Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Play Pen

Just For Fun

I had to go for my annual mammogram today, so that kind of broke the good spirit of the day. Not a big deal, but enough to mess up my mental schedule. Reminder to all that such exams are important. They don't take much time and should be part of your regular medical concerns for the year...at least when you reach my age. Younger women can do them less frequently--every two years, from what I've read.

On the way home, I stopped at the local lumber/hardware store.  I needed some double end snaps to hang the new feed tubs I bought the Boys at the tack store sale. No dice! Apparently double end snaps are not a hardware store staple. H-m-m-m.  I also asked about a 4 X 6 post to replace an end fence post.  They only had them in 16 foot lengths! OK...Home Depot had an 8 foot one, so I guess I will go back there. I really only need a 6 foot one, but 8 will do.  I still have to check Lowes.  Now I could take a trip to the fencing store some 20 + miles away, but I'm not too keen about that for one post, unless it would fit in my Durango. It's a long drive to take with a post hanging out the back of a vehicle.  And I'm not  quite ready to hook up the horse trailer to make a pick up unless I get more than one post.  While I  do need more, the wallet is a big thin right now so I can't afford the expense.

If you followed that, you are a noble, faithful reader. Thanks. *G*

When I finally got home, I decided to go out to lunge at least one Boy.  Instead, I saw that the arena needed to be poo picked first. But when I went in to pick, Tucker and Chance decided to follow me.  I closed the gate to keep them inside, did the poo picking and then set them into a play session with the lunge whip.

What silly fellows!  Chance kept cantering along while Tucker would wait for Chance to get a head start and then leap into the air, and take off in a big, bucking gallop after him.  Too bad the arena is only 200 feet long. It would have been nice to see just how fast Tucker could run before having to make the turn.  We played for about 15 minutes.

Toby was on the outside, doing a bit of running himself and when I opened the gate to let the other Boys out, he came in and wanted to join the fun for a little while.

Note here that seeing all three Boys at the gallop, it's clear who the athlete is--Toby.  Tucker is not as fluid in his gaits and somewhat "tight" in his movement.  I am well aware of this.  He has a shorter back, and his close coupling limits the "softness" in his hindquarters as he moves. Chance is a good mover, with nice solid gaits, but in comparison, Toby has much more freedom and natural impulsion in his stride.  His big flaw as a dressage horse is that his top line is too level. His neck is set lower out of his shoulder than desirable and it makes it hard for him to elevate his forehand.

All that being said, I think, with work, Chance would be quite a lovely dressage horse. He has good overall conformation for the sport and some training to develop his strength and balance would encourage some more suspension. He's not quite the mover Toby is, but he's certainly no slouch.

And Tucker? He'd never be a dressage star, but he would be the most likely one to learn more of the collected exercises.  Trouble is, his hock conformation is a problem, and that weakness is a critical issue.  I suspect that, giving time and training, he might actually make a good event horse or even a jumper. He's shown some talent and interest in jumping, but, alas, that is no longer in my repertoire.  So, we will fiddle around with the dressage training and just see what we can do as long as he feels up to it.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Cold Day

But Scott Showed Up!

Toby lost a shoe last week. Scott was supposed to come nearly two weeks ago to shoe him and trim Chance, but he never came.  As it turned out, he forgot to put us on his schedule.

Fortunately Toby seemed none the worse for wear with a missing shoe. Scott had suggested perhaps, since I wasn't riding him much, that we try Toby unshod, but I am a bit wary about risking it. He is, at age 20 super sound and has been for years with just shoes on the front. I simply don't want to take a chance of making him sore to save the money.  He might be OK,  and he might not, but why tempt fate?

At any rate, he didn't seem sore on the unshod foot, but I'll watch him for a few days now that he has shoes on both feet again. If he did get a bruise, it may not show up right away.  I had to leave him out instead of confining him to his stall because he fusses and frets when he's locked in and the others are out.

Scott trimmed Chance, who is barefoot, as was quite pleased with the condition and growth of his feet. He's a good solid warmblood cross with good solid hoofs.  I'm hoping he will be able to stay barefoot.

Scott's dog, Mick, and I played "fetch" with nearly all the toys I have here on the property for him.  But, after about an hour or so, I had to call a halt to the games.  Mick came running halfway back with the tennis ball and dropped to the ground, panting like crazy. He was totally exhausted.  After a bit, he got up and wanted to go again, but when I told Scott, he told Mick to get into the truck to take a break.  Mick has had some shoulder surgery and when he plays too hard for too long, he comes up lame.  We did play a little more later, but I'm glad we stopped for a while.  The trouble with Border Collies is that they just don't know when to quit.

The wind picked up as the morning wore on and I just couldn't go back outside to ride.  It was kind of cloudy and definitely cold out there. And, to top it off, I heard a lot of gunshots off in the woods.  Not sure what kind of game is in season, but the hunters were out in force.  Since it's a holiday weekend, the guys out are likely the less serious hunters--not the ones who go out all the time--so I do worry a little more about them. They are more likely to shoot at the wrong things.

I'm ending with a few pictures from Chance's and my last trail ride.  In the far distance is the lake in the woods--in the pictures of the trees.  And there's a shot of another one of the trails I ride. This one skirts the edge of what used to be a sand mine and is now a recovered natural area with the lake.

Oh, and of course, those are Chance's ears.  *G*

Friday, November 26, 2010

Just Dropping In

The Day After

Thanksgiving, that is.  Actually, I spent the holiday at home by myself. I had tried to set up a little restaurant dinner with some friends, but that didn't pan out.  Fear not, it was an adventure all its own.  I actually cooked a turkey tenderloin which is a bug chunk of turkey breast.  I turned out quite well as did the mashed potatoes. stuffing, veggies, and the canned cranberry sauce.  Delish.

As it was, with the weather, I was quite content not to have to drive anywhere. There was a mixture of sleet and rain all day, so I was much nicer being home than out on the roads.  I did miss company, but with most of my immediate family gone, I am used to solitary celebrations.

The Boys celebrated with many carrots--some in each of three feedings. Typically, they seemed to prefer standing out in the miserable weather rather than seeking the shelter of the barn and run in sheds.  The sleet must have been kind of stinging, but somehow they decided being out was much more entertaining than standing around under cover.  Beats me. I never could figure out horse behavior when it comes to that sort of thing.

I did take some pictures of them the last sunny, warm day we had this week, so I will brighten this dull, damp, Friday after Thanksgiving with some sunny shots.  Trouble is, as always, getting the Boys to pose takes some stealth on my part. As soon as they see me with the camera they march on over for close-ups...and I'm not good at nose shots.

Chance is in the close ups  and Tucker and Toby off in the distance. As soon as they saw me, that was the end of getting any kind of shots.

Off in the distance in the long shots are the power lines, the sandpit lake, and warehouses. Somehow the "industrial" scenery always spoils the pastoral beauty for me.

Fortunately, behind Chance is the close to 2000 acres of State Parkland.  Quite a contrast, I think.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving to All!

A Dull Day, Brightened by Cute Faces

Here is wishing everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Fun Free Lunge

Rain On The Way

At least that's what the weather forecast calls for. Not sure what was up with me today, but I was entirely unmotivated.

Eventually, I went out in the early afternoon and did some barn chores which included stripping Toby's stall and poo picking the arena.

That just about did my knees in, but I'd decided to lunge a horse at least.  As I was trying to catch him, Tucker went into the arena, so I closed the gate and had him.  I picked up the lunge whip that I'd dropped and as soon as I did, he started trotting around me in a nice circle.  That was fine by me.  He stayed withing lunge line distance all the way around, again and again, so I never needed to put the line on him at all.

He worked totally at liberty for the full session.  When I stepped in front of him, he reversed and worked on the other rein and, when I told him to canter, he did, as nice as you please. I wish I'd taken some treats out there with me because he was an absolute angel the whole time--well, except for bucking on his right lead canter depart.

I had the little jump set up but when I went over to it and casually mentioned that perhaps he might want to jump it for me, he simply stood there looking at me as if I had lost my mind.  I finally walked over to him, grabbed a hold of his mane and led him to the jump--which I had lowered so he could walk over it.  He did and then, wonder of wonders, when I cued him around me on a smaller circle he trotted over the pole twice as nice as you please.

I told him he was magnificent, which he, obviously, already knew and then we went to the barn together.

Once more I gave him the ulcer meds and tonight, I gave him his second injection of Pentosan.  Not exactly the best reward for the excellent "at liberty" exercise session, but if it make him feel better, then maybe it was OK.

It's so much fun when your horse simply works for you with no fuss or bother.  And it was even more special in that I needed no physical "attachment" to get Tuck's response.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Beautiful Day

So Out We Went

Chance and I had a nice trail ride this afternoon, along the field, through the woods and up along the hill by the back lake.

He kept trying to pick the route, so I kept steering him in my direction instead. I had a plan of going to take a picture of some deer decoys on one of the trails, but when we got there they had blown over. Maybe the hunter will reset them and I'll be able to get a shot. They really did look real when I first saw them.  However, right now they are flat boards lying in the grass of the vernal pond.

I'll have to see if any of the other pictures I took are any good. Chance does not stand still very well as he is all business when we are out in the "wild."  And we did not go back by the lake as it was probably pretty muddy on that track.  Maybe next time I'll venture down a bit closer just to get some nice photos.

Not much else to report. Toby has lost a shoe and Tucker is on his second day of ulcer meds, so I didn't try any riding with either one.

I did have an early lunch with my friend Chris who has endurance horses across the woods from me. There is a nice little Italian pizza restaurant right nearby and we sat for quite a while chatting and enjoying each other's company.

Curiously enough, there was a guy sitting at a nearby booth who overheard me mention the Pentosan, and he offered that they had used it on one of his horses with a back ailment with great success. The only thing is he said they rubbed it on and I can't seem to find any topical application of the medication. Have to wonder if they may have used Pentosan injections along with some other topical drug.

Anyhow, the jury is still out on the injections, as Tucker's only had one, and it's too soon to tell if it will have an effect.

Meanwhile, the Boys are not wearing any sheets as it was well into the 60's today. I think it will stay warm tonight as well, but I will monitor the weather in case I need to go out to "dress" them again later.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Tucker Test

Well, That Was Interesting

I decided, after spending an hour or so picking up corn, to ride Tucker for a bit to see how he behaved.

Once I mounted, he walked off fine, heading for the gate to the woods.  When I turned him aside, he still walked on, but as soon as I put my leg on him to ask for trot, he planted his feet, laid his ears back and felt as if pushed, he would buck. I tried a few times with no success and then headed towards the gate.

He seemed really eager to go out for a trail ride, so we did. Out there, he felt very forward at the walk and once or twice kind of bounced a few trot strides.  I kept him in check and all was well until we had to go up the little hill on the trail back home. It's not steep, but definitely an uphill grade. Tucker got really bouncy there and started to toss his head. I could feel his back coming up under my seat in a not very pleasant way, but I didn't want to just let him trot/canter off, mostly because it was that "ready to buck" feeling again.  He settled reluctantly and managed to walk the rest of the way home.

Back in the arena, I asked for trot again. This time, he took off in a very forward trot on the left rein, then balked when we got near the woods gate which had swung shut after we'd gotten in the arena, spooking him a bit.  I manged to get him go past the gate, then trot again and he started almost powering into the bit. Actually, the trot felt pretty good if a bit too dramatic for the situation.

I just trotted around a little bit, then brought the whole affair to a halt and dismounted.

Tucker is a strange fellow in that he really reacts to things. Actually, the way he was behaving was how he often behaved in the warm up arena at shows before I treated him for ulcers. Now, I know at that point, he was in pain, so I have to conclude he is in pain now. But, is it his hocks?  Or could his stomach be bothering him again? Or, is it a combination of both?

Obviously, with the Pentosan, I am addressing the hock issue. So, I decided to address the possibility of an ulcer flare up as well.  I started him on some omeprazole tablets tonight and will continue for a few days to see if that makes a difference. Tuck gets his second shot of Pentosan on Tuesday as well, so I will have all bases covered next week.

Hopefully, something will make him happier.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Corn is Cut

So Lots of Places to Ride

The corn is harvested...well nearly as the harvesting machine was still working way out at the other end of the farm.  This opens many more places to trail ride as I now can go down the corn rows and cut across the fields.

So I took Chance out. The ride was not spookless.  A flight of blackbirds flew up from around the tractor trailer parked at the farmhouse.  Chance was already just a little worried about the trailer and the birds startled him. But it was just a jump and then he settled right down again.

Then, out by the pumpkin patch, there was someone trimming around the Christmas trees and a big blue tarp covering some kind of equipment. That all required a few trotting steps and a wide berth, but we got by just fine.  To my surprise, he noticed the dead deer in the field, but he only gave it a glance of curiosity and kept right on going without a fuss.

All in all, I would say he gets high marks again for going out on the trail by himself, exploring new lands.

I did notice, this year, that the corn harvester seemed to have missed more ears than last year. I'm not sure if that's because the drought affected the height of the cornstalks or if the machine was just less efficient than last year.

So, I went out for a bit of a scavenger hunt after I fed the Boys.

I quickly filled my jacket pockets with missed ears and then stuffed a bunch more into the front of my jacket after I tucked its hem into my breeches.

Much to my surprise, I heard Toby whinnying.  This is what he does when I take one of the other horses out on a trail ride.  He calls and calls to them.

But the other two Boys were right there in the paddocks with him! I am flattered to think it, but I actually think he was calling for me!

As I came up the woods trail, there he was at the gate, watching intensely for me to appear.

I guess I am officially one of the herd at last.

Since I gave him an ear of corn once I got back, I have a feeling he will be keeping an eye out for me next time too.

Bribery has its value.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Why I Don't Make My Bed

And Other Housekeeping Issues

Does this not speak for itself?  The striped one is DJ, the black one is Reggie and the gray one is Church.  Like the prophet, I cannot move the covers without disturbing the cats... so that's why the bed is unmade.  Good excuse, huh?

I do tend to vacuum, however, and I pick things up off the floor now and then. But there is DJ, who is the mastermind of the feline feeding frenzy.

He jumps up on the mantel and knocks things to the floor.
Why?  Because I put the cat treats up there.  It's his job to notify me it is time to offer up a morsel to the masses.  Eventually, his nimble paws find the treat container and knock it to the floor as well.

Once it's down, you can tell by his expression that I am therefore obligated to dispense said treats to the hungry hoard below.  Like sharks to blood in the water,  they arrive.
And eat.  That's Patches at the top, b bit distracted.

You can see from the vacuum cleaner cord that I do, upon occasion do some cleaning. But, that must take a back seat to the more important feline matters.

Whatever would I do without furry faces in my life?


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Just a Little Lungeing

Chance on the Line

I decided to lunge Chance today. Nothing special, just a nice little workout intensely observed by Toby and Tucker.

He was excellent, even when I had him go over the little jump.

His canter on both leads was lovely, cadenced and soft. He really does like to canter.

I didn't work Tucker in deference to his hock issues. I don't know if the medication has had any impact yet, but if the weather stays nice for the next few days, I will probably get on him for a little while to see what he tells me.

Meanwhile, it was a quiet day here at Follywoods.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Horses In Orange

Windy Day

I may do a bit of work with Chance later, but the ride over to my friend's house is canceled due to the winds. We had some heavy rain last night and now the wind is kicking up off and on in pretty stiff gusts. Not exactly the kind of day to ride out along the woods, or about on Chance on a trail he's only been on once.

Meantime, as requested, some photos of the Boys in orange.

This last one of Tucker on the hill gives you a true concept of the color of the sheets, as does the one above. Somehow the term "high visibility" clearly applies.

From the top down, for those not familiar with my little herd, from the top down are pictures of:  Toby; Toby; Tucker and Toby; Chance; Chance; Toby, Tucker and Chance; Chance and Toby; and Tucker by himself.  It was hard to get a group shot and, of course once they saw me with the camera, there was always the risk of close up" nose shots" only.

Every time I try to take animal shots I realize how much skill, luck and persistence it takes on the part of professional photographers to get the pics they do.  Luck does play a role, of course, but you really have to know what you are doing to do it well.

I need to spend more time experimenting.  My camera has a lot of settings I've never even tried!  *lol*

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sore Tucker

Most Likely His Hocks

My wonderful vet came almost exactly at 2 PM, the appointment time. He's amazing that way.

Luckily, the rain was holding off, so we didn't get too wet as the visit progressed.  First. all the Boys got their fall flu shots.  Dr. Klayman said Chance and Tucker were at a perfect weight going into winter, but he agreed with me that Toby could stand a few more pounds.  He suggested adding oil to his feed--already part of the plan and barley.  I need rolled barley so I guess I'll be out feed shopping tomorrow.  Toby is not thin, but I like to see my horses well covered with an extra layer of fat for the cold weather.  He will be blanketed, of course, and I do keep an eye on him, but fatter is better.

Once all the injections were done, we started the soundness exam for Tucker.  Apparently he showed no signs of pain on any of the acupuncture/chiropractic points, so that's a bit of a plus.  He was pretty sound on the lunge, even in a small circle, although he showed a little "off" step now and then going to the right.

Dr. Klayman checked his front legs and both hoofs. and then did a flexion test of Tuck's hind limbs.

Oh, my. He was definitely lame after flexion on the left hind, and somewhat uneven after flexion on the right. Makes sense to me as he was more resistant to work on the right rein. While that may sound counterintuitive or contrary in that it was his left hind that was more sore....BUT....when a horse is working on the right rein, the left hind has to twist a bit to the inside, especially on a canter depart when that hind leg has to turn to the inside on the depart.

Regardless, we didn't go much further as the flexion test is very non-specific as to which of the hind leg joints it stresses--stifle, hock, fetlock.  But, we already know through x-rays that Tucker has some arthritic changes in his hock, so that is the most logical place.

What to do?  Surprisingly, neither Dr. Klayman nor I were too keen on hock injections, at least not at this point.  I have given Tucker Adequan injections before, but that is also expensive.  Equioxx, an oral pain medication that's much safer than Bute was one option, and the second was Pentosan, an injectable drug that has been used in Australia for a while with great success.  It acts as an anti-inflammatory and also helps rebuild the internal joint structures.  Ideally, it's a series of 7 injections which I can do myself.  After that, the horse might need treatment once a month.  You can also give oral joint supplements--glucosamine/chrondroitin along with the injections.

So, after some discussion, I opted for the Pentosan and Tucker and I are all set for a bit over a month of treatments.  Dr. Klayman says I should see some difference after about four weeks at the most.

It's now a matter of waiting to see how Tucker reacts to the drug.  I must admit he seemed quite pleased that his concerns were being attended to.  Until the last trot for soundness, he was behaving himself like a gentleman.  Then, though, he started striking out as he trotted and Mary, the vet assistant, had to correct him a couple of times.

I guess Tucker always figures he deserves the last word.  *G*

Monday, November 15, 2010

Trail Ride and Tucker Trouble

The Vet Is Coming Tomorrow

I lucked out and my vet will be here tomorrow afternoon.  The only downside is that it is supposed to rain for most of the day.  Doing a soundness exam in the rain is not exactly my idea of fun.

But what will be will be.

I took Chance out for a longish trail ride--back to the flooding and home again.  I was going to trot along the edge of the woods, but Chance's preferred gait is a nice little rocking canter, so I let him.  We didn't go far, but it was fun.  He gave a little spook at a pile of logs going back into the woods, but aside from that, he gets an "A+" as a trail horse.

Later in the week I will be riding him over to one of the farms on the other side of the woods.  Something has spooked the two horses living there so that they do not want to go out into their pasture. Since Chance is a pretty level headed fellow, we thought we could put him out in the pasture to see if he was afraid of anything out there.  If not, then we know it's likely something that's not there all the time.  Hunters? Coyote? Wild turkeys?  Something else?  Not sure we'll solve the mystery easily, but at least Chance might give us a clue.

When I got home, I needed to tidy up the barn, sweeping and such, for the vet visit.  Then I decided to go out to poo pick the arena.

I made a BIG mistake.  I left one of the inside stall gates open and had not put up the stall guard across the feed room door.

When I came back into the barn, Tucker had climbed into the feed room and was standing there, trying to decide what to savage.  He hadn't opened the feed bin and wasn't in the alfalfa cubes. Instead, he was just standing there.

We've been through this before. Tucker is 16.3 hands and big. The area of the feed room is narrow.  Once he climbs up the step inside, he simply can't seem to figure out how to back out as each time he steps back reaches the step down, he freaks.  I moved the tractor out of the way so he could just walk through out unto the lawn area, but that requires a step down and he is totally convinced he is going to hit his head on the top of the door frame.

The obstacle course for making an easy exit is simply beyond his grasp.  A gap in his education, I fear.  (I d remember facing something exactly like that with Russell R. when I moved him to a barn with a step to get in and out of the door.  I had to train him to step down and out.)

So there we were with a big fat horse wedged in the feed room, refusing to either back out into the barn aisle or walk out into the lawn.

I decided the forward option was the best one, so I got behind him with the dressage whip and tapped....

Somehow, and he never ceases to amaze me, he managed to turn himself around and then proceed to clamber out into the barn aisle.  Rather a wonder when you consider how big he is and how little room there was to turn around.

I have sworn over and over not to make that mistake of leaving the door unguarded, but once again, I failed.

DUH!!!!  Well, at least I will remember to be careful for another few months until my memory fails me again or I get distracted by some other activity.

Leave a way for Tucker to get into trouble, and he will find it.  Silly boy.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bronco Boy is Off

And I Didn't Win the Raffle

After church, I had time to go out to lunch with a friend and then just enough time to head to the saddle store for the raffle.  There was a huge line at the cash register, so I never did get any more tickets, but I had 7 in the tumbler...all to no avail.  Once again, I did not win.  Sooner or later, they are going to have to give me a longevity prize.

I did get some new feed tubs for the Boys as theirs are pretty squished and cracked.  Time and rubbing tails on them does take its toll.

Anyhow, the raffle was at 2 PM, I still had to stand in line, so by the time I got home, there was enough daylight to ride at least one horse.

Or rather, try to ride one horse. Tucker was the obvious choice as I wanted to see how he felt today.

As soon as I got on, I knew something was up. Mainly, his hind end. It felt six inches higher than it should have. Instead of dropping his hind end to step off at the walk, it was almost as if he lifted it instead.  I walked just a little until I felt it drop and start to move bit better and then put my leg on for trot.  He laid his ears back and balked.  I pushed a bit more--this was on the right rein--and got the same reaction--no trot. So I reversed and asked for trot. This time, he trotted off, but it certainly didn't feel fluid. He was not limping, just not really moving well.  Needless to say, I didn't even think of canter.

I took him back into the barn and got the lunge line.  Then I had to almost drag him back out to the arena, all the time reassuring him that I wasn't going to work him but just needed to watch him move.

On the left rein, he trotted off and looked fine, but when I reversed him, he was limping.  More by the feel under saddle rather than the observation on the lunge line, I still suspect its the hind end.  I didn't make him go around for even a full circle, mostly because I wanted him to know that I understood what he was trying to tell me.

Indulgent mom, perhaps, but there is a difference between a horse that refuses to work because he's lazy and one that refuses because he's in pain.  In this case, Tucker deserves the benefit of the doubt.

I'll call the vet tomorrow, hoping to get my acupuncture/chiropractic doctor out this time. I know Tuck has some hock issues and would benefit from injections, but I can't afford that expense right now unless it's absolutely necessary.  This feels more as if he's thrown something out in his back or hips.

Either way, I will not be riding or lunging him until he gets checked out.

Looks like Chance steps into center stage for the time being.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Trail Rides and Bronco Boy

Another Beautiful Day

After going out to breakfast with some good friends, I came home, took a short catnap and then headed out to the barn.

I'd intended to do some light arena work but the lure of the trail was too much, especially when Toby stuck out his head for the lead rope first.  Not much to say after that, as he and I had a nice jaunt through the woods.

Then I took Chance out, and we too had a nice little hack through the forest.

Then I took Tucker out, and we took the "Tucker Trail" for another nice ride.  This time, though, I trotted him for about 25 yards or so along the edge of the woods.  He was bouncy but fine.

The rest of the trail, he was still just a little bouncy, on his toes, but not at all spooky or scary.  So I figured when we got back home, I'd do just a few minutes of arena work at the trot and canter.

Uh huh.  I should have known.  The trot was a little rushy, but I wasn't asking him to go in a frame, so that was not too surprising. And, he did spook at the gate to the woods a few times.  Then, I dared to ask for canter.

Well, bring on the bronc.  Nothing quite to unseat me, but definitely a "boing the back" kick up the heels in protest bounce up and down in place canter thingy that hardly resembled a canter at all.  I corrected him sharply, asked again and got the same response.

OK, something may well have been bothering him, but sometimes willful disobedience needs to be corrected.  I had no intention of cantering him long, nor of doing any real work, but the protest on his part needed to be dealt with.  So I brought him into a bit of a frame and asked again, this time getting a fairly decent canter.  We went about halfway around on the left lead and then I switched to the right lead through the trot. That direction was better.  Again we went about halfway around, I switched back to the left for about eight more strides and called it quits.

If it was something physical, I did not stress him about it, but at the same time, he does need to understand that throwing a tantrum, particularly one that could be dangerous for me, is not the solution. At the moment, I'm not too sure what the problem was, but I hope I get a chance to ride him a bit tomorrow to see if something really is bothering him. More than likely, it's his hocks, unless he tweaked something in his back. The trot felt even, so it only shows up at the canter.

We'll figure it out. We always do. It's just a matter of establishing a reasonable form of communication between the two of us.


Went to the Movies

But only after going to the saddle shop sale. I got feed and got an extra deal when they rang me up for the wrong kind. When I went back into the store to correct it, the manager did not charge me the extra money my regular feed costs, so I saved an extra 50 cents a bag.

Got home, unloaded it, grabbed a bite of lunch and headed back out to the movie theater to catch the afternoon matinee prices. (Usually a little less, although still $7.25. Ouch)

Well Secretariat is at the end of its run around here so there were only three other people in the theater.  Hard to tell what kind of an audience reaction it was for them, but for me?  Great!

The reviews I read noted that the film was more about Penny Tweedy than the horse, and the horse did kind of take a back seat.  I would have loved more horse stuff, that's for sure, but that did not make the film bad.  In some ways, perhaps, it added to its appeal to general audiences.

The racing scenes were really well filmed with plenty of the power and drama of each race accented with close up shots in the starting gate, and images of horses' hooves pounding at the start.  They did a good job picking really good horses to play Secretariat as well, not falling into the typical movie flaw of having a bunch of stand-in horses that are of all breeds and sizes pretending to be racing Thoroughbreds.  My only complaint would be that looking at the photos of the real Secretariat, I kind of thought the horses in the film were a bit too short.  Sec stood at 16.2 and doesn't look that big to me in the film.  I would have chosen a bigger boy to make him more impressive. He's also really laid back in all the handling scenes with some pretty casual attitudes around him.

But, all that aside, the story is wonderful, mostly because it's true.  The best thing was, even though I personally watched all of those Triple Crown races (the Kentucky Derby, The Preakness and The Belmont Stakes) on TV live when they happened, and knew the outcome, I was still on edge, rooting Big Red on, as if I had no idea whether or not he was going to win.

Which leaves the Belmont Stakes of 1973, one of the most incredible races anyone has ever seen.  There is a filming trick they use during that race that I won't spoil for you, but it is very clever and somehow one of the only things they might have done to make a 31 length victory in track record time even more exciting.

Not by any means a perfect horse movie, but well worth my afternoon, even if it meant that I got home after dark to feed the Boys.

And, oh, yes....(adding to my comments on the"Behind the Bit" blog) Tucker is a close relative to Secretariat--cousin or something. *LOL*  He has Bold Ruler pretty high up in his pedigree a couple of times.

What does that mean?  Not a darn thing except that Bold Ruler bred horses do tend to have "attitude."

Thursday, November 11, 2010



We managed to pull together a nice little concert session--about 20 minutes all told--last night.

There were three sections to the larger performance. First, a classical guitarist, then my songs, then a cello/piano Sonata.

I sang seven Robert Louis Stevenson poems set to music:   The Swing, Pirate Story, Where Go the Boats, The Land of Nod, Foreign Lands, The Wind, and Windy Nights.  All but Windy Nights were from a songbook published in 1897--The Stevenson Song-Book.  (Sorry, no Land of Counterpane this time.)

There is an interesting history behind my copy of the book.  One day, at church, I found a battered copy of it in the choir room.  My choir director/accompanist and I tried a few of the pieces, liked them, and ended up performing a couple at a church dinner.

But the page with one of the songs was ripped out, so I decided I'd try to find my own, complete copy of the book.

It took nearly two years of searching by a rare book company to find a copy for me.  As I recall it cost over $100, but I was really determined, so I bit the bullet and bought the book.  I've never regretted it as the songs are just wonderful.  I've since seen the same book online in a few rare book sources for five times as much as I paid.

So far, we've just performed the six songs, but I would like to expand that and learn a few more.  The melodies and style really suit my voice and every time we perform them, people really seem to enjoy it.  Last night was no exception with warm response and many flattering comments afterwards.

It did help that the audience was in a senior citizen center--although the group was mixed. But a lot of the people there had been brought up on the poems, so that added to the fun.

Some of the songs might not relate to children today, I fear, but that certainly does not take away from the idea of presenting them to a younger audience. Aside from a few dated references, Stevenson's poems relate to a child's capacity to wonder about the world and venture into fantasy and imagination.

I mean, what can be more an example of a child's "Why?" in this poem, The Wind? It's one of my favorites from the collection of songs.

 The Wind
saw you toss the kites on high 
And blow the birds about the sky; 
And all around I heard you pass, 
Like ladies’ skirts across the grass— 
  O wind, a-blowing all day long,         5
  O wind, that sings so loud a song! 
I saw the different things you did, 
But always you yourself you hid. 
I felt you push, I heard you call, 
I could not see yourself at all—  10
  O wind, a-blowing all day long, 
  O wind, that sings so loud a song 
O you that are so strong and cold, 
O blower, are you young or old? 
Are you a beast of field and tree,  15
Or just a stronger child than me? 
  O wind, a-blowing all day long, 
  O wind, that sings so loud a song:
Perhaps, eventually, I can get a recording of my singing this posted, but we'll see.   In the meantime, I had fun, we did well, and the audience enjoyed it.  What more can I ask?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Still Working After All These Years

Back At School

I am actually on my third day of a three-day substituting stint at the Academy. I've been teaching English again.

Traffic has eased a bit, but I am still getting home close to sunset. Once again, the Boys are on "hold," for riding.

Add to all this that I am singing a solo concert this week, so I've had some rehearsals to contend with. I'll be doing a series of songs based on Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses. I've performed these before, but both I and my accompanist were a bit rusty on some of the finer points. Hopefully it will all come together.

First chance I get, I wll take a picture of the Boys dressed in their very bright orange sheets. I must say, they certainly do stand out from the crowd--and their surroundings--in their "garb." The tmperature is kind of bouncing around all over the place, but it looks to have settled into the mid-50's F at least for the day.

Hopefully, I will get some riding in soon again and, of course, I have to visit Rick's Saddle Shop for his 20% off everything in the store sale--including feed. And, he has a drawing for a $1000 shopping spree at the store. I have entered every year since practically the first drawing and so far, no winner. (You get one raffle ticket for every $50 you spend as well as one for just going in the door.) I have had two friends win over the years, so that's nice.

So, it looks as if my calendar is filled up again.

Kind of fun being here at school, but it does cut into my "doing nothing" time. *S*

Monday, November 08, 2010

Argh!!! Some Drive!

School Day

I substituted today.  It took me an hour and fifteen minutes to complete a 15 mile drive!

Route 1, the major highway I need to travel was closed due to a gas main break.  Well, it had actually just reopened by the time I got on it, but by then the traffic was jammed to an absolute standstill.  When I finally did make it to my turn off, that road was clogged to a dead stop as well.

So, I detoured off to the "secret" back way, only to reach the last road I needed to travel on to find it closed for an entirely different reason! I finally got to school a half hour late, but many of the students weren't there yet either, so everything was covered.

Oh, and to top it off, the heat wasn't working in the school building for most of the day, so I ended up wearing my coat and still being cold.

Honestly the drive home wasn't too promising when I looked out to see the two roads I needed to drive on backed up again. This time, a different little detour around the other "back way" saved me a good fifteen minutes, so I managed to cut my drive time to about a half hour.

I got home to feed the Boys by daylight--rainy, cold daylight. Good thing they were wearing their waterproof sheets as it was downright nasty out there.

But, I must admit, this time they were in their stalls, on their own. Could be they were wondering where I was as they have not quite adjusted their internal clocks to Standard Time yet, but the hour should not have made that much difference. Regardless, it was nice to see them all sheltering instead of seeing Chance stuck outside while the older boys hogged the run in shed roof.

Now they are munching on that nice hay I have and their tummies are full of tasty horse feed.

Makes me feel like a good mommy.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Breeders' Cup Take Two

Sad Story

After yesterday's post, I was reading about some of the races only to find that the competition was marred by tragedy after all.

Rough Sailing a 2 year old in the Juvenile Turf race slipped on the turn and fell.  He broke the humerus in his foreleg and had to be euthanized. His jockey was shaken up but uninjured.

As I said yesterday, I am not a huge fan of horse racing, and this kind of thing definitely puts me off.  When I was younger and the Triple Crown races were run--or I went to the track with my parents to see the horses, it was fun.  I think we may have gone to the now closed Atlantic City Racecourse perhaps twice for an outing. I, of course, could not bet, but just seeing the magnificent horses was enough for me.

Later, when I was older, I went to the track a few times as well, placing my two dollar bets and winning pennies if my horse came in and losing no more than the $20 I'd alloted for the day.  I never thought about the price the horses often paid.

But I'm not sure many people did back then.  It's only recently with the high profile loss of horses like Barbaro that caused the outside world to start noticing the statistics.  And it's only been recently--with the advent of the Internet--that people began to notice the discarded horses out there.  The horses too slow, or too broken to run any more.  I'm sure there were rescues around "back then," but now the world is flooded with them.

Some of the tracks here in the USA have rules that ban owners/trainers who send horses off to auction instead of placing them in safe environments. Many breeders are starting to offer to take back any horses they bred once their careers are over.

Little by little, the world of horse racing is trying to right itself.

But accidents still happen and, unfortunately, far too often the horses are the ones to pay.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

The Breeders' Cup

What Can I Say About the Breeders Cup?

What a disappointment to see Zenyatta lose by a half a head to Blame just now. Had the race been ten feet longer, she would have passed him, but alas, it was not to be.

I am not a big fan of racing.  I love race horses, and have always watched the Triple Crown races. I was fortunate to see John Henry win the first million dollar racing challenge purse at the Meadowlands. And I saw the great Forego come in a very close second in a handicap race at Belmont Park.  I've watched a few races with lesser horses as well, and made some bets in my day.

But a fan? Not exactly.  My heart always ends up in my throat, more worried that someone is going to get hurt. That a champion like Barbaro, or Ruffian will break down and never run again.  Or, to watch a horse like Mine that Bird today--former Kentucky Derby winner come in 10th losing his ninth straight race since that glorious victory.  I worry. Where will they all end up, in the end?

What about the ones who don't win?  Zenyatta, will, of course, become a brood mare, destined, I hope to breed champions like herself.  Forego and John Henry went into happy, idolized retirement at the Kentucky Horse Park.

But what about a guy like Mine That Bird?  Good chance he will go to stud, but the future is no guarantee.  Ferdinand, also a Derby winner, met a tragic end in a slaughterhouse.

When I watch a race, I pray.  I pray all the horses and riders will be safe. And I pray all the horses, win or lose, will be blessed with kind and honorable owners who will always keep them safe and give them a kind retirement.

God bless the Thoroughbreds.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Rainy Day Again

Just Thinking

Rainy days leave plenty of time for thinking.

Of course, I should be doing some housework.  Things are a bit out of control in that department. Once again I need some motivation.  The clothes are half sorted, but I still have a good lot to go through, deciding what I want to get rid of and what I actually need to keep.

Fortunately, the horse clothing is in a bit better shape as far as sorting goes.  The Boys were dressed in their blaze orange sheets which are supposed to be waterproof, but anything beyond a light shower, and the horse underneath is soon as wet as the sheet on top.

But, blessings be, when I clawed through the pile of horse outfits and pulled out three actually waterproof sheets, they were all perfectly serviceable with all straps intact and only minor rips.  Cool!! It only took an extra fifteen minutes or so to dress the Boys in something more suitable for a cold, rainy fall day.

Whenever I am changing blankets or sheets like that, I keep thinking of a mother dressing her children for school in the morning. Thank heavens I don't have the added difficulty of putting boots or galoshes on wiggling feet. My Boys do not wear turnout boots, as they have the 24/7 freedom to go in and out as they please.  Tucker does wear bell boots all the time, but the only time I need to change them is when the velcro starts to rip out.  I do check them to make sure he's not getting chafed, but otherwise, they are kind of  a part of his feet--just there.

I always have to laugh a bit about some of the ads for horse clothing, especially the garb labled "rip proof,"  or "indestructible."  Have those manufacturers actually tested the products in a herd of horses--or in a little herd of three Boys?  Come to think of it, maybe I should volunteer my Boys as product testers.  Somehow, I haven't found a sheet/blanket they couldn't damage.   I must admit, Rambos do hold up well, but on certain horses, they rub terribly--my PJ actually acted lame from chafing in a Rambo.

Which is another issue I have. The shoulder gussets aren't always in the right place.  It's darn expensive to keep testing various brands of horse wear to find out which brand is cut just right for your horse.  It is definitely not a market where "one style fits all."

At any rate, for now, the Boys are dressed for the weather, and I'm indoors looking at the clutter I need to take care of sooner or later.

Maybe I need a plan.

I think I'll think about it.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Election Results

Not Pretty....but....

Never say "die."   My running mate and I lost the local election by a wide margin.

While I am disappointed, my actual feelings are mixed. Not being an elected official does allow me a lot more freedom to be an activist without the obligations of office. I was, of course, hoping to do battle from the inside for a while, but I've been pretty effective on the outside, so that's where I'll stay for the time being.

Losing is never quite a pleasant experience, but when you run on an Independent ticket as we did, you run the risk in a serious way.  It's kind of a sad commentary on American politics that third party candidates rarely win, but we went in knowing that.

For now, we are just going to sit back, take a deep breath and consider the future.

Will I run again?  Hard to say.  But for now, I am just going to take a bit of a break and enjoy being retired.

Monday, November 01, 2010

"Feel It!"

Riding by Theory or.....

I have had hundreds of lessons in my liftetime with dozens of excellent teachers from all nationalities.  Living in New Jersey, not too far from the USET headquarters has its benefits.  I have managed to clinic with many International level riders, coaches and judges.

Some have been great, some have been OK, and some have been not good at all.  But, I was blessed to have a good, solid foundation in the basics from an exceptional trainer who once told me, "You know enough to separate the wheat from the chaff, so when you ride with someone, do just that."  Some suggestions work and some don't, so I've kept the ones that did, and discarded the rest.

My favorite trainer of all time was Lockie Richards, a former three day rider who coached the New Zealand team in three day and eventually turned to dressage.  As Lockie used to say, "I got smart and decided I didn't want to get hurt."  Lockie had tons of good teachers in his past, and plenty of riding experience, but he never had the big money sponsors to get a superstar horse, so he also had a lot of difficult horses to ride and train in hopes of making it to the Olympic level.  (Breggo, the horse of "Lord of the Rings" was his last Grand Prix mount.)

But, all of that experience made him one of the most gifted horsemen and teachers I have ever known.  I used to say you could take a fat Shetland pony to a Lockie lesson and when you were done, you'd be riding a fat little dressage star.  Well, maybe not in one lesson, but both you and the pony would have learned more than you'd ever dreamed was possible.

I think of Lockie often when I ride, mostly because of one of his favorite phrases, "Feel it?? Feel it??"  He was never quite satisfied until I, as a rider, could honestly reply, "Yes!"

Here's the key. It's one thing to intellectually understand a riding theory, or even to practice an exercise, but until you can feel what's happening and put the theory into practice with results, you haven't really learned to ride. More important, you haven't really learned how to train either. Lockie was a master trainer who'd had to cope with nearly every kind of training issue you might run into with a horse, and he'd apply every one of the lessons he'd learned along the way to the lessons he taught. He didn't want me to just ride, he wanted me to be able to make my horse better.

Even today, I still ride by feel.  I never quite figure out how to solve a training problem with a horse until I'm in the saddle, "Feeling it."  Sure, there are exercises that work, and some that don't.

I took a lesson on Tucker more recently with a trainer who noticed how he was falling in with his right hind/haunches on the canter--cantering crookedly.  Her solution?  Ride him in a bit of a shoulder-in at the canter.  But, with Tucker, all that did was curl him up into a "C" with his haunches still in.  By the second circuit of the arena, I changed tactics on my own, flexing him to the outside--counterbend--to stretch the inside of his body, keeping my right leg a bit behind the girth to push his hind end out.  Result? Haunches back where they belonged and the start of a straight canter. He was no longer able to escape through his left shoulder and I had a place to push that right hind leg.

The trainer was quick enough to agree with my solution, but it wasn't one that had ever occurred to her.  She was teaching by theory instead of "feel" and simply did not have a big enough "bag of tricks" to offer an alternative when her method didn't correct the problem.

Lockie would have thought of it, and probably added something like, "Oh, and lower your left ear too so you're back on your left seat bone."  And then.....

"NOW he's cantering straight. Feel it???"