Saturday, June 28, 2008

Pony Club Ground Work: Soft and Softer!

This morning our barn had a U.S. Pony Club meeting and we worked on some ground-work things. I'm such an advocate of polite ground manners for horses, as a pleasancy thing and as an investment in their future (because who wants to buy or deal with a rude pushy horse in this horse market?). Eight lovely horse and PC member partners worked hard on getting soft and obedient in a clear communication context.

So often we see really awful horse handling --dragging a horse around by its face, hollering and cursing, or the horse dragging the handler around the show grounds in a sweat-fright. I loooove working on softer and more trusting/trustworthy ways. That was our job today:

We had a good time and from the youngest among us to the oldest, had some real progress toward soft, trust-based leadership:

Of course all the galoots in the pasture who were not being included had to come and observe:

And a good time was had by all. I hope!!

Friday, June 27, 2008

SCORE: They Got Some Hay, Man

How are your horses fixed for hay? Today I trailered Johnnie over to a friend's recently converted horse-property to try out her new trail system. Our little fun-day was interrupted by the arrival of 3 gigantic round bales of sweet green hay, the result of a covert operation and hay-score conducted by my friend and her other friend. Hay-panic is easy to get caught up in here, and so when these 2 found "mystery-farmer" who had nice heavy round bales super-cheap, they sprang in to action. Right to my face, they actually asked each other not to tell me where this hay was from. Which made me feel weird, because I board my horses and would not know what to do with an 800-pound round bale anyway. This made me not want to help unload their stash, so I took pictures instead. Kidding, sorta.

Our ride had been nice; my friend is a big believer in ground work so her horse (a Lipizzan, which is kind of unusual in this part of the country) got round-penned first:

And then we rode and enjoyed ourselves while our poor horses tried to be good and not grab frantically at the delectable grass that was ear-high at times:

The unloading operation looked a bit scary to me to tell the truth:

But they got it all down and stored. Johnnie watched from an unfamiliar round-pen and was quiet & philosophical as usual:

And here is the whole gang, looking happy with themselves and their new hay-pusher Mr. Mystery Farmer "Don't tell ANYbody who he is!":

Kinda makes me want to know...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Horse (DON'T) Follow (SO DARN) Closely!

I have a problem with my Johnnie: He is a close-follower on the trail.

Here you see him wearing his Granny-ears that keep flies off, on a typical trail ride 2 days ago. We are with one other horse ridden by a young friend, and Johnnie can't stand not to be right on that horse's posterior or preferably out in front.

John has a very high tolerance for close contact with other horses; he adores having a close follower himself. But not all horses are like this and on group trail rides, Johnnie's butt-stalking mentality is an embarrassing training failure on my part. I really struggle with it and find myself growing tired of the strategies of (1) halt, (2) circle, (3) halt again. The halts and circles just seem to give him an incentive to walk up even faster so that he can apply himself to the ahead-horse's rear end again. Anybody have ideas how to work on this without saddening his cheerful heart?

We saw some nice flowers on this ride: Lupines:

Wild primrose:

Pretty pink native wild honeysuckle:

These little flowers will develop into tasty thimbleberries:

And the native wild columbine, surely one of the prettiest-shaped flowers in the world!

But all this time I am fighting with my horse! In a typical example, we start out here and I have just halted & circled him to open up some following distance:

But pretty soon we are here:

And then here:

And then pretty soon I could not get a picture because the fight was on in earnest. And he won:

Here he is, the perpetrator of close-following, looking pleased with himself "Heh heh!":

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Seven Nation Army of Jello

Dinner with the neighbors, happy times, and a Jello masterpiece created by a good friend. Over approximately six hours, seven layers of Jello are laid on like sedimentary deposits, and the result is something to see and taste.

Here's how it looked before we started cutting into it:

Amazing. A summer delight. Like these flowers in the side yard, which do not know that they are weeds:

Like a great dog who doesn't know the word 'mutt' applies, or a wonderful horse who hasn't realized about being 'grade', these little guys just shine on resplendant.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Come for a Trail Ride with Johnnie & Me!

It was 7 a.m. on a Thursday, and the dog walkers and mountain bikers were all still snoozing & dreaming. Emmy Lou Harris's "Evangeline" has always been a favorite and seemed to go nicely with the birdsong. Watch for a branch to hit me in the face at about 1:52. What we sacrifice for Art!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

My little blogging spot: What a Freakin Mess!

OK, PonyGirl, you asked for it!! this is like the "before" picture to everybody else's "after" but I might as well show the horror, the horror. Yes this is actually my work place and you can see why less work gets done there than should be. First of all, somebody always takes my chair. Then, who threw all that junk around randomly on the shelves and desk? I admit I stuck up some show ribbons after seeing Mrs. Mom had some up (nothing competitive about horse people) and you will notice the "missing shade of blue" which is an old philosophical problem I understand all too well. Gaah. I need to throw out 50% and start fresh.

Baby Needs a New pair of Shoes!

My 2 galoots both have pretty nice feet thank the lucky stars, and every year I wonder if they can make it barefoot. Everybody knows the great conflict: barefoot versus shod, and all the emotion that goes into both sides of this controversy. I wish I could have someone with Godlike powers tell me: Lo, thine horses may go barefoot without damage! OR: Listeneth up thou fool,and putteth shoes upon their Fronts unto Eternity!

For myself, I just dither and look and invariably, decide to put shoes on fronts eventually when summer comes. All winter they go barefoot & natural.

Today they got their little feetsies trimmed and the front shoes applied:

I wonder if this was necessary? I asked our farrier and he said "It depends". I am convinced that blood circulation through the foot and hoof quality are enhanced by being barefoot. And I want them to have good healthy feet! It's a tough decision.

I would like to be like some horse folks such as BrownEyed Cowgirls who trims her own horses! This would take a lot more knowledge, a hardware investment:

and some physical strength/endurance which I'm not sure I have at this point. But I like the feeling of my horses being freshly trimmed and if necessary shod, and ready for what may come.

Here are some freshly shod thoroughbred feets:

Nice nice very nice.

Finally I think everyone needs to see a photo of our crabby barncat, who is a volunteer to this calling and rather a fat & lazy volunteer to boot:

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Dressage and an Apple Tree

Doesn't he just look eager to hit the arena? I got up early and managed to be out at the barn and tacked up by 7:30, so I had the whole arena to myself. We worked on transitions, the bane of my existence. Dressage is supposed to be one smoothly flowing river, but I am more of the mind where life comes in segments. "Done!" "Next?" Kawhump. We got some good leg yield though, and all the other horses in the pasture came to the arena door to watch and make snide comments.

Since it is Father's Day I am thinking of my dear dad and my grampie, who taught me to appreciate flowers. When I was 3 years old, Grampie told me to look carefully into the face of a pansy and listen hard, because it is telling me something. I remember reaching up to hold his work-rough hand, and staring intently into the pansy's face, and listening for all I was worth:

I never heard the message, which was probably something W.C. Fields-ish like "Go away kid, you bother me". But it started me looking at flowers. And my dad was a rose gardener extraordinaire.

So I have planted a new apple tree, in spite of my unbroken streak of bad luck with fruit trees. If you look closely and listen you may hear this little tree saying something too:

Friday, June 13, 2008

Love ground work!!!

What else could we do on a rarely beautiful Friday morning but drag our poor horses out of the pasture for a grueling session of ground work? I'm a big fan of this activity, though it is not popular at my boarding barn. It is "that natural horsemanship stuff" and regarded as inferior to riding the kinks out of any behavior problem. But I enjoy the game aspect and I think horses do too.

So this morning three of us barn friends got together and worked on all kinds of exercises: backing, sending, bending, side-passing down the wall, and even ground-tying:

We had a blast. One of my friends has a Halflinger:

And this cute horse is gifted in the hair department:

And there's also a totally cute Spotted Mountain Horse (related to Kentucky Mountain Horses of which my John is one):

This horse and Johnnie are partners in crime in the pasture.

We worked on the Dreaded Plastic Bag of Horse-Eating Pop Cans, and had some pretty good progress here:

The other horses including my pretty-in-pink TB had to come and see what was so fun in the arena:

And by the end of the hour our horses were so quiet and happy; we just have to do this more often and more consistently.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Horses and children

This is a good photo of how much my thoroughbred loves children. Notice his eyes at half-mast. I honestly don't know if most, few, or almost all horses are like this. I know Johnnie is not particularly careful about kids and will pull their hats off & run, but Montana would stand still in the barn aisle while little ones wander around and through his legs on demo days; he also stood still to have all his body parts labeled with post-it notes by Pony Club kids, and never looked happier.

This is also a good photo for showing what a poor photographer I am. I don't have the camera eye; I did not see that giant telephone pole shadow at all.

Here's another photo which makes the same point: notice one little detail I did not see, and believe it or not I waited until Johnnie was posed right for this one - a lunch break in the Black Hills. Relax, John! I'm learning a lot from looking at the beautiful photos on some other folks' blogs though; there is hope.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Pretty pretty thanks to NuzzlingMuzzles

Blogger friend NuzzlingMuzzles had a contest when she bought her new expensive hay tarps. Who could guess how long they would hold up? And she offered an intriguing prize to the winner: hand-quilted potholders in your choice of colors.

Well I seem to have spoiled my lifetime record of 'never win anything'. Aren't they gorgeous? NM you are a talented and generous person. I'm inspired by you: all your activities, your beautiful photos, your beautiful horses you care for so well, and now your beautiful handiwork.

I think they are too pretty to be used as actual potholders, and I plan to use them in table decorations or even hang them on the kitchen wall.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Running on Empty? Big Brown Washed Out

Did you see the race? With all the hoopla about Big Brown's Triple Crown prospects, with trainer Rick Dutrow saying those 2 words he would probably like to call back now "foregone conclusion", with media swarming and interviewing everyone including the jockey's wife, I could hardly stand the suspense once the gates clanged open.

What a disappointment; as jockey Kent Desormeaux said, "There was no flat tire; he was just out of gas". Watching big Brown struggle at the back of the pack and come in last was saddening. Was it a case of "no hoof, no horse"? Was it the heat, the length of the race, was it his horoscope? Nobody knows as yet.

But the one idea that makes a depressing kind of sense is this: Dutrow openly admitted that he had Big Brown on a monthly steroid injection for the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, and in the media furor that followed (especially in light of Eight Belles' untimely death) he vowed to take him off the steroids for the Belmont. So we saw a natural organic Big Brown, and we saw him flail away miserably at the back of the field, behind every other horse's beautiful backside.

Why steroids are a legal substance in racing when so many other things are illegal, I do not know. But DaTara, who sailed to victory yesterday much to his own surprise, was almost certainly not steroid-free.

How fast will UPS distance itself from its sponsorship of Big Brown? Do you think there were some anguished phone calls last night?

Well here's one good thing: All the horses survived. They probably all think they won; after all, they went out and did their job, then they got rinsed off and brushed, and got their suppers. Even Big Brown.

Friday, June 6, 2008

The handwriting of a gentler time...

Dinner at a rather old-fashioned restaurant in a neighboring town last night, for my husband's birthday: Our waitress was at least 80 years old. And she was terrific. I wish she could open a School for Waitstaff and spread that knowledge around. What so lingers in my mind though is her beautiful handwriting, which surely comes from a more graceful time of life, when penmanship was a school subject and when a signature was a statement of integrity.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Lookit Woopert getting so big

Charming little Rupert is growing like a weed. He has quite the independent streak and while this year's new filly sticks to her mom like a cocklebur, Rupert moseys about like he owns the whole place, and mom has to look for him sometimes.

Today in my dressage lesson we worked on transitions down. Generally speaking, when in a down transition it is not dressagey to plop onto your horse's back and drop all thought of riding. This is very subtle & nuanced but I am slowly getting it. I was glad to see that my horse got vein poppage, indicating that he did some real work.

And isn't he nice and shiny now that the winter coat is almost all gone? Putting on my horse psychic cap for a moment, this look translates: 'Stop mookin about and bring me my grain!'