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!