Friday, June 29, 2012

Need I Say It?


I woke up early, thinking perhaps I might go out to the barn to work a horse or two, but it was raining. Not a quiet, innocent rain, either. It was serious.

I rolled over and went back to sleep.

By the time I woke up again, just before 9 AM, the heat and humidity were already building. I headed out to feed the Boys, clean stalls, and clean out under the run in roof on Chance's side of the barn. Muggy, yucky...sweaty.

I then headed out to the post office to mail some payments that needed to get out before my mail carrier got to the house anytime from 11 AM to 6 PM-- one never knows what time he'll show up.  And when I got home, I pulled the truck up to the barn and unloaded the five bags of feed I had left in it after the last trip to the feed store.

Of note: the feed bags weigh 50 lbs. each and I was able to step up into the barn with a bag in my arms using my new knees! This is the first time my legs have been strong enough to do that!

Totally heated up by then, I headed indoors and didn't really go back out again until 4 PM feeding time and then a nice half hour swim at the pool.

I do have to admit, the pool is a blessing when it's hot. Not only does it cool me off, but I can actually get some quality exercise in despite the heat.

Needless to say, I did not even try to ride. And now, even as late as it is, it's still hot out there!

Muscle Sore?

Push Through

I had forgotten about some of the muscles I use to ride. My arms are fine, my knees ache--but that's still going to happen no matter what exercise I do, my right thigh "feels it," my back is OK, but there are some core muscles that are protesting. These are mostly upper abdominal muscles. It's nothing serious, but it does call to mind how much bodywork is involved in riding, especially dressage.

I will not note the sore seatbones because that really doesn't count. They just have to get used to sitting in a saddle. With the Ansur, this is far less of a problem than it ever was with a treed saddle. I used to get really chafed and had to wear special underwear when I rode. With the Ansur, there is no need for that, but still, I do not sit anywhere else quite the same as when I am astride a horse, so seatbones need to get fit too.

The core muscles are interesting. We never really think about them unless we are deliberately exercising to try to get rid of tummy fat, but these muscles really do get a workout in the saddle. You do need to try to sit correctly to be effective and, of course, in the sitting trot, they really come into play.

I cannot recall being really aware of those muscles when I rode hunter/jumpers, but I was a lot thinner and far more fit and active back then, so perhaps I just never noticed. I'm sure if I were riding in half seat now and doing some jumping I'd discover a whole mess of muscles I've forgotten about altogether.

So, if I can feel an ache in those muscles after a long layoff, what about my horses?  Essentially, when you ask a horse to lift its back and come "on the bit," the abdominal muscles come into play.  I can recall my acupuncture vet commenting on how good my PJ looked as he aged and decided it had to be the dressage work. PJ's back never dropped and he never had that "old horse" look about him.  Now if only I could maintain that kind of physically fit look as I age! *G*

All this leads to the fact that I did not ride today. There is the added factor that it was quite a bit hotter than yesterday and tomorrow promises the beginning of a several day heat wave--like the one my blogger friends from the west are already suffering from.  I have a plan to go out in the morning to do something with Chance and Tucker--perhaps just lungeing--as the heat warnings are starting at noon.  But after that, unless it really cools off in the evenings, I will probably not ride or work anyone through the weekend.

I was supposed to judge a driving dressage show on Sunday--a fun show, so my scores would not really impact much--but they have cancelled. The driving club is having a picnic indoors instead.

Kind of nice to have that option. I'm sure there are many horse shows around that will still be running because of all the money invested hiring judges, paying insurance, buying ribbons an trophies, and renting venues.

To those who will be riding--take care. Drink plenty of water and tend to your horses with care and respect for their health and safety as well.

The heat is on!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Tired Out

But Still An Almost Nice Day

Definitely hotter than yesterday, but not too dreadfully humid and there was a breeze.

I started off the day by trimming the branches that insist on hanging into the riding arena.  The job is far from done, but I no longer have to cut the corner at M and I can actually ride a straight line on the long sides instead of veering in to avoid the leaves. Guess that took about an hour, so I came inside for breakfast and crashed.

I did nothing for the better part of the day--one of the perks of being retired, and headed out in the later afternoon to feed the Boys and head over to the pool for a swim.  The water was still cool, but with the higher temperatures outside and the sunshine, it felt even more delightful than usual.  I swam for a half hour, then took four rounds of the lazy river for another 20 minutes or so. I have to watch myself as when I am on the river, I am lying in the sun. I burn easily, so I have to limit myself. Otherwise I'd ride that tube around and around for hours. It is so relaxing.

I came home and hooked up the drag to the tractor and groomed the riding arena. I've neglected it this year so it has a lot of grass growing in there. I'm not worried about it. First, it does serve to control the dust a little when it gets dry so that's good. Second, the drag does pull a lot of it if I drag after a good rain--not today as it was pretty dry. And last of all, it will be gone in the winter so if I drag the arena then, I will get rid of most of it. It does mix in with the sand, making the surface a bit more of a mixture which is also ultimately good as the sand needs other soil in it to make a better cushion.

Then, I unhooked the drag and used the loader to clean the paddock area back of the barn where the Boys seem to leave a lot of manure. Again, neglected areas always make more work, but the tractor worked a treat and it looks a lot neater now.

While I was working, I let the Boys out to graze on the back lawn.  They were having a grand time until, as the sun slipped down, the mosquitoes started to come out.

I brought Chance in to ride him while Toby and Tucker stayed out for a bit more.

I have to laugh a bit here. Caroline, on her blog, talked about how she has to walk Radar for a long warmup or else he fusses when she starts to work. Chance must have read her blog. He was tossing his head and body all over the place as I started to work him. Of course, the fact that the other horses were out on the lawn was a major distraction. I think, if I'd let him, he would have charged right out of the arena to be with them instead of working.

I'd had the foresight to carry the dressage whip with me, and it worked a charm. I never really had to touch him with it, but just the sight of it at his side was enough to help me establish a good bend in each rein. We walked in twenty meter circles on each rein until he gave me some nice soft contact with his body shaped correctly on the curve.

Once we had established a good walk, I did some trot work. This time the whip took over for my leg and again, without my even using it, he swung into a nice forward trot--mostly in a sort of round frame. What was even better, is that he felt even and sound in both directions. The extra forward inspired by the whip got both hind legs swinging along without a hitch.

We did just a little canter--not quite as good as the trot--and called it a day.

I considered lunging Tucker, but I realized I was too tired to manage.

It was another good day at Follywoods.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Breaking the Rule

I Ride Again

OK, so I have this rule that after I go for a chiropractic adjustment, I do not ride. Riding tends to undo some of the adjustment if things don't go perfectly during the ride.

But today, how could I do otherwise but ride?  The temperature was in the 70's F, mostly cloudy, with a lovely, refreshing breeze. At times, if you weren't working out there, you might need a light jacket to feel comfortable. How could I pass up a day like that? Trouble is, I've passed up too many nice days during the Spring, so Summer just can't be ignored.

I rode Chance first. Like yesterday, I stuck to about 15-20 minutes. I walked a lot at first, circling right, then left, over and over, suppling him up a bit.  Then we trotted. He feels fine on the right rein, but on the left, he is just a little uncomfortable, particularly on the turns. So, when I took the corners on the short side of the arena, I let him pick the trot pace. On the long sides, however, I had him move out with some decent impulsion.  He was erratic at stretching into the rein contact, but not bad considering how little he's actually been ridden of late.

I finished up the ride with an approximation of a training level test. Walk trot and canter were just fine with the same erratic acceptance of the bit. But, if I did have the goal of showing him, I figure it would take less than a month of schooling to put in a pretty good quality test.  The bigger question would be whether or not that little "skip" in the hind end on the left rein will go away as he gets fit.  Time will tell.

Despite the fact that my own right leg felt "collapsible" when I dismounted--I've had some issues with the psoas muscle and some kind of other issue with the thigh muscle's tightening up--I decided I wouldn't stop with one. So I saddled up Tucker.

The ride was pretty much the same as yesterday with the added addition of a few instances of "attitude" on some transitions. If Tucker feels I have taken too much contact on the rein, instead of stepping into it and giving with his head, neck, and back, he will often protest and simply refuse to go forward at all. What I need to do then is unlock his resistance and get him into the gait I want. I might simply do an extra flexing or displace his hind end laterally, or even just give the rein entirely.  Whichever method I use, I then get him into the frame in the new gait, do a downward transition and repeat the upward transition with the quality I wanted in the first place.  He wasn't bad today, but he did question a couple times.

We ended the session with the same version of a training level test I'd done with Chance, but in Tucker's case, I actually rode it much like I might at a show in a nice working dressage frame. The only bad moment came on the left lead canter depart when he kicked out a little, but I think it might have been from the flies rather than in protest. But with Tucker, you never quite know for sure.

Two Boys ridden, I fed and then headed to the pool for and admittedly cool swim.  The water is far from warm, but compared to the air, it felt pretty good. It wasn't too bad in the sun, but the one end of the pool was in the shade and when I got out it was a little shivery.

As usual, though, I felt wonderful after the swim. I always do. The exercise and refreshing feel of the water revitalizes me.

Shivering or not, it was a good end to the day.

Monday, June 25, 2012

At Last, I Rode

Tucker Under Saddle

Scott came to shoe on Wednesday of last week, the first of a series of horribly hot days. It was up around 100 F, until Friday night when some storms broke out to cool things off again.

Well, not really cool. Saturday was in the 80's and after doing some barn work and other chores, I went for a long swim and called it a day. Sunday was warm, and I had some kind of stomach/intestinal thing so I really didn't do much at all.

But today! Not an auspicious start, however. I was about to go out to feed in the morning around 8 AM when thunder began to rumble and suddenly the skies opened up in a torrential downpour! Rain was so heavy I couldn't really see out of the house windows.

By 9 it was gone and it had cooled off tremendously. I fed the Boys and came back inside to do some computer stuff. I had an acupuncture appointment in the early afternoon and when I got back, I went out to the barn in boots and breeches.

It's amazing how long it actually takes to ride a horse. First is the five minute walk out to the pasture to capture the steed. Then there is the walk back to the barn, fending off the other two horses who have now taken a sudden interest in you because of the treats. Then there is the prep work. I don't groom for hours and since Tucker was already pretty clean, I just gave him a quick brushing. All told, tacking up took about ten minutes. Twenty minutes had now elapsed.  I took him out to the arena and mounted up.

Lovely, lovely. Aside from being annoyed by flies--not too bad, but annoying nonetheless--he walked off quietly on a long rein just to warm up a bit. Then we started trotting. He was good off my leg, but
I didn't pick up the contact, but rather let him reach for it when he was ready. We worked in a long, fairly low training level frame doing some changes of direction, figure eights, shoulder-in leg yield and a little half pass. Then I asked for canter. He took the cue without a fuss and we did a twenty meter circle and some on the long side--not much at all--on both leads. He felt great. The canter has been a problem, I suspect because he's had some hock issues, but today he was willing and forward. I didn't do any tight turns, and came back down to a nice trot. Then after another session of walking, I trotted again, this time putting him into a first level frame and asking for a bit more impulsion. Once again, he was really willing to make the effort.

All told, I rode for about fifteen minutes. Five more minutes of walking just to cool off, then into the barn for a sponging, some toweling, and finally putting his flysheet back on. Another fifteen minutes consumed. By now I was nearly an hour in.  I did do some stall cleaning and then I fed everyone dinner, so when I came back into the house, hot and sweaty myself, I had been out in the barn for a good hour and a half. All this for, basically, fifteen minutes of saddle time.

It wasn't exactly cool out--82F or so--so I headed over to the pool for a swim. Boy, did that feed good! I swam for a half hour and now, here I am, back at home, thinking of my own dinner.

Bless Tucker's heart. Once again, he proved he really is trained. No need to lunge him or work him down before riding. Just get on and go. Tomorrow, I hope to ride Chance. The heat is supposed to be back on Thursday, so I need to get my rides in before then.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

And the Heat is On!

At Least For a Day or Two

The summer heat is on. Temps are supposed to be close to 100F today. The humidity is not overwhelming, so it won't be totally stifling, but nonetheless, summer is coming in with a vengeance.

I had planned on riding yesterday, but never did get around to it. Not sure why. I was rather warm, so that put me off and I had to do some grant writing in the morning.

I did go out for a bit to do some trimming with the DR trimmer, but when the trim strings broke the second time, I gave up on that as well. The machine works like a charm, but if I trim against a hard surface--post, tree, wall, etc.--the trimmer strings tend to snap off. They are easy to replace, but it's just so annoying. I love the machine for the most part, but so many places in my yard have obstructions that it's too common for string damage.  I was going to go into the riding arena to trim, but the second break did me in.

I did cuddle the Boys--Toby in particular. He seems to love having me stand there with his head in my arms, just petting and hugging him. Both Tucker and Chance like the attention too, but Toby is definitely the most affectionate at the moment.  I have the fans on in the barn for today, so they will be as comfortable as possible in this heat.

Last night, Stephen Colbert "bumped" dressage again. With Rafalca on the team, he has every reason to continue to follow the sport.  And, I noted that he did say he was going to do everything he could to see that the team was as well equipped as the US Speed Skating Team which he supported during the winter games. I'm not sure what that meant, but wouldn't it be great if the US Team got some much needed financial support from The ColbertNation?  At the very least, the publicity for dressage is great!

Once again, I have to admit, that while Colbert is making fun of how elite a sport dressage is, he is also well-informed on the subject.  He invited Anne Romney on to the show--much debate in the forums as to whether or not she would show up--but even if she doesn't come, dressage has taken a huge leap in potential popularity because of the political connection.

We are all hoping Colbert will "participate" in dressage as he did in speedskating. I was in hysterics when he had a match race with US skater Apolo Ohno.  Colbert began the race while Ohno was still at home. Ohno arrived at the rink, put on his gear and headed out to the ice to race past Colbert for an easy victory. It was one of the best comedy bits I'd seen in a long time. Not sure what he could do with dressage, but I'm sure it'd be funny.

So now that dressage has gotten the "bump" it remains to be seen how much of the competition will be televised in the US.  I do have most of the NBC stations and affiliates on my cable, so if they broadcast any equine events I should be able to see them. Of course, the last time, the dressage was also broadcast live on the Internet, so I also have that option.

I do have a feeling our British friends out there will be blessed with good coverage. Now there's a county that appreciates horses!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Busywork and Lungeing

Monday Not So Blue

I had a productive Monday. The weather was incredible with dry, cool air more the norm than the exception.

I spent a good part of the morning with the weed whacker--string trimmer--finishing up the front bank and trimming around the trees and house in front. I could have cut my workload by half if the DR. trimmer was running, but once again it failed me. I took it down to my neighbor's house so he could look at it for me. He brought it back in the evening, repaired. Apparently a little bump on a vital part had knocked part of the fuel system out of alignment. Not sure I am too keen on a piece of yard equipment being that sensitive, but I will be careful of it in the future.

I went for an acupuncture treatment in the afternoon, and then came home to lunge Chance. We didn't do much, but I was really happy to see that he looked even on all four legs. Whatever that issue he has with the right hind leg seems to be resolved again. I plan on riding him today, so I will know for sure as what often does not show up on the lunge can show up under saddle.

Tucker is still missing a shoe, so I wrapped his foot in duct tape and vetrap. I know it will not hold up for long but it does offer a little protection to his hoof. I called Scott again, just to remind him Tucker was waiting, but I still haven't heard anything.

After I finished the lungeing session, I went out to poo pick the arena. It's been neglected for at least two weeks because of all the rain.  The Boys have also been using the arena gate to get to and from the pasture because the main gate gets really muddy and full of water when it rains. That means they have dropped a lot of manure on their travels in and out. It took a while, but I got the whole arena pretty clean. I will, however have to go in to mow the edges and some of the more central areas. Since I haven't been riding much the footing is getting over grown with grass and some weeds. It's amazing how nature insists on encroaching, even in a sand area. Now that the DR is working, I'll do the trimming with that.

I need to do the hard outside work today, as the weather will be taking a "summer turn" over the next few days with temperatures rising to the 90's F.  As long as the humidity does not come along with the heat it will be OK, but I'm not too optimistic. I guess I'll just have to wait and see.

Meantime, at least for now, the yard looks pretty good.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Will Dressage Get the "Bump?"

The Olympic Team is Selected, Mr. Colbert

The US Festival of Champions US Dressage Team Selection Trials are over and the team is set. First off is Steffen Peters on Ravel with Legolas as his back up horse. Next is Tina Konoyt on Colecto, who scored over 80% on one of her rides. Jan Ebeling riding Rafalca qualified third with and additional pressure of the race for President of the US lurking in the background. And Adrienne Lyle qualified for the fourth spot on Wizard.

It is a strong, solid team. Certainly, the British team is favored to win this year--what a grand departure from previous years when Germany dominated--but as all horsemen know, anything can happen.

And this year "anything" already has here in the US.  Stephen Colbert, talk show host of the tremendously popular "Colbert Report" aired weeknights on the Comedy Channel, did a piece on the competition. His focus was that Mitt Romney's (Republican candidate for US President) wife is part owner of Rafalca.  Needless to say, dressage at that Olympic level is an extremely expensive sport, and
many news reporters have been critical of the Romney's money and being "out of touch" with the common man, so mocking out their dressage connection is one sure way of underscoring all that wealth.

But, fortunately for us all, the dressage community as a whole has finally learned to laugh at itself. I know I was laughing like crazy at Colbert's report, declaring dressage his "Number One Sport of Summer." 

Now, at the USET headquarters, dressage fans responded with good humor, laughter, beer, and foam
fingers, cheering on the new team.

Link to USEF Dressage Video

What a breath of fresh air!!

I love dressage, but the sport has had a rocky road to popularity and not many non-horsemen understand it. As well, the competitions rarely get TV coverage, so I often miss seeing the masterful rides of the best riders in the world--except on YouTube videos. Silly as all this may be, perhaps all the publicity and the Romney connection will finally put dressage "on the map."

Perhaps the "Colbert Bump" as publicity on "The Colbert Report" is known is just what dressage needs--at least in an Olympic year.  I will be watching the "Report" on Monday night--airs here at 11:30 PM on Comedy Central--to see if Mr. Colbert is up to a response to the dressage world's response to his previous report.

I'm ready to laugh my way all the way down the centerline.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Busy Week

Punctuated by Rain

Monday I spent working on a grant and going to see s film with retired friends. It started raining mid morning and continued all day.

Tuesday, the roof guys came to start working on repairing the barn roof. When the solar panels were installed, they created a leak in the part where the barn roof connects to the run in shed roof on the east side and it's been getting worse and worse. I had a chiropractic appointment in the morning, so with all the ruckus, I opted out of riding a horse.

Wednesday, roof guys were back to finish up. I also got a call from my friend Shelley asking if she could spend the night on her way to a job interview. That meant I had to do some house cleaning--much neglected, I fear.  Then, on Thursday, Shelley arrived so we spent the day catching up, running some errands and going out to dinner.

Friday, I woke up with the closest thing to a migraine I had had since I started on my blood pressure meds. It eased off as the day went on, but I made a chiropractor appointment for today to clear the rest of it out.

I did go for a swim today--14-15 laps and a good thirty minutes of water work. I may go out to lunge Chance before too long, just to get him started up again.

I can't do anything with Tucker because he's lost a shoe.  The Boys were overdo for shoeing/trimming, and I called Scott last week, but so far no call back. This is a particularly busy season for him with all the horse shows going on and he often gets backed up with people who really NEED a shoeing job so they can compete.

The Boys and I are in competition retirement. so I'm not too worried. The ground is pretty soft from all the rain so Tucker is fine, so far. Hopefully Scott will get here before some kind of problem develops.

Of course, the lawn needs mowing again, and some weed whacking. However, the road guy was buy trimming the shoulders of the road, so I managed to flag him down to give my banks a cursory trim.  I gave him a Coca Cola in return and he did a great job with some of the weeds that have plagued me in years past.

So far, so good. Now I still need to haul myself into the saddle to get some riding in!

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Need to Get Fit

Saddle Time in the Near Future

I went to the Customer Appreciation Day at Rick's Saddle Shop today. I had a great time.

I won five items in the trivia contest, proving it pays to know totally useless information. I ate a free hamburger, a free hot dog, some free cookies, and washed that all down with a cold drink.  I bought a new safety helmet for 20% off--it was "Helmet Awareness Day," and avoiding spending tons more.

Actually, the day before, I'd gone to the closer store to stock up on feed for the month at $2 off a bag, so I certainly spent enough money for the weekend.

But, there was more fun. Aside from meeting a few old friends and chatting, I also met up with the store owner who's known me for over thirty years since he first opened his tack/feed store.  His horse was there on display. Why?  Because his horse is a big, black Percheron measuring in at 19 h!

Rick and I got to talking and he allowed me to go in the pen with Rebel to see him up close. Believe me, he is huge!!! His back towered over me.

I asked about how he felt to ride and one thing led to another. At that point, Rick asked me if I'd like to come out to ride him sometime to try a little dressage. I hesitated, mostly because I certainly and not in the best state of riding fitness now, but it certainly would be fun to get on a horse like that.

So, I am planning on getting some good saddle time in here with the intent of getting in shape so I can get on the big fellow and have a go.  All I'll need to do it convince him to go where I want him to.

Here's Rebel's publicity photo. The girl holding him is probably about my height 5'6" or so, just to give you a perspective.

So what do you think??? *G*

Friday, June 08, 2012

Rain, Rain Went Away

But, For How Long? 

It has rained here for days. After and extremely dry spring, summer seems to have come in with the missing April showers. Included have been some thunderstorms and downpours.

I didn't swim last weekend, first because it was too chilly, and finally because when it did warm up on Sunday, thunderstorms kept passing through. I didn't check, but I'm pretty sure the pool was closed.

I did substitute on Tuesday, so I swam after school in the indoor pool, but I was even concerned that day that they might close down. There was some pretty heavy cloud cover and if a thunderstorm broke out, they would close the indoor pool too. All the filtering equipment for the water is outside and if it were struck by lightning, it would charge the pool water inside. But my luck held out, and I got in a good forty minute or so of swimming and walking in the water to exercise my knees.

I still have not ridden the Boys. My knees are a bit sore, stiff, and swollen, especially after exercise. Not that it's an excuse, but it certainly doesn't make me feel much like riding.

So, the Boys have been just kind of hanging out. I took a couple pictures in the rain, so the blur is the raindrops on the lens. But what you can see is the typical situation. Toby takes up most of one end of the run in shed roof, Tucker stays dry at the other, and Chance hangs out on the periphery, with his head inside and the rest of him out in the rain. Clearly, there is room for everyone under the roof, but apparently, that would "break the rules" of the herd hierarchy.

I was outside because there was a rainbow.  Once again, my photographic artistry is limited, not only by the rain, but also because the rainbow was not very bright.  I've photoshopped the pictures a bit trying to bring out the color, but I have a feeling the limits of my skill at using the camera also limited the ability to brighten things up.

I do fear the pots of gold at the end of this rainbow seemed to have been stored in the two huge warehouses resting at either end.  It was kind of sad to see nature's beauty flanked by all the industrial construction that's taken over the once pristine farmland on my eastern horizon.

The untouched photo below shows a bit of that.  You can just see the white warehouse, the high tension electrical power lines, and some other development beyond. Fortunately, the farmland between that area and my property is preserved land.
Hope to get back in the saddle this week. I need the exercise and the Boys need some diversion.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Organic Lawnmowers

The Boys Do Chores

I let the Boys out on the back lawn for a couple hours this morning. The idea was for them to do the mowing for me.

Well, they did, but I must admit they were not as thorough as I'd like. But, a good bit of the grass was trimmed and it only took me about a half hour with the riding mower to finish up.

I highly recommend this team of lawn care artists for anyone who'd like to hire them--as long as there are no annoying flies around to send them scurrying for cover back in the barn.

Did you notice that the fly sheets are still intact?  I don't know how this has happened, but so far, so good.

The plaid sheet on the ground covers the arena drag, as does the white cone. I still have to do something with that pile of tree chunks which now harbors some wild rose bushes and weeds. With all the rain, everything is growing like crazy.