Saturday, April 30, 2011

Nothing Much

On the Horse Front

I did almost finish the run in shed clean up, however. I still need to do a little in the corners and spaces close to the doors where the tractor could not go without damaging something.

Had to do a bit of forking the muck into the loader, however, as when it is wet, matted hay, it tends to roll out as you try to scoop it up.  I rather expect I am going to feel it tomorrow.

I also went to lunch with my good friend Shelley.  Some of you may recall, I have been helping her with her doctoral thesis/dissertation.  Well, I am delighted to announce she is now Doctor Shelley!!  She defended at the beginning of the week and was accepted by the panel of judges.  From what I can tell, they were very interested in the results of her research and we both hope some of her conclusions will be noted by people who can actually create some change in our schools.

She will be graduating in a week or so and she has invited me to the ceremony.  I am so excited for her and definitely plan to attend.  There are not many people I know who have worked harder for a degree and who have deserved it more. Shelley has overcome many obstacles on her way to this honor, and I am thrilled for her.

After liunch, I came home, watched some of the Rolex Three Day cross country on the USEF network on the Internet, and found myself caught up in it for nearly two hours.  Truly some amazing riders, but more amazing horses. The jumps were huge, with all kinds of challenging approaches and landings.  I did see one accident--Kristi Nunnick on R Star had a pretty dramatic fall. I can't find out any information as to whether Kristi is OK. Her horse was led off an looked fine. I know there were a few other falls, and one rider had on an inflatable vest which certainly worked. She looked all puffed up as she walked off the course--looking unharmed.

Every time I watch these events, I do get a little pang of nostalgia for the "good old days," when I galloped and jumped cross country. It really was a "high" when things went well. But you need the right horse, and also need to be in peak physical and mental condition to do it all well and safely.  I realized a long time ago I just didn't have the courage to continue.  But now and then, I do miss it.

I think Mary King of the UK is in first and second place. Hats off to her!! I can't even imagine making it through that course on one horse, let alone two! As much as I'd like a US rider to win, I will be rooting for Mary for sure.  She is one impressive lady!

Off to feed the Boys.....

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Love That Tractor

And More News

I used the tractor to clear away most of the emergency manure pile by the barn yesterday. It took me a little while to figure out how to do it most efficiently, but once I established a method, it was great! I had to wait until the ground dried out a little from all the rain we've been having and yesterday was the first day.

While I was doing that, I let the Boys out into the back yard. I blocked the driveway gates with my car and truck as well as tying them closed. I know Chance has figured out they are push through gates so until I hook up the fence charger to electrify them, I had to be cautious.

Some of the grass is a bit out of control.  While I do need to cut the lawn with my newly restored riding mower, that too is one of those things that had to wait until things dried out. Now, it's going to be days of rain again, so I supposed I will be knee deep in grass before the end of next week.  I'd let the Boys out to eat it again, but when it gets too wet, they leave huge hoofprints in the yard making more of a mess than I already have.

Right now, priorities are to try to clean up some of the mess around the barn before the flies start breeding. I did put out my first order of fly predators, but there is still a lot of wet stuff that needs to be removed. I will work on it again today if the rain holds off.

And more news. I made an appointment for next week with a knee replacement surgeon. The fact is that my knees are hurting all the time--sometimes worse than others. While I can still ride, they hurt when I do and they definitely hurt when I get off. I am ready to make some serious decisions.

I could have met with the doctor who did my arthroscopic surgery, but I am going straight to the replacement surgeon for a consult instead. There may be one more therapy I can try to hold me for a while, but that would only be temporary.  What I need to find out:
1. Will he do both knees at the same time?
2. How long is the recovery time in the hospital?
3. How long before I can walk enough to at least feed the horses?
4. How much PT do I need?
5. How long before I can drive the car?
6. How long before I can ride again"?
7. How long do the replacements last?
8. Should I actually do it now?

I am hoping to shoot for the end of summer, mostly because I can use the swimming to build myself up as a prep for surgery.  Unless there is some way that I could have the surgery and be swimming in a couple weeks, my pool membership will be wasted and I will miss out on some of my better exercise.

I will, of course, continue to ride as much as I can, but honestly, the pain saps my energy and enthusiasm. I am sure that's a good part of the reason Chance's training is not as far along as it should be. Hacking out in the woods is relatively easy on me. Tucker is not the best trail horse, so when I do work him, it's mostly in the arena.  Fortunately, of the three horses, his conformation is the easiest on my knees, so once I manage to clamber on to his 17 h back, I am kind of OK.

So, even more so bless my tractor. If I had to cart all that debris away in the wheelbarrow, I'd be lame for weeks.

So much for the news. I will keep faithful readers posted and occasional lurkers updated as well. *G*

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Looney Lungeing

Well, At Least Tucker Was

I poo picked the arena, and one wheelbarrow load from under the run in shed while the Boys ate dinner.

Then I decided to do a bit of lungeing. To my surprise, Toby came over to me, even though I had the lungeing equipment in hand and acted as if he wanted to do a little work. So, I put the halter on him and took him to the arena.

We had a lovely, quiet, obedient short lungeing session which ended with his cantering nicely through the little jump combination.  I gave him a good grooming with the shedding blade and a nice carrot and then went out to get Tucker.

Well, catching him was just fine as was his lungeing on the left rein.  Then, we reversed and all seemed well until. he suddenly leaped into the air, bucked and took off in a strong canter.  I let him go on, because after the first silliness he seemed to settle down into a good forward gait.  And, he was easy to bring back down into an equally forward trot.  All good, so far.

But then, I decided to send him through the jump combo. Mind you, these "jumps" were a tiny crossrail and a little vertical that was set at just over a foot.  Not exactly a challenge.

He bucked, he galloped, he soared over the first jump, then ran around the second one. Then he took off on the end of the line, almost getting away from me. Then he charged at the crossrail and dived out at the last second.  Then he raced off again, only to come around and leap over both jumps with several feet to spare.

Only from long experience if hanging on to careening horses at the end of a lunge line was I able to not lose him altogether.  It was a spectacle, that's for sure--starring Tucker the Looney Horse!

I finally settled him back down to a fairly controlled trot and managed to get him to go through the combination with some sense of sanity for two passes and surrendered.

And this was the horse that jumped so quietly and beautifully under saddle. Not sure where that critter was today, but he surely wasn't in the arena with me! *lol*

Tuck was soaked with sweat after that episode, so I sponged him off. It was certainly warm enough, so no worries.  I know he was just playing around--at least at first. Then that "Thoroughbred gene" kicked in and he couldn't help himself. Since we ended on a good note, all is well.

At that point, I'd had enough too, so Chance got his carrot just for looking cute.

Rewards come easily here at Follywoods.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Saddle Time

And I Am Really Out of Shape!!

I have no stamina, that's for sure. My muscles are fine, my balance and seat on the horse are fine, but one ride, and I'm done. I was too tired to even do a little barn work out there after I finished riding Chance.

I worked him in the arena for about five minutes, just having him stretch down. He's not quite solid at it yet and is taking a bit too much contact, but he is putting his head down of his own accord. He's heavy to the rein most of the time, still trying to figure out where he belongs, but "round" is nearly in his vocabulary.

It was warm today, at least in the 70's, with sunshine, but the rains of the last few days left their mark on the arena. It definitely needs to be dragged again.  But, my footing is good, so aside from negotiating around the mud puddles, we were able to do a nice 20 meter circle.

Then, we went out on a trail ride in the woods. We took the "longish" route, all the way to back where the flooding is once more pretty obvious. The worst is that there is a really obvious stream bed running through the back of the farm field. Despite all my efforts and the money spent on the flood study, nothing has been really solved.

I let Chance graze a little on the way back as the green grass just looked too appealing and I had to indulge him. The "pasture" I have is not what you'd call lush, but it does keep the Boys amused.  I do think I'd worry a bit if I did have lots of rich grass for them anyhow--worries about laminitis and too much sugar. But I do like them to have a treat now and then.

Back at the barn, I sponged Chance off, and that was about it.  I fed the Boys dinner, came back inside, and here I am.

Guess I am going to have to build up my stamina again so I can get some chores done and still managed some rides.

Considering both I and the horses have had the winter off, I shouldn't be surprised.  I'll just take it a little at a time.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Ever Forward

And In Balance

My last post evoked some question about "forward."

What's important to note is that "forward" and "fast/speed" do not necessarily go together. While it is often true that a horse will need to pick up energy to go more forward, that does not mean he needs to speed up.  When, for example, a horse offers a good extended trot, the feeling is almost as if the speed of stride has slowed down. The horse has engaged its hind end, lifted its back, and reached forward with full energy without actually making its legs quicker.

This all has to do with balance. I once read, and agree with the idea that as soon as a horse starts to move, it is out of balance. The horse begins to walk. A leg is no longer under his body, supporting his weight. To keep from falling--particularly if his head and neck are stretched out--he must follow with his other legs to keep from falling on his nose. This is why so many green, young horses might want to run as they increase their gaits. The unbalanced horse starts to trot. His balance decreases so he must put his feet out faster and faster to "catch" himself before he falls. The problem is even more obvious at the canter.

Many horses try to keep from this "falling down" feeling by carrying or throwing their heads up in the air. By elevating their heads and necks, they are trying to keep the weight back more over their legs.  Trying to force their heads down can cause them to panic because it makes them feel even more as if they are falling, so they resist the rider's efforts.

Indeed, lifting the head and neck does tend to rock a horse's balance back onto its hind end and you will often see show jumpers approach a fence that way.  It's not always pretty, but it does the job.

So, what we as riders and trainers want to do is encourage the horse to go forward in balance.  That means that the horse learns to carry more of its weight on its hind end as its body flexes in a round way to help carry itself and the rider.

With my first horse, Russell, I learned to do this by asking him to stretch down at the walk.  I would hold the rein to keep him from "falling" on to his front end and encourage his hind legs to take longer and longer strides under his body, gradually "combing" the reins so he could take them out of my hands as he used his back more and more in the walk.  Eventually, I could feel his hind end stepping under with energy and "forwardness" under my seat.  Because his hind end was engaged, and his back rounded up under me, he was not rushing.

He was also not on his forehand.  This is the part that kind of bugs me. In several of the lower level US dressage tests, the rider is to perform a "rising trot allowing the horse to gradually stretch forward and downward."  My horses will, if I ask, stretch all the way to the ground without picking up noticeable speed. They do this by engaging their hind ends as they stretch over their backs. I have had judge's comments in tests, "Horse on forehand, 5."  Now, apparently at some seminar or another, the movement was described to say that the horse's nose should not drop lower than the chest.  Sorry. I disagree. If you look at the illustrations in Erik Herbermann's dressage classic, "The Dressage Formula," you will see a master rider "showing horses the way to the ground."  That, to me is true stretching.

(I must add a word of warning here. "The way to the ground," and rolkur are NOT the same thing. Rolkur does not allow the horse to "take the rein down" as the horse's nose goes out.) There is an excellent article explaining correct down and out here:  Down and Out

But, I digress.  Out of balance, a horse cannot be truly round or on the bit.  So once again, we are traveling a fine line between asking the horse to step with more energetic strides and still keeping its balance.  What happens is that the horse steps into and reaches for the bit with forward energy carrying its body.

Again, the horse's individual conformation comes into play here as well, but more about that the next time...I think.

Friday, April 22, 2011

On the Bit on My Birthday

It's Earth Day, But I Had It First

Yes, it's my birthday and the entire world celebrates with Earth Day....just kidding, of course...but I was born long before Earth Day was so named. The only plus is that I am finally going to collect Social Security. And, I am going to have shrimp for dinner.

Muriel asked about how I teach "on the bit."  So much of it is establishing a "feel" for the horse and when to hold and when to let go...sort of.

The first thing that must be in place from the horse is forward. This does not mean running or going fast, but rather a willingness to move with energy, particularly from the hind end. If the horse is not using his hind legs to offer to carry his body, then there will not be a connection to the rein.

Once they are going forward, most horses will tend to lower their heads a little and start to relax their backs. Actually, I don't think a horse can honestly be forward unless it is using its back.  When I first got my PJ, he had been a race horse, but I seriously doubt he'd ever reached his potential for speed because he had never learned to go into the bit. He "galloped" with his head up a little and a sense of "disconnect" back to front. It's just as well for me, because once he learned how to engage his hind end he was by far the fastest horse in every group I every rode with. I have a feeling he would have been incredible on the track.

Once forward is established, the bit comes into play. The idea is to create an elastic contact on the rein. As Muriel noted, suppleness comes into play here. Horses that are stiff side to side, need to become soft laterally. Exercises to loosen them include movements that "displace" hind legs, front legs, shoulders, etc. encouraging them to be flexible.  However, some horses are already laterally flexible and can use sideways movements as evasions, so those horses need to be made longitudinally flexible instead--lots of transitions help here.

Once the horse has suppleness, creating the "on the bit" feel becomes a matter of "feel."  The outside rein is the key here. And with it, the half halt. Ideally, the half halt first comes from the rider's seat where, instead of following the horse's motion, the rider resists very slightly. The rider's hand closes on the outside rein, just enough to get the horse to react by "thinking about stopping."  But, at the same time, the horse must also continue to go forward. I usually apply a little leg at this point to say, "Keep stepping forward, but don't take such a big stride."  (Instead, kind of step "up" under yourself.)

At this point, we hope the horse will step under its body more with the hind leg, thus starting to carry more weight on the hind leg and, in the process round its back under the rider's seat.  Also, in response to the rounding back, the horse will arch its neck a little and soften to the rein.

All this happens very quickly and once it does--even for a stride--the rider needs to soften as soon as the horse does.

Now, this is tricky. First, softening does not mean a complete surrender of the rein (that's another exercise where you teach the horse to "give to the bit") but rather a maintaining of a light, elastic contact the the horse's mouth. Releasing the rein altogether and then half halting again, as you will probably need to do, hits the horse's mouth, acting as a punishment.

What you need to do is ride "from contact into contact," always keeping a slight tension on the rein--which might vary from horse to horse--and decreasing or increasing that tension in the half halts.

During a ride, as the horse is being trained, a rider might have to half halt every few strides. As the horse learns to carry itself more and more on its own, the half halts are needed less and less.  Even the top dressage horses still need half halts as preparations for various exercises. The piaffe is kind of the ultimate "long" half halt and passage is a half halt in motion.

Now, mind you, I have never ridden a really talented dressage horse, but I suspect that a horse bred and well built for dressage makes all of this much easier than a horse with much less natural self-carriage and balance than my horses.  I can make my horses soft in a lower, longer frame without too much trouble, but asking them to "balance" back onto their hind ends for some of the upper level exercises does become a chore. It's the reason I retired Toby and why now, I try to be careful with Tucker. Neither one is physically built to easily work in a upper level balance and so getting them there required a lot of strong, repeated half halts which was difficult for them and for me. The consequences were some hind end soreness on their part which if much more common in dressage horses than many people realize.

I believe that a horse's ability to carry itself on the bit is very much affected by conformation.  We can certainly teach just about every horse to go on the bit and to round its back. As a matter of fact, most horses I've "met" that did not round their backs at first seem to really like it once they discover how to do it. If you arch your own back by leaning back, you will feel a tightness of muscle and joint. Now imagine a heavy weight (a rider) sitting on that arch.  Pretty uncomfortable, right?  Now, bend over at the waist instead and you will feel your own muscles stretch and relax. Imagine the weight there this time, and you will realize you can carry it much more comfortably. So it is for the horse. Lifting and rounding his back under a rider is a far nicer way to go.

And :that's what the goal is--to make it better for the horse.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I Ride and Jump a Little

Lessons Again

I gave my student lessons again today. The focus was to learn the basic movements of Training Level Test 1 and Test 2 for her competition in two weeks.  

Horse #1 does go on the bit for much of the work, but he does not stretch down at either the walk or trot, mostly because he is not consistent enough yet.  They have added the stretchy trot circles to the Training level tests for 2011.  And they have changed Test #1 almost completely.  Obedience and accuracy will be no problem for my rider. The roundness and submission to the bit will be not as good.  She needs to score 60% to qualify for the State 4-H Horse Show, which is her goal. If she puts in a really good test to the peak of her current training and ability, that is possible. 

We schooled Training Level Test #2 on the sister's horse. She will not be showing him in the dressage which is just fine. He is far from ready to work with a round back for more than about three strides at a time. But his obedience was very good anyhow, so that was a nice plus.  Of the two horses, he is the better mover and if we can get him to go on the bit he is going to be really nice.  

At the end of the lesson, I set up a little jump which I expanded into a two jump grid with a trot pole for the first little crossrail.  My student wants to show him in a hunter hack class that requires jumping two jumps set a 2'6".  Not high, but definitely a jump height.  She hadn't jumped him much at all, so today was kind of a test run.  He was really good once I got the distance set just right for his stride.  As he went through the little grid, you could see his confidence build and by the end, he was really "into" it.  The show is Saturday of this week, so I don't know if she should take him in the class, but I'm pretty sure the horse can do it.  She and her mom will just have to decide.

I went back out myself later to ride a little. I chose Tucker as the "mount of choice" mostly because I haven't ridden him in a while and certainly had not tried him with back shoes.  

Well, there was the usual "I won't go forward" stuff at first.  But when I made it clear he had no choice, he walked off and finally, with a little more persuasion, trotted.  He is so out of shape, I really didn't push too much, but just expected a nice trot with some contact on the rein.  The best change was that getting canter was not too much of a battle. He was a little resistant, but nothing like he was before I gave him the medication for his hocks.  

Time will tell me more than anything. Establishing Tucker's work ethic is a hard job, requiring time and repetition. If he feels OK physically, it will improve quickly. If is he sore anywhere, then progress will be erratic.  

Since the little jumping grid was still set up, I decided to take Tucker through it a few times. I'd lowered the second jump to about a foot, no more.  But Tuck thought it was all good fun and made a nice honest jump out of it anyhow.  We jumped through about five times and ended on a really good, smooth effort. Tuck does not run at the jumps which is nice and, as I have noted before, he would be a nice hunter/jumper if I were still riding those disciplines.  

I was a bit surprised to realize I was physically tired after one horse, so I decided to lunge Chance instead of riding him.  After some plain old walk.trot/canter on the line, I sent him through the grid.  He too is very quiet about it, but he seems to have trouble landing and cantering on. So, he jumped the little crossrail and then fell back to trot for the two canter stride distance to the second jump and then kind of "climbed" over that one. Still, he was nice an honest about it.  I'd rather have my horse a little lazy going into a fence than racing flat at one.  Some work, and I'm sure he'd be good at it too.  

Guess we all just need to play some more with that kind of stuff. 

Monday, April 18, 2011

OK, At Last

So Far, So Good

My back is virtually pain-free today for the first time in weeks!! Yippee.

I still am taking it easy.

This morning, I dragged the riding arena for my lesson and then gave the lesson.  My student rode her horse and her sister's horse for a half-lesson each.  Neither horse is really fit after the long winter, so I tried to take it easy.

That's kind of hard, as the essentials of dressage do not come without work on horse and rider's part. I was really happy to see the first horse start to stretch round into the bit very quickly. He's not entirely steady yet, but I can tell all the work his rider did last season has paid off in a big way.  He's a good solid quarterhorse with a simply lovely attitude and work ethic.

The second horse is a solid color paint...much like Chance colorwise but not at all like him bodywise. This guy is kind of lanky and gives the impression of some good athletic potential. He too seems to have a good disposition but not such a good work ethic.  I suspect, however, that if he can learn to round his back he will be much happier under saddle.  Right now he tends to go "upside down."  My rider said, "He doesn't have a frame."

I kind of laughed at that.  We did some basic "give to the bit" exercises just to let him know that dropping his head to the rein pressure was OK. Then we started some more demanding work--just asking him to soften at the trot.

The first problem was that he wouldn't trot forward. So, with his head up a bit, his balance was all over the place and he'd not only fall apart, he'd also fall in or out off the track.  We decided then that the number one priority was a forward trot and then, and only then could we expect him to soften to the rein.

Sure enough, although it was not an easy task, he began to offer a few strides of basic on the bit as the lesson progressed. He looks to be a frustrating ride at the moment as far as that's concerned, but I reminded his rider that he was really just a baby about all of this and simply didn't understand.

When he did offer some good strides he really looked lovely. My student's mother was quite delighted when she was able to see the difference.

The only flaw in the whole plan is that my student's sister rides western and will want that soft little not so forward jog for now. Until he learns to use his back, it will be a balancing act between asking for the forward we need to get him to go on the bit, and developing his ability to collect properly for the western.

He is not the kind of horse that's going to master both at the same time and really needs that energy to learn to carry himself. Until he learns how to connect his hind end to the bit and use his body in one piece, it will be a little tricky. But there's plenty of potential there so I am hopeful it won't take too long.

Both horses are really sweet and "kid friendly."  It's nice to see young riders with suitable mounts.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Back to Work

But Gingerly

My back felt pretty good after church today, so I decided it was time to get a little exercise.

I went out to very cautiously poo pick the riding arena.  I put on my back brace first and was very careful not to twist or turn too much, or to fill the wheelbarrow so it was too heavy.  That felt OK.

So, then I trimmed a few branches that are edging into the arena and fixed a broken fence post by nailing some mending plates on it.  I reset the rails there and in one other place and called it a night.

Yes, it was a bit of work, but I was as careful as possible. Then, when I came in, I took some Ibuprofen and some valerian to keep my muscles relaxed.  (I also unloaded two bags of alfalfa cubes from my car....forgot that.)  I am putting the heating pad on too.

But, nature does not relent. When I got home and looked out the front window, I saw a big branch broken off my lovely magnolia tree. This is very sad as the tree is really pretty in full bloom.  Apparently, a large branch snapped off from the almost dead maple in front and then crashed through the poor magnolia and demolished a good sized branch from it.

All of which means another large clean up job for me. I guess that's going to have to wait a while until I am better recovered, unless I can call in a favor or two.  I was owed some fence mending, but maybe tree cutting will do instead. The maple really ought to come down, but I can't afford it at the moment. It's not a job for amateurs.

So many blossoms are going to wither there.  So sorrowful to see one of the first signs of spring damaged like that.  Fortunately, it did not hit my wires.  That is the only lucky break.

Nothing like owning your own home to discover all the little bits of work that need doing.

I'd love to hire a cute handyman, Muriel. But I'm not sure I could afford that either. But at this rate, I might need to find a way.

It's a little overwhelming right now.

Funny story:  I called the Boys in for dinner.  Toby came just fine.  Tucker and Chance followed and slammed on the brakes.  Ohmigosh!!!  There was a repaired fence on the far side of the arena!!  Spook!

Silly Boys.  It took extra time for them to come into the barn.

Horses always amaze me at how they notice changes in their environment.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Still Issues With My Back

So No Riding

And no heavy work, which means that the barn chores are kind of building up.  However, the Boys are spending most of their time out in the "pasture" nibbling on whatever little bits of grass are starting to appear, so the stalls are not dreadful.  I pick a little here and there, but there is work to be done.

And next week, I have scheduled some riding lessons, so I need to get the arena in shape as well. Mostly tractor work there.

But better news for me is that my lawn tractor/mower is back from repair, and despite my fears that I had blown up the engine, it is OK!! It turns out the starter had gone bad and that had somehow messed up the running and finally, with its complete "death" kept me from starting the engine again.

I've grown rather fond of the old Bolens over the years. It really is a good tractor and can manage some pretty heavy weeds, including the pasture.
Needless to say, it's a relief to have it back safe and sound, ready for the new growth.  My lawn is rather a wreck, but if I fertilize it, it may actually look like something presentable. My Aunt's lawn next door is one of those show piece lawns, so mine's pretty scraggly in comparison.

And, I still have large chunks of tree trunk on the back lawn.  No one has yet stepped forward to saw it all up. I keep hoping someone who needs firewood will put in the effort. Otherwise, I might be able to arrange things into a nice lawn sculpture.

Anyone have any bright ideas? I can move some of the pieces with the front end loader, but the bigger ones may just have to stay in place.
The big ones are nearly 4' across!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

My Farrier

 On My List

I just left a message with Scott, my farrier.  Tucker, as you may recall, lost a hind shoe. Today, Scott called before noon to tell me he could come over to put it back on.

Fine, except that I had a chiropractor appointment at 3:15, just around the time Scott figured he'd arrive. No problem there as far as Tucker is concerned. My horses do not need someone to hold them when they are being trimmed or shod, so I didn't have to be there.

However, Mick, Scott's dog, is another story.  I was a bit upset that I probably would not be there to play with him. He thinks I am one of the best toys around. And, I have some of the best toys around as well--nice bouncy tennis balls and tennis ball like toys.

Well, after my adjustment, I rushed home, hoping to catch Scott and Mick, but two extra long red lights and two school buses slowed me down. I'm not sure how much I missed them by, but, I missed them.

Then I came into the house to check my answering machine and my email only to find two email messages from Scott:

Here they are:
That's my good buddy Mick, waiting at the back door of my house for me to come out to play.

Well, at least all Scott had to do was put on one back shoe, so that should not have taken too long. I can have some of my guilt assuaged by the fact that Mick was not sitting there all day!

Next time, Mick!! Next time!!  (I called Scott and left a message that he was "evil" sending me those guilt shots....*G*)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Back and Forth

And I'm Waiting for the Sunshine

My back is OK, but not 100%, so I am still nursing it.  Sometimes it feels great and then, it kind of tightens up again and it's not.

I will have to be patient.

And Tucker has lost one back shoe. Kind of curious, as he has rarely lost back shoes in the past. I'm not too worried about it as it's on the foot without the crack and he was barefoot in back for a while.  I'm pretty sure he will be fine without the shoe, but I was hoping to ride him with all four on to see if it made any difference.

He has been striding out with a nice big walk when I see him at liberty and I wondered if it would carry over under saddle. But, alas, my back stopped me from finding out.

Ah, well. Patience.

Meanwhile, I am waiting for the sunshine to drop in for more than a hour or so at a time. Ever since winter began, we have spent days and days under cloud cover and so far Spring seems to be following that pattern.

As for the riddle of the blanket piece up in the tree?  I guess you all got the hints about how I suspect it ended up there.  Needless to say, I suspect Chance had a major role in it.  Tucker certainly couldn't have ripped the blanket himself--hard to shred a blanket off your own rump like that.  And Toby has never shown any past history of shredding blankets, so that leaves only one culprit--Chance.

And, what else would he do with a trophy won from the bigger horse?  Toss it about and play?  Wave it in the face of his victim?  Show off?  All of the listed options?

I have found similar pieces of filling and blanket material strewn all over the paddocks--remember, three blankets fell victim.

Now, to be honest, this winter did prove to be pretty boring, activity-wise. I mean, what else is a horse to do to keep himself amused in all that snow?

Friday, April 08, 2011

What Do I Spy?

With My Little Eye: A Riddle for My Readers

Something very strange I see
Hanging in the apple tree!
What is it, what can it be?
Hanging in the apple tree?
Is it bird, or beast or bee?
Hanging in the apple tree?
Take a closer look to see
What this mystery can be....
Still not sure of what you see
Hanging in the apple tree?
Ripped up winter blanket be
This strange thing upon the tree.
And how did this all come to be?
Take a Chance and guess for me. 

And now you can see why I am not going to be able to repair at least one of Tucker's torn up winter blankets. I've found pieces here and there around the paddocks. Somehow I don't think there's much Chance the wind put them there.

Wish I'd been around to watch the fun.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Slow Improvement

Better and Not

My back is better at sometimes and still achy at others. Whatever I did to it is pretty persistent.  I have another chiropractor appointment tomorrow, so hopefully that will fix it even more.

The most frustrating part is that it is making me tired as well, although I may have some kind of bug along with it as my stomach was upset yesterday. Could be from the pain, from the out of alignment vertebrae, or from some kind of virus.  Or a combination of all three--with a virus making my back more susceptible to slipping out.

This kind of thing always makes me more aware of just how complex out bodies are.

And how complex our horses' bodies are. I can only imagine how a horse must feel when something in his back is out of place.  If I am this debilitated by my pain, what must he feel?

Because of my PJ and the discovery of equine acupuncture and later, chiropractic, I began to realize that most training problems we have with horses must first be looked at as physical problems.  Horses, as flight animals, have an amazing capacity to work through pain, an even to hide it in order to escape predators.  The weak horse becomes prey, so I suspect horses have developed a pretty high pain threshold--some more than others.

This works in a horse's favor in some cases, but against him in others. If a horse "hides" an injury or illness until it becomes acute, that can create medical problems that are hard to cure.

On the other hand, a horse with something like minor arthritis that might actually benefit from exercise, might be able to continue to work despite the pain.

We, as caretakers of these amazing animals need to learn how to "tune in" to our horse's physical conditions.

From what I know, most readers of my blog already know this, but every now and then it's good to have a reminder.  This time, my own back has tied the string around my finger.

Of course, Tucker, who is always ready to express his opinion, helps. *lol*

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Back Is Out Again

Really Bad Yesterday

I could not get a chiropractor appointment until late yesterday afternoon. I spent the day in really bad pain.

Feeding the horses in the morning was horrendous as I could not even lift two flakes of hay for each Boy without a yelp of agony.

The chiropractic made a huge improvement, but I need some more work to get back to feeling OK.  What a bummer.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Nice Weekend Spent Busy

And It Did Not Rain

But I did not ride. Saturday, I attended my aunt's funeral in North Jersey. This took up most of the day including the over an hour drive each way.  We did have a nice service at the cemetery and a good family gathering at a restaurant afterwards.

Not sure what I did today, but church took up the morning, followed by lunch with my friends from choir, and then home to do nothing of note. Well, not exactly. I am kind of formulating plans for the concrete batch plant battle.

And I went out to poo pick for an hour or so, during which time I think I threw my back out a little. Not bad yet, but I am feeling those darn twinges again.

Regarding the batch plant and the asphalt plant in the State Park.  To clarify. The asphalt plant was the result of some questionable industrial development that began back in 1948, long before the State Park existed.  The land was wooded, and still not appropriate for industry, but back then, there were no zoning laws in existence in the Township. By the time the zoning laws developed, the asphalt plant had been built and was allowed to continue operation under a "prior use" zoning variance.  That allowed an asphalt plant to run there as an acceptable use of the land even as the State Park was preserved around it--on three sides.

Now, that plant is a totally wrong use of the land and an environmental hazard, but the law allows it since you cannot tell a landowner he cannot use his land as he wants if he was using it in a bad way before the laws were in place. "Grandfather clause."   However, now that the owner wants to change the plant from an asphalt plant to a concrete plant, he must get legal permission from the Township.  The key for us is that over the last 3-4 years, the asphalt plant has only been operating once or twice a year--long enough for the owner to claim it is still an active business so he can keep his use variance. If he shuts the plant down and stops making asphalt altogether, he loses the right to operate the plant and the land then goes into residential zoning--houses and related buildings.

I know this is all kind of confusing, but that's how it goes in most of the USA and here in the State of New Jersey.  To protect citizens, government has the power to make decisions on how land is used, and there are many complicated rules about it all.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Rainy Days Return

March Goes Out and April Showers Come In

It's been raining and snowing....fortunately no snow sticking anywhere so I don't have to look at the white stuff...but snow has come down.

Needless to say, this has again put a stop to the outdoor horse activities.

I have instead, been "amusing" myself with a developer's application to put a concrete batch plant in the State Park.  Mind you, there is already an asphalt plant there that's been there since 1948, so the new company is arguing that the land is already industrialized, so why not just change it to another industrial operation?

The area, aside from being inside the boundaries of the State Park and all its associated environmental sensitivity, is also on a residential road with houses and families.

This one is kind of a sticky problem but we're working on it.  I was at a meeting last night that ended at 11:30 PM and anticipate another similar meeting in the future.  As well, we spent the good part of a day at the Township Municipal Building reviewing plans and diagrams and will need to do that again.  We'll also need to meet to review the meeting video and further develop some questions and strategies.

While the whole thing is frustrating, it is also interesting, so it's keeping me busy as I watch the snowflakes fall.

The Boys just seem content to stand under the run in sheds observing the world from shelter. Apparently even they are tired of winter dropping down on them.