Tuesday, December 27, 2011

My New Stormy Kromer Caps

I hope you had a nice Christmas and are enjoying the post-holiday calmness that comes from –everything being over!

Before I write about my rides with Buckshot over Christmas weekend, I must tell you about my new hats! There is a little bit of a story here. Of course, being around horses during the winter means you need warm clothes. Warm hats are always a challenge. For several years I have been wearing the wool felt beret-type hat, which I can pull down almost over my ears to keep them warm. Plus, on really cold days, I have doubled up and worn two berets! Of course they get worn over time, and it is hard to replace them. Target used to carry the wool felt berets but not anymore. So during autumn I started thinking about what kind of warm headgear I could get, in case my berets don’t make it through the winter in wearable condition.

I happened to see a photo in a magazine of a woman wearing a wool, brimmed (think baseball cap type) hat that looked really cute on her. The description called it a cap from a company named Stormy Kromer, and it explained that the hat was designed many years ago by the wife of a train conductor who needed a cap that stayed on his head in high winds. The design caught on and a company was born and they still sell the hats. The hat is unique because it has a band around the perimeter that can slide down over the top of your ears, to offer some warmth and to secure the hat to your head. I went to the website and after browsing through the woman’s hat section, decided on two colors of caps, brown and a green/black plaid, and placed my order. So far, normal Internet purchase story.

By the way, here's the website link Stormy Kromer.

You know how you get an email acknowledging your order from Internet stores? Well, this company sends the most delightful acknowledgement letter ever! It made my day to have such a nice company send such a nice letter! In a few days, the hats arrived and they are adorable, and very functional. The hats even come with instructions! They are very funny instructions - what a hoot! And they have individual serial numbers and have insurance! I have been wearing them to the farm ever since and everyone has asked about them. Several people at the farm are planning to buy one.

At first I thought they looked a little masculine, so I decided to decorate them so they would look a little more feminine. Not that I actually care about looking very feminine when I am at the farm! But still, I found a horse pin in my jewelry drawer and added it to the band of the brown cap (see photos above). Now it’s a Stormy Kromer horse cap! I also found two little horse charms that I attached to the string in the front of the green cap. It’s fun to make them personal by adding decorations.

I really like these caps – they fit well, stay in place and are quite warm. If you need a brimmed cap for the winter, you should consider a Stormy Kromer cap! From the company website, I have learned that they are quite famous in Minnesota (where they are made) and in other northern states that have severe winters. I think I must have the first Stormy Kromer caps down here in Virginia! We’ve started a trend at our farm.

I had a great long weekend with Buckshot! On Friday (Dec. 23, 2011) the weather was nice – temperatures in the fifties and lovely sunshine. Unfortunately, rain from previous days had left the main arena sodden, soft and puddly. I walked Buckshot around in the soggy dirt, and discouraged boredom by asking him for serpentines and circles, as well as straight lines on the rail.

We then went on the trail, by ourselves. Buckshot was a little hesitant at the trail head, but he responded to my “walk on” and started into the woods. We traveled about a quarter of the trail when he started feeling more and more hesitant. He stopped in the trail, then started turning slowly to the side, trying to turn around. I caught him after a few steps, squeezed his sides and said “walk on.” And he walked. After five strides, he slowed, stopped, tried to turn back, I directed him forward with a squeeze and “walk on.” And he walked. At this point, it was slow going. When his hesitant stopping became more frequent, I knew I had reached the end of his comfort zone. I mentally picked a tree about ten yards ahead and told him to walk on. When we arrived at the tree I chose, I stopped him, turned him around and we headed back. His step picked up immediately. I rubbed his neck, and told him what a brave horse he was! We headed out of the trail. We then rode around on the grassy areas just outside of the arena. It was a somewhat limited area, but I directed him in circles, backing and a tiny bit of trotting.

Then we rode down the farm road, and just as in the trail, Buckshot’s hesitancy emerged, halfway down the road. I again asked him for a few more strides, before turning around and returning. After some more exercises on grass, I took him down the road a second time. This time we progressed a bit further before returning. It was a short ride overall, but a nice day, and I thought that Buckshot did well as he responded to my requests to go a bit further despite the struggle he felt inside. On Friday, I gave him his Christmas present – a new swayback saddle pad by Reinsman, and I really spoiled him with extra treats – an apple, horse muffins, horse cookies and lots of mints.

On Saturday, we were blessed again with nice weather. After I tacked up Buckshot, I walked him to the arena and his enthusiasm was palpable – he was springing and bouncing along at the walk! The arena’s footing was better and we were able to do some wonderful trotting and a few good canters. Then the class went on the trail, and as I rode this wonderful horse through the woods on a perfect early winter day, cool but sunny, feeling his easy gait under me, I couldn’t help but grin broadly and think “This is the most wonderful thing in the world!” It was heavenly and magical, and Buckshot is the best horse in the world!

After our ride I spoiled it all by giving him – I had to, you know, it hurt me worse than him- a dewormer. As I held the bottom of his halter, and fiddled with the tube, I could almost hear Buckshot’s disappointment in me! I got most of it into his mouth, held his mouth closed with my hands (which he beats me at- he can stand and not swallow for days if he needs to!), counted to twenty and let go. The white paste was goopy around his mouth. He walked away immediately and stood motionless at the fenceline, looking over at the next pasture. I put his halter away, and started to head to the main barn, but stopped to look at him. He just stood there, in a place he never stands. He’s sulking, I realized, and headed into his pasture to go to him and apologize. I walked up to him and said, I’m sorry, Buckshot, it’s for your health, but I’m sorry I have to give you that terrible tasting stuff. I hugged him, and he walked away. But at least I hoped he knew I took no pleasure in his discomfort. When I came back later to feed him his dinner, he seemed to have forgotten the slight.

After going to my family Christmas get-together on Sunday, I returned to the barn on Monday. The footing in both arenas was very good and we were able to trot and canter quite a bit. We had a great day. I could feel Buckshot’s enthusiasm and energy and laughed with delight after we rode particularly nice patterns. We again went on a wonderful trail ride with the BO and the BOH.

Gosh, so much good weather makes me wonder if we will really pay for it later! Overall, it was three wonderful days with Buckshot. A very good Christmas indeed. I hope you and your horses had a special Christmas!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Buckshot's Unusual Emergency

In my last post, I promised to tell you why, sometimes, in the back of my mind, I worry a tiny bit when Buckshot gets agitated. And I try very hard to remain calm and to look and act calm. Once, in 2008, a very, very bad thing happened when I did it. Below is my recounting of it, from Chapter 15 of my book.

In short, the background to the story is that I had brought Buckshot to a new farm – new to him, but familiar to me. I moved him from the barn I had bought him at, and where I had been taking lessons on him, and after purchasing him, had stayed for over a year. I moved him to the large farm where I had learned to ride and which had a wonderful, expert owner there. His first few days at the new barn had been normal, as normal as it ever is for a horse. The story below occurred after he had been at the new farm about two weeks.

The next day, I brought Buckshot in from the pasture and a friend brought his pasture mate, Lucky. I put Buckshot into his stall and Lucky went into a stall across the aisle. Buckshot began walking around the stall. Slightly alarmed, I remembered Belinda’s advice to just calmly go about my steps of getting grooming tools and start grooming him.

I went into the stall across from Buckshot’s, which houses tack and storage items, and reached for my tools. I heard a slight sound behind me and turned. What I saw next stunned me. Buckshot was caught, over the stall door, half in and half out! He looked at me, bewildered - he was caught, hanging over the stall door!! He had apparently reared over the stall door and came down right on top of the door, lodging himself with the door at his sheath area. His front feet touched the ground in the aisle but his back feet didn’t touch the ground in the stall! I was stunned, and immediately alarmed. I knew Betty was in the next barn, so I called to her “Betty! Betty! Betty!” and she came immediately to see the problem. She was stunned also, but immediately took action.

We tried to open the stall door and got it opened a few inches. But Buckshot’s massive weight lodged him motionless on the door. The top of the stall door was wood, not a smooth piece of metal as sometimes covers a stall opening. Buckshot panicked and tried to get himself over the door but couldn’t budge himself. His front feet flailed violently. Betty got several hay bales and put under his back feet so they would have something to hold his weight.

Thankfully, there was a male student rider at the barn, Lennie, who immediately pitched in to help Betty. I was an emotional basketcase of human worry, standing nearby, unable to help. My mind was in a panic, terrified for Buckshot, afraid for Betty and Lennie should they get hurt trying to help him, and wondering frantically how we would get him off the door. There was no way to lift or pull him off the door, so they decided to try to take the door off its hinges. When almost a thousand pounds of panicking horse is wedged on the door, taking it off its hinges, underneath him, is a herculean task. Betty gave Buckshot a small bit of sedative to help him panic less. The vet was called.

As they worked, I stood nearby and mentally screamed desperate prayers to God. A few students held my hands and offered me assurances. I didn’t know if he would survive, since the door and his weight were pushing against him just forward of his hind legs and it appeared possible that internal damage was being done to him. There wasn’t any blood gushing anywhere. Lennie worked on the door hinges, while Betty stood at Buckshot’s head and comforted him and kept him as calm as was possible. He continued to occasionally panic and thrash his legs and body around.

After about thirty minutes, which seemed much longer to me, Lennie said, the door is just about down! Get ready, we don’t know what he will do! Finally the door fell under him. We held our breaths. Buckshot didn’t explode or thrash, rather he seemed beaten and weak, and walked, very slowly, down the aisle. Lennie handed me the lead line and Betty said, just walk him around slowly here in the grass. Buckshot was wet with sweat, and walking very slowly. The tops of his hind legs were scraped and raw, but there wasn’t any blood dripping. His sheath was swollen. Betty watched him closely for signs of going into shock. He could barely walk, but he did walk. I was mentally frozen, and numb, and grateful, and scared. I knew that he could be hurt very bad internally, and at any moment he could become much worse. I just calmly and slowly walked him in a circle. Betty got a hose and rinsed his legs thoroughly with water.

After fifteen minutes , she suggested I put him in a stall in the main barn while we waited for the vet. “A stall!?!” I asked? She said Yes, we have a stall with a top door. And we’ll put Lucky right next to him. So we moved Buckshot to the stall and surprisingly, he was fine in that he didn’t panic about being in a stall. We closed the top door of the stall to make sure he didn’t try to jump or rear out again. But Buckshot had no energy at all. It took a while before he even mouthed the hay. I stayed close to him and tried to stay mentally composed but internally I was still a basketcase.

Although I was relieved that Buckshot hadn’t died, and that a vet was on the way, I thought that this accident would make Betty not want him at her farm any more. I felt a huge ache of sadness. But I understood that she probably wouldn’t want Buckshot to stay if he was a problem horse. After an hour or so, the vet arrived. He was a very nice, compassionate man. He examined Buckshot and said he would be fine, that he would have very sore hind legs, and a swollen sheath but with time, would be fine. He gave him an antibiotic, a muscle relaxer and a pain killer, and gave us medications for the next five days. He was a very upbeat vet with a manner that comforted me. My dear horse wouldn’t die after all!

Later, I pulled Betty aside and said gravely, I guess this means that Buckshot and I should go back to the other barn. She surprised me by saying, “Well, I don’t think you need to think about that right now. This was a freak accident, and will probably never, ever happen again. So why don’t you at least wait a week before even thinking about that?” I said, okay, that I really wanted to stay there. I had expected her to tell me that he couldn’t stay. That a horse this troublesome really wasn’t welcome there. So I was surprised and relieved by her response.

After a bit, I took Buckshot out of the stall to walk him around for a few minutes. The vet had suggested occasional short walks to prevent any stiffening of his muscles. Buckshot didn’t want to walk much at all, but he did walk, very slowly. I led him back into the stall. Later, I walked him again. Again, he was extremely slow and had very low energy, but he did walk. My heart was full, swollen with numerous emotions: my love for Buckshot, concern for him (what would happen to him now? What was next? Would he ever be the same again? ), just plain mental fatigue, struggling to maintain mental composure, relief that Betty said we didn’t have to move him again, gratitude to Betty and Lennie for their monumental rescue, gratitude to the others at the barn who had comforted me while he was trapped, and appreciation of the very kind veterinarian.

A while later, I thanked Betty for the nursing she would be doing for Buckshot, and I finally left the barn for home. I stopped at my sister, Caren’s, house and told her all that had happened. She listened and comforted me and told me that Buckshot would no doubt be fine in a few weeks. I appreciated her comfort. I was spent, physically and emotionally. I went home, ate something and went to bed.

I visited the barn two days later after work. Buckshot and Lucky were standing in the arena, getting some sun. As I walked up to the fence, I was shocked at how swollen his belly and sheath were. The raw scrapes on the front of his hind legs looked bad, but were expected. What I didn’t expect to see what a swollen center belly and a hugely swollen sheath. He wasn’t moving as slowly as the day of his accident, which relieved me.

Betty told me that he was doing fine, taking his medications fine and that there were no problems. She kept the two horses in adjacent stalls and Buckshot was doing fine, considering. I led him back to his stall and stayed with him, brushing him. He seemed more interested in the hay bag than in me. That was fine. I just wanted him to get well. And then, well, we would see what happened. After an accident like that, did a horse change his personality? I didn’t know. Would he be the same horse? I didn’t know. It was a waiting game, and the end result would be…..well, I didn’t know. But I did know that I loved this horse, this crazy, not-like-his-old-self horse, who would try, for unknown reasons, to jump or rear out of a stall, and find himself trapped. I will never forget his face that day, when I turned and saw my horse hanging on a stall door, halfway in and halfway out of the stall. He was so bewildered.

In the weeks that followed, Buckshot healed. The swelling and scrapes on his belly and legs healed. The sheath swelling took about a month longer to heal. I constantly asked Betty, how is he doing peeing? I hoped the penis was able to do its job although the sheath looked quite swollen. He’s fine, she said. I was relieved each time she said that (and she said it many times, because I kept asking her!), and in the back of my mind, I was a little embarrassed. I had never shown so much interest in his private parts, but as his owner, I wanted all of his parts, including his private ones, to be healthy. So I put aside my embarrassment and asked about it frequently. As the swelling subsided, I could see for myself that he dropped his penis and that it worked just fine. I felt very relieved to see it working fine. In fact, I’ve never been so relieved about a penis in my life. There is a bit of humor to this story, isn’t there?

It has now been two months since his accident and he is fine. Fully healed, his gaits are fine, riding him is fine. His calm personality returned. I am still enormously grateful to those that helped him and, in my opinion, saved his life. Now I think I am going to cry.

This is one of the most precious, special parts of owning a horse - that there are times and memories about him that bring tears to my eyes and down my cheeks. What a special horse Buckshot is! How priviledged I am to have him! How special he is in my life! I do so hope that I am a good owner for him, that I enrich his life and that he is somehow glad that I am his person. Because I am so glad he is my horse! Excuse me, I need to go get tissues……

Well, rereading it brings tears to my eyes. What a horrible day that was! I had never seen a horse trapped on top of a stall door! And neither Betty nor the vet had ever seen such a thing before. I actually felt very guilty about that – that somehow something I had done wrong caused Buckshot to panic and try to jump out of the stall. Before that day, and since, he has been such a calm, reliable horse that it blew my mind that he did it, and I felt I must have inadvertently caused it. Now, three years later (and he hasn’t done anything like that since) I know that sometimes, for reasons we can’t fathom, horses do crazy things, that we didn’t cause. So my guilt has diminished. But that is the story of the big emergency that happened when my sweet horse panicked.

Whew! On to happier thoughts! Buckshot and I had a good weekend this past weekend. Rain made the footing everywhere quite soft so we did mostly walking and just a tiny bit of trotting. It was a good time. He was a good boy – my sweet, precious Buckshot. I hope you had a good time with your horse and didn’t have any emergencies!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Autumn Ride, Reining Clinic and a Christmas Present

Before I write about my weekend with Buckshot, I have to comment on my pictures on the last post. During the week, I happened to look at my blog and was appalled, I tell you, by those photos! I look terrible in them. Ha ha.

Clearly my camera is broken. The key features I need on a regular basis – the adjustment for a bad helmet day, and for a bad clothing day, and a bad posture day, and a look-too-fat day, all the critical camera adjustments- are broken! I need to take the camera to the repair shop! Ha Ha! I never realized my helmet makes me look like a marshmallow-head! Oh, heavens! I must get a better helmet! Buckshot looked good, but I looked, well, not very good at all. What was I thinking putting those photos on my blog? I must have been momentarily delusional. I thought about deleting them, but I decided to leave them up so others will feel like they look great! (Thank you to Juliette for her kind compliments – she may want to check her vision, though! Just kidding!) Some people are very photogenic, but I’m, well, not very photogenic. I wish I could get a professional photographer to take some pictures of Buckshot and me. That’s on my wish list. Well, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest and had a few good laughs from it, on to the weekend.

On Saturday, December 10, 2011, the Virginia weather was lovely- in the forties and sunny, with a clear, blue sky. I went to get Buckshot from his pasture using my new procedure. Yes, a new procedure. You see, a few weeks ago, something scary happened in the pasture. Buckshot and Lucky were way out in their pasture grazing when I went to get Buckshot that day.

I walked out to Buckshot, chatted with him, put his halter on, and proceeded to walk with him to the gate. Without warning, Lucky started cantering to us, and just as he passed us – too close for comfort – he kicked out powerfully with both hind legs! I was stunned! And scared! His hooves were just a few feet from me. Buckshot didn’t move, didn’t dance around, didn’t get nervous. But my adrenaline shot up as I realized just how close we both had come to a huge kick. I walked Buckshot silently to the gate, never taking my eye off of Lucky, who seemed to have calmed down as quickly as he had gotten excited.

We got out of the pasture and I talked softly to Buckshot, telling him that had really scared me, we had never had Lucky act so dangerously and it scared me to death. Buckshot lightly touched my hand holding the lead rope, in a comforting way. I took deep breaths and as the adrenaline diminished, I decided that I would need a new procedure for the future to protect us from such dangerous antics. I also reminded myself to never go into the pasture with Lucky without a lead line with me, just in case I need to twirl it to keep him away from me if he gets excited like that again. I also knew that I would need to devise a new method for getting Buckshot out of the pasture.

The next several times I went to get Buckshot he was near his barn, and was not out in the pasture, so I didn’t have to use my new procedure. But this past Saturday, it was time to implement it. They were both grazing out in the pasture. I got Buckshot’s halter and lead line and disconnected the lead line. I approached them both normally, calling to them when I am far away so that they would see me coming and not be startled by my approach, walking towards their sides, not their back ends, saying hello, and then going up to Buckshot to pet and greet him.

I put his halter on him but kept the lead line in my hands, not connected to the halter. I started walking toward the gate and he followed closely. I watched Lucky with a hawk eye. I kept the line in my hands so that I could twirl the non-clip end of it if needed (it wasn’t needed). The funny thing was that I think Buckshot thought the lead line was attached! He could see it in my hands near his face, but he didn’t know I was holding onto it for a different purpose. I swear he thought it was hooked to him! How funny! Anyway, that is my new, safer procedure for pasture safety. It worked fine with Buckshot so I think it is a good solution. I need a lead line in my hands. And I need it to not be connected to Buckshot for two reasons. One is if I need to twirl it in the event that Lucky canters too close to me. The second reason is that I want Buckshot to be able to run off freely if Lucky’s cantering bothers or excites him.

At Buckshot’s previous farm, he lived in a pasture with twelve or thirteen other horses, and there were a few times that I walked out to get him, and had several horses start running toward us as we walked to the gate. I learned then to be able to unhook the halter fast, really fast so that if they came up on Buckshot he could run if needed. But I realize now that unhooking the clip still takes time and I might not be fast enough if running horses are nearby. Plus I realize now that a running horse might feel like kicking out, and I could be in his kicking range. So I will be very, very alert to this now, and have a lead line to help if needed.

Back to Saturday. After I safely extricated Buckshot from his pasture, I took him over to his secret patch of heavenly grass we’ve found! Yes, right by the BO’s house is a patch of the greenest, emerald-looking, thick, rich, dense, prettiest grass you ever saw and for the past few weeks I have taken Buckshot there and let him eat to his heart’s content! He loves it! I stand and think my thoughts, and look around, and talk to him, and pet him, and check him for tiny injuries, and just stand and stand and stand, letting him just feast on this rare patch of lush grass. It is my gift to him for being such a wonderful horse. I hope it stays green and delicious for him for a long time.

After his special grazing, I took him to the barn and groomed him and tacked him up. Then we went out to the arena – good footing, hooray! – and started our walking warm up. His energy level was somewhat slow at first. The other student riders came out and we began our class. When we got to some trotting, Buckshot did well. And when we did a little bit of cantering, we were great! I was careful to support him on the turns by holding my inside leg against him and laying the rein over his neck, and he went around the turn without breaking gait. It was wonderful!

Then the class went on a long trail ride through the autumn woods, filled with the picture perfect mixture of crunchy leaves underfoot, cool air, and sunshine twinkling down from above. The only imperfection was the scent – in one swampy section, something had died and it smelled pretty rank. But none of the horses were bothered by the smell. We returned to the barn and dismounted. Buckshot was great!

On Sunday, we planned to go to a reining clinic at a nearby reining trainer’s farm. Just to brag a bit, this reining trainer, D, got back recently from the reining nationals finals in Oklahoma City and he had a great success there – in his class (which I guess was one of the professional classes), he tied with a few other competitors for 14th place. In the nation. Wow – that’s impressive! It was a great competition for him.

So, on Sunday morning, I got Buckshot from his pasture (no need for my new procedure since the horses were not out grazing) and walked him to the main barn, which meant we walked by the trailer sitting there. He did a few semi-loud snorts as we walked by it. I didn’t say anything, just kept thinking about how calm I was.

My theory is that my calmness, deep and confident calmness, even if I know that I am really a little nervous, but covered up and totally disguised with a deep, deep, all-encompassing sense of how very, very calm I am, will help Buckshot if he is nervous about something. I haven’t yet told you the story, the big, big story, of why this matters so much to me. It’s the story of the biggest, scariest thing that has ever happened with Buckshot, and it’s quite a story. You won’t believe it. I wouldn’t have believed it. The BO didn’t believe it. The vet didn’t believe it. But it happened. Buckshot did it. Well, I hope I have your interest peaked! That’s mean of me, I know. Sorry. I will share the story in my next post. I promise. And then you’ll know why acting calm when I think Buckshot is nervous has quite a significant backstory for us.

Anyway, back to today’s story (and I apologize for all my tangents). Buckshot loaded onto the trailer wonderfully (yes, I’m bragging about him again, sorry) along with two other horses and we drove the hour trip to the other farm. I got Buckshot tacked up and mounted and we started our warm up with energy. Buckshot seems to love being at this farm, and always walks energetically over to the mounting block. I got on, gave him his treat, and we walked off with eagerness. Maybe he likes the deep, soft footing of the big arena. Or maybe he likes seeing the other horses. Or maybe he is, like me, looking forward to the work and the cool weather and the wonderful sense of life and satisfaction from a good ride together. Whatever the cause, he seems to approach the clinic with happy anticipation.

We need a longer warm up than any of the other horses so the trainer started giving instruction as we were walking. When we joined up with the group of about eight horses and riders, they were working on stepping the horse into a particular canter lead. We worked on that for a while.

The trainer then had the class do an exercise of cantering the length of the arena, doing a reverse roll back, returning on one lead, break to a trot, pick up the opposite canter and continue around. Buckshot and I did very well at our turn. I was proud of our work (which isn’t really as good as the regular reining horses, who are quite talented) but it was good work for us. That’s what matters the most to me- that Buckshot and I do well for what we can do.

The trainer then turned the class to a different exercise. I can see, he said, that we have something to work on. Many of you are having difficulty cantering/loping your horses in straight lines. So he gave us a pattern, of loping a straight line, stopping, backing, turning around and returning in another straight line. Buckshot and I did great at this exercise! I am really proud of us. We work a lot on straight lines at all gaits, and it showed. He really enjoyed this and worked hard with me. Then the class broke up, and we did a bit more work, followed by cooling him down at the walk. I took him to some grass, dismounted and let him graze. Then we walked back to our trailer where I untacked him, and rubbed him down in his sweaty spots. With his very long winter hair, he gets sweaty easily, so I carry a rag and wipe him vigorously where he is wet. I curry combed and brushed him, trying to help the sweat dry and not get matted. Lastly, I gave him some treats, thanked him gratefully for his work for me, and we loaded the horses and took them home. It was a wonderful day, and I was so proud of him!

Lastly, I have gotten Buckshot his Christmas present. I ordered him another saddle pad. Reinsman makes a tacky-too pad for swayback horses that works very well for Buckshot. His current Reinsman swayback pad is two years old and is still in pretty good shape. I decided to replace it anyway because the most important parts of this pad are the thick foam sections that bracket Buckshot’s spine, and I want that foam to be firm, and not lose any of its protection. So after two years of use, I decided to get him a new one. I plan to put a big bow on it and give it to him on Christmas Eve, probably with some extra treats. Buckshot will likely be more excited about the treats!

What are you going to give your horse for Christmas? Hope you had a wonderful weekend as well!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Lovely Autumn Weekend

I am feeling guilty about how much nice weather we have been having lately. It’s been mild and sunny most weekends lately, perfect weather for being with and riding Buckshot. Not much to share this week. I had great rides with Buckshot both Saturday and Sunday. He had good energy and we worked on patterns, trotting and cantering. He did nice work each day. Rides through the woods were wonderful, with the leaves crunching underfoot, and the blue skies visible over the canopies of bare tree limbs.

Above are some recent photos of Buckshot and I! What a handsome horse he is! (The brown thing on my right arm is my earmuffs- when not wearing them, I "store" them by wrapping them around my forearm.)

Hope you had good weather also. Knock on wood, it will continue!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving Weekend 2011

I had a long, deeply satisfying Thanksgiving weekend this year. On Thursday, I went to my family's get together and ate delicious food and saw my family. I am more of an introverted person and don't actually enjoy parties but I go to them, or host them, to keep connected with my family. No one else in my family has a horse, so no one talks about horses. Other topics come up and get discussed. But if we talked about horses, I’d be hard pressed to shut up, probably. I’d talk on and on, if asked, about Buckshot, or anything horse related. But horses don’t come into the conversation.

Surprisingly, not many people even read blogs. If they did, I’d tell them that I am part of a wonderful group of horse blogs, filled with interesting, kind, informative horse owners. That writing a blog for me, has become much more community-oriented than I ever imagined. I look forward to reading others' blogs and seeing what is going on with their horses and their lives, and reading the comments of a group of committed visitors. I love sharing my own stories in my blog as well as reading the wide array of others’ blogs. This is what I’d tell others, but for some reason, not many people read blogs in general. Perhaps they read just a few, but haven’t become acquainted with a group of like-minded bloggers that they follow like old friends. I don’t do facebook or twitter, but from what I know of them, they don’t seem as interesting as reading blogs. Following blogs makes me familiar with others’ writing voices and perspectives, and getting to hear a sort of journal of their lives, a personal window into the lives of some wonderful people. So thank you all, for your blogs, and your sharing.

Well, I sure did go off on a tangent there! Anyway, on Friday I went to the barn. The barn owner and husband went out of town for Friday night to visit family, so I was in charge of the afternoon feeding and dinner service for all thirty horses on the farm, a huge responsibility that I take very seriously with notes, lists of feeding details, supplements, phone numbers, and carrying my cell phone with me all day, just in case of an emergency.

But first, I got Buckshot from his pasture and rode him in the arena. We had a good time, he was in a good mood with a lot of energy. The weather was mild – in the high 60’s and sunny. Quite warm for horses with their winter coats. Buckshot’s energy was different- I describe it as “throwing himself about.” He threw himself into trotting and some cantering, but sometimes his footfalls felt funny to me. He was eager to walk around outside of the arena; whenever I put him on a long rein he would walk very purposefully over to the open gate. So we walked and trotted in the grass outside of the arena.

I decided that we would stay in the main arena, and not go into the woods or the field arena because we were essentially alone at the farm, and the horses were depending on me to feed, so I didn’t want to take any chance at all of getting hurt. And we had a good ride in the arena. The footing was a bit mushy in spots, and that may be the reason for Buckshot’s different foot movements. At the end of the ride, he walked fine back into the barn, so I didn’t detect anything that alarmed me. Just an exuberance that perhaps needed more direction from me, and better arena footing. After I untacked Buckshot, he was sweaty so I curry combed his sweaty areas and rubbed them vigorously with a rag. I brushed him down good. After giving him his post-ride treats (cookies and an apple), I walked him back to his pasture and then turned my attention to the farm’s other horses.

A few horses get a mid-day grain meal, so I got it prepared and brought the horses into their stalls for the meal. Shortly thereafter, in late afternoon, I started feeding all of the farm's horses, with the help of the BO’s son. We finished over an hour later.

The next morning, I returned to the farm early to give all of the horses their breakfasts. It was another mild day filled with sunshine, extraordinarily warm for late November. After all the horses were fed, and had their hay, I got my tack and grooming equipment out, set up some cones in the arena and went to get Buckshot.

More work for us to do, partner! I said to Buckshot, as I walked him down to the main barn. My plan for our ride was to practice two particular patterns in the arena. Again, I decided we would only ride in the arena, not in the woods, to be extra safety conscious. So, we were going to work on specific patterns. We had a super ride, and worked hard on the patterns. Buckshot worked with great enthusiasm and try- giving me all he had, even if it wasn’t exactly what the pattern called for. I was impressed with how hard he worked on the patterns.

My aha moment came near the end of our ride. I was tired and I think Buckshot was a little tired. I was so proud of how hard he worked for me. I realized with stark clarity that my focusing on the patterns had made me a better rider. It made me focus on where to steer him, every step, and made me think faster, as I had to made adjustments and judgments very quickly during the trotting and cantering. It made me think about several things at once, quickly, so that I could gauge what he was doing, what support he needed me to give him, give him the right response, and then move immediately to the next section of the pattern. When we got off pattern, or I missed a turn, I kept us going with the new direction. Working on the patterns required that I think about Buckshot in little spurts- what’s he need? How to help? Steer him better. More rein. Support with leg. Turn broader. Steer. Steer. Steer. Ask again. Take that one. Will try again. Good work.

And the little spurts of thought prevented me from overthinking about other, unnecessary things. It made me react more, and let other things just fade into the background of my mind. Most notably, I didn’t think about my butt staying in contact with the saddle during a canter, which I tend to always think about. But I am doing much better with it and don’t need to focus on it. Concentrating on all the little details of riding a particular pattern makes my overall riding better, because it builds mental muscles. What an aha moment for me! And I was very proud of my wonderful Buckshot also!

Well, the BO and husband got back from their trip on Saturday afternoon, at which I gave a huge sigh of relief! We fed the horses and enjoyed the mild weather.

And Sunday was another lovely, mild day. Buckshot and I rode in the arena, and went on a nice long trail ride with the BO and her husband. We worked a little in the field arena as well. As we started out, I thought, what a nice ride on a nice day, three people on their favorite horses. Or maybe three horses and their favorite people! How funny! Maybe the horses do think like that!

I had a wonderful time with Buckshot and today, Monday, when I had to go back to work, I thought, it’s okay, I don’t mind going back to work, because my heart is filled with Buckshot-love that will hold me over til I see him again! What a nice feeling to reenter the work-a-day world with. I hope you had a great Thanksgiving, and maybe had an “aha” moment as well!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Heavenly Autumn Ride!

This past weekend I had the most wonderful, awesome, heavenly ride on Buckshot. It was a magical time- one of those very rare times that are unparalleled. But before I share about that, let me start with the vet’s visit on Friday. Friday was the day for Buckshot’s annual dental exam. The vet arrived, a young woman, Dr. L, fairly new to the practice of Dr. S. I had not met her before. I had Buckshot outside the main barn, grazing, when she arrived. I introduced myself, showed Buckshot to her and mentioned that sometimes he paddles with his left hind leg. I walked him for her, and she observed that it was a little noticeable but not severe, and that it may have been due to an old stifle injury. We talked about supplements for him- he only gets MSM (and Fastrack) currently- and she mentioned injections of glucosamine as a possibility. I declined, since it doesn’t cause a problem for him in our riding. If it becomes more of a problem later, I’ll reconsider it, but for now, I don’t want to inject him with anything. She didn’t ask for a flexion test.

I then mentioned that I hoped in the dental exam that no teeth would have to be removed. Last year, Dr. S removed a tooth, and the year before, two teeth had to be removed. I want Buckshot to be able to eat effectively and comfortably so I am so protective of his few remaining teeth. But I said that if an extraction was needed, so be it. So we (the vet, the BO and myself) headed into the barn and I put Buckshot into a stall. The vet got her power floating equipment ready and stood next to me to give him a sedative. Within a few minutes, he dropped his head. She hooked up the equipment that opened his mouth, set his head on the head-holder thing, and with the BO and I keeping his head in place, she did the power floating. Buckshot did fine, occasionally dropping his head to one side or the other, which we would then set back in place. The vet said he sure doesn’t have much of his teeth left (which I already know) and that none of his teeth were loose or needed to be removed (hooray!). She then removed the equipment and we stood watching poor Buckshot.

He stood quietly, then swayed a little to the side, then would catch himself, and move upright. Then he stood quietly, then swayed, then caught himself and stood upright. At one point, he started flexing his hips alternately, in a move that looked like he was dancing- it was quite funny. I asked the vet about his after care and when he could eat again. After I got the information, the vet asked if I’d like his sheath cleaned, to which I said yes.

I hadn’t realized it, but apparently when a horse is still somewhat sedated, it is common for the vet to be able to clean the sheath quite easily, so they offer this service. As a horseowner who has been regretfully remiss in this aspect of horse care, I was delighted to let the vet do it. So she got her equipment for this. She used a stainless steel pail of water, and had a plastic container of what looked like bathroom wipes, which I guess were wet with a soap. She donned regular plastic gloves, had me put his halter on and hold the lead line and she began cleaning. And cleaning. And cleaning. I asked was it bad? To which she diplomatically said, it’s quite crusty, yes. At which I felt horse-owner guilt. As she worked, and worked (poor Buckshot was oblivious to all of this- three women standing around discussing his private parts in great detail), she mentioned that sheath cleaning is a good time to check for bumps, as horses with a lot of white coat can develop cancer in their sheaths and penises. So I must do this myself, when the weather is warmer, and actually learn how to do it, to watch out for medical issues.

After the vet finished, and I paid her, and she left, I set up a chair outside of the stall and kept vigil on Buckshot. He came around very slowly. I wanted to talk to him and needed a topic so I embarked on a lengthy one-way discussion of natural horsemanship trainers and what I thought of each one. It kept me talking for some time. I don’t know what Buckshot’s opinions are. He was pretty quiet.

At one point I stood at the stall door and looked at him, and noticed something odd. The hair on his right hip looked weird – kind of raised, and wrinkly and unusual. So I went into the stall and found that his skin seemed mushy in this area. I went to his other side to compare, and there weren’t any raised hairs, or funny looking hair. I went and got the BO to show her, and she thought it looked like hives- large mushy patches on him. We found it just on his right hip, and a little more on his right shoulder. We continued to watch him carefully. At first he quietly got more and more conscious. But then he began pacing in the stall. I thought it was because he wanted to eat hay, which he usually does in this stall, but of course, we had removed all hay from the stall so he wouldn’t eat any until he was totally out of the sedation. So after a bit of his pacing- since he seemed quite lucid to me- I put his halter on and took him out to the grass to graze. He enjoyed doing that. He seemed fine, and since he wasn’t in any distress, the BO and I concluded that we would watch him carefully, and make sure no further hives developed. Apparently it was a reaction to the sedative Detomidine. In the past he has had rompum and dorm. This was the first time that detomidine was used. (I called the vet today and told her about the hives and asked her to put it in his records so he doesn’t get that particular sedative in the future. She said that sometimes horses do get hives from it and that she would record it. I have made notes of it in my records as well.)

The BO and I put Buckshot in a different stall, with other horses nearby, as we mucked stalls nearby. But Buckshot whinnied a lot (which is the norm- he doesn’t really like staying in a stall much, and will whinny) so after a bit, I walked him to his pasture and turned him loose. By that time, he was able to eat hay just fine.

Since then, I haven’t seen any clumps of quidded hay by him. Quidded hay is hay that a horse has chewed and chewed, into a little wet ball of hay, that the horse spits out instead of swallowing. It usually indicates that the horse has some difficulty eating hay. I watch for this all the time with Buckshot, since I know he has had three teeth removed. If I ever see a lot of quidded hay, it will indicate that he needs some extra help, perhaps wet hay, or beet pulp, or hay cubes, or something to help him eat plenty of hay, but in an easier to chew form. I have only seen quidded hay very occasionally, telling me that, to date, Buckshot is able to chew his regular hay just fine. When I left him Friday afternoon, about five hours after his sedation, he was fine, eating fine but still had the patchy spots of hives in two places. I had also noticed that he had a big scabby area on his neck, which the BO said was a hemotoma, from the site of the sedative injection. I put Tricare on it to soften it and help it to heal.

When I arrived at the barn on Saturday, I went to see Buckshot right away. He was fine, and the hives were slightly diminished. The hemotoma was still quite hard and crusty. He seemed in good spirits. I asked the BO if I should ride him the day after his being sedated and she said yes, that I would be sensitive to his moods/ capabilities if anything was not right. So I got him ready to ride, during which he seemed very normal, and we started our walking warm up. He was quite energetic, and seemed quite happy. Not anxious, not fractious, but nicely more than normal energetic. We did great- good walking warm up exercises, a nice short solo walk in the woods, back to the arena for some high power trotting (I said let’s trot, and Buckshot said no, let’s fly!)- he trotted gloriously strong and floaty. And some wonderful cantering! Then the riding class started and we went back to walking to warm up the other horses. Some more fabulous trotting!

The class did a precision pattern which involved a specific route of walk, trot, round a cone, canter, down to a trot, round a different cone, to a canter, to a stop and backing. I concentrated very hard on getting the pattern right, and steering Buckshot to the precise spots where he had enough room to go around the cones, stay on pattern, and cue for the canter. He did wonderfully! Or we did wonderfully! I was delighted and so proud of him! He was unusually responsive to me, to my slight aids. It was wonderful, and made me feel very connected to him, in a different, new way. He was full of power, and responsiveness. As we walked on the trail, after the arena work, I thought to myself- this is the perfect ride, I am so connected to Buckshot and unified with him, everything about our ride feels perfect between horse and rider. I’ve never felt like this riding Buckshot- so intertwined, so connected, with him responsive to my breath or whisperings of cues. And he seemed to be so happy also. And listening to me. It was wonderful, so perfect and rare. I couldn’t help wondering if the day after a sedative made him in an especially good mood. Who knows? Maybe on some unconscious level, my ministrations to him Friday made his trust in me grow a bit. I don’t know. But it was truly, truly a wonderful ride with him.

On Sunday, we had another mild, lovely autumn day and Buckshot and I had a good ride. Not a magical one like on Saturday, but a good ride. We mostly did trail riding, with the BO and her husband, and I didn’t work him at trotting or cantering much. But we had a nice ride.

I hope you have had such a magical ride on your horse sometime! Buckshot is just absolutely, the best horse in the world. In my humble, happy opinion.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Wonderful Accomplishment!

We did it! Hooray, hooray!! Buckshot and I did it! We went on the trail alone, all the way through the woods, and out to the reining arena located in the hay field, and worked there, and then back through the woods again! Alone! No other horses or riders. And Buckshot didn’t become worried or anxious or balk! What a good, good horse!

Many of you who read this blog know that I have been working on this for months with Buckshot- to get him to comfortably walk to the arena located about a half mile from the main barn and main arena. We have tried taking the route down the farm road, but without getting very far before Buckshot balked and quietly argued. But on Sunday- success!

Let me start with Saturday, for that laid the groundwork for what occurred on Sunday. On Saturday, a beautiful sunny, mild day, we started our walking warm up, about a half hour before our riding class was to start. He was in good spirits and showed an interest in walking outside of the arena. So I headed him to the trailhead and we walked happily on the trail alone, for a ways. No worries or anxiety by him. Then I turned us around and headed back to the main arena, continued riding and did our riding lesson. I was so proud of him!!

Later, I analyzed why the short trail ride was successful. I concluded that maybe, just maybe, it was because of when I asked him to go onto the trail. I asked him early in our ride, when we were still in our phase one warmup. And I asked him after I saw evidence that he wanted to walk out of the arena. I wondered if early in our ride, his confidence level was high. I don’t know the opposite effect, or why his confidence level would be lower at the end of our ride, unless it is caused by being a bit tired. But he seemed enthusiastic early in the ride, and I noted that.

On Sunday, the weather was perfect- sunny and mild with temperatures in the sixties. The farm was quiet as the BO and her husband took two horses away to go to a trail ride at a distant location. I got Buckshot – my new thing with him is to call him “pardner” and tell him that we are great work pardners together! – and groomed him, then tacked him up. We headed out into the main arena, which had lovely, soft footing. We began our walking warm up. I didn’t have any definitive plans in mind; I planned to play it by ear. After getting off of him to tighten his cinch, and remounting we started walking, and I just decided on a whim, to go for it. I headed him out of the arena and toward the trailhead, saying “let’s go see the trail for a while.” Secretly, I was excited but I acted cool and composed. Buckshot didn’t miss a beat, he just headed into the trail and we were off!

This is the point that my mind veered off into three different directions. As we walked through the woods, one third of my mind started saying “Oh-oh, be hyper vigilant – you are alone out here- if anything happens, you’re on your own. Keep watch of the woods, scan everything, and at the first and I mean first sign of a problem, you hop off of Buckshot in a flash! Stay aware, stay focused, you have to look out for anything and everything, and again, you dismount immediately if anything, and I mean anything, comes up. I’m hyper vigilant, hyper vigilant, hyper vigilant, you’re riding alone, you’re riding alone, hyper vigilant…”

And, another third part of my brain started saying “Now act relaxed, stay calm, don’t act like this is the first time you and Buckshot have done this, stay ever so cool, talk to him so he knows you are very relaxed about this – at which point I said some gibberish about 'okay, so now we’re on the magical tree avenue of the trail, cause this is where the trees are so pretty…. And now this section is called well I don’t know but I’ll just call it anything lane so I keep talking….' – yes, just act relaxed, like you have been doing this for a long, long time and it is no big deal. Just stay so cool and relaxed through all of this….”

And, as if those two threads of constant thought weren’t enough, the third part of my mind was saying “Yippee- -we’re doing it!! Hooray – I can’t believe it – we’re actually farther than ever on the trail alone!! Oh my gosh, this is wonderful!!!” Then, be hyper vigilant, stay alert, watch your surroundings. And stay relaxed, pretend this is old hat.

And, well, my brain was so muddled trying to handle all three trains of thought! In the midst of all these thoughts, I somehow had the brain cells to even think this: this must be how mothers of newborns are –ever vigilant to protect their child, yet finding some small bits of being relaxed through something, and yet holding both in their mind at the same time. I wonder if mothers ever get to actually relax at all….

Oh my. What a mental case I was. I did have the presence of mind to stop him halfway on the trail and give him a treat from the saddle. I thought his accomplishment deserved giving him a treat. And then we got to the reining arena, out in the farm’s hay field.

I walked Buckshot into the arena and we started trotting. He did great – always responding to my aids and never showing any signs of anxiety or worry. We did patterns and cantering and trotting and walking. We work on rating the trot, and he listened well as I changed from working trot, to extended trot to collected trot. After twenty minutes I took him over to some grass he had been showing me, and I let him nibble a few bites. Then we went back to work, for another ten minutes.

I was trying to act cool and collected, but in my mind I kept saying “We’re here – we made it to the reining arena!! And we are doing fine!! Oh, Buckshot is wonderful!! But stay vigilant, and act calm.” I was grinning from ear to ear! After thirty minutes of working, I walked him to cool down, and then we headed down the road to head back. The trail can be reached from the road, so when we reached the fork – to take the trail back or the road back- I asked Buckshot, which way? And he turned decisively into the woods. So we walked back through the woods again.

The minute we were out of the woods I stopped him, and reached in my pocket to give him another treat. Unfortunately I dropped it, so I dismounted, retrieved the treat and hugged and praised him so enthusiastically! What a good, good boy he was!! I was grinning from ear to ear, shamelessly happy with my wonderful horse and not caring who saw the weird lady with the huge grin!!

When the BO returned I politely asked how the trail ride had gone, and then shared our accomplishment with her! How giddy and excited and proud I felt. Thank you, my brave, courageous, confident Buckshot!!

This week will be Buckshot’s annual physical and teeth floating. I hope it goes well; I really hope he doesn’t have to have any more teeth removed (he’s had three removed in the last two years) as I want him to be able to eat as easily as possible. And the vet is sending his new assistant, so I will meet her. I am feeling fiercely territorial right now; I will let her know that Buckshot is my precious horse and I want the best for him, and all of his teeth intact if at all possible, and you better not hurt him, and …. Well, you get the picture. I’m sure she’ll be just fine, and competent. I trust the vet, so I trust his assistant.

I hope you had a great weekend and are having nice autumn weather!

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Long Weekend Filled with Horses!

I took last off from work last Thursday and Friday, so I had a nice long weekend. And the weather was beautiful! On Thursday, I went out to the barn and rode Buckshot- a wonderful day with him.

On Friday, I went to the Equine Extravaganza. At the John Lyons booth I had a chance to meet him and tell him how much I appreciate his work, his teachings and his horsemanship. I was thrilled to get to thank him in person, and let him know that there are horse owners appreciative of his work. He was very nice, shaking my hand with a firm grip, and answering with a modest, gracious demeanor. As I walked away, a little in awe, one of his coworkers walked with me, and she thanked me for my comments, saying it means a lot for him to hear such comments. I’m glad I thanked him. I also bought two of his books, which I am enjoying reading.

The BO and I looked at all of the other booths- we were more interested in the vendors than in the clinics this year- and oohed and aahed over lots of things. I didn’t spend very much money- I bought the two John Lyons books and a set of replacement leg straps for a horse blanket. It was a good day. In years past, I have gone to clinic after clinic and become exhausted from the walking and the listening and the shopping. Now I have adapted a more abbreviated strategy, and spend a shorter amount of time there, allowing me to enjoy myself more.
Oh, one other name drop- I met Jane Savoie also! I was in awe of her as well. I only talked to her for a minute and couldn’t think of anything interesting to say but it was a fun, awesome moment for me! I do appreciate that such famous clinicians travel to Virginia for the Equine Extravaganza.

On Saturday, the weather was perfect- sunny skies, in the fifties. The arenas had several sections with very muddy footing so the riding was a bit limited. We rode in the arena, and then went down the trail, to the other arena. After just a few minutes at the walk in the reining arena, we headed into another trail and then returned to the main arena. I coaxed Buckshot back into the arena to do more trotting work. We worked several times on rating; both at the walk and the trot. He responded well in both gaits.

He was in a good mood, so I decided to head down the farm road. So out the arena we rode. A few feet outside of the gate, Buckshot slowed, then stopped. I talked to him and got him walking and we went toward the road, and then, little by little, down the road. It took a lot of urging on my part, as Buckshot was uncertain about it. He walked a few steps as I squeezed, then when I relaxed my legs, he stopped totally. I said “walk on” and squeezed again. He walked two steps and stopped. I said “walk on, you’re doing fine, Buckshot” and he walked two steps. So it went like this for a while. I didn’t get angry at him. Eventually we walked further down the road than ever! When we reached a certain fence post, I stopped him (which wasn’t hard), turned him around, and – instantly, his forward energy returned! I praised him for his progress, and got him back to the barn and dismounted. Oh, I feared my legs would be sore the next day, though….

I do hope that I can get him to walk down the road comfortably eventually, without constant urging on my part. I want him to feel good about it and walk his normal walk. Next time, I think I will take treats and give them to him from the saddle as we go. That may help his motivation.

On Sunday, we had lovely weather again. We went to the reining trainer’s clinic. There were a lot of horses this time- about twelve horses and riders. We worked on an exercise for circling that helps to direct the horse to get the correct lead at the canter departure. For example, say you are working on the right lead departure, from the walk, as is the norm in reining (as opposed to the departure from the trot). I would lift the right rein up, open the door with my right foot (that is, lift my foot and lower leg away from the horse) and tap/kick with my left foot behind the girth, to get the horse moving in a circle to the right. Add the kiss when you are ready to do the canter.

I have forgotten what he said about how you are actually moving the hind legs in a particular manner that sets up for the canter. I think I want the left hind leg to move toward the right, to go under Buckshot’s belly, so that his right hind can, oh, no, that doesn’t sound correct. For a right lead canter, I want to free up the right front leg, but I am confused about what I want to do with the hind legs. For that, I remember the basic cue of tapping with my outside leg. Well, anyway, it worked well at the clinic and I’m looking forward to practicing it next weekend. When the clinic was over, I cooled Buckshot down with lots of walking and grazing, and then we loaded up our horses and returned to the farm. It was a great four day weekend for me!

Today, I imagine Buckshot is glad I had to go back to work and gave him the day off so he can recover from his hard work! Good boy! I hope you had a good weekend also!

Monday, October 31, 2011

October Fun: Crazy Weather!

The reason I was so excited and exuberant about last weekend’s weather is because in autumn our weather in Virginia is so changeable and unpredictable. Take last Saturday (October 29, 2011) for instance. It was as cold as winter, and rainy and gloomy. The temperatures only made it into the 50’s, which, with lots of rain, made it feel even colder. When I got to the barn I could see the flooded arenas through the steady drizzle. I could also see Buckshot, way off in a distant pasture, wearing his blue-gray blanket. In October! This is very unusual. Typically we wait until winter arrives (isn’t it supposed to arrive sometime in December??) before we have thoughts of blanketing a horse. But c’est la vie.

Shortly after arriving, I walked out to Buckshot’s pasture to say hi to him and to take off the blanket. Down at the main barn the stalls were full of horses, and I mucked out a few stalls before deciding to fix up a stall for Buckshot with some goodies, and bring him to the barn to groom and brush him. He enjoyed his flake of alfalfa and the attention my sister and I gave him with brushes, curry combs, and conditioner.

She chided me about not using conditioner on his mane and tail regularly, and went to work on him. I laughed because he is a he, and I haven’t indulged him with too much girlie attention such as a lot of conditioner. I think he is more a dignified gentleman horse, a horse used to hard work at the race track, and not one given to feminine excesses. So I have tried to treat him with dignity, and even refrain from calling him “sweetie” when other horses are around, changing it to “Buckshot” quickly lest I am getting too mushy for him. It is funny how I extract and observe his personality and character from time spent with him, and think of him in a masculine mode. (Other times, when he is uncertain of something, I perceive his turning to me for leadership, in a child-like sort of way. So I have observed, I think, various aspects of his personality, along a range of mostly masculine traits. And in keeping with that, I have tried to refrain from being too mushy with him.) However, sometimes, I just have to wrap my arms around his neck and squeeze and tell him how wonderful he is- I can’t help it. I just can’t hold in all of my warm, adoring feelings for him. Sometimes they just slip out and I call him “sweetie” because he is also a very sweet horse. LOL! After his “spa time” in the stall with two “spa workers” he was spiffy and shining and full of alfalfa and I took a happy Buckshot back to his pasture.

Sunday was the reward for enduring the cold, rainy, gray Saturday. On Sunday, the sky was a brilliant cloudless blue, and the temperatures were an autumnal cool fifties. The farm was quiet and lovely. I tacked Buckshot up and rode with the BO and her husband. The main arena was soupy so we avoided it, opting immediately for the wooded trails. And it was beautiful in the woods! The trails had all been groomed, cleared, widened, with new trails carved out in various areas, the result of several worker’s hard labors in the woods. We walked through enjoying the dappled sunlight and delicious autumn air, noting the splotches of color throughout the canopied trees. Buckshot was calm and quiet, responding to my feathering fingers to slow down ever so slightly when we got too close to the horse in front of us. I petted his neck and told him “good boy” several times, just because he was.

When we exited the woods onto the hay field, the blue sky and green-gray field greeted us. We floated down to the hay field’s reining arena, and found it to be somewhat soft, but not too bad. I walked Buckshot around the perimeter, asked alternately for an extended walk and a collected walk. Then I trotted him a bit, adding in some cone-bending (the cones are imaginary) movements. I didn’t ask for the canter because the footing was just too dicey for me. After a few minutes in the arena, we moved on to another set of trails. This set was picturesque as well, with very tall, artfully arranged trees forming almost geometric shapes overhead. The wind of recent storms has caused some trees to dip and curve in awesome shapes.

Several sections of the trail were very bogged down with standing water. Buckshot, bless his heart, doesn’t have any problem walking through water. But some of these pools were very deep, and try as I might to stay calm (and not think about him accidently going down, and flayed limbs, and injuries to him), I still did the unconscious-rider-fear stuff of bending forward, stop breathing, encouraging Buckshot, praying, knowing I should sit bacccckkkk but unconsciously unable to do so, until we were back on dry land. And then I reflected on it- the rider’s-well, my- innate inability to do what is needed for the horse in dicey situations, even though I know it. This, along with “heels down” will be what I am still working on when I die, someday an old lady, in the saddle, thinking, I just need to work on this a bit more. LOL!

We continued along on still more trails and came to a steep downhill section. I ask Buckshot to go easy on a downhill, and he does and we got to the bottom just fine. And we headed back to the main barn. I checked my watch and saw that we’d been riding only for an hour and instantly started plotting a longer ride. We couldn’t ride in the arena- too soupy- but maybe I could take him back out on the trail again. But, I thought as I plotted and argued with myself, Buckshot will see the other riders dismount and he will want me to dismount also. He has a strong sense of the herd, what others do, I should do also. Especially dismount. But it was such a pretty day, and so nice, and we had only ridden for an hour and I didn’t want to stop. So when the others dismounted I asked the BO, “wouldn’t you like to ride some more?” But they declined- other chores called for them- so I dismounted also. It was a wonderful ride so I couldn’t feel anything but good about it. I told Buckshot he did great work and took him into the barn to untack and give him his treats.

As I walked Buckshot back to his pasture, I got another idea. The day was still young, so I thought we’d do some groundwork in his pasture. I left him at the pasture, telling him he’d get a fifteen minute break and then we’d do some more work. I’m sure he didn’t know what I was talking about, as he headed straight into a stall either to tell Lucky about his work, or to have a nap. I went back and gathered my groundwork gear: some pink cones, and some children’s beach toys in bright colors that I use with Buckshot, more treats, water and a granola bar snack for me. I went back to Buckshot’s pasture and found him trying to nap, but curious about all my gear. He watched me head out into the grass, and then I noticed he dove into the stall again, possibly hoping I wouldn’t see him and would make some other horse do the work. LOL!

I set up the cones in an L-shape, and hid or somewhat hid, the other toys in brush and tree limbs. Then I went and got him and after coaxing him to come out into the grass (he wasn’t too enthusiastic at first), we started. We did an exercise at the cones, then he got a treat, then we went to find one of the toys (sort of a hide and seek game). When he found the toy and touched it with his nose, I said “bingo!” and gave him a treat. Then we did another exercise, such as circles, followed by another hide and seek game. After a series of these, we collected the cones and toys, I praised him and left him to really have a nap.

I love to do our groundwork, not because it produces any great accomplishments, but because it gives me time with Buckshot to ask something of him (that he can do), and then praise him and prove how good he was with a treat. It helps him stay responsive to me, attentive to me, and helps him to feel good about himself. It gives me time to be with him and talk to him, and tell him what a good horse he is. Sometimes I think I should challenge him more, other times I know this groundwork is fine for what it is- a personal time of handling, and easy maneuvers, and building our relationship. I think it makes me better as a rider. It may be easy stuff, but it is purposeful. And I think it is valuable time, for our relationship, for our riding, and for building a bit of trust in me that may be necessary if we are ever in a tight spot and I need Buckshot right at that moment to trust me with something serious or scary to him. Plus the groundwork tells him that he is valuable to me, which may sound corny, but I think intuitively is a good and positive thing for him to know.

I hope you had some beautiful weather this weekend as well. I am sorry for the untimely snow that the northeast got this weekend- I hope it melts quickly for you!

Monday, October 24, 2011

More Photos and Lovely Rides!

Finally I have some photos of Buckshot and I! I am so excited- another boarder was at the farm this past weekend (October 22-23, 2011) and I asked her to take some pictures of Buckshot and I in his pasture! I am so glad to have some pictures of me with my best horse in the world, where you can see my smiles of being around my sweet Buckshot. I told him several times that these were photos for my blog, for his blog really, and that he was a famous horse now that he has his own blog. But, in true horse character, he wasn’t interested at all in being famous or having a blog. LOL!

This weekend we had wonderful weather in Virginia- cool temperatures in the 60’s with lovely sunshine and no rain. It was heavenly! It made up for many of the wickedly hot summer days. I took my father out to the barn on Saturday. He is 84 years old, and retired, who spends several days a week volunteering in a local hospital, and tells me all the comings and goings of hospital life. He asked to come out and see Buckshot and watch us ride, so I have been waiting until the weather wasn’t too extreme to have him visit. He is partially blind, and isn’t really a horse person at all, but I was touched that he wanted to see Buckshot. So I made all of the arrangements, and had extra food and beverages on hand, and drove him out to the farm. The farm was hopping with activity, with three men on the main barn roof installing a new roof. Lots of loud clanging, and big whooshing sounds, and huge pieces of roofing being slid up and down. Despite the noise the horses did very well and didn’t spook at all, which was impressive given the unrelenting noise right next to the arena.

After getting Buckshot from his pasture, and taking him into the barn, I could sense he was energetic. I brushed him and then showed my dad how I swing the heavy 34 pound saddle lightly onto Buckshot’s back. I finished tacking him up and we went out to the arena. Buckshot had good energy right from the start of our ride, perhaps due to the cooler autumn temperatures. After our warm up, which I explained to my dad I had to do first, Buckshot trotted with ease and energy. And then when we cantered, Buckshot was wonderful! Easy and balanced. I did well also at the canter.

At one point, I wanted to trot over to my dad and say excitedly, like a little girl, did you see that? Wasn’t that great? But I caught myself in time! After all, I’m 55 years old, not a little girl at all. How funny. There are times like that, with Buckshot, that bring out some little girl inside of me and make me bubble over with joy, and I want to spontaneously run up to someone and tell them! It’s so funny. When I notice these thoughts, it makes me wonder if I have always had this horse-love, even as a little girl, even though it didn’t blossom and evolve until I was in my forties. I suspect so. Anyway, I caught myself before running up to my dad. I can share it here in my blog, though, and you guys will understand.

We went on to ride in our regular Saturday class, which included a couple of other horses and riders, including my sister on her school horse. Our instructor gave us a pattern to do that included cones, an extended trot and doing a fairly small circle at the canter. Buckshot and I did great – his extended trot was strong and floaty and extremely straight, right on pattern. And we did a canter circle- lovely, not too fast, balanced, perfect. I think it was the most perfect canter I have ever done. I was thrilled that Buckshot did such a good circle. Right at that moment, I thought, that’s it, that was the highlight of my week, everything else can go wrong if need be, this one ride with this dear horse is the best moment of my entire week! And it is true, being with Buckshot is the highlight of my week, every week. I apologize for so much gushing about Buckshot- we had such a great weekend and I am so appreciative of him, and well, this blog is the best place for me to write these things.

My dad’s visit at the farm was a success; he gave me several compliments about Buckshot, which just warmed my heart to no end. And the next day, Sunday, was another lovely day of cool autumn temperatures and sunny, blue skies. Buckshot was again nicely energetic and we had a wonderful ride, doing precision work at the walk, trotting patterns, and some cantering. We went on a trail ride with several other horses. The woods were picture perfect, with sunshine floating down to the green, gold and orange leaves, the horses making only faint crunch sounds underfoot. Just delightful.

Finally, some weather rewards for the many days of extreme heat, and enjoying the horses’ energy as they enjoy the cooler weather as well. I hope you had a good weekend as well!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Lovely Times in Lovely October Weather

This past weekend (Oct. 14-16, 2011) I had three days of great times with Buckshot. I took off work on Friday and went out to the barn. It was a bit windy, but also sunny and mild. We had a good phase 1 walking warm up with Buckshot demonstrating some good energy. Then we did some trotting and cantering, also very nice. I asked the BO to watch me ride so she could observe Buckshot. She said that his gaits looked fine, with plenty of energy and no return of the discomfort Buckshot showed a week ago.

I continue to try and gain experience at the canter. I need a lot of saddle time, but have to temper my wishes with Buckshot’s needs and the conditions of weather and footing. I feel like I am improving, but at a very, very slow pace. I really have to be patient with this, but it is coming.

After our work in the arena, we rode with the BO and her horse down the farm road to the reining arena in the farm’s hay field. The arena itself was too soft to ride in so we instead rode in the hay field, verbally blocking off a section of the field that we would stay within. We rode for a good long time, at a nice working trot, with the breeze in my face, the breeze lifting Buckshot’s mane, the sun warming us both nicely, on a lovely October afternoon. It was a picture perfect ride! I tried a few canters and we did nicely at them. After this heavenly time in the field, with both horses enjoying the ride and behaving perfectly, we walked back down the road to the main arena and dismounted. The windy conditions prevented us from even going into the trail. I praised Buckshot and enjoyed the moments of pride and happiness and joy from such a wonderful horse and ride! What a great horse he is!

On Saturday, the day was much like Friday – sunny, mild, yet still windy. On Saturdays, the barn typically has a lot of riding students and classes. Buckshot and I participate in the 1:30 class, but I like to ride well in advance of the class, so we can do our warm up and work on a few things at the trot and canter.

After I got him tacked up, a class was in the main arena so I took him over to the round pen and mounted. Because the round pen is located next to two pastures, we often have an audience of horses watching us. I kept us at the walk and practiced both going around the pen, and walking across it in various formations to keep it interesting. When the main arena was empty, we walked over to it.

Another boarder asked to use the arena alone for a few minutes so Buckshot and I did some exploratory walking around various barns and grassy areas. He seems to really enjoy expanding his sights, slowly, not too fast, as we walk around. He’ll walk in one direction quite purposefully, and then stop, uncertain of what to do next. So I will immediately take the reins and lead him off in a different direction. In some areas we will trot, others we will stay at the walk.

Eventually, we returned to the arena and did more trotting, and also some cantering. When he has the left lead, he feels balanced and even to me. At the right lead, he feels much more slanted. It is hard to steer him when he has the right lead. I feel like I am pulling on him mouth quite strongly, and I don’t want to do that. I don’t know why the right lead feels so much different. Do you experience that as well? Do you use different aids for differing leads?

The class did some interesting patterns and we had fun. They were hard patterns, involving leading the horse around cones and to special markers, using trotting, cantering, stopping, backing, etc. Especially difficult was the final section- trotting down the long rail, after having done a bit of cantering. It is so hard to reduce the energy of the horse immediately after cantering. The instructor agreed that this part of the pattern was challenging. That is one of the reasons I like taking classes- I am more challenged by the instructor’s patterns and exercises than I would think, and they help me and Buckshot to grow and develop.

And the last day of my three day Buckshot weekend was wonderful – we went to a reining clinic and had a great time! From the moment I stepped into the stirrup and walked Buckshot out into the arena, Buckshot had an unusual energy and purpose. At our home barn, he will drag along at the beginning of our ride, and after some urging from me, will give a good working walk. At the reining clinic, however, he starts off right away with a good energetic walk. It is one of the reasons that I think he really likes going to the clinics. He also had such energy at the trot and canter I couldn’t believe it! He had so much vim and vigor I suspect he had been drinking gallons of V-8! We did great (for us) at the patterns and exercises the trainer had us do.

When the clinic was over, I dismounted, praised Buckshot and took him to some grass to graze. Then I walked him back to the trailer, tied him on the side, and proceeded to make a mess of untacking him. I couldn’t figure out how to get his bridle off, and attach the halter while the halter's lead line stayed tied to the trailer. Before I knew it, the bridle had fallen to the ground in front of Buckshot’s feet, he stepped on it and he had leather straps everywhich way. I internally was alarmed, hoping I could back him safely off of them before he realized it and panicked. As I struggled, he stepped on one of my feet, but I had to ignore it (except for getting him off my foot) until I got the straps and lead line and halter unraveled. Goodness, what a mess I made of it. I finally took the halter off of the trailer totally, and put the lead line around his neck for leverage. Then I got his bridle off, and the halter on. Boy- that is something I need more practice on! Then I got his saddle and pad off and we went off for a little grass. Later, we headed for home and I walked him back to his pasture with lots of praise and appreciation of his work!

I thoroughly enjoyed all three days with Buckshot and spending time with him, in his pasture when I loosened persimmons from the tree for him, or picking up poop, or just talking to him. And then riding him, he was in good form and didn’t have any problems. What a good horse he is! (And some recent photos are at the top, finally, some pictures!)

I want to thank the two bloggers who have recently given my blog the Lovely Blog Award- Arlene from Grey Horse Matters and Carol from Dressage Training Journal (both are fantastic blogs - see my links on the right). What an honor to receive this award. Thank you so much. I am working on doing the award steps – sharing seven things about myself personally and sharing some new blogs as well. Thank you again for your kindness!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Semi-Beautiful Weekend

There are two reasons I am calling this past weekend semi-beautiful. One is the weather. The other is due to Buckshot, my horse. First, the weather. Although it was sunny, with few clouds, and no hurricanes or earthquakes, it was also quite warm, and the horses, including Buckshot, have a bit of their winter coats already. So working the horses very hard is dicey. You feel wonderful, like you’d like to do all kinds of exercise and practice, but the horses aren’t really prepared for work in warm weather; they are ready for cool temperatures. So I had to hold back on working on the canter much. It’s a fine line we walk sometimes, between what we want to do and whether the conditions will enable the horse to do it. So I stayed more in the direction of deferring to the hot weather-but-winter-coat on horse and did less, rather than more.

On Saturday, Buckshot seemed to be okay as we started our walking warm up. After the twenty minutes walking warm up, in which he occasionally thought standing still was just fine, he trotted okay. However, during one trot along the arena’s long side, I felt his energy, but I also felt something else, something hard to identify. Was he backwards, putting his feet in the wrong sequence? He didn’t feel out of balance, he had a rhythm to his gait, but it felt different. After the BO/instructor came into the arena and watched all of us riders warm up, she said to me, “Buckshot looks uncomfortable, like something in his hind legs is bothering him. Would you like to ride another horse, perhaps Smarty (a five year old reining horse owned by the BOHusband)?”

I didn’t know what to do. I was a bit worried about Buckshot, and didn’t want to just hop off of him and trade him in for a younger horse. I felt a bit guilty about that. But, then again, if something was wrong, I didn’t want to ride him and make it worse. So I dismounted and walked him around, trying to lead him and watch his hind legs at the same time. I saw some paddling, where he swings one leg out a bit far, which he has done from time to time. So I agreed to the change and took him to the barn to untack him and walk him back to his pasture, feeling a bit worried, and in my worried state, wondering if I should get on a non-school horse who is very young, but is doing very well being ridden by his owner.

I decided to do it; to put Buckshot’s condition totally out of my mind at least for as long as I rode a different horse. I have ridden Smarty before, but for just five minutes or so, a few times shortly after he arrived at the barn last year. This would be riding him in a class. We got him tacked up, and I got on him, knowing I was feeling less confident than when I ride Buckshot, but also calling up all of my knowledge and riding skills, remembering that this horse rides in a curb bit with shanks (while Buckshot uses a snaffle bit without shanks) and that this horse neck reins (which I have been doing quite a bit on Buckshot, although with a snaffle bit).

Once on Smarty, I immediately felt his youthful power and energy, not that he moved in any way that was too fast or bad, just a strength about him. It felt unfamiliar, as any new horse would feel. I began neck reining him and he responded fine. He turned beautifully, however going straight was not easy. As long as he moved in the general direction I wanted, I was fine. After about a minute, I tried out his stop, and stuck my legs out straight in front, saying whoa, and not moving the reins. He came to a perfect and quick stop. We walked on and I stopped him again. And again. Always, he stopped. Reliably. No questions asked. That is great, I thought, his stop is solid. If anything happens that I find I can’t steer him correctly, I can rely on his stop.

He and I proceeded through the rest of the class in the arena, doing a pattern involving trotting and some cantering. I felt about 25 percent capable, compared to feeling 99 percent capable on Buckshot. I got him to trot and it was so floaty and shallow (as opposed to Buckshot’s big, deep trot) I felt like I could sit the trot and didn’t need to post. I didn’t get him to canter but it was probably due to my miscues rather than the horse. We then went on the trail, and he did fine. He walked fast and wanted to stay too close to the horse in front of us, so I stopped him quite a few times to just let the horse in front of us move a few feet out. I found that sometimes all I did was move my toes out front two or three inches, and didn’t even say “whoa” and Smarty stopped. It was amazing, like he had eyes in the side of his head, always watching my toes! If my toes moved forward, he stopped.

In the back of my mind, I was so full of thoughts- have to ride this horse well, he doesn’t know me, don’t forget you must use neck reining with him, keep the reins loose as that is how he works, can always stop him well. But I didn’t know how he would spook, and that thought flitted through my mind. It’s funny, since a spook is by definition an unpredictable movement of the horse, but I kind of know what kinds of things will cause Buckshot to spook, and how he will spook. He’ll either stop with the flayed front feet, or jump six feet and stop. I feel confident in handling whatever he might do, and recovering quickly. But with an unfamiliar horse (and a very young one) I didn’t know what he might do if he spooked. I thought quickly through all of the trail and arena rides I had observed the BOH ride him and realized that I really hadn’t seen him spook much, if at all. So I calmed myself that he wasn’t a spooky horse and that needn’t worry me.

It was funny to ride a different horse for a change. After over five years of riding a variety of school horses, I got my own horse three and a half years ago, and one thing I love, love, love about having Buckshot is getting to ride him exclusively. I have loved the relationship you build and the familiarity and comfort of riding one horse a lot. Until I got onto Smarty, I had forgotten how wonderful it is to really know the horse you are riding, to feel that sense of familiarity and hours in the saddle together and witnessing one horse’s personality over a long time. I had forgotten, but Smarty reminded me. It was fun, and it was a good experience to ride a different horse for a change. But the benefits don’t compare to the cozy, trusted familiarity of Buckshot.

After the ride, the BO complimented me on riding Smarty. It was one of those moments that I felt I hadn’t done very well at all, my mind was so filled with all the details to remember of how to ride this horse and to manage the sense of unfamiliarity, and to not forget he had a shanked bit on so that I wouldn’t accidently pull it thinking it was a snaffle (I didn’t), and a slight, back of the mind worry about Buckshot, that I had never really truly relaxed on the ride (the way I can relax on Buckshot). Maybe another day, I’ll ride Smarty and enjoy it more.

I thanked Smarty’s owner profusely for lending him to me and complimented him on Smarty’s talents, for I did feel very grateful to be offered such a high-caliber horse. His owner said I could ride him again, which I internally took as a great compliment, thinking that if he hadn’t liked my riding, he (understandably) wouldn’t want me to ride him again. It all reminded me of a friend loaning you their car, but theirs is a Mercedes (and mine is a Hyandai, really) and I am so nervous about driving such an expensive car that I am very, very careful with it.

Back to Buckshot. I wondered why he was uncomfortable. At his age (appx 25 years) I know that he could have arthritis at any time. He worked hard as a track pony for many years. I think my riding him is typically not very hard work, but I do ask work of him occasionally, and when we go to the reining clinics, he does what I would call moderate work. But overall, I would say he does fairly light work with me. Still, I want to watch for any physical problems given his age.

Now, here is something curious. When I went up to his pasture to feed him later, I saw him do a half-hearted double barrel kick with his hind legs to his pasturemate. I have never seen him kick or attempt to kick another horse ever. Which isn’t to say it couldn’t happen. But I saw this one. Lucky, his pasturemate, got out of the way. No contact was made. I wondered later if one of the horses could be uncomfortable or hurting in some way, and thus causing more aggression in the pasture, thus the kicking I saw Buckshot do. I’ll keep it in mind and watch both horses more closely to see if anything else seems different about their relationship. Just a thought.

On Sunday, I went back to the barn and found Buckshot to be in a good mood. I planned to ride him, hoping he was better. Because it was supposed to hit the low 80’s in temperature, I planned to stay at the walk and trot. The warm up walk was quite good; Buckshot was very responsive. At the trot he did very well also. At his request to go on an adventure outside the arena, we walked and trotted in various grassy areas, and then, on a whim, I started us down the farm road. We got just a few yards down the road when I saw the BO and BOH (on Smarty) enter the arena so I headed Buckshot over to the arena and we rode with them. After a few minutes we all headed down the trail, and came to the reining arena.

The footing looked a little soft to me, so while the other two riders entered the arena and started working on their respective exercises, I kept Buckshot on the outside perimeter of the arena, in the grass. I started trotting and he communicated a feeling of enthusiasm to me – he was enjoying himself! That made me feel wonderful! After going around the perimeter once, I stopped and turned him around to go back in the other direction. He again started off with an easy, and dare I say, joyful energy. After rounding a corner, he picked up the canter on his own! I glanced at the BO who was watching us and I said, He did that on his own. How does he look? She said he looked fine. So I let him canter for several more strides and then resumed the trot. Although I hadn’t planned to canter, I was so glad he felt like doing it! It meant he felt good. What a relief to me. We walked and trotted some more, and then I asked him to canter. He did pretty well at it, although at one point, one of his feet slipped a bit on the dirt/mud. I brought him to the walk and we didn’t do any more trotting or cantering. But I was so glad that he was doing much better than Saturday.

We continued on another trail for a time and then walked down the farm road to the main arena. I told Buckshot that we were almost done, and that I’d dismount in the arena. He walked right into the arena, walked to the center, and stopped decisively, ready for my dismount. I know he knows English, especially the word “dismount!” Other than “treat,” “dismount” is probably his favorite word! LOL!

Of course, I dismounted and praised him for his very good work, also telling him I was glad he felt much better than Saturday. I untacked him, gave him his post-ride treats, rubbed him well with a curry comb (he was a little sweaty) and walked my wonderful horse back to his pasture.

Between the weather and the unidentified issue with Buckshot on Saturday, it was a semi-beautiful weekend – but overall quite good!