Wednesday, October 31, 2007
My knees were kind of sore tonight, so I just rode Tucker and gave him a pretty good school.
I focused a bit on the lateral work, with shoulder-ins, leg yields and baby half passes. He is a little unsure about the half pass and doesn't have the concept of the bend in the direction of the movement very well yet, but he is certainly trying.
In fact, he is trying everything I ask. He had one moment of protest after a canter/walk transition when I insisted he not drop onto his forehand in the downward, but he rallied quickly and worked right out of the very mini-tantrum.
His reinback is nice and straight at the moment and the move off after it is also getting much more forward.
I was having some problems getting him to, as I said before, do his downward transition from the canter without going onto his forhand so I set up an exercise to teach him to carry himself better. I cantered on the right lead around the ring to "C," transitioned downward to the walk and immediately did a turn on the haunches/half pirouette so he ended up facing left along the rail and then I asked for another canter depart on the left lead. The canter/walk transtitions improved, and the pirouette movement kept him on his hind end.
Hopefully, all these exercises will improve his carriage enough so that whatever we do at the clinic on Saturday will not be too difficult for him to handle.
I am going to dose him with the Ulcergard on Friday--maintenance dose only--on Saturday morning and again Saturday night and Sunday morning to eliminate any problems from the stress of trailering and the lesson.
Gabriel may be here early next week for lessons too, so I will have some good follow-up to keep me going in the right direction.
Busy few days on the horizon.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
I schooled Tucker in the ring for about 15 minutes pushing the envelope to get him into a fairly "up" frame in a short amount of time. Once again he performed like a champ, doing everything I asked with a postive effort. We did a number of canter, trot, canter tansistions, and, at the end a perfectly lovely halt, reinback (very straight and correct), to a trot transistion. At that beautiful moment, I stopped the session and headed out for a hack in the woods.
I really only do one trail with Tucker and that caused one interesting moment. Sometime since the last time we'd taken that path, a four foot tree stump had fallen over about 25 or so feet off the trail. I was totally oblivious of it until Tucker stopped and his eyes bugged out. Clearly, the tree stump fallen over was a new distraction/danger on "our" trail. When he finally decided he could move his feet again, he tried to swerve off the trail to the left by another several feet. Since I have no idea if there are any holes under all the fallen leaves, this was rather disturbing, so I had to correct him, pat him in assurance and convince him that walking along the defined trail--even if he did it sideways--was a much better option.
As I mentioned to Caroline on her blog, the tree stump was not really all that scary, but the fact that is was a NEW tree stump on an OLD trail seemed to give it a terrifying power far beyond its capacity to do any kind of damage to a 16.3 hand horse. *G*
I rode Toby in the ring for perhaps 10 minutes, once more showing Tucker the flying change as well as how to successfully naviagate the trotting poles no matter how badly we came into them. He again seemed quite interested in Toby's masterful demos, which was good.
Then "The Wobester" and I went out for a hack checking out the upper level trail near the trails to the Park lake in the back. He was his usual sensible self, quiet and pleased to be able to grab at greenery along the way and do a bit of grazing at the edge of the field.
Since it was still light, I saddled up Chance and did a variation on the trail I'd just ridden with Toby, basically doing it in the other direction. The only flaw in Chance's otherwise perfect performance is that he too now thinks snatching at tree leaves is an entertaining and rewarding pasttime. I had to keep redirecting him to the path as each time he'd snatch his whole body would head off after his mouth. Guess I am going to have to get stern with him, but it was so funny all I did was laugh at his efforts.
I trotted him in the ring for a few minutes after we got back home just to remind him of how to steer and do all that nice kind of obedient horse stuff. Frankly, he enjoys hacking so much I find it hard to spend time when it's so nice out doing any serious schooling. He is one spoiled youngster, I fear, and not yet trained as well as any of my other young horses have been at age 4. I have fallen for his charms and just let him get away with it.
With Tucker going so well, I am totally spoiled and Chance is reaping the benefits. His training is on the slow track and that's just fine with me.
Monday, October 29, 2007
I had to go to the feed store after school to restock the Boy's food supply.
I was home by around five and since the time hasn't yet changed back to standard, I had daylight enough to ride.
I had a nice school with Tucker, adding a few more shoulder ins to the repertoire so I can develop the half pass. He is very responsive to everything I try, looking for the right way to go. The half pass is still a little awkward for him, but he is definitely getting the concept. I actually think it's a little better to the left which is interesting as that was his difficult direction when I taught him leg yield. Then again, I'd wager part of it is my aids and my own comfort level at moving in that direction. I need to really concentrate on how I sit so I don't confuse him and so I make clear exactly what I want.
We mixed the canter changes between trot changes and walk changes and I was quite pleased with how well the canter/walk/canters went. His whole attitude is so positive, even when he fusses a little if I use the whip, it never feels really threatening like it did before. What a good boy he is.
I saddled Chance next for a school in the ring and a plan to take a little mini-ride on the trail just behind the ring. While his head is back to kind of bouncing up and down as he shifts his balance, after about 15 minutes of work to keep him steady and get him down onto the bit, Chance seemed to have a handle on what I wanted. I cantered him just a few strides in each direction and was super pleased when he took the correct lead both times.
The right canter lead earned him a hack in the woods as a reward. He is so funny. Once more he was very clear about the fact that he wanted to head off in a new direction instead of the usual path. Trouble was, it was already getting late and dark. But, I have to admit his enthusiasm was contaigious and I ended up doing the short loop woods trail.
The light was fading fast as we came out to the edge of the cornfield, and Chance did stop, a little confused to see the "wall" of corn in front of us as the last time we were out, we went in the opposite direction. Though it was getting hard to see, we managed to make it back to the barn in fine form, with my little "trailmeister" once more pleased to have gone out into "his" woods.
Now, if I can just teach him to work to the bit properly, I am going have one super nice little hack horse and another potential dressage mount, if I decide to show him. He is one good guy.
This picture shows a distant view of where I live. The blue lake to the south is the sandpit where sand mining went on for years. All the green trees are the State Park behind my house. The last picture pulls back even more. Farmland, also State Parkland lies to the east. The roadway is the New Jersey Turnpike. And the buildings you see are the warehouses. The other blue patch to the west is another former sand mine, now restored to a natural lake in the Park. To the north is the farm we are trying to save the the flooded area is in that line of green just below it. You can kind of see a stream bed running across the farm field where that right angle of green is. That is part of the flooding.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Beautiful day. Clear skies and cool enough for a jacket.
After church a friend and I went to the farm of the guy who grows the corn around here and often sells me my hay to walk through his corn maze. I've never done this before and wanted to try at least once before my bad knees make such activities too painful. The maze was not too complex, but it was really fun. All along the way they had posted signs and stories about local town names. And there were all kinds of Halloween inspired displays throughout the 8 acre field of very tall corn. We never really did feel as if we were lost, but it was fun to explore all the little paths to see where they led.
I had a nice chat with the farmer, who told me the vivid story of how his very large tractor had sunk into the saturated ground near where the flooding is in back of the Park. This was over a hundred feet into the field itself--not in the flooded area itself--where he has been farming for over seven years. I have to see the pictures of this, because the tractor is huge and had sunk in so deep he was able to stand next to it and lean his elbows on the fender. It took some heavy equipment to actually lift the tractor and his harrow out of the bog. Pretty scary and pretty strong evidence of how much those warehouse stormwaters have damaged the natural ecology of the area.
Back home, I headed out with Toby to check on the flood status since was have had several days of rain. The monitoring stake we'd put in the tree line showed that there was 1 1/2 feet of water collected there. This does not bode well for the winter. As the ground, which had dried out over the last months of summer, gets wetter and wetter, the water table will rise and that depth of water will easily double. At least now we have a way of measuring it.
Toby is getting so naughty about snatching at the greenery along the way or trying to stop to graze. As I usually allow him to graze at portions of the ride--and indulgence his retirement permits--he has decided to try to take advantage at every opportunity. Fortunately is is a pretty good sport about being corrected and going on but I keep thinking of fat ponies like Thelwell's pulling their little riders out of the saddle to eat when I ride him. *G*
Chance felt bouncy sound and make it abundantly clear that the ring was not for him today. So, Since I had promised him that as soon as he was better we would go out for a woods ride, we did. He was so happy to be out that he bounced and jigged for at least the first 10 minutes of our short 20 minute ride. He was looking at everything and trying to head off into any opening that looked like it might offer passge for a horse. He was truly looking for an adventure, but I didn't want to push things as he hasn't been ridden in weeks. I do love his enthusiasm.
I decided since it was cool and windy to stick to the ring with Tucker. We had a lovely school, and tried a flying change or two with moderate success, so I didn't push it at all and let him change leads through the trot. I also did some half pass work at trot and canter, although he isn't quite clear on the principles. Had I done some more shoulder in I'm sure it would have helped, but since the weather put a cramp in our training this week, I tried to make most of it play rather than hard work. His attitude is a plus nearly every stride, with just one little uncertainty when I picked up the rein again after a walk break. For a horse that two months or so ago was throwing mini-temper tantrums when being asked to half-halt, his progress is amazing.
I have a clinic with a high profile judge, Axel Steiner, (O level judge who has judged at the Olympics.) on Saturday, November 3, so I need to get some quality riding time in between now and then. Hopefully, I now have a horse up to the task.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
And really too much rain to ride in, especially since it was pretty cool out and the rain cold.
So, I stayed in and did some sewing, something I haven't done for years. I picked up a new sewing machine on sale at Kohls, and decided at last I was going to update my Halloween costume.
I bought some gold sparkly fabric last year for an overdress over the base black gown and some shiny black fabric to make a new cape--since I have somehow lost the old cape I had. (I will probably find in in a month or so now that the replacement is done or almost done.)
I made the overdress and most of the cape all in one evening. Since I hate to cut the fabric and lay a pattern, this was a major accomplishment. Now, mind you, the finishing details are not the high quality needed for real clothes, so it's a lot simpler sewing. I still have a few more bits to finish on the cape--which includes a hood lined with the gold fabric--only because I was interrupted by a phone call that used up an hour and a half of the evening. (The guy friend I invited to come to the Halloweeen party with me.)
Since it's still supposed to be raining tomorrow morning, I'll have plenty of time to complete my costume extravaganza. Maybe I can get someone to take a picture of me in it so you all can see.
In the meantime, just imagine a witch in black and gold.
I used to dress up for school and may still do a modified costume as the morning announcements say, "Halloween, NO COSTUMES!" What a bummer.
Addendum: Saturday Morning
Got up to rain, rain and more rain, but even worse, now it's warm out. I don't have any super lightweight waterproof sheets for the Boys either, so they are still in the ones that are going to be too warm as the day progresses. I have having them get all wet when it's like this and they don't always stay under the shelters.
It just feels more like the tropics out there than I care to think about. Good news is that it's supposed to let up by afternoon, so maybe I can undress them then.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
My feet this time. I had to go to the chiropractor to get fitted for new orthothic inserts for my shoes.
By the time I got home it was around five, so I fed the Boys. I'd left them wearing their waterproof sheets for the day and they did seem pretty comfy in them as it had stayed chilly all day with intermittent showers.
Since it's Thursday, I had choir rehearsal, leaving me without any real time to ride.
If I want to play sour grapes, I can claim the ring was pretty wet too.
Of course it will be wet tomorrow too if it keeps raining. Right now, there is a pretty good breeze, enough to dry my riding surface, but showers are in the forecast again.
But, it will be Friday and I certainly won't have any excuses for not riding this time--unless the showers turn to some steady rain....again.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Would have been a nice day to ride temperature-wise, but not so with the rain.
My farmer neighbor and I went out to set stakes with depth markers in the flooded area before the water starts flowing back in so we can monitor it. Because of at least a month of very dry weather, we were able to walk into the center of the trees where most of the water collects and put a monitoring stick. Now, at last, I will have a fairly accurate way of recording just how deep the water gets over the winter.
Needless to say, I didn't ride. It was a bit too soggy.
At least I did something useful.
The Boys are making use of the run in shed on the west side of the barn. When I went out for the late night feed, it appears that all three were under the roof. Tucker was partially inside Chance's stall which opens to the shed. I guess Toby and Chance were sharing the outer portion.
Nice to see them all clumped together...my little happy herd.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Yep. Only this time I was in another classroom for the day as my room/computer lab was being used for student achievement tests.
This room had real windows and a breeze! What it did was assure me I am not crazy in claiming to be in a hotter room than almost every other academic teacher. When I went back to my room to do some work, I was roasting again.
Though I did manage to get one of the kind, handsome computer techs in there with me to try to figure out why one of the educational programs we are supposed to be using just wasn't working right. Since I am supposed to be the teacher program expert on this software, it was rather important that I learn some of the ins and outs. What we did learn was that the program will not work if any of the popup blockers are functioning. This was a useful lesson which now nearly sets me on full track to mastering the program. I just need a few days of working it.
Back at home, after a chiropractic adjustment, I suddenly remembered I had to go to a Township Council meeting to witness the passage of an important zoning ordinance designed to help protect some of our rural residents from industrial development. That cut short my plans to ride in the early evening when it sort of started to cool off.
I say "sort of" because it is now nearly 10 PM and I've just come in from lunging Tucker and both he and I are pretty sweated up. The temperature may have dropped below 70 F, but the humidity is so high it's still summer weather and pretty miserable. There is a weather front coming in later, perhaps around midnight with rain and the heat should break.
But, it looks like it is going to rain the rest of the week, let up to showers for a while and then continue on into next week. So now, it will be cool and soggy.
This is really frustrating because Chance is finally sound again and Tucker is on the verge of some exciting training breakthroughs, and I may be washed out.
Then again, when I have been absolutely determined in the past, I have ridden in the rain, so one never knows when and how the motivation might strike me.
Tucker lunged with a nice foward trot and an occasionally "silly" canter as he leapt away from some invisible night monsters in the bushes and the woods. He was nice and forward without much urging on my part and gave me some good work. I think I lunged him for about 20 minutes all told, but I lost track when he took off into a bucking spree a few times. He never really challenged the line, though, so I was easily able to hold him, something which has not always been the case.
He has been extremely affectionate lately and I really think he is trying to tell me he feels good and is happy with himself.
I lunged Chance just long enough to see if he was limping, and he looked great. No more soaking and wrapping. I just put some zinc oxide ointment on the coronary band at his heel where the abscess broke and set him free.
Toby didn't seem interested in lunging, so he had the night off.
All seems peaceful, well and quiet at Follywoods.
Monday, October 22, 2007
This is getting ridiculous. It was hot again in my classroom today. Probably over 80F outside?? Not sure. And we had computer generated testing today and I had to set up my kids for the test--with some super help from a substitute teacher who was a gem at setting up the computers in his room next door so the overflow of my students had a place to go.
Anyhow, the break in my normal routine wore me out along with the heat. I may lunge Tucker later, or a I may not. Tonight is also the last soaking for Chance's hoof, so that too will wear me out. He's been getting a little fussy about holding his hoof up for all the cottoning, vetwrapping and duct taping, so we have a little wrestling match each time. (Oh, by the way the nappies are a great idea, but I'm using the cotton because I have about 10 big rolls of the surgical stuff left over from when I first got Tucker--he had a leg injury with some serious proud flesh-- and ordered a case of the stuff for bandaging him. Some of it has gotten wet so, I am using it up as hoof padding. )
The heat is supposed to break tomorrow. I hope so. I have all kinds of fall clothes to wear to school and today I was in a summer sundress....again!!
Continuing the flying change experience, I did some research and found a nice article here
http://www.classicaldressage.net/members/lesson_pages/flying_changes1.html There is a part two as well.
One of the controversies seems to be the difference between teaching the flying change and teaching it "correctly" as the masters claim. They say if you teach the horse through less than classical means, he will learn to change crookedly or in an unbalanced way and the problem will stay with him all his life.
I have not found that to be true with my horses. The difficulty was getting them to understand that it was OK to keep cantering, swap leads and go on. Once they get the idea...as the writer of the linked article suggests, then the basics of the "game" are set. They need to think the movement is just another stride, and become totally relaxed about it. Once that happens, the tempis become no big deal--at least up to the two tempis. I never quite developed the ones with any of my horses, but I've ridden a few and again, to the horse, if you don't make a big deal about the single change, so what if you do it every stride? It does take muscle and balance--right now Toby's threes come out of a too strong stride because he can't quite carry himself in the collection needed to get the more moderate ones--but that is all part of the package once the horse reaches the competitive levels requiring the tempis.
I am far from an expert on this, but I do know western horse simply ridden for pleasure and many of the hunter/jumpers around here a perfectly capable of doing repeated changes without all the proper carriage and collection demanded of dressage horses.
So what? There is a difference between training the movements themselves and expecting the movements to be correct. Can a horse half pass on a long rein? Of course. Can a horse make a canter depart on no contact all with his nose stuck out? Of course. Would he score a "10" in the dressage arena or be considered to be working properly? Of course not. But he can still perform the "tricks."
Sometimes its just kind of fun to approach the movements as "tricks" teach them and then work to perfect them. Maybe the classicists think this is backwards, but it can take the pressure off and turn work into play.
Just my philosophy and why I will never make it to the Olympics. *G*
Sunday, October 21, 2007
It was up near 80F today in the sun, cooler where there was shade. Supposed to be the same tomorrow and then some rain to break the heat on Tuesday. Ridiculous for October.
I rode Tucker first with a little bit of ring work. I have decided to simply try the flying changes without worrying whether he is in a frame and all together, mostly because his canter is so easy and balanced. As well, years ago when I didn't even know the word "dressage" I taught Russell R. to fly the change for the hunter shows/jumping and he certainly wasn't collected.
So, after a short warm up at the trot and then canter, I went for it. First time was right to left. I started the figure eight on the right rein, made a slight left half pass move which starts to displace the shoulder towards the right. Then I changed the bend and asked for the change....nothing, but I continued on the counter lead to the corner, tapped with the whip and with a bit of a buck, he changed the lead. Since I'd ridden the attempt pretty badly, I took that and continued on the left lead after giving him a lot of praise. This time, I crossed the diagonal trying a slight leg yield to the left, got the counter canter going into the corner, asked for the change and this time, he offered just off my strong leg aid and a change of bend.
This kind of combines a lot of principles. I found with PJ that the best technique was to start a half pass, say, right lead from centerline, keeping his body really straight rather than in right bend as is correct for the half pass. At the rail, I'd give his body a good lateral push, then change the bend as his inside hind was starting to step under and he'd change to keep his balance for the new direction.
Lockie Richards had me simply take Toby on a figure eight, and ask for the change on the centerline as we changed directions. Later, I developed the change by using counter canter on the long side and asking for the change in the corner.
The horse needs to be totally confirmed on both leads and be willing to change leads through the trot reliably. You can work it down to a one stride trot change, then go for the canter change. Some trainers insist the horse be able to change through the walk, with no trot strides in between first as well. The big trick is to get the hind end to initiate the change which is how the tap of the whip comes in handy. Just about all the horses I've taught will give a buck now and then when they are learning, but that's fine as it gets the hind end engaged and elevated so the lead can switch. You also need to have a well confirmed counter canter which you can lose for a while once the horse learns to fly the change.
After the ring work, I took Tucker out on his favorite woods trail.
I rode Toby for a few minutes in the ring and used the poles and jump combo I had up for Tucker the day before. Toby did the little set up with nice quiet confidence and a good steady stride. The biggest issue was some little white flies, the size of gnats swarming all over the place in the ring near the "C" end. They kept flying up his nose and into my eyes and face as we passed there. Annoying little critters. After the little session, we too went out on a short ride through the woods where it was lovely, cool and bug free!
When I got back, Chance insisted on hanging out at the gate to the woods with a longing expression. I promised him we'd go out as soon as he was better.
Then I fed the Boys and went back out to clear some of the fallen trees and overgrown branches off the two parts of the trail nearest the barn. All the while, there was Chance hanging over the gate with that same longing look. It was his first choice of activity after finishing his dinner. He didn't come back to the paddock until I put out the hay.
Guess I owe him a few trail rides.
Oh yes, I mowed the lawn too. Riding mower.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Strange things can happen when training horses.
I rode Toby first on the trail and then worked him in the ring for a while. Chance and Tucker were hanging out in there too, so I could only use half the area. I trotted a bit then got Toby cantering and told Tucker to watch. We showed him 4 flying changes and all the while I kept telling him to watch as that was the next thing he needed to learn how to do. He really did seem interested.
I saddled Tuck up next and set up a simple little jump of about 1' on the centerline going the long way, just to give us something interesting to do. After some trot work, we jumped the jump and I realized my timing was terrible. I haven't jumped in so long, my eye, never good to begin with, is totally out of pratice. I dismounted added some poles on the ground a stride away on either side, remounted and tried again. Thank goodness for timing poles. We were now in sync.
I rode for about 20 minutes mixing things up with the jumps, shoulder ins, leg yields, haunches in, half passes, and some canter work with trot changes. Then, I decided, "Why not?" and started a figure 8 pattern on the left lead. As I neared the center line, I started a very slight half pass move to finish the circle before the change of direction, asked for a change of lead and gave Tuck a tap on the hind end with the whip. FLYING CHANGE!!! It wasn't pretty, but it was definitely there!!! I let him walk, praised him mightily, thought about it, and decided to make one more try, this time from right to left.
Started the figure 8 on the right circle. Towards the centerline I made a slight halfpass movement to the right, then changed the bend and tapped him with the whip. FLYING CHANGE!!! I was thrilled!!
I brought him to a walk, dismounted and practically scared the wits out of him with my hugs and pats telling him what a good boy he was!
Toby had been watching all this from outside the ring and seemd quite intent on the activities.
Was something going on between the two horses? Did I just find the right combination of aids?
Or could it be both bits of magic were working together?
Stranger things have happened. All I know is I am excited as can be. If we can conquer the changes now, the biggest hurdle to moving up the levels is gone. Once he learns to do a change easily the tempis will come quickly. Everything else he needs to do is already halfway there.
Of course, we still need to master going up and on the bit in the elevated frame, but that too is on the way.
Chance report. There is a decidedly big sore/drain hole at the bulb of his heel in the coronary band The abscess did not form in the white line but was caused by a deep sole bruise about 3/4"-1" in from the white line. I guess it tracked up and out, which is good. He is still very mildly lame but really looks a lot happier and is far more enthusiastic about froliking with the big boys. I'm guessing now the darn thing was brewing from the beginning of the month when I first noticed he was a little off. So, right now, we are talking 3 weeks before it finally blew out. Lucky with this one as the problem Tucker had went on all summer.
I am soaking the foot, then wrapping it with drawing salve (Icthamol), a layer of cotton batting, vet wrap and then another layer of duct tape. I seems to last for a while before the bottom wears out. Not the perfect solution, and something like an easy boot might keep it protected all day, but I think this will be fine.
I'm looking forward to riding him again.
Friday, October 19, 2007
Three cheers for the horsey bloggers who frequent this blog.
I am relieved to tell you all that my vet found evidence of a bruise/abscess in Chance's hoof. It had "blown" out through his heel, but he is still a little off. I will need to soak it, use an Icthamol poultice, and wrap it for four days, and he should be fine. He can also go out, which is nice for him.
What I had never seen before was the rather dramatic filling and heat in his leg caused by the abscess. Apparently the abscess sets up an inflammation in the hoof that compromised the blood flow into the leg. Dr. Klayman says some horses' legs fill up all the way into the knee. I've known a number of horses with food abscesses but never seen that reaction, so it kind of freaked me out.
Thank goodness, as this is an easy fix.
However, for all the barefoot afficianados out there--my vet also suggested a set of front shoes. Since Chance is now my second young horse who has proven prone to bruises/abscesses, I am inclined to agree.
My friend, Stacie, has a big beautiful horse who has been lame for several weeks now too--same leg as Chance. She has had all kinds of tests done, and yesterday, a good race track vet from the area told her that her horse had an abscess/bruise as well. She will be treating him for that at the same time I am treating Chance. Here's hoping both "kids" are truly suffering from the same probelm as this is one of the easiest problems to cure and one of the less serious possibilties to explain lameness.
As a side note here. A very good stable in my State lost some horses and had other very sick horses from what turned out to be Potomac Horse Fever. Since there is a vaccine for this, I asked my vet about it for my horses. Herewith, his response summarized:
The Potomac vaccine is apparently not very reliable. It was passed through before all the stringent tests they require now and never had an real clinical studies for how well it works. He said some vets don't like it because if the horse does get Potomac with the vaccine, the symptoms are then often misdiagnosed. He said he has never had an incidence of the disease around here. It is not passed horse to horse but the vector is a snail. He said the snail and disease are more common in Bedminister and his theory is that the snail cannot live in the sandier soils of Central/South Jersey. He does not vaccinate his own horses. He has the vaccine and was willing to give it but I opted out. He also said our horses get so many vaccines already, unless it's truly needed he prefers not to add to the "load" horses with things they don't need.
What is also interesting is that it seems no one kept records or reports of how many of the horses in the latest outbreak had been vaccinated. One would think this would have been a significant bit of information to judge the efficacy of the vaccine in a "real world" situation.
So, this ends the lastest medical report from Follywoods. All is well again...or almost well.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
After looking much better yesterday, Chance is not only seriously lame today, but his right leg is also swollen.
I have no idea what is wrong. I bandaged him and put him in his stall with his late night snack and will be calling my vet in the morning. There is heat in his leg, but he doesn't seem to be particularly upset when I run my hand along it, squeezing a bit to see if I can feel something wrong.
Why is that significant? When he had a cut on his leg and I tried to clean it, he actually went down on his knees on the crossties every time I tried to touch it. This leads me to think he would also not be very happy with my touching his leg if it were really sore.
This development does not entirely shoot down my theory that the problem is in his hoof, but it also doesn't help reassure me.
This type of situation is really frustrating. His lameness is extreme, but with the swelling, that doesn't surprise me. Often when a horse's leg swells, the swollen joint is painful just because it cannot flex properly. But, the swelling could also be the result of a more serious injury, so that is worrisome.
For now, it's just a waiting game. I will try to hose his leg tomorrow morning and if he lets me, that's fine. If not, I'll have to use some cold packs for a while as therapy.
Hope I can get my vet out ASAP.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
I took Toby out to see if the Park was flooded and luckily it was not. I managed to convince him to stand still with his face in some nice lush grass while I took a few pictures. Then we headed back home through the woods for a nice little trail ride.
Chance is much sounder, though not perfect. I just lunged him for about a minute to evaluate his condition.
Then, I put brandy new flame orange flysheets on Toby and Chance as Tucker watched with obvious interest and a bit of jealousy. When I finally took him in the barn to get his new sheet on, he was quite pleased, but the best was yet to come.
We trailered over to the indoor arena about 20 minutes away for our lesson with Gabriel.
May I say, quite proudly, that Tucker was a gem! Gabriel was quite pleased and more than excited to see him going so well. As he did at home, Tuck accepted all kinds of aids, half halts, shoulder ins, leg yields, haunches in, and lots of "square corners" to get him to balance back on to his hind end. He was gracious and responsive to the whip and even when he needed some urging to gather some energy, he was willing and accepting. Even after a walk break to let him relax, he settled right back in to some excellent work.
Gabriel was totally enthusiastic about how he was going and said he really hadn't seen him ever work quite that well.
I told him of my plan to move up to third level and he was just fine with that. Part of the theory is that a horse like Tucker, who is very clever, needs the challenge the higher level tests offer.
Gabriel said it would be easy to teach him the flying change, something we will have to learn over the winter. When I told him Tucker is perfectly happy to counter canter, even through a tight turn, it did give him pause, but I agree that the flying change will not be a big issue once Tuck understands what it's all about.
The trick is to find just the right exercise to encourage the change. With PJ, I used a very straight with little bend half pass to the rail at the corner and then asked for a change. With Toby we did it in a figure eight, with Russell, as I recall, it was using a ground rail and using his natural desire to be on the correct lead. Tucker is very balanced when he is on the "wrong" or counter lead so that does pose a bit of a problem. I'll just have to figure out how to inspire him to choose a new lead. It just might be doing repeated lead changes through either walk or trot, gradually making the striding between shorter and shorter. We'll see.
In the meantime, I have a definite goal. My trainer agrees it's OK, so we are on the same "page."
Now I have some real motivation to ride. Just what I needed.
Three cheers for Ulcergard!
I came home from school, fed the Boys and shortly thereafter headed back to East Brunswick to the Barnes and Noble Store for an Educators' Open House.
I had reserved a spot a month ago. The store was offering 25% off on all books to teachers, 10% off DVD's and music, a book talk, and two authors' talks. Along with that I also earned 2 hours of professional development credit and a chance at raffle prizes.
It was a lot of fun. Robin Friedman, who is a New Jersey author, read from her book, The Girlfriend Project, a novel written for teenagers, so it's suitable for my students. I bought a copy to read and had her autograph it, which is kind of cool. The other authors were a husband and wife team who wrote children's books. We did some singalongs with them.
I won one of the raffles and got a nice tote bag with some books I can give to my students after I read them.
All in all, after I did some shopping, it was a nice evening.
But, I didn't ride.
That's OK. I have my lesson tonight.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
I was going to take Chance out on a trail ride today, but as we walked across the arena to the gate, he took a bad step. I tried a little trot and he was definitely lame.
Then I went back into the barn, picked his feet out to see if there was a stone lodged in there or something I could see, found nothing except.....MAYBE, just MAYBE some heat in his right front foot near the inside. When I lunged him it was the right front he was lame on, so it would make sense. Since I can't find anything else, I am now suspicious he may have a bruise or an abscess.
Of course, it could also be something else. I think it's in the foot though. I will wait a few more days before doing any thing about it to see if heat becomes obvious. OR if he goes sound again. OR.....so frustrating. Every time I start to get him going, something else interferes. He really did want to go out on the trail despite his problem, so it's not too painful.
I recall early on with Tucker, when he was barefoot, having this happen a few times. Nothing every quite showed up, and no abscess ever broke, but he was off. Then, of course we did have the big layoff because of a very, very hidden abscess with him that took months to resolve itself. So, right now, I am inclined to just wait and see.
Meanwhile, I worked Tucker in the ring for a short school. He was again a really good boy with no fuss or bother. When I was done, I took him out in the woods for a hack. Lovely time for 3/4 of the ride, aside from one big spook at a noise in the trees. Then, on the way back, a fallen white birch tree stopped him in his tracks--I think. It was the only unusual thing I saw, anyhow. We had a bit of a balk, a spin, a refuse to turn, a temper pawing, but at no time did I ever feel he was going to rear, buck or run. After much repeated insisting on my part, and some reassuring pats, we finally tiptoed past the strange tree and managed to head back up the trail to the barn. One more light bark fallen tree made him dance a little around it, but no big deal.
I gave Toby a short school in the ring too and then went out on the middle distance trail throught the woods. He was, as always a really good boy. We took a little detour on the way home and came back in through the pasture gate rather than the ring gate just for variety--well, it was Toby's idea. That did confuse Tucker and Chance who were waiting at the ring for us to come back. I did like the surprised looks on their faces.
Once I fed the Boys, hitched the drag up to the tractor and dragged the ring, some of the pasture and part of the paddocks. Then, I finished up the evening by cleaning the wiring connector to the trailer and checking to see that all the lights were working properly.
I have a riding lesson at 8:30 or 9:30 PM on Tuesday, so I needed to be sure all the lights were working OK.
Looks good. I am excited to see how Tucker behaves in a lesson situation. I am hoping he is a good boy because my plan calls for moving him up to 3rd level next season.
The big thing we are going to have to learn is the flying change.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
OK, enough of the big horse. Now to the much smaller 16.3 h Tucker.
Had a nice school in the ring and once again, Tucker was very agreeable and cooperative. I am not sure exactly how elevated I had him, but he felt good and had no trouble handling repeated half halts. Nor did he fuss about trying some half pass and both the trot and the canter. Nor did he fume at attempting some baby canter pirouettes and a half-hearted "ask" for a flying change. We were not where near getting it, but he was not in the least upset about trying.
Only once, after a walk break did he pin his ears, but it was easily correctable with a light touch of the whip. Right now, I think it's mostly a habit he needs to learn to break. As far as the rest of the ride went, he was ready, willing, and able to try everything I asked, no matter how inept I was in posing the questions. I am still smiling.
Chance definitely needs some serious work on his steering. Before his long layup, I had really made some progress, so the basic concept is there, but it is very unsteady. Still, he gave me some lovely trot work and, even more exciting, some more canter! This time we went 3/4 of the way around the ring on the left lead. Then we struck off on the wrong lead going right, so I took him back down to the trot, softened him a little and he took the right lead and cantered on it for about 1/2 of the arena. Now, mind you, we really didn't have much accurate steering, but we cantered and it felt good. At that, I climbed off and gave him a ton of praise and a great big hug.
I lunged Toby instead of riding him. What can I say? He is just great in hand either on the single lunge line attached to a halter, or on the long lines in bit and bridle. I love to watch him go. He has a nice relaxed, long, and supple looking stride. He just makes it all look so easy.
I need to make some sort of schedule or plan about working the Boys now that the weather has broken out into fall. I do need to get Chance trained to a better degree, I'd like to move Tucker up at least one level, if not two in dressage, and I want to keep Toby moderately fit.
I do have ring lights when the time changes and the clocks go back, so if the weather holds, I don't really have any excuses, but I know my body and energy have a limit. Sometimes after a day at school, I am just worn out.
I guess that's the frustration of earning my horses and a place to keep them. It took a long time, and now I am old enough to to suffer for it. *Sigh*
Friday, October 12, 2007
I'm sure the girl is short, but Radar is 19.3 hands, so he's one big dude. The picture came from:http://www.priefert.com/dynamic/radar/default.php# and Radar is owned by Priefert Ranch equipment. They made most of the gates I have in my fencing.
I will take my camera to see if I can get some pictures of the big guy. Maybe if I show them to Tucker it will take him down another notch or two. He needs to get his own size into perspective. *lol*
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
So I woke up not feeling well at all. Kind of a migraine thing with an upset stomach.
When I went out to feed, I guess I either got distracted by my stray kitty or simply fogged out. I left a stall door open and the gate into the feed room.
With Tucker most probably in the lead, there was a feed room raid. Someone who shall go nameless climbed the one step in so he could reach one of the feed cans, opened it and pulled out the bag of sweet feed. This ended up all over the feed room floor and all over the aisle of the barn.
When I went out around 1 PM or so on my way to the chiropractor, I saw the tack room door still open and realized what I had done. In short order I went in the barn to find Toby and Tucker happily standing in the barn aisle in several piles of manure all nicely trampled, the feed scattered about, the bag lying by the door with about a quarter of the feed still in it, and the garbage can tipped over.
The only reason I will not accuse Chance of participating is because the blankets were not dragged all over the place as well. This was a much more focused attack. *G*
Ah, well. I actually managed to save about half the feed which I am only using now to encourage Toby to eat his ulcer medicine. It didn't look as if the Boys actually ate a lot of it. When I cleaned it up the pile was pretty substantial. Still, I did cut their evening feed a bit to compensate.
Chance was standing all alone in the riding arena, just basking in the sun, looking totally innocent.
Sometimes I do wonder if he is happy about things. He does seem a cheery sort, but he can be totally intimidated by the two older horses. Often they are together and he is off by himself.
Then again, I just as often see him playing with Tucker and sometimes even see one of the others off in another section of paddock while Chance is hanging out with someone. It is a strange little herd that way.
When I take either Toby or Tucker off the property, Chance is then buddy with the remaining horse, so there really isn't any major antagonism, and he seems perfectly content when he is by himself.
Hopefully, he likes it here. I know I like having him!
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
And for those of you who do not know any of the story:
Toby is a 16.1 hand American Thoroughbred. He was slated to be a race horse as his dad was a premier stakes winner in New Jersey. I first saw him as a yearling frolicking in the paddock and told the owner if they ever wanted to sell him to please let me know.
A year later, they decided to get out of racing and in short order, I was able to buy Toby. His registered name is Arts Ruler and his stable name was then Pete. Needless to say, I changed that to To Be Or Not To Be at a friend's suggestion.
When I got him, Toby had been sat on, but had no training beyond some lunging. I spent the remainder of his 2 year old year longlining him. I had a young girl do some of the basic backing for me and she was amazed at how well trained he was once she was in the saddle. The longlining had taught him almost all he needed to know.
We had some rocky moments. Things started off well, but eventually, I did have to send him for about two weeks to my trainer in Massachusetts for some "attitude" adjusments. From then on, it was nearly clear sailing.
I skipped a few levels, moved quickly up to fourth level and worked our way through Prix St Georges, and ended at Intermediare I. Show ring success was moderate, but I don't have aspirations to be and Olympic contender, so I was just pleased to have trained him that far.
As he worked in the upper levels, he would periodically show signs of soreness in his hocks. His conformation is "level" in front, making it a chore for him to really carry himself in an elevated frame. I finally decided it would be better for him to retire from competition at the upper levels so he could be a happy sound horse for many years to come.
A friend rode him for a while, showing him at the lower levels, and when she moved away, Tucker began to take up most of my attention, so Toby became my "fun" horse.
Now, he has proven himself to be a true schoolmaster. He will do nearly all the upper level movements easily in a lower level frame, including some very nice tempi changes/three strides and two strides. His lateral work is a cinch and, as I have noted, he is extremely sensitive to the aids.
One of my greatest pleasures is to know that now, at age 17, nearly 18--I can hardly believe it--he feels wonderfully sound and doesn't seem to have any stiffness in his body. I would love it if he could reach a healthy advanced age with that soundness. To me, that would be a great achievement. I would like to think correct athletic work acutually enhances a horse's soundness and perhaps Toby can be proof of that--and proof that what I have done with him was right.
My vet calls him "The Prince" for his stable manners. He really is a sweetie and a lovely horse to work around. He does crib, but I just ignore it, although, as I've noted, I am trying the ulcer medication.
Monday, October 08, 2007
Tucker had all his shoes this morning, but by the time I was ready to leave for the clinic, he'd lost a front one.
So, Toby took his place as lesson horse. We had a great time. Patrice said he was really sweet and a great lesson horse for me. We worked on some very subtle details of using my seat. I need to drop my legs making my hip joint and muscles very flexible as well as making my ankles super flexible to help make up for the stiffness and limits I have with my two bad knees.
Then too we worked on getting good shoulder in position by some equally subtle and well placed positioning of my own body. The concept was basically to move from square into position right or left and getting Toby to move with me taking two steps to either the right or left with his front legs while his hind end stayed perfectly square. From that exercise, correct shoulder-in just flowed along without any lateral "slippage" behind.
Sound confusing? I said it was subtle. The great thing about riding Toby for things like this is that he is super sensitive to the aids--not to run off hysterically--but just to move his body any which way you ask. So, if I ask wrong, he is quick to do the wrong thing. Too much leg or seat on one side--and too much might be just the slightest shift--and he will move his body to the side exactly where you unintentionally tell him to.
Because he is so honest and responsive, he "insists" that his rider be equally honest. Sit just right and all goes well.
Patrice said the ideal situation would for me to take two lessons--one on Toby and one on Tucker. Too darn expensive for my budget.
The downer was that it was hot and miserable again today. 87 F+, and I'd wager it was 90 F at one point. The horses are starting to grow their winter coats--more a function of the changes in day length than temperature--so they are feeling the heat too.
Had teacher's workshops in school today. Mine was in the lab next door to my room, so no air conditioning, 31 teachers, 31 computers on, three big fans going and it was very unpleasant in the room. And I was only there for the morning session! Can't imagine how bad it got by afternoon.
Saturday, October 06, 2007
It was hot, or at least getting hot today--upper 80's F. I had a chiropractic/physical therapy session in the morning and when I got home just a bit before 11 it was still tolerable.
I decided to take Toby out for a ride around the lake to see how the footing was. With the drought we've been having, I was hoping the muddy and swampy areas had dried up.
I was right. Aside from one patch of trail still under water, the rest was dry. The trail has two tricky spots. One is a pretty steep, though short hill to go down or up and the other is the swampy spot that never does quite dry up. Toby was, as usual just fine down the hill but the water?
Well, I suppose the cute little green frogs popping in and out of the water didn't help. I mean, they were horse toe munching frogs, you see. And they were IN the water, so that was where Toby did not want to be. We ended up in a briar bush before he finally consented to walk where I wanted him to through the water. Once past that obstacle the rest of the ride was just fine, and the shady woods were nice and cool.
I decided to take Chance on the same trail, a little concerned about the hill and water as he's never tackled either before. I shouldn't have worried! What a star! He picked his way very carefully down the hill and when we got to the water he stopped, looked at the frogs, tried to go around it all and then, with the littlest of urging from me, went right along through the mud, and water like a pro! Aside from his tendancy to kind of wander off the trail "following his face" if he's looking at something, he is one nice little trail horse! He is really fun to ride.
Tucker was eager to work and even more eager to head out into the woods--until he got throught the gate and decided he needed to scope out every stride before he took it. But, once we got to the better part of the trail his whole attitude changed. He began walking along with a big, energetic, forward stride that felt absolutely wonderful and potentially intimidating because it had such power in it. That walk, in the show ring, would have to be close to a "10." Although he did try to trot off a few times, he stayed responsive and gave me a grand hack--short as it wasn't a long trail--but great fun.
Now, if I can just get that kind of energy in the ring his training is really going to accelerate. That feeling is what a good, upper level dressage horse needs to give.
Now, again this could be just one day of changes, but I have switched Tucker over to a different feed that's geared towards high fat, high fiber and low sugar. This because Patrice suggested he might be insulin resistant. I have the analysis of his hay and that is pretty good, so the change in feed was the primary way to treat that possibility.
Whatever the reason, Tucker had a big, loose, free stride right from the start.
Could it be we have conquered Tuck's "issues?"
Each day things look better and better.
Friday, October 05, 2007
Still. I am trashed. The kids at school are getting restless too. When I put the fans on to get the air moving in the classroom, I have to talk extra loud to be heard over them. By the end of the day, my throat was sore. It's just not a fun beginning to the school year!
However, exciting news grows out of some sad news.
Second Wind Adoption, the horse rescue/adoption group from which I adopted Tucker and Chance is having some serious problems and is probably going to shut down. This is very sad because they do super work saving horses and placing them in good homes.
However, out of this came my big decision to offer to buy Chance outright as I have already done with Tucker. While I still am obligated to sign a "Safe Sale" contract which gaurantees my horses certain protections should I ever decide to sell them---fat chance of that every happening!!!--once I buy, Chance will really be mine.
The key is that my Boys will really be MY Boys for all and good. Tucker has been mine now for about two years, so it will be grand really owning Chance as well. I am so excited, and so pleased.
My Russell and my PJ stayed with me until the last day of their lives, and I cherished having them in my care even after their riding days were over. As long as I am able, my horses will have a home with me, and I have provided care for them should anything happen to me as well.
Chance is a wonderful little guy with a great personality. He deserves a real home and a real owner. I am pleased as I can be to truly become his owner now.
I hope Crossed Sabers/SWAP finds a way to stay open to keep up the important work, but in the meantime, one of more of their horses is safe and well in my keeping.
Wish I had room for more.
Thursday, October 04, 2007
OK, so I sweated and suffered today AGAIN at school in the heat.
When I finally got out to my car to go home, the thermometer read 87 f. It was not a dry heat either as it was humid too. Miserable.
By the time I made it home I had no enthusiasm for working the horses.
I could wait until it cools off in the evening, except that it's Thursday and I have church choir rehearsal. I get home around 9:30 PM.
We'll see if I have any energy left at that point.
I simply cannot stand this heat. It's one thing when I am home and the air conditioning is on to keep me cool. Then, with the slight breeze that picked up in the back yard, I might have felt like doing something outside. But having to work all day inside a stuffy, hot classroom drains me completely. This is ridiculous.
Global warming? Probably not. More likely just one of those insane weather patterns New Jersey has fallen into again.
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
All you groundhog fans...that was not a picture of my groundhog, but one I got off the net that looked exactly like my groundhog, though not quite as startled. These beasties are not beloved in our neck of the woods. They make big holes in the ground and eat all the gardens. That's why I didn't bother planting any tomatoes this year. They are big, fat, furry members of the rodent family, akin to marmots.
But they are kind of cute.
I have to continually check the pasture and paddocks to make sure there are no holes for the horses to step in. The burrows underground are really big and each groundhog (also known as a woodchuck) has at least two entrances, maybe more. My Dad used to shoot them as they would destroy his garden crops and most of the farmers I know feel the same way.
OK, now for the good news on two fronts. I took Chance out to lunge and he was wonderfully sound! The only thing I can think of that he may have trod on his heel with his other foot and given himself a sore spot. There is a bit of loose skin there so that might have been it. He was trotting out and kind of bouncing off his front feet tonight. So I will probably saddle him up tomorrow and give him a little school.
And one more day of the new Tucker! I challenged him a little more to go into a higher frame--still not what I am striving for--and he was perfectly happy to keep going. Half halts, full halts, and even a reinback to trot and he never offered to nap at all. Once he started to react with his ears and it was as if the switch just flicked back to on a second later. I have a feeling some of his reactions are really ingrained and he starts to protest out of habit, realizes there's no reason and just goes on with the work.
It is utterly charming. But I do feel I almost need to start training him all over again--faster, but still working through the basics. The biggest problem I have always had is actually understanding and feeling exactly what is correct when my horse is UP and on the bit for the higher levels. I need to have my trainer work me on it until I can really feel what is correct on my own. Then I'll be fine.
I have another lesson with Patrice on Monday, so that's good. After that, I don't know when Gabriel will be back. If the prospects look dim, there is another trainer Gabriel knows who is good, so I can go there if she will teach me. It is all about "feel" with me. All the theory and technique can be learned from books and, of course, my own past experiences at training two other horses through Intermediare 1, but getting the "feel" of each horse working at his proper frame and potential is where I need the outside eyes. Once I know how correct feels I am fine. I'm just not there yet with Tuck.
When I stopped at my tack store to pick up the Ulcergard, one of the managers there commented how much of the product they had been selling. Our area has quite a few racing stables and apparently the racetrack people are finding real succes using the product. The store manager said often the race people around here are on top of the cutting edge of treaments for horses. I do know that my "ace in the hole" vet is a track vet and the NJ Equine Hospital works on lots of race horses. (Smarty Jones, Kentucky Derby, Preakness winner was treated there as a 2 year old) Apparently the racing world has latched on to the concept.
Here are some sobering statistics I found on the Internet. "Research has shown that 90% or more of high-level performance horses have gastric ulcers, and that lower-level show horses also can get ulcers, but at a lower rate." (www.thehorse.com) "Performance horses that are stabled on high grain low roughage diets would be expected to have a high incidence of ulcers as well. Studies have shown that 60 – 70% of eventers, 50 – 60% of endurance horses and 50 – 60% of show horses have ulcers. The bottom line is that is you have a horse that is worked very day, spends time in stables and is on a high grain diet, then it has a high risk of developing ulcers."( http://www.petalia.com.au)
My Toby is a cribber and I have long suspected ulcers. I tried him on the UGuard powder, but it was hard to tell if it made an impact. I will now be giving him a full course of the generic omeprazole. Since he is now 17 and has been cribbing for over 15 years, I doubt it will break the habit, but if I see any changes I will report it here. He is a worrier and a high energy horse as well, so he fits the profile.
So far, no suspicions with Chance. He's too laid back for that kind of thing.
When I went to feed the horses this morning I was startled and I startled a big fat furry critter sitting on top of one of the garbage cans in which I keep my horse feed/treats.
What was it?
The big, fat, kind of cute but more than annoying groundhog who has decided living under the tack room is just great!! He/she has been fattening up for the long winter hibernation by eating apples fallen from the apple tree, and I guess, my horse treats and maybe even some of my horse food.
The den under the tack room poses no problem as the tack room floor is raised up over a foot from the ground and under it is all open.
The raid on the feed room does pose a problem. If I can't manage to keep the bins closed--don't know how dexterous groundhogs are with their little paws--then I am going to have to take drastic action.
It's really not my style. I am a "live and let live" kind of person. Guess this one might require some heavy duty thinking.