Saturday, January 31, 2009
This goes in the all-too-large category of Crazy Things People Do To Horses.
John is a gaited horse. This means he has a smooth 4-beat 'walk' that can accelerate to extremely high speeds, and he has this in common with several other horse breeds who vary their type of gait but are all smooth to ride: Icelandic Ponies, Tennessee Walking Horses (the most tormented breed I know), Rocky Mountain Horses, and John's designer breed (made up out of a political controversy among the Rockies): Kentucky Mountain Horse, etc.
Take a look at the horse in the photo, with a blue ribbon awarding what has been done to it. Look at the shoes on the front feet, look at the bit, head carriage, etc.
Welcome to the world of gaited insanity. People like the gaits, but they also want MORE: a head flung up to the stars, feet flailing in a similar direction, hollow backs, tails sticking straight up in the air so the hair waves like a fan out behind.
Here's a horse being offered for sale. How comfortable is he? This is one of about six sale photos with the same exact head carriage in all: "I hurt!". I have removed the evil expression on the rider's face.
Tennessee Walking Horses have a huge fan base and their shows have been regulated somewhat of late, but you still see many people who think this kind of shoeing is really neat:
This young lassie is all dressed up & ready to show her pretty horse, whose tail did not come from the hand of God looking like that. Check out the angle of the horse's front feet in those kegs. And then calculate the number of years or months until breakdown of the joints & ligaments.
Here's what wins, obviously:
My friend Kathy calls this type of competition "Evil Old Men Slumped Over in Tailcoats". But sometimes they aren't men...
All this insanity around gaiting makes it strange to own a gaited horse and be relatively clueless, as I am. Everyone and I mean almost everyone claims you must have a long shanked bit. You will find the religious belief that shanks are required. Are they? I really don't know but I doubt it.
Then there's the "gaited horse saddle" industry. There may be something to this, in that gaited horses need a lot of shoulder room so a slightly back-placed or Y-rigged saddle may be helpful. But fortunes are being made off people who think they can't get on their gaited cuties without a special saddle. Embarrassing story about self omitted here.
This high-headed look and upraised foreleg are almost a trademark of gaited horse competitions in the U.S. Here in Minnesota there's a group called Minnesota Walking Horse Association and they are promoting natural standards for especially Tennessee Walkers. It's refreshing to see them out and about, or at a show, with pretty horses just gaiting, flowing along, not flailing or grimacing...They go on group horse camping trips too, and I went along on one - what a completely fun group. They love their TWH's and let them just be.
I am very confused about what John should be doing. Everything from bit to contact to head carriage baffles me. Gaited horses don't just gait without some training and that training has to be kept up, but the contradictory schools of thought on how to do this could make your head explode.
Right now he goes best with a light contact on a snaffle bit, and when he is really warmed up, he gaits smoothly holding his head on a curved neck like a little palomino dragon; I can let the contact drop and he still keeps going in this frame. For awhile. Then will get pacey (two legs on the same side moving in unison in the same direction, very bumpy to ride) for a bit, then self-correct. He gaits best out on the trail.
Here's a good example of a happy gaited horse, outside and it looks like a canter, with a soft rider and no head constraint:
That's my goal. Not exactly sure how to get there.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
1. Those skies!
2. Putting your hands under a horse's blanket right behind the withers: smooth pocket of warm horse, yum.
3. Thermal underwear! You can live in them! I feel like Pappy Yoakum schlumping around the property - all I need is an outhouse and a banged up rifle.
4. Doggies to sleep in your lap.
5. Lemonade!! Big wintery thanks to CanadianCowgirl for sending me a glass of lemonade award; when winter gives us lemons, girlfriend, we gots to make lemonade or perhaps a hot lemon toddy!! I like your style, Canadian! And you must own some kickin long underwear!
6. Hay for my horses! Take a look at the size of that bale:
And look whose greedy horse is gnawing on it in midair: that's Montana on the right. Not too scared of machinery.
And Rufus is learning to jump through a hoop! And having fewer accidents on the rug! Life is improving as the days grow ever so slightly longer each week. Dust off your chaps cowgirls - that ice is going to be gone before we know it.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Thursday night I rode two horses after 8 p.m. and I had the arenas to myself! Pitch black dark night except for the northern lights, and bitter cold but the horses were in mellow moods and it was just heavenly. Now why don't I do this more often?
I didn't take the northern lights photo above but they were pretty spectacular. Their silence always makes me wonder - it just seems like a display like that ought to make noise!
Montana was in his glory - loose and springy. And John was like a snorting chuffing plump yellow gaiting machine. They seemed to decide that though unusual, this night riding was within the rules of their union contract.
To avoid the unwanted encounter with cars on the road in the dark, I have this little thingy:
It attaches to a zipper tab or other spot and gives off a strip of very bright red light. It will also flash. So far I have nearly given two parents heart attacks as they came flying up the road in the dark; "What the hell is that?" said the dad.
Everybody drives too fast on this dead-end horse riddled road, and one close call was enough for me. So I give off an eerie red glow now and so far we are alive, knock wood.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
We drove up the shore on Monday to observe the progress of the ice. The wind piles it up on the shore of Lake Superior around this time of year. Since the days are already getting longer (yes!!), soon it will begin to recede and then melt.
The dog brigade came along and this picture makes them look strangely tied together but it's just their jackets being parallel.
Rufus (left) continues advancing his sinister plot to rule the world; his 3 strategies seem to be: cuteness, urinating in the house, and stealing all Gabey's toys. It's working. Jan and I relax for a moment and then suddenly sit bolt upright: "Where's Rufus??" to which the answer usually is, over there behind something, just finished relieving himself on the rug, looks happy.
On the ride home the sun shot up this great ray into the heavens:
It was a nice trip and included some of this:
"7-Layer Chocolate Mocha" from the justly famous Betty's Pies. And it has no calories whatsoever! isn't it a miracle?
Saturday, January 17, 2009
John does come when I call him, on most days, and he especially marches on these cold days when he is bored and hungry. Montana will look up at me, and occasionally take one step in my direction, but then he just stands and watches me walk over. In the video you can see our covered arena, the saving grace of winter in this awful climate.
I had a pretty decent ride on John yesterday. I'm working on taking a bit of contact with a new fatter bit I changed into his bridle last week. The world of gaited horses and their tack is a jungle of mysterious questions to me. so is the whole issue of how they are supposed to be 'in the bridle'. I see every which thing but I am going to leave that for another post.
Meanwhile, here's John's opinion of my picture-taking when he wants his mint:
Thursday, January 15, 2009
I made a little movie this afternoon to illustrate an amazing phenomenon: boiling water instantly vaporizes when you throw it into a cold enough Minnesota afternoon! You will witness me performing this experiment with scientific accuracy and great fastidiousness, in this extremely short video I posted to YouTube just this minute:
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
313 PM CST TUE JAN 13 2009
...ANOTHER FRIGID NIGHT IN THE BORDERLAND...
KOOCHICHING-NORTHERN ST. LOUIS-NORTHERN COOK/NORTHERN LAKE-
NORTHERN ITASCA-CENTRAL ST. LOUIS-SOUTHERN LAKE/LAKESHORE-
313 PM CST TUE JAN 13 2009
...WIND CHILL WARNING IN EFFECT UNTIL 12 PM CST WEDNESDAY...
THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN DULUTH HAS ISSUED A WIND CHILL
WARNING...WHICH IS IN EFFECT UNTIL 12 PM CST WEDNESDAY.
AIR TEMPERATURES WILL FALL QUICKLY INTO THE NEGATIVE TEENS AND 20S
THIS EVENING...CONTINUING TO DROP THROUGH SUNRISE WEDNESDAY
MORNING. THESE TEMPERATURES...COMBINED WITH ANY LIGHT WIND WILL
PRODUCE WIND CHILL VALUES OF 40 TO 50 DEGREES BELOW ZERO.
TEMPERATURES AND WIND CHILL VALUES WILL IMPROVE INTO THE TEENS AND
20S BELOW ZERO WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON...BEFORE FALLING DANGEROUSLY
LOW ONCE AGAIN WEDNESDAY NIGHT.
UNDER THESE CONDITIONS...EXPOSED SKIN CAN FREEZE IN 15 MIN OR
LESS...AND HYPOTHERMIA WILL SET IN IF PRECAUTIONS ARE NOT TAKEN. THE
ELDERLY...YOUNG CHILDREN...AND THOSE WITH MEDICAL CONDITIONS HAVE
AN INCREASED RISK TO THE EXTREME COLD. REMEMBER THAT PETS AND
LIVESTOCK ARE ALSO EFFECTED BY PROLONGED COLD SPELLS.
A WIND CHILL WARNING MEANS A COMBINATION OF BITTERLY COLD ARCTIC
AIR AND WIND WILL CREATE DANGEROUSLY COLD AND LIFE-THREATENING
WIND CHILL VALUES. IF YOU MUST VENTURE OUTDOORS OR TRAVEL...BE
SURE TO PACK A SURVIVAL KIT AND CELL PHONE. IF YOU BECOME
STRANDED...DO NOT LEAVE YOUR VEHICLE. COVER ALL EXPOSED SKIN.
"Eat a lot of chocolate. Do not by any means run short of cookies. Make sure you have all the ingredients to bake a nice cake with double frosting layer. Dog biscuit supply: check. Thermal underwear free of holes: check. All unnecessary outings cancelled: check. Technology training over and done with: check and woot. All systems FREEZE."
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Is there anything more pleasant than feeding horses something they love? Slurp, chomp, nom nom, and the eyes half closing with delight. It doesn't cost much, it doesn't take much time, it gives a terrific sense of satisfaction, and it makes horsey happy. What more could we ask?
Today John wore Montana's halter as he munched in the winter sun, which always makes his coat glow like golden bunny fur. It was 13 degrees F. and so, pretty pleasant for short periods of time. Some of the barn girls with zero % body fat were hanging out all day out there so, that baffles me. I have ermmm a bit more body fat and still get too cold.
Here's Montana munching his beet pulp & supplements, and my photo cut off one of his ears but they are both still there:
And here he is yearning towards his mint:
And Johnnie wishing he could have one more mint:
Then when I had done my feeding 'chore', the moon came up like a giant tangerine:
I could not capture the true color; it was eerie and enormous:
And I will close with a photo of Montana's cute front feet, which he poses just like this when he is eating:
What a sweetie!!!!
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
At 3 p.m. today I crawled out of a toxic sea of eduspeak and lay shivering on a grey beach of tedium and death wish. Day 2 of my educational technology workshop brought us Bloom's system of learning categories, just one of many education inventions to stifle creative thought and kill the spirit. In the photo above you see some of this Bloom guy's raging bull, which we were forced to use in our own thinking for 6 hours-- an outrage and a waste of good mental energy.
Lytha had suggested that I shake things up by, for example, switching the beverage labels around or some such. I did move 'decaf' to the cookie platter but no one noticed or cared. I believe we are already too broken for merriment of this graceful sort. We need fart jokes or pratfalls at this critical stage.
I received a grade of 'minus' on my homework from yesterday, with this comment:
"I didn't see any of the ratings of "baseline, effective or exemplary" from the rubric as applied to the criteria."
Gah! Take me out back and whip me with a 2x4.
I did manage to make it to the barn since we ended early, and there was still some daylight which revealed this odd snow formation on the run-in roof:
The snow slid down just so far and then has been hanging on for days, like little even strips of lace. Here it is viewed from inside the run-in, and you can see the moon somewhere in the middle:
I did get to ride a horse today, and all the barn girls were as sweet as molasses, so it's a good day that ends well as my mom used to say. I only have 5 more days of the workshop from hell and I have to admit I've met some nice new people, including an education professor from Kenya who said "If you pray God for a Jeep and he sends you a mule, ride the mule!" which is good advice for me in my Jeremiah mode.
Monday, January 5, 2009
For my sins in a past life, I am condemned to spend 8 hours a day for the next two weeks in a workshop on instructional technology. While not as hellish as my driving class, I am suffering with conviction. This photo shows the general level of excitement in our group.
The liveliest moment occurred when one participant reached a breaking point and began anxiously asking,
"But how do I KNOW whether my course is learner-centered or instructor-centered?"
"But how do I KNOW??? How??"
It was judged to be time for a break and as you can see, we at least know how to eat in these technology Gulags.
We actually were given homework, which everyone proceeded to complete surreptitiously while the presenters were still talking about grade rubrics and assessment. I think I did my homework wrong. I am praying I don't get kept after class tomorrow because it just might put me over the edge.
It was a horseless day, which just seems wrong.
Friday, January 2, 2009
If you had asked me 20 years ago: What part of a horse is the most beautiful? I might have said, Oh their soulful eyes! Or, Oh those graceful curving necks.
Never would I have guessed that I would come to admire most of all: Their magnificent posteriors. Every horses' behind is unique and tells a rich story: about lineage and genetics, about work and fitness, about current state of relaxation or readiness. These butts are pure poetry, in motion or at rest as you see Montana above, today after our little dressage escapade (more of that later).
Now how on earth did the phrase "horse's behind", or more crudely, "horse's a$$", come to be an insult? That is so wrong. It should be the highest of compliments.
Here's how it should be, in a more logical world:
Person A: "That guy is a real horse's a$$!"
Person B: "Agree! I have always admired him greatly."
Person A: "You are a regular horse's behind!"
Person B: "Why thank you! You are too kind..."
Dressage Escapade Du Jour: Well school is out (weeping and gnashing of teeth) so the barn is a-hoppin with little girls. I tacked up Montana in a light snow but pleasant temperature (14 F) and moseyed up to the arena, from which bubble-gum music was blasting on the radio as we approached.
Arena was filled with young ladies riding, texting, chatting on phones to their parents 'I am not ready to be picked up!!', and the corker: a young lassie longeing her horse taking up half the arena. This would have been bearable if the horse had not been exploding in bucks and gallops. After awhile she decided to try some in-hand work and with a long whip, she touches his hindquarters KICK; she touches them again DOUBLE KICK, and so it goes on.
Montana watched all this with the greatest interest as if to say, "No you do not have my full attention so just learn to live with that fact and anyway, they are much more interesting". But we had a decent ride in amongst it.
So everybody rush out and call someone a horse's behind, in a good way!
Thursday, January 1, 2009
Degrees Fahrenheit that is!
Yesterday I took John outside into the snowy field for some fresh air ha ha ha. It was below zero and there was an evil little breeze, the kind that gives me tomato-face when I come in from riding. But the sun was out. And it was our last ride of 2008!! I wanted it to be a little different.
As you can see from the tracked up snow, others have been riding out there and specifically, little girls have been galloping their horses out there.
They love to do this because:
(a) The horses can't get going fast enough to scare them; and
(b) If they fall off, they hit two feet of snow instead of stony ground.
However! Here is where my cranky side chimes in. It is so hard on the horses!!!! They come in wringing wet with sweat from just 20 minutes of it, and then they are sore and even sometimes lame. It is not fair. I am developing a real crank side about these girls who treat horses like ATV's.
John and I just walked, befitting my dignity as an aging crankypants, and the sun on the snow was dazzling beautiful.
It was cold enough to be making that crunch/squeak sound with every hoof fall. John was in a happy and meditative mood.
The driveway, which we have to walk across with horses no matter where we tack up, was a sheet of rink-quality ice and scared the bejabbers out of me.
John is good on ice; he shortens up his stride to little tiny baby-steps and keeps his balance centered. Montana, who came in just to get his supplements and mints, is not so good and tends to panic if he slips even a little. So he really gave me the jim-jams crossing that ice-sheet. But we all made it to our destinations, mints were served, and a good wintry last day of 2008 was enjoyed by all.
HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!! 2009 IS GOING TO BE GRAND!!! MANY HAPPY TRAILS TO YOU IN THE YEAR TO COME!