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.