Friday, July 31, 2009

If I Wanted to Live in the Rainforest.....

I Would Have Moved There Years Ago

New Jersey summers are pretty notorious for being hot and humid, at least in Central New Jersey. We are close enough to the coast to be influenced by Atlantic weather fronts, and when the jetstream is in position, we tend to get the tropical air masses from the south. But normally, by this time of year, we are starting to worry about the possibilities of drought. The ground would be hard and dry. Most of our water supply comes from wells and reservoirs particularly dependent upon underground aquifers filled by rainwater.

This year, it simply has not stopped raining. Last night, more rain came through and the forecast calls for more storms this evening. Top that off by high humidity--one of those tropical air masses, I guess, and what you have is "The New Jersey Rainforest." Well, at least my property looks like a rainforest. I cannot keep up with the growing greenery. I trimmed along my interior fences in the spring, cutting back some little trees and vines to no avail. Everything has grown back with a vengeance.

And then there's the mud. My path to the manure pile was rather a challenge this morning, and when I came in my own legs needed a hose off. When my hay guy came today, we talked a bit about what I could do with the paddock. Looks as if gutters are in the future to control the runoff from the barn roof on that side, and my idea of scraping off the topsoil and digging a drainage ditch are pretty sound. Trouble is, it's a lot of work and I'm not sure I can handle it all. Hiring someone is always an option, but I do have to watch my money now that I've retired.

I'll figure something out, but for now, it's too hot and wet to think of much more than planting a few tropical fruit trees and hoping I'll discover the next great rainforest health cure so I too can make a mint selling it. *G*

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Hot but Not So Humid

So It May Be Better After Dark

The humidity is a little lower. Not great, but a bit better. I will try to go out after dark to work a horse. That is, if the predicted thunderstorms hold off until tomorrow morning, as predicted.

I did get a nice swim in, so at least I had some fitness work for the day.

So, for now it's just a waiting game to see how much things cool off. As it is now the temps are well into the 90's F and the sun is still pretty strong.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tropical Soup

Talk About Wet

The air was like warm soup when I went out to feed this morning. I hasn't gotten any better--perhaps worse as we have already had one strong thuderstorm roll through.

Suffice it to say we cancelled the plan for a riding lesson with my 4-H'er.

I ended up going to the chiropractor for some neck maintenance, and then grocery shopping to get some salad fixings and incidentals. When I was at the supermarket, a huge thunderstorm rushed through with pouring rain. I don't know if the same thing hit home here, as I am about four miles from the store, but it had rained here at least some.

I had thought of stopping off at the pool on the way home, but that was obviously not going to happen as I am sure they closed. Hard to say if they will reopen.

As for working the Boys, we'll see. It never cooled off last night and doesn't look too promising for tonight either. I plan on staying home at any rate so if the thunder does start rumbling again, as predicted, I can bring the Boys in where it is a bit safer.

I cannot recall a soggier summer. I have mud. I really miss those lovely days of a few weeks back. Now I am sorry I didn't get to ride every single day.

But, I cannot live with regrets. Sooner or later it will dry out again. I just wish sooner than later.

Here is a link to a comprehensive article on rolkur.

Overflexion is used without relief to the horse, and even the correct use of deep and round, or low deep and round, can be damaging. I had a Danish rider school PJ once when I had a broken wrist and I was sorry I allowed it. He was forcing PJ to go deep and overflexed and as a result it took three chiropractic adustments until he was OK again. The rider had added tremendous driving with his seat and was very demanding of a willing horse who was giving his all trying to please his unrelenting master.

Overflexing in the front without engaging the hindquarters, as Muriel points out, is another fault of riders who do not understand the principles of deep and round. This serves no purpose except to make the horse flexible in front so he merely appears to be in a frame and on the bit. Unfortunately, there are some horses whose natural, lovely movement can disguise the fact that they are not truly "through" to the bit. I once trained a rider on a beautifully moving Thoroughbred that had been taught to round up in front through his racetrack training. He would place well in dressage tests even when he was not properly connected, but his rider always had trouble sitting his trot because his back was not rounded up under her seat. He placed even better when he went well, but often getting him there was a difficult task because he had wrongly learned to "give" in the front without "giving" in the back.

Muriel is right about the correctly trained reining horses. If you watch the good ones, you will see how "underneath" their hindquarters go and how "round" in the body those horses appear. The primary difference I see between them and a well schooled upper level dressage horse is the fact that the reining horse carries his head low. (This is proper as part of his job on the range would be to make eye contact with the cows and to focus on how and where they are going to move so he can out wit them for herding.) So, essentially, the ideal dressage picture just takes that reining horse outline and elevates the front end while the hind end stays engaged underneath. As a matter of fact, a movement such as the levade carries this image to the maximum if you think that the horse's hind end is totally under his body as his front end lifts off the ground in an exercise of incredible balance.

Baucher is noted for using flexions in training the horse. At moments, some of the Baucher exercises resemble rolkur. But, these are not held, nor are they "driven" into the horse. My understanding of the French school of dressage is that suppling the front end will allow the hind end to "come through" to the front, as opposed to the basic German concept that the hind end must be driven forward in order to lighten and soften the front end. (There is a lot more to it than this, but this is kind of an elementary simplification of the two schools.)

I tend to train using basic elements from both schools and, to be honest, some days my horses are more "French" and some days, more, "German." There are moments, as the other day on the long lines, when my horses tend to go in rolkur--the not good kind--when they go behind the bit in a very deep frame to escape the contact. Tucker will do this as a way of evading the bit. He kind of curls up into a little ball to avoid pushing his energy through his body to the rein. That's when my goal is to get him to stretch his topline and step forward elastically into the rein contact. Tricky indeed, and ever a challenge. Horses that learn to overflex into the rein can be very difficult to retrain, so I try to avoid his using that evasion as much as possible.

So, that's my take on rolkur. Hope it helps and I certainly do welcome discussion.

When it's this hot and muggy outside, I have to think my riding instead of doing it.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Late and Early

Got a Line on It This Time

Last night, at around 11 PM, when I saw that the thunderstorms were not going to materialize, I went out and lunged Tucker for about ten minutes. I didn't bother turning on the arena lights, so we just worked in the dark. It was a start and it was fairly nice out.

This morning, I got up before 7 and headed out to do some long lining. The flies do not rise that early and the arena was still in the shade. I only note this because the air was still "soup," and I ended up soaked with sweat by the time we were done.

I lined Chance first, "veeing" the lines so he had to give to the bit. He started off a little slowly, but once I urged him to some good impulsion, he gave me some super work. He really moves nicely and can carry himself in an elegant frame. He had one little blow up, protesting the rein contact, but aside from that, it was a really good workout.

Toby was interested in all the activity, so when he let me put his bridle reins over his head, I decided to give him a short session on the lines as well. He is a master on the lines as that is how I started him, but I kept his workout quite short and didn't ask for a lot of "correct" work, mostly because he is not at all fit. I think he enjoyed the attention and, of course, the reward carrot at the end.

Tucker started off like a star. I veed the lines for him at first, just so we could immediately establish his roundness. He worked well into the bit after a little bit of encouragement and did a great session on the left rein. Then I changed direction and he started to badly overbend, almost to the point of rolkur without any contact on the lines at all. So, I stopped, and got rid of the vee arrangement.

Well, either the new freedom or some annoying early rising flies sent him off in a flurry of galloping, bucking and general all around silliness. I finally had to vee just the inside rein to establish some "shape" control and worked him back into a semblance of "how a dressage horse is supposed to go."

Tucker is, perhaps, one of the least tolerant horses I have ever owned. While he can be pretty stoic about pain sometimes, if he reaches his limit with something we are doing, he is very expressive about showing his annoyance. I suppose it is possible that I have been a major contributor to his overall attitude, as I have been very responsive and aware of any physical issues he may have had ever since I got him. I may have been a little to coddling, and his rather physical protests can be intimidating, so, in some sense, he is a spoiled fellow.

Ah, well, I shall just continue to indulge him. If he considers himself royalty, I'll just go with the flow. At least he doesn't expect me to bow every time I am in his presence.

Monday, July 27, 2009

If It Ever Cools Off

I Will Work the Boys

This morning, C was back for another lesson. I got on her horse for about two minutes, just to see how hard he was to get round...piece of cake--When you know how to do it. Getting correct contact on the outside rein, knowing how much to "play" the inside rein, knowing when to soften, when to take more contact, all are a matter of "feel." And you can only get "feel" when something works and the horse responds.

Today Checkers was really trying to figure it out and there were a good number of moments when C had him foward, soft, and lovely. The cool thing was that she told me she could feel how good it was and, especially how much better and more controlled he felt when he was right. Hope so, because I think she was smiling and she told her mom he felt so good.

The key today was setting up some markers (Blox) in the area to completely define a circle. One in the center and four equally spaced around the perimeter. Riding an accurate circle with a consistent bend can be a lot harder than some people think, and it is a key to finding the accurate and consistent aids to encourage the horse to go correctly. When a rider works to shape the horse on the circle curve, the aids just tend to get more and more correct.

After we established good work from the horse, we focused a bit on C's postition, getting her to square her shoulders a bit more and sit in a more vertical position instead of leaning forward, especially on the canter departs.

Another good lesson, I think. C is a good little rider and very smart about understanding the basics.

Now, if it cools off and another thunderstorm does not come through, I hope to lunge Tucker and Chance. I'll have to start off a little easily again as they've now had over week off again. Trouble it, summer has struck at last and it is hot and humid out there. Ugh.

Addendum: I went out to lunge before dark and both Chance and I were attacked by a bunch of deer flies. The heat, humidity and coming rain must have brought them out in force. At least six were in my hair. I had to surrender. Then when it was finally dark, thunder started to roll in.

I put the Boys in the barn....and the storm seemed to have moved off. But the radar map shows a patch of storms moving in just after midnight. I will still be up, so I'll leave the Boys in until then. I'll check the radar again and if it's clear, I might do a bit of lungeing and then let the Boys out with the pasture closed off.

Or, I will just turn them out and get up really early and try to do some work with them before the flies wake up.

I usually don't get swarms like that, so this wet weather, ususual for this time of year, must really be messing up the usual patterns. The ground around the west side of the barn, under the shade of a big maple tree has been muddy since early Spring. I don't know what I am going to do to try to clean it all up.

The saga never ends. At least I have a tractor with a front end loader to do any digging I need to do....once I figure out exactly what to do. *sigh*

Sunday, July 26, 2009

One More Day

Not So Kneedy Now

Much better in the knees this morning, Sunday. The weather is kind of iffy though, with gray skies and high humidity. I am not sure about riding, and it is the last stage of the Tour de France, so I will be in for the bulk of the morning.

Yesterday, I gave a riding lesson to a lovely 4-H rider. For those of you who may not know what 4-H is, the clubs began as agricultural organizations for farm kids. It gave them a chance to get together to share and practice skills in homemaking and farming, including the raising of crops and animals. Today, 4-H clubs encourage kids in all kinds of activities with rocketry, computers, as well as the traditional agricultural endeavors.

Horse club members are taught the proper care and training of their horses. But, the training within the clubs can be scant. Unlike Pony Club which tries to foster riding skills, 4-H caters to many more kids who just want to enjoy their horses as companions instead of competition animals. This does vary, however, from area to area, but around here the 4-H horse shows do not always attract the most talented horses and riders. Where I live there are dozens of levels of horse showing available for ambitious competitors, from small local shows, to the largest, most competitive nationally recognized competitions.

The New Jersey Horse Park, less than an hour away, holds competitions in nearly every horse sport at nearly every level--although I think the 3 Day Course for eventing is primarily for the CCI levels--don't see many lower level jumps there.

For our local kids, the County Fair--about 4 miles away--offers the little show where the kids can enter all kinds of classes. It's a big deal for all the riders who get to show off their horses and skills in front of audiences who would not normally see riders at all. It's fun, but also some serious competition among kids who live in the nearby neighborhoods and often go to the same schools.

So, to my little talented rider, there is a lot at stake. She keeps her horse at home and does not have the social and supportive community of other riders around here. She wants to prove she is a good rider with a good horse to all of them, I think.

Her horse is a sweet about 11 year old Quarterhorse. He has navicular, but can move nicely once he's warmed up. The trick is getting C to both move him out so his gaits "flow" and to get him to take some nice round contact on the bit so he looks like the pretty fellow he is.

We'll be doing some pretty concentrated work over the next couple weeks, I guess, hoping to develop both qualities. C is a good little rider without a lot of formal training, but, my goodness, she is a good student. She listens well, focuses, and really tries to understand the basic concepts. What I need to do is develop her "feel" so she can work on her own to better both her horse and herself. As far as I'm concerned, a good teacher's job is to get her students to be independent as the majority of the riding they will do will not be under her guidance.

Saturday's lesson was good, and C worked hard to get her boy down and on the bit. I think with a few more rides, we'll get some good results and then it's just a matter of seeing if she can do it all on her own.

I'll do the best I can to get her ready for the fair. I haven't seen the other horse/rider teams she will be competing against, but I want her to be at her best.

It is a fun and rewarding challenge.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Still Knee-dy

But It's All Good

Ok, if you want to know how a horse feels after having its joints injected, just ask me. Well, that's if the horse has any swelling from the treatment. Actually it is much like what the less invasive stifle injections are all about. The idea of part of my knee treatment is to irritate the ligaments so they thicken (kind of like scar tissue) and tighten. This is the prolotherapy.

The second thing is the PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma) injections which are based on stem cell therapy. By taking some of my blood, processing it and then injecting it directly into the joint. Because this processed blood contains stem cells and the body's natural growth hormones, it stimulates the joint to repair itself and grown new cartilage to protect the joints from arthritis. This is cutting edge therapy without any cutting....*G* Stem cell therapy has been used in horses with great success and is just beginning to be reconized as a beneficial treatment for humans. My doctor has been doing it for years--well ahead of the mainstream curve.

At any rate, my knees are still pretty sore and "tight" feeling which I consider a good sign because that means the inflammation needed to get the ligaments to tighten is there. So, as with horses, particularly stifles--which is the same joint as the human knee--the irritation can be quite good.

But annoying. Yesterday, I could barely walk. Today I am far more mobile and did go out to clean the stalls and pick out the arena so I could drag it...later when it cools off. But, there is no way I can go swimming, mostly because I can't quite figure out how I would get out of the pool once I was in. There is a ladder, and I seriously doubt I could climb it. I'm not too sure the swimming kick would work either, but I could just kind of float around. I thought I about the lazy river, but when I sit in the tube I don't support my back or neck properly, so without the swimming to counteract that effect, I didn't think that would be worth the trip.

I am pleased to report that while I was working in the barn, the Boys were very sociable. Toby really wanted to be petted, which was very nice. Then, when I went out to the arena, Tucker was standing in the run in shed. Suddenly, Toby whinnied from the barn. Tuck whinnied back. This was repeated as Toby came around the corner and saw Tucker. Then he came into the arena, but, instead of going over to Tuck, he came to me! Aw. Cute. Does that mean I am actually the "alpha horse?" Wouldn't that be nice.

I will have to hold off on the riding or "horsework" until tomorrow, presuming my knees feel better by then. I may be giving a lesson as well, which is fine, since I can sit down now and then if I need to.

I have news about Stacie and her new horse, but I will need to let things settle for a while before much reporting. Apparently, he is not the horse she hoped he would be, so it may not work out for her. It's a bummer as it took her so long to find a new horse and now it looks as if he's not the right one for her.

When I think about my horse owning/buying/adopting experiences, I have been very lucky. But, at the same time, I have not always gone horse hunting with a long list of requirements. My philosophy has been that I will be able to train each horse to do the things I want him to do, and if he shows no talent for that, I will enjoy the effort anyhow. The good thing about not having a ton of aspirations is that you are seldom disappointed.

I keep wondering if I had tons of money to spend to buy a horse just what I would do. It's a thought to ponder.

Something to keep me occupied while I wait for the knees to feel better.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


I Knee'd To Sit For A Bit

I just got back from my knee doctor. I had over a dozen injections in each knee. This was the PRP therapy and prolotherapy to tighten my ligaments. All I can say at the moment is "ouch." My knees are pretty sore. But the results will be great as they usually are.

Trouble is, the insurance company is no longer paying for treatment. They have decided, across the board, that such therapy is "experimental" and no longer covered. It is costly, but far less so than knee replacement surgery and follow up physical therapy. To say nothing of the very long recovery period such surgery would require.

So, like so many Americans, I am caught in the medical insurance nightmare President Obama is trying to fix. I am not at all sure any of the proposals he has made or that Congress has made will actually fix my problem, but you never know.

Why is it the right of some insurance adjuster to decide what medical care actually works for me? Why does an uninterested third party have the right to step between me and my doctor in making decisions about my health?

I know national health insurance programs in other countries have both successes and failures. What the US needs to do it study both and come up with a plan that makes for a better plan.

For now, I have the money...sort pay for my alternative and very effective therapy. Hopefully, the insurance companies will eventually see the light and change their attitude about paying.

For now, I will just sit here, hoping.

Oh, yes. It's raining.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Saddle Demos and Musings

And Tall Turkeys

To answer Muriel's question, the wild turkey male stands about three feet tall. (Just under a meter.) I have read that, especially during breeding season, the toms can get very aggressive and I have an unbrella on the back porch just in case. Since the males puff up like peacocks...both body and tail...when displaying their dominance, I guess the umbrella not only acts as a defense but also appears to be a bigger turkey. At any rate, I would suspect if the horses threatened or even made too curious approaches to one of the males lady friends, he might come to her defense. At any rate, apparently an angry tom turkey can be pretty intimidating.

But, these big birds have been browsing my lawn, paddock and pasture constantly pecking at bugs. Since one of their favorite foods are ticks--something we have in abundance--I am quite willing to find a way for all of us to peacefully coexist. I just have to convince the Boys.

The neat thing about doing demos for Ansur Saddles is that I get to meet all kinds of horsepeople who really care about their horses. Today's demo was no exception. M. owns a lovely big young Thoroughbred who has a long history of saddle fitting problems. What a nice fellow he is, but his back/wither/muscling leaves a lot to be desired. I have a feeling the saddle problems have contributed to his lack of muscular development.

I am hoping M. will be able to get an Ansur of her own as the saddle did fit with a bit of shimming. When I called Ansur, I found out the saddle can be custom designed for her horse as well, so that would be the best option. In the meantime, she is borrowing my old Passier which...again with a shim, seemed to fit her boy fairly well.

The key here that struck me is how important it is that our horses be worked correctly so they can comfortably carry our weight and stay sound through all the efforts we expect of them. More and more, each time I meet I new horse, I see how beneficial good dressage work can be. Horses who carry themselves in correct, round frames develop good backs and extra athletic ability.

My own Russell R., a lovely boy, was so much better with basic dressage training, that in less than a month after I learned how to get him to correctly stretch into the bit, he started winning under saddle classes and for many years was almost always the first place horse in his on the flat classes. If I rode him well, he was almost as often in the top of the class jumping too, once more because of his correct basic dressage. Essentially, dressage training had turned a pretty, but average horse into a multiple show ring champion.

Watch a horse being ridden with no rein contact, not in a frame and then watch the same horse being brought into an elementary dressage frame and you can see an amazing transformation. I used to say of my horse, "Ride with no contact and he looks like a $2500 horse. Put him in a frame and suddenly he's worth $10,000. The difference is that dramatic."

My musings for today. All talk and no action as I have not worked my Boys in their dressage yet today. Trouble is, the drive to the demo and back was over 140 miles and I spent nearly all day there and on the road. I did go for a swim and I am seriously thinking about going out to lunge once it cools off.

Once more I'll just wait to see how I feel.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Terrorist Turkeys

Finally conquered the migraine last night. Blessed relief.

But, woke up to some fairly steady rain. I had planned on giving a riding lesson to a local student this morning, but no indoor meant no ride. We postponed until some time on Thursday.

Then I connected with a saddle client and set up an appointment to demo the Ansur tomorrow. That should be fun as I hear her stable is beautiful. Her horse has some serious saddle fitting issues, so I hope the new pommel on the Excel will be perfect.

Then since it was raining, I decided to go see the new Harry Potter film. The theater was almost empty as I went to the 12:30 showing, hoping perhaps that would not be one of the more popular times. Good deal on the tickets too as the theater prices were lower for the matinee.

Hit the supermarket for a few items on the way home, and now I am planning on going out to dinner as part of a fundraiser for the Watershed Partnership.

Apparently, the turkey flock is much the source of my horses' uneasiness and their unwillingness to come in for meals. This morning, in the rain, they wanted to stay out in the pasture. When I finally went out to lead them in, the turkeys had left the back yard and were now in the top corner of the pasture. All three Boys just rooted their feet to the ground and stared at the birds instead of heading for grain and the dry barn.

Tonight the turkflock was in the back yard again, and the Boys did not want to come in for dinner. Since I had my good clothes on--just back from the movies--I didn't traipse across the paddock to escort them in. I suppose I will check to see if they finally ate before I go out again.

I guess I am going to have to get up really early to see just what those turkeys are telling the Boys that's keeping them from coming in for food.

If it is a Turkey Terrorist movement, I need to know about it.

Full Migraine


Laid up all day with a full migraine. Two visits to the chiropractor finally seemed to have fixed it.

I did everything I could. Ice packs, heat packs and my cervical pillow only in bed--so no couch. Got adjusted in the morning, and by late afternoon, vertabrae were "out" again. My chiropractor kind of expected me to be back, he said, since I'd told him in the AM I would return. Fortunately, I only have to pay for one visit. If there is a return on the same day the second one is free.

Comment here on the much debated US health insurance issues. My insurance policy, which is one of the better ones, allows 30 chiropractic visits a year. I used mine up last week, so now I have to pay. So, here I was with a debilitating migraine and, if I had no money, I would have no way of fixing what caused it.

Take that an extend it to a life threatening illness and what would an uninsured person do? Yes, there are circumstances where hospitals must treat people, regardless, but how long might someone put off going in for care if they had no money to pay and no insurance?

President Obama wants health care reform, and Congress is fuddling around debating, arguing and some members even threatening to kill the effort in order to "Get the President." Politics should have no play here. The American people deserve better from our elected leaders.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Pain in the Neck

Tarnation, I Hate When This Happens

My neck started to bother me on Friday. I went to the chiropractor and got it adjusted. Then, late Friday night, as I was trying to sleep, it really started to bother me. So, Saturday morning, I went back for another adjustment. Things did not clear up completely, so I went for a swim which helped immensely.

But again, as the night wore on, it started to bother me again. Not seriously, but just very annoyingly. So here I sit, watching the Tour with a hot pack on me, waiting for the cold pack to chill off again so I can alternate. I will swim again later as that often helps.

Whether or not I work the Boys all depends on how I feel later. The weather is gorgeous again too, with lower humidity. When I got out of the pool yesterday, despite the temperatures being in the upper 80's, the air felt cool on my wet skin. Nifty.

Guess I'll just play it by neck to see how the day progresses.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Just When I Figured Something Out

In Comes Summer With a Vengeance

Bit of a shock going out to feed in the morning when it is already hot and humid. That was yesterday and again today.

I opted out of working the horses because of the sudden change in weather, perhaps more because of me than because of them. Instead, I went for my swim and did a few minor chores inside.

This morning, Friday, same thing so far. I will have to wait until evening hoping that it will cool off. There may be thunderstorms coming through, though. The weather forecast says the humidity will drop a bit in the afternoon, and it actually says it's not too bad this morning, but you can't prove it by me the way it feels out there.

Strange horse behavior this morning when I went out to feed. The Boys simply did not want to come in...or they wanted to come in but wouldn't. My little herd milled about at the pasture gate and even after I went out to escort them, no one made a move towards the barn. They kept looking towards the woods area.

Now, there was the entire four turkey flock at the bird feeder this morning, and from what I can see, it is apparently one tom and three hens. Now, according to what I've read, it is not turkey breeding season, but that does not mean the birds will not get aggressive. It could be the horses came upon them suddenly near the barn and the tom decided to charge?

They are also paving my road out front, but the horses didn't seem to be looking in that direction, so I doubt the equipment and noise disturbed them, but it might have worked along with whatever else was the problem.

Finally, with a bit of coaxing, Chance led the way in and, with attention still focused on the woods, everyone finally came in to eat. Looks as if they are still hanging out around the barn, so whatever it was must be OK now.

Did you ever wish you had a surveillance camera on your horses 24/7 just so see what really goes on when you're not there?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Short and Sweet

And To the Point

The point being that I put on my spurs. When I first rode Tucker as a youngster, I wore spurs, so he is somewhat used to them. Then, when we figured out he had an ulcer, and he was super sensitive, particuarly on his right side, I took them off. Since he's been pretty good to the leg aids, though with that tendancy to go behind....which he did with spurs too...I hadn't ridden with them in quite some time.

I don't think I really used them during the whole session, as I didn't need too. Actually, I think, because of my leg position which requires me to turn my heel in to get the spur on his side, Tucker simply felt the spur strap and shank when I used my lower leg to cue him.

Not to say all was perfect. He did one complete stall, planting his feet and refusing to move in any direction, including a circle for those who might recommend that to get a horse moving. When he is like that using the spur or the whip will only result in a kick out or a huge rocket launch buck. This time, I dismounted quickly and taking a good hold on the rein, gave him a stern rap with the whip. He jumped forward. I lunged him around me on a small circle which really made him step under, then I remounted and he was wonderfully forward for the rest of the ride.

It occurs to me that if I fasten a lead to the bit and then tie the rope around his neck when I ride, I can repeat this "floor exercise" every time we get a plant. Eventually, I suspect that all I will have to do is make a move to dismount and off he will go. It is kind of the opposite goal the western ropers have with their horses which is that as soon as they make a move to dismount their horses are expected to stop dead in order to brace against the calf at the end of the rope. So, clearly, my training would ruin Tuck as a roping horse, but somehow I can't quite picture him going after a cow. Away, yes, but not after. *G*

My goodness, but he feels good when he pushes into my hand with energy. I need to get that feeling every time I ride. Maybe combining the groundwork and the riding in the same session will do the trick.

Leading to groundwork for Chance. As I am making slow progress getting him to give to the bit when I ride, I decided to put him in the long lines to insist that he stay round. I veed both reins this time, giving him no real escape but to give to the rein and drop his head.

He certainly does look good when he accepts and works into the contact. He does not look good when he blows up, tries to throw up his head and then makes a move to rear. Fortunately, he only did that twice--once seriously and the other time half-heartedly.

His first canter depart on the left was a head tossing affair, but when the rein said, "No," he gave me a series of perfectly lovely trot/canter/trot transitions. Once he was on the right rein, he'd figured it out, and all of his departs were spot on.

I am thinking I will long line him more than ride him for the next few weeks. With the lines I have more control than I do under saddle because of the extra leverage I can exert. This approach is only useful because of all the pressure Chance can and does exert to yank the rein from my hands when I am in the saddle. While I can hold on with my seat, my rein finger, especially on my right hand, is close to developing a blister--even through my gloves. If long lining is a good shortcut to what I want, I will use it as the better training tool.

I love watching my horses go on the lines. Chance looks particularly pretty when he goes on the bit. He uses his hind end really well in the trot and his canter has a nice smooth look to it.

I didn't work Chance too long as I felt demanding "round" the whole time was a physical effort for him.

I always prefer to stop before my horse is too tired or frustrated to learn anything more. I press them enough to build some muscle, but not enough to break down their minds.

As I said, short and sweet.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Riding in the Sunshine

And It Wasn't Too Hot, Actually

After today's stage of the Tour was over, I headed out to ride--close to noontime. There was a nice breeze blowing and the humidity is low again. Essentially pretty darn nice weather for a ride.

For some reason, Toby nearly pushed himself on me despite the fact that I had a halter and lead in my hands. So, I caught him, put the Bug Armor on, doused him with mosquito spray, and off we went for a short hack in the woods. The flies did still bother him a little, but he had lots of "tree snacks" along the way so he was quite happy to go along. When I got back, I rode him for just a few minutes in the arena.

Tucker was now quite interested in being caught as well, especially once he saw me riding Toby. I saddled him up, put the fly mask on him, and took him into the arena. It wasn't the best of rides, nor was it the worst. Partially, it was my not firmly establishing forward before expecting him to work a little.

Working a little mostly meant cantering some ten meter circles. My goodness, you would think that was the most difficult exercise we had ever done! Aside from some grunts and groans, his canter stride kept going into a stall. While he didn't quite break down into a trot, he certainly did find the up in the air part of the stride lingering far too long as his hind end didn't step forward on the track. Hard to explain but if I were driving a car, I'd think the brakes had locked.

Then it goes to my lack of conviction in being forceful. What I really needed to do was give him a good "sting" with the whip, but that would have produced a nasty reaction, and I am just not up to riding that out.

But, I do have to consider I was riding him with a flash strap on the noseband for the first time. Knowing his reaction to the double bridle when I tried it, there is the remote possibilty that "forward" was being inhibited by the fact that he couldn't quite set his jaw against the bit when he wanted to. By the end of the ride I did get some good work, with one flying change--not necessarily when asked for, but kind of "hoped for" instead as it came out of a change of direction and the counter canter on the short side of the arena after I had already changed the bend a little. The trot work at the end was particularly good, with some really nice effort at half pass in each direction.

Hopefully, today's resistance was bit related because Tucker has been working much better over the last few rides. I guess a few more test rides will tell.

By the time I got on Chance, I was a kind of tired. Fortunately, he does not pose temperamental challenges like Tucker. But he does pose physical ones.

Today, he was relatively sound in the hind end, but I could definitely feel that his right side was "hollow." This means that the right hind does not actively support either his or my weight as well as his left. I tend to drop my seat into the hollow side if I don't concentrate on sitting straight, so for me, that was a focus point.

Chance offers passive resistance with such devices as, "There is a fly around me so I must toss my head. I have to snort so I need the rein. I have to cough, so I can't possibly go on the bit. I need my head to keep my balance." All of the above make for a decidedly erratic ride. But the moments in between were quite nice, so there is hope he will eventually get steady.

His canter has improved most of all, but the departs still require that he lift his head. I will be patient about this as he is now trying to stretch down and relax in the gait itself. I didn't ride him for long, but all the exercises, including a good session of walk/trot/walk transitions were worth every second.

Carrots all around for some good efforts. Perhaps not perfect, but it's all in trying.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Quiet Sunday

Pondering the Perfect Horse

I guess I wore myself out on Saturday as I had no ambtion on Sunday. I watched the Tour, worked and played on the computer and finally, towards late afternoon, went for a swim.

It was rather hot during the earlier afternoon, but no excuses, because there was a lovely breeze blowing. Once I'd swum and taken a lovely hot shower at the pool--the water just blasts out there--I didn't feel like doing anything else.

I did some thinking, though, and began to consider the concept of "The Perfect Horse." I have never been blessed with such a creature and wonder if anyone has. When I watch Steffen Peters's ride on Ravel, I am amazed at the horse's composure and absolute willing obedience. But then, Steffen is an incredible trainer, and surely, he too must have met some "glitches" along the way in training Ravel to Grand Prix.

But, he also never would have ended up a World Champion if Ravel had a bad temperament, work ethic, or physical problems.

I have always had far Less Than Perfect horses. While there are times when I wished things were different, I also wonder if I have been better off and learned far more as a rider/trainer/owner.

There is a famous hunter/jumper/equitation trainer here in the USA who used to tell his pupils to sell their horses if he felt they were not going to be top competition mounts. I rode in a clinic with him once, but it was not a situation where he would have said that as it was at my riding school. Once, however, at a show, I came out after my class to find him at the rail, and his, "Well done, very nice ride," was some of the most important feedback I'd ever received during my hunter career with Russell R. (This guy has one of the biggest reputations in the nation and is considered one of the best masters may know him.) But Russell and I had had as rocky a road as I've ever had getting to that point. (I think he and Tucker have some of the same bloodlines as the "I'm going to buck if you kick me," was the "prime directive" when I started him.)

But, rocky road or not, by the end of his career, Russell was a multiple show champion with hundreds of first places at nearly all levels and to me, he was the "Perfect Horse."

I cannot even begin to tell you the things training Russell from a two year old green Thoroughbred to a show and eventing champion taught me. Nor could I begin to list all the skills training PJ's Folly, To Be Or Not To Be, Doitright Tobe, and Romantic Chance have given me in what I like to call my "Training Bag of Tricks." To me, there is never "only one way to ride," but a myriad of approaches to improve a horse.

I don't think I'd have it any other way. If the Perfect Horse is out there, give me another year or so before you send him my way.

In the meantime, I'd rather puzzle out Doitright Tobe's (that Tucker) strange behavior until I find a way to train him well enough so to me, he too becomes my perfect horse.

It's a lot more interesting to me this way.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Workday Saturday

And Two On the Lunge

It took me a while to get outside today as I was occupied with transferring some files on my computer....after the day's stage of the Tour de France was finished. The race is in the Pyrenees, so it's gotten quite interesting. Mountain stages always create a lot of drama.

I went out after I fed the Boys dinner, deciding it was time to clean out under both run-in roofs. The ground has finally dried out, so the tractor would be fine because I wouldn't have to go through the mud. Both sheds had hay mixed with hay, mixed with wet. Chance's side had manure too since he tends to poop outside his stall.

Neither side had had a good good cleaning since winter because of all the rain we've had. This meant a lot of work to get down to the bare dirt. I didn't wear my watch, but even with the tractor, it still took me at least two hours to do the job. The problem is that the hay does not scoop up into the bucket because it tends to roll into big piles I then have to fork into the bucket. I lost track of the number of trips I took.

Once done with that cleaning, I decided to lunge Chance and Tucker.

Once again, Chance looked fine on the line, with no sign of his mysterious lameness. He is barefoot, so the trim Scott did on his hind feet yesterday probably didn' t change things too much as he had already worn the toe on his own before the trim.

Tucker worked well too, but he was ignoring my command to "trot" once he was in the "canter." Toby will kind of get into that kind of mindless cantering too, so it was interesting to see Tucker doing the same thing. I worked him for a while on transitions until once again he was obeying my voice commands.

Then I called it a night and gave all three Boys a nice carrot.

Busy, Busy

But Good Busy

My farrier, Scott, arrived at about 8 AM to shoe the Boys. I am quite pleased to report that all three of my horses behaved with excellent manners. Tucker used to be a bit restless, but from all indications, he is now quite a gentleman. However, I must admit there is still a gleam in his eye. Scott's belt had a loose strap at the back, and towards the end of the job, Tucker was "lipping" it trying to get a little bite in. I told him "no" and he stopped, but I'm sure he would have enjoyed getting one little "trick" in there to amuse himself.

We discussed Chance's off and on lameness and, from looking at his hind foot's wear, Scott says it looks like it might be his stifle. I would agree, although when my vet checked him when the issue first showed up, he did not find any stifle issue. However, that doesn't mean a whole lot in the end as that was two years ago. Either way, both Scott and I agree it seems to be something high up in his leg. At any rate, I asked him to roll Chance's toe some more to make the breakover easier. I have dealt with stifle lameness/weakness before, so it's not a big deal for me unless it becomes a serious lameness that hangs around.

After Scott left, I got back into the house to watch the last hour of the Tour de France, and the phone rang. It was my friend Shelley, calling to tell me she was on her way over. As the race finished, she arrived and we settled down for a good day.

Shelley and I have been close friends ever since she taught music/theatre in my school. She started, and then I got involved in a community theatre there--Techniques Theatre--that established a good reputation for putting on quality musicals for the public. Shelley as director, costume designer and overall leader, her husband George as music director/keyboard artist, and I as producer and oddball problem solver made a great team. Then, the school decided to cut the budget and get rid of the music program and Shelley lost her job there.

We stayed in close touch, however, with Shelley and George often staying at my house while they communted between New Jersey and their house in West Virginia. George is a phenomenal pianist and eventually Shelley earned her administrative degree and is now working in a North Jersey school system as a supervisor.

She is working on her doctorate and I've been helping by proofreading and consulting with her on her thesis. The goal yesterday was to read and edit the first chapter of her paper. Once we got started, we worked for the entire afternoon into the evening discussing ideas and grammar. (English teachers do have some value outside the classroom....! *lol*) Shelley and I are pretty much on the same page as to where education in the US needs to head to train our students for the future, so we were pretty compatible on content. The fun part for me was making little tweaks here and there to help make the meaning more clear.

So, I didn't ride or work the Boys, but since I'd spent some quality time with them in the morning--and played about ten rounds of "fetch the soggy dog toy" with Scott's young border collie Mic, I didn't mind at all.

Shelley and I had a good visit and we accomplished some very important work.

A good day.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Bug Armor

I Am An OnLine Shopper

The bug armor is available through numerous sellers on the Internet. I think Jeffers Equine offers one of the lowest prices, but a Google search is worth the time as is a search on EBay
Here is the Jeffers link:

I add a fully riding fly mask with ear covers for complete protection. And, I have schooled dressage in the armor, so it works for more than just trail rides in the buggy woods.

Ok, so I had a productive day, but probably will not ride. The weather is lovely, again, and I spent the afternoon cleaning the area in front of the barn, under the overhang where I park the tractor. There was a huge pile of loose hay, baling twine and "stuff." It took me four tractor bucket loads to clean it out. Then, I carted in four or so tractor scoops of grit to fill in and level the area. It looks SO nice.

But, while I was inside for a while, my friend Shelley called to ask if she could drop by tomorrow with her thesis for me to critique/proofread. We've been doing this kind of thing for years as Shelley has pursued her Master's and now Doctorate.

Trouble is, the house is in disarray. I started to clean a few days ago, but the nice weather took me outside instead. So now the lawn is mowed, branches are trimmed, the barn front is tidy and the sink is again full of dishes, the stuff I brought home from school is still scattered about, and clutter reigns.

Guess I will be spending the evening tidying up. No biggie as I needed to do it anyhow. This is perfect motivation, but it will take some time away from the outdoor activities. I might catch a swim later, or I might not. I have to wait until the swim team practice is over, though. But by then it might be too cool out.

Guess I'll stick to cleaning.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Not The Usual Exciting Day

Kind of a Dull Stage of the Tour, But I Did Ride!!!

The peloton never caught the breakaway riders in the Tour de France today so the finish was one man over the line first. Cool for him, but not one of those exciting "who's going to win" finishes. Always in interesting race, but not quite up to the excitement of the last few days.

So far, I have lunged Tucker in the cool, shady morning arena. But the day is still beyond gorgeous. So I will likely do more later.

I did go out to mow the lawn. I found two flat tires on the riding mower. Bummer. Now I will have to watch those tires. For some reason I have terrible luck with tractore tires around here. I have no idea why. I have a compressor, so pumping them back up is easy. I did, and off I went.

Mowing takes a bit over and hour. When I was done, I trimmed some tree branches that were hanging low enough to make the mowing annoying.

Meantime, they are preparing my road for repaving. That meant police traffic control and big noisy machines roaring and banging outside all morning. Good time to mow. Who'd notice the extra noise? I and my garden tractor fit right in.

I got an email from Stacie yesterday I need to share--news I would have missed. The USA's Steffen Peters with Ravel--already World Cup Champions--swept the Grand Pris classes at the big Aachen show in Germany over the weekend. The main deal is that he defeated Anky riding percentage point in the freestyle too!! This is a major accomplishment.

If you have never seen Steffen ride Ravel, you are missing something special. Since the Olympics when they were wonderful, the pair has progressed to "take your breath away!!",

The first video is kind of "Squished" but it's taken from the German TV broadcast. The other one is from "A," but horse and rider look more "real" sizewise. The German announcer is so enthusiastic, especially on the right half pass when he says..."Super, Super." I need a translation, but you can tell he is mightily impressed.

Way to go, Steffen. There is a video on Youtube of his warmup too and Ravel is stretchy and round on a loose rein. He looks like such a content horse. Love the relaxation.

Something we all need to aspire to.

It was such a glorious day, when I came home from my swim, I decided to take everyone out on a hack. The only downside to this is that I had to put the Bug Armor on each horse. This adds about 5-10 minutes to the tack up time. A bit annoying, I'll admit, but well worth it.

I took Toby out first. He had a good time snatching tree leaves along the way. He trotted on his own a time or two and I am always intensely grateful for how sound he feels. He has a wonderful bouncy feel to his trot and I just love it!! I did keep the ride short as he has not been out much, but he got two carrots when we got home.

I rode Tucker next. He and Chance had been frolicking while I was out on Toby, so he was all warmed up, and surprisingly settled. A good snatch of tree leaves suited him just fine, but once it was gone, he was more focused and delightfully forward. He has a nice ground covering walk with super impulsion when he wants to use it. Having felt it on the trail, I now realize I need to encourage it in the arena as well. I have not been asking for as much as he gave me out there.

With Tucker back in the barn and carroted, I saddled up Chance. I rode him a few turns in the arena before heading out. Talk about forward!! I have a feeling the trot he offered was motivated by a bit of annoyance that I was keeping him from the woods, but it sure did feel good! Best thing was that it was perfectly even with none of the hind end problem at all. So that mystery continues.

I took him on a bit longer ride and on the way back, trotted a little ways along the field, just because. He was quiet, happy and the third good boy of the day.

How much better can it get than that??

Maybe I Should Rename the Blog

At Least For the Month of July

Spent the morning watching the Tour de France, again. The team time trial. Totally awesome!!! Once more team Astana under the coaching of Johan Bruyneel had the course and strategy planned to near perfection.

Apparently, when Lance Armstrong and Bruyneel were working with US Postal and Discovery teams to win seven tours, Bruyneel had innovated the concept of studying every piece of roadway and stone along the way. I can recall during one of the more famous victories how Armstrong and the coach had gone out the morning of the individual time trial and ridden the complete course, memorizing every tweak and turn. Jan Ullrich, Armstrong's main opponent stayed inside on the rainy morning, studying a map. (So the story goes.) That afternoon, Ullrich crashed on a slippery corner. Armstrong, rode more carefully on the wet pavement--well aware that the white lines in the roadways got especially treacherous in the rain--and ended up sealing the overall victory that day.

Today, Astana worked like a precision machine, perfectly placed at every dangerous turn on the tricky course, and riding flat out with four of the fastest men in the race taking turns at the front to lead the way to an 18 second victory. 18 seconds may not seem like a lot, but in cycling on this level it is a big gap. That put Armstrong into a tie for individual first place, but Cancellara still holds the leader's yellow jersey because he had a .2sec advantage in the first day's time trial.

To say the race today was exciting is almost an understatement. I was totally absorbed.

Thus the cool of the morning slipped by into a hot afternoon. Then, I as I thought about heading off to the pool, the skies darkened again, and....well, surprise!! It began to rain. Hard.

That took up another bit of time. When I went out to feed the Boys, it had cooled off in a strange sort of way. But the sun finally came back out, so I went for my swim. It was postively delightful.

Came home, had supper, and that was that.

However, when I went out to give the Boys their midnight snack, it was cool and refreshing.

I might be able to discipline myself to get up, ignore the Tour for an hour or so and ride.

However, I am a little concerned about Chance. He had two raw rubs on his face and when I was putting medication on them, I realized he had bumps all over his neck and parts of his face.

Bug bites. Same as last year. Or hives. The raw spots were probably where he had scratched trying to stop the itching. I thought I still had some Azium from last year, but if so, I'm not sure where it is. If I can't find it in the morning, and his bumps are not better, I will call the vet to get some. Poor kid. I sprayed him with flyspray for now as there isn't much else I can do.

I don't know if he suddenly reacted to the mosquitoes or if some kind of fly has just shown up, or what. Last year, both he and Tucker had the bumps, but so far, Tucker looks fine.

I'm going to look on the Internet to see if there is some kind of natural remedy I can use to at least make him feel better. I'm itching just thinking about it.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Just Relaxing

Hot and Dry

Nice day but the temperature was up. Fortunately, not the humidty, so it was kind of OK outside.

I watched the Tour de France again. Really quite an exciting stage as a group of 27 broke away from the main group (peloton) towards the end and picked up nearly 40 seconds on the rest of the riders. Lance Armstrong was among the breakaway group as was Fabian Cancellara, the current race leader. The consequences are that Armstrong has moved up into 3rd place overall from 10th. While it is far too early in the 22 stage race to make any judgments, those who suggested that Lance is "washed up," and never should have come out of retirement need to swallow their words. He has made his mark already and whatever he does in the race from now on is just icing on the cake.

Tomorrow is the team time trial, so I shall again be locked to the television in the morning to watch. There is something just beautiful about watching the matching bikes, uniforms and riders speeding across the French countryside....and will Astana win???

OK, enough Tour. Went out in the aftenoon to do some weed/branch, stuff cutting and trimming. About a total of one and a half hour's work did me in completely. Too hot out there in the sunshine.

I went for a swim after feeding the Boys dinner. Did my laps, rode the lazy river and now I am settling in for the evening--too content and relaxed to do much else.

Guess the Boys are having another day off.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Well Met By Moonlight

On A Midsummer Night

And itwasn't a dream, becuase I rode two horses as darkness drew in.

Totally lured in by Le Tour de France this morning, I spent my time after feeding the Boys watching the race. Mark Cavendish pulled one of his fabulous sprint finishes to win the stage. He was amazing last year in the race and left before the Tour was over to ready himself for the Olympics. He said this year that he regretted that decision, so he intends to finish the race this year. I think he is close to setting a record for sprint finish wins in the Tour, so I expect him to break that. Meanwhile, four Astana riders, Contador, Bloden, Leipheimer, and...shall I say it, Lance Armstrong are all contending in the top ten with only about 40 seconds spread from the top. Any one of the four is capable of winning the whole thing, so the team dynamics are going to be fascinating this time.

Well, that took up the cool of the morning, but frankly, it never did get really hot out. It was another lovely day like yesterday. I did a few chores, cut a weed down, then went food shopping as I was out of milk...ended up with about 7 bags of groceries. Who can pass up a sale on fresh red cherries or pasta or sweet corn at $1.99 a dozen...some for the Boys and some for me?

Came home, fed the Boys, ate my own dinner and then, eventually as it started to cool off I went out to ride.

Tucker first. Again the focus was "always forward." I did lots of changes of direction and changes of gait, trying to keep him paying attention. His half passes are improving, and, after again, some initial crabbiness, he is taking the canter aid more and more quickly. I worked the counter canter a bit as well, but I really had to ride the gait as he wants to break and change leads. I'm hoping that by establishing his counter lead with good forward impulsion, I will be able to develop the flying change as well. With Tucker, everything is as much a mental challenge as well as a physical one. I guess time will tell.

I rode Chance next with the notion that if he felt at all "off" on his right hind, I would just concentrate on the walk and his giving to the bit.

Well, after one little stumble on the first trot stride, he felt just fine. He was energetic, nice and forward, and even behind.

Getting him down and round it still difficult as he is very strong to the rein, especially on the right. I suspect that whatever the hind end issue is, it has made him less "through" on that side so it's become his stiff side. My fingers get sore playing the bit to work him down, but every once in a while he really "gets it," and feels wonderful. I also discovered that the sitting trot is far better for getting him round as he wants to lift his back under my seat to carry my weight. Again he took both canter leads just fine, but the right one is a little lazier.

I actually ended up riding Chance by moonlight--hence the title of my post. The moon is almost full and was about halfway up in the night sky as I finished up. But there was also the sound of booming fireworks somewhere off to the south/west so I thought perhaps it was time to dismount.

Chance didn't mind. He was quite happy to go inside to get his carrot.

Saturday, July 04, 2009


Morning Lunge

I decided to lunge this morning. That way I could watch Chance go to see what happens with his right hind leg. And, I just didn't feel like tacking up to ride. It was hot, but dry and hot with an intermittent breeze. This should be perfect weather for the picnic I'm going to.

Anyhow, I worked Tucker first. He was a little lazy at the start, but it was easy to encourage some good energy. I am pleased to see that progress and also how sharp he is to the canter depart. If I ever want to develop some flying changes, I have to get him quick to the canter. There is see some steady improvement.

For some variety, I set up a single jump a bit over 2' high along the rail. Tuck is SO casual about jumping. He first just kind of trotted up to it and hefted himself over. He never got excited, and never really bothered to pick up the pace unless I really urged him on. As I've said before, he looks quite athletic over the fence, so I think he has some potential--but not with me. I'll do little jumps now and then, but my over fences career is over.

I brought Chance out, fully expecting him to be short on the right hind. Not so. At least not very. Only because I was looking for something did I notice just a little "hitch" in that leg. But, I moved him up into the canter, and then, when he transitioned back down, it looked even sounder. The other good sign was that he easily and willingly took the right lead canter with only one false start in the middle of the flat session.

I lowered the jump to just a bit over a foot, and sent Chance at it. If Tucker is casual, Chance is downright alseep. He does jump, but makes even less an issue of the whole affair. (Toby always bounds over with my Boys run the full gamut of styles.) I urged him into the canter just to get some good impulsion, and he still kept a totally calm demeanor. No nonsense, even when he tripped two strides out, nearly went down on his knees and then picked himself up and went over the jump anyhow. What a trooper!!

I'll get a good swim in today along with some delicious picnic food.

Lovely day to celebrate our national independence and just enjoy all life has to offer.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Evening Ride

Half and Half

Never presume the horse's brain works with any kind of human logic at all. I took Tucker into the arena to ride and saw the water tub had some water in it. (This is the "in the arena" water tub for when I have to lock the horses away from the barn. ) Because it had mosquito breeding potential, I tipped the water out and then stood the tub up against the fence on its long side. Tucker was with me the whole time as I had him tacked up and was getting ready to mount up.

Well, it wasn't quite Moby Tub, but it was a decided object of doom. For nearly the entire ride, Tucker was trying to spook at that tub. If I headed across the diagonal toward it, he tried to veer away. If I passed it on the long side he tried to do a curvy line away from it or, he tried to stop in an attempt to spook backwards. While it was relatively easy to fix, I have to admit his behavior was baffling. Then again, he is a horse and, as I said, logic is not his strong suit.

The bulk of my schooling session was quite good otherwise. As I've been doing, I just kept demanding forward, no matter what. I did like how he lifted himself into his canter, and for the most part his trot was well engaged. I did start working a little more seriously on developing his half pass. He moves easily to the right, but not quite as well to the left. This interests me, as on all the other horses I've trained, I could always ride the left half-pass more easily than the right. So, either I have changed or Tucker is a little more right flexible or both. He did offer a few protests to my driving aids, but for the most part, he was a good boy.

I took Chance out next. Ugh! He was very resistant to giving to the rein and once I began trotting, I figured out part of the reason. He was very "off" on his left hind tonight. This is the mysterious lameness that comes and goes. I had my vet check him out and he could not find anything wrong, but there is definitely some kind of issue. Usually, when Chance moves short on that one leg on the lunge, once I canter him, he trots out evenly. So, I cantered. That fixed the trot. But after a little more work, it came back again. Then, when I tried to canter on the right lead, he kept taking the left. I got him on the lead, cantered a bit, and then the trot was OK. Then I walked for a little while, started up the trot and it was bad again. If I posted on the right he was OK, but as soon as I switched to the left, he was irregular again.

I worked for a while longer, mostly at the walk trying to get him to yield to the bit, and then ended the session. My vet has suggested that perhaps getting him fit will help, so for now I am trying to work him through whatever's wrong.

If he doesn't improve over time, I may take him for some further testing. I certainly don't want to stress him if he has something seriously wrong. For now it's just a matter of seeing how things go. Strangely enough, this is the first sign of the problem since I started working him regularly. And, all along it's been like day sound, one day not, a bunch of days sound...and so on. The work doesn't seem to make it worse and sometimes the canter fixes it completely.

Guess I'll just keep going and to see what happens. So, tonight was half successful and half not.

Shoe Flies

Best Laid Plans

As they say...go astray.

Fed the Boys in the morning. Fed the menagerie--now four wild turkeys, four squirrels, a groundhog, at least one chimpmunk, and all the birds. Had my own breakfast and went back outside to ride. But then I remembered the turkey pictures, so, as you can see, I took some. I can get quite close to the birds now and I guess they are associating me with the food. Today, acutally there were four turkeys out there, but two of the more skittish ones ran off when I went out with the camera.
I think at least one has signs of a red throat. Could be these are all youngsters, not yet mature enough for the males to show the characteristic red wattle. I guess by the end of the summer I'll have a better idea. Apparently, they can get quite bold about getting fed, so I may well have a permanent residency here for them. Fine with me. They do seem to browse around the lawn, so I suspect they are eating bugs. From what I've read they eat ticks, especially. That would be fabulous!! I'm sure I have lots around and we do have Lyme disease here in NJ, so getting rid of ticks is a big plus! Come on Turks! You can stay as long as you want.

Tucker was missing a shoe. Shoeing is due next week on a 6 week schedule, so apparently, he is on the five week plan. Came back inside to call Scott. Then realized that if he was going to come to shoe, I needed to get rid of the big branch that had fallen on the lawn where he parks his truck. This is the one that fell across the driveway. Because of all the rain and very wet ground, I hadn't yet dragged it away with the tractor as it would have cut up the lawn pretty badly.

So, out I went with my pruning saw and sawed the thing up into chunks I could at least move by myself. Then I emailed my friend Bill to see if he wanted it for firewood before I cart it off to the hedge row. That wore me out considerably, so I relaxed for a bit before heading back out to take the last bales of bedding out of the truck in order to go to the feed store to get the grain and alfalfa cubes.

While I was inside, Scott called to tell me he was going to try to drop by today to replace Tucker's shoe. He was hoping I'd found it to make it a simple replacement and not "make a new shoe." I hadn't looked yet, but promised I would.

By then the skies had opened up in a downpour--appparently very local-- and the humidity was on the rise again.
I only got three bags of grain as that was all they had available. I ordered more for next week and went to the other feed store for the alfalfa cubes to save a dollar or two.

Came home and the phone rang. It was Scott again, telling me he was on his way. I headed out on a shoe search. I covered the paddocks near the barn, the arena and was out in the pasture when two events occurred almost at the same time. Scott's truck pulled into the yard and I found the missing shoe!! Talk about luck. (As anyone who has ever hunted for a lost horseshoe will attest.)
Scott just left a little while ago, and I'm back inside trying to decide what else to do.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Dull Day At Follywoods

Nothing Going On

Woke up with a stiff neck, again, so it was off to the chiropractor. The weather forecast was for storms in the afternoon, so on the way home I stopped at the pool to do my laps.

Well, the storms never did materialize, but the heat and humidity certainly did. I just surrendered and accomplished absolutely nothing worthwhile all day.

Well, I did do some clothes sorting, and a bit of cleaning, and some pet food shopping.

After all, it is summer vacation.

Actually, I think, as the day wore on, that the humidity dropped so tomorrow morning might be OK to do some horsework. If I can, I will try to take a picture of my resident turkey as well. And I should also go to the Township municipal building to do some research on my flooding issue and the ill maintained infiltration basin. I also need to go the the feed store for grain and alfalfa cubes.

I need to do most of that tomorrow because on Saturday, two events will consume my time. Here in the USA, the Fourth of July is the celebration of our national Independence Day. But it is also the first day of the Tour de France. Now, every year, I swear I will not spend hours in front of the TV watching guys bicycle across France. And every year, I get totally addicted and do spend hours watching the race. Since Lance Armstrong is riding again, my addiction will be even more intense than the last several years.

Of course, Le Tour will not take up the whole day as the stages are usually done by 11 AM or so here on USA TV. So, later in the afternoon I will be going to my friend's picnic across the woods. Not sure when I'll go or how long I'll stay, but since it's so close, I can commute back and forth as the spirit moves me so maybe, just maybe, I will manage to spend some time horsing around.

So it looks like I will be in and out for the next few days, joyfully able to ignore the clock as I spend my summer trying to get something worthwhile accomplished.

Meantime, the Boys don't seem to mind too much. Today they were in the pasture in the morning and the front paddocks...under the shade the afternoon. There's grass to nibble on in both places so they seemed quite content. Maybe I should learn from them how to enjoy a summer day.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Into the Woods

And Once Quite By Accident

I decided to ride in the woods today. It was and still is, moderately hot, but not overbearing. I didn't get my act together until the afternoon anyhow, for no reason at all.

The key to all of this is the Cashel Bug Armor and Mosquito Halt bug spray. The Bug Armor is really fantastic. I've seen some less complex to put on riding fly sheets on eBay, but I don't know how they'd work. The Bug Armor has two pieces and it takes a little while to rig everything up. I add a fly face mask with ear protectors made of the same material so my horses are nearly covered head to belly. I spray them on their legs, under their bellies, and try to put a bit on their noses.

Then off we go. Chance had a blast. He loves hacking out and was enjoying himself grabbing leaves along the way. I rode the middle length trail with him and he was just great. I hadn't put the spray on his nose, so he did flip his head a little, but otherwise he was bug free.

Then I dressed Tucker and out we went. He was foot perfect the whole ride. That was particularly impressive since he hasn't been out in more than a month. He was nice and solid and moving right along nicely.

However, when I got back, something was wrong. Chance was on the wrong side of the fence, browsing in the woods!! Toby was frantically running back and forth in the arena, whinnying and whinnying. I had left the woods gate unchained because I'd closed the arena gate. Foolishly, I fear, since I forgot the two gates to the pasture were open, and the broken fence was not yet securely mended. Needless to say, opportunist Chance had inspected the woods gate, wedged himself through and escaped to the trees.

When I got Tucker into the arena, Chance decided to start frolicking which riled up Toby even more which, in turn riled up Tucker. I had my hands full of nearly 17h Thoroughbred, one frantic herd boss, and one loose horse in the forest.

Fortunately, Tucker has some good ground training, so I managed to get him into the barn, to strip off his tack, and to lock him in a stall so I could go catch Chance. Luckily Chance is a good boy who came readily to a bucket of feed and I led him back in, much to Toby's relief.

Once more a little carelessness on my part and an underestimation of my horse's cleverness cost me a quiet afternoon.

Well, the hacks in the woods were nice, anyhow. Shady and pleasant.

Still have my swim on the agenda.