Sunday, October 31, 2010

Short and Sweet

Two Rides Right To The Point

After cleaning the stalls, the arena, and the run in shed, I was a bit knee tired, but I still saddled up to ride.

The plan was to focus on one basic issue with each horse and be done with it as soon as I accomplished something positive.

Chance was slightly more complex. My main goal with him was developing a depart into each gait with his head down, giving to the bit.  It's not that difficult for me to "make" it happen, but I was intent on getting it to happen without a lot of effort on my part, so that meant sorting out why it was an issue.

Chance tends to push me onto my right seatbone.  Instead of stepping through to the right rein with his inside left hind, he falls in a little on both his left shoulder and haunches and if I do allow my seat to fall to the right, that pushes him to the left even more.  So the first correction had to come from me--positioning my seat in the center, stretching down with my left leg and thigh to keep my seat very very slightly left so I could use my full leg to encourage him to bend left around it.  I also used the whip a little at his left shoulder to remind him not to drop it to the inside.  If he still fell in on that side, a rein correction--kind of lifting him over to the right--was a last resort, but that's the "make" it happen instead of getting it to happen.

Now, it was relatively easy to get him "shaped" correctly in each gait, but the problem always was exaggerated on a transition, particularly the downward transition from canter to trot.  (The upward transitions are a lot easier to fix.)  So, in the end the goal was to get one good downward transition from left lead canter to trot where he did not fall in, and he did not raise his head as he lost his balance.  It took about five tries, but he got it, so we stopped.

Tucker's ride goal started out to be lateral work, developing both the leg yield and half pass.  Well that was a cinch, as he did good work in both directions and the walk and then repeated the same exercises at the trot.  Since that took no time at all, I moved on to some trot/hesitate/trot/walk/trot etc. transitions.  Once again, all went nicely and to my surprise, at least once, he was on the verge of offering a few steps of piaffe/passage.

Knowing that he wasn't fit enough for too much of that kind of collected work, I moved into doing some canter departs from the collected moments of trot. At first, it seemed as if it was going to get ugly as he started to fuss, but I'm pretty sure he was more confused than anything, so I used my "Hisssssss" command for canter and off we went. From then on the canter departs were really nice.   Again, he is not fit enough to do that for too long either so, I moved on to just a few trot/halt transitions.  On the third one, I asked for a few steps of reinback--lovely again--and ended with a square halt at X.

Each ride was perhaps only twenty minutes at most--perhaps less--but I was more than satisfied. I'll give each Boy a day to think about his lessons by either lungeing or trail riding for a day--weekends mean mini-bikes and ATV's though--and see what the next schooling session brings.

It will be interesting to see if the lessons were learned.

By the way, the Halloween stories went really well.

Happy Halloween to All!! 

Saturday, October 30, 2010


A Little of This and a Little Of That

Not quite sure where Thursday went, but it ended up with a candidate event in the evening.  I met a lot of people, shook a lot of hands, and talked a lot about my platform.  It is certainly an interesting experience.

Today, I spent at least part of the morning running some errands and writing.  Writing what, you ask??

A story with sound effects for children.

Why, you ask?

Well, because I had volunteered to dress up in my witch's costume and go to the local public library to run an afternoon Halloween party for children. It was a fun time, and the kids enjoyed several activities, along with this one.

The story may sound familiar to my regular readers. *G*

Here is the story.  The sound effects are: wind--making a whooshing sound, crack--popping plastic wrap bubbles, thump--thumping the floor, bark--imitating a dog,  clip-clop--plastic cups tapped on the table, leaves--rustling a plastic bag, creak--running a plastic hair comb on the edge of something, owl--hooting through a cardboard tube.  The children added and sounds as I read the story aloud.

Toby', Tucker and Chance Go On an Adventure 

One dark night, the wind  was blowing hard (wind).  Toby, Tucker, and Chance were out eating the nice green grass.  Toby walked over to the fence and leaned on it, trying to reach a green leaf on the other side.  Suddenly, “crack!”   the fence rail broke into two pieces. 

“Uh oh!” Toby said, “That’s not good. “

But Chance said, “Oh, boy! That’s good!”  And he came over, and put his teeth on the second fence rail and pulled and pulled.  Suddenly that rail fell with a “thump”  and the fence was down.

Tucker looked and said, “Let’s go on an adventure!”  So he stepped over the last rail and out he went.  Toby and Chance followed him.

Off they went, “clip, clop, clip clop, clip, clop.”

They walked for a while until they came to a nice big house in the forest.  “Let’s visit,” said Toby, so they went into the driveway,  “clip, clop, clip clop, clip clop.”

Suddenly a dog barked. (bark)  and a light came on!

“Let’s get out of here!” Tucker said.  “Go that way into the woods!” 

So off the three horses went through the “dry leaves, “ and into the dark, dark woods.

It was very dark.  The wind was blowing, making a whoosh sound in the leaves. (wind and leaves)  Toby stopped to listen.  “It is scary in the woods, “ he said.   He shivered when he heard the tree branches creaking (Creak)  off to the left.  Then he heard the tree branches creaking  off to the right.  Then he heard a “crack” as a tree branch broke and fell with a “Thump!”

“Let’s run,”  said Chance. And off they ran through the leaves, “Clippity, clop!” 

Soon they came to an even darker part of the woods.  This time, there were too many trees for the wind to blow.   But it was not quiet there either.  An owl spoke up first with a “who, who.” 

“It’s Toby, Tucker, and Chance,”  Toby answered.  “We are lost in the woods!” 

But all the owl said was “Who, who!”   again.

“Toby, Tucker, and Chance,”  Toby said again, but this time the owl didn’t say anything for he had flown away.

Then the leaves rustled in front of the three horses.  (Leaves.) 

Out popped a furry face wearing a black mask!  It was Sven Bobby, the famous raccoon of another story!

Tucker jumped, but Chance stood still and said, “Hello, we are lost in the woods. Can you help us find our way home?”

“I do not know home,” said Sven, “but I do know where the cornfield is.  I was going there for supper.  Follow me and you will be out of the dark, dark woods.

So Toby, Tucker, and Chance followed Sven Bobby, through the creaking trees, (creak), the breaking branches, the rustling leaves, the wind, and the hooting owls out into the cornfield.

Suddenly their hoofs made a clip, clop sound on the hard dirt road.

“I know where we are!”  said Tucker.  “This is the road to the pumpkin patch.  Let us go to see.  There is nice green grass there to eat and someone will find us because people are always there picking pumpkins. 

So off they went to the pumpkin patch, “clip, clop, clip clop, clip clop.”

And sure enough very soon after they got there, the farmer found them and took them home safe and sound.

And Toby, Tucker and Chance were very happy to be home in the nice dry barn, because that very day, a great big storm came with the “wind,”  and then the little rain, and then the big rain, and thunder. 

But the three horses were safe and happy, eating hay and talking to each other about what an exciting adventure they had had in the big dark woods. 

And in the deep, dark woods, the owl hooted, the trees cracked, the leaves rustled, and the wind blew all at the same time.  Making it a very noisy place to be.

 The End

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Rainy Day Off and On

Apparently,  The Drought is Over

It rained most of the day, off and on.  I don't mind too much because after the summer drought, we really need to water. The grass is actually growing again which means I will have to mow the lawn soon.

Meanwhile, the Boys spent the day in and out.  They'd wander on out to the pasture to nibble on the sparse grass, then it would start to rain and in they'd come to stand under the barn roof.

I spent the day running errands and then doing a bit of a tour of parts of the Township with my running mate.  We needed to investigate one of the sites under discussion at tomorrow night's "Meet the Candidates" affair.  But then we got kind of carried away and checked out a few more places that have come under discussion during the campaign.

No problem as it was raining most of the time we were out.

But we did see a rainbow. I had no camera with me, but suffice it to say it was pretty.  *G*

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Lots of Lines

Longlining Today

I decided to long line Chance and Tucker today, keeping it a short session for both of them for two reasons:

First, it was a rather warm day and both of them are sporting their winter coats.
Second, since neither one has worked much in a frame/on contact/on the bit much in the last few months, it was going to be hard work for their muscles.

Each work session was no more then twenty minutes.

Chance was rather a bad boy about it with several instances of protest.  He was fine going around with no contact, but once I picked up the rein, he wasn't too sure about it.  Still, on the left rein he settled in pretty quickly and gave me some nice forward work, well into the bridle.  The right rein was another matter.  He was not so keen about that. He tried to bolt, tried to rear and tried to spin around to go the other way.  Fortunately, I've been long lining long enough to pretty much catch the evasions before they get too out of hand to send him back out on the circle in the direction I wanted.  Eventually, he gave me some good work, so I stopped, praised him mightily and decided we'd need to work this a bit more often just to get the concept back into his head.

Tucker was quite the opposite. In fact, the biggest problem with him was over flexing and getting into a little round ball of horse instead of bouncing forward into the bit.  He's the opposite of Chance and was more difficult to work on the left rein as he tends to curl himself to the left instead of staying true to the right outside rein.  His main protest was to buck and charge off at the canter if I pressed him too hard, almost as if to say, "All right, already, you want me to GO? Watch this!!"

In the end, he too gave me some lovely work on the right rein, so we finished up with a round of  praise and a good sponging off as both he and Chance had sweated up.

Just goes to show I need to do a little more ground work now and then to refresh their memories.  But it was a good day for it.

We accomplished a lot in a little time.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Terrific Trio

Great Day for a Ride, Ride, Ride

I rode all three Boys today. It was simply beautiful out. Warmish--somewhere in the 70's, sunny, and with a nice breeze...although all that looks to be deteriorating into cloud cover even as I write this.

I took Chance out first, heading out at once to the trails.  At this rate, he will never really be trained as a dressage horse, but he surely will be a nice trail horse.  We went out back to the lake, took the trail around it and came back through the woods. The excitement? There was a fallen tree on the trail back and I asked Chance to jump it. He did from a nice little trot and then cantered a little after. Our first jump out on the trail!
Here is he relaxing after the ride.

When I told Toby I would just take him for a short ride in the woods, he wasn't quite sure. But then he let me put the halter on and we had a nice 10-15 minute hack along the short trail.

Tucker was actually quite interested in being caught, as I'm not sure he liked being left out.  I decided to ride him first in the arena and did some trot work before a bit of a workout in the canter. The wind was picking up a little and I didn't want him feeling too silly out on our ride through the woods.

It paid off as we had a nice walk along the short trail as well, and then a bit of a sponge off when I got back as the cantering had made him work up a sweat.  The picture actually shows Tucker before the ride, drinking in preparation for the workout.

Since I am posting pictures today, I thought you might like to see the huge puffball mushroom growing in the manure pile out back. There are perhaps a dozen out there, but this one is really big. A normal sized maple leaf was lying on it, so I left it there for a sense of perspective.  If this one and its mates shoot out spores for next season, who knows what kind of monster fungi will grow.  Here are some of the others as well:

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Love My Farrier

And How the Days Fly

Yesterday morning when I fed Tucker, I realized the "clank" had turned into a "thud" as his shoeless foot struck the floor of the barn.  The tape had worked for two days, but alas, he had lost his shoe.

After I fed, I came inside for breakfast and called Scott, my farrier.  I was kind of toying with doing some riding, but got distracted in the house. And I had two campaign functions to go to, so I was a little pressed for time.

Around noontime or so, who should pull in the yard, but Scott, my favorite farrier!  He was taking his time on a Saturday morning to come to take care of Tucker.  What an angel!!  Not Tuck, but Scott.  Tuck got a little fidgety since the other Boys were not locked in the barn, and when they headed out to pasture to graze, he started dancing a bit, distracted instead of focusing on the task at hand.

I went out to the pasture with treats and brought Chance in, locking him in Tucker's stall, and the rest of the shoeing went without incident.  My Boys are good for the farrier, but obviously not the best behaved if their friends are out of sight.  Well, Chance might be OK, but both Tucker and Toby need the other horses in sight to be content.

Scott will be back during the week to shoe Toby and trim Chance, so this was a special trip just for Tucker.  Needless to say, Tuck and I are quite happy about that.  He's able to be out, and I have no excuse for not riding him.

Except that I didn't.  Once Scott finished, I headed out to the Harvest Fair at the local church, and the book sale at the library.  While I didn't win any of the raffles, I did get a real bargain at the rummage sale, a delicious cheesecake at the book sale, and one book to keep me happy.

Today?  Well, church took up the morning and then we went out to lunch afterwards.  I stopped over at my friend's barn across the woods to give her the rummage sale of those spas you can use in your own bathtub...seemed virtually brand new and it only cost $1!!!  I told her if it didn't work, she could just toss it out, but I'm hoping it will be fine and she will enjoy using it.  (There's a long story behind why I bought it for her...but that's not for this blog.) It was kind of cool that I found it in the first place.

Some of the other deals at the sale were great, but I honestly don't need anything more in my house than I already have.  The church was raising money to make the building handicapped accessible.  It's going to be a bit of work since there are several levels in the building and to get into the chancel, you have to climb a set of stairs.

This is the church I went to as a child, but it's been a while since I've been there. Strangely enough, every now and then I have a dream where I am in the church, though.  Kind of ironic I didn't dream about it last night after my visit.  Maybe my subconscious was satisfied by reality and had no more need to create a dreamworld version of my old memories.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Not Much To Report Again

Kind of Tired Day

Bit of a repeat of the intestinal thing....not serious, but enough to keep me cautious.

I did go get feed, though.  I unloaded eight 50 lb. bags of grain and three 50 lb. bags of alfalfa cubes, so I got my exercise for the day.

Anyone here remember when horse feeds only came in 100 lb bags?  That was the standard when I first started riding.  I think a few of the feed stores used to open the bags and split them up for customers who couldn't handle the full 100 pounds.  As I recall, bird seeds and chicken food--we had chickens back then--were also in the 100 lb. bags.

Somewhere along the way, the feed companies--at least the horse feed companies--realized that a lot of women cared for and handled horses and the 50 lb. bag became the standard.  50 pounds is still a bit heavy to lift, but I can manage.

Wonder if, as I age, the manufacturers will drop the standard weight to 25 lbs?

Or course, at the rate of inflation we seem to continually face, we'll still be paying the same per bag.......

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Time For Two

Nice Day for A Trail Ride

I took Chance out for a longish trail ride, all the way back to the farm on the other side of the woods.  We trotted a fair bit along the edge of the woods, then walked down the hill and "forded" the mud puddle.  He was a little reluctant about getting his feet wet, but certainly not a problem about it.

Then we did a nice long trot along the cornfield with a few strides of canter before pulling up to make the hairpin turn under the high tension electric lines.  There we walked again, pleased to find that despite the recent rains, the area is not flooded.  The rest of the ride was a walk back through the woods.

The only adventure was when a bow hunter, dressed in full camouflage showed up...or didn't show up, depending on your perception.  Chance saw the hunter walking along and alerted.  Then the guy stepped off the trail and stood still and according to Chance's vision, sort of disappeared.  That had him totally flustered.  I asked the hunter to move and Chance spun around to try to run off.  But, as the hunter kept on walking, Chance realized he was a human being with an invisible body and all was well.  Just goes to show how effective the camouflage gear is to animal eyesight.

Chance was absolutely fine after that, not holding on to a second of his startle and we had an uneventful ride home.

I'd thought about taking Tucker on a trail ride too, but encountering a hunter would be too much for his psyche, so I opted for a short school in the arena.  My main concern was that one of his shoes is working its way loose, so I was a bit paranoid.

Still, we did some nice trot work and then several canter sessions, although the first depart on the right was back to the sticky almost bucky thing--although I'd let him get into a low frame, so it might have contributed.  Despite all that, he was nice and forward and although I didn't work him very long, it was a good ride.

When I brought Tuck in, I wrapped the loosening shoe foot in duct tape, hoping to discourage that shoe from coming off.

Dinner was served and all seems well at Follywoods.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tucker Day

One At a Time

I rode Tucker today.  I started of with a lot of walking.  At first, it was just around the arena, with some large circles and going across the diagonal.  Then I moved on, putting him into some contact as we worked on shoulder-in, leg yield from the center line and finally, half pass from the center-line.  The half pass creates a change of rein, so I worked first on the left rein and finished up on the right.

From there, still keeping him in a frame and in contact, I circled around the arena a few times and then repeated the lateral exercises.  We had a bit of a stall on the leg yield left, but it wasn't disobedience.  I'm pretty sure I had too much contact on the left rein, inadvertently blocking his shoulder from the freedom of the lateral movement. Once I gave a bit more with my hand, he was fine.

I finished the trot on the right rein and began a few circuits of the arena with repeated half halts.  So it was trot, walk a few strides, trot, hesitate, trot, until I felt him get pretty responsive. Then I half halted and gave the canter cue.  Voila!! He took a nice depart.

Now, this may not seem like much, but the previous times I've ridden Tucker lately, he has been very resistant to the canter cue, laying his ears back and threatening to kick out.  There wasn't a hint of that.

Analysis?  IF indeed he is having hock issues, then today he felt OK.  OR he much prefers being asked to canter from within a more balanced frame in contact, then on a loose rein.  When I rode him last, at the end of the ride, I was in contact, and in a frame.  When I asked for canter at that point, he was good, so perhaps I need to set him up a bit for the depart and put him together so his hind end will step under in a more balanced way.  Hard to say, but I intend to experiment. with this.  Regardless, both leads were good with no protests of any sort.

Note here, that I always make sure my horses are trained to the aid to canter, regardless of how they are "set up," so asking for a canter on a looser rein is usually not a big deal.

I ended the work session with a very short hack in the woods and Tucker managed to grab a few mouthfuls of nice leaves as a treat.

I left the gate to the woods unchained when I came in, thinking perhaps I'd take Chance out for a hack.  I changed my mind, though when I felt my knees a little stiff again and took Tuck in the barn.  When I went to feed, I was missing a horse!

Toby had opened the gate and gone out into the woods for a little hike.  Funny, though, when he saw the feed buckets, he promptly shoved the gate back open with his nose, trotted back into the arena and made for the barn.  Apparently food had precedence over freedom.

The gate is now chained.

All is well at Follywoods.

On the Campaign Trail


This run for office is taking up a lot of time. I spent the better part of my afternoon out door to door.

It will be over soon. Election Day is November 2.

I need to move an election sign tomorrow...after it stops raining.

And, oh yes, my hay man delivered another load of gorgeous timothy mix.  It is beautiful hay and almost looks good enough for me to eat.  The Boys love it!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

One Under Saddle

Another Windy Day

I had to fix Tucker's door.  It's one of those metal half gates and I hang it from two eye bolts. The trouble is that the lower bolt was too short to reach into the solid wood door frame and had been just screwed into the stall paneling.  So, it would hold for a while, then work its way loose and come out.  I've tried various methods to keep in in including some wood filler, glue, and even a wrap of duct tape.  Each method worked for a while, but never quite solved the problem.

Today, I went to the hardware store to see if they had a longer screw in eye bolt.  I managed to find two of different lengths, and sure enough, one worked out perfectly.  Unless I am just kidding myself, this time I was able to screw it into the solid wood frame...although it was impossible to see exactly where it was going in...but it surely feels tight now.  Only time will tell.

Then I went out and poo picked the arena and finally I saddled up Chance for a schooling session.

The wind was whipping around in off and on gusts, so I wasn't keen about Chance's desire to go for a hack in the woods. The last thing I'd want was for us to get clobbered by a falling branch.  As it is, my arena is right next to the woods, so I do keep an eye out for falling branches ever when I ride there.  But it was fine.

The session had mixed results.  Chance was rather erratic to steering at the walk, tending to fall out on his outside shoulder on the turns, so I concentrated on initiating the turns with my outside rein, making sure my body stayed centered over him so I didn't push him off the line I'd chosen to ride.  His turns were better, but the walk, though a good gait to practice skills, lacks the impulsion you need to really work on correct efforts towards on the bit.

So, after a nice walk warm-up, I moved into trot. Chance needs to be encouraged to trot forward and he very easily breaks into his canter to evade.  But, once he began to stretch a little into the bit, his gait improved considerably.  He is not consistent yet, that's for sure, and it proves once again how little formal training time I have put into him.  But, each time I do a session, he always improves, so I know that if I just spent the time working him seriously, he'd be working to competition level in a few weeks.

The biggest sign of that is his canter.  His left lead always was pretty good, but the right lead was unbalanced and rushing.  Today, both leads were equally soft and he offered some nice contact with his head down for the full time in both directions.

After some nice canter, I practiced a few walk/halts and then asked for reinback.  If you remember, the last time I rode Chance, reinback was not in his "vocabulary."  I dismounted that time and worked him a bit in hand at the end of my ride. Today?? Although it was neither immediate nor more than a step or two, he gave me a reasonable reinback a few seconds after my first request.  We practiced a bit until he gave me three steps in succession and then, with a ton of pats and praise for his good work, I dismounted and led him back to the barn for supper.

My knees were fairly stiff this time, perhaps a consequence of the colder temperatures, so I decided not to ride Tucker.  If I work one horse a day for now, that's fine.

Dinner was served and the Boys settled in for the evening.  Of course, they will get their midnight snack, so they lack for nothing in the food department.

Good day at Follywoods.

Friday, October 15, 2010

One Down

Orange Sheet Destruction

Well, it's still usable, with a piece of baling twine tying the front together where once a nice strap and buckle were.  This was Tucker's sheet, which, along with the others, was practically brand new.  I'm not quite sure how the front strap met its demise, but it did not survive for 24 hours.   Ah, well.  Boys will be Boys.....

I cleaned the stalls, then decided to clean out the run in roof on the west side of the barn.  With the recent rains, the Boys have been hanging out there quite a bit, so, it was on the messy side.  Three wheelbarrows later, the task was done, and so were my knees.

Because it was so windy, I had already decided to lunge rather than ride, but with my knees already fatigued, I ended up just lungeing Tucker.  Well....I "asked" Toby and Chance if they wanted to lunge too, but they said, "No," and walked off.

Tuck was a good boy as he usually is on the lunge line.  After a nice session at the trot and canter on both reins, I decided to set up the little jump just to give the workout some variety.

Once again, he was a good boy and jumped it nice and softly on the right rein.

Then, I sent him at it on the left.  The first jump was nice and quiet and then....Speed class at the WEG!!

I think Tucker would have won.  He simply flew around me on the circle at a gallop and then leapt the juimp as if he had wings.  Not too sure he would go for any height as the speed jumping created a flat bascule, but he surely did look exciting.

Now, if I were training him as hunter/jumper, I would have slowed him down and demanded he jump properly.  I would have placed a pole on the ground a stride away from the fence on the approach and perhaps one a stride off on the landing side to make him check his strides and regulate himself.  But he was having fun and so was I, so there was no need for gymnastic perfection.

We were playing, and it was a good afternoon.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Weather or Not

First There Was No Rain

And now....again?

Had a doctor's appointment this morning. (Just my annual biggie.)  And now, it's raining again.

Missed the lovely days with my stomach thingie and the result is that the sun refuses to shine.  That's OK. It will clear up again and by then I should feel fine.

The Boys are all well and sound, as far as I can tell.  They are growing their winter coats, and, at the moment, are not wearing any sheets at all.  The flies seem to be gone for the most part, and it hasn't been chilly enough to warrant "jackets," although when it rains like this, I am tempted.

They do have plenty of shelter available including three stalls, two run in roofs on the barn, and the separate run-in shed, so there's plenty of protection against the elements.

I do tend to sheet or blanket them when it does get old, however.  Toby and Tucker are Thoroughbreds, with somewhat fine coats. Chance, despite being a warmblood,  does not grow a really heavy coat either.  While I am sure that, except for the most severe weather, they would probably be OK without extra protection, a lightweight waterproof sheet or lightweight waterproof blanket is a plus.

Now that I am home most of the time, I can also change their "costumes" as needed if the weather takes a dramatic turn during the day.

AND during hunting season, I feel a lot better when they are dressed in flame orange.  Trouble is, most of those sheets are not made of the most durable nylon, so I have quite a few shredded versions in my collection.  I repair them whenever I can and kind of play "sheet roulette" whenever the Boys play too roughly with each other.  Usually, I can manage one fairly structurally sound orange sheet for each horse per day....usually.

I wonder if this is what it's like dressing children??

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


But Not Quite 100%

I am feeling much better but still am taking it easy with the food. Hard to know what to eat, so I have been experimenting.

I have no idea what triggered this, but on Sunday, I had a bad potato chip thing at the restaurant. I ate one, tastes a second and then sent them back.  Could be that was enough to cause something.

Or, it could have been some kind of intestinal flu thing.  Who knows?  Either way, I am feeling better and hope to be back up to full speed--whatever that is--by the end of the day.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Uh, oh. Tummy Mine

Ah, Well.....Not Well

Went to the doctor in the morning for some lab tests before my annual exam.

Went out to move one of the campaign signs on the way home.

Got home and was soon struck with some kind of intestinal thingie.  You all know the symptoms.

Hours later, I am still not back to 100%.

Missed a beautiful day too.  Darn.

Monday, October 11, 2010


Campaign Again

I went to church in the morning and then spent the afternoon visiting houses along the neighboring road.

There is no way to walk from house to house in this area. The road has no place to park, so it's a matter of driving into a driveway, parking, getting out, going to the house, either talking to the homeowner or leaving my card and a little note, and then driving to the next house.  I was out for over three hours after lunch with my choir buddies.

It was a beautiful day missed with the Boys, but on the other hand, the weekends are ATV mini-bike days in the woods, so I did avoid them.  And who wants to be stuck on the riding arena on a perfect trail riding day?

I did talk to quite a few people and alerted them to another impending application before the Township Zoning Board to put an industrial plant in the middle of a residential area and the State Park.  Some of them knew about it and many more didn't so I think I managed to encourage a good number of people to attend the public hearing to try to stop the whole thing.

I also got some very positive reactions about the election.  People in my area feel very neglected and ignored by our present government officials and seem pleased to have a candidate who lives nearby.  It was nice to hear that my neighbors appreciate all the work I have done in the past to try to fight for issues that concern us.

I don't know if the Boys appreciate having a political "mother" but if I stuff their faces with hay, grain, and carrots, I guess I have their vote.

Too bad they can't go to the polls.  (Well, they have polls--but no voting booths to go with them. *G*)

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Oh, My, Busy

Campaign Trail 

Sorry, but I've been consumed with the campaign for Township Council.

Today, I spent the morning out with a campaign worker putting up campaign signs. Then, on the way home, I dropped by a local farm festival and handed out a few cards. Then I headed over to an Octoberfest at the American Legion.

The day was over, but I had one more engagement--a party at a friend's new house.

Home at last and exhausted.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Tuck on the Trail

A Good Boy

I rode early, but not as early as I intended.  But the woods were quiet, dark and deep with miles to go before I sleep----oops, apologies to Robert Frost.  The woods were quiet but the sunlight was filtering through the trees.

Quite beautiful, actually.

Tucker was virtually an angel.  Aside from stopping now and then--with my permission--to snack on the trees, he was settled and calm.  Even when we got to the point where the scary ATV's appeared yesterday, he did not react, but just kept walking.

He was the only one I rode as I had some errands to run and had already frittered away a good part of the day. But Chance had a fairly longish ride yesterday and Toby was simply not interested, so Tucker was the star attraction.

I did just a little ring work when we got back and actually worked him on the bit for a few circuits of the arena.  He was a little sticky about taking his right lead, but didn't protest as much as he had the last time we tried.  I think too, he is more comfortable when he is in a frame than just being left to his own devices on a loose rein.

At any rate, we had a good day.

And oh, yes,  no BUGS!!!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

ATV'd Again

Next Time I'll Ride Early

I decided to ride the trails today, with the goal of taking out all three Boys if they wanted to go.

Chance, was, of course, primed and ready.  I saddled him up and off we went, taking the longish trail out to the back where the flooding is--or was. With the drought we had this summer, it still looks pretty dry back there. I may take Chance out again tomorrow and ride the back edge of that field just to see how things are and take advantage of the conditions before the rains and snows fill the place back up with runoff water. I thought, while we were out, that I might have heard ATV engines off in the distance, but nothing sounded close, so all was well.

Then I saddled up Tucker.  I worked him in the arena for just a little while to see how he was going.  Again, I got an ears laid back effort at the trot and a balk, but I rode him through it and then he seemed fine.  Could be his hocks, could be a recurrence of ulcers..could be anything.  Canter left was fine, but again he balked to the right lead but cantered OK afterwards.  As I've said, I am just going to see what happens if I get him more fit, although I will probably give him some ulcer meds just to be safe on that count.

Then we headed out into the woods.  He was a little hesitant now and again, stopping with his head and ears up at attention.  I should have taken better note.  Halfway into the woods trail, I heard racing engines.  I leapt off just in time as around the bend a roaring ATV suddenly appeared on the very trail we were just about to go on. Had we been another 50 feet further, there would have been no place to go to escape.  Here, at least, I could get out of the way.  Tucker spooked wildly, rearing back against the rein, but I managed to hang on.  He did settle from flight mode pretty quickly, but he was riveted on the ATV--three of them actually--ready to flee in a split second.

The ATV driver stopped dead and got his pals to stop too.  He apologized over and over, "The last thing I want to do is scare a horse," he said.  Well, too late for that, but at least he'd stopped now.  I told him it was OK now and asked him to go by slowly.  He and his buddies did just that, keeping their machines at a low idle instead of a roar, and disappeared down the trail in the other direction.

Tuck had settled back down, but the trouble was that he is nearly 17 hands tall and there is no way I can get back on once I'm off without a substantial mounting platform of some sort.  None of the fallen trees are tall enough or open enough for a remount, so I had to lead him home.  Half a trail is better than none, I suppose, but I didn't relish the walking part.  That bothers my knees far more than riding at this point.

Of course Tuck stopped for numerous "salad" trees along the way, sampling lots of leaves.  But he does lead nicely. *sigh*

I think I will try the ride again tomorrow in the morning, when all the ATV riders will either be at work--I hope--or in school.  Tucker needs to go out on that trail without being terrorized so he has a good experience.  Actually, I'm pretty sure he would get used to the ATV's if he had the chance to be exposed to them more often, but out there it always seems that they are just appearing from the cover of trees and bushes or around blind curves.  You hear the engines and then there they are, racing right at you.  It's not exactly the best way to acclimate a horse to them.

Needless to say, I didn't bother trying to take Toby out.  He can spin and buck even faster than Tucker in the face of the "Ninja ATV's."

I wasn't quite ready to test my seat that far.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

There Was A Time

When I Was Younger

Once upon a time, when it showered, I rode anyhow.  I rode when it was hot. I rode when it was cold, or when it was wet.

Now I wimp out.  Yesterday is a prime example.  Off and on showers, a bit chilly temperatures, and I simply "thought" about riding. But then thinking of wet tack, wet horse, wet me,  turned me off.

Then again, I used to ride my horse six times a week.  And that included some pretty hard work for at least four of those days.  But, I was evening then and doing jumping.  And I competed.  A really fit horse was essential, as was a really fit rider.  No way to slack off and still remain competitive and.....SAFE.  Ride a dressage test, walk a cross country course--probably twice on that same day--ride the course that day, and then finish up with a round of show jumping, and you need to be in shape.  I hardly ever had a helper with me, either, so I had to do all the horse prep, horse care, packing, unpacking, and shipping on my own.

Could I do it today?  No way.

Would I want to do it?  Well, to be honest, every now and then, especially when I watch something like the WEG I do get a little tug inside. There is nothing quite like riding a good cross country horse over a good course at speed.  It is addicting.

Yes, sometimes I do miss it.

But creaky old bones, a few too many falls, and the wisdom of growing older puts nostalgia in its place.

I'll thrive happily on my memories while I potter down the wooded trail and when I pop over a little log now and then, I'll just pretend it's a 3'6" hurdle conquered at a gallop.

That will do me just fine.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

WEG and Lungeing

Three Horses on the Line

When I got home from church, the World Equestrian Games were being broadcast on national TV....NBC.  I was really torn because it's supposed to rain for the next three days and I'd wanted to do at least something with the Boys.

So it was lunge a horse, come in, watch a bit, go out, lunge a horse, come in, watch, lunge a horse, feed, come in to watch.  I'm just taking it slow bringing the Boys back from winter.  Today, ironically enough, Toby was the first one to come to me in the pasture, so I gave him a very short lungeing session.  As always, I am ever pleased to see him so sound at age 20.  He moves like a young horse.  However, I also know that had I continued to push him as an upper level dressage horse, he would not be sound.  I'm happy I quit when I did.

Tucker too looks fine on the line and I don't see any sign of his favoring any one leg or refusing to take a lead at the canter.  But the added burden of my weight and how he has to carry himself to carry me could make all the difference if his hocks are bothering him.  It is nice to see that he doesn't seem to be at all uncomfortable when he's on his own.

Chance may be just a LITTLE uneven on the right hind, the one he's had issues with before, but it may also be an optical illusion as he has socks of different length on his hind legs.  It certainly doesn't affect his canter on either lead, so whatever MAY be there isn't significant.  And, in the past I found that the more fit he got the better he went.  What a continue to like is that he is balanced almost identically on both leads and, for good or ill, he surely can canter in a slow rhythm......z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z....

Oh, do I have to wake up now?  Disappointed in the US Event team's turn of luck.  Mostly that Becky Holder withdrew Courageous Comet before the final phase. But her horse lost a shoe early on in yesterday's cross country.  When it happened, I was really worried that Comet might not be sound today, and sure enough, that's exactly what happened.  Been there, done that...but not at a World Championship, of course. Bad break, but as I said the other day--that's horses.

Comment on the dressage?? I will say it again. Of the medal horses, the one I would like to ride is Ravel. He is so elastic, soft, and smooth looking. Taking nothing away from Totilas or Mistral, but they just look too hard to ride to me--gaitwise especially.  While I can see why Totilas wins, I do have some reservations about the way he goes.  There are, interestingly enough a few flaws in his work, including some not so great tempi changes (Ravel's are gorgeous) and that extended trot which doesn't look too different than his regular trot.  Much is being discussed about this on various websites, so I won't go into the controversy.  But it just seems to me that if he would stretch out his frame he might get some more apparent length of stride from behind.

People have complained about the scoring for the musical freestyle as well, mostly because Fuego, the Spanish horse did not medal.  I managed to see a video of his ride and, although it was hard to hear the music in the version I saw, it was a lovely ride. But I do not think the technical difficulty matched the rides of the winning horses.  At that level, the artistic score is influenced by the technical difficulty of movements and how those movements are linked together. For example, Totilas when from a powerful extended canter into a totally collected canter pirouette in one stride, and Ravel performed both sets of tempi changes on a fairly steep serpentine. Transitions between gaits affect the score as well.  I think, in this case, technical merit outscored aritistry.  Sometimes what the crowd likes is not going to earn the winning score no matter how loud the crowd cheers.

Addendum:  I just watched Ravel's freestyle on NBC, so I got to see all of it really well. That test is by far the hardest, most technically difficult test of the top three--perhaps of the whole competition..  Amazing transitions and complexity, demanding and showing off Ravel's amazing suppleness.  Surely a few bobbles here an there, but when you talk about taking risks and showing a horse to his utmost, that is a classic.  WOW!! Talk about setting a challenge and meeting it.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

I Ride!!

Two Horses Under Saddle

I rode Tucker and Chance in the arena for about 30 minutes each, mostly at the walk.  With Tucker, the idea was to loosen his hind end with lots of leg yields, shoulder ins, and walk pirouettes.  Of all the exercises, the walk pirouettes need the most work as if I use too much rein to control the lateral/forward steps, he tends to shut down and stop stepping behind. So it's a delicate balance to keep his forward momentum while asking him to step sideways with his front feet as his hind feet keep marching in place.  Interestingly enough, he is much better going to the right than he is going to the left where he gets "sticky."

When I asked for a bit of trot, he laid his ears back and didn't want to go.  Again, interesting. Once he trotted a bit, he was fine and even let me put him on the bit for a circle or two.  I don't know whether he was anticipating something uncomfortable or actually did feel some pain somewhere. The important thing is that he worked through it and seemed quite happy about it in the end.

Canter to the right was another story, so I reversed, cantered left just fine, then crossed the diagonal, changed rein, trotted and picked up the right lead with no problem.  we didn't even complete a full circuit of the arena on either lead as I know full well he is not at all fit, but I did need to test him to see where we stand.  He feels fine once he's going, but the "engine start" is just not there.  Sore hocks?  Maybe. I'll see how things go as he gets more fit.

With Chance I focused mainly on "straight" and even to both reins and under my seat. He shifts his weight from one side to the other under me so I constantly need to be aware of keeping myself perfectly even left to right. Sometimes I fall victim to using the reins to correct him but I really need to work more with my weight instead.

After a little trot and canter just to evaluate how he felt--just a tiny bit of weakness in his right hind, but relaxed and pretty even canters on both leads--I started teaching him leg yield at the walk.  Either I introduced this to him before, or he is a fast learner, because it only took two tries to get him moving laterally off my leg.  I then added a little intro to shoulder-in--not quite as easy and decided to finish with a bit of work on the reinback.

Well, that was a challenge.  Rein cue, seat cue, leg cue, voice cue, and no response except to kind of stand there, planted on the ground. One thing about Chance is that unlike many horses I've ridden, he doesn't always experiment with reactions when you put an aid on.  He seems to be the kind of horse that shuts off his brain and reactions when he doesn't understand.  So I waited while he stood there and then, he took a tiny step back. I rewarded him by dropping the rein completely.  We got a few more steps that way and I dismounted to work him on backing from the ground.  It started well and then, once again he just kind of "shut off."  Either I'd pushed him past his limit of concentration or he'd just decided he was done.  At that point, I gave him a bit of a swat just to make him move his feet somewhere.  He startled, came back into focus and took the few steps back that I wanted.  I quit immediately and brought him in for a carrot and a grooming.

Looks like I need to work on increasing his attention span or else simply figure out just how much he can do before he gets too tired mentally or physically to continue on.

This could be the significant difference between a warmblood and a Thoroughbred. Usually, the TB's I've trained don't tend to stop doing things altogether when they reach their limit of learning--although Tucker does quit and simply refuse to go.  Chance does not swish his tail, lay his ears back or even dance around. He just stops and acts as if I'm not even there.  Tucker will threaten, stomp, try to bite my leg, or act is if he's going to buck when he quits and I keep pushing.  I must admit, I kind of like Chance's attitude better.

But we'll see how it goes as time passes. Maybe I 'll change my mind.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Then Came the Rain

And Lots Of It

Well, so far autumn is making up for summer's lack as far as rain goes here in my part of New Jersey.  Tropical storms indeed, as yesterday was wet, warm, and miserable.  Today, at least it has cooled off.

I've been following the WEG scores and results on the Internet.  I cannot even imagine the disappointment of some riders when misfortune interfered with their chances for medals.  The US Endurance Team suffered one problem after another, including one lame horse, a lost shoe and later withdrawal and one horse finishing and then having a metabolic crisis. All common in such a high intensity sport, from what I've read, but what I really appreciate is how quickly horses are pulled from competition by either their riders or the judges at the least sign of a problem

Dressage seems to be catching on with one German horse pulled before the competition for "blood" on his tongue. There is, of course, a bit of controversy about how that might have happened--with accusations of rolkur--but once again quick action by the judging committee made all the difference.  It has to be hard for any rider who has trained and worked to reach a prestigious competition like the WEG to lose even the chance to compete, but once again, the horses must come first.

And then there was Shawn Flarida, the US team's leading rider with one gold medal for the team victory in reining, in his ride for the individual title.  During his championship run, his stirrup leather broke, throwing him off balance.  Apparently he touched the saddle with his free hand, incurring an automatic 5 point penalty from all three judges.  What's remarkable to me is that he still finished the ride to score a 207--bottom of the class--without being eliminated.  If you've ever watched reining, that's pretty remarkable in itself.  Even with two stirrups riding a spinning, sliding, galloping horse accurately at speed is impressive.  If he had gone off course at any point, he would have earned no score at all, so to finish and still earn 207 (The winning ride was a 228) is quite a feat.

Afterward, when he was interviewed, he simply said, "It was just bad luck." He also noted that there would always be another chance.

Somehow, good horsemen always know it's often a matter of luck as well as training and hard work.

Pretty amazing when it all goes well when you think about it.