Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year


I don't tend to make them. While it is a good idea on some levels, I find I much prefer to live life as it comes at this point instead of making too many plans I may or may not be able to follow.

I do hope to ride more than I did last year. My knees are ever so much better and I just want to enjoy my Boys. I seem to have lost the urge to compete, so that does make motivation harder, but I've always enjoyed training, regardless of the goal, and that's still true.

Regardless of where my riding goes from now on, I am pleased to have the option of the challenge of Tucker or the relaxation of Chance as options. And, of course, there is retired Toby who still can offer a fun ride to remind me of just where training can go if you stick at it.

So Happy New Year to us all, wherever we ride and whenever we ride. The moments we spend with our horses are priceless, whether seated on their backs or just being with them to share the wonders of the world.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

A Very Merry Christmas To One and All!

No more need be said!

Monday, December 17, 2012

This is Why I Tie the Tree to the Window

Kittens in Frolic

Let it well noted that I have an artificial Christmas tree, with no decorations save what are part of the tree--holly, berries and some fake snow.  The tree is fiber optic, so when it lights up--well I had to do some repairs this year--it's pretty. It also has some regular mini-twinkle lights on it.

This is not all my choice of proper Christmas tradition, but it has evolved as a practical solution when one has furry, rather playful critters in the house.

Now, I have also learned to tie the tree to the window lock with yarn, another practical move since the tree sits in my bay window and the stand "just fits" the width of the window seat.

But there is more to it all. When my now adult cats were kittens, Reggie thought the tree was a great place to hide. Apparently, its lure has not diminished over these last 6 or so years since his kittenhood.

The tree is still a great place to hide, and to play.
 As you can see, Joseph thinks the tree offers wonderful camouflage.
 But Joseph is not alone. CocoPuff agrees with him and is most ready to share the secret.
 Sister and brother are fully in the Christmas spirit.
 But sometimes, CocoPuff prefers the solitary existence of the tree dweller.
 DJ, one of the adults in the family supervises the youngsters. You can still see, if you look closely that Coco is still in the tree, well disguised from sight by foliage and artificial snow.  And Joseph tries to pretend he too is a ceramic cat like the one curled up to his right.
Stuffed horses lie in disarray as DJ analyzes the display.

As you can see, Christmas is a quiet holiday here at Follywoods, punctuated by the sound of whirling dervish kittens in the tree, galloping catfeet in the halls, and galloping horsefeet outside.

Gotta get some pictures of the galloping horses attached to the feet.

Meanwhile, cats will just have to do.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Tears are Falling

Heartbreak in Connecticut

I heard the news of the school shooting in Connecticut this morning, shortly after it happened.  There wasn't much information then, so after following the story for a bit, I went about my daily chores. It was not until this afternoon that I finally heard the horrible details--20 children dead, 6 adults dead, one more dead at another related location, and finally the shooter himself dead.


No answers yet, and even when we do get the answers we can uncover they will never fully explain away the horror.

I am crying and praying as each part of the story unfolds, but beneath it all is a sure and certain anger.

I keep seeing those little kids huddled in their classrooms, hiding from the gunman who had invade their school. Those who survived knew the drill, and that is the sad part of it all. After the Columbine shootings, schools throughout the nation developed emergency procedures should their school be attacked. Here in New Jersey, schools regularly conduct drills so students and teachers will know exactly what to do in case of such an emergency. I have supervised numerous such drills in my classrooms over the years, and each time, I am chilled to think of what might happen if it were real.

When I was an elementary school student myself, we used to conduct air raid drills. We'd go out into the halls of the school and huddle on the floor with our heads covered so we would be protected in case of a nuclear attack.  Of course, it really made no sense then, for if a bomb did hit, the building would afford no protection, nor would our folded arms. But somehow, it made us feel we were doing something in the face of horrendous danger.

I'm not sure the emergency drills we run today would actually do anything to stop a determined gunman, either, but at least it gives you something to do instead of sitting around, waiting to be a target.

But why should we have to hide in the darkness in the first place? Why should mass murderers be able to so easily obtain assault weapons to use against us? Why should the gun be such an icon of worship and power? Why should we delight in video games where we shoot guns with merciless intent? Why do we allow people to buy guns freely and openly without regard to their intent? Why do we live in a culture where the gun seems to be the ultimate answer to every problem?

I don't know.

All I know is that my heart is broken for all those families who lost a loved one today for no reason.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Warm Day On Horseback

Shirt Sleeve Weather

It was quite warm today, so I took advantage of the weather to put up the outside Christmas decorations--at  least the front of the house. I still have to put up the barn lights and star and the string of greenery and lights at the back door. No biggie and I may do it after I rest a bit.

I rode both Tucker and Chance. I considered taking Tucker out on the trail but decided to stick to the arena where I did perhaps 15 minutes walk trot canter. No biggie and I didn't want to work much more because he would have sweated up a lot if I had. It was that warm--shirt sleeve weather and I was sweating myself. He was a good boy, all in all, with just one offer to buck on a right lead canter depart, but that may have been being silly rather they ornery, but with Tucker, I never quite know.

After I finished with Tucker, I took Chance out on a trail ride in the woods. This time I rode in the opposite direction so I could find the trail home by starting from home. There was a tree down at the woods end, definitely making the path hard to follow once I got there, so I don't feel quite so foolish about not being able to find it on the way home last time.

As for the rest of the trail?  It's as bad as I thought, with tree after tree blocking the way. It's going to take some persistence to figure out the best way around each one, but I was able to make it nearly all the way back to the farm on the other side of the woods. Then, however, on the last little stretch of trail, there was one final tree and the brush looked pretty thick on either side so I opted to ride along the first set of power lines to get back out to the field instead. Too bad, as I liked that little stretch of trail there. It has a nifty little hill and is just "kind of cute."  I'll give it a better look one day soon to see if there is a good way around, or if I can clear a way.

What I may do is go out with my clippers and pruning saw to do some minor clearing of annoying branches and sticker bushes around the fallen trees to make the detours easier to ride. It's just going to take some time and effort.

The weather is supposed to turn colder again by tomorrow, but for today? Lovely. Glad I took advantage of it and enjoyed some saddle time.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Trees and Cats

Horses Are Fine

But it's been kind of cold and damp around here, so I have not been riding. Not that I expect to ride a lot as winter creeps in. No excuses here, but my older bones are creakier than I'd like to admit and motivation is still an issue. But, we'll see.

As far as the woods goes, I am a little reluctant to go out there too much when the wind is blowing--which it has for the last few days. Some of the overhanging trees look pretty rickety and until I better scope out where it looks safe, I don't want to take any chances.

Speaking of, my State Park is an "undeveloped" parkland and isn't even on the list of NJ State Parks open to the public. It is open to passive recreation, but there is no attempt at all to maintain it other than as nature intends. The roadways through there were used by my family and the farmers in the area years and years ago and probably date back to colonial times when they were used to cross from one homestead to another.

Today, we might think of them as fire roads, but I haven't seen many efforts in the past to clear trees that have fallen across them in the past. Recently,  I did see some sign of clearing, but I'm not sure if it was the ATV/motorbike riders or Park people. There is a fire station in the area and it could be those guys, but I've never really seen anything going on.

With no reason to clear the trees, I'm pretty sure they are going to stay just where they are. *sigh*

On the kitty front, Cali and Cinders are now spayed and have their basic vaccinations. The only problem is that despite my orders to the contrary, Cali was "ear tipped."  This means that her left ear was trimmed to indicate that she had been neutered--a marking technique used for the "Trap, Neuter, Release" program for feral cats. The clinic was very apologetic and told me the technician who had done it was "severely disciplined" for making the mistake as my orders were pretty darn clear. I had paid extra NOT to have eartipping done and they did refund my money, but it does take something away from Cali's appearance--not dreadful, but still--making her not as easily adoptable.

Frustrating, but there's nothing I can do about it. If Cali does not find a home somewhere else, I will keep her here, so she will not be homeless. I just feel bad that it happened.

Coco and Joey, the two kittens have been allowed to venture into the rest of the house, meeting my "Big Boy" cats. Bless everyone's heart, there were no attacks, just some hissing and some "puffed up" kittens.

However, I left the inside basement door open and sure enough, the little Cali clan all went back down into the dim light of the cellar to spend the day. I would have thought upstairs would be more fun, but apparently the basement is safe and "home" to them. I'm keeping an eye on the newly spayed ladies to make sure they are OK and they are nestled down in comfy spots down there. The kittens are racing around in circles playing hide and seek.

As long as they are happy, I'm content too.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Through the Woods

A Sunny, Beautiful Day on Horseback

I rode today.

Tucker was first, in in the arena. We did just some basic walk, trot, canter, not asking for too much. Aside from a few laid back ears and a few minor protests, he was a good boy. Canter departs were prompt and after a stretch of canter, his trot became nice and forward.

Since Thoroughbreds were bred to gallop, sometimes canter is the best way to warm them up for more intensive work. I have always found that cantering improves Tucker's trot and willingness to work for me.

Then, just for fun, we jumped the little jump I had set up for the lungeing sessions. It's only about 18"-20" or so, enough to ask for a little jump over and no drama.  Once again, Tucker was great about it. He never rushed and was quite willing to take my hand an let me rate him and place him for takeoff. No big challenge, but it's been years since I've done any serious jumping, so I am pretty pleased it went that well--in a dressage saddle no less.

After I finished with Tucker, I saddled Chance up for a trail ride.

Out we went, into the woods.

Oh, my goodness!! Devastation everywhere! Huge trees are down everywhere. We are talking trees with three foot diameter trunks. And worse, a good number of them are not blocking my lovely woodland roads. There was, of course, a way around most of them, but it was tricky going. In several places, if I still were riding my Russell--the super eventer--I would have some perfectly lovely obstacles to jump. The trunks were across the road with good footing on both sides. BUT, I am no longer up to such excitement and don't have a horse trained for it, so I will just have to keep on going around. There certainly is no way to clear trees that size out of the way. *sigh*

Fortunately, Chance has a level head and, although he too was pretty wary of many of the fallen trees, he cooperated really nicely about the go arounds and really proved himself as a trail master.

On the way back home, I managed to get us lost. Well, not really lost as I could always see the way out of the woods in front and on the side, but lost from the proper trail.. Once I did find it--nearly at the end, I realized I had gone far west of its proper location. The funny thing is, Chance knew where it was and kept trying to get me to steer him to the east. I was no disoriented by the fallen timber that I just didn't listen to him. Next time out, I'll take that trail into the woods so I'll see where it actually is and what it looks like now. That way, the next time I ride the trail in the other direction, I might actually not wander about in silly confusion.

Maybe I should have just dropped the rein and let Chance take us home. Clearly he had more brains about it than I  did.

Guess it's going to take a lot more rides through the woods before I figure out how to enjoy the trails again. Right now, it's rather a tricky adventure.

It looks like a hurricane came through or something............

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!!

I Am Grateful

I'm grateful my house and property are pretty OK after the hurricane.

I'm grateful to have three sweet horses to feed carrots to, even when I don't ride them much.

I'm grateful I can take in kitties who need care and a safe place to stay. And I am grateful for the kitties who have decided to "own" me along the way.

I'm grateful I have many friends to talk to and share things with when I need to.

I'm grateful my hay guy came and made a delivery so I didn't have to go on a hay hunt.

I'm grateful for hundreds of things too numerable to mention. God has blessed me over and over in my life and I am always aware that, despite setbacks and disappointments, I have a good life and I try to live it well.

I promise to take the time to say, "Thank you," whenever someone does something kind or generous for me, and I will always try to remember to take the time to thank God for his gifts to me.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my Blogger "buddies."  May you too find much to be thankful for.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Drying Out

And One Down

My arena was finally not a soggy mess from the melted snow. I decided to lunge Tucker and Chance.

Not much to be said as both of them were quite good Boys. Both are very obedient to my voice commands, so that is a big plus. Both are also a bit on the lazy side which has its pluses and minuses. Tucker, while lazy can explode into bucks and gallops I cannot always hold on to, but today his enthusiasm was tempered with good behavior, so all was well.

Again, I set up a mini-jump at perhaps 18-24 inches. That's enough to make them jump a little without causing any kind of problems.  Tucker did get a little too forward as the jumping progressed, but he stayed on course and accepted my control with not problem. He was simply having some fun pretending he was in a  Grand Prix competition.

Chance, on the other hand, seemed to think trotting was just fine. I managed to get him into a nice canter going into the fence but he landed in a trot about half the time until I REALLY encouraged him to keep the canter. Then, he jumped quite nicely, very quietly and cantered on in a very relaxed mode. Once again, he made it look as if he'd be fun to work over some jumps under saddle. We'll see. Not only do I not have a jumping saddle any more, but I am terribly out of practice.

Still, it's a fun past time when the jumps are small and the horse willing.

One down?

My Aunt's caretaker next door is taking one of the kittens. Panda/Bandit--to be names Malachi, apparently--will be going to his new home tonight. Pat seems to be a very knowledgeable, caring cat owner, and my little furry buddy will have a good home with her.

Still working on getting Cinders placed, but I am not too optimistic about it. We'll see.

Scott, my farrier, called again today about the kittens, but now I only have one female--Coco.  I'm pretty sure the woman he knows wants kittens, and not cats. If I could find out what kind of home she offers, it would be nice for Cinders or Callie to pair up as the second female, but neither one of them is a kitten. I suspect Cinders is young, but there's no way to tell for sure.

If I end up with four new cats it's not exactly the best option, but unless I can find good homes for them, they will stay here with me.

Time will tell.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Naming of Cats

Not An Easy Job

OK, so the cellar kitties are all doing well and the good news is that I found a relatively low cost spay/neuter clinic not too far away. $75 for both males an females and that includes the exam, rabies and distemper shots. Not a bad deal. It's only $55 for feral/stray cats, but they they "ear tip" them, by cutting off a tip of the cat's ear to identify them as neutered for any future captures.

I had Mommycat eartipped and it took forever for her ear to heal. I would rather spend the extra money and treat my strays as pets to save them from that. I still feel bad about Mommy.

I MAY have a home for the young cat, but I need to work on it. I have decided that Cinders is a good name for the gray kitty, shown above. Trying to get good pictures of constantly moving targets was not easy. Everyone was rather playful this morning.

This is Panda, the black and white kitten--or maybe Bandit. We'll see.

Then we have Coco, the little calico. Mommy is Callie and her little girl is Coco.

And finally we have Joey. I names him after the orange cat we had years ago--Big Joe.

All the white fur on the kitties is getting a little sooty as my basement is not finished and the concrete floor holds both the dirt from the furnace and years of "just being there."  As you can see, though, I did put down some rugs and the kitties seem to like them. But that doesn't stop them from frolicking in the less clean places.

Wish I had a better place to keep them, but the sunroom is not big enough for five and my house kitties would be rather put out with that kind of invasion.

I'm pretty sure Joey and Panda are boys. Callie, is, of course a female, and both Cinders and Coco are girls too.

Scott, my farrier called. The women who wanted kittens wants two females. She seems to feel the males tend to wander too much. I'm not sure about that. I have Peppercorn and he seems to stick around as did most of my other neutered males. I'm of the opinion that if they are neutered young, they tend to stay at home. Then again, I have had spayed females who tour the neighborhood too, so it could well be cat personality rather than sex determining wanderlust.

Now that everyone has a name, I am optimistic this catastrophe will work out just fine for all concerned.

Saturday, November 10, 2012


All Is Well Except For....

The CAT-astrophe.  I currently have five stray cats living in my basement. Someone must have dropped off the family pets some time after the hurricane. My cousin next door called me to ask if I had any outdoor cats.

Well, I do. Misty and Peppercorn.

But I definitely do not have a calico mommy cat, three kittens and one juvenile gray and white beauty. That's what we eventually found last night cavorting in my Aunt's driveway.  I'd put food out for what I thought was just the Mommy and one adorable orange and white kitten--5-6 weeks old. So the gang was not starving any more when we finally saw the whole pride.

I figured the Mommy and juvenile would be OK outside with food, but I was really worried about the little ones. So I decided to shelter them in my basement, along with Mommy. Eventually I got the juvenile as well and now all are safe and sound for the time being.

Not that I need five cats!! If I can find homes for the kittens, that would be perfect, although that orange and white one is just TOOOOO cute. If Misty and Peppercorn would be accepting, I could keep Mommy as a barn kitty or a cellar/outdoor kitty. The teenager is just gorgeous, and deserves a home somewhere but some people don't want cats as opposed to kittens.

Scott, my farrier, was here today and he may know someone who wants kittens. He'd love to have one himself but apparently his wife is not "in the market for a cat."  We'll see, though. Maybe he can work something out.

Not the best pictures, but everyone was napping. The gray juvenile kitty is in the bottoms pic. Mommy is the calico on the white sheet. You can just see fur color of the orange baby and the black and white one. The third kitten is a calico like Mom.

I'll figure something out, but for now they are safe from hunters, foxes, raccoons, and all the traffic on our road.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Insult to Injury

Just Holding My Breath

The Follywoods weather report includes Mother Nature's next insult to New Jersey--a snowstorm.  My poor maple tree, still full of leaves lost another couple big branches, but so far, my power is still on.

Some of my fellow residents are not so lucky. The next road over did not have power yet as of last night, and according to Facebook posts, a number of other New Jerseyans lost power again from this can probably hear the screams of frustration all the way to the Pacific.

My biggest issue now is lack of Internet, TV, and phone. Big deal, huh? NOT!!

Verizon is giving NJ residents free air time if they exceed their minutes. ATT, my portable Internet hotspot, does not seem to be offering any relief. I called to check. But it's a $10 overage fee for each gigabyte, so I will just pay that for the one month. I don't use the wifi that much most of the time--wish that they'd roll over the unused data, but no go on that either. All the more reason to go with Verizon when I get the IPhone from my friend.

Anyhow, some gratuitous photos of the snow. More tomorrow, if I post. These may be the last from my Panasonic camera which seems to be malfunctioning.

Behold the snow:

Wednesday, November 07, 2012


Just In Time for The New Storm

Well, I have a day to prepare for the nor'easter. In the morning I will go out and fill all my water tubs for the horses.

I have already run a load of wash and a load of dishes.

My desktop computer is fried or something. Not sure what's going on. If the weather does not get too bad, I will take it to Staples tomorrow. They need to save my data. I have not backed it up recently. Bummer.

I did buy some food for the fridge which is now happily running cold. I swear it's smiling.

My neighbor is coming over tomorrow to check out my new snowblower to make sure it works. I also need to put air in the tractor tire and check to make sure the tractor starts OK as I've not used it in several weeks.

After I go to Staples, I'll head over to Lowes to see if they have any heavy duty extension cords as I think the refrigerator might run better directly off the generator.

By the way, I highly recommend an LED headlamp for emergencies. I have two--one is an Energizer. It works a treat, can be angled to many levels and gives a lot of light. I used it to read and navigate both inside and outside the house.

I guess my immediate life is now dedicated to disaster preparedness. At this rate, I could teach a class.

I am quite pleased with how well I managed. Hopefully, the new generator hook up--whenever it comes--will run my water pump, and then I will feel much better. But at least I found a way to cope with limited supplies.

I have two five gallon jugs I keep filled on the back (enclosed) porch and there is another big jug for extra. That's there all the time for emergencies.

And, blessings upon my propane gas ventless fireplace, one of the best investments I've ever made. Worth it if you can get something similar.

On a sad note, my cousin's house at Long Beach Island was flooded with over 5 feet of water. He is actually hoping the house will be condemned so he can build anew. My other friend has three houses down there--two he uses for rental income. He has not been allowed on the island to see how they fared, but it sounds bad.

But the good news is that FEMA is really on top of things. My cousin already had money put in his bank account to pay for his expenses--they stayed in a hotel for a week or so. He's lucky to have a room in my Aunt's house next door until things are settled again at the shore. My other friend does not live on the
Island full time, so he's OK that way. I just wish there were something could do to make things better for them all.

Enough for now. I need to enjoy my power trip!!

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

And Tucker's Lost a Shoe

Well It's Been Just About Six Weeks

The Boys are due for trims/shoeing, so I can't complain too much about a missing shoe. 

However, I still do not have power. It may come on tonight or tomorrow--just in time for the next storm to hit and knock it out again. *SIGH*  

I will soon lose my mind. I went shopping and did buy some perishables. The refrigerator is totally empty and clean and I am hoping it will get cold with the generator, but the heat keeps coming on and it's either one or the other. I'm not too keen about shutting off the furnace, so heat has priority. The fridge keeps coming on, but if it's working it's not doing much yet. 

Then again, if it snows, I can just put the cold food outside. Right now it's on the porch and it's plenty cold out there. 

I called Scott, my shoer, but he needs electricity for his tools to do a proper shoeing job on Tucker. I spent about a half hour looking for the lost shoe with no luck. If power does not come on tomorrow, I will spend some more time searching. If we have power, my priority is to spend at least some time filling water containers and tubs so that if the new storm kicks out power off again, I will have emergency water again. 

This is really getting old. I am tired and as close to being depressed as I ever have been--and it takes a lot to get me depressed. 

I did go pick up 16 more bales of hay, so the stock is good for the time being. I also filled the gas cans I've emptied with the generator. 

Once again, I am about as set as I can be. 

All I can do now is watch to see if the street lamp comes on in front of the house..


Oh, wait....story goes that despite the fact that our road is very clearly marked "CLOSED" a tractor trailer headed down, got the intersection where all the damage was being repaired and took out a bunch of overhead wires.

This story came to me from a neighbor down the road who said a policeman told him.

If so, it might explain why it's taking so long to fix things.

Hope that driver got a serious ticket!  Serious!!

Monday, November 05, 2012

Not A Pretty Picture

Drove Down The Road

I went out to assess the power situation this morning. It is pretty ugly. The downed tree is gone, so the middle of my road is open, but the intersection?


Cars have made a path through a corner of the woods to get around, so that explains the minimal traffic coming from the west. But the road itself?.....

The last two pictures are the middle portion of the road. One destroyed street lamp and a broken utility pole. That's where the tree was across the road. You can see the cut logs below the pole.

 Do you think people might think the road is really closed?

Nope. They just keep coming. But I do admit the traffic flow is very light.

And, I think the trucks have finally given up.

Needless to say the lack of any kind of utility workers in our area is not exactly comforting. We are low priority because there are only about 10 houses on my road. But I may also say that it is quite possible that damage further along the grid needs to be repaired before they can do anything for us.

Not knowing what's actually going on is a bit frustrating.

But I shall soldier on. And as long as the fire department is my friend, the Boys and I will make do.

WaWa is open at the other end of the road and I can get there so we are not trapped.

This too shall pass......

UPDATE:  Trucks from Ameren a Missouri power company have been working on the road for a good part of the day. The guy I talked to and thanked said the mess at the end of the road wasn't as bad as it looked. He wasn't sure power would be on by tonight, but he was upbeat about our getting back online soon.

Turning generator on in about a half hour.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Under Control

Generator Limited But Working

After a very long saga which I shall not relate now, the generator is working. I have heat in the house and probably water, but not both at the same time. The wiring is not yet set up to use my generator to full capacity.

Horse water? For now, just fine. The local fire department filled all my tubs and emergency supplies. I'm pretty sure I can run a hose from the hose too, if need be. I still haven't heard the house pump go on yet, but if nothing else big is running, it should work. If not, I have plenty of water for me and the fire truck for the horses.

Last estimate for power restoration is Friday, November 9. I think they cleared the tree off the road and the wires today. It was probably an out of state company. New Jersey is blessed with utility workers from all over the US. Love'em all!!

I lucked out at the gas stations and the truck tank is full, the car tank is full and I have gas cans full for the generator. Many stations were pumped dry and are waiting for shipments, but I managed to fill up without sitting in line. (Some people have waited for hours.)

My propane delivery guy came too, so I have gas for the gas fireplace which kept me warm for at least two days. I won't run my generator all night, so I may put the fireplace on again if the house gets chilly.

I managed a warm shower too, but I've turned off the water heater as it will be used "as needed" in rotation with other high electric demand stuff. I pulled the plug on the refrigerator. No sense in running it. All my food is spoiled and it's cold enough on the back porch to keep milk and other perishables. I don't need many things refrigerated anyhow, so until the power comes back on, I don't need it. This will be a total emptying and cleaning, so better that it's not cold inside so I can do a good job. I really need a new fridge, but with all the money I spent on the generator, I'm not sure I can afford one now, but it would be the perfect time.

Made an order with Omaha Steaks for replacement meat and they will wait to ship it until the power is back on.

So after much frustration, I am ten times better off than I was five days ago. It's not back to normal yet, but at last it looks as if we will get there.

The shore areas and some other places where there was flooding are not so lucky. My cousins may not be able to move back to their shore house for as many as six months. They are staying at my aunt's house next door. Can't really help them out with some kind of heat as I'd hoped. The circuitry is just too complicated.

Finally able to charge my netbook and wfi hot spot which is why I can post. Off to check the news and weather.

I am finally wearing a little smile again.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Pioneer Days

Back To The Past

Still no power.

Generator is off for warranty repair, but no date on its return.

Staying sort of warm, but using fireplace sparingly.

Need to find hay for the horses. Not out yet, but down to a few bales. My supplier is probably stuck someplace at his house and not likely to come to work across the street.  But I will drop by to check.

Also need to get water for the horses somehow. If I run out--maybe a day or so--I will call police to see if I can get some delivered.  Fire truck?????? I'm fine with water. I've always conserved and know how to get by with very little. I have gallon jugs and five gallon containers. That might last me the whole outage.

PSE&G now does not promise electricity until Friday, November 9.  Yuck. Keep hoping it may be sooner, but you never know. I'm in for the long haul.

Food in fridge, including a whole bunch of Omaha steaks has to go. Can't risk it as it's been too many days.

Food market is open, I think. Guess I will drop in to check on their wares. Maybe some non perishable cheese. I actually have enough food here but some little comfort food would be nice.

Besides chocolate--neighbor brought me 1 pound of Russell Stover assorted.

The pioneers had it better. At least they knew how to cope from the get go. *lol*


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

My Luck Ran Out

First, We Are All OK

But my brand new generator is not cranking out any power to speak of.

I have called the contractor, but no one can come out to check it for me. They are all very busy.

Great. I plan ahead and the plan fails. Don't know what to do at the moment except leave the freezer closed and hope for the best. 

The Boys have enough water for a few days. After that??? There are power outages all over and we will not be on the top of anyone's list to be restored. There was a tree down on the wires down the road. I doubt that the electric company will deal with that as a priority. 

Bummer indeed. I figured I was all set. Now I am at square one with a huge financial investment and nothing to show for it.

On the bright side, the storm has passed and while I do have some huge tree limbs down, the rest of things are fine. The house and barn are OK and while the Boys are a little spookier than normal, they too are fine. So all the important stuff is all right.  

More of the saga later. I am on battery power and I don't want to use too much up.

Monday, October 29, 2012

An So It Begins

Storm Is Edging In

Hurricane Sandy has merged with the second storm, so now we have something called a "cold cell hurricane," whatever that means. She is a really big girl and her winds are swirling at 90 mph.

So far here, in Central New Jersey, about 30-40 miles from the ocean, and some 90 miles away from where the storm is supposed to hit land around 8 PM tonight, we have moderately light winds with some gusts and light rain. Of course, as the day goes on that is going to change dramatically.

A number of roads and bridges have already been closed. I'm not sure if there are floods or just the danger of floods.

My property is on high ground. The likelihood of flood problems are minimal. What I do have a lots of trees.
But there is nothing I can do about that.

The Boys are free to choose to stay in the shelter of the barn, or go outside. This morning Toby and Tucker were on the west side under the run-n shed, and Chance was on the east side, in Tucker's stall. (box, for my British friends)  When I fed, each horse did go into his own stall, but it's hard to say how the day will go. I think the wind direction will make the west side more protected, so I suspect the older Boys will go there. Since Tucker is such a bully, he may well chase Chance out, but sometimes all three hang together.

I just hope all my buildings hold up under the onslaught. As I've said, there's not much I can do about it, except wait it out. We will likely suffer some pretty hefty wind as we will be on the outer edges of the storm's eye.

If I lose power,  I have the generator, but that's no guarantee that I can get on the Internet, since wires down will lose my cable connection. However, I do have the WiFi (a portable internet wireless) and my battery powered netbook, so I can post reports. They will be short, but I'll keep interested readers apprised of my situation.

Meanwhile, to all my friends on the East Coast area, especially Shannon who is not far from where Sandy plans on making landfall, stay safe. I am thinking of you and wishing you well.

To all the rest--Hang on to your hats! It's going to be an interesting day.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Long Saturday

*Sigh*  But It's Finally Over

The electrician had told me he'd be here "bright and early" this morning to set up my generator.  9 AM came and went. I called the company. No answer. I finally dialed the emergency number only to get a call back from the Senior Owner, who knew nothing about my generator, my appointment, or who I was. He kept denying I'd ever called his company. But then he decided perhaps his son, Junior Member, had made the appointment and gave me JM's cell number.

Called JM. I finally got through and he told me they were "swamped" with work and he'd probably be able to get here some time after noon. He promised he'd call.

I then went to the feed store to get alfalfa cubes for the Boys. There I had a nice chat with the store manager who was amazed I'd managed to find a generator. Apparently her parents had been looking for one and were now 15th in line on the list from Home Depot, or someplace. From what I have now learned, my serendipitous generator shopping trip was a far more dramatic success than I realized. There were no generators left in Central New Jersey as of yesterday.

Came home, waited another hour or so, afraid to got too far from the phone. I'd given JM my cell phone number too, but you never know, and he had called my house phone before. JM had said if he was tied up he'd have "Charlie" come out instead. But it wasn't until well after 1PM, that Charlie finally called to assure me he was coming and would be here sometime around 4 PM.

In the meantime, I called another electrician with a pretty reliable communications system and the girl there told me she would put me on the list for service. If JM showed up, fine, I could cancel. If not, they would get to me before Sunday's promised storm. At that point, I was breathing again.

Finally around 4PM, the phone rang again. It was Charlie, and wonder of wonders, he was only a few miles away!! Bless his heart and his damaged finger--he'd dropped a generator on it--he pulled into the driveway before dark.

Setting up the new generator proved to be a relatively simple job, but I'm not sure I could have done it. Since Charlie's company were Generic dealers, he was super familiar with my generator and had it put together and ready to go in less than a half hour. He gave me a quick lesson in its operation--no biggie--started it up and wow! Compared to my old generator, it is really quiet. It doesn't matter too much as I run it in the detached garage, away from the house, but still.

As it turned out, Charlie was the guy I had spoken to on the phone the first time I'd called the company. And he was the one who had sent me out generator shopping. Luck was on my side! Then, he told me the company had been through nightmares today trying to get generators for customers who were desperate. He'd had to travel out to far western Pennsylvania and they'd managed to scrounge up only 30 generators. Everyone else was sold out. As it was he was heading to try to set up some people who had gotten standby generators--a wonderful but far more complex set up--as a last resort. He said he had no idea how they were going to get them working by Sunday.

After he left, I headed out to the gas station to get more gas cans filled--lucking out again because there were no lines--had been in the morning.

In between all the anxiety, I made a small pot of chicken noodle soup and a batch of egg salad so I don't have to worry too much about food prep if the storm hits as predicted. If we go to the diner tomorrow after church, I'll buy a container of their amazing beef barley soup too. All I have to do is heat and eat. Yummy!

I'll fill an extra water tub for the Boys tomorrow and take and extra bale or two of hay to put inside the barn. I have plenty of grain, the alfalfa cubes and rainsheets if it starts to get chilly. (Temps are supposed to stay around 50-60F, however, but we'll see.)

I don't know what else to do except wait, with the rest of New Jersey, to see what happens. My cousins, who live at the shore on Long Beach Island have decided to stay instead of evacuating. I will worry about them, but I guess this time, I need to worry about all my friends and relatives in this area--and that includes my Blogger buddies.

Meantime, I'm about as ready as I can be.

Maybe Sandy will change her mind and head out to wish for the weekend.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Will It, or Won't It?

Either Way, I'll Be Ready

OK, so I decided to purchase a snow thrower/blower this year and bought one at Sears on sale. It was smaller than the one I'd already looked at which was good. But, although I put it together just fine, I still haven't started it up. And, of course, with no snow, even when I do start it, I will not know how well it will clean the pathway to the barn and the garage for me.

That was to be the big purchase for October.

But, that was before Sandra--or Sandy, as she is more affectionately known.  Who is she? A hurricane roving around the Atlantic, setting her gaze on the Northeast--namely New Jersey and New York. If she does arrive, she may well be met by a dashing young weather front cruising in for the party from the west.

The potential result? A marriage made in the sky some are calling a "Frankenstorm."  Yikes.

Now, as some of you in the East USA may remember, last year we had the now infamous "Snowtober" storm right before Halloween, almost a year to the day to Sandy's proposed arrival.  I lost power for about 4 days then when the leafy trees, downed by heavy snow dropped electrical wires all over the place.

I have a generator, but when I started it up the power output was so anemic, it barely ran the refrigerator.

I did not intend to get caught powerless again. In early spring, I had contacted an electrician to set me up with a new generator, but we never did get together. As the summer moved on, I didn't follow up.

So, here I was, once again threatened by no electricity which meant no water for me or the horses--I have wells and pumps.  I called an electrical contractor, who, as it turned out, was the same guy I had called earlier in the year and his associate suggested I buy a generator at Home Depot--he even suggested a brand--and they would be happy to install it for me.

Off I went on an online shopping trip.  Alas, Home Depot's telephone service was pathetic. I was either on hold, waiting for someone to pick up the line, or I got disconnected so many times that I finally gave up. So, I searched Lowe's and found another generator for a similar price and managed, within an hour or so to find the last one in stock at my very local Lowe's and buy it.

A pretty penny, and not exactly in the budget for the month, but I will pinch pennies and pay for at least part of it with my substitute teaching earnings for the month--a fair sum.  In the meantime, the electrician should be here Saturday morning to get me set up.

If Sandy comes, I'll be ready. And, if she dumps some snow--so far not predicted--I guess I'll be able to clear the paths.

I may not have any money, but sometimes peace of mind costs a bit more than planned.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Plan Fail Due to Internal "Snoopervision"

Plan B Succeeds

After doing some hefty barn work, I decided to ride. The weather was gorgeous!

I saddled up Chance with the plan in mind of repeating the basic exercises from the other day. I was going to work on a little shoulder-in and some leg yield at the walk, then go through the basic walk-trot-canter routine.

I mounted up, turned around and there was the snoopervisory committee of Tucker and Toby in the center of the arena. Now, mind you, although the gate was closed, the fence is down at the far end. Usually the Boys just stand at the closed gate and watch, not bothering to wander inside the fence to bother me. Not today.

Plan B materialized quickly. That meant I decided to take Chance out for a nice hack in the woods.  He was quite pleased about that as arena schooling is not exactly his favorite pastime. Out we went, along the long trail, heading all the way out to the end of the woods.  To get there, we had to pass the evil red fire truck! Chance hardly gave it a second glance. He was a super boy.  We mostly walked, with a few little sections of trot up some of the little hills, but since I hadn't been out that way for months, I wasn't sure of the footing or tree falls we might meet. The trail was actually pretty clear, so it turned into a nice overall ride.

When I got back, I ushered Toby and Tucker back to the barn, snagged Tucker, and saddled him up for his session.  This time the snoopervisers decided to stay on the other side of the fence, so I was able to school just fine.

I started off with some lateral work at the walk, as I'd planned to do with Chance. To be honest, Tucker was, at first, a bit confused. I hardly ever school shoulder-in, leg yield, or half pass at the walk, so he was not sure I really meant it.  He fussed just a little when I asked for the first trot transition, but from then on, he was great.

We did some plain old trot for a while and then repeated the lateral exercises on each rein. His half-pass is not yet completely confirmed, but he did a good job responding to my aids. Then we did some canter.

Once again, the departs were soft and fluid. He was very willing to strike off with a minimum of leg from me.

I went back to walk, worked on some pirouettes--the left is better than the right. And finished up with  perfectly lovely canter departs on each lead from the walk coming out of the pirouette. The nice thing about that exercise is that the pirouette puts Tucker on to his hind end and the depart almost immediately afterwards is a bit more uphill.

All in all, two good rides, even if the plan went slightly astray.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Walk Canter

And I Ride Again

I went out this afternoon to school both Tucker and Chance. The weather was really lovely, the footing a bit wet from the rain, but otherwise, it was a perfect day for a ride.

Tucker was first. He started out with a very lazy walk and almost felt stiff at first. But as soon as we trotted, I knew he was fine, just a bit "underpowered."  I don't usually push my horses at first. Even though they have virtually 24-7 turnout, I never quite know what they've been doing in the time before I get on, so I always just let them warm up in an easy frame and at an easy gait.

As we went along, Tucker just naturally started to seek the bit, offer his back, and go more forward.  As I did the last time I rode him, I decided that canter departs without any fuss on his part were the "exercise of the day."  I asked for several from the trot and each time, they were soft and without protest. Essentially, he just "flowed" into each one. This is not the fully engaged depart demanded of more serious dressage work, but it was obedient and prompt to a light aid, so all was well.

We did a bit more trot work and then relaxed into a nice walk for a breather. I am sensitive to the fact that he is not super fit, so I just try to take it easy during the ride.  We walked for a circuit or two and then I tried the ultimate test--walk canter transitions. On each lead, he cantered easily off without pinning his ears or showing any sign of resistance. Not a big deal for the average horse, but for Tucker, at this stage of getting back to work?  A major accomplishment. I gave him lots of praise, a nice pat and finished up the session on that good note.

I rode Chance next and spent a good long time in the walk. I decided to challenge him with shoulder-in and leg yield--exercises we've not really worked on before.  I have given him the basics of moving off my leg, so that was a big help.  On the left rein, it was actually pretty easy to get a semblance of shoulder-in and a rather nice leg yield from the center line to the rail.

The right rein was a little bit harder for us both. My right leg is a little weaker right now and I am having a bit of pain in my right hip which doesn't help. I reseated myself in the saddle so I was a bit "longer" on the right side as I worked, and eventually we got some fairly good efforts at shoulder in and then the leg yield.

Then we trotted for a while and Chance was quite ready, willing and able to reach down and round into the bit. I cantered him for a short bit on each lead and then headed out for a short hack through the woods.

It was a nice way to cool him out and finish the ride with a smile on both out faces.

Friday, October 19, 2012


Busy Week

We had rather mixed weather this past week. But it didn't matter mostly because I was substitute teaching Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  That meant the swimming pool right there, so I swam as well.  Add a chiropractor appointment and a trip in the pouring rain to get a new battery installed in my truck, and another bout of rain today, and the horses did not get any work.

I had a great time subbing. I was the history teacher the last two days but I swapped classes with one of the English teachers so I could give a lesson on...get ready...horses!!

Her class was reading "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight," and had asked some questions about spurs. She asked me, I explained it to her, then had the bright idea of bringing some real riding spurs into school to show the students. That led to the brilliant idea of further explaining some of the origin of the knight's charger...which logically led to horses in medieval warfare...which led quite naturally to dressage!!

So, I created a Powerpoint presentation introducing the airs above the ground which are based on battlefield moves, and then found a short series of videos of the Spanish Riding School cool lesson all set up to show how dressage had developed out of the training horses needed for warfare.

I presented the lesson twice and got a round of applause both times. I had to laugh a little because the class on the second day had an extra bunch of questions, mostly to detain me so they could put off their regular English class as long as possible, but I knew they were doing it and gave really short answers, to what actually proved to be some good questions. All in all, it was really fun.

I also had an Economics class during which I showed the Frontline documentary, "Inside the Meltdown." It was about the US 2008 financial crisis and was absolutely fascinating!  I learned a ton of interesting information. It is well worth watching...available online...if you want to know how our economy got into the mess we are still trying to recover from

I have to admit, substitute teaching is a blast, especially when I can actually teach something. There is no pressure about grading students, keeping all kinds of records, grading papers, writing up lesson plans and all the high pressure detail work that goes on behind the scenes of a well run classroom. This past week was particularly fun.

Now, I need to spend some time educating my horses, and learning perhaps even more from them.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

On the Level

Just a Word or Two

Shannon's comment about Tucker's 90% made me pause a moment. So I figured I'd clarify.

I often finish up a schooling session by riding a test pattern of some sort. This is as much for my own discipline as for my horse. When riding a test, you must cope with whatever happens at the moment and cannot repeat on exercise if it doesn't go well. So, riding a test for practice does, in itself, become a test of what is right or wrong in your training.

Tucker's 90% is my exaggerated evaluation of his overall demeanor and obedience. I am riding pretend training level tests on him because he is not really fit enough to do harder levels at the moment. When I was showing him, he was doing first level and was just about ready for second.

But, my knees and his hocks were sore enough that we retired from competition. I contemplated hock injections if he really needed them, but decided--once I actually stopped showing--that I didn't miss the competition at all. When I do ride, I do not ask for the same quality of engagement and collection he would need for competition, so, at least for now, training level is just fine.

As we go along, I will see just how much work his hocks will bear.  I had initially hoped to take him to FEI, as I had Toby (Intermediare I) but if it's physically too hard for him, I will not press the point.

The same applies to Chance, who seems to have much better conformation to move on. But, as we know, I've been rather lazy about his training.

I've trained two horses, PJ and Toby, to FEI, so my ambitions have been fairly well satisfied, although it would be fun to get at least one horse to piaffe and passage. (PJ did piaffe and Toby will do it in hand, but we never quite got passage.) The tempis?  A little effort would have gotten them easily with Toby and I did ride two sets of ones on PJ.  Toby does twos easily, so that has been conquered as well.

If Tucker stays comfortable, I do want to get his changes. I'd started working on them before the layoff and I suspect a serious effort on my part would get them sorted once he's fit enough to do some serious canter work.

Chance? Who knows. He's fun to ride out on the trails, so that lures me all the time, but I also know he would be even better out there with some more proper schooling. If I worked him seriously for a couple weeks, he'd be well able to hold his own at training level at a show, and once we'd accomplished that, first level would be a snap.

Right now, I just enjoy riding for fun, training what needs to be addressed as time goes on and fantasizing about high scores.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

We Came, We Saw, We Conquered

Saddled Up

For anyone reading this post who has not read the post below, you need to do that first, or at least look at the cute pictures.

I overslept this morning, so the plan to take Chance out early for a hack failed on all counts. I fed the Boys an hour later than normal. They didn't seem too upset, but I was.

I decided to go out to ride later in the afternoon.

I rode Tucker first in the arena. (He's not quite up to fire truck mode.)  He was very forward, which was nice. His trot work was quite good on the longish rein, and stayed good when I put him in a little frame on contact.  But better yet, the first set of canter departs on both reins were prompt off a very light leg aid and there was no hint of resistance.

We took a break walking and then started up again. This time, the left canter was lovely but the right?  Not sure what was going on as he offered to buck on the depart several times. Since I felt I had to correct that, when he finally did take the lead to canter the gait was all up and down with almost no forward.  Giving him the benefit of the doubt, I think he was expecting me to stop him as I'd done when he bucked, but eventually, with some forward riding on my part, we reached good canter on that lead as well.

Could be he had some kind of physical issue going on at the start of that right lead because he'd been fine on it earlier. As the King would say, "Tis a puzzlement."

I finished the ride with a version of a training level dressage test and he earned the required 90+%, so we ended the ride with a carrot treat.

While I was riding Tucker, I heard what sounded like a revving ATV engine out in the woods and I decided not to risk taking chances on Chance out there.


It grew very quiet soon after and I changed my mind. I had planned on riding Chance past the scary blind curve today and I hate to go back on a plan.  Besides, the weather was so gorgeous, I didn't want to waste the rest of the day.

Out we went. Chance is one of those rare horses who travels fast on the way from home, so he had a nice big walk and wanted to trot. But my knowing the fire truck was on the horizon, I chose to keep him in the walk instead.

We reached the curve. We rounded it. The fire truck was still there. Chance stopped. He looked, and then with just the slightest nudge from me, he just walked on by, a nice as you please.  I praised him over and over and stroked his neck to let him know he was the bravest horse in the world.

The fire truck is conquered.

The rest of the ride was perfect.

Another good day at Follywoods.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Chance Encounter

And More Swimming

I slept crooked the other night and messed up both my neck and my back.  I often find that swimming helps and today was no exception. I swam 22 laps today, with perhaps a little less energy--only three lengths of butterfly and several of walking.

While I did feel better afterwards, I called my chiropractor and was lucky enough to get an appointment. While I waited to go there, I shopped again. This time I had a $10 coupon for JC Penney. Cool. Only trouble is, I spent more than $10 once I got there. (S-h-h-h...bought some new bras at less than half what the same styles cost at Kohls full retail price. Apparently Penney's is standing by their new image of what they call a "square deal" where items are marked down to the bottom price right from the start so there's no need for tons of sales. Amazing. I will put that into my memory bank next time I really need some undergarments.)

When I got home it was still a lovely, sunny, but quite cool day.  Since I do not routinely ride after a chiropractic adjustment, I decided it was time to take Chance out to see the fire truck "in person."  

Since the truck was well off the trail, he did not see it at once but when he did he shied dramatically, then stood there watching me as I approached it to move it out into the open.  As soon as I touched the truck, you could see him relax a little and in short order, he was quite comfortable around it, as you can see. 

 To further add to the lesson, I fed him some carrot slices each time he approached the truck on his own, and led him past it several times making sure we went back and forth from the blind corner so the truck "appeared out of nowhere."
All of this in hand work took all of about 15 minutes but it only took about two minutes for him to stop spooking at the sight of the truck.  He is actually a very level headed fellow (Unlike certain Tuckers I know.) and once he realizes something is not really dangerous, he settles pretty quickly.

I led him home, letting him stop to nibble on various leaves and grass along the way, just to make the whole experience even more pleasant.

I'm not sure I will be able to ride him out there before the truck is removed because it's the weekend and that's when the ATV's and minibikes are out, but we'll see. If it seems quiet in the morning, I may try a hack before the "wheel guys" are out of bed.

Otherwise, I'm pretty confident the problem is resolved. Chance just needs a lot of miles under his hoofs to become an "ace" trail horse--perfect for a retired gal like me.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Water, Water Everywhere

And I Get in the Drink

It has rained off an on for the last two days. (Today, however, is gorgeous and later.)

I did not ride, nor  did I challenge the fire truck.

Instead, yesterday, I went for my swim.  It's a 15 mile drive to the pool, so all told the round trip, with a swim of about an hour and my shower afterwards, takes about two hours. It puts a bit of a bite into the day.

I did swim 25 laps today. Well, I did walk four of them, which is another great way to exercise my knees. That's 1250 meters of water I covered. Pretty good workout, even if I did stop to rest between laps of butterfly. It try to swim at least 5 lengths of the pool in butterfly because it's a vigorous and demanding stroke and I need to vary my exercise with some energetic bursts. I'm not good at it, but I manage.  Then I do freestyle, backstroke, a pretty bad breaststroke, and the walking to fill out the program.

Add on to it a shopping trip to spend my Kohl's cash, and find a blaze orange sweatshirt jacket for riding out on the trail during hunting season, and I was out for a good part of the day.  I also went to the supermarket and for once, made the right decision on buying a bag of dry cat food there instead of at PetSmart in the same mall. The bag was $1 less at ShopRite!

Long story short, I bought a Christmas present for my Aunt at Kohl's with my Cash. But today, I got a 20% off coupon for Kohl's in my email. I will probably go back over the next few days to return the gift and rebuy it with the discount coupon, just because. Kohl's is really good about returns so it should work out OK.

As you can tell, I am a shopper. When I have the time, I love to go to stores just to look around. While
I often buy, I am just content to window shop.

There are plenty of good stores within 10 miles of my house, so I have lots of places to go should I feel a shopping fit coming on.

I did make the mistake of going to ShopRite while I was hungry. The rule is never to go to the food market with an empty stomach. I went in with a list of only three items and came out with at least ten items more.  Ah, well, I will be able to eat quite nicely for the rest of the week and beyond.

Meanwhile, my neighbor dropped by again and gave me more tomatoes and some eggs. I'd just barely finished the tomatoes he'd brought over a week or so ago. I love Jersey tomatoes, but I am running out of ideas of things to make with them. I think there is a way to freeze them so I might try that, but I can only eat so many before I am "tomatoed out."

Hope to ride at some point today.

Meantime, I'm going to look up some tomato recipes.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Houston, We Have A Problem

And Chance Doesn't Like It

The line, quoted from the Hollywood epic, Apollo 13, suits well what happened on my trail ride today.

I decided since it was cool, lovely, and quiet out in the woods, I would take Chance out for a nice hack. He was, at the outset, delighted, and it was all I could do to keep him in a walk through the overgrown woodland path on the way out.

When we got to the edge of the field, I let him trot on a bit. He broke into a little canter for a very short distance and then I reined him back in because I was intending to turn into the woods trail just beyond the bend in the road.

Good decision. That bend was the blind curve where the minibike had appeared the day I fell off on my new knee last year. (It was November, however....)  Just as we started to round the curve, both Chance and I spotted a riding toy fire engine sitting by the edge of the woods.

A TOY FIRE ENGINE!! What the hay?  Junk dump again? I cleaned up that area months ago, and now someone was using it to dump a used toy? Beats me. It's hard to judge the scale from the pictures, but this truck is big enough for a child to ride in and was once battery operated. I guess it must have some kind of motor in it but the wires are all loose and dangling.

But there was no time to figure out what it was doing there because Chance spun around in a panic just as he did the day the minibike appeared, actually gave a little buck and tried to gallop off.  I was not in mid-dismount this time, so I was able to stay in the saddle and managed to stop him from bolting. But I decided not to tempt fate and we jigged and jogged our way back the way we had come until I turned him into the Tucker Trail path into the woods.

What was good is that I stayed on just fine and was able to regain control and he settled down for the rest of the ride. What was bad was that this is now the second time he has been somewhat justifiably spooked at the same spot. I am now pretty sure I will not be able to ride him safely past that spot unless I do some serious remedial work.

Step one will be to get that darn truck out of there. Or, step one will be to put the truck there and take Chance out on a lead line and just introduce him to it. Either way, I am not going to go out with him under saddle until I have desensitized him to that particular curve. Clearly my falling off and his galloping home the first time was traumatic for him. Now, this new scary thing has just cemented fear in his brain.

I walked back out to take the pictures I've used. I was going to bring the truck home for the garbage man, but it is too heavy/cumbersome to move without a wagon, the tractor, or perhaps, my truck. However, I just called the farmer who farms the property and he said the darn thing had been there for months. He told me he'd send some of his guys out there over the weekend to get rid of it.

On the way back from my picture hike, I heard Toby whinnying. I think he was actually calling for me, because when I was in sight of the gate, there he was, looking anxiously out into the woods where I had gone. Tucker greeted me as well, but not with the same concern Toby showed. I felt loved. *G*

So, I guess Chance and I have some Fire Truck schooling to do this week. Might be good for Tucker and Toby too, but I will have to see how exhausted I get hiking out there with one horse before I try all three.

Meantime, back at Follywoods, I would like to introduce my arena steward, supervisor, Peppercorn the Magnificent. He likes to watch me ride.

And Miss Misty the Aerialist is working on her high pole act for my endless entertainment.

Kitties are so cute.

 In closing, I cannot forget Chance. He poses for pictures better than anyone, but here he is in a candid shot at the water trough after his exciting trail ride.
The sun is setting on another day of adventure at Follywoods, where there's never a dull moment.

Friday, October 05, 2012

The Red Pickup

And The Lost Mare

Yesterday, in between the intermittent rain showers, a red pickup truck pulled into my driveway.

I went out to the back door to meet a distraught man who was out looking for his lost horse. Shades of the "hurricane quest" to find my lost herd flooded my mind as he asked me if I'd seen his mare. He'd been told by the stable owner that I had horses and perhaps his horse had made her way to my property.

There'd been no sign of a ruckus in my pasture, but we went out to check anyhow. The Boys were contentedly grazing on the little nibbles of grass in the center of the field, so it was pretty clear there was no mare anywhere in the area.

Turns out the guy had been keeping his horses on the cross street to mine at his house where he did not have enough land to to it legally. I'd seen him out grazing a really well kept bay horse on his lawn several times and knew at least part of the story of his horsekeeping, but only told him I'd seen him so I had a good idea where his house was.

Since then he'd been reported by a disgruntled neighbor, fined and forced to move his horses to the boarding farm across the woods from me. (If I understood him correctly he is setting up a new little horse farm over in another Township where horsekeeping is welcomed.)  Apparently, there was some roofing work going on at the boarding barn and thrown roofing shingles had spooked both his horses and sent them flying trough an electric fence to the wilds of the State Park and farm fields across the road.

Somehow he'd found the gelding way over in the area of his house on the cross street, but his mare was no where to be seen. The horses had traveled several miles to get that far, and I suspected that the mare would be somewhere around there as well since she had lived at his house for a while as well. "Horse GPS" would have allowed both of them to find "home," even if it was illegal.

I suggested he search in that direction. And I told him I'd give him some contact numbers for animal communicators who might be able to help. By now, he told me the mare had been missing for over 24 hours and he'd spent many of those hours searching for her.

The State Park is very undeveloped with few trails through it, lots of swampland, and a great deal of think underbrush and briers. My fear, as always, was that the mare had gotten bogged down somewhere or hung up on something by her nylon halter. (Hate those things.)

The guy did call the communicators, but I don't think he ever really got a consult.  While I don't have the full story yet, I did call him in the evening to get a report.

Thankfully, he'd found his horse. If I understood him correctly, he'd found someone to track her. She was happily settled in an apple orchard on the other side of the sandpit lake across from where I live. As they say, "That's a fer piece," away from where she started--an other couple miles or so.

He said her legs were swollen, but otherwise she seemed OK. I certainly hope so. My worry would be potential colic from apples and probably a ton of grass. The boarding stable where he was keeping her has minimal if any pasture, so the horses there would not at all be used to such rich fodder. And, of course those apples....

I guess the mare thought she'd ended up in paradise. *lol*

Thank heavens she is safely back.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

The Weather Reigns

So I Don't Hold the Reins

In the rains.

Love homophones.

Anyhow, it rained yesterday, so I did not ride. I did go for the first of my weekly swims and swam for about an hour. I figured I'd get some riding in today.

But. The phone rang and I was called to substitute teach. I had a chiropractor appointment set for the afternoon and had to change that to early evening.

I went for another swim after school and then...*sigh*...tried to drive home.

Earlier in the day a dump truck had overturned on the NJ Turnpike. The driver was killed and the truck caught on fire, damaging the overpass where the crash happened. It was a terrible tragedy and a horror. I can only pray for the driver's family and friends.

But the consequences of the accident extend far beyond that loss. Unfortunately, it impacted thousands of New Jersey drivers on another emotional level--utter frustration.

The New Jersey Turnpike closed down for perhaps 40 miles or so for both safety issues and the accident investigation.

For those of you who do not understand the magnitude of this, it's hard to even imagine what a traffic crisis this caused. The Turnpike on the the major North/South roads in New Jersey, and it carries thousands upon thousands of cars and trucks in and out of the New York metropolitan area every day. The volume of traffic is incredible.

Secondary roads, such as US Highway 1, Route 18, Route 130 and even the Garden State Parkway also carry heavy traffic loads of their own. But today, all the traffic from the Turnpike was diverted onto these roads, nearly turning them into parking lots. It was nearly impossible to get anywhere in the area.

When I finally left school after my swim, it took me over and hour to get to my chiropractor--what normally would be about a 15 minute drive. I had intended to go home first to feed the horses, but gave up that idea when I considered that it was going to take at least another half hour to get to my house from the main highway.

I think the news stations were dubbing it "Carmageddon."  I could see why. Some people were stuck for hours trying to get somewhere. I just read that now, at 8:30 PM the roadway has been reopened for about an hour after being shut down since around 10 AM.  Incredible.

I'm chiropracted, acupunctured, and safe here at home. I'm one of the lucky ones. All I suffered on the highway was aggravation.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Sometimes 10 Minutes Is Enough

Wherein We Think to Refine the Aids

I rode late today as the day was a bit warm.  And, I had to go to the old school where I taught to make an appointment to take my truck in for service. Something is going radically wrong with the battery as it does not keep a charge. The other day I had to jump start it at home. I let it run for quite a while before driving to the feed store only to have a dead battery when I came back out to drive home. I managed to get a jump start there using the tack store van and got back home. I've left the battery charger on the battery for the time being, but hope I don't have to use the truck in the meantime until I find out what's wrong. If it does need a battery, getting it done at school is my lowest cost option as there is no service charge. And the shop teacher is excellent with his students.

After that little jaunt, I headed over to the shopping mall next to the school. I haven't been there much lately so it was a fun window shopping trip.  I tried on some shoes--the ones I liked were not in my size--and got a couple new knit tops at Macy's.  I started off in JC Penney but honestly, the new layout of the store and all its new merchandising techniques including the selection is not as good as the old store.  There really wasn't anything too interesting to look at so I hiked all the way to the other end of the Mall to find the tops I like.

Home again after a quick grocery run to get some milk bread, and a nice selection of on sale canned goods for my Church's food pantry, I ate some lunch and then needed a nap. Ah, retirement is so hard. *LOL*

Fed the Boys and then poo picked the riding arena.

By then the Boys's dinners were digested and it had cooled off.  When my little herd came sauntering in from the pasture to see what I was doing, I haltered Tucker, saddled him up and rode for a bit.

Hence the 10 minutes. I'm not sure if it was 10 or 15 minutes, but that was all we needed.  Tuck was nearly letter perfect. The only flaw was as much mine as his. I start him off on a relatively loose rein and gather up some contact to get him a little rounder as we go along.  That was fine, but then, after some trotting, I brought him back down to a walk,  collected the rein a little more and asked for a trot transition. Once again, he balked.

Now, who's at fault. Look to thyself, rider.  Collecting the rein at the halt is one of the first aids to a reinback. Then in attempting to get the trot transition, I put my leg back for a stronger aid and used my heel.  That tends to tip my pelvis a tiny bit forward which is another part of the reinback aid. But when I didn't actually follow through with a reinback request, Tuck just kind of stood there.  Obviously, I need to refine the aid for trot from halt or walk.  That means my seat "thinking trot" and my leg at the girth. Duh!

This is not normally a problem on horses I've trained, but Tucker is rather unique. He overreacts in negative, backward ways instead of thinking forward. So I need to really do the forward thinking for him.

Enter, the voice command. All of my horses usually have some pretty extensive ground training and definitely know the meaning of, "walk," "trot," "canter," "whoa," "over," and a "purr" for slow down and, at least with Tucker, a "hiss" to canter.  So, the solution is to use the aid I need to use to get the trot and add a voice command to help him understand.

Aces. That worked. Then we went on to some canter departs. Here's the ten minute warning! Perfect! Every single depart from the first to the last--and I did three or four on each rein--was responsive, lovely and soft. I praised him mightily, dismounted and took him into the barn for his carrot.

With daylight fading, I saddled up Chance for a short session. Today was a repeat of yesterday's lessons about changing the bend.  Once again, "Rider, look to thyself."  It wasn't that I was actually doing anything wrong at the change of bend, but since I was posting the trot I quickly realized my change of posting diagonal could be a valuable added aid.

So, I began trotting figure eights as I did yesterday, but today, I changed my posting diagonal a stride before I asked for the change of bend. "Light bulb moment!"  Although things were not perfect, Chance was much more able to shift his own balance to the new direction and change the bend. We'll gradually develop this suppleness and I will ride it at a sitting trot as well, but for now, I'll use my posting to help him along.

We finished up with a pretend Training Level test and, aside from his still somewhat unsteady acceptance of the bit, he was obedient and forward the whole test.

Once again, a short ride was all we needed to accomplish a lot. No point in riding to exhaustion when the results come that quickly.

Carrots all around back in the barn.  It was another good evening.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Tucker Back In Action

And I Ride Two on a Sunday

I rode both Tucker and Chance today. The weather was lovely and the flies left us alone. What more could anyone want?

Tucker seemed quite pleased to be chosen first, and was at least moderately cooperative at the start of the ride. For him, that simply means walking on without any fuss.  Of course, that was on a loose rein.  When I picked up the contact a little, he hesitated, but then cooperated with a little less energy than I want from him.

But, I always like to give my horse the benefit of the doubt at the start of a ride in case muscles and joints need to warm up a little before he can be expected to start moving out as he really needs to to work well. Having ridden Chance twice before finally getting back aboard the newly shod Tucker, I must admit I truly appreciate the correct steering obedience Tucker offers in contrast. What I don't always appreciate is his tendency to think about protesting if I push a little extra with my leg or the whip.  A light tap of the whip might make him flatten his ears and threaten to kick out. I usually correct that with a sharp verbal reprimand and then he goes on as asked, but his attitude is "all about Tucker" at times like that.

The same goes for the first time I ask him to canter. So, after about a twenty minute session of general schooling and the riding of a pretend training level test, I focused on some right lead canter departs, one after another, simply expecting him to respond willingly and at once to the aid without any kind of "buck threat" or "attitude."  After three lovely departs, I immediately let him walk, gave him a pat and dismounted.

I always consider that his hocks may be bothering him, because he has had some soreness before and may even have some arthritis there, so the first canter depart may actually be a little uncomfortable for him. But if that's so, he certainly overcomes it quickly, and offers some nice quiet departs soon after.

With Chance, it's quite the opposite. He would much rather canter than trot with good, forward impulsion. So, I worked on trotting with him, concentrating on repeated figure eights with a nice change of bend in the middle. Unlike Tucker, he does not yet move laterally off my leg into the new outside rein on a change of rein, so I used the dressage whip to help reinforce that by just pushing it against his inside shoulder to help him understand how to respond to my leg.

He caught on pretty quickly and, while going from right to left was a bit harder for him, he did give me some nice changes of bend. More work needs doing, but it was a good start.

Ironically, his reward as some canter work. We did a bit on each lead and called it quits after about 20-25 minutes.

Once again, I am not asking for dynamic, on the bit, strong work from either Boy, so it's all about the basics which will allow me to shape and develop correct muscling and strength as their fitness and mine progress.

All in all, another good day in the saddle.