Sunday, September 30, 2007

I'm A Believer

But There's a Downside to Everything

OK, I am a believer now. Tucker is a changed horse.

I schooled him today for about a half hour, starting him off with long and forward, using taps of the whip to encourage him to go. He went, happily.

Then I began half halts to bring him up and on the bit. A few times he overreacted by half-halting to a walk or mini-piaffe, but not once did he shut down or offer to shut down. His feet kept moving and once he understood that I wanted him to go forward into the trot while still a bit elevated, he gave it his best shot.

All the while he accepted the tap of the whip if he needed more energy without even a flick of his tail in protest.

The ultimate test came when I stopped working to give him a rest break. He walked out on a long rein with plenty of energy and impulsion. Then I picked up the reins again.

This was always where we'd run into problems. At first Tucker laid his ears back and started to act as if he was going to balk. I tapped him gently with the whip behind my leg, and he walked off a few strides. Then he hesitated again as if he was expecting something bad to happen, so I gave him another little tap and he marched right off on the bit.

Though it seems like nothing significant, this was a major breakthrough!! I went back into the trot and within a few seconds he was back in the frame ready willing and able to complete two nice leg yields, a trot to halt on the center line, a trot off to another halt and a BIG PAT and a HUG for being such a wonderful boy!!

Toby and I went out on a lovely hack back to the flood area to find it's practically dry. We have had very little rain over the last month, so finally, with the heat, the ground is no longer under water. I was, though really surprised, now that I could ride the trail along the field again, to see just how much land had become "unfarmable." The farmer told me he'd lost some eight acres of tilllable land and corn crop. Until I rode past, I had no idea of how far into the field the flood waters had extended. There is a whole section I didn't know was underwater. When he had tried to cultivate it, he almost lost his tractor to the mud when it sank in. Now I know why.

"Back at the ranch" I decided to lunge Chance.

That didn't last long. He is very slightly off in, I think, his right front. I thought, yesterday, when I rode him, that he wasn't striding out as confidently as he had in the past, but he didn't really feel off. Now, I think I should have listened more to my inner voice.

I checked his feet and aside from the fact that he is definitely due for a trim, I couldn't really find anything--unless, there MAY have been a little heat in his right heel. I have called my farrier, who is really wonderful. Hopefully he can find time to come this week as the Boys are due. If he does come, he will test Chance's feet for me. However, in the meantime something might show up.

So, once more an almost perfect horse day had its ups and downs.

I just need to hope it will all come right in the end.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Well, That Was Fun

At Least Most of the Time

I rode everyone today as the weather was lovely. Dry, in the 70's, with a very light breeze. Yummy!

I took Toby out for a hack in the woods. On the first part of the trail, I could hear a motorbike/ATV engine revving somewhere off to the left. That's where the lake is and all kinds of hills and banks. I hadn't planned on going that way to I headed right, off to the east to follow the woods roads. The bulk of these trails are wide enough for a small car and, aside from some ruts, they are nice and clear.

I crossed the center area, and headed out towards the back of the Park where the flooding is, thinking I might do a little scouting. In that section, the trail narrows down. Two friendly horses might be able to travel side by side, but it would be tight. Just as I reached the clearing under the power lines, I heard the revving engine bearing down on me. Sure enough, a noicy mini-bike was bearing down on us around an almost blind corner. I turned Toby to face it and started shouting and waving my arms. Whew...about 20 yards away, the guy saw me and stopped. He hopped off the bike and said, "I'm right here! I'll turn it off." And he shut off the engine.

Toby was dancing a little at this point, but keeping his head. Once the engine was off, he settled. I told the guy to just wait until I could get out of the woods. I headed off, trotting a little when the ground was OK as there are some little rocky ruts and a rutted hill in that section. The biker followed, first walking his bike and then riding it very quietly at a low rev. When we got to the field, I thanked him and he....we, he apologized for interfering with my ride. Then he went one way and I the other.

The bikes and ATV's do rattle Toby because they tend to come roaring along seemingly out of nowhere. So far, most of the riders recognize the danger of barreling down on a horse, but it really does worry me. I am sure I convey that concern to my horses, so it doesn't help. In the old days, my Russell would go after the mini-bikes as if he was going to attack. That usually intimidated the kids on them pretty quickly. My current crop of horses--perhaps with Chance the exception--are more buck and run.

Safely home again, I saddled up Chance and took him into the ring for a short school. He was decidedly laid back, definitely not into the concept of giving to the bit, but he was a good boy. Good enough that I...I asked him for canter!!

Yes, for the first time under saddle, I told Chance to canter and he did. I choose the long side of the arena next to the woods where the fence line is well defined. The first time he gave me about 4 strides on the right lead even though we were on the left hand. The second time I had about 7 or 8 strides on the left lead. Then, going on the right hand, I got about 7-8 more strides again on the left lead. But, that is more than OK for now. In the first place he was a quiet as could be about it. He was moderately obedient to the voice and seat aid and his canter felt really smooth and comfortable. I am as pleased as can be.

We then went out on a 10-15 minute hack in the woods. Fortunately the minibiker was gone, so we had a nice quiet, slow, relaxed walk the whole way.

I schooled Tucker for perhaps 20 minutes, first just warming him up so he felt forward. I had the dressage whip and was able to flick it on his haunches to add to my leg. He accepted it perfectly well without a sign of protest and moved right out with each flick.

From forward and long, I worked him into a frame and challenged him a bit with some half halts and rebalancings. He never blinked and eye, made a face or resisted, keeping his "forward" the whole time even if my aids got a little strong. At the last canter tours, I played upper level and, first on the left, rode a little pirouette. Well, bust my buttons, if he didn't do a fair approximation of a canter pirouette! Surprise! It didn't work as well to the right, but he kept the canter on a darn tight little circle and seemed quite happy doing it.

While he still spooked as some rustling in the woods, the rest of his attitude was super! No sign of shutting down AT ALL. No challenge to my driving aids and no annoyance at half halts. I still have to put in a full week of riding to see if as the pressure of schooling builds he keeps the good outlook, but right now, adding this ride to the show, I am more and more convinced the ulcer medication is making some dramatic changes in my tempermental boy.

I finished up my ride on Tucker with a short hack through the woods as well. He wasn't on top of the confidence ladder and thought he saw a few sun monsters in the light filtering through the leaves, but we had a good time anyhow.

I'll give the day an A- in the horse department because of the mini-bike. Otherwise, it would have been darn near perfect!!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Waiting for the Heat to Go Away


Bought some Purina Ultium feed for Tucker. It is low starch, high protein, the kind recommended for horses with Insulin resistance.

I also have an analysis of the hay I feed, so I need to ponder that a bit. If he does have a sugar problem that makes his muscles tight--this too from Patrice--then I will do all I can to remediate that too.

Apparently, there are also supplements that help sugar metabolism, so I will look into them too.

He does like the ulcer medicine and comes over to me to get it.

Toby has been watching carefully. I guess he thinks Tucker is getting a special treat and he's not. I do intend to try some of the medication with him too as he is a cribber, but right now, Tucker and the results are the experimental priority.

Chance is an interesting fellow as far as the herd goes. Sometimes he's right in there with the big boys and sometimes he just kind of wanders off by himself. "Low man on the totem pole," he does get picked on, but he really doesn't seem to care too much and is perfectly ready to stand up for himself if need be. He has a quiet kind of self-confidence I have rarely seen in a horse.

I sure hope this weather breaks and stays broken so I can get some good riding and training in. By now Chance should be much further along and I have a ton of work to do to get Tucker up to speed--and second level.

Makes retirement look awfully good. Just imagine how much I could ride--or talk about not riding--if I didn't have to work every day.

Someday in the not TOO distant future.

(Minky, I posted my email in the comments on the previous post.)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Leg Yield Photographed

The photos from the show are available on line.

The disputed leg yield is there! How could Tucker be crossing his left hind over his right if he were not going sideways? Can't do anything about the score--not that it really matters-- but I am vindicated.

Will try to post a link to the photos later. I do have to laugh. Tucker is working in a very lower level frame, but he is engaged--good, frame not--but the expressions on my face and my body language!! *gasp* If ever you saw a rider working HARD to get a horse going, well, it is painfully obvious the ride was far from easy.

Still, it really, honestly is OK. Now that we seem to have uncovered the physical root of our troubles, we should be well on our way for the future.

He is a pretty boy.

Web address for the photos:
Use my email address to sign in and "deans" as the password.

Please don't laugh too hard. It was not one of our better days in the show ring. But, remember, the goal was different this time. *S*

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Time Off Again

After the Show and Beyond

Of course, both Tucker and I took the day off after the show.

Now, we took today off too because IT IS MISERABLE AND HOT AGAIN! And tomorrow promises to be worse yet. We are talking upper 80's f to 90 f with humidity! Yuck.

Now that I have wilted from my hot classroom, I have to go back tonight for Parent's Night. We did have a half day of classes so I went out shopping for....well...clothes.

The school is having a school colors day every Friday in October and, while I have black clothes, I really don't have any and orange....yuck. Well, I did find some nice things at really good closeout sale prices in a local store, so I'm now all set. One skirt, on sale at 60% off, is black with some simple orangey flowers and other flowers in a very delicate pattern. I will be able to wear it with other tops besides the orange one that was also on sale for 60% off. Found some burnt orange capris as well, so I am ready for anything.

Came home in the heat to feed the Boys and the kitties and now I am cooking a little dinner before heading back to school.

I left the windows open and the fans on in my classroom. Maybe it will cool off a little.

Dreading tomorrow, though.

Thunderstorms on Thursday should break the pattern and cool things off.

Perhaps before I melt?????

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Well. That Was Interesting

A Complete 180

Tucker was a totally different horse at the show today. Laid back to a fault.

He was mellow, quiet, completely calm and relaxed. Normally, at a show he is a ticking bomb and I have to be really careful how I ride him. Not today.

Trouble is, you do need a bit of impulsion and energy to ride a truly successful test. So my scores weren't great. I did have two downward transistions--canter to trot-- in each test that were not good and my canter and trot lengthenings left a lot to be desired--exactly as I had expected since I haven't worked on them.

Aside from being too relaxed, he was obedient and well behaved. We did get a really strange score in the first test. A zero for a leg yield. Now, I have been riding dressage for a long time I and I really do know when my horse does a leg yield and when he doesn't. Tucker was leading with his forehand, but I decided not to correct the angle but there was a definite lateral movement going on--not the best but NOT a zero!! It was costly as that movement is a double score worth 20 points. In the other test, I had 6 & 7 for the leg yields. I guess when I saw my first judge looking down at some papers and not at me, I was right. She didn't see the movement.

Anyhow, I knew the canter lacked impulsion because I couldn't get it up in front, but that will come back once I get the energy again. I had a 50% in the first test, the one with the zero in it and a 58% in the second test. My combined score of 54% put me in fifth place out of, I think 6, for the championship. This was a bit disappointing in some ways as I know we are capable of far better, but considering that I wasn't even going to go to the show a week ago, it is a major accomplishment.

They pinned the championship in the main ring. We all had pictures taken in front of a floral and banner display which--to my surprise--Tucker just kind of quietly glanced at and then posed beautifully for his photo op. Then we all rode a victory lap around the arena. Once more, he was a star and moved into a nice quiet, lovely canter with his ribbon on his bridle. Placed fifth by default or not, I was quite proud of him in the lap of honor and just enjoyed it all.

So, is the Ulcergard working? If this show is any indication, it has made a dramatic difference.

Mind you, at one point, I went back to the trailer to get Tucker and he was gone! Apparently, I had left the back bar not totally fastened and he had gotten out and gone for a graze. A woman caught him and took him down to the holding area between the main rings and had the announcer call out that a "Bay horse has been found." When I finally got there, he was just kind of hanging out with the woman and she was gushing about what a "sweet horse" he was. She said she kept hoping--joking of course--that no one would come to claim him so she could take him home.

Tucker? Quiet? Standing like a lamb? Being totally sweet? My Tucker?

This Ulcergard thing may be the real deal.

Oh yes. My friend Stacie was there to see my second test. She commented that it was the first time she has ever seen him go without swishing his tail. I hadn't thought about it myself, but I don't think he swished even once in any kind of annoyance. The only little "incident" we had was when I put my spurs on in hopes of encouraging him some more forward and he really resented them. I took them back off and rode without. Since I was a championship, I could not use the whip, which might have been a real asset.

So, is it the Ulcergard?

Stay tuned. The next lesson might tell us more.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

That's Better

Clear Head, Good Ride, Sort Of

I had to go back to the chiropractor this morning to get another adjustment to finally clear my headache. Thank goodness I have a way of treating my problem without all kinds of medications that simply block the symptoms and don't cure the cause.

It rained in the early afternoon, doing nothing to cool things off and adding horribly to the humidity. When I went out to ride at around 6, even though it wasn't super hot, I was soaking after the first 2o minutes of getting ready to ride.

I kept Tucker's schooling session short, sticking to a 10-15 minute warm up and then a ride of both the tests for tomorrow. Good thing as I had completely confused the movements of Test 3. I generally don't have problems remembering the tests so I was a bit surprised I had that one all jumbled.

Aside from his being convinced that the horse eating monster had now moved out of the wooded area at "C" into the pasture at "A" the rides went pretty darn well. The big problem is that both tests have canter lengthenings and trot lengthenings ending at the "A", actually "K" spot in the arena where Tucker was visualizing the monster. There is nothing quite like trying to end a lengthening at either gait with a BIG spook.

By the time I got to Test 4, I just cut off the pasture end and rode it in 3/4 of the full ring.

I guess the wild turkey that wandered out of the paddock into the pasture must have been either etched in Tucker's mind or else acutally lurking somewhere in the hedgerow. Oh well. Once Toby and Chance ambled out to the pasture to graze, Tuck decided that if they hadn't been eaten, perhaps there was no reason to spook after all.

Suffice it to say the ride had its moments, but the positive element was that aside from the spooks, Tucker made no move to NOT move. No ears back, no balking, no swishing tail.

All in all a good ride on day #3 of the Ulcergard.

So, if his shoes stay on in the damp grass overnight, we'll see how Day #4 progresses at the show.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

No Problem Tonight

Lesson Canceled

Picked up my messages when I got home from school to find out that my lesson with Gabriel was canceled.

Needed a new plan. I'd fed the Boys, so I had to wait to ride. It had been a bit hot at school, so waiting until sundown was not an issue for me.

Instead, I had dinner, then went out to clean and drag the arena. I should have done it days ago while it was still damp. Today, even though the sand loosened up, I kicked up a lot of dust. I hate doing that to my neighbors, but most of it seemed to drift out to the pasture, so I guess it wasn't too much of a nuisance.

I saddled up Tucker and took him out to the ring for a short school. The plan was to just ride through Test 4 after a quick warmup, asking him to go on the bit, but not at maximum effort. I'm not sure how much to push him as the ulcer medication treatment is just starting, so I took it relatively easy.

He was just fine. He stayed nicely forward, especially on the canter departs which immediately develop into 15 m circles. Sometimes, as I've said, it takes him a while to wind up into a proper canter, but no tonight.

Aside from a fair spook at something in the pasture--lights on the horizon? A groundhog? Absolutely nothing?-- the test was pretty good. While I doubt it would win a class around here, it won my approval.

So, first steps taken. Tuck had his first dose of Ulcergard this morning, so we are beginning the month of treatments. It is going to be very interesting to see if it makes any difference in his work ethic and willingness to go forward.

I'd keep my fingers crossed, but it's hard to type that way and harder still to ride. *G*

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Here's The Plan

Rode Today

Tucker was fine today except for being convinced there was a horse eating monster in the woods at "M." So we never did quite get anything like parts of the test there. *sigh*

Anyhoo....I kind of rode through tests 3 & 4 my two tests for the show. He did not offer to balk even when I put him on the bit. I didn't push him to the higher frame as much as I can, but I did push. Aside from his being totally distracted by the wood nymph or satyr or fangtail (white tailed deer) he was pretty darn good.

I have decided to at least go to the show. Why?

My times are not until the afternoon. Test 3 at 2:09 and Test 4 at 3:39. That's good. The classes are close together and they are in Tucker's two favorite rings, on the hill away from the action. This is all good. I really don't need the stall, which was a worry, unless I have to hang around for results and by then the rides will be over and he has no need to worry about getting ridden again. He can just chill out in a nice stall for the extra time. The classes are small, with a max of 8 riders, so it means it won't take all day for them to run and be scored.

The Horse Park is only about a half hour to 4 minutes away and a very easy drive, so that's no big deal either.

If he continues to go as he did tonight, I am sure we can get through the tests. He knows them both and has a lot of confidence in the movements. I won't ask for a lot on the canter lengthenings or expect wonders on the trot lengthenings so there's no pressure there. The rest is a piece of cake. One nice thing he did tonight was jump right into a forward canter when I asked instead of taking a few strides to get into a good rhythm.

The two rings and the time have made a big difference in my decision. If anything deteriorates over the next few schooling sessions, I can, of course still change my mind, but as of now, I really would like to try.

It is the year end championships and the first time I have qualified. (Eastern States Dressage and Combined Training Association) Nothing national or all that big, but an honor nonetheless.

If Tuck doesn't want to do it, I am sure he will let me know.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Not A Good Ride

Lesson With Patrice Edwards

My lesson with Patrice started out well. On a fairly long rein we worked on leg yields, as I discovered that if I sank into my left seat bone, I also closed myself on that side actually blocking Tucker from moving sideways.

We then progressed to some trot work which, on the longer rein was again fine.

Then, we started to put Tuck up into his first level frame and....


Now, mind you, I had discussed this earlier with Patrice and she was totally convinced it was something physical. As he stood there, refusing to move she came to his right side and touched him. He quivered, laid his ears back and tried to bite her.

She told him she understood completely and told me she believed he had ulcers. Typically, a horse with ulcers is more sensitive on the right side. As well, she said she had rehabilitated many horses with ulcer problems and Tucker certainly was behaving as if he had discomfort in his stomach.

The techique for getting him going was to simply sit loosely swinging my legs against his side, careful not to use the spur--which we eventually took off--until he, tired of the nagging decided to move. I also needed to think of using my left leg first as that side is not the reactive one.

We finally moved, but that was the last of any attempt at real work.

Patrice reassured Tucker that we understood completely what he was trying to tell us and he took it to heart.

Every single time, from then on, that I tried to pick up the rein, he balked. As a matter of fact, at some points he wouldn't even trot on a loose rein.

He has never been that bad about going forward. It was total loss.

Personally, I think that while he may well have been uncomfortable, this was as much "playing to the crowd," as really being unable to work.

However, the deal is to give him the benefit of the doubt. So on the way home I bought some Zantac--the human antacid which Patrice said would give him some immediate relief, and I plan to put him on a course of Gastrogard to see is there is any improvement.

Ulcergard, the equivilent of Gastrogard is avialable without prescription--still expensive--but it might give me a clue as to whether his behavior and performance improve before I go on to more expensive investigation--scoping or vet exams.

Tucker did tell Jeri he felt a "grabbing in his stomach," so that does match up to Patrice's conclusions. And I must bow to her years of experience in having seen this kind of thing before.

As a note, she did say Tucker was a little "riggy" as well which is why his reactions are more scary. He does try to act dominant and had no hesitation about trying to bite.

I guess this is a potentially positive development as it might explain a lot.

In the meantime I now have to decide what to do about the championship competition coming up on Sunday. I have a prepaid entry and reserved and paid for a stall. But, should I go and take the risk of not only behavior problems but losing some of Tucker's trust?

This is a hard one. I will see if the medications make any difference over the next few days--and in my Thursday night lesson with Gabriel. I'll talk it over with him as well.

While I HATE losing the money and the opportunity, there is a bigger picture to look at here. Up until yesterday, I was all set to go.

Now I wonder.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Another Beautiful Day

Three on a Hack

I took Toby out on a longish ride, going back to the flooding area to find, to my delight, that I could acutually ride the whole trail under the powerlines and back along the edge of the cornfield.

The water has dried up because we haven't had any substantial rains recently. Of course Toby thought this was great as there were all kinds of grasses and plants to munch on along the way. We did have two major spooks as birds flew up out of the corn, but I managed to stay on despite the 180 degree spins. Guess I'm a little to used to them by now. Expecting them does not make riding him fun, but it surely does keep me involved in every stride.

Next up was Tucker who, after his truly successful lesson was quite proud of himself and absolutely determined that I pay attention to him. We took the woods trail he has mastered and he behaved impeccably.

I saddled up Chance last, and took him on the middle distance ride through the woods, still only about 20 minutes tops, but a nice little relaxing hack. He was as good as gold but funny as ever since he tried to turn down every side trail we passed. If he were more fit, I'd let him explore a bit, but at this point I don't want to get him either too tired or, worse, sore.

So, all in all it was a nearly perfect horsey afternoon. I loved every minute.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Really Good Lesson

And a Gorgeous Day!!

The lovely weather with cooler (70's) temperatures and a nice breeze just got better with my riding lesson on Tucker.

Gabriel decided we needed a new approach and had me warm Tuck up on a long rein, just ecouraging him to go forward in a good rhythm. We also added one trotting pole on one side of the arena and two poles on the other side which I crossed at random times. We just made everything matter of fact with no pressure.

I often warm up at home this way so it really was no big deal. We did lots of changes of direction and gradually I began to pick up the contact. By the end of the first 20 minute or so session, Tucker was up into his frame and working well on the bit. Through this, I began using the half-halt to rebalance him, transitioning down to a few strides of walk and then going back up to the trot, all without any incident of shutdown.

Then we took a walk break. When I picked up the rein to move off, Tucker balked, laying his ears back. I turned him to the right, got him moving and he balked again, half-heartedly, but definitely a balk. So I dropped the reins and just continued to urge him on and he stepped off. *insert sigh of relief here*

Well, the interesting thing was that as I began to trot his hind end felt up and he was definitely not engaged. This time I took him over the trotting poles which kind of forced him to reach under with his hind legs to get over the poles. This seemed to break through his reluctance and little by little he started going forward again. By the end of the session, he was beautifully correct, accepting the half halts to the walk steps and back up to trot and, according to Gabriel, working better than he's ever seen him.

I am going to be very creative in the training now, using poles and perhaps even some jumps to get his hind end working when it doesn't "want" to go. Gabriel and I were trying to figure out exacly what happens, to make him balk, but the only conclusion we can come to is muscle soreness or perhaps fatigue, so he definitely needs to build up his strength. The nice thing was that we were able to work him through the difficult moments and get some real quality gaits from him at the end. Right now, we're pretty optimistic.

Oh, yes, at one point, Tucker was shying at one of the jump panels set against wall and in is energetic effort to spook, I corrected with a shoulder fore and Gabriel's comment was, "He looked beautiful just then." OK. I guess I need "shy instigators" at every letter of the arena. *G*

I made it home in time to shower and head out to the birthday party for Maria, one of the secretaries at school who has just turned 65. There was lots of good food and once I went out to buy some, plenty of good drink. Most of the guests were people from the school, so it was kind of cool when I sang, "Maria: How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria," from "The Sound Of Music." Some of the people there knew I could sing, but some didn't so the round of applause had a good mixture of total shock in it when I finished. Better than that, Maria herself loved it, and I just managed to make it to the end of the song without breaking down when I saw her crying happily as I sang. I am so lucky to be able to give the gift of music as it really is a personal and special treasure to share.

Back home, the lovely weather beckoned, so I saddled up Chance and decided to try a ride around the 10?? acre field on the farm next door where my pasture is. Chance was really amusing as he wasn't too keen on walking through the tall grass--mowed field of rye that has grown up again in weeds and various grasses. We have a 300-400 ft stretch that borders the road and I was pleased that the passing cars didn't bother him at all. He was a bit tentative about the little downhills and uphills and he did a minimal but definite spook at some irrigation pipe piled up on the hill, but other than that he was craning his neck trying to take in everything. A few birds flew up and he didn't start at all, which was great. He offered one short "stutter" at something in the cornfield and did seem much more relaxed when we got back to the woodlands, but all in all I'd give him an "A" for the ride. He is going to make one grand trail horse, something I haven't had in a while. I am really looking forward to that.

I "asked" Toby if he wanted to go for a ride, but when he saw the bridle, he headed out to the pasture, making it clear he wanted no part of it.

Ah, well. Tomorrow's another day. If it's half as nice as today, I will take all three out for a hack.

Friday, September 14, 2007


After an Almost Headache

Woke up with a bad neck and a headache on the way.

So, after I fed the Boys I lucked out with a morning appointment at the chiropractor and set out. One thing led to another as far as shopping trips went afterwards.

Then I came home to a message that my truly kind choir director/accompanist had managed to make a CD accompaniment for a song I am going to be singing at a birthday party tomorrow. So, after lunch, I headed out again.

I met James at Best Buy on that trip and we had a nice chat about his incomparable accomplishments restoring the headstone for the Titus Farm. He is still on a well deserved high about that and apparently is making great progress at getting cooperation from the Township in clearing some brush so he can start the search for the headstone's base and its proper location on the farm.

Then, I headed out to Don's house to pick up the CD--which was a perfectly edited and orchestrated version of the music I needed enhanced with orchestra and a better tempo than the MIDI file we were using.

I had a cup of tea there and a really nice visit, discussing all kinds of curiosities and watching the great little birds at Don's and Dawn's feeding stations.

On the way home, I had a battle with the ATM machine trying to cash a check, taking up another good chunk of time so that by the time I made it home, it was time to feed the Boys.

I opted out of riding due to the still fragile condition of my neck and head, hoping to save myself for tomorrow's lesson. Instead I gave Tucker a nice long lining session.

There were moments that he really looked great when he carried his head up and and his body balanced. But he easily overbends and goes a bit low in the lines when he decides to slack off a little. I finally ended up with the right outside rein run through the surgingle ring to my hand and the inside left rein under his chin and out of the surcingle ring altogether like a regular lunge line. That way, I could get it to act quickly tugging under his chin to encourage him to lift his head. The outside rein kept him on the bit for the most part so that by the end I did get some pretty good and correct work where he was elevated rather than behind the vertical.

The best moments of all where when Toby and Chance took off in the paddock by the ring and Tucker lifted up his head on his own in excitement. Wow! He was light and airy in the front and his shoulder was really up. While it did look a bit scary--as it was bordering on overexuberance, I must say it looked great!

That is exactly the kind of energy the best dressage horses put out without ever exploding. I'm not sure I'd feel safe riding on that "brink" of excitement, but if the horse is really trained, then a good ride can contain it and shape it into a super performance.

Someday...maybe...we might get there.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Good Day

All Around! And Three Under Saddle

The deer flies seem to be gone in the woods, though the mosquitoes linger.

I took Toby out for a nice little hack. He seems to think stopping to eat grass is what a trail ride is all about now, but in his semi-retirement at age 17, I figure he deserves a snack on the way. The woods was lovely, and the footing good, but we stuck to the walk except for one tiny little incline Toby decided needed a canter to negotiate. *lol*

Next up was Tucker. I schooled him in the arena for two sessions again--the second one pretty short. He only barely offered one balk and quickly moved out of it. I was able to make a lot of half halt rebalancings without any kind of problem at all.

I do have to do some extra work on the right canter lead at the moment as he wants to go on his forehand more, but today I did a lot of square corners getting him to lift his shoulder over and rock back on his hind leg and they really helped the balance.

Schooling done, I took him out on a hack as well and he was perfectly behaved. I was delighted.

I had planned on riding Chance for about five minutes in the arena before going out into the woods, but he was so quiet, I just headed out instead. We had a grand little ride. Near the end where the trail heads back for home, he practically pulled me off in another direction, so we took the dirt road that leads to where my grandmother's house used to stand. Right now, it's just a ride up, turn around and come back, but I think just a little clearing will get a new trail through to the path back to the barn.

Regardless, Chance thought it all was great fun and when he heard the rooster crow in the pen in back of my neighbor's house he stopped and tried to go over to see what all the noise was about. He is the most curious, adventurous horse I've had in a while.

Claire, Tucker has had a lot of ground work, round penning, etc. with a John Lyons trainer. Going back to that is another option I've considered. For now, I seem to be able to ride him out of it, but don't think it hasn't occurred to me as something we might need to do again.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Heat is Gone!!

For Now, Anyway

I had two doctors' appointments today, so I had to take the day off from school.

The weather was beautiful. Upper 70's with a breeze.

However the first appointment was for my eyes--and it took more than a month to get it--and during the exam, my doctor put drops in my eyes to dilate my pupils. I really couldn't go out for long in the sun until it wore off. Well, my pupils were still dilated when I had to head out for my other appointment. By then, though, I wasn't sun sensitive, so I could put my contact lenses back in and use my regular sun glasses.

I'd fed the Boys before I left so when I got back home I was able to ride.

The good and the bad of Tucker. I think we had about 4 incidents of stop, lay the ears back and refuse to go. The first was when I first got on. I turned him out of that one and he moved off with a nice forward stride.

Into the session we had another balk, this one with a threat to rear when I tapped him on the shoulder with the whip. However, he thought better of it and finally moved off again.

The third one was a bit more determined on his part, so I dismounted and used the whip on his bum to drive him forward around me in a circle. It's not the best solution, but at least I got his feet moving and when I remounted he decided going was better than not.

The fourth one was shortlived and I managed, again by using a lateral move--mostly with the reins--got him going.

The frustration was that the work in between was really nice. He was forward, up, and really on the bit. I am hoping that much of this is out of habit more than intent and he will soon decide to overcome it and get on with the program.

As I have said, if not, he goes to a trainer. I gave him a pretty good lecture about that to remind him it was up to him to make the choice. Since he's had over a week off because of that dreadful heat and humidity, I will give him a "bye" for today's tantrums. We'll see how tomorrow goes.

I did break the session up into two parts of about 20 minutes each. In between I let him walk on a long rein. The positive of this was that on the second session he went right back on the bit and worked as well as he had the first session. This is good because usually after he relaxes for a while, he usually can't seem to get it all back together again. I hope today was a good sign that the concepts are really beginning to sink in.

I just lunged Chance and Toby as it was getting late and, since I'd had a really nice chiropractic adjustment, I didn't want to over do with my out of shape body either. Both of them went well, but I have to laugh a little about how Chance seems to think that cantering around the circle once is such a lot of work. He'll go for me, but I have to imagine that big "sigh" Caroline often mentions with Jazz and Zip. It must be a warmblood thing! *G*

Tomorrow I plan on taking Toby out for a hack in the woods and, if the bugs aren't bad--as the season for the worst of them MAY be over, I will take Chance out too. If the bugs aren't there at all, I will school Tucker in the ring and then finish up with a little hack on him too.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Steam Heat

Still Hot After All These Days

It occurred to me to get up early this morning and perhaps lunge a horse.

It was like a sauna at 6 AM. It never got better.

School was horrible. My kids are great, so that was not a problem, but the heat made me miserable all day. The morning was the worst and I was hot and sticky by 10 AM. The temperature was in the high 80's F (87-88) but the humidity made it feel much worse. According to the Weather Channel, the predicted humidity was 90% and that without its raining.

It's now going on 8PM and I haven't ventured back out since I fed the Boys. I will see how it feels around 10 PM or so and if it's bearable, I will at the very least lunge Tucker for a little while. I simply cannot ride when the air is too thick to breathe.

I do have two doctor's appointments on Wednesday, so I opted for a sick day. I made both appointments earlier in the summer and one of them was the very first opening my doctor had. (My eye doctor, Claire, for a regular eye exam and perhaps a new prescription.) This is, however the same doctor who took the thorn out of my eye on an emergency visit. He is apparently very popular. My friend called him for an appointment and couldn't get one until October! Eech. Still, I know he will see me if I need him for emergencies.

Then, school is closed on Thursday and Friday for Rosh Hashanah. I didn't know then when I got my appointment so I have inadvertantly given myself a long weekend. I have some really good lesson plans for the substitute teacher on Wednesday, so I feel pretty sure my kids will be fine.

Gabriel is coming on Saturday for lessons, so I certainly hope to ride Tucker several times before then. I really want to see if he behaves any differently in the lesson now that Jeri has communicated with him. But, some prior practice would really help.

If only it were cooler!!! I simply can't handle this heat any more.

Oops. Didn't I say that in a previous post?

Maybe I should just copy and paste from now on.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

It Gets More Bizarre

How To Solve Overcrowded Classes?

How about moving me to another room, where there is more room?

One of my supervisors even suggested that perhaps during those two overcrowded periods I could travel to another room to teach. So, here in the twilight of my career with two bad knees and all my materials, books etc, in one room, I should become a "cart teacher" touring the school building trying to find a place to light?

And moving altogether? Well my computer lab had better come with me along with the bathroom just across the hall. I am getting too old to tolerate much less.

My students will just have to sit at the workstations for the duration or until someone finds an appropriate solution. It just strikes me that moving the problem to another location simply does not do a thing to solve the problem. The fact is, that 30-31 students is just not sound educational policy. I can certainly teach that many, but why should it be necessary?

It is just poor planning in the schedule. Someone should have looked at the number of students enrolled before setting a schedule to put them in classes.

Any well, it's just another example of what's been going on for years. Should I have ever expected anything else?

Did I ride. No again.

It was very hot all day and I ended up with a headache. I went to the chiropractor, came home, fed the Boys, lay down for a nap, and that was that.

It really didn't cool down all that much anyhow. And today, Saturday, it's supposed to be up near 90F again.

Today, as well, I am going to the Gathering for Native Americans honoring the Bethel Mission for Indians at Thompson Park and then a picnic at a friend's house. Swimming pool there, so I hope to get into the water for a while.

The heat is supposed to break a bit tomorrow and next week. Good thing as I do have that show on Sept. 23.

Meanwhile, the Boys are hanging out in the barn standing by their fans.

Friday, September 07, 2007

What Next?

School Woes Again

OK, so I managed to get my teaching schedule adjusted so I didn't have 5 different class preparations a day. All was well.

Then I received my class lists and cringed. Not because of who was in my classes but rather how many were in my classes. Both of my freshman classes list 29 students.

Many studies here in the US have proven that smaller class sizes inspire better education and somewhere between 20-25 is a good size.

I have only 25 desks in my classroom and because it is also a computer lab with 20 computers, I really don't have room for more desks. Maybe we could squeeze in two more, but even then it starts to become a fire hazard because there is too little room to navigate. Moving things around won't even help as far as I can tell and several areas of wall space cannot be used because of various venting and power panels--my room used to be a shop where they taught electrical trades.

Fortunately for the students, I have separate chairs at the computer workstations, so when the extra students showed up, they did have a place to sit.

BUT, then my afternoon freshman group came in, filled the desks, spilled over to the computer chairs and I took attendance. When I was done, two hands shot up and students told me I had not called their names. I'd called 29 names and still missed two more students added to the class.


This is ridiculous. The students told me every teacher they had before they came to my room didn't have enough desks either. I had the impression the other teachers didn't even have a place for them to sit.

The way the master schedule is designed, there are no parallel classes so that we could swap students or create another section or two of freshman. I know one of the math teachers is having a problem with a precalculus class that is too big and there are still more students who want to take the course.

There are bigger floor space classrooms than mine that could accomodate the larger classes, but it still is not fair to anyone to create this kind of situation. This is such poor planning.

Often we do have students who leave the school to go back to their sending schools during the first few weeks, but my large class is made up of the higher level kids who probably are in career tracks they really want to study, so it's less likely they will leave--unless the crowded conditions drive them away.

I guess we will try to cope for a week or so to see how things settle in.

Did I ride?


I was exhausted, it was too hot, and I had to go to choir practice in the evening when it cooled off.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Nothing Horsey to Report

Except for the Tree Branch

I was busy all day Tuesday, the last day of my vacation. I did some chores, bought grain, and spent a good while picking up a load of hay.

Had a meeting to attend that evening and it was a hot day, so I opted out of riding.

But, fate intervened in my time schedule when another big branch fell off the apple tree breaking another fence rail. Not only did I have to drag the branch off with the tractor, but I had to pick up dozens and dozens of apples so the horses would not eat them all and get sick. Then, I had to fix the fence.

Tuesday used up.

Today, Wednesday, was the first day of school for teachers. We had a long morning meeting, and then I spent the bulk of the day trying to find my classroom keys. My former vice-principal had stashed them away. He has since become principal of the special needs part of the building, moved his office and lost track of all the keys he'd stashed. Until he found them, by somewhere around 2 PM, I hadn't been able to unlock my desk where much of what I needed was stored.

Ok, then my classroom computer simply would not load Windows. The classroom printer would not work because the computer controlling the network in my lab was on the fritz, and just about every copy machine in the building wouldn't work.

Great way to start the year. I did manage, about a half hour before the end of the day, to run off copies of the materials I needed to introduce my students to my class rules, so I can at least get the basics done tomorrow.

Got home, fed the Boys and needed a nap before heading out to another meeting--this one on the flood study report in the State Park behind my house.

Stopped at the supermarket on the way home to get some food for lunch tomorrow, fed the Boys late night snack and now I'm here, reporting to you.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Talk to the Horse 2

Second Conversation

We spoke to Tucker again tonight. He seems quite pleased with how our ride went and equally pleased with the longlining session we had earlier today. (Monday)

We told him as well that we needed to work together as if we were alone and at home when we are away from home—just the two of us, as if there is no one else there. He said, “Yes, OK.” Of course that’s easier said than done, but at least he knows what we should do.

He is still not happy and really angry about the idea of someone else riding him to get him over this plateau in his training. He wants to just do it with me. As Jeri says, he is really “pissed” about the idea. He said, “Did someone ever do that to you to get you past something?” When he was told I too had been pushed, he said, “Like that?” Truth be told, I have been pushed like that at least mentally. He does have a point. It is something to think about.

I also had Jeri ask Toby to help explain “forward” to Tucker. It is something he understands really well and he was very willing to “talk” to Tucker for me. He beamed when we told him what a good lesson horse he was, but was even more pleased to hear that we would be doing mostly fun rides into the woods as soon as the darn bugs are gone for the season. Jeri asked him if there was anything he needed and he said, “Water on me and in me when it’s hot.” And, get this, “apples in the water.” Does that mean he wants to go bobbing for apples? I’m going to drop a few in the trough to see what happens on that one.

Chance seemed really happy to hear from me. Jeri explained what we were doing when he was surprised by the contact. He was pleased to hear he had a “forever” home with me and doesn’t at all appear concerned about his size. He is a cheerful boy and said he really likes the “adventure and fun” of going out into the woods. He understood about the bugs and said, “Oh, mama didn’t like them either.” He also said his leg problem was from a kick. I am a bit puzzled about that because he said, “Mama and I got in the way of a kicker and we both got some. Mama protected me and she was very angry.” He said the kick was high up.

It has been many years—he’s 4 now—since he was with his mother. So that is not why he was lame now unless there is an old chronic injury there and he either banged it or got kicked again here. He does say he can kick back now to protect himself, which he does, and he knows how to stay out of the way of a kicker. Well, maybe this time he didn’t, or perhaps he banged himself some other way. Otherwise, that really didn’t make a whole lot of sense. Since I didn’t fully explain it to Jeri, it might be that she just didn’t ask the right questions, which is fine, because in the end, Chance seems to be feeling fine now.

He said he wanted “rubs, hugs and carrots,” so when I went out for late feed, I gave him some of each. He really is a sweet, cheerful kid.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

The Plan, The Plan

So Here's What I Have Decided

I will be talking to Tucker again tomorrow night.

Here is what we are going to do. I rode him tonight and he was very obedient to the leg and accepting of the whip. I made many half-halts and corrections and he accepted them all willingly.

For now, I will give him the benefit of the doubt. I have my final show of the season on September 23, a bit less than a month from now. Rather than distrupt our working pattern before then, we'll stick to trying to work out the issues together.

After the show, however, if there is not significant improvement, I will have someone ride him for me to reinforce and completely establish the concept of staying in front of the leg.

I intend to keep my schooling sessions short, or at least break up the work with rest breaks after about 10-15 minutes of strong "on the bit" and engagement. This, I hope, will help Tucker build up his strength and ability to carry himself.

I will use cavaletti as well to get him to understand about lifting and lengthening his stride. We did some trotting poles tonight as well, but I need to put them on the blocks so they don't roll if he kicks them.

I also thought it might be a good idea if Toby could help out by talking to Tucker to explain about how to go forward. He had a similar issue as a youngster and went off for training. Again, my lack of courage at riding through the ugly resistances was a factor, so perhaps if he tells Tucker about all that it might help.

So far, I've had two good rides here at home--day off yesterday due to social engagements, and day off Friday because my eye doctor said to just take is easy and not do much after he took that darn thorn out. By the way, my eye feels good and the red is almost gone.

I swam today and did 30 lengths of the pool. Tomorrow, Monday, Labor Day here, is the last day the pool is open, so I will go again for my final swim. After that, I am going to have to visit some of my friends and relatives who keep their pools open later if I want to cool off and exercise.

Summer has rushed by again. I'm going to miss the lazy days.