Monday, March 26, 2012

Rainy, Rainy Weather

From the title you can tell what last weekend’s weather was! Rainy, plus cloudy, gloomy, humid, muddy, you get the picture. On Saturday I arrived at the barn amidst steady rain. After putting on all my gear, I walked to Buckshot’s pasture and found him standing in the stall, pretty wet. I scratched his chest and neck and under his chin. My fingers came away with clumps of his shedding hair. From his trembling lower lip, I knew it felt good to him to be scratched.

We headed over to the main barn in the rain, stopping to graze the vivid green grasses everywhere. Once in the barn, I rubbed him with a towel to partially dry his coat. Then I used the curry comb to rub and brush him, loosening his hair, after which I used the shedding blade to remove more hair. Since his hair was damp, it took longer than normal. I was very careful with the curry comb, going through his damp hair. So it took me quite a while to use the curry comb and shedding blade on him. I finished it with a soft brush, just to make him feel good. He seemed a bit impatient with my slow grooming, so I didn’t clean his hooves or give his tail and mane a good brushing. Instead, I slipped out of the stall and stood at the door.

Treat time! I gave him chunks of an apple, followed by chunks of a banana. When Buckshot eats a banana he turns it into foam that drips out of his mouth as he eats more. It’s so funny. I’m not sure what he is doing in his mouth, but clearly he loves bananas. Then I gave him some German horse muffins, with their luscious scent of molasses and oats. Oh, he loves these! They are his hands-down favorite.

And finally, after sort of cleaning him up, and fattening him up with treats and hay, we walked back to his pasture in the rain! We walked through puddles and made splashes like kids do! He seemed very happy and didn’t notice the rain. I was so glad to have my time with him, and to be able to groom him and treat him to his treats, I didn’t care about the rain. He is the high point of my day. I could dry off later. LOL!

On Sunday, it rained less, but the arenas were water-logged so I didn’t consider riding. I brought Buckshot to the main barn to groom him and after that, we went for a walk in hand. I headed for the trail head. Last Monday, while we waited for the vet, Buckshot was delighted to walk on the trail. Not so on Sunday. He stopped several times. I just held the lead line steady, pulling on him a little, but not letting go, nor backing up. After he thought about it, he came forward willingly. We walked through the woods, with me talking to him for reassurance.

After a good long walk, we headed back. In the barn, I gave him his treats, and walked him back to his pasture. In my free time, which I had a lot of, I did little chores I never find time to do. I cleaned my saddle, washed the cinch, put Buckshot’s name tags on his halters, etc. I even thought about, actually thought about, how I am going to get up the nerve to clean his sheath. The warmer weather is coming, and I should do it sometime in the coming months. But I am really hesitant to do it. I am going to have to just face my fear, ask the BO for her help, and dig in and do it. Since I have owned Buckshot, he has been cleaned three times – twice by the BO (bless her heart) and once by the vet. But I should be able to do it, now that I have watched three times. So I am going to do it. Any suggestions? Stay tuned.

Overall, it was a gloomy, rainy weekend here in Virginia, but I had some good time with Buckshot, regardless of the yucky weather. Hope you had much better weather!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Last Weekend of Winter

When I went to the farm to see Buckshot last Saturday, he had several big bug bites on his chest. In one section, his long winter hair had matted over the bumps. I pulled out a flashlight and squatted down in front of his chest to see them closely, then I applied TriCare antibiotic cream. We rode in the arena, and had a great time in our class. I had helped out in the earlier class with three young boys who were beginner riders. Leading one horse, the rider told me several times how “really awesome horses are!” I had to grin widely and agree! They are awesome!! It does your heart good to be around a new rider and see and hear their pure admiration for the horse. It reminds me of those days when I was new to horses and riding and I, too, thought they were the most fantastic, wonderful creatures on earth. I still think that. It is heartwarming to hear it in a young person as well.

Sunday was a cloudy, gloomy day but Buckshot and I had a good ride. We rode with the BO and BOH, in the arena, down the road and to the reining arena. After trotting and a few canters on the rather-hard footing, I took Buckshot to the grassy side of the arena and let him graze. Then a neighbor boy appeared in the field, riding his bicycle over to help muck stalls! I lifted Buckshot’s head so he would see the boy approach, but he didn’t react or seem bothered by it. Good boy! I think that is the first time he may have seen a child riding a bicycle so his calm reaction was very nice to see. He immediately went back to grazing. LOL! The skies cleared and blue sky beamed overhead. After walking back to the main barn through the woods, I wasn’t ready to end our ride so we went into the arena and did more patterns and trotting. Another boarder came along on her horse, so we went back down the trail for a while. A lovely day.

On Monday, I stayed home from work so that I could go to the farm for a vet visit. It was time for Buckshot’s annual vaccinations and fecal count. We had 8 or 9 horses, and five different owners, for this vet call. After I groomed Buckshot, I took him outside to do light exercises in hand while we waited for the vet, who was delayed by an emergency call. I had a pocketful of treats to give Buckshot and so we did spirals, circles, very straight lines, cone bending with imaginary cones, and patterns. Then Buckshot just started walking to the trail head. He wanted to walk through the woods! So off we went, with me keeping an eye through the woods on the farm road, for the vet’s truck. Buckshot was quite happy to take us through the woods, a pleasant surprise!

As we approached the small bridge over a creek, I decided to use the time to train him to turn around on the bridge, just is case we ever need to do so. We walked on the bridge, halted at midpoint, and I turned him around just fine. Back to the other side of the bridge. Then we turned around and went over the whole bridge. Stopped, turned around and back onto the bridge, where we stopped and practiced turning around again. He did great! I was very proud of him because this was the first time we had ever done this. He stayed perfectly calm, and put his feet right where they needed to be, important because it is a small bridge. We continued on and then turned around and went back to the barn, and right then, the vet pulled up.

I walked over to the vet, introduced myself and Buckshot and told her he needed his vaccinations. I asked if I should put him in a stall. She asked if he was okay with shots, and I said yes, he was fine with them. So she gave him his three shots right there outside the barn. He didn’t flinch or have a problem with them at all!! What a great horse!! I had collected a stool sample earlier so Buckshot and I went into the barn to get the little plastic bag and brought it back to the vet. And we were done! I am so proud of him! I know it is a little thing, but the stories I’ve heard of horses who don’t like shots, and how difficult it can be, make me proud of my sweet Buckshot and how good he is with shots! Every wonderful thing about him makes me proud of him! I’m sorry I’m bragging about him, but I adore him and think he is the best horse in the world, and well, this blog is one place I can brag about him a little. I am so lucky to have him as my horse and I love to say that! Forgive me.

I gave Buckshot a treat for his excellent vet visit and walked him back to his pasture. He could have the rest of the day off. I then watched and helped out with the other horses who got dental checks, teeth floating, sheath cleaning and some Coggins and other vaccines. When the vet pointed her forehead light into a horse’s mouth, I stood behind her and watched intently, wanting to see the horse’s teeth. I saw some amazing teeth! And watching her clean sheaths was impressive. I still have yet to do it myself. Of course, she was doing it on sedated horses so it was relatively easy. But still, I have to get up the courage to actually clean Buckshot’s sheath. The last time his was cleaned was by this vet several months ago when he was sedated for his teeth floating. I’ve got to learn how to do it, and do it.

It was a nice three day weekend with Buckshot- doing some old, normal patterns and riding, some new adventures, and some normal vet work. I hope you had a good time with your horse as well!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Weekend Fun!

This past weekend was a long one for me. The barn owner was out of town so I came on Friday morning to feed all of the farm’s thirty horses. After that was done, followed by a few chores, I got Buckshot from his pasture and groomed and saddled him. It had rained for several hours in the overnight and early morning, so the arenas were soupy and not usable. So it was going to be a challenge to find places to ride Buckshot and keep him busy.

We started by riding in the grassy areas around the main arena. First we rode down one side of the arena, then back to the end and over grass to the chicken coop, then back and down the other side of the arena, around the trees and back towards the arena gate. Back to the chicken coop, execute a smooth and lovely turnaround, and back to the arena, and back to the chicken coop. I focused on straight lines, nice turns and keeping us going in some kind of direction. After warming up, we trotted on the grass in one section. The grass felt springy and nice, but after a few trots I saw that we were tearing up the grass a bit, so it wasn’t quite firm enough to keep trotting.

We started down the trail. I had us do new exercises on the trail this time – our “trail work” I called it, to make it sound official (LOL). We stopped on the trail, did a small circle to the left, then onward. Later, a small circle to the right. Later, backing some steps. And then further along, quarter turns and halt. When we got to the turnoff that I now know leads near the stallion pasture, we didn’t take the turn!! No repeat wanted of that!! We got halfway down the trail and headed back to the barn. Buckshot was glad to head back. He had been very willing to do our new trail work exercises.

Next, we headed down the farm road. I decided to use focus and intention, and have us walk all the way down the road to the reining arena. Buckshot was willing during the first half. The second half of the route he wasn’t so sure. I had to keep urging him with “walk on” and an occasional tap on his shoulder with the crop. I promised him a treat at the end. Slowly we made progress and finally, finally, arrived at the reining arena! I was thrilled! And I gave Buckshot a german horse muffin treat. Then we headed back toward the barn. Now, we all know this is the time that Buckshot usually picks up his pace a bit as he knows he is heading home, right? Buckshot loves the return trip. But, for some reason, he was a bit relunctant on the walk back. A few times he tried to stop and turn around, heading back to the arena! I was mystified – what was going on? Perhaps he wanted to ride in the reining arena, which is what we usually do. But it had been soupy wet and not usable. It was unusual for him to walk so slow on the ride back. Oh, well, we did fine. I untacked him and praised him and told him what a good horse he is – we had done new things in three new places that day!! Good boy!!

After I took him back to his pasture, I did more farm chores and later fed all of the horses their dinners. Then, exhausted, I headed home.

Saturday was cooler and sunny. I arrived early and fed breakfast to the horses. A few helpers helped prepare the barn for eleven overnight horses. This farm acts as a horse hotel, and boards horses overnight when their owners are traveling through Virginia. I have seen a lot of various breeds and horses come through as overnighters. So we prepared a bunch of stalls for Saturday night’s very special guests…

My sister came to the farm to ride a lesson horse with Buckshot and I. We groomed and tacked up, and rode in the now usable, drier arena. I worked during our warm up on the three speeds of the walk- the slow walk, the working walk and the extended walk. Buckshot responded right away and did great, giving me clearly different speeds when asked. I guess it is something all horses know, but I was really proud of his responsiveness on this exercise.

When I asked for the trot, Buckshot was a little slow to respond. But when the other horse started trotting in front of us, Buckshot was suddenly very energetic!! He does love to ride with other horses. We went through the trail to the reining arena and it, too, had a soft footing. We spent a half hour there, doing trotting and nice cantering and grazing the horses on the nearby grass. While in this arena, the barn owner and husband and trailer came home, driving by this arena. We waved and went back to riding. Shortly thereafter, we headed back to the barn. Buckshot had done well and I was proud of him. He had a good energy that seemed to fit the sunny, chilly winter weather- perfect riding weather.

After I untacked him and returned him to his pasture, we chatted with the barn owner and did a few more farm chores. Then the work began.

The overnighters were expected in an hour, so we set out to feed the farm’s horses right away. We had twenty of them fed when the overnighters arrived. They used a full size tractor trailer (not a regular horse trailer) for their horses: 7 adult Belgian show horses, 1 Shire show horse and 3 baby Belgians one and two months old!! The owner (a gentleman traveling alone, with so many horses!) opened the side of the trailer as my sister and I took food to one pasture. We looked up and six inquisitive Belgian faces looked out at us, about fifteen feet up!! Wow! After we finished the farm feedings, and turned the horses out to their pasture, we were ready for the Belgians to be unloaded.

Their owner started unloading them one by one and leading them into the barn to a designated stall. Well, the first one I saw must have been 17 hands, absolutely gorgeous and awesome and slightly scary! Just so tall and strong and such thick, powerful necks! Beautiful coloring, with that caramel colored chestnut coat, and bright flaxen mane and tail, and so very, very big!! I was awed!

One by one, each Belgian horse more awesome than the last, entered the barn and went into a stall. And one black, extremely tall Shire mare as well. I know she was 20 hands high! And then the babies with their mothers- the huge awesome Belgian mares with their fluffy, curly coated, spring-loaded babies bouncing next to them! Awesome sight to see!

The horse’s owner and our barn owner got all of the horses in stalls, and my sister and I started filling the stalls’ water buckets. We stood at each stall door and wound the long-snouted hose over to the buckets and filled, often with the thirsty horse drinking as fast as we filled. One of the Belgians was a stallion, and a bit excited about the mare next to him, possibly hoping she was in heat. I had slipped inside his stall to angle the water hose to his buckets better, when all of a sudden I thought “Jan! You’re inside a stall with a huge Belgian stallion who is excited about his neighbor!! Bad move- get out of this stall immediately!!” And I got out quick!! The horses were all nice, of course, but they had been travelling a long time, and were big, and any horse can accidently hurt us. So I got out of the stallion’s stall pretty darn quick! LOL!

It was interesting to watch the horses’ owner move quietly and confidently from horse to horse, checking on them, giving them hay and taking their temperatures (to check that they were fine from traveling). My sister and I just kept filling water buckets and exclaiming with awe at each horse. And the babies! How cute they were! They would jump around and frolic in the stalls. After all the horses were fed and settled, we left, exhausted but excited about seeing such wonderful horses. They are driving horses, and were en route from Florida to their home in Vermont.

After all that excitement on Saturday, I’ll be brief about Sunday. When I arrived back at the barn, the Belgians had already left. I had a good ride on Buckshot and a good, less strenuous day. It was a good weekend with a lot of extra work and activity, and wonderful rides with Buckshot! I hope you had a great weekend also.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Uneventful Weekend

Not much to report from my neck of the woods. Last weekend I had a good time with Buckshot. On Saturday, the arenas at the farm had very soupy footing so we rode on the trail. Buckshot did great at the lead spot of four horses. There were a few times he wasn’t too happy to go forward (I think he thought the class should be over by then!) but he listened to me when I insisted we walk on. Good boy!

On Sunday, we were alone when we rode. The main arena had good enough footing to ride in it and we had a good time, working on patterns and exercises during our warm up, followed by trotting figure eights and doing some limited cantering. Then we headed to the trail and went through the woods. We took a new route this time, one that Buckshot had shown me on an earlier ride. (I had checked with the BO about the safety of this section and today, we would ride it.) This small trail, off the main trail, led to the end of the woods, to a spot between two pastures. The fencing of the pastures is separated by about twelve feet, which allows the farm equipment to get into the woods without disrupting horses in these pastures. So Buckshot stopped at the edge of the woods, a twelve foot lane of grass in front of us, a pasture to the left with the farm’s Arab stallion in it, the pasture on the right with a boarded horse and a pony in it. I had been advised to stay closer to the boarded horse and pony side. I urged Buckshot on, and we walked on the lane. Almost immediately the stallion saw us and started cantering, faster and faster toward us. I kept us closer to the other fence and kept us walking. The stallion charged us, stopping at the last minute at his fence line, and then he reared! Oh, my gosh, I just kept us moving forward, but I was petrified! Nothing in the world looked so tiny and insignificant as that fencing when a charging stallion is on the other side of it!! We just had a few more feet to walk, and as we got to the end, Buckshot bolted! I held on and got him back to a walk right away, but I understood how he felt!! Oh, my gosh! I think we’ll leave that route alone from now on. Scary!

And thinking about it, Buckshot isn’t scared of much, but he obviously was scared of the stallion, and yet he didn’t bolt immediately, he walked, and tried to bolt a few minutes later. What a courageous horse!! As we headed back to the barn, I was talking in a high-pitched squeaky voice! I knew I was scared. LOL! Hope your weekend didn’t include any surprises from a stallion!!