter what Tucker did. He was easy to turn and quite willing to do the lateral exercises with very little effort on my part. The other nice thing is that he never hesitated in going forward. I didn't put my spurs on, but even without them, he was pretty responsive to my leg. I do get a quicker, more accurate response when I use them, but it's nice not to have to depend on them when I ride. By the end of the session, he'd worked up a bit of a sweat, so I had a fair bit of walking to do before I put him in as well.

I gave everyone a nice bran mash for dinner with some carrots along with the first bit of evening hay. Toby was quite insistent about getting fed, so it appears his tummy is once more feeling fine.

Nothing Much....

...To Report, Yesterday

I was so exhausted from the week at school that I fell asleep on the couch at 6 PM. And I paid for it with a stiff neck and the beginning of a headache. So it's off to the chiropractor today at noon.

The testing is over, thank goodness. Recovery will take a few more days since my classess were all messed up by the schedule changes. Most of the kids finally did turn the work in, but they are going to lose credit since they didn't do it when they were supposed to. I am sure there will be complaints, but I have to support my subs and make the students understand that they must be responsible whether I am there or not. College professors will expect no less and better they learn now than after they have paid hundreds of dollars tuition for a course.

When I got home yesterday, Tucker was soaking wet with sweat. Apparently, he had been running about and frolicking before I got home. Chance was a little damp too, but nothing like Tuck. I guess he had to make up for being locked in the day before.

This morning I swapped them all back over to their lighter sheets. The temperatures are supposed to warm up considerably. I still want them "dressed" so they stay a bit clean. There is not much I hate more than trying to groom mud and hair off shedding horses this time of year.

Hopefully, I will be able to ride later.

Tonight I am going to a beef dinner at the Township senior center. That should be fun, or at least interesting. I really don't know tons of people in the Township because I go to church in Cranbury and spend much more time in East Brunswick where I teach than in South Brunswick. Still, I have met people at Township meetings and some library events, so there should be someone there I know aside from Debra Johnson, whose election campaign I worked on.

I generally enjoy meeting people. The key is to ask people questions about themselves/interests and to be a better listener than a talker.

All in all, it should be fun!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Bad Mommy....

...and I Hope He's OK

I finally did it. I have to lock Tucker in his stall in the morning so he does not bully his way into Chance's stall to eat his food.

I left for school and forget to let him back out.

The water in his bucket was frozen solid, so he was stuck in for eight hours without any real water to drink. He could lick the ice, but that is just not the same.

When I let him out, he immediately went to the water trough and drank a good amount. I felt terrible. And, of course I am worried that he could colic. He looks fine, but it's still a worry. Water is an essential to the equine digestive system. I gave him a wet feed tonight with some carrots and I will give him a bran mash at late feeding.

Poor boy. What a miserable day he must have had.

That just goes so show how much my brain has been worn out by the testing in school. I have had no breaks since Monday--take that back, one break yesterday. Today, I was going to have to go straight through the day again with only my lunch time off, but I said something to the vice-principal and he let me off my hall duty.

Now, I do understand some people do work all day, but teaching has an intensity and demand that really doesn't compare to many jobs. I worked one summer as a temp in a high powered insurance company, and the job was a piece of cake compared to a day of teaching. It's hard to explain what it's like to have to be "on," 100% aware and ready for almost anything while you are trying to instruct classes of kids in 45 minute sessions. You cannot leave the classroom. You must react and respond to everything the kids do, adapt to distractions, and still teach.

Our contract limits us to 6 "pupil contact" periods a day, with one preparation period each day. This week I was doing 7 contact periods and had no prep period. Needless to say, I am tired. I will be getting paid for the extra periods, but that doesn't fix my mental exhaustion.

Then, to come home and find out I had left Tucker in.....*sigh*

No riding again as it is still frozen out there, although much of the snow has melted. By the weekend it's supposed to be up into the 50's, so that will be grand.

I have also found out that the former sand company family next door is selling hay for a pretty decent price. I just called and left a message that I would like to try a few bales to see if the "Boys" like it. I have an excellent hay supplier now, but if I could buy right next door, I could certainly save both time and gas. The way things are going, that might be well worth it.

We shall have to see if my gourmet equines will consider the product worthy of their delicate palates.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Testing, Testing......

1, 2, 3....

And one more day to go!

Today the inspectors from the State were at school to make sure we were following all the rules. We were, but everyone in charge was so totally uptight that it was a most unpleasant morning.

Security for the State test is very strict, as it should be, but sometimes people just go overboard with panic when someone is watching.

Meanwhile, my regular classes are all awry. The students are not getting the work I left done, and I can't quite say they are on their proper, best behavior when I am not in the room. If any reader here has ever had a substitute teacher in class, you will well understand what I mean. The less said the better.

However, since I used to do a lot of subbing when I was in college, I have always been supportive of any sub in my room. Thus, all required assignments are going to count for double credit. This is not going to do a lot of grade point averages much good.

Too bad. These kids are college prep, so they are responsible to be responsible for their own work at all times. If they chose not to do it when I wasn't there, so be it. Their choice, and they pay the consequences.

Just like the two kids today who had cell phones in their possession during testing. I will give them credit that neither one of them actually used the phones while the test was in session, but both of them foolishly pulled them out of their pockets while they were still in the testing rooms. The tests had been collected, but the iron clad rule is that no cell phones were allowed in the testing rooms.

One of the guidance counselors had visited my classroom and every 11th grade classroom at least twice to explain the rules about phones and what the consequences would be. Each day before the test the kids were reminded and someone came to each testing room to collect and hold any phones the students might have. Again , the consequences of having a cell phone in the testing room were stressed.

All that, and these two boys still had phones. The teachers in charge had no choice but to report them. That meant that all the work they had done on today's test was voided. They will have no opportunity to make up the test this year.

And oh, the excuses. One kid said he had to call his mother because we had snow today and she would worry about him. The other kid said something about how he had to get a call about two friends who had died. They absolutely felt justified in breaking a rule that had been stressed over and over.....not our rule, but a State mandated rule.

Somehow, I managed to grow up just fine without a cell phone to contact my mother at any moment. I guess the age of instant communication has changed the ability to get along without one attached to the ear.

And rules? Only for the few?

Not this time.

Can you tell? No riding? Bitter cold, snow. Need I say more?

The Boys are fine. Plenty of hay, nice heated water tub, warm blankets, and shelter if they want it.

And, oh yes, a nice bag of carrots to share.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


Cold, as Predicted

Once in a while, I wish the weatherman was wrong. It just seems the forecasts are getting more and more accurate with all the technology available.

Which means that it was terribly cold and quite windy today. Well below freezing temperatures from the Arctic torment us again, and this time a storm is coming across the country to bring us some snow. Not much is predicted but the timing stinks. It's supposed to start tomorrow morning, snow all day, and leave several inches just in time for the commute home from school.

I don't generally mind driving in the snow by myself. It's all those other people on the road who don't drive the way I do. It is very nervewracking with some of the heavy traffic we have around here. Hopefully, the plows and salt trucks will keep ahead of this storm and the roads will be clear. Time will tell.

The testing is not going too badly. My proctor and I are managing to work well with each other taking turns with time out of the room. Since we only have 24 students, we do not have to have two supervisors in the room at the same time, so during the time it takes to complete a part of the test, either she or I can take a break.

Still my teaching and class schedule are so messed up it's hard to keep track. I left a quiz on a film for one class, only to find out that they probably never got to see the end of the film as I thought they had. My first period class tried a few "take advantage of the substitute teacher" stunts today and I think I caught all the perpetrators, but that too took time I just didn't have to waste. Heaven knows what's going on with my 4th period as I haven't seen them at all. They took the quiz, and most of them did pretty well despite not seeing all the film, but I had to adjust the scores to take the problem into account. Hopefully, they will see the ending tomorrow.

Meanwhile, I need to get an issue of the school newsletter out and I haven't had a second to work on it. I have essentially lost all my preparation time this week. Friday will be my first chance to work on it, and I found a note in my mailbox that a parent has scheduled a conference during my prep time! Swell.

Since I don't have the software I need at home, it's a lost cause.

And, I have to file all my notices to parents of student progress or lack thereof by Friday as well. It all goes on the computer, so the imput is easy, but when am I supposed to do that?

I raced off to the knee doctor right after school today and I have an after-school meeting tomorrow as well as a dinner meeting of my community group, so I can't even be noble and stay after hours to get the jobs done.

I had about 8 injections in each knee tonight--stem cell therapy to help regrow the cartilege, and prolotherapy to tighten the loose ligaments. They are a bit sore now, but over the next week or so I should feel better than I have in the last few months. Fortunately, I don't have to go back unless I need to, so we shall see.

In the meantime, I will be having some laser therapy on my other aches and pains over the next few weeks.

Ain't modern medicine great? So many options. So much money. Mostly paid by insurance--maybe. That battle is yet to come.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Clinic Report

It's All in How You Sit

Of course I knew my position on the horse made a difference, but I had no idea how much.

Patrice Edwards is a master of explaining and teaching just how important my body is to my horse's performance. A simple shift of weight to the wrong seatbone, or a slight falling backwards of my pelvis can make all the difference in the world to Tucker's way of going.

The neat thing is that he is tremendously responsive to whatever I do.

Or, that's the problem.

All the little erratic steps he takes as we progress in our training could well be related to my position more than anything. Fortunately the adjustments I have to make are fairly minor at this point.

As I looked at myself in the mirror, I was sitting very straight at last. So now I need to concentrate on keeping my leg where it belongs, not letting my left hand drop, keeping my pelvis forward, and using my seatbones correctly with even weight that adjusts on the turns.

We did several leg yield exercises to get Tucker to step under with his hind end, and I began to get the real feel for when he was actually stepping forward with his outside shoulder instead of just laterally. The idea is to feel the hind end step out to the shoulder, something I think about in other exercises but have not in the leg yield.

Then too we worked a bit on shoulder-in and I, as usual, had to remember the outside rein.

We did spiral in at the trot until Tucker found his bend and began to carry himself a little before spiraling back out. I was also reminded then of the value of shoulder in to get him to engage instead of escaping through the outside shoulder on a circle.

At the canter, we did some more canter plies and I firmed up the exercise in my mind a body a little. Again, I have to remember both the outside seatbone and the outside rein support to make the exercise work to engage his hind end.

Patrice also had me "carry my own hands" by having me lift them until I felt no "drag" from Tucker's mouth. This way I don't put the pressure on his bars and he is obligated to carry himself more.

It's going to take some practice before all of this gels in my mind and body, but if Tucker keeps on telling me when it's right as he did today, it will not be too challenging.

He was again a lovely boy, working very hard and being amazingly responsive. His biggest fault, if you can call it a fault, is overdoing when I ask for something. Once he understands the basics of an exercise he is so quick to offer the movement that I have to actually control it so he doesn't go too far. For instance, a leg yield can become a full side pass in an instant and the shoulder-in a half-pass.

I am much used to that, actually since all my horses have been Thoroughbreds. I love the breed just because of their quick intelligence, but sometimes their anticipation of an exercise can be tricky to deal with. In a dressage test, it can cause problems when they try to trot or canter before a marker because they know it's coming. It can also be a boon, when, for instance, you ride a dramatic extended canter along the long side and then come back to lovely collection in a breath at the correct marker.

I will work on digesting today's lesson. Acutally I have little choice. The temperature is dropping to well below freezing for the next two days as another Arctic blast drives its way through New Jersey. No doubt my ring will be frozen solid, so I won't be riding.

Darn. Guess I will have to report on the State testing at school instead. Sorry.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Fickle Weather

Toby stands for a portait.
Tucker "The Tank" Poses

So We Had a Portrait Day!

First it was windy. Then it was sunny and still. Then it clouded over and started to snow. Then it was cloudy and windy. Then it was sunny and windy. Then it was sunny and still.

All of this weather over and over within the space of a few hours.

The ring footing was lovely but I decided not to ride. Instead, I decided to lunge everyone and try to take some pictures. The formal poses aren't bad, but the action shots leave something to be desired. I held the camera in one hand the the lunge line in the other.

So, without further ado and many blurry legs, here are The Boys!

Tucker at the canter and Toby at the trot.

Chance poses and Tucker and Chance trot alongside each other.....well, at least on the blog.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Drying Out Already

Now We're Getting Somewhere

Today I dragged the ring and leveled the footing nicely. There were only about two wet spots, amazingly enough. One is by the in gate--that's a new one--and the other one is where the water usually collects. Otherwise the footing is really good.

However, my right knee was really painful when I schooled Tucker. I rode him in the ring for about 25 minutes and then at his request, we went out on the trail for another 20 minutes or so. As good as the ring was, the trail was bad. The ground was very muddy even in the woods and very slippery. Tucker was very careful, though, and once more won a gold star.

His ring work was good too. We didn't do too much that was challenging or new, though. I did a few of the canter pirouettes and some spiraling in and out at the canter. He was pretty amazing about keeping his canter stride on an eight meter circle--a volte. Other than that a few canter walk transitions and some nice trot work and we had a good ride.

I was going to ride Chance and Toby, but my knee was really bothering me and I still had to unload the 14 bags of feed I'd bought earlier. So, instead, I fed the Boys, unloaded the feed and started to work on cleaning the back porch. I want to let Mommycat out there first, let her find the cat door so she can go outside or come inside as she chooses. I have kept her in the sunroom ever since she was spayed over a month ago, but she hasn't warmed up enough to me to make me think she really wants to be a house cat. However, with the back porch fully enclosed, she can have the best of both worlds if she so chooses. I'd like her to think of the house as her home whenever she needs shelter. If I get the porch properly cleaned up--it is currently a disaster area of a mess--then Mitzi (Mommy) can enjoy its shelter whenever she wants to.

I hope tomorrow is as nice weatherwise as today so I can finish up my little project. Monday will be cold again, but after that the temperatures are going to moderate enough that Mitzi can be outside again. I think she will be happier that way.

Oh, meant to write about the dead mouse I found on my living room floor. I guess the little critter had been in the basement. I surmise that one of my brave house kitties hunted him down and then carried him upstairs as a gift. I made all kinds of delighted noises about how happy I was to have a mouse of my own and disposed of him out of kitty sight and hearing.

Nothing quite compares to having animals in your life.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Too Wet

No Point in Slogging Around

With nearly three inches of rain overnight and into this morning, there isn't any point in trying to ride. The trails will be way too muddy and the ring has taken enough of a beating. (Addendum here: 6 PM, checked the ring and it's not as bad as I thought. By tomorrow it should be pretty good footing, especially if I drag it in the morning. Yay!)

Just as well as I had to go to the chiropractor tonight anyhow. I think all the leftover coughing from my cold thingie helped me throw out a few vertebrae. Lower back, middle back, upper back and neck all had issues. Nothing major but I was getting a very slight warning of a headache and just felt kind of "off."

Tucker stayed in for the day and I'll probably keep him in again tonight because of the mud. I did let him out about an hour ago to play a little, taking the chance that he will keep his shoes in place. The sun was pretty strong and there as a bit of a breeze picking up, so if the thaw has truly set in for a few days the ground should dry up pretty quickly.

Here's hoping it get a ride or two in this weekend. The Patrice Edwards clinic is on Monday and I would like Tucker to be settled for that. He's been going like a charm so I should be able to learn a lot during my lesson.

I am not at all looking forward to school next week. The 11th grade students will be taking the New Jersey High School Proficiency test for four mornings of 3 hour testing sessions. This is a required test they all need to pass in order to graduate. I am a test adminstrator which requires me to give the test and supervise it every day to a group of 25 students. That's no problem since I know most of them, but while the test is going on, I am not to be doing anything except watching them. I will have another teacher as proctor with me, but she cannot even touch the test papers, so all the responsibility is on my shoulders.

But the worst is just sitting or walking around the room for all that time with nothing to do. I am not supposed to look at the kid's tests, read a book or magazine, or do anything except watch the kids take the test. I am going to be stir crazy by Thursday.

That kills the morning for four days, and then I have to go teach 4-5 classes in the afternoon. Meanwhile, my first class of the day will have to be covered by a substitute teacher and I have to make up lessons for the students to keep them occupied and interested while I am not there. All this goes on to fill a day so that I end up with perhaps a lunch break and no other time during the day without a scheduled duty or class.

The funny thing was that today, as I was teaching my own 11th graders, we were working on some of the test skills they need and we ran out of time. One of my students asked me if we could continue on Monday since the language arts/English part of the test doesn't come until Wednesday. Usually once they start the morning testing, the kids don't want to do anything challenging in the afternoon. Not my class! Gotta love 'em. They are good people.

Frankly, I'm pretty confident they are all going to pass "my" part of the test with flying colors. They write well and have good heads on their shoulders. But, the better prepared they are, the more confident they will be.

And confidence can make all the difference in the world in most everything you do.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Beat the Rain

And Rode Again

I saddled Tucker up first today and schooled him in the ring for about 25 minutes or so.

The footing was better, with more dry places, but there was still some slop and a few slippery places. Still we managed some good work. I had some nice canter exercises in the drier area where I did a few square turns. He was a little better at it on the left rein since on the right he wanted to overbend to the inside instead of lifting his outside shoulder around the turn.

However, it only took one or two tries before he got the hang of it, so I changed exercises.

Some counter canter work was next and Tucker finds that so easy he doesn't care if he changes back to the correct lead. This may be a disadvantage down the line when I start the flying changes as some horses "want" to be on the correct lead so much that they change easily. Still the counter canter needs to be confirmed, and is part of the second level tests, so I'm glad he isn't bothered by it.

I finished up with some canter-walk-canter transitions or facsimiles thereof. Tucker still wants to drop on his forehand on the downwards so going directly into a walk without any trot steps is not yet his forte. I finally ended up saying, "Walk," and that helped tremendously. With the voice command as an extra aid, I managed a good downward and upward on each rein and called it a night.

Hoping the trails had dried out since yesterday's ride on Toby, I headed out with Tucker for a hack. Some places were better, some were still as bad. Regardless of the dicey footing we finished the trail in grand style and I was really happy with him. It was great to end on such a good note as I have the feeling the heavy rains are going to ruin riding for another 4-5 days.

I decided to give Chance a short training session. I had the saddle on and the bridle half on before I remembered the martingale. I decided it wasn't worth the bother. Besides, I still haven't punched the extra holes to shorten it so it has the proper effect.

As it turned out, we were fine without the martingale. As a matter of fact, I was really happy with the kid. The last time I rode him in the ring I had done a lot of trotting, working on the steering, particularly concentrating on keeping him from dropping onto his left shoulder.

Tonight that was not at all a problem. I think the last schooling session had taught him that carrying his own body straighter made him feel more secure, so the turns on both reins were pretty even. He is stiffer to the right bend and he still bops his head around as he tries to figure out how to keep his balance, but he has improved overall. When the weather moderates and I can work him more regularly, he is going to move along quickly. He is very clever and loves to be told he is a good boy.

All in all we schooled for about 15 minutes, which is more than enough for him at this point. Again, since he was so good, there was no point in drilling on any exercises.

Sometimes less is better and knowing when to quit is best.