Thursday, January 31, 2008

Never Enough Time

Or Enough of Anything Else

Heat went off in the house this morning or last night. Woke up at 3 AM to a cold room. Went downstairs to find the furnace needed water, but the darn valve didn't seem to be working. Crawled back into bed with a sigh, sure I'd have to call the repairman, then woke up again with a start. I'd forgotten that the valve was sticky. Went back downstairs and sure enough, a little extra muscle and the water filled the boiler. The heat came on with a vengeance. I went back to bed to toss and turn for the next three hours until the alarm rang. Bummer.

My cats' licenses were due for renewal by today, so at the last minute I took DJ and Buddy to the vet for their required rabies shots last night. That left me to go to the Township Municipal Building this afternoon after school to renew the licenses. But I also had an appointment with the solar energy guy at 4:30. Rushed out of school, only to pass my house to find the solar guy there at 3:55 instead. Pulled in and told him I had to go run an errand, and told him where to find a Dunkin Donuts store.

Renewed the licenses and got back home by about 4:20 or so and spent the next hour discussing the potential installation of solar energy panels on the barn roof. Still have to figure out the financing, but that is another problem to solve.

Then, at last, I had a chance to ride. But it was after 5:30 and growing dark. The lovely warm day had already fled and the arena footing was getting harder.

I saddled up Tucker and started off on the bit. He protested for a brief bit and then walked off. Stopped, walked off, and finally decided it was possible to move when I told him too. There was another little hesitation and flattened ears at the first trot depart, but after that he was just fine. I did a good number of trot half halt to walk to trot moves with no problems at all and the canter departs were solid as well. He did break in the canter once in each direction, but I wasn't really pushing the gait as the footing was "iffy" in places. Later, though, when I really committed to the canter, he was fine.

I ended the session with two half passes at the trot in each direction and, by George!, I think he's got it! Not perfect yet, but definite half passes and no fuss on either rein.

Then, I decided to do some halt, reinback, trot exercises. Well, apparently, Tucker has forgotten how to back under saddle OR he has chosen not to. (Gabriel did "correct" his balking by backing him a few times, so he may be angry about doing it now.) I managed several sets with reluctant steps back, none too smooth, with some really good trot departs afterwards. Then I finished up with two centerline halts with a trot off and called it a night under saddle. I did do some remedial work backing him from the ground, just to reinforce my voice command as it is always a big help under saddle.

We are still not at 100% cooperation, but there is definite and consistent improvement, so I am quite satisfied for now.

I took Toby out for a lunging session afterwards, and, as always, he was almost perfect. I am seeing more energy from him now as well and the hint of some muscle filling in behind his withers. I doubt he will ever again be as muscled as he was when he was competing, but if I keep working him each week, he should tone up nicely. I do have to realize he is 18 now and is just not going to be the slck, round, muscular boy he once was.

I didn't work Chance. I simply ran out of time since I had choir rehearsal tonight.

There are just never enough hours in the day to fit everything in. *sigh*

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Less Regret Than Expected

Damp Day Doldrums

Actually, with the trip to interview Arthur, I didn't have time to work a horse--just over an hour.

And it was raining. Not hard, but cold and miserable enough to make me want to stay indoors.

Fortunately, my friend Bill drove, so I got to sit in a warm seat in the car playing with the GPS which proved to be wonderfully accurate at guiding us to Arthur's house in Mountainside.

We had a grand time talking to Arthur, getting his opinions and learning about the history of our area as he remembered it. We heard how it was living on a working farm in Central New Jersey from the late 1920's into the 1940's after World War II. Fresh milk cooled in cold water baths, sweet corn picked with a draft horse and long narrow cart, attending school in a one room schoolhouse, picking potatoes in the field, and breathing coal fumes from the furnace in the cellar all became vivid images of the past as we listened and questioned.

We didn't find the answers to every question, but we made some great discoveries and recorded it all for the future.

I may not have worked the Boys, but I had a good night anyhow. :)

Monday, January 28, 2008

I'll Probably Be Sorry

But I Hope Not

Didn't work the horses tonight.

My lower back was really BAD yesterday. I did ride and when I did it felt better, but if I sat still for long in the house and got up, I could hardly walk. So, the riding was OK, but just resting was not.

When I got up this morning, I could still feel the problem, so I decided I needed to do something about it ASAP since I really doubted I could manage a day of teaching feeling like I had on Sunday. Called in to school and headed off to the chiropractor at their opening hours.

Perfect. They managed to fit me in and in less than an hour, I was readjusted and my back felt TONS better. However, as the day wore on, my muscles began to ache again. My back was in place, but I was sore.

So, I hemmed and hawed and finally decided, despite the lovely weather and pretty good footing, not to ride again. The fact that my knees were pretty bad too helped seal the deal.

I did some poo picking instead, though much of the paddock stuff was still too frozen to move. Just one wheelbarrow full, and not a heavy one either.

The future regret comes with the fact that tomorrow my EVA friends and I will be driving upstate to interview Arthur Van Dyke, the elderly gentleman who used to own the farm we are trying to preserve. He has many wonderful stories to tell of our area and we want to record them. What that means is that I will not have time after school tomorrow to ride either. I think the weather is supposed to be even better OR, it may rain.

At least the 10 day forecast promises warmer temps, so the riding possibilities are actually pretty good. Trouble is, if it does rain and then thaw, poor Tucker is going to be back on his restricted turnout.

He really has been enjoying the complete run of paddocks and barn.

I gotta get the money together to put up that run-in.

And, I gotta get the money together to pay the horribly high heating oil bill I just got today.

Think I'd better buy some lottery tickets and dream!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Good News Out of Bad News

Lucky is Upward Bound

The bad news was that Stacie had to cancel coming to ride today. It really is fun when she's here and it gets some extra work in for Toby.

The good news is that when she went to walk Lucky, still recovering from his surgery to remove the dead bone in his pastern, she was delighted to find him sound and bouncing off his feet. This is super news because he has been lame for over a month after the surgery. We have both been concerned about his soundness, so this is really exciting.

She has him boarded at the New Jersey Equine Medical Center right now where they are hand walking him every day. She can go on weekends only. She is planning on moving him to another barn much closer to her home for the rest of his rehab and then will eventually get him back home when he can be turned out again. The new stable has an indoor ring which will make the walking much easier--as opposed to up and down the aisle of the barn (a big barn, but still, it is an aisle). And the new place has no closing hours so she will be able to walk him herself after work. Here's hoping this is at last the beginning of a full and much speedier recovery for Lucky, a very special boy.

That left me with a sunny Sunday and three horses.

I took Tucker out first and gave him a very short school in the arena. This time, he only questioned me about going forward on the bit at the walk for a half stride. One more half stride hesitation into the trot a bit later and then no more hints of protest. His canter departs were relaxed and, even after a little walk on a long rein, he settled right back into work with no problems. So, I took him out for a hack in the woods. He was nice and forward and seemed really happy with himself and the whole state of the world.

When I told Toby we were just going for a hack too, he let me catch him without much fuss. We had a nice little ride along the middle distance trail and he got a big fat carrot afterwards.

That left Chance and my plan to ride him just in the arena. That was not Chance's idea as he fussed and argued a bit as he tried to head for the gate out to the woods instead of going around the track. He tossed his head and tried to pull the rein out of my hands and me out of position in the saddle, but fortunately, I can sit pretty securely against that sort of thing and I managed to maintain control and get him where I wanted him to go instead of where he wanted to go.

We did quite a bit of walking with bending and general obedience the goal and then did some trot work with the same idea in mind. It wasn't the prettiest schooling session, but I added figure eights and the trot and serpentines to the repertoire. The repeated bending helped Chance focus a little more on his work and less on adventure.

All in all, as much as I missed Stacie, I spent a good afternoon in the saddle.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Weekend Nap

Ah Well

Sorry to report I did not ride nor work a horse again today.

My back was seriously out so I went to the chiropractor in the morning. Once I was adjusted, I was reluctant to do anything to ruin the adjustment and, for some reason, I was very, very tired.

The result? Most of the day just taking a nap.

Pretty pathetic. But I might also be fighting a cold, so perhaps I needed to take the day off?

Stacie is planning on coming over tomorrow, so everyone will get some work and I hope to take Tucker on a hack in the woods when we are done with our ring work. There seemed to be a truck with some hunters out there today when I got home, so going out might have posed a problem.

Both Toby and Tucker are not too accepting of "out of place" critters, trucks, etc. in the forest which, to them should be all natural. I once remember even my PJ who, out on a hack in a huge wildlife preserve, bolted sideways across a road and into a stand of pine trees because there was guy sitting on the tailgate of his Jeep changning his socks. To PJ, the Jeep and the guy didn't belong there. Unless the guy's feet smelled bad. *G*

So, I do have excuses. Pretty weak ones, but excuses.

I used to be obsessive about my riding, but as time has gone on, I've toned it down a lot. Were I eventing, where the horse's absolute fitness is essential, my competition horse would be on a pretty strict schedule of 5-6 days a week. Even for the lower levels I competition, I always believed my horse should be in shape to do an easy three day, so I followed programs my trainer--who was long listed for the Olympics--would set up. I can still remember getting a laugh at a clinic I attended one time with an International trainer. He was ranting on about how all of us riders never got our horses into proper shape. He chose PJ who was a rather bulky fellow and decided to prove his point by thudding his fist into his rump to prove just how "marshmellowy" and soft he was. The poor guy almost broke his hand. "Well," he said, "not this horse, but the rest of them."

The nice thing about Thorougbreds is that they muscle up pretty fast and tend to keep fit with less exercise. Already, as I have said before, I see a major difference with Chance and his warmblood breeding. If I ever intend to do some competition dressage with him, even at the lower levels, I am going to have to concentrate much more on his fitness. Otherwise, with the trailering, warmup and then two classes, he will be totally exhausted by the end of a day.

Hope the Boys didn't mind having the day off.

Although somehow I think they are just fine with it. *S*

Friday, January 25, 2008

Maybe, Maybe Not


The footing was questionable and since it was pretty cold out, I'd had an unannounced meeting after school, and it was Friday, I decided to give the Boys the night off.

It never really did thaw today so the ring surface has the loose sand on top of a more frozen base and, from my short inspection, there were plenty of hard spots. Yesterday provided success with everyone, despite the contrary opinions, so I guess it's OK.

Besides, tomorrow is Saturday and the temps are supposed to go slightly above freezing with plenty of sunshine. That bodes well for some decent footing. And I think I owe Tucker a hack.

I plan on using the barrels and poles along with at least one metal corral panel to block off a little "round" pen to long line Chance in tomorrow I have panels to block off and end of the ring but I am using them to make the little pen Tucker lives in next to his stall. I really wouldn't want to haul them out to the ring and set up anything that needed to stay since I only need the pen for Chance to keep him from running out so much on that longlining circle. He probably would also benefit from some round penning work, but I wouldn't dare do that with just the barrels and poles as a barrier, but I do think on the lines he will respect them.

The longlining is really beneficial to his training as it makes him yield to the bit and learn the discipline of steering without having to deal so much with balancing a rider on his back. As I've said before, that was how I started both Toby and Tucker and it made a world of difference in their responses to the aids when they were first ridden. While Chance is already accepting of a rider, the lining still works as a super training tool, and it really does teach a horse to accept the bit.

I am finding Tucker's progress intriguing. When he was first ridden under saddle, stopping and balking was one of his evasions, and if I pushed him too far by kicking, etc. he would "rocket launch" into a huge buck. Over time, he got over that, except at the horse shows when, eventually, he became too dangerous for me to ride in the warm up as bucking became his reaction to my leg. Chris, my trainer then, rode him for a while in the shows and got some really nice work out of him once he broke through the resistance and then, I was able to show him again myself.

We really didn't have any major issues until he started the balking again that Patrice attributed to the ulcers. Ulcer medication seemed to stop that until whatever it was that happened when he took the bad step in the November lesson and then all the balking began in earnest again.

So far, he has not offered to buck again, but it is always in the back of my mind, so I have a certain reluctance to really go after him for stopping. Gabriel, my new trainer, wants me to clear my mind of all the past bad stuff and ride the horse I have today--the one who seems to be ready to accept the whip, at least. That is easier said than done.

So far, the approach I have taken over the last few rides seems to be working. I really think that becuase of his emotional and perhaps ulcer baggage, Tucker never really did learn some of the basics about "forward at all times." Right now, I feel if I demand gently and insistently and then praise him mightily for a correct repsonse, he will gain the confidence to trust me.

As Caroline seems to be discovering with Jazz, that trust is so very important with a sensitive and complex horse. It is where the true partnership begins.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Battle Lines, Riding Discussion and Perfection

That About Sums It Up

Despite the cold, the footing was pretty good, so I saddled Tucker up first, hoping to build on yesterday's successes.

We did. Once again, instead of just letting him walk off on a long rein, I put him in a frame and asked him to work right from the start. (Mind you, he is outside all day, so there isn't much need to warm up his muscles and just let him move.) He challenged me immediately. So I just sat there, tapping with my leg and the whip. In very short order he walked off as I asked. Then he stopped again, perhaps twice more, but then the walk was fine. So I squeezed for a trot and again he balked, half-heartedly. A little more tap, tap, and we were off, and that was the end of it. I did a good session of trot on both reins, with a good number of half halts which he never even questioned, added in some elementary half pass on both reins, and upon crossing one of the diagonals, I asked for canter. Not an earflick of protest, Tuck lifted right into a nice little canter.

So, I did five or six canter/trot/canter transitions on each rein without any real issues. Except, I did discover that if he drops too low in front in the trot, then the canter depart might earn some unhappy ears and a hint of a stallion squeal. (So much like my PJ) Yet, there was never a refusal to take the gait, so that was just fine.

Then I let him walk out on a long rein for several circuits and picked up the contact again. Ears and an "I don't wanna go...." for a stride or two and then off we went in a nice trot. I did a circle or two and then went straight up the center line to a nice halt, held it for 10 seconds and dropped the rein to a very pleased horse. Needless to say, I praised him mightily.

While I am sure a very strong rider could bully Tucker into cooperation, I am the one who has to ride him and if I can use persuasion and convince him it's just not worth it to question me, all will be well. So far, so good.

Then I decided to long line Chance, Mr. Opinionated Warmblood himself. He took to the right first by choice, so early on we began to have the issue of his bending to the inside and falling to the outside. I finally decided to try the outside line low and behind his haunches to gain some lateral control.

Mistake. Chance got to the part of the circle where he usually throws his tantrums and threw one. He spun off to the left and there was no way for me to run enough to get the leverage to hold him, so off he went, right out of the arena into the pasture, lines dragging behind.

Fortunately, he did not pull a "Throughbred" as Tuck would have, and within about five seconds he trotted back into the arena and kind of waited for me to collect the lines instead of galloping wildly for five minutes.

So, I rigged the lines back up on the upper rings again and started him off to the right. Twice more he tried the spin, but this time I was quick enough with the lines to spin him back. Once foiled, he finally decided that just maybe he was going to have to do things my way. We managed three canter departs with at least one circle on the right lead and that was enough. I swapped him over to the left give him a very short session of trot and canter, and then quit while we were both ahead.

That left Toby who made it clear he didn't want any part of work by running away from me. But, when I told him I was pretty fed up and quite ready to chase him all night if need be, he stopped and let me bridle him for some long lining.

By then it was nearly dark and the footing had hardened up again, so I kept his session short. But, when the horse on the lines is practically perfect, who has to work for long?

I told Toby that he needed to stay fit because he is a treasure--a real schoolmaster who has tons to teach people.

I don't know if he cared, but at least I told him.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Two Hacks and an Argument

The Sun Still Sets Too Early

I decided to take Chance and Toby, at least, out for hacks in the woods. The arena footing was a mixed batch of nicely thawed places and some spots still pretty solid, but I figured I'd still be able to do a short school with Tucker.

The first two parts of the plan worked really well. Chance and I had a nice little walk through the short trail in the woods and he was very happy to be out and about. Then I saddled up Toby and he was MORE than happy to trot off towards the out gate to take his hack. I rode him a bit longer, going all the way back to look at the once more flooded trees--figured as much since the so-callled infiltration pond is full of water again--and came back the long way.

By then, it was getting pretty close to sunset, and growing colder. So, I picked the manure out of the arena and brought Tucker in. My mind set was to insist he be supple and flexing to the bit right from the start. Inspired by a quick perusal of an article by Steffen Peters in the new issue of Dressage Today, I figured if the footing was bad we could at least do some good walk work with transitions and suppling.

Tucker figured differently. His perspective was that if he was round and on the bit he simply could not walk forward. He could stand and not respond to my leg. He could paw with his front foot. He could take perhaps a step backwards. But he simply could not go forward as long as he was in a true dressage frame.

So we stood. I tapped with the whip and my leg, and I waited. When he finally decided perhaps moving forward was an option, I praise him mightily, but I did not give him a loose rein. So, he stopped again. And again. And again. And again. Then, he finally decided he could walk so we did some circles and bending and then, I asked for the trot.

So he didn't trot. He laid his ears back and bounced a little. Then he stopped. Then he walked. Then I asked for the trot and he laid his ears back....I guess by know you have the picture.

This all went on for perhaps 10-15 minutes which seems an eternity when you really just want to lay back and give the horse a good whack which would have probably had no real positive results anyhow.

Then, rather abruptly, Tuck trotted off, on the bit in a nice round dressage frame and that was that. I didn't want to push my advantage too much so I tried a downward transition to a walk and back to the trot--no problem. So I set a goal of five transitions on each rein.

Right rein, 1-5 perfectly. Left rein 1-5 perfectly. I picked a soft spot and cued the right lead canter. Got it without too much protest. Back to the trot, down the center line and a nice square halt, held and on the bit for a count of about 5 seconds, and that was that.

I can't figure out the balking. It is really a habit now, but I seriously doubt he is in pain anywhere. This is a battle I am going to have to win, and I think tonight's approach was pretty successful. I avoided a real battle and managed to get him to do everything I wanted.

Caroline has her puzzles with Jazz, and I have mine with Tucker. Let us hope the both of us are smarter than our horses!! *G*

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Three Good Boys

Saddle Up!

Ok, the ground wasn't great. Mostly it was still frozen, but about a one inch layer of sand had thawed in the riding arena, so there was enough "grab" for hoofs and just a little sense of cushion.

This means I could ride but had to take it easy to keep the concussion to a minimun. Riding for too long on hard surfaces is not good for a horse's legs nor for his feet, so I kept each session short.

Since he was willing to be caught, Chance was on first and he really did do some pretty good work. I know he needs more long lining to really settle into the "on the bit" attitude, but he didn't toss his head up once and he was pretty even in both directions. The bend to the right came pretty quickly and the left as well, so my circles stayed fairly accurate. I did have to avoid the western edge of the track where it was till pretty frozen, but there was a nice section in the center where the sun had reached---the little sun we had today--and the footing was OK. I must say I am getting the feeling Chance is going to be a nice solid fellow once I get him trained. And so far, under saddle, he hasn't shown much of the opinionated resistance he shows on the lines. Then again, he hasn't had too many challenged under saddle yet.

Toby made the mistake of wandering into the aisle through an open stall door so I snagged him next and took him out for a short school. Well, the "schooling " was mostly for me as I was fascinated with Stacie's problems with his right lead canter. He kept flying the change to the left lead for her. Nothing like that with me. As a matter of fact, ironically enough, I find the right lead canter more supple than the left. This may well be because he is hollow to the right and stronger to the left, so on the left it is easier to "find" a place to sit whereas on the right, you have to commit yourself to believing its there and just ride the lead. We had a great little time together, just kind of playing and finished up with two lovely flying changes when I wanted them, one from each lead.

So that left Tucker. He was just a little bit unsure with the new arena lights as the shadows they cast are different than the previous lights, but he settled quickly. Not one stop today!! If I felt him thinking about it, I pushed him a little sideways and he went right on again. We did a number of downward transitions and each time he moved back up a gait with no issue. He did lay his ears back and "scrunch" up on a couple canter departs, but I corrected him about the attitude and he accepted pretty graciously. I played a little with some half pass at the trot and canter, pleased to get a good effort on his part. Going to the right is no problem, but going left is not as easy. That's interesting because in the past, with Toby and PJ, I always had more trouble going right than left. Either I have changed, or Tucker is really opposite to them.

After a reasonable work session in the "iffy" footing, I let him walk on a long rein, and then put him back on contact for some shoulder in work. Once again, he just kind of said, "OK" and did the work.

The only confusion I had was how he felt early on in the ride--almost too "all one piece." To me, he seemed somewhat stiff on the bit. Now, the last person to ride him was Gabriel, so I don't know if Tucker was responding to me as he had to him, or if he just had some body stiffness to work out. I think at the next lesson, I might as Gabriel to ride him, and then get on myself just to see how he feels.

The key to successfully training a horse is, to my mind, learning just exactly how that particular horse feels when he really is going correctly and then discovering how to recreate that feeling over and over with your own riding. Right now, I am not 100% sure how Tucker needs to feel when he is correct, so it is something I need to learn.

Riding horses is an endless education.

Monday, January 21, 2008

This is Going to Get Boring

Frozen Solid

Me, the horses, and the ground. Actually, the horses seem fine.

Water heaters working full tilt in the water troughs, plenty of hay, free run of the barn because there is no mud and some really nice sunshine in the paddock.

Had the day off for the Martin Luther King holiday, but I couldn't ride....not in that cold! B-r-r-r-r.

Gave Tucker his third Adequan shot and he was fine, so, so far, so good.

Cleaned the stalls and the run in shed again, got in a load of grain and my hay guy brought over 60 baled, I guess. Somehow I missed him. I must have been preoccupied in the other part of the house.

Tonight, I am going to the George Street Playhouse, a professional theatre, to see performances from some of the seniors in my school's Performing Arts Shop.

Other than that, nothing special is going on.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


Lots to Learn

Took both older boys to the indoor for lessons with Gabriel.

Interesting how taking either Toby or Tucker alone poses no problem. They each stand quietly in the trailer waiting to be tacked up and ridden. However, take them together and suddenly they become inseparable. When we took Toby out for Stacie to saddle up, Tucker threw a fit. He was so bad, I had to unload him and, fortunately there was an empty stall where he could go and wait while Stacie had her lesson.

I think she had a grand time riding Toby. I missed the best stuff when she did some half pass at the trot and canter which she said was, "Perfect." I did see her flying change across the diagonal which again sent a big grin to her face. The biggest difficultly she had was getting Toby to canter well on the right lead. He apparently has a tendancy to throw his rider's seat a little left and then throw in a flying change to the left lead. I have never had any problem with that myself, but I guess it's one of those things I just ride through without thinking about it. The cool thing is that it reveals the rider's own crookedness pretty quickly. As long as you ride straight, he's fine. So, it was something Stacie had to work on. She was pretty excited about the ride, so I am really pleased that my "schoolmaster" won another bunch of points.

So, on to Tucker who started out like gangbusters. He was really going well for the first 20 minutes or so. We did some nice serpentines, lots of leg yields, and he had some super moments of lovely carriage and work until....well, you guessed it....he stopped. I got him going again, and then he stopped. I gave him a break as I wasn't sure if his hock was bothering him and Gabriel and I talked it over. Then, finally Gabriel asked if he could get on to see if he could sort out the problem.

First, may I say, he is a lovely rider. Second, he is very kind and patient. Third, Tucker did the same thing for him as he did for me, so that was good. We did talk about whether I contribute by being a little intimdated--which I am as I have been on board for some nasty bucks in the past--but it's not all me. It was a little humorous watching Gabriel sit there urging Tucker on and saying, "It's OK, I have all night. We'll just wait until you decide to go." Then, he decided that if Tuck didn't want to go forward, he could back up. It was a solution Gabriel said later he hadn't thought of, but it worked. Soon Tuck was moving off again, not always eagerly, but forward. Gradually, the whole picture got better and better.

One of the things Gabriel also did was displace Tuck's hind end, doing a lot of lateral movments, especially if he felt him resist. He said later if Tuck was bent and his hind end displaced it was very hard for him to stop altogether. Eventually, he was getting some really nice half halts and Tuck was an a really lovely frame. Gabriel kept the trot very slow, as he said he felt he had more control.

Analysis. Gabriel said he definitely felt some "weakness" in Tuck's right hind, but felt he could work through it. I have only given him two of the seven Adequan shots he needs, and he still has a week before Dr. Klayman said we should be feeling a real difference with that hock.

Also, Gabriel said Tucker isn't as much of a "tough guy" as he appears to be from the ground. He had always been reluctant to ride him because he figured he'd have a big fight on his hand and didn't really want to "go there." Actually Tuck accepted his corrections and the taps of the whip well and gave in fairly quickly, considering all.

This is all good because I have found that having my trainer ride Tucker is a real plus for me. It allows me to see just what is going on with him and it certainly adds to his training.

I freely admit that his tantrums still scare me, so Gabriel and I talked about it. The idea is for me to avoid the negative experieces and create positive ones. So, if the pattern of work I've had here at home continues, this is the plan. I get on and ride. If all is well, fine. If he throws one of his stops in and I can get him going again easily, fine. If not, my goal is to somehow get him going, establish a very short session of something good and then quit. If I get a 15 minute ride in, so be it, as long as that 15 minutes is good stuff.

Next lesson, my goal is to kind of "clear my mind," of all the potentially bad things he can to and get on with a fresh perspective that he will work for me as he eventually did for Gabriel.

OK, guys, I am in with the rest of you in the "complusive rider" category. Every one of the horses I have owned has been difficult in one way or another, and my goal is always to conquer that and train them. When I first had my Russell, he scared the heck out of me and dumped me off the first hack I took him on. PJ could be a scary powerhouse, and Toby had me in tears more than once. 90% of the time I am fine with Tucker. Now I just have to get through that last 10% that's blocking our total success.

Ah, well. Been there before.

Wonder what challenges Chance is going to pose down the line.

Sunday Addition: Weather forecast was spot on again. Freezing cold so the ground was hard, the wind was strong, and it was just too miserable to ride. The Boys are now sporting their winter rugs (blankets) for the first time this season. Feeding warm mashes at late night snack.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Not the King's English

OK Caroline....

I will be mindful of the quirks of those across the sea who speak that strange version of English.

I mean, tyres and lorries and wagons and windscreens and tea and whatnots....I spend a good part of my blog reading just trying to figure out what you "Redcoats" think you are saying. *G* Don't ya know by now the US has taken over the world and yall gotta learn ta talk like we do????? *very, very, very BIG WIDE grin ;)*

My riding arena and all the immediate locales were soaked this morning. The layer of snow had melted in the falling rain leaving behind more water than even my land can handle.

To note, I live in an area where the soil drains extremely well as I am atop an aquifer, a natural groundwater storage area. My soil has a layer of erratically placed clay under the topsoil and then several feel of beautiful sand. Somewhere even deeper are the underground water resources in other multiple layers. However, even a natural aquifer can only accept so much water and right now, I suspect the water table is rising ever higher. The result is that the surface areas are taking longer and longer to drain.

That means mud. And mud means Tucker has to be on limited turnout in the sandy surface of my riding arena.

Well, that was where I left him this morning. When I got home tonight, he was happily scavanging hay from the refuse pile in the soggy western paddocks with and equally happy Chance at his side.

Somebody dismantled a section of fencing around the arena. Since it is slip board fencing, the damage is repairable, but now that "Somebody" has figured out this is a way to escape, I will be spending the weekend nailing boards anyplace that looks vulnerable. *sigh*

Then, after I had decided it was really too wet to ride in my "not frozen ring" (go ahead, giggle ye of low minds) I fed the Boys and headed into the house for supper---or dinner or whatever you guys call it--my own evening feed.

I went out to give Tucker some more hay at about 7 PM to find the tack/feed room had been raided by none other than the 16.3 hand man himself who, this time, did manage to extricate himself from the narrow quarters after he had smashed the bucket of UGard powder, polished off a portion of sweet feed and thrown his own pellets and alfalfa cubes out the door.

I don't think he will get a late night snack tonight.

I'd be better off if he had ripped some blankets--uhm, rugs.......

Thursday, January 17, 2008

On One Hand I Could've

On the Other Hand I Didn't

I was snowing when I drove home from school--the weatherman's forecast spot on again.

While the day had never really warmed up, my ring, which I had dragged last night, was really very rideable.

However, Tucker's run in seriously needed a cleaning, particularly if he was likely to be stuck in tomorrow, and the shed on the other side of the barn was also a real mess.

With my happy little tractor back home and in good working condition, I had to decide whether to ride in the falling snow and end up with very wet horses, or clean the sheds.

I decided to clean the sheds, mostly because the horses had decided to take shelter themselves, so it was pretty clear they weren't too keen on being snow bunnies.

I'd let Tucker out in all the paddocks today. The ground had frozen solid over night and the temperature was not going to get out of the lower 30's. There was really very little unfrozen mud when I got home, despite the fact that the ring was pretty nicely thawed. I am pretty sure that the draggin had a lot to do with that as it let the sand absorb what little sun we did have pretty efficiently.

Tuck did have his shoes on, so that was good and he seemed pretty happy to be in his shed and stall for the night, so that was good too.

The two sheds are far from spotless, but they are considerably cleaner than when I started. It's really hard to do a super good job in this wet weather. Still, the most mucky stuff and manure are gone and things look a bit neater.

Meanwhile the snow keeps falling, with predictions that it will change to sleet and perhaps all rain or just icy stuff as the night/morning progress. I have a choir rehearsal tonight, so I have to go out driving in it. Not looking forward to that.

But, I've been there before. *sigh*

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Managed to Ride

Everyone. I hadn't exactly planned that, but once I got started, I couldn't stop.

Tucker was first. By and large he was pretty good with only one balk, easily corrected. However, as I rode I could feel him lose impulsion now and then kind of like a car with engine trouble. He would be nice and bouncy and forward for a while and then lose energy, being a little less willing to go forward.

He is not at all unsound, so the hock issue doesn't bother him that way. He just sometimes finds it hard to use himself with full effort.

But, I also had him well on the bit and working towards some serious engagement. I challenged him with a little bit of half pass at the trot and canter. We had just begun working to the half pass from leg yields, so I don't expect too much. The trot effort was pretty good in both directions, but in the canter, he was easy to ride half pass right, but "stalled out" in the half pass to the left. I guess moving his right hind leg left and under put more strain on that hock and made him uncomfortable. While he lost the canter stride, he didn't quit altogether, so that's good.

He had his second shot of Adequan today as well. It's s series of 7 injections at four day intervals. I am pleased to report he didn't even notice when I put the needle in. My vet gave me two needles for each shot. One short one to draw the Adequan out of the bottle and a longer one to use exclusively on Tucker. He says that putting the needle through the rubber membrane on the medicine bottle dulls it a lot and he's found using a brand new needle for the injection itself is much kinder to the horse. I'm for that, especially since Tucker really didn't mind at all.

Toby was lovely as ever. I did a fair bit of cantering, just to help increase his stamina for his lesson on Saturday with Stacie--Gabriel is coming. He simply felt good. There is just no other way to describe it. He is so easy to ride I just kind of sit there and let things happen.

Then, I saddled up Chance.

He is the reason for my post's title. He was an absolute angel. He did not throw his head once and for the most part actually offered to go on the bit in a nice long frame. He didn't drop behind the contact or get too low either. And, he was relatively easy to steer both to the left and to the RIGHT. He kept a nice forward trot and felt so good that--had I wanted to take the risk--I would have felt perfectly confident asking him to canter.

But I didn't. The plan is to spend the better part of a month with him in the long lines, learning to respond to the aids and learn to carry himself. I will still ride him, but the bulk of the training will be in the lines.

He will be five in the Spring and is more than ready to learn to really work. The nonsense of last night really hasn't much of an excuse as he has been lunged and lined for quite a while now. The trouble is that his training has been interrupted by two foot problems and that strange hind end lameness which stopped him for the summer.

I've never been quite this far behind in training with a youngster before. But, after riding him tonight, the progress he's made over the last few weeks with the long lining focus is really good, so I figure he will be well on his way in short order.

We will just have to work our way through the typical 4-5 year old tantrums as he tries to test out his strength and will.

Sound familiar, anyone??? *G*

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Well Now, Aren't We Opinionated

Working the Herd in Hand

It was snow showering when I got home, and the day had been so cloudy the ring had not dried up at all but was full of puddles. So, I opted to work everyone from the ground.

Tucker was up first on the long lines. Aside from being his usual lazy self, he was a really good boy and once I developed his energy level, gave me some really nice work. This included a series of canter/trot/canter transistions on each hand which really engaged his hind end and put him into a nice frame.

I lunged Toby next and, as usual, there is nothing really to report. He was as close to perfect as he could be. What a sweetie.

Then I decided to simply lunge Chance. Mistake. Without the bit for control, he fell more and more to the outside when he was on the right rein. Eventually, I was using all my muscle and leverage just to keep him on the circle.

So, rather frustrated, I took him back in to rig him up in the long lines.

Then the fun began. He does NOT like to go on the right rein. First, of course, he wants to fall out to the left. This is correctable with the right rein making a very active correction as soon as he even begins to drift.

But the problem begins when he takes the left lead on the right rein. Normally, I might correct this by using the outside left rein to straighten him a bit before the depart, but in this case, that only encourages him to try to spin left and reverse his direction.

The rest of the problem lies in that he does not truly canter off the verbal command and once he does canter, he thinks he can decide when it's time to go back to trot, so he breaks gait with alarming frequency.

And then, when he gets fed up with going on the right rein, he will pull a fast stop and a 180 turn to go the other way. If I can catch him before he does that, then his other solution is to rear up. Well, he reared twice and one of them was pretty impressive. Suffice it to say, he was very determined to have his own way.

Suffice it to say it is not my nature to let him have his own way.

We spent a good hour "discussing" this issue and I must say some of my language was pretty colorful. I have no idea what kind of vocabulary Chance was using, but I have a feeling he was trying to give me the horse version of some pretty foul words more then once.

I am not 100% pleased with the ultimate conclusion as I never really did get a full circle canter on the right lead but I did get several correct departs.

He is fine on the left, so he is a very one sided horse who is going to need some remedial work on the right rein.

Once he figures out I am more stubborn than he is, we will be fine.

He certainly is one opinionated young man. *sigh*

Monday, January 14, 2008

No Snow!!

Rained Out Instead

Actually not rained out all day so the Boys were out. I just hope Tucker still has his shoes. I didn't check when I brought him in as I was still in my school clothes and shoes, rushing to beat the rain as it started to get heavier.

I'll be back out there for late night feed, so I'll check then.

Needless to say, I didn't ride. But I did go to my chiropractor for a much needed adjustment. My lower back and pelvis were really out of alignment and it messed up everything above as well. I feel SO much better now.

Got the quote from the carpentry teacher at school on a run in shed for the new turnout configuration. Super good price, well within reach, so I guess we will go for it. That will make things so much better for turnout when the weather is "iffy." I hate leaving the horses out without real shelter even though they have hedges of trees blocking most directions if they so choose. And, of course, often in the bad weather they stand outside anyhow. Actually, I think much of the time barns and shelters just make owners feel better and don't impress the horses.

My guys do choose to stay in sometimes, though, so I certainly want them to have the option.

Meanwhile I have to decide what to do about the solar energy system I wanted to put in. Big capital outlay now requiring financing, but if the calculations show me I will eventually get my money's worth....stay tuned again.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Everybody Worked

Including Tucker

So reads the heading because I put Tucker on the bit and worked him for a good part of the half hour-40 minute session.

Mind you, he did stop the first time I picked up the rein for some contact and absolutely would not walk off on the bit, but I sorted most of that out pretty quickly and once we got going, he did some pretty nice work. Included were several pretty good trot lengthenings, some good canter trot, lead change, canter transitions, and a halt, reinback to a trot.

When I did finally stop and give him a walk break on a long rein, the issue of walking off on the bit started again. So, instead, I dropped the rein and trotted off, gradually picking up the contact again until he was in the frame on the bit again. Then, I quit and walked him out.

All the while, Stacie was riding Toby and having an interesting go of it. The first thing you need to realize is that Toby is very sensitive both emotionally and physically. He is super quick to respond to an aid, and super quick to figure out exactly what exercise or maneuver the rider is planning on doing. As well, if you correct him, he overreacts and tries to do whatever exercise he thinks you might be thinking of doing. Thus, a little leg behind the girth to straighten him might result in a flying change at the canter, or a half pass. In essence, you have to be very clear and precise in every aid and consciously think where your seat and balance are at every stride.

At one point, Stacie gave him a pretty sharp correction and my heart did a skip, but Toby sharpened up even more and wanted to offer all kinds of alternative exercises. Later on, Stacie said when she rides him, she gets the feeling he is in charge. Once he figures out what she wants him to do, he just does it, so she never quite knows if it's because she's done a good job of asking and riding, or whether he's just done it because he knows how already.

I remember years ago reading a children's book about a young rider at the Spanish Riding School riding one of the trained stallions for the first time. The horse was doing all kinds of "things" as he rode, all because his seat and aids just were not exactly precise and balanced. The horse was responding to every breath he took. Now, I am not saying Toby is that well trained--far from it--but he certainly does pose a challenge in a similar way. I guess 16-17 years of training do have some effect.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is Chance and we decided to long line him today. Actually Stacie ended up doing all the work as I just sat off to the side and watched. Once again, she did a lovely job with him, getting some really nice trot work, good walk and Chance's "take" on the canter. That, with him, means going nearly all the way around the circle before quitting. The left lead is better than the right so he did some extra laps on the right lead. I guess he was a bit tired at the end.

He showed his "attitude" at the end by trying to escape the lines and run towards the gate. It was just a little temper tantrum, so I took his reins and led him around the circle a few times to convince him he had to continue working even after he had decided he was done.

I can see he is going to pose some training challenges down the line, but so far he seems pretty easy to fix when he resists. Hopefully if we can work through those moments now while we are still focused on the basics, he will decide it's just not worth it to argue.

I certainly have an interesting collection of personalities and training issues among my little herd. I can't say I'll ever be bored.

Weather report is calling for snow. Currently 3-6 inches with a "higher gradient" in Monmouth County which is, strangely enough, kind of east and south of my county, Middlesex. I never like these forecasts and this one especially since my tractor is off at the repair shop so I have no way to plow the driveway should it come to that.

Ah well. Can't do a thing about the weather.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Rain, Rain Went Away

But Will it Come Back Sunday??

Absolutely torrential rains yesterday. Although it had stopped by the time I was home from school, I opted out of riding in the wet arena and instead turned Tucker out for an evening frolic.

Today, Saturday, we had a vet appointment for an acupuncture check to see what was up with Tucker.

I did some outside chores and right about 10, on time, Dr. Klayman arrived. He checked Tucker over for acupuncture points and found nothing in the hind end. However, there seemed to be a problem in the right front, according to the acupunture points.

So, out we went to the ring on the lunge line. Trotted Tuck around in a large circle, then a small circle on both reins and he looked absolutely sound on the front.

However, Dr. Klayman noticed he was dragging his right hind toe, so he suspected something in the rear after all.

We went to the flexion tests. Trouble with this was that I had to run with Tuck at the trot after the flexion and my knees, braced as they were don't allow me much maneuverablity with the little running steps I can do. That should not have mattered too much except that Tucker was being an absolute brat.

All the while the vet was examining him, he was trying to bite me. This continued during the flexion test and then even when was trying to run with him. Then to make it even worse, at one point, he decided to strike out with his front foot at me as he was trotting behind me. I felt his hoof glance off my hand and Dr. Klayman confirmed it. Then the brat struck out as I was holding him. I gave him a good slug and a reprimand for it which seemed to leave a minor impression on him, enought that we managed to finish the exam without my getting hurt.

Eech! I have no idea what tha nonsense with the biting and striking was all about. He has never behaved that badly before. Even Dr. Klayman was taken aback by his behavior.

Then, while we were in the ring, Chance snatched Tucker's sheet from off the railing where Dr. Klayman had hung it and proceeded to tear a nice chunk of the lining--very deliberately, mind you--to my poor vet's horror, since he'd put the sheet there. Ah well, it's not the first nor will it be the last sheet so savaged, I'm sure. I think I can repair it along with the three or four others in need of sewing surgery.

So, the upshot of the exam was that Tucker was sore in his right hock. Could be the cause of what first showed up as stifle too. Dr. Klayman said he didn't want to inject it at this point, but would rather have me treat it with Adequan injections and later Corteflex. He said both treatments have proven very successful with hocks. He said Tuck should be fine in two weeks or less, but he's going to call me to make sure.

Meanwhile, he and his wife have four horses between them and all of them are unsound. He has a lovely big warmblood mare with hind suspensory probelms. He hopes he's found a way to make her sound enough to ride, but it's been a long haul. His wife's horse, another big gorgeous warmblood that was up to the FEI levels of dressage and doing really well, has a hole in his tendon in a bad spot and they are really not too optimistic about his future at this point. His other horse has another ligament problem and I'm not sure what the other horse he mentioned is.

He did say the whole mess has given him a different perspective on how his clients feel and respond to his prognoses and treatments of their horses. He said he had gotten so frustrated he'd totally given up riding and he'd just lost so much of his enthusiasm. "When you're out there every day cleaning the stall and caring for the horse yourself and you can't do anything with him," he said, "it gives you a whole new viewpoint." He has always been compassionate and caring, but I guess now he has a new understanding of how the rest of us feel about our critters when they are ailing. I've always felt comfortable asking him--when there were several options of treatment--"What would you do if it were your horse?" Now, I feel even more confident asking that question.

Had to go for grain after he left. Unloaded it with VERY sore knees.

The tractor is out for repair and won't be back until perhaps Tuesday, so all the barn work is done by wheelbarrow pushed through once more nasty mud.

While the weather was great for riding, I was just too worn out and sore to work anybody.

I suppose if it snows/rains as predicted Sunday night, I will regret this.

Stay tuned as the saga continues.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Nice Day Again

Good Footing, But Rain on the Way

Darn it. The ring is nicely dried out too, and rain is predicted for all day tomorrow.

I rode Tucker for about a half hour, with lots of trotting and two or three somewhat challenging stops on his part. At least once, I think he took a little bad step, but the other stops just came out of nowhere. Only one was a problem when he started to back up instead of step forward, so I simply switched directions and off he went.

If Dr. Klayman doesn't find any physical issues in his back or stifle causing this--although I suspect he will--I'm back to the take Tuck to a trainer option. Stacie saw the guy my trainer had recommended working another horse and she was quite impressed. He was not harsh, just patient and determined.

Interestingly enough, though not surprising, Tucker's trot and demeanor improved after we did a few canter sessions. That made him forward and he kept it back down into the trot, really pushing into the bit with his whole body.

After working on the Tucker riddle, I lunged Toby for a good session, trying to keep him at least a little fit in case he's needed to give someone a lesson.

Since I have choir tonight, I ran short on time, so Chance was odd man out.

A friend from 'way back emailed me today with the offer of a 5 month use of a 9-10 year old Trakehner cross trained as a jumper with a new career as a dressage horse in the cards. Needless to say, with three here, I don't have room. It would be a great project for someone.

Stacie can't take him on either, so I am kind of out of ideas. Wonder if my trainer knows of anyone?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


Weather or Not

Last night I spent the better portion of the evening cleaning Tucker's little paddock and stall--this after having going to the chiropractor to get nearly every vertebrae in my back adjusted.

The tractor is not working right and the front end loader is completely uncontrollable, so I had to use the wheelbarrow. The problem there is pushing it through the mud. That wore me out, so all I did was give Tucker a lunge session. He was wonderful and seemed to enjoy going over the little elevated cavaletti (jump) I'd set up.

Today, rain was in the forecast, so I had decided Tucker was going to stay in. Since there is no shelter in the ring/pasture (remember the blown away shed), I don't feel it's fair to force him to stay out and get wet when he has no choice.

So as the skies clouded over this morning, I settled him in his stall and pen.

Ok, so now it is 11AM and the sun is shining. It's a beautiful day! I am really going to owe Tuck big time when I get home. I feel so bad.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Beautiful Day

Thank Goodness

We had a bomb scare at school yesterday (Monday), so we ended up outside the school building for well over two hours while police and search dogs scoured the territory for any signs of explosives. Apparently they had six dogs/teams from several other counties in the State called in and they went over every inch of the building.

Meanwhile all the students and staff were outside, eventually sitting on the bleachers at the baseball field for nearly the whole afternoon. It wasn't cold, as you might figure. Temperatures were well up into the 50's F and the sun was out. The students were really well behaved and everyone cooperated, so that was good. If the weather had been bad we would have walked over to the mall next to the school and stationed ourselves in the movie theaters there as we did one day last year. Outside on a nice sunny day was far better.

Still, the day was a mess. Kids missed lunch and several classes were canceled, but in the end our administration did a really good job of organizing things so the day ended smoothly.

However, my knees were really unhappy after having to hike all over the school grounds and sitting out there supervising students was not exactly my idea of a pleasant day.

Yet, the weather was so sweet that when I got home I managed to saddle up Tucker and give him a good school. He stopped once, and with voice and a tap of the whip, I got him going again. From then on, if I even felt the slightest hesitation, I used a voice command to encourage him and it all seemed to go well. As we went on, I actually started to bring him up into a frame with a little elevation and he seemed quite accepting of it. He did have a little more difficulty in the canter than the trot, but I suspect some of that is his need to develop the rest of his back strength back again after his stifle injury.

My vet is coming again on Saturday to do any needed acupuncture, so hopefully the rest of the problems will resolve. If the weather cooperates for most of the winter, I should be able to get his hind end fit enough for our dressage. But, one can never count on the weather as well all know, so I will just have to cope with nature.

I long lined Chance next. He is really interesting as he finds it hard to keep any kind of steady frame around and entire circle, even with the lines to depend on. As I watch him, it's hard to tell if it is his balance or his brain working against him. I do tend to suspect it's a combination of both. When he does get going in a nice forward gait, into the bit, he can manage, but there is an element of uncertainty about it that, I think, just makes him toss his head. Still, as the session went on, he got better and better at it, and I am pleased to say, he finally managed to complete two circles without his head going up to finish. His head went down--not up, so it wasn't exactly a steady contact, but it was an improvement.

I ended the evening with my new ring lights illuminating Toby on the lunge line. The lights are white, so colors are "grayed" out, but they do the trick. I can see the whole perimeter of the riding ring, and near the center, there's enough light to ride cavaletti or a small jump. I wouldn't want to do any serious jump or obstacle work.

Once again, I just enjoyed watching Toby on the lunge. He really is a lovely mover and very athletic looking. He isn't the best conformation for dressage his his neck is not set high enough on his shoulder to make the elevated carriage of the upper levels easy for him, but his gait is well engaged and elegant. I keep thinking that he would have been a really successful show hunter--at least on the flat. I don't know about the jumping as he is spooky, but he does have really good form over a fence and I think with experience he would have built up his confidence enough to face strange fences with no problem.

Any yet, he is now going on 18 and he still moves as fluidly as a young horse. I see no signs of arthritis or other soundness problems that plague older horses. My one acupunture vet always commented on what great shape PJ was in as he aged and concluded it was the fact that he was a dressage horse. He theorized that the physical training PJ'd had contributed to his condition.

I'd like to think that's so and hope Toby will have a happy time of it as a senior citizen. He certainly deserves it after all the good rides he's given me.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Sunday Funday

Back in the Saddle Again
Moderating weather thawed the ring nicely.
Stacie came over for the afternoon, so everyone got ridden. She rode Toby while I worked Tucker. I must say, Toby was going really well for her and seemed quite energetic had happy to be working. She may want to take a lesson on him when Gabriel comes down. In the meantime, she is finally figuring out how to ride him effectively.

The trick is that Toby is very flexible through his body and very responsive to every aid. If Stacie puts her leg too far back, his hind end will move sideways. Or, at the canter, he will give her flying changes. With him, the idea is to ride him in one piece, but really concentrating on the outside rein and keeping him forward with a steady, even seat and legs only active when needed. With him, "less is better," even when you do want a half pass, shoulder in, or flying change. She was really getting a handle on it all today.

Tucker was "interesting" to say the least. At first he didn't really want to walk forward. But then when I asked for trot, he marched happily off. By and large, he was fine except for two of his sudden stops, when he goes from trot to halt without warning. The first time, I managed to get him going fairly quickly, but the second time, he started one of his little tantrums as I sat there wiggling my legs and tapping him with the whip. Then I said, "Trot," and off he went. It was as if he didn't understand that I wanted him to move off. As the ride progressed, I added voice aids and he was fine. Now, I know he knows the leg aids...or at least has been responding to them in the what's up with that? Either something has totally confused him, or he never really did understand the leg meant, "go." I will be using my voice commands for a while as I ride to see if it makes a difference.
We finished up by taking the "big boys" out for a short hack and I am happy to report that even with Toby as company, Tucker was a perfect gentleman in the woods. I did have him lead, which seemed fine with Toby, so it worked out well for both of them.

"Back at the ranch," we saddled up Chance and I rode him first for a while. Stacie took some pics, so I finally can see how I look on him. My stirrups were several holes too short as this was the length Stacie had been riding in when she was on Toby. As a result, I am a bit too far back in the saddle and my leg is too far forward. But, I don't look too big on him, do you think?
After I rode, Stacie got on and worked him for a bit. I must say, he looks far steadier and more schooled than he feels when I am on him . Even in the picture above, he looks better than he feels. Watching him go with a rider, I was very pleased. He isn't going to be a dramatic mover but the word "cute" certainly fits how he goes.
More potential there than I suspected....if I can only get his tail to grow!!

Stacie riding Chance. She is a bit shorter than I am. She did a beautiful job on him.

Dollars and Nonsense

Another Day Lost

OK, so I probably could have ridden as the ring was nearly thawed. But, in order to do that, I would have had to have been home.

Instead, I was hanging around the mall and service garage waiting for my car to be serviced.

It all started out innocently enough with a chiropractor adjustment late morning while things were still frozen. Then, I decided I really needed to have a long overdue oil change on my car.

Stopped at the reputable service garage, pleased to find out they could take my car in right away. The oil change included a free tire rotation, so that was good. I guess.

Soon after it all started, the service manager called me in to show me that my brakes were nearly worn out and that my car's rear suspension was worn out, causing my rear tires--still nearly new--to wear badly on the inside tread. The car is a 2003 with about 50,000 miles on it, so it's not worn out, but brakes do need work and, I am guessing that lugging hundreds of pounds of grain in the back is not exactly the best thing for the rear struts.

Since they could do the work immediately, I opted to get it over with, but suddenly, my plans for the day took a bad turn. Now I was going to be stuck in East Brunswick, miles from home with no transportation for some 3-4 hours!

Lunch at MacDonalds next door took up about a half hour and then there was nothing else to do but "hit the mall" behind the garage and do some shopping. Well, browsing, really. There wasn't a thing I needed despite all the post holiday sales.

I did pick up a pair of jeans on sale and two blouses--not needed, but nice. Tried on a few other things just to waste time, but that was just for entertainment purposes. Weird dress--Vera Wang. Don't know who would look good in it, but I surely didn't.

Then I found, in another store, some epoxy stuff that is supposed to hold nearly anything, so I might be able to fix the broken lamp part in the living room.

Next door at the home supply store, I got a shorter extension cord for my water heater in the ring and some caulk to replace the seal around the bath tub.

That still left another hour and a quarter to kill, so I went back to the service shop. Cosmopolitan and Seventeen--teenage female magazines--dominated the reading library, so for the remaining wait time I discovered all kinds of things about how to dress, to attract boys, and how to out on make-up.

Nearly $1500 later, I escaped, got back home with some very sore knees, hungry cats and horses just waiting for me and a nearly thawed riding ring. By the time I fed everyone, I was done for the day.

Poorer for certain, and totally shopped out.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Different Dynamic

Tea for Two

But which two today? This time, Tucker and Chance were hanging out together in the pasture and Toby was off by himself on the other side of the barn.

I had a little heart thump when Toby decided to roll on the side of the little hill where he was browsing. He has colicked before and for a moment, I was afraid he was having a problem. But then when I asked him if he was OK, he promptly made his way over to the stall area and reassured me. When I finally fed, he was first in, so I guess he was feeling A-OK. I'll still keep an eye on him as the evening progresses, just to be sure.

I'm pretty sure Tuck took advantage of the free turnout tonight--it's still frozen solid--to barge into Chance's stall to finish up his grain. I just hope Chance ate most of it before the big galoot interrupted. This is one of Tuck's "dominant" moves but he certainly doesn't need any more food in his belly.

The ground is still like cement, so riding is out of the question and sunset's fast approach helped me lose my enthusiasm for a hack. Too cold anyhow.

The good news is that warmer weather is on the way for tomorrow and most of next week. Perhaps too warm for winter--over 50 f. But at least the ground will thaw and I can get some quality time in the saddle.

If we do have lessons on the 19th, Tucker might actually be ready to do some work. My vet is coming on the 12th to give him another acupuncture/chiropractic treatment which I think he needs, so the more fit I can get him the better.

Accomplishing things in the winter is so hard. If it's not too wet, it's too frozen. The fall leaves are still all over my lawn and I am going to try chopping them up with the lawn mower--riding mower. If that fails I will have to call someone to clean them up.

And then, my Kubota tractor with the front end loader was acting strangely the other day. I may have to send that off for service. If so, it's OK because the tractor dealer says they can pick it up, service it, and then get is back to me in three days. Way good as I don't want to be without it for long.

Even though it's not likely to snow if it's 50 degrees out......

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Taking Charge

Teacher Tips

With my being sick and out of school most of December, my students have managed to develop some bad habits. I decided we needed some "remedial work" in classroom deportment and a wake up call about taking responsibility for completing required assignments.

I will be doing new seating charts for my homeroom/first period class and I reassigned the computer workstations. Then I gave a very specific set of directions for completing assigned classwork and also gave a tight deadline. Most of my students will have to do some work at home to finish up, so I guess homework is included in the package.

The trouble is, there are at least 5-6 computers in my lab that are on the fritz. My big fear is that there may be a virus in the system or that, due to their age, one after another is going to fail as the year goes on. Since I only have 20 workstations and classes of 25-26, this poses a serious problem. Thank heavens the wonderful teacher in the adjoining room has spare stations for my students to use and she is very generous in accepting my overflow. I can easily move from one room to the other during the course of a class to check up on the students, but in general, they behave pretty well when they are "guests" in her classroom.

At any rate, with that and a summary lecture in my last period 10th grade class, things went much more serenely today. My seniors were still not exactly entralled with Anna Russell, but her retelling of all 4 operas in Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen cycle is simply too hard to resist, so afterward we ended up having some pretty good discussion. While I am not a big opera fan myself, I believe my students need to know there is more to the world of culture than rock concerts and video games.

Good thing the teaching day offered successful lessons, because it was bitter cold today and being out with the horses was not in the cards. The ground is like a rock and the air practically freezes my bones.

The Boys seemed quite content and Tucker was decidedly pleased to have his little pen open so he could go in and out of the barn at will, exploring all the paddocks.

When I got home, strangely enough, he was off by himself in the far west paddock while Toby and Chance were hanging out together in the center paddock on the other side of the barn. Usually, Tuck and Toby are together and Chance is the odd man out. As omega horse in the herd, he is usually off by himself while alpha Toby and "alpha wannabe" Tucker stick together.

That doesn't mean that Chance is always left out, because when it's playtime, he and Tucker partner up and Toby usually plays referee.

It is an interesting hierarchy. Just curious to see Tucker alone this time.

But everyone seemed pretty happy, so it was just fine.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Nothing Special to Report

Freezing Weather

Too cold to ride, mostly because the ground is frozen solid.

Good for Tucker as he will be able to go out in the paddocks tomorrow since the mud is now solid. Bad for riding.

Its OK, first day back at school wore me out. Just being there and trying to contain the energy of my 14-18 year old students is a challenge. Teenagers.

I was a little disappointed at the results of a project I gave to my 9th graders. The idea was to create a tourist attraction of Hades, the Land of the Dead from Greek mythology. In the past, the kids have had real fun with this one, inventing all kinds of fiery attractions, saunas, barbeques, and special HOT or death inspiring events and facilities. This time, only one or two of them picked up on that creative approach. Instead we had beaches, Burger King and roller coasters. Ah well, somehow I need to spark some creative thinking in these kids.

Meanwhile, my seniors had to, according to them, "suffer" through a comic video featuring Anna Russell, a former opera singer who does a really funny routine making fun of classical music and opera. Shall I say, "Over their heads?" Trouble is, these kids have no cultural background at all, and I doubt if they really "got" half her jokes. Anyhow, I will torment them further tomorrow as Ms. Russell does her own version of Wagner's Ring operas, which was the whole point of the tape as we had read "Sigurd the Volsung," the original story on which the operas are based. At least they might appreciate that.

So, the horses are all tucked in their beds for the night and when I go out to do the late feed, I will give them each a nice warm bran mash.

The nice thing about horses is that they are creative and would probably enjoy Anna Russell.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Good Grief!!

Weather Riddles

Got up early to work Tucker before the predicted rain. It was already kind of showery, but I managed a half hour of mostly trotting. He stopped dead twice and put up a little tantrum, but some gentle taps of the whip behind the girth assured him going forward was the best option.

Self-satisfied at my noble effort, I cleaned the stalls and headed inside, ready to wait out the nasty weather.....which never REALLY came.

It did rain, but not as originally predicted and as the afternoon approached, little streams of sunlight kept filtering through the clouds. By noon, I was able to turn Tucker out and convince the other two Boys to join him in the ring and pasture.

But, I had committed myself to some indoor work, so I finished grading all the papers I'd been forced to neglect during my illness. I teach five classes a day, and each class has anywhere from 20-27 students in it, so if each student had completed all the assignments, I had a pile of perhaps 400-500 papers to grade. Yeeeech!

Fortunately, years of practice at grading allows me to look for key features in most assignments, making it not too complicated--though still time consuming--a job evaluating papers. Once graded, I had to record all the grades in my grade book which I will then later transfer to my computer spreadsheet. I also had to decide which student were in danger of failing for the marking level, so I can send notices to parents as soon as we get back in session tomorrow.

So, as you can tell, the better part of the day was consumed with paperwork.

Now as evening begins to drop in, I may go out to long line Chance as he really does need a few sessions.

Or, I may not.

My knees are aching, and it is New Year's Day.

Speaking of which, Happy New Year, Everyone!!

Addendum: 6 PM
I did long line Chance. He was really good. He is the kind of horse that would benefit from draw reins--used very carefully--so he could learn how to give to the bit. I would worry, though, that he would also be the kind that could easily over bend and learn to go behind the bit.

Even on the lines, which I am using "veed" through the top turrets, through the bit, and back to a lower ring on the surcingle, I have to be VERY careful to give and be light when he overbends. What I want him to do is learn to stretch forward to the bit, lowering his neck as he does so without any kind of training rig to encourage it.

It's going to take time, I think.