Tuesday, October 30, 2012

My Luck Ran Out

First, We Are All OK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 29, 2012

An So It Begins

Storm Is Edging In

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Long Saturday

*Sigh*  But It's Finally Over

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Will It, or Won't It?

Either Way, I'll Be Ready

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

That was to be the big purchase for October.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 22, 2012

Plan Fail Due to Internal "Snoopervision"

Plan B Succeeds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Walk Canter

And I Ride Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 19, 2012


Busy Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 14, 2012

On the Level

Just a Word or Two

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 13, 2012

We Came, We Saw, We Conquered

Saddled Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

The fire truck is conquered.

The rest of the ride was perfect.

Another good day at Follywoods.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Chance Encounter

And More Swimming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Water, Water Everywhere

And I Get in the Drink

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope to ride at some point today.

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

Monday, October 08, 2012

Houston, We Have A Problem

And Chance Doesn't Like It

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kitties are so cute.

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

Friday, October 05, 2012

The Red Pickup

And The Lost Mare

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank heavens she is safely back.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

The Weather Reigns

So I Don't Hold the Reins

In the rains.

Love homophones.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 01, 2012

Sometimes 10 Minutes Is Enough

Wherein We Think to Refine the Aids

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

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

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

Fed the Boys and then poo picked the riding arena.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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