Saturday, February 28, 2009

Chiropractor and Good Friends

Pretty Nice Day With a Storm on the Way

And missed opportunity to ride, I suppose. But again it would have just been for today as there is a winter storm coming in tomorrow. I'm not keen on riding after I have been to the chiropractor anyhow, but even that is not a legitimate excuse. I simply did not feel like bothering. I think the winter has worn me down.

But that's OK. I told myself several months ago that I was not going to try to keep the Boys in training this winter. They do not seem to be worrying about it. When I went out to feed dinner they were out in the pasture nibbling whatever little slivers of grass are left there. And Tucker was a bit damp under his sheet so I'm guessing he was exercising himself. There is a lot of play going on out there. This morning it was Toby and Tucker. Other times, it's Chance and Tucker.

And, oh, yes, the blue plastic barrel that was in the arena is now out in that pasture. I don't think it blew there.

I met my good friends Shelley and George for and early lunch and we spent some good quality time together. We used to run the community theatre out of the school together, so we are very close buddies with a great deal in common. It was a great way to spend the early afternoon.

We too discussed the cell phones as Shelley is now an administrator in a North Jersey school system. They are very academically oriented up there and have all the same kinds of problems we do in our more "career" oriented school. Kids don't do their homework and yes, the cell phones keep cropping up.

To answer Claire, cell phones (mobile phones) are not allowed in our school either, but that does not stop the kids. Someone the other day said that kids think this way, "It's not wrong if you don't get caught." So if they can get away with it, they will and they have no real grounding in the concept that it's wrong to break the rules.

Which worries me for the State testing this coming week. The State is very strict about rules including a ban on cell phones and any kind of electronic devices. In the past we have had kids lose their tests because of phones in the testing room, despite all our efforts to collect them before the test and very strict warnings. I have had two violations in my testing room over the years--one when I was not in charge, but still. I honestly do not think these students comprehend the seriousness of these rules.

You know, I think my horses follow the rules better. Of course, they don't use cell phones, but they do grasp the meaning of "NO."

Not Quite My Day

Not Quite a Headache, But Close

I was on the verge of a headache all day. I tried to get a chiropractor appointment during the day with no luck as he was booked. But I have an appointment for Saturday, so it's OK. Add that to the threatening weather front coming in and again, I did not work the Boys.

But, I have resolved myself to laying them off for the winter anyhow. Riding a day or so and then being stopped by the weather for a week off and on does nothing to advance training that depends on having a fit, conditioned horse. Tucker has all his basics, so the kind of work he needs now demands fitness or I risk sore hocks, stifle issues, and muscle soreness.

I could be riding Chance, of course, as we are still establishing the basics, but sometimes it's just not worth the effort of saddling up for 10-15 minutes of riding on another unfit horse. That is why the hacking out is a nice option as it does not put a lot of physical stress on them.

But I didn't hack out either as the weather forecast was full of warnings of heavy winds. I have no idea if they ever rolled in or not as I lay down for a while shortly after I fed the Boys and fell asleep with hot packs all around my sore neck.

School, with a hint of a headache, was a bit more frustrating than usual today. Mostly because yesterday ended badly with a "cell phone" incident and today started off with almost a repeat. School rules prohibit students from using cell phones, Ipods, etc. during the school day--particularly in classes. Every day, I have to warn at least one student. I have been kinder this year than in the past in that I give a warning, sometimes even two, before I confiscate the phone. Thursday, I finally took a phone away from a student who persisted after two warnings. I took the phone to the vice-principal for him to hold. At the end of the day, I was paged to the main office, where the semi-hysterical, rude student started yelling at me about her phone. I calmly told her the VP had it, she insisted he didn't and she'd missed her bus because of me, and where was her phone, etc. She told me to walk down to the VP's office to get the phone, but I called him on the office phone instead and reminded him of the fact that I'd given him the cell in an envelope and he'd put it in his file cabinet. Once he remembered, he said it was her fourth offense anyhow so she couldn't get the phone back until her parents came in. I sent hysterical student back down to him to deal with it.

Friday morning, hysterical student was in my homeroom with either her cell phone or iPod on AGAIN. I took a deep breath and warned her, but then I had to keep an eye on her all period to make sure she didn't take it out again. This was repeated in my last period class with another student.

The fact is, the kids lie right to my face. I will tell them to put the device away, they apologize and then seconds later the phone is back on. They text message now, and believe it or not, I have actually had two kids in the same room texting to each other during class. (Not swapping answers on a test or anything, but just chatting.)

No more Ms. Nice Guy. I am issuing a warning on Monday morning. I will no longer warn students to put the devices away. If I see a cell phone or Ipod out the first time, I will confiscate it. Don't even let me see it on your desk. Don't even let me THINK you are using it. I am tired of wasting my time watching kids all period to make sure they are not texting. I am tired of hearing music coming through earphones at the other end of the room, I am tired of repeatedly being lied to, and I am tired of having my class come in second to a phone message.

The trouble is, in this age of instant electronic gratification, people in general seem to believe they absolutely NEED to be on the phone wherever and whenever they want to. I hear cell phones ring in church, in the theater, and, oh yes, one of my favorites in the supermarket. People are out shopping yakking away on their cell phones to the point where--if you don't see the phone--you think they are raving lunatics talking to themselves. They drive their cars all over the road at erratic speeds because they are on the cell phone. They answer phone calls during important meetings. And, if you are in what seems to be a good solid personal coversationg with them, they will turn away from you, rather rudely I fear, and talk to someone else on the cell phone as if you have become invisible.

I rant. But unless I am in an office setting or a place where phone calls are an expected and necessary interruption, I am no longer going to be a party to this farce. Ignore me because your cell rings and I'll just walk away. I won't wait for you to finish your converstation with THEM so I can finish MY conversation with YOU. If they have priority, you talk to them. I don't have the time to waste standing there trying to be polite, trying not to listen in, feeling horribly awkward and totally insignificant in your life. (It's one thing if you excuse yourself and tell me it's an important call you've been waiting for, but otherwise...."Bye bye.")

And in class? Don't even think of interrupting with a call on your cell. It's gone or your're gone. I'm done with it.

Rant over.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Little Bits of Spring

The Crocuses Are Up
The crocus are blooming by my front porch. I meant to take a picture in the daylight when they were open and wide awake, but I forgot. So you will just have to settle for a picture of them all bundled up for the night.

I was surprised to see them the other day as it hasn't been warm for too many days. I guess, like shedding horses, their blooms are as much triggered by the length of days and sunshine on the cold ground as anything. Rain is on the way again tomorrow, but if I get the chance I will go looking for more. They are scattered about my property, probably as a result of those clever squirrels who seem to be able to find all kinds of buried treasures to rebury somewhere else.

That being said, I did not ride or anything today. I stayed a bit too long after school talking first to the drama teacher and then to the Superintendent of Schools, who happened to see me in the hall. She and I actually started our teaching careers together, so we had some stories to swap and a good conversational relationship. It is a little amusing to me because when I was in the office earlier and she popped in, everyone stiffened to alert and one secretary called the Principal who was elsewhere to warn him. Her very presence strikes nearly everyone with awe--big boss effect and all that. While I certainly respect her as my supervisor, I still remember her as a young teacher struggling along as I did, so I'm quite comfortable in her presence.

When I got home, the first observation was my garbage can rack. To my delight, the garbage and recyclables had been picked up. Score one. To my disgust, the paper recycling bin was lying in the middle of my driveway, partially blocking my way in. Score minus one. However, the yellow recycling can was upside down in the rack. Score back to one. The garbage can was standing upright in the rack. Score only one half on this. When I had called the Township Public Works office to complain about my damaged bins months ago, the woman assured me the trash collectors ALWAYS put the cans and bins back where they found them, upside down. Blue bin not back in rack and garbage can not upside down. I know I am being picky, but I hate being assured of one thing by the local government only to repeatedly discover that it's largely untrue--which probably explains why my cans and bins have ended up smashed on the road so many times. Ah well, I guess we almost had 2/3 success.

Chance came out to "help" me as I was poo picking the riding arena tonight. As I was late, I fed the Boys and then decided to spend the last little bit of daylight doing some chores. Chance's idea of assistance involves lifting the handle of the handle only. Anyone who has ever used a one wheeled barrow knows the consequence of that. Tipover!! Luckily, I caught him in the act and stopped him--more than once from spilling all the manure I'd picked up back out all over the arena. He is very persistent, and does not shoo away easily. Again, he is so full of self-confidence he simply does not feel the need to run when I wave my hands at him. While his totally non-spooky nature is endearing, at times it does have a downside. Fortunately, he does seem to understand the word, "N0!" at least for a minute or so. *G*

Actually, Tucker and Toby are not much easier to shoo away. Apparently, they find my frantic efforts to chase them off when I don't want them around to be rather entertaining. Kind of sad to think watching a human flapping her arms is the highlight of their day, but who am I to judge a horse's entertainment tastes? I did notice the horse play ball was back inside the arena. The last time I saw it it was in the paddock. I hope I can get some photographic evidence of its mode of travel one of these days. I have a feeling it's Chance's mouth.

Someday, when I have the time, I am going to set up a little spy station and just sit out there all day to watch the Boys to see just how they spend the day. Don't know how long I'll last watching, but sooner or later I ought to see something worth my time.

And maybe I'll figure out some of the rules of "how to knock down the fence."

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

And It Was Sunny

However....Ash Wednesday and To Church for Choir

I still did not ride, nor did I work a horse. When I came home my hay guy was here delivering my hay. I fed the Boys, talked to him a bit about some chores I have around here that need doing, and then started gathering up the recylcables and trash.

This all needed to carted down to the road and stacked in the new wooden can rack my friend Bill brought me. I have been losing garbage cans to the wind and traffic all winter and have only one good recycling can left to use. My trash can is trashed, but still able to hold the garbage bags, so it's out there. The blue paper recyling bin is totally cracked but can hold up for a few more pickups. Now the question is whether or not the trash collection trucks will recognize that my cans are now set out in the rack instead of standing free along the road. It's 50/50 right not whether or not my stuff will be picked up tomorrow morning, and another 50/50 if it is whether or not the empty bins will be put back in the rack so they do not blow all over the road and get even more smashed by passing cars and trucks.

Stay tuned. It will be an interesting story.

A local horse rescuer sent and email out today with pictures from an area horse auction. It was heartbreaking to see some really nice horses going to slaughter. Here in the US, there is ample evidence that slaughterhouses are a cruel an inhumane way to end a horse's life. Despite legislation to change this and efforts of many animal activists, unwanted horses--some of which are still fine riding horses--routinely end up in kill buyers' trucks headed for a miserable end.

I am always deeply upset by these stories, but right now, there is nothing I can do to help. I have no room here and certainly not enough money to take on rescues of my own. Chance and Toby are both from a horse rescue and either one could well have ended up badly if they had not been saved.

When I came home to feed them, I was especially appreciative of the fact that I know they are safe, comfortable, well-fed, and, from all appearances content. What a blessing it is to have them here with me.

If ever I can find the way, I will save some of those horses. I understand all the reasons they end up at auction, and have some sympathy for their owners who might well have been forced to sell. But I, for one, would euthanize my horse before letting it go to a slaughterhouse. It would be a far kinder end.

I hate the circumstances that force people to throw their horses away. I hate knowing any animal has been thrown away.

We are the caretakers of this world. And all creatures, great and small, are a part of this world. I wish everyone could remember that.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Thinking About Tomorrow

And Tomorrow There'll Be Sun

To sing the song from "Annie," of course is optimistic, but it is supposed to warm up tomorrow. The only problem is that it is Ash Wednesday and I need to go to church to sing for the service at night. That leaves me a tight window after I get home from school.

Thinking about tomorrow also brings me to where I was tonight after school--at a retirement party for one of my fellow English teachers who will be leaving this week. I made me put things into perspective enough to get started on filing my papers for my own retirement at the end of the year. I think I am actually going to take the leap and do it. Money will be for the short term just a little tricky, but I'm pretty sure I have it under control.

I have been teaching for 38 years--same school, same job. I think it may well be time to go.

The thought of having all the time I could ever want to do whatever I want is really appealing. And, gee, I might even start writing that book I talked about yesterday.

The Boys are so cute when I come home. I pull into the drive near the paddocks, get out of the car to collect the mail, and sure enough, Chance and Tucker come over to visit. It's just kind of a "Hi!' from them but how nice to be noticed. Of course, it could have something to do with the fact that I feed them as soon as I come home, but I'd like to think they're happy to see me without gastric motivation.

C'mon...I'd like to think it. Don't spoil it for me. *G*

Anyhow, when I go to the barn my first chore is to put hay in the stalls. If I leave the gate that leads into the barn's center aisle open on Toby's stall, he will go into the barn, and come over to the feed room door to "snoopervise" my dishing out the grain. Then he follows me back to his stall while Tucker stands in Chance's stall--across the aisle from his stall--doing his Spanish dance (kind of pawing and stretching with his front legs) until I open both stall gates to let him in his own stall to eat. Chance then moves in to his feed tub and everyone is happy munching away.

It's a cute little routine we all enjoy. The Boys get to express themselves a little and I get that special pleasure of making them happy.

Are there very many sights and sounds better than horses eating their hay and grain? It just makes me feel so good to know they are well fed and content.

It's another one of those things people who don't have horses could never quite understand.

Just the other day at school, I was fretting a bit because I was low on hay and I thought I wasn't going to have time to stock up until the end of the week. (The hay story ran yesterday.) The school nurse made some remark about how I was stressing again and hadn't the same thing happened a few months ago?

Now, the fact is, every time either my hay or grain starts to get low, I start to plan my week to be sure I will be all stocked up before I run out. Several months ago, the feed store I have been using had none of my grain in stock and I could not find out if they had ordered it so I could pick it up on the weekend. I had just enough to last me to the weekend, but not beyond, so I was really worried and started calling feed stores out of my area to check on their stock. A store closer to my friend Stacie had the feed, but that left me trying to figure out how I was going to get there to buy enough to hold me over. Since I made several phone calls from school, the nurse had overheard some of my concerns and tried to offer some helpful suggestions.

But it's back to the non-horseman in the mix again. There was just no way she could ever quite understand the enormity of the crisis--running out of feed--nor why I was starting to panic about just how to solve the problem. Fortunately, my friend Stacie is a horseman, and since she was coming up to ride Toby that weekend, she solved the issue by stopping by the store for me and picking up some bags of the feed I needed. Then, my feed store came through and I managed to stock up....until the next time. *sigh*

Years and years ago, when I had Russell R. boarded at a private place run by non-horsemen, I arrived just in time to find the son trudging to the barn with a basket of sweet corn to feed the horses. They had run out of proper grain and he was going to subsitute. Sweet corn???? My arrival was a lucky stroke for sure. I stopped him, used some grain I had stored in my horse trailer for traveling and probably saved us all from colic.

Ah, the good old days. More topics to explain to those who just don't "know" horses.

You have to admit, ours is a curious world. And to think, after at least 45 years of working with horses I still have so much to learn.

The Blessings of An Indoor

Ah, How I Remember

I had in indoor arena and two places where I boarded in my 30+ years of boarding my horses out. Most of the time I rode outside anyhow, even in the dark as I always like to think of riding as an outdoor sport. But times like this, the indoor is a true blessing. In general, you have no worries when it rains or snows (provided you can get to the barn at all) and even the ice is not too much of a deterrent.

Well, I do qualify that by the year we had a bad ice storm and it was impossible to walk a horse even one step out of the barn without a real danger of his falling. That year the indoor had just gotten new sand footing and there was plenty of extra piled in the front corner. With the owner's permission, I carted manure tub after manure tub out to the area surrouding the indoor to make a path back up to the barn--perhaps 250' or more feet away--so I could walk my Boys down to let them get some exercise in the indoor. I recall being a little resentful when, after hours of hard labor, one of the other boarders showed up, carried perhaps one tub of sand and then asked me to bring my horses back in after only an hour or so so that she could put her horse out to stretch her legs. But, that's the deal when you board out--you have to share.

I have no indoor here at home. My plot of land is too small and I certainly don't have the money to put one up. If I ever win the lottery, well, it would be a high priority extra purchase after all my other significant bills were paid, but for now, I will have to make do with a sandy outdoor and arena lights for nighttime riding. I would, if I could finance it--which again I can't--upgrade my footing with a good rubber base. I've ridden in rubber/sand arenas and the footing is really nice. As well, the rubber does not freeze as quickly as plain sand, so you have better chances of riding in winter.

Meantime, I just cope. Which means I did not ride today. Not only was it cold, but the winds have whipped up again. Instead, I went over to the sandpit next door to pick up a few bales of hay to tide me over until I can get a delivery. I was worried because the weather forecast is deteriorating for later in the week and I have no idea when the young man who delivers will be able to come over. Either way, I am now comfortably set until he gets here.

Having read some of the other blogs (Apologies to Linda and Arlene. The word verification feature does not seem to be working on your blogs--at least from here--so I was unable to post a comment today. I feel bad as I wanted you to know I am reading and was trying to offer you feedback and support.) I realize how close we all really are in this experience of owning horses. The love we have for our companions and the difficulties we share at times in training and caring for them create a bond among us not many on "the outside" can ever understand. We also have our own unique language few people "out there" can comprehend.

It's kind of funny at times. Did you ever try to explain "on the bit" to a non-horseman, or attempt to explain why colic (when they think of human babies) is such a frightening word to horsemen? When someone asks about what kind of riding you do, does "dressage" easily slip from your tongue? And then, when they give you a blank stare, can you effectively describe why riding around a rectangle with letters in it makes sense and is actually quite and exciting and challenging sport? I love trying to explain why nailing a horseshoe on doesn't cause the horse pain and why we have to "float" their teeth regularly. Of course there is the favorite, "Does your horse sleep standing up?" and "Do you race him?" We talk about "frogs" and "withers" while they picture swamps and dried up leaves.

Maybe I need to think about a mass market book, "Horse Talk for Dummies" or, not to sound insulting, "Horse Talk for the Rest of You." I doubt it would be a bestseller among the masses, but perhaps a few horsemen would buy it just so they could go out into the equine deprived world and have a hope of conducting a normal conversation.

With that, I think I'll go to bed. I fell asleep on the couch again--it's after 2 AM--and I fed the Boys their late snack which woke me back up--all that "bracing winter air." And I'm not sure writing this blog helped much to get me back into "sleep mode." Think I need a few games of Free Cell..........

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Rain, Rain Came To Stay

I Cannot Go Out To Play
Well, I might if I wanted to get wet. Intermittent showers of cold rain keep falling more on than off. It wasn't bad when I left for church this morning, but I had no chance to ride then. On the way home it was drizzling and I decided to to to lunch with my choir friends. By the time we were done eating, it had started the more persistent showers. I dropped my my director's house to pick up a copy of the duet I will be singing on Maunday Thursday, and just got home to some pretty wet conditions.

We've fallen into a weather pattern I'm not to keen with. Wet, then windy. Then maybe one good dry day--if the wind stops, then wet again. The latter part of the week looks particularly soggy. The elder two Boys are back in their waterproof winter rugs while Chance is in a lined Rambo medium weight sheet. Considering that the rain is threatening to change to snow means they are "dressed well."

Meantime, I came into a "starting to get cold" house. The heating guys were here all day Monday cleaning my oil burner. Yesterday, I came home to cold. There was water in the boiler, so when I couldn't get it to switch on, I called for service. Then I went down to the basement and decided as a last option to put some water in. Sure enough the heat came on. The service guy, on the phone, told me to put more water in. I did. It was fine all night, but now I came home again to no heat. The level of water was where it was yesterday when the burner shut off. So I added more water. Again the heat came on. But something is amiss. I should not be using all that water. The only thing I can think of is that the water is not draining back into the burner after the radiators heat up and let out their steam??? I don't see any sign of floods down there, nor any sign of leakage, so I can't figure out where the water is going, nor why the burner shuts off when it still has water in it. I'm calling again to get on the service list for Monday. *sigh*

Addendum: Service guy called. He will be here tomorrow. The water may be surging because when they cleaned the burner they took out all the old sludge and stuff. So it might need more water drained. Not sure what that means, but hopefully they can fix it easily.

The Boys are really eating up their hay. I am nearly ready for a new delivery. If I have to, I can go over and pick up 8 bales in my car, or even take two trips for 16 bales to hold me over until the young man who delivers can get to me. I don't want to be worrying about next weekend and the weather looks to be pretty wet.

My friends on other blogs are complaining about the "endless" winter too. Honestly, since I brought the horses home some ten years ago, I have not had a winter with so little good riding. Normally, I'd be able to keep my horses in at least light work. Either this winter is particularly bad, or I have just gotten too old to tolerate the kind of weather I used to ride in. The trouble is, though, the bad footing.

Today, I might have gotten some riding in. I would have had to dress in raingear, just in case, but then horses and tack would be wet and when it's cold like this, I'm not too keen on that. Still there were some breaks in the rain which years ago, I would have taken advantage of.

Guess I am getting too old to deal with it. No wonder I need to retire. *G*

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Nice Day

Chilly, Then Warmer

I kind of relaxed for most of the day, wearing off the travails of the week at school. Then I did some shopping, in particular to get some apples for the Boys.

When I got home it had warmed up to a reasonable temperature--just above freezing. I headed out to the barn to lunge Tucker.

It's kind of hard figuring out what to do in the winter. As I've said before, there's no point in trying to keep my horses fit, and they can't do the hard dressage work unless they are fit, so I try to mix up the exercise program, just to keep a little muscle on and to develop a good attitude about working.

Tuck was nice and fresh but totally obedient on the left rein. He was instant to my commands for all three gaits. Then, though, I started to get a little silly, which was just fine as he was forward the whole time, even when he was airborne. When I switched to the right hand, he trotted off nicely enough, and then decided the canter was much more fun. Again, he was nice and forward, so it was all just fine.

I'd set up a small jump, right around 2', and so I set him at it. Wow! He jumped athletically, boldly, but at the same time, carefully. What I love is that he adjusts himself naturally for the takeoff and balances up on to his hind end so he gets a really good lift off. He cleared the rail by a good extra foot and kept his composure all the way around the circle.

When the lunge line caught on the rail one time he did get a little silly again, probably not too happy to have the line tighten and then drag the rail behind him, but he settled right back for me.

Watching him, I am again fairly well convinced he would make a super over fences horse. He seems to have a good confident attitude about jumping and doesn't lose his head or rush into the jump just to get over it. Instead he places himself well and uses just enough energy to get over cleanly.

However, the bulk of my jumping days are over. I've evented, done the hunters through Amateur Owner, and competed in a good number of jumper classes in my day. But my knees and nerve just aren't in it any more. I'll play around with Tucker because it's a good way to help build up a dressage horse and it offers some good mental stimulation, but I'm not likely to compete.

I didn't work anyone else as I decided to poo pick before the snow/rain or whatever happens to fall according to the forecast for tomorrow.

All in all, it was a nice day. Just the kind of low key Saturday I like.

More Wind

Is It March Already?

If I had a kite, it would have gone into space orbit. Whatever is bringing the winds...please go away. These are more like the fabled winds of March.

And, oh yeah, I didn't ride. I would have been blown out of the saddle.

Reminiscing about how sweet Russell R. kept me sane for so many years makes me think of how wonderful horses my horses really are. Twelve hundred pounds of muscle and bone is ready, willing and able to respond to my request with hardly an argument.

But, of course, it's up to me to make sure my requests are clear and fair. I can recall once at a stable where I boarded, how I had to move PJ out of the way so another boarder could pass by with her horse. Without thinking, I gave PJ a tap with my whip to get him to move. He did, but he gave me a look that chilled me to the bone, letting me know that the whip was an insult and I had stepped over the line. All I should have done was touch him with my hand. I apologized profusely, and, he, as horses will, accepted.

When I feed and have to close the gate to Toby's stall, if his hind end is in the way, I simply say, "Excuse me," and Toby moves out of the way. He is the good prince.

Tucker is not so gracious. He has an arrogant attitude, kind of like an uppity prince who thinks the world owes him a living. He will move, but it might be with a cocked hind leg or a flipped back ear, warning me that he is big enough to disobey should he so choose. While he never has actually followed through on a threat, I do not completely trust him, so I take a much more direct approach, such as, "If you kick me, you'll lose that leg." *G*

Chance as no evil intent whatsoever, but he is more like a big cuddly puppy who just gets in the way because he's busy doing whatever it is he's doing. He's not disrespectful, just involved in his own life so that he doesn't always notice my requests. I don't like to push him around too much because when he does react, he might overreact. With him, the key is quiet patience.

I've never met a really bad horse, but I have met dozens without any manners at all. I've held horses for people at shows and been walked all over. I once helped a friend show her youngsters and struggled with a totally unmannerly yearling old for about an hour while she was in the ring showing her other horse. I worked with him all that time, teaching him to stand, back off, and respond to my aids. When my friend rushed out to collect him for the next class, she was all flustered. "I didn't get a chance to get him ready," she said.

"He's ready, " I said. She still was all upset even though I assured her the horse was prepared for the class.

She took him in before the judge and his manners were impeccable. The other young horses were bouncing around while he stood, waiting for her commands. Then, he trotted perfectly on the line and ended up winning the class. When she came out, she said, "What did you do to him?"

"I just taught him some manners," I replied. "I told you he was ready." She wanted me to go to all the shows with her after that, but I had no interest in playing groom, and I had my own horse to show.

By and large, our horses want us to be their leaders (except perhaps Tucker who is still trying to negotiate with me) and will respect us if we treat them with consistancy and fairness. We need to make our requests clear and try gentleness first. Sometimes we may need to be strong with corrections, especially if their behavior is dangerous to either one of us, but a good firm hand is more often better than a harsh one.

H-m-m-m-m-m, maybe the same techniques would help some parents I know with their children.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Nasty Wind

And Cold To Boot And How a Horse Kept My Job

The morning was lovely. Dry and fairly warm. I dressed the Boys in sheets. By afternoon, I was sorry I had not left their winter blankets on. The wind had picked up and the temperature had dropped because of it.

They were fine when I got home, sheltering in the barn or, Chance, eating hay in the paddock. I put the lighter weight winter blankets back on Tuck and Toby even though they were still a bit damp from the rain yesterday. I figured the wind and body heat would finish drying them I will check shortly at late feed to make sure everyone is warm enough as it has gotten colder still now that it's dark.

Back to the school saga. I do appreciate all your comments. The insubordinate student who lost his temper and called me foul names--terms not at all suitable for publication--was suspended from school today. Unfortunately, having taught in our school for so long--38 years--I was not all that surprised to find him in class yesterday. While I certainly deserve an apology from him, I doubt I will ever get one. The best I can hope for is that he will hold his tongue next time and try to learn a little in my class. I am not sure what his father will do to him in the meantime.

I do not have discipline problems in my classes and haven't had for years, even with the most difficult classes. The first year I taught, the principal, who had no use for women teachers, gave me the two worst classes in the building. I was all of 22 years old, and some of the kids were 19. Welders, Claire, who had established a reputation for driving teachers out of the profession. The last English teacher--a woman--had been driven from the building and the job in tears. I am sure the principal figured he'd get rid of me the same way.

But I had a secret weapon. Russell R., my first horse, a big Thoroughbred with a mind of his own and a heart as big as the world. I had bought him with money I had saved from the time I was ten years old and I had been forced to wait until I had graduated from college (university) and gotten a job so I could support a horse.

So, weapon one was a powerful motivation to keep my job no matter what. The job meant a horse, and that was all I wanted in my life.

Weapon two was Russell himself. He was intelligent, beautiful (proven by the more than 150 championship/reserver championships he won in the show arena) and one of those horses you bond with, heart, soul and mind. When the dreadful welders drove me to distraction, I would go to the barn, bury my head in Russell's neck and let the tears and frustration drain away. And he, like a good medicine horse, would heal me for the next effort.

Weapon three was Russell's 16.1 hands of muscle and size. Handling him and having handled horses for some 10 years before I got him, made me completely immune to being intimidated by 19 year old, six foot tall, two hundred pound teenage boys who liked to think of themselves as tough. They were like mini-ponies to me. I am just about 5'7" and rather slight of build, but I don't think the student were quite sure about me. I don't think I ever gave them even a hint that I saw them as bigger and stronger than I was. I think working with horses gives a woman an air of strength and self-confidence people can find hard to handle.

In the job interview, the same principal, tested me by stepping up to me and adopting a challenging posture as he asked, "And just what would you do if a big student came up to you like this and said he wasn't going to do what you told him to?"

Well, the principal was about 1000 pounds smaller than most of the horses I'd been working with, so I simply stood my ground, shrugged my shoulders and said, "I guess I'd just have to decide what to do when it happened."

My casual, totally unfazed reaction caught him off guard and he had to admit that just maybe I could handle the job.

Well, I did. By the end of the year, the worst kids in the building were actually doing some work in my class and some of them had actually learned how to write a decent paper. We'd made a lot of compromises along the way, but the key was that my job was to teach them and their job was to try to learn. I can still remember one of them coming up to me near the end of the year. Putting his arm around my shoulder he said, "Well, Ms. Dvorak, you made it through us, you're going to do just fine here."

I had a few other notorious classes after than--none quite so--uhm--creative at driving teachers crazy, but difficult nonetheless. I've developed quite a skill at handling a class since.

The frustration at the kids today is their total lack of understanding about the basics of school. They have no skills at participating in a class discussion without interrupting each other or simply not paying attention. They have no idea how to take notes. They don't listen to directions. They do not do their homework. They are not bad kids, they just have no self-discipline or study habits. It's sad, actually. They do not know how to learn.

I know by the end of the year, I will have managed to help most of them, but the effort is wearing me out. Very few of these students are rude, (like the young man who called me names) but they simply do not know how to behave and seem endlessly surprised and apologetic when I tell them for the 100th time to stop talking and pay attention, or suggest perhaps it might be a good idea to take out a notebook and pen to jot down a few ideas. Or maybe when I am showing them a film it might be a good idea to watch it instead of making origami boxes. Or that perhaps class time is not a good moment to text message on a cell phone or listen to music on an Ipod. (Using either in class is against school rules, but today a girl in my last period class asked to go to the vice principal's office to get her phone back after it had been taken away--again. She said if it happened again her Dad was going to take the phone away. I asked her why she kept using in in class. The reply, "Well there are these people I need to talk to.")

OK. I guess I'm old fashioned. I think when my class is in session, it's the most important thing in the world for my students and me. There should be no interruptions and all of us should be involved and concentrating on whatever I'm teaching.

Bit of a dinosaur, don't you think?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Weather As Forecast

So It Rained/Snowed, Whatever

Just as forecast it was snowing at the end of the school day, but that quickly changed to a wet, cold rain. Not heavy, fortunately, but enough to dampen my spirits.

The Boys were dressed in lightweight blankets--not waterproof--but dry anyhow because the precipitation was not enough to soak through. Still, I had to change blankets and put them in their waterproof lightweight winter ones. I'll leave them on for tomorrow as it's supposed to rain/shower in the morning, then clear, get nice but then get windy again. Guess it will dry things out again, which is good.

I spent the evening after I fed the Boys unloading the grain I'd bought last week. I'd left it in the truck since I still had plenty in the barn, but when I opened the last bag this morning, I figured it was time to restock. I'll need to go get some alfalfa cubes on the weekend, but otherwise we are "food fine" for a good while again. I will need a load of hay too, but that can wait out the week.

I suppose one disadvantage about keeping the horses at home is having to worry about the food stocks yourself instead of depending on someone else to do it. It does require some planning and management, but after a few months it gets pretty easy to figure out. On the other hand, the absolute benefits of being in complete control of how much your horse eats and when he eats is a big bonus. And when you know the Boys are all tucked in with hay, grain, water, and shelter it offers a tremendous peace of mind.

The school story goes this way. The note in my box telling me to call father was from VP #1. I went to check with VP #2 who assured me had had taken care of it. The student was suspended for 2 days and he had called his father.

Still, the kid was in my class today. We had a bit of an issue as he kept talking to the student next to him and challenged me when I asked him to be quiet. As he was not the only one talking in class he resented my saying something to him, then said, "Is it because I am sitting right next to you?" Yes. And it wasn't as if I hadn't said thing to the other kids anyhow. This class simply has no self-control. I can easily get them quiet and then seconds later, they start talking to each other again. My first period (9th grade, first year of high school) is even worse, except the are noisier. My solution is to just talk even more softly myself. Then they start telling each other to be quiet so they can hear what I have to say.

Frankly, the students have changed recently and have much less self-discipline. I really don't have too much trouble with them but some of their other teachers are really frustrated. I have a theory they are the product of over-indulgent parents traumatized by 9/11 into thinking their children are too precious to correct. Or else it's bad drinking water. Or else it's all the testing.

Frankly, I think a few of these children do need to be left behind so they can take a few extra years to grow up.

But I must admit, even the talkers are enjoying class. We are reading "A Midsummer Night's Dream," out loud in class. Teaching Shakespeare is an endless fascination for me. I've had even the toughest kids totally involved. Just goes to show that great literature has a power unmatched by the common word.

I was the first English teacher to ever teach a Shakespeare play in our vocational school. I can still remember the principal we had then looking at me over his glasses and saying, "You can't teach Shakespeare to welders." Well, I did, and they loved it. And I've been teaching Shakespeare ever since.

And it is part of the regular curriculum too.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Great Chair Mystery

And Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

Today I shall answer the deeper mysteries of the world. The trouble is, around here, nearly every time a chicken does cross the road, it gets hit by a car. I was really upset to see one of my neighbor's guinea hens get killed in front of my house as I'd grown quite fond of the noisy critter. That aside, it is definitely not a chicken crossing area, so each trip becomes a potential suicide mission and a case of fowl play. (sorry about that)

The chair in the woods, as Claire noted, should be a anomaly, and would be in an ordinary world. But my woods are extraordinary and occasionally inhabited by all sorts of strange adventurers who, upon occasion, seem to feel the need to sit down. I suspect it was carried in by a deer hunter or other hunter who wanted a place to lie (or sit) in wait for some unsuspecting game animal to wander by. Or, it might have been left by a fisherman who decided to leave it hidden on the ridge for the next bout of bass fishing. Or...well, one can imagine all sorts of similar options. Fact it, the folk who visit the area are not always the most environmentally conscious individuals on the planet. I passed a discarded paper coffee cup as well and saw a plastic drink bottle too. Fortunately, neither of them were big enough to scare my horse. (Well, Toby did spook at a mouse on a log once--it moved!! But that's another story.) When I get the chance to walk out there horselessly, I will try to see if the chair was abandoned due to damage, in which case I will carry it home and give it a decent recycling "burial." If it's still good, then I would suspect someone left it with a purpose, so I will, for the time being, simply move it out of horse eye range so I don't have to crash down the hill through the briars again on my next ride along the ridge.

I ramble. That's because I didn't ride today. I had the energy and the will, but I made the mistake of coming in to watch stage 3 of the Tour of California bike race and got totally absorbed. (Anyone who has followed my blog in July knows I get addicted to the Tour de France and since Lance Armstrong is back in the racing game, I'm now stuck with the other races as well.)

As I'd stopped at the supermarket on the way home, the Boys were quite pleased to be fed instead of ridden anyhow. I'd measured the hay well this morning as they still had some to munch on and it will hold them until late feed when I'll give them more.

My day at school was not the best. First, I found out that I will be an administrator and not simply a proctor for the state mandated High School Proficiency Assessment which means carrying the tests and signing all kinds of papers testifying that I have not done anything in the least questionable in my top secret position of maintaining test security. This is all part of former President Bush's "No Child Left Behind" effort which has, to my mind, totally destroyed the integrity of education replacing it with hundreds of teachers "teaching to the test" instead of teaching kids.

Then, during one of my afternoon classes, I was called several rather insulting names by a student who wanted me to stop class to explain to him why the fact that he didn't have his required worksheets in class deserved a zero for the day. His language was rather colorful, so after I sent him from the room, I made note of his exact words so I could write up and office referral. I turned that in to the two vice-principals shortly thereafter. When I checked my mailbox at the end of the day, I found one copy of the referral back in my box with a note to "call his father," with three phone numbers. Uhm, I thought the general idea of a referral to the administration was an indication that the problem had escalated beyond my capacity to deal with it. Interesting how it ended up back up in my lap. I can just picture myself calling this student's father to tell him exactly what his son said to me. Rather awkward, if I do say so myself.

I think I might have to do something about this. Somehow we perhaps need to redefine just whose job all of this actually is.

I suppose I will regret not riding tonight as it's supposed to rain tomorrow. But the rest of the week looks good, as long as the footing holds up. With the arena well groomed, it should hold up well, though. And, if need be, I can always hack out in search of another chair.

It's one of the blessings of having a State Park in your back yard.


Monday, February 16, 2009

Steam Heat Woes

Glad I Was Home

I have steam heat in my house with old fashioned radiators. The heat is super, but I had a leak in the boiler a while ago and when I filled the boiler with water, it overfilled and then I had floods in some of the rooms upstairs from the radiators. I thought all was well, but at the end of last week, I had some more flooding. The pipes were clanking and clunking badly too.

I called my heating guys today, and they came out to find the boiler again apparently overfilled. The conclusion was that the valve on the water intake was faulty and water was leaking in, causing an overflow, which then caused water go build up in the radiators/pipes and cause the floods. The repair crew came today and spent a good part of the afternoon cleaning and replacing things. Hopefully all will be well and I will be able to afford the bill. *sigh*

I finally got out to the barn around 3 PM or so to see if I could ride. My hip area is still sore as if something is pulled and I wasn't at all sure I would be able to sit on a horse.

Well, I needn't have worried. It felt just fine once I was in the saddle. I gave Tucker a short but solid school with lots of transitions, then rode him long and low for a while before heading out for a hack. Just like Toby yesterday, he decided to take the longer route home along the ridge. He was absolutely an angel with only one "looky almost spook" at a chair stuck strangely in the woods. But otherwise, we had a lovely hack.

Then I saddled up Chance and schooled him in the arena for a little while. I gave him a fairly long canter session on each lead. His right lead is rushed as I guess he still needs to find his balance, but the left lead was nice and relaxed. His trot work was well forward and working towards the bit, although we still have a lot of work to do, and his walk was steady. I took him out into the woods afterwards and he was relaxed to the point of being lazy. I took the same path as Tucker had taken in the reverse direction and ran into a more serious spook at the same chair (it is white plastic.) To avoid it all I headed down the hill to the lower trail and ran into more trouble with a section of frozen and not so frozen water-filled ruts blocking our way. Try as I might could not persuade Chance to walk through what looked to be a drier section because as he stepped, the ice/mud was making cracking noises. I don't know if it was one of those "Black Beauty" moments when it really wasn't safe to cross, but I finally found another way around instead of battling it out.

I'll only push my horses to go where they don't want to go if I am sure it's safe. Otherwise all I will do is undermine their trust in me as a rider. It's my job not to make them take any chances to risk our safety. (I am in total agreement with Caroline about that jump!!) In this case, I was pretty sure the ground was fine, but without dismounting to check I couldn't be sure. I don't know how that footing holds up this time of year either as it is generally pretty swampy kind of ground.

When we got back into the woods and reached a nice little stretch I asked for trot. Chance moved right out and then slid into some canter. There wasn't a lot of room to go, but he was easy to pull up and I was really happy to find him so forward. What a good kid.

Toby made it clear when I showed him the bridle that he had no interest in working so I let him have his way. He's earned a happy retirement with an occasional ride to keep him healthy and sound.

Back to school tomorrow. I'll just have to see how my energy level holds up for riding when I get home.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Lovely Ride on a Lovely Horse

And A Lovely Saddle

Had a bit of a headache this morning on the way to church. Took some Advil and felt OK, but not great. Came home to find out my saddle demo was postponed until tomorrow which is fine.

I lay down for a while with some heat packs which didn't help. So I finally got smart and sat with my neck in traction (I have a door hanging traction device) for five or ten minutes. With that and some more pain medication, I felt a lot better by late afternoon.

So I headed out to ride Toby in the Excel. He has the sharper wither now with his age and retirement so it was a good test. The saddle fit him beautifully without any extra padding. We went out on a nice hack and even after the saddle warmed up and molded into place, it still fit without any kind of pressure on his withers at all. In fact, when I gave him the option of which trail to take, he opted for the long way home up along the ridge near the back lake. We didn't try going around the lake as that was probably pretty muddy, but the upper trail was just fine as were all the tracks in the woods.

I did pull or stretch something in my hip joint, something I have done dozens of time before. It has nothing to do with the saddle but just the general stretching of riding, especially when I am not exactly in shape. This time, it did not "walk off" after I dismounted, so I decided not to ride anyone else.

Instead, I took the tractor and the drag and groomed the arena. The footing out there is just beautiful right now with enough dampness to keep down any dust and enough dryness so there is no mud at all and even "Lake Follywood" is dry--rather unusual for this time of year.

I hope to do the saddle demo tomorrow as I am off from school for President's Day (Washington's Birthday). I don't know about the time yet as I am waiting to hear from my client, but either way, I can get a school in. Even if it freezes tonight, the well-groomed arena will be rideable in the morning. And if it's later, even better.

What a joy to be outside with sunshine for a change. And what a joy to be outside until nearly 6 PM and still have light to see what I was doing! The days are growing longer now. It's the best sign of Spring.

That and shedding horses. Not quite yet, but soon. Nothing like horse hair in everything.

Oh, yes, had a cute Chance moment when I went out. There was Chance galloping around with the playball in his mouth. He was playing some kind of game with Tucker who was bouncing around in the same area. I guess I came upon the final period of the contest and, since Chance had the ball, I suspect he had won. It usually takes a while to figure out the rules of these competition without watching for a while, so I don't know how the scoring went. *lol* This is the first time I have ever seen one of my Boys actually playing with that toy although it certainly does have a habit of "moving" all around the paddocks. I'll have to keep my eyes open and the camera handy just in case they play again.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Day Two

And I Really Like the Saddle

I dropped my stirrups down two holes and it was much better. I am not exactly fit myself, so I wouldn't say we worked to maximum, but I did put in a pair of good rides.

Tucker was interesting. I worked him on the bit from the start, not demanding a really upper level frame, but definitely into the bit. He was rather strong, not a surprise, but his trot stayed nice and forward. However, when I asked for canter, I got the ears back, threaten to kick out effort. I snarled at him and he behaved himself. The left lead was nice and forward, but the right was a little crooked. I'd have to think perhaps either that hock is still a little issue, or he has some memory of it. I'll just see how things go. If he continues to protest, I guess I will have to invest in x-rays just to see what's going on.

Otherwise, I was really pleased with his overall trot work. And I did some shoulder-in, haunches-in, leg yield and half-pass which were all really good. Quite interesting as he did all the lateral work easily with complete understanding of what he was supposed to do. That's really cool as it proves he now has some real training under his girth.

I saddled up Chance for a bit of a school. Right from the start he was down and round and nice and forward. The only glitch in his opening work is his tendancy to cough a bit when he starts off. I don't know what that is all about. He doesn't do it all the time, but today, one of his big coughs caught me off guard and pulled me out of the saddle. (I blush. That should never happen. Shows how unfit I am.)

Chance definitely has the concept of reaching for the bit but he is still rather unsteady about it. He's kind of up and down, on and off, but never really quite up. And, the best part is that at the canter on both leads he generally stayed down without a lot of trouble. Again, it wasn't steady, but the gait was nice and forward, and it's well on the way to developing into some good work.

I did not ride Toby but hope to hack him out either tomorrow or Monday.

The saddle is well balanced and really does give me a good position.

Tomorrow, I do the saddle demo with a new client who has a lovely big Thoroughbred with a high wither. I will be very interested in seeing how the new saddle does and whether she likes it in comparison to the Carlton. (The used Ansur she was trialing.)

As I always say, we'll just have to see what tomorrow brings.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Winding Down

After an All Day Wait

The wind was still ripping this morning. And when my saddle came in the late morning, I didn't want to risk a ride.

I opened the box, made the suitable "ah's and ooh's" and left it on the IGallop for the bulk of the afternoon.
Then, just around feeding time, the winds eased off. So out saddle an I went to the barn to give it a try on Tucker. No problem with the fit, as Ansurs simply "fit." Please excuse Tucker's expression and overall scruffiness. I only gave him a quick groom and his mane really needs a pulling.
Then I went out to the arena for a short ride. Bless the wind for the footing is nearly perfect, although it could use a good grooming like my horse. I did not ask Tuck to really work into a frame as he hasn't had any work in weeks, but he was quite happy to walk, trot, and canter in a forward, relaxed way for me.
The saddle felt good. However, I am going to need to lengthen my leathers when I really start to work in it. It drops my leg right into the correct vertical position and my thigh needs to be able to stretch down. Interesting, as these were the somewhat dusty leathers I'd been using on my Classic, and they felt fine in that saddle. The Excel evidently really does give the rider a more "dressage" position, hence the need for longer leathers.
My ride was a bit too short to do a thorough evaluation of all the saddle's benefits, but so far, I really like it. I had the sense it is going to make my seat better and more towards correct than it has been.
I only took the pictures indoors with the flash in case Tucker was going to act silly outside, but I must admit, for not having been ridden in so long, he was quite settled, even with the remaining breezes. We just did some simple walk/trot/canter. Tuck felt nice and forward, especially in the sitting trot. I don't know if the saddle had anything to do with that, put perhaps putting my seat where it belongs was affecting him. Still, I will have to do some more serious work to see if that could be true. I was pleased to find absolutely no resistance on Tuck's part in the canter departs on both leads. That is a tremendous change since the sore hock incidents. While I was not asking him to really work off his hind end, his willingness to simply canter off an easy aid was super.
Now, if the ground stays good for a while, I will start some more regular schooling sessions again. But I don't want to get into that stop/start/stop start the legging up (getting him fit) winter tends to force. I will either have to just bring him to a minimal level of fitness I can maintain with the erratic schedule or keep to the idea of just continuing the winter layoff.
So far, the weather reports are hopeful. As usual, I'll just have to wait and see.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

One More Day

Into the Wind

Horribly windy today. When I went out to get something from my car during the day, a gust almost blew me over. However, it will dry up the last of the wet.

My Ansur should be here tomorrow--Friday, I hope.

Ansurs are totally treeless. I have been riding in an Ansur since 2000 and am not even sure I could ride in a treed saddle anymore.

I actually own 4 Ansurs already mostly because I am a distributor and need to have different models for clients to test. I do not have the western saddle--Muriel--but I have heard it is beautiful and a great ride for your horse. However, you cannot rope off it as without a tree there is really nothing for the rope to be braced against. I do know some barrel racers here in the US use treeless saddles and one girl who has a pretty impressive win record believes the treeless saddle allows her horse to be much more flexible in the turns.

The Elite is the new dressage model. The Classic and Carlton are more all-purpose/tendancy dressage, and the Konklusion is the eventing/cross country model. There is also a show jumping saddle, the Excel used for hunter/jumper show classes here in the US where the riders are very particular about how things look. I have not seen an Excel, nor ridden in one, either, but were I jumping again, the Konklusion I have would be just grand.

My dear beloved Russell R. always went better bareback. I often wish I had him now so I could ride him in an Ansur as I'd wager he would have been so much more willing to round his back for those dressage tests. And he might even be a happier jumper--which would be quite a feat as he LOVED to jump. PJ worked a little in the Ansur, Toby worked a lot in one, and both Tucker and Chance have spent nearly all their riding careers in treeless saddles. Not one of my horses has ever shown any saddle related issues when checked by my equine vet/chiropractor/acupuncturist.

Ansur has done a great deal of research and work to develop and improve the structure and design of the saddles. I have had a good relationship with the company and have great respect for their love of horses. There is a long, complex backstory to how the company has changed over the last few years, but I have always believed everyone involved has always kept the horses in mind with every change that has taken place.

As of right now, it looks as if my first ride in the arena in a long time will be in my new saddle.

Hope Mr. "Spooking in the Wind" Tucker is ready to offer me a good ride.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Almost There

And Almost Here

I had a call from an Ansur client when I got home. She was thinking of buying a used saddle and was concerned about how it fit her high withered Thorougbred. We arranged a meeting but then I had second thoughts and decided to call Ansur directly myself.

First, I wanted to know if my new Elite dressage saddle might be on the way since this client would really be interested in trying it.

Second, I wanted to ask some questions about the saddle fitting issues.

Well, my saddle was finished and we agreed to expedite shipping to over night so I may well have it by Friday!! This is super as my arena is almost ready for some serious riding. I had considered lunging a Boy or two tonight but when I went out to poo pick, I discovered a beautiful sunny side of the arena and a too wet underneath--in the clay shady side. Not only would it be slippy, but working a horse would dig up the base and cause some footing issues later in the season. Just as well since the poo pick took until dark after all the saddle phone calls.

It is supposed to rain or "shower" tonight, but then we are going to have windy conditions along with somewhat cooler temperatures. Mind you, "cooler" compared to the nearly 70F it was today will feel just fine. We may actually have a thunderstorm tonight, so I will close off the pasture to keep the Boys near the barn area. If it does start to kick up a storm, I'll put them in.

But meanwhile, I am getting excited about trying the new saddle. This is a true dressage model and all the reviews have been great. I will be sending my feedback in as well and, eventually, some pictures.

And my client is very interested in the Elite as well. I will be taking both it and my Classic to a demo for her on Sunday if all works out as planned. She has a young, big Thoroughbred with a lovely attitude and I am quite excited to see him. I still love my Throughbreds despite Tucker's idiosyncracies. Well, actually I love him anyhow even if he is a pain in the .......... *G*

But I love Chance too, and of course, Toby the Prince.

Four legs, a mane and a tail and I'd probably love it. *sigh*

Wind on the Way

Another Nice Day But Still Too Wet

Puddles still abound in the arena, as I suspected. It will be warmer again today and the wind is supposed to pick up, so that should help dry things out. There was just a trace of rain last night.

I put the light sheets back on the Boys this morning. Hopefully with the wind, they will be comfortable and not too hot.

The best part of the thaw is that my water hose is working again and I no longer have to carry buckets to fill the Boys' trough. This makes doing the morning feed a lot easier and less time-consuming.

Not much else to report except that last night, as I lay in bed my brain began to think about what I would do if I were rich. (I guess the current economic crisis and the huge bonuses some of those bankers were given was preying on my mind.) I would buy a farm with about a 20 stall barn and lots of nice pasture land. My Boys would stay home with me, where I would add a roof over my arena, and the additional farm would be filled with rescue horses.

I have in mind a good farm manager if he's still around who would live on the property. I'd make sure the rescues had the best of care, and if they were sound and recovered a good chance at being adopted to good homes--or simply kept at my farm to live happily. I figured 20 would be manageable as more starts to make the work and finances a problem.

The guy who runs the local horse auction has a good eye for a horse and the kind of "secret" soft spot for a horse that deserves a chance, so he would probably be able to pick the rescues for me. I'm not sure I could do it myself as I'd end up bringing every single critter home with me.

Frankly, I don't know how the rescuers who go to the auctions can handle it. It is so sad to see horses thrown away by their owners just because they have gotten old or no longer been good enough to win--in the show or on the track.

OK, I won't go on with this. There are other blogs that deal with it far better than I ever will. (

But that's my dream.

I wish it could come true.

Monday, February 09, 2009

The Soggy Bobby Aftermath

Another Nice Day

Dry and sunny, but the ground did not thaw enough for the water to drain down through so the arena is still pretty well covered in surface puddles with very wet top layers of sand over the clay. Riding out there would not be very good. Slippy in spots where the top layer of clay is just thawing and very wet--easy to get to because the top layer of sand it like soup.

But it is better. It looks like the last of the original ice has melted. If the temps stay up for the week as predicted, I may be able to ride a bit by the weekend. If we get more rain as predicted, it will all depend on how deep the thaw goes.

It reminds me a bit of one year when I boarded out. We had had a long, deep freeze. The ground had frozen down to probably nearly three feet. Then we had a thaw for several days and wind enough to dry the surface of the ground. I drove over to the barn and into the driveway. Suddenly my car began to sink. Eventually, it was resting on its frame, with the tires totally buried in the ground where they had sunk. This top layer of gravel/sand driveway had thawed out for at least two feet on the surface, but the ground below that was still frozen so the water had no place to go and actually created a kind of quicksand. I was apparently the third car that had driven in that day and suffered the same fate. The owner eventually pulled me out with the tractor. The top six inches or so of my arena are like that now. We won't sink in that deep as my ground is based on an aquifer. We had the topsoil layer, then a clay layer which varies in depth, but right below that is a clean, pure sand which will pretty much stay porous. Once the clay layer thaws, the water will filter back down pretty quickly.

So much for the weather report and the local geology lesson.

Horse news? Not much. The Boys were out basking in the sunshine when I got home. They still had a fair amount of hay in their stalls, and all looked well. They wore their sheets today as it was warm enough. But tonight I'll put the heavier, really waterproof sheets on because there is rain in the forecast. Even if the temps are up, when it rains it always feels colder.

My plan, when the weather does finally settle, is to begin the long lining in earnest with some stretchy riding every other day or so to build all the muscles back up.

On the plus side when I did ride Chance in the arena around the puddles yesterday before going out on the hack, it didn't take him too long to settle into a nice little long frame. The footing was far too bad to try to canter, but his trot was really good. That means the on the bit concept is fairly well settled in his head.

Oh yes, and on the way back during Tucker's hack, during one of the moments when I was holding him back from some risky trotting--some of the ground was very slippery--he gave me a few strides of a very collected, "lofting" kind of trot that felt like the first steps of passage. He is built to collect, so it makes sense. Now all I have to do is convince him to develop that same kind of energy and "wanting to go" in the arena. Once that forward piece is truly there, when you ask for the "super" collection, the passage or piaffe can come.

But the secret is always "forward." Somehow, I have to explain that to Tucker.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

What a Difference a Day Makes

Snow Go

The snow is almost all gone. All that's left are a few piles I pushed out of the driveway with the tractor. (Tractor is too big to fit in the house for Spring Cleaning, Claire, but it was a good idea!) The temperature was up over 60F today and stayed well above freezing all night. It is supposed to cool off a bit for tonight and tomorrow, but not really below freezing.

I took the Boys' blankets off today and let them air.

My best friend Jacquie was in from Las Vegas on family business, and she had time to drop over. We took Chance and Toby out in the woods for a nice little jaunt. Just walking as there were some slippery spots with surface thaw and some remaining ice here and there. Both boys were angels so it was a nice "hack and talk." I really miss having her here, but she has good family, friends, and a nice job where she is so I am happy for her.

After the visit, I had time to go stock up on feed including grain and some alfalfa cubes. The I dropped by the market for some carrots for the Boys and oatmeal for me.

Bless the lengthening days because I still had time to ride Tucker. I wasn't too worried about exercising him as he had thrown such a fuss when Toby and Chance were in the woods that he'd lathered himself into a frenzy running around the paddocks. But it was too nice a day to miss a chance for some saddle time.

The arena is just one soaking wet puddle after another and will be until it either evaporates or the lower ground thaws out enough for it to soak in. I trotted around a few times, then headed out for a hack. Tuck seemed quite pleased at first, but then uncertainty kicked in. He was still good until we reached the spot where he had spooked and lost his shoe the last time out. He started getting silly and I was a bit worried then. However, I managed to keep my cool and his cool and we made it through that spot fine. He got nervy a few more times after that when the footing was uncertain. I'm not sure if it was the ground slipping under his feet or just general silliness, but we kept it together and made it home in one piece.

I don't mind the jigging or quickness, but when he tries to get his head down or even threatens to buck with that "feeling" in his back, I have a hard time staying relaxed myself. Then, if I tense my seat or clench a bit with my knees, that just encourages his tension. What I need to do is just sit deep and long without tightening up. Easier said than done, I fear.

Fed them all and came in after spending some 20 minutes looking for the 5 pound bag of peanuts I bought for the squirrels. I took it out of my car along with the birdseed because some little critter--read mouse--had gone in my car an opened the seed. The feed was where I'd set it on the floor of the garage but the peanuts have eluded me. I took them out of the car, but where did I set them?

It is obviously a mystery for a detective who is better than I.

Saturday, February 07, 2009


Even As The Sun Goes Down

The snow is melting little by little. Had we had a resonable amount of sunshine, more would be gone, but it was overcast for most of the day. Still, the temps are up at last. Three cheers. Looks like they will stay more moderate for a while this time instead of just a day or so.

I cleaned the barn fairly well today. I've been picking out the stalls, but the cold made outside chores far to miserable to do a good job at anything, and the snow made pushing the wheelbarrow hard work too. Now it was relatively easy, so I did a pretty good job.

I still need to clean under both run in sheds, but that will have to wait until it thaws more and I can get the tractor in and out. Doing it all by hand is too much work for little old me.

The Boys seemed quite happy with the warmer temps too but I did not yet swap their insulated blankets for sheets. Tonight will cool down again. But tomorrow!! Tomorrow it will be warm enough for no sheets--although after the last mudfest I just may cover them in lightweight and avoid the extra grooming.

Not much more going on. I do have to go get feed tomorrow after church as I simply forgot to go today until it was too late. I was occupied with paying bills and getting some of my income tax documents together. Did a bit of housework, but didn't get too carried away. After all, it's not Spring yet. *G*

Wonder what excuse I'll have not to do the cleaning when Spring actually does arrive.

Not Much To Blog

Tucker in the snow.
Same Old, Same Cold

Did I say it was cold? Did I say it was frozen?

I am awaiting the weekend's warmth. In the meantime, the Boys seem fine. Chance and Tucker were way out in the pasture when I went out for late feed. Don't know what was interesting out there but Toby wasn't too worried about their being so far away, so I guess all was well. They are well tucked in now with a feed and some nice piles of hay to keep them munching until I get up for breakfast.

Did I tell you my driving play is going to be presented again at school? This time the audience will be students from all over the County. Our theatre/auditorium seats over 600 and four performances are planned. I am still waiting for someone in administration to tell me the details since I first heard of this through one of the performing arts students and then through the teacher.

I, author and actor, have been left out of the loop. If I should strike it lucky and have the publisher buy my play before that, I am going to do my own publicity as a private citizen. The school will not be entirely delighted as they like to control such things, but when I was producer/publicist for the community theatre we used to operate in the school, I was able to get ten times the publicity the school ever managed. While I don't have all the contacts in the local papers I used to have, well-written news stories with appropriate grabbers will almost always get into the papers in some form or other.

And I do have contacts in at least two papers because of all my public activism on the environmental front. (The Park flooding issue.) I figure if I just focus the story on me with the school performances being incidental the school will have little problem. Then, with that as a kind of lead in to develop interest, I can get the papers into the building to do some more coverage.

Even if I don't get published, I can still do the advance publicity, but it would have a little less impact.

I had a call the other day from a woman who runs a teen program interested in its own safe driving initiative in a neighboring town. She wondered if her kids to "do" my play. While that's fine, in the future, I told her about the performances at the school. She was pretty excited at the prospect.

Which led me to think that we need to add at least one evening performance to the schedule. There might be a lot of people who work during the day, including parents, who would like to see this play. BUT, since no one in charge has spoken to me about this, I don't even know who to talk to at the school to see if this could be arranged.

NOR do I know if there is any money set aside for the production. The director would love to hire a lighting designer this time, and I agree with her. Not that her lighting was bad, but it would take a ton of stress off everyone if a pro did that work.

And AGAIN the time frame is really tight. Her production of A Midsummer Night's Dream--which is going to be terrific--will be up in early April, followed by the Freshman Showcase. Then my play, interrupted by the Honor Society's use of the theater. This is good and bad. Bad in that it puts a lot of stress on everyone, but exceedingly good in that this is exactly the kind of thing that happens in the real professional world of theatre.

The theatre teacher--Maria Aladren--is fantastic, and every time professional theatre people or workshop professionals meet and work with her students they are stunned. This month, two of her "kids" are going to be doing a reading in New York of a new film script along with professional actors. It is a really big deal. Some other students went into the City last week to participate in another shoot for a pro project. While the kids are talented for sure, Maria's training has elevated them far above most young actors their age.

Which is all the more reason to gather some extra publicity for my play. It will serve as a super showcase for the student actors.

Gotta go for it.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Still Frozen

No Question About the Blankets

In the 20'sF all day, so no need to change the Boys into their sheets. Just a little warmer tomorrow and then a drastic change as it heats up over the weekend.

I noticed the Boys seemed to be in the barn when I left for choir practice. I would guess that just being able to stand on snowless ground would be more comfy as the cold night drew on. And, of course, they each had a couple nice flakes of hay to munch on in their stalls.

My replacement water heater appears to be working just fine, thank goodness. As long as it stays in the tub and doesn't get "Chanced" out, it should hold for the rest of the season. It has a thermostat in case the water level gets to low, but I'm pretty careful about making sure the tub is at least half full all the time. Water is so essential to the Boys' health I am totally paranoid about making sure they don't run out.

Not much horsey news, obviously. I must admit that this time of year, the Boys do tend to pay a little more attention to me than when there are places to browse and graze. Sad, in a way, to think they are forced to be so dependent on a person for their welfare. Were they out and about in freedom, they would nibble trees, and find at least some sustenance under the snow. Inside the fences, most of the "nibble" is nibbled and my sparse pasture has gone completely to sleep for the winter.

When you think about it, it's a pretty awesome responsibilty.

OK, So It's Pretty

Snowy Morning

It was one of those beautiful snows where all the trees were coated. Since I had time because school had a delayed opening, I went out to take some pitures before the snow melted the tree cover.
The front yard with the house in the background. Everything coated in snowy while.

The barn, viewed from the house. Just gives you the perspective of how far I have to walk to see the Boys. My road, heading east. Nicely plowed as you can see. That way leads towards the warehouses and the direction to school. No traffic in the picture, but that is unusual. School opened late this morning and I have a feeling a lot of commuters were sleeping in late as well.
Some more pastoral scenes. The top one is the view out to the woods. And, of course, since this is a horse blog, the obligatory horse. I think Toby has his tongue out, expressing his general disdain for the weather.

The water trough had a coating of ice this morning. I checked the plug for the installed heater and filled it for the day. When I came home, I was frozen over again. I guess the heater has died. Fortunately, I had a submersible heater I'd bought a while ago. (The one in the tub is fastened in--the new one just lies on the bottom.) I put the new heater in, kind of wedging it under the other one. I just came in from late feed and the water is nice and wet. I'll have to buy a new permanent heater when the weather warms. I'm not going to bother now---unless a certain horse manages to find a way to play with the new heater. (Sigh) Aha! Just a thought. Maybe I can put a board over top of the one end of the tub to keep certain playful chestnuts from fishing out the submersible.
It is going to be one of those weeks when the issue of rugs/blankets gets kind of confusing. Somewhere along the way the temperature is supposed to rise and by the weekend might even be in the 50'sF. Trouble is, the nights are cold and when I get up to feed in the morning before school, it's still icy cold--in the 20's. So the Boys might need light sheets by afternoon. I hate to think of them standing around in too heavy "jackets" waiting for me to get home from school.
Guess I'll take it one day at a time and just try to decide what to put on them each morning before I leave and hope they won't get chilled before it warms up.
As I've said before, I'll just have to see what tomorrow brings.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

S'now What?

It's Snowing Again

Just enough snow to be annoying and not enough to close things down. But it will ruin the footing again.

Except, it's supposed to warm up considerably so it may melt sooner than later, or not.

Daily weather report completed.

The Boys are currently wearing sheets instead of winter blankets. The temperatures seem to be moderating at last, so I decided to let them have a break from the insulated wear. They seemed just fine this morning, but both Tucker and Toby had taken advantage of yesterday's considerable thaw and rolled--a lot. I'd cleaned them off when I put the sheets on, so perhaps under the covers they are still somewhat "un-muddy," but the rest of their bodies are coated. Fortunately, they rolled in the arena which is sand based so the stuff kind of cleans off. My sand has a lot of clay still in it, though, so "clean" is a relative term this time of year.

Winter coats on horses are quite protective and do seem to attract dirt. I think the pictures below of shiny horses is a deception of sorts. But it was nice to have people comment.

Now, all my Boys have fairly heavy winter coats. The theory here, according to the Farnum website, is that the "shine comes from within," because I have them on the Strongid 2X daily wormer. Could be a partial explanation. The rest might be that they are just fat and happy with lots to eat and few worries. Either way, I do like seeing the shine, even this time of year.

Some blankets (rugs) act as coat conditioners, actually. As the horse walks, the blanket moves and "grooms" them a bit, bringing up the coat oils and polishing the hair. Kind of neat, actually. The funny part, though, is when you apply the curry and brush only to find all the dirt kind of buried underneath. Unless you groom and groom and vacuum, it's almost impossible to keep a horse really clean in the winter--presuming he gets some turnout time.

In the case of going to a clinic with someone new, I might use a hot towel to give my horse a bit of a "steam" bath in the winter, but I don't really have the facilities to give a proper bath this time of year. Sometimes too, I can take the shavings from the stall, rub that into the horse's coat and brush it out and it acts as a dry shampoo.

Speaking of dry shampoos--they do work, but doing a whole horse is really a chore and uses up way too much shampoo. They seem to be best at spot cleaning.

The best way to keep clean in the winter is to clip. Then, your grooming tools really do reach down to the horse's skin. But sometimes that's just not practical. If I had an indoor and was sure I could ride on a regular basis, I'd clip. But with so many days off, my Boys are just better off with their natural coats.

I have clipped in the spring, though. If the weather quite suddenly warms up, it's the fastest way to get rid of a shedding winter coat. Contrary to what some people say, I've never noticed the summer coat being any less glossy or beautiful if I clip during shedding season.

Right now, though, it's a moot point as Tucker is dramatically afraid of the clippers. I just haven't bothered to train him to them. Toby is fine, but I've never ever approached Chance.
It's one of those lessons I have failed to complete. "My bad." (Another project for warmer days.) Right now, I do all my show trimming with the scissors. I'm not bad at it as years ago I had barns without electricity and no battery operated clippers, so I did everything by hand.

Isn't that sad? Now I have whatever I want in my own barn and I'm still living in my "horse dark ages." *G*

Sunday, February 01, 2009

One More Reason

Chance just trotting around in the thawed section of the arena.

Why I Blanket My Horses

Do horses need blankets (rugs)? Probably not, but Toby and Tucker are Thoroughbreds and I surely do like to see them warm and dry. But there is a truly practical reason to keep them "dressed" in the winter weather, as you can see from the pictures I took today.

Today, for the first time in a while, it was moderatly warm out. (nearly 50F) So I took their blankets off to let them enjoy the sunshine. I decided to take some pictures of the arena so you all could see what I am dealing wth footingwise--all the water and snow had been frozen ice and will be again when the temperature drops.

While I was taking the pictures, the Boys, relishing the freedom and the one half of the arena that had thawed out, decided to enjoy themselves.

They took off:
Then they played, rolled, rolled, posed, took off and generally had a grand old time.

Toby taking a roll. (That's Tucker above.) Toby after his roll. Nice and dirty.

Tucker before his roll, just having fun.And Tucker after his roll, jus being wet and muddy.

Now, tonight it's going to chill off again and go down to freezing. I will have to put the blankets back on. It looks like I will also have a fair bit of grooming to do first. All this is avoided when they wear "clothes."

But how could I deny them all that fun? And how could I deny them all that sunshine?