Calm, Forward, Straight

Calm, Forward, Straight

Friday, December 31, 2010

In the Arena #43- Last ride of the year = best ride of the year!

Couldn't think of a better way to top off 2010! Gorgeous day, magical ride... I'm all smiles.


A quick look back -

Started the year not being able to get off the island for lessons... was kind of afraid of my horse after a confidence destroying trail ride.

Spent a few months doing a lot of groundwork... getting to know my horse better, and truth be told,  avoiding riding him.

In March I finally made it to my trainers for some lessons, after a five month break. We lost our dear Virginia Dare to choke. Val got his new companion Cowboy. Things began to look up.

April and May brought much more riding... more specifically riding with intention. Also there were barn improvements, helpful new tack (Le Trixerant girth) and our first outing the beach in half a year.

June and July... hot, hot, hot.. wet and buggy. Evening rinses are a must. More lessons + Val gets a massage.

August brought more lessons, Val a wind puff and Cowboy a snakebite, (how to learn horse triage in a hurry), more barn improvements and finding the motivation to ride when its insanely hot. Hurricane season is on the way. Oh yeah, and don't forget to count your blessings... I bought my farmette. One day I will get to live with my horse, but for now he has a permanent home.

September was our one year anniversary!! Also the WEGs, which I elected not to attend at the last minute. More lessons, lots of rides and P-R-O-G-R-E-S-S :)

October and November brought the fruits of a regular training schedule - some really nice rides. Me and the horse are beginning to click. Also more lessons, a hurricane + evacuation for Val. A minor health scare which turned out to be sore feet. And the start of the yearly "will there be enough hay for the winter" paranoia.

And December. More good rides, more barn improvements, more beach rides. Since adding Val to the mix, my life has gotten better and better. Looking forward to what 2011 will bring us :)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

In the Arena #42- Putting one foot in front of the other

Yesterday flew by in a flurry of "it's finally decent to be outdoors" weather related activities - primarily the job that pays our bills (landscaping). I did manage to squeeze some barn time in, mostly spent dragging the arena which was much worse for the wear after our freeze-a-thon of the last few weeks. It will need another session of dragging when the sand has dried out a little more. The moist sand filled the treads of my tractor up and it would quickly bog down...

After the tractoring, Val and I had a wonderful groundwork session in the future new arena area aka bermuda triangle of horse eating monsters. He was all business and gave me his full attention. Lots of transitions, circles and lovely trot work where Val kept with my pace perfectly. He was rewarded with some puny grazing + some, several, a ton of treats. As we returned to the paddock, Cowboy ambushed us with a serious buck and fart barrage when we came around the corner (as per usual). Val barely even moved his feet, looking to me for support. I couldn't have been more pleased. What a good boy!!


I did some kind of damage to my knee yesterday afternoon while exercising off  holiday indulgences. There was an audible crack and a weird overstretched rubber band-ish feeling. Insert curse words here. I think I hopped my weight off of it quickly enough - time will tell. I can get around okay but I can't straighten it out with all of my weight on it without feeling like it might buckle. Bummer...

Nothing was going to keep me from riding today, although many things tried to. As I was picking Val's feet someone suddenly appeared from out of the woods... a guy who is working on a new trail next door. He spooked Val who promptly stomped on my foot hard... yes the same one as the bum knee. Luckily I had proper footwear on and was standing in sand, just some nasty bruises to come. It really really hurt, as in I shed some tears while finishing picking feet. My horse was so sweet - nuzzling me, quickly offering his feet before I even touched them. It did seem that he could tell I was hurting. The good side of tb sensitivity :)

Once I figured out I wasn't crippled, I finished grooming and scrambled on. Still working on that elegant bareback mount. :) I was hoping that no stirrups would make my knee feel okay, and that was thankfully the case. Since the whistling workman could show up from anywhere at any moment - I kept the ride brief and to the point.

Transitions, turns on the forehand, keeping the neck straight, contact... our usual routine. I have to constantly remind myself that until we have our arena with safe footing we really can't get into good condition, either of us. Without being in good condition and having safe footing, our sessions must be limited.

It is so easy to get impatient. And patience is not one of my strong suits. I'm hoping that my cautious approach is still moving us forward... solidifying our foundation, so that when we have an ideal workspace, here as well as at my trainers, we will soar.

  • I want to progress, but not at the cost of my horses health, mental or physical. 
  •  I want to progress, but acknowledge that only when my physical (and mental) selves can work with the coordination and subtlety that dressage requires, will this happen on a regular basis. 
  • I want to deserve the willing cooperation, partnership and trust of my awesome horse.
  • I want to earn our accomplishments in due time, when we're both ready, and not before. There are no shortcuts.
After all, dressage is about the journey, not the destination. These are my New Year's resolutions... what are yours?

Val and I wish you all a happy, healthy New Year!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

At the barn #28 - Communication - it's a two way street...

Oh, the weather outside is frightful,
But the fire is so delightful,
And since we've no place to go,
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Still waiting for the snow that's been predicted. So far only rain make that freezing rain and lots of wind. Grey horses do look fantastic against a white background...  I'm still hoping we'll get some photo ops later on this afternoon. 


I'm constantly amazed by how our horses communicate with us, and often wonder how frustrating it is for them that we (sometimes) take so long to figure out what they're trying to tell us. Just another testament to the generosity of spirit our horses share with us.

Before our last ride Val was rubbing his gums along my leg. That seemed strange, so I inspected more closely. I saw a tinge of bleeding, and what looked like some of his evening mash kind of collecting at his upper gum line. After our ride, I gently brushed his teeth with a soft brush. Then I made a saline solution, and used my dose syringe to jet it around where the bleeding was. I've done this every day since. 

As I pondered what might be going on, I eventually remembered noticing that Val had also recently been biting his metal gate, chewing on his tack room door and doing some different, strange looking jaw stretching / tongue action. It suddenly hit me that Val's Nibble Net and the cold weather must be to blame. Because it's so cold, I've been cramming extra hay into the hay net - to the point that it's hard to get closed. The hay he's eating now is pretty coarse and more chopped than long and stringy. For him to pull it out through the small holes of the hay net he is abrading his gums on the webbing.

Besides treating his gums, which he totally cooperates with, I'm dividing his hay into two nets so it's looser and easier to get out. Obviously Val was trying to tell me something.

Lesson: if your horse suddenly starts up with new, different or weird behaviors, it is worth looking into. I feel really bad that he was suffering while just trying to eat, but I'm so glad he's smart enough to let me know. Interestingly, all of this went on at the same time as I've been working out scheduling with a new, natural balance horse dentist. Synchronicity!


As far as Christmas goes, suffice it to say that Val won't run out of treat options any time soon... possibly in this lifetime. He also got a heavy duty increased capacity storage container for his treat riches. (He got his main present a while back - a pair of Cavallo boots.) Actually, I noticed that he was sort of busting out of his back-up blanket as I tried to buckle it this morning, so some rationing will probably be necessary.

Due to Christmas meal preparations, we missed out on a great day for riding yesterday. Next year we're doing a Christmas Eve dinner instead! Luckily we're expecting a number of pretty days in a row with temps in the 50's this coming week - more like the usual conditions here - so Val and I can work off some of our holiday indulgences. Hope you all had a wonderful holiday - we sure did :)

Look what Santa left me under the tree...
Guess what sound the alarm makes!
And who knew such a thing existed?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

We hope all your wishes come true!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Why I love thoroughbreds III

First of all, to me, this story is the essence of the meaning of Christmas. Secondly, it shows how the love of horses not only enriches our lives, but makes the world a better place. And finally, it's a ringing endorsement for ottbs, who just need a job and their very own person.

Reprinted from TB Friends with permission of Joe Shelton, who makes life better for so many horses, (ottbs mostly!), and people. Please visit his blog. I have followed Joe for years, and wish I had posted about him sooner... If you're looking for a horse related way to donate money this holiday season, his tb rescue farm is a fantastic choice :)


Wednesday, December 22nd...

She came to us in the spring of 2008, with major race track injuries. Her name is Top It Off, so we called her Topper. A small chestnut filly with a big white face. Topper could barely walk. A broken ankle, torn tendons, pastern problems, and a sore back.

The perfect patient. Legs wraps, ankle bandages, gulping her medicine, cold water hosing on her tendons, and daily walks. Topper especially loved those daily walks. As we neared the end of her rehab, the lead rope should have been around my neck. She was leading me. Topper was moving like Bristol on that dancing show.

Topper spent several months on green grass at a foster home. This past year she has been living in our north field. Her best friend is the dark gelding Bandit. Topper also enjoys smooching with Champ.

A 16 year old girl near the town of Yuba City. She came to us one year ago, asking for help in finding the right horse. I introduced her to a riding instructor, and every Saturday morning the girl has a lesson. To help pay for her lesson the girl cleaned stalls, and groomed horses. Once a week she feeds the barn, so the regular person could have a day off.

The key ingredient to all of this is supportive parents. You take away supportive parents, and the process usually comes to a quick halt.

There is no dad, but the girl has a very supportive mom. One year ago mom told her daughter, you want a horse, you figure out a way to pay the expenses. And you need to become a better rider. Which is when the girl began riding lessons. And started helping at the barn.

Earlier this month mom phoned and said it is time. Mom has been saving money for the initial cost of the horse. The girl has made boarding arrangements with her riding instructor.

Mom said this past year, her daughter is different. Her grades are better. She comes home from school and goes right to the barn. Before it would be right to the mall, hanging out with friends, getting in trouble. The girl returns from the barn and does her homework. She talks about horses constantly. The girl hopes to one day work at a rescue ranch.

And by now you have figured out, her new horse is Topper. The girl had several options, but with Topper it was love at first sight. She jumped on Topper without a saddle, leaned forward, and began kissing her soaking wet neck. It was raining. The girl began crying. Mom was crying. Riding instructor was crying. No one has been on Topper in almost 3 years. Yet Topper stood quietly.

The girl phoned last night. She and Topper went on their first little trail ride. Not far, only a few blocks. Topper was perfect. Back at the barn, Topper sniffed the big red bow on her stall door. There was a Christmas card taped to the bow. The girl opened the card, which said: Merry Christmas. I am so proud of you. Love, Mom.

She has a brand new silver blanket. A sack of peppermint candies all to herself. Topper also has her very own person. What a Christmas for Topper.

Enjoy your is the rain ever going to quit Wednesday, and be sure to hug your horses. Fifth Dimension on the oldies station...


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

In the Arena #41 - Looking a gift horse in the mouth

It been busy around here with holiday preparations / obligations so this post will attempt to catch up on the news. I had a real lesson in barn ownership over the weekend. Turned on the hose Saturday night and no water came out. Bummer! It wasn't frozen, we're thoroughly winterized, so likely there was a problem with the well pump. It was dark and pouring freezing rain, so I had to wait until Sunday to discover that the pump was indeed history - seized up. Can't think of anything I'd rather do than handle cold metal pipes and cold metal tools out in the cold - fun! The morning was spent replacing the pump (and freezing) with my Dad, who luckily is such a handy man. Mechanics, carpentry electric and plumbing - he can do it all. Problem solved, and no toting water... yea! Dad - you're the best :)

It was more complicated than it looks

Today was the bright spot in the weather forecast for the week... time to saddle up, or not saddle up and ride bareback as the case may be :)

As I was preparing to mount, Val wiped his muzzle up and down my leg, with his mouth open. It seemed strange, so I inspected further. He had some blood on his front upper gum line - just a tinge. I'm planning on some warm salt water rinses for a few days. I have recently contacted a new dentist, and am in the process of scheduling an appointment. He's not due until April but my gut feeling is the sooner the better. I'm still not convinced that some of our turning difficulty hasn't got to do with dental / tmj issues. Thanks to Kate at A Year With Horses for setting me on the path to finding a more enlightened horse dentist.


Do I get extra cookies for courage?!
It was just a little distracting down at the barn today. Let's see... the neighbor was working in his yard (power tools of course) which always seems to include yelling (a lot at the top of his lungs) at his dogs. Yelling at his dogs who came crashing through the woods and spooked Val. Apparently it's easier to ride out a spook bareback because I swear, I didn't even realize it had happened until it was over. I continue to be impressed with the benefits of bareback riding.

Next came the yowling feral cat bursting out from the woods. A minor prelude to the little button buck bouncing around just outside of the arena. Why was he out in the open, so bravely, so uncharacteristically you ask? Well maybe, because my boarder's mom decided to chum him and his deer buddies up with piles of corn. I figured this out while the boarder family were at my place over the weekend for a holiday open house. (As they arrived they managed to let my Jack Russell terror run out the front door - it took half an hour to catch her!)

Over holiday punch I happened to mention that Val had been extremely distracted for a few days. Distracted to the point of dropping hot mash out of his mouth and tearing off to the far end of his paddock where he stood and stared for hours. Distracted to the point that one morning when I arrived at the barn no water and barely any hay had been touched overnight. "Oh, he's probably seeing the deer. I've been feeding them. I want to touch that little one!" Needless to say, no more corn at the barn. Special prize was awarded for self control...

But I digress... despite all of the commotion, we still managed to focus and get some nice work done. Most of the work was getting Val to pay attention to me and move forward. We did some pretty turns on the forehand, and the contact again seemed improved - another no glove ride. Afterwords we did some work in the backup arena - located smack in the middle of the bermuda triangle of horse eating monsters. I could tell Val wanted to get excited, but I firmly kept his mind on me. As I began some in hand trot work he popped up a little bit and scooted around, but all it took was a firm voice to get him back on track. Val did beautifully! I was so proud of my horse today. His reward was some grazing on the tiny patch of grass I still have, a pocketful of gingersnap and all my love. What a good boy!

Happy Holidays!!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

At the barn #27 - Common sense and horse sense

100th post! 

We've survived our first deep freeze of the season. My winterizing efforts worked, so we had a functioning well point and therefore running water at the barn. I had to resort to supplemental heat at home though, as no amount of winterizing overcomes the total lack of insulation in the cute little antique house I rent. And apparently the snap is over because the temperature rose thirty degrees over the course of today, so no need for a fire tonight :)

Thankfully my boarder Cowboy's people have purchased him a new waterproof sheet / light blanket. Unfortunately we've still got some work to do in the "your horse needs clean not partly frozen water, available at all times" department. At all times means even if you'll be late for work / school. Get up earlier.

I knew we were headed for problems. I had disconnected and drained my hose in anticipation of the freeze. I called the boarders and warned them about the water / hose situation. I even disconnected and drained their hose. I guess my warnings didn't sink in because the second morning Cowboy's water bucket was frozen, what little water was in it. I emptied it and refilled with warmer well water. This happened two days in row. So I cut a piece of hose just long enough to reach Cowboy's bucket that would drain on it's own.

That evening we were at the barn at the same time. I gave them the hose section and mentioned the water situation. They told me "their hose was BROKEN" I suggested it was full of water and frozen. "No, it's BROKEN. It needs a new gasket. Water keeps shooting out the top." Now that it's sixty degrees out, guess what - the hose is not broken any longer. MA-GIC!!


I think my horse has special senses in his feet. Val has always been a digger. Typically at first he will be reluctant to work in a particular area, and want to avoid it. Then he will begin digging it up, sometimes making quite a trench in the process. Soon after I will discover some debris he has uncovered. Lots of concrete chunks, and the occasional large tree branches, which he often tries to pull out with his teeth if he can't dig them out. There was a lot of dumping on the property before I got it.

Right now he's working on a new spot - his biggest excavation yet. I can't wait to see what he unearths...

taking the scan

hoof x-ray results

Sunday, December 12, 2010

In the Arena #40 - What a difference a day makes...

A joyful morning with my horse - warm and sunny! Although many holiday related chores beckoned and thunderstorms threatened, we persevered. It seems like this time of year, if you have the opportunity to ride, you had better take it.

Val was in an extra playful mood as I cleaned up and fed. Every time I turned around his nose was right there, and eventually he grabbed my headphone cord and pulled my little radio out of my pocket. Who needs NPR when you have a horse?!

I think Val remembered our discussion about authority from yesterday. We breezed right through our warm-up. I played with how much energy we could develop at the walk before we transitioned into the trot.  Sometimes Val needs to get over the hump - energetically speaking - once or twice, and then we're good to go. I was reminded of something my trainer says... that you should always complement your horse's energy level. On a scale of one to ten, if your horse's energy is a two, you need to be an eight. If your horse is a nine, you must be a one. We're generally in the former category :)

Val enjoyed working today... lots of blowing and snorting, especially during our trot work. He reached and stretched for contact. Since we're limited for the time being, to trotting on the long side that still has good footing... (Dear Santa - Some truckloads of sand would really come in handy about now!!)  I focused on trot / halt, halt / trot transitions, mainly from my seat. We finished up with a bit of cone work and some lovely correct turns on the forehand. Still struggling with keeping the neck straight and consistent turning aids, but it seems that bareback work may be helping with my uneven hip situation. Ideally we will be able to get a ride in tomorrow as well, to hopefully cement this progress we've been making as another cold spell with big winds is on the way.

It occurred to me that the winter weather didn't seem so bothersome last year. (I should check my archives and see how much complaining I did) Then it also occurred to me that I was probably (secretly) glad to have an excuse to avoid riding. It was about a year ago when we had our disastrous train wreck trail ride. Hard as it is to believe, I was afraid of my horse for a while... questioning the wisdom of getting a horse at all. What the heck was I thinking!!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

In the Arena #39 - You're not the boss of me...

We're having a brief window of warmer weather - from mid 20's to the 40's - so Friday was the time to ride, because it's not expected to last. A coastal storm is on the way. Apologies to those folks who live in the frozen north... I know you all have it much worse.

I stopped in at the barn yesterday for a mid morning ride. It was one of those days when Val challenged my leadership under saddle from the get-go. I caught myself (early) getting frustrated, losing refinement in my aids and generally making things worse. I took a deep breath and focused on correctly aiding, making sure to escalate the aid until I got an answer. Val reacts to stronger aids (dressage whip) by making an audibly shocked gasp - which I interpret as "holy cow - she really means it!". This always makes me laugh, which probably helps as much as anything else.

Once we re-established leadership, the rest of the ride went really well. We got some nice halts off of my seat. Maintaining steady / consistent contact with the outside rein is getting easier, and Val moved out well off of my leg with good energy. I rode without gloves and again the contact felt great. I guess I need to find some different gloves that don't interfere with sensitivity in my fingers... any suggestions would be welcome. We finished the ride with the best on the buckle work we've ever done - steering well in both directions and even some turns on the forehand.

When Val and I have started a ride with this kind of disagreement in the past, I have often let my emotions get the best of me, and struggled just to salvage the ride. I'm really pleased with Val, and myself, that we moved forward and even broke some new ground. Yea team!


Today (Saturday) is our village Christmas parade. Val and I are not riding - the weather won't be fit, I'm sacred of noisy fire engines + kids on tiny motorcycles, and he still needs to break in his Simple boots. Next year Val!

For most of the last seven years my parade mount was Ginger (Virginia Dare), the coolest ever Banker mare, who reintroduced me to riding. She is the reason I'm here blogging, that I'm learning dressage and that I found Val as well as my little farmette. I can't imagine how my life would be if I hadn't met her.

Sadly Ginger passed away this spring as a result of a choking incident, at 34 years old. She participated in every Christmas parade we've had - 15 or so. No matter where she started out in the lineup, Ginger would make her way to the front of the herd before the end of the parade route, passing horses way bigger and way younger. She understood parades, and knew where her rightful place was. We will be missing her terribly today.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

At the barn #26 - You get the horse you need...

Kate over at A Year With Horses did an interesting post yesterday about horse and human personalities. Is your horse like you... are you like your horse? Who chose who? Do you want to be more like your horse? She invited her readers to respond. Sounded like a good idea. I haven't had my behind in the saddle since the cold snap so no rides to post about.

Val is my first horse. (Unless you count the thousand year old pony stallion named Comet who my grandma wouldn't let me in the pen with because he might "jump" on me.) Val was the very first horse I looked at once I decided I was in the market. Well, in person that is. I had been indulging in horse porn for a couple of years. I guess that's the first sign.

Anyhow, my trainer introduced me to Val, who was called Gus then. He was one of her student's horses. (Besides his handsomeness,) I liked how calm he was. We did a mini trail ride the day I tried him out. A vulture suddenly flew out of some brush about five feet away from us, and all he did was stamp all four feet in place. Not spooky - check! Frankly, with my lack of horse / horse buying experience, how much could I really expect to know about Val's personality, beyond what others told me. There is definitely an element of chance when you purchase a horse.

And - I think people change horses, and horses change people. For instance, I changed Val by giving him "Amplify" for a few weeks. I should have known that amplifying wasn't desirable or necessary. My calm horse (temporarily) disappeared - with scary consequences...

Val has made me a much more confident rider. Since I only see my trainer every month or six weeks, I have been forced to take more responsibility for our training. I ride with intention now. I'm a more competent rider too. Val gives me exactly what my aids ask him for, even though often, it might not be what I thought I asked for. He gives great feedback.

I hope I am changing him for the better. I believe dressage is improving his gaits and his strength. He is using his core and his back more now. The switch to barefoot is also an improvement. He seems happy with his life - his appetite is certainly good and he gets plenty of rest ;)

Are we alike? Val has a way better sense of humor than I do - he constantly reminds me to keep it light. Stress doesn't bring out the best qualities in either of us. We get frustrated when we are misunderstood. We both have decent work ethics, and sometimes are too smart for our own good. We both get bored easily - no need to repeat things over and over. Val is much prettier :)

While we have certainly had our challenges in the past year, I can't imagine life with any other equine partner. I truly believe, (although sometimes it may take a while to acknowledge / realize it), we get the horse we need. Think of it as equine alchemy.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Not my favorite way to spend an afternoon...

I haven't posted before today about my other animal companions. I only recently added some pictures in the sidebar... feeling guilty that Val gets the lions share of time, attention and resources now.

After stacking firewood in the backyard this afternoon I thought to check if there was any progress in my winter garden; several raised beds that surround my back deck. I looked up from my inspection and was startled by the sight of Max, my handsome, formerly feral, grey garage cat. It was so odd. He was laying out on his side, exactly how you would find him on a warmer day, sunning in his favorite spot. Only he was way too still. Stiff in fact. And it was barely above freezing.

I checked him over thoroughly and found no signs of distress or injury. He appeared to be completely relaxed, eyes open and clear, but dead as a doornail. I wrapped him in an old pet blanket and buried him under a little cluster of oaks in a sunny part of the backyard.

I found Max almost exactly nine years ago, huddled under some shrubs that I was pruning. Before I thought about it hard, I had snatched him up. A tiny feral stripey grey kitten. I tried to store him in the truck but my dog Sweetpea thought he looked delicious, so he spent the rest of the day in my sweatshirt.

He grew up to be a skilled hunter, often snagging his prey in mid-air. Unfortunately his prey was often songbirds. He was especially fond of cardinals - he caught over a dozen during a hot streak one autumn. (sorry cardinals!) I never put out bird feeders again since I had him... it hardly seemed fair. Most of the time all that remained was a pile feathers and the occasional birdy foot.

Max was never completely domesticated, although he would let me grab him up and love on him. Whenever I spent time in the yard or worked in the garden he was my little shadow, especially when I hung sheets up on the line. One summer I couldn't find him in advance of a rapidly worsening hurricane. As soon as I could after the storm I went searching for him, fearing the worst. Local cats are often drowned in rising tidal waters as they take shelter under buildings. I found him way up in a cedar tree, higher than I could climb to retrieve him. He climbed down and jumped into my arms when I called out to him.. I believe he was never so glad to see. I installed a cat door into the garage the very next day :)

Apparently he didn't suffer... at least I know what happened to him... and the ground wasn't frozen. For those things I am thankful. Bless your heart Maxie  - we'll miss you.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

At the barn #25 - More blanketing issues / How about using some common sense...

I noticed about ten days ago that the boarders were starting to blanket Cowboy overnight. At that time, the temperatures were lows in the mid to upper forties at night. If that. Some days they were pretty late showing up in the mornings, so it was way too warm for a blanket by the time it was removed.

I watched without saying anything for a week. VERY HARD FOR ME TO DO. My horse / barn management knowledge, at least the valuable parts of it, came from a woman whose two horses I exercised regularly, and cared for during her frequent travels. Her standards of care were super high. She had fifty years of experience with horses. I was her barn backup for a number of years and the experience was invaluable. Unfortunately all good things come to an end. (It's a very sad, but interesting story - I'm working on it for a future post... How to survive a "barn breakup")

So I held my tongue for a week. The blanket didn't fit well, was much too heavy for the temps, and the waterproofing in doubt. A few days ago the topic came up. I took jumped at the opportunity to have a blanket chat. Here is a sampling of the conversation:

"Does Cowboy have a rain sheet? [No]
The great thing about a rain sheet is he'll stay dry without overheating. [Blank stare]
Getting cold and wet is mostly what we need to worry about around here. [His blanket is waterproof]
You can always layer a rain sheet over another blanket if it actually gets cold enough..."[Another blank stare]

As per usual, sharing helpful information elicited defensiveness. They said that (weird quilty) blanket is waterproof!!!! I asked how old is it? Has it been washed much? If that blanket is still waterproof I'll eat my hat I was thinking...

Right on cue, last night it rained / snowed and was actually cold. When I arrived at the barn this morning Cowboy's owner was removing his blanket. She hung it on the hitching post as they were leaving. Just before I took off, I felt the inside. Couldn't help myself. It was absolutely soaked. That poor horse had worn that cold, wet, heavy blanket all night long.

This afternoon we were at the barn together again. I mentioned the wet blanket. "Oh yeah - we know. We ordered another blanket. We're going to shut him in the run in until it comes. That way he'll stay warm and dry."

I nixed the "shutting Cowboy in" idea, as the run in is about 9 x 9... too small for a sixteen plus hand horse to lay down in safely... not to mention that their plan for locking him in was hanging a 2 x 4 across the opening. Not to mention that was a ridiculous idea...

Don't get me wrong - my boarders are really nice people... really nice people who have never taken care of their own horse until the last 8 months, as my boarders. I have refined my technique of "sharing" horse care info (which frankly is getting tiresome). I have led by example, mostly to no avail.
I have watched Cowboy go without water, be under and over fed, be very difficult with vet and farrier, get run off his feet with almost no warm-up...

Because I care about Cowboy I will continue to try to help improve his conditions as necessary. I will pick my battles. I will also try to perfect my delivery of advice. Casual hinting? And I guess I will have to just chalk the experience up to character building aka sucking it up.

Edited to add: I hope this post doesn't sound too snarky. My tolerance for foolishness goes way down when I'm hormonally challenged:)

Friday, December 3, 2010

In the Arena #38 - More bareback therapy + my little cookie monster

Is it just me, or does time really speed up over the holiday season? Don't blink or it will be over. That's how I feel these days. I stole a few hours yesterday for another bareback ride. When I got to the barn, this is what I found (see lower lip) :) It took a bit of doing to motivate him but eventually Val got moving. He happily munched on hay while I groomed and tacked him up.

My plan for the ride was to concentrate on position, especially the legs. I spent most of our ride like this: Okay, is your heel down? Where's your leg... at the girth? Behind the girth - why? Not gripping with your thighs are you? Calf on... is your foot parallel to the horse? Not leaning forward are you? (I was ) And repeat. Add "rig up mirror at the barn" to the to-do list :)

I'm struggling with how to hold my lower leg when bareback that allows me to aid well while not creating tension. My seat and thighs feel great, very relaxed... lower leg needs work. And it is my sincerest wish that in the future I develop a more graceful style when mounting bareback. :) At present it feels pretty sack of potatoes-ish. (poor Val)

Besides focusing on position we worked on circles, straightness and contact. The contact felt super good yesterday - subtle and sensitive. And Val agreed... lots of mouthing the bit plus some reaching... moving out at the walk more that usual. I noticed towards the end of the ride that I had forgotten to put on my riding gloves, so had ridden barehanded. I wonder if that's why my contact seemed easier to maintain and much improved? Easier to feel really.  Maybe the gloves are getting in the way somehow... decreasing my sense of touch, or dexterity. I'll have to see if it's a matter of causation or correlation - but whatever it was I liked it. Overall a very productive ride.

Ummm, isn't it cookie time?

Pretty sure it's cookie time...

 Isn't this where you keep the cookies?!
I K-N-O-W there are cookies in here!!!

This is also the time of year when there are drastic temperature fluctuations. Wednesday it was in the seventies... Thursday morning in the low forties. It's been flip-flopping this way for a few weeks. This kind of weather can disrupt eating and drinking habits. Colic weather. Val hasn't been finishing his hay, which I chalked up to how warm it was. Also not drinking nearly as much water. This had me worried, but thankfully this morning it was back to normal. I'm wondering if I should be adding salt to his feed? He does have free access to salt and mineral blocks, but I've know some people supplement salt. Any advice about salt and quantities would be appreciated! (Do I need to go to micro-managers anonymous?)

Also, the blanketing issue is here again. Thankfully, I'm more clear on this subject. I'm not going to blanket until it's below thirty night and day - a light blanket. And anything below fifty five with rain, he'll get the rain sheet, added layers as needed. That's my plan and I'm sticking to it :)

Oh - I can't forget our spa session the other day! I pulled out the clippers and clipped for the first time on my own. Val was a champ after a mild overreaction. I clipped his muzzle and bridle path with him loose in his stall and me balancing on a turned over bucket. Living dangerously lol. What a good boy and soooo handsome :)
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