Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Hot Morning

But Then Came the Clouds

I got up around the same time, went out to feed the Boys and felt the heat. I'm not sure whether the temperature was hotter than yesterday, but without the breeze, and a lot of sunshine, it was too hot to ride. I'll have to try an hour earlier tomorrow.

Once I'd decided not to work the horses, I just kind of wasted time as I was going to meet a friend from school for lunch. We'd set it up before school closed as a kind of private retirement celebration. The Olive Garden has this neat little lunch deal with all you can eat soup, salad, and breadsticks. Yummy. I had their new chicken gnocchi soup and good company and conversation for the afternoon.

But, as we sat in the restaurant, the sky outside grew darker and darker and the wind was starting to pick up. I decided to go to the pool right away to get in my swim. (I have been swimming just about every day since school closed.) I had that timed perfectly. I got in my laps, rode the lazy river a few circuits, took my shower and headed home as the raindrops began to hit the car's windshield.

Got home and fed the Boys as thunder began to rumble in the west. I'm pretty sure the pool will be closing down for the night. It's kind of "spittering" rain off and on right now, but it still looks pretty ominous. I'll just wait it out to see if I can ride or lunge, but if not, I guess the Boys have the day off.

I apparently now have a resident wild turkey, or at least one that does not run away when I appear. I'm guessing it's a hen, but I'm not sure. At any rate, she's kind of hanging out in the back yard, not too far from the bird feeder and seems quite relaxed about my presence. I will try to get a picture of her when it's not raining.

If I do something with the Boys, I'll post tomorrow. Right now it doesn't look too promising out there.

Just checked the forecast. We are under a severe thunderstorm watch until at least 7 PM.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Variety Is The Spice Of Life

Long Lining on a Summer Morning

Not too bad out again this morning, and that's after 9 AM. I headed out after breakfast--mine and the Boys'--to do something worthwhile.

I decided long lining would be a good option. That way, I could see how the Boys were going and also make some physical demands without the added stress of a rider in their backs.

Tucker started out quite erratically. I don't know if flies were bothering him, or if the turkey drinking from the puddles at the other end of the arena was too exciting, or if Toby and Chance's galloping off was the trigger, or whether it was just general nonsense about having to work when he'd rather be romping. At any rate, there was some bucking, galloping, and in general...I'm not on the bit.

I decided what I needed as a steady outside rein, so I brought him in and "veed" the outside line by running it through the top ring, through the bit and then to a lower ring. That gave it a lot of leverage, but also a good steady "feel" without my needing to hold it strongly. It worked a treat.

We had some absolutely lovely work on both reins. Tucker was forward, relaxed, and working into a good solid upper level frame without any fuss or bother. We had an exceptional session. I did give him several breaks on a long rein, of course, as staying up like that does require a lot of work for him at this point in his fitness level.

Chance, curiously enough, required the exact opposite rigging. I tried the outside vee on him and he fought it determinedly, threatening to rear up several times. I finally veed the rein on the inside and that solved the problem. It took quite a bit more effort on my part to get him to stretch down into the bit, still. It's pretty clear he still does not quite understand that giving to the rein is more comfortable than resisting.

But, once he settled into a working frame, giving to the bit, and working all the way through to his hind end, he looked gorgeous! He really is a nice mover and never hesitates to engage his hind end. When he stays forward as he was today, he looks as if he is going to develop some suspension in his trot when he learns to collect. At 15.3 h, he is not the big dramatic dressage horse we have come to expect seeing in the shows around here, but darn it, he certainly wants to move like one.

I may never show him, though, as I seem to have lost my ambition in that direction. I might consider a schooling show down the line, or I might not. Right now, it's just fun training him and watching him develop his potential.

So lunge, ride, long line...variety in training. Another good idea, I think.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Beeeautiful Morning

Short and Sweet

There was a nice breeze this morning when I fed the Boys, so I came in, had my own breakfast and after a little thought, I headed back out to ride.

A bit earlier would have been even better as then more of the arena would have been in the shade. As it was, the woods side was shady and it felt at least 20 degrees cooler than in the sun. But even the sun wasn't too bad with the breeze and, thankfully, lower humidity.

I rode Tucker first. I have been focusing on "forward" off the leg, immediately in our last rides. Today, I could feel it was paying off. The first trot transistion was a bit sluggish, but I gave him a kick. He laid his ears back. I threatened him with my voice and off he went into a more active gait. I did a downward, repeated the upward, and he moved right off. I did not have much rein contact at this point. Adding "on the bit" to the exercise would defeat the purpose of simply establishing the forward response to my leg.

We worked for a while on loose contact, doing one transition after another. Walk/trot/trot/canter/trot/walk/canter...etc. Again, all I was looking for was that "jump" into the gait and, in a sense, even out of the gait. Too often people ride downward transitions backwards, thinking of bringing the horse back instead of forward into the next slower gait. Then the horse loses impulsion and falls behind the leg and seat. It is very important to keep the transitions forward at all times, even when you are practicing a reinback...as strange as that may seem. The horse always needs to feel as if in an instant he would just go forward off your leg.

While I haven't neglected that with Tucker, his personality and attitude have not encouraged me to keep at it. And, he has a terrible ability to get totally stuck, refusing to go forward at all and, when pressed either rearing or bucking. However, I did find one fault in my riding that hasn't helped.

My right leg is a "nagger." When I am riding Tucker, and he gets sluggish, I keep squeezing at him with my right leg. He gets either crabby about it, or simply starts to ignore the urging. So now, I am focusing on keeping my right heel/lower leg off his sides except when I am demanding something. One squeeze or kick to encourage forward followed by, if no response, a tap with the whip on the top of his rump, and then a passive leg, in light, but not "pushing" contact. Seems to work well.

For the last ten minutes or so, I put him in a frame and worked the same exercises on contact, wiht again, lots of transitions. If I felt his trot start to lose energy, I cantered well into the bridles, then went back to trot, always insisting on forward. I finished with some lovely canter/walk/canter simple changes, then headed up the center line, halted, asked for and got a nearly perfect four step reinback to a trot, and ended on an ideal note. What a good boy!!

My goal with Chance was "down and round" no matter what. He started off really well in a nice walk, but then on the first transistion to trot, threw up his head. It is not a dramatic reaction, but decidedly off the bit. I "purred" him back to a walk, and repeated the transition with much better success. As with Tucker, I then did a series of transitions, each time insisting, with muscle and rein work, that he keep his head down. It got better and better.

For the transitions to canter, I was not as particular, as Chance is just learning he can canter with his head down. Actually, the upwards weren't too bad. If anything, he simply "lifted" his head rather than coming entirely off contact. Then, in the canter, on both leads, he did drop back towards at least starting to work into the bit. Not perfect, but getting there.

However, when I brought him back to trot after the canters, particularly on the right rein, he was super! There is a feeling I love of a horse reaching into the contact with his whole body, kind of "pulling" the rider along...not pulling in a too strong way...but rather with an eager energy to go into that rein. It doesn't pull you out of the saddle, but I call it a "water skiing" feeling, where you and the horse simply must go forward together. At any rate, Chance had it this morning.

It's not quite all there at the canter, but on both leads his canter has a good soft feeling, with a relaxed forwardness and balance. And today, especially, his trot was something wonderful!

I "asked" Toby if he wanted to work by showing him the bridle. He started to make a hasty exit. Just as well because after riding the other two Boys, I was kind of tired.

Short but sweet rides. I schooled the two of them in about an hour and a half. Tucker, as a Thoroughbred gets fit quickly and he does work hard the whole time. With Chance, it's a balancing act. I don't want him to get too tired so he gets sour, and right now the main goal is to challenge his brain. No point in drilling a horse on an exercise he understands. Short and sweet is the way to go when training.

If the bugs weren't so bad, I could add some cross country work for more fitness. Then again, I suppose bucking and kicking and fussing at the wood flies and mosquitoes would be exercise......

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Saturday Ouch

N0t the Best Of Days

I woke up not feeling well. Part of it was that my neck was out and I was on the brink of a headache, but my stomach was upset too. I went to the chiropractor and got my neck fixed, but things just didn't want to clear up. When I got back home it was back to bed for a few hours.

When I felt a little better in the afternoon, I went to the pool for a swim. Most of the time the exercise in the water helps my neck. It did to some degree, but after I fed the Boys dinner, I lay back down.

Of course, while I was napping, I was awakened by heavy rain as ANOTHER storm passed over. Just what we needed......yeah, right.

Eventually I felt good enough to go out to the barn to lunge. I worked Tucker first and he is getting more and more obedient every time he goes on the line. Now I am able to switch his gaits almost instantly. So we did a lot of canter/trot/canter transitions.

To my surprise, Toby seemed interested in doing something, so I lunged him next. I did make it an easy session as he is the least fit of my little herd. As usual, he was perfect, but I'm not sure if he is more interested in the apple at the end of actually getting out to do some work.

Chance was last on the agenda and he too was a good boy. He still takes the wrong lead on the right rein now and then, but it's getting easier and easier to correct. He is a good boy and quite a nice little mover. He is definitely my "fun" horse.

Everyone earned an apple, except for me as I haven't eaten much all day.

Hopefully tomorrow I'll feel a little more ambitious.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Rather Anti-Climatic, Actually

"What's Done Cannot Be Undone" (Macbeth, V, i)

That's it. Over. A 40 year teaching career in public schools in New Jersey has come to an end. I'm adding the two years I worked as a substitute teacher while I was still in college. Enough, I think. I can no longer work in the public schools once I draw on my pension. I could teach in a private school or do consulting work, however. I could also teach night school at my former school because that's under a different system. If I miss the classroom, I might consider that option.

Meantime, my signout was rather uneventful. I saw a few of my teacher friends and associates, took my famous teaching chair out of my room along with my little refrigerator, and talked a bit to the Principal about my classroom. He has not decided how to use it yet, but he too feels protective about my wonderful neighbor teacher in the other room adjoining mine....well mine no longer.

My good furniture will probably be bequeathed to my replacement which is good as I left all kinds of pens, staplers, supplies in my desk--all if which he can use. I also told my principal I would be really interested in meeting my replacement. Gee, I might even be able to help him out a bit here and there. Got my paycheck, and my sick pay reimbursement--a nice hefty sum to use to supplement my retirement checks for a while--and headed across the school parking lot for the last time as an employee. Saw my good friend, one of the cosmetology teachers on the way out and she suggested I could come back in to be her model to demo techniques to her classes. Facials, hair cuts, make up, stuff like that--should be fun!!

Working in a vocational/technical school has been a valuable experience, and I mean that in a monetary way. The various shops around the school have always been keen to test their skills by completing projects for teachers, and when payment is required, it is minimal. My car has been lovingly cared for in the auto shop, I have had metal items welding in the welding shop, things printed up in graphic arts, clothes cleaned in the dry cleaning shop, many things built in the carpentry shops, my horse trailer painted in the auto body shop (no longer open), my barn plans designed and blueprinted in the drafting shop, my hair permed and cut in the cosmetology shop, and my tummy filled more than once in one of the culinary arts shops. As a retiree, I will still be able to call upon those experts to help me if need be. As always, I will pay for materials and supplies, but labor costs are nil. It's a great bunch of people to know, I have been very lucky to have spent so much time getting to know them.

As I've already said here, retirement won't really "hit" me until September when the new school year starts and I do not have to go anymore. So for now, I just have to practice saying "retired" until I actually get to practice doing it.

Addendum: The sun was in and out all day. I got really hot, so after I fed the Boys, I decided I might as well go over to the pool for a swim. I ate some dinner and went out. By the time I got to the pool, a big bank of dark clouds had rolled in from the west. Within five minutes, the lifeguards were closing the water so I got back into the car and headed home as the winds picked up and....the rain began. Thunder and lightning for sure, so I closed off the pasture and lured the Boys into the barn with some snacks.

Did I mention it's raining?? Again??? *sigh*

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Follow Up

I Think I'm Done

There are all kinds of little details involved in signing out of school for the summer. Add signing out of school for "Life" and even more details add up. I think I am virtually done except for the defrosting fridge in my back room and my famous teaching chair. And, I'll take one more look on the computer to make sure I have saved all the files I might need some day. I have to go in tomorrow morning to finish up the last of the paperwork, have my classroom inspected, and pick up my final paycheck. Then it's official.

My last classes were fun. I have a nifty little reading game I invented and the few kids that were there really had a good time playing it. There was laughter, spirited competition, and complete involvement all period long. What more could a teacher ever want? That's the kind of stuff I am going to miss.

Tonight was graduation and I went out to dinner with one of my fellow teachers afterward. A bunch of other people showed up later to hang out at the bar, but I'm not into that, so I kind of talked for a while, got some more hugs, and came home.

It was one of those hot, muggy days again and this time the sun was out, so all I did was put the fans on in the barn for the Boys and leave it at that. With school out, I can ride nearly anytime, so if it stays somewhat cool in the mornings, I'll probably get some saddle time in sooner or later.

And, the swimming pool will be open. That means lots of swimming to cool down and get a little more fit.

And, I have some work to do on both an evironmental grant we have as well as some research on the infamous infiltration basin. Looks like the next week or so will be pretty busy.

Oh, yes, Stacie is going to pick up her new horse on the 3rd. I might offer to go with her if she doesn't already have someone else.

This is Stacie with Sedona. I will fill in on details when I'm sure I have them straight. As I recall, he is 11 Hanovarian, 16.1 h, trained to second level. (Just before flying changes. Simple changes, medium trots, half passes, shoulder in.) From what Stacie says, he's a honey and he "Needs a mom."

It's going to be super when she has him home for a good dose of love.

Last Day

Quick Post

As I head out to school for my last day as a classroom teacher, I find I just can't quite grasp the emotional link to the significance of the day. I'm sure I will have plently of emotional responses at school, but the enormity of the event in my life hasn't hit yet.

This might be because it is also the end of the school year when I normally would have two months off before starting up again. So, I suspect I will finally come to terms with it all in September when I don't have to go back.

In the meantime....guess what!!??? It rained yesterday.

What a surprise! After all, we needed it after the hour or so of sunshine we had late morning to midday. Gee, things might have dried out.

Crossed the paddock this morning to put out my fly predators and sank into mud where there has not been mud before. To put it bluntly, there is mud everywhere! And it's not nice mud, either. Things had barely dried out after the winter thaw, so we are talking MUD here.

I am sick of mud. I am sick of the wet.

But then again, I am retiring, so I'll have plenty of time to deal with it.

More later.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Let Them Eat Cake!

Another "Party"

Well, the act of retiring certain does get interesting. Today, there was a "mandatory" faculty meeting at 2:30, after the students had gone home on the half day of school.

One quick announcement and then a simply lovely thank-you and complimentary speech by my school principal about me and then, a cake!! "Happy Retirement, Jean," and it was all spelled correctly. *S* Delicious and plenty go go around. I left a good chunk in the main office for anyone who was hungry. It was a very nice tribute, particularly when the principal mentioned my play and how much extra work I had done this year to see it through to its two productions. What I liked was the fact that he noted I did not "slack off" in my last year at work, and that I had given so much to the school.

A worthy wrap up of my teaching career. I wanted to retire before I could not do a best job any more. I was tired and losing my enthusiasm. Creating new and inventive ways to teach my classes was getting harder and harder. Better to go when I was still doing a good job and giving my all to the job. I am pleased to report I have apparently succeeded.

It was hot when I came home. That kind of humid hot that makes it unpleasant to do much. I fed the Boys, then decided to make some beef stoganoff for dinner. However, I had no mushrooms. I prepped the meat, then headed to the supermarket for the mushrooms. Well all the sales lured me from one aisle to another and I ended up with several bags of other stuff, but a savings of over $15 in the process.

I came home, made the stroganoff, went outside to put some garbage in the can and felt the first drops of rain. Sure enough, as I was eating we had a torrential downpour.

Gee, just what we needed....more rain!!

As they say, it kind of put a damper on my plans to ride...or something.

Let me add to the bird feeder saga. Now I have all the birds, four squirrels, looks like four wild turkeys, a groundhog, and some rabbits all living the high life off the food I put out. If I ever have to build the ark with all this rain, I may be able, at this rate, to save one of each species without leaving the back yard.

It is fun to watch, though.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Winding Down

Only Three More Days

Three more days of classes and then I am officially a retired teacher. Trouble is I still have one final exam to administer and grade, then I have to average up those grades and submit them. There are a few other paperwork things to do as well kind of blocking me from the full realization that I am at the end of a long career. As I drove home tonight, I realized this will be the first time in 55 years that the end of summer will not be the beginning of a new school year for me.

I started going to school at age 5, and took no breaks on my way to a university degree. From there, I started teaching at once, never out of school for more than a summer break. This is going to be a very strange September.

The sun finally came out today and while it was hot, there was a breeze and it wasn't totally miserable when I did get home. I changed clothes quickly and headed out to ride.

The arena is still super wet. Tucker hates to go through the puddles--he will, but he'd rather avoid them. And frankly, so do I. That meant quite a bit of restrictions as to where we could really do some serious work. It isn't fair to ask for too much in the mucky wet spots and there were far too many of them scattered about. Still I did concentrate again on keeping him forward. I had a few minor issues now and then but I am not sure if it was the footing more then true resistance. Tuck kind of breaks his rhythm in the wet stuff...even when he is on the lunge...so under saddle some of the little disobediences probably stemmed from that.

I did, however, get an "accidental" flying change again and Tuck was definitely thinking about doing something like one or two when I changed rein at the canter. I am undecided as to when to really start trying to school them but for now, if he offers on his own, I'll just go with the flow. At any rate, we had a good workout.

I rode Chance afterwards, deciding ahead of time to simply concentrate on getting him to flex down into the bit, no matter what. He still seems to feel he needs his head and neck to change gait and sometimes even to turn. Then, because his head it up, his back is down and he loses momentum and gait. It took a lot of determination on my part and some strong corrections to get him to stay down and round at the trot so we could try it in a canter depart. The right lead was not so good, but the left lead, after I worked the right until he was round, was pretty darn good. Then, to finish off, I went back to the right lead for another little bit and it too was pretty good.

Now, mind you, this requires a great deal of rein work, and strong balance and control on my part but once Chance gets himself there, everything feels so easy. I figure, as I've said before, with about two weeks of regular work with my demanding he stay round, he is going to realize how much better it feels and that will be that.

Chance is a very bright boy and while he actually is a pretty willing worker, like most horses he will prefer the easiest and most comfortable way of going. Every horse I have taught to stretch down into the bit has affirmed to me that it is how they prefer to go. How much nicer it is to lift their backs under the rider's seat and carry themselves in a relaxed, athletic balance.

Chance is a clever fellow. It took him all of about ten minutes to figure it out tonight. Now the trick is to see if he will try it on his own tomorrow.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

One or The Other

First the Rain, Then the Sun

Whew! It rained nearly all day until just before feeding time. Then it looked OK, but it was time to feed the Boys. I did and as I did, the sun came out.

OK, so now it's miserably hot out there. At least the kind of hot where the sun toasts you in the damp, humid air. I poo picked the arena, which is very, very wet with puddles all over the place, and then cleaned out the two little drainage areas so the excess water could run off.

By the time I was done, I was as wet as I would have been if it had been raining--with sweat. There is a bit of a breeze, so it's possible it might cool off as the evening comes on.

Or else it's going to rain some more.

Maybe more later. Maybe not.

Update: I did go back out to lunge. I worked Tucker and Chance on the lunge, just some walk/trot/canter more to build up muscles and fitness than to train.

The ring is a soggy mess with hardly a really good spot of footing. It's not particularly slipperly, as the sand does hold, but it is sloppy and unpleasant.

Each horse got about 20 minutes of exercise as did I. And I also got sand in my hair as a result of flicking the lunge whip to keep them both nice and active.

Tucker is moving out a lot more on his own, so that's good. Chance starts off well, then kind of loses steam, but I was able to get him to keep going without too much trouble.

Carrots for treats, and a good spray of Endure fly spray--although everyone has a nice fly sheet on--on the legs, belly and neck, and we were all good to go.

Now, if only it wouldn't rain for a day or so I could get some work done out there.

Right now, walking is particularly treacherous for me as the mud around the barn paddocks is very slippery or lose your shoe sticky. It is very bad for my knees to be risked like that. It will dry out quickly if it stops raining.....

If it stops raining........

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Little Raider

Too Funny For Me

I just started to head out to ride before it rains again, and there was a "thunk" on the back porch. Note, my porch is enclosed, does have a cat door I have blocked off, but the storm door has an opening under it.

There looking quite startled, sat a squirrel, inside, by the door. I backed quietly away, just to watch.

The bird food and peanuts are in a plastic garbage can with a lid, but a few days ago I found a hole gnawed in the lid. Suspicion was aroused as I'd thought I'd seen a furry tail disappear under the door before.

Today, as I watched from the shadows, the little furry tail raider, squished him/her self into the hole--not quite big enough for little fat butt to fit through without some effort--and disappeared into the can where the delicious bird seed is stored.

That explains the sunflower seed hulls and the fast emptying bag of peanuts. Alas, I will now go out to ride and scare off my little fur butted raider, but it surely was fun watching the clever little critter pull off its burglary on my back porch.

Now, should I get a metal can or just play dumb about the robbery?

By the by, I did fill the bird feeder this morning and I put out a nice ear of corn for certain furry crooks.

Update: It's raining again.

But I did get two good rides in.

Tucker was quite a good boy and, he is getting much quicker off my leg. I am concentrating on asking once, then tapping with the whip if he doesn't "jump" forward. While I am not expecting an explosive depart, I do want instant forward. I have worked on this before, and kind of neglected it over time, especially with his other training issues, so remedial insistence is a good thing. At the end, again, I put him in a fairly snug frame and repeated some of the exercises with great success, so, so far, so good.

Also he is getting the hang of a nice reinback with a good forward afterwards. What was happening before is that he was do two nice steps in reinback, then brace against the bit. I would have to correct him and then ask for more steps. Today, no problem. Good boy.

The rain was spitting when I got on Chance. As usual, there was some regression with the concept of "on the bit" or at least "into the bit," but that is to be expected sinces it's been too long between schools. The trot work gets better as we go along, so that's a plus. His canter is now relaxed on both leads, so that's good, but he still wants to use his head and neck for balance off the bit, so that is going to need some work. Overall, I'd still give him good scores as he has such a lovely temperament and a pretty solid work ethic.

About the worst thing he does, besides sometimes breaking gait, is to kind of lean toward the gate heading out into the woods when we go past. While I would love to take him out for a hack as a reward, the mosquitoes would lift us up and carry us off right now. Since I didn't have the bug armor on him or a good douse of Mosquito Halt bug spray, I opted out.

If it ever dries up, perhaps then we can risk a forest trail. In the meantime, I'd rather not challenge those six legged blood suckers. They really might carry us off.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Anyone Fancy a Swim?

Maybe I Could Just Dig a Pool

Now's the time, while it's still raining, and raining, and....more downpours today. I could convert the arena to a swimming pool. The only good thing is that it is still cool in my classroom. The kids are taking final exams and no one is sweating beyond the demands of the tests.

Car into the shop. It will cost a pretty penny but not an unaffordable fortune. They are going to order the parts tonight and expect them to be there tomorrow, so I should be all set. It really is a good repair garage. I have gone there before and found them to be honest and mechanically excellent. When I told others where the car was, I got unanimous thumbs up. Excellent reputation and a very straightforward, polite, and human attitude about dealing with customers.

Then, I just got off the phone to the electric company trying to figure out why my bill was so high since I've had the solar system in full operation since sometime in January. Now, I come to find out that when they switched my meter over to the new one that can run backwards to account for the energy I produce, they canceled all the bills I'd paid from as far back as December. So the bill I just got covers what I owe them for nearly 6 months instead of just one. I am not particularly illiterate, so it would have been awfully nice if somewhere on those pages someone had offered to explain to me in English rather than company jargon. When I finally got a representative on the phone he was moderately polite with the distinct tone in his voice that he was explaining something to a semi-ignorant woman who had no idea that meter changes made so much difference in the larger world of energy production/distribution/sales/consumption and the much larger overall economy of the nation. I carefully repeated to him what I thought he had explained to me and, much to my relief, I had apparently completely understood the complex financial issues.

If I'm right, next month, they might actually owe me some money.

The Boys are fine despite Tucker's raid on the--my fault--unprotected feed room/bin last night. I guess it was Tucker. But whoever it was got into the can of bad feed which I still haven't dumped because it weighs (or weighed before the raid) over 100 pounds and I will need to dispose of it in two lighter weight stages in the far reaches of the forest if it ever dries out enough to drive the tractor out there.... Well, I digress. Somebody with four legs, a mane and a tail raided the bad feed but no one with the same description seems to be any the worse for wear. I did pick out the worst of the tainted pellets, so perhaps that was the ultimate lifesaver here.

It's been enough hours that I suspect I can breathe a sigh of relief. Although, aside from a few crunched up cores, a whole new bag of nine apples disappeared along with the grain, so that's a few more dollars down the drain....or the tummy.

Someone was a happy boy.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Itchy Boy

Kitty At The Vet

Took my cat, Reggie to my acupuncture/natural vet today. Reggie has had NAET treatment for his allergies before with great success, but recently, he has been excessively grooming himself again so thought I'd better take him in to see if he has developed new allergies.

The doctor did some testing and apparently the cat food that had been fine before is now contributing to Reggie's itchiness. So is the basement, where I suspect there may be some molds but that's an easy fix as all I have to do is close the door to keep the kitties from going down there.

The food is another problem. We did find out before that Reggie is sensitive to seafood, so I took him off that flavor. Apparently the dry food I feed is OK, but the canned stuff is now making him sensitive. My vet said the problem is that nearly all the cat food companies are bad about really sticking to what's on the label and it's quite possible they have changed the formula since we last did testing.

My vet is not too keen on just keeping cats on dry food, so he suggested I try some other brands and just monitor Reggie to see how he reacts. The other option would be for me to concoct my own food, but I've not had a lot of luck getting my kitties to eat "human" foods. As a matter of fact the three that eat the canned food are not even too keen about trying different brands other than the ones they are used to.

Guess I will have to visit the pet food store and buy a can or two of some of the other brands, mostly the ones that brag about their reputations to produce consistent quality...etc. The brand I use has a really good reputation, but at this point, any recipe changes they may have made are causing problems.

I suspect I am in for some interesting experimentation here.

Tomorrow, I have to take my car to the shop so they can figure out why the "check engine" light is on. The school students tested it for me and found codes for a gas vapor leak somewhere, but since it was too late in the year, they did not have time to trace it further. There is a good repair garage across the street from school, so I'll drop it off there.

Hopefully it won't be a big problem.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Discretion is the Better Part

So I Only Rode One Horse

Had another retirement dinner after school, so I got back home a bit late on another beautifully cool day. I decided to ride Tucker.

The goal was forward, every step. I did not challenge him by demanding he work on the bit. I rode nearly all the ride with very light contact, just asking him to stretch out and work with energy. Every time I felt him even think of backing off, I tapped him on the rump with my whip. I tried too not to nag with my legs but simply "bump" him along and then take the pressure off. Actually, by the end of the session he was very forward and was starting to press forward into the bit all on his own.

I did some halt, reinbacks too during the ride and after one, he really bounced into a forward canter stride from a halt which was really nice. At the very end, I put him in a true dressage frame for a few circuits on each rein at the trot, and it put a good finish on the ride.

My brain wanted to ride Chance next, but my body--knees--did not, so that's where the discretion came in. Normally, I just push on, but tonight, I decided to listen to the aches and pains and let that ride go by.

Now for the medical assessment. I do not have an ACL in either knee. That is where the problem lies. Because that ligament helps stabilize the knee joint, when I over do, the other ligaments and surrounding muscles get overworked and painful. The joint is trying to slide out of place and they are trying to hold it where it belongs. I blew the ACL in my right knee when I was about 14 or 15, so as long as the left knee was OK, I was pretty OK. For some reason, my knees tend to stay in place on their own. (Some people who have no ACL have chronic joint locking and dislocation.) But time and overuse, has been wearing me out.

So, up until this year, when all but two insurance companies changed their policies, I have been lucky enough to find a doctor who can treat my specific problems. Dr. Magaziner has been on the cutting edge of alternative therapies for a good number of years. For me, that means prolotherapy--kind of like in internal blister they use on horse's stifles. The idea here is to inject a solution that acutally causes the ligaments to thicken with scar tissue so they tighten. The other therapy is PRP which involves using my own blood platelets as kind of stem cells to both heal the damage to ligaments and to regrow some of the cartilage in my knees.

Both these treatments have helped enormously and the insurance company has paid for my treatments. However, during the last year, the insurance geniuses have decided both treatments are "experimental" or something and have decided to no long cover patients who opt for them.

I honestly cannot afford to pay for them without coverage. So I am stuck.

Options? Obviously, knee replacements. This would cost the insurer tons more both for the surgery and the followup physical therapy and after care. Duh.

My proposed route would be to have reconstructive surgery on the ACL's. However, until I consult my orthopedic surgeon, I don't know if this is a viable option. I guess it depends on how bad the rest of my joint is.

Needless to say, either surgical solution is not the best for someone who has three horses at home to take care of. Finding someone to do the work during whatever part of the recovery will lay me up is a problem. And, will I be able to take care of myself in the house even if I don't have to take care of the horses? Bit of a riddle, I fear.

I suspect, from talking to my vice principal at school who had ACL and other ligaments reconstructed, that surgery has a quicker recovery time provided you are agressive with the physcial therapy at the outset. I am a monster about PT mostly because I hate it and want to get done with it as quickly as possible.

Right now, though, I am disgusted. Facing the summer with knees like this is not a pleasant thought. I might be able to swing one more treatment with an insurance guarantee the school is obligated to, but after that, I am probably done.

I really resent these insurance companies having the power to make decisions as to what is best for my health and well being.

And if they'd really think it through, they might realize that my options would cost them far less money.

Monday, June 15, 2009

I Know I'll Regret This

But I Had a Knee'd to Sit Down

I guess I overdid on Sunday again. My left knee was really sore. Or, rather, the muscles around my left knee and the ligaments of my left knee hurt a lot again.

It wasn't so bad in the morning, but by the end of the day after walking around the school building, it ached. Hard to explain how it feels, exactly, but suffice it to say I did not ride again.

And the bummer was that it was a beautiful day! Not too hot. Lovely breeze. Just a nearly perfect day to ride. As I said, bummer.

I need to do something about the knee issue, so I am considering my options. I do think I can get one more treatment on my insurance due to a rather complicated situation, but after that, I am on my own. I will probably call my doctor tomorrow to see what we can do.

Then, I am seriously considering surgery. However, I want to wait until the winter rolls in so I have all those miserable months to recover. I don't want to be sitting around with my knee unusable while the weather begs me to work the horses.

This too is a benefit of being retired as I also would not have to drag myself into school.

Meantime, the Boys were really enjoying the pasture today. With the breezes, the bugs were apparently at bay and grazing was a comfortable past time. I didn't go out to see how the grass looks, but with all the rain, there seems to be enough to keep them happy. I am, however, still giving them hay in their stalls, trying hard to judge just how much they will actually eat instead of strewing it all over. This morning, the the two flake apiece supply seemed just about right. Everyone had a little bit left.

I did close the pasture off tonight which will not please them. But there are predictions of heavy thunderstorms coming this way. I thought I heard some thunder before I went out for late feed but I'm not sure. However, with the radar map showing bad weather headed our way, I didn't want to take any chances.

This is the first time I can remember having so much mud this late in June. Part of the knee issue was from pusing the wheelbarrow through the mud to clean the stalls too. Even with my knee braces, there's a lot of strain slipping along in the goo.

I don't mind the cool and the rain as it keeps my classroom comfortable, but this is getting ridiculous. I think we have had rain nearly every day for almost two weeks now. And, at this rate, the swimming pool water at Crystal Springs is never going to warm up. Summer is about a week away and we are having April weather.

Strange. Global warming? The jet stream? El Nino? Just not your typical June, I fear.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Busy Sunday

And Some Horsework

I sang two solos in church this morning. Not bad, if I say so myself. They were both spirituals: "I Know the Lord's Laid His Hands on Me" and "Go Down In De Lonesome Valley." The second one is quite beautiful, kind of "haunting." I was quite pleased with how it went. After church I went out to lunch with my choir friends.

Came home, took a little time off, then headed out to do the weed whacking. Not too sure how long I was out there, but I did the front bank again, all around the house, along the fence by my Aunt's house, and then out by the paddock and rose garden. The poor roses were weeded in, and I will definitely have a project to try to clean out around them more than just cutting the weeds down. By the time I was done, it was time to feed the Boys, so I did and came back inside to crash for another while.

Towards later evening, I went back out and lunged everyone. Curiously enough, when I tried to catch Chance and Tucker the two of them played hard to get, but Toby came over to me and let me put the halter on him without a second thought.

I gave him a fairly short lunging session, mindful of the fact that he really hasn't been doing much work. All three Boys play and romp quite a bit, so there are never entirely unfit, but that's a heck of a lot different than being fit enough for a real work session.

I lunged Tucker next, and he too was a good boy. I am concentrating on insisting that he move forward every time he is under my control, so that was the goal tonight. It worked pretty well.

I worked Chance last. As I'd left the gate to the arena open, Tucker and Toby came in to supervise and at one point, Tucker started cantering around on Chance's circle, chasing him. This was a potentially dangerous situation-- a loose horse and an lunging horse, and I had obviously miscalculated by leaving the gate. Fortunately Tuck stayed on the outside and I had enough control over Chance to avoid disaster. I will be more diligent the next time.

Although, I must admit that at the moment, the gate has limited effect as a whole section of fence is down separating the arena from the paddock. That will be one of my first projects once school is out. The limited time after school each day and the precious time of weekends gets used up with other priorities, I fear.

I'm sure those of you who have your own places know all too well how many little chores there always are to take up the hours of the day.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Aw, Come On, Already!!

Not Again

Raining out. Enough to ruin my tack and soak me if I rode.

Plan was this. I had a rehearsal for tomorrow's solos in church in the AM. That was fine. Then I had two other jobs to do. One was to go get grain and the second was to mow the lawn while it was dry.

When I got home from rehearsal, I mowed the lawn. Good thing. It had dried out well enough and I did a decent job. But I still have a considerable amount of week whacking to do. I figured I'd get a bit done after the feed trip and then ride a little.

I headed for the feed store and on the way, it started to sprinkle. Fair warning. Got the feed and by the time I came home, rain. It may not continue so I will monitor it. If there is a break, I will at least lunge Tucker and Chance. Not quite what I had in mind, but some work. No point in tacking up only to get wet with the next passing shower.

Too Hot for Me

And Then Come the Bugs

Very hot and humid this afternoon. It was supposed to be in the 70's with rain/clouds. Not sure what the temp was but it was a heck of a lot hotter than that. The mosquitoes are out in full force too, even in the day. Guess I have to call mosquito control for a look see. The Boys were hanging out in the barn...well all except Tucker who trotted over to me when I pulled in the driveway to get the mail. I pulled some of the nice long---since I haven't mowed the lawn--grass and gave him a pile, but he ate it quickly and hurried back up to the barn too in order to get away from the biting pests.

Top it off, my left knee is really hurting, all the way down the outside of my leg. I don't know if I strained it or if this is just "how it's going to be."

My medical insurance no longer pays for the treatments my doctor gives me that work. This is not a good thing as I cannot afford them without the insurance.

So that leaves some not so pleasant options. There is an outside possibility of some injections that might help a little, but my only other recourse for long term relief would be surgery. I could try to have the missing lignament replaced. That is a major undertaking with a pretty long lay up and I don't know if they'd do that if my arthritis is too bad.

The second option is, of course, knee replacements. That is my least favorite solution of all available to me. Again, a long layup, and what are the riding prospects afterwards?

Fact is, the treatments would cost the insurance company a lot less money than either surgery. You'd think, in the interest of profits, they would not begrudge me something that works.

Anyhow, a good night's rest and some Tylenol might make me feel better. We'll see....again....what tomorrow brings.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Party

With a Big Thank You...

....to all my friends at school who so generously gave me gifts at my retirement party this afternoon. I was given two lovely books, some money, a beautiful hand made quilt, a key chain, a deck of Shakespeare playing cards, a pewter plate, a huge card, and some wonderful gift cards for the mall and bookstore. And I was treated to a super tasty strawberry magarita and a delicious dinner.

School is not finished until June 24, and my official retirement begins on July 1, but the party was today so it was a special day. I have plenty of work yet ahead of me. I have all the students' grades entered into the computer, so that's good, but I still have to administer and grade final exams and essays. There's some other paperwork to be done, some room cleaning...although I have cleared out most of the books and teaching materials the other teachers can use. I still have a few of my own things to carry home, and some general tidying up to do.

As they say, it ain't over until it's over, so about 10 more days to go.

Since I went out to dinner, I fed the Boys early by coming home from school during my afternoon prep period. They were a bit confused to eat then and none too pleased that I closed off the pasture while they did. The forecast was calling for thunderstorms, so I didn't want to take any chances.

When I got home from the party, I lunged Tucker for a short but "forward" work session. He was really a good boy, but kept cross cantering when he was on his right lead. Part of it was because of the little mud puddles in the arena which made him break stride, but he has done this since day one. I suspect he is a bit weak on his right hind and will choose the left hind as the lead leg when he feels he needs some more support. He does not cross canter when I ride him unless we get some kind of bad lead change, so I'm not too worried. But, I always have to keep it in mind as a possible training issue.

Gee, you'd think, then that making a flying change right to left would be an easy task for him. And, one would suspect it would come from behind. Alas, as of last efforts, we had minimum success. However, he is also not as fit and strong as he should be to learn the flying changes, so again, I am not too concerned.

Ask me in a month or so.

Then I will be off for the summer, retired for the rest of the year, and completely lacking in excuses for not getting my horses fit.

It really was a nice party.


Sweet Dreams

So, I came home from school, fed the Boys, fed myself, lay down for "just a few minutes" and woke up again at nearly 2 AM!

Hadn't slept well the night before and it showed.

The grass in the pasture must be better than I thought, though. When I was still awake and feeding, the Boys showed no interest in coming in for dinner. I called and called.

Then, I saw Tuck just coming over the little hill in the far corner. He made it nearly to the gate and stopped. Chance, behind him, stopped too, but there was no sign of Toby. I finally started to go out myself worried that something might be wrong.

Toby was just getting up from having a nice roll and sauntered over, totally unconcerned. Then Tucker came up to my side and followed me in as if I were lead horse for the day.

Could be, which has happened before, that something in or around the barn had scared them earlier. The other day I did find a big feather in the aisle--wild turkey? Goose? Something like that suddenly appearing in the barn and then stalking around could certainly worry my Boys.

I mean, after all, theses are the horses spooked by Moby Chair. What havoc could a Lurky Turkey wreck?

Tuesday, June 09, 2009


What To Do?

So, we had some wicked thunderstorms come through this morning and more on the way for tonight. I fed the Boys, came in to get ready for school and went back out to find a big tree limb across the driveway, with part of it on my truck and the rest having just missed my car. Fortunately the heaviest part of the limb had hit only the ground, and a lighter part was resting on the truck roof, looking as if it had done no real damage. *whew*

But that meant a cursory cleanup moving things a bit so I could get out.

I saved the rest for when I got home. Pruning saw in hand, I began sorting out some of the smaller branches from the big huge limb, then after moving them out of the way, used the tractor to pull the thing off the truck and somewhat out of the way. But, I decided to hold off on moving it much further until I decide where to put it and how much more I have to saw up.

Then, because of the storms the horses have been spending lots of time in the stalls once more spreading hay all over making a soggy mess. While I have been picking them out, once more the stalls needed a stripping. (Didn't I just do that last week???) This time I used the tractor with the front end loader which made the whole process a lot more manageable.

By then, I was thoroughly done in and I still have a rehearsal for my solo in church on Sunday.

Oh, nearly forgot to add that I dumped two bags of feed into the bin only to find the second one had gone bad, thus contaminating the good one. I called the feed store and they will make good on it, but I'm two bags down so it will be a bit tight by Friday which is the first chance I have to go to the feed store for the exchange.

Looks like project "Let's go Forward, Tucker" will have to wait at least another day.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Da Plane, Da Plane!!!

Mystery Partially Solved

I just got an email from Stacie. Apparently some 650 National Guard troops came home from Iraq yesterday into Fort Dix--less than a mile from Stacie's.

Those planes may have made a lot of noise during the lessons, but their arrival was far more important than our riding, that's for sure.

I am so pleased to have been there to see them coming home like that.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

The Good the Bad and the Bucky

Well, That Was Interesting

Tucker is an endless puzzle...to Gabriel too. We still have not quite figured him out.

For a start, he was good, at first, in Stacie's arena, except for the black trailer parked on the outside. But with some shoulder-in as I went past, that was fine.

But the initial few moments of the lesson harked back to the bad days at the show grounds when Tucker used to threaten to and even buck. Today he let fly twice at the beginning of the lesson. Number one was apparently not too bad, but the second one, a few circles later was a bit of a corker, at least so the spectators tell me. It honestly did not feel that bad, although I lost both stirrups and was hoping he wouldn't let fly again. However, after the lesson, I was told he'd really given it some "air time," and it was a big one. If so, while that's bad, the fact that it really didn't shake my seat or confidence too much, that's good.

Then, he settled into some really nice work, and Gabriel was quite pleased to see how well he was using his hind end. While some of his on the bit in a really schooled frame was a little erratic as he kept wanting to brace, so I had to conintually supple him, he had some really good moments and Gabriel said he was lifting his shoulder and really using himself well.

After perhaps 15-20 minutes of lots of good stuff, I had to walk to catch both our breaths and when I picke up the rein again, Tuck was behind my leg. It wasn't "awulf, awful" but with him you need to get a good firm contact with him pushing well into the bit from behind, and that just wasn't there. He was going, but lacking the really through feeling he needs to offer.

I chose to fix it by asking for canter, and then just driving him forward until he gave in. I am not at all sure why the disconnect happened. It could be that because he is not as fit as he should be he simply got tired and slacked off, or if his back tightened up.

At home, I might have actually dismounted, put him on the lunge to get him going, then remounted and ridden for another 10-15 minutes, just demanding forward. Towards the end of the canter, then trot work, I did get most of it back, but it never did feel quite as good as at the beginning of the ride--after the bucks, of course.

Gabriel is a bit puzzled by Tucker and neither he nor I has yet quite figured out the best solution for what to do when he does stop connecting like that. He will kick out at the whip and suck back even more when he does, so that doesn't necessarily work. I am thinking I will need to grit my teeth and put the spurs on, put up with the kick outs and simply use them as a threat if he doesn't go forward off my leg.

I will excuse it today and chalk it up to fatigue. Stacie's footing is a little deep and we were asking him to work quite hard at the outset. He may just not have had enough to offer and was protecting himself.

I will sort it out. Last year, before the winter kicked in, he was going quite well. He did have the sore hocks, though, so that posed some problems. However, today there was no sign of that as he took both canter leads just fine (a little kick on the right) and didn't act at all grouchy.

Even the bucks were more "I just can't contain all this excitement" rather than protests to anything I was doing. When I got on he felt like he was all "bottled up" emotionally and the bucks were more an expression of that than willfull disobedience.

I did cut the lesson a little short just so we didn't push him beyond his limit. While I do need to get him to stay forward for the whole time, I also will grant him some respect for letting me know when he's had enough. The trailer ride down was close to an hour as well, so that was an added physical stress.

I will work on getting him more fit, demanding an honest connection at all times, and insist he stay in front of my leg. Then, perhaps, we will see a better overall result from the lesson instead of a 50/50 split.

Considering that Gabriel was very complimentary of how he looked when he was working, I am pretty pleased. Maybe we are getting somewhere.

Slowly, but surely.

Addendum: I went for a swim after I fed the Boys. I really needed to cool off as the temps were up close to 90F at the lesson and I'd been in the sun most of the day.

As I was drifting around the Lazy River, I thought about something else that happened during the lesson. Stacie's place is not far from Fort Dix and Maguire Air Force Base. There were dozens of air force planes flying in today. As they came over the arena, they were quite low, landing gears down as they approached the runways. They were huge, impressive BUT....not half as impressive as the hawks circling the woods beyond the farm. Those birds soared and turned, floating like the very wind they rode on. As amazing as man's accomplishments can be, they pale in the face of nature.

Just a thought, caught by the water's reflections in the sun.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

What Saturday?

Where Did It Go?

I kind of did nothing really worthwhile for most of the morning. For some reason I did not sleep well, so once I was up--rather late--I was slow getting started.

Then, I had to go to the feed store to get grain. They only had 5 bags of the feed I use, but they will be getting more next week, so I will have to go back. Stopped at the tack store for the summer sizzling sale where I got some Ariat bug proof breeches for just under $20 and some more bell boots for Tucker at 25% off. Filled the truck with gas and headed home.

I started to hitch up the trailer and found out I was out of grease for the ball and some of the other parts of the rig. So I headed back to the hardware store. Bought some pizza and an antipasto on the way home.

Hooked up the trailer, checked the lights, pulled it out into the driveway and decided both it and the truck were pretty grungy looking after all winter. My trailer is, unfortuately, white and some of the paint is not as slick as it should be. (Some day I will get it repainted.) It doesn't clean up too well but I gave it a good wash with an organic stain remover and then washed the truck.

It was then that I noticed how hot it was out. The garage temperature was up near 90F.

I considered going for a swim, but figured it would wear me out too much and opted to take a quick shower instead.

I plan to go out later to give Tucker a long lining session as a prep for the lesson tomorrow.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Soggy Boggy

I went to a conference in South Jersey yesterday and came home to late and exhausted to do much with the Boys. It had rained nearly all day and was starting up again anyhow.

And today!! So far, all it's done is rain.

Despite that, the Boys were way out in the pasture grazing when I got up. They were in no hurry at all to come in for breakfast. I guess there is a bit of grass out there. Again, nothing lush, but enough to keep them happy.

I fed, went back into the house, made my own breakfast and as I sat down to eat the phone rang. It was Scott, my fabulous farrier. He was coming to shoe today. That meant I really needed to lock the Boys in their stalls. And it meant I had to go out to fill water buckets. Since they have a good water trough which I always keep full and clean, I do not keep their buckets full in the barn unless they need to stay in for some reason.

So back out I went to close them in--fortunately they were not done eating so they were still in their stalls--do the buckets and make sure their halters were in a spot where Scott would find them.

It took me another 20 minutes I'd not planned on, but somehow I still managed to get off to school only about 10 minutes late. (Must have cut some time in the "getting ready" phase of my morning.)

From the looks of it, it's been raining ever since. It does not look too promising for this evening.

I also took my prep time at school to go to the chiropractor to get my neck adjusted before I developed a headache. I was not sitting very ergonomically at the conference yesterday and I was cold most of the day too. This rain is making the temperatures about 15-20 degrees below normal for this time of year and most buildings have the heat turned off for the season.

I have a little heater here under my computer at school if I need to warm up, so I'm fine today.

Sunday, I have my lesson with Gabriel. I hope Stacie's pasture area dries out enough to we can park the trailer in there without getting stuck. Her driveway and back yard are not really very big, so getting in and out with a trailer is not at all easy. The only real way is to back in and once in, there is no room for another trailer to come in as well. There are at least two of us trucking horses in for the lessons, so it could be a real problem. It is supposed to be nice, dry and sunny on Saturday, so maybe things will dry out enough.

I am looking forward to the lesson as it should kind of gear me back up for some more serious training. And, the good thing is that Tucker will be wearing a nice new pair of shoes for the occasion!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Back to School

And More Rain

It rained again and is supposed to rain the rest of the week. I didn't really have time to ride the Boys today anyhow as I had to go back to school for the dance concert.

A lot of my students are in the dance department and I always feel it's important for teachers to attend their performances. I also try to visit students in their shop classes once in a while to see the work they have done there. And I spent time visiting shops during the special school competition (Green Tech Expo) to see the projects they were submitting. I even managed to see a few of the Expo presentations/demonstrations. I used to get to some of the sports team games, but this year didn't manage, although I do ask students how their games went.

Some teachers don't go to anything. And today, I was kind of annoyed to discover several teachers who didn't even know there was a dance concert tonight. The posters have been up at the school for weeks, but no one even bothered to look--I guess. Might be why my play didn't evoke a whole lot of interest either.

Don't know what the solution is, but I wish more teachers would show an interest in what the kids do in places other than just their classrooms.

At any rate, I do intend to attend things at the school even after I retire. I hope to stay involved with the performing arts department somehow, so that's a given. The rest? I don't know, but somehow I have a feeling I won't be totally severing my connections to the school system--at least not just yet.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Weather Or Not

Reining in the Rain

Well, not actually. I lunged Tucker before school for a short session, anticipating the predicted rain in the evening. It was nice and cool and I wished I had more time because it would have been a good time to ride.

Spent the day at school the usual way. I am showing films of the three Shakespeare plays so it gives me time to catch up on my paper grading. And I took my car to the auto shop to have the computer reset once we installed a new gas cap. We may not have solved the "check engine" light problem, but I can always take the car to the garage and pay to have it fixed. With school so close to being done for the year, the shop students will not have time to do a thorough trouble shooting. Now it's just wait to see what happens when my car's computer cycles through its processes again to see if the problem was a bad gas cap.

When school let out it was raining, just as predicted. Considering how wet it was out there, I can only guess it had rained quite a bit during the day--can't tell from the ceiling level windows in my classroom. I stopped at the market to get some carrots for the Boys and salad for me and headed home in the rain. Fed theBoys, fed the kitties, fed me and.....the sun came out.

OK, it was soggy out there and humid. I hate that kind of weather, but after a bit I headed out to ride Tucker. If he is going to the lesson, he definitely needs some under saddle work. He was quite a good boy. I do not think he is yet back into his peak dressage form, but he is trying hard. He accepted my half halts and gave some nice shoulder in and half pass at the trot with no problems at all. The biggest flaw is his lazy canter depart. He tends to lag behind my cues quite a bit. When I make a few transitions, I can get much more prompt departs, so that's good, but I'm not too keen about the sluggish response at the outset. Were we farther along in his fitness, I would make more of an issue about it, but for now, I just used repeated transistions to sharpen him up.

Getting a sharp and forward canter depart will help develop the flying changes, but I think he has to be fitter and stronger to give me the work I need. On the plus side, he did not offer any resistances or nasty reactions to my cues, so I am pretty well convinced the ulcer medication was a good idea. He was a pretty cooperative, agreeable fellow to ride.

I was really worn out after riding him, though, so I opted for another lunging session with Chance. He is so funny. As I've said before, canter, seems to be his preferred gait and he was delighted when I actually asked him to canter. He tossed his head and gave a little bounce--never a buck from Chance!-- and bounded into his pretty little canter on both leads with, I'd swear, a big smile on his face. What a fun boy.

To clear things up about my trainer--he is Gabriel Meyer out of New York State. Gabriel Armando is an FEI judge and trainer here in New Jersey. I have never ridden with him. My Gabriel is a USDF silver medal holder and a really good teacher. I like him because he has worked with difficult Thoroughbreds and has all kinds of good ideas for psyching Tucker out when he gets hard to ride. To me, aside from having good teaching skills, a trainer needs to have a good "bag of tricks" for handling training problems instead of just one approach. While there are certainly classical methods that do tend to work, there are often moments and horses that repsond much better to unique techniques. Lockie Richards was a master of dealing with each horse as an individual and tailoring the training tactics to that particular horse. Gabriel is very much like that.

Just what I and the unique Tucker need.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Monday Off

For No Reason at All

It's Monday, so after a full day at school, I was too worn out to ride. I know I'll be sorry as the weather was pretty nice.

And, from all indications, I have a lesson with Gabriel on the weekend, so I need to get some quality saddle time in between now and then. Well, not essential, actually. The nice thing about a lesson is that we work with the horse we have at the time, not some figment of our imagination of what the horse should be at the time.

That is the approach to lessons I have developed over the years. My horses have more than once surprised me at a lesson in both good and bad ways. Sometimes they perform far beyond what I would ever have expected--like the time Lockie Richards told me to cross the center line at a canter and ask Toby for a flying change. There it was, first time ever! And, at the opposite side are the lessons where we spent the entire session just walking or trotting or trying to relax.

With Tucker, I've even spent a few lessons just standing there, trying to convince him to take just one step forward or sideways or back or just to move his foot. However, I have high hopes for the weekend. I have treated him for his hock issues and he is currently on another course of the ulcer medication. So, he has no real excuses. Nor do I.

Which means we will probably spend a part of the lesson spooking at things in and around the arena. We will be going down to Stacie's farm to ride. When I first adopted Tucker, he lived there as he was not yet gelded. Stacie took incredibly good care of him. He had a leg injury with a big section of proud flesh that needed regular care and bandaging. Stacie was a wonderful nurse and Tuck managed to be a tolerable patient for a two year old Thoroughbred.

But that was a long time ago, so returning will be a new adventure for Tuck. However, if he loses a shoe between now and then, Chance will be going instead. I could even take Toby if I was totally stuck.

When I think about it, I'm pretty lucky to have the options. Three nice horses to choose from.