Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas from John and Me!!

A foot of snow last night brought us a white Christmas for sure! It is beautiful in the moonlight as I let the dogs out.

I hope everyone has good friends, some family to love or to remember fondly if they have passed on, some yummy food, and maybe even the chance to kiss a horse on the neck and say thank you for all that horses bring into our lives -- all that beauty, kindness, childishness, weird sense of humor, and infinite grace.

Here's to the year 2010! May it be filled with precious beauty for you and your horses!!!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Buff, Bendy, Bootylicious: Gettin' Down To It

Are you interested in equine kinesiology?

Today we really started the winter regimen of training in the indoor to make us both reach the 3-B's by spring.

I was aided in my quest for equine bendy-ness by a set of techniques my friend Laura referred me to on YouTube. This equine body-work specialist gives some great exercises for flexing your horse and basically doing some 'horsey yoga' that will align your horse's major spinal system and stretch the supporting muscles prior to riding. I was hooked right away when I saw that big horse bunch up the abs:

I did all of these exercises with John today prior to riding. Here is my report:

1. Leg lifts and bends: I am afraid of getting my hand stepped on. But he cooperated and his left shoulder is much stiffer than his right. We worked gently at flexing that left foreleg and in several stints, he got looser and more comfortable.

2. Butt massage to get back up: Did not work. John enjoyed the butt massage but he did not raise up and scrunch like the horse in the video. Instead he started eating his lead rope. I have to work on my technique here.

3. Belly scritch and hold w/5 pounds of pressure to get it raised up higher and higher: this progressed over time. At first John did not raise up at all. He is quite a slab-backed horse and that's what this regimen is all about eliminating. As time went on I got some raising and some holding. Again I need to work on this.

4. Tail pull: John LOVED THIS. He braced against the pressure and raised his head up to the heavens in joy. This was a grand success.

5. Carrot stretches: Well logistically these are hard. You need to have a horse who will stand in place and bend extremely back to his hocks. John just prefers to move his hindquarters and pursue the carrot with his food-seeking missile i.e. head. We did make some progress after I buried him in the corner of the arena for this exercise.

After all this I saddled up and rode for 45 minutes of gait, lope, back, circle, rest. I was happy with this session as we got some good quick stops and starts back to full gait, some nice bending, and some nice blowing on John's part.

Returning to my car, I discovered that both my dogs had thrown up on the back seat, for reasons I cannot comprehend. Life always does send us a little message, doesn't it??!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

"If You Go Out in the Woods Today...."

It was kind of a Teddy Bear's Picnic day in the woods today.

Beautiful sunny Saturday late morning, temperature a balmy 14 degrees F. and no wind whatsoever. I was so torn about what to do with my horse time. It's time to get going on my winter arena program of Buff-Bendy-Bootylicious for Johnny, which requires real work. But the woods looked so inviting!

I decided to work for awhile and then go out in the woods for some fun.

So we rode in the outdoor on a nice layer of soft not too deep snow, and did bending and flexibility work for about an hour with good breaks so he wouldn't get too hot in his winter fluffy bear-suit.

THEN we headed out into the woods, alone.

If you go out in the woods today
You're sure of a big surprise.
If you go out in the woods today
You'd better go in disguise.

For every bear that ever there was
Will gather there for certain, because
Today's the day the teddy bears have their picnic.

John had his halter bells on. These were a gift from a barn-mate 10 years ago. She gave them to all the other boarders with this message:

"Nobody in this barn exchanges gifts any more. It's so sad. So I made these bells for everyone so I can hear them jingle and just remember, a time when there was some real Christmas spirit here..."

GAAAH passive aggressive halter bells! Should I use them, or bury them with a stake through their heart?

I managed to misplace them for several years but today I dragged them out. I always like John (poor guy) to get used to different things hanging off him and making noise, plus I wanted to scare away the Teddy Bears and deer and exploding grouse.

Look at all the deer tracks on this trail! John was so interested. For the ride out to the exact halfway point (which his inner GPS calculates to a centimeter), we had a glorious ride. It was the perfect day.

For the way home after his little alarm went off "We are heading back now!!", it was hell on hoofs.

Every teddy bear, that's been good
Is sure of a treat today
There's lots of wonderful things to eat
And wonderful games to play

For John those games included:

1. Let's All Run for Home!

2. Let's Throw Our heads Around!

3. Let's Run Backwards!

4. Let's Pout and Stagger Sideways!

He was sure I needed to get back to the barn at warp speed. He assumed I was just too stupid to have realized the brilliance of that idea. So we walked backwards uphill, walked sideways, stood at a halt until we were both bored, circled and circled and circled...

See them gaily dance about.
They love to play and shout.
And never have any cares.
At six o'clock their mommies and daddies
Will take them home to bed
Because they're tired little teddy bears.

He did finally get a little bit tired but man oh man a fit young horse has a lot to offer in the way of "play and shout".

I believe John and I both came out of the woods thinking we had successfully defended the moral high ground. He was sweaty, I was jazzed. He took a big huge roll in the arena with many happy grunts. And graciously accepted his mints at the gate. Because:

Every teddy bear, that's been good
Is sure of a treat today

Here is a photo, taken during one of our disciplinary pauses to put brain back inside head, that clearly shows his drunkard's walk on the outward leg of our ride, and the geometrically straight trajectory of our homeward sprint:

It's lovely out in the woods today,
But safer to stay at home.

Ha ha. No really we had fun. I swear he winked at me after the last mint.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas Cards: Love 'Em or Leave 'Em?

I found my 10-year old horse Santa hat while looking for John's stall stocking yesterday. So I tried to get a good photo of him wearing it, while not being at all sure I had the hat on right-side forward. He didn't seem to care. He was in what I might call a grinchy mood: he had a full week off again, which I really don't like. But our weather was ghastly so the barn trips were just not advisable, Monday through Friday.

We rode out into the woods and had a lovely time. The temperature had climbed into the teens, and the sun was full out. We startled grouse and herded deer, and John took quite an interest in the deer tracks along the trail:

Lisa was able to come with me and Brandy was in fine fettle too, quite frisky:

I had thought of making John in his cap into a Christmas card but I think I have left it too late. Or maybe I have a head start on next year??

My feeling about Christmas cards or holiday cards is rather so-so. They are a lot of trouble and expense, but they are nice to get; it's neat to see a photo of friends and family we don't otherwise see. But for the past few years I have found it increasingly hard to get up the 'spirit' for card sending.

What about you? Love 'em, or leave 'em go?

At least John's stocking is hung on his stall with care, in the hope that King Peppermint soon will be there.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Suddenly Winter! My Winter Work Plan

Our first (very light!) snowfall has finally come, and John & I rode out this morning. I have consolidated a training plan for the winter arena riding, but the sun was just too warm and the snow too glittery to ride inside today.

But John had had a week off due to the aggravating imposition of work into my horse life. So he was feeling "fresh" as we say.

We went out into the woods. We came back from the woods. But what happened in the woods, stays in the woods. (John got a bit 'happy'.)


We are going to work hard at getting soft.

John can be quite the stiff ore-boat and I can be a stiff unyielding rider as well. So both of us are going to be working out to achieve the 3 goals of becoming


by spring 2010.

This will involve lots of bend work and lateral work, sets of gaiting circles, etc. for John and continued gym visits, running sets, elliptical, strength training, and yoga for me. Oh yes and both of us are going to lose some weight.

Anybody who knows some good arena style suppling equitation exercises, or can direct me to a book or DVD, please let me know. I've been working on figure-8's starting larger and getting gradually (one-half hoof width) smaller each time. But John inside an arena gets bored and sluggish fast so I am looking to surprise him and engage his interest.

Here's a little video I made of our trip to the woods, day one of becoming BOOTYLICIOUS!

What are your winter plans??

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Equine Acupuncture Round 2

John in a trance enjoying his second round of acupuncture is seen in this photo.

John was so quiet during this treatment. His eyes came to half-mast.

Benefits from round 1 of the treatment? I believe I did see them. I rode a lot of trails during this unseasonably warm November and I believe his rushing downhill was less in evidence. He would put himself down behind and take small steps about 50% of the time. I was interested to notice this.

My main worry about John is that I might ride him incorrectly into an early lameness, as he is gaited and prone to hock issues anyway.

I love this horse so much. He is so trustworthy. I often dream about how if a terrible catastrophe came to this world, I would go get John first and then with his help grapple with the breakdown of civilization.

Is it strange that there is no human being I would trust more than this fat palomino??