Monday, March 30, 2009

Fun, Fun, Fun

Run, Run, Run

I managed to get myself out to the barn to hook up the drag. The tractor, as often, had a flat tire in front, so I first had to reinflate that. It's s slow leak, but kind of annoying.

Then I took the drag out to the arena. As I was dragging the surface, all three Boys decided to join me. This meant galloping into the arena, passing the tractor at top speed, then going to stand somewhere that I hadn't groomed yet. Then, when the tractor headed towards them, off they went again at a mad gallop to a new spot. I keep my eye on them to make sure no one comes in too close and I do have to watch Tucker as once in a while he tries to chase the drag. But, they were pretty good.

Once I'd finished the arena, I went out to the pasture to drag it a little to break up the old piles of manure and to loosen the surface a little for some grass seed. I did the same in part of the paddock area then took the tractor back out and put it away.

I took the hand seed spreader, filled it with pasture mix and headed back out to the pasture. Chance and Tucker thought there simply had to be something tasty in the bucket I was carrying, so I had to fend them off. Once out there, I discovered that the crank handle was simply not working so the only way to spread the seed was by the handful. I sowed a section of near the far fence and called it a night. I will either have to use the spreader I pull behind the garden tractor or else get a new hand spreader if I am going to do more.

Once done with that, I decided to play "chase" with the Boys. I got the lunge whip, closed them in the arena, and set them to running. It wasn't exactly free lunging, but Tucker and Chance really did some trotting, galloping, and bucking, having a grand time. Toby joined in but when he went off to stand at the far end, I just let him be.

After about 15 minutes of silly exercise, Tucker ducked into the run in shed and stood there, looking at me. He was so cute, almost as if he was taking his own "time out," that I decided we'd done enough. He came over to me for a scratch and then Chance joined in for a cuddle too.

When I mentioned that I was going to go back into the house to get some carrots, all three of them went into their own stalls and I came back out to give them the treats in their feed tubs.

It wasn't exactly a formal schooling, but everyone, I included, got a little exercise for the evening.

Sometimes it's just fun to play a little.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Soggy Boggy

Sunshine After Five

It was raining and chilly practically all day. I went to church, went to lunch, came home, did some work, took a nap, then went out to feed the Boys dinner. The rain had stopped.

I decided to poo pick the arena. It was very wet and boggy out there with the top layer of sand totally soaked through. I considered dragging it to help it dry out, but I'm not sure the tractor itself might do more harm than good. If I wait until it soaks in a bit, it will be better--tomorrow?

As I was working the sun came out and the temperature rose by what seemed to be ten degrees. After I was done, I took the Boys' sheets off. Then I put all the displaced fence rails in the arena back in place and began to work on the little ditch that drains into the abandoned groundhog hole in the woods. It was full of leaves and debris and was no longer draining water from the arena on that side.

By then, the Boys had gone out to the pasture to enjoy the sunshine and the little sprigs of grass greening up. I need to take the drag out there too to stir up the soil so I can sow the pasture mix. I probably should have done this earlier in the season, but I didn't so I will just have to hope some of it grows. Tomorrow will actually be a good day for that as well. I hope I have the energy and determination when I get home from school to do it. Today would have been the day, but it was too wet.

I picked the stalls and swept the barn floor and decided one more time to skip riding. With the arena that wet, the woods trails will be wet as well and since it's still so early in the season, slippery. A day of sunshine will sort it out, but there is a potential for severe thunderstorms yet tonight. No sign of anything so far, but I will keep an eye out on the sky, and my ears open.

Then we will have about three dry days before more rain on Thursday and Friday. If I do drag the arena at least once between now and then it will help a lot. Keeping it groomed in the warmer weather helps the footing dry out more quickly.

Things are greening up quickly and the Boys seem to be finding all kinds of things to nibble on. I will never have lush grass out there. I do not have enough land to really support three horses on pasture and the pasture area I do have is on a hill with places where the grass just doesn't thrive. There's enough to keep them busy and satisfy their urge to graze, but that's about it.

I guess I've kind of faltered again this weekend. I just don't have enough ambition at the moment to fight the weather or my aching knees for the sake of riding. I haven't quite lost the desire, but I am no longer as driven as I was years ago. Kind of sad, in a way, but I am quite content just having the Boys here, cared for as I want them to be.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

There's Education and Then.....

.....There's Education

Muriel's comment on my last post made me think a bit about how to explain my philosophy of teaching. When my class is in session, as far as I am concerned, for every single person in the room, there is nothing in the world more important. I have very little tolerance for any student who thinks otherwise.

I don't mind if students talk, as long as they are discussing the course work. I do mind cell phones, text messaging, fooling around, doing work for other classes, sleeping, any type of behavior that suggests something other than whatever topic has been chosen for the day. I am personally insulted by students who do not pay attention.

Friday, my 4th period class were presenting the songs they wrote to childrens's melodies--"Row Your Boat," "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," "Itsy Bitsy Spider," etc.--with their own lyrics based on A Midsummer Night's Dream. I am trying to teach them to hear the rhythm of the language, something they have a hard time doing. Each student was expected to get up in front of the class and sing.

Scary? You bet. The rules were that no one was to start performing until the class was absolutely quiet and the class was to be supportive. Well, these kids took a while to settle down each time, but they did and once the singer started, if he/she seemed pretty confident, it didn't take long for the class to join in either by clapping in time, or adding little additions, etc. The class was pretty raucous, noisy and definitely not disciplined. But, the fact is, from the looks of it, every single student in the room was totally involved in the whole event. To see it from the outside, it might have looked like total chaos, and yet, there was learning going on. It was pretty evident that the students were finally getting a feel for the rhythm and recognized which songs really worked and which didn't. And, they were supporting each other enough that even the shy kids managed to get up in front of the whole group and sing!

Once we are finished with Midsummer, I will give them some written music, show them how the measures work and then get them to write some lyrics to fit perfectly. By the way, when I suggested this as a lesson idea to my first period class, they thought it was great. I'll let you know how that works out.

Obligatory horse notes: Rain in the morning cleared off to a chilly, a bit windy afternoon. Since I went to the chiropractor and got a good adjustment, I opted out of riding. And I am still kind of tired. Instead I went to the tack store for the 20% off sale. Bought some alfalfa cubes, pasture seed, horse treats, very on sale breeches, and a bridle at a really good price to replace the one Tucker broke. I acutally did not spend a fortune considering the bargains and the discount.

The Boys are back in their sheets. Chill wind and more rain coming later. Tomorrow we may have some thunderstorms so I will close off the pasture until the threat passes.

Sleepytime Gal

A Nap in Time Saves Nine

Well, I've said it all. Came home, fed the Boys, lay down for a bit and....woke up again after midnight. Just in time to feed the Boys again.

Had a student teacher observing my classes all day. She is a former student who hopes to become a history teacher and part of her education classes requires observing master teachers. She has been coming in to watch a history teacher, but he was out today, so she was with me instead. She said my classes restored her faith in education. I know the history teacher has a horrible schedule this year and has been totally frustrated with the students he has, so I guess my classes are a breath of fresh air.

I do expect them to behave in class, listen, respect each other, and of course, do their work. I know this sounds rather simple if most of you remember your days in school, but discipline has proven to be a difficult concept in our school lately. My classes, apparently are the exception, rather than the rule. It does take a lot of energy on my part to keep them focused, but long years of experience have given me a lot of tactics. Trouble is, the general trend I see in education today seems to be going in the wrong direction as far as all that goes. It is one small part of why I have decided it's time to retire. I just don't have the patience for the nonsense and don't want to become a bad teacher because I've lost the will to do it right.

My coming home exhausted like this is just one symptom.

The Boys were sheetless all day, and I left the sheets off tonight as well. It has stayed moderately warm out there, but the forecast is calling for rain again Saturday and Sunday. If so, the sheets go back on. It looked as if Chance was working on his own shedding techniques. There is a tree in the paddock with some low branches. He was under it when I got home, and from the looks of him, he was using it to groom off his loose hair. Clever boy. He is one of those horses with good common sense and, as I've said before, a good sense of himself.

On the other hand, Toby and Tucker were grooming each other, standing side to side in the front paddock. When I pulled in with the car, I startled them for a moment, but they went right back to the mutual grooming after they settled again.

Gee, at this rate, I won't need my shedding blade at all. *lol*

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Yep, It Rained

What Can I Say?

Weather as expected, but actually we needed it. When I can ride around the lake out back without going through water--except just past the evil trash bag--then I know it's been dry!

I used to like that trail, but the mini-bikes and ATV's have ruined it. They raced around on the dirt road around the lake during the wet and made deep ruts. Even Tuesday, when the ruts were dry, the footing was tricky. I used to be able to trot in places. No more. My horse would twist an ankle. Such a shame, as the lake itself is quite pretty.

There are also several places in the woods where they have ruined the trails as well and made swampy rutted places where the water collects. Then, once they make a section impassable, they carve a "go around" track which also eventually turns into a rutted mess. It is illegal for them to be riding in the State Park, but without any kind of police presence to enforce the rules, no one can stop them--and I'm not about to try as I would then worry about my horses' safety.

The Boys were standing out in the rain when I got home. While they did have their rainsheets on, heads, ears and necks were getting wet and water was dripping off their chins. Mind you there is the run in shed in the arena, two run in roofs attached to the barn, and all three stalls are open for free access. Yet there they were, heads down, looking soggy and none too comfortable from my perspective.

They came in eagerly for dinner and later, as I left for choir, I noticed they were hanging out under the west side run in roof. Perhaps having dinner inside convinced them that shelter actually felt better than standing out in the elements???

It is supposed to go up into the 60's tomorrow. I just hope it feels nice enough in the morning when I feed that I will be content to take off their sheets for the day. I don't want them overheating while I am stuck at school.

If so, I anticipate muddy messes when I get home. I can't imagine they won't roll.

Ah, the joys of spring!!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tired Out

Need to Reset the Sleep Clock

I fell asleep on the couch last night and finally went to bed after 3 AM, after feeding the Boys their midnight snack--a late midnight snack. When I got back in the house I wasn't sleepy so I sat up for an hour or so to relax again.

I am on the brink of crash tonight, and even though I had fully intended to ride or at least exercise someone, I surrendered and here I am, blogging myself into an unconsious state. And, to top it off, my knees are still sore from yesterday. I did walk around the school a bit too much today as well, so I am not in top physical form.
I will probably regret it, as tomorrow rain is predicted. I don't think the Boys minded at all. They seem to find enough to keep themselves busy. They still had hay left over from this morning as well, so I didn't feel too guilty leaving them to their own devices.

My friend Bill brought over a new rack for my garbage cans. So for now, the rack is black metal. It is firmly fixed to the ground. Bill also put a layer of gravel under it. It really is lovely. I took some pictures in the daylight, but now I am having an issue with my camera's connection to the computer. So I just went out--now it's dark--and used my old camera to get a shot, just so you can get an idea of what the rack is like.

I will try to get a picture in the daylight so you can really appreciate it. The yellow can is for the bottles and cans. The other one is garbage and I have a blue box for paper recycling. The whitish lines you see in the background are my mailbox post and, horizontally, the stripe along the road. You can see the gray gravel bed Bill put down.

Bill is a great guy. He is one of my associates in the efforts to safe the farm across the woods and in the various battles against warehouse development and the flooding in the Park. He has a wonderful family with two now college age sons who are real gentlemen and have helped me out a number of times with fence repair and unloading hay or grain. I usually pay them, but they would help for free if need be. Bill used to be a teacher at a local high school and his wife still teaches in the area. They are good friends with my cousins whose mother (my Aunt) lives next door and Bill went to school with them. (I think they are all about a generation younger than I am.)

I felt kind of guilty about the can rack/bin/corral as Bill was making it for himself, but when the other one was stolen, he made it for me instead because I have been having a terrible problem with my cans blowing onto the road. My mailbox area seems to have some kind of wind tunnel effect. I did, however, give him an electric water fountain for his cats. He has two adorable brother kitties who love drinking from the running water in the sinks. If my cats are any indication his kitties will love it. I bought it for my back room kitty who passed away at the end of the summer, but I'd never set it up, so it was brand new. So at least I was able to give a little back.

The drama teacher at school--preparing to open A Midsummer Night's Dream at the end of next week--would really like me to spend some time with her at rehearsals attempting to keep her sane. I used to be the producer of the community theater Shelley and I ran at the school and am fairly well practiced at acting as a calming force and trouble shooter to the director. Apparently Maria (this teacher) really appreciated my company during the preparations for my driving play, so I guess I will go in to see what I can do to help. Maria is a very talented, experienced professional theater person and a typical artistic perfectionist, so anything I can do to remind her that after all these are students running the show in a school--not pros on Broadway--will help. And besides, I make sure she eats, drinks, and just has someone to make reasonable suggestions when things just don't quite work to perfection.

Her students are, as I've said before, marvelously trained actors, head and shoulders above what anyone would ever expect from teenagers. The set is brilliant--a highway underpass, and the concept with street people and sort of "punk" fairies zooming around on rollerblades and skateboards is just perfect for an upbeat, original and entertaining version of Shakespeare.

Speaking of which, I realized that nearly all of the Bard's plays, except perhaps for some of the histories, work perfectly well in almost any time period or setting.

I digress. Anyhow, if I do go in to help out, I'll be cutting into the riding opportunities again. Still, until my play is back up in May, it will only be for part of a week.

Ah, to be in theatre again.....

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Birthday Boy

Chance is Six Today!
Chance's original owner emailed me today to remind me it was the boy's birthday. I gave him treats from her and some special snacks for dinner, then took him out for a photo shoot. He certainly does know how to pose for the head shots.
Below is a picture of him wearing the Ansur Excel dressage saddle.
After the pictures, I decided to do his favorite thing, which is going for a hack in the woods. All started off well. Then, I let him choose one of the cross trails and we headed for the lake in the back. Fine.
He decided to go up the ridge to take the trail towards home. Fine until...remember the evil white chair? It was still there. He spooked. This was no place to really work him as the trail is narrow and drops off on a steep slope.
OK, I decided perhaps we could go around the lake. The ground is amazingly dry, so I thought the mudholes created by the ATV ruts would be dry enough to cross. I was right. What I had forgotten about was the equally evil garbage bag tied to the tree where the men fish.
I also forgot that Chance had never seen it before and that we were coming upon it around a blind corner. And again, with the lake on one side and another narrow section of trail, there was no place to work him out of his fear. He spooked and spun. We tried again and he spooked and spun again, nearly galloping off in the opposite direction.
I dismounted to lead him past. He was unsure, but followed me and settled quickly. The bag is a horror to me as well since it is now ripped and all the cans, bottles and trash--a good pile--are scattered all over the area. It is ugly pollution. If those guys wanted to keep things clean by bringing in a garbage bag, fine, but then cart the garbage back out!!! It is a disgrace. I will have to go and clean it up when I get the time. It will not be easy for me because I will have to walk in and out as there is no way to get a vehicle in there. Of course, if I had and ATV.....but the ATV's cause the problem.
Now that I was on the ground remounting was a new problem. With my knees I simply cannot mount from the ground, so I need something to climb on. But then, I decided I might as well go get rid of the evil chair since it had caused all the trouble in the first place. That required a hike back to the other side of the lake, with Chance in tow. The one good thing is that by the time he, I, and the chair got back home, he was no longer afraid of it.
I set it in the arena because both Toby and Tucker had decided as soon as they saw it that it was truly an EVIL chair, worthy of a snorting set of spooks, leaps and bounds. However, by the time I had unsaddled Chance and put his sheet back on, Tucker had successfully "killed" the aforesaid evil chair and it was lying on its side in its final death throes. I will have to decide whether to put it out near the missing trash bin for garbage collection on Thursday or keep it to sit on somewhere. I think the trash is more than likely, but for the night I left it in the arena so the Boys can come to grips with its existence.
After I poo picked the arena I was going to lunge Tucker, but he had strolled out to the middle of the pasture and, to be frank, my knees, already having hiked a good distance through the woods, simply could not drag me out to collect him.
Just fine. It was Chance's day anyhow.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Bin and Gone

Heist in the Night

Did I tell you about the wonderful wooden garbage (trash) can corral/bin my friend Bill brought me? It held my garbage can and my recycling bins beautifully. I have had all kinds of trouble with the containers blowing out into the road to be smashed by passing cars and trucks.

Bill gave me a my bin about four weeks ago. The first time the garbage was collected, the two cans were neatly put back into the bin, but the paper recycling bin was not. The second week it was the same. Last week, neither the garbage can nor the paper bin were in the rack, but instead lay empty alongside the road as fodder for passing motorists.

Alas, there shall be no repeat this week. Sometime during the night, someone stole my lovely can corral!! As I headed out to school this morning I realized it had vanished. I called the police to report the theft, and eventually drove over to file a report. The officer in charge said there was about a 0% chance it would ever be recovered and I, most unhappily have to agree.

I am utterly heartbroken. I had grown quite fond of my bin and was ever so grateful to Bill for giving it to me. Now, it is gone, the wind is blowing, and I can picture scattered papers, and cans all over the place on Thursday when I have to put the trash out for collection. Bill was making a rack for himself and now tells me he will give it to me instead, but that is just not right.

I drew up a picture of my lost love for the carpentry teacher at school and will likely have him make a new one. Of course, I will have to pay for lumber, etc. The police figure someone saw the bin some time ago and planned to take it. The thing was really quite heavy and large--about 3 feet by 7 feet, made of good sturdy wood. I would suspect it took at least two people to abscond with it. I had thought about staking it into the ground, but decided to wait as I just figured it was too big for someone to take.

Wrong. Bummer. I am so very sad.

Top that off with school events. My students efforts with Bottom's Ballad were decidedly mixed. They weren't generally bad, but they weren't great either. About five students actually sang and at least three of them were pretty good at it! The rest...well, the less said the better. About another four good ones, and a bunch of kids who didn't have any at all. *sigh*

Then when I visited the vice-principal, I found him working on next year's schedule. Out of curiosity I asked to see what he'd planned for me. As soon as I saw it I told him if I'd gotten it in the mail, my resignation would have followed immediately afterwards. He had me teaching five different classes every day. Six classes a day total. Two college prep senior groups, college prep freshman, a tech writing course, an upper level junior class, and then a lower level junior class with an in-class support teacher. I told him if he gave that schedule to a new, young teacher that would be the end of his/her career. I could do it only because I had nearly all the materials/resources I'd need--except for materials for the lower level class--but even I would be tearing my hair out. I know he meant well, trying to limit the grade levels, but he failed to realize he'd given me all those different courses.

I know I have complained about this before, noting that this year I was saddled with four different preps each day, while my fellow teachers only had two. This new configuration was totally over the top. Good thing I dropped in to give him a confiscated cell phone. I may have saved a new teacher's career. I know this will have absolutely no impact on me, but I simply cannot allow my replacement to be tormented like that. If they hire someone just out of college, he/she would be totally overwhelmed.

Now, I think I will monitor the schedule and if I know what it is before I leave, I will set up some starter lessons for the new teacher. I certainly have all the materials available to set up some nice little teaching units to help him/her start off. I just can't leave without doing something to help.

Meanwhile, if you haven't figured it out yet, it is Monday, horse day off. But it is also windy and kind of cold out there, so I am staying inside for the remainder of the night. I gave the Boys plenty of hay with dinner, so they will be just fine until late feed.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Where Did the Day Go?

But It Was A Nice One Anyhow!

Went to church, sang, went out to lunch with my choir friends, came home, read my emails, suddenly felt tired, lay down, fell asleep, and woke up to realize it was nearly feeding time!

Kind of let the best part of the day slip through my fingers. Fed the Boys, waited an interval, then headed out to ride, well past 5 PM.

Fortunately, it was still nice out. I took everyone out on the short trail, starting with Chance. He is the easiest as he loves to hack out. I am ever impressed with his nice forward bouncy walk and eager attitude on the way out. If I hadn't intended on riding at least Tucker, I might have taken a longer route to let him explore a little more, but sunlight was fading. We had a super ride.

I was hesitant about taking Tucker out as he is still unpredictable on the trail and hasn't been out in a while. But I took a deep breath and out we went. Aside from one little scoot in the spot where his strange, "lose the shoe almost bolt" episode took place, he was a really good boy! I was as pleased as could be and told him so. I think he was happy to have so much praise lavished on him.

When I approached Toby, he practically put his head into the lead rope so I brought him in. By then it was nearly dark, so I knew our ride would end up well past sunset. I've ridden the woods trail in the almost dark before and Toby knows it well, so we were fine. We too had a really good ride.

I am wondering if Toby likes the new Excel saddle and that's why these two days he has actually seemed to want to be ridden. Not sure whether that might be part of it, or whether he is just in an accomodating mood. Either way, as long as he wants to be ridden, I will do so. He has nothing to prove and can make up his own mind as long as I keep him in work enough to stay healthy and sound.

All and all, it would have been better to ride in the sunlight, but when you have three good horses, it doesn't seem to make much difference. I love my Boys. I am so lucky to have them.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

They Know

It's Been A Week

The School Board knows of my retirement. They have already accepted my resignation. So even if they do read this blog, it's OK. *G*

A chilly Spring day here with sunshine. I did sleep late, then I fed the Boys and decided to see if I could find an electronic keyboard at a reasonable price. I have a piano here, terribly out of tune, and I decided a keyboard would be good to both practice my vocal music and do a bit of music writing with the potential for recording me melodies. I ended up buying a Casio touch sensitive keyboard. I really liked the Casio with the weighted touch keys since it felt nearly identical to a piano, and had great piano sound, but it was several hundred dollars more expensive and I didn't want to spend too much.

I played with the Casio for a good part of the afternoon, and still haven't figured out how to get it to do things beyond basic playing, but for now that's fine. Learning to use its features will definitely keep me busy in the new spare time I am going to have.

That done, I suddenly realized the day was waning so I went out to the barn to do something with the Boys. To my surprise, Toby was no only by the barn, but he came over to me as if he actually wanted to do something. I gave him a nice grooming and saddled him up for a lovely little hack through the woods with a short trot along the field. He really did seem quite happy about it, so I was too!

As I was bringing Chance in, I heard the roar of engines and saw some minibikes blasting along the very field I had just ridden Toby in. These guys were really noisy. I decided on the coward's way and worked Chance in the arena instead.

I'd give him a B+ today. He has the concept of down and round, but really does take a hard hold on my right hand and then doesn't keep his frame steadily yet. And, for the first few times around he tends to pull towards the gate to the woods...telling me something??? *lol* But his canter!! What a nice, comfy and "learning to relax" gait he is developing. I noticed it when I was lungeing him, and now, under saddle, I can really feel it. I think cantering will be our favorite gait. I finished up with a very short little hack on the trail just out back, avoiding the main part of the woods altogether.

Good thing, because as I brought Tucker in, the mini-bikers were back racing around again. Had I been out there, I would have surely been on a spooked horse--the consequences dependent upon which horse.

I decided to long line Tucker, something I haven't done with him in a while. He started off with his lazy trot, overbending when I took up the contact, mostly because he wasn't going forward. I chased him a bit with minimal success, then pushed him up to canter. It took a bit of "energizing" with quite a few transitions before he really started using himself. Eventually, he gave me some good engagement in a good, collected frame. I didn't work him too long in the collection because he is still not fit enough for a lot of work, but little by little I will keep asking.

The one thing I have to keep on the alert for is a sign that the more collected work does not make his hocks sore. Again, I don't know if there are changes going on in his hocks or whether the work simply makes him sore as it did with Toby. When I had Toby x-rayed, he had no changes in his joints, depsite his soreness, so that could be what is going on with Tuck--or it might not. It's one of those "wait and see" kind of things.

From what my vet told me years ago, sore hocks are very common in dressage horses. I can still remember sitting with one of my vets at the Horse Park watching some of the upper level horses compete. Time and again when one came into the arena he would notice soreness somewhere. None of them were lame, but few were actually working up to full potential because of some physical soreness or other. The difference between those horses and mine is that mine "tell me" when they ache. Toby would kick out or buck, and Tuck stops.

I wonder if it is my "tuned in" mentality encouraging them to communicate to me or if it's just their nature?

Something more to ponder on the next rainy day.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Purge Begins

Busy Day and I'm Tired

The weather got a lot better by this afternoon, but I think I am honestly too tired to do much with the Boys. Today the students were not in school for teachers' workshops and the rest of the English Department and I moved dozens and dozens of books.

As the the most senior teacher in the department, and practically in the whole school system, I have, over the years, gathered a really nice collection of classroom books, and all kinds of helpful books for teachers. Some of these are well over 30 year old but still excellent sources of lessons, worksheets and all kinds of activities for students. I have classroom sets of five different Shakespeare plays, the Odyssey, a fabulous mythology book, writing books--the list goes on and on.

These have all been stored in a largish storage room in the back of my classroom. My big fear was that when I retired, the "powers that be" would take them all and toss them out--especially since some of the books are so dated. (But hey, a workbook with super exercises on grammar never goes out of date!!)

So, today, since the English department was scheduled for a workshop on Shakespeare, we decided it was a good time to start setting up our new bookroom (the former audio visual room) in the English hallway. So, after 38 years, I surrendered nearly all my teaching materials to the department as a whole. ( I still need Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and Taming of the Shrew stuff.)
The meant about four trips of carts loaded with books being transferred from one end of the building to another.

Then, when we opened the door to the AV room, it was a mess. Now, I had been the AV person some 20+ years ago. Good grief, stuff was still there from when I had the job!! Even some very useful classroom magazines I had stored there in 1985 were still in one of the drawers. Unbelievable! Don't know what the two people who have had the job since I did were up to, but it was like stepping back into a time capsule. I even remembered what (now totally obsolete) stuff was stored in some of the other drawers and cabinets.

Anyhow, with a joint effort of stocking and cleaning, the room is now in a little better order and several of the bookshelves in my back room are cleared. The material is now in safe hands. The other teachers can use or dispose of it at will, but I honestly found all but a few of the books very useful over the years. I still have more things to bequeath, including worksheets for all the plays and other literature I taught my classes. I think, perhaps, I will simply make a folder with masters for each and then discard all the extra copies I've made along the way. This way, all the work I've done over all these years might help someone else teach.

It is a little strange to get rid of the stuff, but once I started, it got easier and easier. I still have two shelves of video tapes to go through. Then there are three file cabinets with worksheets and one more metal cabinet of miscellaneous supplies.

That wore out the morning and wore me out, so the afternoon workshop, sitting down at the computer was actually kind of relaxing. We had an excellent presenter on teaching towards multiple intelligences. Basically, it was about how students have individual learning styles based on they way they naturally think. It is up to teachers to try to find different methods of teaching the course material in order to encourage and help every student find a way to master it.

I actually do a lot of "differentiated instruction" in my classroom already, but I still picked up a few cool ideas to use for the last few months of my career. My latest venture is having the kids write "Bottom's Ballad" from A Midsummer Night's Dream. If you don't know the play, one of the characters is enchanted into having a donkey's head and then becomes the love object of the fairy queen. After much confusion, he falls asleep as a donkey (ass) and wakes up as a human again, completely mystified by his experience, which he thinks has all been a dream. He then decides the story should be told and speaks of having another character write a ballad about it.

The ballad never happens in the play, so I have "commissioned" my students to write it. Some of them are working in teams and all of them have the opportunity for some nice extra credit if they set it to music and sing it for the class. I've written my own version as a demo model, but I haven't sung it to them yet--I just read it aloud. So far a lot of the students are preparing musical numbers for Monday. Now we'll just have to see who actually follows through. I am really looking forward to hearing the results.

This is the kind of stuff I am going to miss. I wish that all of teaching could be fun like that, but there are just too many times when forces outside the classroom step in and spoil the spontaneity.

Three more months. Then I will be a retired teacher.

Iffy Rainy

Talk about insults!! First Day of Spring, pictured above. It's snowing!! Getting whiter ever as I post. This was supposed to be rain. Ah, the ironies of nature.

Sorta Sleepy

OK, so it wasn't quite raining, exactly, when I got home. But it had been off and on all day....I think. My classroom only has a window high up, so I can't really see what's going on outside. However, the ground was wet, so I figure--rain.

I fed the Boys, then got back in the house to make some Chicken Paprikash. My Dad used to love it and my Mother spent a good part of her cooking career trying to make it like Grandma used to. Well. mine wasn't up to Grandma's standards either, but it wasn't too bad.

I lay down on the couch for just a few minutes and woke up to a phone call and the realization that choir practice had started fifteen minutes earlier!! I rushed off to arrive late, but managed to get in some good rehearsal time. I know the music we are singing on Sunday almost by heart, so I'll be fine.

Just came back in from feeding the Boys their midnight snack and all looks well. They are in rainsheets again, so they stayed nice and dry today in what I guess was rain.

Another reason to retire--so I can see the outside world.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Three Diffferent Approaches

Lovely Day and Feeling Better

Took me all night, and part of today, but I think my neck is finally better.

It was around 60F when I got home so I took the Boys' sheets off. It was cold when I left in the morning--in the 30's. Tuck and Toby were a little sweaty, but Chance was fine. Fed, let them digest then went back out.

Toby was in the arena, saw me coming, headed out to the pasture but stopped just by the gate. I'm pretty sure his "catch me if you can" is really just a game. He kept a wary eye on me, then came over for a treat and willingly let me put the rope on to take him in. After a good shedding grooming, we went out for a nice hack. He chose the slightly longer, middle trail himself, so I guess he was pretty happy to be out.

Tucker was at the barn when we got back, ready, willing and able to stick his head into his halter. I saddled him up and schooled in the arena. I spent the ride doing one quick exercise after another. Trots to half passes, figure eights, canter, trot, canter, over the pole with a trot or whatever lead change, halt, reinback, trot, canter....just all kinds of things to keep him thinking and wanting to "Go!" He gave me some nice work with only one bit of confusing protest--nothing big. The best part was how he really tried to figure out the half passes tonight. I could feel him thinking it through.

Because time was growing a bit short--rehearsal tonight--I lunged Chance. My goal with him is to get him fit so he really can do some real work. His gaits have really improved and his canter is getting nicer each time I watch him go. He has also become very obedient on the lunge, so that too is a huge improvement. He is just a nice horse, that's all there is to it.

So, three worked in three different styles. Kind of keeps me interested too. Maybe I should make a habit of mixing it up like this all the time.

Might rain tomorrow. Might not. Guess it's the typical, wait and see.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Pain in the Neck

It's Been A While

Well, I was at the chiropractor again this morning. My neck was out again and I was on the brink of a bad headache. Fortunately I never got the headache, but my neck is really bothering me.

Yesterday it was upper cervical and today it was lower cervical. Now everything it just sore. I am sitting here with ice on my neck and heat on my head....which I alternate. I will sit in my traction thingie too, hoping to help the alignment.

I haven't had an issue like this in months, so that's good, but the weather was lovely and I simply could not go out to do anything with the Boys except feed them. Not that they care. *lol*

No rehearsal tonight, no place to go, so I can relax and see if I can get rid of the rest of this neckache. Don't know what triggered it, but I'm doing all I can to get it set right.

And that means, no horsing around.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Busy Start

To Busy Week

The choir "gang" got together for an early St. Patrick's dinner of corned beef and cabbage tonight. Delicious.

But I also needed a chiropractic adjustment to my neck as, for the first time in quite a while, I was on the edge of a headache. I got and early evening appointment, leaving me no time to work the Boys,

It was kind of chilly today, though. And not exactly pleasant out, so I don't feel too bad.

I have another rehearsal on Wednesday for the duet and then choir rehearsal on Thursday.

Unless the weather gets too nice to ignore, I'm not sure how motivated I will be to ride. I guess I'll just have to see how it goes.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Late Evening Ride

Why So Long?

Don't quite know what took me so long to get around to riding, but it did.

Actually after church I went out with the choir group to have lunch, and then I went to the feed store to get feed. That took up the bulk of the early afternoon.

I hadn't slept well last night, so I was kind of tired and took a short nap. When I woke up, it was about time to feed the Boys and I still had to unload the grain. Then I had to swap vehicles from the truck to the car to unload the alfalfa cubes I bought yesterday. Then I fed.

I waited about an hour, went out to spread a bit of grass seed, and finally worked my way out to the barn for some horsing around.

Chance and I went out on a nice little hack. Every time I ride that kid I love him even more. He has a nice enthusiastic attitude about hacking without being silly and he is very comfortable. In the arena he still has a lot to learn, but his gaits are getting stronger as he learns to use his back. He is just so level headed and cooperative, I have a feeling as time goes by we are going to develop a super relationship. He is a real sweetie.

I rode Tucker next in the arena for a quick school. I had no plan when I got on, and not much of one after I started except to get him really forward off my aids. Then I did some canter work with trot changes over a pole in the center of the arena. Tuck is still giving me a bit of an attitude on the canter departs--at least the first ones until we get a few. I am wondering if perhaps he is having an ulcer issue again as he seems particularly sensitive on his right side. I think I may try a course of ulcer medication to see if it improves his attitude.

I did get some nice work from him, however, once he decided I was not going to put up with any of his nonsense. Some of the trot work was really nice and his right half pass was excellent. The left still needs some schooling. Every horse I have ever owned has had one strong side in learning the half pass and usually it's to the left. Tuck seems to be better to the right.

I worked a little at it by starting off in a leg yield to establish the left lateral movement off my leg and then changed the bend. The other option is to simply begin a diagonal across the arena and then add the leg to make it a lateral move. That establishes the bend first and the lateral afterwards. Sometimes it's worth trying several different tactics to conquer a training problem.

I am lucky to have worked with dozens of trainers from all countries during my riding career, so I usually have a pretty good "bag of tricks" to try when I have an issue. I wish I'd kept better notes over the years of all the things I've learned because I'm sure I've forgotten a lot more than I remember.

Meantime, any progress is good, so I'm pretty happy. And, Tuck is far from being fit, so every effort on his part to do what I ask is positive.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Two on a Longe and a Song

Nice Saturday

Lovely weather, but I spent the entire morning and then some with non-horse activities...sort of.

I went to the chiropractor in the morning for an adjustment, then to the pet food store for some cat food. Made it home in time to go over my duet music a few times before heading to my partner's house for a rehearsal.

She was not quite as up to speed on the music, so I was pretty comfortable as we practiced. The two vocal parts need to be heard together, and without the accompaniment, even they sound a bit strange and incomplete. Pergolesi apparently was one of those composers who created an important line for each instrument/vocalist which were all dependent upon each other. As a whole, the piece makes sense, but in individual parts it is rather difficult to manage. We will be fine by the next rehearsal and able to work on interpretation, and some of the finer points of putting a duet together.

After rehearsal, we went out to lunch. Then, I needed to go to the feed store to get some alfalfa cubes. I finally made it home just a little before I was time to give the Boys dinner.

So, I fed and gave them about an hour for digestion before heading out to do something.

Lungeing was the order of the day, mostly because I don't like to ride after the chiropractor has worked on me. (I also did not yet unload the cubes.) I set up a little one foot jump on my lungeing circle and caught Chance first. Well, catching Chance is not really a "catch" but more of a self-defense haltering in order to not be loved to death.

He was lovely on the lines. His trot was nice and forward, and very soft. But better yet, his canter on both leads was relaxed and soft as well. I don't think I've ever seen him go that well. He has really found his balance and confidence. I set him at the little jump and again, he stayed soft and relaxed, with a very positive attitude. He mistimed his stride a few times, but still took himself over cleanly and with fairly good form. I don't know if he has an aptitude for jumping, but he certainly has a lovely attitude.

I got Tucker next. He figured I had treats in my pocket so he was quite content to be haltered. He too was good on the line. He could have trotted a bit more forward, but he was nicely relaxed and obedient. The only silly thing he did was put his nose to the ground and aim for the lunge line with his front feet. A little "snap" on the line corrected that easily. Then, I set him at the jump. His first two efforts were quiet and well balanced, but he found the whole experience far too much fun to keep himself steady.

Let me put it this way. From the looks of him, he would be a super speed jumper. Of course, this was only a one foot little jump but he can cover some ground and doesn't mind taking off from a long stride if need be. He was galloping on a bit too foolishly for my taste, so I insisted he steady up first to a trot, and then finally a more controlled canter to finish up. Since I am not really training him to be a jumper, I don't mind when he cuts up and plays a little. In a way, it's good because afterwards, his trot work on the circle is really engaged and forward.

Hope that doesn't mean I will have to jump a fence or two before every dressage test to get him going. *lol* I do know in the old tests, years ago, dressage horses were expected to jump something as a test of their training. Could be, for Tucker that would be the way to start a test instead. Prix Caprilli???

Toby wasn't interested in doing anything so I just let him be. Instead I spent about a half hour sewing up a tear in one of his sheets. What should have been a ten minute job was baffled by trouble with the bobbin in my sewing machine, and finally a broken thread in the needle which drove me to stitch up the last two inches by hand.

So that's how I spent my Saturday.

Friday, March 13, 2009

I Love My Farrier

But Sometimes Coomunications Don't Work

After I was all done feeding this morning, I sat down to drink my nice cup of tea and eat my oatmeal before getting ready for work.

The phone rang. It was my shoer. He noted that it had been a while since my horses were shod and he wanted to come by this morning and do them.

Now, yes, the Boys are due, but I had not yet called, mostly because in the winter their feet do not grow as much as in the warmer weather, so they were fine--just a little long in Tucker's case. I really do appreciate that Scott was on top of it and set me up for an appointment.

Turns out he had called me last night just before I got home from choir practice to try to let me know he was coming. For some reason I did not get that message, so the early morning call was a follow-up. Three cheers. I had thought it was just a last minute thing.

Still, I had to rush back out to the barn to lock the Boys in their stalls before they headed out to the hinterlands of the pasture to nibble the little sprouts of grass trying to grow in the sunshine. Then, I had to fill their water buckets since, locked in, they had no way to get to the outside trough. And, since I'd already put piles of hay out in the paddock for them, I also had to put some hay in their stalls. And I had to sweep the barn aisle so Scott had a clean floor to shoe on. (This probably should have been already done, but sometimes I leave it for a few days.)

Then, I had to run back into the house to finish breakfast, take my shower, and get dressed for school so I could leave on time--or close to on time. I was, to my surprise, only about 3 minutes late in the end, mostly because nearly every traffic light on the way turned green for me on the way in.

A note about that. The road I travel to school used to be a quiet country, two lane road. Now, with all the warehouses and development in my area, it is a busy two lane road where it needs four lanes and then it becomes a busy four lane road. In the six miles I drive to school each day, there are no less than nine traffic signals. I go about three miles extra on the way in because I cannot make a left turn at the end of my road to get on the main road because there is no traffic light (yet) and pulling out is either nearly impossible or really hazardous during rush hour. So I take a detour to the next road over from mine that does have a light.

The signals are totally erratic as to when they switch from green to red, and normally I will be stopped by at least half of them on the way to work and on the way home. This morning was an ususual pleasure. Does that mean the rest of the day will go well?

Back to the Boys. Fortunately, my Boys are just fine for the shoer and there is no need for me to be there. Tucker can get a little annoying sometimes--my shoer calls him a "knucklehead" when he does, but maturity has finally settled in on him.

I did get home one time to find a broken halter, but when I asked what happened the next time the shoeing crew showed up, no one quite remembered so I guess it wasn't anything too serious. Chance has sometimes been startled on the cross ties and pulled back, so he may have been the culprit. I has, however, always been a matter of small pride for me to have horses that are good for the farrier, so I am concerned whenever there is a hint of trouble.

From the sound of it, I think Scott might be coming by himself this time to shoe. As you may recall, he had been laid up after shoulder surgery for months. The last time he was here he was the one who shod Tucker and, I am delighted to say, the shoes stayed on just fine even through all the wet weather we have had.

And to you mudlovers out there, I have been extraordinarily lucky so far this almost Spring. The mud has been minimal so far. But, I'd better not brag too much. There are still many days of "skywater" yet to come.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Rain, Mist and a Cleaning Frenzy

No Excuses

It was a bit misty all day, not raining, really, so I have no excuse for not riding except that I was too tired to go back out after I fed. I guess it's just a lack of true motivation combined with a full day of very engaged teaching.

I also hiked the length of the school building several times because I took my car down to the auto mechanics shop so they could run a diagnostic of the computer to find out why I was getting a check engine light on. First, I do believe the full circuit of the building has been clocked at a quarter mile, so my journey from one end to the other and back was a rather long walk on not so good knees. But I can't complain, essentially, because it's one of the perks of teaching in a vocational/technical high school. The diagnostic check at a garage would have cost as much as $100 or more.

My car was showing a gas vapor leak which might have been caused by a loose gas cap. At any rate, the students reset the computer and hopefully it will be fine. However, I did learn it might take a week or more for the light to come on again if there is a vapor leak somewhere that needs tending. Apparently the computer program runs random checks of the car's emission systems and there is no predictable pattern. This kind of stuff fascinates me, actually as I love to know how things work. If the light comes on again, the teacher said the first thing we'd do is get a new gas tank cap, as that is likely where the leak would be.

Anyhow, when I got home, I told myself I'd go back out after the Boys were done eating and do something, but I crashed in the house instead. Then inspired by guilt at now having worked a horse, I decided to do some housecleaning. This is going to take a long time to do properly. At any rate, I did sort out a lot of mail/papers that have been accumulating and I started sorting some clothes as well.

The Boys seemed quite happy when I got home. They were all in the front paddock and when I stopped the car to get the mail, Tucker marched over to the fence. There is a patch of lawn there where the grass is thick and showing some signs of green. I picked some grass for the Boys the other day and seem to have started a new tradition. I had to pick grass for each of them today as well. If they are in that paddock tomorrow when I come home, I will know I have been marked as a source of a nice treat before dinner--kind of an appetizer. Salad?

Tucker was first in line for the grass, but when Toby hurried over I had to feed him first--alpha horse syndrome. Chance hung back but I tossed him some and as long as there were some piles around, he was able to eat. Once it was down to the last blades, Tucker "snarled" at him and the kid trotted off. No big deal as the next step was for me to serve dinner, so no one went hungry for long.

I'd left a lot of hay out this morning and from the looks of it, most of it was eaten. When I left for school, Chance was chowing down on a pile outside. I keep remembering the comments about his eating habits that came with him when I adopted him, "Not much of a hay eater." Maybe they didn't have the kind of hay he likes because here, he never misses an opportunity to have some. And in the morning, he really loves his alfalfa cubes.

I had a good rehearsal last night...eventually. Despite my having practiced the music on my own, once I started singing with the organ, I started losing ground. My director is a patient saint with me, thank goodness, and we both kind of agreed that the piece is far easier to learn with all three parts at once since they so closely relate to each other. However, by the end of the session I had a pretty good grasp of my part. Tonight I practiced it with some of the YouTube versions, nearly all sung at different tempos. I just have one little place left where I'm not entirely confident of the notes, but I'll master it soon.

And maybe, just maybe, I'll find the energy to ride too.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Little Chilly

And I Kind of Got Blindsided

Nothing serious, just time consuming. I am going to be singing a duet with another soprano on Mauday Thursday at my church. This is the Thursday night before Easter Sunday for you non-religiously educated out there.

For those who know music, it is the Stabat Mater by Pergolesi. It's a beautiful piece but kind of tricky harmonically and for me, a little rhythmically as well. My choir director/organist from church will be accompanying us and frankly, all three of us have been a bit lazy or too busy to really focus on learning the piece. So, direct action was needed.

My fellow vocalist, a professional voice teacher, called me last week to set up a rehearsal. I finally called her back and we will be practicing on Saturday morning. My choir director and I had already decided to rehearse together soon so both he and I could learn our parts and sync up. I call him tonight to set a date and we agreed on tomorrow--Wednesday night. Good. That meant I had time to really study my part before going to sing with him.

Not to be. No sooner had I hung up the phone than he called back to say he'd forgotten a prior committment for tomorrow and could we get together tonight instead.

Yikes!! Suddenly here I was, vocally challenged and faced with learning the music in about 2 and a half hours. OK, I am a pretty fast study, but this is not the easiest music I've ever tried to sing. It is a gorgeous piece, but the harmonies are intricate and the melody is not exactly straighforward.

Fortunately, it is kind of chilly and gray outside, not exactly the most inviting weather for riding, although I probably would have at least lunged. However, it is not to be. I am instead pondering over four pages of music, trying to put it all together.

Actually, there are at least two performances of it on the Internet, with some super good vocalists. This is my favorite so far: This is actually a countertenor (man) singing with a female soprano. Lovely. I will be, I hope, singing the top/higher part.

Anyhow, I almost have a handle on it, so when I go to my director's house later, I will not be totally incompetent. By Saturday, I should be a pro....sort of.

Loosely translated the words mean: "The grieving Mother stood beside the cross weeping where her Son was hanging." This, of course refers to Mary standing at the foot of Christ's cross at the cruxifiction.

Now, I am a Protestant/Presbyterian and my singing partner is a Methodist, but that's never stopped us from singing music from the Catholic liturgy, particularly when it is beautiful like this. The service combines the two churches in town for the one evening and our choirs join to sing as well. This duet will open the service and set the tone. It is a very kind of "down" evening commemorating the events leading up to the ulitmate joy of Easter morning.

I hope we will be able to do the music justice.

Nothing Much To Report

Monday Off

Folllowing tradition, and the usual being tired after a Monday at school, I did not ride. I must admit the Boys did seem a bit surprised to see me home, and then I realized with the time switch to Daylight Savings Time, I was a hour early in their eyes.

That did not stop them from being ready for dinner, though. Tucker was quite adorable as he watched me head for the feed room. There was just something in his eyes and expression speaking volumes. "Feed me."

As it turned out, the choice of sheets I'd made last night was a good one. It never did get very warm, staying in the 40'sF, and with the rain, I think it felt colder. From all accounts I can leave the rainsheets on all week--if they survive that long.

Tucker's "Hug," a sturdy, well made nylon waterproof sheet now has a big right angle tear right on his right hind haunch. I didn't do anything about it tonight as I didn't discover it until late night snack time so it was too late to do a repair. I can sew it back together if no more damage is done, but it's one more in a growing list of damaged "jacket" out there. "Somebody" is having a good time playing tug o war with the outfits.

I have a large pile of damaged sheets and blankets on the floor of the barn to sort through. I have a nice little sewing machine that so far seems capable of repair work, and I've sewn a few sheets back together already, but what I really need to do is sit down and decide just what can be rescued and what should be tossed. Over the the 38 years I have owned my own horses, I have managed to gather quite a collection of gear and horse clothing. However, since Chance arrived, I seem to have gone through far more shredding episodes than in all those years.

Now, I can't entirely blame Chance, because the sheets and blankets he wears get ripped too, so he doesn't do all the damage on his own. I think I just have a particularly rambunctious little herd of Boys out there, kind of like a demolition derby on the hoof. Add to that about a half dozen spots on my interior fencing where I need to replace or repair fence posts, the blue barrels rolled all over the place, the tree branches dragged about, the garden hose carted off, and the plastic netting intended to protect some of the tree trunks turning up in all kinds of places and you'd think I'd been invaded by mischievous gremlins.

I will have plenty of work/cleanup to do in my spare time over the next few months as the weather warms. Trouble is, if the "past is prologue," as Shakespeare said, it will be all for naught and I will just have to do it over again in a few more months...and a few more months....and...etc.

Nothing quite like owning playful geldings. Just think one ton puppies.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Well, That's Strange

Weather Or Not

The forecast was wrong!! I can hardly believe it. It's been right for days and days, and today...not.

I was supposed to rain last night. It didn't. Then it was supposed to just be cloudy this morning. It rained. It was supposed to rain again this afternoon. It's sunny now at it's nearly 2 PM.

OK, so did the forecast forget to change its clocks to DST?

Sunday, March 08, 2009

And Again I Rode

Twice in One Weekend

How could I resist? It was around 65F today, but cloudy. I think rain is coming but it held off.

This time I took Toby out first for a nice little hack. Nothing special--the Tucker trail backwards. What I think pleases me most about riding him is that at 19 now, he stills feels wonderfully sound. I don't notice any stiffness anywhere and his steps are nice and springy.

Remember, now, I did retire him from dressage at Intermediare I, primarily because I felt he had reached his limit with self carriage and as the work had progressed, his hocks had gotten sore. He is not built ideally in the front to be an upper level horse as his neck is set fairly level, so he had to work extra to balance back on his hind end. I did not feel it was fair to push him any more even though I am sure he was quite capable of learning the piaffe and passage. (Not that I was able to actually teach them beyond the basics....) I would like to credit that retirement decision with his apparent soundness now.

The fun thing with him is that if I want to, I can get on and do most of the upper level movments in a fairly long, non-challenging frame because he knows how to do them. So, I can play with flying changes, half-passes, etc. whenever I want to.

I took Chance out on a hack next and he was really nice and forward in his walk. The kid does have pretty nice gaits when he offers forward, so this felt good. We only had one little issue when the friend of the guy next door who has chickens in the woods was out there feeding them. Chance has never seen him there before and actually spooked and bolted....for about one stride. It was kind of cute and he settled back down almost at once. No big deal and exactly the kind of thing that boosts my confidence in a horse. Good level head and easy to calm down after an incident.

I decided to ride Tucker in the arena playing in a longish frame, legging him up and just encouraging him to go forward. I'd also set up a little jump grid with two jumps of about 1 foot in height, set at a one stride distance.

Tuck gave me a bit of an attitude on the first canter depart, which I corrected quickly and then he was fine. But the right lead was tending to get crooked, so I did some counter bend and then counter canter to correct it. Then I trotted into the grid, and he ran out at the second jump.

Bummer. Now, I competed in jumping classes for some 20 years or more, so I do know what I'm doing, but I was being too careless and didn't insist he stay in the line as I should have. We finally got three passes through in each direction, so I stopped. It was only after I was done that I realized I had never tried that exercise with him before and haven't even asked him to lunge through a combination more that about two times, so all in all, he was pretty good about it.

I know a little jump of one foot is nothing big, but to a green horse (at least as far as jumping goes) it does pose a bit of a challenge. What I do like about Tuck is that he never gets excited on the approach and he seems to like it when I take a bit of hold and kind of push him into the rein towards the fence. I suspect he would be a lot of fun to jump more seriously if I ever wanted to.

But, my jumping days are pretty much over. As someone said to me yesterday at the dressage lesson, jumping exponentially increases the possibility of a fall and at this point in life it's just not worth the risk.

Think I'll keep my focus on dressage with occasional forays into the world of the one foot division. Crossrails?? Trotting poles??? Itty bitty logs in the woods???

Four feet (hoofs) mostly on the ground strikes me as good.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Gorgeous Day

And I Actually Rode!

It was up to near 70F today with nice sunshine. Quite a startling change considering there is still snow piled around my yard.

I did go to watch my friend's lessons. The farm where she rode is absolutely beautiful with a brand new indoor arena just finished in November. If you had all the money in the world to build a perfect place to have your horses, this would be it. The owners are really nice people and, I presume, quite well off. The owner, B, had just come back in from a two hour hack--they own acres and acres of nursery/farmland--on her young Wesphalian mare who seems to be a real sweetie. I know she ended up with the AIG year end championship at Training Level last year, so she must be a nice horse. I didn't get to see her under saddle, but she is a pretty dark seal bay and very friendly.

The riding instructor is student of the trainer I rode under at my last lesson months ago. She was pretty good, but not too inventive at finding ways to help her students get their horses more focused. She mostly had them stay on a 20 meter circle and just kept encouraging them to apply the correct aids to get the horses working on the bit. Nothing she said was wrong, but sometimes it takes a little creativity to come up with an alternate exercise to break up a pattern, or get a horse/student to understand a concept. She is currently working towards showing her own horse at fourth level, so she does have experience to teach at the level her students were working. But, I'm not sure she would be able to do much to help me except to just tell me when my horse was right and when he was wrong.

What I really need is an upper level trainer with a ton of exercises up his/her sleeve to pull out to help develop Tucker and solve some of his attitude issues. Lockie Richards, my favorite trainer of all time, was such a master at that. He had hundreds of exercises/tricks/techniques to handle almost any kind of training issue. I never ever left one of his lessons without learning a dozen new things.

But, watching the lessons, and the nice weather inspired me to come home and ride at least the two young Boys. Chance was quite interested in coming in to do something, so I rode him first.

As expected, he was rather unsteady about stretching down to the bit, but the concept is solidly there. He just can't quite keep a steady frame all the way around the arena, but I will give him the fact that there were still several muddy spots and some slightly slipperly places. The snow was all gone, and the arena is drying, but it's far from perfect. Some of his unsteadiness was due to the footing.

But it was interesting how he kept trying to figure out what I wanted, especially at the change of rein. By the end of the session I'd cantered him in a bit of a frame on both reins, and he had managed several changes of rein on a figure eight without popping his head up. Good boy.

I collected Tucker from the pasture where he'd moseyed off and rode him for a more active session. I did a lot of walk circling with changes of rein to start off, discovering he was a bit difficult to swap over from left to right bend. Since I think it was his right hock that had been bothering him, I have to wonder if there is a little physical stiffness there, but he too tried to figure out what I wanted. The difference with him is that when he does not understand, he rebels in some way. This time, he simply stopped, and I had to really press him into the new outside rein. Once he "got it" he was fine, but it's clear he does not like being confused. He'd be the kid in class who would give up on the work and flunk rather than admit he was having a hard time understanding.

His trot work was really good, although it needed some more "forward," so I opted for working into the canter early on. He laid his ears back at the first depart but once he got going all the rest of the transitions were just fine.

He still has a tendancy to carry his haunches in a little on the right rein so I will need to work on gettin him straigher on that lead. Again, I suspect he doesn't want to put his right hind under his body to carry his weight, so stepping a bit to the inside is an evasion. Again, I will need to monitor this. If it is a soreness or even a chronic weakness, I will need to build him up.

Lots of canter trot transitions energized his gaits nicely, so I'm pretty sure mixing up the gaits and the exercises is the key to getting him active. Once his brain is challenged, he steps up his physical effort to match.

I ended with an forward walk to a halt and a few reinback steps, or just a sharp walk off from the halt. One of the other challenges he makes is to the rein at a halt where he will poke his nose out and then resist the bit. Once I corrected that a few times he decided it wasn't worth the game and he submitted.

Right now, Chance is really pretty straighforward to train. Tucker is a brain game.

I'll just have to ride Toby when I want a break. *S*

For One And All

A Special Post

(In Honor of the Boys who are now naked and just finishing breakfast before the frolic and predicted mudbaths.)

This poem, in a slightly different version was published in a national horse magazine some years ago. This is rewrite as I didn't bother looking for the original. Thus, I can readily say, it's mostly brand new!! *G*

The first and foremost sign of Spring
Is really just a simple thing.
It’s not the melting icy spears
Dripping Winter’s farewell tears,
Nor green tipped fingers on the trees
Playing in a softened breeze.
It’s not the crocus in the lane,
Petals drinking in the rain,
Nor Robin Redbreast’s crimson blush—
It’s globs of horsehair on the brush.
c. 2009. Jean E. Dvorak

Speaking of which, I just came in after some poo picking. I took the shedding blade out to the Boys who were scattered about the paddocks. Tucker stood like a pro. Toby took off at first with his usual suspicion that perhaps I was going to ride him. So I started shedding Chance. At that Toby came over for his session. Of all three he was shedding the most, in big piles of hair. I alternated between him and Chance.

Then I headed for the barn. Chance bopped along right at my elbow, kind of nudging the arm that held the shedding blade. He was quite delighted when I stopped twice along the way to give him some more scratches.

I thought he did a fine job of communicating.
It is nearing 70F. I am off shortly to watch my friend's lesson. More later.

Friday, March 06, 2009


The Snow is Nearly All Gone

Four days ago, we were blanketed under a nine inch snowstorm. Tonight, except for the few odd shady spots and the places where the snow is piled, all I see is bare ground.

My arena seems pretty clear too although it is still pretty wet in there. But I'm pretty sure before the weekend is over I will be able to ride.

I put light sheets on the Boys this morning, so they are still clean. But tomorrow will be too warm so I am anticipating mud caked wonders by afternoon. But practically all my blogging friends seem to be in the same boat, so we can commisterate as we spit out the horsehair and try to wipe the dirt from our faces. The cloud of dust from grooming a muddy horse is truly amazing.

Then again, watching the sheer joy in my Boys' bodies as they revel in blanketless freedom and get to scratch all those itchy spots in the nice soft mud/sand/whatever is well worth all the work I have to do. They are like little kids let out for recess after a tough reading test.

Speaking of, the NJ State High School Assessment tests are over for the year and my 11th graders are all pretty confident they did really well on the language arts portion. Several of them thanked me for getting them ready as some of the prep work we'd done was so similar to parts of the test they were totally ready to tackle the assignments. I know for sure all the students in my testing room put their all into doing a great job on the test. It is a requirement for graduation, so they do need to pass, but I honestly think they put even more pride into their work than passing required. I will be eager to see their scores.

I will be teaching A Midsummer Night's Dream to all my classes by next week. My 9th and 10th graders seem to be enjoying it so far, and I hope the 11th graders feel the same. Once we are all done, I'll be doing Romeo and Juliet with the 9th grade, Taming of the Shrew with the 10th grade, and Hamlet with the 11th grade. All Shakespeare all the time.

More fun for and English teacher than I could ever possibly explain.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Two Out of Three Ain't Bad

And What Do I Need to Ride?

Above freezing temperatures, no precipitation and good footing.

Well, we had the weather. We did not have the footing. With the snow starting to melt, I am back to semi-frozen slop in my arena. The trails through the woods are still snow covered, but the snow packs quickly in the shod Boys' feet, so unless the snow is fairly deep, which it no longer is, all the snowballs do is make it difficult to do anything but mince along.

Now, the good news is that it's supposed to be up around 5oF tomorrow and into the upper 60'sF on the weekend, so the snow is going to disappear really fast. Christmas Eve, when the temperature went up to nearly 70 F during the evening, the snow and ice were gone in a few hours. With the daylight sun, that should happen even faster.

But, how much mud will be left behind? I didn't see any significant winds predicted so I'm not too optimistic. The only possible advantage might be that this snowstorm landed on thawed footing so it's possible the water will soak in quickly instead of lying on the surface creating the above-mentioned slop.

I will be going to watch a lesson at a new indoor not too far from here on Saturday. One of the women who rides with my trainer when he is here and not in Florida, is taking a lesson with someone new. The indoor is supposed to have fabulous footing so I am really interested. And I will also be interested to watch the training session. Maybe it will inspire me to get back in the saddle...well provided I have the third item I need for riding....good footing.

Meantime, my little herd has developed a new temporary dynamic. Toby and Tucker are hanging out together and Chance is off "doing his own thing." The two were on one side of the barn in the paddocks by the driveway and Chance was off alone in the paddock by the arena.

This kind of social interaction fascinates me. I would think a real herd would tend to stick together, but here, I often find one horse off by himself. Most of the time, though, Tucker seems to be with a buddy. Does that suggest a sense of confidence or a lack thereof. Toby is definitely the alpha horse and Chance. not at all assertive, seems quite content at the bottom of the pecking order. And yet, he does not seem at all browbeaten despite the fact that Tucker does try to bully him around.

But that's just Tucker. He tries to bully me around. We address it constantly.

And someday I will actually win. *lol*

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Nothing To Report

More of the Same

Which means, cold, snow, winter. On a positive note, I did see that the snow was starting to melt in the arena on the sunny side.

The Boys seem to be taking it all just fine. I didn't see anyone playing today, but I got home rather late after school as I had a meeting that lasted until 5 PM. Then I needed to pick up something at the supermarket, which made me even later.

Toby and Tucker were out in the paddock, pawing through the snow for the hay scraps buried under it. Since they still had some hay in their stalls I would guess this was as much for entertainment as for eating. Then again, some of the hay I'd given them came from a "thick bladed grass" bale. I'm not sure they like it as much as the finer grasses in some of the other bales.

Needless to say, I simply fed them, and came back inside for a quick dinner. Quick because I had an appointment to take Reggie, my black kitty to the vet for his final NAET treatment. This is the allergy elmination sessions he's been having to get him over licking off his fur.

Tonight we were down to what seems to be the last thing he is allergic to--canned fish cat food, salmon and whitefish. The good thing was that he was treated and no longer reacts to the dry cat foods I'd been using. And, apparently, he does not seem to have allergies to anything else.

The treatments have made a tremendous difference in him and he is actually growing the fur back on his belly which he had licked until it was bald. Now all I see him doing is the normal kind of grooming most cats do. He was pretty obsessive before so this is an incredible and positive change.

I met a fellow horseman at the vet so we had a nice horse chat, and I also had a nice conversation with woman who was there with her border collie mix. Thus, in addition to being happy about Reggie's success, I had quite a pleasant evening out.

Far better than a day of testing at school....far more be said.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Back On Line

And Back At School

The snow was nicely cleared from the roads around here, but apparently some of the roads the other teachers had to drive on to school were icy and still snow covered. Hard to say what the differences are in plowing techniques around the State, but I surely do have to commend the road crews in my County.

Testing went on without a hitch, after I told the Principal I had no coverage for my homeroom. (The Vice Principal in charge said she had no one to take over.) The Principal said not to worry about it and I should just go to the testing room to set up and administer the test. I did. I guess they found someone to take over my other duties.

Proctoring/administering the test requires reading all the directions aloud, making sure the students are all on the right pages, seeing that no one talks, and counting and keeping a close eye on every test and paper handed out in the classroom. I have to sign for the tests in the morning, keep them under close watch, and then make sure I have given all the same tests back at the end of the day. During the three hours of testing, I and my proctor are just supposed to sit and watch the kids take the test. It is a tedious was to spend the time.

Meanwhile, back at home, I'd fed the Boys their hay in the stalls as it was only about 8F outside and the snow was cold. When I got back home from school, Tucker and Toby were playing some kind of game in the paddock while Chance just watched. I gave them more hay at dinner, even though they had some left from the morning. I don't want them to be hungry when it's so cold out there.

Before I left in the morning, I tried to watch the news on TV only to find my cable was out. Then I discovered that my phone and Internet were down too. I had no time at all in school to call the cable company for repair. When I got home, everything was still not working, so I had to use my cell phone to call in about the trouble. I'll keep the story short. Three disconnected calls and well over an hour later I had one appointment for repair on Thursday (between 3 PM and 5PM) and another on Wednesday (between 3 PM and 7 PM) as well as another one for my aunt next door whose cable was also out.

Now, mysteriously, the trouble has been corrected. I watched a new DVD I bought of the BBC's Shakespeare Retold series (kind of fun versions of Shakespeare's plays told and acted in modern English) and picked up my telephone just on a whim to hear a dial tone! Then I loaded up the Internet on my computer, and here I am! I will guess the trouble was in the line and that it was either corrected from the computers at the central cable office here in town or the guys were out on the road and found something or other disconnected. If it is still working in the morning, I will have to call and cancel all the appointments. That should take me another half hour or so. *sigh*

Tomorrow is also supposed to be cold, but then it starts to warm up again to almost springlike temperatures. That means the snow will melt rapidly creating....mud. To top it off, there are several days of rain predicted during the next 10 days. Back to the soggy mess. So far, Tucker seems to be holding his shoes, but he has lost two bell boots. I think I have at least two more new pairs to put on him, but in the snow they tend to flip up and don't do much to protect his shoes. I guess it's just back to the wait and see philosophy. I have cleared the snow for the shoer's truck so at least he can get in...just in case.

More testing tomorrow and Thursday. I will try not to scream from boredom.

Monday, March 02, 2009

And So It Goes

Snowed Under

Well, it's not as bad as it could have been, unless we catch the back end of the storm and get more later today. I think we may have had 8 inches or so. Enough to plow out of the driveway.

I just came in from doing just that. I also cleared out part of the area in front of the barn where my shoer parks and in the process, dug up some more of the lawn. Definitely will need to do some reseeding when the snow goes again. I may even be able to put back some of the sod I dug up, even though I tried hard not to do much damage. *sigh*

The driveway is pretty easy, but it takes a least two passes with the little loader to clear the whole width. On the one side I plow downhill to the road and push the snow across to the other side. The danger there is getting hit by a car or truck passing by but the traffic was not too bad today due to the weather, so I was able to do it fairly safely. On the otherside, the grade is less, so I plow up the hill into the yard. This is where the mailbox is so I have to do a little extra clearing around it.

The good thing is that with a day of sunshine the leftover stuff will melt leaving the drive nice and clear so I won't have to worry about the kind of ice we might have if it were earlier in the season.

When I went out to late feed last night, the Boys were standing out in the open, layered in snow. They had all kinds of shelter and yet they chose outside in a full fledged snowstorm. When they came in for feed, they seemed almost relieved to be under the roof and, I think, stayed in for most the night. When I got up this morning, they were either inside the stalls or under the run-in shed roof--depending on who it was-- and their blankets seemed pretty dry.

So why did they need an invitation to come in last night? Does it not occur to them that it would be far more pleasant inside than out when it's snowing and blowing? It totally puzzles me, but it's not the first time I've seen it. They will stand outside in the rain too. My trainer said they don't like all the noise of wind and precipitation banging on the barn when they can't actually see what's going on. They prefer to be outside where they can scan for danger. Well, that may be, but once they were acutally in, they seemed pleased to stay there.

My neighbor's adult son is now plowing my aunt's driveway next door with an ATV and a little plow. I used to do it for her when I had the truck and plow here, but I haven't taken my tractor over yet. I'm glad the neighbor is doing it as he has a little more maneuverability in close quarters. He dropped by here the last snow to see if I was OK too, but I'd already done my own. I really like the feeling of independence being able to take care of my own driveway. It goes all the way around my house, so it must be well over 200 feet to be done--not a job for hand shoveling.

One of the women who takes lessons where I do called today to chat and to let me know she is going for a lesson at a nearby barn on Saturday. She was hoping I might want to go over to watch, and I think I will. I also mentioned that I might be thinking of giving some lessons myself once I retire to earn some extra money. She was really happy to hear that and thinks I could easily pick up some students. I haven't taught in years, but I'm pretty confident I can get people going in the lower levels. I can also teach basic hunt seat equitation and basic jumping skills as well. If I do, it means I must give up my amatuer status for competition, but at this point, it really doesn't matter. I am not too interested in competing anyhow, and most of the amateur classes put me in with the open riders anyhow.

I also will need to get insurance. I've contacted the company that insures the US Equestrian Federation members to see what their rates are. I already have the group membership liability coverage with them for regular horse activities, but it does not cover professional activities. Guess I have some time to think about all of this, but it certainly would be a good way to pick up some extra cash doing something I really love.

So, that's the plan for now. We'll just have to see how it all works out.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Calm Before the Storm

So The Hay is In the Barn

I carted three bales of hay into the barn aisle so I don't have to cart it across the yard in the snow. "Snow," you say? Ah, yes. A storm is coming. The latest revised forecast calls for 8"-12
" with wind enough to make drifts. Either estimate is just too much for me. Shovel is on the back porch and tractor is at the ready under the barn roof with a waterproof cover over the seat.

My neck was bothering me again today and I had a bit of a headache again. It's been quite a while since I've had a problem, so I can't complain too much but it did put a damper on any thoughts of riding. I know I'll regret this one as the footing was just fine and the snow is going to ruin everything for days. But I just didn't feel up to it.

The Boys spent the bulk of the day out in the pasture nibbling. I guess as the sun had warmed the ground little shoots of new grass must be pushing up. Hopeful signs of spring soon to be buried under more of the miserable white stuff. I should actually put down some new grass seed and close the pasture off for a month or so, hoping it will grow. The pasture really does need a thorough rennovation, but without enough land to really rotate, that's kind of a problem. Besides, I actually don't want the Boys to have too much lush grazing as it seems to have the potential for laminitis in so many horses. I figure both Chance and Tucker would be candidates, so perhaps the sparse growth is better all around. It just means I need to feed hay all year long.

I poo picked the arena again so I won't have manure under the snow cover and I put some fence rails back in place. Spring is going to mean another fence repair, and I may have to bolt or screw some split fence posts back together to avoid having to replace them--a rather tedious job. It's interior fencing between the paddock and the arena, so not as crucial as exterior posts.

In winter, the list of "things to do" just keeps growing longer. Both run in sheds by the barn need cleaning--a job impossible to do when things are frozen--and, of course, all my winter blankets/sheets need repair, cleaning, or an honorable death/discard. I've already spoken to my hay man about pulling the mats from the stalls and releveling the floors under them, so that should get done eventually since the mats are just too darn heavy for me to lift. I think the list will grow over the next few weeks.

The clocks go ahead one hour next weekend, always a positive as far as I'm concerned. Coming home from school with the sun up in the sky is always encouraging. All I need is for the weather to cooperate.

But not tonight. *sigh*

Quick addendum: Looked at the weather forecast on the Internet. They set it up for 15 minute intervals. I had looked outside a bit before 8 PM and no snow. The forecast predicted snow starting between 8 PM and 8:30 PM, with definite snow at 8:15. It is now 8:10 and it is snowing. The accuracy of these forecasts is simply amazing to me.