Thursday, March 29, 2012

Out Walking

And Toby Worries About Me!

This was the second time I went for a longish walk off the property only to have Toby calling after me, exactly the way he does when I ride one of the other Boys out on the trail.

I feel so special. I guess I am part of his herd, and when I go off on an adventure, he worries about me. I guess going off in the car is OK, but I certainly don't know for sure. It's only when I am out in the woods, or the field as I was today, that I can hear him whinny.  Chance and Tucker are right there with him, so he is not calling for them.

As a matter of fact when I left, all three Boys were in the front paddock by the barn. I headed out the gate of the arena into the woods trail.  Toby called for me.  Then, I headed down the dirt road that crosses the field and, as I looked over to the pasture, the Boys were out there where I was in plain sight for the bulk of my hike.  Since the corn is cut and not yet replanted, the field is wide open and I walked its perimeter, nearly always able to see the pasture.

When I came back to walk along the pasture fenceline, Tucker and Chance paid me no mind, but Toby headed over to the fence where he would be closer to me.  Once I was back "safely" into the arena, he ignored me again--at least until dinner time.

Frankly, I'm flattered. To be integrated into the social circle of my little herd is really quite an honor.  I'm not sure what my position is, although I hope I am actually the "alpha," but with horses like mine, you never know. I might easily be considered the somewhat annoying child who just has to be indulged and, apparently, "watched out for."

Kind of funny when you think about it. We always talk about being our horses's masters, and how we get them to obey us. Could it actually be that they are just indulging us for their own amusement?

Does that mean horses are really just cats in disguise?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Off to the Dentist

Me, That Is

I had a filling that needed to be replaced, so I was off to the dentist. Novocaine always reminds me of the famous Bill Cosby routine.

Hope it gives you a laugh if you've never seen it.

I am waiting to get the feeling back in my own mouth. *lol*

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Different Strokes

In the Swim Again

I substituted on Friday, so after school, I went swimming again.  I added two full laps to the program, so I swam 14.  One was backstroke, so I don't know how that counts. *S*  I also walked a lap.  That's kind of interesting as the pool starts off at around 3 feet deep at one end and goes to about 5 feet deep at the other. Walking in 3 feet of water is pretty easy, but when I get to the 5 feet depth, I end up on my tiptoes, bouyed up a bit and I have to pull myself along with my hands to make and headway.  It's a little break from the swimming and allows me to work my knees in a low impact way.

My knees have been achy lately. I don't know if it's just the increase and variation of the exercise or "just how it is."  I will be going to my surgeon in April, so I'll see what he says.  Apparently, however, it can take up to a year for everything to settle down, so I'm not particularly concerned. Regardless, overall, they are so much better than they were before the replacements, that I can't complain.  And, since I was "walking funny" on my bad knees for so long....well over ten years with two bad knees...I would think my whole body and leg structures will take a while to remold and fully adapt to the new alignment.

I have a couple more subbing assignments lined up over the next two weeks, so I should get some swimming in again. And, I always hike up and down the stairs at school a few times during the day.  I don't have any real stairs in my house--unless I go down into the cellar or up into the attic--so stairs are not part of my normal routine. That, I'm sure adds to the "knee fatigue" as well.

The horses seem to think they are finding some fine grazing here. The grass is just starting to grow a little and they are out nibbling away. We are not likely to get thick, rich pasture, however. To do that, I'd have to harrow, lime, fertilize and reseed and then keep them off it for a month or so.  With all the problems people seem to have with horses getting laminitis--and Toby's episode last year--I am not likely to rennovate like that.  Aside from the expense, it's probably far better for the Boy's to have enough to nibble on and not enough to chow down on.  They get plenty of hay and a complete feed, so nutritionally, they are just fine.

I did not ride yesterday, and I just may lunge today as I need to get a chiropractic adjustment and I don't want to mess it up.  I may start raining by this afternoon anyhow and the forecast for tomorrow is more of the same.  If we do get rain, that should kick the grass into action.

It already looks as if I need to give the lawn a mow. Its not so much nice grass, but all kinds of weedy things and crabgrass growing. When it dries out, I can let a horse or two--or three out on the back lawn area to trim some of the longer blades. That way, the Boys get some greenery--but not too much-- and I can get some of the weed whacking done with minimal effort on my part.

Then again, I could get some goats.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Rider Up!

Another Warm Day

It was in the upper 70's F today with lots of sun.  I went out to the barn in the early afternoon to ride--I seem to be an "afternoon metabolism" person--and decided whichever horse got to me and the treats first, would be the one I rode first.

Chance won, with Tucker coming an a close second and Toby cautiously pulling in last, always wary that I just might put the halter on his head.

Chance and I went out for another hack in the woods. He is the only horse I've ever had that definitely goes faster on the route away from home and slows down heading home. That's one of the reasons I haven't schooled him as much in the arena as he really needs.  He just thinks trail riding is a grand adventure. We looped along the edge of the ridge above the trail that goes around the lake. I'm pretty sure most of the lake trail is largely impassible--except with some serious caution--because the minibikers and ATV riders have eroded the path so badly it has huge ruts. That might be OK, but the land is low and borders a swamp, so it fills with water. Then the problem is that if you do try to ride across, it's nearly impossible to tell where the good, safe footing is and where the "sink into the muck" places are.

We came back through the woods with Chance occasionally trying to jog until I turned left to head home. Then his pace slowed to a leisurely walk, almost completely lacking in the concept of "forward."  I should have headed the other way for a bit to see if he marched off again. *lol*  Maybe next time.

Once home, I sponged him off and brought Tucker in with a specific plan in mind. I was not going to tolerate any challenges from him about responding to my leg cues--in particular for the canter depart.  He's not fit enough to do high quality "rock back on the hocks" canters, that's for sure, but there is no reason he can't just canter from my leg aid without "snarling, fussing, pinning his ears, or just generally acting crabby with a final....'Well, all right, if you really mean it, I'll canter' attitude."  It's so typical of him to challenge being told what to do.

I carried the dressage whip, which I did not need,  and once we'd trotted a little to warm up, I cued for left lead canter. (Snarl) I snapped the rein back where he'd tried to shake it from my hand, returned his snarl with one of my own, and off we cantered. Once more challenging depart later, he was once again responding like a trained horse, cantering off to the least cue of my leg like he's supposed to.  Both leads were just fine, although he's a little crooked going to the right.   Then we walked a bit, and I followed up with equally responsive canter departs from the walk.  Three on each rein were enough so we finished up with some trot shoulder ins and a little effort at half pass.  Half pass to the right is good, but he's not quite as willing to go left. The leg yield left is fine, but the half pass---well, half baked.  But he made an effort and didn't fuss.

So all was well to end the ride on a good note.

A good sponge off for Tucker--he rolled in the dirt about 20 minutes later--and carrots for all.

Another warm spring day has passed, and I'm tired. Obviously, have some work to do to get myself fit again.  Thank heavens there's no hurry.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Not Horsing Around

Missed a Nice Day

The phone rang at around 8:30 this morning. It was the school, calling me in to substitute.  I rolled out of bed, fed the Boys and got ready at a fairly leisurely pace, mostly because I wasn't really needed until the afternoon session.

I still got there early enough to cover part of one of the morning classes, so I was able to give another teacher a little break from subbing.  I might have been able to cut another 20 minutes off my time if I'd hurried, but that's not always a good thing when I have to take proper care of the Boys' needs for the day.

I stayed after school to go for a swim.  I figure I need to take advantage whenever I can.  With gas prices ever on the rise, I'm not too likely to drive all the way to the school just to swim very often.

I added two laps to my pattern today, with a set of six laps and a break, where I walked a lap instead of swimming, and then I added another six laps of swimming for twelve instead of ten.  I felt fine and not really tired, so that's a good thing. I guess tomorrow will tell the story of how my knees felt.

By the time I got home, it was time to feed the horses, so that's what I did, deciding that I'd had enough exercise for the day.

I'm sure the Boys didn't mind. Food is always better than work any day.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Two Bottles and More

Lots Of Exercise on a Warm Day

The Weather Channel says it is 77F here. I believe it.

I took a walk out through the woods early on, carrying a trash bag with me. When I got to the woods road at the edge of the field where the minibikers had parked, I found three cigarette packs, two large plastic soda bottles and one beer can dumped in the woods. This is the spot I had cleaned up just a few days before. I don't know if the minibikers I met left the trash or whether someone else left it, but there it was.  I will do my best to clean up, but why should I have to?  If I see anyone out there again, I will at least mention the debris. Perhaps I can jog a conscience or two. *sigh*

I walked rather briskly for about a half hour and the terrain is uneven with a few hills, so I consider that a good little bit of exercise.  It was warm enough that I got a sweaty, so I guess I did some work at least. My knees have been aching the last couple days and I'm not sure why, but I hope the exercise will help them feel better.

I  thought I might ride Tucker out on a trail, so I saddled him up and headed out. But, he was a bit too full of enthusiasm for my taste. He was really walking out and felt as if he wanted to trot off instead of keeping a sedate pace so I turned around, did a little mini-loop behind the riding arena and then went in and rode him in the arena instead.  He was quite good there, settling nicely into some good trot work and then some canter that felt forward but controlled as well.  I may have ridden him for all of 15-20 minutes total, but when I brought him in he was lathered under the saddle and between his hind legs.  I ended up hosing him off just to try to clean it all off.

I then saddled up Chance and headed out to the woods, planning on taking the medium long trail for a change.  We rounded the bend just before the woods road and what did we see????

Another horse and rider!! Oh, my goodness!! Chance stopped and stared. And stared, rooted to the ground.  I managed to urge him into the woods for a few strides but he was getting all "bouncy," so I turned back around, went out to the field and waited for the other horse to reach us.

It was a woman named Wendy from one of farms on the next road over. And her horse's name was....get ready....Chance!  Talk about coincidence.  Her Chance was only seven and a bit green too, so the two Chances made a good team.  We chatted as we rode through the woods together. Then we looped off behind my barn area were I left her to take the trail back to her farm while I brought Chance in.

Toby and Tucker were putting on quite a show in the arena at that point. All Wendy said was, "Oh My!" as the two of them ripsnorted, lept, bucked and galloped all over the place.

Fortunately her Chance was not the least upset, nor was mine--as he is well used to the nonsense.

Hopefully Wendy had a lovely ride home and I do hope I will meet her again sometime. I was nice to have another person out there on my ride.

And besides, she was not a minibike or ATV, so all was well.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Bloggers Unite!!

Such Fun to Meet People in RL

If you are part of my blogging circle, you may well know MaryLou and her horse Tetley. She writes a regular blog at

Well, it turns out that she was coming east for a family visit from her home in Colorado and to my delight, my house was "in between" stops.

She and her sister Betsy dropped by today for a visit.  What a lovely experience it was. MaryLou is as genuine and wonderful as she seems in her blog--what else should I have expected?--and her sister is just as delightful.

We had lunch--they dared to risk my French onion soup and a salad--and chatted like old friends. Of course, we have the horses in common, but MaryLou is also a tutor, so we also had our backgrounds in education to link us.

Betsy was first to urge us to "get out there to meet the horses," so as soon as we finished eating, we headed out to the pasture to greet the Boys.  I'm sure the bag of carrots I had helped create the proper mood, but it was only a moment before we were surrounded by three very friendly horses, looking for treats, and, as it turned out cuddles. Of the three, Toby was actually the most affectionate and he enjoyed some nice hugs even after the carrots were gone.

Tucker was the most enthusiastic. And I have to laugh a bit at his persistent efforts to be the center of attention.  Again the "carrot lure" was strong, but even when the bag was empty he determinedly followed us back in to the barn area just interested in whatever we were doing.

Chance was his usual sweet self but he doesn't challenge either Tucker or Toby for "front and center," so he wandered off a bit when the carrots were gone.

I do have to say I was quite pleased with how friendly and generally polite the Boys were for company. I never quite know what kind of welcome people are going to get from them. But I suspect all three horses knew they were amid a group of true horse lovers who were just willing to appreciate them for, well....being horses.

After we used up another half dozen carrots I got from the house, we  left the horses and walked over just to see the sandpit lake. I've posted pictures here, but I don't think they quite show the vast expanse of water I have across the road from my house. It's pretty impressive "in person."

Afternoon had worn on by then and MaryLou and Betsy still had a drive to New York ahead of them, so we had to say goodbye.  Hopefully, they made it to their next stop without getting lost along the way.  I rarely if ever drive to NY myself, so I was useless in giving directions further than to get back to the NJ Turnpike.

It was a super wonderful day and absolutely even more wonderful to meet MaryLou in real life.

Wish I could meet you all some day. The horse blogger community is full of great people.

For now, I will just have to be content with one at a time.  (Well, two, counting Betsy.)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Brisk Day

Chilled Off Again

It never did reach the promised highs today, but stayed hovering around 48 or so, with brief periods of warmer sunshine--mostly clouds.  I opted out of doing anything with the horses.

So, I will, instead, continue my rant about the ATV's and motorcycles on the State lands.

As Merri noted, they tear up the trails badly. Once lovely woodland roads I used to bike over as a child now have low spots of mud puddles and ruts. I don't even dare go out around the lake in back--a former sandpit--if it's been wet as parts of the road around it are virtually impassible without worry that you and horse are going to sink into an undefined swamp.  It's too bad because it was once a really nice ride around the water.

There are no real authorities to report illegal riders to either. The local police could do something if they were there to witness the riders and upon occasion have issued some citations, but the lands are well off the public roadways. The general rule is that the police do not want to chase riders because that could cause accidents and they do not have all terrain vehicles to follow them into the trails.

The State Park officials are non involved in this park. No park rangers are assigned here, and as a passive recreation area with no developed access, it's largely ignored. The last time I called about the problem, some rangers came out and posted signs, but many of them were quickly torn down or shot full of holes by hunters--I hope they were hunters.  There is a forest fire station nearby, but those guys don't seem to be too involved in any kind of patrolling either.

I thought of noting the license plate number of the cyclists's pickup truck, but thought better of it. If I had reported them and they put two and two together, I'd worry that they might decide to do something to my horses since my pasture and paddocks border the Parkland. That's also why I didn't say anything to them as I certainly didn't want to antagonize them--although they did seem like decent kids.

There are not a lot of other places for them to ride. The hot spot used to be on the other side of the Turnpike. ATV riders would show up from all over with flatbeds and ride the hundred or so acres destroying a good lot of the farmer's cornfield and eroding the banks of an already insufficient detention basin.  It was not legal for them to be there either, but at least it was not State Parkland. Once or twice the police raided them, but kids from the school where I taught were totally convinced it was OK to ride there.

A couple issues bother me about all of this beyond the horse safety and annoyance problem.

First, as I think I noted in and earlier blog, a young ATV rider was killed out there a few months ago.  That unleashed a controversy about whether or not anyone--including horseback riders--should be allowed on some of the property.  Now, everytime I see one of these motor riders, I worry. I am thinking I should have said something to these kids, but I was too preoccupied with trying to keep Tucker under control.  I think a warning to be careful might have been in order.

Second, there is a conflict here with the fact that I now know for sure that "out of towners" are riding on the land. I could ALMOST understand some of the local kids's being out there if the Park is actually in their back yard., (It's still wrong, but at least they are neighbors.) but I am not keen about people from other areas shipping in to ride. There's also the worry that someone not too nice might show up. The farmer up the road had the ATV he uses to plow snow stolen from his yard last year. Fortunately, it must have run out of gas because he found it out along the woods as if someone had left it there to pick up later.   So, who knows who may be riding out there?

Third, there is complete lack of respect for the natural resources of the area. Aside from trashing the footing with their vehicles, I'm pretty sure a lot of these riders are responsible for the bags of trash I carted out of the woods this week.  They park, ride and then have an after ride party, leaving all their trash behind. They were also riding around the banks of the lake last year, ripping up the soil and destroying vegetation and animal habitats, including what appeared to be a beaver den.

Simply posting signs will do little if there is no enforcement. The State needs to have a presence there, even if patrols are random.  And they need to prosecute cases. Vehicles can be confiscated and there is a $1000 fine possible.  Trouble is, with budget crunches and constant cut backs in the park system, I don't think that's ever going to happen.

I'm not sure what the best solution is. However, if we do get parts of the Park open and encourage hikers, joggers, more horseback riders, and bicyclists to use the trails, there's a good chance public pressure would drive the ATV riders out. The would just not be welcome and those who enjoy the quiet of the forest would make that really clear.

So for now, all I can hope for is that gas prices will discourage a lot of the recreational riding. And I'll just avoid going out on the trail during the times the ATV's are like to be there.

As one of you said, it's really a shame. I have all that room to roam and ride right in my back yard and I just don't feel safe using it.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Darn Those ATV's and Such

Into the Woods and Out Again

Before I start on today's adventure, just a reminder that pictures of me jumping my horses are in the post below for anyone who wonders about what I did in my "life before dressage."

Today was really warm and sunny--in the 70's? It was truly a spring day.

My hay man came to deliver a load without my calling to tell him my supply was getting low. We had a nice chat before I toddled off to buy some dry cat food at Target. (Lowest prices around, most of the time.)

Once I was back home, I decided I needed to go for my exercise walk, and, rather than ride Tucker to get him all overheated, I'd take him out for an energetic stroll in the woods. This time my plan was to pass the "Tucker Trail" and move up a step to the next road into the woods to add some distance, time, and experience for him.

As we rounded the bend, there they were--a pickup truck with two teenagers and two motorcyle thingies.  The boys were sitting on the tailgate talking and their cycles were not running. Good thing, because Tucker's eyes were already bugged out of his head at the unusual sight of vehicles on the trail.

Now, the truck and the cycles are completely illegal out there on State property, but I didn't say anything to that effect. I'm not foolish enough to challenge two "men" in a strange place, so I simply greeted them cheerfully and asked if they were done riding.

They told me they were, and when I asked where they were from, they mentioned a town some 10 or so miles away. (Mental note of this, if I need it....)  I told them I hoped they weren't planning on going on the trail where I was going as Tucker is not exactly behaved around ATV's and such, and they assured me they'd keep the engines off.

Tuck and I moved into the woods and I guess one of the boys moved because suddenly Tucker startled, leapt about, snorting and flagging his tail like a wild stallion.  The two boys noticed, that's for sure, so they knew I wasn't kidding about Tucker's explosive potential.  A second or so later, as I calmed Tucker back down, two other ATV's came roaring up along the field behind the truck.

I called out to my two new "friends," asking them to please stop the other riders from barreling into the woods on the trail I was on--which I think was their plan.  The first two boys quickly stopped the other riders and assured me they'd keep them out of the woods until they were sure I was well gone. (And I guess they did, because I made it all the way back home and was half done with barn chores before I heard any ATV engines out there.)  I guess Tucker's rather dramatic display had convinced the motor riders that indeed, scaring him would be a dangerous risk.


I had planned to take Chance out for a stroll in the woods after I finished walking Tucker, but that was not to be. I simply could not take that risk.  Good thing, too, because as I said, I did here the ATV's out there again. It is SO frustrating. I know I can get Chance to not be bothered by them, but I'm pretty sure it would be very hard to cure Tucker and the same with Toby.  The instinct to buck and run in both of them is pretty solid.  And besides. the ATV's and cycles are not supposed to be out there in the first place.

I ended up lungeing Chance instead.  So he got a little work without sweating up and all was well.

I do need to ride out early in the day on weekdays so I'll be likely to avoid any teenagers who should be in school during the day. On weekends? Well, I guess the best idea would be to get up really early to avoid the sleep in bed late motorcyclists.

Or, I could just hire a few of them to rip around my paddocks and pasture until my horses are immune?

Then again, my pasture is on State land, so allowing that would be encouraging more illegal riding.

As I said, Bummer.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Chilled Out

Or In as the Case May Be

The weather did turn again, though not too badly. 40'sF and windy, so I opted out of riding. I still did a short, brisk walk, though, so I didn't forego exercise altogether.

A word here about the jumping for those of you who may not know. I used to be a hunter/jumper rider and I evented as well. So jumping for me is nothing new.

I gave it up for various reasons.

First, my Toby--the now senior horse--was not reliable over fences. He has/had tremendous athletic ability, with a huge jump, but not enough courage to go along with it. He would not jump fences "cold," without having a good look at them first. While I might have been able to train that out of him with lots of experience, I was much more focused on dressage at that time and didn't have the time or will to make the effort. I did event PJ before that and, of course, Russell R. who was a fabulous jumper. PJ had tons of courage and Russell had tons of skill and enthusiasm, making them wonderful horses to ride over a fence.

 Here I am eventing PJ at his first competition. He cleared this one with plenty of room to spare! *G*
Here I am on Russell at one of our early events. Later we jumped higher obstacles with equal ease.

But, I shall go on with the second reason to stop jumping--money and the competition. As time went on the hunter/jumper world, in particular, was infiltrated with more and more money. Not only did the entry fees for shows increase, but the quality of horses in the shows kept getting fancier and fancier. I can still remember competing at a relatively small show against a big, fancy horse that bucked his way around the course. He won the classes over Russell. "Back in the day," what really mattered was how the horse carried the rider around the course. In this case, because that horse "snapped his knees" over the fence and was, I guess, an expensive mover, he won over my rounds. OK, so that's the way it goes, I guess. But, as time went on, I, as a true amateur rider, found myself being "run over" by trainers and riders from big stables.  I would put my number in to ride in a certain order, warm up, go to the in gate to do my jumping round, only to find out that "Big Trainer" from "Fancy Stable" had stuffed five of his students into the order in front of me, and I was going to have to wait. It happened over and over, messing up my riding strategy and wearing out both Russell and me with repeated warmups.

The third reason?  Where do you go from here? I've jumped some big fences in my day--even been over some five foo ones--but I didn't have the nerve to do too much of that, even if Russell, and probably PJ were more than able. The amateur owner hunter division, at 3'6" was just fine, and eventing over a similar height was OK too. But add the politics of "Big Trainer" to the hunters, and the revised notions and rusle in eventing, and I wasn't really going anywhere. The eventing world seemed to think that there were too many people going "clean" on the cross country rounds, so they decided to up the difficulty for most levels. I rode successfully a number of times with the newer heights--3'9" for solid fences--but managed to crash once or twice along the way, dampening my enthusiasm for that pretty quickly. I either had to drop down a level or just stop.  I evented PJ, of course, at the lower levels two or three times, and then, despite placing in the ribbons, decided enough was enough. Somebody, most likely me, was going to get hurt. So, there was really no way to progress in the sport as far as I was concerned.

Reason number four? Dressage was fun.  Please note, I said "was."  When I started eventing, I discovered the wonderful notion that if you were scheduled to ride at, say 1:04 PM, you rode darn close to 1:04.  At a hunter show, you might sit around for hours waiting for your class to begin.  Straight dressage was even better than eventing time wise, as with the events you usually did have to wait for the stadium round.  But at a dressage show, you knew when you arrived on the show grounds, exactly what time you were going to enter at A.  Cool.  And, again, at first, the playing field was pretty level.  If I rode a good test, I had as much chance of placing well as anyone else in the class.  Horses and riders were actually being judged on their training and performance alone. Even cooler.  I had plenty of room to move up from one level to another, so there was always a challenge in front of me, and training was, and still is, a fascinating experience. And, with no jumps in the way, it was relatively safe, in comparison. I was getting older, and the prospects of crashing over a jump were not too appealing any more.

Please note, I was extremely well trained as a jumper rider. Prudence Morgan at the Princeton Riding Center, here in NJ, was one of the best teachers I have ever known. I had solid basics and we jumped hundreds of little fences in all kinds of gymnastic exercises week after week to train both Russell and me to manage most any challenge we might meet in the show arena.
Here's an example of no stirrups and no reins over a fence. This might have been during a clinic with George Morris, but regardless, it was exactly the kind of thing we would do in a regular lesson as well.

So, despite my skills, I just kind of gave up jumping.  As I said, Toby's lack of courage helped, but as time went on, I found I didn't miss it too much.  But, every now and then, I do look back and remember the exhilarating feeling of soaring over a fence on a good horse and I take a deep breath of nostalgia.
Here are Russell and I jumping a true outside course over 3'6" at a park that no longer holds shows like this. The smaller shows are largely gone around here.  I used to be able to show every weekend. This park grounds is about four miles away from my house.

Competition dressage has lost much of its appeal for some of the same reasons that I stopped jumping competitively.  Like the hunters, money has stepped into the dressage arena as well. Fancy horses with extravagant movement can and often do place in the top of all the classes regardless of how well they might actually be trained. Riders go out and "buy" the show winner rather than "making" it. I've sat with judges in the booth, scoring, and know full well how this can work.  I can even remember a top and well-respected judge noting to me as a well known rider came up to the arena, "Now we're going to see a really good test,"  before the horse took one step though the in gate. Sure, the ride was good, but I'm not 100% convinced that the scores they received were not inflated by reputation more than by actual performance. (Side note:  This same judge, at another time was overheard to say as my friend entered the arena on her quarterhorse, "I hate this horse."  He still ended up scoring her in the top of the class because her ride was really good, so go figure.)

It's frustrating to spend hundreds of dollars on a show or two (I was paying up to $150 for just one competition) knowing that no matter how well you rode or how well your horse might go, as long as "Fancy Horse" was in the class with you, the top ribbon was never going to end up in your hands. Again, there are still some smaller shows around where the playing field is more level, but they are fewer and farther between nowadays. Judges's fees and all the other costs associated with running a show have put the "smaller guys" out of business.

If I ever get him trained to a level of competence in the dressage levels, I may show Chance once or twice, but no biggie if I don't.  As for the jumping? Now and again, and all just for fun.  It's good for the horses and something else to do in the schooling process.

Do I miss it?

Not much.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Has Spring Sprung?

Or Is It Just Another Teaser?

Temperatures were up in the 60's F today. It was windy, but the sun was out. We are supposed to have some rain tonight, but it will back up in the 50's tomorrow. I will put the sheets on the Boys for the foul weather and just wait to see if it's a nice 50 or a chilly 50.

But I took advantage of the nice day. I started off with a late morning walk. I timed the field I did yesterday and it was about 25 minutes. So today, I added a trek through the woods to bring the total up to around 45 minutes.  I did some physical labor along the way, moving some fairly heavy fallen trees off a section of the trail. My only worry was that I did not have my gloves on and as I tugged at the fallen trunk, I realized it was wrapped with some hairy vines.

"Warning, Will Robinson! Danger!"  (a quote from an old TV show here.)

Hairy vines are one of the signs of poison ivy!  I may have lucked out as I hurried home and gave my hands a thorough wash with cold water--do not use hot water to wash off poison ivy sap--and some good soap. So far, so good. Either the vines were not the evil weed, or I didn't get any sap on me.

Back home, I came in to rest my muscles for a bit and have a good lunch before heading back out to work the horses.

Well, "work" is kind of  meaningless here. I took Chance out on a trail ride instead.  The wind was whipping up quite a bit along the edge of the woods and fields, but once we were back in the shelter of the trees, it was lovely.  We were out for only about 20 minutes or so.

When we got back into the arena, I trotted around and finally decided to take him over the little one foot "jump" I had set up the other day.  First we simply trotted and he just took a big trot stride to get over. But then, I sent him into a canter and we actually jumped.  Nothing too impressive here, as an obstacle that size is just a big canter stride, but I'll count it as a jump. He was great, and I had fun.

I lunged Tucker next, mostly because I don't care to work him too much under saddle when it's windy like that.  After a session of trotting and cantering, I sent him over the little jump and then raised it to about two feet, just so he had to think a bit.

Once again, he jumped quietly and athletically over the rail about five times in each direction. He was pleased with himself, and I was pleased with him, so we called it a day.

By then it was dinnertime.  Carrots all around topped the grain and I left three happy horses munching away.

I will put their sheets on at late feed. The rain should hold off until then.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Walked and Rode

On Another Lovely Day

Warm and sunny today.

I took advantage of the weather and took a moderately long walk. I should have timed myself but I forgot to wear my watch. I think it was about 30 minutes but I'll do the same route tomorrow in the opposite direction and time it to see. The terrain was uneven with several little hills--nothing dramatic, but enough to make me have to work my legs to get both up and down.

The up is fine, but I am a little cautious on the "down" part, but I think it's just habit from my old, bad knees. Going downhill was always a bit tricky, so I am not as bold as I might be. I don't feel any extra strain or instability in the new knees, so perhaps I don't have to worry, but old habits die hard. I had one bad knee for nearly 50 years, so I have to keep reminding myself things have changed.

Aside from the hills, I kept up a brisk pace, so I hope it will help me get fitter and lose a little weight in the process.

After a bit of a physical rest, I went back out to ride. I just chose Tucker today, because I hadn't ridden him the last time.  I warmed him up at the walk on a loose rein and then at a trot on a loose rein, just working on some steering with my weight and legs--no real rein aids.  He's pretty sensitive to that, so I was pleased to be able to make some circles and reverses just by shifting my seat.

As we went on, though, he kept reaching for the bit, looking for some contact on his own.  Once I gave him my "hand to hold" he increased his pace and engagement and began to work a little more on his own.

I did a few leg yields at the trot, then began some hesitation transitions, first going all the way down to walk before trotting again, and then simply super collecting the trot for a stride or two before going on again. Once we'd established a good rapport with that, I asked for a bit of canter on each lead.

He took the left lead almost immediately on my first cue. I only cantered about 50 strides before transitioning back down. Then I reversed, and asked for right lead. Sticky. He laid his ears back for a moment, but I cued again and he cantered. It's hard to tell if his hocks bother him at all--that was an issue last year before I stopped most of my riding--or if it's just habit. Once he starts cantering, he feels fine, although he does tend to carry his hind end to the inside on the right--a sign of a potential weakness--but the stride is regular.  Again, I only did about 50 strides or so before going back to trot.

We finished up with a few trot/halt/reinback/trot transitions, and then I called it a day.  I dismounted and set up a low raised pole to lead him over. This is one of the agility exercises, so I led him over it a few times, using the "command" "over" and praising him when he stepped over the pole. By the time I was done, I had the reins looped on his neck and without my touching him or the reins, he stepped over the pole three times for me as I walked alongside--not going over the pole myself.

It was a good exercise to cool him out--it was WARM today and he sweated even with minimal work--and a fun way to establish some more communication with him.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Winter Drops By Again

Sort Of....

I have to wonder how the horses cope, adjusting to all the changes in temperature. I know I am not having a lot of luck.  When it gets cold, I get chilled, and I can't get myself warmed up.

Saturday morning was a good example of winter's fickle moods around here. It was rainy and miserable in the morning. I had to meet someone in at 10 AM--bit of a drive to get there--and headed out in a drizzle that turned into some pretty soggy rain while I was on the highway.  On the way home, the rain let up and the sun began to nuzzle past the clouds.

By afternoon, it was so warm I took the sheets off the Boys to let them enjoy the day--and some good rolls in what was now MUD.  Because it was so wet, I opted out of riding. I just didn't feel like coping with the sloppy footing.

When I went out for late feed, I put the sheets back on the Boys as a brisk breeze had picked up and the temperatures were dropping. By this morning, it was winter trying to decide which face to show. The sun was out when I went to church and I only wore my heavy sweater. After church, the breeze had picked up again and I put my jacket on. By the time we finished eating lunch at the diner, I could have used a warmer coat.

Tonight temperatures are supposed to drop into the 20's F warm up tomorrow and then drop again.

I figure I'll make hot mashes for the Boys in the morning once again because of the up and down thermometer. Their sheets are kind of midweight and seem to keep them comfortable enough.  I think the big thing is a layer to block the wind a bit.  I make sure they have plenty of hay to munch on as that helps fuel their internal heating systems.

As for me--no such luck. One day it's warm and I'm OK and then it gets cold and I can't get warm. Last night I had three blankets on top of me in bed before I started to feel at least a little snug.

Good thing I'm not a horse.

Hope I have more to post than a weather report next time. But, then again, it's still winter......

Friday, March 02, 2012

Well, That Was Interesting

Not Much Going On--But I Swam!! 

Darn this time of year. Even the mostly reliable weather forecasts are not. I checked two different forecasts which promised the teamperatures were going to be up in the lower 50's yesterday..

All would have been OK, but the phone rang at 8:30 and it was a desperate call for me to go in to substitute. I hate to pass up a chance to make a few dollars, and subbing is fun at the Academy--sweet kids, as I've noted before.  So I leapt out of bed, fed the Boys and tried to decided if they needed to wear their sheets all day. Since warmth was forecast, I took the sheets off.

So, it drizzled in the morning and never did get up above 48 F or so all day with clouds covering the sunshine. Ah well. Toby and Tucker were pretty muddy when I got home, so I guess they must have enjoyed being naked, even if they were a bit chilly. Normally, I wouldn't worry too much but they have been "dressed" most of the winter and I worry that they are not acclimated without "clothing."  I did leave extra hay, so they should have been fine.

It's just "mom" worrying whether the "kids" were dressed right when she left the house.

On my side, I had a great day at school. It was covering for the Phys Ed teachers, so I had to run study halls, but no problem. The students all had computers to use if they wanted them and for the most part, worked on projects for their other classes. These kids are super motivated and really involved in their schoolwork.

The swimming pool schedule was back to the good one for me--open just as the school day ended--so I took a deep breath and headed over to the gym as soon as the last bell rang.

It was wonderful!! I love to swim for exercise.  My knees were a bit sore as I kicked--nothing at all serious. Most of it worked out as I kept going.  I actually was easily able to do the full ten laps which was a bit of a surprise. I kind of expected my stamina to be less than it proved to be. I was a little tired, but not bad at all.

Swimming is, along with riding, my favorite exercise. In the summer, the pool is two roads over from my house--about 2 miles away. The indoor pool at the college is about 15 miles away, and not the loveliest drive--US Hwy 1 is a very busy road. But, on a good day, it takes about 25 minutes or so to get there.  Now that I've swum again, I know I will have to do it more often before the summer returns.

It was not a bad day at all, aside from the worrying about the Boys.