Monday, April 30, 2007

Gotta Love These Long Days

Did a Lot of Stuff

Ok, I forgot I had to go to the knee doctor for my laser therapy. So, I rushed out of school and got there with five minutes to spare for my 4 PM appointment.

Left the doctor by 4:25 and was home a bit before 5. The horses were already looking for me, so I fed them and the cats and then ate a quick meal.

For some reason, I was compelled to mow the lawn. Found the garden tractor with a dead battery and almost no gas. So, I used the new battery charger and hooked that up, fueled up, and in short order the mower was purring like a very big kitten.

I have a good bit of lawn with lots of trees so mowing is always a challenge. I definitely did not do a pretty "golf course" job, but things surely do look better. Now if I can get the DR trimmer working properly--hoping it is just stale gas--I can trim around the trees and all the places where the riding mower just doesn't go.

That done, I decided to lunge Tucker and put him over a few jumps. I must say, he would be a really good jumper. He is very bold and doesn't even think about stopping. I did, unfortunately catch the line on a rail and had to let go. That sent him galloping madly about the ring with the line trailing, but he stopped pretty quickly. I assured him that it wasn't his fault, but mine, lowered the jump again so he could finish on a good note. He seemed pretty pleased with himself, graciously accepted my praise and then galloped off like a madman again to join his buddies in the field.

I still had an hour or so of light so I hitched up the ring drag to the other tractor and dragged the ring. It was a good time to do it before things dried out too much. My sand has a bit of clay in it and can dry pretty hard if I don't work it regularly. Even though it rained some last night, it was already drying off in a lot of spots, so I got to it just in time.

All in all it was a busy evening, but I feel I managed to get a lot done. It's a nice feeling.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Back in the Saddle

Three for Three

After a quick shopping trip to Lowe's to get the lime for the pasture, I went out to ride.

Tucker was first and I worked really hard on trying to sit according to the rules. At first, he was reluctant to move off at all, almost as if he couldn't figure out how to carry me.

Finally we walked off and I did all the little maneuvers I was supposed to do to check out my postion. Not bad, but I am not 100% sure it was totally correct.

Finally, I asked for the trot and got...nothing. If Tuck was confused at the walk, the transition totally baffled him. I thought it out, asked a few more times and finally got that slow, balanced trot I had at the clinic.

I think.

Obviously, I need a few more lessons to cement the concept into my brain and body, but Tuck seemed to be willing to trot slowly without dragging my hand down when he dropped his head.

Then we tried the canter. Again, I asked for slow and balanced. Tucker has a super canter to start off with, so it wasn't much of a challenge to get him to go that way. The downwards were not as good as I'd like, so that is something I yet need to figure out, but all in all, he was pretty willing to respond as I asked.

The big surprise was that after about a half hour, when I took him back in, he was lathered between his hind legs, a sure sign that he had been working his back end. Interesting.

Chance drew the second spot and my goal with him was to work on getting him to lower his head, and to bend correctly. I started on the left rein this time and was pleasantly surprised at his willingness to reach down into a little frame. It wasn't steady, but it was there. The bend to the left was a bit of an issue. He wants to fall inward on his left shoulder instead of stepping to his outside shoulder with his left hind leg. This is not a problem on the right rein, so I worked twice the time on the left, just concentrating on getting him to yield.

The big trick still is for me not to fall to the outside seatbone which pushes him inside when I want is body to go to the outside. It was a bit tricky, but at the end I got a nice twenty meter circle on the left rein with correct bend and good head position all the way round. That's when I quit.

To my surprise, when I went out to ask Toby if he wanted to go for a ride, he put his head into the bridle. In short order we were out in the woods for a nice little hack. I heard a minibike or ATV engine rev out there, but fortunately none showed up. I let him graze along the field on the way back and he was a happy camper.

Though it was a bit cloudy much of the day, the weather was delightful--perfect for spring. Here's hoping it and I get into the groove and get some good riding in.

In the meantime....I have to mow the lawn very soon!!


And Lot of Tranquilizer

My vet came for the second round of vaccinations on Saturday.

I was going to ride before she came, but my neck was out so badly I needed a chiropractor visit again and then I dropped by the farmer's market for some veggies. I still had time when I got back home, but the phone rang and it was the vet. She was running over an hour early and wanted to know if it was OK to come then.

Soon we were out there wrestling horses--not really. Toby settled in quickly with the tranquilzer to do his teeth and he was done with that, a sheath cleaning, and the rest of his incoculations in pretty quick order.

Chance just got the rest of his shots, so he was fine.

Then came Tucker. OK, so Dr. Perez admitted it was her fault for forgetting that he needed a double dose of tranquilizer for his teeth. We wrestled a bit until she dosed him again. But then, as she worked she discovered he had two pretty big hooks on his very back molars and they needed to be ground down with the electric drill. Whoopie!! He wasn't being too sterling for the regular tools.

Out came another dose of tranq, the metal jaw thingies to keep his mouth open, and a halter rig with a rope to go over the rafter to hold his head up. Good thing. By the third dose, his legs were nearly buckling.

The tooth drill is actually a regular home type drill with a big long shank and an abrasive round disk at the end that spins to grind down the horse's teeth. Horses do not have nerves in their teeth the way we do, and the teeth grow continually. The tooth material does wear down as the horse eats and chews, but very few horses have perfect jaw alignment, so they need to have at least yearly, or 6 month tooth care to make sure there are no sharp edges causing discomfort or injury. In this case, because the hooks were so big, the drill was a much more efficient way of leveling those teeth instead of doing it with a hand rasp or nippers.

This time, Tucker hardly protested. He was a "LaLa Land." It took only about another 20 minutes to finish him up, and then it was just a matter of waiting until the drugs wore off.

I opted out of riding again, always a little cautious after a whole lot of vet work had been done and because I never am quite sure how long it takes for the tranquilzers to fully wear off.

That said, I went over to Bill's to collect my little trailer he'd been working on. It is great!! The new hitch rig is perfect, the wiring is all neatened up, the tailgate is fixed and the license plate is properly attached. All that, and he gave it to me as a birthday present! What a wonderful gift! So, once more, thank you, Bill! I really do appreciate this.

I may take the trailer to pick up some lime for the pasture today.

And, I DO intend to ride. But now, off to church.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Riding Theory for a Rainy Day

Sitting Right and Asking

The real riding masters have complete control over their own bodies. The theory is that when your own seat and balance are correct, the horse will respond with equal correctness, no matter what his physical make up.

As Patrice Edwards pointed out, if Arthur Kottas, former head rider of the Spanish Riding School were to get on any one of my horses, they would suddenly look practically perfect. His seat is so exact and his use of the aids--legs, hands, weight--are so right, that any horse will respond exactly as he wants it to. Theory goes that his seat will make the horse lift his back under him to create the proper physical carriage, which then creates the best gaits the horse can offer.

For the rest of us mere mortal riders, striving for that ideal seat, balance, position, etc. is an ongoing quest. I do know that when I spent a week in New York State with Lockie Richards, my favorite trainer from New Zealand, I learned a tremendous amount about how to correctly use my seat and body to get PJ working well. The concentrated, daily lessons were a significant part of that success.

I am now more than ever intrigued by how much a small adjustment in where my body sits on the horse's back can make. I am also intrigued by how much physical effort it takes to hold that position exactly as the horse makes all kinds of adjustments. And there, I think is the key to the difference between Arthur Kottas and me.

The riders of the White Stallions of Vienna are schooled for hours on trained horses--true school masters. They ride without reins or stirrups on a long line until that position and seat are so firmly established that their bodies cannot sit on a horse in any other way but perfectly. Muscles, bones, sinews, and brains learn it so right it is virtually impossible for them to do it wrong.

And so, when they get on a horse that does it wrong to start off with, their seats still stay correct no matter what that horse does underneath them. So, the horse very quickly discovers on its own how to be correct as well. Each time he slips from correctness, the rider is there, exactly where he needs to be carried and the horse must carry him. It is simplicity itself, and the results so complex it's amazing.

I am a good rider and a good trainer. But I can be so much better and I will be if I can sort out this magical "just right" use of my seat and balance. It is not a huge adjustment, but the problem, as I found out on Toby last night, is maintaining it no matter what.

It's going to be an interesting journey.

Meanwhile, I came home after the huge rainstorms of today to discover that Scott, my farrier, had made a "sneak shoeing attack." Turns out he had a cancellation due to the flooding and passed by my area and said to himself, "Well the horses are due, so I might as well do them." Perfect timing as I was going to put a call in tonight or tomorrow to schedule a shoeing.

I called him to say "thanks," and he told me the Boys were all either in the stalls or under the shelter and their legs were all nice and dry. As well, everyone was well behaved. I love knowing my horses can be handled by my professionals. Chance needs a little more practice with both Scott and the vet, but he is quite a good boy in general who will only get better with experience. Toby is, as my vet says, "a prince," and Tucker has become a star in his own right.

Then again, we'll see. The vet is coming tomorrow for the second round of vaccinations and some other work. Hope I don't have to eat my words.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


Practice on Toby

Frankly, I am a bit surprised, but the fact is, Toby was harder to ride correctly than Tucker is.

He has a longer back, and a naturally bigger stride, but my goodness, at this stage, he really does want to fall on his forehand. Mind you, he is built to be level, rather than up, so nature encourages a lower head carriage, and, of course, he is not at all in shape so all his upper level dressage muscles just aren't there.

His walk is lovely, but at the trot, he wanted to rush off forward rather than carry himself. It was really interesting, though, because it accented how I needed to sit in order to contain his tendancy. What was cool was that as long as I kept my seat and balance where it was supposed to be, I could keep the trot slow and candenced without touching the reins.

I created a very slow and collected trot. I didn't have a lot of energy and I didn't want to ask for too much since he just doesn't have the muscle power at the moment. What I was thinking was that I could have easily managed some piaffe if I had wanted it and if he had the strength.

All in all, deciding to ride Toby was a good idea. Once he stopped spooking at the invisible horse attack monsters in the woods, he proved to be a real education. It also taught me that Tucker is surprisingly easy to ride in comparison.

Once I figure it all out, I will add Chance to the equation. Maybe that way, everything will add up and I will finally figure out how to correctly ride this dressage thing I keep trying to do. *G*

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

On TV and Rain

The Boys in the pasture. Not much grass yet.
NJN Aired the Farm Story

If anyone is interested, you can access the streaming video of NJN news at: (We are about 10:45-10:47 into the broadcast if you want to fast forward. And you must access the broadcast for Tuesday.)

Bill, James and I get a chance to speak to the camera and the spot aired several times on the New Jersey station. If you blink, you will miss me, but Bill and James are quite articulate before the camera. A good number of people seem to have seen it, so that's cool. Anything we can do to keep the farm in the forefront is good.

I hate it when the weatherman predicts that the rain will start at around 4 PM or so and is absolutely correct. It was "spitting" by the time I got home and just kept dripping. Nothing really bad, but enough to threaten me off the horses for the night. I really do hate getting me, the horse and my tack wet when it is cool, as it is tonight. It is just so icky. And, of course, the general rule always is that if it is drizzling when you saddle up, by the time you are mounted and about five minutes into the ride, it will start to rain harder.

Frankly, I just couldn't face it.

Tucker was going to have the day off anyhow as the long trailer ride and the lesson were a bit stressful for him. So, instead I was going to practice my technique on Toby who is a good, steady, and responsive fellow. I would be able to figure out how to sit and move on him pretty easily as he is very responsive to his rider and would let me know ASAP if I was right or wrong.

But, getting him, my saddle and me soggy was not exactly how I wanted to spend the evening.

Instead, I put the new no flat tire on the wheelbarrow. It works well but is not quite as "bouncy" as the air tire, but I will not complain. I have spent too many hours inflating flats or pushing my guts out with a soft tire. I don't know what it is about wheelbarrow tires that makes them so susceptible to flats, but I am done with it. This one can't go flat.....of course, it can always fall off the axle.......that's always fun. *sigh*
Magnolias in the front yard.

School is entertaining in that we are starting Shakespeare plays in all my classes. I save it to the end of the year because I really enjoy teaching the plays and it makes the last marking level kind of fun. The 10th graders will be reading Taming of the Shrew, the 11th grade is reading Hamlet, and the 12th graders will be doing Macbeth. This year my schedule does allow me to keep my sanity a bit because I don't have to keep switching plays every 42 minutes.

I purchased the No Fear Shakespeare books to replace my old parallel texts. If you haven't seen these books, they are great. Shakespeare's original poetry is on one page, and a modern English translation is on the adjacent page. It really makes the students comfortable to be able to easily understand what the Bard is saying, and the plays become very accessible.

Amazingly enough, the No Fear versions are also available on line, so my students can access the text from the computer for any assignments they need to do.

Taming of the Shrew is always fun as it evokes all kinds of debates and outright arguments about just how a man and woman should behave in society and in a marriage. I also have a shortened version of the play in a Shakespeare in a Box kit, which will let the kids do a performance with minimum preparation. AND....I have hats!! I have collected all kinds of character hats that I will pull out now and then to spice up the reading--helmets for soldiers, crowns for kings, veiled things for ladies, etc.
Sometimes it's kind of fun to just get silly about Shakespeare. It makes his writing a lot easier to understand.

Tucker and Chance grazing in the afternoon sunshine the other day.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Long Drive

For a Good Lesson

I took a good hour and a quarter to get to the clinic today. It is a moderately long drive, but did every traffic signal on Highway 130 and Route 206 have to turn red as I approached?

Traffic wasn't great either. Poor Tucker was all sweated up by the time we got there, probably because I kept having tractor trailers either on the left of me, or behind me. I would think if I were a horse in a trailer, one of those big rigs rumbling past or right back of me would be pretty disturbing.

That said, Tucker was also a little bit silly in the new surroundings, and took a while to settle in. I opted for the outdoor ring as he seemed ready to jump at every sound in the indoor. Now, mind you, his overall behavior is 100% better than it was a year ago, so I really can't complain. It's just that I have a lot of baggage about his old scary bucking habits, and am never quite sure is isn't going to revert.

He didn't.

Our lesson was just walk/trot, and fine with me as trying to keep my seat exactly as Patrice wanted it was more of a mental challenge than anything. Once more, we were working on centering and she broke down every element of exactly how I had to use just about every part of my body to get the right response from Tuck.

Trying to get my pelvis angled just right, my back straight, my abdominal muscles working correctly, my elbows in, my hands with the correct contact, my shoulders aligned...and so on....took a lot of concentration. It is a matter of sitting very vertical and evenly balanced.

I have a habit of arching my back a little when I sit up straight, and that pushes my hips a little more forward than they should be. Getting the correct feel and then kind of "draping" around the horse is a bit tricky, but I must say Tucker is a good boy about all of it and definitely does react when I do it all right.

However, it was actually easier at the trot, as when I did everything right, Tucker's trot slowed down and developed some suspension...and conversely, the only way to get his trot to slow and elevate as to do everything right.

If I can retain a good portion of what I learned today, I'll be making some great progress.


Not Much to Report

Hot Day

School was miserable. Hot enough in my classroom that all I wanted to do was take a siesta.

By the time I got home, I was too tired to do much.

I took my little trailer over to my friend Bill's house so he can swap out the hitch for me and fix the license plate--currently tied on with baling twine. He, in turn, gave me a nice dinner of filet mignon to take home. Yummy!

That saved my having to cook. Perfect as I was really tired.

I have my clinic with Patrice Edwards tomorrow. The weather is supposed to be cooler, which is good. I don't mind temps like we had today normally, but right now I am not acclimated. Just last week it was still cold. 86 F or so a week later??? I think even the trees are confused. I keep waiting for the leaves and it just seems they are slow.

Rain later in the week will change things again.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Happy Birthday to Me!

And A Nice Day For It!

Lovely weather today. Warm but not hot and dry.

I was up at 6 AM to get The Boys fed since Chris was coming to give me lessons at 7:30. Warm enough then for a lightweight long sleeved tee.

Chris was just a few minutes later, pretty amazing since he was driving down from Massachusetts which is close to a five hour drive. We had a great lesson. The concentration was on exactly how to handle what I had concluded myself--that if I go too much to my hand on Tucker, I shut him down. The key is following his desire to take the bit with my hand instead of inhibiting it. I'm pretty sure that's what I was feeling on the downwards from the canter too and misinterpreting some of it as falling on the forehand. It's not always so. He's not diving into the bit but staying forward into it.

Chris had me do lots of transitions and we also concentrated on my position so that I didn't make the mistake of first falling every so slightly forward or second, getting my leg too far back. The leg back there is decidedly part of what ticks Tucker off and gets him backwards instead of forward. Now all I have to do is remember all of it. The basic difference between what Chris wanted and what Patrice wants is that Chris wants me to keep my hand down more than she does. I will investigate this at the clinic on Tuesday. No biggie as I am perfectly able to adapt to whatever a trainer wants, but I do need to get a handle on what the difference and consequences are.

Chris said I do look a bit "tall" on Chance, but not ridiculously so. He agrees that Chance is likely to grow and said he is a "cute little mover." I think as he develops some strength and really does find his balance, he will be an even better mover. Either way, he looks to have the potential to be a nice dressage prospect should I decide I'd like to lead him to that career.

On the right rein, Chance was definitely down and even a little round, so I was thrilled as it is the first time he managed to keep himself there with very little work on my part. I have to focus on the same concepts of following with him as well. Guess my habits definitely do transfer from horse to horse.

The left rein was a bit dicier. He was good, but getting him to bend correctly was difficult--not, mind you, as bad as when I first rode him--but definitely an issue. I honestly could have sorted it out on my own, but I was trying to follow Chris's instructions--just fine as a solution, provided I could keep my seat from falling to the outside--and I didn't quite keep myself centered enough. Too, Chance was a little more tired by then and as he lost his "forward," he tending to fall in more easily.

Again, no biggie. The fact was that Chance simply exaggerated all the little things I was doing wrong on Tucker, so in the end, it was a good ride for me.

By the time I went to church, it felt as if it was already the afternoon. We all sang well, went to a nice lunch, and then I headed over to the horse show to see how Kelly was getting on.

Perfect timing as she had not yet ridden her dressage tests. It was a weird set up with the dressage going on all day with riders just kind of fitting the tests in between their other classes. Since Kelly was in a ton of classes--don't know how she and the horse kept up the routine--she did not get to the dressage ring until after 2 PM.

The good thing was that I was there to read her tests, taking the pressure off there. Good thing I had insisted she use a snaffle as the judge was following USEF rules as she was supposed to, and several of the riders for whom kimberwicks and pelhams were the bit of choice for all their other classes were in a bit of a bind.

Kelly's horse, Sax, was a good boy for his first trip to the "boards." He wasn't on the bit, and he wasn't correctly bent all the time, but he was very obedient. The judge loved him and said so. Frankly, I can understand why. He is a beautiful mover and even with his head a bit up, his gaits border on spectacular. Kelly earned over 63%. The second test was better with a bit more steadiness and she was over 66%.

If we can get her to learn how to work Sax on the bit, those scores will be very realistic in the open, big shows too. This was a 4-H show, and not as severely judged as the open recognized competitions. The judge told me afterwards that in a few cases, she was much more generous than an open show judge would be about some of the head tossing Sax did at his halt. It's something Kelly needs to work on.

Hard to say if he is happy with the bit. I gave Kelly the lozenge snaffle for now, but he might be happier in something else. Guess we will just have to experiment a little with that too.

Hopefully, Kelly will get some good lessons in with Chris between now and August as her scores qualified her for the big State show.

I treated myself to an ice cream cone on the way home and have currently just about reached crash mode.

It is still beautiful outside. I think I will just sit around and enjoy what's left of the day.

My birthday. Not bad, not bad at all. *G*

Flat Tire

On the Wheelbarrow...

....with it full of manure and soggy stall shavings.

Why do wheelbarrow tires always go flat? So, there it sits totally immobilized in the aisle of the barn...full. OK, off I go to find a new tire, and I did! A solid rubber one guaranteed to never go flat! Still, the problem is getting it on the barrow. That will wait until later. Instead, I cleaned the stalls using the tractor.

And I dragged the ring. Kelly came over for her dressage lesson. She had a slow twist snaffle on her horse..another illegal bit. I fit Toby's bridle for him and she rode the tests. I won't say her horse spent a lot of the ride "on the bit" but he is obedient, and moves beautifully, so if she is good and accurate in her tests she should do pretty well.

She did test 1 fine but just couldn't get a handle on the pattern of test 2. I finally saddled up Tucker and rode it so she could see the pattern as sometimes that helps. I hope she has someone read for her at the show so she doesn't go off course. When a horse isn't quite correct on the bit, riding the test accurately and error free is essential to a good score.

Tucker was a doll as a demo horse. How nice to just be able to throw the saddle on, mount up and ride without issue. After Kelly left, I did some more serious schooling, with a fair bit of canter working on both transisitons and counter canter. Each time things get a little better about the canter/walks, but we have a ways to go before he will be ready to show them in competition.

Tuck also has a little habit that keeps reminding me exactly how to ride. If I use my hand too strongly in a downward, he will stop, flatten his ears and absolutely refuse to go forward. Wiggling legs, kicking, etc. do nothing. You can feel him hunching his back and threatening to buck too. After a few times of that, I began focusing on exactly what I have to do, and it is essentially to ride him off my seat keeping my hand soft, especially if I at all feel him dropping behind.

It's good for me as a rider, but a bit disconcerting as it is easy to make a mistake, and the results are pretty dramatic. I think I will talk some of this over with Chris tomorrow morning and definitely with Patrice. I need to hone my skills a bit.

Shelley and George, her husband came just around 4, but I had already decided riding one horse was enough for the day and the shoulder--which did feel just fine while I rode, by the way. We went out to dinner for my birthday, and had a super time with good conversation. Shelley is going to Florida tomorrow to visit some family, so we did end the evening early.

I came home and crashed into a nap--shoulder by then sore in the muscles.

Up early for a 7:30 AM lesson with Chris. 'T'will be interesting.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Worn Out

And Sore

My last excuse. I had to go to the chiropractor again today.

I was getting a headache from my neck which was acting up because my shoulder was so sore. OK, OK, Claire, but I don't think it was the hay. There is a big bruise on my collarbone area, and today, for the first time, my doctor did an adjustment there.

So far, things are feeling a whole lot better. I was, however so darn tired when I got home that I ended up taking a nap after I fed the Boys.

Tomorrow I will ride for sure, especially since my trainer, Chris is coming down on Sunday. He will be here at 7:30 AM so I can work Tucker and Chance before church. Tuck will have a full lesson and Chance just an introductory mini-session. Hopefully, he will keep his feet properly organized underneath him. *G*

Tomorrow too, Kelly should be coming over for her dressage lesson for Sunday's show, and then later, my friend Shelley will be coming by so we can go out for dinner...tea. It is my birthday on Sunday, so we can celebrate a little. The weather is supposed to be lovely all weekend and into the next week as well.

I bought some fertilizer for the lawn and think I'll be getting some super lime for the pasture. I also need to so some reseeding too. It will be just my luck that we won't get any rain now for weeks and nothing will grow.

Oh, well, at least I have things to keep me busy.

Promise a riding post tomorrow.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

One More Day

Got My Hay

It was trying to rain, but I had time so I went over for hay today.

With the good help of the young hayman, I got 18 bales nicely on the little trailer and he followed me home to help me unload. We ended up having quite a nice chat about horses and farming.

His family owns an 800 acre former dairy farm in upper New York State. When his grandfather died, they gave up the dairy business. As it turns out, dairy farmers are hardpressed to make any money at all as the price of milk has hardly gone up while all the costs associated with producing it--feed, fuel, help--have gone up tremendously. He now has a fairly good hay business going, and is raising replacement dairy cattle. He buys or takes on young heifers, gives them the time and space to grow up healthy, breeds them, hopefully gets more heifers, sells the cows and raises the young ones again. Business is pretty good, he says.

He has a 22 year old Quarter horse he partially rescued from a not great home, and is happy to say that Tex is thriving on the farm, with a new lease on life and lots of energy. He rides occasionally and says Tex is so quiet, anyone can have fun with him.

So, it was nice to know he is a fellow horseman. His hay is nice and tried the first cutting this time to see if The Boys would eat that. It is less expensive and readily available. If they don't like it, I can easily get the second cutting which is softer. Either way, it's a good deal and I sure can't beat the shipping distance.

My shoulder was pretty sore today for some reason, so I decided not to ride again. Tucker is trained well enough now that layoffs are not a big deal. Toby is just fine, and Chance isn't far enough along for it to matter much.

I will get on tomorrow and my clinic with Patrice Edwards is on Tuesday, so I do need to get some rides in. I will just have to see how my shoulder feels, though. The last thing I want to do is aggravate it so that it takes even longer to heal.

Worked with fellow English teachers on revising our final exams. What a great bunch of people to work with. Everyone of us is a self-starter and just takes charge of some aspect of the job to complete it. We will need one more session, but somehow, in one day, we managed to get a handle on writing four new two hour long exams. All in all, I think we only took one section from the old exams to reuse for another grade level.

It was a good more in a long list of "I got something done today," days.

No the Best of Days

Rest in Peace, Chloe

I had to have Chloe, one of my indoor kitties put to sleep tonight. She has been suffering from a respiratory infection off and on for a few months. I thought it was just a "kitty cold" and that she had gotten better, but these last two weeks, she took a turn for the worse. The big problem is that she has been a chronic "hidey cat" since I got her and had never warmed up to me to let me handle her. Her life has been one of alternate under the bed, out on the cat tree, under the couch, hide in the closet, etc. for several years.

Once I knew she needed to get veterinary care, I was not able to capture her until this morning. I was pretty sure then that the ending would not be good. She was very thin, dehydrated, and in very bad condition.

The vet said he was pretty sure there was something else more serious than pneumonia going on because her temperature was below normal. My choices were limited to some dramatic, expensive medical care and tests that would have no guarantees, a more conservative course of "try it and wait" antibiotics, leaving the poor girl miserable for who knows how long, or euthanasia. I've been there before with elderly cats and made the final choice.

Her ending was peaceful, one big sigh and then relief from her misery.

She is now in the rose garden with some of my other kitties.

I guess knowing what was likely to happen was nagging in the back of my brain all day. I just was not quite up to par. My shoulder is still sore, my neck was bothering me a bit, and I had all kinds of work I needed to do. Fortunately, I was able to get all but one class's grades entered into my computer program, so I should be done by the Friday deadline to get the third marking level grades in on time. Tomorrow I will be out of the classroom all day working on curriculum at the Board of Ed, so that puts a crimp in my style for sure. So few of the kids who were missing work turned it in.

It looks like I will have a good number of students not passing. Does that mean round 3 of horrendous parent conferences? Ugh.

So, this is the horse blog. My chiropractor said I could ride the horse that doesn't fall down. I just need to be really careful with how I use my right shoulder. With the cat situation, I didn't really have time to take up that challenge anyhow...gee, picking the right horse....h-m-m-m-m.

I have to admit Chance is being awfully friendly. He usually is, but I noticed he was watching for me a bit more than usual tonight. I would suspect he understands he was part of something where I got hurt, and is just a little concerned. I keep teasing him and calling him "fumblefoot," and such, but not to make him feel bad, just out of affection. It reminds me of two lovely big horses that used to compete when I was still jumping. One was named, "Ifaudown," and the other one was "Igoboom." Somehow, they too might have had "chancey" childhoods.

The weather is supposed to finally clear up tomorrow and Friday. Sometime, then, I hope to get my hay...if I can get out of the teachers' meeting tomorrow....or...when I have time. *sigh*

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

X Ray Vision

...and a Bit of a Scare
I visited my chiropractor this morning during break and he took some x-rays of my shoulder, neck and lower back.

We had a bit of scare after the first set was developed because a shadow on my neck area looked like it might be a slight fracture. As it turned out, it was evidence of some arthritis and what may have been a very old injury to the area that gives me the chronic neck problems. He will be more thoroughly studying the pictures and comparing them to older x-rays and we will further discuss it tomorrow.

In the meantime, I essentially got a clean bill of health...except that my AC joint, where the shoulder and collarbone meet, is injured. I am icing it now even as I type.

Suffice it to say, I needed a ton of adjustments just about at every vertebrae from my waist on up. What a surprise...not. The funny thing is that everything felt pretty OK. As I have noticed many times before, the human brain/body generally only concentrates on one specific pain at a time--the most painful. So, if you have a bad toothache and a sore foot, your foot may feel just fine until you get the toothache taken care of. Right now, my shoulder has priority on the pain scale, so who notices the neck?
Kelly was going to come over for another dressage tune up but called to cancel, at first thinking my ring would be really under water. Not so. The footing is darn good with just the usual puddles. But, it was starting to rain again, and she had some extra school work to do.

I didn't even bother considering a ride myself. Maybe I'll do some light work tomorrow unless my doctor forbids the exercise.
Speaking of the flooding....I was, wasn't I? Here are a couple of pics. The first one shows the water running out of the warehouse basins. The other shows the flooded parkland, all of which is supposed to be dry. The poor trees have been under water for over a year now. I think some of them are dead. The towers you see are one of the electric lines and the flooded area underneat them used to be a dirt road you could drive/ride through.

An associate went back there today to look at things and was completely shocked. Below is the stream of water running through the farm field that has been tilled/planted for over 100 years that we know of for sure. Nothing will grow there now...except the geese.

Monday, April 16, 2007


....But I Didn't....

Ride, that is. The rain did stop after perhaps 6 inches had fallen. So many roads were flooded that the Governor (well, the acting Governor since the regular Governor is still in the hospital) declared a state of emergency. School was closed but I didn't find out until after I had driven in.

Phooey. Turned around and came home the back way to avoid the traffic jam on the main road and hit a couple of "road closed due to flooding" signs, but made it through OK. Then, I kind of sat around with a heating pad on my shoulder watchin the rain. And watching the rain. And watching the rain.

I guess you get the picture.

Once things settled down, I took a tour out to the warehouse infiltration basin to find, to my horror, that water was pouring out of it under the Turnpike to flood the Park at nearly the same level of the worst flooding I ever found out there.

I then took a walk with my camera out to the Park side, and took another lot of photos of the water there. The poor trees are three feet underwater again, and the flood once more definitely extends into the woods and vernal pools. I will grant that this was an extreme storm, but all calculations claimed the new basins would reduce the flooding, even from such an event. Not so.

It is all as bad as ever.

On a plus note, my riding ring is suprisingly good. With the ground thawed, the water percolates through really quickly and, although things are wet, the footing is holding really well.

Hence, the "could've." However, my shoulder and ribs are not exactly comfortable at the moment. My chiroprator's office was closed today, so I could not go in to get checked out, and rather than take a chance with riding, I have decided to wait. I did manage to get an appointment tomorrow morning between classes, so I'll go then and see how I really am.

Right now I think it's all bruising and muscle strain, but you never know.

The day has not been a good one. First came the storm from nature, and then came the terrible storm from man down at Virginia Tech. Over 30 people have been killed and many others wounded. As yet, there are very few specific details as to who or why. There is a news conference going on, but so much is preliminary it's hard to say what conclusions to reach. I feel so sorry for those poor kids and their families. It is hard to think about what it would be like to be involved in something like that. All I can do is pray for them all.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Humpty Dumpty

Had a Great Fall

So, I'll start out with the end of the day.

Every time you think things are going well, Fate puts in a reminder. This time it was Chance instead of Fate. I rode him last, just a bit of ring schooling thinking that perhaps today would be the day to try a few strides of canter. I never even made it all the way around the ring at the trot. He took a bad step, tripped, and literally fell down to his knees and beyond. I went flying off landing on my right shoulder, ribs, and, I heard my helmet hit dirt. (One more reason to always ride with a safety helmet.) Knocked the wind right out of me, and boy, did it hurt.

Poor little Chance got back up just fine. I still don't know how far down he went, but he trotted off, a little way then turned to look at me, as did Toby and Tucker in the paddock. Took me a while to get back up. But, I managed, and also managed to get back on and finish the ride.

By the by, horseman's rule. If you go off, you always, if you can, get back on.

I am gonna be sore. I don't think anything is broken, but I'd wager the chiropractor is going to have a field day. I almost called them for an emergency adjustment tonight, but I think I will wait to see how it goes. Right now, aspirin, ice, and ouchy....

OK, the day started on a good note. Kelly came over and we worked for well over an hour and a half on her dressage tests. She is a complete novice at it, so I had to teach her how to ride a 20m circle, how to ride to the markers, and how to put a test together. She did a great job, and her horse is lovely. We do have to conquer a few things. As a hunter/jumper rider, she doesn't really sit into the saddle. As well, her leg needs to be longer and more under her body. And, the big one--she needs to ride her horse in a snaffle as the pelham she is using is not a legal dressage bit. All, in all, though, she will do fine, as her horse has a huge gait and really is obedient.

After Kelly left, I decided to fix the fence along the ring. I quickly gave up trying to take out the old posts that were broken off nearly and ground level. Instead, I decided to dig new holes next to them as there was room and the rails had enough length to fit. The ground was great and I had one post set quickly. I'd taken my bright orange jacket off, as it was getting a bit warm, and when I finished I needed to go inside for a drink and a bit of lunch.

I went back out a bit later to do the second post. All was well until Chance decided to visit, saw my jacket, picked it up and made off with it. I have discovered that it takes less than a minute for a horse to rip both sleeves off a quilted jacket. Amazing demolition potential. I now either have a new vest or a lot of sewing to do.

I finished the fence, sort of, as I still have one broken post and one post that really does need to be fully reset.

That left the riding. I schooled Tucker for about 40 minutes ending up with training level tests 1 and 2 just to see how they rode. He was good but a little silly now and then about the new fence area, but in general, his work was good and he was nice and forward.

I rode Toby in the ring to do training level test 2 and then went out on the trail for a nice quiet hack.

And then, I finished up with Chance. I've already told that story, so, 'nough said.


Friday, April 13, 2007

New Plan

Lunging for Everyone

Kelly canceled for tonight as she had to do some extra work for school.

That left me with no excuses. Actually, it was OK, as I really did need to drag/rake the ring. It is drying out nicely already after yesterday's heavy rain, but I am not looking forward to the weekend with a BIG storm predicted. At any rate, I took the tractor and the drag out and groomed it nicely. Kelly plans on coming some time tomorrow, so she will have a nice surface to work on.

Once that was done, I scoped out the fence posts on the pile and I seem to have the three I need to repair the broken fence around the ring. I may try to get a bit of that done in the morning. I am hoping the tractor will help me pull out the broken posts. If so, it's a fairly easy task to clean up the holes and set new posts. Yeah, right. I can see this turning into a marathon of aggravation.....depends on whether any of the broken posts were set in cement. Yeech...the ground is very sandy in places and the guys who did the fence did set some that way. Ya never know until it's too late....

Once I had the posts, I went back out to do some horse stuff. Tonight it was lunging everyone. For any non-horse people, that means putting a halter on the horse's head or a bridle if you are going to be very serious about it, and then, putting the horse on the end of a long line and making him travel around you in a circle at the various gaits. It can be used for training with some extra equipment or exercise without all kinds of extras. Tonight it was exercise.

The order of go was Toby, Chance and Tucker. Toby is showing incredible energy when I work him. I am surprised by his enthusiasm, but also delightfully pleased to see him feeling so good and sound.

Chance poops out pretty quickly. I have to keep this in perspective. I have not had to deal with many non-Thoroughbreds, so this is a new experience. My Thoroughbreds do not get overtly tired. Trying to work off their energy can be a daunting task and they are bred to keep going no matter what--witness poor Barbaro trying to run with a broken leg. Warmbloods, on the other hand have a different temperament and muscle type. It's clear Chance at the moment does not have the stamina to work too hard for too long. If I do decide to really do some serious training with him down the line, I will always have to be aware that his fitness will need a lot more time and work to develop and maintain.

Not so for Tucker. He not only keeps his muscle, but it takes very little to build him up. He is like the Engergizer Bunny who just keeps going and going. He is a bit lazy at the trot, but his canter just rolls along. The only strange thing he does is that darn cross cantering off and on, mostly on the left. I'm not sure if it is a joint weakness, a balance issue, or just a habit. Other than that, he is lovely on the line.

All in all, a nice quiet, productive evening as we try to get into the swing of things.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Need I Say It?

Rain and No Ride

Leave it at that. I stayed home again today as I had not yet fully recovered by the time I needed to leave for school.

I'd slept badly--awakened by wrong number phone call at 2:30 AM-- and still had some residual symptoms.

And, it was raining. Pouring, in fact.

Though it cleared up by afternoon, the ring was really wet, and I opted out since I had a doctor's appointment for my metabolic testing.

So there.

Choir rehearsal tonight, so I am done in for the day.

Kelly will likely come over tomorrow to school her dressage tests, so that will get me going. Saturday's weather may be OK, but Sunday and Monday, the storm is supposed to blow in.

Still haven't managed to get the hay from next door. Incredible. The hay is probably about 1500 feet away, and I haven't gotten a load yet. I sure won't do it in the rain, either.

He is not there on the weekends. Let's see...Tuesday???

Ceee-rash!! Mental or Physical?

I Was Sick Yesterday/Today

Beeeeeutiful weather and I spent the day in bed. Headache, I thought, but when my stomach kicked in, I am not quite sure that I didn't have a touch of the stomach flu thing that's going around.

I am home again today because I still have a bit of it and am not quite up to par. I'm all right if I can go lie down every once in a while, but not up to spending the day at work.

Bummer. Yesterday the weather was deelightful.

Today it is raining and now, apparently, there is a massive nor'easter blowing in for the weekend. It does not look good on the horse front.

Bless the Internet. From home, I am able to send in lesson plans for my classes, and, even better, but using the school website and the fact that I have a computer lab there in my classroom, I am also able to send in the lessons! Coolo. My students each have a workstation and can access the Internet to do my work.

Fortunately, which is why I am not struggling to drag myself in, the lessons for this week were fairly easy to adapt to Internet work. Sometimes it doesn't work out that way, but this time it did.

Most of the teachers have "eBoards" available on the school website ( which are kind of Internet bulletin boards which are a cinch for posting. I use mine all the time. (If you want to snoop, go to the school website, click on the East Brunswick School, and then look for the eboard link on the left menu. I have the Dvorak board and the Dvorak2 board. The first one is the one for class, the second is for parents and extra credit work.

Years ago, none of this would have been possible. It's amazing to think how much the Internet has changed the world.

And....I can Blog!!!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Dinner with Friends

Soup, Glorious Soup!!

My friend Stacie bought some soup from a lady who rides at another nearby barn for our dinner tonight.

She, Karen and I got together to talk horses and lessons and "stuff," right after work. The soup was fabulous. "Hearty Vegetable," and it was. Beans and all kinds of goodies in a nice thick broth. I am definitely going to have to order some soup from this Soup Lady soon and put the quart in my fridge to eat during the week. I had two other "flavors" at the Patrice Edwards Clinic during lunch and loved them too. Apparently her prices are great and obviously, the food is well worth it. We had a nice filling meal fit for four for less than $25USD. Yum!

Did I ride? Of course not.

The Boys don't care. Some of the hay I bought on Friday appears to be total alfalfa, so they are quite happy having me ignore them while they eat.

School was so frustrating. We had a parent conference on a student--the one whose mother yelled at me before vacation--and had to reach a compromise that the student will be allowed to make up all the work she missed for the second quarter even though we are nearly finished with the third quarter now. Because of a screw up by her guidance counselor, who had not notified us teachers of the girl's special circumstances laid out in a legal record called a 504, we needed to accomodate her above and beyond the call of duty.

Well, getting together some 20 missed assignments/worksheets etc, all either filed away or lost during an unfortunate computer file crash months ago, took up what remained of my preparation time once the extra long conference was over.

Well that and the fact that the culinary arts shop was not serving lunch put me off for the rest of the day. I now have a pile of book reports, tests, and other assignments still ungraded on my desk, and I had to do some fast footwork to run off copies of the work two of my afternoon classes needed.

Never said being a teacher was easy. *sigh* Can't wait to grade all the late papers to add to the pile.

Monday, April 09, 2007


This is Not a Riding Post....Again!!

The weather was calmer. Still a bit chilly, but it would have been nice to ride.

Laser therapy on my knees right after school, so no go there.

But, when I was carrying hay to the Boys this morning, I pulled something in my back, enough to make me literally gasp. I thought it would go away, but as the day when on more little things kept going wrong, including my neck.

So, after the laser, I came home, fed the herd, and then headed out to the chiropractor for a much needed adjustment. No sense in trying to ride after that or before, because all it would do is aggravate the muscle.

So, this is another non-riding post.

However, the neat thing is that it has a horsey twist! The phone rang a little bit ago and it was Kelly, the young lady from the next road over who has been coming to dressage lessons with me. She wants to try to compete in the dressage classes at the 4-H qualifying show on April 22 and asked if I could help her learn how to ride a dressage test.

Neato! I love to coach. Say whatever you will about how my tests go in the arena as far as strange occurances, I have always been spot on with technical aspects of riding the movements in the right shapes and places. I also know a lot of little tricks and techniques to make a test look really nice--when the horse goes well. Kelly will be doing Training 1 and 2, which are really lovely tests for a beginner (walk/trot/canter, with 20 m circles), and I can really give her some good lessons.

She will be riding over here on Friday after school. Since I just got my copy of the Digital Horse computer program, I can print up nice copies of the tests and figure out all the little elements myself beforehand. Once I have the two tests memorized in my brain, the sessions with Kelly will be even better.

And, this may be the boost I need to get on and do some serious schooling as I will probably ride the tests on Tucker and Toby just so I have the feel for the figures and the transitions. Might even try a bit with Chance, doing a pretend canter as we are not quite up to steering at that gait and.....I haven't even tried to canter him yet. (He has a really nice one on the lunge, though. )

So...coolo! Neato! Niftyo! Something horsey to look forward to.

As well, the Chris gang and I are meeting at the stable where we take lessons to have a nice little dinner--I am bringing the wine--to see what the best schedule is for Chris to come down to teach. It is such a nice group of friends and it will be great to get together.

Looks like super week shaping up here! Things to look forward to! Yea!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Easter!!

Snow Squalls and Cold Feet

I gave up today. It was cold again, and windy again, and frankly, I just couldn't face being outside for any length of time.

I sang at the 8:30 church service and again at the 10:30 service, getting cold feet early on as the heat was just barely starting to get the church warm. I did make a good judgement call at not going to the sunrise service outdoors, where, apparently, it was only 29 f and everyone was freezing.

Once I get cold, I really have a hard time getting warm again. I did go to lunch with a friend from choir after church. As we were finishing up, it started to snow. Nothing much but enough to accent the reluctant arrival of Spring.

Did I tell you my Easter outfit was pink? I did bring a splash of color to the cloudy world, but I would have been just as happy in my gray winter slacks and a snug sweater. We were kidding at church that pink furry bunny slippers would have been the perfect footwear. That would have felt good.

I don't think The Boys mind having the day off. They are really enjoying the new hay and the little sprouts of grass starting to grow. Temps are supposed to moderate a bit this coming week--of course I will be back at school, but it's not so bad when it doesn't really get dark until 8PM or so.

Why is it that whenever I have a vacation I end up with more things to do at the end of it than I ever planned to do at the beginning? I still need a load of hay from next door, I have a trailer load of fence rails waiting, my clothes still need sorting, and have just barely finished clearing the stack of mail I've been accumulating.

Then again, maybe my perception of vacation needs to change and I really do need to do it as a vacation rather than a "catch up on the chores" week.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

A Taxing Day

Well, Not Really

It was cold again today. To make it worse, it was windy.

My knees are really bothering me, I guess because of the weather. I fed the Boys, did a few little chores inside and then went to pick up my completed income tax returns. My refund was a pleasant surprise which allows me to breathe a sigh of relief for the coming summer when I do not have a paycheck coming in.

Then I hit the supermarket to pick up a few little things. The hamsteaks were on sale, so I opted to buy one for tomorrow's Easter dinner. Some salad fixings and a few other little things on sale and I managed to get out for less than I expected.

On the way home, I stopped at the lumberyard to price out fence rails--actually decking planks that will subsitute just fine as rails. Then I tumbled back into the house to warm up and eat some lunch.

Headed back out with the little trailer to get the lumber, which was, suprisingly, much less than it would have cost me at Home Depot--I think, and found the little trailer was absolutely perfect for carrying such things.

I am hoping the fence posts in my extra lumber pile are the right ones and not the split rail posts. If not I am going to have to make a longer trip to a fence place about 20 miles away to get some replacement posts. The fence around the ring is a mess where it adjoins the paddock. Apparently the Boys seem to think that those posts and rails are fair game for scratching posts, cribbing posts and just general mayhem. So far, I have three broken posts and have lost count of the missing rails.

Once back, I fed the Boys, did a bit more computering and then went back out to ride.

Since I had promised him all week, I took Chance out on a nice little hack through the woods. Despite the cold and the wind, he was his usual angelic self. He really is fun to ride out there. I can picture many happy hacks as the weather moderates. Perhaps too, he will be able to take me on some hunter paces and group rides.

Tucker proved why he is not my first choice for happy hacking, especially in the windy cold. I decided to be safe and school him in the ring. Good choice. About halfway through the school, I was working him on a long, stretchy rein and something startled Toby and Chance in the paddock. Before I knew what was happening, they took off in a mad gallop and Tucker bolted along with them.

Fun. There I was holding the reins at the buckle, bounding along in a mad gallop. Fortunately, it is fairly easy to stay on at that gait, but speaking of the gate, it and the fence were looming in front of us and I had no idea what option Tucker was going to take if I didn't stop him first. Would it be the abrupt 180 or a plowing stop or some kind of attempt to go over?

God was on my side and I somehow managed to collect enough rein to pull him down and around before I had to find out.

Whew. That added an element of excitement I hadn't quite planned. And convinced me I had been right in deciding not to take Tucker out on the trail.

We finished up with some canter/walk/canter transitions and that was that.

I decided enough was enough and gave Toby a carrot instead of riding him.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Hay Day

But Not Next Door

I guess my hay guy next door took Good Friday off.

So, I headed out to my regular dealer with my little trailer. Found out we can get 21-22 bales in it right now as long as the top ones are tied down. I bought 15 bales of the good green stuff and 7 bales from a fresh load of mixed. That will hold us for a while and early next week I will drive over to the sandpit next door and get a small load of his hay.

I kind of screwed up because I had made a chiropractor's appointment for the morning too, and managed to miss it. That was actually OK, because I was able to reschedule for the afternoon--after I'd unloaded and stacked the 21 bales. Better than getting adjusted and then unloading the hay.

I then sat down and managed to put all my papers together for my income tax and took that over to my accountant. They apparently did my returns in short order as I can pick them up tomorrow. Hopefully I will be getting enough of a refund to pay most of my summer bills.

The Boys were quite happy that I'd gotten the new load of hay because that forced me to clean out all the miscellaneous flakes and partial bales in the storage area. Needless to say, I gave it all to them to eat.

Why is is that if you have three horses and put out three piles of hay, they have to chase each other away and play musical hay piles? Since Chance is low man on the totem pole, I finally put out a fourth pile and soon everyone seemed to settle down a bit.

Made the mistake of stopping at Kohl's on the way home from the chiropractor. Of course, I ended up buying an Easter outfit. 'Nough said.

I decided since I'd just been adjusted I'd lunge everyone instead of riding. Chance was up first and he was practically perfect!! I'd set up a line of low cavaletti poles at a long trot stride distance. After I walked him over them and did the basic walk/trot/canter on the circle, I set him at the grid. He was wonderful! Lovely, steady, quiet, and marvelous about judging the distance and lengthening his stride to trot over all four poles. Had he ever done this before??? If not, he was amazing.

Toby actually seemed to want some attention and was, as ever, a master on the lunge. It is such a pleasure to work a horse so well trained. (Actually, I trained him, but that doesn't matter.) He did the cavaletti beautifully. What else would I have expected?

Tucker who had tried to ignore me earlier finally decided he wanted to be the center of attention. His lunging session was good too, and he didn't do any of his inexplicable cross cantering, which was nice. Then we tackled the cavaletti. The right rein was fine, but on the left, the better side for me, he decided to start playing games. He'd speed up after doing the poles to get enough ahead of me to he could dive to the inside and miss the poles the next time around. I finally gave him a sharp correction after which he did two good trips and then began tripping over at least one part of the grid. Once more, I corrected him, and he finally decided it was better to do it right than fuss around and finished on a good note.

In his defense, sometimes I just think he forgets where his feet are going. He is an awfully big boy, and every once in a while I suspect the brain does not connect all the way to the legs. When Toby was younger he was a bit like that. His mind would wander and he'd do something like walk into a tree.

One will hope that age will make the Tuck wiser.

Enough physical effort today to wear out my body...or at least my knees.

I'm tired.

Thursday, April 05, 2007


Just Couldn't Face It

Too cold for April and a nasty, erratic wind kept me in most of the day.

(Of course, now as I post, the wind has died down at a last and it's kind of nice out there...but I have to go to church soon to sing for the Holy Thursday service. No time left to do anything besides take the laundry out of the dryer, eat some dinner, take a shower and head off for rehearsal before the service.)

I'd put the heavier sheets back on the Boys last night and I'm glad I did. It was off and on cloudy or sunny all day--pessimist or optimist? The wind was nasty. When the sun was out, it felt great out of the wind, but in the wind--winter.

I totally wimped out. For some reason, I just couldn't get warm.

My big adventure was going to the post office to send off Claire's riding tights. Then I hit the supermarket on the way home to get some carrots and apples...and other stuff I probably didn't really need. I also stopped at the auto store to get some bolts to put the license plate on the trailer.

Came home to discover that the bolts and the plate didn't fit the bracket set for it on the trailer. Bummer. I can wire the plate in place for now, but it definitely needs a better mounting than that. I'll need to call on Bill again. He already said he'd change the hitch coupler for me, so this will just be an added job. Once I get that load of hay, I'll take the trailer over to him and let him at it.

Ah, yes. The hay. Tomorrow. The Boys are guzzling up the new hay despite the fact that there are shoots of grass around. I guess buying a different kind has pleased them. This is a second cutting hay, so it's very soft and probably quite nice to chew, so they love it. Better, I guess, to have them clean up what I give them than have spoiled hay lying all over.

Meantime, aside from a load of wash, I haven't made much dent in the clothes piles. I am determined but still trying to steel myself. What is it about clothes that make us want to keep them even if we don't wear them?

Meant to tell the tale from my ride on Tucker the other day. As we headed for the lake, some creature bounded across the trail in front of us. It was of a fair size, but not as big as a deer, and it ran rather than bounded. I would have thought a fox, but I think it was too big and a brownish gray--most of our foxes are red. So, now I am wondering if it was a coyote? I know we have some around here as I saw the police stopped by a dead on on the road last year. My other option would be very big raccoon, but I didn't see a striped tale and it was even too large for that. Not big enough to be a bear and the wrong color for the kind we might have here. At any rate, Tucker saw it too, so I am not crazy, but whatever it was, once it passed into the deeper woods, he didn't care about it. Wouldn't it be cool if it was a bobcat?? But I think one of them would leap more than run.

So, the mystery animal is a mystery. Gotta love the woods. It continues to fascinate.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


April Showers?

Oh, well, it is Spring in New Jersey.

Rain had already started by the time I got up to feed the Boys. I had thought from the forecast that I might have an hour or two to catch a quick ride, or at least take Chance out on the trail.

No go.

And it is fairly cold too. I won't complain too much as I am not looking forward to the heat of summer. My classroom at school is a steamroom when it's hot outside. The cooler it stays until June, the happier I will be.

However, it would be nice to see the sun for more than a few hours each week. We seem to have been under cloud cover for far too many days this year. Then again, perhaps my perception is skewed since this is my vacation and it's raining.

I debated what to do today. I thought about taking the little trailer to Home Depot to get some fence rails. I debated sorting my clothes that have totally taken over my bedroom. I debated for most of the morning and didn't do anything.

Finally about an hour and a half ago, I tackled the bedroom. I have gotten as far as making piles. So, I have the need to be washed pile, the maybe I'll wear them again pile, the get rid of completely pile, the I think I'll keep them pile, the miscellaneous mixed socks and stuff pile, the definitely keep as soon as I figure out where to put them piles, and the I don't know what to do with them pile. Now, if I could just bring myself to get rid of everything not in the definitely keep pile, I might have a manageable situation.

The sad fact is I have far too many clothes. I am hoping that between now and the next week or so I can become absolutely ruthless and get rid of anything I haven't worn in the last year or so.

Stay tuned.

I left Tucker in this morning. He doesn't seem to mind too much. Toby is spending time over on Chance's side of the barn and Chance is hanging out near Tucker. At least this way everyone has a share of the shelters without pushing someone else out.

The expensive hay from my dealer is a big hit too, but for now I will see if I can get a load from the guy next door. I still haven't quite figured out which is the better deal, but as long as the horses are happy eating it, I'll buy it. I still have some bales of the old mix left, and I'll start putting that out in the pasture for casual munching. They do tend to strew that about instead of eating it all while they are cleaning up the hay from next door.

I also need to get some pasture mix planted at some point, so the rain now may be a plus. Of course, I can debate it for a while, but if I take the ring drag out to the pasture and rake up the wet ground, and then sow some seed, it might take and get some new grass growing.

I think, tomorrow morning, I need to cut short the debate and just get to work.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Day Two

And Not Quite A Busy

But my vet did come this morning, just at nine AM, as scheduled. I love this vet office. It is the first one I've ever dealt with in my 40+ years of horse experience where the vets almost always--barring unexpected emergencies--show up on time.

Basically, it was Coggins tests for everyone, spring vaccinations for all and teeth and sheath for Chance.

All my Boys are the best for the shots and blood draws. Toby is an absolute gentleman, Tucker is delightfully polite, and Chance was quite angelic. All was well.

Then Dr. Perez gave Chance some tranquilizer for the teeth floating and she began. Well, apparently, Chance has a fast metabolism. He was good for quite a while and then started to fuss. OK, another dose of tranquilizer and we nearly made it to the end before he started protesting again. He wasn't dangerous or mean, just resistant, shaking his head around and trying to stretch up out of reach. The doctor stopped before she did her most perfect job, but was satisfied that all the points were gone and his teeth were even. We had to laugh, though, when she cleaned his sheath because then he just hung his head and stood quietly.

The strangles vaccine is given through spray up the horses' noses. Chance made a terrible face for that as did Tucker. Toby was good again, but was mightily insulted or else his feelings were hurt because he would not respond to cuddles from either Dr. Perez or me afterward and even refused to eat a treat or and apple from the doctor as a peace offering. He was really pouting.

Dr. Perez will be back on April 28 to do the second doses, so I guess I'd better get a big bag of carrots for Toby. We need to keep up good relationships with our vets!!

I'll admit it, I took an afternoon nap and then went out to ride--vacation mode in full force.

I schooled Tucker in the ring for about 25 minutes where the "walk" command from the canter really seems to have solved the simple change problem. While the transitions are not perfect, he certainly does seem to understand now, so I short order we will have conquered that second level hurdle. Once done, we headed out on the trail.

This time I took the longer route and he was quite happy about that. When we reached an intersection in the middle of the woods, he headed right, off towards the lake. I just let him choose and he was really pleased. When we got to the trail around the lake, we took the hill option, past the "killer boulder" which he simply ignored--the star!!--and walked along the ridge back to the trail home. Great ride!

I took Toby out next and decided to see if we could make it around the lake. The ATV's have made all kinds of ruts out there and the water has filled in to cover them leaving big expanses of muddy water with questionable footing underneath. Somehow we managed to make it to the halfway point before we were forced to wade, but I must admit, Toby is one good "water" horse--akin to both Russell and PJ. We were just fine with his careful maneuvering getting us safely through. Our only little episode was a spot where a fisherman was standing with his chair and equipment on the other side of the trail. I don't think the guy spoke English too well because I tried to warn him to watch out since I felt that Toby was going to spook at the chair which would have put him in the guy's lap. Fortunately, I guess Toby figured that out too and when the man stood rooted in the danger zone, the Wobester adjusted his spook so he didn't kill the guy.

Since there was a darn ATV racing around out there, I decided to keep Chance in the ring again. This time, his head was either out or down about 95% of the time, with perhaps only one time when he raised it up all the way. He is definitely testing to see where he feels comfortable and also to see what my reaction is to his stretching. As I predicted, he is going to figure it out in short order and once he does, the steering and control will improve enormously. Once they do, I will be able to try some cantering without worrying about crashing into things. *G*

All in all, day two of vacation was a winner.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Busy Day

And a Good One

I went to the doctor for some laser therapy on my knees in the morning.

When I got home, I called the tack shop to get approval of the breeches size trade so I can send a pair to Claire. I had to wait for the manager to call back which threw me off an hour. I had wanted to stop at my hay man to see what his timothy/grass mix was like, but he was closed for lunch so I had to wait.

I exchanged the breeches, and visited the hay place on the way home. This hay was beautiful but a dollar more than the hay from the guy across the road. I bought four bales to try out and gossiped a bit about the farm we are trying to save since my hay man farms the land. Found out some interesting tidbits and headed back with the hay in the car.

The horses were making a fuss when I unloaded it so I had to open a bale and give them each a couple flakes. They seemed quite pleased so I left them to eating it and took on the trailer registration effort.

Fortunately, even though it is the beginning of a new month, the line in motor vehicles was not very long and, aside from the 20 minute each way, the whole process of getting the license plate only took about 45 minutes.

Back home again, I fed The Boys, and then crashed for about an hour while I waited for them to eat.

Finally, at around 6, I headed back out. My vet is coming tomorrow, so I needed to tidy up the barn a bit which I did, and then, at last, I tacked up Tucker in the long lines and took him out to work.

He was wonderful! This was absolutely the best work he has ever done on the lines. In short order he was round and engaged, and quite willing to go nicely forward. I did a bunch of canter/trot/canter transistions to really get him using his back and he was obedient and correct about it all. Three cheers for a very good boy.

I saddled up Chance for a quick school and he too was a star. His head was down nearly all the time with just a few little pop ups now and then whenever he lost his forward momentum. I am so pleased. He was also very straight, even on both sides, and quite easy to turn correctly on a circle. The falling in was completely gone and he bent through his body with more than reasonable balance. I only rode him about ten minutes as three year old brains do not need much more, and finished up with a ton of praise and pats. What a star he was!

Toby didn't seem too interested in doing anything more than watching, which is fine. By then it was getting a little dark and all I really wanted to do was throw everyone some more hay and go back inside.

The weather was lovely after some dampness in the morning, with true Spring temperatures--the kind where you need a light jacket just to ward off a bit of chill.

I guess for a first day of vacation, this one turned out to be just fine.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Palm Sunday

First a Musing, Then a Ride

I sing in my church choir, so I have been to many Easter season services. I always thought the emotional power of the closely following holiday services was amazing.

First, of course, is Palm Sunday, when Christ made a triumphal entry into Jerusalem, acclaimed as King. Shouts of joy rose all around him as the people cried, "Hosanna, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!" Maunday Thursday marks the Last Supper, the celebration of the First Communion, and Christ's betrayall and arrest. The service begins in light and ends in darkness as realization of the coming crucifixion shadows the world. Good Friday marks the darkest of all days. And then the celebration of Easter and the Resurrection brings and overwhelming elation.

Then, why is it that nearly every year, my pastor preaches a betrayal and crucifixion sermon on Palm Sunday? It happened again today as the chosen scripture was the entire chapter of Luke 23, the story of Christ's trial and crucifixion? Huh?

Maybe he is being practical, figuring that most people who attend on Sunday morning will not be there on Thursday night when the passage is most appropriate. I have a feeling we will be hearing it again that night, but somehow it deflated today.

OK, off the religious soapbox and on to the horses!!

Trails all around again. Toby went out first and we rode back to look at the flooding. The water is definitely receding, but I am very worried about the trees that have been underwater for over a year now. They are far too tall for me to assess the buds, but I am afraid they may be dead. There are also some trees in the interior forest that have been flooded for months as well.

Another concern is that I did not hear and spring peepers--tree frogs--singing at the vernal pond. Again, my worry is that the flooding has kept the pond wet long enough for fish to breed in there and, if so, they may have eaten the frog eggs, destroying the breeding area. It was a big chilly today, so there is hope that the quiet was more a weather phenomenon than a fish phenomenon. But the flooding may have changed the ecology of the area and that is a serious concern.

I rode Tucker next, starting off with a short school in the ring. He was a good boy, but I do have to be precise in his leg yields as he can slide to easily sideways and not keep his stride forward into the lateral moves. I worked a bit on the simple changes again, trying to get him to go immediately from the canter to the walk with no trot strides in between. He would much prefer to "trickle down" to walk, but I did find out that if I said, "Walk" just before the transition, that is exactly what he did. Guess I need a verbal cue.

We had a nice little hack afterwards too ending the ride on a pleasant note.

Chance finished up the day. I rode him first in the ring too and I am really pleased with his progress. Not only was he straighter, but he was very obedient to being steered, and, more importantly, he is beginning to get the idea of stretching out and down instead of holding his head up like a giraffe. He still isn't sure about it, but he is offering more and more. If I do some consistent work over the next couple weeks, I think he'll have mastered it!

I took him out for the medium length hack just for some variety and, as always, he was lovely and quiet. He really does enjoy going out, and that makes him a truly fun ride.

Add the nice rides to a great lunch with my friends from choir right after church and I would say it was an exceptional day.

I Told James.....

....I'd Blame Him

And I will....

I was working and my computer this afternoon and who should pull into my driveway but James. Back from a fruitful morning of research about the Van Dyke family, he happened to be passing and decided to visit.

On a impluse he offered to take me on a tour of some of the cemeteries he's been talking about and off we went. It was an enjoyable adventure. For the first time, I saw the Dean cemetery with old headstones dating back to the 1700's. Set far off the beaten track, this graveyard has a collection of unmarked stones at one side which may well have marked slave graves. While this is only speculation, it quite possibly follows a tradition of the area.

Then we drove to the well tended cemetery at Ten Mile Run. (This is a village named for a nearby stream.) There, to James' delight, we found the tombstone of Jan (John) Van Dyke who was the patriarch of the Van Dyke family, one of the key figures James had been reading about earlier in the day. As well there is a monument to the workers who lost their lives while building the Deleware-Raritan Canal, a prime transportation and shipping canal for the 19th century.

Our final stop was the Higgins cemetery with some more intriguing stones memorializing local families and quite possibly their servants.

On the way home, I convinced James to stop at the end of my road so we could look at the little cemetery on the hill next to the huge Pro Logis warehouse. Now fenced in the place is a wreck of vines, briars, and inderbrush. There are mostly broken stones there, but one fallen monument has been a local curiousity for years. It is a well crafted stone reading: "Colonel Godfrey Krause of St. Croix Island, departed this life, April 8, 1776, age 79 years."

Who was he? Is this St. Croix of the Virgin Islands, or St Croix Island off the coast of Maine where there had been an early settlement doomed by harsh weather and sickness? What was he doing in New Jersey? And a Colonel? Of what? The date falls close to the American Revolution and we do suspect part of the Continental Army might have been nearby, but at 79, would the Colonel still be active? And why such a fine stone? This one has toppled off a carved base.

James hopes to do some research on the Colonel at some point and considering his skill, he just may find a few answers.

So, where does this all lead? By the time the trip was done, it was time to feed the Boys. Then I came back inside, did a few chores, became the "victim" of a few phone calls, and I never did ride.

The "Horses of Follywoods" blog is becoming the "Horses of Folly."

I don't think they mind. Tucker and Chance would much rather chase each other around playing anyhow.

What did Miss Scarlett say? "Tomorrow is another day."