Sunday, May 31, 2009

Cold Water On A Warmish Day

In the Swim of Things

I went swimming both yesterday and today. The water was kind of cold, but once I got going it felt wonderful! It's also great for my neck. I did 12 full laps each day and then rode around the lazy river about three times. Today, I was a bit cold on the river when the breeze picked up. I think it's cooling off a bit, which would be great for the week as my classroom is so miserable in the heat.

I lunged Tucker and Chance again as my knees are still "iffy." This time, I used the trotting poles as they were and then moved them to set up a little gymnastic which could be either trotted or cantered. There was a pole, a stride a little one foot jump, a stride and a pole so we could take it in either direction. Then, on the outside, near the fence, I set up a single, 2'6" jump.

Tucker was a bit lazy again at his trot work before we did the poles, but when I widened the circle to include them, he headed for them completely on his own and kept the line as honestly as he has ever done. When I added the little jump complex, he decided he preferred to trot it and really elevated his stride to get over the raised obstacle in the middle. He also, interestingly enough, seemed to prefer trotting into the approach of the 2'6" jump as well. This, he jumped, but it does take a little more effort to jump from a trot than from a canter, so I found his choice curious. I did ask him to canter in at least twice on each rein which he also did just fine. He really is a nice jumper.

Chance was in a "I'd rather canter" mood again, so I let him move on for a while until settling him into his trot work. His first pass through the little grid was at the canter, but then he alternated between trotting the obstacles and cantering them. I didn' t bother in insisting on either gait but just let him choose.

He did decide to canter the larger jump. But on the right rein, he kept wanting to pick up the left lead which made the jump a little more awkward. The last couple times, though, he took the right lead and put in a much nicer effort. The left lead was fine. Chance is a little "left handed" so I wasn't too worried about it. Under saddle, he will generally take the lead I ask for with a few mistakes on the right rein, but nothing that's difficult to fix.

All in all it was a fun schooling session and I think the Boys enjoyed themselves.

Muscles On My Horses

I Was Noticing in the Pics...

How well defined the muscles seem to be on all my horses. In particular, Tucker's shoulder muscles are really defined. Considering that he is not at peak fitness according to my riding and exercise program, I find this very interesting.

I would have expected Thorougbred muscles to be more evident, but I see similar development on Chance. And, to my surprise some on Toby as well. When he was in peak competition form, he was quite an impressive fellow, but he hardly does any work now and I still see muscle.

Ok, is it the play schedule? The hill in the pasture? The turnout? The feed? Or do my guys just get fit quickly due to the kind of work I give them?

I do remember some years ago attending a jumping clinic with one of the Leone brothers. I was riding PJ in perhaps his first ever jumping lesson. Leone, was it Mark or Michael or Peter, was commenting on how most riders just didn't get their horses properly fit for the work they expected of them. Now, PJ was a big bodied boy, with a very round musculature, and so Leone walked over to him to prove his point about how "soft" the horses in the clinic were. He poked his finger into PJ's shoulder and almost broke it as he hit solid muscle. "Well, not this horse," he said, obviously surprised.

I had been trained years before by an Olympic event rider as to how to leg my horses up for three phase competitions. At that time I rode an average of five to six days a week, combining ringwork with hacking, longlining, and cross country work. It was and still is my belief that a horse needs to be fit for more than is expected of him.

An old master dressage trainer I worked with advocated galloping dressage horses for at least three minutes a day. He felt wind and stamina were just as important to a good dressage horse as the strength training the sport develops.

Right now, my horses are far from what I consider truly fit, but we'll get there. In the meantime, I do still believe in varying the kinds of exercise they do get. Obviously, from the pictures I took the other morning, they also believe in varying the style and amount of their own exercise as well. It seems to be working--at least a little.

I guess among the four of us, we are not doing a bad job of maintaining at least some basic fitness.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Nothing to Report

All Quiet at Follywoods

I was Friday worn out and didn't do anything with the Boys.

They seem to be hanging out more and more in the barn, so I suspect the bugs are out. I haven't seen much fly action around, but it might be the mosquitoes. I did put some fly spray on them and I have fly sheets. Guess they will go on today.

I also have some industrial floor fans. I put one in front of each Boy's gated door in the barn aisle to blow some air through. Keeps flies out and keeps the horses a little cooler on hot days.

I use a feed through fly control--this year Simplifly--and fly predators, so I keep pretty good control of the stable flies. However, with 1200 acres of State forest behind me--the Pigeon SWAMP State Park--I have absolutely no control over mosquitoes, deer flies and all the other varieties that breed in the wet woodlands. I have fly traps around and a fogger to use if I really get frustrated.

And, I have a friend who works with the Mosquito Control Commission so if it gets really bad they will come over with the heliocopter to spray--presuming they have the funding to do their job this year.

For riding, if it gets bad, I have a full suit of Cashel bug armor for my horse. I picked up another suit on eBay last year for a song, so if anyone comes to visit, two horses can go out for a ride together.

This is a picture of Tucker from last year in the Bug Armor. There is a belly piece too but I haven't quite figured out how to put it on. The stuff works great! I use it for schooling in the summer so he keeps his mind on me rather than the biting bugs. And it even keeps me safe when the big B52 bomber horse flies show up. Tucker bucked me off one when one of them attacked him and I now bail off when one shows up to be safe. But with the Bug Armor on, it's OK.

I saw some other riding fly sheets on eBay the other day. They have a cut out for the saddle and would, I guess, work too. The face piece is a separate purchase as the Bug Armor only covers his body. I bought one with ears so he doesn't shake his head.

I honestly can say this was one investment really worth the price. If your horses are bothered with biting bugs when you ride, I highly recommend it. If you are interested, do a web search for the best prices, and don't forget to check eBay.

Hope I get some swimming in today.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Out to Lunge and Lots of Pics

Rhodedendron in Bloom In Front of My House

This Time All Three Lunged

Here is the full rhododendron bush.
Here is the bank in front of the house I have to cut with the string trimmer.

I don't mean to ignore Toby, but he doesn't usually seem to be at all interested in being ridden or worked. As a matter of fact, most of the time he makes a point of walking, or even running away. When he was in full training he behaved that way too, but I always caught him anyhow. Tonight, he saw me coming into the pasture and started what I call his "landing pattern." He walks away, then does a big half circle to come in to my side rather than front on. He knew I had treats and was perfectly willing to stand as I put on the halter and THEN gave him his treat.
The Boys. Look at the poor fence!

I gave him a moderately short lungeing session, trotting him over the poles. He is so dead on honest about it too. Unlike Tucker, he never tries to run out of the line but just keeps a good steady trot into the poles, through and then back out. If there is one thing I can say about him--he is not a cheat and never has been. That's one of the reasons I always knew when something physical was bothering him. If he didn't work, it usually meant something was sore. As I moved into the upper levels--eventually Intermediare I--his hocks would get sore with the extra exertion of carrying himself on his hind end. He is built "level" in front, so elevating the front end took some work. I would treat him with adequan and he'd be fine for a while, but that's the reason I finally stopped competing him. I'd rather have a sound, older retired horse than an upper level sore dressage horse any day.

Which brings me to Tucker who has an entirely different perspective on life. He craves some kind of attention from me, especially if I have treats in my pocket. (I suspect he'd be a great candidate for clicker training) When Toby got his after work carrot, Tuck was in the barn and practically put the halter on himself so I could lunge him.
Tucker, looking handsome.

Unlike Toby, I have to really keep after him and keep my eye on him. He takes off in a lazy trot that I have to constantly encourage to be forward with the whip and my voice. Over the line of poles, if I don't pay full attention, get him in straight and point the whip at his shoulder to keep him out on the circle where the poles are, he will take off in a canter and dive to the inside just to get out of going over the poles. He only got away with it once tonight, but I'm sure that quite pleased him. As I finished with the canter on the circle without the poles, despite my commands to "trot" or my chirps or my little snaps on the lunge line, he just kept on mindlessly cantering on until I pulled him into an eight meter circle right around me. He wasn't running, just cantering in a relaxed way, completely ignoring me.

Oh, by the way. Once, when he was supposed to take the right lead, going right, he took the left, counter lead instead. When I gave a little pull on the lunge line to the inside, he made a lovely flying change to the right lead. Aha! So do you think he wanted to show me he knows how to do them and what's wrong with me that I can't ride them on him? Huh? That'd be a Tucker thing for sure.

Chance is never a problem to catch. While he does need a little encouragement to move on when I am lungeing him, he is actually pretty honest, though lazier than Toby. He never tried to run out at the poles, but he did think, at least once, that cantering them would be easier. *lol* Actually, I think he prefers cantering to trotting. A good number of times, out on the trail, he has chosen to canter instead of trot when I have asked him to move out.
Chance overlooking his fence destructive hoofiwork.

When I got home tonight, he and Toby were playing over the fences the same way he and Tucker were playing this morning.

That's Chance in the distance and Toby in front. As you can see, Chance spares no effort when he plays.

As you can see, the fences do need some work. I have now seen Chance very deliberately taking the slip boards out of the posts, so the fallen rails are no accident. The broken fence post is a result of lots of this kind of playing and some good body scratching. Fortunately the fence doesn't have to keep the horses in, so when it goes down it's just a nuisance. *sigh*

I wonder if this competition was the final, championship round of the games that started this morning. Maybe tomorrow morning I will see the trophy presentation?

My Knees Hurt

Nice Day Too

My knees are really aching. I think I am going to have to go back to my knee doctor for some more treatments.

Thought I might work a Boy or two, but just didn't make it.

This morning Tuck and Chance were romping back and forth along the fence between the paddock and the arena. Chance inside, Tuck outside. Occasionally I heard a wooden "clunk" as someone's hoof hit a fence rail. At least I know how the fence line gets knocked apart over there.

And, I am pleased to say that as he romped, Tucker was rounding himself up "on the bit"...without the bit, of course. What I like about that is that it is either an instinct or a result of training which allows the horse to be far more maneuverable. Some horses motorcyle around, always on the brink of being out of balance. When they go "on the bit" by themselves they can turn, stop, and change gaits much more efficiently, running circles around a less athletic horse.

Just an observation from one who did not ride again.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Drip, Drip, Drip

Perfect Timing

Nice and cool today but the rain came in just as I was leaving school. Off and on, not quite downpours, but enough to put me off.

I stripped Chance's stall and then bedded everyone with nice fresh shavings as the rain dribbled down. Chance had not eaten his alfalfa cubes from the morning--rather unusual--but he seemed quite pleased to find them as dessert for dinner.

Toby spooked, as he often does, from the shavings bag. It's a long story, but I have a feeling a rather unfriendly barn manager years ago discovered he was a bit worried about the rustling shavings bags and made a point of scaring him as much as possible with them. I think his original fear stemmed from a horrendous storm that ripped through one season and blew all the plastic off the windows, making them flap in the winds, inside the barn.

All just a theory, mind you, but Toby is definitely a spook about the bags even to this day. I am always careful around him and try to reassure him, but tonight he did snort pretty wildly and run out of his stall until I had finished bedding him down.

Since I was worn out to start off with after a day at school--with the final performance of my play--I limped back into the house after finishing the stalls and feeding. My knees are pretty sore too as a result of all the wheelbarrow pushing, so maybe resting them won't hurt as much as riding with them in the rain.

I'm listening for thunder now.

As for the play--my 9th grade classes as well as a few of my 10th graders came to see it along with a small group from a neighboring high school. My kids were really enthusiastic. They told me they loved it, and one girl told me it "gave her chills." I gave my 4th period class the worksheet and I must admit their answers were excellent. It clearly showed me they understoon the play and were really thinking about all its elements. I am more than pleased.

Next phase is to market it to the outside world. I just need to do a little research and send it off. A rather easy task this time, so I have good hopes for some success.

Monday, May 25, 2009

What in the World

Hotter Than Predicted

Fed the Boys in the morning and thought it was a little warmer out than I'd expected. I spent the morning in the house doing nothing really worthwhile, then went out to strip the stalls.

The Boys have been bedding their stalls with hay for the last month or so. While I do pick out, I don't strip out all the bedding regularly. I fear the hay had gotten a bit out of hand. As I said, it was a lot hotter out there than I expected. I managed to finish Tucker's stall and Toby's stall before I just ran out of steam or rather, ended up soaked in sweat and pretty overheated.

No wonder! When I checked the temperature on the garage thermometer--it is in the full sunshine--it was at about 100F. Not quite so bad in the shade, but not exactly moderate. No wonder the Boys were hanging out inside the barn. I thought about setting up their fans, but decided to wait to see what happens over the next week. It is supposed to cool off again.

I fed the Boys dinner and headed for the pool. More exercise. Just what I needed. I actually managed to swim 12 laps, 24 lengths of the pool today, so that is progress. Trouble is, the pool will not be open during the week, so I won't be able to build myself of that way until next Saturday. Ah well. This time, if the weather forecast is right, it should be only around 60F tomorrow, so I guess I won't miss the swimming too much.

I may go out later to work a horse or finish up Chance's stall. It all depends on how I feel in an hour or so when the sun eases off. At least my solar panels are getting a good dose of energy. I can't tell from the new meter on my house whether I am producing more energy than I am using, but the system is supposed to. Guess I will just have to wait until the next bill comes to see.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

And The Heat Is On

But Not For Long

Well, it was up into the 90's F today, and warm even early when I headed out for church. Too hot to ride.

Went to lunch, and got home to take a short nap, trying to decide how to spend the rest of the afternoon.

It was definitely hot enough to swim, so I fed the Boys and headed out to the pool. Now, mind you, this is the first weekend they have been open and the water has not heated up from the sun yet. I would not be able to estimate how cold it was, but let's just say, "chilly." However, as is often the case, once I got in and began to swim, it felt WONDERFUL!!

I suspect I will regret it tomorrow, but I did manage 10 full laps of the pool, up and back. I varied my strokes so I may not be too muscle sore. The biggest issue was the breathing. Even when I got into my relaxed rhythm, I was getting a little winded. I think the swimming really helps my breath control, so I suspect I am just out of shape and out of practice.

It was still warm when I came home but I decided the tall grass on the bank in front of the house needed to be trimmed. I pulled out my electric weed string trimmer only to discover it wouldn't work. The motor made a very sad sound and nothing happened. Don't know but it might have gotten some water in it over the winter or else it has just died a natural death.

Off I went to Home Depot to see what kind of trimmers they had. I found a new electric one at a pretty good price--heavy duty too--bought it and came back home. I struggled a little to get the string guard on it, but finally got it all together and began trimming.

The bank in front of the house is at least 150' long, perhaps longer and the grass was getting pretty tall. If I don't pay for the swimming, I am going to pay for the weed whacking instead.

It was starting to get dark when I finished and it was cooling off, but there was thunder in the west. The predicted storms were on the way. I closed off the pasture, gave the Boys some hay in their stalls and here I am, blogging away as the thunder just keeps rolling in.

I kind of figured I wasn't going to work the horses today anyhow. It was far too hot earlier and I knew the storms would come. I just lucked out in that they held off until I was able to get the bulk of the trimming done.

It is supposed to cool off tomorrow after some early rain. The rest of the week looks iffy with showers off and on but cooler temps. Good thing. My classroom is miserable in the heat. The longer it stays cool the better.

Might go for another even chillier swim tomorrow. I had forgotten how addicting it is. The pool is only open on weekends until almost the end of June so I might need to take advantage while I can.

We'll see.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Lovely Day!

Beeeautiful Weather!

It ended up in the upper 80's but there was a gorgeous breeze and low humidity so the day was just lovely. I spent too much time indoors, I suppose, but I got some washing done and a few other chores.

Then I went to the feed store to get alfalfa cubes. Stopped at the market on the way home for some hot dogs (weiners?) so I could have a little Memorial Day picnic kind of meal.

Came home and decided because it was so nice out that the Boys could go out and do some more lawn mowing for me. They were a bit silly again, and did a bit of romping, but by and large they trimmed a lot of the back lawn area for me.

For some reason, Tucker has been chasing Chance a lot lately. I wonder if it has something to do with the fact that I am working both of them. Tucker does get jealous and might be trying to put Chance in his place. Chance doesn't seem to care too much but I hate to see him being tormented.

After the Boys grazed, I saddled up Tucker and gave him a good solid school in the arena. This was the first time since I started working him that I asked for some serious "on the bit" work at the trot and canter. Aside from one or two minor protests, he accepted the restriction quite well and gave me some good work.

I did accidentally get a flying change. I'm not sure why, especially since he changed from his right lead, going right on to his left lead. Interesting.

We had some nice half passes at the trot in each direction and good half passes at the canter in each direction as well. I finished up with a good number of times on each rein through the trotting poles, some very good reinback, and one walk pirouette on each rein.

I was rather worn out after that workout, so I went out to poo pick the arena as I'd neglected to do it before riding Tuck. Chance came out to "help" me and once the Big Boys saw that, they too came out to offer "assistance." Meaning that I had to wheel the barrow around them to get it to the manure pile.

After I finished, I caught Chance and gave him a lungeing session. He wanted to canter instead of trot at the start, so I simply let him, then did his trot work afterwards. I also sent him over the trotting poles a good number of times.

Once again, Toby wanted nothing to do with anything that vaguely resembled tack, so I just let him play "retired" horse. I will work him now and then to get him minimally fit, but he has worked hard enough in his life to just relax if he wants to.

I thought about going for a swim but it wasn't hot enough to inspire me beyond thinking about it.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Pics on a Friday Morning

Stayed Home

"Hey, what'cha doin', Mom?"
Tucker takes a look as I take a picture.
Woke up with a migraine. Not so bad a headache but the tummy symptoms and a really bad neck issue. I decided to stay home from school. It promised to be a hot day and while I might have been able to tough it out on a cool day, the thought of fighting a headache in a hot classroom made me feel even worse.
After I fed the Boys I came back in and iced, heated, took a hot bath, tried everything to feel better. I had some marginal success. Fortutnately, I was able to get a chiropractor appointment quite early and after and adjustment felt a bit better.

But before I left, when I looked out and saw the Boys napping , I had to take some pictures.
Chance on the top. Toby below. Portraits of relaxation.

But then!!! Tucker saw Moby Chair on the lawn. He bolted and got the others up as would any responsible "watch stallion." Dangerous white thing outside the fence. Must keep and eye on it. Get ready to run!!

Need I say I didn't ride? I had to go back to the chiropractor in the evening to get readjusted. I am feeling better now.

Long weekend ahead and the pool is open at the swim complex I belong to two roads over. I have a feeling the water will be icy cold, but if it's warm enough, I may dare a swim. Hopefully, I will be able to ride too.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

White Wash

And Tomorrow Is Another Day

And Moby Chair has had his day.

After cleaning out under the west run in roof--stuff accumulated from all winter long, including manure and old hay--I decided to long line Tucker. I am really trying to mix up the work I do to get him fit in a kind of "all round" way here. Lunging, riding for exercise, riding for dressage training, and long lining in a good upper level frame get his muscles working.

Moby Chair became an object of "gee, now I am going to be silly 'cause that stupid chair is out there and WHY NOT??" He was not scared of Moby but rather used it as an excuse to play around on the lines. Yep, that's a Thoroughbred for you. Full of creative invention.

Toby once spooked at a house on a hunter pace. A HOUSE! As we were approaching from hundreds of yards away, I could feel him starting to write a haunted house story with ghosts bobbing out of the windows. It really was quite a normal house and we never even got within a two hundred feet of it, but Toby had the story all finished as we passed and shied quite obviously all the way. Of course he also once spooked at a mouse on a log in the woods, so he is not particular about size.

But back to Tucker. A few time past and all was fine, but frankly the silliness is getting a bit old. He did give me some absolutely lovely work at the trot and canter, easily carrying himself in a good frame and, with lots of convincing, good impulsion. Actually, Moby Chair helped that along a bit because it did send him off at quite a clip a few times. In in all, I long lined him for about a half hour with two good breaks for some stretchy trot.

Then I sponged him off and went back out to take Moby Chair out of the woods. Well, that caused quite a ruckus as all three Boys spooked and bolted around the paddock when they saw the great white seat appear in the arena. And who was the first to trot over to put his nose on the plastic "monster?"

Tucker, of course. Not scared of it at all.

I put Moby in the yard. I may send him to recycling next week.

I let the mowermen out in the back yard again for about an hour. They unnerved me by running around a bit, but they finally settled down and trimmed my grass. They don't do the neatest job in the world, but it's a start. Guess I have to mow again this weekend.

So the memory of Moby has been washed away. The forest is green again. All is well.

Now all I have to worry about are the wild turkeys that keep showing up at the bird feeder.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Moby Chair

And the Great White Monster Rises from the Woods

Well, not to Chance. Chance noted the white chair and then happily went back to work when I rode him. He felt good from the start tonight, not uneven at all. Whatever that issue is with his hind leg, it comes and goes.

I did a good solid bit of trot work including going over the poles, still set from last night. His head is down and he is pushing into the bit, but he is far from steady. Every once in a while he has to use his head and neck to get his balance, but there is no doubt he is getting better and better.

Then, just to test a challenge, I walked for a while and then asked for canter. Well blow me down if my Chanceman didn't take about half a trot stride and then just canter off. Quite the fellow. I am not asking him to canter on the bit, nor to canter correctly, but just to canter off my aids from the walk. Once he understood he managed some fairly prompt departs on both reins. Now, mind you, he is not 100% about taking the correct lead but out of about six departs he took the cued lead four times at the least on each rein. Pretty impressive. The right canter is still a bit quick at times, and not as soft as the left, but he is not particularly difficult to get on the correct lead. What a good boy he is.

It was a bit warm so I kept the session on the short side and gave him a nice sponging after we finished---along with the carrot.

Then came Ahab and the great white whale of a plastic chair. Tucker has had free run of the arena ever since I put the chair in the woods days ago. He has been out there regularly. The other day I rode him in the arena with the chair outside. Last night I lunged him in the arena with the chair outside.

Today the chair once again became an object of obsession. From some 20 meters away, on the left rein only, he stopped, froze, stared at the chair and tried to spin away. I "Kennyed "him, back and forth, back and forth. He went past the chair, ignoring it. Then I trotted around the full arena and again, he balked and spooked at the evil, monstrous, attack chair in the woods.

Finally, in frustration, I dismounted, led him over to the area of the chair and lunged him on the end of the reins in a small circle, tapping him forward with the whip. Now this technique has a downside. If you hit the horse when he is near the object of his fear, he will associate it with being hit and become even more concerned about the object. So the idea is to establish "forward" with the whip before the horse is near the object so that he is in acceleration as he passes the object, getting the idea that going forward past it is the only right thing to do. A horse going forward does not tend to shy as much.

Once I got him going, I remounted and headed for the chair on the left rein, this time putting him in shoulder in position and really driving forward with my leg and voice. Two times past and the chair was virtually forgotten. However, to be safe about it, I still pushed him a bit into shoulder fore each time we were on that side of the arena.

I must admit, once I had established some good forward at the trot, his canter was nice and bouncy. It had a nice, elevated feel and I was able to keep him in a good frame the whole time.

I finished up with some trot/halt/reinback/trot transitions until he halted on his hind end and then did the reinback with no resistance. At that point, I had worked the both of us far harder than I had ever intended so I called it a night.

Moby Chair had lost its horror for the time being. But to quote another famous piece of literature...."Tomorrow is another day."

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Lots of Lungeing

Good Reports and Good Ups and Downs

First, school. I now have about half of my students' reviews of the play and they are all raves. The kids really liked it. A few even said it was the best thing they'd ever seen. When I asked them if they were being honest, they insisted they were and we had a nice, short little discussion about it all. A few of them were not quite clear on all the stories, but either I or the other students were able to explain things to them and apparently that made them like the play even more.

So, what did they like? The acting impressed them for certain. They really felt the actors brought the characters to life. And they seemed to like the fact that everything was very current and with circumstances, characters, and events they could relate to. They felt the characters were real teenagers. While the play was sad and intense, they made some insightful comments about how insenstive the news reporter was and how important is was that she learned to care about people by the end of the story. They liked how the film was integrated into the live action and, as I've heard before, weren't quite sure whether our adult actor who appeared on film was actually an actor or a real person who had experienced the tragedy.

All, in all, from what I can tell, the play effectively relates to teenage audiences and was quite a success in getting them to think about safe driving practices and how precious life is.

One girl stayed after class to talk. She told me the play had turned out to be sadly ironic for her. Apparently a day after she saw it, one of her friends was killed in a car crash on the way home from a night of bowling. She said it made the play's message hit home to her. I felt so sad for her and gave her a hug. She had gone to the girl's wake over the weekend and could not get any of it out of her mind. The girl who was killed as a passenger and too young to drive yet...circumstances similar to one of the stories in the play. Kind of chilling when you think about it.

We also received an email from one of the teachers in another school about how powerful the play had been for her. She had lost several family members in auto accidents. She thanked us for carrying the message to the kids about how easily mistakes behind the wheel can have tragic consequences.

One more performance on May 26 and then "Stick River" goes to bed. I will be marketing it to some other play publishing companies soon. Now that I have worked out all the little issues in the script and know what works on stage, I think I have a very saleable product.

Since I went to the chiropractor after school. I opted out of riding. My lower back was out of alignment too, probably a partial result of trying to straighten myself on the horses. Either they, or I, or both are at fault for being crooked. At least for the moment, I am straight. With a day out of the saddle, maybe I will fix myself enough to be straight the next time I get on.

Instead, I lunged. I gave Tucker a good workout with quite a bit of trot and canter. Then, I set him at four trotting poles I'd set up. They were slightly elevated at one end which made him have to pick up his feet and flex his joints as he went over them. He looked quite nice the first few passes until he started to get silly. I tried to tell him cantering the poles just wouldn't work, but he tried anyhow. When that failed, he went back to trot and managed enough good passes to finish up.

Then, I set him at a jump of about 2'3". Just a single pole with wings on the side to both keep him in line and for me to slide the lunge line over so it didn't get caught. Let me tell you, Tucker is one nice jumper. As I've said before, he stays relaxed, judges the distance well on his own, and sets himself up for the effort whether from the trot or canter. He makes it tempting for me to want to do some more serious fence work with him, but I don't think my knees could take it and, I'm not sure I want to add the risk any more. Ah, well. Sometimes I do miss it.

I lunged Chance next. He has some issue with his right hind leg. I have had the vet look at him and he can't find anything wrong, so it's either something high up or a difficult to find muscle thing. For now, the solution is to leg him up. Sometimes he starts out fine, and on other days, like today, he starts off with quite and irregular stride. I have found that after he canters, the trot is often better, so I suspect something muscular.

I let him choose his gait for the first few times around and he cantered a bit on his own. Then, I brought him back to the trot and gave him a good work on either rein. I must say, his canter on both leads was very soft and relaxed. I do know it's lovely to ride and it has improved quite a bit to watch since I first started him.

Although he is a hand shorter than Tucker, I did not have to reset the trot poles for Chance. Granted, he had to stretch more to make the stride as opposed to Tucker's having to simply lift his legs more, but they were just fine for him. He too got a bit silly with at least one attempt to canter escape from the work the trot demands....but overall he was much more honest about going over them without always being on the perfect line into them.

If Tucker is relaxed about jumping, Chance takes a nap. He uses the minimum energy necessary to get over cleanly and loses most of it on the landing side. He is brave and honest, and does not even seem to think about either stopping or running out. Again, it's such a pleasant picture he tempts me as well.

Now I know how my sweet Russell R. felt when he was too lame to jump anymore. Ah, to be young and sound again, so we could jump horses and I.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Riding, Riding Over the Bounding Sand

Double Trouble

I fed the Boys when I got home from school, came inside and made a casserole for dinner. Now I have something to take for lunch tomorrow too.

Then I went back outside, poo picked the arena, and headed out to the pasture to collect the first horse who came to me.

Guess who?

Chance. Once I gave him a bit of carrot, we were "assaulted" by the big Boys who insisted on their share. I gave them each a treat then had to fend them off by spinning the lead rope in their faces so I could safely lead Chance in. Otherwise they wanted to herd him away from me so they could get more attention. Typical. Don't come to me when I call, but then don't go away after they find out I have food.

Saddled Chance up and headed into the arena. I had forgotten about the evil white chair at the edge of the woods! Evil chair. Dangerous chair. This from a horse who had been turned out for two days in the arena where lurked the evil white chair. However, it's obvious the chair took on a new and far more sinister character when I was in the saddle as opposed to its simple lurking there during the day when Chance was free.

So we did the "Kenny technique" going back and forth along the side of the arena where lurked the chair until it suddenly lost all its terrifying power and we could simply ignore its presence.

Chance worked well, but I felt that little "hitch" he gets in his hind end. My vet was never able to find anything wrong and it does go away after he loosens up. We also suspect it will go away once he is legged up properly. I kept on riding, and, after I cantered, he felt much more even.

Chance does want me to sit off to the right, so I spent the bulk of the ride really concentrating on keeping my seat even by deliberately getting long on my left side every time I felt myself being pushed off to the right. Considering how few times Chance has been worked in the last two months, he was quite good and I feel he will catch on quickly to the good solid basic concept of on the bit within a few weeks of regular work.

Done with Chance, I rode Tucker next. My focus for him was making him supple. With his short back and neck, he is not "snakey" like Toby, but rather tends to not bend through his body if he can avoid it. I have an exercise where I do ten meter circles first to the right, then to the left, each time changing direction by pushing his hind end through to the new outside rein with a bit of a lateral step.

I did the same exercise at the walk and then the trot, also insisting that he not use the rein for balance in the change of direction or change of pace. Then, I worked a bit on the canter, again insisting on suppleness first. Tucker was very resistant to the right lead cue, threatening to kick out against my leg. I don't know if this was because he didn't like cantering with his right hind really under his body--a throwback to the sore hocks--or if he may be having a little ulcer problems. I planned on giving him a course of ulcer medication anyhow, so I may start tomorrow morning. Either way, he kind of settled into the exercise of repeated trot/canter/trot transitions on both rein without too much protest.

I finished up with some introductory half passes at the walk and trot. Again, because he hasn't worked a lot in the last few months, I didn't demand too much. But I was pleased that while he didn't give too much crossover, he moved relatively easily off my leg with the correct bend, so it was a good bit of remedial work to start off.

All in all, it was a good evening.

Nothing To Report

Sunday Off

Intended to ride or something and ended up cleaning the house instead.

After church I went to lunch with my friends, came home and a wave of tiredness swept over me again.

Well, I did pluck some nice grass for the Boys. I considered turning them out on the lawn again, but decided I was too busy inside to watch them so I changed my mind.

This week is supposed to be pretty nice, so I have every intention of working them.

The road....paved with good intentions???

On a side note. It looks like my students did hardly any of the work I left them when the subs were covering my classes all last week. I am not kind about this. The work was handed out. Therefore it should have been done. Double grades for all work I leave when there is a sub. That means 10 zeroes for each student who did not complete anything.

This does not bode well.

I will not be handing out duplicate copies of the assignments either. If a student does not have what the sub handed out, then he/she will just have to get a copy from somewhere else. The only exception will be students who were absent. This time I carefully counted the number of copies of each assignment I made, so there are and will be no extras.

'T'will be interesting.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


Or Just Plain Worn Out

I didn't quite realize how exhausted I was. I slept late, despite my cats' noble efforts to get me out of bed by 7 AM. Made it to almost 8 AM and went out to feed the Boys.

Not sure what had been going on before I went out, but Tuck and Chance were all sweaty. Tuck had already rolled in the dirt and Chance did so soon after, so both of them were pretty messy looking. They did look happy, though. But then Tuck chased Chance away from the barn so Chance had to clearly wait his turn to come in to eat.

Then I came back inside and did some cursory house cleaning. I need to get things in order before Monday when the appraiser is coming for my new potential refinance. (Taking advantage of the lower interest rates if possible.)

Then, I took a short nap. Lazy Saturday, I guess.

I went out near dinner time, to do a little horsework. This time, I lunged Tucker. He really looked wonderful on the line when he spooked at the famous white plastic chair I had moved in the woods outside the arena. Lovely arch to his neck, elevated strides and an elegant carriage. Now if I could only get that when I was schooling dressage he would make quite an impression. At least I know the potential is there.

Meantime, he has become extraordinarily obedient on the lunge. I am able to ask for and get some good quick canter/trot/canter transistions, which are really good for building strength and balance.

However, when I went to get Chance, somebody...not sure whether it was Tucker or Toby, led a mad gallop out to the pasture, leaving me in the dampish dust (rained last night). It was pretty clear that unless I intended to walk out to collect him lungeing was not in the cards. It's OK, considering that I am physically pretty tired too. My knees ache, and I am just worn out.

I cleaned out the water trough and fed. Here I am, back inside.

One horse worked, so that was good. I'll see what tomorrow brings.

Guess I'm just not as young as I used to be.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Play OVer For Now

And My Internet Was Down

Lost TV, phone, and Internet to a Comcast issue sometime on Thursday. I called early Thursday afternoon, then again later in the evening. Some mix up did not report my earlier complaint, so they set up an appointment "between 3 and 5" on Friday. Because we'd put the play on in the afternoon, I was able to leave school and get home in time to meet the cable man in the driveway.

I'd told them my aunt's cable was out next door, and when I got home, the lady who takes care of the man in the next house over had gone out to intercept them, apparently to tell them his cable was out too. Then, I called the neighbor in the other direction to find out that indeed their cable was not working. That meant the trouble was south of my house. Still the cable guy had to climb my pole to determine that the problem was not there and I had to sign the work order. Then they told me the other people should have called too.

OK. Duh. Neighbor one is about in his late 70's and not well. My aunt is in her 80's and neighbor three is elderly as well. Calling the cable company requires the understanding of one of those complex, "Dial one for info, dial two for service, dial three for...." well, you get the picture. Thus, it falls to me to make one call for everyone. Of course, cable company does not ever get that right. The last time, they had me make separate work orders for me and my aunt, with separate appointment times even though we are clearly both on the same cable server. At any rate, once they sorted out the fact that it was indeed a problem down the road somewhere, the whole system was back up and running in less than two hours. So, one good deed done for the day.

The play has now had five successful performances. We canceled the Thursday night show when too few people showed up as an audience. During the day, though, we were seen by four good sized teen audiences. There were some rude remarks and not too polite responses, but the actors did fantastic jobs regardless. What was fun from that side was seeing these young performers grow in the roles and become more secure and better. As well, they adapted to whatever the audience reactions were. Their work was phenomenal.

I don't know how the one adult in the cast did overall, but I have to admit when I had a few titters in the audience during my time on stage, I made a point of letting my speech to the reporter character reach out to the kids sitting in the dark and I felt them suddenly come to attention. I am not a great actor by any means, but 38 years of teaching have given me some ability to take charge of a situation and turn it around to my advantage--especially when I'm dealing with kids.

Let me put it this way. If my play makes one kid think twice when he's/she's driving, and makes him/her avoid a bad decision then it did it's job. And if it saves even one kid's life, then it was worth every hour of time, work, and exhaustion I've spent on it.

We have one more performance for a student audience on Tuesday, May 26, and then The Other Sidef of Stick River Road goes to bed for...well, who knows how long? It'd been an interesting, tiring, and rewarding journey.

Tomorrow? I intend some kind of horse activity. We shall see what I can manage. At least the Boys seem to know who I am....or is that just because I fill the feed buckets? *G*

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Need I Say It

Another Tough Day

All day rehearsal, but I had to add to it--modfying and prepping the program for printing, making a short version of the program for the matinee, trying to get the PowerPoint made into a DVD, acting as hostess for Open House visitors who ended up at the theater, making up flyers to hand out, and just generally doing all kinds of little chores that need doing behind the scenes.

9AM to 9PM today.

It will be no easier either Thursday or Friday. We have three performances scheduled. One at 10AM, one at 1:30 PM, and one at 7 PM each day.

I will be totally done in by Saturday.

I am done in now.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Almost Clone Yesterday

Except I did have a substitute so I didn't have to be in my classroom.

Spent the entire day in the theater except for a few trips to my room to use the computer to make the slide show. I got some really cute pictures. Not all that I wanted, but enough to do a good job. Now all I have to do is time it so it takes up the proper amount of time--yet to be decided--and we'll be set. I think.

We did a couple run throughs of the play and eventually discovered that the new ending really did not quite work out well enough. It was a pretty easy fix. We cut out one page and I had to rewrite a few lines of dialogue. It does make my part in the play even more significant, but I suppose that's OK. At least I know the stakes and know what HAS to be said, so there isn't much chance of important lines being dropped.

As far as my acting goes, it's just a matter of righteous indignation as a tell off the TV reporter for being totally insensitive to the humanity of the story she is covering--and trying to turn into a sensational expose. On the way home to feed the Boys after school--before the start of the evening rehearsal--I came up with a great idea to actually cover the action I had to delete in order to fix the end. It was a simple way to get the reporter to vindicate herself in the end and show a new-found compassion.

One or two of the replacement actors still have to develop their characters a bit more, but overall the play is pretty solid as it stands right now. The tech stuff is nearly set and I am pretty sure that by Thursday we will have one darn good show to present.

The Boys are starting to look at me with just a little concern. I do cuddle them when I feed, but it's kind of rush in, give them their meals, and then rush back off. Hopefully the weekend will afford me a little more time to do something with them.

I was really happy to see the stray outdoor cat back in the morning and tonight, when I came home, he was nestled on the pillow in the little cat condo the carpentry teacher built for us. He looked so comfy in there. I'd bet he feels nice and safe inside.

And hey, it's one of those special foam pillows that molds to the contours of your body!

Little stray cat body. Happy on his own memory foam!

What a Day!

Too Much To Do

I am immersed in getting the play up and running. That is going to require my being down in the auditorium/theater most of this week instead of in my classroom. It also means rehearsals after school every day, with the evening performances on Thursday and Friday.

But yesterday, I did not yet have a substitute teacher, so I also had to sort of conduct my classes. Three of them were supposed to be doing testing on the computers as were a lot of other classes which were coming into my classroom to test. That left me with no classroom because some kind of teacher training thing was using the classroom I was supposed to go into while this special testing was using the computers in my room.

To complicate all that, I had to design some kind of lesson plans and materials for my students to cover the week. That meant running off copies of things and setting up my room so a sub could actually teach--except on Thursday when there will be testing again and my classes will have to meet somewhere else. Got that? I'm not even sure I do. *sigh*

Then I went down to the theater on my duty period for a quick run-through where I discovered that some of the cast had the wrong script without the revisions, messing up the ending of the play completely. Mind you, my classroom is at the complete opposite end of a very loooooong school building. I had to go back to my room, run off a new copy of the revised script and then make copies for the cast. Took them back and within another half hour had to head back to my room to teach for the afternoon. Taught, back to the auditorium to check on things, then back for another class. then home to feed the Boys--who are looking fine, fat and shiny--then back to school.

I had a semi-brilliant idea for a slide show to be presented before the show. I figured we could show all the characters in the play as they were before all the accidents happened. Let the audience see them enjoying life and just being kids who thought they were going to live forever.

While the tech crew and their teacher set the lights, I took pictures of the cast all over the school in all kinds of fun poses. We got into the gym for a basketball pose, a classroom for a "sleeping on the desk" pose, and out on the lawn and parking lot for "car crazy" poses and "we're just friends" poses. These (back in my classroom again) I put into a PowerPoint slide show that I have to finish up today--I hope. I do need more pictures yet and then will need to put them in some kind of order.

I also made flyers/posters and hung some of them up in the school, but by then I was worn out and managed to get one of the actors to put some others up around the school for me.

By the time I got home, I just crashed.

This will be how the entire week goes. Except, I hope, I should have a substitute to cover my classes. "Should." One never knows.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


Three Assistant Mowermen
The lawn was really overgrown, so I decided to enlist some help from the Boys. I let them out in my yard to graze for about an hour and a half while I ate my lunch, watched them and, took some pictures.

I did find my camera had been set on manual focus instead of auto focus, so that explains why the other pics were fuzzy.

I don't think the Boys looked up for most of the time they were out. The grass in the paddocks is just not like the lawn. I do have a good mixture of dandelions, varied weeds, and crabgrass, so there is plenty of variety. It doesn't not make the traditional carpeted green golf course kind of lawn, but it suffices.

In the second picture, they are grazing along the driveway next to the fence along my Aunt's property next door. She has one of those manicured lawns. I think the Boys were eying it, but they made out far better in my grass. If you look really closely you can see how long it was.

I mowed the larger areas, but I still have some trimming to do. Unfortunately, I will have to do that with the electric hand held string trimmer. It's kind of a pain, but I have all kinds of little places where a regular mower just can't do the job including a bank in front of the house.

After I put the Boys back in and finished the mowing job, I decided to ride. The plan was to work in the arena for a few minutes and then go out for a hack. I saddled up Chance first mostly because he was hanging around by the barn keeping a close eye on me.

He did some really nice work in the arena, keeping his head down and somewhat on the bit at the trot and then offering a good relaxed canter on both leads. His frame got lost a little in the canter, but he was not rushing to keep his balance and felt very controllable.

Then I headed out into the woods. Chance was shaking his head as we walked along and I realized he was getting attacked by either little biting flies or mosquitoes. Darn. I thought we'd have a few more weeks without bugs!! Then, when we reached the edge of the field, I heard racing engines and saw two mini-bikers out in the field, heading in our general direction. I turned Chance around and headed back in. The bugs were annoying enough, but the mini-bikes were a decided deterrant. No point in trying to take a hack with them out there.

That meant that Tucker would get some arena work. I decided to focus first on my seat and sensitizing him to my weight aids. I rode with little rein aid, just steering him with my position and then stopping him with my seat. He sharpened up pretty quickly and I was honestly a little surprised at how well he responded.

I was having trouble getting him to halt straight. He kept stepping over to the left with his hind end. I kept adjusting my seat only to discover that I had apparently been sitting too much on my right seatbone, and dropping my right leg back. Since I was crooked, so was Tucker. I leveled myself, and brought my right hip and thigh a little forward and he straightened right out. I worked on that for the rest of the ride as I think it might also have been making his canter a little crooked too.

We did some walk/canter transitions, and then some canter/walk transitions, again mostly off my seat. Then I tried a canter half pass to the rail on each lead, using a half halt to prepare for a flying change, but not really trying to get one. Essentially, he gave a lead change from a single trot stride, so that was a good start for now.

I finished up with some trot/halt/ reinback four steps/trot transitions. Tuck does not always reinback without resistance and he gave me a little attitude a few times. But once more, once he understood the exercise, he did it quite well. Then, I put him on the bit and just did some basic walk, trot and canter in a more elevated frame. Not much as he is not fit enough to really work, and then with a nice halt on the centerline, we called it a day.

Toby was a bit wary, but seemed interested in doing something, so I brought him into the barn only to look down and find out he was missing a shoe! I know he had it on when he was grazing and it certainly wasn't on my lawn when I mowed, so he must have pulled it when I was riding the other two. I groomed him and gave him his carrot, then went out to look for the missing shoe.

Nothing. I think horse shoes are like socks in the dryer. Where do they go?

All in all, a productive Sunday afternoon.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Best Laid Plans

Oft Go Awry

OK, so I wrote myself out of the play two weeks ago and I wrote myself back in today. The actor who was supposed to do the role I was playing has been offered a "cannot turn down" job during the run, so he cannot take on the role. That leaves me back in.

Not such a disaster as I think I have a good handle on the lines. I did change the circumstances of my character somewhat to suit the play's new ending. I'm pretty sure I'll be able to remember what I am supposed to say. I just hope I am a good enough actor to do them well and convincingly. *sigh*

But the bigger issue is that now I need to be in the theatre all next week after school and, as well, at some points during the day. I have no idea how this is going to work out as far as my classes go. At some point I need to teach, but I'm just not sure how and when. I hope there will be a relatively easy to manage solution. It could get pretty awkward.

Ah, what a perfect way to spend my second to last month as a teacher.

This morning, before I left for the school, the carpentry teacher came by. We had a deal where he was going to repair some of my broken fence posts in trade for my now defunct but probably quite restorable electric golf cart. I went out with him to supervise and play horse wrangler as he worked.

Toby, Tucker, and Chance were totally fascinated by his presence, his tools, and every move he made. I guess the Boys are short on entertainment. At this point I am considering getting them a big screen TV tuned to "This Old House," or one of the other home improvement channels. Hammers, screwdrivers, and carpentry skills do seem to be high on their interest list.

Tucker, especially, followed us all over the paddock, "snoopervising" every nail. He was very serious about it too, as if he wanted to be assured that all the work was properly completed. I don't know if the fence will stay repaired, but it certainly does have the Bay Thoroughbred seal of approval.

We ended up using my tractor with the front end loader to push the golf cart onto the trailer. I hope it gets a good home. I know it needs a lot of tender loving care.

With the cart gone, I headed to the chiropractor for an adjustment, then to school where I spent the rest of the day mostly trying to find useful things to do. The teacher and her performing arts students were doing all the important work of rigging lights, set design, prepping sound cues, painting, etc. I finally ended up preparing a display for the lobby. But, as usual, I got carried away and I've managed to write up a theater newspaper to add to a display board with the press release from the real newspaper and perhaps the publicity from the school website. When I finished the writing part and came out of the school, everyone had left except for three students who were waiting for rides. I hung out with them until their parents came and here I am.

Now, I have somehow lost the connection to my home printer. I downloaded a new version of MS Office with the intent to upgrade, but I think it's done something to my settings. To top it off, the program is asking for my original Office CD. I have no idea where that is at the moment.
Darn Mircrosoft never trusting people to be honest about their software. This is a legally purchased program, but if I don't find the CD, I probably will have to pay the full price instead of the upgrade price when I decide to go for it.

Phooey. Guess I have to start a full house search. My own fault, but's been since 2003!!!

Friday, May 08, 2009

Time Flies

Busy Day

I stayed after school to listen to a speed through of my play, mostly to hear how the revision of the ending worked. I think it's going to be really good. I actually liked how some of the lines/parts wove into each other and I'm hopeful it will make the drama even more effective. The students were not quite set with their lines, so that was a bit worrisome, but the rehearsal schedule between now and Thursday morning is pretty intense, so I am sure they will be on the money. It is kind of strange, but when I hear the play read, I am always a little surprised. Did I actually write that? Not bad.

Got home, fed the Boys, did some work on stripping Tucker's stall--all three need it as the Boys have been leaving lots of hay which has now become bedding and it needs tending. With all the rain, neither the wheelbarrow or tractor were of much use for a thorough cleaning so I've left things to the weekend. The Boys do not spend a lot of time in the stalls, but they do manage to make them messy now and then. With all the wet around, I have tons of soggy hay to clean up all over the place and in the stalls is a good place to start. So I did.

But, it was Freshman Showcase at school in the theater program and at least six of my students were performing, and off I went back to school for the 7 PM show. "Time Flies" was actually the title of the first little play and it was a very funny comedy about...well, flies. I won't take the time to describe it, but it featured four of my kids and I have to admit, I laughed myself to tears with their performances.

The ready to graduate Seniors were the architects of the performances. They did the choosing, planning casting, directing and overall production of each little play. This was their final exam for class. I am most proud to say that they have all been accepted into good universities in very competititive theater arts programs. One girl has a full scholarship. One is accepted into California School of the Arts, one of the top ten programs in the US, and another was accepted into Mason Gross, the number three school in the nation. This is darn impressive and proves the excellence of the performing arts training they have received in our school. Maria Aladren, their teacher is and amazing mentor for these kids.

Tomorrow is an all day technical/production day for my play, so I will go in to school for at least part of the day. However, I did manage to write myself out of the play. That means that since I am not acting, I do not have to be there for every moment of rehearsals. Clever me. It also will allow me to teach my classes next week instead of spending every day in the theatre getting the show up. I will be able to go down on my free periods to help out and still run an orderly class the other five periods of the day. The performances are scheduled for 10 AM during my hall duty and now classless period, allowing me to be there without messing up my own teaching schedule too much. (It might be affected if there is a discussion period after the performance, though, since I, as author, really do need to be there.) It will all work out somehow.

It finally stopped raining, though. I managed to miss a window of opportunity to do something horsey beyond working on that stall, but I really didn't have any time. The weekend looks to be dry and windy so that will dry things out and I do have to mow the lawn before I will not be able to find my house behind the grass.

Right now, the play is a priority, and I'll just have to see how it goes.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Gracious and Wise

Thank You All

Your comments are wonderful. And I do appreciate all the advice. I always remember my first really good trainer, when I told her, after watching her jump Russell over a 5 foot spread jump that it was a shame he had all that talent and he was never going to use it with me as his rider.

"Do you think he cares?" she asked. "He has no ambition and whether or not he can jump five feet doesn't matter to him at all. You do with him what you want to do, and that's all he'll ever need to do."

I do not have to train my horses to any level. They don't care, and are perfectly happy just hanging. What I have to assess is whether or not I want to train them. When I last went to a lesson, I told the trainer I had already trained two horses to FEI, Intermediare I. All I had never really succesfully done was train piaffe and passage. While I would like to train a horse to Grand Prix, if I never show Grand Prix, that's just fine. So, I figure if I can teach either Tuck or Chance to piaffe and passage, I will be a happy camper. I am not sure she comprehended. After all, she is a lot younger than I am and has not been riding and competing for 45 years.

While I do understand the advice that perhaps Tucker is not the horse for me, I must disagree, for two reasons. The first is a simple fact and the second is my opinion.

Tucker is adopted. The agreement is that he is my horse forever and I have promised to give him a home for life. While I do own him under a "safe sell" agreement, I would never break the covenent that I made to give him a good home for life. That's the simple fact.

The opinion is that while he may intimidate me when we have disputes, I do...when I am motivated...truly enjoy the training challenge of figuring out how to get past the problems. If I ever felt he was too much for me to handle-- as I did about hacking him out and, pre-ulcer medication as I did about some training issues--I have many alternatives to getting him trained by someone else. He spent several weeks at "boot camp" with Kenny Harlow to get him over his dangerous behavior hacking out. While he is not the safest hack I have ever owned, we can happily go out and enjoy a nice ride through the woods without too much anxiety. The ulcer medication fixed a lot of his more threatening behavior in the arena, so aside from some training issues such as his bucking when his hocks were sore, he is not too much of a problem to ride there.

He is, however, very opinionated and not the kind of horse I can bully. What he is teaching me is all kinds of techniques to get proper work out of him by persuasion, various exercises, and "asking" rather than telling. It is not always the most direct route, but the intellectual challenge is really intersting.

I am frustrated about the flying change because I know he will buck as he learns. He's just built that way and, unlike Jazz, will change in the hind end first, kicking up to do it. Mental, or physical, I feel very insecure when he does this. I have a feeling that if I work on my seat and learn to sit back in anticipation he will not shake me out of the saddle as he does now. My question is whether or not I can get that security of seat I need. It's a much a "mind game" as a "body game" at this point. What I need to do is "just do it."

Funny thing is, that the very first time I rode Russell R. after I bought him, he bucked me off. I, being a bold 22 year old, marched back to the barn to get him, climbed back on, and went right back to where I'd gone off to school him through it. Later in his training, he into the habit of bucking instead of going forward. After a month or so of that, I, even at 22, was intimidated. I took him to my trainer who got on and had one wild ride to convince him that bucking was absolutely not an option. (She was a shortlisted Olympic event rider with a seat like glue.)

With Tucker, I have come full circle. (Actually, he is much, much better behaved than Russell was at that point!) Been there, done that. I guess I am just a little depressed about having to cope with some of that again. (And by the by, during his training, my dear Toby nearly got my even stickier seated trainer off more than once, so he was no gem either!!)

So, there you go. Tuck is mine forever. We'll work it out. I just have to figure out the best approach to get wherever it is I want to go with him.

And then there's always Chance waiting in the wings.


Where Art Thou?

It did stop raining for part of the day, including when I got home. But after I fed the Boys, I sat down and that was that. I am lacking motivation. I supposed I could come up with a hundred excuses, but I won't. I just didn't feel like riding.

When I boarded the horses out, I would go to the barn every day. I rode six days a week. My horse or horses were all super fit. I moved them along in competition levels at a good rate. In the hunters/jumpers it was basically a level a season, more if I qualified for the next level. It used to be that first place ribbons at one jumping height moved you up to the next level. Eventually, my horse was an "open " competitor in the smaller shows and in the rated shows, an amateur owner hunter in the 3'6" division. In eventing, I moved up to Training Level which at that time was the 3'9" division. Once I started serious dressage, I was a level a year, with Russell ending up at 3rd level, while PJ and Toby each finished up at Intermediare I.

Tucker is now 9 years old and he has not competed beyond first level. While I am training him at second--when I ride--with an eye for third level, he is quite behind schedule for my usual plan. Why?

He has not been an "easy train." Attitude and ulcers slowed us down at the start. And, to be frank, he intimidated me. It's not fun getting on a horse quite capable of bucking you off. While he only did dump me twice, I was jarred loose more than I care to count. At shows, in the warm up arena, he was downright scary. I am not as young and "bouncey" as I used to be, so going off is even more worrisome. While he and I have come to a basic understaning about things and he has improved tremendously since the ulcer treatments, his training has not been all roses since.

Tuck is still hard to ride. He does not soften to the rein easily as he does not always stay forward. He does not accept my leg as well as he should and driving him forward with the whip still can produce bucks. I know how to fix it all, but I don't have the nerve to do it as I should but have rather found ways to work around his disobedience instead of confronting it and being done with it. Thus, his training progresses at a much slower rate than I am used to. An example is the flying changes. I know with a little determination, and a willingness to sit through the inevitable buck/kick outs the changes produce--as they will with many horses--I could train them quite easily. But the bucks are there and I don't feel secure about riding through them.

Age? I think so. My two bad knees do not help either. I do not have the confidence in my seat I used to have. My brain knows I CAN do it, but overcoming the other instinct of "WHAT IF" is harder than it used to be.

So, here I am, not riding as much as I can or should. I will get Tucker trained, I'm sure, but I need to stir up my motivation again. Right now, it's too easy not to ride, and I am out of the routine. The long, icy winter put me off and I've just not gotten back into the swing of things.

No excuses. The only blessing is that the Boys are here in the back yard where I can see them every day and take good care of them so I know that lack for nothing--except regular work.

I'm not sure they mind too much.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Did I Tell You?

It Rained Again?

Well, not quite all day. I took the day off as the Eastern Villages Association...the EVA our environmental/preservation group was getting an award down in South Jersey. It was a nice affair and perhaps we made some connections to help us in preserving the farm across the woods.

I spent the rest of the day cleaning my house, mostly sorting and organizing my clothes. As I am retiring, I certainly don't need the extensive wardrobe I now have so I am trying to get rid of the non-essentials, or things I have not worn in a year. Once I retire, I will do more sorting. Things are still rather a mess, but at least I have three big bags of clothes to donate, and most everything else in its proper place--well except for the horse/barn closet with my sweats, breeches and all those extra casual clothes I wear around the horses.

It actually stopped raining for a while this afternoon, but it was sooo wet out there, it was a swamp. The lilacs are so weighted down with water they are drooping into my sidewalk. They are gorgeous this year too.

Lake Follywood is filling the one end of the arena and I see a pale blue bell boot in the center. That means Tucker was wading or more likely playing in the water. This from a horse who delicately threads his way past every mud puddle on the trail. *G*

Tomorrow is supposed to clear so I will take the Boys' sheets off in the morning before school. They may get a little wet but the sun should be out in the early afternoon. Then, however, the rain will be back at night and soak us again.

I swear that the grass grows inches every day. Some I plucked to feed the Boys just a day or so ago is back to what it looked like before plucking. It's beginning to remind me of one of those sci fi films where the mutant plants start to take over the world. If it weren't so wet, could turn the Boys out on the back lawn and let them eat but they would chop up the ground so much I'd never be able to mow. As it is, there are still a lot of bumps and holes from when they escaped this winter over the knocked down fence and frolicked all over the place.

For some reason, leaping, bucking and galloping about is a requirement of escaped horses. They will stroll around their own paddocks, perfectly calmly. Then escape! Instant frolic. Is that part of the "Grass is always greener on the other side" program? "Greener grass is horse trampoline?"

Guess I will never quite comprehend the equine mind.

Did I say it was raining again?

Monday, May 04, 2009

Did I Tell You It Was Raining?

Just In Case You Missed It: It's Raining

Again. All day. A lot. And no, the alfalfa cubes were not on the train but in the rain. *sigh* (That'll teach me to proofread!) *G*

To make matters worse, it was really cold in the school building today. They may have turned off the boilers, so we had no heat, or it was just cold, or a combination of both. I had a little space heater in my room I finally plugged in and put under the tall chair I teach from in front of the room. It made a big difference.

I won't really complain too much about the cold because at least I can warm up somehow in my classroom. When it's hot, there is no way to cool off.

I finally put the Boys' sheets back on as it felt quite chilly out. Tuck and Toby were standing under the west run in shed with Chance standing outside in the rain, getting wet. I think he appreciated his sheet, at least. I'm not sure about the older Boys, but they didn't protest too much, so maybe they didn't mind either.

I don't mind when they get wet, but in the past I have had trouble with something like a rain scald or at least little bumps on PJ after several days of rain, so I'd rather have them in rainsheets with a little protection when the weather takes a bad turn like this. The forecast calls for rain through to Saturday with only a break on Wednesday. Miserable.

At least, for good or ill, the grass is growing. Unfortunately, it is growing around the house too and the lawn will resemble an unmown hayfield by the weekend. Because it was wet I could not mow, so it just keeps growing and growing.... When I do get to mow I may have to set the mower high and go over the entire lawn twice--once to trim it down so the mower can handle it, and then once to get it to the proper length.

Needless to say, I am getting very little work done outside. It looks as if when I finally do retire, I will have plenty to keep me busy.

Did I tell you it was raining?

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head

And All Over the Place

All day long. Went to church in the rain. Went to lunch in the rain. Bought alfalfa cubes in the rain. Bought groceries in the rain. Went to Staples for some postcard paper in the rain and finally fed the Boys in the rain.

Did I tell you it rained all day?

It always amuses me how people think that just because you own horses you are an expert on things like the Kentucky Derby. Before the race, I knew almost nothing about the horses running this year. Time was, I might have followed horse racing a bit more, but after all the tragedies, I lost a lot of my enthusiasm. All I wanted this year was a clean race with all the horses finishing without any injuries. From all I know, my wish was fulfilled.

I do, however, love it when a longshot wins, coming out of nowhere. And I did like to see Mine That Bird win in such convincing fashion. He ran a powerful finish, clearly outrunning all the other contenders, but that does not a Triple Crown horse make. He'll need two more good trips and a lot of stamina to win the coveted title. I'd love to see it, but for now, I enjoyed the race.

I was also glad to know the owner/trainer of I Want Revenge decided to scratch him from the race due to some filling and inflammation in his ankle. Good choice and the best one for the horse. Not easy with the biggest race of his career on the line, but good one.

I keep thinking that both Tucker and Toby could have been race horses had their lives taken a different turn. Toby was in the hands of a track trainer when I bought him, but the trainer and partner decided to get out of the game and so they sold him to me instead. Tucker's club foot and subsequent surgery may have taken him out of the track "track" at a young age, but he too was bred from racing stock. My PJ had raced and it told on his body. He had bowed tendons and a problem with the bone in his front foot. It didn't keep him from being a super, wonderful horse for me, but how much happier and more sound (without regular acupuncture) he would have been if he'd never set foot on a race track.

Every time I watch the Derby or another important horse race on television, I go out afterward and hug my Boys. It makes me realize how lucky we all are to have each other.

Saturday, May 02, 2009


But It's My Own Fault

I'm the one who fell asleep on the couch. Consequences? Neck out, migraine on the way. And on a Saturday too!

I tried to get an appointment Friday night but the chiropractor was booked, so I set myself up for 8:45 in the morning, before the vet was to arrive. I spent a restless night, and by the time I woke up, all was not well. I got adjusted and felt better, but not great. Took a short nap when I got home, then got up to bring the horses in.

My vet arrived a little late. Mind you, the appointment was for 10:30 and she got here at about 10:55. No complaints at all because this vet office is fantastic about staying on time. Turns out she was quite a ways west of here, in unfamiliar territory and got lost. Good thing she finally found a road she recognized. I think she will put her GPS in the truck next time. The office usually does not travel that far to take care of clients, but apparently this is someone Dr. Klayman has treated for years and so they keep her in the loop despite the distance. And yes, his office is THAT good!!

The Boys got their shots and a quick once over. I gave Dr. Perez some carrots to give Tucker as it was his birthday, and I will admit, Tucker was quite polite about taking them. Maybe at nine he is finally growing up. Dr. Perez thinks so because she swears he's grown since she last saw him. Well, he is touching 17h and he's quite round, so I suppose he does look big.

Once done, I came back in iced and heated myself for a while, fell asleep on the bed, properly supported and got up a few hours later. I did a bit of grass plucking outside to give the Boys some of the nice grass from the lawn--which needs a mowing again--talked to my aunt for a bit, fed the Boys, and came in to finally watch the Kentucky Derby.

Wow! Some finish. I love it when a longshot wins, but I do keep hoping for a Triple Crown winner. I gues time will tell if Mine That Bird is just a one race horse or a classic winner. Either way, it was an impressive run.

Headed back out to do something with Tucker since I finally felt better. We had a nice, energetic, varied session on the lunge line. He is really responding to my voice so I can do a lot of transitions between trot and canter which are very good for developing muscle and balance.

Then I decided to try a few pictures. Something is not right with the camera I have as most of them were out of focus. I'm not sure if its the settings or what, but I am getting a little fed up. I was looking at a new one and might end up buying it after all. It didn't help that the horses did not cooperate either. So, below is Tucker's birthday shot--walking towards me to stick his nose in the camera lens. At least it's a birthday pic. I'll try again tomorrow! *G*

Friday, May 01, 2009

Have to Get Some Pics

Beautiful Boys

My Boys just look so good! They are nearly shedded out, the time of year I love because their coats are so shiny and new. However, it's raining. So I don't think it's a good day for that.

My vet is coming tomorrow morning to do the rest of the season's immunizations. Then, I hope, if it's really "a few showers" as the weather forecast says, that I will get in some saddle time.

I will also have to mow the lawn again. The grass is growing like crazy, but since it's a combination of crabgrass, good grass, and other assorted strange weeds, it kind of looks like a kit with a really bad haircut as everything seems to grow at a different speed. Meanwhile, my Aunt's lawn was manicured again today by her mowing crew, so I look even more unkempt. Hey, I'm into the "natural look!" *G*

Meantime, Stacie just called to say that the vetting on her potential horse looks pretty good so far, but she will be having a second opinion on the X rays just to be sure. It's getting close. This may be the one, but I will not say much more until we are sure.

Next week and the week after are going to be nutty with my play opening. I talked to a newspaper reporter today and he intends on getting the article in the paper next week, so that is a plus. I have always had good luck getting publicity when I have made the effort. The school just doesn't have a handle on how to go about it.

Gee, there's a job I could handle. Trouble is, right now I'd have to develop all kinds of new contacts with the press. I used to know exactly who to get in touch with for a story, but that was some twenty years ago. The reporter I talked to today is another new guy on the local paper.

I think, though, he has a good angle. A mother who lost her daughter in a car crash had just written a letter to the editor about changing the laws regarding suspending driver's licenses. I guess the topic has been tossed about in the paper recently. My story and play turns out to be quite timely. That makes a big difference in getting coverage.

I still haven't heard from the two other papers I approached, but with them, it's hard to tell. My press release might just show up somewhere printed as is. That's happened before too.

I'll just wait and see for now.