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!