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!