Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Morning Ride

Well, Not Really Early

I didn't get up until 8:30. That meant I needed to feed The Boys first before I rode.

By 9:30 or so, it was pretty warm but the worst heat was still on the way. I saddled up Tucker and did a nice little schooling session in the ring. He really was a good boy. We did some nice trot work with shoulder-in, leg yields, square turns, transistions and a bit of an attempt at half-pass--going to right a much better effort then going left.

I used the leg yield movement on every downward transition and only had resistance once when I wasn't quick enough to catch it. The neatest thing was when I moved up to canter and tried some canter/walk canter transitions. Tucker has gotten pretty good on the left rein at this exercise, but on the right, he still tends to trickle down to the walk through the trot. Today, I transitioned down through a leg yield and....voila!! He had it! It wasn't perfect, but the downward was so much better and twice out of three tries, he went right to the walk without the trot.

At that success, I brought him back down to the trot, let him stretch for a circle or two and called it a day. He really seemed pleased with himself, and I was too.

I put the bug armor on Toby and headed out to the woods. My goal was to ride out to see how bad the flooding is. Well, the corn has managed to grow in the stream bed this year, but the water around the trees is as high as ever. I am sure if I traced it, it would be well into the forest ponds. It is beginning to look like a permanent condition--a shame since one lovely road is covered and there is no real way to ride all the way around the cornfield anymore.

The bug armor was a godsend for Toby, but not 100% effective against the voracious and determined deer flies. Once or twice, one managed to attack him from below. Normally, that might not be a big deal, but Toby's reaction is a buck. It got a little scary when he decided to buck on a downhill portion of the trail, so I opted for the shorter route home instead of going all the way through the woods. I had considered taking Tucker for a short trail ride too, but now I'm glad I didn't. He is far less tolerant of the flies than Toby and his buck unseats me at first crack.

All in all, though, the armor does work. If I pick the right time of day to ride, then it does the job completely.

Today, I guess the flies were just more determined than usual.

I went for a swim and did my laps, rode the tube in the lazy river, and here I am back home, still thinking about maybe going to see a movie later.

Or, I may wait until tomorrow to go to the movies because then I can get the matinee rate.

Advantage Home

Humid Day

I have no idea where the hours went this morning.

I got up a little late and went out to feed. I then cleaned all three stalls and spent another two wheelbarrow loads cleaning up under the run in shed. By then, I was soaked with sweat.

Back inside I took a shower and ate breakfast. Then I did some computer stuff...and....well, just generally wasted time. I did activate a new cell phone--Tracfone to replace the one I MAY have lost, but how long does that take?

Somewhere the hours flew until it was time to go to the chiropractor for a minor adjustment and my physical therapy.

Sad to say, the thunderstorms have brought in more humidity and, from the forecast, a nasty heat wave. It was definitely not pleasant out by afternoon. When I got home, my telephone rang. This was the dead line yesterday. It was a Verizon technician apologizing that my service had been out and now it had been fixed. That means I no longer have to be here to wait for the repair guy tomorrow! Yippee! If it as hot as predicted, I may go see a movie, get my hair cut and go for a swim.

Meantime, the title about the advantage of home. I have no barn hours!

I have just come back in from lunging Toby and Tucker and it is just after midnight. It was dampish out but pretty cool, so it didn't feel too bad. Both Boys went very well for me and seemed pretty happy to work. I didn't need the ring lights either because the full moon was bright enough that I could see.

I am also pleased to report that I managed to fly spray Chance with a minimum of fuss. Now that my farrier started him off on the spraying, I have been trying it a little every few days. At this point, if Chance has treats in his feed tub, he stands quietly for the spray all over his body. He is still a little nervous if he is not distracted with feed, but overall this is an enormous improvement over his previous somewhat dangerous panic at the sprayer.

Since I am using Endure which really lasts, I don't have to spray him every day, so his acceptance has come with just a few applications.

Chance watched me lunge the older Boys, so I get the feeling he would like to do some work himself or at least reap the attention of being worked. He still has a couple weeks to wait before I begin his training again, so he will just have to be a spectator for now.

If I am not a totally lazy wretch, I will get up early in the morning and ride. I do need to take Toby out to see how the park flooding looks so that's a short trail ride for him. Then, I would like to work Tucker a bit in the ring.

Stay tuned. It's not too many hours away.

Presuming I get up.....early.....

Sunday, July 29, 2007


And More Utility Fun

No cable in the morning, so I could not watch the Tour finale.

Instead, I followed it on the computer. Not quite the same, but the narrations are really entertaining.

All went well until the first of several thunderstorms came in. That kicks out my DSL Internet connection. Then the power went off for a while. Then it came back on and we had some torrential rain.

I got calls from both my Aunt and my neighbor asking about the cable, but the repair guy wasn't due until after 1 PM, so the morning was a washout in more ways than one.

The storm rolled by and there was a knock at my door. It was the cable guy. He still didn't know it was not just my cable that was out, but in short order, he found out I had absolutely no signal coming into my house. A little worried about the storms hanging around the area, he climbed the pole in front of my house and found there was no signal there either. That meant that the touble was further down the line and down the road.

Back to square one. This meant a line technician had to fix the problem instead of this guy. To add to it all, since it was Sunday, there was only one line tech on duty, so we had no idea if and when he would make it out.

Fast forward a few hours. The DSL came back on and, to my surprise, so did the cable TV. I picked up the phone to call my Aunt and....no dial tone! Now my phone was out.

I checked all the connections inside and went out to the phone box on the side of the house to plug in another phone to see if I had a dial tone outside. One line had some noise, but no real dial tone and the other was dead.

I will have to presume here that my DSL is a separate line if from my phone because that is working fine.

I headed over to my Aunt's house to see if her phone was OK and it was, so it is just my line.

I called the phone company and "spoke" to one of those voice response answering services. The computer automatically checked my line and found nothing wrong. That now meant I needed a repairman to come.

Swell. Next appointment? Tuesday between 8 AM and 5 PM. Would someone be home?

What could I say? So now I am stuck sitting home all day waiting for the phone guy.

Did I work a horse today? Nope. The torrential rain really did a mud puddle number on the ring again. It should be fine tomorrow.

And the weather will, I hope, be better as well. I THINK the rain broke the humidity, but the morning will tell.

Let's see....cable, electricity, phone. I think that covers the utilities that can go bad.

What's next?

Whacky Day

And Hot

I spent most of the day--with breaks because of the heat and humidity--weed whacking.

I have a bank extending about 100 feet along the front of my property that grows grass and various weeds. I cannot mow it as it is too steep. When the vegetation gets too tall, I cannot see cars on the road when I try to pull out of my driveway.

I have an electrically powered hand held string trimmer for the job. I had to put new trimmer string in it before I started. As anyone who has ever used a trimmer knows, this, in itself is a challenging job as the plastic trimmer string has a mind of its own. That finally done, I went out to whack and the knob and spring holding the trimmer head flew off. Apparently, I hadn't tightened it enough.

OK, give it another 45 minutes of searching the lawn to find the lost pieces. Got things back together and started working on the bank. I'd guess that was a good hour's plus work in the hot sun with cars and trucks rushing by, many not even bothering to move over onto the other side of the road to give me a few more feet of safety.

Done there, I had to come back inside for a drink of water and to cool off.

Repeat scenario about 4-5 more times during the day as I trimmed near the fence, around trees, and near the barn area.

By then, I was sweaty, hot and miserable. I fed the Boys, but on my swimsuit and headed for the pool. I did 24 lengths just because if felt so good to be in the water.

Back home, I discovered we'd had a power outage. I flipped on the TV to find no picture whatsoever.

We have cable TV out here and it's generally pretty reliable. When it does go out, there is, however, a challenging ritual to perform. "The Calling of Comcast." This involves facing one of those charming answering systems--"Press 1 if you want English, duos par Esapanol. Press 1 to pay your bill, press 2 for service and press 9 to vent your frustration at the answering system. etc." Well, miracle of miracles, I got a nice service person rather quickly who told me there was nothing wrong on their line, so it must be just my house and I could have a serviceman there to fix it by Thursday between 11-1PM. OK. A week without TV? Guess so, as long as they don't charge me for it.

Shortly thereafter, my neighbor called to tell me his cable wasn't working either. This unleashed a whole new series of phone calls, as now it wasn't just my cable that was down. Comcast doesn't recognize and outage unless more than one person calls to report it. My neighbor is elderly and the "Press 1,2, and 65" system completely baffled him. But when I tried to report his outage too, not only could I not get through for the first 3 times, but when I finally did, I was told I could not report his service interruption--he had to.

Finally, after a while, Comcast called me to tell me there was a general outage and that they were on the road fixing it.

Then the power went out again. And about an hour later, it came back on.

Comcast called back. Was my TV working yet? No.

I decided to order some dinner and drove to the Italian restaurant to pick it up. On the way, I saw the Comcast repair guy on a pole. I stopped by and asked him how things were going. He told me he'd just gotten there was looking for the problem.

On the way back home, he'd moved his truck up the road towards my house by about five poles and another five poles up, there were three Public Service electric company trucks doing something to the power wires.

Back home, I had electricity, but no cable.

Now, I had planned on working the horses once the heat of the day had begun to fade, but now, the phone rang again. Comcast. Was my TV working? No. I was now told the technician was on the job and I needed to hang around so they could check with me to see if the cable was back up.

I decided to watch a DVD. Loaded the disc and my DVD player didn't work. Mind you, I had a brand new one still in the box because I'd had trouble with this one before, but I use it so seldom I hadn't bothered to swap out yet. So, at least this pushed me to make the switch.

I started watching Nanny McPhee--a really cute film, by the way--only to be interrupted by Comcast at least three more times asking if my cable was OK. There had been a major outage in our area and the technician was sure he'd fixed it. No.

This time the service rep said it must be my system but my having to wait a week to get it fixed was ridiculous, so she'd give me a service appointment today (Sunday) between 1 and 5. In the meantime, if my neighbors' cable was still out, I was to let Comcast know because then they'd know it was a line problem and not just my individual house.

I called my neighbor and sure enough, his cable was still out. This now required at least two more calls to Comcast. Of course, I never got the service person who'd told me to call back, so trying to explain everything again was really a pain. Then we finally agreed that they'd come back out to fix things either last night or today, as scheduled.

So, here I am, "Tour de Franceless" waiting for a thunderstorm to break which will probably kick out my computer DSL.

If it storms, I can't ride and I can't swim, and I certainly won't weed whack.

Guess it's time to go read a book--until the power goes out again and it's too dark because of the storm.

Does this mean I have to house clean?

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Tactics

And a No Horse Day, Sort Of

I took the day off from riding. It was kind of hot and I was kind of worn out from yesterday's "festivties." I mowed the lawn instead.

It was almost horseless in more ways than one as just before I went out to feed in the afternoon, I saw Toby on the side lawn. I have fencing on each side of the house and bump gates in the driveway which, fortunately seem to keep the horses from adventuring off the property as they have done in the past. (Horses on the road and my Aunt's lawn are not a good thing.) Anyhow, apparently, I had just looped the chain in the gate when I brought Tucker home and had failed fasten the clip. Prior to Chance, this would have kept the herd in, but the new kid is a whiz at opening things, so everyone was out, grazing and frolicking on the lawn.

No big deal as long as they respect those gates, and I hadn't mowed the lawn yet. AND they were pretty darn quick to come back into the paddock at the sound of the feed buckets.

Once they were safely penned and fed, I hopped on the riding mower and spent about an hour and a half mowing. I still need to trim and weed whack but the prediction is for rain and more rain for the next three days, so it just may have to wait. After mowing, I went for a swim, did my laps, rode the lazy river and came back home for supper.

So, to answer questions about the lesson. I never mind if my horse is bad because a good trainer will help me a heck of a lot more dealing with it than I can ever do at home. Tucker was not upset at being at this barn as he has been there many times before. He has also stayed overnight before. It was staying overnight and getting no turnout while being able to see outside that probably ticked him off. He was just wound up and not happy about it.

As I said, the good thing was that he never offered to buck. That was always his biggest problem and despite his tension, that was not part of the agenda.

He was forward, up both plusses at first, but he was not particularly steerable and definitely not focusing on what I wanted. Gabriel's first tactic was to keep him busy. Constant changes of rein, circles, serpentines--trying to get him to realize he would need to listen because he just didn't know what he would have to do next.

That worked pretty well until a couple other horses came into the ring to school. Then, he decided he'd much rather be with them then where I wanted him to be. So, he pulled the balk, napping to a halt, refusing to go forward in the direction I wanted to go.

The obvious solution should be a good kick forward, but, as I told Gabriel, Tucker's response to that is to rear. As it turned out, Gabriel has been schooling a strong willed stallion with a similar evasion. He explained that it's very difficult for a horse to rear if his hind leg is crossing over the other, so one of the best solutions is to get the horse moving sideways, primarily with a leg yield movement.

Well, Tucker was pretty well planted so the first thing I had to do was get some kind of movement. When I tried to turn left, he wouldn't--does this sound like Caroline's Jazz? I turned him right instead and got those feet moving. Gabriel says that's fine. It diffuses the fight about the left turn, and gets the action I want even if it's not exactly where I wanted to go.

Then we began working on downward transitions, with the goal of keeping him forward. What happens there, again, is that if I am just a little too strong with my downward aid, he overreacts, shuts down, stops, and pulls the threat to rear if I try to leg him on.

So, to make the downward work, I need to make a leg yield both in the downward and back to the upward, always, FOR NOW, displacing his hind end to the outside to keep the inside hind leg engaged and also to keep him from planting it so he can stop. Essentially, when the horse is bending and flexing in his body, he cannot brace against the rider and refuse to move or turn.

Another training tactic with Tucker is to get him in the arena, go right to work and not stop until the training session is done. He is not particularly good if he has breaks in between as many horses will. He needs to have his mind and body engaged from the start and work through to the end. It was interesting that Gabriel suggested this as it is exactly what I have found works best. If I work for a bit, and take a break, Tucker is never as good after the break as he was before. This might mean it will be only a 20 minute ride if all goes well and we accomplish some really good work. But, because he is a Thoroughbred, it is not difficult to keep his muscles fit with shorter sessions.

Since Tucker is quick and athletic, I have to be pretty quick myself to get it right every time.

I have been riding just Thoroughbreds for some 35 or more years, so I am pretty much tuned into the program. All my horses have been sharp, and I've spent a good many hours learning how to outwit them as well as ride them.

Tucker seems to be a combination of all of my past horses. He is very smart, very quick, very temperamental, and yet full of the Thoroughbred work ethic. The downside of that is that he just doesn't get tired.

I've noticed with Chance that I can either lunge him or ride him to settle him down if he is "high," but Tucker just gets more wound up the more he works. Lunging does nothing to settle him, so having riding strategies that make him focus or get him to work correctly despite his emotions is really important.

He has improved immensely over the last year or so. This problem will get worked out, too, I'm sure. As I said before, if I can get around it to get through it, instead of confronting it to get through it, so much the better.

Where there's a will, there's a way.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Naughty Boy

But a Good Lesson, Nonetheless

Hurried over to the indoor arena barn after school to have my lesson. (By the by, the workshop really went well.)

Tucker was very annoyed. He wanted OUT of that stall and, I think, OUT of the barn altogether.

I saddled him up, despite his cranky mood, and mounted up. Gabriel was there from square one, so he was in on the "attitude."

We talked for a while as I walked around, and then we started the lesson.

The good news is that Tucker never offered to buck.

The bad news is that he was a naughty boy in the paying attention department. He was totally distracted. He was looking for something to spook at, and when other horses came in the ring, he was trying to get over to them instead of turning. He also pulled his stop, balk, and no turn thing a number of times and was just overall a miserable ride.

Gabriel is very patient and offers good suggestions to all kinds of behavior issues, so we worked through the temperamental ride. I told him of Tucker's resentment if I stop him too abruptly and how he will offer to rear instead of going forward again after walking or halting.

Gabriel had me do all my downward transisitons with a lateral move such as a shoulder in or bit of a leg yield. The theory is that the horse cannot rear with his hind end displaced to the side and, any movement, even if it is sideways, is better than none at all.

That worked about 90% of the time, but the naughty boy still challenged me a few times. I wanted to turn left and he wouldn't, so instead I turned right. The idea was not to confront him about the disobedience when he was in that mood as it would evoke a fight. The problem with that is, that unless I was ready, willing and able to battle it out to the end with victory, there was no sense in pushing it that far.

We both agreed, it may come to a fight at some point, and if so, I am fully prepared to have a far better rider than I am deal with it. For now, though, if the alternative approaches work, they are effective training aids that just might cure the problem.

I don't think Tucker is at all mean. He is emotional, smart, arrogant, independent, likes to please but doesn't really feel he HAS to, and when he doesn't quite understand something, he gets frustrated and often acts it out in negative ways.

Does he sound like a teenage boy to you?

Another Busy Day

Courses and Horses

I taught part one of my workshop on Photo Story today. I would rate it a success, but we will find out tomorrow when the teachers who took it evaluate everything.

I came home, made a few phone calls, fed the Boys and got another phone call. The woman who had taken the lesson on Toby before was not going to do it this time, so Tucker was the only one who needed to be trailered to the indoor. I offered to take Kelly's horse over, but her dad will trailer him over tomorrow morning and I will trailer him back home with Tuck tomorrow sometime after my lesson.

Clearing up all that confusion took a while. Then I called one of the people involved in the warehouse battle across town and had another long chat.

I suppose it was just as well since I managed to avoid the worst of the rush hour traffic when I finally did take Tucker to the barn with the indoor. I have been taking lessons there with my trainers for a while now. As a matter of fact, that is where Kenny Harlow helped me break Tucker to saddle for his first ride. Many of my lessons are indoors as it assures us we can get a scheduled ride in in case the weather is bad. When a trainer is traveling 4-5 hours to come teach, you need the insurance of a good roof over your head.

So, I settled Tucker into a stall, gave him some reassurance and drove back home.

I turned on the Township Planning Board meeting to catch up on the warehouse situation, grabbed a quite bite to eat and headed for the Township Municipal Building. It is now after midnight and I got home from the meeting about an hour ago.

Summer vacation? Not me. More like summer busy-ness.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Rain and Sun

In That Order

Monday was a virtual washout. It poured most the morning and when it finally stopped in the late afternoon, the ring was waterlogged.

I spent the better part of the day getting my workshop materials ready for the Photo Story workshop I will be teaching tomorrow and Thursday.

This morning, I polished up a few details and took my handout and my computer files to school. I needed copies of the handout and the files loaded on the computers the other teachers and I will be using during the workshop.

The graphics arts teacher was there so I got nice copies in full color. That will be great as the materials I am using shows the screenshots from the Photo Story program and it really helps to see the directions exactly as they look on the computer.

The general idea of the workshop is to first teach the teachers how to use the program, then get them to create an actual lesson for their class using the program, and finally, to inspire them to come up with ways to have their students use the program for class.

That done, I dropped over at the shopping mall to look for a pair of Skecher shoes my Aunt was interested in. I lucked out on a shoe sale, and found a pair for her and one for me. When I took them over to her house they fit her beautifully and looked really nice. So that was a success.

I finally went out to ride Tucker as evening drew on. It had been moderately hot during the day, though not too humid, but by evening there was a nice breeze. We had a good ride. I did dozens of transitions, and just concentrated on keeping him forward. The biggest problem I have with him is that if I use the rein too strongly in a downward transition, and he stops, I am in big trouble. He plants his feet and will not go forward at all. If then, I use too much leg, he will rear. It does get scary sometimes. I am working on it, but I'm not sure he will ever quite grow out of it. He simply resents being overcorrected. Temperament....temperament.

Tomorrow, Wednesday, I will be trailering both Boys over to the indoor for the lessons on Thursday. We were going to have Gabriel come here to teach, but the possible heat, possible rain, and definite bugs would all have been problematic. Pat, the barn owner, has three empty stalls and she offered them to Kelly and me to keep our horses in for the night so we could take the lessons indoors. Kelly's friend, Laura, will not be able to take a lesson this time, so it will be Kelly's horse, Toby, and Tucker for lessons. Kelly's dad can trailer her over and I will take my two Boys.

That will leave Chance alone for the night and day. I don't think he'll be too upset. At least I hope not. He is fairly independent and the last time I left him to take his elders to a lesson, he hardly took note when they came back home hours later.

I'll just make sure he has lots of attention from me and plenty to eat.

He'll probably enjoy not having to worry about competing for the vittles as Tucker is always trying to find a way to steal his.

Ah, well. Every day is a new adventure.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Sunday Funday

And This Is Supposed to be a Horse Blog!

So what did I do today?

Well, I spent the better part of the morning watching a riveting Tour de France. It was a powerful mountain climbing stage finally won by rookie Alberto Contador of Team Discovery--Lance Armstrong's old team. Contador is in his first Tour, and is a young rider, so his efforts were quite special, especially since he was in a duel with the leading rider in the yellow jersey, Michael Rasmussen.

Once the race was over, I headed off for a Sunday brunch at the home of my choir director. It's the "Sunday after church lunch crew," and we had a really good time. Everyone is well versed in many subjects and the conversation can be really interesting.

We also watched the short film that won the Academy Award--"West Bank Story"--and shared a few laughs at that. Really clever take off on "West Side Story" set in Palestine. If you ever get a chance to see it, do so. It's worth the 15-20 minutes. We also watched an animated short, "Maestro" that didn't win, but was even more clever. What fun!

I came back home around 3:30 or so, and settled at the computer to check my email, when my young cousin came a' knocking at my door to invite me over to my Aunt's house next door for a picnic.

Well, how could I refuse? I was still pretty full from the brunch, but all my cousins were there, so the socializing was far too appealing. I fed the Boys and walked over.

You know how that goes. More good food and conversation brought us well into the evening. I did enlist the help of my two young cousins and one dad to unload my hay--finally. So that is nicely stacked in the carport and the truck and trailer are once again out of the driveway parked alongside the tractor garage.

So, 'round about 8:30 PM, I finally got back home, and that was that. While I could have gone out to work a horse, I surrendered to peoples' company instead.

I am sure, if the weather heats up again this week--which it will--I will have some regrets for missing out on today--nice breeze and low humidity--but it was worth it. I had a really good day both for my brain and my tummy.

Saturday Cleaning

Another Lovely Day

Because it was so nice out today, I decided to get to work on the back porch.

The porch is enclosed and has become a "catch all" place for anything and everything. Cleaning it is largely a matter of sorting to get rid of stuff and putting everything else where it actually belongs.

That, along with some time wasting took up a good part of the day.

It was a bit too hot to work horses until after feed time, so I waited.

It was long lining for Toby. When he was a basically unbroken 2 year old, I started him on the lines. Close to a year of training that way made him an easy horse to train under saddle. Lining teaches steering, stopping, and correct posture in all three gaits. All in all, he is a long lining expert.

Well, that said, we had a good session, but for the first time with Toby, my bad knees really caused some worrisome moments. I cannot run. The ligament that holds my knee in place from the front, the anterior cruciate, is completely gone in both knees. So, running puts too much forward pressure on the joint.

Ideally, when you long line a horse on a circle, you should stand in one place and work the horse around you. Sometimes, though, the horse pulls to the outside and then you need to move about to keep the rein contact correct.

All was well until I started doing canter/trot/canter transitions. Toby elevated into an FEI frame, sat down on his hind end and really put some power into his gaits. In the process, he had too much momentum for me to easily hold him with the outside and inside reins at the right contact. He was fine along the fence, but on the open side of the circle, I almost lost him.

Fortunately, because he is so good, I managed to hold on--had it been Tucker he would have broken free and galloped off with the two lines trailing behind.

Once I sorted out the problem, I only asked for the canter along the fenced side of the circle and held the trot for the open side.

Toby looked amazing in that frame, but I only kept it for a short while as I know he is not fit enough to carry himself like that for too long. Then, on each rein, I put him in a long stretch and finished up with a nice forward, round, lower level trot.

The woods and horse flies were out in force. I don't know why they were so nasty, but I decided to leave Tucker for the day.

I might get on an every other day schedule, more for me than for the Boys. My lower back was really bothering me and it might be from riding two horses too hard. Once I'm fitter myself, it will be OK, but at my age, gradual work sounds so much better.

I'm sure the Boys won't mind.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Beautiful Day

And What Did I Do?

I fell asleep. I didn't sleep well at all last night, so I ended up napping into the afternoon after the Tour de France finished for the day.

Did I tell you I was "addicted" to the Tour? Somehow I just can't help watching once I turn it on.

When I did go outside, I took to the trimming of weeds, branches, and general all around green stuff encroaching on my ring and barn. It was a mammouth task and not totally done yet.

I have a DR trimmer which works fine until the string trim hits the fence--which it does everytime I try trimming out there. The other problem is that some of the weeds are pretty thick so the string can't handle them either. I have a weed whacker as well, but again, some of those weeds are pretty tough.

So, I took to the hand clippers.

What is it about getting rid of an annoying weed that is so pleasurable? I trimmed and trimmed and trimmed. I ended up with about five pretty good piles.

By then, it was dusk, so I decided to long line Tucker. He settled in nicely and worked onto the bit in a matter of minutes. I did a lot of canter trot transitions on both reins, an got him working really well.

The best part of it all was how lovely and cool it was outside. I have the windows open in the house now and it feels great! The screens keep the bugs out, and the cats in.

We should have a few more days of low humidity so I can get some more outside work done.

Nobody who ever owned a house and land has an excuse for being bored.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Two for Two

Riding in the Almost Rain

I spent the morning cleaning the bedroom. I sorted out shoes today, and got rid of every pair that might bother my bunion. I've had to buy new shoes this year so my orthopedic insoles fit in them and I've had to go up a full size. Essentially, I am getting rid of every pair in my old size. Some of my favorites had to bite the dust, but it's all for the best.

Still lots of other things to sort. If anyone has seen the TV show, "Clean House," I am trying to adopt that philosophy to sort my collection of clutter. I have some pretty bad habits about keeping things I don't really use, this this approach is taking a bit of effort and will power.

Once done with a good part of that task, I played a little more of Professor Fizzwizzle. I did use the automatic solution a number of times, I'll admit. The game is very clever, but I just don't have my usual determination to figure out all the levels on my own. So, I cheated. It was nearly as much fun. It has a follow up game which I also purchased which, I think, allows you to restart a level without going all the way to the beginning. Regardless, the game is great and if anyone enjoys logic puzzles, I highly recommend it.

It was warm today, but not as humid. However, there was a constant threat of rain. I fed the Boys and decided to wait until early evening to ride. Naturally, it was showering by then. I went out anyway.

Tucker and I had a really good school. I did tons of transitions--trot/walk/trot/collect trot/trot/canter/trot/canter/walk/canter/collect/canter--over and over and over. It really gets him to engage while staying forward to the leg. I added a little try at some trot half pass--not quite there yet, but his leg yield is super, so it won't be long.

I gave Toby a good workout next. It is so neat to just kind of sit there and have all kinds of movements just "happen." The funniest moment was at the end when I decided to just do two "Zigs" of a canter zig-zag with only one change of direction. The idea is to canter up a line, half-pass to the left, do a flying change, then half pass to the right. In a full zig-zag this is repeated twice more. I was going for half. Left we went. Change we did. Right we went and then as I straightened, Toby did the third change on his own!! Sweetie pie!! I gave him a big pat and a "thank-you," and let him stretch down at that trot to relax at the end of the session.

Chance is on vet-suggested time off until the middle of August. I still may lunge him to see how he looks, but today, I just decided to give him a fly spray lesson. What a brave boy he was! Of course he loved the horse treats and they distracted him enough to have him stand for some spraying all on his own. By the end of the week, he will be a fly spray pro! Thanks to Scott, my farrier who gave him a lesson after he trimmed him, I am now able to handling him. Before he got so frantic he was dangerous. Now, he just kind of runs around in a circle. The panic is gone, and now he's just a little scared and uncertain about the sprayer. Cool.

I clean up the paddock around the barn and plan on doing a lot of weed/tree/bush pruning around the ring tomorrow. Being next to the woods is ever a challenge. I keep thinking of Whitman's poetry, "I am grass; I cover all." However it is, "I am briars, I am saplings, I am vines; I cover all." Left to it's own devices, the forest would claim all.

My property used to back up to a farm field which my grandmother tilled and farmed in the early 1900's. As late as the 1960's it was still being farmed. The State bought it for Parkland sometime around then. Now it is totally wooded. We are talking big trees too, not little saplings.

Nature will reclaim her own if no one interferes. The earth can heal.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Rain, Rain, and Soggy Bottoms

What a Day

I had a doctor's appointment today for my metabolic testing. Since it was at my chiropractic clinic I did the whole circuit. Doctor, physical therapy, and an adjustment.

The good news is that my blood pressure is down. The bad news is that I am again disaerobic, which means my system is not in balance. I am not using oxygen well. The fix is fairly easy...this terrible tasting supplement. YUCK!!!!

My back was out due to the long drive yesterday and all the tension of the traffic. So, I got that fixed up and did some grocery shopping on the way home.

On the way out, I hit a pothole and one of my wheelcovers flew off. Luckily, I found it on the way home, so that's good. It does have two broken clips, so I don't know if it will stay on, but for now, it's OK.

But, it was raining when I left, and all day long little mini-storms kept rolling through. Once or twice it rained really heavily. I finally decided that if I was going to work the horses, it would be just lunging as that way I wouldn't have anyone all saddled up only to be rained out.

I cut that idea short when I went back out after I fed the Boys. The ring was really wet, with puddles all over. The only thing I can figure is that the base was so baked and hard, that the heavy rain came too fast to soak into the under layer.

Tucker is really naughty in the puddles as he breaks stride. Toby, however, is an angel and he's the one I need to get more fit, so I just lunged him. As always, he was pratically perfect.

As for Chance...I am following my vet's suggestion. He called me the other morning to check on how Chance was. I told him about the recurring lameness, but also that he looked really sound again. He suggested that as long as I was not in a rush I might as well not start up any work with him until the middle of August. I also need to keep watch to see if he rests his right hind leg more often than the left. All this concern, mind you, was totally unsolicited. My vet, Dr. Klayman, just cares about the horses in his charge.

The layoff is no problem. With this stupid heat and weather, I am having enough trouble trying to work two horses. Three is a bit much when it is so hot.

Tonight, after I lunged Toby, I did a few chores around the barn. By the time I was done, I was soaked with sweat. It is not hot today, but the humidity is so high, it feels miserable when you do a little physical activity.

Ah well, at least I wasn't stuck in traffic. *G*

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Heat is On

And I am Exhausted

I never did work the horses yesterday. Too hot during the day, and when it cooled off, I wore myself out unloading 15 bags of grain.

So what happened today? Well, I had an Ansur saddle demo to do up in New York State. By the map, it was a 114 mile drive that should have taken about two hours.

If you have never tried to cross the George Washington Bridge on a week day....DON'T!!! The last time I did this, was on a weekend and I was stuck in a toll booth traffic jam for a good 40 minutes. Today? Well over and hour and a half from the end of the NJ Turnpike to NY Rte 87, just across the bridge.

Was there an accident? Construction? Nah, just traffic for about 6 miles. At least had a crossword puzzle to do for part of the time.

That set me back from my planned arrival time of 12 noon to 1:30 PM. The demo took a good while as the prospective customer and her trainer gave both Ansur models a good test ride before deciding--yea!!-- to buy the Carlton. So that was a good result. The farm was beautiful up there and the horses were really lovely. As well, the people were all friendly and good horsemen, so it was a pleasant time there.

I decided to take the Tappan Zee Bridge to get home. That route took me some 40 miles farther, but at least the first part of the drive was far better than the route closer to New York City.

I was actually making better time going home that way, until....I reached New Jersey and the inexplicable 287 traffic backups. Mind you, now I was driving during rush hour--from 4:30 to 7 PM....not an hour, I know, but it sure didn't get any better as we neared 7 PM--so I was competing for road space with all those commuters heading home from work.

If you have never experienced a rush hour in New Jersey--DON'T. It's just not worth the aggravation.

So, the drive up took 4 hours for 116 miles, and the drive back of about 148 miles took 3 hours.

I don't plan on doing that again any time soon.

Will I work the horses tonight? Not likely.

I am beat.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Busy Sunday

Two for Two

I sang the duet with Florence at the Methodist church this morning. It went really well and we were both quite pleased. It was a nice service too, not unlike the Presbyterian service I am used to with a few minor differences.

One of the psalter readings had a musical chant before and after it. And, the Lord's Prayer used "tresspasses" instead of "debts." The sermon was given by a lay preacher as the regular minister was on vacation. The story of Mary and Martha related well to modern day as an example of how to live each day to the fullest and best without worrying about the past and future.

In light of that, after a nice coffee hour, I headed over to the Presbyterian church where the service had started a half hour later. I didn't sneak in the church but hung out in the halls by the choir room until the service was over. My goal? To meet up with the choir gang to go to lunch!

I'm glad I did as two friends I haven't seen a quite a while were there and a nice gang of nine ate and chatted our way through a tasty lunch at a local restaurant.

Of course, by the time I got home, it was a good hot summer afternoon, so I decided to wait to work the horses.

Ah, well, once I sat down at the computer, I purchased and downloaded the Professor Fizzwizzle games and started playing. The basic game is a cool little puzzle game where you have to move crates, barrels and other objects in order to get the professor to move from one escape pod to another. It's kind of a combination of "The Incredible Machine," "Lemmings," and and a game I used to love called "Zeliard." I must have wasted a good three hours playing it, but it surely was fun.

I finally went out to ride at around 7 PM as the sun was heading towards the western horizon.

Tucker was first and I gave him a good hard workout. I did a good number of trot/walk/trot transitions, and another session of canter/trot/canter/walk/canter transitions. He was a good boy, but I didn't get the softer feel he can give me. I chalk it up to my hands being too still as I focused on my seat instead of thinking about how to get him to yield more. I needed to "play" with the bit more with my fingers to get it right. All, in all, the work was good, but not quite as good as it can be.

I rode Toby next and gave him a good workout too. He really is responsive to the aids for all the exercises. I did tours of shoulder-in to leg yield, shoulder-in to half pass, shoulder-in, circle, haunches-in, half pass zig zags, and a nice session of canter on both leads with flying changes. When I ride him, all I have to do is put on the aids, and there is the movement I want. He really is a responsive boy.

I have decided, for now, to just work Chance every other day until I see him develop some stamina. He certainly can run around and play with Tucker, but when I put him on the lunge, he runs out of energy quickly. If indeed it is a muscle problem in his hind end, the best thing I can do is try to get him fit.

I suspect that is going to take some time. I don't think either one of us is in a hurry.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Lunging, Lunging Over the Bounding Jump

Three for Three

I woke up with a headache and even after the chiropractor, it took all day to get rid of the darn thing.

I finally decided to lunge the Boys when the cooler evening air came in.

By the by, the hay is still in the trailer, and so far I have used up a bit more than a bale. The Boys are cleaning up every scrap of it, so it must be tasty.

Toby was a star. Tucker was a gem, and Chance, though a little lazy, looked good.

When Chance started out, he looked a little uneven, but after he warmed up, he was moving nicely. This tends to confirm my suspicion that his problem is something more muscular than joint, as most joint problems don't warm out. I still think it might be a muscle bruise up in the hip area, but as long as he keeps on improving, I plan on leaving it alone. For the vet to truly figure out what is going on will be a major ordeal I'd rather avoid if we don't need to go that route.

At any rate, he lunged nicely in the end and even jumped the little jump I'd set up.

I do teach all my horses to jump at least a little. Working seriously to train a jumper, though, it something I no longer have an interest in. Russell was extensively schooled over fences, and it took a lot of time and effort to turn him into the champion he became. I would not want to compete a horse with less training, so I am really focused on dressage. The basics are identical, actually, demanding the same correctness and response, so if I ever did want to do some more serious jumping the transition would be fairly easy.

What most people don't realize is that the key to a good jump is the approach, not the jump itself. If the horse is in balance and forward, the jump is really no issue. True, as Caroline is finding out, the horse's willingness and courage do make a difference, but the physical part of getting over the fence is all based on the flat work prior to the jump.

Toby is more like Caroline's Jazz as far as committing to a fence. He will quit if he is unsure. Mostly that is because he is spooky and gets scared of strange things. I don't think that's Jazz's problem, but the result is the same--no jump.

My PJ was very bold and brave and I think Tucker has that same attitude. Though Tucker does spook at things, the first time I set him at a cross rail, he went right over with a relaxed, almost lazy effort. That showed he had no concern about it at all.

We used to work out hunter/jumpers over cross rails to warm up with the goal of getting them to simply and lazily just jump so they were totally relaxed about it. So, starting off that way, is a good sign that Tucker would have the potential if I had decided to go that route.

It's too soon to tell with Chance, but the first time I asked him to trot over a rail, he just did it, no questions asked. As well, he is very brave and interested out on a hack, so I think he would have the proper attitude for jumping. However, unlike Tucker, he is very lazy and will put up a bit of a tantrum if he is pushed too much. So that might cause and issue if he didn't "like" jumping.

I plan to school him in basic dressage, with no real plans to make him a competition horse. However, time will tell and if he is a really fun ride, he may end up in the show ring too.

What I really want, though, is a horse I can just enjoy. I want to be able to take trail rides with my friends and play. Tucker may get there someday, but I am pretty sure Chance is more than halfway there already.

I have been so lucky with the horses I have owned along the way. My philosophy has always been that there are very few bad horses around. There are badly trained and handled horses, but generally not bad horses.

It takes time, but usually you can make a horse into what you want him to be. And right now, mine are all dressage horses.

Friday, July 13, 2007

End of the Week

Practice and Hay

I had an all morning rehearsal for the duet on Sunday this morning. We are creating a really nice blend and taking a professional approach to the music, so it is a lot of work. Florence has been helping me with some voice exercises and suggestions as to how to approach the music. She is a professional voice teacher and really knows her stuff, so I am learning some interesting vocal skills.

After the rehearsal we went to lunch at the town restaurant, and there our waitress turned out to be a fellow horsewoman who had known me years ago when I was riding Russell R. She was very flattering about how beautiful Russell was--and he was gorgeous--and how much she always admired the way I rode him. She said it had been her dream to one day ride like that.


It is ironic as I have become so much better a rider now, but back then, I was a jumper rider and eventer and I certainly won more than my share of ribbons and championships. Russell was a wonderful, reliable, clever, and beautiful jumper who would have tried to clear anything I asked him to jump, so much of the credit goes to him. He and I had an amazing bond and a deep and abiding love/respect for each other. Ellen, the waitress still has horses and wants me to come see her farm. I hope to do that some day soon.

When I got back home, I called the hay guy next door and took the horse trailer over to pick up 42 bales of hay. It is still in the trailer, so I will have to unload it within the next few days. I intend to take my time as some of the bales are pretty heavy. Fortunately the weather has broken the nasty heat wave and it is quite pleasant again. Warm, but pleasant.

I relaxed for a while, then went out to drag the ring. Of course, I got distracted. First by my Aunt next door who was talking to the Boys in the pasture. I hung out with her for a while and, wonder of wonders, Tucker hung out at my side the whole time. He was very affectionate and polite so, it was a decided pleasure to have him there. He may not yet be as close to me as Russell was, but we too are developing a strong connection. I hope it becomes a true partnership, as that will make everything we do much more special.

Back on the tractor, II dragged the ring and then carted two tractor buckets of fill to the ring to level one of the mud puddles. I have one more big spot to fill in and then I will just have to wait for the rain to see how my leveling worked. My arena was built by the Local 825 heavy equipment training school just down the road, and we did not do any scientific leveling to make sure there were no low spots. As a result, I have two particular places water collects. I've been working on fixing things over time put that too is kind of a catch is as catch can approach since I am just doing it by eye and not with any real engineering skill. My fill is in a really packed pile too, so I need to use the shovel and pick to loosen it enough to scoop it up with the tractor. It is hard work and I have to be careful not to do too much in one work session.

That done, I cleaned out the run-in shed with the tractor and then gave up for the night.

I may go out later to lunge Toby as I need to try to keep him at least fit enough to do a lesson. Tucker can have the day off after the clinic, and Chance is still on maybe rest.

Here's hoping tomorrow is another nice day so I can use the newly groomed arena to do some proper schooling.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


And A Good Ride

I rode with Patrice Edwards today. It was much cooler, not so humid, and the drive over was only about 25 minutes or so.

Tucker was a really good boy. Most of Patrice's work focuses on getting the rider to sit correctly and use the correct aids to make the horse correct and straight.

One of the most interesting and challenging exercises she gave me was to have me cross my reins over Tuck's neck, taking the right rein in the left hand and the left rein in the right hand and then ride around concentrating on steering and controlling with my seat and leg rather than my hands. While I have done that before--but not recently--I never did it with the reins crossed. The point is to make the rider very much aware of not only using the weight and leg aids to control the horse, but to make the rider very aware of how unconciously and instinctively I go to the rein to get the horse to go where I want him to instead of using the other aids.

Talk about frustration. It is like trying to ride in a mirror. I did find myself using my right hand constantly, so Tucker kept going left with his head and neck. So, I need to do some of that exercise a little every day to cure myself of going to my hand first.

Once I got the reins back in my correct hands, we began looking at some other elements and, at the canter, I suddenly discovered, with Patrice's help, that I tend, even though I sit straight and don't collapse, to weight my right seat bone more than my left. Tucker is a little crooked and works his right hind better, so he wants me to sit on that seat bone, and I have happily complied. Fortunately, it was not a particularly difficult fix for me, as long as I thought about it. However, that was the key. I had to think about it.

Tucker was not always pleased when I sat on the left, but he is really a good boy about a lot of things and will definitely try to do the right thing as long as I ask correctly. So, once again, I need to be vigilant about my seat and position at all times to help him become straight and correct all the way round.

We did some leg yields which really came well. Again, I just had to focus to use the right combination of supporting rein and leg to make them both equally even and correct, but on Tucker that is another relatively easy fix as he finds lateral work pretty easy.

On to trot lengthenings, and Patrice had me count strides across the diagonal, so I was much more aware of making even and regular efforts. Patrice suggests only asking for the really good lenthened strides at the 5 or 6 strides over X in a test at 1st Level instead of trying to demand the whole diagonal. It was an interesting approach and helped things along. We then worked trot lenthenings on the circle and got some more good efforts.

We also did canter lengthenings, developing them out of the canter plie'. The plie' is basically making a leg yield move at the canter, encouraging the horse to really reach under with his inside hind leg and then, out of that, asking for the lengthening.

The joy of riding Tucker is that he is very quick to respond to a correctly placed aid. He will protest if I am too strong or inappropriate. For example, on the trot lengthenings, if I used my outside leg a little stronger than my inside leg, he would canter. Too much of one leg over another might get a lateral movement. Too strong or starling an aid might inspire a kick out.

But, ride him right, and he does all he can to do it right.

All in all, a good workout in the saddle. I was certainly pleased.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Still Hot

I Surrender

The temperature was more moderate today, but the humidity was up, so I decided not to work the horses.

Actually, I spent most of the morning and into the afternoon at rehearsal for Sunday's duet and lunch afterwards. By the time I was home again, it was nearly two and the heat was on. The horses agreed as they were just hanging out inside the barn.

Note. Inside the barn. In the aisle. I had accidently left one gate into the barn aisle open and the Boys had quite happily gone into the aisle and generally trashed the place. I think I saw Chance's hoofiwork in the affair as numerous blankets and sheets were scattered about. The grooming tools were all over the floor with a few items crushed. One of the sponges had a big hunk out of it--which I did find in the clean up so no one actually ate it. It was quite a mess.

The saddest part was that my farrier's helper had done a lovely job of sweeping up last night and the floor mats looked so nice the morning. Horse poop and debris ruined that so I had to start all over and clean up again. *sigh* The Boys are just like partying teenagers when they get the chance to frolic. Ah well, it did force me to get rid of a really torn up blanket and some unrepairable fly sheets. So there was a plus.

Glad they had a good time entertaining themselve while I was away.

Stacie emailed me to tell me apparently Patrice Edwards surrendered to the heat as well today and probably canceled some of her lessons. I was wondering how she was holding up. England has been cool and wet, so she is certainly not acclimated to the kind of heat we have been suffering. Now I don't feel so bad about canceling yesterday as it gave her a break in the afternoon. I certainly hope she is OK and recovers quickly. If she can't teach tomorrow, I will be disappointed, but her health and well-being are far more important than my lesson.

A noisy thunderstorm has just passed through here and supposedly we will have more storms over night to bring and end to the mini-heat wave. If anyone has been following the news, the US West has been suffering temperatures in excess of 100 F for days. I have a horse friend who moved out to Las Vegas last year so I really feel for them. The only plus for them is that, unlike New Jersey, they do not get the humidity we have which makes the heat much more unbearable. Even so, temperatures of 116 F are miserable no matter how dry it is.

Well, the horse blog has turned into the weather blog.

Sooner or later I'll get back to the horses.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

New Jersey Heats Up

The Heat is ON!!

Just thought this cool photo would chill things out.
Miserable day. Horrible. Stacie called me after she left the Patrice Edwards clinic to tell me her ride was great, but the heat was dreadful. Upper 90's F with warnings of over 100 F as the day progressed. Very humid too, with no breath of a breeze. Ugh!!

So, I was stuck with a decision. Tucker's shoe was missing so he couldn't go. That meant Toby. He would be fine and I am sure Patrice would not work us too hard in the heat. But....it is at least an hour and fifteen minute trailering to the lesson farm over highways with trucks and traffic. Though my trailer is white and it has windows, all I kept picturing was poor Toby in there and us stuck in traffic or stop and go at most of the 20 or more traffic lights between here and Southampton. (South of here, by the way, so even hotter.)

I finally decided to opt out. Had it been only 20 minutes away, where the lesson is on Thursday, I would have gone. I just didn't have a good feeling about sticking Toby in the trailer in that heat.

Ellen, who was running the clinic, was very understanding and agreed with me about my cancelling. I still have to pay a partial fee because Patrice still needs to be paid for her time, but I knew that going in. It is only fair. Because I am riding Thursday, I can connect with everyone and pay. That way it will all be settled before Patrice leaves. On one hand, I hated doing it, but on the other, it was much kinder to my Boy.

I took part of the afternoon to do some shopping as I needed a new battery for my cordless phone and some carrots. I managed to buy a few more things, of course, but I did get the battery and the carrots.

I came home, fed the Boys and headed for the swimming pool to do my laps. The water was almost too warm to be refreshing, but it did feel good and I got my exercise.

Back home again, I found Scott, my farrier well into shoeing Tucker for me. He also did Toby and Chance, so he finished up in one trip instead of two. His wife and daughter dropped by, so we had a nice chat as he worked. By then the clouds had rolled in threatening rain, so it had cooled off just enough to be tolerable.

Supposedly we are going to have another hot day tomorrow and then moderating temperatures for Thursday. Yea!

It should be a good day for the clinic. I'll just have to pack all my learning into one session again.

While I am sorry I missed the chance to ride today, I think I did the right thing.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Morning Workout

Early Start

I was up at about 7:30. Not early during the school year, but early for summer vacation.

It was fairly pleasant out, but I could feel the oncoming heat. The sun was behind the forest trees, so the ring was in the shade.

I decided just to lunge and was going to just work Toby as he's the one I need to get fit. Two different applications of bug spray finally convinced the more voracious woods flies to leave us alone and we managed a nice little workout.

I then decided to lunge Tucker. I had him all rigged up only to find that he was missing a front shoe. Rats!! The Patrice Edwards clinic is this week. I called my farrier and left a message, but I included that even though the clinic was tomorrow, I wasn't desperate. This time, since he is moderately fit, I could simply take Toby instead.

Patrice works mostly on the rider, focusing on how position and the application of the aids affects the horse. So, it's not essential that I have Tucker there. As it now turns out, the idea of getting Toby fit enough to give lessons to Bonnie was a really good idea because now he can do some work for me. Patrice does not work the horses hard, especially in the heat, so if he goes, he should be fine.

With Tucker nixed out, I rigged up Chance and took him out for a little lunge. I kept it light, but he looked sound. This week's weather is supposed to be really hot and humid until Friday, so I have no intention of stressing anyone. I will lunge him lightly, and perhaps, by Saturday, get back in the saddle.

I visited my chiropractor this morning to find, wonders of wonder, that the bulk of my neck problem was muscles rather than vertebrae. This is really a good thing because it means I am holding my adjustments. The less my bones go out of place the better.

The swimming should help even more.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Hot Sunday

Strange, Blogger is not letting me put a Title to this post.

Well, the first line says it all. I got up a bit late, and fed the Boys at around 9 AM. After I did the barn chores, I came back inside and as I ate breakfast, I turned on the TV.

Ooops...Tour de France. I have become kind of an addict over the last few years, so sure enough, I watched. By the time Robbie McKewen had crossed the finish line in a brilliant sprint to win the stage, it was already too hot outside to do much with the horses.

So I waded back into the disaster of clothes in the bedroom and began making more of a dent in my sort and organize project. There is still plenty to do, but I am making headway.

The Boys seemed to think hanging out in the barn with the fans blowing on them was a good idea, so I don't feel too badly about not riding.

Later in the afternoon I headed for the swim club. Crystal Springs is a big swimming complex in neighboring East Brunswick Township, just two roads north of mine. There is a lap pool, two family pools, a kiddie pool, water slides, and a lazy river where you just kind of float around the outside of the other pools on plastic inner tubes.

Because it was Sunday, the place as packed but I managed to find a parking place close to the entrance. Once in, I headed for the lap pool. There, jumped in and began swimming laps. After 12 lengths of the pool--25m, I think--I went to the lazy river to drift around a few times. Then I went back to the lap pool and swam another 8 lengths. Not bad for the first time out.

My sore shoulder bothered me at first, but as I exercised, it seemed to get better. It may be that swimming will be the best therapy for it. My neck is OK today, no headache, but I definitely need it adjusted.

As Claire has pointed out, I do go to the chiroprator quite often. Sometimes, though, I go for over a week before I need an adjustment. Then, I have these episodes when I need to go two or more times a week. Fortunately, I have a health insurance policy that covers the visits. I am very lucky that way.

All in all, I only go when I am really having problems. Usually, it's a lot better when I am riding regularly. This weather is not good for that.

All I have to do now is get up really early tomorrow.....before the heat....to ride....really early....

We'll see.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Not So Hot

Me or the Weather

It was hot today, but the humidity wasn't so bad.

However, I spent most of the day inside. I did a little work with the clothes setting up three crates in the one closet to clear up the clutter.

But, my neck was really bothering me, pushing towards a headache, so I was alternating with ice and heat nearly all day. I should have tried to go to the chiropractor in the morning, but when I got up it wasn't that bad. Now I have to wait until Monday.

I didn't swim either. I thought about it, but the neck/head thing was making me just a little dizzy, so I opted out.

Meanwhile the Boys all had the day off. Toby definitely deserved it after his magnificent turn as a teacher yesterday. I am still in awe at how good he was.

Tucker is just so convinced he is a star I can't believe it. If he had his way, he would be the alpha horse at the barn, but Toby is far too strong a character to allow that. Tuck will test me, especially at feeding time by swishing his tail and laying back his ears. What an actor.

Chance is low man on the totem pole, but he is very clever about handling it all. He watches out for himself and insistst that I wait on him about coming in for dinner. He can get to his stall from outside, but because it is on the other side of the barn from the other two, he prefers coming into the barn aisle so he can get in from his front door. That means I have to open the gate into the aisle for him and then open his stall gate to let him in. It's really kind of cute that he's decided that's how his life runs. He has trained me really well.

If the humidity holds off tomorrow, I hope to get on Chance to see how he feels. If it's too hot, he'll have to wait for cooler weather.

I have lessons with Patrice Edwards on Tuesday and Thursday, and rehearsals on Wednesday and Friday, so the week is going to be busy.

Not too many hours to just loaf around like I did today.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Good Lessons

And a Pretty Nice Day

Glad it wasn't too hot today for the lessons.

Tucker and I worked hard in the lesson and I am really pleased with how well he went. Gabriel's take on the horse show scores was interesting in that he said in no way would he ever make the comment "on the forehand" for Tucker. He said we all have to ride our horses correctly and not rely on judges to decide whether we are doing it right.

Of course, the judges make the decision in the show ring, but that does not mean their opinions are always on target.

So, off we went into some excellent work, getting Tucker to really use his body well. As the lesson progressed, he became more and more steady and more and more "together." Gabriel finally decided that lots of transtions would be the best exercises I could do, so we started off with trot/walk/trot transitions, with me keeping Tucker really forward off my leg into the walk. After a little work, he mastered that and I could feel him beginning to understand the need to stay forward and actually elevate his front end as his hind legs stayed more active and stepped underneath.

These are not new exercises for either one of us, but doing them in the lesson with a ground person to offer critique and correct reminded me of how valuable they are. Gabriel feels Tucker is the kind of horse who right now needs constant half-halts to keep him focused and working properly. The transitions, without actually going all the way down to the walk, are those half halts.

We did the same at the canter, doing first canter trot, and then canter, collect, canter. That got a little exciting with Tucker offered a little "bucky" resistance now and again, but all in all I could feel it improve his canter quite a bit.

By no means is any of this making Tucker "Light" to the bridle, but that is just fine with me. I like the feeling of contact in my hands as long as the horse is pushing into the bit from behind. I was really pleased with how my boy worked.

Except for the backtalk. Because I had brought Toby along for Bonnie to ride, Tucker decided to keep whinnying to him during the lesson. Tuck is not prone to talking at all. At home, if Toby calls to him, he never answers. Today, he just keep on calling during the lesson. Gabriel found this all quite funny, along with the other little pranks Tucker pulls, and said that if horses could talk, Tuck would have quite a story to tell. That is exactly what I used to hear about Russell R. Nothing like having a Thoroughbred with "character" to brighten the day.

High character reigned with Toby when Bonnie got on him. What an absolutely marvelous teacher he is. Bonnie was able to put into practice all the skills Gabriel has been trying to teach her over the last several months, and everything clicked. If she did something wrong, Toby responded in the wrong way, reacting exactly to the incorrect aid or cue she gave. If she did it right, he responded correctly. He really did look good as she rode him. I had a big grin on my face watching him. He was steady, honest, and a absolute star. I am so proud of him!

Bonnie has been looking for a new horse for quite some time and she has ridden many potential purchases. Most of them are supposed to be trained to about the same level as Toby. Apparently, he was head and shoulders above all of them. Now, what she needs to find is a young horse with his attitude and training.

Of course, Toby is 17 now and has 15 years of training under his girth. But still, Tucker, at only 7 is well on his way along the same road. Surely there must be a horse for sale somewhere with the proper training. Horses she was looking at were priced upwards from $40,000 and none of them were as good a ride as mine. I'll have to figure this all out, but right now, at 1200 or so pounds, Toby might really be worth his weight in gold!

Well, that goes without saying anyhow, because he is worth ten times that to me.

And Tucker is even fatter.

Chance seemed to have been fine at home by himself. He was not at all upset when the older Boys came home. I hope he doesn't feel too left out. I will get him into the work schedule as soon as I am sure he is OK. There is just no point in stressing his hind end until I know it really is healed. Once I start riding him too I am going to be really fit.

And, it is supposed to be hot this weekend, so maybe I can start my summer swimming.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Soggy Not Boggy

A Rainy Thursday Evening

I had a rehearsal for a duet this morning. I forgot about it, thinking it was scheduled for Friday until Florence called me to ask me where I was. So that got started an hour late.
We worked for quite a while on the music and afterwards decided to go to lunch. Teddy's is a down home restaurant in Cranbury, and the food is all home cooked. Stuffed cabbage was on the menu and with mashed potatoes, it is one of my favorite "feel good" meals. Both Florence and I ordered it and we were totally entralled with it. However, neither one of us managed to finish the portion completely even though we both made a valiant effort.
I headed home to do a few chores before my chiropractic appointment to fix the "tree branch head bashing" after effects. Physical therapy and the adjustment took up the afternoon so that when I got back home it was time to feed "The Boys." And the cats.
Herewith a set of cat portraits:

Top left to right:
Church, DJ, Reggie, Buddy, Scooter and Cats on a couch.

Ok, so much for the kitties.

By the time I was ready to work the horses, it was showering.

I decided to lunge because that way, with a minimum of gear, I could get ready and, if it really began to storm, get back in the barn quickly.

Toby, aside from being bothered by flies eager to get a meal before the rain really started, was his usual wonderful self.

Tucker was a good boy too, especially when the rain started to come down in earnest during our session. It eased up about 30 seconds before I was going to call it quits so we finished up successfully.

I took Chance out for about five minutes just to see how he looked. He MAY be a little off in the hind end but it was hard to tell as the flies were back at it and he was fussing with them. I will not ride him for at least another week and then only if I think he looks 100%.

After the workout, I was pretty wet, so I cleaned the stalls and gave everyone an ear of sweetcorn as a treat.

Then I took a shower and here I am, blogging.

The nice thing is that, as my heading says, despite the rain, the ring is not at all boggy. The footing is really nice. I guess the rain, though steady has not been heavy enough to overstress the ground's ability to drain.

Tomorrow I am riding with Gabriel in a lesson and his student, Bonnie will be riding Toby for a lesson.

Stay tuned for that report.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy 4th of July

Independence, Picnics and Fireworks

No real horse news as I frittered away the morning and suddenly realized it was time to go to Jonathan's annual barbeque.

This is at the house/farm we are trying to preserve just across the park from my house, but I drove over as the walk would be too much for my knees.

I spent the better part of the afternoon there sharing good food and good company. James was there early on with his son, Chris and we had a grand time. And yes, Claire he is a big Monty Python fan. So the Python jokes and comments peppered the conversation.

Later, Dan, Alicia and Dan's dad, Bill showed up and I had fun talking with them. I was, however, rather brisk, so say the least. July 4th in New Jersey and people were wrapped in blankets. I'd rather it be cool than hot and humid, but this was exceptional.

I left early evening, came home to feed the Boys and by then, the sprinkles of rain had started. Just enough to give me an excuse to watch old movies on Turner Movie Classics rather than riding.

When it was dark, I was drawn outside by the thunder of fireworks on all horizons. I hiked out to the pasture rather then driving up to the Turnpike bridge where the view is even better. But I was treated to much of the Jamesburg fireworks display and glimpses of about five other displays on the eastern side of the world. I could hear the South Brunswick display thundering to the west, but from my vantage the trees were too tall. Had I driven up to the bridge, I am sure I would have seen it too.

The rain held off here until the displays were done and then it began to shower. So, all in all, I guess God was smiling on the celebrations around here. Though a bit chilly for July, the weather was actually lovely with a cool breeze and no bugs. I didn't get bitten once in the 20 minutes or more I spent in the pasture watching.

The Boys didn't seem interested. They were hanging around the paddocks near the barn and the ring. I know Toby and Tucker have seen the displays before, but I don't know about Chance. Of the three, he might have been a little more concerned, but he was really pretty quiet about the whole thing.

Could be too that all the recent thunderstorms have acclimated the Boys to the noise of fireworks. When you think of it, the heavens do a pretty good job of lighting up the sky without man's intervention.

Wish this weather would last for riding, but it sure isn't to welcoming for swimming.

Ah well.


Just Have to Brag

My nephew is working on his PHD. He was interviewed by Australian radio about his thesis.

Here is the information if you would like to listen to him.

I was interviewed by Australian national public radio yesterday, Radio Australia, about the film and thesis I am making. If you want to listen, it should be posted online in mp3 format for about a week. Just go to http:// www.radioaustralia.net.au/intheloop/ and scroll down through the "Download our favourites" list to find the mp3 for my program "A personal journey that became a film about Kwajalein"

Fabulous interview!

The post below has the Bug Armor pics!!!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Riding in Cool July

And the Asked For Pictures
First we have Tucker wearing the Bug Armor. The mask on his head is an extra piece as the Cashel Armor is just the back piece and the front with neck piece. You tie the neck piece to the bridle. The bakc piece and front piece can be tied to the billets on the saddle, but here I just have them tied to each other under the saddle. As you can see there is a place for your leg so the horse can feel your aids. This set up really does work well keeping the annoying flies at bay, even the big B52's!!

I rode Tucker for a nice school, just asking him to be forward and "up" instead of on the bit. I kept him super light to my hand. We finished with some half-pass work at the trot and canter and several stretches of trot lengthenings.

Toby stood like a gentleman for his portrait without being tied. He is two inches shorter than Tucker, but his back is longer. The Bug Armor fits him just fine.

Aside from clonking my head on a tree branch--swell, as I had a nice chiropractic adjusment this morning and was feeling A-1, so I didn't need a whiplash--we happily trotted ten times up the hill in the paddock to help leg him up. Then we worked in the ring, mostly to get him fit. We did a little half pass and ended the ride with three lovely tempi changes every three strides.

For the uninitiated, a tempi change is a flying change of lead. When a horse canters, or gallops, he takes a lead with the legs on the side of the direction he is going. If he is turning right, for example, his right front leg and right hind leg take a little longer stride so he can carry his weight in that direction better. A trained horse will canter on whatever lead his rider requests, regardless of the direction he is going in. Eventually he is taught to change from one lead to another without breaking out of the canter. It looks a bit like a "skip" in his stride. Later, he is taught to change leads every four strides, every three strides, every two strides and at the highest level of training, at every stride. It requires balance, instant obedience, and strength to do these exercises.

Toby leared to do a flying change in one lesson with Lockie Richards. PJ took a week or two of exercises to get him to understand. Tucker hasn't a clue. He doesn't care whether he is on the comfortable lead or not so he goes in each direction on either lead. That may make it a bit harder to teach him the flying change as he does not instinctively want to be on the correct lead. Since one of the teaching exercises is to put the horse in a position where he "wants" to change the lead, that is going to be hard for Tucker since he really doesn't care. Time will tell. He'll get it for sure, and will probably be quite good at it once he understands.

For now, we just walk or trot to make the changes.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Totally Exhausted.

And a Little "Sneezy"

I mowed the lawn this morning and then decided to mow the paddocks and part of the pasture.

By the time I was done, it was after 1 PM.

So I had some lunch, played a bit on the computer, did a few indoor chores and, after a while decided to go back out to do some trimming.

I have a DR trimmer which is very nice but also tempermental when it comes to trimming close to solid objects. The trimmer tends to throw the trimming strings. I was careful today, but still managed to throw them twice. I have to push the thing around and some of the weeds are on uneven terrain, so that was a good workout.

Top it off by the fact that whatever I trimmed is making me have an allergy attack.

Needless to say, I wore myself out. I am going to rest a while and see if I feel up to working the horses later.

Nothing like clearing grass and weeds from at least two acres.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Three Cheers for Bug Armor

And Soprano Soloists

James's daughter Shannon sang at my church this morning. Her redition of "Let Us Break Bread Together was soaringly beautiful and brought tears to my eyes. What a wonderful gift of music she has. I hope we can encourage her to come again and sing for us.

After church the choir director, some choir members, James and I all went to lunch. The company was its usual stimulating self and we had a grand time. James has so many interesting stories to tell about his research and he kept us all fascinated. Here's hoping we can work out something to he can share his insight and knowledge with the school systems in the area.

The weather was perfectly gorgeous today as well. It was warm and sunny with low humidity and just a delight. James and I toured the Brainard Cemetery at the church for a while too and he showed me where he believes the possible slave cemetery area is and we also walked through the oldest area of gravesites where some of the tombstones date back to the 1700's. History is rich there and some of the carvings and inscriptions are really interesting.

When I finally got to the horses in late afternoon, I decided to risk a trail ride. I did want to see how bad the flooding was in the back of the park, so I decked Toby out in the Cashal Bug Armor and off we went. I give the mesh covering an A+++++ because it really does keep the flies at bay. I am not sure about the mosquitoes because since the spraying there has been a remarkable drop in their numbers. But, Toby was fine even in the woods itself as we toured.

There is plenty of water back there, more than I expected. The vernal pond is full as well. I do intend to go back to see if there are any signs of fish in the water which would be a really bad thing for the amphibians that normally breed there. All in all, it is ecologically disturbing to see how wet it all is.

After the success with Toby, I decided to try a ride with Tucker. He hasn't been out since earlier Spring, so this would have been a bit dicey even without the danger of bug attacks. Well, I am pleased to say he was nearly an angel. He jigged a little bit and tried to balk at the sight of the cornfield--after all, those green stalks might be hiding horse-eating monsters! Otherwise, we had a pleasant, cool ride together.

When I got back, I lunged Chance for about two minutes to see how sound he is. I think I see a little unevenness, but he seems to work out of it. I am not going to ride him until I am sure he is OK, but so far, being out with the other Boys has not seemed to be a detriment. I guess time will tell.

I cleaned up around the paddock and then hitched up the drag to the tractor and groomed the ring and paddock area around the barn. It's not quite done as I really need to mow the weeds, but if this weather keeps up, I'll easily get that done this week.

I'll be driving up to Pawling, New York on Thursday to do an Ansur saddle demonstration and consult and I hope to have a lesson with Gabriel on Friday.

Looks like a busy week ahead, but at least I have conquered the attack flies with my Bug Armor. As I said, three cheers for Cashel!!
Long Lining And Another Wild Gallop

I hope it was the flies. I decided to long line Tucker and Toby today and Tucker was a wild man.

First, it took a bit of convincing to get him going as he much preferred a little dust kicking jog to a real trot. Then, he started to work, but really didn't want to be round.

I finally decided to "vee" the outside rein by running it through the surcingle ring, to the bit and back through the upper surcingle ring to my hand. That gives considerable leverage and makes the rein really steady.In and instant he was nicely on the bit and he began working through his back. The trot was lovely and the canter even better.

But, now and then he gave a little buck or tried to bolt. I managed to control it all nicely on the left rein. Then we swapped to the right. The first problem there always is that he really doesn't push into the left outside rein, so it was hard to keep him straight on the circle instead of bent outside. As well, he was tending to curl up and overbend rather than truly going forward into the rein.

We had that worked out a little when for some reason, he leap, bucked and took off. This time he caught me by surprise and with my bad knees I could not follow him enough, so he broke away.

Off he went in a mad gallop, long reins trailing behind as he careened around and around the ring. Part of it was scaring himself and part of it was sheer deviltry, especially when he charged at me during one pass. I just stood there chirpping at him and saying "whoa," to no avail.

Finally, he decided the far gate was a good escape route and he bolted out, crossed the paddock and ended up with Toby and Chance who were watching from the sidelines. I caught him then, and managed to settle him down.

Lucky boy didn't wrap himself up in the lines or catch them on anything. I took him back into the ring and finished up the session with some easy, but very controlled work.

I don't know for sure what set him off, but I suspect it was a horsefly, as later one of the big ones landed on Toby. These things are at least an inch long and bite like heck. Tucker usually panicks if they attack, so that may well have been what happened.

After Tucker, Toby was a sheer pleasure. Quiet and steady and totally obedient to my commands on the lines, he is still the long lining master. The big fly landed on his tail in the long hairs at the dock, so I guess he didn't feel it and I managed to kill the monster.

Fortunately these big flies usually only show up one at a time so if you get them before they get the horse, it's generally OK.

This just means that I will use the bug armor when I ride from now on. Not only is it difficult to get a good school in on a Thoroughbred being "bugged" by flies, but, as Tucker's hysterical reaction shows, it can also be dangerous.

Later in the afternoon I went to my cousin's son's graduation party and had a lovely rest of the day sharing good food and good company.