Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve: The Healing Power of Nature and Horses

Today is Christmas Eve, and I went to the barn to spend time with Buckshot. It is gray, cloudy, drizzly and cool, temperature in the 50’s. I wanted to spend time with Buckshot in a special way but not ride him. I rode him yesterday and the day before, so I didn’t plan to ride him today. When I got to his pasture, I had two books to read to him: The Night Before Christmas and The Christmas Story. But first I had to check his chin. Yesterday I discovered he has a skin condition on the bottom of his chin. It was a hairless section of skin, with a red sore in the middle. The BO said it appeared he had rubbed off a scab there. I treated it with Tricare cream. Today when I looked at it, it was bloodier than yesterday. I touched it gently with a paper towel, and was concerned. I asked the BO to look at it again, and she said that it is fine, that this is normal course of healing. I asked if Tricare cream is still appropriate for it and she said yes. So I carefully applied more Tricare to it, with Buckshot only pulling away slightly from my hand. I left the cream in his feed room for more applications this week.

Then I pulled out one of the Christmas story books, and both Buckshot and his pasturemate Lucky, gathered round while I read it to them. Lucky thought the book might taste good, and he wanted to sample it. Buckshot stood and listened, but didn’t look rapt with attention. Neither one of them walked away, so I guess they liked it well enough.

Then I took Buckshot out of the pasture to eat grass nearby. I gave him an apple I had brought him. That, he loved. After I took him back to his pasture, I read the other book to the two horses. Again, they stood and listened, and didn’t walk away. I think they liked it. After that, I cleaned their stalls, and then gave them treats, two handed treats. I tried this new method today because, in the past, when I try to give treats to both horses, they push into each other a little, gently fighting for the next treat. So today I had horse muffins in my left pocket, and carrots in my right pocket. I stood in front of Buckshot and Lucky and fed them treats with both hands, holding my hands out to the side to keep them separated. It worked fine, and they both got special Christmas treats. Then I read them one of the stories again, and then, sadly, had to leave to take care of errands at home.

I hate leaving Buckshot and the farm because lately I have been struggling with some issues and feeling very low about myself. To help myself through this time, I resolved the other day to see and hold close all of the good things about Buckshot, myself and the barn. On that day it was sunny and cool and as I rode Buckshot, I saw so many good things around me: a wonderful horse to ride, lovely early winter trees, sunshine, crunchy leaves on the trail, lovely green ground cover in the woods, crisp cool air, lovely vignettes of beauty from nature, happy cats, ardent dogs, chirping chickens, and the smells of horse, leather, hay, stall shavings. So much to hold close and appreciate. Truly healing and restorative for me.

I mentioned this to the BO and she agreed, saying, yes, there is something about horses that really help us when we need it. I thought more about this idea, and when in the past, I have been sad, being with Buckshot lightens my load. Perhaps it is because he is such a large animal, and he knows me well, and I think he gives me a horsey hug, and in doing so, takes on some of the sadness and absorbs it easily into his nine-hundred pound body. And lately, feeling badly about myself, it is as if his strength, his powerful horse strength, enfolds me with a hug and wraps his horsey strength around my heart, like a lovely ribbon of gold. I feel better for having spent time with him.

What do you think? Has your horse helped you in times of emotional difficulty? I think perhaps it is more than just spending the time with them, I think that they have special ways to help us. I’ve never thought about this before in this way. But right now it seems very real to me.

Hope you have a wonderful, lovely Christmas with family, friends and horses!

Friday, December 21, 2012

No post this week...

Hi, everyone. Sorry I didn't get a post written this week, but I will write one again in a few days.

Hope you are having a nice holiday season with your horses. Now I'm off to write my Christmas cards - I have pretty cards with horses on them - lovely!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Warm Weather in December?

Last weekend the weather was really too warm to be December. It’s been an odd autumn, with some cool, crisp days and some unseasonably warm ones. Poor Buckshot, with his winter coat on him, I’m sure it makes it a bit hard on the warm days. On Saturday, it was cloudy and warm. I brought him from his pasture to the main barn and groomed him. His tail was a bit dirty, so I didn’t use the new conditioner on it. Instead I worked on cleaning it as much as possible. I planned to let it dry out while we rode, then brush and condition it after the ride.

Ah, yes, the new conditioner. A few weeks ago I decided to get a regular conditioner for Buckshot, and went to the store planning to buy the Cowboy Magic brand which I had heard was a good brand. But my eyes popped out of my head at the price! I think it was $38 for a small bottle! I couldn’t afford it, so I bought a different, more economical brand, Mane and Tail, that came in a large bottle. Now that I have used it several times on Buckshot, I realize that I use quite a big dollup of it for his tail. A horse’s tail has quite a lot of hair on it! Thinking about that small bottle of the other brand makes it even more expensive in my mind, since you have to use so much for the tail. Anyway, Mane and Tail conditioner works great and makes Buckshot’s mane and tail look nice.

Back to Saturday. We went out to the arena and using our new protocol of mounting, I got on fine. (As an aside, a week ago, Buckshot forgot all about standing still during mounting! I think it was on Sunday, he moved his hind legs away from the mounting block, time after time, as if he’d never even heard of standing still! The BO saw my predicament and rode over on her horse and we got Buckshot situated closer to the rail so he couldn’t move out as much, and I finally got on him. It’s crazy. He had been doing so good with the new mounting regimen we have been using, then one day out of the blue, he acted like he couldn’t stand still at all! Then, next time, he was back to standing still just perfectly. Maybe that’s how horses learn: learn new skill, forget new skill, remember new skill. LOL!)

We started our walking warm up and I rode him over to the trail head, thinking we would go into the woods. But Buckshot wasn’t interested and balked. So I thought, well, maybe we won’t go into the woods right now, so we went back into the arena and did some exercises. Ten minutes later, I put him on the buckle to let him wander for a few minutes, and where did he immediately go? To the trail! So into the woods we went. What a character! We returned to the arena a few minutes later and rode in our Saturday class, with whom we went out to the field arena and did some work there. Buckshot was rather low energy, but it may have been the weather.

Sunday was a warm day also, and so I expected that he would be low energy. After grooming him and tacking him up, we started our ride. As we rode in the arena, I looked down and I could see Buckshot’s hoof tracks clearly in the dirt. Wanting to take advantage of that, we did some circles and then stopped to evaluate them. They were beautiful! Buckshot made some wonderful circles! I praised him and petted him neck – such great circles! ( I appreciate such little things.) Then I wanted to go through the woods by ourselves and get to the field arena, and work in it by ourselves for a bit, before the BO and BOH joined us. It’s fun to have the whole arena to ourselves and be able to do entire patterns. So I headed Buckshot into the woods. He did pretty well, going through the woods alone, and then we had fun at the arena. I kept my expectations low since it was warm, and didn’t try to do too much cantering with him. At one point, after the other riders had arrived, I led Buckshot into a small trail in a different area of woods. He went willingly, leaving the other horses, and we enjoyed a newer section of the trail, then returned to the other horses at the arena.

I had a good reminder of how disconcerting it is when the weather is unseasonable. Yesterday at work, the air flow at work doesn’t work too well, and in the afternoon, the temperatures get pretty hot. I found myself getting so irritated at having to adjust to summer-temperatures while wearing my winter clothes! Darn. It made me grouchy. Then I thought of Buckshot! And thought, this may be some of what he feels on a warmer-than-normal day. I feel it- it’s irritating. He may feel it also. It made me really sympathize with him. I must remember to try to divert my attention when riding him on a warmer day- he can’t help it, and I shouldn’t expect him to be in a great cool-weather mood on such a day. It was a good lesson for me to learn.

Well, not much else to share about our weekend. Buckshot did great, all things considered. I hope the joint supplement is helping him, but it is hard to tell. The persimmons have gone from the tree. Christmas is coming. I have two new books to read to him about Christmas. I think he’ll enjoy the books – Twas the Night before Christmas, and the Christmas Story. I’ll let you know what he thinks about them.

Hope your Christmas plans are going well!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Year End Review and Great Weekend with Buckshot!

<b>2012 Year End Review – Early!
To beat the rush, I’ve decided to start reviewing the year. I hate new year’s resolutions, so this year I will trade them for year end reviews of accomplishments! This should make me feel much better than any failed resolutions – LOL!

What Buckshot and I Accomplished in 2012:

We walked down the farm road by ourselves! Several times! Without me having to constantly encourage him, or bribe him. Since we end up riding quite often by ourselves, being able to go to various places on the farm by ourselves is a huge accomplishment. And many of our early attempts were frustratingly long, as poor Buckshot was either very unconfident or worried and he frequently stopped along the way, or walked with the tiniest, slowest steps possible for a horse, or tried to secretly turn around and head back. I am so glad he has gotten much better!
We walked along the trail in the woods by ourselves! Several times we have made the entire trek through the woods, alone! Similar to above, this has been a work in process. One day recently, Buckshot stopped and for ten long minutes, just didn’t want to go forward. Eventually he did go forward. That was a test. I passed. He passed. He got an A for the day!

Dancing with my horse! In a recent post I wrote about the funny time I had "dancing" with Buckshot. Rereading it now and thinking about it, it was an amazing and surprising event of playfulness and joy I experienced with him. Oh, horses are such wonderful creatures!

Cantering Improvement! I probably have improved more than expected at riding the canter this year. We worked on it a lot. And I have to say, there is a lot to work on with the canter. Seat. Cues. Aids. Softness. Not breaking gait. Horse’s moods. Horse’s energy. Using my energy and anticipation as impulsion vs keeping myself calm to try for a controlled canter. Enjoying the rush of cantering strong and hard. Not working enough on rating the canter. But boy, have I learned a lot this year!
Thank you, Buckshot!

I had a blog contest! I don’t know why I was so excited to have one, when I really was all about the prizes! I couldn’t wait to give out and send out prizes. It is just so fun to win some little thing, isn’t it? I really enjoyed buying and shipping out prizes to two great bloggers who won. Such fun. Definitely want to do that again in 2013.

What Buckshot and I Did Not Accomplish in 2012:

Never succeeded in learning to open the gate while riding Buckshot. I think it scared me a little, to be so close to the gate and try to hold it with my hand, I feared losing hold of it and causing it to hit Buckshot…. Well, probably not a big problem if the gate (which is lightweight) taps Buckshot on the side…. Maybe I could stand him next to the gate and lightly tap his side with it deliberately, so he could feel it….Maybe we’ll try again in 2013.

Sidepassing. We tried this many times, but usually we were alone when doing it, and I have no idea what his legs were doing. Many times I ended up laughing and patting his neck and saying, “Buckshot, I have no idea if that was sidepassing, but you did try!!”

Now, on to......
Weekend Fun with Buckshot
This past weekend was amazing. On Saturday, Buckshot was like a new horse, a different horse altogether! We started our ride normally and he had good energy. After a bit, we did some walking outside of the arena, and then, surprisingly, he started heading for the trail head. Walking not just purposely, but enthusiastically. Okay, I thought, let’s go on the trail! And we did! He walked without the slightest bit of hesitation, rather, with purpose and vim and vigor, through the trail. He’s never been this enthusiastic!

I didn’t know what to make of it, but we kept riding until I needed to turn us around and go back to the arena for our class. What energy!

When we got back to the arena, we started trotting and he had wonderful energy! And his canter was outstanding – strong and full of power (but not rushy power). I couldn’t believe it! He seemed in the best spirits ever. When the BO came into the arena, I jokingly asked her, Who is this horse and what have you done with Buckshot?? She asked why and I told her. When the other riders got in the arena and we all started riding, Buckshot’s energy was not as strong as when we were alone. But he still did very well.

I wondered if it was caused by the glucosamine I’ve had him on, but he has only been on it for about 25 days, on loading dosage. Perhaps it was the glucosamine, or the nice autumn weather, but the next day, on Sunday, he didn’t display similar energy or enthusiasm. Of course, Sunday was much warmer and that could have reduced his energy. But what a wonder he was on Saturday! I still cannot believe it. Especially our power walk through the woods, like he owned the woods! King of the woods – Buckshot!

One last thing, I want to note that last Thursday the vet came out and floated Buckshot’s teeth, which is his annual teeth work. Poor Buckshot doesn’t have too many teeth left, he said, but he evened them out. Then I stayed with him while he woke up from the sedative, and after he could walk fine, I took him back to his pasture. The vet was glad he is ridden so much and stressed that it is helpful to horses to feel like they have a job and a purpose. I totally agree with this sentiment, and enjoy my time with Buckshot, which I call “work” when I’m talking to Buckshot, so that he knows he still had lots of responsible work to do with me. Anytime we do something new, or practice our old exercises and patterns, or do some new exploring, it is progress for us and I want Buckshot to feel like he has accomplished something wonderful that day. I always tell him what good work he has done, and always give him post-ride treats to reinforce his good progress. He is the best working horse anywhere!

Hope you had a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wonderful Thanksgiving Week with Buckshot!

I had a wonderful four days with Buckshot last week, along with good weather- who could ask for anything more? On Friday, the arena was being used by another boarder so Buckshot and I rode on the grassy areas to warm up. He was perfect, responding well to my direction and behaving with perfect manners. Secretly, I was so proud of him, that I could ride him out of the arena without any problems. I know it sounds mean, but I had a tiny feeling of “I’ve got the best horse ever!” I shouldn’t think that, but he was so good I couldn’t help it. Then we headed down the road, by ourselves, to the field arena. By ourselves! It was the second time in two weeks we have successfully gone down the road to the field by ourselves! What an accomplishment! Buckshot was only a little bit hesitant at times, but for the most part, he walked steadily forward as asked! Wonderful!

When we got to the arena, it was a lovely, slightly cool, sunny day. The air felt so good. And Buckshot had good energy. With the whole arena to ourselves, I kept us busy with a plan of: doing lots of patterns. We did figure eights, circles in corners, a Z pattern, a half moon pattern, a special riding pattern and several reining patterns. We walked, trotted and cantered, and took small breaks between the patterns. Buckshot did very well, even at the canter. His right lead canters could have been better, but overall, he did great. It was a super ride! Then we headed back up the road, and seeing the main arena still in use, headed into the trail. We got about halfway through and then turned back. I had a great time with Buckshot, and gave him lots of treats and praise.

On Saturday we rode with the BO, BOH and my sister, and had a good time. On Sunday, I developed a new game for us. The arena was in use by a boarder so after I mounted Buckshot, we began walking around the grassy areas around the barn, arena, parking and house. Since we were waiting for a few others to groom and tack up, we had some time to kill. I called the game “point to point” and I used the alphabet. I decided on an object or a location to go to, for example, the apple tree, and I said to Buckshot, “For point A, go to the apple tree.” Then I guided him to the tree. Once there, I said “Okay, great. For point B, we will go to the corner post.” And we walked to the post. Then point C was the front of a truck. Point D was near the wash stall. And we kept going to letter R, when the other riders were ready. It was a lot of fun and Buckshot seemed to enjoy it, being guided to various places with purpose and praise. I’ll definitely do it again.

The group of riders went through the woods to the field arena and did some great work there. Then we returned to the barn. So, we were fortunate to have such good weather all week, and Buckshot did great

as well, and never got tired of me. It was lovely.

Tomorrow (Thursday) the vet will be coming to the farm to give Buckshot his annual tooth floating. A few other horses will have some things done as well. It should be a good day, and I will hover over Buckshot like a helicopter mother, watching his every move and mood, as he is sedated and floated, and recovers. Whenever the vet is involved, it brings out my most protective, mothering side. But I don’t apologize because he is my most cherished horse and I want the best for him. But I hope I’m not too overprotective – LOL!

Hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful for you and your family!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Autumn Weather and Great Rides!

I had such a fun time with Buckshot yesterday! He was such a character!

It was a lovely day, slightly cool with a light autumn breeze, high clouds overhead so no direct sun, but a pretty autumn day. We had the farm to ourselves since the BO and BOH went to the reining class. I went to visit Buckshot in his pasture to say hi and check out how things were. I checked his water tub, looked in the stalls for poop (yes, some cleanup needed), checked the salt block in a bucket (it sometimes gets liquid in the bottom, so I'll take out the salt and clean the bucket). Oh, and right now I always go over to the persimmon tree to check and see if any persimmons have fallen so I can give them to Buckshot.

Yes, the persimmon tree is at that stage where there is a lot of fruit still hanging, but it is up so high, I can't reach any of it with a swinging rope, so I can't hit them out of the tree. So I use the rope on lower branches, get them swinging, which makes all the high branches sway, but those darn things hang on for dear life! They stubbornly stay up there on their branches. At one point, I looked over and here comes Buckshot, heading over to the tree where I am. I can almost see the lack of confidence in his eyes: "she won't get me any persimmons!" I tried, believe me I tried, but he was right, I couldn't get any to fall. The last 5 or 6 times I have "worked the tree" I have only gotten persimmons that had already fallen to the ground. I gave them all to Buckshot.

After taking him over to the main barn, and grooming him, and tacking him up, we headed out to the arena. All ours! No one else will be riding in it! I love the feeling of freedom of the entire arena. There were three pole-bending poles set up, and I set up three cavaletti. I got mounted, using the new protocol of mounting, and Buckshot is very nearly 100% with it. He only sometimes prances around looking for a second treat after I am on him, and when I say clearly "whoa" from the saddle, he listens, and stops moving. Good boy!

We worked in the arena for our warm up, and did some trotting. His energy was good, and the cool air felt wonderful in my face. I felt energetic as well, and our trotting was in synch and united. A terrific feeling! And going over the cavaletti was wonderful! When I trot Buckshot over it, I never look down. I keep my eyes up, and I post, almost staying in two point position. And he did great! He never touched or hit any of the cavaletti! Wonderful! I think it is such a good exercise for him, since he has to lift his feet, and balance and get his strides down. And it is a courage builder for me. Sometimes, because of his age (he is approximately 25 years old), I mentally want to restrict him to geriatric horse things. (I think it is because, to many people, a 25 year old horse is very, very old, nearly dead, in fact, and that perception leaks into my thoughts.) But I think of Buckshot as a "young" 25 year old horse, since he loves his work, works willingly, and is a great riding horse. But the tiny thought crossed my mind as I approached the cavaletti- I hope he doesn't fall.... Well, he didn't fall, he didn't have any trouble with them at all, and he trotted over them several times with flying colors! Good boy!

After doing a little cantering, which was nice cantering by him, we started walking down the road. Since the BO was gone, I was to feed three older horses a grain lunch, and one of these three horses was in a barn down the road. So we walked down the road, with Buckshot making good time, not being too hesitant at all (progress!), and when we got to the barn in question, I got off of him. I then had to figure out what to do with him while I fed the older horse, and tied up her pasturemate so she could eat without him stealing her grain.

Well, I didn't know what to do with Buckshot. Can't take him into the pasture with the other two horses - that doesn't sound safe. I walked Buckshot up to the door and reached for a halter. Well, he took another step in. He's apparently not worried about small, dark feed rooms! I backed him out and walked over to the gate. I thought I'd put the halter on and tie him with an emergency knot to the gate. But as I applied the halter over his bridle, I thought- that's wrong. If you have both a bridle and a halter on a horse, the halter needs to be under the bridle. Putting the halter over the bridle appeared to me to push the sides of the bit down and it might hurt. So then I took the halter and wound it around his neck, like you do typically when you are replacing a halter with a bridle. It was tight, but I thought it would work for a few minutes. Then I tied the lead line to the gate. I looked at Buckshot- his face looked pinched, like "what is this you are doing to me??" I thought if I step away, he might be worried, and I didn't like it, so I undid it.

Then I walked him back to the tack room door, and thought- grain! He loves grain! I'll give him a few bites of it. The only thing I could find to use was a dog/cat dish kept there to feed kibble to the cats. I put some grain into the dog dish and set it down in front of Buckshot. Well, he lowered his nose to the dish and stood stock still- eating away! I fed Jesse, and tied up Dusty, and Buckshot never moved a muscle from the grain!

I mounted him again and we went to the reining arena and had a wonderful time! We cantered a lot and trotted a lot and it was just a soaring, wonderful, freeing time with Buckshot! He had good energy, and the weather was just so nice and cool and we just rode and had such fun! I was so proud of him - he let me work on my canter seat by cantering for a good long time, and repeatedly, and he was just wonderful! After I had my fill, we headed back to the barn to untie the horse. Again, I used the grain in the dog dish to keep Buckshot occupied and standing still! Then I mounted up again, and we headed back to the main arena. We did a few more minutes of work there and called it a day. An hour and a half of wonderful autumn riding, on the best horse ever! I gave him lots of treats and praise and thanks as I untacked and brushed him, and walked my partner back to his pasture.

Hope you had a great autumn ride as well!

Contest Winners Announced!

Congratulations to my contest winners: Grey Horse Matters and Girl with a Dream!

They both answered my question with insightful comments and so they both have won!

To the special winners - for instructions and information on your prizes, see comments in the prior post. Thank you so much!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Interesting Weekend Challenge

Last weekend I went to see Buckshot Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The weather here was lovely- in the 50’s and 60’s, even a tad warmer on Sunday, sunny, no bad weather in sight. On Friday and Saturday we had great rides. Buckshot is learning the new mounting protocol – of only getting a treat before I mount- and half of the time he is perfect. Standing still while I get on, and staying perfectly still while I get myself adjusted, and he only moves when I tell him to. The other half of the times he forgets that there is no second treat, and will turn around and look for it. But he is learning, and he is better at standing still than he was before this change. Good boy!

On Sunday, an interesting challenge came up. We were riding alone, and during our warm up I could tell he had low energy. It was a bit warmer, and sunnier, so it felt like a spring day, but of course he has his winter coat and so, understandably, he felt a little sluggish. He trotted okay, though. After our warm up, we started walking around outside the arena and I led him to the trailhead to go on the trail. He was a little reluctant but he walked forward and we started down the first section of the trail.

I had to urge him with my legs a few times, but he went on, albeit slowly. After a little ways, he stopped. He didn’t snort, or act agitated, or worried at all. He just stopped. I tried squeezing with my legs and saying walk on. But he didn’t move. Not an inch. I looked around to see if something or some critter was nearby, but the woods were lovely, calm and quiet. I concluded he just didn’t want to go further. He just didn’t. Nothing really was wrong, except for going forward.
So I sat there, and thought. I have lots of techniques for getting a horse to go forward, I’ll just have to use them. I turned him in little circles, and then headed him forward. Nothing. I turned him in circles the other direction. Nothing. I backed him, and he backed up for 5 or 6 strides. Then we moved forward to the exact same spot and he stopped again. I squeezed my legs again, hard. Nothing. Harder. Nothing. I used my crop and tapped him on the shoulder. Walk on. Nothing. I tapped harder. Nothing. Just a horse statue. I tapped him, fairly hard, on his haunches. Nothing. I steered him sideways into the woods, and then back out, and at the same spot, he stopped. Well, I thought, I’m exhausting all of my tools. I know I can’t outmuscle him, and using the crop as hard as I can isn’t going to work. And my legs are getting tired. I couldn’t figure it out. He was very calm, and stubborn. But I was determined. Since nothing was wrong (he wasn’t afraid, or agitated, or worried, or hurt) I wanted us to go forward. But I didn’t have as many tools as I thought I had. So I stopped and thought. I just don’t know. I was a tiny bit irritated at this, but I wasn’t going to get angry, I told myself. Just keep trying things. And wishing I had a few more tools to try. So again, I squeezed, and also kicked several times, and he started right up! Amazing! I don’t know what was going on, but at some point, he decided to walk!

We continued just fine through the trail. He tried to turn around once, a half-hearted attempt on him part, and I got us back in the forward direction. We had a nice time through the woods and came out to to field and walked around it to the reining arena. We started some trotting and his energy seemed so slow it was barely above a walk. I felt him beginning to balk a little. So I tried something new, hoping that he understands English. I stopped him, and said, very clearly, and sternly, Buckshot, if you don’t go forward in the arena, you won’t get to eat grass. He is always allowed to graze by the arena when we finish, but I was going to forget the grazing that day, if he did the statue thing again. And, do you know, he moved forward just fine! We got some nice trotting work and walking work in. We even did two canters that were fine. Not great, but considering the warmth of the day, just fine. And then I walked him over to the grass and let him eat.

Then I headed us back to the barn, and darn if his forward energy didn’t pick right up! What a character! I petted his neck and told him he did good work! And we had done two new things we had never done before- dealt with his statue-thing and he had learned English and understood “no grass!”

As we walked back and I untacked him and gave him treats, I kept thinking about the statue situation. In the back of my mind, I felt like it had been a test, that he had been testing me to see what I would do if he was really stubborn with me. Would I get angry and yell at him, or hit him? Or give up and get off of him and walk him forward, or give up on the trail totally? If pushed beyond our usual limits, what would I do? He wanted to know. Maybe he needed to know. Like when you’ve been with someone for five years, and are wondering what would they be like if you were really stubborn. You might see the real person inside. Maybe he wanted to test me. I think I passed his test and showed him I can be persistent, and firm, but not get angry, or tense, or demanding. And he passed my test, if it was one, by finally responding to what I wanted. When I told the BO about it later, she said maybe he wanted to know if I would eventually give in. And would let him not go forward, or even get off of him and lead him.

I also thought about the number of tools I have. I quickly realized, after the fact, that there were two tools I didn’t think of using. I didn’t think of “patience,” by which I mean I could have mentally counted to 20 in my head, between tries. Sometimes if you give someone more time to react to the request, they will do it. They just won’t do it immediately. I didn’t think to use mental counting and patience. I will remember that in the future.

I also forgot that I had some treats in my pocket. The BO said that was probably good, that using treats in that situation might have been counter productive, and taught him that eventually he’ll get a treat. I agree with her on that- treats wouldn’t have been a good tool.

I wonder if there are still other tools I could use in that type of situation. Perhaps there are. But it was an interesting day, and an interesting challenge for me to deal with. Buckshot is a good horse, and is reliable and calm, most of the time. But once in a while, he challenges me, and it’s a good learning experience for me. And for our relationship as well. And he is interesting, that even in his stubbornness, he stayed calm, and it was never dangerous or scary. Just a test of wills between partners. He got to stand still for a long time and observe me, and see what I had. See what I was made of. And I got to, eventually, move forward through the woods on a calm, and interesting horse. It’s another reason I love him.

Hope you had a more cooperative horse to ride! Have you ever gotten the feeling that your horse tested you? If so, please share about it. And the most interesting comment will win a prize (I promise)!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Good Rides with Buckshot

I finally got to the barn last Saturday to see my sweet Buckshot, and he was fine. The farm hadn’t been damaged by Hurricane Sandy, but several of the horses, including Buckshot, had been moved to the main barn during the worst of the rain, wind and cold temperatures. I meekly asked the BO (barn owner) if Buckshot had whinnied a lot when in the stall. I know he can be, well, noisy, when confined to a stall, so I hoped it hadn’t been too bad. She said a lot of the horses had been whinnying so Buckshot wasn’t the only one; eventually he had settled down and eaten hay.

After I saw him, hugged him, told him how I missed him, and cleaned up his stall, I got him over to the main barn and groomed and tacked him up. He had good energy! It was a nice crisp fall day, and you could just feel the good energy in the air. In fact, when I tried to mount him, he had too much energy. I now can mount him while he is moving, but it isn’t a good situation. In fact, my own procedures had caused this problem. I had gotten Buckshot to take a treat just before I get on him, in order to get him to stand still, and then I gave him a second treat when on him. It worked perfectly for a long time. But eventually it backfired. Giving him a treat from the saddle caused him to accidently bite my hand or fingers several times. So I started leaving the treat on the mounting block, and after I was in the saddle, I’d turn him around to pick it up from the block. But over time, his excitement about that treat on the block caused him to start turning the moment my left foot was in the stirrup, hence, my mounting a moving horse. So on Saturday, I finally admitted to myself that we had a new problem with mounting. That‘s the first step- admitting there is a problem.

Anyway, we had a great ride. Buckshot had a lot of great energy and did some very nice trotting, and, wonder of wonders! Some super cantering! He cantered strongly and powerfully, several times in fact, so strongly that my seat bumped on the saddle (and boy, did I feel sore later). We also had a nice ride through the woods, with my sister and Dusty. It was a great day!

On Sunday, the weather was wonderful again- nice and crisp/cool, with some sunshine and no chance of rain. Buckshot and I had a really good ride, with nice trotting and wonderful cantering again. I was thrilled. And I worked on the mounting issue. When I first went to get on him, he moved before I got my foot in the stirrup, so I got off of the block, and walked him over to a different mounting block, to change up his normal procedure, because I was about to make a bigger change. At this mounting block, I gave him two treats up front, then got on the block and got on him, without his moving. Then I walked him away from it. The new protocol is: one treat at mounting, no second treat after I’m on him.

At first, he wiggled this way and that, trying to get back to the block to get his treat. I squeezed him firmly and said walk on. After a moment, he moved forward and we started our ride.

I mounted him three more times that day, all to retrain him how to mount. I gave him a treat at the beginning, then I got on him, and no more treats. He scooted around to look for the treat he expected, but I firmly got him walking forward and after a moment, he forgot about it. So after four times practicing our new protocol, we are well on our way to having a better situation. I’ll have to keep it up until he is comfortable with the change, but he will be. (I give him lots of treats after every ride, and pamper him as much as possible, so that minimizes any guilt I feel about taking away this treat. And, for safety reasons, it is important to make this change.)

So I had wonderful times with Buckshot last weekend. I never did make it to the Equine Extravaganza. On Friday, I couldn’t take time off from work, and on Saturday and Sunday, I wanted to be with Buckshot instead of going to the convention. So no shopping for me, or research on wonderful horse secrets, but I was exactly where I most wanted to be- with my sweet horse himself.

I’ve ordered a glucosamine supplement from SmartPak, to try and help with any stiffness Buckshot has from arthritis. He was stiff after laying down for sleep during the cold wet hurricane – apparently he will lay down in inclement weather, and even with his winter blanket on, he still got chilled (and then the BO took him to the main barn). So I want to try to relieve some of his stiffness. We’ll see how it works.

Hope you had a nice weekend!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

We Survived Hurricane Sandy!

Just a quick post here (I'll write more later) to let you know everything is fine with us in Virginia. Last weekend at the farm, the very thoughtful BO had staged blankets, hay, feed in every barn. I had brought both of Buckshot's heavy winter blankets to the feed room attached to his pasture barn. So we were ready. (I also had done preparations for loss of power at my apartment, and for my dad.)

It rained and was cold and windy on Monday and Tuesday, and from what the BO told me later, Buckshot did get chilled and wet and had to be brought over to the main barn. (The main barn is where I tack him up; it is where there are appx 14 stalls, and where I have space for my tack, equipment and gear). He spent either one or two days in the barn with, no doubt, appx 13 other horses. Apparently he laid down Monday morning outside in the pasture, to get his REM sleep, and it was wet and cold, and even though he had his winter blanket on, he got chilled. So then the BO and BOH brought him over to the main barn. I guess he was somewhat stiff also, from the cold. Poor boy! By Tuesday night, she was able to take him back to his main pasture, so he must have been fine by then.

I haven't seen him yet, so will see him Saturday morning. I'm so glad I put both of his winter blankets nearby for him!

Luckily, the central Virginia area had very little damage from Hurricane Sandy. So sorry to hear about the northeast- we in Virginia have been there, with massive power outages, and the other damage. It's hard.

I'll write more about my rides with Buckshot - pre-hurricane- later. Thanks for your concern. Hope everyone is doing okay.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Buckshot Update, Cantering, Extravaganza and Contest

First, I apologize for missing writing a post last week. I was unusually busy and didn’t get to it, but I did feel guilty!

This past weekend we have lovely weather here in central Virginia. Both days were sunny and in the 70’s-couldn’t have been nicer. The leaves are just starting to turn colors here, so seeing the occasional vivid tree was very nice. I hope the autumn colors will continue, they are turning quite slowly this year, taking their time. And now we have the possibility of lots of rain this weekend and early next week as Hurricane Sandy comes up the coast. Yikes!

On Saturday, Buckshot and I worked on circles in our warmup, big, small and serpentines of various shapes. The footing was soft and sandy, and I could see Buckshot’s hoof tracks in the sand- he did really nice circles! We did some trotting and he even did two very nice canters. But I was not able to enjoy them; I was so off of my game on Saturday. The reason was new boots. That didn’t work well at all. That hurt my feet and lower legs, and were so stiff I couldn’t bend my ankle properly. Damn. I should have brought a back up pair of comfortable boots! But I didn’t and so it was pretty painful and frustrating to ride on Saturday. And Buckshot had good energy!

At one point Buckshot walked over to the trailhead, and into the woods we went! He was a little timid, with tiny little steps, but he kept going, and after we crossed the bridge, halfway down the trail, I turned us around, and voila! He started walking just fine!

We went back into the arena, and soon two other riders joined us. We did some warmup for them, and then all three horses headed into the woods. Buckshot was fine in the woods with the other horses nearby. He’s funny- some days he is fine in the woods by ourselves, other days he likes other horses to be there. We worked for a while in the reining arena, including some nice canters – go, Buckshot!- and then we headed back to the barn. In all, Buckshot and I rode for almost two hours.

His poop has gotten a little soft again. He had been having nice solid poop since starting him on the new probiotic, but perhaps with the change in seasons, and the resulting change in grasses, he is having a bit of soft poop again. I could see some dried poop on the underside of his tail. I made a mental note to clean his rear end good on Sunday, knowing he would like to go to the wash stall so he could eat some grain there!

Sunday was an exciting day at the farm. Lots going on. One boarded horse had been sold and was going to a new home. A new boarded horse was to have arrived late Saturday, apparently a 2 year old stud (are you supposed to call them a stallion when they are two? I’m not sure) bought, sight unseen, by a young mother just getting back into horses. Hmmm. So when I arrived Sunday morning, I could see the new stud in the arena, eating hay. He was short, dark bay and quite calm. Very short, like 13 hands. Hmmm. I went about my usual activities – going to Buckshot’s pasture to say hi, and see how he is, and if their stalls need cleaning, or if the persimmon tree needs help dropping some fruit, or if the salt block bucket needs cleaning, or if the water tub needs cleaning, or if my sweet horse needs hugs (yes, he does!). You get the picture.

While at the persimmon tree, I could see way over yonder, to the main barn, and a trailer that had pulled up to pick up the boarder. This horse hadn’t been trailered for years, so I watched the trailering. After a few veer-offs to the side, I saw him go calmly into the trailer. Whew- that’s good. A little group of people stood around and talked for a few minutes, then the trailer pulled out.

After I brought Buckshot to the main barn and got him tacked up (wearing my old, favorite, comfortable boots – hooray!), we couldn’t use the arena because of the new horse in it, so we walked around the grassy areas outside the arena for our warmup. Then the BO came out on her horse and we walked down the road to the reining arena and did some work there. Buckshot had nice energy and did some good trotting and cantering. I used more firm kicks with my outside leg when cantering and he kept the canter longer. It was much, much better cantering than the past two weekends. I mentioned that to the BO and she said yes sometimes, with arthritis, they have good days and not so good days. I am thinking about, and talking to her about giving him inter-muscular injections of the standard anti-arthritis drug, but don’t want to do so unless it really seems warranted. In December, Buckshot is due for his annual teeth floating by the vet, so that is probably a good time to explore that possibility with the vet. After a short loading dosage, it would be one weekly injection which I could give him. On the one hand, I may think he doesn’t seem to need it, but on the other hand, if he is uncomfortable, and the injections make him more comfortable, they may be a good idea. So I am giving it some thought.

The BO and I left the arena, and went down the road to the main barn, where the BOH was getting his horse ready to ride. The BO untacked her horse and went to get another horse to ride, so I hopped off of Buckshot, loosened his cinch and let him eat grass for ten minutes or so. Then I tightened the cinch, got back on him and the three of us went on another ride! We went on the trail this time, through the lovely woods, with the sunshine zooming down among the trees, with crackly leaves underfoot, surrounded by the coolness of the semi-shady trail. It was a picture perfect trail ride! At the reining arena, we did some more work. Buckshot nodded his head a bit, no doubt thinking, hey! This is two rides in one day! That’s more than the contract calls for! I want double treats! Ha, ha! But he did great, and after some work, we headed back to the barn. He and I rode for two hours! It was a wonderful day and a wonderful double ride!

Then after giving Buckshot his treats, I took him to the wash stall and washed his rear end and tail and sprayed his tail with Vetrolin, while he ate grain. He was a very happy horse, and a spiffy one, when I walked him back to the pasture. What a sweet horse – I am so lucky to have him!!

The Equine Extravaganza is coming to Richmond in a few weeks and I have been looking at the schedule and the clinics to see what I want to go see. I would really like to see the big show they do each night – the one starring Tommie Turvey and his wonderful act with his horses. It is so inspiring to see really well trained horses doing spectacular things, don’t you think? It shows some of the best that horses are, and horses are really awesome animals. You know what I’d also like to do? This is a crazy idea, but with so many horsemen and horsewomen there in one place, it would be amazing to ask each one “what is one secret of horses that you have learned over your lifetime?” They have the opportunity to be around horses so much, and for so many years, and if they think deeply about them, I’ll bet they have discovered some wonderful secrets about horses that I would never discover. It’s a thought, isn’t it?

Oh, and I want to do some shopping there also. Oh, yes. I have a small, unimpressive wish list so far. I want to get Cowboy Magic conditioner for Buckshot’s main and tail, and a new headstall (or bridle), because his lost some Chicago screws a few weeks back and I am borrowing a headstall from the BO for the time being, so I also want some Chicago screws (lots of them!), and a new jacket, and lots of new boots (I love boots!) and some treats for Buckshot, and some new gloves. And that list – which actually does sound a bit expensive – is without seeing all the other things that will be there! Oh, no, I feel some major financial damage coming! Ha, ha!

And one last thought, I’d like to do a blog contest for you, all my faithful readers! I’m not sure what I would ask you to do, maybe finish a sentence or something, but I love the part about giving away a prize. I get so excited when I see a blog contest and I love to try and win, and I haven’t won anything yet, but the sheer excitement is such fun! So I want to do one, and send one of you a super prize. Maybe I’ll get some ideas and prizes at the Extravaganza! So please keep reading!!

I hope you had a wonderful weekend with your precious horses. Enjoy the photographs (I finally took my camera to the barn recently and got some new photos. But am having trouble uploading more than one...)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Buckshot Excels on the Trail!

I’m so proud of my sweet Buckshot! Last Friday, I went to the barn and it was a lovely, sunny, ever so slightly warm day- perfect. After we had done our warm up and started trotting, I let him walk out of the arena, and he headed to the trailhead. In my mind, I said – hooray, and today’s the day, we’ll go through the entire trail by ourselves! So we started on the trail, with Buckshot walking purposefully. At two spots, he wanted to go off the main trail, onto mini trails, and so we went. We reached the point where we had gone the farthest by ourselves, and I could feel his uncertainty starting. But I urged him on, with squeezes, with walk on, Buckshot, you’re doing great! And he went forward! We continued on through the trail, with me talking a lot, partly faking my confidence, partly building up my confidence, and it worked!

We got to the field and walked on the perimeter. Around the corner and to the reining arena. All by ourselves! With my sweet horse listening to me and responding! In the arena, we did some trotting. When I asked for the canter he was rather sloppy about it, I’m not sure why. So I asked for the trot again, and urged him on. And he responded with a wonderful, powerful extended trot that made me feel like I was flying! He could go on for a long time at this extended trot, so I took it, and enjoyed it so much. We also did a full reining pattern, with lots of circles and maneuvers, mostly at the trot. But we stayed with it and finished it, a good accomplishment. He is so willing to do what I ask, he amazes me. After such good work, we then went down the farm road to the main barn, and I dismounted. I was so proud of him – we rode the entire trail by ourselves, a first for us! And we did a full pattern at the arena. I couldn’t have been prouder of both of us!

The next day, during our warm up, Buckshot wanted to go on the trail! Headed right over to the trail head on his own. I had to stop him, and go back into the arena because we hadn’t done one of the things I do during our warmup. I needed to hop off of him and tighten the cinch, which I always do halfway through the warm up. After that, we headed back to the trailhead and through the trail. He did great- he got a little hesitant at some spots, and walked with little bitty, teeny weeny steps, but he listened to me and continued to go forward. We again made it to the field, and to the reining arena by ourselves. He was impatient and wanted to head back down the road to the barn, so I had to keep him busy in the arena. Again, his canter felt unbalanced or sloppy and he only would canter three or four strides before breaking gait. I was puzzled about that- was it the still-warm weather? Was he mentally uncomfortable at the arena by ourselves? Was it something physical, and he felt stiff? I’m not sure.
But we headed back, and did more trotting at the main arena, and then I dismounted. A great ride.

Sunday was cloudy and rainy so we didn’t ride, but I had fun with Buckshot in other ways. I knocked some persimmons off the tree so he could eat them. I took him out grazing a couple of times during rain breaks. And one really funny thing happened. I went into his stall at his pasture with a curry comb and brush to brush him during one of the rain breaks. I started brushing his face, and then down his neck, and he backed up, wanting me to stay at his face. So I chatted with him and brushed him a bit and just hung out. Everytime I moved to his side he backed up so we were face to face. So I decided to move outside of the stall and brush him where he had more room to move around. He seemed very engaged in our play time or chat time. He came out and I brushed his face. Again, if I moved, he moved. So I started moving in a semicircle in front of him, facing him, and he matched my movements. If I moved five steps to the left, he moved five steps to the right, facing me! When I moved to the right, he matched me. I added in some rhythm and we kept doing this back and forth movements, and I suddenly stopped and said “Buckshot, we’re dancing!” It was so neat. If I moved just two steps, he matched just the two steps. Back and forth, back and forth. It was such fun! Then Lucky came out of his stall to watch us. Buckshot kindof lost some interest at that point. But what fun! He is such a character at times! Buckshot dances!

So I had a great weekend with him! Just need to figure out what, if anything, is going on with his cantering being off. Yet he had a powerful extended trot. If cantering takes a lot of effort, that he didn’t want to do, so does the extended trot. He would do one gait well, and strongly, but not the other. A mystery. So I’ll stay on it and see what this weekend brings. Hope you had a wonderful time with your horses and hope you are having good riding weather

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Autumn, and Eating Breakfast Bars

Saturday Buckshot and I had a good time. It was a coolish, humid day, with low, thick clouds. Weird early autumn weather. I got Buckshot groomed and tacked up, and we headed into the arena, where I closed the gate after we were inside. I walked him around in hand, stopped him, stood in front of him to check the position of the saddle, tugged on it a little, tightened the cinch, and mounted. We did our warm up twenty minutes, and started trotting. His energy level was moderate. We did a little cantering but not much. I wondered if my closing the gate tamped down his energy – no way for him to get to trot or canter right out of the arena, which I think he likes to do. The BO came into the arena on one of her horses and we rode for a while, then she opened the gate and we rode into the woods. It was nice on the trail – more autumn cooler temperatures, and leaves underfoot but not so crackly that you can’t talk. When we got to the end of the trail, and went into a big hay field, we trotted along the perimeter. We made our way to the other arena, and did some work there. And then headed down the farm road, back to the barn, and ended our ride. Nothing spectacular, but a nice ride on a nice day. On a wonderful horse!

After I untacked Buckshot, I could see that he wasn’t sweaty so didn’t need a shower. We started walking back to his pasture, and he walked me straight to the wash stall. I let him sniff the bucket that hangs on the wall, usually with a bit of grain in it for the washed horse to nibble on. He didn’t like that the bucket was empty nor that I wasn’t tying him up. I walked him out to the grass and stopped, saying, would you like to eat grass? But he had other things on his mind, so he walked me again into the wash stall! He is so funny! He would be glad to be rinsed off so he could have some grain!! Why didn’t I realize that?? But instead I headed him back out of the stall and to the grass. And he stopped, dead in his tracks. No, no shower today, Buckshot, I explained. And touched my shirt. And then he started walking. Because he knew the next secret was in my shirt.

A bit of background here. Last spring, I decided to buy some short sleeved blouses to wear at the barn during the summer, hoping they would be cooler than t shirts or polo shirts during the hot, humid summer. I looked at REI (an outdoor gear store) and found what is called a safari shirt, made of lightweight fabric that dries easily and is hand washable. I bought several of them. An interesting feature of them is that they have secret pockets – pockets that have zipper closings that you can’t see. I have been sticking breakfast bars in these secret pockets when I untack Buckshot, and when I walk him back to his pasture, I am usually famished and tired, so I stop and unzip the pocket, take out the bar, open it up and eat it. Well, after the first time, Buckshot sniffed it, and said he wanted a bite. So I would then alternate, bite for me, tear off bite for Buckshot, bite for me, etc. He loved them. Eventually I was putting two bars in my secret pocket. So now, Buckshot eyes me carefully when we are walking back to his pasture, since he knows the breakfast bars are coming. I will touch my shirt and he can hear the wrapper crackling inside and he knows a yummy treat is coming. Isn’t he funny? It’s the only thing we eat that we literally share, and it is sort of a warm, cozy moment when I share the breakfast bars with my horse. I hadn’t mentioned it to anyone lest they think me odd or a little crazy. But a special horse like Buckshot does that to you – tugs at your heart in certain small, intimate moments that you share, making wonderful little memories with them, such a sweet thing. I love those moments with Buckshot. (And by the way, safari shirts are great! I love them.)

On Sunday, the weather was nice again, a pretty blue sky and temperatures a little on the warm side. When I got to Buckshot’s pasture he was eating hay in his stall. So I took a training stick over to the persimmon tree in his pasture and whacking the branches, made some of the fruit fall to the ground. Buckshot and some of the horses in the adjacent pasture love to eat the persimmons. But they fall to the ground rather slowly, so I thought I’d speed things up and get some of the fruit down myself. I left some of the persimmons under the tree for him to find later, and I took a few over to him in the stall. Later, when we rode, Buckshot and the other horses were all in a low energy, isn’t-this-a-nap-day kind of mood. We did a little trotting, no cantering and a lot of trail riding. It was a lovely, slow motion kind of day.

Buckshot got a West Nile 5 way vaccine booster a few weeks ago. The vets here recommended one this year due to the danger of West Nile transmission. A horse in Virginia contracted West Nile recently and had to be put down. The horse hadn’t had a vaccine in three years. I’m sorry about him. But I’m glad Buckshot got his booster. I know it’s not a complete guarantee but it gives me piece of mind.

Hope you are enjoying cooler weather and nice rides as well!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Buckshot Surprises Me!

Have you ever had a day, or two, that are really bad, full of tension and stress and worry? And then you go see your horse, hoping he is doing well and nothing bad has happened, because you just don’t have any extra emotional energy to deal with it? Luckily, your horse is fine, and is maybe even glad to see you. And then you have the best time in the world with your special horse, and it is healing, and relaxing, and wonderful, just when you need it most? Well, that was my experience last weekend. After some work stresses, I had a great time Saturday and Sunday with Buckshot. He was perfect both days. Such a good horse. And I so needed it.

We had good rides on Saturday and Sunday, but I’ll just write about Sunday. The farm was quiet since the BO and BOH had gone to the reining clinic (I am taking a break from it). The weather was perfect- sunny, cool, in the 70’s, blue sky and slight breeze.

After I got Buckshot from his pasture and groomed and tacked him up, we went into the arena. There had been rain the previous night, making parts of the arena soupy. I set up three cavaletti, and two tall poles. We started our warm up walk and used the cavaletti to walk over and around. We walked around the perimeter of the arena so I could monitor how soft various sections were, and I determined what area we could ride in. It’s been many months since we have used cavaletti, but I love to trot over them so I thought it would be fun to use them again. After our warm up, we started trotting and after a bit, I started from one end of the arena and headed to the cavaletti, and Buckshot float-trotted over them! It was wonderful! He didn’t touch any of the poles! We did it several times, and about the fifth time, he hit one of the poles and moved it off course. But such fun!

We did some cantering that was lovely. And then we started walking out of the arena. Buckshot wanted to explore so I let him lead. He walked out strongly, then slowed down, so I took up the reins and led us around a bit. Then he started walking in another direction. Hmm, I thought, where is he going? He walked over to the side of the arena and down the rail. At the end, we stopped and I turned us around, and he walked over to the trailhead. I thought, he wants to go on the trail! And he did. All by ourselves! He walked confidently down the trail! We had a great time – walking through the lovely woods, over the creek, exploring some of the smaller side trails, and then returning. All by ourselves!! Without having to urge him to go! I was so happy, and surprised that he wanted to do this.

After the trail, we went back in the arena and worked on various patterns. When we had been riding for about an hour, I thought it was time to stop. We did a little more trotting, and then I walked, cooling down, and said to Buckshot, okay, we’ll go outside the arena and dismount. So we walked out of the arena, and surprise! Buckshot didn’t stop, but turned and walked over to the trailhead again! He wanted to go back on the trail! And so we went into the woods again, and had a nice second ride. My dear, sweet horse, who usually doesn’t want to go on the trail without other horses, in one day, wanted to go on the trail alone, twice! What a surprise! I guess you never know what they are thinking. It was such a nice ride!

You know, now that summer is ending, Buckshot is very sad about one aspect of summer coming to an end- getting washed. He loves the wash stall and frequently wants to go into it whenever we are just walking by it. The reason - treats! He gets to eat a handful or two of sweet feed whenever I wash him. So he loves to be washed!!

Knowing this, I had decided in advance that even if he wasn’t sweaty after our ride, I would take him to the wash stall and give him a “dry bath.” I planned to brush him and brush out his mane and tail, so he could have his sweet feed. As it turned out, he was a tiny bit sweaty, so I rinsed off his barrel and girth area, and then scraped the water off, followed by brushing his mane and tail and spraying him with Vetrolin conditioner. Then I walked him back to his pasture. I was so proud of him and grateful for the wonderful rides we had- I really needed the calm and restoration of being with him, and he couldn’t have been any better. Thank you, sweet Buckshot, you are the best horse in the world. And full of surprises – good ones! – at times as well.

Hope you had a wonderful time with your horse! And isn’t the cooler weather just fabulous?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Autumn Has Arrived!

The weather was cooler this past weekend – finally!-, and Buckshot’s energy was good. We worked on some of the goals I planned and had a good time. We mostly worked on stamina by trotting longer, and trying to canter longer. It is hard for me to get the feel of Buckshot in the canter, much less extend the feel to help him canter longer. That is a tall order. And of course, trying it for one or two days is nothing; it might take weeks and weeks to achieve even a small measure of it.

Using split reins was a little clumsy on my part. Both days I let one rein accidently drag on the ground and Buckshot stepped on it (while I was on the ground). Adjusting the length of the rein in my hands was much harder, and frankly, now I’m questioning why I even want to use split reins. English buckled reins are much easier for me- easier to shorten and lengthen, easier to maneuver. I am wondering about this.

Neck reining consistently was also a little clumsy. Buckshot was responsive and willing with both of these changes, but at times it was confusing. I don’t know if neck reining is all that important.

So it was a weekend of mixed results. Through it all, Buckshot was willing and cooperative. I appreciate that about him. I am also of mixed feelings about continuing going to the reining clinics. I think that Buckshot and I may be more comfortable working on our patterns and riding at our home farm, rather than with reining show horses in training. I am uncomfortable with some of the comments made about him, and so I am thinking about not continuing that activity. We can do a lot of fun activities right at home and that is appealing to me. I am a little dismayed by it all – my eager new goals, riding with show horses, an instructor that professionally trains reining horses to go to the highest levels, which isn’t my interest at all,- and a little out of sorts by some stresses at work, so I’m not in my usual optimistic mood. But I look forward to seeing Buckshot again soon, and hope that the weather continues to cooperate with us. Hope you had a wonderful autumn ride with your special horse!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

No Panic Today and An Interesting Dilemna

This past weekend two interesting things happened. The first was: Buckshot and I rode, with another horse and rider, down the scary road again, and had a good time. The day was sunny, with fluffy, friendly clouds in the sky, hot and humid. No rain in the forecast. Buckshot had somewhat lower energy on Saturday, but we warmed up in the arena just fine. After we were joined by my sister on her school horse Dusty, we headed down the farm road to the reining arena. Both horses were kind of slow going down the road, but at least it was a sunny and pretty day (instead of the cloudy, shadowy, gloomy day earlier). We had a good time doing work at the reining arena and started back toward the main barn. This was where I was worried if Buckshot would fear going back. But he did fine, I stayed relaxed and we walked right back without a problem. I was thrilled! I hope we have subdued the scary memory that occurred on the road when we were approached by strange people and big dogs, that gave Buckshot a huge fright!

The second interesting thing occurred on Sunday. Buckshot and I went to the reining trainer clinic. The day was beautiful – sunny, blue skies, less hot and much less humid – a perfect summer day. After doing the maneuvers and exercises the trainer instructed us in, he said to me that I had advanced beyond Buckshot. He said that maybe I was bored (with Buckshot) and maybe Buckshot was bored. He suggested that I ride one of the show horses occasionally. I thanked him for his comments, and took Buckshot to be untacked and rinsed.

I thought about what he had said on the ride back to the farm. I can always share my thoughts with the barn owner, and later, while feeding all of the farm’s horses, I shared my thoughts with her. Her response was enthusiastic so that made me feel good. Here is what I thought: How wonderful to have received such a big compliment about my riding skills! I didn’t know anyone had noticed that I had gotten better at riding, so it was wonderful to be complimented on it.

I know that Buckshot isn’t officially a trained reining horse, nor a show horse, nor do I want to or plan to compete in reining. But Buckshot is my horse, my wonderful, wonderful horse and he has taught me a lot in these past almost-five years. He is one of the reasons my skills have gotten better. He is an invaluable trail horse, and he is really a versatile horse as well. He works with me willingly in the arena, and on trail rides, and going to another farm for reining clinics. That is very versatile of him. And he is such a reliable, calm, trustworthy horse. I am extremely lucky to have him as my own horse. I love him to death. And he has a big motor. Many people don’t find such a valuable horse for years and years.

With Buckshot’s age (twenty five plus years) and my lack of interest/ money for competing, I haven’t pushed us too much in our reining maneuvers. And during the summer, rain and sometimes humidity have limited our time to ride and work hard. So I have gone a bit soft, understandably perhaps.

So perhaps both he and I can push ourselves more. We can do more! We can become better! (You can hear in all these thoughts that the option of getting another horse is not there. That is not an option for me, timewise or financially. I really enjoy Buckshot and want to ride him, not someone’s show horse. So Buckshot is my one and only horse. He and I are a good team. Period.)

But we can do more, and we can get better. While I drove home, lots of ideas floated through my mind, and I got them down on paper as soon as I got home. I will no doubt refine them, as these are my first thoughts, but here is what I wrote.

Goals –
Don’t break gait at the canter.

Develop two distinct speeds at the canter – fast and slow/moderate. Learn to successfully lope at both speeds.

Do full reining patterns impressively (without the spins, or the sliding stops).

Develop strength, stamina and control.

Techniques/ Helps to Achieve Goals-
Explore use of blunt spurs. Can my legs handle spurs? Unfortunately I move my lower legs a lot at the trot. I may not be ready for this.

Train Buckshot to know that cantering and rating the canter is fun, not work, and he can keep doing it. (So he doesn’t break gait and go into trot) This is a concept I got from Mugwump – need to read her techniques on this again.

Develop his stamina and strength. Mine also, by exercise.

Use hills to develop the above.

Canter for long periods of time. Where? Use the big reining arena, and when a bit more space is needed, ride on the grass perimeter.

Do a full reining pattern every day that I ride him.

Get all of the reining patterns.

Use western reins. They have a longer bite, and may help the next technique.

Neck rein him exclusively. Buckshot neck reins, but I learned English when I started riding, and so have stayed with English rein techniques and have only occasionally neck reined him. But when I do, I give a bit more rein, so it may help him keep going happily. Perhaps I can borrow some western reins from the BO to find out what kind I like.

To help Buckshot go happily down the road to the reining arena, bring treats with me and give him treats on the way. Wear gloves.

Ride him twice a day on Saturday and twice on Sunday. First session to do hill work on the trail, and build stamina at the reining arena. Second session to ride with others in class in arenas.

So that is my list. I’ll think through it some more but I think it is a good idea. For both him and I. I need some motivation and maybe what the trainer said will act as a motivation. The BO said she thought my goals of pushing ourselves more, and trying to work on the canter were good. She said Buckshot is very powerful physically, and he is willing. She thought this is a good perspective on the whole thing.

So I am more motivated right now. I hope that my future posts will be full of successes, but realistically, my motivation may flag at times. Have you had something like this happen with you and your horse – a turning point that helped you to move forward in new ways? And do you have any tips for helping a horse stay cantering? Thanks in advance!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Buckshot Panics!

Last weekend, Labor Day weekend, I made it to the barn on Friday, Sunday and Monday. Saturday is one of my usual days at the barn, but I had to go to a shower instead. Buckshot and I rode on Friday, and on Sunday three of us went to the reining clinic and rode there. On Monday a scary thing happened.

Monday was wet, with off and on rain, very cloudy and dark, and hot and humid. I got Buckshot’s stall ready and hoped for a window of non-rainy time so we could ride. Once the rain stopped and I saw some breaks in the clouds, I went to get Buckshot and groom him and tack up. We went out to the arena but it was full of puddles, so we rode in the grassy areas around the barns and arena instead. Then we headed down the farm road to go see what the other arena looked like and if we could ride in it.

This was a bit of an adventure since I haven’t actually gotten him to go down the road on our own before. But I felt confident and Buckshot had a small but good amount of energy, so it seemed possible. Buckshot started off strong, walking nicely, but before long, he was hesitant and I was urging him, walk on! Walk on! And slowly, he walked. After a bit, I decided to lead him on foot, so I dismounted and started leading him. He was still hesitant to go forward, preferring to stand still, but using words and leading him in a zig zag pattern, I got him to go more or less forward. He wasn’t agitated, just terribly hesitant, stopping every few feet. Then I noticed the BO walking toward us on the road; she had come from a barn further up the road. She helped me lead Buckshot . One of the nearby barns had a mounting block so I remounted, and with the BO leading and me riding, we continued our walk to the reining arena. Buckshot walked slowly but steadily along. Buckshot was fine when we arrived and the BO left to do other things.

We had a good ride at the arena, doing some patterns and exercises along with trotting and a bit of cantering. There were a few puddles in the arena so we had to go around certain areas but we made the best of it. Since it was very muggy, and it was the first time that we had ridden alone in this arena, I decided I really wanted this to be a very good experience for Buckshot, so I ended the work a little early. I let him graze nearby and then we headed back to the main barn. Buckshot didn’t need any urging to go in this direction, as it is the direction back to safety. You know what I mean.

So we were walking nicely down the road, and way off down the road, near the end of the road where the main barn and the BO’s house is, I saw four figures walking toward us. The road is heavily canopied with tree limbs, so it was quite dark and full of shadows on a dark, cloudy day. By squinting, I could tell who was coming – it was a boarder, and her husband, and two dogs – large standard poodles, which by squinting I could tell were on leashes. We walked a few more steps – they were a hundred yards away from us – and Buckshot suddenly tensed and stopped. His ears were forward and I could tell he was watching this group of, of somethings, coming toward us. I didn’t think much about it, but decided that since it was new for us to encounter two people (strangers to him) and two large dogs, I’d dismount and lead him.

Within seconds after I had gotten off and held the reins, Buckshot suddenly panicked! He bolted, he wanted to run away from them, he wanted out, now!! I held onto him, my heart pounding, and I yelled to the people “Get back, Buckshot’s upset! Don’t come any closer!” Buckshot continued to thrash and bolt and try to get free of my hand (luckily he didn’t rear or whinny- that would have scared me even more!). I kept saying “Easy! Easy!” to Buckshot. I turned and looked over my shoulder at the visitors and they were still on the road, way down there. But Buckshot was not calming down, he just continued to panic. I held on to the reins with all my might, terrified of what might happen if I let go.

Finally, the visitors turned around and retraced their steps and took a route through the woods. Buckshot stopped panicking and we stood there, my heart pounding, but Buckshot was no longer trying to get away. I took a few deep breaths, and started walking him again. But he wasn’t interested in walking. It took me forever to get him down the road, tiny step by tiny step. And this was going in the direction of the safe barn. Maybe he was still a bit afraid that the “wolves” (or whatever scary thing he perceived them to be) were still down there, by his nice safe barn. I didn’t know what he was thinking, but I continued to try and reassure him and it took a long time to get him back to the barn. He seemed totally calm by the time we got back to the barn, and I untacked him, gave him his treats, all normally and without incident. Wow! What a scary time!

I told the BO and she suggested that maybe, in his older age, his eyesight wasn’t the best at that long distance, and so he saw something that seemed very scary to him. But I was still tense and stressed and still slightly scared. Oh, my God, what if I hadn’t happened to dismount? I could not have ridden out his frenzied bolting- I would probably have been hurt and he might have been hurt also. I was so, so glad that I had chosen to dismount when I did, but I know that I didn’t do it because I sensed panic. In any event, I was very, very relieved that I had gotten off of him, and had been able to keep him from running away, and that we both ultimately got safely back to the barn.

As I thought more about it, perhaps there were other factors. It was the first time Buckshot and I had ridden alone at the reining arena, and the first time we were alone as we walked back to the barn. New experiences for him. It was the first time we had ever encountered anyone walking toward us on the road from that direction. The road was dark and shadowy and hard for me to see. The poodles are big dogs and they looked like big animals. So it was the first time a big pack of unknown beings were coming down the road, in our direction. I had asked a lot of Buckshot just before this happened and maybe his confidence wasn’t very high. So dealing with a scary pack of unknown beings – well, he just couldn’t. He panicked. Thank goodness they left and he finally listened to me, and finally we got home safely.

So, I can’t forget that although 95% of the time, Buckshot is a calm, reliable, unspooky, older horse, he can still spook, and he can still panic. I’ll continue to trust my judgment that sometimes it is best to dismount, and I’ll do that. And I have to remember that there are still some things he hasn’t encountered, that I may have to train him through, and be patient with him about. Anyway, that was our Monday ride. Wow, and whew.

Hope you had a better Labor Day!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Lazy Weekend - Rain and Low Energy

Last weekend was lazy for Buckshot and I. Saturday was filled with rain, so I groomed Buckshot but we didn’t ride. On Sunday, the rain had passed, leaving heat and humidity behind. When I got Buckshot tacked up and out in the arena, he had low energy. We rode anyway, having a pretty good ride, but nothing noteworthy. After our ride, I walked Buckshot over to the wash stall, which he loves because there is a bucket with a bit of sweet feed for him to munch on while I rinse him off. He loves it!

I did more tack cleaning since I had so much extra time. Sorry my post isn’t more interesting.

Our vet is recommending a booster vaccine for West Nile because of the spread of the virus. I will get it for Buckshot. Have you given a booster for your horse? Hope you had a better weekend in your neck of the woods.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Saturday Wonders

Saturday was a lovely day here in Virginia- the sky was blue and filled with happy, fluffy clouds, the temperature was in the low 90’s and the humidity was low- a beautiful day for riding! When I first brought Buckshot into the arena, he was moving slowly, he had low energy. But that is fine for our warm up, and we got through it fine. Then we started trotting patterns and his energy rose. We did some very nice cantering as well. Soon three other horses and riders joined us in the arena, and we all warmed up. We went through the woods to the reining arena in a nearby field.

At the larger, reining arena, Buckshot and I did great work. We worked on cantering at the turns. At we approached a turn, I kept my inside leg strongly pressed against him, and he maintained the canter during the turn. It was great! I did it at both leads and worked well. Perhaps it gives him a bit of support in turning at the canter that I hadn’t realized before and so hadn’t done. The idea of supporting the horse during a maneuver is still new and unfamiliar to me. I guess I instinctively think that the horse can handle all of the turns, moves and actions asked of them. But when one instructor many years ago, instructed me to give the horse support while circling him at the trot, I first heard of this concept. What is your understanding of giving the horse support while riding?
In all, Saturday’s ride, in slightly cooler weather, was super. We rode for two hours. I was very proud of Buckshot!

Sunday was very rainy, and when there appeared to be a break in the rain, I got Buckshot and we rode for a short twenty minutes, but it was a good ride. We stayed at the walk, as it was our warm up time, but we did several new patterns at the walk, working on precision. He had good energy at the walk, and was very responsive to the patterns. At exactly twenty minutes, it started to rain big fat raindrops, so I dismounted and told him what good work he had done! Then I took him to the barn to untack and get treats.

I used the extra time on Sunday to do some of the things I don't like to do. I cleaned Buckshot's tack really well. I used toothpaste and a toothbrush to clean and shine his bit. I even cleaned the Chicago screws on his bit and coated them with clear polish. I am trying to get the hardware clean on his saddle and bridle as some spots have gotten a bit tarnished or rusted. What do you do to keep the hardware shiny? I wish I had gotten different hardware, but when I bought this headstall (or bridle) I didn't appreciate the different types of hardware. For some reason, I now want the hardware to look really nice and shiny. But there are bits of rust on it. Darn. Any suggestions?

Buckshot’s small bout of scratches on one pastern has finally cleared up. His front hooves are still a little split, however. The BO checks him several times during the week and I check him on the weekend. We occasionally treat it with thrush medication, as a preventative. They are healing, but very, very slowly. But overall, he is doing very well, and the new probiotic he is on is working great. Whenever he poops around me, I find myself looking at it carefully and pronouncing it- great poop! Only the owner of an older horse can perhaps understand! LOL!

Hope you had a good weekend with your special horse!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Amazing Animals

The farm that Buckshot lives at has many interesting and amazing animals in addition to horses. It’s fun to watch the antics of the other animals. There are quite a few chickens and roosters. Did you know roosters cock-a-doodle-do at any time of day? They do. I guess they don’t realize it’s supposed to be a wake up call. Sometimes the chickens and roosters will get up in the ceiling beams of the barn, and make a loud ruckus. It’s so loud you can’t hear yourself think! Several hens have laid eggs and sat on them, and recently four little chicks were born. It is so funny to watch the mother guide and lead her four fluffy chicks around the barn stalls, and in and out of the barn. We watch out for them so that a horse doesn’t get too close, but sometimes those feathered critters go right out into the paddock! Don’t they realize horses are a thousand times bigger than they are? They are amazingly courageous.

On Saturday I saw an amazing sight, involving a very different feathered creature. Just behind the main barn is a neighbor’s crop field, approximately ten square acres, and in the middle of it are several very large electric or telephone poles – they must be two hundred feet in the air, made of wood, and looking like a series of six wooden crosses, with the two crosses in the middle being shorter than the others. Saturday the sky was a cloudy and overcast grey blanket. The BO looked out at the poles in the field and pulled me over. On each of the four highest wooden crosses sat a buzzard! Regal, silent, huge, and each on a different but symmetrical pole. How did they do that? They weren’t fighting over the same pole; they weren’t on the ground. It looked like they had a plan and communication, and they chose to sit there and display their regal birdness. I think it is just amazing, and points to an intelligence that we may not often think such birds have. To sit there and oversee the growing crops, and wait, and watch, shows something more going on in their minds.

In contrast to the buzzards’ silent oversight, the chickens are always talking! They rarely shut up, even if it is just a little peep, peep, peep. Sometimes they crow incessantly. Or, they make really funny, kind of offensive noises, that sound like a weird throaty burp. It’s a really odd noise – you’ll know if you ever hear it because you’ll stop and say What was that? It’s a noise unlike anything you hear at a farm. But here’s my question - What are they talking about?? Maybe they are the ones who can’t think unless they are saying it out loud (I know people like that). Or maybe they have a competition going on for longest nonstop conversation. Or loudest crowing. They sure are noisy critters. But they are cute to watch when they are herding their chicks along.

And of course there are a bunch of farm cats and several dogs at the farm. But the best animal of all is the horse. And Buckshot is the best horse of all!

Buckshot and I had a great time on Saturday. We got in the arena and started our warm up. One of those days where everything about our ride feels great, and in synch, and together. He had good energy. I felt in tune with him. We started doing patterns and exercises at the trot and canter, and had a good ride. Then it started to sprinkle. Darn. It started to rain in earnest, so we rode to the main barn, I dismounted and we stood next to each other in the main aisle, looking out forlornly at the raindrops and trying to guess from the size and color of the clouds if it was a five minute rain or a thirty minute rain. I started walking Buckshot down the main aisle, doing a few very easy ground exercises with him. Just to kill some time. After a few minutes, the rain had decreased to a very light sprinkle. I thought, to heck with this, we both want to go back to our ride, and a little rain never hurt anyone. Luckily, it’s my tack so if I want to let it get wet, I can. So I walked an enthusiastic Buckshot back out to the arena and got back on him. We did trotting and great cantering, and I learned that raindrops dry when you are trotting! That’s neat – they are neutral if they get me wet at first, but in the next instant, they dry because Buckshot and I are flying around the arena, having the time of our lives! Then it thundered. Darn. It was a big thunder. I tried to justify it, saying it’s just thunder, no lightning yet. But the BO came to the arena and I asked her what I already knew – should I stop riding now? She said where there’s thunder, lightning can’t be far away. So, sadly, I got off of Buckshot, and we headed into the barn to untack. But despite the rain, we had such a good ride!!

Sunday was so nice here – not too hot, and wonderfully low humidity, and no rain, just a pretty blue sky filled with playful white clouds. Such a perfect summer day. Buckshot and I rode with the BO and BOH in the main arena, on the trail, and at the reining arena, doing a reining pattern. It was a super ride – Buckshot worked hard cantering his circles, with me working hard to give him the correct supporting aids around the corners, dropping into the trot when needed, but both of us giving it our all, til we were panting and exhausted. What a great horse he is – how hard he works for me! I am so proud of him!

On another topic, I can report on our new probiotic. We moved from using Fastrack to Command FT Probiotic (from Valley Vet) over a month ago. The new probiotic has worked great for Buckshot and his pasturemate. Their poop has been more solid than ever. The BO and I are very pleased and have decided to stay with the Command FT Probiotic. Hooray. I would call it an indirect supplement because it is one that works throughout the horse’s digestive system, as opposed to an ulcer supplement or a hoof supplement, that targets a specific issue. In the back of my mind, I wonder if this indirect supplement is somewhat responsible for Buckshot’s good energy levels this past month. I just don’t know, but I am going to keep using it. It seems to work well for him.

Are you going to your state fair this fall? I hope so. I like to go to the equine events at our Virginia State Fair, but this year we don’t know what will happen. You see, our state fair went bankrupt this year (??) and was bought by another fair operating company. That buyer then sold some part of the fair to a local company recently. So, in short, we don’t know what is going to happen this year, whether these new parties will get their acts together in time to put on a normal fair for us. I have no idea what, if any, equine events they will have. I hear we are going to have a big equine convention this fall – called the Equine Extravaganza – which has lots of clinics, shows and shopping. That will be fun! Do you have any events coming up that you are looking forward to?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Hot Weekend - Good Rides

This weekend it was hot in Virginia, but not wickedly hot. There were some clouds, but not the heavy overcast skies of recent days. The BO and BOH went out of town to a reining show, so I did morning and evening feeding for the farm’s 26 other horses, with a helper. I got to the farm early Saturday morning and started feeding. After that, I got Buckshot’s stall ready and after a break, brought him down from his pasture for grooming and tacking up.

As I led him to the arena, he was calm and happy. We walked around the arena, doing turns, as I let the girth settle into place before tightening it. Then I pulled the German horse muffin treats out of my pocket and suddenly, he was awake! Buckshot started nickering and dancing with excitement! (He loves the muffins but he is not usually that excited!) I mounted and we started our warm up. He seemed happy to be working. And after our warm up, when we started trotting and cantering, he was over the top! He had lots of energy and lots of impulsion, and even a step more, he was strong. And this was my horse in August, in the heat – he had the energy of a horse in the cool temperatures of autumn. When I asked for a trot, he offered the canter, and seemed to really enjoy it.

We worked a lot on cantering. Well, a lot is relative, since it is still summer, and the temperatures and direct sunshine were baking us. But for a hot summer day, we did a lot of canter work. We also walked around outside the arena, and explored the grassy places, and the trees that offered shade. Thank goodness for the trees. For our last exercise, I devised a reining pattern for us to do. I walked Buckshot through it in miniature in the center of the arena. First we’ll do this, and then we’ll do that, etc. Then I took us to the rail and began the pattern. We did great! The arena was a little small to change leads in the center of what is essentially a figure-eight type move, but other than that one mistake, we rode the pattern and it was outstanding for us! I was so proud of Buckshot! We began our cool down after the reining pattern, and walked for a while. After an hour in all, I dismounted and untacked him.

Then it was time for a nice bath with medicated shampoo to fight off the beginnings of some scratches I found on his legs. I took my time since there weren’t any other horses around to bathe. What a ride! I was really surprised by his high, but responsive energy level and impulsion. Several times he cantered even from the walk, which is amazing. Buckshot does canter from the walk, but hasn’t done that much during the summer, preferring to canter from the trot. But on Saturday, he was ready for our work and gave it his all! Good boy! After feeding the horses their dinners, and making sure everyone was happy, well fed and well watered, I left the barn, exhausted.

On Sunday, I decided not to ride a full hour, since the heat and humidity were still pretty high, and Saturday’s ride wore me out, and Buckshot isn’t a young horse, even though he had the energy of one! We did great on our warm up and then began various exercises and patterns. I decided to work on the canter to trot transition since he was again very exuberant about cantering. I started off on a left lead down the long rail, and after five strides, did a half-halt and said Down, down, trot, and he came down to the trot. And we kept trotting for several strides. We did it again on the left lead and again, the transition was better. Then we did the same thing two times on the right lead, coming down to the trot. I was very proud of him and how he improved. It may not have looked great, but we haven’t really ever worked specifically on this downward transition, so for a first time, he did great. Good Buckshot!!

When we had been riding for forty minutes, we went into our cool down, and I decided to do it by walking serpentines down the entire arena. I thought it would be a calming and repetitive cool down. As we started, I focused in on my legs, and doing each turn with the inside leg aid being very clear, and the taking my leg off being very clear as well. I really concentrated and stayed focused on guiding us through each turn and riding a straight line across the arena, and we did really well! My focus, on just that one aid – my inside leg and it being on, or being off – paid off significantly. Buckshot’s responsiveness with each turn was wonderful! It was a great cool down, and reminded me of the importance of my focus, and of using my legs more and reins less.

It was a great lesson for me! And so nice to have a quiet arena all to ourselves and be able to work on whatever skills we want to work on. Very nice. What a good horse he is!! I am so privileged to have him. Hope your weekend was great also!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Paranoia of Love

It’s been so rainy, drizzly and cloudy here lately that going to the barn to see Buckshot has been a challenge. The clouds have been thick and overcast, and downright gloomy, or else, gathered up into storm-at-any-minute grey cloud piles, also very gloomy. And mixed with very high humidity – oh my goodness- yuck. Even though we need the rain.

On Friday, I took the day off and went out to see Buckshot, hoping the weatherman’s unfriendly prediction of rain and storms would hold off long enough for me to spend some dry time with my favorite horse. It was 95 degrees, humid and cloudy. I found him in a stall, munching on hay, a little wet, so I brushed him with a curry comb and scratched places that might be itchy. Then I took him out of his pasture to eat grass for a while. The humidity was bad, but still, it hadn’t actually rained while I was with him, and I had a good time with Buckshot. Later I helped feed the farm’s horses before I left.

Saturday was more of the same weather. A neighbor who lives near Buckshot’s pasture was out doing shooting practice, and as I approached the pasture, poor Buckshot was pacing and looking in the direction of the shots. Okay, he’s nervous, I thought, and quickly got his halter on, and got him out of the pasture, heading over to the main barn. I had to set up a different stall than normal because the BOH was fixing something in the barn we usually groom in. So I took Buckshot into a new stall, equipped with his normal perks- hay, water and a handful of sweet feed in the feeding manger. We started to groom after he walked around the stall a couple of times. Then the BOH moved the tractor just outside the barn door, still running. This made Buckshot very nervous. He paced, and pooped, and kept walking around. Okay, still nervous, I thought, and decided that the abbreviated grooming I had done, was enough, and time to get him outside to help his anxiety decline. I tacked him up quickly and we headed out to the arena.

The arena was very wet, but if we stayed mostly in the middle, the footing was okay. Good for walking, okay for trotting, and forget the canter. We began our twenty-minute walking warm up and Buckshot did great. After a few minutes, he put his head down and gave one of those wonderful, long horse sighs, and I thought, good, he’s relaxed, and listening to me, and his nervousness is mostly gone. We did several improvised patterns using the center line. On one version, we did three strides of walk, three strides of trot, etc. At the end of the arena, we turned right and headed back and he offered the canter! So we did about six strides of canter – beautiful canter- before coming down to the trot, and trotting out of the gate to the grass. Good boy! He must have felt quite good about the ride and the footing, to go into the canter.

We were joined by two other riders and horses in the arena, and after a warmup for them, the BO had us play a game. A short pole, with a net attached to the top end, is stuck in the ground, and we throw small Frisbees into the net as we walk or trot or gallop by. No, no galloping! It was fun. First, we had to walk our horses to the pole and let them get familiar with it, then take the Frisbee and swing our arms with it, to get them used to us having it in our hands. Then we took turns walking or trotting by the pole and throwing the Frisbee in. We missed as many times as we made it into the net. So we had to lean over and get them out of the net, or dismount and collect them and remount. It sounds easy, and not very interesting, but actually, it was challenging, and it kept my mind off of the very hot, very humid weather, and before I knew it, I looked at my watch and I had been riding Buckshot for two hours! I took him for a rinse and walked him back to his pasture, telling him what a good horse he was. And hoping the shooters were done – I guess they were; I didn’t hear any more shots in the pasture.

On Sunday, three of us took our horses and went to the reining clinic. The trainer decided the day would be for individual instruction, so we could do what we wanted. As he worked with other riders on the finer points of reining and showing, Buckshot and I used the nice big arena to practice some of our trotting and cantering. Buckshot did very well, considering it was a very hot day. He had good energy, but I couldn’t get him to keep cantering beyond about eight strides. I checked his haunches for exertion frequently, but he wasn’t getting overexerted. I guess he was just having an eight-stride-day.

After about an hour, I dismounted and got him untacked and then got into a long line waiting to rinse off our horses. I have a pet peeve about this. Whenever a barn has a line of people waiting to rinse horses, I think it is rude for someone to dawdle with their horse, shampoo them, and then after rinsing, to stay at the water stall to squeegee their horse. If there are horses waiting, I think it is polite to rinse quickly, and move my horse out of the wash stall to do the squeegee part. But of course, as the line gathered, one person dawdled at the wash stall with her horse, shampooing him, rinsing him slowly and then squeegee-ing him. The trainer finally noticed the long line and offered a second water hose for us to use. I took Buckshot over to the other water hose and got him rinsed. Then, while he ate the wonderful grass that seems to grow exclusively at this trainer’s farm, I squeegeed him.

We loaded up the horses soon after that, drove back to the farm, and got them off the trailer. Buckshot loves coming home and we walked back to his pasture. What a good horse.

I can’t wait for cooler weather!! I am finally somewhat used to the heat and humidity and have my coping aids, but still, I have to stay aware of Buckshot’s age and not overwork him in the heat. And sometimes we have to ride around raindrops or in muddy arenas, so those factors also limit what we can work on right now. I have to keep my expectations low and reasonable for all of these constraints. But it is frustrating at times!!

Things are going well with the new probiotic I have Buckshot on. And his front hooves, with the clefts between his bulbs, are, ever so slowly, getting better. I asked the BO to check his hooves during the week, so that makes me feel much better. If they need some thrush medication, she will apply it. And, knock on wood, we haven’t had any rain rot this summer to contend with. I frequently inspect him for any bumps that may be a precursor of rain rot, and if I feel any, I spray them right away with Eqyss spray, and they have gone away within a day or two. So, fingers crossed, no big problems to contend with thus far this summer. I know you understand.

We have to watch out for so many different things, or conditions, that our horses can get. It’s a tiny bit of understandable paranoia. When you’ve had to deal with some condition in its full blown version, watching out for it, at its beginnings, seems a wise thing to do. Sometimes I feel like a horse inspector when I’m around Buckshot. What’s that bump, I think, as I stroke him. Hmmm, what’s this? Does it come off? Is everything okay here? Keep my eye on that thing, hopefully it will go away. And the big one – when did THAT happen? That wasn’t here last week, was it? Why don’t I know that? What a terrible owner, that I didn’t check this area last week, just in case this thing appeared now! You get the picture!! But we love them so- checking on their boo-boos and problems is a paranoia of love, isn’t it? LOL!

Hope you had a great weekend and nothing new and bad happened to your precious horses!