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.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Will Summer Ever Quit?

Or Stop Being Soggy?

Rain off and on these last few days--nothing like the torrential rains in Britain, however. (Sending my best for some sunshine over there!)   But it really didn't matter too much on the riding front.

I decided not to ride on Thursday, mostly because my knees were sore, as was my back. I think I slept in a bad position.

Friday I decided to swim.  I went to the pool for the lunchtime hours and nearly had the place to myself.  When I came out to drive home, the temperature and humidity were quite uncomfortable. I was sorry I was wearing my terry hoodie set instead of one of the sleeveless dresses I often slip on after a swim.

On the way home, I stopped at Kohls.  For those of you unfamiliar with this store, it is a large department store carrying all kinds of clothing and housewares such as bedding, bath, and kitchen items. The selection is huge, but better than that, their prices are wonderful, especially when they have sales.

Here was the deal this week. 15%, 20%, or 30% off all purchases with either a coupon from a flyer sent to my house, or a scratch off coupon in the store. Top that off by nearly everything in the store on markdown, and a $10 Kohl's cash reward to be spent at a later date for every $50 purchase.

There are plenty of brand name items in the store too, so these are not low quality products.

I went in looking for a new pair of jeans. I came out with several pairs of colored jeans, the ones I was looking for, and several really soft knit tops....and some Kohl's Cash so that I will have to go back next week to spend that. (They are SO clever with their marketing.)

I think I have only gone into that store once without making a purchase. Obviously, I am an easy mark for their tactics. *G*  But they do carry a lot of really nice items exactly in my style and price range. Oh, yes, they also have racks of clearance items at up to 80% off. I once got a dress there for $8 that had originally been priced at $80. (Chaps)  It's always worth a shuffled through the clearance racks if you want a real bargain.  And, those percent off coupons work on the clearance items too.

It was still miserably warm when I got home, so once more I gave up on riding. I had swum for an hour, so I didn't need the exercise and it just didn't seem worth it to get both Chance and me all sweaty.

Scott is coming so shoe today, so Tucker will be back in action soon. Here's hoping summer finally breaks and we get some of that lovely fall weather that inspires me to ride. I still plan on swimming twice a week, so that leaves five days of saddle time to fill in.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

So Far, So Good

A Bit Warm Today

I went for my swim in the morning, concerned that if the predicted thunderstorms came through, the pool would close. Even though it is indoors, the pump equipment is outside so it runs the risk of lightning strikes which could then go through the rest of the water.

I'm pretty sure I did a couple more laps than my usual 20, but I did swim for about 50 minutes before calling it a day.  I always feel so invigorated after a swim. I don't know if it's the exercise or the water, but I really do enjoy it. The trip to the college pool is about 15 miles and can be an annoying drive, but it's worth it.

It was warmer today, and just on the edge of being uncomfortable outside. So I figured I'd wait until early evening to ride.

That's one reason I  stopped to do some grocery shopping on the way home to buy ingredients for some beef barley soup. The restaurant we often go to for lunch after church makes the most wonderful beef barley soup and I am determined to make a version of it so I don't have to keep buying some there for takeout. I'll try a version tomorrow to see how it goes. I was going to start it today, but discovered I needed some meat and ended up going to another supermarket in the afternoon.

By then, it was time to feed the Boys. About an hour later went out to ride Chance again. (Tucker is still shoeless.)  It was better today. I was much quicker on correcting his tendency to stiffen through his back and lift his head.  Although the frame was still pretty unsteady, it was much better.

I do have a bit of work to do on suppling him laterally. He tends to get himself well shaped on one rein and then almost "locked" into that bend so when I change rein through a circle, I have to make some fairly strong aids to get the bend changed through his body.

Again, much of this is typical of a green horse.  I simply haven't schooled him a lot.  As I've said before, he is such fun to ride out on the trails that we've spent more saddle time out in the woods and fields then in the schooling arena. It's fine, actually, but knowing myself as well as I do, I definitely need to bring up his level of training to something akin to first or second level dressage before I will be satisfied. Ohterwise, even on the trail, there will be moments when I will just not be happy with how he's going, and that can only lead to unpleasant results.

Once we are at second level, I can go most anywhere from there. The essentials will be in place and if, by chance, Chance happens to show a real talent for dressage, I may decide to show again.  If not, I'm sure I will still play around with the upper level movements, just because it's fun to do that stuff.

Meanwhile, we'll work on a good solid foundation.  As I said, so far, so good.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

At Least I Have a Chance

Or, At Most I Have a Chance

With Tucker's hoof wrapped in Gorilla Tape--seems to hold up, unlike duct tape--and Elastoplast to keep his sole protected and the walls from breaking down, I have the barefoot Chance as my prime riding horse. 

Oh, yes, Shannon, Tucker wears bell boots all the time. Not sure they actually keep his shoes on better, but the idea is sound. *sigh*

Anyhow, back to the program.  I saddled up Chance for a short workout, every mindful of the fact that he hasn't been ridden in at least a month.  I have learned to carry the dressage whip with me mostly because he as several modes of motion, most of which are slow.  Very slow. It is honestly amazing how he can practically canter in place with, by the way, really good rhythm. If I every do decide to do some dressage competing with him, I suspect collection will be the least of his problems. 

Well, his trot started off rather enthusiastically, so I just let him move on, trying hard to ignore his tendency to bulge out noticeably as we passed the gate out to the woods. Though tempted, I decided to stick to the arena for the day, just working on the basics. 

And what are the basics with Chance? He walks, trots, and canters correctly on both leads, and he steers with relative accuracy, so those basics are done. He walks with his head in a nice stretchy frame, and will actually transition from walk to trot without using his head for balance. But in between, mostly at the trot, he is unsteady about both his frame and his pace.  However, all that being said, I must admit that each time I do ride him, the previous lessons do seem to stick. A very slight give and take on the outside rein is usually all it takes to get him back into a training level frame. But I do need to be quicker to fix his stiffening before it gets to that point. 

I don't want to "play" the reins every stride, and I do want to reward his correct carriage by being soft, so I really need to focus on the exact moment I need to make a slight correction before things go so awry that the slight correction has to be "less than slight."  

Much of it is his balance. He likes to "lead with his shoulder," particularly on the left rein.  That seems to be his stronger side, with the right rein as his hollow side.  That's why I often find my own seat slipping to the right when I ride him. He tends to "drop me into the well" he creates when his right hind doesn't track quite straight under his body, but slightly to the outside (left) in taking a weaker stride. 

In his defense, that right hind is the one he has some problem with, so as we go along, I will be doing exercises to help him get stronger. For now, it's mostly my job to ride straight myself and keep asking him to try to do so as well. 

The good news was that I really didn't feel much difference at the trot on either rein.  That may be different today if his right hind is tired from the first ride, but again, it is something that in the past seems to work out as he gets fit. 

His canter was lovely on both reins, with the right lead a little "softer."  This may well be his biggest improvement over time as he used to really rush on the right lead.  

After I finished the schooling session, I took him on a two minute ride through the front paddocks. He was very confused by this. I've never ridden him around his turnout area and he was just sure I simply could not mean to do such a silly thing. He stopped several times to question me, but behaved well otherwise. It's not even half an acre, so we are talking a mini mini mini hack here. *lol*  It was just enough to cool him down after the ride and allow me to take him back into the barn at the front door. 

Going to go for a swim today and, if the weather holds--storms predicted--I'll try to get another ride in as well. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Shoulda Kept My Mouth Shut

I never should have told Tucker I was going to ride him today.

Last night he pulled his left front shoe.

I've wrapped his foot with Gorilla tape and Elastoplast for the time being. And, of course, I called my farrier.

It was just about time for trims and shoeing anyhow, but it would have been nice to get on for a bit.  If the Cavello boot fits that foot...not sure...or one of the EasyBoots I have, I may try a little ride later anyhow. But the trouble there is that usually with only one boot on, Tuck's stride is really uneven.

However, we shall see.  More later.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Arena Nearly Ready

And I Lunge the Boys

I worked on the arena, the pasture and the paddocks yesterday. The weeds have taken over in a number of places, so I gassed up the lawn tractor and headed out to so some mowing.

While I mowed the "horse areas" the Boys mowed the back yard for me. It makes it a lot easier to work in the paddocks when they are otherwise occupied, so I let the out in the yard to nibble the grass. They were quite pleased and I was able to get a lot of work done.

I had to actually mow the riding arena as well. Grass has grown up in the several inches of sand, and along the edges some pretty determined weeds have taken hold. It was not a perfect mowing job, but if I continue to use the arena drag, especially after it rains, I will get most of the errant grass pulled up.  The weeds along the fence still need trimming, but I might just surrender to them until I get around to trying to put the fence back together in all the places the Boys have knocked it down playing "horse volleyball."

I also mowed several large patches of weeds in the pasture .  It really should be done with bush hog to get things really cleaned up, but until I have some extra money to pay someone, it will have to do as it. It does look a lot better, and the Boys seemed pleased as I saw them grazing in some of the newly mown areas today.

The weather seems to have broken for the moment, so after I fed the Boys dinner, I waited about an hour and then went out to lunge Tucker and Chance.

Tucker looked good. I was a little concerned about his left front where he'd lost the shoe last week. Scott had to trim him really short to get a shoe back on, but he looked just fine, with an even gait at the trot.  All went well until I put him on the right rein and asked for canter. He exploded into one of his typical Tucker Bucks and bolted off, powerfully enough that I had to let go of the lunge line.  Off he went in a mad gallop with the line trailing behind. This time, though, I had a "magic weapon" in my possession-horse treat in a very crinkly plastic wrap. One "crinkle" was all it took, and Tucker was back at my side so I could catch him.

Proof you don't need a clicker to get instant obedience!  *lol*

I finished with him along with another bucking depart I manage to control, and then put the halter and lunge line on Chance.

Once again, he was fine on the right rein, but when I trotted him on the left, he was giving a short stride on his right hind leg.  This is a chronic problem with him which does get better when he is more fit. We suspect it just might be a weak stifle. I urged him into a canter, which he took easily, and after a good number of times around, brought him back down to the trot. This time, his gait was even and forward.

When I ride him, if I feel that unevenness, I will do a bit of canter on the left lead to see if that improves the trot. I might be just a muscle issue that needs to be warmed up. Either way, I can only do what my vet recommended when we first noticed the issue.  I will just have to get him fit and hope for the best.

So, lovely weather continuing, I will ride tomorrow. Nothing big, but at least I'll be in the saddle.

Hope Tucker behaves himself. *G*  (I will carry a pocketful of treats.....)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Still Sweating

You'd Think I'd Be In Better Shape

While fall is in the air, summer's heat seems to have decided to stay around a while. It's not as hot as it has been--in the 80's F instead of the 90's, but it was decidedly more humid today than I expected.

I dressed in my breeches thinking I might take a bit of a ride after doing some barn chores. The chores consisted of cleaning under the west run in roof and poo picking the riding arena...again.

Five wheelbarrow loads later, I was soaking in sweat. And, to my surprise, rather worn out. The surprise comes from the fact that I had been swimming all summer for at least 45 minutes a day.  And over the last two weeks, I have been swimming twice a week, again for 45-50 minutes, including five lengths of butterfly.

You'd think my stamina would be a lot better. But, then again, when I swim, I am not hot. And, while I use my muscles. it's not exactly weight lifting the way poo picking and wheelbarrowing are.

Towards and end of my work, The Boys came to "assist."  For Tucker, that meant standing right where I needed to use the pitchfork and then dropping a new load of manure not too far off--I guess so I didn't have to walk any distance to clean it up.  For Chance, it meant first moving into place for a quick cuddle and then trying to push the wheelbarrow by one handle.  Luckily, I asked him to stop helping a second before the whole thing toppled over so I didn't have to clean everything up all over again.

There was a fair breeze and when the sun disappeared behind some clouds now and then, it felt pretty nice out there.  I think, that after I feed later on, I will go back out and at least lunge the two non-retired boys.  But that does not mean I will not give Toby a carrot too. Not exactly proper for a horse with Cushings, but I can't see depriving him of all the joys of life.

I hope the predicted cool front comes in soon. I really do want to ride, but it's still uncomfortable out there and the flies are really annoying.

First day of Fall on the calendar, but Summer still lingers.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Season Changes

Is It For Real?

Suddenly, with a wave of thunderstorms, a cool front rushed in.

The last three days have been beautiful!  Now all I need to do is rekindle my energy for riding and saddle up the Boys for some exercise.

I made the first move Sunday by picking the riding arena, but I still need to mow in there and drag before I get serious about it.  And, before I do that, I need to go the the gas station to get some fuel for the mower and the Kubota tractor.  Before I do that, I need to clean up the gas containers.

Notice how one goal seems to depend on another in a stream of complications?

Ah, well, as they say, "I'll get around to it."

However, I have been swimming twice now since the pool closed. I headed off to the college campus once last week and once so far this week to hit the pool.  Swimming indoors is not quite as nice as swimming outside--feel the same way about riding--but it is a wonderful option for me. I'm not sure how I will feel about it as the colder weather creeps in as it's a fair walk from the parking lot to the gymnasium, but I have vowed to swim at least twice a week.

I already have a substitute teaching job for next week, so I will be there one day and I have one more day to drive over this week.  It's about 15 miles to the college from here and not the nicest drive in the world as I have to spend at least some time on US Highway #1.  It's a busy road and when there is some kind of traffic jam it can become a parking lot.  I do have a couple choices to avoid US #130--the fastest route when all is moving well--so when I get bored with traffic lights and trucks I can cut off through the countryside for a break.  I calculated the mileage of going to the pool there twice a week and it pretty much matches going to Crystal Springs seven days a week in the summer, so my fuel consumption is pretty much a wash.  If I substitute more often, then I will swim more often as well.

Meantime, I need to ride.  I think even Tucker is looking for something to entertain himself, and certainly, indulging my whims when I am on his back--or not indulging my whims when I am on his back--would certainly be an entertaining diversion for him. Chance and I will need to get out on the trail, provided some of the flies decide the chilly air is not to their liking.

But, I really need to get some of that mowing done...and the run in shed cleaned out...and the fence fixed...and some weed whacking finished....and.....


Monday, September 03, 2012

End of Swimming Season

Take A Tour of My Pool Complex

Today, Labor Day, was the last day the pool was open. I've spent nearly every day this summer swimming there.

I dropped by with my camera and took some pictures to share with you all. Guess this will have to hold me until next season. 

 Entrance with prices, if you can read them. Not cheap at the daily rate. I have a season membership. 
Here is the entrance.
The kiddie pool.
Sapphire Bay, the family pool.
The wading pool for kids.

Several views of the Lazy River.

The water slides.

The lap pool where I swim.

The picnic area.
On the way out, office and plaque. 
Interior, shower and changing room.
Cute mermaid on the wall. 
Part of the parking lot.

I'm going to miss my daily swim, but I figure I will go to the indoor pool at the college where I substitute to swim at least twice week during the off-season. It's a bit of a drive compared to this pool--about 3 miles away by road, only a mile or so "as the crow flies."  but twice a week at 15 miles one way is about the same as going to my "summer pool" every day.

Labor Day, the end of summer here in the USA. Sad to say good bye to the water.