Monday, August 31, 2009

Is This Weather for Real?

Lovely Morning Lunge

It was cloudy and cool in the morning when I went out to feed, so I decided to take advantage of the "before bug" hour and lunge the Boys.

This time, with an appropriate treat, Tucker was quite happy to be caught so I worked him first. Nothing special, but I did use trotting poles just to give him something to think about. Don't know what was up, but he was super obedient to the commands. His trot was nice and forward and his canter prompt. Because of that I had him do a lot of trot/canter/trot transitions. He was super. Now if I get out of my lazy phase about dressing him all up in the bug armor so it's safe to ride, perhaps I will get into the saddle tomorrow.

This time Chance played hard to get. Not a serious effort on his part, but he did walk away several times. Once I got him into the arena on the line, he simply did not want to trot and he kept breaking into a canter....on the right lead when he was on the left hand. Strange, since that his his less favored lead.

Then I had a brainstorm. He only has one leg strap on his fly sheet, as the other one was broken. I disconnected the single strap and tied it up out of the way. Off he went in a nice trot. While I am not 100% sure that was the problem, the difference was enough to make me think somehow the strap was bothering him.

Either way, after that adjustment, he was really good. He trotted the poles, lengthening his stride to make the difference, and was nearly as obedient as Tucker. But, I didn't ask him for the same kind of repeated transitions I asked of Tuck either, so his grade will have to be weighted accordingly. It's still an "A" but not quite worth advanced placement credit.

I did manage a swim in the afternoon. It was only in the low 70's F with a bit of a breeze. Actually the water and the air were pretty close in temperature....check that, the water was a little cooler. It was one of those, "Well, it feels good once you get wet," kind of days. Needless to say, I swam rather energetically just to get my blood flowing.

Darn if it didn't feel really good. I am considering signing up for a membership at the University pools still, so perhaps I can keep up the swimming all winter.

Muriel mentioned my trying to get some kind of indoor for riding. That is a no go here as it would cost a good fortune and I certainly don't have the money to do anything like that. Getting a building permit would probably also be a major hassle. I can pay a fee to a barn about 20 minutes from here where I could trailer the Boys if I wanted to. I'll just have to see how the weather goes. Last year I was mostly inhibited by not being able to ride during the day when things tended to thaw out...or I when I could ride out in the woods while it was still light.

We'll just see how things go. At this point, riding seems to be much more casual for me than it ever was before. Since I have no overwhelming ambitions, I guess being stopped by the weather is no crisis.

As I've said before, Time will tell.....

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Soggy Bottom

Super Wet

The arena was really soggy this morning. I was going to lunge then, but it really would have been messy

The day turned out to be pretty nice. Hot, but not so humid. I did a bit of weed trimming out and about. The big deal was to search for the burrs that Chance had in his tail. Every year he manages to find a patch to stick his head in and then gets his forelock all tangled. Once, when I was reaching up to clean them out, one of the tiny thorns went into my eye. I had to go to my eye doctor to have it removed. Ever since then I have been really careful.

So, this time, I decided to seek out the offending plants before they got into the horses's manes. My bigger riding mower has been out of commission all summer with both a slipped belt and a reluctant engine...a result of not being run all winter. I didn' t bother calling for repair because I have the other mower for the lawn and I didn't want to spend any extra money on something that's an easy fix. Trouble is, the friend who could fix it has not been around all summer, so the mower sat and, as a result, the pasture has several spots of rather tall weeds....and some burr bushes.

Well, no more. I think I found all of them and trimmed them down to ground level.

That work done, I was hot and a bit worn out, so I fed the Boys and headed out to the pool for a nice refreshing swim.

The water felt wonderful. It had cooled off a bit after the last few days of bad weather and once I was in, it was really nice. I rode around the lazy river four or five times too, just because it was so pleasant. Next week is supposed to be cooler, but I'll still be able to get some swimming in to end the season.

Once again I am thinking about lungeing a bit before I go to bed. In the dark we don't have to worry about the flies. But, again, we'll see.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Rain Again

Off and on, but definitely rain. It did get warmer, so I headed over to the pool for an early swim, but it was closed. I am guessing there were reports of lightning in the area as thunderstorms were supposed to be passing by.

It finally cleared up in time for me to head out to my friend's house for a barbeque. This is an Internet friend, who became real several years ago when we discovered he lived here in New Jersey only a bit over an hour away. Hans (his Internet moniker) is a professor at a community college. He, his wife and three children invited me to their annual barbeque two years ago and it's been a standing invitation ever since. I didn't manage to get there last year due to some horse event or another, but I drove up today.

I had a really nice time. Hans' other friends are interesting and articulate. The food was delicious, and I quite enjoyed myself.

I've closed off the pasture for the night as more storms are rolling in and there is definite lightning now. The Boys were inside anyhow, whether because of the mosquitoes or the off and on rain. I guess they won't mind not being able to go out to the big field.

They are snacked and tucked in for the night. Now we'll just have to wait to see what kind of weather tomorrow brings.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Did I Mention It Was Raining?

Wet and Cool

Nice temperatures, but raining. First in the morning, then a break, and then early afternoon and forever after.

Since I needed to take the truck to the motor vehicle inspection station before the end of the month, today was the day. Yes, I had put it off, mostly because it was so hot. Waiting in line in a hot truck would have been miserable. True, I might have left the engine running and the air conditioning on, but that is a big waste of fuel and could overhead the engine enough to perhaps make it fail the inspection.

Today was perfect for it. And it did stop raining. The truck passed with flying colors. However, it is a 2003 with just over 6,000 miles on it--I use it to pull the horse trailer and pick up my grain. Essentially, it's almost brand new.

Got home and the rain started up again.

But there was a nice breeze off and on, so the Boys seemed to be quite happy out in the pasture. I'm sure they got a bit wet, though. Still the bugs were hiding from the weather and that let the Boys enjoy some of the grass for a change. With all the rain, there is a fair amount of decent grazing out there....not great, but decent. It was nice to see the horses out there during the day for a change.

Not much else happening. With a tropical storm moving up off the coastline, the weather doesn't look good for the rest of the weekend. Once again, plans to get the Boys in shape will be on hold.

Ah, well. That's nature for you.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Cool Morning With Early Rising Flies

Everyone Lunged

It was nice and cool this morning, and may stay so for the bulk of the day....which might tempt me to ride just a little.

BUT, and this is a big one, those B 52's are a plague. Hopefully the bug armor would keep the Boys feeling secure about them, but I have never testing it with this many huge bombers about.

At any rate, all three Boys have already had a workout. I lunged everyone, combining a trotting pole and the little jump for some variety.

Tucker was first. Again, I have to admire his absolute relaxation about jumping. He has a casual approach, a confidence about going over, and a quiet landing. As I've said before, he'd probably make nice hunter if I wanted to pursue it with him. Perhaps if my young rider comes over to teach him the changes, I'll have her take him over a few little fences just for fun.

Chance had his work next. Interesting. He trotted and cantered just fine on the right hand. But he kept trying to canter over the pole on the ground instead of trotting it, treating it as a jump. The, when he did the jump, he was very good about it. Then I put him on the left hand and he simply would not stay in a trot. If it was a result of being excited after the jumping, it was the most relaxed excitement I've ever seen. Finally, I brought him in to me, then sent him back out and asked for the canter. I figured if that was all he wanted to do, he might as well do it because I told him to. After his little jumping session on the left, I went back to the trot work and he was just fine, so we finished on a high note.

Since Toby had been observing the whole thing, I "asked" him if he was interested and he let me slip the halter on. I gave him a short workout as he really hasn't done a thing in weeks. It is clear though, as I watch him, that he is by far the best trained and, in many ways the most athletically adept of the Boys. He has a nice bouncy trot, and when he jumps he really uses himself well. Today he did not get overly excited about jumping as he sometimes does, which was good as I didn't want to overstress him. Because of his more level build--his neck is set lower on his shoulder than is ideal for dressage--he would be a really nice show hunter. I curtailed his dressage career because I felt it wasn't fair to force him to lift his front end as much as the upper levels needed. And, the work did cause him some soreness in his hind end because of it. I would much rather see him now, at 19, looking absolutely sound, than have a broken down dressage horse who had been forced to work beyond his physical comfort.

Since Tucker had some hind end soreness too, that may be a limiting factor for him as well, but we will see. I don't really have any ambitions for competition at the moment anyhow. I still want to progress with the training, but if I don't end up in the show arena, that's just fine.

Essentially, after all these years, I've kind of "Been there, done that." Since I cannot afford a true Grand Prix horse, I will just see what I can do with the Boys I have. I still think it's possible to teach the upper level movements to an average horse, provided you do not expect them to strive for "10's."

Now, the question is. Will it be too cool out to go for a swim? Bet the water will feel warmer than the air!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Day With Friends

And I Am Stuffed

I had breakfast out with some friends this morning. These friends are involved in my political connections, as we all worked together on a mayoral campaign in the Township and formed a good and lasting friendship since. It was kind of a "Happy Retirement" get together for me.

We went to IHop. (The International House of Pancakes) and I had...guess what, pancakes!! All in all we spent nearly two hours eating and chatting.

Once I was back home, I had to head out again to go pick up my new glasses. Unfortunately, my contact lenses were not there, so I will have to go back on yet another day to pick them up. The eye doctor is not too far away so it's OK, but I wish I'd gotten everything at once.

I picked up a phone message from one of my teacher friends who said she and another friend from school wanted to get together. So, we set something up for the evening at a local restaurant. I spent a little time at home, fed the Boys their dinner and headed out to the pool to catch my afternoon swim.

I have just gotten back from a good long dinner with lots of great conversation and company. B. the teacher had the classroon next to mine and she will be headed back next week. M. the other friend is a secretary who also retired at the end of the year. B., she and I kind of formed a close bond while we were at school, so we had a ton to talk about. I am going to miss seeing them every day, but I am sure we will keep in contact and perhaps get together occasionally.

My tummy is full, my heart is happy, and even though I didn't work the horses....again....I had a really nice day socializing.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

There Are Mosquitoes....Alive!

Hungry Critters on a Summer's Eve

I went out at around 7PM after it had cooled off a bit to lunge the Boys. I figured I have to start getting them fit all over again after the heat wave.

I'm glad I decided to lunge. When we started, the sun was still up a bit, just enough to give the flies some flying light. And fly they did. The big B 52's were in full force, coming two at a time. Fortunately, they tended to land on the horse's backs and I'd left their fly sheets on, so no one got bitten and I managed to squash at least three of them. I have never seen so many at one time. The rain must have created a horsefly breeding frenzy.

I lunged Chance first and he was just a doll. This time both canter leads were soft and good. He was a little too relaxed as he broke gait once or twice, but he was nice and even and really paid attention.

Then I went to collect Tucker and he decided to play keep away. He was not hard to catch when I first got him, but at some point, Toby, who can be hard to get, started herding him away from me and so now, when he's feeling independent Tucker will play "the catch me if you can" game.

I quietly walked after him for at least fifteen minutes, and then decided that I might better spend my time poo picking the arena before it got completely dark. This was after the wild turkeys showed up and sent the Boys galloping out into the pasture.

Well, about five minutes into the poo job, I had both Tucker and Chance at my elbow. I shooed Tucker off a few times until he decided I was just the most interesting person in the whole world. I walked over to pick up the halter and lunge line and he walked off again. But this time, he went into his stall and turned around to give me his head.

I lunged him for a short session. and he too worked quite well. His trot started off lazily, but, especially after the first canter, he was really striding out nicely.

Once I'd finished with Tuck, I cleaned some more of the is part of the Boys' turnout area and hadn't been picked since the heat wave started...and tried to ignore the mosquitoes. We'd gone from big fat flies to ravenous mosquitoes in the space of about fifteen minutes once the sun had set.

I seriously doubt the spraying had accomplished very much if it was supposed to kill the mature pests. If it was supposed to do something to the breeding or hatching cycle....well that may be. But I can tell you there were a lot of biting critters out there tonight.

Done at last, I gave all three Boys some carrots and here I am, reporting to the world on a buggy summer's eve.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Break In the Weather???

I Think It's Better

Not sure where the day went today, but the weather was a lot nicer. I got involved in some projects indoors and by the time I realized it, the day had drifted by.

Worse, I'd made an appointment to go pick up my new glasses and forgot about it. I had a longish phone call that completely distracted me. Guess my brain went into neutral.

I did manage go to for a swim, but the lap pool was closed for cleaning. That left me in the family pool which is not at all a good place to try to swim. All the people there are kind of playing around, standing in the water, and just generally moving into whatever line you choose to take. I did manage enough to get some exercise. Then I went down the waterslide about five times, so I had to climb the stairs to get up there--more exercise.

When I came home, "Mosquito Man" was here. This is my friend who works for the County Mosquito Control Commission. He was directing the heliocopter to spray overhead. He had a gauge set up to make sure the spray was reaching the ground, and while we waited we had a nice chat. His wife and I have known each other for ages. She has driving ponies, her own riding horse, and a nice Halflinger for her daughter to ride. So I managed to catch up on some of the news. My friend is not sure the stuff they used to spray will do anything as it is some kind of experimental "green" product he's not sure is very effective. When he left, I told him I'd make sure I looked for dead mosquitoes around.

Meanwhile the Boys were finding the low flying heliocopter a rather exciting invasion of their peace and quiet. That is Toby and Tucker were finding it so. Chance was contentedly grazing in the front paddock. Then, when I commented that he was the only sensible one, he heard the other two frolicking and promptly took off the join them. I'm sure he wouldn't have bothered if he'd been on his own.

Hopefully I will gather my wits about me and do something with the Boys tomorrow.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


Not Sure I Have Any Today

Once more the heat was dreadful. So, now I am turning into a two season horseman. Spring and fall are OK, but summer and winter seem to be a problem. Then again, if I had an indoor, the weather would be less a factor. Ah, well....when I win the lottery....

I had a "cute" moment this morning when I went out to feed. I decided to pick out the stalls while the Boys were otherwise occupied. As usual, that gave me all of about two minutes before I had horses on all sides "helping."

I was in Toby's stall. He came in to observe, and then, he came over to me and started to "groom" my neck. He was licking and "lipping me." I had done nothing to encourage this, it was all his choice.

Now, let me first say, this, from Toby was unusual behavior. He has never actively shown affection to me. He is respectful and gentle, and he does appreciate petting and cuddling, but he does not usually initiate it and, unless I start the "grooming" action at his withers, he doesn't tend to respond. So, this was totally unexpected.

I gave him some scratches and hugs in return, thanked him, and went back to my work. He started to "groom" me again, but this time, some teeth were added, exactly as he would act with another horse. I had to stop him...just telling him "no" was enough with a gentle push away.

The only thing I can surmise from this was that Toby was making it clear I was a member of his herd. The fact that he respected me when I quietly asked him to stop also made the point that I did have a certain ranking in the herd which he noted. Hopefully,I am "top horse" but one never quite knows with my Boys.

It was one of those zen moments with a horse where I really felt I had been privileged to step into his world to communicate on his terms.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Trees and Thunderstorms

One After Another

Thunderstorms have been rolling in all day. I do wonder if they are connected to Hurricane/now tropical storm Bill moving up the coast. If my little cat rain gauge is right, we have had nearly 3 inches of rain already.

On to the trees! You guys are good. But what could I expect from such an observant group. In my classes, at least 90% of the students selected brown for the tree trunk and green for the leaves.

Frankly, it's not the leaf color that matters at all, but what does matter is the color of the tree trunk. Every tree trunk I ever colored as a child--at least that I can remember--was brown. Burnt sienna in my crayola box was my favorite brown. It wasn't until I was an adult that a set designer at our theatre called my attention the the fact that tree trunks are not brown, but rather a gray or even black. As a matter of fact, ever since, I have really looked at trees here and the only browns I've ever seen were in the small shoots/branches of a few trees. Some trunks are greenish gray, olive greenish, but mostly gray. Look around you, if you have trees and you will probably see the same thing.

So where did the brown come in? Most wood furniture is brown, as is most the finished wood we see around us. So, naturally, since wood comes from trees, we think "brown." Then, to top it off, as we go through school our art teachers teach us "brown." My set designer remembers distinctly being corrected in class for coloring her tree trunk gray. Just like the turkeys, as children, we saw what is there and then, society teaches us to see what it believes we should see.

That is the price of formal education. Instead of learning to think for ourselves, we too often learn to think to suit some kind of standard instead. We "unlearn" the truth to suit society.

With that little lesson, I tried to get my students to understand that "thinking outside the box" was just fine in my class. If the solution solves the problem, then why not?

It's the same with training our horses. Surely there are books and methods and traditions long set in stone for training. And while we can all do well to keep those practices in mind, it does not mean one or even any of those methods will work with every horse we encounter.

The Natural Horsemanship people love to categorize horses by personality types. Linda Tellington Jones tTouch method likes to name all kinds of specialized handling tactics as the only way to sensitize a horse. The Germans have a strick training scale and have been known to say, "There is only one way to ride."

But while we can depend on certain defined animal behavior to help us along, why can we not see our horses as much as individuals as people are? I love a trainer who has the instincts to travel the side paths when needed. (Lockie Richards was a master of this.)

It is not an easy path to travel, for sure. In essence you have to throw away the GPS and guidebook and start to listen to the horse.

I still love Burnt Sienna, but use it to color my bay horses now.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Watching the World

A Bit of Meditation

The poem Caroline posted on my last blog entry...if you haven't read it yet, do drop by... It's worth it. Very accessible, unlike a lot of poetry....and this from an English teacher...made me think.

How many times do we rush our way through life not noticing things? How much beauty and how much ugliness escape our vision because we simply pass by? Time presses us on, forcing us to keep appointments, meet deadlines, keep promises, all while the world spins under our feet full of wonders we may never see.

In the morning now, the wild turkeys seem to be waiting for me to come out to put some seed at the bird feeder for them. Now that I can get close enough to notice, I have begun to marvel at the sheen on the Tom's breast, and how strong his legs look. When I was a child, we were taught to color Thanksgiving turkeys with all kinds of colors in the feathers of their tails. Some of you might even remember "making" a turkey picture by tracing your hand on paper and then coloring the feathers into your fingers.

As I grew, and saw real turkeys I thought how foolish we had all been. Turkey's feathers are the colors of the earth...brown, gray, dusky...and not at all the flavors of Crayola crayons. But perhaps it is true that as we grow older, we revert to our childhoods. Now, seeing the Tom from ten feet away, my eyes are caught by an iridescent glimmer in those feathers as they capture a rainbow in the morning sunlight. The eyes of childhood were not so wrong after all.

I used to do an exercise in class during the first week of school to teach my students a lesson about all of this. I would give them a very simple line drawing of a tree. It looked a lot like a lollipop. I told them the first homework assignment was to simply use two colors of their choice to color that drawing. They needed to make the tree look as real as possible using only two colors, one of the trunk and one for the leaves. If they didn't have crayons, they could just label the picture with the two colors they had chosen. They would be graded on how real (NJ real) their trees looked.

So, here is your challenge. What colors would you use for your tree?

Come back tomorrow for the rest of the lesson.

We just had a huge downpour pass through. OK, so the barn is open with three stalls. There are run-in roofs on both sides as well. There is a run-in shed at the end of the riding arena.

Horse logic. Toby was under the west side run-in, at the end by the paddock. Tucker was under the tree by the run-in. Chance was kind of under the apple tree.

Could we share? Nope. Horses don't share. Horses are self-centered about stuff like that. Survival of the fittest and all that, I guess. Herd boss picks the best place to be and everyone else has to make do.

Then again, maybe the rain felt good. The heat has been unbearable and has not eased off much at night either. And, when you think about it, Chance didn't have such a bad spot if you don't mind getting hit on the head with falling apples....which do taste pretty good, even when it's raining.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I Mowed the Lawn!

Sort Of

My lawn is tricky. There are lots of trees and bushes. Some of the tree roots are sticking up out of the ground so you can't really take the mower over them without damaging things. Then I have that bank in front of the house and a sort of sunken section of lawn on the other side of the driveway. All this means that the main part of the lawn can be well mowed with the riding mower, but to do a thorough job, I need to do a ton of weed whacking. So, the major part of the lawn is done and if it ever cools off, I will do the week whacking on another day. Until then, at least it looks as if someone tends the place now and then. *G*

As you will have surmised, it was hot again today, and humid. We had a pretty noisy thunderstorm last night that cooled things off for the night, but dawn brought back the tropical air.

I have noticed an increase in the flies in the barn. Simplyfly, for Muriel, is a feed through fly preventative. It treats the horses' manure with an insect growth regulator that kills the fly larvae in the manure. That cuts down on any breeding flies in the manure, but it does not stop the flies from breeding in the wet areas around the barn. With all the rain we've had this year, there have been places that have stayed wet all season. That is where I put the fly predators, hoping they will eat the fly larvae breeding there. Still, some escape to grow up into stable flies....but not many. However, with the heat and humidity, it must be prime fly weather.

I went for my swim in the early afternoon. The weather forecast was predicting more thunderstorms for the afternoon, but they never came. But I'm glad I went when I did as the pool was not at all crowded and I had a lap lane all to myself. I managed 15 full laps today. I am thinking of joining my University recreation thing so I can use the pools there during the winter. I went to Douglass College, part of Rutger's University, which is only about 10 miles away. The Douglass Pool is in that area, and is part of the recreation package. Now that I am retired, I would be able to swim almost any time during the day, so it might be worth it to keep it up all year long. It is great exercise for my knees because there is no concussion, and I certainly do enjoy it.

This is the first "nearly end of the summer" when I have not felt a certain anxiety as I sensed the sun's angle in the sky. Normally, by now, when I would go outside and hear the late summer bugs chirping away or hear a flight of Canada geese pass over the thought of school would flood my emotions. I'd have a sudden sense of urgency to complete tasks or do something with the horses because I knew that soon I would have no spare time to waste. I am having a bit of trouble reprogramming my brain and reactions. Today, as I was getting in my car to head over to the pool, I checked myself and just stood for a minute drinking in the atmosphere. The sun's angle was just a little lower, the air was still, and the katydids were singing like crazy. End of summer....and it didn't matter. I have months and months ahead with no obligations except the ones I choose.

The nice thing will be being able to ride the Boys at any time during the day. So often, once school had started, I would rush home to try to get in a ride before dark or before the arena surface had frozen again on a winter afternoon. Sometimes in the morning, I'd get up a little late and then have to hurry to feed before school, rushing about to make sure I'd done all the chores to keep the Boys content for the day while I was gone.

No more. I'll be able to save some hay too, by only putting out what they eat instead of leaving huge piles during the day, trying to guess how much they need. I might even break their feeds up into four meals instead of three, who knows? And I won't have to worry about when I schedule vet or farrier appointments, because I'll be able to be here. Nice.

I did have a wacky dream about school the other night. For some reason, I went in for the first day and my replacement teacher was not there yet. When he did come in he took charge of the kids in a very unusual, but creative way. I guess I'm hoping the new teacher they hired will do me one better and really inspire the kids. I suppose no matter what I do, it's going to take a while to get over 38 years of habit.

Meanwhile I will just relish the potential freedom.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

We're Having a Heat Wave

A Tropical Heat Wave

So I have been indoors. I did vacuum, and I cleaned a bit in the kitchen. Much more to do, but I did start, anyhow.

The Boys seem to at last be using the shady trees in the paddock by the house for some comfort in the heat. I'm not sure if the allure of the fallen apples from the apple tree are luring them out there, but they are spending some time out instead of simply hanging out in the stalls with the fans blowing on them.

Horses are pretty adaptable to the weather, but when it's humid like this even they suffer a bit. But so far, with the fans and all the shade, they seem to be doing just fine.

And do they love this new hay I have. I hope the rest of the load I get it from for the winter is as nice. They are eating almost every morsel, leaving very little to go to waste.

Stacie emailed me the other day to tell me the big horseflies, the ones we call B52's are horrible down her way. She is about an hour south of me. Since I haven't been out there during the day, I have no idea how bad they are here, but the Boys are not going out much into the pasture, so I suspect something might be bugging them out there. Fortuately, with the fly predators and the Simplifly at work, the barn itself is a pretty good haven. I do have some barn flies, but not enough to make it miserable. The fans also tend to blow any bugs away, so that's the other reason I keep them going.

So far, so good with the herbal remedies for my problem. I am feeling quite good and I went for a nice swim this evening. The water was almost too warm, but it felt good anyhow. I'll have to watch the weather forecast for the rest of the week as thunderstorms are predicted, and I'll want to get my swims in before the storms roll in each day.

Guess I'm going to get a bit of housework done, huh?

Monday, August 17, 2009


Down and Out

I am pretty sure I have a kidney infection. That would explain a lot, including the pain in my back.

I took some herbal remedies and am feeling much better. I have a doctor's appointment on Friday. If the herbs keep working, I'll be fine until then.

I will spare you the details, but suffice it to say I did nothing with the horses and am not likely to for a few more days.

Other than that, NJ is suffering from a heat wave. Temps are way up in the 90's and it is quite uncomfortable outside.

And, of course, the guys who are putting a new roof on my aunt's house were here today! I can't even imagine how miserable that job would be in this heat.

Wimping out and sitting in the AC....I will think of something clever to post this week.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Lungeing In the Dusk

Or Racing Away in Mosquitoville

Anyone who has ever been to New Jersey in the summer is all too aware of our mosquitoes. Since I live on the edge of the Pigeon Swamp State Park, it's pretty clear I am well aware of mosquitoes. The last time I hiked around with my friend from the Mosquito Control Commission, he was thrilled with the variety of mosquito species we had around here.

I went out at dusk to lunge the Boys because my back had been acting up a little and I decided not to try to ride. Since I did not put on the arena lights, the bugs were not captivated by the glow and instead were captivated by me. Tucker and Chance had their flysheets on while they worked, and since they were moving, they did not make the best targets. But, lungeing is mostly a "standing around" thing for the handler, I was easy pickings. Suffice it to say a lot of my hand signals were not for the horses.

Tuck was really moving out on his own, a nice change for him. His trot was forward and his canter well engaged. He did get into "canter no matter what you tell me" mode about twice, but I brought him in on a smaller circle and chirpped pretty clearly and he got the idea. After that we were able to do a number of trot/canter/trot transitions--a good exercise for building up some hind end strength.

I took Chance out next, and his trot was not exactly the most energetic. But, on the other hand, it was awfully cute. Then, however, Tucker, who had decided he needed to roll in the adjacent paddock took off in a mad bucking gallop and Chance bolted off, offering a little teeny no elevation mini-buck into his canter on the line. I just let him keep going around me, especially since it was the right lead--his less efficient one. After a good work, we reversed and his trot work, we cantered again. The left lead is easier for him and more naturally balanced. Mind you, both leads are good, but the left is his favorite. --Hey, Muriel, he'd make a good western pleasure horse with a little collected, soft canter. (Provided you only wanted to go left!)-- It was really nice, but I did have to push him on a little bit to get some impulsion.

Everyone, including Toby who made it clear he didn't want to participate, got a carrot reward.

What does amuse me is that so far, every time I work Chance, Tucker stands at the arena fence watching. And he is pretty intent about it for a good part of the time. I remember once when I was at a boarding barn, I was working someone else's horse for them and all the while, my Russell R. stood at the fence watching with definite focus. At one point, I saw him chewing on the top of the fence post...something he was not likely to do. Later, when I turned the horse I'd been working back out, Russell actually attacked. I honestly think he was jealous.

Now, Tucker's look is similar, but he does not go after Chance when I'm done. Apparently, whatever his motive is, he does not hold anything against Chance. Could be he just thinks the two of us need some of his expert supervision??

Or maybe it's just his version of horse TV.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Shoes And Such

And Trying to Keep a Border Collie Occupied

As I was having my breakfast, a car pulled in the driveway. I was my cousin and his wife dropping by to tell me they had moved to a new house at the shore. They invited me down, and gave me their new address and phone number. I was a bit surprised by the news, but happy for them as they have always loved the ocean and the beach.

As we were chatting, my farrier showed up with his rig. Once he'd settled in that meant I had to introduce my cousin to Mic, Scott's border collie. Well, apparently, when Scott saw I had company, he ordere Mic to stay by the truck and the poor pup was beside himself with frustration as he was just dying to see the people. I called out to Scott and in a second a blur of black and white fur streaked across the lawn and right past us. Mic was just thrilled and he grabbed a huge branch, carried it over to us and made it clear he wanted to play "fetch." The branch was bigger than he was!! It took him a few minutes to warm up with a smaller stick, but in short order he was charming everyone with his exuberant personality.

After my cousins left, I became the "on demand" stuff thrower. I had bought a tennis ball slinger and that was a big hit. Then, Mic found another toy I had there for him and he kept me busy tossing that. Do you know how long a border collie will play "fetch?" Forever.

Meantime, Scott and his assistant, Kyle, were doing the Boys. Scott shapes and fits the shoes and puts them on, while Kyle does the pulling of the old shoes and all the finishing rasping. He also does the hind foot trims and Chance's trim.

Scott took a little extra time today because he was getting phone calls about his daughter's college (university to you Brits) schedule and registration. There was a major mixup with paperwork and it was causing some problems. Fortunately by the end of the morning, it had all been straightened out, despite the bureaucratic ineptitude of the whole system.

Typical educational institution. Just like the school where I taught. Want an example? Over a year ago, I ordered two class sets of Shakespeare books for my classes. I had to find the vendor, write up the order, do all that work. Eventually, I received a confirmation of my order and a copy of the invoice indicating that the books had been ordered and paid for. The books never came. I was completely unable to find them. Apparently they had been delivered somewhere. OK, stuff happens. But the part that bugged me was that no one in the school system actually seemed to care. I was told they probably got sent to the wrong school or the wrong teacher and that "Stuff like that happens all the time." So the money was spent and no one ever found out where the books were. Too typical.

The Boys were very well behaved for the shoeing. Tucker rocked a few times when Kyle was holding up his foot, but otherwise he was a good boy. He does have one annoying habit I have never quite managed to break. When he is on the crossties, he will not stand square in the center of the aisle. Instead, he swings his hind quarters over to the wall. And he seems most content if his hind legs are actually touching the wall or something up against the wall. Strangely enough, my PJ also liked to stand with his hind legs up against something and he might even kind of rub them up and down against whatever was behind him.

Curious. Anyone else ever see a horse do that? It's almost as if they want a kind of security of knowing that there is something solid behind them that they can feel. Worry about being attacked from behind?

Oh, yes, the weather. When I went out to feed at 5 PM the thermometer on the garage read at a bit over 100F in the sun. Fortunately it was less humid today. I did go for a swim and there is the outside chance I may do some longlining or lungeing after dark.

Or I might not. Report on that tomorrow.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Another Rainy Day

But Maybe It Cooled Off

It started raining this morning, and just kept on going. I decided to wait until morning to see if things had dried out a little.

Then, the phone rang. I was my farrier, Scott, calling to tell me he had already penciled me in for tomorrow morning--Friday. I had called him earlier in the day to make an appointment for next week. Good timing. So far Tucker still has his shoes.

At the tent sale, I bought a tennis ball flinger for Scott's dog, Mic, so now I will be able to test it out. Like all Border Collies, Mic was born knowing how to play fetch and he will go at it the whole time Scott is shoeing my Boys. Now, at least I should be able to get some distance on the toy throwing. I also got a soft flying saucer/frisbee thing at the fair, but I'm not sure it will hold up for more than a catch or two. Unlike Scott's first dog, Jack, Mic is a chewer. He has gnawed off the fuzzy fabric on the other toys I had for him so I don't hold much hope for the frisbee. I guess well see.

Obviously, I didn't do much today. I did go to the bank and I filled the car with gas. Otherwise it was a totally do nothing day. I am completely immersed in vacation.

But, to be frank, I had a moment of anxiety as well when I saw a back to school ad of some sort on TV. For the first time, the realization that I was not going back hit me. As I had suspected, as the first day of school draws near, I am beginning to feel it more and more. I am hoping the uneasiness will quickly turn to relief, however, and I suspect it will. I will adjust, as I always do.

While I was driving today, I heard some discussion on the car radio about some of the changes government officials are proposing for the schools in our state. Already, classroom teachers are being faced with more and more paperwork. My eye doctor was telling me his daughter has just started teaching and is already frustrated with the recordkeeping and paperwork some of the new laws are creating. There has been a lot of talk about making teachers accountable for student test scores on the NJ graduation test, and today they were talking about modifying tenure laws. (Right now, a teacher is essentially protected on the job after three years) While I am not entirely against some of these ways of making sure teachers do a good job of teaching, it also opens the doors to all kinds of problems including political decisions coming into play instead of sound educational decisions.

Suffice it to say, I am beginning to think I retired at the right time. I was still able to teach with a certain amount of freedom and enthusiasm. I left on a high note and did not have to compromise my standards in order to "please the system." I can hold my head high, knowing I had always been able to do my best. I'm not sure how I would have coped with some of the changes that seem to be coming.

So, once again, the Horses of Follywoods had the day off.

But I did get to admire Chance. He was out under the apple tree eating the fallen apples, and, even in the cloudy mist, I could see just what a nice horse he is. somehow, I have to spend some time getting some properly flattering photos of all the Boys. It's just so hard to get them to pose just right. Years ago, when we still used film, my friend Shelley took a whole roll or more of shots of Toby and PJ for me. Out of the lot, only three or four really came out well. At least with the digital camera of today, you can shoot, delete and shoot again, never feeling you have wasted a picture in an attempt to get that "perfect portrait."

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Knee Report

Why I Limp

Reading Shannon's blog (http:// today, I noted the comment that " I don't know a single dressage rider who doesn't have a bad back, knee, hip or neck."

I do have neck problems, an occasional back issue, and obviously knee problems. But, you know what? None of them were actually caused by riding. While I have pulled a back muscle now and then from the saddle, my chiropractor has often said that my back is in really good shape, usually so for a rider.

The neck stems from, I suspect, a fall I had as a child when I cracked my head on a radiator after I jumped on my parents' bed. I had headaches then and it wasn't until I discovered chiropractic that I have found a way to deal with them. Then, about 15 years ago, my car was hit by a drunk driver and I ended up with a whiplash injury. As far as I know, riding has never actually aggravated my neck. In fact, when I ride, it usually is better.

The knees...well some are a bit horse related. The right knee injury came in high school when I tried to go over the high jump and landed badly on the mats right where they overlapped. That was when I tore the ACL. The doctor just said it was a sprain, but years after, when I went to a proper orthopedic doctor, I discovered the real problem. Perhaps 10 or so years ago, I wrecked the left knee pushing a wheelbarrow across my yard with one too many bags of fertilzer in it for the paddocks. The barrow tipped, I tried to stop it and there went the ACL in my left knee.

Then I made the decision to have arthroscopic surgery. I did not have the ACL reconstructed in either knee mostly because I'd been living with the missing ACL in the right knee for so long, that I figured I could cope with the left knee as well. It was kind of OK for a while, but over time, the joints are started to protest more and more. But I have been lucky enough to find Dr. Magaziner, prolotherapy to tighten the remaining ligaments, and stem cell therapy to help restore some of the damaged cartilege. So, for now, although I am not pain free, I can ride and do most of the chores around the barn. (Well, the housecleaning could use some help....but even if I were 100% sound, that would still be true. *G*)

My knees often hurt when I ride, but, it's true. Pain is a part of least so some degree. Being a successful rider does make demands on the human anatomy. It's one of the reasons I love my Ansur treeless saddles so. Without a hard tree between me and my horses, there is a softness and unity between our movements I simply cannot feel in a treeless. If you have ever ridden bareback, you will realize how much you can really move with your horse. The Ansur gives you that feel with the security of a saddle.

I think too, the Ansur has helped keep my back in good shape by getting rid of most of the concussion involved in the sitting trot in particular.

As one thunderstorm after another threatens to roll across my township, I am simply sitting and thinking about riding. The one blessing is that when I went out to feed the Boys, it did feel cooler. I don't know if the storms have broken the back of the heat wave, but right now it feels pretty promising.

Of course, the arena is soggy again and my lawn....well, it needs a mowing badly.

Never a dull day here at Follywoods. There is always a nice "to do" list on hand.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Follywoods Weather Report

Weather Stinks

You know what they say, "It's not the heat, it's the humidity." When you go outside, it's almost hard to breathe, the air is so thick. Even the water at the pool is warm, although it did feel good.

Woke up with a neck issue as a consequence of the back thing from yesterday, so I was back at the chiropractor. It took the bulk of the day to get over it all completely, but I wouldn't have done much anyhow considering the weather.

I was thinking today that Tucker is the slowest horse I have ever trained. He is now nine years old and still not working at third level. Of course, the bugaboo is the flying change at that level, but even so, we have just not made the kind of progress I am used to.

So why? Much of it is my lack of determined enthusiasm, which is just fine. I have been riding and training horses for well over 45 years, so I am entitled to slow down if I want to. And my body doesn't quite have the youthful stamina it used to have, most particularly in my knees.

But I do keep thinking if Tucker were a more cooperative fellow we would be much further along. He has a difficult temperament, as most of you who have read my blog know. Patrice Edwards even suggested he was a bit "riggy" in his attitude. I presume he is a full gelding, mostly because of his herd behavior, but then again, Toby is such an alpha horse, one might never know for sure how Tuck would be as a herd boss.

All that aside, his physical issues make him a difficult train. For one, he is short backed. Good in the sense that collection will not be hard for him, but difficult in that he is not as laterally nor horizontally supple as I would like. Going forward with a soft back is not exactly and easy, natural concept for him. Then, we have had other physical issues. The ulcers probably interfered with all his early training, including his first under saddle work and every show/lesson we attended. Then, at some point, he injured his stifle and that set us back. The last issue was a sore hock and I am not 100% sure he feels OK on it now.

Tucker was born with a serious club foot on the left front. When I adopted him, I found out his former owner had spent the time, money, and effort to give him the ligament surgery to correct it. He looks good now, but the foot conformation and his short back make him a chronic shoe puller. So keeping him shod and in work has always put a crimp in my plans. When he was barefoot as a three year old, he had at least two hoof abscesses, one of which essentially laid him up for months. (A bit like Riley, but luckily without the need for foot surgery...although we at first thought he did have a bruised coffin bone.)

I would say, using my usual training scale, Tucker is about two years behind my other horses at his age. Then again, so is Chance.

But, it's all OK with me. I did not show last season and never missed it at all. I have not shown this season and have not missed it at all. Right now, my training is for me and my own satisfaction. I don't think my horses care. *G*

My first good trainer once commented to that effect when I told her it was too bad my Russell R. didn't have a better rider as he had so much talent as a jumper I simply wasn't using. She said, "Do you really think he cares?" Horses don't have least not like ours.

As long as my Boys are happy, so am I. Which means...when it's too hot, I'm not riding!!

Monday, August 10, 2009


Inching Up Towards 100F

Miserable heat here. Warm even in the morning and just worse as the day goes on.

I had some kind of back spasm this morning that had me screaming. Fortunately, some ice and a propped up leg eased it. I must have done something weird. The chiropractor could not find anything extra peculiar when I went in for an adjustment. But he did some extra massage and stretching on me just to be sure.

The Boys are hanging out in the barn with the fans going, but several times I did see one or the other out in the shade under the trees. So I guess they are making the best of it.

The turkeys are hanging out in the back yard. One of them is making a pretty determined effort on the ear of field corn I put out for the squirrels. I do know they look for me now in the morning when I fill the bird feeder. The seed has a lot of cracked corn and they seem to enjoy that.

Thank goodness I have air conditioning in the house. Days like this, it is the only thing keeping me sane. And, it makes me think of that classroom I do not have to go back to in a couple weeks. School starts up again on September 1. I don't think I am going to miss at least the heat of it.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Wet At Both Ends

Again With the Rain?

It was raining this morning when I got up and went out to feed. It did stop around 9 or 10, but by then I had to go get horse feed.

The reason I needed to get the feed in the morning was because I just "had" to go to Rick's Saddle Shop Tent Sale before 2 PM because he was having a drawing for a John Deere riding mower/tractor and I didn't want to miss my chance at that. (Even though I already have a John Deere)

So, I went to Agway for the feed. The sun came out and it was hot, humid, and downright uncomfortable. Got home, fed the turkeys and headed out to Rick's which is about 40 minutes away. (Checked it 24.4 miles on back roads) This is Rick's Cream Ridge store. I usually go to his Englishtown store which is much closer, but the Cream Ridge store is newer, bigger and a much better location for the tent sale.

I found just what I wanted there--bell boots for Tucker at half price. I picked up 6 pairs because he wrecks them every month or so and I haven't quite figured out any way to repair them once they are stripped of the velcro fasteners. When they are on sale, it's just as easy to replace them. I also found a few Christmas presents for friends and relatives, some nice horse theme items for the bathroom (toothbrush holder, soap dish, liquid soap dispenser) and kitchen (canister set, spoon holder), a mud brush, and a few other little things. I had a nice lot of tickets in the drawing, but once it has been for at least 10 years, I didn't win. Ah well, the bell boots were worth the trip.

On the way home, still clocking my mileage, I found out that I am about 18 miles from the New Jersey Horse Park, about 14 miles from the NJ Equine Clinic (With excellent vets/surgeons) and about 6 miles from the Stop and Shop supermarket in that direction. There is another Stop and Shop closer to me going the other way.

I drove the about 4 miles to the swimming pool after I fed the Boys and did my laps for some good exercise. But then, as I left the pool, it started raining again.

So it looks as if in between the rain and the heat, the Boys will probably have the day off again. Severe thunderstorms are in the forecast for the next few hours as well, so I'll have to keep an eye on that too.

I guess it turned out to be a shopping Sunday this time.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Fair Weather

On A Sunny Summer Day

I got up a bit later than I'd intended but the Boys were still out in the pasture and really didn't seem to mind being fed late. As a matter of fact I managed to clean the stalls, and clean and refill the water tub before they wandered in for breakfast.

I came back into the house, ate my own breakfast and finally headed out to the County Fair, this time to see the exhibits. It is an annual tradition for me, usually accompanied by the tired kind of awareness that summer is ending and school will reopen soon. No such feelings this year, so I kind of enjoyed the experience with a new kind of pleasure.

First, the weather was almost perfect. Warmish to hot, but low humidity and an intermittent breeze--the kind of day you don't mind walking around outside.

So, what's at our fair? Well, for a start, plenty of food for sale. Sausage sandwiches, clams, shrimp, pizza, fried this and fried that, fresh made lemonade, corn on the cob, oriental kabobs, and, what I had, gyros. There is also a food tent that serves a full meal each day too. Ice cream, popcorn, peanuts, and all kinds of snacks lured from all sides.

The exhibits? Well there are two commercial sections with banks, vendors, home improvement booths, charities, public service groups, medical groups, and plenty of tee shirts. There is a big arts and crafts building with quilts, clothes, paintings, photographs, woodwork projects, canned goods, baked goods, flowers, and needlework. A fruits and vegetable tent shows off tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, squash, apples, pears, corn...the list goes on, all grown by local gardeners who compete for ribbons and a small cash prize.

The 4 -H exhibits include the horses, rabbits, chickens, ducks, reptiles, guniea pigs, hamsters, sheep, goats, pigs, two donkeys, and a cow and her calf. There used to be a lot more large animals, but our area has lost a lot of the larger farms and now the 4-H kids tend to raise the smaller critters instead.

The highlight for me was in the crafts building where a former guidance counselor from our school was back with another "Best In Show" exhibit. This guy molds figures from self hardening clay to make dioramas of memorable scenes. In the past he displayed a full Civil War battle and Noah's Ark with all the animals. This year, his model was of a scene from the muscial "Showboat." It showed the riverboat arriving at the dock. The boat itself was made of wood but all the figures, riverbank, barrels, buildings, etc. were all modeled out of the clay. It was wonderful!! I haven't seen an exhibit from him in the last two years, so this was a real treat.

Came home and decided it was too hot to ride at that point. I fed the Boys, thought about going for a swim, but ended up on a nice long phone conversation with my friend Shelley.

I headed out after dark to ride at last. I rode Tucker first. I had three goals in mind. The first was, as always, to simply keep him forward, no matter what. The second was to get him working more reliably off the right outside rein when I was going left. The third was to work a little on canter lead changes through just a few trot or walk strides.

Good plan, and most of it worked. A young rider who is currently showing jumpers has offered to work on Tuck's flying changes for me, so I need to get him a bit fitter and figure out if something is bothering him in his hind end. I'm pretty sure it's mostly a strength issue, but on the left lead, he seems to be having a little trouble carrying himself with good energy. This is a bit strange because in the past this has been more true of the right lead.

This loss of impulsion also shows up when I try to do a walk piroutte to the left, so it could also be just his tendancy to fall out on that right shoulder, which I was correcting with the work off the right outside rein. But, usually a horse carries himself in a way that is most comfortable/easy for him, so somehow the canter issue and the pirouette are connected. That made me decide to finish the ride with some walk pirouette work, concentrating on not letting Tucker "stall" at the walk as I tried to bring his shoulder around.

So here was the corrective exercise. Trot down the long side, and then start the pirouette in the trot, using the outside rein to both turn and half halt to a forward walk using the trot impulsion to keep the walk moving behind. It worked a treat on the right rein, but I had several stalls on the left until I really rode with determination, thinking "trot" even though I really wanted the walk. Mind over matter finally managed to get two good efforts, so I stopped and took him in.

I lunged Chance, primarily just to keep working on legging him up. I wasn't too keen on riding him in the lights tonight and frankly, the work on Tucker had been enough for me. Again, he was a good boy, very responsive to my verbal commands. He canters willingly, and comes back to the trot with just a chirp.

Carrots all around and late night snack finished off the evening at the barn. Toby did not want to do anything, but he was certainly pleased to get a carrot anyhow. It's fine with me. He's earned a life of leisure if that's what he wants.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Fair Clinic

Teaching the Basics

I taught a dressage clinic at the fairgrounds this morning. I had about ten riders....I lost count, actually, once the clinic started.

I was quite pleased with most of the horses, as they were a nice group and much better than horses I've seen in the past. One big Quarterhorse would have made a nice dressage mount in many a recognized show. There was an attractive gray Arab, several pintos, and a nice collection of solid Quarterhorse types all of which had really good attitudes.

I started the clinic by explaining that dressage simply meant "training," and that horses in any discipline aoucl benefit from basic dressage training since the goal was to develop their athletic potential and their obedience.

We then went on to discovering the rhythm of the gaits, starting with the walk. I had riders repeatedly count strides out loud so they would begin to recognize when their horses were slowing down, speeding up, or losing forward impulsion. We repeated the counting at the trot.

I then talked about the importance of the outside rein and began the basics of "inside leg to outside hand." I have found the best way to teach this is to set up a series of markers--in this case cones--set in a 20 meter square, and then having riders ride a circle around them, keeping the same distance away from each cone all the way around the arena. This accomplishes two basic things. By focusing on the cones's position instead of what the horse or they are doing with their bodies, riders begin to apply the aids they need to get the horse in the right place at the right time. Instinct and necessity--along with a bit of reminder to use the outside rein--puts their aids correctly in place to accomplish a task. Secondly, a horse properly bent on a circle begins to respond to the outside rein aid and, on its own starts to soften to the rein and use its back.

Sure enough, nearly every horse and rider combination improved both in way of going and carriage through this exercise. The hardest part was getting the riders to really understand how to work their horses into contact on the outside rein, but in nearly every case, each horse gave at least a half circle of nice starts to going "on the bit," and a few made even more remarkable progress. The big Quarterhorse looked super!!

We then worked the circle at the canter. I varied the lesson then, depending on what each rider needed. In some cases it was simply establishing correct canter rhythm and pace. In others it was focusing on getting them to sit up instead of going into a foward (jumping) position when theirh horses rushed a little. Once they sat up, the canters balanced up and again, riding off the outside rein, they were able to make some nice circles.

I finished having the last rider practice riding a straight line up the arena by passing between pairs of cones I set up to make a "lane."

All in all the clinic took about 2 1/2 hours. Afterwards, a couple of parents spoke to me about perhaps arranging some lessons at a later date. Their daughters (the clinic was all girls) had enjoyed the work so much they wanted to learn some more. Well see what we can work out.

My knees are really sore now after standing up for so long. It is a perfectly beautiful day outside with moderately hot temperatures, low humidity, and a nice breeze. Hopefully after I rest for a while I will be able to ride my Boys. If so, I will put into practice everything I tried to teach today and see how it works. *G*

Thursday, August 06, 2009

What Lovely Boys

It Started Off Rainy

It was showering this morning....or spitting....nothing big, but I think it broke the back of the humidity for at least the time being. I got kind of distracted after doing the morning barn chores and didn't get out to work the Boys until the afternoon. By then the sun was out and it was warm but not unbearably hot.

I had already decided to long line both Tucker and Chance.

Since Chance was in the barn, I worked him first. Let me say, he was absolutely super on the lines. The only little problem was that he kept wanting to break into canter instead of trot, but he was easy to fix and once he settled in he took a nice soft contact and just worked beautifully. His contact on the lines was soft and round without overflexing, he came well from his hind end, and he was super relaxed. He never made a single effort to fight the contact and was completely obedient to my voice commands. His gaits are developing as he learns to use his back and I am happy as anything to see his progress.

I put the full bug armor on Tucker because when I was lining Chance, one of those B52 bomber flies came at him--he didn't flinch--and such an attack would have set Tucker into a frenzy. I actually think Tucker has decided he is entitled to the full fly protection, so I will make sure I will not take him out to work without it as long as the flies are around.

Tuck was a little lazy to start off, but once he warmed up, he began to work nicely forward into the bridle. I had to be careful not to let him overflex as he will curl up to avoid the rein contact, but overall, he really pushed through from the hind end and did a really good session.

I love watching my Boys go, especially when they go well. I just hope I can get the same kind of work from them when I ride. It's always so much easier from the ground.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Nothing to Report

Not a Senior Moment

I didn't forget to post (unlike Caroline...*G*). I just didnt' have much to say horsewise.

I fell asleep on the couch on Monday night, and, of course, threw my neck out. I woke up on the brink of a headache, so as soon as they were open I called the chiroprator for an appointment. Any plans of working a horse in the morning fell by the wayside.

Couldn't get adjusted until noon time and on the way home I stopped at the market for some milk and incidentals. Came home to alternately ice and heat my still sore neck muscles. Then, after doing a few minimal chores, I went for a swim, figuring that if it ever cooled off after dark, I would long line Tucker and Chance.

No go. Not only did it never cool off, but I fell asleep in bed until late feed time....after midnight. This was because once my neck was sore the night before, I lost the bulk of the night's sleep.

This morning is, to say the least...sultry. It was so humid there was even a fog/mist rising over the woods. 7:30/8:00 AM and miserable already. Thunderstorms are predicted for early afternoon through to the evening, so I plan on going for an early swim. Unless it stops raining I guess the horses will have another day off.

They won't mind too much. They are hanging out in their stalls with the fans blowing on them, guzzling down the new hay. It is a lovely, sweet smelling mix of grass and clover and they absolutely love it. I hope all the bales are the same, but I wasn't there when they unloaded it, so I can't see what's in the back. So far all the bales I can see are the same delicious stuff.

As I was feeding this morning, I realized there are almost no barn flies at all. Yes, I've complained about the deer flies and horse flies coming into the arena when I ride, but those are primarily breeding in nature, not my barn area. The big pest around a barn are the flies that breed in the horse manure and wet areas. Well, I seem to have a good handle on them this season, despite the rain and several areas of "never dry" ground.

How have I been successful so far? I have used two specific fly management programs. The first is Simplifly, a feed through fly control. I started pretty early in the mid-Spring. Simplifly contains an IGR (insect growth control) that goes into the horses' manure and kills the fly larvae before they can actually develop. This is the second or third time I've used such a product and I must admit it helps quite a bit.

But the second method is even cooler. I'm sure many of you know of this, but I also use fly predators. Each month, I am sent a shipment of these little brown pupa cases with teeny tiny wasps ready to hatch after a day or so in their plastic bag at my house. Once I see the little critters--hardly bigger than a dot on the computer screen--bustling about in their plastic bag, I take them out to the barn and spread them around in areas where there are either wet spots or manure. I put some by the water trough, some along the edges of the manure pile, some along the side of the barn where there is mud, and any place else that looks damp. I also hang the bag in the barn aisle with a few little ones left inside it.

The little guys/gals go out into the world....within a 300'radius....and prey on any fly larvae in the area. Now, I did worry about using the Simplifly if I was also using the predators, but the fly predator company assured me is was no problem. The little wasps would not be harmed because they would not bother with the treated manure and not be bothered by the IGR anyhow. (Guess they are already grown up! *G*) This is the second year I have used both. Last year was pretty good, but so far this year it has been an exceptional success. I started earlier, of course, but with all the rain, I would have expected far more problems as the flies love the wet.

I'll keep my fingers crossed, but so far, so good.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Mr. Attitude

On A Dry Morning At Last

I rode this morning around 7 AM or so. I took Tucker out with only his fly mask on and that lasted all of a minute as he started fussing about some fly somewhere on him. So I went back in the barn and dressed him in the bug armor. That seemed to please him because he went right in to work.

Taking a cue from Mark Rashid (thanks, Kate) I decided to ride the horse I wanted instead of the horse I expected. I also had my spurs on, so Tucker noticed my cues much more quickly. He's one of those horses who just needs the little extra persuasion to respond sometimes. You don't need to use the spurs at all, but having them on makes him think a little more positively.

I was a pretty good school as he only thought of stopping about twice and I didn't need to do much to get him going again. Most of the time it was a combination of my giving too much of a half halt into the walk from the canter, and a bit of his falling on the forehand in the downward. No biggie since we haven't practiced the simple transitions for a while. More interesting was his desire to jog instead of walk on some walk/trot/walk transitions. This I ignored because he stayed forward into the contact, and kept himself ready to move right off again. I do not want to punish or correct him in any way for a forward response during the rides.

He was, though "sticky' on his left lead canter, prefering to go a bit more up and down than forward and when I tried some ten meter circles on that lead, he stalled. As well on the left lead, he was dropping out on his right shoulder so that, eventually, I began doing some "square corners" turning him well off the right rein to bring his shoulder around first. He wasn't too keen on that, so I'm not sure if his hind end is a little weak or a little sore. He is quite willing to so most everything else and is not protesting the canter departs, so I am suspecting is it just a weakness that needs some time to strengthen up.

Of course it didn't help that I was sitting too much on my right seat bone as well, so we both need to do some corrective work. He did give me some typical Tucker attitude a few times including one strange almost bucky canter depart on the right lead with his front end coming up in the air. I'm not sure what that was all about, but he is a very strange horse to ride. Then again, I was trying to ride him as if he was "normal" and will continue to do so, so I might just need to expect some unusual repsonses.

I decided to ride Chance and, I must say, I was pleasantly surprised at the improvement. I have long lined him a few times instead of riding and if that was the source of the difference, I will definitely have to keep it up. He was much softer to the rein on the right especially. His trot was nicely forward and he was accepting some contact with a "give" in his jaw and poll. I didn't ask for stretch down unless he offered, but he was giving me a little frame and showed some good balance.

Both canter leads were good although the left is still a big better. It is easier to keep him forward on the left without his rushing. On the right lead, if I push him forward so he doesn't break, sometimes he tends to run a little. But, it is so much better, I won't complain.

Chance was kind of cute because when I put the bug armor on him and mounted up in the arena, he immediately headed for the gate out into the woods. I hadn't sprayed him with any Mosquito Halt, so I didn't dare risk a hack out there. That seems to be the only "flavor" of big spray that keeps both the mosquitoes and dreadful deer flies at bay. Maybe I'll try a ride out there with him later in the week, as I know how much he loves it.

Toby made it clear he had no interest in doing anything, which was fine because by then I was sweaty and tired and my knees ached. He got a nice fat carrot anyhow, so I don't think he felt left out of the loop.

Nice bit of work then. Not perfect, by any means, but I will keep it up and see just how far I can get convincing Tucker he is as normal as Chance. *LOL*

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Enough Already!!

Tucker takes a nice roll in the pasture after lungeing.

How Much Rain Can We Take? But I Did Lunge

Thank goodness my house is on high ground. So is the barn. I still get localized mud around the paddocks which I plan to address, but since the barn is on a little hill, if I can get the drainage right, I should be able to fix the worst of it.

That is if it ever dries out enough so I can fix the worst of it. Right now, I'm not even sure the tractor could handle it without getting stuck or at the least skidding all over the place.

Woke up to thunder in the morning around 7 AM. I brought the Boys in from the pasture for feed as soon as possible and closed off the field. It wasn't long after that the skies opened up and it started to rain. And rain....and rain.

Then somewhere around noon, more thunder started rumbling. I had the TV on and a tornado warning scrolled across the screen for the next county over--just a few miles from here. It wouldn't have surprised me as the thunder was really loud. At one point there was a huge crash across the road, so I suspect one of the trees might have been hit.

After that it poured for a while, then settled down to a lighter, but steady rain until just about ten minutes ago. Now the sun is peeping out. Looks like we might get a bit of a break before the rain rolls back in after dark. The good thing is that the forecast says today is the last day of serious rain for at least a few days. Since the local County Fair starts tomorrow, that's a good thing. It's always a shame when that gets rained out. There are still thunderstorms in the forecast for Wednesday, but it says, "scattered," so we might luck out.

Bugs and slop probably await in the arena. I haven't even looked today. When I go out to feed a few minutes I'll check things out. I'm not too hopeful. And with the flies and excess rain, even a hack is not in the cards.

We'll see....or sea....

I went out around 6 PM. It had cooled off somewhat. Amazingly enough, the footing in my arena is holding very well except for the puddles which include Lake Follywood, major and minor at the east end.

I have filled in parts of this puddle but as you can see, I need to do a lot more work. Since it's been so wet, the grass is even growing where I haven't been riding.

Below is the little jump I lunged Tucker over today for some variety. It's a bit over two feet, but not by much. You can see the wet spots in the arena but you might also see that the footing was still quite good. Look at all the bushes that have grown up around the arena. It is a jungle wannabe. I trim and they grow right back.

The Boys in the pasture, enjoying the interlude between rainstorms. You can see the clouds getting ready to build up again.

And, oh yes, look who was out in the pasture with the Boys. I am calling her Tosca. She is the smallest of the little flock that visits and seems to hang out here by herself. She runs from me, but is a bit braver than the others.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Mr. Attitude

An Evening Ride

I went out at about 9 PM to ride. It was cooler, but certainly not much drier as far as the humidity goes. But there were no flies and the mosquitoes did seem to leave us alone--perhaps more intrigued by the arena lights.

I rode Tucker with forward in mind. He started out with a perfectly lovely trot and kept that up each time I asked for trotting. Getting the canter on a longish rein with minimal contact did pose a bit of an issue as he, at first, just tried to trot faster, ignoring my canter aid. I slowed him back down and made sure my body and my aids were saying canter, and got a rather sluggish depart. It took a few more times before the canter departs got more prompt, but they did improve, so I just took it as a lack of practice. Again, please note, this was canter departs without any kind of setup, just a leg/seat aid. I then did a series of trot canter transistions on each rein to further sharpen him up.

I decided to work on the bit in the second/third level frame for just a few times around the arena because Tuck has not been really ridden in well over a week again. But as soon as I collected the rein--shutdown. A little coaxing on my part only made him strike out with his front foot. So, I hopped off, lunged him around me a few times, and climbed back on at the mounting block. That did the trick because he moved right off in the frame and gave me some decent effort on both reins and trot and canter for several times around the arena. Problem solved for another ride.

I just lunged Chance after that as I was sweaty and hot despite the cool temps. I didn't bother rigging up the long lines, so it was just an exercise session for him rather than actual training. I must say as far as ground work goes, Chance has really improved. When I first got him, it was all I could do to get him to go around me on a circle on both reins. He'd spin around instead of going right and then he'd run off on the left rein. He'd also, once he was on the right rein, nearly pull me over yanking to the outside on one side of the circle. Now, it's a piece of cake to get him to walk, trot and canter on command on a nice circle on each rein.

So, a bit of work done on a muggy night. It was a little disorienting out there under the lights. These are replacements from the original ones that kept blowing out and they throw a very white light. It is not bright around the whole arena, but certainly enough light to ride by. Still it was a little strange at first--not quite sure why except that I haven't done it in a long while. I definitely prefer the daylight, but with the weather and the flies I might just resort to nighttime riding for the duration.

Hey, at least I don't have to get up for work in the morning! *G*

Looking Back

Reading My Old Posts

Kind of interesting to see how little progress I have actually made with getting Tucker to be an honest worker. So many of the old "attitude" problems from the beginnings of my blog are still there. On the up side, he has progressed in most of his skills, but I still have to ride him with "kid gloves" instead of like a "normal horse."

What is a normal horse? Well, you put your leg on, the horse goes. Toby is kind of a normal horse that way and so is Chance. Neither is perfect, but they do go. Tucker goes and he doesn't go and when he's done "going" he stops. I've been putting up with it for a long time. It looks as if I will have to continue putting up with in unless I want to battle it out once and for all.

I am enough of a coward at this point in my life to choose not to battle. Tuck has a wicked buck, and even though he usually doesn't offer more than one, one is enough to unseat me in a most uncomfortable way. I plan on continuing the "dismount, correct, and remount" technique as long as I make some progress, but to do that, I have to ride!! Once more the weather takes its toll.
Well into the upper 90's again today. This morning, although it was cool, I was again soaked in sweat after I finished the stalls and morning feed. I think the humidity dropped during the day, however, as when I went to buy alfalfa cubes, it did feel drier.

Speaking of...on the way to the feed store, I kept seeing runners with numbers on their backs along the roads. There were cars following with numbers as well and when I did get to the feed store, one of the cars was parked there. I walked over and asked about the "River to the Sea Relay." The guy told me it was a relay run from Milford, NJ to Manasquan, which is at the shore. The whole course was 92 miles. Teams of seven runners each took legs of 2.5-9 miles at a time--which explains why some of the runners I saw were not "marathon lean." They were in Englishtown at around 4 PM which means they had about another 25 miles or so to run. It's really kind of a cool race from what I could see. I guess it would take a lot of strategy to decide who was best to run each leg. And today, the hot weather had to come into play. The race is run every year on the first Saturday in August. Here is a link to the NY Times article about the race which was inspired by the Olympic Torch relay run back in 1996.
What a cool idea! From the Delaware River to the Atlantic Ocean, the trip across my state is really a lovely journey. I wouldn't want to run it myself--I can't run anyhow with my knees--but what an adventure!