Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Nice Ride

Before the Rain Comes In

The footing is super out on the edges of the field.  Nice dirt roads with no mud.

My arena isn't bad either. Except for the strange phenomenon of the ice build up under the piles of manure along the one side.  The horse manure seems to be amazingly insulating, as the snow just doesn't melt under a pile.  I spent about an hour poo picking--three wheelbarrow loads--cleaning up most of the arena area where I ride. I wanted to get it cleaned up before the heavy rains that are predicted arrive.

Earlier, I did get a nice trail ride in on Chance.  He was a bit reluctant about going out into the fields. I'm not sure why as he is usually pretty eager to go adventuring. But he seemed wary today and stopped a few times.  It could be because there were some guys out doing target shooting earlier. My friend Christina and her husband were out riding and apparently got pretty shaken up when they realized the guys were shooting just on the other side of some trees where they were riding.  So, I'm thinking perhaps Chance was a little spooked about the field.

He was easy to get going, though.  I asked for a little trot along the side of the woods and soon he rolled into a sweet, soft canter, so I just let him go for a stretch.  Then we walked again all the way out to the back off the woods. To my surprise, there is no sign of flooding back there, despite all the snow melt.  That just goes to prove how well the soil drains into the aquifer out there when it's not inundated with runoff from the warehouses.

That meant I could ride along the back of the farm we just preserved and then loop back along the road under the power lines.  The road along the back is another nice stretch, so I set Chance to trotting again and, sure enough, he popped into his wonderful, soft canter again.  We went for a good distance, then settled back to an easy trot and finally a walk back to the trail we'd started off on.  I decided not to go back through the woods since I thought I'd heard some ATV's back there and we came back home the same way we'd gone out.

It was another really nice ride on a really nice horse.  Chance is such fun to ride.

I thought about lungeing Toby and Tucker but decided not too--choosing to pick the arena instead.  I have boots to put on Tucker so I can work him if I want to, so that's not a real problem at this point.  I will have to monitor the weather, though, to see if we'd be better off putting his shoes back on rather than run the risk of his getting bruised again.  If it looks like the snow is really gone for the season, I'll do the shoes sooner than later.

I am honestly surprised that even with over a foot of melted snow, I don't have any serious mud.  But that may change. The forecast is calling for 1.5 inches of rain over tonight and tomorrow. That just might be the tipping point.

For now, it was just really nice.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Birds

Fickle Weather

The fickle weather continues. Some heavy rain yesterday with warmer temperatures was followed by strong winds and another cold front.  Much of the snow melted but some turned to ice. Fortunately, most of the paddock area is cleared of old snow, so the Boys had plenty of safe places to walk.

And, they seem to have some grass to nibble on. Right now they are out in the pasture, grazing, or at least pretending to graze. I just think after nearly three months of snow cover, they are relieved to see the ground and the paltry little blades of green appearing here and there.

It's actually not that bad outside now and the footing on the trail might be OK.  I'll at least think about taking Chance out for a ride. But, we'll have to see. I am in such "couch potato" mode that I may not.

Meanwhile,  I took some pictures of the grackle flocks the other day, just to give you a feeling of the number of birds.

Each one of the black things is a bird. They make an incredible amount of noise too.  The flocks might be around any time of year too. I've seen them on the trees in back of the woods in the summer as well.  But, as noted, if they eat the stinkbugs, then I say, "Welcome."

To close, I have to post a cute kitty picture or two. Reggie, the black cat, and Church, the gray one were settled on the couch, quite comfortably, from the looks of it.

And you wonder why I am a couch potato?   I have role models!!

Afternoon addendum:  I took Chance out for a ride in the woods. He was an absolute angel after not being ridden in over two months.  For the most part, the footing was excellent along the edge of the field and good in all but the deepest part of the woods where there was a bit of snow, some ice and some slippery mud.  I was rather surprised at how nice it was.  We even cantered just a tiny bit on the first part of the forest trail. Maybe 20 yards of canter, but that's OK.  If the weather stays nice tomorrow, I will take him out again.

I have to be careful with Toby and Tucker. This is the first time barefoot for Toby, so I don't know how his feet will be, and we already know Tucker does not "do"barefoot. Still, I might try to lunge each of them a little. The arena footing is also surprisingly good. But I do have  a lot of poo picking yet to do.  I did clean the area where I can lunge, so that's a plus.

Guess we'll see what tomorrow brings as there is some more precipitation on the way. But it may not come in until Sunday night so the day may be OK.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Patience and Disappointment

Lessons Learned

My Township is investing nearly a half million dollars in artificial turf for some playing fields at a municipal park. Rationale during this time of tight economic purse strings makes no sense to me, but part of the explanation is that when it rains the fields become unusable, sometimes for days.

That means that baseball games, or soccer games have to be canceled.  While the township does make a little money renting out the space, I'm pretty sure it's not enough to cover the cost of the turf.  But, somehow, we need the fields. Our kids need a place to play.

When I was a "kid" if it rained, we didn't play, or go to the shore, or whatever. Disappointment was just a part of life.

I haven't been able to ride or even work my horses all winter. Lessons learned as a child watching the rain have taught me that's just the way things go.  Sure, if I had a bundle of money, I could have an indoor arena, solving part of the problem, but what about all those days when my horse was sore from an abscess, or all those times when for one reason or another, I simply couldn't ride. I might be caught at a meeting after school so I got to the barn after dark and there were no lights. I might arrive at feeding time, the only open window in my schedule that just didn't coincide with the boarding barn's schedule. It might not be raining, but it might be well below zero, or up into the hot summer temperatures. The B52 bomber flies might be swarming. The hunters might be blasting away in the woods.  My truck might have a dead battery so I can't trailer to a lesson on time--or a horse show. A thunderstorm might roll in.

If I had a half million dollars to spend on "artificial turf" for my barn, I could have a climate controlled indoor with perfect footing and bionic horses that never had a physical issue.  I'd have all kinds of replacement parts for potentially broken tack, several trucks and trailers in case one didn't work on a day I needed it.


Then again, maybe not.

I have learned to be patient, to accept disappointment and to take things as they come. Blessed by having the horses in my backyard so I know they are well cared for no matter what the weather, it's OK if I don't ride.

Sometimes things just don't work out the way you plan.  Sometimes the game just has to be canceled.

I wonder if the "artificial turf generation" is ever going to learn that lesson.

Side note:  The grackle is a blackbird native to North America. They arrive here in huge flocks, cleaning out my bird feeder and anything else bird edible that is not nailed down. It does appear that they also eat the brown marmorated stinkbug which has invaded our area, so despite their devouring all my bird seed, I might learn to welcome them to my property.

Addendum: Another winter blanket bit the dust or was bit by Chance...pretty sure. So Tucker is now on his 4th blanket of the winter.  I think I can repair at least two of them but this one is a total loss as part of the fabric is somewhere in the paddocks or pasture. Good thing they were on sale. *sigh*

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sensitive Subject

A Public Service Announcement


A colonoscopy is an internal examination of the colon (large intestine) and rectum, using an instrument called a colonoscope.

There, I've said it. And that's what I had today.

Medical tests are a little scary and always a nuisance.  But often to assure your health, they are necessary.  The right tests done at the right time discovered my uterine cancer at an early stage and hopefully, led me to a successful surgery and and end to my cancer. 

Fortunately, today's test offered a good report with no serious issues. 

I just thought I should fill you all in on the basic details to give you some sense of what's involved to encourage you to get yourself examined.  

I ate a light diet on Sunday, but on Monday, the day before my test, I was on a clear liquid diet all day.  The only problem with that was realizing just how many advertisements there are on television for food.  Burgers, pizza, diets, tacos, and mothers serving tasty dishes to their families fill the TV screen time after time. And local pizza parlors baking their wares waft enticing smells across  shopping center parking lots.  You just have to grit your teeth and drink..but that includes clear beef broth which isn't bad. 

At about 3 PM on Monday, I took a tablet included in my bowel prep kit. Nothing much happened at that point. But I did have to mix up a bottle of 2 lliters of a solution to drink later.  At 6 PM, I started drinking 8 ounces of the solution every fifteen minutes.  Within a half hour, the solution began--to put it politely--flushing out my bowels.  I learned to be light of foot in a race to the bathroom for about the next two hours.  I am pretty sure I was well cleaned out by then.

Monday morning, I had my wonderful friend, Donna, drive me to the hospital.  There I checked in for my test.  I have to commend the doctor as I was scheduled for the procedure at 9:45 AM and I was in the test room before 10 AM, so there was virtually no wait.  

Just as a side note here, they told me to keep my shoes and socks on during the procedure.  I found that a bit strange, but it was nice to be able to keep my feet warm with my own socks instead of those hospital fuzzy things I've worn before. 

I met my lovely doctor.  I'd made arrangements for the scoping through phone calls and mail, using a physician my general doctor had highly recommended.  So as strange as it seems the first time I met my gastroenterologist  was a few minutes before my procedure began.  She was really nice, by the way, and I felt very comfortable with her. 

Then an equally nice anesthesiologist explained that I was going to to into "twilight sleep."  Supposedly this is a light anesthesia where the patient is not fully asleep. He said some people stay a little aware of what's going on, some just get kind of "loopy,"  and the rest might be like me, because in less than a second, I was out like a light. 

I have no idea at all what went on from there.  Not only was the test completely painless, but I felt nothing at all.  And when I woke up in the recovery room at around 10:40 or so, I felt absolutely fine.  My doctor came in to tell me that all was well, except for a little diverticulitis--very common in people my age (61) and that I needed to be careful eating seeds and nuts.  She also showed me a photo of my insides. I would have liked to have studied the pics  a bit more, my I wasn't quite 100% fully awake yet, so I didn't.  

By 11:05, I was in a wheelchair being "driven" down to the front of the hospital to wait for my ride home. 

Fact is, aside from the test prep stuff--drinking two liters of the solution and the consequences was not very pleasant--the whole thing was a cinch.  

I was not allowed to drive or sign any contracts for at least 12 hours afterwards--a precaution after having anesthesia--and I could eat and drink anything I wanted. 

So, there you go. Not exactly the most pleasant topic for my blog, but if it encourages one more person to have this important examination, then it was worth it.  

Monday, February 21, 2011

Rights and Privileges

Horses in Charge

I have to laugh a bit about my Boys. With the freedom of being able to go in and out of the barn at will, they have clearly established their territory out there.  And, the herd hierarchy is very obvious.

Toby is the alpha horse with Tucker running a close second. So, whatever Toby wants, Toby gets. This morning,  under the leftover flakes of a mini now event--just a dusting, thank goodness--all three were under the west run in roof.  Well, sort of.  Toby was well inside, perhaps even in Chance's stall, Tucker was totally under the roof, and Chance, low man on the totem pole was half in, half out, clearly ready to take off should one of the other two decide he had to leave.

When I go out to feed, each Boy heads for his own stall.  Then I open Toby's inside stall gate to put in his hay. I'll usually put Tucker's hay in from the outside as I walk through Toby's stall. Toby feels it is then his right and privilege to walk into the aisle of the barn to browse and explore. He likes to nibble on stray pieces of hay, check out Chance's stall for some reason, and then go to stand by the feed room door trying to hurry me along.

In the process, he might knock over the garbage can for or kick the movable step out of the way.

Today, Tucker decided to follow Toby into the aisle. The aisle is about twelve feet wide and thirty four feet long, so there was plenty of room.  But not for Toby.  Apparently Tucker was infringing on his exclusive rights.  He did not get violent, but made it clear, with nasty faces that Tucker had to leave.  So Tuck headed back out, with Toby at his him a good nip on the hind end to hurry him along.  At least I know how the blankets lose their storm flaps!

It's not that often that I see Toby have to make physical contact to get his point across. As the boss horse, he has his rights and doesn't have to do much to enforce them.

Generally, as ulitimate "alpha horse," I don't need to make a lot of physical contact myself to get my point across.  But I must be ever mindful that there is always the urge to social climb within the herd.  Since I can't lay my ears back, I try to use assertive posture and attitude, resorting to a vocal "snarl" when one of the Boys tries to overstep my authority.

But every now and then, like Toby, I need to give a little "nip" to bring my point across. It's good to know such corrections are quite in the normal, natural order of things.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Blown Away

Horrendous Wind Today 

Along with colder temperatures made the day quite miserable outside.  The Boys seemed to be hanging around the barn again, mostly to use the building as a windbreak.

That is for most of the day. But in early afternoon, my phone rang with a frantic call from my cousin who was at my aunt's house next door.  "Your horses are loose!!"

Sure enough, I rolled myself off the couch to see Chance frolicking by the living room window on the front lawn.

Bad. I'd forgotten that the fence had some rails down along the edge of the driveway, and Chance is master of any escape opportunity.  Toby and Tucker were still in the back, all riled up that horse number three was further along in the adventure than they were.

The gate to the paddock was open. The only thing I can figure is that I had the chain looped over the hook but hadn't fastened the snap hook.  Since I hadn't used that gate in weeks, who know how long it had been closed that way?  And the intense wind must have lifted it and blown it open.  (This, by the way, relieves a certain horse of any guilt in the initial escape.)

I grabbed my coat and a handful of carrots and ran out. By then, my cousins were coming over from next door, but Chance had decided to go back to the other Boys in the back yard again.  The carrots were an instant lure for him and Toby and I soon had two chestnuts back in the paddock with one very wily bay on the outside.

Tucker simply would not let me lure him far enough into the paddock to get the gate closed. Part of the problem was that I was being mugged by Toby whenever I offered Tucker the carrot, so that posed a problem.

I finally solved it by leading Tucker with the carrot bribe to another gate on the other side of the barn where there were no other horses and, with a bit of solid bribery, lured him into the front paddock.  With all gates locked securely, it looks as if another disaster had been averted.

Funny thing was that when I was lying on the couch, I thought I heard some strange thudding noises outside, but I didn't bother to go look. Considering how many hoofprints are on the back lawn, I now know was the thuds were.

After I got the Boys back in I used some handy dandy baling twine to squeeze the fenceposts by the driveway together to I could get the rails to stay in place--the posts have shifted and the rails are too short.  I kind of tied the rails in there for the time being, but it's one more chore to finish up properly once the good weather gets here.

And, I'll be cleaning up some more branches that have blown off the trees. The only plus of the wind is that it did blow a lot of leaves off the front lawn, making that chore a little less daunting as spring approaches,  I never did quite get the leaves cleaned up before the snow, so having them blow away is a nice bonus.

Thaw Continues

Though Still Not Rideable

The arena is taking its own sweet time in thawing out. That might be OK in the end, as a slower thaw does allow some of the water to dry up as we go along.

Speaking of which...the wind is horrendous out there now and that too is drying up the ground where the snow has melted. But it is also bringing in colder temperatures again.  I put the midwieght blankets back on the Boys when I went out for late feed. Temperatures are supposed to drop back into the 20's during the nights and in the 40's during the day.  Actually that's more normal for our weather in the winter, but a drastic change from the 60's we had today.

I did a little extra outdoor work, in the sunshine, but soggy conditions don't encourage much. I did manage to take the Christmas decorations down off the barn as there was finally no ice where I had to put the ladder. And I just realized I still have to pull up the spotlight that was buried under a drift in front of the house.  I hope I remember that!

Otherwise, I surveyed the area around the barn and it is a mess!! Because the Boys have been hanging out there a lot, there is manure everywhere.  By the time I can get the tractor in to do some cleaning,  its going to be all broken up and scattered.  Maybe I'll just throw some grass seed down and pull the drag over it as I don't think there is going to be any way to clean it out.  It was frozen into the snow, under the snow and on top of the snow in some cases since Christmas.  Guess I am just going to have to cope as best I can.

I can't quite recall things being that messy before. I almost dread waiting to see how the arena looks. I do pick that out, and will again as keeping the sand surface relatively clean does cut the dust.  But the Boys are out there during turnout and so poo picking is always a chore.  Now it is going to be a nightmare.

Ah well, the cleaning will get me fit.  Maybe I'll lose some of the winter weight I've managed to gain.

Additional note: I just heard some meowing outside and turned on the light to see two stray kitties "discussing things."  I'm not sure if the gray one was the one that was here before or a new one. I think the other one was the little black cat that seems to live in my garage.  I've been feeding it and Mommacat all winter, but I hadn't seen the third cat before.

The "discussion" was either two Toms in a potential dispute OR....I don't want to consider. That last thing I need here is a litter of wild kittens.  *sigh*

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Picking a Winner

The Rules Apply

I watched the finals of the Westminster Dog Show last night. As soon as the Scottish Deerhound came into the ring, I gasped. Of course there was the drama of the spotlight on the silver coat in the darkened arena, and the dog was big, but it wasn't that.  This dog just glided elegantly like a beautifully gaited horse.

Having watched a number of these high profile dog shows before, despite the fact that I was awestruck by the Deerhound, I knew too well that little fuzzy Pekingese and shining Fox Terriers are far more often the winners of Best in Show. I've had favorites before, most of which have fallen short of the prize--although one year a personality plus Sheltie won both my heart and the judge's.  So, I wasn't too hopeful that my pick was going to win.

But win she did. And strangely enough, though I don't know the dog, the handler, or much at all about the competition, I was thrilled.  I was honestly that in love with that dog.

What was it about her that captured me? The way she moved.

It's the same effect a beautifully moving horse has on me.  Now, I know everyone talks about Totilas as the master of dressage, but he doesn't glide. There is power in his gaits, drama in his movement, and despite even my reservations about whether or not all his training is really correct, he is breathtaking.  But he does not glide effortlessly across the arena.

Ravel does.  When he performs his trot half-pass it is amazing.  It's as if his hoofs are not even touching the earth. Alerich did, especially in his canter one tempis. I remember gasping in Madison Square Garden when Klimke finished his demonstration ride on the great horse with a series of one tempis up the center line--straight at where we were sitting.  The whole Spanish Riding School, in its Grand Quadrille does.

I guess the secret is when the movement looks as if it's no work at all.

Those of us who ride know better.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Fickle Thaw

 Here and There

Warm temperatures yesterday started some more thawing, although today's very cold temperatures stopped the process. What fascinates me is how fickle the snow is.
Here is the front lawn which faces south. It's almost melted.
Here is the paddock just across the driveway, also facing south. That snow is still fairly deep.
Here is the riding arena surface, and yes, that's ice in the front. This is exposed to sunshine nearly all day.
Here's the area where I backed the truck up to the barn to unload the feed.  It is melting.
Here are Chance and Tucker basking in the sunshine in the arena.  Boy, do I have a lot of fence repair to look forward to!! *lol*
Chance was napping in the sun.  But it is cold and windy today so the run in shed helped as a windbreak.
Tucker posed this time. He's in his third blanket of the season. *sigh*
And Toby was off by himself, in the top of the pasture where the snow had melted, also enjoying the sunshine. The trees act as a good windbreak here. Although you can see that branch down.  That's another job to take care of once I can get in there with the tractor.

Spring clean up is going to keep me pretty busy, that's for sure. There are just a ton of things that need tending.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

No Stuck Truck

But I Drive Crooked

In four wheel drive, the truck handled the snow to the barn just fine, until I hit the pile at the edge of the other path I'd plowed to walk in.  So, I went forward, backed in again, and hit the same pile. Do you think I could have aimed better?  Third try put in in nearly the same spot.

I am usually a much more accurate driver than that. I am now claiming that the snow was directing the course of the truck to the same spot on each effort. It was the snow, not my steering.

Anyhow, I ended up about 20 feet or so from the feed room door, so I had to carry the feed bags a bit farther than normal.  I guess I'll count that as my workout for the day.  I left a few bags in the truck because I ran out of storage room where certain furry rodents could not get to my grain.  Unless one of the garage mice gets into the back of the truck, the feed will be fine in there until I need it for the Boys.

I am decidedly overrun around here with furry critters. I'm pretty sure I have a resident critter on the back porch--probably a cousin of the barn rodents.  I have a humane trap to set to catch him, but I haven't had the heart to do it while we have all the snow.  Call me a softie, but tossing even a furry rodent out into the snowdrifts is beyond my meanness level.  Once the snow melts, I will set the trap and hopefully send him on his way out in the woods.

Then, of course, I have the squirrels at the bird feeder.  Today they were in competition with the huge hoarde of grackles who attacked the yard at around 8 AM, but I'm sure they got their share of the birdseed I'd put in the feeder for the little songbirds.  I also put out two ears of corn, hoping to lure the squirrels to that instead of the seed, but I'm afraid the grackle raiders ate that too.

And then, there is the opossum--at least it looked like opossum tracks--who eats the cat food in the carport.

Add to him Raccoon Raider and the groundhogs--once Spring wakes them up--and I have a whole furry brigade visiting with startling regularity.  Ooops, I almost forgot the rabbits and the fox that drops by looking for the rabbits.

Let's just say I am doing my part to provide habitat for the local wildlife.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Feed Sale

20% Off At Rick's

Rick's Saddle Shop, my local tack/feed store has a 20% off all feed through the weekend.  Since the Boys were due, I bought.  I figured that five bags of feed would pay for one, so I got six of each.

Well, that's six bags of Healthy Edge and six bags of alfalfa cubes.  I only bought one bag of barley.

My math was about right as it all came in for what five bags each would cost.

However, it's all still in the truck. Except for the one bag of alfalfa cubes I took to the barn because I'd run out of them for the Boys' breakfast, the rest still rest in the back of the Durango.  I just ran out of steam as far as unloading goes.

The trick is going to be getting the feed into the barn since I don't have a path for plowed wide enough for a vehicle.  Fortunately--I hope--the snow has melted down enough in the track I had plowed from the storm before the last one that I think with the four wheel drive, I'll be able to back in.

If not, watch this blog for the story of the stuck truck.

Meantime, the Boys are still able to go out.  There is some ice here, but the snow cover is holding up, and aside from the few places where they have packed down the snow to make trails, the footing is pretty OK, at least for barefoot horses in the snow.

We'll have to see what happens over the next few days as the temps rise.  It will be OK during the day as the snow starts to melt, but I'm going to have to watch out when it gets cold again at night.  Since the Boys have 24/7 free choice turnout, I might have to keep them in for the nigttime freezes.

I guess only time will tell.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Enough Already

Still waiting for it to warm up to tolerable levels. I am at the point where I dread going outdoors, not that I can't dress warmly enough, but rather that it's just so depressing.

Tucker has been standing in and around the emergency manure pile by the barn. Chance was there the other day. I am guessing that they have discovered the heat from the composting manure.  It's probably a nice break from the snow/icy stuff outside.  If I'm right about that, it just goes to prove one more time that horses are clever about making do in tough situations.

I used to ride in this kind of weather. Perhaps not quite this cold, but certainly in the snow.  At that time, I usually had snow shoes/pads and borium on my horse's shoes. As I've noted, I didn't do that this year.  Chance was barefoot from the start and might have been OK to ride, but the first snow was so deep and it hasn't let up much since then.  I worry that when my horse is not really fit that trying to carry me through the deep snow would be too much to handle.  And, the other day, when I tried to lunge Chance a bit, he made it clear he didn't even like negotiating the snow on his own.

Tucker and Toby are just now barefoot, and we already know Tucker is not a candidate for much work without shoes. I do have boots for him to wear in and emergency, but they'd not be good for turnout.  Last year I made a good effort and transitioning him to barefoot, but he had some long term lameness as a result, so I won't risk it again. Toby may be another story. If he can go barefoot, that would be great.

The temperatures look to be moderating over the next day or so, creeping up above freezing and eventually into the 40's.  I am a bit surprised that even today, with temperatures in the 20's that there is still some melting going on out there. The sun has gotten stronger as the season wanes, and it's having an effect. If it really does go above 40 and stay that way for a week or so, maybe the snow will finally melt.   My path to the barn is about 80% clear down to the lawn and nearly all the icy stuff is gone from the driveway--except for a couple patches by the house.

But winter has its wicked ways.  I am not quite leaping into spring mode yet.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011


The Arctic Returns

Funny how when you learn something as a child how it comes back to you. As I was typing "Arctic" the very old lesson of remembering the "C" after the "R" flooded into my brain. There are dozens of words like that I remember from old spelling lessons. And all this after teaching English for over 38 years with my own methods and techniques.

Regardless of the "C,"  the bitter cold weather has returned, coming in on some strong winds yesterday after a fairly mild morning.  We still did not have enough snow melt to create a huge ice problem, so the Boys are able to be out.  I did see them trotting out to the pasture yesterday and everyone looked sound, so that's good.

Ah, yes, Scott came the other day. He was pretty sure he wasn't going to be able to get through the narrow plowed section of my driveway, so he backed in the end by the mailbox.  Then he carried his tools in to take off both Toby's and Tucker's shoes.  For Tucker, this is just temporary.  As I found out last winter, he is one of those horses who need shoes to stay sound.  I am keeping a close eye on him as I don't want him to bruise his feet this year.  As long as we have this snow, I think he will be OK.  As for Toby--this is kind of a test. If he has no trouble barefoot, I will probably keep him that way. He does not get ridden much and the trails around here have pretty good footing so he may be fine.  But again, I will watch him carefully. He has been a really sound horse for the 19 years I've owned him and I don't want to start giving him problems now.

I did notice that the one place where the ice could be a problem--Chance's packed down, well worn path from his side of the barn to the other Boys' side, is completely covered with a layer of manure.  This makes for good traction and no top layer of ice.  Now, I have to wonder, could this be deliberate?  I certainly didn't spread any manure along that path.  Could it be that the horses themselves...or even just Chance did it on purpose?  The entire path is covered, exactly as if it had been done intentionally.

I honestly can believe it.  Horses are much more intelligent about things than we realize. Kaybe they have their own methods for coping with winter's tricky footing.

If so, it was a good idea.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Back to School

On a Sunny Day

I went to the Academy to substitute today. Get ready....I was the Chemistry/Physics teacher. I haven't studied either since high school.  Fortunately, I just had to show two videos. One was on Chemical Bonding and the other on Rotational Inertia and Torque.

Now, mind you, I was a fairly good science student in my time, and I am pretty well able to grasp concepts of most basic science. Today was no exception as I learned quite a bit from each video. They were very well presented with some good experiments to demonstrate each concept.

But, I simply do not remember learning anything about either of the topics from my own Chemistry and Physics classes.  So, what do I conclude?  Did I forget everything I'd ever learned?  Or, is this something we never studied back then?  Has the study of these sciences advanced over the last 40+ years so that these are now basics taught routinely?  Is some of it new discovery since my time in the science classroom?

I've put in a call to a friend from high school who has kept up with the sciences but he wasn't home.  I'm hoping I may hear back from him, but if not, I am going to do a bit of research, just to satisfy my own curiosity.

I must say, it was interesting to learn something new like that, not that any of it is particularly practical for my immediate life, but I am always fascinated with how things work and often, more importantly, why things work.

I changed the Boys into lighter blankets for the day, but switched them back into the waterproof midweight ones when I got home. Once again stormy weather is predicted and along the way, temperatures are supposed to drop. Bummer, since I got to use the hose twice today to fill the water trough.  I keep hoping the thaw will be long term, but it looks like we are going to get another Arctic blast this week.

Changing the horses' blankets always reminds me of their individual personalities.  Chance never seems annoyed when I work on him when he's eating. But he doesn't move too much to help me. And, if he wants to walk out of the stall, whether I'm there or not really doesn't matter much. It's not a deliberate effort to interfere with what I'm doing, it's just that what he's doing is clearly more important to him. Yet, when I pull a blanket over his head, he very willingly stops eating to let me do it.

Toby is generally most cooperative. He does not actively acknowledge that I'm there to do something, but he just naturally cooperates, moving over to let me reach a strap, dropping his head to let me slip the blanket over--I didn't undo the front straps.  And, he's very patient about waiting while I fasten buckles and surcingles.

Tucker clearly expresses his annoyance at being bothered. He lays his ears back, swishes his tail, and even lifts a hind leg just to remind me that he could kick if he wanted to.  He bobs his head when I try to pull a blanket over it, and might even snap at the air if my buckling the front straps blocks him from his hay or grain. While he doesn't actively resist, he makes it quite clear that I am interfering with his life and that he is just barely indulging my presence.

Interesting in that the way the Boys behave in the stalls is pretty much how they tend to behave when I ride them..

Once again, it's pretty clear that groundwork really does relate to under saddle training.

So, if you want to know your horse, spend some time handling him/her and paying attention. You might learn a lot.

Sunday, February 06, 2011


I Used the Hose!!

It was over 40F today with sunshine! We are still under at least a foot of snow and it's not easy to get through the darn stuff.

I put the lunge line on Chance and tried to work him just a little in the arena.  He walked around me in a circle but when I asked for trot, he made a game effort, made it once around and then fell back into a walk again after struggling to lift his legs high enough to get through the snow cover.  I then asked Tucker if he'd like to try, but he made it clear he wanted no part of it.  Since chasing after him in the snow was too much for me, I simply gave up the idea altogether.

I thought maybe the Boys would like the diversion, but I guess they aren't quite bored enough to put in some extra effort.

I switched Tucker over to a lighter blanket so I could bring his mediumweight repair it. Yes, that's blanket #3.  This time, it was just a ripped surcingle.  This would have proved an easy fix on the sewing machine, but Murphy was visiting again today.  I did manage to sew one side of the strap back on, and then the machine's bobbin ran out of thread.  Since filling a new bobbin is a pain in the neck, and I didn't have a new one ready to go, I let Murphy's Law win the day and simply sewed the other side of the strap by hand.  Since I was wearing my contact lenses, that was a bit frustrating.  I simply cannot see for super close work, even with my reading glasses on when I'm wearing my lenses. If I take them out, I can see really close just fine, but I didn't want to do that for a minor job.  So I found a needle with a really big eye so I could thread it, and managed. All in all, a five minute job turned into a 20 minute effort, but the blanket is fixed for now.

Outside, the news was good.  I'd taken the coil hose out so I could clean and refill the water trough, but to my delight, I didn't need it! The outdoor hose was nicely thawed and for perhaps only the second time in the last three months, I was able to fill the tub with no extra effort.

I also used my new toboggan--I found one on EBay--to cart some hay over to the barn.  We're supposed to get some potential bad weather in again tomorrow night, so the extra bale will come in handy.

Then, it's a matter of watching the weather forecast to see what's going on with another storm that seems to be developing for the end of the week. The storm tomorrow will, hopefully, not amount to much, but at this point, I just need to be prepared for anything.

Either way, a trip to the feed store is in the cards for mid week. I don't want to run out of anything...just in case.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Ice Grippers

The 2011 Necessity

I have some ice grippers I've used now for years on my boots in icy conditions. They have a rubber strap that stretches to fit my shoes, and metal studs to dig into the ice. The old ones I have only have studs in the front, but they slip on easily and work very well.

I found some on EBay and bought two pair right before Christmas.  I used mine in one of the storms and they were fine--for a while. But then the little spikes broke off.  I thought it was because I was walking on the paved driveway too much with them.  I gave Stacie a pair last week, and sure enough, the little spikes broke on hers too after a day or so. Bummer!!  The older ones I have are still fine after more than a couple years of use. Those studs are entirely different than the new ones.  I did order some replacement studs, but I'm not sure they are going to last any longer, but we'll see. I sent them to Stacie.

In the meantime, I have my old grippers--still in good shape--and I also had a pair of Yaktrax.
I'd gotten them some time ago. I put them on my boots at the start of the ice storm and I can say, so far, they work really well.  I've been walking in a combination of icy packed snow, snow, and ice and I haven't slipped at all.  I lucked out and found another pair at the sporting good store today in a size that fits my boots even better than the pair I had, so I got them. Now I can use the original, slightly smaller pair on my regular shoes when I go out.  

Years ago, I had some studs to screw into my horse's shoes for better traction on the slippery grass--mostly when I was eventing, or forced to do a dressage test on the grass. PJ had a very flat foot and a wide shoe that had no traction on slippery surfaces, so I used the studs on him when I needed them. I guess they make removable ice studs for horse shoes too--an option that's kind of a nuisance to keep up, but a solution for temporary icy conditions. 

I also had a set of studs to insert in Easyboots, but I never used them. I guess they are in my "lost tack" collection somewhere.  I have miscellaneous horse equipment stored in all kinds of places around here so it's an adventure whenever I decide to look for something I'm sure I have.  Sometimes I find it, and sometimes I don't.  Several months ago, a friend was looking for a Kimberwicke. I used to used one on Russell all the time when I rode cross country.  As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure I must have two bits.  However, one of my more diligent searches of the "lost tack" hideaways, I didn't find either one.  Somewhere, there is another secret storage spot with that bit.  

My very first riding instructor had an entire, rather large room, in her old farmhouse simply full of tack and equipment. Now she did have a stable of quite a few horses and gave group lessons on them, so some of the collection was necessary. But the rest?  

It was all like the missing Kimberwicke. I don't need it. I don't use it. But I have it....somewhere. 

Thursday, February 03, 2011

I Cee

But Not Completely

Except where the snow is either packed down, or melted into water...the ice was not a total disaster around here.  The crust on the snow itself is minimal, so it's easy to break through to the less slippery snow beneath.

I did put bedding and "stuff" down on the area around the Boys' water trough.  There is a clear area under the run in roof, and Chance's little path from his side of the barn to the big boys' side of the barn has its own layer of manure, etc, embedded.  Essentially, the footing was kind of OK.  From what I could tell, all three horses stayed pretty close to the barn most of the day.

Temperatures are supposed to rise above freezing for the next few days and there is a rainstorm on the way.  All this means no relief from winter's wrath.  But AccuWeather suggests that there will be a change in the upper air patterns by the end of the month and perhaps we will have a warming trend.

I have to think the horses are getting as tired of all this as I am.  At least they had some sunshine to bask in today. I wonder if they get cabin fever the way humans do?

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Icing on the Cake

But It Sounded Like Rain

Maybe it was a bit of both.  I am pretty sure I heard some heavy showers while I was in bed last night.  There is a coating of ice on everything outside, so I guess we had some sleet/freezing rain too. Now, it is definitely rain, but I'm not sure that's good either.  Trouble is, tonight and tomorrow the temperatures are going to drop below freezing again. I don't know what the footing will be like for the Boys with that kind of situation.  Hopefully, the crust of ice stuff will not be thick enough that they won't break through to the snow beneath.

Either way, I'm going to use some of the old bedding/manure to cover the packed down paths they've made and the section in front of the water trough so they have some traction there.

As for me, I have some ice grippers for my boots, so I am fairly well able to get around without slipping.  I didn't realize how well they worked until I just went out to take some pictures. I was wearing my muckers without the grippers on them. I was not easy to walk safely.  I finally ended up literally digging my heels into the snow at each step and that let me break through so I had some "hold."
Icicles on the back porch. This is what keeps falling on the step at the back door.
 Lady and Gentleman cardinals awaiting their time at the bird feeder.
 The broken lilac bush.
 More impressive icicles on the house.
 The coating of ice on a broken branch.
Just another picture of the driveway for those of you who need a winter "fix."  

Toby and Tucker were on the west side of the barn this morning, and rather than walking around to get inside to their stalls, they waiting at Chance's outside door to come in through the center aisle. Tucker often does this, but it is not the usual for Toby. I am guessing they were both concerned about walking on the icy path around the back.  Fine by me, especially if they decide to stay in the barn on their own.  

I have a feeling I am going to keep them in tonight anyhow. If it does freeze up as predicted, I'm not too keen about having them out and about until I can assess the situation. 

Hey, at least the manure pile is near the barn so I don't have far to cart the stuff to make some paths.  Strange how there is always a positive spin on things if you just know how to look for it.