Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Long Memorial Day Weekend Adventures

Poor Buckshot is probably tired of me by now! I spent Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday with him. We had a great time most of the time. I’ll share some of the highlights of the weekend here. It was quite hot here in Virginia. So I am getting acclimated to the hot weather, although this seems a little early in the summer to be doing so. My hot weather preparations include the following: I take about eight or nine bottles of water, ice frozen in bottles, Gatorade, and tea with me. I also take food, usually a half sandwich of some kind and some breakfast bar things. I wear a visor and also a headband/sweatband, as well as a neck tie/thing that is wetted with water, and has little water-holding-beads in it. I liberally apply sunscreen. And I walk slower, and take my time more. And I take more breaks where I go sit in the main barn for a while to get a break from the direct sunshine. All of these things help me to be able to withstand the brutal Virginia summers and spend all day at the barn with Buckshot. So I have survived the first few days of the heat just fine. I suppose I could add to this list of preparations that I could sit in my car for a while with the A/C on. That is a summer heat weapon I could add. Oh, and bring my sense of humor as well. That always helps!

On Thursday and Friday, Buckshot and I rode with the BO. We spent time in the main arena, then went on the trail, then on to the field arena. Buckshot did great! At times, his energy was low, but I didn’t blame him as he, too, is getting acclimated to riding in the hot weather. But overall, he had good energy, and we did some really nice trotting and cantering both days. Good Buckshot! And what a canter he has!

In fact, his canter is so powerful that now my seatbones hurt! Oh, no! On Sunday, there were moments they hurt enough that they distracted me from my riding. I didn’t know what was causing this, but today I researched it a little on the internet and others mentioned that the seatbones can hurt when riding a horse with big action. Buckshot certainly has a big action, and since I am now riding his canter more than I ever have in the past, I think this is what has caused it. I have tried to add more inner thigh exercises to my repertoire but still the seatbones have bothered me. So today I ordered a Cashel foam tush pad for the Western saddle. I think it will help quite a bit. I may yet someday get my skills to the point that I ride his canter without any separation from the saddle, but I am not there yet, nor am I very close to it (no pun intended!). So I think the foam pad will help me with the discomfort. I can’t wait to get it.

Buckshot has a case of rain rot, also called rain scald or mud fever, which is a bacteria on his skin. For two weeks, I have been attacking it with Eqyss spray and Betadine, with some success (meaning, one patch seemed smaller but another patch appeared in a new area). I did some research on it and decided that he needed a medicated shampoo as well. So on Saturday, after our class ride, I wanted to give him a full bath with the medicated Eqyss shampoo. Fortunately , my sister, who rides in the class, said she would help me. Unfortunately, dark clouds were starting to roll in overhead as I started the bath. So I went into high gear to give him as much of a medicated shampoo as a shortened time would allow. I dumped my big sponge into the water bucket and got it soaked, followed by my sister squirting some of the shampoo on it, and then I worked on Buckshot with all my might to get him lathered up as quickly as possible. I was pretty tired by this time of day, but Buckshot needed the medication, so I dug deep down for all of my strength to get it done. My sister commented once about him getting a spa day, but I growled and said this is more like a car wash! I hated that the weather was hindering me, but his medication mattered the most so I worked hard and stayed with it. And then I rinsed him generously. He was a trouper about it. I put Eqyss skin spray on him a little later. And then of course, it rained, which I didn’t want to have happen to him given his skin condition.

Now I have done further research on the condition and have more things to do as well. I need to sterilize his grooming tools, and saddle pads. I also need to remove the scabs. One commenter to my last post recommended Shapely’s MTG and I found another website that recommended this lotion as well. I have a bottle of it, and have used it once, but it is so strong smelling and oily I didn’t really want to have to use it. But now I think I will try it.

So, other than the rain rot, it was a wonderful weekend with my sweet, wonderful Buckshot. What a great horse he is! I love him, and appreciate all of his strengths. He is a sweet heart. I dread having to work on the skin condition but so be it. We all face these issues with our horses and we just have to find the resources and inner strength to do what our horses need done. I hope you had a wonderful holiday weekend with your special horses as well!

Monday, May 23, 2011

May Weekend Adventures

Saturday, May 21, 2011 was a very warm day, in the eighties, so it was time to give Buckshot a bath with shampoo! His almost-once-a-year bubble bath (don’t tell him it was a bubble bath!). But before that, we did a lot of variety. After grooming him, and finding some unusual bumps on one of his haunches, we went to the round pen to start our riding. We worked on circles and squares, and precision control. A large branch draped over one section of the round pen so we had to move around it. After several minutes working on these exercises, the BOH and helper approached with a big tractor. I turned Buckshot to look at the tractor so it wouldn’t surprise him. The BOH signaled that he wanted to take care of the branch so I dismounted and we walked over to the main arena.

We continued our phase one walking, doing cone bending with imaginary cones, and other patterns. After the warm up, we started trotting with vigor. Buckshot did great. Since we had the arena to ourselves, we tried many of our regular patterns. We did well at the canter also. Soon the BO joined us on her horse and we worked more in the arena, then headed into the woods to trail ride. As we approached the bridge, she pulled her horse over, and Buckshot and I led the way. Once on the other side of the bridge, we pulled off the trail, and let the BO take the lead. The woods were quiet and calm, marred only by a cat that accompanied us, who didn’t see anything wrong with stopping right in the middle of the trail, in front of a horse! We often had to detour around the fearless cat. What creature isn’t at least a little afraid of a creature that is seventeen times its size, made up of lots of tall, strong legs! LOL!

We arrived at the field arena and did work there. The BO worked on her reining maneuvers while Buckshot and I took advantage of the nice, big size and did trotting and cantering. We had a great time! Then we headed back up the road toward the main barn. As we approached the barn, one of the BO’s school horses, a lovely Palomino gelding, grazed calmly in front of the barn. Oh, I thought, someone is grazing Moonshine, I wonder who since there isn’t anyone else here. Oh, I thought with wide eyes, he doesn’t have a halter or lead rope on! Uh, oh, no one is grazing him! The BO was also watching him closely. We approached the barn calmly, and dismounted quietly. The BO took her horse into the barn, while I stayed near Moonshine, although I didn’t have anything to wrap around his neck. He didn’t even look up; he just kept eating grass. When the BO came out of the barn she had a halter and a handful of sweet feed and approached Moonshine softly. He nibbled from her hand as she slipped the halter over his head. Phew- no more loose horse! He is a horse with the talent of letting himself out of his stall, so a special locking mechanism is used on his stall door. However, that day he had been put into a different stall, so he was able to easily escape his boredom and find some grass to eat. LOL- what a character!

After untacking Buckshot it was time for his bubble, um, soapy bath. I used a dollop of horse shampoo in a bucket of water and rubbed him fairly well. I wasn’t really trying to remove all of his dirt, as he needs some for protection from insects. I wasn’t really up for sheath cleaning so I asked the BO if she would do it sometime this summer for me. She is more courageous about that than I am! I asked her about the bumps on Buckshot’s haunches and she examined them and said they may be rain rot. I put Eqyss spray on them. What do you use for rain rot?

On Sunday, we trailered four horses and riders to the reining barn for a reining clinic. Buckshot is getting much more used to this adventure. As I walked him from his pasture over to the barn, we walked behind the now-in-position-near-barn trailer, and Buckshot, who used to snort at this point, gave only a little half-snort. (I didn’t know horses could do partial snorts, but apparently they can!)

After grooming him, we weren’t quite ready to load so he and I walked out to the trailer area, and walked around. I gave him little exercises to do, which he readily did. He tried to walk me over to some areas he usually doesn’t go to. He also walked me right into the arena, so I used the arena to guide him in more exercises: little circles, bigger circles, spirals starting small, spirals starting big, backing, etc. He seemed eager to do these maneuvers, almost as a way to keep his mind busy while waiting. He wasn’t apprehensive or agitated, just a bit more energetic than normal, but definitely responding to me.

When it was time to load the horses, horse number one went on the trailer. Buckshot is horse number two. I walked him to the ramp. He stopped. I gave the lead line to the other rider, and she gently held it while he gave it a bit of thought. Then he took a step and then another and then walked calmly into the trailer. We loaded the other two horses, hopped in the truck and took off.

Buckshot came off of the trailer an hour later in good spirits. I walked him around a bit and then headed back to the trailer where the BO helped me tack up. I couldn’t get him to a tie up spot – there wasn’t enough room at one corner – so the BO helped me tack him up. He eagerly walked over to the mounting block, I got on and we started.

It was a good class, but not one of our best performances. We worked on several techniques – guiding, and small turns, as well as big circles followed by smaller circles. Our cantering was not the best. But one time, I led him around the entire arena at a trot and halfway through he started the most powerful, flying extended trot ever! My eyes were watering, we were going so fast! He didn’t ever break gait into the canter, but this trot was as powerful as any of his powerful canters! It felt heavenly to me!! I feel as if I could almost feel his positive emotion through it – his eagerness, or just feeling great as a horse, or something like that! It was magical!! What a wonderful, strong, responsive horse!! Good boy, Buckshot! So I can’t complain really about our cantering, since what he did well, he did very, very well!

After the clinic, I rinsed him off, gave him treats and praise, and we loaded the horses up. At our farm, he came off of the trailer calmly, and I walked him to his pasture. He looked at me, then went sniffing for a space to roll! I indulgently watched him, proud of him! Then I started getting the horses’ dinners ready. (And I sprayed him again with fly spray and Eqyss. Always the sprays and creams for him! LOL!)

I hope you had a good weekend also. And any suggestions on what has worked for you with rainrot? Thanks for listening!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Storms and Showers

Last Wednesday night I went to the barn to see Buckshot. He and Lucky were eating their afterdinner hay. So I stood and gently brushed Buckshot, quietly. It was a peaceful time, listening to the munching of the two horses, and adding in my gentle strokes along Buckshot’s sides and back. Nothing much happened, other than the lovely sense of happy horses, and touching their lovely coats. And swatting away the flies LOL!

By Saturday, the weather had changed. Now we are victim to the large low pressure system that is stationery across this half of the country, giving threats of showers or thunderstorms at a moment’s notice. Saturday was therefore gray, cloudy and gloomy. I found Buckshot in the stall with Lucky. After chatting with him, I checked him for bug bites. Some of them have been quite big and I have treated them with a dab of Tricare. Do you do this also- unconsciously running your hands down their legs and on their bodies to check for booboos or injuries? I do. I can’t help it; I want to catch any bites, or wounds, as soon as I can. Poor Buckshot, having to undergo my “manual inspection” each time!

I walked him over to the barn, detouring to walk partway down the farm road. He followed easily. As we walked around one of the barns, he stopped. He could see three horses in their pasture. What was he thinking? I told him the horses’ names and that they are good horses. He wanted to walk into their barn and see what’s what. I love his curiosity so in we went. He seemed to know exactly where their store of hay was, and that he needed to taste test it. I let him have one bite, then I led him out of the barn, and down the road. After a short walk, I turned him around and led him to the main barn, and the stall we use for grooming and tacking up.

Out in the arena, the sun came out! Darn, I thought, it wasn’t supposed to be sunny (I hadn’t put my sunblock on), so after a few minutes I dismounted and went into the barn to get the sunblock and his fly mask. Then back to riding. The class included some folks who trailered their horses in. We went on the trail, with Buckshot and I bringing up the rear. As we ascended a hill in the woods, the horse in front of me balked, then started bucking. I gave a call to the BO who was at the front of the line. I moved Buckshot back a good distance, since I didn’t know what might happen with the bucking horse, but I knew it might happen fast! The owner dismounted and the BO rode the horse.

We continued on, with me keeping a sharp eye on that horse, who proceeded to give some bucking several more times. Thankfully, Buckshot doesn’t ever feed off of other horse’s excitement or agitation. Perhaps that is from his work at the race track as a track pony. But I was ever so thankful and appreciative of how calm he stayed during the other horse’s antics. We all got back to the main barn safely.

Driving home Saturday night, I got caught in one of the severe thunderstorms! It was tough going, and a little scary. I resolved that Sunday I wouldn’t get caught in another storm like that.

Sunday dawned greyer, gloomier and cloudier than Saturday. It looked like the skies would open up any minute with a deluge. At the barn, I decided not to try to ride. Instead, I took my plastic cones and lots of treats up to Buckshot’s pasture and we did a lot of groundwork. He did very well. Later that day, it turned sunny! Crazy weather! I got Buckshot and we did hand grazing for a while. I left the barn early just in case more storms were coming.

Today I learned he then suffered a mild colic Sunday night. The BO gave him some Banamine and he then stood up, and stayed up. Today, she said he was eating and loafing as normal! Poor guy- I feel bad about it. But the BO is very watchful and I really appreciate her ministrations to him. I look forward to seeing him again, hopefully on Wednesday.

Hope you had a nice weekend with your horse!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Early May Weekend Adventures

Our weather here in Virginia was wonderful last weekend – spring days in all their glory: sunny, with fluffy clouds lazily moving down the Blue Sky Highway, temperatures pleasant and without humidity. If only summer could be this nice! When I arrived at the farm on Saturday morning, I found Buckshot snoozing in his stall with his pasturemate, no doubt happily digesting their after-breakfast hay. After saying hello to him and exchanging my funny horse-human pleasantries (how was last night? Isn’t today lovely? You just go ahead and relax for now, I’ll do some chores while you snooze…) I cleaned their water tub, picked up some poop, and cleaned the salt block bucket.

Shortly thereafter, I awoke him fully, haltered him and meandered down to the barn to tack up, letting him eat grass greedily along the way. No groundwork today; just a little change of pace. He seemed to be in a good mood, so as we neared the “Road” (the road through the farm that months ago I had tried to get Buckshot to ride down alone, so that we could spend time alone at the hay field arena, without success), I thought we’ll walk down the road again. Buckshot came happily, eating grass as he went, and stopping to stare/ greet other horses in nearby pastures, as I explained their names to him and told him “they’re good horses.” One time, he stopped in the road and I waited patiently as he assessed the situation. Then, he started walking again. When we had gone a bit down the road, I turned us around and headed us back. Hooray! He’s going down the road! We may yet make progress on this issue! Good boy!

We went on to the main barn and tacked up and went out to the main schooling arena and started our twenty minute warm up walk. I did lots of patterns and exercises to prepare us both. (I now think that the warm up actually helps warm up me as well as Buckshot; no doubt it helps to limber my lower back and my legs a bit. LOL Although I had thought it was just to help him, it probably helps my aging limbs also!)

We started trotting after the warm up and did a few canters. Wonderful! Then the 1:30class arrived and we started working with them. We went through the woods, to the hay field arena and did a little work out there. Then we headed back to the barn, and after an hour and a half of riding him, I dismounted from Buckshot, untacked him and lightly rinsed him in the saddle area where he was quite sweaty. A lovely ride, and good work by Buckshot!

On Sunday, Mother’s Day, the weather was again beautiful and I did our routine again: no groundwork, grazing with gusto, and walking down the road again!! (Good boy!) To the barn, tacked up, applied Swat to some bug bites (the bugs love his sheath area and his hind legs! – poor boy) and went out to the arena. After our phase one warm up, we trotted some patterns and did a little cantering. Then the BO, BOH and another rider joined us in the arena, after which we all went through the woods to the field arena.

At the arena, I could sense Buckshot’s energy and decided to canter him and trot him energetically. We did long extended trotting that feels like flying! He has a wonderful extended trot – I think it must look as glorious as it feels to ride it! My legs work like a piston – up and down, up and down- but it feels great! And we did some great cantering- with me working on steering him (he is so strong, and usually wants to go to the center of the arena, I have to work hard to focus on steering him closer to the rail), and overall, nice energetic cantering. I only had to hum to him once and I could feel his reduced energy, but he didn't slow down significantly. It will take time to get better with him, but I think we are in that phase where I just have to keep doing it, get muscle memory, get myself even more confident about steering. And I do wish I could tell, by feel, what lead we are on. I just am not that good yet. But I want to be.

I have to share about Buckshot’s sense of humor. After we had done a good bit of work, and the other riders were either resting their horses in the middle of the arena, or working on a reining skill, I took Buckshot to the side of the arena to stand for a few minutes. Well, I guess that he had decided that we had done enough work and that I must have lost my watch and didn’t realize the time. He started to walk –very slowly- to the road, which is the way home. I gently steered him back to the arena area and stood facing the arena. Well, after a moment (he obviously thought I was mentally challenged or something) he turned exactly one-quarter turn (towards the road). And then, a few moments later, he did another perfect one-quarter turn, and voila! We were again facing the road! Perhaps he thought I didn’t know my directions. LOL! Then he started, ever so slowly, to walk toward the road. Well, inside my mind, I was laughing – he was so obvious and trying to be so cunning, or helpful, perhaps. Or perhaps he thought I wouldn’t notice. After a few steps, I lifted my reins and gently steered him all the way around, away from the road. Poor boy. He thought he had me. Then a minute later, he did it again. No doubt thinking I wouldn’t notice. LOL! He is so funny. He doesn’t fight or anything, it’s as if he is trying to be helpful since I must have lost my directions and my watch at the same time!! What a sweet, helpful boy! What a sense of humor he has!

Do your horses have a sense of humor? Hope you had a nice weekend, and happy Mother’s Day to all of you mothers out there!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Humming Improves the Canter!

This weekend I had a great time with Buckshot. We worked on patterns and our cantering. I worked on not overthinking the canter so that I would unconsciously improve certain skills – e.g., giving well with my hands, relaxing my legs away from Buckshot’s sides, and keeping my seat in contact with the saddle. I did this by adding another thing to do- humming. Buckshot has a powerful canter, and he can go from starting at a fast pace to a faster pace. Sometimes it is hard to steer him and sometimes his pace becomes too fast, and I have to shift quickly to “slow him down, now.” He’s not out of control, he’s just terribly powerful, as if to him, cantering is always supposed to be fast and powerful. We are much faster than the nice, regulated lope that I observe in western or reining horses, and I am not sure we will ever get that slow of a lope, but still, I want to slow his canter down to the pace I want.

So, after hearing our reining trainer tell a student, hum to your horse to slow his canter, I have been trying it. And it does help. Sometimes my humming is loud, out of key and somewhat desperate. I don’t try to hum an recognizable song; I just hum something random (and pretend that it is a song). By giving myself something new to focus my mind on, I somehow relegate the other three things I am doing to the back of my mind, and surprisingly, they don’t fall apart and become worse. Ever so slightly, I’ve improved at them.

On Saturday, we had beautiful weather, and Buckshot and I had the arena all to ourselves. We did our warmup and then did some trotting. I pulled my notes out of my back pocket (I have written down about eight or nine of our patterns and exercises so I won’t forget them) and consulted them. And we rode each of the patterns! What fun! Buckshot had good energy and we had a wonderful time. The swelling on his leg has gone down, and he just has a nodule under the skin that we are going to keep an eye on. And the flies, which are suddenly out in force, had taken a liking to his sheath and he was covered in bug bites, to which I applied Tricare wound cream. The BO and BOH were away at a reining show so I handled feeding all the farm’s horses (approximately 30 horses) in their absence. Overall, a lovely day.

On Sunday, we went to the reining trainer’s farm. I think Buckshot really enjoys going there now. He acts excited, but not scared or anxious, as I groom him (he sees the trailer located by the barn as I walk him to the main barn for his grooming). After I got him groomed, and we were waiting to load up, he walked around the stall a lot, then would exhale loudly and cock his hind foot. As if to say, let’s go already! I led him to the trailer and he loaded right up. When we arrived, I got him out of the trailer and walked him around for several minutes to stretch his legs. After we got tacked up, and mounted, he started walking with energy immediately, more so than he does at our home arena. So I think he enjoys the reining clinics!

The reining farm has a huge arena that I love to ride in. After doing our walking warm up, Buckshot and I trotted, a good, impulsive trot. Then we tried a few canters, and I hummed, and steered, and left the other three skills to my unconscious mind, and the result was: he cantered nicely slower, I rode him well, steered him better, and we maintained it nearly all the way around the large arena! Our best canter ever! I praised him lavishly! Wonderful! During the course of the clinic, which focused more on spins (which Buckshot and I don’t actually do) and sliding stops (which we don’t do either), I took him around the perimeter of the arena a few times. And when we cantered, it was wonderful! Good Buckshot! And good me- for using the humming technique!
Hope you had a nice spring weekend as well!