Saturday, December 28, 2013

Three on a Ride and a Big Surprise

Inspiration and a Warm Day

The temperature headed up to somewhere around 50 F today. It was really quite lovely out. After a trip to the feed store to take advantage of $2 off on each bag of feed, I decided to ride my own Boys.

I took Tucker out first. I was going to ride a little in the arena first, but he made it quite clear he wanted to go out for a trail ride. Despite the fact that I haven't ridden him in a couple weeks, I decided it was worth a try, so out we went.

Interestingly enough, he turned to the right to take the "Tucker Trail" in the same direction as I'd handwalked him the other day. Fine, I thought, and fine it was. We had a nice quiet ride through the first part of the woods. There is a lot of winding around we have to do now due to all the hurricane dropped trees on the first part of the ride. Then the woods road is clear for a bit. There, Tucker took it upon himself to trot. I let him, taking a chance that he'd not get out of control. I slowed him back to a walk just before we got out to the cornfield and for one brief moment, my heart leapt into my throat. He pulled one of those TB squealing head tosses and threatened to do something naughty.  I corrected him quickly and tried to settle him back down. It took a little effort, but then, he managed to control himself and go back into a fairly settled walk. Then we hit a patch of good grazing grass and I let him have a nibble. That did the trick and the rest of the ride home was just fine. Phew!

After I fed Tucker his obligatory carrot, I saddled Chance up. On the way out along the field, I trotted him just a little to see how he felt. I won't say he was 100% perfectly sound, but he felt pretty good. So I took him on the slightly longer trail, just keeping him at the walk. If I could count on the weather and footing being good for a while, I'd gradually start trying to leg him up to see if getting more fit helps, but this winter has so far been incredibly erratic weatherwise. I'll just have to do the best I can by him and see how he progresses on his own, riding whenever I can safely do it.

Toby was showing a lot of interest in the activities, so I told him if he'd like, I'd take him out on a very short trail ride to. To my surprise, for the first time in months, when I approached him with the halter, he stood waiting for me and then rather eagerly followed me in to the barn.

Now it has been months, perhaps nearly a year since I've ridden him. He had made it clear time and time again that he had no interest in any kind of work  And, considering that he is nearly 24 and worked hard for me all his life, I indulged him.

Imagine my surprise when he could hardly contain his enthusiasm once I was in the saddle. He made a beeline for the gate to the woods, and it was all I could do to get him to stand still while I fastened the chain behind us once we were out. Then he marched out along the trail in a lovely, forward, eager walk. It was clear he was having a wonderful time. He completely ignored Tucker's whinnies and just kept going. He was having so much fun I took him on the Tucker trail instead of the little short loop I'd planned. At most, we were out for all of 15-20 minutes but Toby enjoyed every second.

Honestly, of the three horses, he felt the soundest, and was clearly the best ride of the day! I was in happy tears by the time we reached the gate again. He was just a delight and an absolute surprise in his attitude. I was thrilled and apologized for not trying to take him out before. Apparently, it was something he really wanted to do.

So, since Toby is "the Man" I will make a point of riding him out on the trail whenever I can, and whenever he wants to go out. It will take a long time to build up his fitness--if ever--but we'll take it along slowly letting him decide how much he wants to do. After all, he only deserves the best!!

I am happy as can be with all three Boys tonight. Tucker is still a bit tricky and can be scary out there, but a trail riding we will go. Besides, sometimes in the winter, it's the only way to ride.

Out Again, Home Again

Jiggity Jig

Chris and I rode out again today. The temperature was near 40F, so it was a lot warmer and the sun did peek out now and again.

JJ was his usual quiet self, but several times, he picked up his walking pace all on his own and kept up with Nordisk. That's always nice as then Chris and I can talk without shouting to each other. *L*

One of the spots where JJ moved out was when we headed for the back of my pasture. Apparently, he likes to see my Boys.

My little herd obliged nicely. First Chance appeared from the barn paddocks, and then Toby and Tucker came racing out. It's the most animated I've seen them in days. Of course, the ground was not frozen solid as it's been in days either, so they had some fairly good footing to romp in.

Nordisk started a bit when the galloping hoofs thundered across the pasture, but JJ just kind of stood there and watched with interest. The Boys did not react too much to my voice, but we'd ridden past on another ride, so they were not too impressed that I was on "another horse."  They hung out at the fence for a while.

The trees and brush are grown up all along my fence line, so there aren't many places we could approach. And I was a bit hesitant to let everyone sniff noses anyhow.  My Boys have not had fall vaccinations for flu since I haven't been taking them anywhere, so I figure horse to horse exposure is not too ideal at this time.

For some reason, known only to the horse brain, the Boys turned tail and galloped off again, this time back into the riding arena and out of sight. Both Nordisk and JJ were a bit disappointed that the show was over. Chris and I expected the herd to some back, but the didn't.  I guess they decided the "show" of the visitors was over too. Instead, they hung out in the riding arena doing who knows what. But, then again, with the thaw, I suspect the footing in the sparse pasture grass was a bit slippery. On the other hand, even on the wettest of days, the riding arena has pretty good footing and if they want to frolic, that's the place to do it. Perhaps they were partying up there instead.

Nordisk, possibly inspired by my Boy's display, decided he wanted to do something besides walk quietly home at that point. Chris thinks he was getting bored, which may well be. But he kept trying to jig. Now, mind you, JJ was in his usual tranquilized state of mind, although he did start walking out again, even, (heaven foirbid) taking the lead on the way home. All the while Chris kept gently checking Nordisk to keep him in a rather animated walk.

On the last leg back, we saw another rider well ahead of us. Nordie's head went up and he animated even more. He had that "I want to gallop after that horse" expression on his face, but once again both he and Chris kept it together. She did a great job of keeping him under control, but you could see he wanted to "Do Something!"

Meanwhile, JJ kept at his forward, but calm pace all the rest of the way.

I don't know what the magic formula is when I ride JJ, but once again, he was a delightfully unexciting ride. As I noted in comments below, we do wonder if the Ansur has anything to do with it.

Whatever it is, as long as it keeps up when I ride him, I'll be happy. There's nothing nicer than a good stead trail horse. At my age, it's the only way to ride. *G*

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Weather or Not

We Ride

OK, so it was supposed to be 40F today. It was supposed to be partly sunny.

How come the "partly" part was working against me? Chris and I rode out on Nordisk and JJ at around 11 AM or so. A bit away from the barn and it started to snow! A blizzard of flurries....well, maybe that's an exaggeration, but it was snowing.

Not horrible, but not exactly a partly sunny morning. Then, once we had reached the "point of no return" which means it was just as far to go home as keep going, the wind picked up. Despite my winter breeches and long underwear, I started getting cold.

Chris, who's been working out at a gym "boot camp," has lost all feeling in her body. Well, at least all feeling for the cold as her metabolism is an high alert. When she asked me if we should take the longer route and go visit my Boys in their pasture, I told her I'd rather go back as I was already freezing.

I'm usually not such a wimp, but for some reason the cold got to me a lot more than usual. It could be that I've been coddling myself with the head/chest cold I got right before Christmas and I'm not acclimated any more. Or it could be that less than a week ago, it was 70F and I was outside in a short sleeved shirt.

Who knows.

I do know that JJ was his usual laid back self when I rode him. According to Chris, this is not the norm. In fact, sometimes he gets downright rambunctious. Apparently, I am some sort of riding tranquilizer for him. I constantly have to nudge him on to get him to keep up with Nordisk.

Now, mind you, Nordisk is a hand taller, and does like to move out, and occasionally, sideways, and even more occasionally backwards, but for the most part he is a good boy for one so young and inexperienced. He has a lovely, forward walk and today even thought a trot now and then might be fun. It seems that yesterday, Chris rode out with her husband and there was a bit of unexpected cantering now and then. Nordie must have thought that was grand fun, because I'm sure he was ready for some more today.

But sedated JJ and I kept at the walk and Nordie had to settle for a boring ride instead.

Boring and cold.

So far, we plan on riding again tomorrow, later in the day. I will add another layer and increase my determination tenfold. With all the Christmas goodies at hand here in the house, I need to exercise.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas To All

Merry Christmas

Not much going on here at Follywoods.

That is if you don't count the fact that I had to call the vet out because Toby colicked. I fed him his dinner at around 4 PM, he ate a bit and then dropped down like a stone in his stall. He was looking at his belly and showing all the signs of a classic colic.

I got him up and walked him for a while. All that time he was trying to go down.

Now, mind you, it was nearly 70F yesterday and wet and rainy all day. Today it was raining as well, so the whole paddock area and the arena are sopping wet. There is mud everywhere. The arena as puddles all over. It was just a mess. But the arena footing is relatively OK slipwise, so I trotted him a little on the lunge trying to get his insides working a little.

It was all to no avail because as soon as I brought him back in, he went down again in the stall. After about a half hour of this, I called the vet.

Dr. Parisio was about a half hour away on a normal day, but traffic and the weather slowed her down considerably and it was going on an hour by the time she arrived.

Just enough time for Toby to start feeling better. By the time she checked him, all his vital signs were normal. He had plenty of gut sounds and was showing no signs of pain. We opted for taking a conservative course and she gave him a low dose of banamine and told me to keep him in for the night, monitoring him often and walking/lunging him a couple times.

I checked on him for the last time around 2 AM and he looks fine. Hopefully, the crisis is over.

It does make me wonder, though, how many times he, or any of my horses, may have had bouts of colic when I wasn't there to see it. If I had not stayed in the barn after I fed this afternoon, I never would have noticed anything wrong.

This was apparently a gas colic and hopefully, not too serious. While the vet visit may have been unnecessary, I'm glad I had the old boy checked out.

Meantime, the whole episode put a crimp in my plans to make ready for Christmas. I did want to tidy the house but that got put on hold....again. No excuses here. I am a dreadful housekeeper. I'll just do what I can when daylight comes tomorrow.

I ran errands for most of today, including a trip to get hay. Then I had to go to the market twice to pick up a few things. I had intended to make my Grandmother's Christmas soup and needed mushrooms, which I forgot on the first trip to the store. Ah, well.

Anyhow, I ended up making the soup tonight. It is a strange concoction of kielbasi, saurkraut, barley, mushrooms, and prunes. I know it sounds peculiar, but it really is quite tasty. It's a middle European soup--Hungarian, Polish?? Czech? Not too sure. My Grandma was Czechoslovakian, but she had a cooking heritage from several countries. She made the soup every Christmas. She used mushrooms she picked in the woods. When she passed away, my Aunt made the soup--don't know what kind of mushrooms she used. I had to use regular white 'shrooms this time as the store didn't have any variety.

The recipe for the soup is my own version as neither my Grandma or my Aunt left a recipe. I had to experiment myself until I got a pretty darn good version.

So, the soup's done, the house is still a mess and I have to wrap presents for my family--cousins. Our tradition is to exchange gifts on Christmas Eve. We have a lasagna dinner--used to have fish up at my Grandma's house--and just enjoy the evening together.

I'll do my best to be in the barn at midnight. The legend goes that the animals can talk then. I'd like to ask Toby how his tummy feels, but more importantly, I'll tell all three Boys how much I love them.

To you and all your families and animals....Merry Christmas from the Boys and me!!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Obligatory Snow Pictures

And A Bit of Christmas

Nothing to report on the horse front. The Boys are fine and just kind of walking about in the snow wishing there were some grass to eat. There has been a bit of sun in between snow "events" so they do some sunbathing too.

I, despite my dislike of the darn white stuff, took the obligatory snow pictures...although I did not get any of the Boys because by the time the sun came out, they were in the barn eating dinner.

So, with the house decorated for Christmas, here you go:

I decided to plow the driveway, even though we only had about 4"-5" of snow at the most. Since we may get another storm over the weekend, I didn't want a layer of snow down already underneath the new stuff.

Besides, it was good practice.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Oh, No, Snow!!

But Not A Lot

The forecast was for rain, but cold air changed things and today it started to snow instead.

When? Shortly before Chris, Larry, and I rode out on a scheduled trail ride. We did the trail with the spooky spot for Nordisk in the opposite direction today, which was good. This time, although he was a bit "looky," he did not really spook at anything. But, you could tell by his general posture and caution that he was still a little worried. I think it was good that we rode through there today with all three horses, giving him a little more assurance that there are no monsters lurking about the area.

We headed along the edge of the woods and ended up at my pasture fence. My Boys were out there, a bit puzzled by the fact that I was there, aboard "another horse!"  They weren't quite a silly as we all expected with a minimum of trotting and galloping about. Larry tried to get a few pictures, but I'm not sure if he captured any of the excitement.

Our mounts were pretty well behaved, even when my Boys did their limited cavorting. I think the snow, which was already accumulating on the ground may have made the footing a little less certain in the pasture, but either way, I was kind of glad it didn't get too wild out there.

JJ was just a little more energetic than he's been in the past when I ride him, so the less excitement the better. Now, "more energetic" is a relative term with JJ when I ride him. He really tends to chill out with me, so wanting to actually walk out and at times be in the forefront of the ride was not quite his usual behavior. We're trying to figure out why JJ is so quiet when I ride him as Chris insists he can be a handful at times. While I would like to claim it's my riding, I am beginning to think the Ansur saddle may have something to do with it. If we get some nicer weather, Chris suggested I ride Juan--Larry's horse-- to see if he chills out with me too.

Today would NOT have been the day to try anything new. We cut the ride a little shorter than we might have because the snow was coming down harder and we were all getting colder and colder as time went on. Getting back in the truck with the heat on to drive home felt awfully good.

We just have a light cover of snow, perhaps an inch. It may accumulate a little more over the next few hours and then change over to rain. Frankly, that suits me just fine. I am not a fan of snow, no matter how pretty it might be. Although my outdoor Christmas lights do look nicer against the white background.

I have to admit, the ride was fun, regardless, but as I get older, being out in the weather does tend to bother me a bit more. Fortunately, I have learned, over time, how to dress pretty well, but I should have put on some waterproof breeches.

Next time.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Autumn Days of Sunshine

And Warmth

Once again we had some lovely weather. I wasn't feeling well over the weekend, but I seem to have recovered so I was able to enjoy the sunshine and temperatures hovering in the low 50's.

This morning Christine and I rode out on Nordisk and JJ.  We came over here behind my house on the ride. Withe the cornfields cut, there are lots of trail options so we crossed over the the field from the pumpkin patch. Nordie had never seen pumpkins before and was eyeing them with decided suspicion. He was really good about them, and cute with his alert and, "Hey, what are those orange things?" attitude.  JJ, on the other hand was completely content. He'd faced the Great Pumpkin many times before and was not impressed.

Then we rode back along my pasture fence. Despite my calling them, the only one of my three horses who showed up was Chance. He was quite polite when he met Nordie and did not raise too much of a ruckus. However, I did think I saw that back end limp again when he trotted and when I saw him later this evening, I'm pretty sure I was right. Bummer.

After we rode back to the dirt road between fields, we headed towards the trail that circles the farm we saved for preservation. The NJ Turnpike has built a large detention basin there and it's surrounded with black plastic silt fencing. About a month or so ago, Christine and Nordisk had a bad experience out there. At some point, Nordie shied badly at a plastic bag. He spun Chris right off, then managed to crash through  section of silt fence--fortunately not where it was supported by wire fence and metal posts, but rather where it was just the plastic supported by wooden stakes. He got banged up enough to be lame the next day, and he did come back to Chris and her husband aboard Juan, but the affair really traumatized him.

The other day, Chris and her husband were out and rode by that area. Nordie spooked and spun at heaven knows what, but Christ stayed on and settled him down, although he was upset for a while afterwards.

Today, when we got to the beginning of that trail, we had to decide whether to ride by the detention basin again or take another route home. Nordisk definitely wanted to head down the scary road, to Chris indulged him.  He was pretty good for the most part, but twice, he spooked at some clear plastic bags or something in the field. He only did a part spin one time and did a fast back peddle another. Chris stuck with him superbly and once again got him settled. You could see, though, that he was suspicious of everything on the rest of the way home.

The poor kid had really been scared that first time. He now, obviously, has a "thing" about that particular section of the trail. Hopefully if we can get him through there a few more times without any serious incidents, he'll get over it.

This is just one more example of the tremendous impact of a horse's memory. If something has frightened them in the past, it take a lot of time and patience to help them overcome that fear in the future.

I think Nordie will be fine. He just needs some time.

Once I'd gotten two loads of hay in my truck, I got home well before daylight had faded and decided to ride Tucker. I was planning on taking him out along "his" woods trail, but just before I opened the gate, I heard gunshots somewhere out in the woods. But it wasn't one shot and than nothing, It was shot after shot. I have to guess someone was doing some target practice somewhere. And the "somewhere" was the problem. It could well have been in the back of the woods not really far off the trail I was going to ride. It was really hard to tell where the shots were coming from.

I opted out of the real trail ride and instead took Tucker out along the cornfield by the nearest trail and then back home through the trail I usually take to get out to the field. I guess it took less then ten minutes. Then, I rode him in the arena for another ten minutes or so.  He was a pretty good boy all in all, although he really is overdue for the farrier.

I had planned on riding Chance a little too, but with that hind end issue I would have only wanted to go out on a walking trail ride and I didn't want to encounter the shooter with him either.

I really hate hunting season. There seem to be a number of guys around here to just like to shoot for the sake of shooting as they certainly can't be firing that many bullets at a deer. It all gets a bit to scary for my taste.

This is one disadvantage of living with a beautiful State Park behind my house.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone

From Cold New Jersey, Warm Wishes

It's chilled off here again after a few days of warmer weather. But the blessing of all that is that when the nor'easter came through, we had rain instead of snow. I would not be disappointed if every storm passed us by this winter, but, as they say, I have no control over the weather.

I have the water heater in the trough for the Boys, temporarily hooked up with another extension cord from the garage since the ones out at the barn are under the tractor at the moment. I guess getting them out and untangled will be a chore for another day.

With two days of rain behind us, I did not ride. I did some work in the riding arena yesterday in the showers--it needs to be dragged pretty badly.  Chance came out to "help" me and insisted on standing so close he was nearly touching me the whole time. He was quite pleased when I scratched him under the chin or hugged him. I'm not sure if it was totally affection on his part, but I was honored to have him there.

He tends to be the outcast member of my little herd most of the time, but the social interactions out there are often confused. Sometimes, Toby is off my himself instead. I think when I'm out there, Chance likes to be a member of my herd instead of the equine one, whatever the dynamics.

I will be giving the Boys some apples and carrots for Thanksgiving to let them celebrate as well.

I am ever to thankful to have them here in the backyard where I can see them whenever I want. I may not be riding as much as I used to, but sometimes all I need is a horse to hug to make my day.

To all my blogger friends, I send wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving, no matter where you may be. I know it's an American holiday, but the idea of celebrating the things we are blessed with is certainly universal. May the spirit of the season be yours no matter where you may be.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

'Round the Lake and Back Again

I Think the Tractor's Ready

It dawned on me that I haven't used my tractor for several months. With a potential snow storm on the horizon---hoping it doesn't come--I might need the tractor to plow the driveway. So I decided to start it up today and run it for a bit.

Good thing. The battery was not dead, but in the cold it was too weak to get the tractor started. I hooked up the charger, let is charge for 5-10 minutes and soon the tractor was running just fine. I did have to put air in the one front tire again, but otherwise all was well.

I spent about 45 minutes to an hour cleaning under the run in shed using the bucket to scoop up the loose and wet hay. But, since the tractor bucket has no "teeth" or prongs on the front, a lot of the wet stuff just kind of rolls out of the way instead of getting picked up. That means a good bit of hay forking it in--not an easy task.  In the end I got a lot of exercise and did about half the front shed.

Once done with the tractor, I saddled up Chance and headed out for a trail ride.

I'd walked around the back lake in the woods yesterday by myself and noticed that the footing, especially in the usually very swampy, muddy places as quite good. That meant that without much detouring, I could actually ride a horse around the lake for a change. There's one spot where the ATV's have torn up the dirt road so much it collects over a foot of water on top of a very rutted bottom.

Chance was behaving a little strangely, for some reason. On the way out, he was a little nappy, but that was interspersed with some jigging and trotting.  I had to get a bit sharp with him to make him settle as there are a good number of places where the footing is tricky enough that trotting is not a good idea.

By the time we got to the lake trail, though, he had pretty much settled and from there on, it was a much better ride. He didn't spook at anything and aside from the jigging, took everything in stride.

My biggest disappointment, however, is the amount of trash the so called "sportsmen" of our area leave around out there. There is a place where a hunter parks his truck. About a month ago, I cleaned up a half trash bag of bottles, cans and paper garbage from there. Today there were two potato chip bags, a discarded cigarette pack and some cans again. Damn! If you can carry the food in, you can take the trash out! I'll clean it up again, but if I see that truck parked there again, I'm going to leave a note on the windshield.

Out around the lake it's even worse. There are bottles and cans all around the place, particularly in one spot where the fishermen access the banks. I'm not sure how I would be able to carry out the several trash bags it would take to clean up that area, but maybe if I do it in stages I can clean it up too.

But why should I have to? Why to do people think it's OK to dispose of their trash in these beautiful woodlands?

It breaks my heart.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Tucker and I Go Out for a Date

A Nice Walk in the Woods

Since I haven't trail ridden Tucker in quite a while I decided I take him out for a handwalk. With winter coming on, most of the brush along the woods trails has died away so the walking path/trail is pretty clear.

We headed out in the opposite direction from the way I usually ride him, just to make it more interesting.

Tucker was quite a gentleman, considering that he really can walk a lot fast than I can, and when he gets excited, he will try. On the first and last parts of the trail, he had to stay behind me as there is really only room for one of us at a time. Since he was trying to nibble every stray green leaf left on the branches, going at my pace was just fine with him.

Once in the woods, I led him up alongside me, correcting him with a halt and reinback for two steps every time he pushed a little too far ahead. He was alert to every sound and movement in the trees, but was still a good boy about it all.

Back out of the woods along the edge of the now cut cornfield, I let him do some grazing on the grass that still is green even after a frost or two. Needless to say, he was quite pleased with this. I was quite pleased that he did not spook at the blue barrel of corn some hunter set out to lure the deer to a spot near his tree stand.  I was a bit worried about that, but Tucker took it all in stride.

I would have tried riding him out yesterday after the hand walk, but it had turned pretty windy and cold. I didn't think it was a good idea to try riding anyone, let alone Tucker. When I went out for my own walk, I was glad I'd made the no ride decision because it was much windier out along the field than it seemed in my backyard.

Today, I went for my midday swim and then to a chiropractor appointment so I didn't have time to do much horsey stuff.

Don't know if the handwalk will help Tucker settle out on the trail, but I ready to give him a try. Riding in the arena is OK, but going out is a much nice way to spend some time with a horse.

Guess we'll see what tomorrow brings.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Chance and I Go Out on a Date

Well, At Least a Nice Trail Ride

I took Chance out on a trail yesterday afternoon. We are having some totally wonderful weather here with temperatures more like Spring than late Fall.  That's supposed to change during the week, but for now, it's just wonderful. 

Chance was, to my relief, sound and ready to go. He did "drop" his hind leg on one stride going down an incline, but it did not seem to be a big deal as he was fine afterwards.  We rode along the edge of the woods to the back road behind the preserved farm. 

There, Chance took it upon himself to start trotting as  it's a nice long stretch of dirt road. The farmer has not yet cut the corn back there so I had to keep an eye out for strange things popping up out of the field, but it was quiet.  The other field is cut leaving a long view to the Turnpike (unfortunately) but lots of riding options as we can now cut cross country if we want to instead of weaving our way along the edges of planted fields.

We looped back under the first set of  power lines and then cut across where the electric company guys had cut all the brush down under their lines opening up another place to ride. That let us get into the woods along the back trail where we navigated through the fallen trees to the trail back home. Chance was having a grand time and so was I.  It took us about 35 minute or so to complete the ride as the trotting cut off quite a bit of time. Still, it was enough since he's not too fit, not clipped, and it was warm.

Back home, I did some barn chores and then fed the Boys.

I'm having to switch over to some new hay. The guy from the sandpit next door lost almost all of his stored hay when the roof blew off his barn in a freak rainstorm a month or so ago--his farm is in upper New York State.  My heart is breaking as his hay is wonderful and he delivers it right to me, unloading and stacking it in my carport.

Now, I have to go get the hay myself.  The local supplier I use is about 15-20 minutes away. I can fit 8 bales in my SUV, so that's all I got for now, just to be sure the horses deemed the hay good enough to eat. If I want a bigger load, I have to take the horse trailer. That is a real nuisance, but if I need to do it I will. Otherwise, I can do the 8 bales at a time, perhaps making two trips in a day to make it 16. What I have to figure out is just how far a bale will go with the three boys. These bales seem a bit smaller than the ones I've been getting, so I may need to stock up more at one time.

The farmer who sells this hay is the guy who farms the cornfields I ride along. When he came out to greet me at his hay barn, he was walking with a cane. Apparently, he threw out his back pretty badly and is only waiting until he harvests the rest of the corn before going in for some surgery. When I told him about my other hay guy's loss, he just shook his head in sympathy. Apparently he'd lost a barn in the hurricane last year. This year, things were hardly better as, besides his bad back, someone stole one of his tractors!

Now, we are not talking little tractors here. The tires on his are over 5' tall! Apparently the thieves loaded it up on a flatbed and drove off. The only upside is that now, several months later--after all the insurance claims were settled--the police recovered the tractor some 35 miles away hidden in a lot. There's some fuss as to how far the investigation will go into the theft, but the farmer will get the tractor back, hopefully in good condition.

I can hardly imagine the planning that must have gone into the theft. Scary to think of, actually.

2013 has not been the best of years on many fronts. This is just one more episode to add to the list. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Arabs on the Trail

Once Again, I Ride JJ

I've been suffering from a little health issue that's kept my exercise program on hold for about a week, so today was the first riding I've done in at least that long.

The weather was lovely and the lack of any real rain around here has kept the woodland trails in top condition. Ireland Brook Park, which runs behind the farm where Christina keeps her horses has numerous stream crossings and some very varied terrain to both entertain and challenge any keen trail horse.

I have to laugh every time I ride JJ because with me in the saddle, he loves to lag behind Nordisk, Christina's youngster, and let them face all the "horse eating monsters" first.  Nordisk is proving to be quite brave about most everything, but every now and then he scares himself a little and needs some extra encouragement from Chris.  She rides with a bag of treats in a velcro closed bag, and for Nordie that bag is kind of his signal to stop and get a treat. Today he earned dozens just for being a really good boy.

But the ride was not without incident. It started when Chris tried to close the gate while she was aboard Nordisk. While he was certainly quiet about it, he's not yet enough on the aids to quite manage some of the close quarter maneuvering required. I ended up doing it aboard JJ, but even I was a klutz about it. I haven't quite figured out what combination of leg, seat, and hand it takes to get JJ in the proper place either. Fortunately, he's done it before, so we eventually managed although it was far from pretty.  I could just hear JJ muttering, "Just what is this idiot trying to get me to do now? Huh?"

Gate closed, we headed off across the field and into the woods.  The first section of trail passes right along and below the NJ Turnpike, so it's really noisy with all the traffic noise. It's really pretty in there but loud.

Fortunately, it doesn't take long to escape the ruckus to ride along a ridge above a nice little lake. Then we headed back down into the woods and soon had a stream crossing. The water was nearly up to the horses's bellies. All was going well--Nordisk has gotten really good about water crossings--when Nordie stepped into a hole or something. All of a sudden he was nearly down in the water with poor Chris just hanging on for dear life, giving him his head so he had all the room in the world to find his footing to get back up. Luckily, he did--saved Chris a dunking for sure. I think I felt JJ step down at one point too, so we think there may have been some kind of depression in the stream bed.  We got across OK and moved along.

At one point, as I was leaning sideways to pass a low hanging tree, someone in one of the houses up from the woods shot off a gun.  Good old JJ startled a little, but graciously did not smash me into the tree. (Thanks JJ!!!)  But after that, he was up and alert and suddenly read to take the lead on the ride. For a horse who generally, when I  ride him chooses the "slow as molasses in February" pace, he transformed into "alert Arab ready to conquer the world."  At this point, I led the trail for quite a while.

After another stream crossing and two paved roads, we encountered the "dead deer obstacle," along the trail. Chris had seen it on a ride the day before, so I was well warned to keep JJ's attention as we passed. I think Nordie was fine with it too, mostly because JJ had not balked and because the deer was kind of behind us instead of in head on position.

Up a hill and back into the woods, our next obstacle was more formidable. Apparently, someone had been cleaning the woods and there were 5- 6 big plastic bags of garbage on either side of a 4' wide trail. We had to pass through.

Again, the ride the day before had prepared JJ, so, although he did arch his neck and snort a little at the bags, he went on through.  Nordisk did not follow. To him, those bags looked a lot more suspicious. Despite JJ's going on up the trail he stopped and balked, his eyes wide and focused on those most  "dangerous" bags.

Chris cajoled and assured him, even adding a few treats for each step forward. Then, when I used JJ as a lure by walking him back to the bags and then turning back to head up the trail again, Nordisk decided that if JJ had managed to get through without being eaten, then probably he could too.  Good, Nordie!!!

Shortly after, we looped around and headed back for home along the same trail we'd come. Nordie passed the bags just perfectly as did JJ.

The darn dead deer posed more of a problem on the way back. This time its body was in full and obvious view as we approached. Nordisk's eyes bugged out and he started to get really spooked. Since we were just at a road crossing at this point. Chris asked me to nudge JJ to the forefront and encourage him to pass the deer to the crossing. Bless his Arab heart, he did just that, despite thinking that the deer really was "Something terrible to behold."

We cut more to the right on the problematic water crossing. I kept JJ moving then, and although it was clear he was a little uncertain about it, Nordisk came through just fine.

Altogether, we were out for about two hours.  Back at the farm, Chris managed to get the gate open while staying in the saddle marking another successful "trail horse in the making" challenge for Nordisk.

I had a great time on the master horse and Chris taught Nordisk some new and valuable lessons about conquering the trails. He is going to make one fine endurance horse.

Monday, November 11, 2013

RIP, Peppercorn

My Heart Has a Great Big Hole

Early this morning, my phone range. It was my cousin telling me there was a dead black cat on the road by the farmhouse up by the Turnpike. He didn't know if it was my cat, but he was concerned.

When I went outside, Peppercorn, my barn kitty, best outdoor buddy ever, was no where to be seen.

I drove the truck up the road and sure enough, there was my beautiful boy, lying in the center of the road.

I managed to pick him up despite the heavy traffic--gee, a car actually stopped for me! I put him in the truck and brought him home.

I dug his grave in the rosebed near the barn and buried him.

Pepper followed me everywhere and even went on walks with me in the woods. He was almost always there to greet me when I home. He'd stay with me when I rode in the arena and supervise me when I fed the horses. I loved him dearly. 

I had always feared he would go on the road and get hit by a car or truck. I have lost far too many cats that way around here. I guess it was an inevitable fate for an outdoor kitty here. But Pepper would have nothing of being kept in the house. He was a brave adventurer who had survived on his own before he became my friend. I tried to give him the life he wanted no matter the cost. 

Rest in peace my beloved buddy. My world is definitely emptier without your company. I love you PepperC. 

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Where Did the Time Go?

And Not Just the Daylight

Somehow, I have not managed to ride since Saturday. I did cut back on Chance's bute and finally stopped it altogether, so I do need to do something with him to see how sound he is with no medication.

Sunday, I was supposed to join Chris and Larry on an Arabian trail ride, but Chris's young horse had pulled up lame after a rather exciting incident on the trails here the day before. He apparently spooked at a plastic bag and managed to lose Chris. Then he tangled himself up in some plastic silt fence set up with stakes along the new detention basin the Turnpike built in the field. (Wrong place as far as I'm concerned, but that's a whole 'nother story.) The trail there has been filled in with quarry stone--the bigger chunks--and Nordisk did some dancing on that as well. Since he's barefoot, he may have bruised himself a bit as well.

So, we did not venture off on a long ride somewhere. Instead, because Nordisk was stuck at home, Chris and Larry decided to ride in the arena at their barn. This gave me the opportunity to give Larry a riding lesson on his horse, Juan.

Juan is a great horse for Larry. They both love to run and have a good time, but sometimes things get a little out of control, so my goal was to help Larry improve the security of his seat and learn how to better steer Juan to keep control of his body, not just his head.

Life gets tricky with all this sometimes. Our riding weight and position in the saddle makes a huge difference as to where our horses go when we ask them to turn.  And getting them to bend correctly through the body on a turn can be critical for both our balance and theirs.

The key is generally the outside rein and getting the horse to step into it through his body as he bends around the rider's inside leg.  For the rider, getting the concept can be difficult as we all want to use an indirect rein on the inside to push our horses over so they don't fall in on a turn (Make motorcycle turn.).  This doesn't accomplish much as all it really does is ride the horse's head and neck with the rein when we should be riding the body.

Lockie Richards, my favorite trainer, helped me with my PJ on this one. PJ tended to fall in badly on his right shoulder. I keep hearing Lockie's voice in my head, "Drop your right knee."  This lengthened my right leg against PJ's side bringing my aids from seat, to thigh, to leg against him to hold the shoulder and his body from falling in. I used this memory and technique to help Larry correct Juan and, even though it was hard work for Larry--it's kind of counterintuitive in some ways--it worked and when both Juan and Larry were positioned right, Juan not only turned well, but he also came on the bit.

I do add something else which is a bit unconventional. I have the rider spread both hands out to the side. This keeps him from using the inside indirect rein and it places the outside, supporting rein as a kind of "wall" on the outside to push the horse's body into.  Add the idea that the two reins are a set of tracks and the rider needs to ride the horse between the tracks and the image of how to steer the body without depending solely on the reins becomes clearer.

At any rate, Larry did a super job and Juan was a wonderful teacher.

We worked a little on canter as well, striving to get Larry more seated in the saddle moving with Juan by keeping his heel down and leg under his body instead of gripping with his lower leg back and his knees. Gripping with knees and thighs tends to push the rider out of the saddle rather than sitting him down and "into the horse's motion."  Flexible joints allow us to sit a horse's gaits, so muscle tension--except for positive, not defensive tension--bounces us in the saddle.

Hopefully, I helped a little. I'd love to work with Larry again since it was so much fun. And teaching makes me think about how to ride better myself, so that's always a good thing.

I had my knees injected again today and a chiropractic appointment later so I did not ride again today. I swam on Monday, walked for about an hour on Tuesday--and picked up a bunch of corn from the reaped cornfield, so I am not totally lacking in the exercise program. It's supposed to rain tomorrow, and I am considering a swim, but I do have to take it a bit easy after the knee treatments.

What I do need to do is clean my bedroom and organize/sort my clothes. It's a huge job, and as many of my horsey Facebook pals have noted, for a horseman, working in the barn is much more fun than cleaning house.

Sure looks it around here. *G*

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Schooling on Two Levels

November Begins

I nearly overslept this morning, but fortunately woke up at a bit after 9 AM. Just in time to feed the Boys, do a few chores, eat breakfast, and then get ready to go give a tutoring session.

My student is a lovely young 6th grader who lives about 14 miles away. I had directions, but forgot to take my GPS--it was in the car instead of the truck (which I am still driving until the car's suspension is fixed), and I did not remember to take my tutoree's phone number with me. Good thing I saw her dad going out to get the mail or I would have missed her house altogether.

I made it there, however, thank goodness. We had a nice tutoring session which took a bit longer than I'd anticipated because my student's mother had a lot of questions. Hopefully I helped her out and steered her in the right direction for parent/teacher conferences which are coming up soon.

After tutoring, I headed back home. I had a lunch and got distracted playing with some of the features on my new TV. I still have a lot to learn but I am getting the hang of things at least a little.

Finally, I headed outdoors into the beautiful weather to do something with the horses.

Tucker was on the agenda first, so he was my second schooling session of the day after the tutoring. Apparently, he has forgotten that a leg aid means to go from walk to trot instead  of laying his ears back, balking, and then humping his back to offer a buck because I gave him a little kick.

I promptly corrected that behavior and told him to trot off again. The second time, he did. We then worked on some trot/halt/trot transitions over and over until he was willing to trot off with a light aid. Canter departs were OK for a change so I didn't have to make a fuss about that.

The sad fact is that Tucker really does not respect me and tends to challenge my requests. It takes a bit of nerve on my part to insist he respond because he can, as he tried today, give a good buck if he gets too arrogant. Fortunately, I have so far been able to tune him up and tune him in with a little extra effort on my part, but I would be nice to avoid the initial confrontations. *sigh*

After I finished Tucker's schooling session I saddle up Chance and took him out on a short trail ride through the woods. Our only little glitch was meeting a bow hunter out there. The guy was dressed in camouflage and when he stood still, he was nearly invisible among the trees. I asked him to both talk and move so Chance would know he was there and once he did, my boy was just fine with him, even though he had spooked at first.

The woods are beautiful this time of year with all the color on the trees and no bugs. The back cornfields are cut but the one nearest my pasture is still standing. Once that is cut, I will have even more places to ride.

Hopefully I will get out in the saddle a lot in the next months.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Well, It Almost All Continues

But Chance is Feeling Better

A word to begin As I noted yesterday, my 40" Samsung Smart TV arrived vis UPS. So far, so good. It seems to be working on just about all fronts although I still have not tried the keyboard.

However, I had it hooked up to my standard cable TV box, so it was not receiving a high definition signal. In order to get that, I had to swap out the old cable box to a new HD one. I'd already done that with the bedroom TV, so it was no big deal--the Comcast place is only about 5 miles away--and the hookup is pretty straightforward.

I decided to so my swim in the early morning so I'd have the rest of the day to do "stuff," including getting the new HD box and hooking it up. That all should have taken an hour or so.

Dream on.

I got the box before 10 AM.  I brought it home, hooked it up, pressed the power button on the remote and....nothing. I checked all the wires, tried another outlet and still...nothing.

I cannot tell you how frustrated I was. After all the nonsense with all those defective products I'd had the previous weeks, this was the last straw.  I gritted my teeth and headed back to Comcast. (The road I have to drive on to get there is the route I used to take to school every day. The traffic is slow going with tractor trailers and a bunch of traffic lights. I hate driving on it.)  So, cursing for most of the drive I arrived back at Comcast to trade in the box. When the woman there tried power, nothing. With no problem, she swapped it out for another brand new box.  Before I left, she tested that one to make sure it had power and she activated it there. I was going to be able to just plug it in at home, make the connections, and then be all set.

Dream on.

I hooked everything up, turned on the power, watched all the pretty lights light up, and then saw my TV screen read, "No HDMI signal."  I checked all the connections, went on line to reactivate the box.  And still, "no signal."

So, I called Comcast technical support. The very helpful second tier technician spent about a hour with me. He sent signals to the box to activate it, read all the computer readouts on my system and, after trying all kinds of connection techniques, told me the new box was defective.

I was a bit worried now, because this was a new TV set that had not yet worked off the HDMI cable connection, so I wasn't sure if it was defective or if it really was the box.

Then I had a brainstorm and after checking with the techie, I disconnected the new HD set in the bedroom from its Comcast HD box and connected the new Samsung to that box in the living room.

Voila!! Picture, sound, and a good connection!  Indeed the second new box was defective as well and it wasn't the TV.

Back I went to Comcast after waiting out their lunch break. By now it was already 2 PM and I'd been out since 6:30 AM when I'd gone swimming.

This time, I asked for a Motorola box like the one I had in the bedroom.  The techie there checked to make sure it had power and sent me off with a new box.

Third time pays for all.

With a bit more fussing, I got the new box working and now, at last, I have two functioning HD TV's.

I guess I would have been less upset if the brandy new fiber optic Christmas tree I bought had been perfect--another long story I'll tell on another day--but that too had a broken part making it non-functional until I did a major operation to get it working. And it was, indeed, broken.


At least Chance is less broken. I managed to get a short ride in before I fed the Boys dinner.

He was feeling pretty good. Now, this is on two bute, so I can't claim he's actually sound, but he wanted to move out on his own and when I let him trot a little bit, he felt even.

We only took the middle road through the woods which took just a bit under a half hour. There are a few very shallow ups and downs, all of which he handled with ease, so all in all, I'd say he was a happy boy.

I'll give him two bute tomorrow, then taper off to one a day for a few more days and then see how he is. If this is a muscle issue a bit over a week of pain med should be enough to help him work it out.

I will increase his exercise a little at a time, hoping to get him fit enough to stay sound.

Riding him was a good ending to a frustrating day. At least I have a smile on my face.

Oh, and Chance had an apple.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Little Bit of Lungeing

Well, Sort of OK

Chance is getting two bute a day right now. I lunged him a tiny bit tonight and he is still not quite right on that right hind leg.

This is a bit upsetting, but, as I recall, in the past, he stayed somewhat unsound for quite a while when whatever it is acted up. I never tried bute back then, so, I have no idea what impact it would have had.

It is supposed to rain tomorrow. If it does, I will not try to ride. If it does not, I will take Chance out on a short trail ride. At the moment, the only thing I can do is exercise him, hoping that getting him more fit will make it better. That was what my vet suggested when the problem cropped up initially. Once more I will just take it a day at a time.

I hiked up to the sandpit office today to pay part of my hay bill and to tell them I needed more hay. I ended up spending about an hour with the owner chatting about this and that. He was taking a break from sorting dozens of files in his office, so I guess my visit was a welcome diversion.

Then, I hiked off and headed around the tree farm and around the pumpkin patch. The farmer has harvested a good bit of the corn out there, so I was able to cross the cut field on the way home. Of course, I found quite a few leftover ears of corn which I then tucked into my sweatshirt. That added a bit of weight so my trek home required some more calorie burn carrying it.

I was out walking for over an hour, pretty good for a non-swimming day. I'm sure if it does rain as predicted, I will regret not riding, but once I got back into the house, I found myself in cooking mode. I made a pot of onion/mushroom/potato soup pureed in the blender. Tonight, I added a bunch of asparagus to it for dinner.

At some point, the doorbell rang. It was not a trick or treater. I have had none here. (Darn, that bowl of candy just keeps staring at me!)  It was the UPS guy with my new Samsung Smart TV.  He was in a talkative mood too, mostly because he'd been honked at, and apparently yelled at by several drivers for stopping in the road after dark.

Apparently, he is not allowed to drive into driveways--insurance issues--so his only option is to stop along the shoulder of the road. My road and the other road he was driving on have practically no shoulder at all, so the truck tends to block part of the driving lane. But so what? People just have to go around him. Big deal.
But lately I've noticed a lot of drivers are more rude than they've been in the past.

I guess he just needed to vent. I had to sign for the TV and he wished me well with it, mostly because he was worried since it had been in his truck all day and was not too well secured in there. I cringed a little at that, considering how many things I've bought that have been defective recently.

But, I unpacked the TV, attached the stand, and hooked it up to my cable. I put the batteries in the remote control and, in short order, I had a working Smart TV!  There were a bunch of things I had to do to set it up, but so far it's working just fine. I do need to get the High Definition cable box from Comcast so I can access the HD channels, but for now, it's showing the regular cable stations just fine. I haven't experimented with the Smart TV features yet. Hopefully it will connect to my WiFi and I will have a ton of features I will probably never use.

Meantime, so far, so good.

Hope you have all had a good Halloween. I did not do anything special for the holiday this year except put the plastic light up jack-o-lantern on my front porch.

But there is that bowl of candy...........

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Tomorrow is Another Day

We Ride a Little

I've given Chance bute for three days now and still haven't had an opportunity to check to see how sound he is.

Yesterday, I did my morning swim for an hour and then headed out to the eye doctor to collect the new contact lenses to replace the ones with the wrong prescription. On the way there, I had to, of course, stop at a few shopping malls, just on general principle.

By the time I got home it was nearly time to head back out for my knee doctor's appointment. They called to say the doctor was running about a half hour late, so I had time to feed the Boys before leaving.  Good thing I did. The doctor was running nearly two hours late from my appointment time. It was well after dark when I got back home again.

A bit later Christina, my endurance friend called, to see if I would go out riding with her today. I said we'd have to do a short ride and take it easy as I'd just had my knees injected. All was well.

We rode out this morning, I on JJ and Chris on Nordisk. It was a beautiful cool fall morning. We headed across the street to the preserved farm to ride around the cornfield. About half way out, we heard the sound of a loud engine which seemed to be approaching on the dirt road we were riding. The corn is so high it's impossible to see around the bend where the engine noise was coming from. With discretion the better part of valor--to over use a cliche just for the heck of it--we turned the boys around and headed back to safety.

Whatever was making the noise never showed up and to this hour, I am not sure what it was. I do believe the farmer is harvesting the corn and may have been working back there. Or it could have been the power line guys who have been trimming the brush and trees under the high tension lines. Or it could have been something else.

Either way, we were fine. We headed around a smaller field, let the horses graze for a while on some nice green grass, and then, we headed back for home. All told we were out for about an hour.

JJ was his usual steady self and Nordisk, though a little more frisky than he's been, was a good boy too. He's still a little spooky at strange looking things along the trail, but his spooks are mostly sudden stops in place until he realizes the "monster" really isn't in attack mode. Then he settles right down again. With some more mileage under his girth, he's going to be one super endurance/trail horse.

When I got back home, I tried to figure out what I was going to do with my now dead living room TV set. It gave its last gasp last night. I'd been planning on replacing it, but was going to save up the money first.

Not to be. I found a way to order a new set--the one I wanted--and then needed to find a way to dispose of the old one.

After a few hours of Internet investigation and some phone calls, I discovered the Best Buy has a recycling program for old electronic equipment. Sure enough the Best Buy not too far from me participates.

The old set weighs a lot and was very bulky, so I had to call on a friend from choir to come help me. Richard was available and came over soon after I called him. We lugged the old set into my truck and headed off to Best Buy.

All we had to do was wheel the carcass into the store and in short order a really nice young clerk rolled it away to the recycling, thanking us for being "so responsible" by turning it in to them. Apparently they reap a lot of materials from old electronic stuff so it's a good way to get rid of things like that.

I went to Pet Smart next to pick up some cat food and then headed home, stopping for a slice of pizza on the way.

Home again, I hooked up my mini TV in the living room until the new one arrives and then it was time to feed the Boys.

Guess I will check out Chance tomorrow. By then, my knees will be ready for a little more exercise and he will have had enough time on the bute to feel better too.

Good thing I am retired. I'd never have enough time to get everything done if I were still working all day.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Chance's Limp

Well, Maybe It Is, Maybe It Isn't

Scott, my farrier came out last evening. When I brought Chance out of his stall, it looked as if he was favoring his left front, as I had said.

Scott checked his foot with the hoof testers and did a pretty thorough exam and found nothing. There were no sore spots and no sign of a bruise or injury. No heavy pulse, no heat.

So we took Chance out to the arena to lunge him and...lo and behold... it looked like he was off in the hind end instead. The head nod down was on the right front which meant either left front or right hind. We pretty quickly decided it was the right hind. In fact, he looked exactly like he's looked in the past when that hind leg has acted up.

When I first got him, he was lame like that and I had my vet examine him. He found, even with using acupuncture points to test various areas, absolutely nothing wrong.  He concluded then that it was some sort of muscle issue that would improve once Chance was fit.

Since then, it's shown up once before for a few days. Now, I am thinking that the little extra work I did schooling him that day might have created some muscle fatigue which, in turn activated his chronic problem

Scott suggested I give Chance some bute for a few days and work him as my vet had instructed in the past. I dosed him with bute this morning, but I have not done anything with him today. Aside from the fact that it's been chilly and windy all day, I was not home.

Instead, I left church a bit early to head to the Horse Park to watch the cross country obstacle driving portion of the combined driving tests. While it was a bit warmer than Friday, it was still brisk and windy there so my down coat once again was just the ticket.

I watched several teams negotiate the water obstacle---pretty tricky for the preliminary horses, easy for the training level, and even more tricky for the intermediate horses. Then I headed up to an obstacle in the woods with all kinds of challenging twists and turns between wooden barriers. There I saw a top level driver miss a gate. That brought the Technical Delegate to sign the elimination form.  The TD was the cones judge from Friday. She offered me a seat in her golf cart and I spent the rest of the afternoon riding around the course with her.

I got to see a number of drivers negotiate obstacles I never would have seen if I'd been on foot. And I got some insight into the finish line vetting, the timing issues, and resolution of a number of other issues that cropped up.

We got to the tricky woods obstacle just as a very talented woman driver was getting through it in a fast time. On the way out, however, her carriage hit a stump and overturned, throwing her, her navigator and her horse to the ground. The horse got up before the stewards could get to her and ran off with the overturned carriage behind her. Fortunately, there were dozens of volunteers and horsemen around--many on golf carts to managed to stop the horse a little ways up the hill before she was seriously hurt.

Everyone seemed to be OK after the crash, although the horse had a few minor scrapes. The vets gave her a good going over at the finish line. The driver and her navigator had on helmets and protective vests. They will probably be sore, but don't have any serious injuries. The carriage? It is one of those marathon carriages built to take some abuse. Bent? Hard to say. One of the golf carts pulled it back to the stable area and it seemed to be in pretty good shape, considering.

I had a front seat view of the accident which happened about 20 feet in front of us. Scary stuff and proof again of just how potentially dangerous horse sports can be.

Helmets and vests saved the day.

Friday, October 25, 2013


A Day at Chilly NJ Horse Park

I was called to volunteer at the Garden State Driving Society's combined driving event at the NJ Horse Park today.

I opted for a job I've never done before--Cones Scribe.

This is a loft title for the person who sits next to the judge in the driving obstacle course--a tricky pattern where the carriages have to pass between numbered sets of cones with tennis balls on them. The course is timed and the cones are set apart with just a bit of room wider than the carriage wheels.

The course, according to my judge--who was from Massachusetts--was very difficult today. To start off with, it was in a smallish arena. The Horse Park has put in some new footing and the larger arena was a bit too deep for driving. Our arena was soft too, causing some sliding of some of the carriages. The time was tight and of the 40 or so competitors who drove, very few were able to make the time.  However, since one or two did, the judge felt the time was OK, until we got to the advanced horses. Then, making the time was near high impossible. But there were only two advanced teams, so it really didn't matter too much.

Now, my job was to mark in boxes under the number of each set of cones whether the driver went clear or had a knockdown of a ball, a cone, or a marker.  Each knockdown was a 3 point penalty. Then I had to record the time of each drive as there were penalties added to the score for each second over the time limit.

It was really fun.  Because I was not a dressage scribe having to write oodles of comments, I got to watch the rounds. As a matter of fact, I had to watch the rounds because I, the judge and all the cone setters and timers needed to keep eagle eyes on those tennis balls to make sure we were scoring everyone fairly in case of a knockdown.

There were horses of all shapes and sizes--including two minis, known as "VSE's" or "Very Small Equines." There were several pairs teams, and some very lovely horses I wouldn't mind having in my dressage barn.

All the drives were excellent, even when they had penalties.

Today was a combined test with just dressage and cones. Tomorrow will be one phase of the two day combined event with another round of dressage and cones. Sunday will be the marathon with all kinds of obstacles to navigate on the cross country course. As I was leaving, I saw some of the workers setting things up at the water complex.

Hopefully it will warm up a little for the volunteers as it stayed chilly all day today. (I had my long down coat and was the envy of many.)  Then again, I think, aside from the wind, the weather was perfect for the horses.

Wishing everyone well over the next two days. It's going to be a great competition!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Definitely Off

And I Ride--My Bike--Sort of....

I decided not to go swimming today so my exercise of choice was to take my mountain bike out for a spin. Suffice it to say, I am not in shape to really ride hard, so it was a ride/walk/ride extravaganza. I'd put a new seat on as well and it did not work out as well as I expected, so that didn't help. I changed it back to the seat I'd already used to replace the very uncomfortable one that came with the bike.

Anyhow, I went all the way around the big farm field, rode around the tree farm and then back around the field. I was out for close to 45 minutes. Eventually, I should be able to ride the whole way, but for now, I walk the bike up the hills. It's a combination of my legs not being strong enough yet and my complete ignorance of how to change gears to make uphill easier. I read up a bit on a website, but my brain is mush as far as the explanations of how the gears work.

Fortunately Chris, my endurance friend, has some expertise at mountain biking. I'm hoping she can help me to make sure I have the seat and handlebars adjusted correctly and how to gear. No rush, though. I need to get in better shape. When I was a kid we used to ride all over the place on regular street bikes. I had a beautiful Schwinn middleweight and I took it everywhere, including through the woods and the very trails I'm trying to ride now. Compared to my young self, I am a physical klutz. I do suppose some 50 or more years to make a difference. *G*

As for the "Off" in the title?  That's Chance. I put him on the lunge line for about five minutes and he has a definite, but slight limp in his left front. Considering that is the foot I thought he'd taken the bad step on when I was riding in the arena, I'm pretty sure it may well be a stone bruise. I called my farrier, just in case he can come out to have a look. I am debating whether to soak it or just wait to see if it gets better on its own. When I cleaned his hoof out, I really could not see anything and I don't have hoof testers at the moment. I'm not too keen about calling the vet out since it's so slight.

At least I feel a little better to see the limp on only one side. I was worried that he was sore on both fronts when I was out on the trail. I was imagining all kinds of things as you may recall.

When I finished with Chance, I lunged Tucker for about 20 minutes. He always looks so innocent and well behaved on the lunge--for the most part. You'd never suspect what a naughty boy he can be, but then, for no obvious reason, he will buck and take off for a few strides. This time, that was all it was, but in the past, he's pulled the line from my hands and galloped madly off.  Not today, thank goodness.

I'm not sure my biking legs would have been able to keep up.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Out Again with JJ But.....

I Rode Tucker Too!

Chris and I went out on an hour and a half trail ride behind her farm today. She rode Nordisk and I rode JJ.

I had no idea there were so many nice trails out that way. I've always stuck to my side of the State Park and not crossed the next road to the north.  There is a county park there and tons of trails going every which a way.

For those Google Earth oriented, my park is the Pigeon Swamp State Park and the park behind Chris's barn is Ireland Brook Park.  We have struggled long to save the acreage around here and the success is wonderful. The only disappointment is that despite the fact they are banned from both parks, mini bike riders and ATV riders do race around the trails. Local law enforcement has limited ways of stopping them.  Because most of the land is unsupervised the riders often camp out in the more remote areas and often leave all kinds of trash around. Then too, of course, is the constant danger to horses and riders from the vehicles.

Most of the time, if I ride in the morning, or on a week day, I am less likely to run into any of the recreational vehicles. Today, we saw no one else on our ride.

JJ was his usual good self for me. I'm convinced he rather thinks he needs to take care of me out there, not at all sure of my competence. I do let him do a lot of the thinking in the tricky terrain, so it's no wonder.  He's never really naughty, but he will try to take advantage if I take too casual an approach to things. He's a smart, sweet boy.

Nordisk continues to be a brave young man. He's getting better and better with the hills, learning more and more how to navigate them wisely and carefully. I'm really impressed with his progress since we first started going out.

Once I got back home, I headed for the feed store to stock up on feed for Chance and Tucker and some alfalfa cubes. Then I ate a quick lunch and eventually headed back out to the barn to ride.

It was Tucker's turn. I stayed in the arena again. After my post on "A Year With Horses" about basic obedience, I realized Tucker needs a bit of refresher training nearly every time I get on him. His essential issue is that he does not always go forward when I put my leg on. I can always tune him up in the warmup, but his initial reaction to leg pressure is to stop and threaten.  Some of this harkens back to when he had the ulcer issues, I know, but the rest is just his contrary nature. I'd give him a good swat with the dressage whip if I was sure he wouldn't buck, but I have to admit to being a big cowardly about that. I'll just keep working on it with less demanding methods.

As I said, once we get going, he tunes in pretty quickly and generally works off the aids.  I did find the buck in him, however, when I decided to ride a pretend dressage test filled with all the exercises we can do. That included, leg yield, half pass, shoulder in, haunches in, lengthenings all at the trot. Reinback, walk pirouettes, extended walk, and then canter. Basic canter work, including changes through the trot and through the walk were fine. The little "whoopsie!" came at the canter lengthening when he put his head down and tried to crow hop as we started to move out. Ah well, guess I have to work on that on a circle until we get some better control.

Now, I did not do all of this in much more than a training level frame, so it was not as physically challenging as it might sound. When we were done, Tucker had some sweat under the saddle and girth and between his hind legs. The rest of him despite his winter coat's growing in, and the nearly 70 F temperature, was dry. He really hadn't worked too hard at all.

Eventually, I will do all those exercises in a more demanding frame with better impulsion. For now, it was more "pretend dressage."

Maybe that's the best kind after all.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

I Needed That

Trail Ride in the Assunpink

NJ has its share of open space and the Assunpink Preserve, just outside of the Hightstown/Allentown area is part of it. That's where the NJ Horse Park is located--in a small corner of the park--and where the Monmouth County Hunt rides.  The Preserve is laced with horse trails.

Some 20 years ago, I boarded across from the park and used to ride there regularly. Yesterday, I would have been lost on the complex of trails. Things have changed SO much.
Jean and JJ at the end of the ride. 

Regardless, Christine invited me to go riding with her husband Larry and her again. I would ride JJ.  I did have some house cleaning to do, but I made short order of the bulk of it and joined them.  The weather was perfect, the horses were wonderful and we had a great time. JJ and I seem to get along quite well, although he does like to take advantage of me now and then. Nothing serious, but he figures he knows a lot more about trail riding, seasoned endurance horse that he is, than I do as a prissy dressage princess.

I must admit, I do tend to be a little more tolerant of things than some riders might be, but I do "know my way around a saddle. "  But JJ is not my horse so I'm a little reluctant to make my point when he, for instance, refuses to turn around in a sticky situation so we can go back up the trail we've just gone down only to find it blocked with a tree. Instead of being sympathetic to his problem in tight quarters with brush and briers on both sides, I had to listen to Chris's instructions to just kind of haul him around and give him a kick to tell him he had to do it.  So I did, and he did, and we were fine. Not sure my more tempestuous TB's would have so graciously accepted my demands.

Other than that, all three horses seemed to have a good time along with us. Nordisk, Chris's youngster continues to prove a brave and promising endurance horse, although he does some cute little "spooks in place," at unexpected things along the trail--he's not too keen on coop jumps at the moment. Larry's Juan is a bold "let's go" kind of fellow, and JJ varies from "I want to be in front," to "Hey, let me go last, that way the monsters will eat everyone else first. I'll just mosey along back here until there's a reason to trot to catch up."
Needless to say, the "order of go," varies depending on which horse thinks being in the lead is his turn.

I needed the ride. My week was a bunch of stops and starts. Flat tire on the truck--one I had "repaired" back in August, that still wasn't. A broken front strut--part of the suspension--on the car, so I have to drive the truck. Have to wait on the car repair so I can get it done at school since commercial garage fees will cost me more money than I have. Scale purchased that didn't work---had to return it. Weather radio that didn't work--had to return it. New TV missing a part--had to return it. Cat toy that did not work--had to return it. And then brand new contact lenses that didn't work right. Called doctor to find out they had accidentally ordered the wrong prescription--have to return them

Truck tire is fixed. I will soon order parts for car. TV is now fine. Didn't try the new radio yet.

But best news is that the lawn tractor is back--the spindle on the mowing deck had completely broken off--and it cost less than half of what I expected to repair it.

Silver linings in the clouds.  And the trail ride was the shining moment.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Not Sure What's Going On

Ouchy or Not?

I took Chance out on a trail ride today. Along the back field, I asked him to trot. He was reluctant, and felt a bit short strided to start off. Then he felt fine, then he took a bad step and pulled up with a limp. Then he walked out of it.

We were at the point of no return, so I just decided to stay on and walk the rest of the way back home. Twice, in the woods, he decided to trot on his own and felt just fine. There was one point where he even cantered up a hill and again felt fine.

I cannot feel any heat in his feet or anything out of the ordinary in his legs. I took his temperature and it was normal.

I am suspicious he may be footsore for some reason. Could be a bruise that only bothers him on hard ground, or it might be an abscess brewing.

Then again, there is always the worry about something like Lyme disease. We haven't had many ticks lately, but that doesn't mean anything.

Right now, it's not even noticeable enough to call the vet, as it's more of a "not quite right" feeling.

My plan is to watch him for a few days, ride a little now and then to see how he feels and hope that either something more clear shows up, or he just gets better. He was trimmed about three weeks ago and is still barefoot. I've never noticed a problem like this before, but you never know.

For the time being, it's just wait and see.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Short Scare

Off on a Limp

I rode Chance in the arena yesterday. I would have liked to have taken a nice long trail ride but there was the sound of ATV's in the woods and I opted to take the safer choice.

We had some really nice work.  After some circling at the walk to supple him up he offered some of the best on the bit effort he's ever given me.  He stayed round through transitions from one rein to the other and in between gaits.

I asked for quite a bit of trot within about a half hour schooling session and at the end did some nice round canter on the right lead.

Suddenly, something happened and Chance pulled up totally lame on his left front.  My heart caught in my throat as I jumped off to see him holding the left front up, reluctant to even put it down again. I checked his foot in case he'd picked up a stone and found nothing, so I led him back, limping, into the barn.

There, cleaned his hoof, again finding nothing. I felt his leg. Nothing. I did some flexions, nothing.  The only conclusion was that he had taken a bad step, perhaps hitting a stone, or twisting something. Since there were no other symptoms, I called it a night and put him in his stall for dinner--with turnout at his option.  Later last night he appeared to be walking sound, but I still was a little worried.

Today, I put him on the lunge line and trotted him in both directions. Nothing. No sign of any lameness. I guess he had just dinged himself and the pain was only temporary.

After I lunged Chance, I saddled up Tucker for a workout.

While he continues his lazy ways and still resists my first leg aid to go into trot--something we clearly need to work on AGAIN.  He did give me some relatively nice work.

After a long rein warmup at the trot with some canter, I began some suppling exercises.  These consisted mostly of some turns on the forehand to loosen his poll and jaw.

Well, I guess turns on the forehand were not part of my basic schooling, because, at first, he had no idea at all about what I wanted. He wasn't naughty, just confused. First he tried a turn on the haunches, then a side pass, then reinback.  I was very patient since he was trying various options and as long as he was doing something in response to my aids,  it was positive.

We finally managed a few almost good ones, so I quit that and began to ask him to do some up and down transitions keeping his jaw soft. Eventually we graduated to shoulder in on each rein.  While the trot was not totally engaged or dramatically forward, it was soft, and for now, that was all I wanted.

We ended up the school with some more work on the half pass. He is ever improving although I would like my seat and aids to be better.  I'm still pushing him too much with my outside aids instead of "sitting into the half pass" in the direction we are going.

Ah well, at least I know what I'm doing wrong. That gives me at least a 50/50 shot at fixing it.

That finished up the ride on a good note.

The rest of the day was spent driving about taking back things I'd bought that didn't work, including a weather radio and a scale. I've had a rash of things to take back lately.  For some reason I've managed to buy defective items more than once now.

Then to top it all off, my car started making a "clunking" sound in the front. I eventually drove it to the shop only to find out the front struts need to be replaced.  That would be fine except that the total repair bill is way over the amount of money I currently can afford to spend.

Fortunately, I have the truck to drive in the meantime, and the option, I hope, of taking the car to school to have it repaired at cost. I just have to wait until I can get in touch with the auto shop there to take it in.

Someone suggested that with my current run of upside down luck, it might be a good time to buy a lottery ticket.

Think I will.

Friday, October 11, 2013

More Trail Pics

Endurance Ride in Horseshoe Bend

Once again, I offer pictures of a trail ride through the beautiful New Jersey countryside.

This time it was a Horseshoe Bend Park in Kingwood Township, near Frenchtown, NJ.

Chris is on Nordisk, her young Arabian with the narrow blaze. I am riding JJ her seasoned endurance horse with the wide blaze, and Chris's husband, Larry, is on Juan, the seasoned gray endurance Arabian.

Never underestimate the beauty of our trails and forests. There were many fields too and trails through lesser vegetation. But the photographer caught us in the woods, having a wonderful time!

One of these days, I'll get some pictures of me riding my own horses, but it's hard when there is no photographer around. 

By the by, this ride was over 10 miles and it took us about 3 hours to complete. While we did trot a lot and did some cantering, the hills were very challenging and required a lot more walking and careful negotiation. 

I've not ridden many Arabians before, so I must say, these three horses really impress me. JJ is very surefooted and willing. They are also quite fit, unlike my Boys are now. I think Chance would have run out of steam halfway along. Guess I need to work on that. *G*

This was the day I forgot my half chaps. My legs were fine, though, so all was well. I still would have liked to look more polished for the photographer. 

JJ's hind legs were bandaged because he had apparently caught himself under the fence earlier in the week and he still had some scrapes that needed protection. It didn't seem to slow him down at all. 

Maybe next time. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Lost Count

Knee Injections

How many injections did I have in each knee?  Even counting the little magic marker dots on my legs, I lost count somewhere around 38-40.  

Don't be too impressed. The injections are pretty superficial and all I feel is a tiny pinprick when the needle goes in. Either I am rather oblivious to discomfort, or they really don't hurt much. 

So, what's all this for?  Neural therapy.

Found this on a website that explains it pretty well:
"Neural Prolotherapy is an injection therapy with 5% dextrose (sugar) that focuses on treating the nerves in the skin that have become injured and entrapped due to inflammation.   Although the nerves are superficial, the pain they create is often felt in the deeper tissues.  The injection of low-dose dextrose changes the pain signaling and stops neurogenic inflammation (what your doctor may have called neuropathic pain).  The dextrose solution also has a regenerative effect on the entrapped nerves helping them to heal and preventing recurrence."

The fascinating thing is that there is immediate pain relief from the initial injections. Hopefully, each time I am treated it will last longer until the pain is gone altogether. 

While my knee replacements have fixed the instability problems in my joints and overall made things much better, I have still had both soreness and pain in the surrounding muscles, particularly in my right leg. that have made some things difficult. I cannot pull myself up the pool ladder with my right leg, for instance. And going up stairs is a bit slower than I'd like. I can't really run, either. Not that I want to run, but it would be nice to be able to jog out to the barn on a rainy day to get my chores done. 

Speaking of rain, the East Coast is under watch for a Nor'easter. This is a typical winter kind of storm that comes in from the ocean. The wind circulates as it does in a hurricane or cyclone and blows in from the north east, bringing both colder air and lots of precipitation from the ocean.  I don't think this one is expected to be too powerful, so hopefully the shore areas devastated by Hurricane Sandy will be just fine.  There is likely to be a lot of rain, though through the next several days. 

Times like this I am glad I have plenty of shelter for the Boys. They have the run-in roofs on both sides of the barn--east and west--access to their box stalls, and the run in shed in the arena area. 

Still I will probably find them standing out in the rain, heads down, backs to the wind, looking quite drippy and miserable. 

Nothing like horse sense. 

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Tuesday Two

What a Beautiful Day!

The promised heavy storm did not hit here although other parts of New Jersey were hit with high winds and heavy rain. What did "hit" was a cool front bringing in some delicious autumn weather.

After I fed the Boys in the morning, I spent some time poo picking the arena.

Then I came in, had breakfast, did a few little chores and eventually headed to the eye doctor to pick up my new contact lenses.

Back home again, I headed out to the barn to actually ride!

I saddled Tucker first. Three false starts later--on then off to move a rail out of the arena path, on then off again to make sure Toby didn't get into the arena when he knocked down a fence rail, on then and finally off on the ride--I started a bit of work.

Nothing too fancy as Tucker is not really in shape to be a truly proper dressage horse.  We did some trotting and cantering to warm up.  He tends to warm up better if I canter a little to get the trot going--very TB.  Then I focused a little on lateral work.  I started off with some leg yield and then worked on transforming that into half pass.

Tucker is not the most flexible horse I've owned and his short back makes it a little harder to get him to bend through his body.  I broke it all down into small steps starting at the walk and by the end of by about five minutes of schooling, he gave me the best half pass to the left at the trot that he's ever done.

We finished up with some canter lead changes through the trot on a figure eight, and then some trot work really on the bit before finishing up to cool him off at the walk.

Once done with Tuck, I saddled up Chance.  We worked just about five-ten minutes in the arena before heading out on the trail.  He gave me some nice, round stretchy trot and, in the canter, some more round work.  The transitions down were not so good, but again, it's something to work on.  I've not concentrated on his schooling as we all know, so I am really quite pleased that he seems to be progressing despite the minimal education.

Then we went out on a nice trail ride along the field and through the woods via the middle road. Good thing I had decided not to to all the way out to the back as there were a bunch of trucks parked along the cornfield. I'm not sure what was going on, but I suspect it was the power company tending to the high tension lines. Could have been something else, but Chance's reaction to seeing the trucks made it clear he didn't particularly want to investigate.

Back home, it was carrots for everyone.

Lovely day, lovely horses and some good riding.