Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Chiropractor Visit - One Good, One Naughty

Both boys had a visit from the chiropractor today, and both boys got blood drawn for their final EPM titers for the clinical trial.  Pie had numerous areas where he was very, very sore - particularly his neck and shoulders, and some spots on his back.  She worked on him for a long time, and although he warned her when she was about to touch an area that was sore by pinning his ears or pawing, he was very good about it and by the end he felt so much better.  I've never seen a horse yawn so much - he was very demonstrative about how good the chiro work felt. We've discontinued using his haynets, since the sideways twisting motion he has to use to get the hay out wasn't helping his neck - he'll be eating his hay off the ground.  I'm hoping that his digestive difficulties are far enough in the past that he'll be OK with that.  His extreme soreness goes a long way towards explaining his very grouchy behavior lately - poor boy was hurting.

Drifter, on the other hand, was not on his best behavior.  He'd been kept waiting a long time in his stall, and then he was alone in the barn while the work was being done (and Pie was outside next to the mares), and he really wasn't feeling too bad to begin with so he wasn't convinced the whole thing was necessary.  His timer had gone off and his patience wasn't there.  When he's outside his comfort zone or loses patience, he still tends to revert to the "bully" behavior that's worked for him in the past. To keep him from running over/through me - completely unacceptable behavior and the rope halter wasn't making the slightest impression on him - I put a chain, wrapped around the halter noseband, on the regular halter.  I didn't hang on him, just made it clear when he tried that running over me wasn't an option.  He was able to stand on a loose lead at that point and got a treat for (finally) good behavior.  When I turned him out in his paddock, he made quite a display - "look how powerful I am!" - bolting and running, bucking, prancing with his tail flagged - he had to put on a show for us.  He's really a beautiful, athletic horse - now if we can just get that energy and enthusiasm working for us . . .

Monday, February 27, 2012

Nine Rides and Counting, and Plans for the Move

Dawn and I have now had nine wonderful rides at the new barn.  Things aren't always perfect - sometimes the indoor is crowded - it isn't all that big - but Dawn has been dealing well with whatever happens.  I've met a number of boarders - still having trouble with names - and everyone has been very nice.  It's wonderful to be riding again on a regular basis, and Dawn has been a peach - today there was ice and snow creaking on the barn roof - she would look up from time to time - and a number of horses in the ring and open doors with wind blowing in, but we got some very nice trot work done.  Dawn is in many ways my most difficult/challenging/sensitive horse to ride, and working with her successfully is always a big confidence booster. Before I rode, we did some lunge work in both directions and she did very well with her walk and trot and canter with verbal cues - we did lots of transitions - although there was a bit of hopping at the canter, she settled well and did some nice canter work in both directions - I think her left stifle is still slightly sore.

I had a nice phone conversation with Heather at Black Star about Pie and Drifter's move on Thursday.  They'll stay on their regular vitamin/mineral balancer pellets and supplements, and I'll be bringing up some of their hay to help them transition.  She says they're likely to lose some weight - they're both fairly plump right now - with the work they'll be doing, and if need be, we can add some additional calories.  She's planning to spend a week to 10 days getting them back to work and getting to know them, and then we'll see how many days a week I go up there to work together with them and her.  I'm pretty excited about the whole thing - I think we'll have a clear path to follow, now.   Tomorrow our vet/chiropractor will be coming to do some work on both Pie and Drifter before their trip.  Pie is very stiff and sore, partly due to his unfortunately encounters with gates.  I think that will set them both up for the work they're going to be doing in March.

Spring is coming . . .

Friday, February 24, 2012

Big Snow and Pie Gets in Trouble

We had a substantial snow last night - one of the few snows we've had this winter - I think we got 7 or 8 inches, and it was the heavy wet stuff.  But very pretty - it was clinging to the bushes and trees and when it was coming down it was falling in enormous fluffy clumps.

For some reason, Pie has become very nervous and even herd-bound lately.  If there's a sign the other horses are going in, or a horse leaves the pasture, he gets frantic and starts running.  This really isn't (wasn't) like him at all - he worries a lot now.  Part of this is that he has no turnout buddies and no really good place to get turned out other than his paddock - it's decent sized, about 50x100 feet, but not the same as a real turnout with buddies to play with.  Sometime this morning while he was in his paddock, something either scared or upset him and he began to run - his paddock was all torn up.  At some point he ran into his gate, lifting it off the hinges (most of the gates at this barn are hung wrong with both prongs pointing up, which allows gates to come off the hinges too easily, and the type of gate is perfect for trapping equine legs and feet - just plain unsafe).  When I stopped by the barn in the late morning, the gate was sideways, hanging from the latch, and Pie was staying well away from it.  He clearly had gotten his left front leg through the gate bars and in fighting to get free had gotten several cuts on his leg, including about a 4-inch one on the outside of his lower leg.  Thankfully, he's sound and no critical structures seem to be damaged, although I expect he's sore and there's a bit of swelling.  Poor, poor fellow - he must have been very scared, and he was plenty afraid of the gate area when I led him down to the barn, blowing and snorting as he passed through.

I put him in his stall for a bit to calm down - he was all sweated up under his blanket so I took that off.  Later I moved him to a lower paddock opposite Drifter so at least he'll be as close as possible to the other horses.

I'm counting the days until Drifter and Pie are out of here and off to Wisconsin . . .

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Dawn is Even Better, and March is Almost Here

After five days of riding, I gave Dawn a day off yesterday and just groomed her.  She had a long cut on her hip - looks like a bite - although she was wearing her heavy Rambo turnout blanket.  And sure enough, when I inspected the blanket, it was torn at that spot - that must have been some bite as those blankets are tough.  So it's another blanket off for mending . . .  Fortunately, I have another heavy blanket she can wear on cold days.  She's also still looking very thin.  If her weight doesn't start to improve by next week, I'll be adding some supplemental high fat feed.

Today we had a very nice ride.  We did a bit of lungeing first - I use this to check her energy level and(begin to get her attention, although I suspect we won't have to be doing lungeing first for much longer.  This was Dawn's sixth ride since being brought back into work (at the new barn) after a several months layoff.  Her lungeing work was very good - to the left her trot was relaxed and she was doing some stretching down, and we even did some very nice canter work on the lunge, and her transitions were good.  To the right, she's a bit stiff - it looks like the left hind needs to warm up more than the right - and she tends to want to carry her head to the outside.  I moved the line to attach it to the side of the noseband, instead of below the chin (she was in the fuzzy nose halter) to help her keep her head slightly bent to the inside.

Our mounted work was really good - there was some real relaxation at the walk, and her trot work is improving.  There were some glimpses of relaxation, mixed in with lots of circles and serpentines and a few straight lines when she relaxed.  There was a young girl lessoning on a very forward pony, and at one point the pony was really careening around - almost out of control - but the girl managed to get him back and Dawn coped really well with it.  I was delighted with how well she's doing.

Pie and Drifter are scheduled to make the trip up to Wisconsin for their month of training next Thursday, weather permitting.  I'm pretty excited about that, too.  Heather is all ready for them, and they (and pretty soon I) will be going to boot camp - improvements are likely all around . . .

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

In Which Pie is Visited by a Space Alien . . .

I had a strange encounter with Pie today.  When I went to move him from one paddock to another - this is a usual noontime event, he started snorting and blowing as I put his halter on.  As I led him out of the paddock, he gave a little grunt - this for him is a sign of excitement.  I led him up to the far end of the new paddock to hang his hay bag, and as I turned him back around towards the gate, he started snorting and blowing again, and backing away from me, and then he launched himself into the air and bucked, twice, still snorting.  It was pretty clear he was spooked by something about me.  When I would approach, he would snort and arch his neck and back away.  Now this was very odd - I wasn't wearing my barn coat, but was wearing a coat he's seen many times before, and there was nothing odd about any of my clothing that I could see.  The only thing at all different was a pale brown scarf that I'm not sure he's seen before.  When I held it out to him, he arched his neck at it and snorted some more.  I was able to reassure him somewhat that it was in fact me and not a creature from outer space holding his lead.

Now, to be fair, it was quite chilly and very windy and the mares were acting up - Sugar was running and bucking and striking at the fence - she may be coming into heat.  When I left the paddock, Pie did a run and buck.  Poor fellow has no herd right now and nowhere to run as all the big pastures are too muddy - he's been stuck in paddocks that aren't tiny but he can't really get a good run in.

After all the shenanigans by the mares and Pie, Drifter was pretty excited when I went to get him.  But he managed to be a very good boy on the lead - he stayed behind me on a loose lead and there were no aerial maneuvers.  I was proud of him - it was clear he was also full of energy as he got up from a nice roll with a short gallop and buck.

I'm still not sure what was up with Pie - he wasn't his usual crabby self but just spooked by me as if I were someone pretty darn scary.  I was glad I was able to reassure him - silly boy!

Getting Rid of New Word Verification Nonsense

Funder just did a post with links to simple descriptions of how to get rid of the new double, distorted word verification that may be plaguing people who are trying to leave comments on your blog - you may not even know this is happening since it won't affect you when you comment on your own blog.

If you're using the new Blogger interface, it doesn't allow you to change this - but follow the directions in the posts to go back to the old interface, which will allow you to check whether or not you have word verification turned on and then turn it off if you so wish.  Then back to the new interface, and you're done - it took me only a few seconds.

Once you don't have word verification anymore, you may wish to enable comment moderation - this can be done with the new interface - to prevent various types of spam.  Thanks, Funder!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Even Better . . .

Dawn and I had another good work session today.  She was fairly relaxed on the lunge, and we were able to do some nice walk/trot/walk transition work.  During our ridden work, for most of the time there were two beginner riders having lessons on very calm school horses, but we had the challenge of staying out of their way as their steering wasn't great - although each had an instructor staying close by.  We managed some nice walk work, including some good stretching down and also some quarter and half pirouettes and also some other lateral work.  Then we did a bit of trotting - she's only just coming back into work and isn't fit at all - and were able to do some more connected bits of trot without her becoming too excited - lots of circles and serpentines, and not too many straight lines as she would tend to build momentum.

Dawn seems to be enjoying our sessions, and every day she's a little more relaxed (for Dawn).  I'm delighted with how well she's doing.  She's lost a lot of weight from the move, both from stress and also because she's not eating as much during daytime turnout as she used to, and is looking quite ribby.  Since she's drinking and pooping well, we upped her hay today to help her put some weight back on.  If that doesn't quite do the trick, I may add some higher fat feed to her meals - perhaps some Ultimate Finish, which has helped her in the past.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Dawn is a Star!

I am delighted with how Dawn is settling in to her new barn - today was day 7, and day 5 of turn out with the mares.  No more dings or dents, which is good news.  When I was grooming her in the barn aisle, she insisted on doing the "nose rest" several times, which means she is contented and relaxed.  She likes her stall and seems quite comfortable in there.  Today when we worked in the arena there was one horse being lunged and then ridden in there (one of the alpha mares) as well as a horse being led around.  She coped well with the other horses - some ear pinning at the alpha mare - and with the overhead doors going up and down.  She insisted on going over to the window to the viewing room, and sticking her nose way up to inspect it.  I put out some cones, and we did some lungeing and also some ground driving.  She is still more relaxed tracking to the left - to the right she's inclined to put her nose out and occasionally scoot.  We did quite a bit of trot work on the lunge and while ground driving, and then I bridled up and got on.

We did lots of walk work - shortening/lengthening and figures, focussed on getting some relaxation.  We were able to do some stretching down work, and some lateral work at the walk.  At the end of our ridden session, we also did some trot work, and although she was extremely forward, she was responsive and well-behaved.  I was delighted with how well she's doing after only a week at the new place - and I've ridden three days in the row (despite a very bad cold)!

The neglected boys got their feed picked, and they get some grooming every morning before turnout.  It'll be March soon and they'll be off to boot camp in Wisconsin . . .

Saturday, February 18, 2012

No New Dings and Another Dawn Ride

I've actually ridden two days in a row - in February! - thanks to the indoor at Dawn's new barn.  I lunged her briefly before I got on, and she's now completely sound at the trot when tracking left and 95% when tracking right.  As I suspected, the kick to the left stifle resulted only in bruising and nothing more serious, thanks be.  And today, for the first day since she's been in the mare herd, there were no new bumps, lumps or injuries.  I rode her for about 20 minutes today, mostly at the walk, but with a few bits of trot thrown in.  We did figures and a bit of lateral work, and some stretching down.  She's still getting used to the indoor, and was a bit tense particularly at the trot, but the relaxation will come.  It was only her second ride in two and a half months and her second at the new place.

The people I've met at the new place seem pretty nice.  They're a diverse bunch, with a diverse lot of horses - there is a Friesian, a Clydesdale, a mini, a donkey and many others.  I'm enjoying spending time with lots of other horse people.  I think there are 63 horses total, including the pasture boarders - quite a crowd but fortunately they don't seem to ride all at the same time.  Dawn and I shared the arena with one other horse for a bit today, and the rest of the time we were by ourselves.

So far so good, and I'm starting to look forward to the boys' trip to Wisconsin on or about March 1.

Friday, February 17, 2012

First Dawn Ride in Over Two Months

Dawn continues to sort things out in the herd.  Yesterday she came in with a scrape on the front of her left front cannon bone (glancing kick?) that wasn't much of an issue.  Today when I was grooming I could see two dusty hoofprints, one on the underside of her left barrel and the other on her left stifle.  It didn't even break the skin, but she clearly was double-barreled by someone.  I was there at bring in and Dawn was hanging well away from the horses at the gate, and one of the dominant mares would threaten her every time she moved close.  The good news is there's no swelling or heat so far, and Dawn is completely sound at the walk.  But she's off at the trot, so we didn't do much lungeing, just a bit at the walk in both directions.

I was very proud of her - I rode her for the first time in over two and a half months, in a new place, and she was perfect.  Her excellent behavior started right at the beginning - she stood like a rock on a loose rein by the mounting block and waited for me to get settled.  We did some nice walking work for about 15 minutes - lots of circles and turns, exploring all parts of the arena, and she was completely sound throughout and clearly comfortable walking.  There were two other horses working in there and she was good for that as well.  It was great - good Dawn!  I gave Dawn a gram of Bute to help with the soreness in her stifle, and with some luck she'll feel better in a day or so and we can start adding a bit of trot to our work as she gets back into shape.  I'm keeping fingers crossed that she'll stay out of trouble in the pasture so we don't have new injuries to cope with.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Turnout with the New Herd - Scary but Good

One of the things I like about the new barn Dawn moved to on Monday is that all the horses are out in herds, in large turnouts, all day, almost every day regardless of weather.  In the late fall, winter and spring, they have multiple hay round bales per turnout, and in the summer, they have pasture.  There are three herds: mares, geldings and pasture boarders (mostly geldings with a few mares).  After two days in a small paddock next to the mares' turnout, Dawn got to go in with the mares yesterday.

I strongly believe that herd turnout is very, very good for a horse's mental health and contentment.  I also believe that larger herds (provided there's enough space) are better than small herds - less stress and every horse can find a buddy or two. That said, herd turnout can be very stressful (mostly for the humans involved) - when a new horse is introduced, there is often lots of running, and kicking, and squealing and striking as the horses work out where the new horse fits in the herd hierarchy.  In my experience, mares tend to be more violent, particularly with kicking, in working out their status than geldings, but once the hierarchy is confirmed, there is usually little subseqent sparring and the herd order is stable.  Geldings, on the other hand, are always playing games that are really dominance games - chasing, face biting, pawing, rearing - and this tends to go on and on but usually with fewer injuries.

Dawn had been able to meet a number of the mares who were interested over the shared fenceline of her small paddock.  But there wasn't a lot of continuous socializing going on - the mares were more interested in their herd and eating from the round bales than making the trek up the hill to talk to Dawn.  Dawn was bored in the small paddock, and wasn't getting to move around much - when I lunged her Tuesday night, in one direction (to the left, her easier direction), she held it together at the trot but when we lunged to the right, she scooted and bucked and clearly had a lot of excess energy.

So we were ready for her to go into the herd.  The barn manager was there, as was one of the trainers who had several mares in the herd.  The trainer, who does hunter/jumper, confessed that when she came to the barn she had to take a long time to get her head around group turnout (which in my experience is pretty rare in the hunter/jumper world), and that she still found new horse introductions stressful, not because her mares fight much, but because they run like crazy and rip their front shoes off (none of the horses have back shoes, which is a policy I agree with).  We were all nervous - I've done many new horse introductions to herds before and it's often scary.

Watching herds of horses interact is fascinating to me.  This herd had about 12 mares in it before Dawn joined, ranging from a very old mare who doesn't move around much and stays out of trouble, to two pretty dominant mares.  When I let Dawn go in the pasture, she walked off, sniffing the ground. Then the other mares came streaming over to her and the fun and games began.  Within seconds of the nose sniff/strike/squeal on Dawn's part, all but two of the mares had acknowledged Dawn's status and backed off, leaving her alone.  That left the two dominant mares - I'm not sure which one is the alpha because the turnout is very big and they stayed out of each other's way - perhaps there are sub-herds, although I doubt it.  There was lots of spinning and kicking and churning around (while this was going on a bunch of the subordinate mares were tearing around like crazy - I'll be there were some front shoes lost as it was somewhat muddy).  Dawn kicked and struck at both dominant mares, and got kicked at least once in the side (she was wearing her rain sheet and didn't even have a bruise).  I noticed that neither dominant mare really took her on after that - they clearly figured out quickly that she was a mare to be respected.

At one point Dawn and the mare I believe to be the alpha were alone down in one end of the pasture while all the other horses stayed away (some were still galloping around, silly things) - in fact if another mare approached, the alpha would herd them away from Dawn.  It was almost as if she were protecting Dawn - "she's mine and you're not to bother her". There was a lot of nose sniffing between the alpha and Dawn but no more squealing or kicking.  Then the alpha headed back to the herd (there's an earth bridge over a ditch from one side of the pasture to the other), and Dawn followed, but just as they got to the bridge, the other dominant mare started to come across towards them, and the alpha turned around.  Dawn kept going and ended up going across the bridge very close to the other dominant mare.  Then Dawn and this mare and a number of the other horses galloped to the far side of the pasture.  Dawn then hung out very close to the other dominant mare, who made no aggressive gestures towards her.  Dawn was even nibbling some dead grass.

That was it - in 15 minutes things were pretty much settled.  The barn owner reported that things were quiet in the afternoon, and that Dawn was eating at the round bales with the other horses.  I'm not sure what her herd status is, but I think she's pretty clearly in the top three at least.  She seemed tired and happy that afternoon, and I did a brief bit of lungeing and ground driving in the arena - she was very quiet as I expect she was pretty tired.

I'll stop by this morning and take a look and see how the herd dynamics are going, but I'm glad to have that part of our barn move over, and I expect Dawn is too.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

For Valentine's Day - Something Different

Here, in honor of Valentine's Day, is one of my all-time favorite videos - it's from an Indian movie called Dil Se, and the song is called Chaiyya Chaiyya.  It's energizing, beautiful, romantic and full of amazing song and dance, all done on the top of a moving train passing through gorgeous scenery - no CG effects or blue screens here.  To quote the song:  "He who walks in the shadow of love will have paradise beneath his feet."  It's a fairly famous video worldwide, and it's easy to see why.

Any time I'm feeling tired, or discouraged, one viewing of this video will perk me right up and restore my cheerfulness and delight in the world - see if it does the same for you:

Chaiyya Chaiyya video with English subtitles

A Happy Valentine's Day to you all!

Monday, February 13, 2012

A New Chapter

Dawn and I started an exciting new chapter today.  I moved her to a new barn, where there's an indoor (the barn we were at has none) as well as all-day turnout in herds separated by mares and geldings, with plentiful and high-quality hay both with round bales in the winter turn outs and in the stalls, as well as trail access (not a high priority with Dawn) and a diverse group of boarders doing different things with their horses.  Her stall at night is bigger than 12'x12' - it may be 12'x14', there's a tack locker, and they'll feed whatever I provide in the way of vitamin/mineral balancer pellets plus her magnesium/chromium supplement, U-Gard pellets and raspberry leaves (Mare Magic or MareBerry).  I brought a number of bales of our grass hay along, and they'll make a slow transition to their hay, which is grass hay but richer than ours. The barns, but not the indoor, are heated to 45F.  Starting in June, the horses are on grass pasture, but the grass isn't excessive in amount.

I've been struggling for years with figuring out what the best arrangements are for my horses - I'm sure many horse owners struggle with this.  The old barn, where Pie and Drifter still are, couldn't be more conveniently located - it's about 200 yards from my front door.  But it's turned into what is essentially a self-care facility - you have to arrange your own stall cleaning (or do it) as well as turnout.  At my age, and with my number of horses, this is an increasing burden.  And I have no indoor to ride in the winter or when it's raining or too windy - and with a young horse (Pie), a green horse (Drifter) and a feisty mare (Dawn), having no indoor is a big deficiency.

As some of you may know, Pie and Drifter are going for at least 30 days of training starting in March up in Wisconsin at Black Star Farm with Heather Burke, who is one of the few approved Mark Rashid trainers.  They may be there longer - we'll see how it goes, and I haven't made any decisions yet about where they'll go when their training periods are up.

Getting over there was the first step, and there was some excess excitement that I could have done without, but it looks as though we all survived so far.  Dawn loaded well, but almost as soon as we pulled away from the old barn she started to kick - and I don't mean lifting a leg and registering a protest, I mean full double-barreled multiple, trailer and truck rocking kicks with some bellowing thrown in for good measure.  I would have said she was angry - the last time she did this when trailering was in 2004 when we drove to Wisconsin and Maisie was in the slot behind Dawn and apparently this offended Dawn's sense of personal space.  That time she put her head into the window, breaking it and got one leg at least briefly hung on the partition.  Since then, I've always put her on last and she's ridden just fine in the last slot, including two round trips to Colorado.  When I took Drifter and her to Wisconsin in May, she rode in back and had no problems. Apparently something I did this time offended her mightily.  Was it that she was in the second slot (of four), which put her next to the stud barrier?  Was it that she wasn't in her favorite last slot?  Was it that she was alone?  Did she realize she was moving? Who knows, I certainly don't.  Anyway, since we didn't have far to go I pressed on.

And then, when we got there and I was unloading her, her halter broke.  I don't know how that happened - it could have been operator error on my part - I might have thought the trailer tie was completely undone when the snap closed up again.  Anyway, the result was as she exited the trailer, she was halterless.  Fortunately she stopped for a moment to consider her options - there was a field of horses in sight - and I grabbed the neck of her blanket and held on.  Then I pulled up the full neck attachment which I'd pulled back and fastened it at the top, and held that with one hand and her nose with the other.  She wiggled around a bit but didn't make a break for it before the barn owner retrieved my lead rope and we improvised a halter.

She was wearing Sports Medicine boots for the ride over, and that may have helped prevent serious injuries.  The points of both hocks were swollen, and her left hind is a bit ouchy to the touch, but she's walking sound and bearing weight just fine so I think any injuries are likely just bruises.  I cold hosed her before she was turned out in a pen next to the mare pasture, and cold hosed again later before doing a bit of hand walking in the indoor and then wrapping both hinds for the night.

Dawn and I will have a place to ride, and the new place is about a 5-minute drive from my house, which isn't bad at all.  But first Dawn has to integrate with a new mare herd - she was the alpha of our mare herd ever since Lily left - this is a nerve-wracking thing for me but she'll take care of horse business in her own way, I'm sure.  For the first few days, she'll be in a small paddock next to the mare winter turnout where the other mares can come up and get to know her.  Once she's had a few days of turnout with the herd, and assuming she stays sound after all the banging around she did, I'll starting with lungeing and ground driving in the indoor, and I hope we'll be starting a productive new chapter, with much more frequent riding.

Here Dawn is surveying things from her turnout pen:

And there was a bit of this as horses came up to introduce themselves - the ears pinned, strike and squeal:

All very exciting, and March, when the boys move to Wisconsin and the three of us start our (re)training, will be here very soon . . .

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Deep Freeze for a While

We've had what for us is a relatively mild winter so far.  Only one short stretch where temperatures were below zero F (-17C), and we haven't had that much snow either (hope I'm not jinxing things by even saying that!).  The past couple of days haven't been that nice, though.  Yesterday the wind chills got to -10F (-23C) and I kept my horses in all day except for a couple of short excursions into paddocks while I cleaned their stalls - this would, of course, be the day that the teenager who cleans my stalls wasn't available.  Fortunately, we have heated water buckets - it can get down to 10F in the barn on the coldest days - and heated water troughs, as well as frost-free (usually) water hydrants - so water's not an issue.  It's very cold again today, but the wind chills are supposed to get above zero F, so the horses will probably be happy to be outside.

Not too much is happening around here, although my horses did have a brief vet visit to have their annual Coggins test blood draw (Wisconsin requires the certificate to be in the same calendar year so the boys needed new ones for their trip up there in March).  All three were perfect for the vet as usual.

And the farrier came to do their trims.  And I'm happy to report that Dawn and Pie were perfect as usual, and Drifter was as well - he stood there like a champ - he's come a long way with his hoof-handling.

Not much else going on, but there'll be some news coming up . . .

Sunday, February 5, 2012

First Ride in 25 Days!

I rode today - the first time in 25 days - I'm very excited about it!  Although there have been days when the weather has been good - we've been having a very mild winter - I just haven't been able to muster the gumption and energy to ride.  Today it was nice again - about 40F with little wind and a bit of sun.  The arena is still a swamp, but the grassy areas were pretty good to ride on. I think in a way, my getting all hot and bothered about the rail carpers was a good thing - I felt more like riding and wasn't worrying about what might happen (my annoyance with external criticism shut down my internal self-criticism - how's that for weird psychology?).  Pie may have been surprised to be taken out of the paddock - he's been either in a small paddock or a very muddy, deep, turn out pasture, by himself, where there's no opportunity to run or play.  He's recently taken up pawing when he's tied or on cross ties - he's feeling so much better now that he's over his EPM symptoms (he and Drifter finished up their medicine last week and both of them are feeling great) - and I had to ask him to stop.

We saddled and bridled up, and we did a bit of lungeing in the parking lot.  He's pretty much got the idea of lungeing at the walk in both directions now, so we tried a bit of trot and that went pretty well.  Then I did some leading work at the walk and trot - he now trots up nicely with me when he would never do this before.  Then we did about 20 minutes of ridden work on the grassy field, both walk and trot, with lots of transitions and figures and some halting, standing around, backing and turns on the haunches added in.  His mounting was perfect - he stood like a rock on a loose rein.  He was energetic and forward, but well behaved - there was a small bit of head-shaking but that's all, and for a 5 year old who's not had much chance to move out recently that was pretty good.

I felt pretty good about the whole thing, and Pie's demeanor was great - he was interested and alert and there was no ear pinning or crabbiness.  He seemed to enjoy himself, and Drifter was very jealous - with no arena to work in Drifter will just have to wait.

All in all, a pretty good day!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

No Advice

One of the things I've always liked about the Mark Rashid clinics I've attended, including the week-longs in Colorado, is that Mark has a "no advice" rule.  Unless you're specifically asked by a clinic participant for your advice about something they're doing with their horse, you're not to offer your opinions or comments about what others are doing.  No "rail carping", as I call it.  Now, in the horse world, as many of us have experienced, rail carping is a commonly practiced art form, with superiority, condescension and a bit of contempt thrown in, and more often than not it's based on limited information and is disrespectful to the person and horse involved, and their specific issues and struggles.  Rail carping is easy, perhaps that's why it's so common.

Now, I always appreciate thoughts, opinions and comments from family and close friends - even family and friends who don't know much about horses - their opinions deserve to be taken into account because they know me well and care about me, and I include well-wishing blog friends in this as well - all of you who've left thoughtful and caring comments - even those that question what I'm up to - are very much appreciated.  What really steams me, though, is people who assume that they know as well or better than you what you should be doing or what your path should be, and then characterize it as "I just wanted to help" - that's not what it is, it's just plain old criticism, and unwelcome and not useful, and sometimes even destructive.  If you wanted to help, you would have helped me when I needed help - by helping with horse chorses when I was incapacitated for almost 6 weeks after my accident, or by staying nearby when I was trying to get back into riding again after my accident, or by riding with me on the trail when I needed someone to ride with.  That's what a real friend does, and I've been fortunate to have one (but unfortunately only one) friend at the barn who was always willing to ride with me anytime, when I couldn't go far or at a gait above a walk - I wish there were more like her.  I'm still hurting from the inappropriate comments from rail carpers I found out about third-hand - it's amazing how destructive of self-confidence comments like that can be.  All of us, all horse people, should take a pledge to avoid rail carping - what do you think?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Mindfulness Practices: T'ai Chi Chih and Drawing

One of my goals for 2012 is to develop my mindfulness - my ability to be aware in the moment, without that distracting internal chatter that can interfere with the connection and ability to communicate with the horse.  To that end, I've started two new practices, in addition to trying to do some daily meditation.  Also, on my daily walk, I try to practice mindfulness, bringing my attention back gently, without judgment, to the landscape and what I observe every time (and there are many, many times) when the internal chatter/commentary/thinking/list-making/remembering process starts up.  Just being aware of that internal static going on is a big deal for me.

First, I've started taking classes in t'ai chi chih again - I took a few classes a number of years ago but didn't keep it up, but remembered how good it was - now why do we stop doing things that are/feel good?  Who knows?  I certainly don't.  Anyway, I'm doing it again, and with the same instructor as last time.  She's very calm and very focussed and very good.  T'ai chi chih is a series of 19 movements and one pose - it's not a martial art, and can be done standing or sitting by people in any physical condition - it's been used with success even in nursing homes.  It's all about attention, breathing, balance, and movement, directing and not blocking energy, and flow, and coordination of legs, arms and body in a way that produces a feeling of relaxation and beauty.  Does that sound like anything else to you?  That's just what I want to bring to my riding.  I think these classes, and the practice of t'ai chi chih, will be very good for my riding, and are enjoyable and good for my life in general.

I've also taken up drawing again, and I'm taking a class that meets once a week, with an instructor I've taken classes with before.  I have a particular interest in still life and botanical drawing, including a fondness for trees and their forms and shapes, and we'll see where that takes me.  Drawing is another practice that is fun in itself - if you can take away the judging mind - and I think it's also very good for developing mindfulness and the practice of being in the moment.

Horses are about life, and life is about horses . . .