Thursday, February 28, 2008

Frozen Assets

And Everything is Dropping

Especially the temperature. It was in the single digits last night and didn't rise to thaw level all day.

Surpisingly enough, my arena surface was probably rideable, but the air and the wind together had such a chill factor, I simply couldn't stay outside that long. I'd put the winter blankets back on the Boys last night, so they were fine. Since the ground was frozen, Tucker had the run of all the paddocks and the barn, so all was well.

Strange to say, last night, when I was changing blankets (rugs) I accidently put Chance's winterweight on Tucker. In theory, it was two sizes too small, but it fit him perfectly. I almost left it on him, but then his blanket was too wide for Chance, so I had to swap. I had a brand new blanket I'd bought at the big summer sale, that was sort of a compromise size, so I put that on Tuck and tucked Chance and Toby into their own clothes. This must be what it's like trying to dress children for the day.

I guess the sun is pretty warm, though, because my sandy arena footing had dried out and seemed to have softened up despite the cold temperatures. Now, if it doesn't rain between now and the weekend, when it's supposed to warm up again, I might even get some riding in.

Gee, if that happens, then I just won't have any excuses for not working the Boys!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


And Rain

My farrier called this morning just about 15 minutes before I needed to leave for school. He figured the Boys were due for shoes and trims and since he was going on a short vacation next week, decided today would be a good day to come.

Sweetie that he is, he did agree that since he was calling so late, he would bring the horses in so I didn't have to go back out to lock them in their stalls to wait for him.

Apparently, all went well because when I got home from school around 4, he was there, Toby was done, Tucker's shoes were being made, and Chance was soon to be on the crossties for his trim.

As a matter of fact, the report on horse behavior was superior. Not only had everyone been as good as gold, but even Tucker had stood straight on the crossties, waiting patiently, instead of moving his bum off to the side as he usually does.

Needless to say, I told him how proud I was of how well he'd behaved. He's usually not really bad, but sometimes he gets fidgety and simply refuses to stand straight in the aisle. Quite a pleasure to hear Scott compliment him on being a really good boy.

Unfortunately, it was raining by then. And, to make matters worse, the ground was beginning to thaw pretty thoroughly, creating, as I predicted--MUD! Deep, sticky, and some slippery mud. I ended up closing Tucker into the stall and pen under the runin shed for the night and tomorrow, I am going to have to restrict his turnout to the riding arena in the sand. He's not going to be too happy about that, but new shoes and thick, gooey mud do not go together. As a matter of fact, the mud tends to separate feet and shoes.

Ah well, someday summer will return and I will have dry, hot days to complain about instead.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Slip Sliding Away

Gorgeous Day!

But, the ground is slippery! What happened is that the ground underneath is still frozen while the top layer is melting in the sun. Our topsoil tends to have clay in it, so it gets slick. Days like this, being able to ride in the sand company across the way would be grand. I have to talk to them to see if there is a place I could ride over there for a hack. The former sand pit back of me has been restored to nature by the State environmentalists, so that too has the slippery soil.

The good thing is that once the lower layer thaws, the wet will drain quickly as our soils are very permeable. By the by, shoes or no shoes, the horses would slip. My ring is OK, as the sand on top offers grip, but as I've said, if I ride in it too much we cut down into the clay sublayer and wreck that base. Fortunately, all the paddock areas the horses have been in are chopped up enough that they are not smooth enough to be slippery.

So, once more, I did not ride.

Sorry for the sad tale yesterday, but it is a part of my horse owning life that needs to be remembered. These creatures we have chosen to love and who have chosen us can be so fragile. It's really amazing when you also consider how strong and reslient they can also be.

My PJ was a good example of that. When I bought him, he appeared to be a tough customer. The dealer was cautious about handling him because he bit, threatened to kick, and even, as I found out soon after I bought him, would attack in the stall. Since he was a bulky 16.2, built much more like a big warmblood than a Thoroughbred, he was downright scary. But from the first moment I sawy him, I knew he was a Jekyl-Hyde fellow, who really did appreciate a gentle touch.

I really wasn't worried about his behavior because my Russell R. had so often tried to bite--a long story of never being able to cure him of a naughty habit--that I was quite skilled at dodging. As for the kicking, I honestly never saw PJ even try so that wasn't even a concern.

Attack mode was pretty scary, but I noticed two things right off. The first was that he only seemed aggressive towards men. The second was he never really made a real move to connect. And third, he seemed to be provoked by the stall cleaning tools. I quickly began to suspect he had been abused by a groom with a pitchfork in his stall, perhaps because he acted grouchy or just was bigger than all the other horses handled.

I decided to protect him from himself by only using voice corrections when he misbehaved and then reassuring him afterwards that it was really OK and I understood. I was always extra cautious if I went in the stall with a manure fork and warned everyone else not to clean the stall with PJ in it. It was a full year before I raised a hand to him and then, as I recall, he did something potentially dangerous in the stall and I threw a brush at him for it. He backed off at once and stood, looking at me with such a dejected expression, I ended up hugging him in delight because he had not overreacted to my "attack." From that point on, I was able to handle him as a normal horse. But, to be frank, it was perhaps another 5 years before I no longer kept an eye on him when I walked into his stall with the manure fork. Every once in a while, he would still make a move as if to attack the fork.

All that said, I was blessed to be one of the first horsemen in New Jersey to discover equine acupuncture. PJ's training was very erratic with good days, bad days, wonderful days, and horrible days. Vet exams and bute proved to do nothing to change his behavior, so I was getting convinced he had mental problems. Then, one of my friends introduced me to Dr. Joyce Harmon, a vet who was pioneering acupunture for horses.

Dr. Harmon's initial exams of PJ targeted him as a perfect candidate for acupuncture. He was muscle sore all over. For the first treatment, PJ needed to be sedated as he was so reactive and protective of his body, but as time went on, he looked forward to the treatments and stood quietly and, I think happily as his pains were eased.

The change was so remarkable that a fellow dressage competitor I'd been riding against for several seasons was totally convinced I was riding a brand new horse! From that point on, PJ had regular checkups and treatments.

When Dr. Harmon moved away and I moved to a new stable, I was lucky enough to find Dr. James Kenney, an acupuncture/chiropractic vet with marvelous knowledge and instinct. Adding the chiropractic adjustments made an even bigger difference and PJ became a happier and happier horse.

My current vet, Dr. Elden Klayman is also an acupuncture/chiropractic vet and he kept PJ content for the rest of his years here at home.

And this is the moral of the story. The nasty attack horse I had purchased because he was a big, beautifully moving Thoroughbred, became one of the sweetest, wisest gentlemen I have ever known. He was an absolute angel to handle on the ground, good for the farrier, good for the vet, and good for anyone how needed to care for him. He never threatened to bite again that I can remember and he loved to get "chinnies" whenever I was cleaning his stall or picking the paddocks or arena. He would walk over to me as I tried to pick up the manure with that evil fork, put his head on my hand and insist that I scratch him under his chin. He loved it.

And I loved him.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Another Day Off and More Memories

Slop and Snow

I suppose I could have ridden on a hack today, but the footing is still pretty bad. It's just not fun when you have to keep your eyes open for every step your horse takes along the way. The arena is largely snow free at this point, but very, very wet. As I've said before, I hate riding in it when the hoofs dig up the base clay layer. And it can get slippery when we hit the clay.

I remember little things as I think about my horses. Sudden Impulse, Si, was a lovely 4 year old Thoroughbred I bought as a dressage prospect. He was a plain bay but made up for his lack of flash with wonderful gaits. The dealer I bought him from had discovered his extended trot, and Si (registered name: Idaboy) loved to do it. He also had a lofty canter and in the 6 weeks I had him I fell in love with how he moved. Even better, he was an angel out on hacks. The last day I rode him, we encountered a herd of deer on the way and he simply stood and stared at them, completed undisturbed.

But, soon after that ride--might have even been the same day, Si colicked. At first it didn't seem too bad but as time progressed he got worse and worse. The vet did all he could, and finally, at around 10 PM left, with Si in the indoor arena and me camped out on a cot in the aisle of the barn. All was quiet until some time after midnight when Si took a turn for the worse. The vet came back and within and hour we had an appointment for potential surgery at the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center. I had to call on someone else to supply the trailer as my tow vehicle was home, a good 30 minutes away. (1 hour round trip) It took us nearly two hours to drive to the Center and once Si was there, it was clear he was a surgical case.

We drove home and after a sleepless night, I finally got a phone call from surgery that he had pulled through just fine, suffering from a simple twist. Within the week, I trailered him back home for his recovery.

It was about two weeks later that things went wrong. Si was on the mend, being hand walked and grazed every day--kind of a bounding beast on the end of a line--and we had taken out his surgical staples.

I found him in his stall, depressed and colicking again. The vet wasted no time and sent us back to New Bolton at once. This time I trailered him myself.

There was no option and again, my boy was in surgery. At first the vets were optimistic. Part of his intestine had died, so they resectioned it and put him back together, hopeful of a full recovery. But it was not to be. Within a day or two, he was just not doing well at all. I got the fateful call that he needed a third surgery. The vet needed to know what had gone wrong, and since it is a teaching hospital, he told me there would be no further charges for treatment.

We had a long and painful discussion on Si's chances for both a full recovery, and a healthy, happy life afterwards. I made one of the hardest decisions I can recall. If there was just something wrong from the last surgical procedure--a slipped stich, etc.--then we would continue. But, if more of his intestine had failed, there was no point in even bringing him out of the anethesia and he would be euthanized on the table.

That afternoon brought the worst news I could have gotten. My sweet, young boy was gone.

It still pains me to think of how sad it all was. Si was a loving, gentle, talented horse. But, I have consoled myself with the thought that I was destined to be his caretaker. He had been neglected as a racehorse prospect--probably suffering some parasite damage that might have contributed to his problems--and he had found love and respect in my care. One of the greatest gifts he gave me was his reaction when I brought him back to the farm from his first surgery. When he saw where he was, he was so excited and happy, he practically tried to climb out the front of the trailer. At that moment, he validated everything I had hoped for him--he knew he had finally found a home, a place in the world, and all the love a horse could ever want.

I still cry when I think of him, for he will always own a piece of my heart.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


Russell R.

As I sit looking at the snow and the icy footing here and there, dreaming of sunny skies and pleasant rides, I keep remembering days gone by.
I think the posts on Caroline's blog about jumping trakheners and ditches reminded me of Russell R.
Here we are on one of our eventing adventures. I don't recall how we placed but I do know we went clean cross country.

Russell loved to jump and would carry me safely as long as he understood what he was supposed to do. Ironically, our eventing career came to an end when we faced a trakhener with no obvious ground line. I didn't know what to tell him to do, and he was totally confused. He ended up walking down into the wooden lined ditch, hitting his chin on the heavy cross pole over the ditch and then stood there. We backed out, and I eventually retired at that fence.

Back then they used to let riders finish the course after an elimination, so off we went galloping happily along over the rest of the fences including a three jump combo coffin jump that left everyone gasping. Russ had a hold of the bit as I came out of the woods, so I pulled him back to a trot to keep him on line and under control. My friends were gathered at the combo, and apparently the other spectators cried, "Oh, no, she's not going to jump this thing from a trot!!" Well, the jumps were at 3'3"- 3'6" and we jumped that in schooling from a trot all the time, so my friends just kind of shrugged. Russell went in in a nice forward motion and soared over all three jumps in perfect form. It was a moment to treasure.

After that ride I did one more lower level event and then retired to dressage. I realized I just didn't have the nerve to "command" him over the tricky jumps if he needed me.

One of my favorite events was the first time I moved up to training level...3'3"-3'6" back then. We had a not so good dressage score, and when I walked the cross country, I was not too sure we'd do OK. There was a really big brush fence, and a combo going across a dirt road down into the dark woods, and, at the end, a ditch combination. There was also a pretty steep hill with a jump at the bottom. I decided to trot to that one as the hill was challenging.

Off we went with Russell totally convinced this was going to be a grand ride. After the second stone wall I had tears of joy in my eyes. He jumped the brush with a huge leap. Soon we were headed to the woods. I had decided to take a roundabout route so I could get a straight line across the road and into the woods. It paid off as we were perfect and clean. By the time we got to the hill, Russell would have none of that "slowing down" stuff so we galloped down the hill, over the hay bales and off towards the ditch combo. I heard cries of "Heads up" as I got there. A horse was stuck in the middle, having refused the ditch. At the last second the rider managed to get out of my way and we soared through with the stuck horse quite happy to follow us out. I think I whooped in joy as we finished over the last log jump.

Stadium jumping was the last phase back then, and the field was a deep, muddy mess. As Russell and I watched, horse after horse refused, struggling with the footing and one narrow panel by the road. When our turn arrived, I left it all in Russell's hands--hoofs. To this day, I have no idea how he managed. At every take off, he sank in over his fetlocks, and yet he put in an amazing effort. Somehow, with twists and turns of his body to get all his feet over, he managed a clear round. I was thrilled.

After settling back at the trailer, I think I was wearing the biggest smiled I'd ever had. Then they began to announce the placings in reverse order. When they got to third and still hadn't called my number, I was on the run to the ribbon stand. Sure enough, my call came at first place! The clear cross country and stadium had moved us up from a dismal 7th or so in dressage to the winner's spot.

Turns out that decision to take the long route into the dark woods had been one of the turning points as we were one of only a very few teams that had gone clean there. Everyone who'd tried to go in at an angle had shocked their horses out of jumping the second fence in the shadows.

Then, of course, all those refusals we'd watched on the stadium course had finished my Cinderella story.

Mind you, Russell had a ton of show jumping training with lots and lots of gymnastics. He had been competing successfully as a hunter/jumper in the show ring over 3'6" courses for quite a while so he knew his job to perfection. Still, that day, with the sterling cross country effort, and an amzing effort in that awful, deep, sticky mud, he was beyond heroic.

And even better than that, it was FUN!!! What more can anyone ever ask of her horse?

Friday, February 22, 2008

S'no Joke

Wet and Wild

School was closed today because of the snowstorm. Contrary to forecasts, the snow did not change to rain overnight and at dawn there were several inches on the ground with more to come.

Sloppy yuck, is all I can say.

I went out in late afternoon to plow the driveway. While they are forecasting rain and higher temperatures, I was really worried things might freeze and then I'd have a disaster in my driveway. My little tractor with the front end loader is a gem for this kind of thing. It's only flaw is that it does not have a cab, so I am sitting exposed to the outside air and elements. However, it was fairly pleasant when I was out there, so it was just fine.

I did nearly have a mishap when I was cleaning the snow aroudn the barn and hung the loader up under fence rail. I had to bail out, when the tractor felt as if it was tipping, but I reacted the right way with the loader controla and as it hit the dirt everything righted itself. Kind of scary and I did land hard, but so far, I am OK.

The Boys were very smart and spent the better part of the day under shelter. It did start to snow pretty heavily for a while, but they were all nice and dry when I went out to feed in the evening. Good kids do the right thing once in a while.

One more disadvantage of shoes is that the snow balls up in the horses' feet. This makes riding in the snow tricky unless there is a lot of snow. The 5-6 inches we had are borderline, so I'm not sure how much riding I will be able to do until the darn stuff melts. (Except for shoeless Chance)

Then, I am going to have to face--mud!! Big time. Not looking forward to that.

The next few days are supposed to be warm enough to cause a pretty good melt. Snow is pretty to look at, but not so pretty to deal with.

Spring's spring is stuck here in New Jersey, USA. *sigh*

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Kinda Know I'll Be Sorry

Well, Maybe

I had to go to the chiropractor before school as I was on the verge of a migraine. He fixed me right up, so the day at school was just fine.

Where am I going with this? It was colder than yesterday, but not really too bad and I decided not to ride. My knees were sore--probably from the long lining yesterday, and I just didn't have the energy.

Guess I used some of it up at school where I was one highs and lows all morning. The high was a video a group of my seniors had made as their project for the performing arts requirement. It was incredible! It was a parody on a US TV reality show called "Cops," where the camera follows policemen on their tour of duty. This group of students set the show in their hometown and had their policemen getting into all kinds of laughable situations. They had even added in three commercial breaks with ads for cookies and energy drinks. They'd clearly spent hours filming and editing and it was a terrific job. I am so proud of them!!

Then, a good selection of students made some very creative shadow boxes showing stage settings of various plays and stories, including Julius Caesar (edited because
Claire found the typo!!) , Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Wagner's Ring operas, and some original scripts based on the Legend of King Arthur and even The Odyssey.

So much for the highs. The lows consisted of excuses, arguments, and just plain nonsense from the other group of students who didn't have any project at all to hand in. Of course they nearly all told me they'd left it home--didn't know it was due today even though the instruction sheet had Due February 21 in big, bold, underlined print.

Trouble is, the project is a State requirement for graduation. I guess they just don't believe it.


Anyhow, my regret about not riding will come with the rain/snow/sleet tomorrow. Instead, I picked out the arena, dragged it really well, unhitched my truck from the horse trailer and nestled said truck safely in the garage, and now I am about to set off for choir rehearsal.

Still some work done, so the evening was not wasted. Wonder how many of my seniors will be up all night creating those projects they accidently left home today?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Changed My Mind

In Midstream

I had decided I was going to long line everyone tonight and not ride.

So, I started off with Tucker. However, as the session went on, I began to wonder how he might feel under saddle after working on the lines. He was nice and round and foward. So, I saddled him up.

He was really a good ride. His trot was foward and bouncy and he was very light to the rein. I did a short school, and was very pleased with his attitude and suppleness. So, the lining helped considerably and might make a good warm up tool.

Toby made the big mistake of following Tucker into the barn aisle after I was done riding, so he was up next. I did just long line him, again quite pleased with his nice round and very forward work ethic. He really is a master on the lines, and fun to work because is he so responsive to the voice aids.

One more carrot later, I saddled up Chance and ran the lines through the stirrups to warm him up on the lines. I didn't have quite as much success as I didn't have the stirrups tied tightly enough together under his girth, so the lines were not quite as effective as they should have been.

Chance is very stiff to the right, so I did double work on that side before I got on to ride him. While the lines had not suppled him as much as I might have liked, they did encourage him to be nice and forward under saddle. As well, he was far more ready, willing and able to drop his head down to the bit. He was still not easily round but when I praised him mightily for dropping his head, he seemed to get the idea that it was a good thing to do and he really tried to please me. If I can just get some consistent training into him--weather permitting-- he should supple up pretty quickly. He does have a nice attitude, but he scares easily at sharp corrections, so I have to keep my frustration level at a low volume when I ride him.

Sometimes training a green horse can be very trying, especially if they have stiffness issues. You ask for the correct bend, the horse gives it, and a second later goes back to the same stiffness you just corrected. The trick is to be patient--sometimes not so easy-- and to just keep repeating the correction, rewarding when the horse does it right, and then fixing it again in a matter of one or two strides. Chance's right side will be a challenge, but we'll work it out.

So, though I hadn't planned it, I ended up riding two horses and ground working the third.

Not bad for a night after a very busy day at school. *yawn* (Think I'll go lie down.)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Chilled Out

And Back To School

Didn't do anything with the Boys tonight.

I felt colder than predicted--around 40F--because of a cold, persistent wind. Just couldn't muster the energy after a day at school to do much when I got home.

The Boys seemed just as happy to have dinner instead of being worked. I changed them into their heavier sheets instead of winter blankets. It's just not cold enough for the extra insulation.

Tomorrow bodes a mixed bag of weather. I am hoping it will stay cold enough to keep the stickiest mud at bay so I can turn Tucker out in the paddocks where the barn sits. Today he, Toby, and Chance were out in the arena and pasture where they cannot get into the barn. There are rows of trees to offer shelter, but if it rains or snows, that is a different story. And that is exactly what's in the forecast.

School was frustrating as the Internet connection was down all day. I did have computer or two in my lab that had kept the connection through the system breakdown, so I had basic access, but I did not have any way of getting any of the worksheets, quizzes, or other material I have stored on my network drive. Fortunately, I had set up most of the lesson material I needed this week last week, so I wasn't stuck for the day. However, my prep periods were mostly wasted as I couldn't do anything to set up materials for next week, or access the things I might need for Friday.

And, my students were supposed to be writing papers and they need to be able to use the computers. Trouble is, MS Word is located on the network drive and when the network is down, they are stuck. The poor computer technicians were working from early morning until well after school let out trying to find out where the problem was. My back storage room has one of the hubs to the network and the techs were in and out all day. They are a very competent crew and I'm sure they'll fix things, but I could tell they were frustrated.

It is amazing how dependent I have become on the computer in the classroom. It is such an efficient storage system for my work and, with a lab for my students, offers me a good number of creative ways to present information, to teach lessons, and get my students to respond. They definitely write better when they use computers and seem to take more pride in their work.

Tomorrow, I am taking my seniors on and in school field trip to the performing arts department to see a performance and then take a tour of the theater. They have a theater arts requirement for graduation and we're using this to fulfill a good part of the requirement. Then, on Thursday, they will be presenting special theater projects of their own. Should be fun if they did the work. As much as I am ready to retire, there are some things about teaching that are just too much fun.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Two Between the Raindrops

Tucker and Chance Work Out

What a strange day weatherwise. I went to the chiropractor in the late morning because my neck was out and a headache on the way. I'd left the Boys with their sheets on, but as I drove to the doctor, I was already regretting that. The temperature kept rising and when the clouds cleared, the sun brought it up to close to 70F! When I got back home all three horses were sweaty under their jackets, so I took them off for the day.

Ate some lunch and as I finished, the clouds returned along with a pretty good rain shower. Then is stopped raining and I went out with my short sleeved T shirt under my jacket. About ten minutes after I brought Chance in to saddle him up, my jacket was off because I was hot. The sun was back out. I took Chance into the ring, mounted up, and in another five minutes I was thinking the jacket might feel pretty good.

But then I began riding in earnest and it was fine. I concentrated on two things--getting Chance to drop his head to the bit, especially on the right rein, and getting him to go forward. He is lazy, but not obnoxious about it, so I think if I just make it clear to him that he needs to move out some more, he should be fine. I did take some persuading with taps of the whip, but he finally offered some good trot. Then I sat and asked for canter. He struck right off on both leads with not much more than a canter aid from me. Keeping him in the gait was another issue altogether, but again, I think it's a bit challenging for his balance at this point, so I didn't make to much of an issue of it. And, with the added rain, there were some slippery places in the arena and I didn't want to take too many chances. We did manage two sets of canter on each lead for about 3/4 of the way around the arena. We finished up with some nice trot and called it a day.

I brought Tucker in next, and the sun came back out. Was it his charming personality?

We had a super school, despite his occasional effort to skip over the mud puddles in the arena. He was relatively forward--he doesn't quite give as much when the footing is really wet--and nicely accepting of half halts and all my aids. I did do something a little different which was to trot a little first and then do a fairly long warm-up in the canter. Sometimes this is a really good approach for a Thoroughbred and I was thinking that perhaps he would loosen up better in canter than trot. (Remember, Thoroughbred are bred to gallop, so that is often their best gait)

I think it helped. He felt much more forward in his trot work. I will try it again the next time I school to see if it is a good approach. For what it's worth, Tucker gave me shoulder ins, leg yields, half passes, canter/walk/canter transitions, canter/halt/canter, canter/reinback/canter, canter/trot, and lots of bending in both directions without a single protest. I was quite pleased.

As I finished up, it started to rain again, so since I was tired out, I decided to give Toby the day off.

I spent about another hour in the tack room setting up the new saddle rack I'd bought a while ago. It does hold four saddles when fully assembled, but unless I do some reorganizing, I only have enough clearance under the light fixture for three. I am, at the moment, a little overstocked with my Ansurs. I will probably sell the jumping model as I simply do not ride in it. I have had very few demos where people are interested in it, so I really don't need it. That would still leave me with three saddles, but if I ever need to take all three horses out at the same time, I guess that's just about right. I use my old Classic nearly every day, on every horse, but when Stacie comes to ride, I put her in the Carlton as it is more like a conventional saddle. At any rate, the new rack is just perfect.

The work is not completely done. Hopefully, as the week progresses I will do a little each day and figure out what the best organizational set up is.

So, a busy day ends and I am tired out.

Nothing to Report

Lazy Day

Don't know why but I just couldn't get motivated to ride. I was going to long line and then didn't even manage that.

Went to church in the AM, did some shopping later--had to get carrots and ended up with a bunch of other stuff--asparagus on sale!

Got home. That was it.

Waste of another nice day.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

And Yet Again

Good Day For A Few Rides

Chillier than yesterday, but full of sunshine with the ground thawed nicely in the arena.

I rode Tucker first. I am using a new JP Korsteel bit that is similar to the one I was working him in but designed slightly differently. I'm not sure it works as well as his old bit so I may swap back. It has exactlyt the same mouthpiece design--a losenge snaffle--but the mouthpiece is a little thinner and curves more. It just doesn't feel the same when he takes it, and I may be losing a little lateral suppleness.

So, that said, we had a nice school. I did tons of half halts during the ride with great success and no issues on his part. And I did a lot of canter lead transistions through only one stride of trot--a preliminary exercise for the flying change. I also worked counter canter, another important before the flying change exercise. The new "thing" I have to deal with is keeping him from backing up in the halt. A few days ago, when I halted and asked for the reinback, Tuck resisted, so I schooled the exercise. Now, when I halt, unless I am very clear that I want him to stand still, he gives to the bit and does a beautiful, even reinback. Hard to correct him for it, so I just focused on stopping and moving off again rather quickly.

I have found that training Thoroughbred is a tricky proposition. They are very smart and very quick to learn. Then, they are very quick to anticipate what you are going to ask. If the theory that an aid is uncomfortable pressure for a horse, so that response to the aid makes the aid stop, and hence, decreases the uncomfortableness, it's likely that the sensitive Thoroughbred will overreact in order to either avoid the aid altogether, or else react quickly to the aid so it does not need to stay on for long. So, in general, once the Thoroughbred understands the leg pressure that means "canter," rather quickly, he canters off the lightest suggestion of leg pressure, or even canters before the leg pressure. My horses learn, for example, the movements of a dressage test after only one or two run throughs. Then, I hardly need to tell them what to do at any marker because they react so quickly. The problem comes when they begin to anticipate--knowing they are supposed to canter at "A," for example, they start cantering at the corner to avoid being "told" to canter.

Tucker is proving no exception, so I am riding him with care to make it clear to him that he needs to wait for me to tell him what to do before he does it. Since his reinback is so lovely now, I don't want to make him think it's bad to do it, so I am trying to create situations where he will not offer the exercise on his own. Once we get that established, I can go back to schooling it now and then mixing it into the halts.

After the schooling session, I took him out for a hack in the woods. He was great and seemed quite happy out there.

I rode Toby next. After just a few strides of trot on the left rein, he decided to canter, so that's how I started the session. I'd put one of the blue plastic barrels out of the way on the woods side of the arena last night when I dragged it, and like Tucker, Toby decided to spook at it the first time past it on the right rein. Mind you, he, Tuck, and Chance had been out there all day with the barrel, but somehow its existence there when I was in the saddle made it into a monster of sorts. It only took a minute to sort things out, though, and after the cantering we trotted a bit and finally went out for the short ride in the woods too.

Saddled up Chance last. He was about the same as yesterday about going on the bit, although I think he felt a little less supple to the right, so I schooled about twice as much in that direction. Then, at the end, since the left felt really good, I asked for canter. He went right off on my leg aid, surprising me completely. We did about a half of the arena as I was a little worried about one or two slippery spots in the corners. Then, I brought him back down and headed out for the nice littles short hack in the woods too.

After I fed, I carted some fill out to the arena to pack into those spots where the horses' hoofs had dug up the base layer. Don't know how well it will work as the ground was already freezing up again. It's amazing how quickly the footing hardens up once the sun starts to go down. However, the good news it that sunset/darkness was getting pretty close to 6 PM. (acutally around 5:45, but another 15 minutes before it gets dark out.) Even better, Daylight Savings Time begins this year on March 9, so I don't have long to wait before sunset will be closer to 7PM!!

Can it truly be there is light at the end of winter's long tunnel?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Drying Out

Three For A Ride

The footing is drying out, but it's a slow go.

I rode Toby on the trail, hacking back to see how the flooding is. Despite all the claims to the contrary, the so-called infiltration basin has done little to improve things. Frankly, I think the basin has failed to infiltrate the water it was supposed to and the wooded area is flooded almost as much as it was before that basin was built. I have work to do yet on this issue, so I have to do some homework, write some letters, and make some waves.

Toby is always so good when we go back there. I guess by now he knows I am surveying the situation and is remarkably patient about my just kind of scouting around from his back.

Tucker was next, in the arena. Becuase the footing still had some slippery spots, I was rather conservative in the work. I concentrated on my own position for the bulk of the ride. But I did some long half-halts in the trot to get him to do some half-steps, some of the work before piaffe. After a little confusion on his part the first time, he got the concept really quickly and slowed his trot way down to some short rhythmic steps for the next three times. I quit that and went to the canter. This time, to get the half halt, I did the slight quarter pirouette move, using a good outside rein and, in step, he dropped to a walk. Then we were able to pick up the canter on the new lead, finally getting the consistent simple change I need for second level work. Then I hacked him out in the pasture for about five minutes, went back in the arena and finished up with some trot/halt/stand/trots on the center line. Good boy #2.

Good boy #3 was Chance who, after trying to go out the gate to the woods a time or two--nothing serious, just an obvious bend in that direction--settled into some pretty good trot work. My main goal with him still is to get him to soften to the bit and bend his body correctly. It still is far from perfect, but the improvement is clear and each ride is getting noticeably better. So, that ride was a success too.

I fed the little herd, got the tractor out and hitched up the drag so I could drag the arena. Yeek! I almost got stuck trying to get up the hill in the paddock by the barn as the mud was so slippery. The tractor has four wheel drive and was using every ounce of energy to keep going. Worse, it was sliding to one side, which got a little scary. However, I finally made it and gave the arena a nice grooming, mixing whatever base was stirred up by the horses in with the sand, leveling everything. This will help dry it out and, if it freezes again over the weekend, perhaps afford me some footing good enough for at least a little riding.

I left the ring from the far end where the ground was drier and made it back to the front area where the equipment stays just fine. Whew! I was more than a little worried there.

Now, if the weather just cooperates for the rest of the weekend, I will be a happy camper.

Update on Stacie and Lucky: Stacie has an appointment to take Lucky to see a vet who is a master of acupunture and Chinese herbal medicine. He was featured on TV for some of his amazing cures of animals other vets had given up on. She got a referral from a super acupuncture/chiropractic vet we have both used. You may be able to link to the TV feature on Dr. Wen here:

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Soggy Bottom

A Playful Frolic

When I got home tonight, the Boys were frolicking. Tucker was on one side of the fence and Chance was on the other and they were....well...fencing! Boingy, boingy, gallop, rear, bite at each other.

Shortly thereafter, Toby joined in.

So, I changed my clothes and got in the game. I wouldn't exactly call it free lunging, as the game mostly consisted of Toby and Tucker racing from one end of the arena to the other, waiting for me to reach them so I could flick the whip and then off they'd go. Chance had at that point elected to stay on the other side of the fence so he was racing around the outside.

The only problem with all this was that the arena footing was really wet and, as I predicted, they were cutting down into the base clay churning some of that up too. It will be fine when it dries out again, though, and I do have some extra sand to put down of need be.

But it did convince me I was better off not riding as things were a bit slippery and more than soggy all the way to the bottom.

After we played, both Tucker and Chance who had finally come in the arena to join the fun came over to me to share some chin scratches. Well, I didn't get any chin scratches, but they did. I was one of those nice pleasant social moments.

Tomorrow is supposed to warm up, so maybe the ground will dry out a bit. My land is high and really does drain well, so I am hopefual. Saturday is also supposed to be dry, but more wet weather is coming later in the weekend.

It was so nice not to have a lot of mud, but I guess those days are gone for a while. At least the days are getting longer, and, if the sun manages to come out, the footing can improve pretty quickly.

I can also go on a hack, but there too, some of the footing can be dicey if it is wet on top, so I do have to be careful.

Patience. What did Caroline say? Spring is on the way?

Update on Stacie's horse Lucky. She took him to New Bolton, University of Penn's medical center today. The vet is very concerned that he is still so lame. He took an X-ray and wants Stacie to keep him on stall rest for another three weeks. He also injected his ankle. Right now, things do not look too hopeful that Lucky will be able to be ridden again, but Stacie will be happy if he can just be a pasture ornament. It is all pretty depressing at the moment. *sigh*

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Fickle Weather

Snow, No Snow

This morning winter was in full bloom with snow at least an inch deep everywhere. Tonight, there is hardly a patch of snow to be seen.

The temperature is up and it has rained--hard all day. The only momentary saving grace is that the ground was frozen so hard it has not yet deteriorated into the deep mud I am expecting. However, since it is going down to the 20's tonight, perhaps it will "freezedry" a bit before the air really warms up on Friday.

The hardest part of the fickle weather is trying to decide just what kind of blankets/rugs to put on the Boys each day. Right now, they are in their winter weights--just as well since they offered added protection against the really bad rain today. I pulled out their lightweight sheets, but will likely use the slightly heavier ones for tomorrow and save the others for Friday.

Fortunately, I have a nice four day weekend due to the Presidential birthday holidays--Lincoln and Washington. That let's me be a little more cavalier about what the Boys are wearing as I can change clothes at will.

I am blathering on here because I obviously didn't do any riding. It was really WET. The rain has drifted into a mist so I managed to do some chores including cleaning the water tub and cleaning out the drainage ditches at the wet spots in the arena. Hopefully, it will drain and dry enough to be rideable by tomorrow. Right now, with the very wet top layer and some still frozen clay layer underneath, it is not only soggy, but slippery. Some sunshine would be a nice bonus at this point.

I am also rethinking the new run in shed. I was going to put it in the arena on the east side, facing west. Now I am thinking of saving all the my riding room by putting it outside on the west end, facing east. We will have to take down some fencing and maybe move the gate at that end, but....or, I could move the fence at that end to make the arena longer on the west end and put the run in on the east side, anyhow. From the looks of the ground, it was leveled out on the west side at least 10 feet past where my fence line is, so I have room for either the shed or the arena expansion.

If this sounds complicated, don't worry about it. The east end shed would offer more protection, so that is a plus. The west end ring expansion would require another panel of fencing--no big deal either. If it ever dries out, I am going to investigate the ground on the west side a little more to see if it really would be good footing.

OK, enough already! See what happens when I can't ride?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Still Talking About the Weather

Winter Rears Its Uglier Head

First the bitter cold, now precipitation to accompany it--right now in the form of snow.

The trick is the roads are getting slippery as I can testify by how slowly cars are going on the road past my house--they usually rip by. To make matters worse, the snow is supposed to change to sleet and freezing rain later on.

But, tomorrow's forecast is for rain.

Darn it, because that's going to bring back the bad mud and I will have to restrict Tucker's turnout again. He is quite happy having the run of all the paddocks and the barn. It's the best situation for everyone anyhow as there is always shelter.

In the meantime, in case you haven't already surmised, I made no effort to ride or work anyone tonight. It is just too nasty outside.

But, of course, where are the Boys? Nice hay in each stall and they are out in the front paddock, coated in snow, eating the hay I put out this morning. (Waterproof winter blankets on.)

Go figure.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Bitter Cold!

Everything is Frozen Solid

Including my enthusiasm for even being out in the barn!

I will be feeding a wet, warm feed late tonight again. No bran, though, as if it is not thoroughly soaked through it can actually draw water out of the horse's gut. Wetting their pelleted feed makes a nice mushy mess and they seem to like slurping it up when it's cold. And I will add some carrots along with the alfalfa cubes already in there.

The temperature dropped 30-35 degrees since yesterday, maybe more. At least the worst of the winds managed to die down a bit. I had to pick up nearly all the recyling papers I'd put out in the little blue bin as it had been blown over and tossed about. Nice little mess to keep me bending and moving in the cold.

I filled the water tub using buckets, but I do have one of those coil hoses I keep in the house to use when the water level gets really low. I have an electric heater in the tub, so the Boys always have water to drink.

Needless to say, I didn't ride.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Up and Down

A Very Windy Day

There is a cold front coming in and the weather was very fickle all day.

I tried to ride Chance first, and when we started off it was OK, but then the wind kicked up really powerfully and Chance started getting chancy as a safe ride. The most unnerving thing he does is throw his head up to try to bolt off. I really hate that feeling. Once a horse's head is up in the air, you are at his mercy if he doesn't react properly to the bit. The scariest thing is that in an effort to control him, if you use your hand too much he might rear which is my LEAST favorite movement.

After two little boltoffs--nothing too dramatic, but just unsettling, I decided to get off and long line him instead. I tied the stirrups together with some baling twine under his belly and used them as the rings for the driving lines.

Chance was a little goofy still, but he quickly settled down and gave me some really nice lining work. This included three nice canter departs on the right lead with very little persuasion on my part. The left lead was fine too, as is usually is, and he was nicely forward in the trot. So, in the end he had a nice little schooling session and I felt safe.

Tucker has never been much of a problem in the wind so I rode him. He did give me one little scoot, but it was nothing. He started off an slow motion, walking in a short, hesitant walk. And he was looking at things along the woods side of the arena, including some poles I had moved over there. He did trot right off, but that too lacked an real forwardness, so I picked up a canter and got him moving.

I don't know if he was muscularly tight, or mentally tight, but the cantering did the trick. Soon we were in much better form. I did a lot of repeated lead changes through one stride of trot, thinking again of the prep work for the flying change. Then I did some shoulder in at the trot and moved that into half pass--not bad. I've added walk pirouettes to the repertoire and today did an exercise from one of the FEI tests: cross the center line, pirouette left, cross the centerline, pirouette right, then upon crossing the centerline, canter. It wasn't perfect, but he got it.

I attempted some half pass at the canter with fair success going left and much better results going right. Then, I decided to test the reinbacks again. Lovely. To top them off, after the third one, I asked for Tuck to canter immediately and when he did, I called it a day, let him trot on a long rein and gave him a nice cuddle for being such a good boy.

Toby was quite willing to be caught and did a nice little riding session in the arena. I played with the three tempis and the two tempis at the end. The were far from collected--more of a medium canter--but the timing was just right, so an instant later, Toby was also trotting on the long rein. Then we went out into the woods for a short hack.

Lucky timing on that one. Had I gone out two minutes earlier, we would have run into a pack of ATV'ers ripping through the trail I was planning on taking. Fortunately, they disappeared over the horizon before I was onto the end of that path and I don't think Toby really noticed them. Good thing, because they do upset him, and he can become very dangerous when riled. He has an even more athletic buck than Tucker does with a wicked back twist and when he becomes unhinged, it's not pretty.

We ended up having a nice quiet ride, so all was well.

I have swtiched all of the Boys into their winter blankets again, anticipating the single digit temps tonight. As I was swapping them, it started snowing like crazy. Now the sun is back out, and I'd wager it's warm again.

I am feeding them nice warm mashes at late feed. I don't know if they appreciate the warm food, but it definitely makes me feel better when it's suddenly cold again.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Three Gaits for All!

Back in the Saddle

Nice day, even though the forecast predicted showers. Mid 40's, although it did feel cooler until I started to ride.

Tucker was first on the agenda, and he offered a balk twice, but it was easily cured with my persistence. The second one was in reaction to a sharp half halt, so that one might be excusable. The others seemed to be related to some kind of silly conviction that something in the arena was going to eat him, or at least nibble.

His canter departs were lovely and his trot work strong, so I excused the little problems. I think the stops were more out of habit than reason and I was very aggressive at correcting them. Tuck did not protest too much and never felt as if he were going to explode.

We've been working on the reinback and Tuck has been resisting after the first two steps. Today, the first attempt was kind of ugly with his head tossing in protest. But then, he finally yielded and gave me four really nice steps, so I praised him mightily and trotted right off. A bit later, I stopped again and asked for another reinback. This one was lovely from the start. I again made a big fuss over him and trotted off. Then I tried one more and it too was excellent, so I immediately stopped, dropped the reins and dismounted, telling Tuck what a wonderful boy he was.

Chance was next. I rode at the walk for a bit, working on getting him to step to the outside rein. He tends to fall in on his shoulder, so shaping him this way is really important to developing reliable steering and his "on the bit" stretch. He was pretty cooperative, after realizing that he had to pass the gate to the woods without going out on a hack.

Then I picked up the trot and was able to get him more and more steady in both the bend and reach for the bit. Since the steering was good, I took the risk and asked for the canter.

First strike off on the right was on the left lead. Second was on the left lead and then....he took the right lead and allowed me to push his canter all the way around the circle. I reversed and again asked for canter (this is both my saying "canter" and giving a driving aid) . Off we went on the left lead for a full circle and a bit more.

Enough! I trotted him up the center line, halted and dismounted, lavishing praise on him for his efforts.

On the way back into the barn, Tucker attacked and tried to bite Chance. I gave him a rap with my dressage whip and chastised him for being so jealous. Guess that is going to be an issue as time goes on. *sigh*

Toby let me catch him pretty easily. I rode him in the arena for a short session and he felt really energetic and forward, so I guess he is getting fitter as time goes on. I do miss his big bulky muscles, but at his age, I doubt he will ever get them back. He has a leaner look than when he was competition fit and a more angular appearance. Age has had its effect. Wonder why people don't lean up as they get older?

After the work session, we went out on a hack around the field. I let Toby stop a good number of times to graze on the grasses at the edge of the dirt road. I know I have spoiled him terribly by letting him browse as we ride, but I figure he deserves it. And, it makes him more interested in going out to get some exercise.

So, I now have three horses with three gaits. Fun!

Friday, February 08, 2008

Lame Excuses From Me

The Horses Look Fine

But my knees are still stiff and I had to go to the chiropractor after school for my neck.

I am pleased to report I haven't had any real neck issues for quite some time, but I was having lower/mid back issues, probably due to my knees. If my knees improve, I should be much more stable all around.

And in the stable more often. I'm just not too keen on working the horses after an adjustment as I like to have it "set" a bit before I challenge it by riding.

Of course, they all sound like lame excuses, and they probably are. The rest of it is that by the time I got home, the sun was edging towards the horizon and it was getting colder by the minute. Still not freezing, though. Tomorrow is supposed to be in the high 40's but it's supposed to chill down again on Sunday. I plan on dragging the arena on Saturday, so the footing my be OK on Sunday even if we do have a slight freeze.

OR, I can always take a hack since I now seem to have three pretty good trail horses to ride.

Worrisome news from Stacie about Lucky. He is still lame. By now he should be pretty sound. I am waiting to hear from her after she spoke to his surgeon today. She was waiting for a call back from him the last I heard.

Maybe some good vibes from us all will help. Lucky is a big, dark brown/black warmblood with a sweet personality and good potential in the dressage ring. Stacie raised him from a yearling and is truly devoted to him. I can tell from her message to me that she is really worried about him.
(Anyone who might have missed it: Lucky had surgery to removed some necrotic bone in his fetlock.)

Guess I shouldn't really complain about my knees too much, considering.

Chilled Out

Stiff Knees

The temperature dropped into the 40's today. Normally, that would be fine for me, but my knees were really stiff today and still sore.

So, I didn't ride.

I'm not sure The Boys minded. All they want to do is eat.

Tucker is especially pushy about his food. Tonight, before he had even finished his own portion, he went into Chance's stall--I'd left the aisle door open for a minute--while I was standing there, shoved Chance out, and began eating his food. He was pretty arrogant when I chased him out.

I had to lock Chance's outside door to keep Tucker out so the poor kid could finish up and finally Tuck gave up and went back to his own stall to finish his food. He doesn't bother Toby, thank goodness, because Toby is the alpha horse and no one messes with him.

I know I could lock everyone in until they all eat, but each horse has his own eating style and it is far more convenient to not have to go back out again to do turn out with my set up. What I usually do is put big alfalfa cubes in Tucker's feed tub along with his grain and it slows him down and distracts him so he stays where he belongs and leaves Chance alone.

I do wonder too if the Ultium is not quite as satisfying as the regular pellets the other guys get. Supposedly, it's a low sugar, higher fat feed and he may be craving the higher sugar stuff once he tastes it.

Then again, this is Tucker. He didn't get to be over 16.3h and as round as he is by missing a meal. *G*

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

It Was Almost Hot

Sore Knees and Summer Weather

Would you believe it was somewhere near 70F today? Incredible.

Went to my knee doctor this morning. Combining the anesthetic, the prolotherapy, and the stem cell injections, I had a minimum of 10 injections in each knee.

For what? The prolotherapy is designed to tighten my loose ligaments by irritating them with a sucrose like solution that causes them to thicken with scar tissue of a sort. This is like the concept of using a blister on a horse.

The stem cell treatment helps regrow cartilage, which is the essential barrier and cushioning tissue in all joints. I also take glucosamine for this and people can also have hyluranic acid treatments--adequan--but the injections go into the joint and can be very painful. So far, my doctor said the stem cell treatments--stem cells taken from my own blood mixed with growth hormones--will create at least 1/8" of new cartilage. It has been lasting me nearly a year before I need a treatment again.

I was, however, naughty when I got home. I took a short nap and then headed outdoors. Job one was to clean out Tucker's runin shed with the tractor. While it was easier on my knees than pushing the wheelbarrow, I still had to climb on and off the tractor.

Then, I decided there was no way I could pass up the incredible weather, so I saddled up Tucker and rode him in the arena for about 10 minutes. He was super bouncy, responsive and forward. I tried some off the outside rein right angle turns at the canter, sort of an elementary beginning pirouette exercise and found it balanced him into a nice canter walk transition into the other lead. Since he has to do the canter walk canter lead change in the second level tests this season, it turned out to be a great exercise. I did two in each direction, and found him starting to get hot and sweaty. The weather was far too warm to do any more serious work on a horse with a winter coat--even if he is a Thoroughbred. So, totally delighted with how he was feeling, I took him out on a hack in the woods to finish up. He was an angel.

Headed out for a hack with Chance next and he too was a good boy. With just a little "catch me if you can," I managed to collect Toby and take him out on the same short hack.

Gorgeous weather, wonderful horses and sore knees. What more could a person want?

Oh, yeah, I took the day off from school because of my knees and I'm glad I did. I seriously doubt I could have done much walking around the building. I went to church and choir rehearsal tonight, and I can tell you, I sat through the hymns as getting up and down out of the pew was a real chore. Stairs and just walking in general don't feel too good either. It's going to take a while for the inflammation to go away.

Once again, the small adventures abound. Nothing truly dramatic, but certainly not dull.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Votes, Grain, and Knees

Another Warm Day Passes

And I didn't ride again. However, my left knee is really painful. I know it won't be instantly cured at the doctor's tomorrow, but right now any relief will be welcome.

I might have ridden, actually, but after school I drove to the feed store for the $2 off on every bag of Ultium, the feed Tucker gets. And it was an honest $2 off since the regular price was still posted and hadn't been raised for the sale. I got some of the regular pellets as well and some alfalfa cubes, so I am fairly well stocked up.

But that meant I had to unload the stuff when I got home which certainly didn't make my knees feel any better.

And then, I had to go vote in the primary. Yes, New Jersey, my home state moved its usual June primary date to February to get into the Presidential mix early. The US government is a strange beast in some ways. Each individual State is its own little sovereign nation in regard to certain issues--States' Rights. Controlling its own elections is one of those rights. Since the primary elections determine where each State's votes go, even though we are choosing Federal (meaning US Government) officials, the big government has no say in when or how those elections are run. Once November comes, when the Presidential election is set, then certain Federal laws do come into play, but the individual States still have a lot of control.

The concept of freedom and democracy here can get kind of confusing with all the little governments romping about making decisions. We voters need to keep track of a lot of situations if we really want to keep informed.

I did vote, for Hillary Clinton. I am a declared Democrat, so I cannot vote in the primary for a Republican or any other party candidate. However, I did have a choice of selecting an undeclared group of delegates and for a moment, I did consider that. But, as of the moment, I support Clinton. I guess I will just have to wait and see what choices November ultimately brings.

Interestingly enough, I do believe almost all the Democratic candidates who were running were still on the ballot as choices. I will be curious to see how that plays out here. I'm not sure what happens to a vote cast for a no longer running candidate when it comes time for the delegates to vote in the covention to pick the ultimate candidate.

Ah, democracy. I wonder if anyone will every get it exactly right.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Cloudy Monday

Still Warmish

But with the clouds and a touch of precipitation now and then, it wasn't exactly the most pleasant of days.

Add to that how I hiked all over the school to find the acting Principal so I could get in the school media center for some machine graded answer sheets I needed for the tests I was giving, and you have one set of really sore knees. So I opted out of riding, even though I'd thought of taking Chance out on a short hack.

Instead, I lunged Tucker. No big deal, nor was it a hard workout. At least he didn't think so as he wasn't even breathing hard after the session. That's pretty good considering that when he started out he saw something exciting out on the Turnpike--the big toll road about a half mile away from the arena--and puffed up to what looked like 18 hands of bug eyed, prancy dancy show off Thoroughbred. Actually, I think it was either an accident or a traffic stop as red a blue police lights were flashing on the horizon. I guess Tuck saw the lights and figured they were a good excuse for being silly.

Suffice it to say I am just as glad I wasn't riding him. *G*

The rest of the lunging was fine and he looks good and sound. I didn't notice his dragging that right hind at all, so if may well be the hock issue is resolved. Three cheers for Adequan.

Tomorrow, after school, I need to go to the feed store. They are running specials on Purina feeds and I have a coupon for $2 off each bag of the special feed I get for Tuck. One day only sales on several of the labels. Might go again on Wednesday for another variety....or will the gas I use on the trip actually cancel out the discount?

Looks like considerable rain is on the way for Wednesday. Bummer in that I have the day off to go to my knee doctor. Still, if it does rain, I will have to be a good patient and stay off the horses. Meanwhile, it looks as if Tucker might have to stay in again. Poor kid. He is pretty good about it, but I always feel sorry for him.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Out of the Comfort Zone

On a Sunny Sunday

Another beautiful day drew me out in the afternoon to the allure of the woods. I decided I'd ride whichever horse came to me first, first and go from there.

To my surprise, Toby headed right over to me when I went out to the pasture. He definitely wanted the treats I had in my pocket, but still he seemed pretty content to let me put the rope around his neck and lead him into the barn to be saddled. We had a nice ride to the middle distance trail and to my surprise, Toby chose an even longer route home, taking the path to the back lake and then up along the ridge back towards home. I guess he liked the weather too and wanted to stay out a little longer himself.

I saddled Tucker next and did a very short school in the arena. He was very willing, forward, and didn't offer any protests at all. I should have read his eagerness a little better, but I took the plunge and headed out into the woods anyhow, figuring I'd attempt the middle trail with him too. This is the next trail into the woods, about 100 yards further along the edge of the field from his "comfort zone," trail--the one we do virtually every time we go out.

It took Tuck about ten stride before he realized we'd passed "his" trail. He gave a little squeal and a little plunging buck of excitement and I gave him a sharp correction with both rein and voice and he settled back down to his very energetic walk. He was fine going into the woods, and a good boy until, up ahead, he spied a mud puddle!! Wow! Water right there in the middle of the trail! Water! Better stop. Better try to run away! Oops, Mom won't let me do that! OK, OK, she's taking me to the left of it. Boing! I think I'll buck again just to show her. OK, OK, just one little buck. After all, it is kind of exciting!

Fortunately, that was it. He did try to jog off a few times, but I was too concerned that the footing had some slippery spots--I'd ridden the same track with Toby--so I "purred" him back to a walk and we made our way happily home.

That left Chance. I set up a little "round pen" in the far end of the ring by using one corral panel, some barrels with poles on top and some of my plastic blox with poles across them forming the illusion of a fence.

What a difference that made! With the barrier on the once open side of the circle, Chance gave up all thought about pulling away and began working like a champion on the right rein. I did have to laugh a little as he was very forward at first and, when the reins checked his exuberance, he actually played little bronco. It was the first time I'd ever seen him buck and, compared to Tucker, it really wasn't too impressive. No twists or flying hind end. He simply did the head down, still legged bounces and then went on.

Best part of it all was that he willingly cantered on the right lead several times without any issue. So, after I praised him mightily I set him on the left rein, got some really nice work and then, for a finish, reversed him again, and got a circle or two of even better, softer right lead canter.

If I had a place to set up a round pen, it would be great as this seemed to be a perfect solution to his resistance. Perhaps, if I need it, when the weather warms up and things dry out, I can figure out how to use part of my very soggy paddock in front of the barn to set something up with my corral panels. That's what I got them for in the first place, but since then they have replaced broken fencing and are being used to make the little pen for Tucker's stall.

Meantime, the poles and barrels did the trick, so if I keep using them, and the training continues to go really well, we'll have solved the problems and Chance will actually be trained!

So, Tucker went out of his comfort zone and succeeded, and Chance found a comfort zone he can work in.

Another good day at Follywoods!

Saturday, February 02, 2008

What a Difference a Day Makes

Lovely Weather

But now it has to dry out from a couple inches of rain. So Tucker spent the day turned out in the arena. He seemed OK about it as when I got home from some errands, he was basking in the sunshine.

After a chore or so indoors I headed out to ride around 2 PM. It was sunny and warmish and the arena had dried out quite a bit already. Still have the puddles, but the rest of the footing was quite good.

Tucker started off in reverse mode. Not, apparently because of any physical issues, but rather because he was totally convinced there was some kind of monster lurking in the woods. I suspect that while I was away there might actually have been something out there. People walking? Deer? Turkeys? Another horse and rider? Savage horse devouring bugaboos held back only by the fencing??

Anyhow, it took a good five minutes to travers the track along the woods with lots of high headed stops, attempts to spin, and lots of sideways evasions. Finally, I got really aggravated and growled at him, adding an angry shout that he'd better get his you know what in gear...and he did. While he still was a little uncertain passing the gate to the woods trail about two more times, after that, there wasn't a single issue. No balks, no nasty ears, and some pretty darn good work.

I did some half pass at the trot and tried a little at canter--going right still better than going left--and did quite a bit of counter canter. I added some lead changes through one trot stride and a couple of canter/walk/canter tours which we still need to work on. He is definitely feeling stronger and more confident on that hock. I still have two adequan shots to go, so it all looks pretty positive.

Rode Chance next and went through the usual frustration of trying to get his body, shoulder, neck and head all in the right shape on the turns. He falls in on the shoulder, in on the hind end, out with his head, out with the shoulder--etc. Typical of a young horse who just hasn't had enough training yet. I worked him in circles to the right and left, trying with every weight, leg and rein aid to shape him correctly. The hardest part is keeping him focused on his work when he wants to head out the gate for a hack in the woods. He wants to go that way, and I want him to go this way and never the twain shall meet. *G* It was still a good session with a good bit of cooperation on Chance's part at the end.

Toby made it clear he did not want to be ridden. He had followed Chance and me into the barn aisle, so I locked the stall gates and trapped him. We played keep away for a minute or so until he realized there was no way out and let me put his bridle on.

For a reluctant schoolboy he surely did work nicely. His trot was springy and forward and his canter was nice and bouncy. We did one line of three three tempis and one line of three two tempis, and he was...shall I say it....practically perfect. Then I finished up by taking him for a hack around the pasture to relax.

The best part of the day was being outside as 5 PM approached and passed while the sun was still lighting the sky! Longer days make the winter more bearable, but today, with the temp near 50F, it really did feel as if spring was not still more than a month off.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Rain, Rain and More Rain

Absolutely Miserable

Cold, rainy, windy day. Hope this weather is not crossing the Atlantic to add to British woes.

It was supposed to get warm, but I don't think it every really did.

Needless to say, no horse activity today. I locked Tucker back in his pen/stall as the mud is coming back. Right now, there is just a super wet, slippery layer on top of the still frozen lower strata, but the sun and warmer temps on the weekend will make that deep sticky stuff.

I cleaned the little drainage ditches out of the arena again, so the water should flow out of the areas where it can escape, but "Lake Follywood," the large mud puddle that settles in the east end is back with a vengeance. I have some fill to put in there if I can dig it out of the pile it's settled into, but that will have to wait for spring.

Spring. Didn't Caroline say, "Right around the corner?" Big corner, I fear. Big, wet, corner.

A word on cat licenses. One of the reasons behind them is to assure that all cats have their rabies shots. Public health and safety issue. My kitties never go outside so the rabies threat is really minimal, but I still keep them up to date. My horses get rabies shots too. We have had a few rabid animals in the area over the last few years.