Saturday, October 31, 2009

Roll up

The last few days have brought so much rain and humidity that Pie and Sovereign have had no trouble disguising themselves as muddy piglets. Only their eyes peek out and the mud layers are so thick that I "peel" it off as I groom them. Pie's mane gets completely covered in mud and then it forms "dreadlocks" of bead-like mud. Brushing doesn't work. I have to break each mud-bead separately. It is time consuming especially when he just rolls again the next minute! I rode Pie bareback on Wednesday and his "beaded" foretop was clinking against his bridle as we walked. Mom and I rode yesterday morning. It was blustery, cold, and ugly, but it was the only time to fit in a ride. We did our best with grooming and headed out. Pie was especially bouncy. Our farmer had left big equipment in the field and Pie snorted and backed up when we came to it. Sovereign quietly walked by like there was nothing there. Then, we came to another big machine. Same routine. Boy, that Sovey is unflappable. In the woods Pie ducked out from under me at a bird and Sovey kind of did the same with Mom, but mostly, they walked quietly and treated us to a pleasant ride. Today I was able to groom each boy for a long time while they grazed and I managed to get all the mud off...and...they did not roll later! Hooray! Dark bays again!
It is Halloween night, but our silly community holds "trick or treat" night on the Thursday before Halloween. Is that kooky or what? Maizie dressed as her favorite heroine, Nancy Drew. We had a fun time walking around and collecting treats. Here she is, complete with magnifying glass!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

ringing that bluebell, caught up in sunlight

Guess what we did on Sunday to celebrate Maizie's 11th birthday properly? We took Maizie on her first real trail ride!!! Prior to this, she has had short little rides on ponies at fairs and on friends' horses. Last year for her birthday I led her around our farm on Baja. Of course, she does occasionally hop on Sovereign, but I am always right beside her. This was her first opportunity to actually ride without anyone assisting. add to the fun...her Grandpa Ernie and Grandma Eby rode too!!! I think that it is so great that my mom and Brian's dad are both fit and energetic enough to join in the fun. It really made the day special. Last month I tried to think about how I could plan some sort of ride for her birthday and then it hit me - Brian's cousin, Phil and his wife, Lisa, have a stable in beautiful Lancaster county and they offer trail rides! Here is a link to their facility, Flying M Stable. We kept it a secret from Maizie and waited for the perfect day, weather-wise. With all our rain, lately, that was quite a trick, but Sunday ended up being so sunny and pretty. We really lucked out! Above is a perfect shot of the whole group heading out. (Click on any photo to enlarge.) Lisa is leading, with Grandpa Ernie next, then Maizie, then my mom, then Brian and me last. Phil graciously served as our photographer while he rode behind on a lovely Palomino aptly named, Trigger.

Here is Maizie right after she first got on sweet, little Sugar. Phil is adjusting her stirrups and Grandpa Ernie is waiting patiently (with his helmet on) to get on his steed.

Here Lisa is reviewing the basics with Maizie of holding the reins and saddle horn.

Maizie is concentrating on the task at hand. The western tack is new to us!

Here is an adorable picture of Ernie and his "horse", Shadow!

And here is my mom on Sophie. Lisa said Sophie is a Haflinger. Mom couldn't hear her, and said to me that Lisa said that Sophie was "half-thoroughbred". I got a case of the giggles every time I looked at mom on her little tiny sweetie-pie. Sophie was clearly "a half-cute mixed with a half-cutest!"

Flying M Stable is happily situated beside the Conestoga River and is part of two farms that once belonged to Brian's grandmother. Her name was Maisy (we named our Maizie after her). In honor of the original Maisy, Lisa and Phil have a horse named Maisy and Brian rode her. She is an absolute angel.

Here the group heads around a picturesque grove of trees. What a delightful day! Thank you so much Lisa, Phil and family!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

look at how the time goes past

Yesterday was Maizie's 11th birthday and today is her party for her friends. As I type, there are loud outbursts of laughter from downstairs as she and her friends play junior pictionary. Above is a picture of the table before the friends arrived.

Here is the chocolate cake with vanilla frosting that looks like cookies-n-cream frosting because I never learned to frost a cake and I always pull cake crumbs into the frosting!

Above is Maizie, the birthday girl, at the far end of the table with her cake and her friends!

And here is the fun and furious game in progress. Too bad you can't hear how loud it is! Below is an equally exciting game of charades!

There has been little horsey time the last few days. Birthdays seem so action packed - and sugar packed these days! Maizie and I baked 60 chocolate chip cookies on Thursday night for her to take to school on Friday to share with her schoolmates and teachers. Then, last night was her family birthday dinner here. More cooking - she chose pumpkin pie for her "cake" so I baked two of those. Next, was today's party so more early morning baking of the chocolate cake. I am quite the worn out baker with two neglected horses. At least Mom and I got to ride on Thursday afternoon. It was a gorgeous fall day with yellow leaves and bursting Bittersweet in the woods. Sigh. The weather has been terrible since then anyway. Today started out with a lovely fall yellow sky and warm temperatures. Then, pouring rain, then sunny, then wind, then a rain squall, then thunder.
In spite of the strange weather, Brian had a running race this morning. He finished first in his age group! He is a very good runner, but he will be mad I wrote that because he is the most humble person on the planet. I am proud of him though! Here is a photo from a race this summer. He is running across the Susquehanna river on an iron bridge and you can barely see the dome of our state capital in the background. is our 12th wedding anniversary! Happy Anniversary, honey!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

of one thing I'm sure, it's a friendship so pure

In the twilight, an adorable little friend sneaks out to the barstool to replenish the apples.

Perfect alignment is important!

My work here is done.
Have you ever seen anything so cute in all your life?!!! These priceless photos were on the photo disc left on the barstool for us. Our dear neighbors have brightened our daily rides with juicy apples and now we get to delight in all the "behind the scenes" sweetness that is going on in the re-stocking. Oh, what a treasure! Thank you, friends, for the apples and the photos!!
Our rains finally ended on Sunday and I had the opportunity to review with Pie and Sovereign some easy ground lessons. Somewhere along the line, post-riding grazing has evolved into poor leading habits. Both boys had started balking recently when being led in from hand-grazing. The embarrassing culmination of this happened a couple of weeks ago when our veterinarian arrived to give shots and my friend, Ginny, and I were grazing the boys under the apple tree. Neither horse would walk up to the barn without much delay and head-diving for grass. Our vet commented, "Don't these horses lead?" and I was mortified. Ginny and I jokingly comforted ourselves with the fact that it wasn't too evil to choose apples over a shot, but I knew I had work to do. I also knew that it wasn't the horses' fault. It was mine. I have a history of poor leading behavior and I've come to the conclusion that it all originates in me and my ambivalence about ending the hand-grazing session. Like anything I do with horses, I think about a problem for a few weeks and decide what is the best way to solve it. So, I have been reading and brainstorming about this problem and my personal history with this problem. It really makes no sense. I am not ambivalent about setting limits with my horses when I am riding. I am certainly not ambivalent when leading horses to pasture. I know that I am kind, but firm - almost strict - with Maizie and we have reaped the rewards of that kind of parenting. So why do I get all mushy and passive when I lead a horse in from grazing? The only thing I can come up with is that I don't perceive grazing as dangerous. I am serious about riding and about leading out to the pasture because of the inherent danger in these activities. I guess by the time I am hand-grazing everyone is relaxed and calm, so I let down my guard. This is not good for the horse because it teaches inconsistencies, yet I really want the horses to be able to relax and graze at certain times. We don't have a ring with sand or dirt. Our pastures are grass, our hand-grazing areas are grass and our ring is grass. I have to teach the horses that there are sometimes that we are working on the grass, there are sometimes that we are walking over the grass and there are sometimes that we are eating the grass! On Sunday I started with Pie in his halter and a lead with a dressage whip in my left hand. I took him out of the pasture and alternated saying many "walks" and "stops". He responded perfectly. Next, at a "stop" I threw in a "graze" and pushed his head down. He grazed, although, I don't think it was the happy, calm grazing I am after. He was alert and waiting my next command. I said "stop" and he put his head up, and then I followed with "walk". We did this for sometime and then I switched and worked with Sovey. Sovey actually never really forgot this lesson because he isn't such a chow hound. Later in the afternoon, I took Pie for a bareback ride around the farm. Afterward, I hand-grazed him and he happily munched in his usual voracious manner. When I thought he had had enough, I firmly (no ambivalence) asked for a "stop" and he raised his head. Then I said "walk". He walked without grass-diving to the barn. What a good boy! Now, I have to continue this routine consistently.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

meanwhile back in the year one

Here are some funny photos taken at my first schooling show ever. The pictures are dated 9/30/79 on the back. I must have been in 7th grade. I look so mad in these pictures and I know why. I had just been bucked off of Chance. That's right - my first show and I fell off!!! Chance was a school horse who, sadly, had navicular. I hated riding school horses because they always seemed so tired and miserable and I felt that it was my fault they were sad. Chance was the worst, though, because of his pain. My instructor would tell us to canter and whenever I would ask for his left lead, he would make this painful wincing sound and then he would buck. I would fall off EVERY SINGLE TIME. Every week I would pray that I wouldn't be assigned Chance and every week there it would be on the paper in the tack room - Julie - Chance. My heart would sink. My stomach would be in knots. And, then we would come to the canter and off I would go. I had started lessons in June and in September, I was in my first "show", and, of course, I had to ride Chance. The judge called for the canter and I made it around perfectly. Then, I heard it. "REVERSE YOUR HORSES". I knew what was coming. Walk. Trot. I went. I was mortified. No one else fell off in the whole show. My instructor told me to get back on which I did, but I was finished. I knew I didn't have the guts to go in there for the other class and get bucked off again. Mom rode in the other class for me. Here she is below on Chance. Of course Chance bucked with her too, but she didn't have any problem staying on! Poor old Chance. He was a flea-bitten grey angel who unwittingly helped me conquer my fears. Thank you dear, sweet Chance.

Tomorrow is Mom's birthday. It looks like rain so we probably won't get in any riding. In lieu of riding, Brian, Maizie, and I took Mom roller skating this week. She had skated once a week for many years, but she had a serious fall last year and has lost some nerve. We all had a safe, great time at the rink. After witnessing the septuagenarians whizzing past us at top speed doing all sorts of complicated dance steps, I began to think about roller skating ability and riding ability. I was still philosophizing this idea while I was riding Pie the next morning. I happen to come from a family of roller skaters, downhill skiers, and riders. In these activities, fear, tension, and a striving for control actually cause problems. If you have ever been roller skating (not on inlines, but on four wheels) and you see someone who has never skated, they are tense and trying like crazy NOT to move. The tension in their body actually moves the wheels forward in spite of all their efforts to be still. This causes a series of disastrous events most often ending in a slow-motion fall at a standstill. Skis are exactly the same. The more you try not to move the more you slide and move. The skaters at Mom's rink are so loose and calm and fast and relaxed and fearless. They roll, and sway and are like rubberbands. I was thinking of this on the grey, windy morning after our night of skating, when Pie was very, very up. He was shaking his head and jumping and really wound tight. I felt myself become the rubberband that I am when I ride. I realized that somewhere along the way I learned to go with the skates, go with the skis, go with the horse. I give him the reins even though it seems like I should tighten them. I know I can't or I will lose him altogether. I was thinking that I bet those older roller skaters would be good riders!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Twice upon a time

Above is a lovely picture of our barstool-apple-friends sharing apples with Sovey and Pie. If you click on the photo you can see what a beautiful head and face Sovereign has. This was taken on Labor Day and Mom is on Sovey and I am on Pie. Our barstool friends kindly left a photo-disc for us on the barstool this week. Also on the disc is the photo, below, of Ginny on Sovey (searching the barstool for more apples!) and me on Pie. This was taken a few Sundays ago. How kind of our friends to share their photos! There are more adorable pictures on the disc which I hope to get permission to share in future posts. I really can't wait because they are priceless!

Mom and I rode Thursday before my class. I laughed because I had planned on running - not riding and I was dressed in slippery running pants and jacket. Talk about the antithesis of half-chaps! I was sliding around in the saddle as Pie lurched this way and that! He is so carefree and playful - never really malicious so it wasn't too dangerous. We had a great ride and I was relaxed to teach. I hate to go to class without either riding or running first. Something about both activities makes me feel like I can concentrate better. After we returned and were grazing, our cousin, Glenda arrived with her precious grandchildren. Pie walked right up to their mini van and stuck his giant head in their side door. Gleeful giggles erupted inside and Pie loved all the attention. Can you imagine being strapped in a carseat and a big Pie head comes in your van? The children got out and shared carrots with Pie and Sovey. What fun!!!
Yesterday afternoon was warm and gorgeous so the very second Maizie got off the bus at 4pm we headed over to the barn and tacked up the boys. Mom walked beside Sovereign so that Maizie wasn't completely on her own up top. I rode beside on Pie. We stayed in the pastures and had a super time. Maizie is long and lean and built to ride. She looks so good on a horse with a very natural seat. I am an over-protective mom who hasn't started her with lessons yet. (Too many Bonnie Blue memories). Mom and I remind her about her hands and her heels and she laughs and loves up the Sovey Boy. I think Mom was the only one who got a workout, but it sure was great fun!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

It's getting hard to be someone

Yesterday morning, after I turned the boys out, I started making my rounds to fill the outside pasture water troughs. I walked up the driveway and discovered all sorts of chalk art. I smiled remembering that Maizie and her friend, S., had been playing on Sunday afternoon at the barn. I followed the chalk lines, fully expecting to see hopscotch squares or some other fun 10-year-old pastime. Instead, I see words in Maizie's writing. Whatever could my sweet little girl be writing? Living is easy with eyes closed Misunderstanding all you see...SONG LYRICS!?! Wow. The apple doesn't fall too far from the tree in this family. Brian and I have so much fun with lyrics and song references and I see we have passed along this habit to our silly, adorable, little Maizie. For a second I felt sad that she hadn't drawn some quaint old-fashioned game or picture, and then I realized - Hey, what am I thinking? These lyrics are 42 years old!!! They are quaint and old-fashioned!
On our Sunday afternoon ride, Pie and I had come upon Maizie and S. in the woods having a pretend picnic on a blanket. Pie thought that was a wonderful discovery, but was terribly disappointed that the picnic fare was only leaves and twigs. After our ride, though, Mom and Sovey joined me and the big boy at the apple tree for some very real apples. It was another glorious fall day for people, "songbirds", and horses!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

a nod is as good as a wink...

Here is a muddy Sovey rump.

Here is some caked on mud on Sovey's other side.

We have had some furious rain storms all summer and I really thought they were over. I was wrong. Last week both boys greeted me many times covered in mud. One of those days it was still hot and humid and I stupidly decided to hose the mud off Pie. Pie isn't as keen about water and hosing as Sovereign so by the end I looked like I had rolled in the mud and he looked slightly less muddy. I turned him back out and he walked straight over to the wettest, muddiest mudhole and promptly rolled again. It was then I remembered that I am just a stupid human. Pie was clearly covering himself in mud to keep the gnats and flies at bay. Why did I try to interfere? I often wonder about humans and our domestication of these very able horses. I do so love to ride, though, so mud removal seems essential to do that. Pie stands nicely for grooming it all off, but Sovey doesn't like it one bit. I can hose him off because he loves water, but soon that will be out of the question because we don't have hot water. I have discovered that if I graze Sovey while slowly working to get the mud off, I have some success. Most days when we ride I wonder if our neighbors think we are lazy horse owners who won't take the time to groom properly. I hope I get the grooming of mud and grooming in general sorted soon because I think grooming is one of the most special times with a horse.

Something else that has me stumped recently is how all my blogger friends get such nice photos while they ride!?! I can't figure this out. Maizie has taken some great photos, but she is on the ground! How are you all riding and shooting pictures? I think I am fairly coordinated, but I just can't seem to get the hang of it. Yesterday Mom and I headed out and I was determined to take some good pictures of Pie and Sovey while we rode. First, I have to admit, I don't have the proper pommel or cantle bag. I don't have anything like that so I stuck my camera in my sports bra. Ouch. Next, the wind was whipping really hard, so keeping Pie's feet on the ground demanded most of my attention. At one point, the barn must have blocked the wind and I attempted to shoot. I held the camera out in front of me and behind me and what follows is all I got!

Pie's mane. I have taken this view before. In fact, I only seem to get this view. Sometimes I think that it will look like I just use the same picture over and over. Really, this is from yesterday!

Mom and Sovey and a mean sky all blurry and crooked.

I had the camera behind my back and I was just pushing the shutter. The clouds sure look ominous!

Pie's mane and ears - again! So cute!

Mom and Sovey. It looks like she is yanking his head, but I think he turned to look at something. It was sooooo windy and the boys were looking quickly in all directions. I think Mom looks so cute here! And Sovey...well, he is just the sweetest, cutest bunny rabbit ever.
I never thought Mom would ride with me yesterday. It was just the perfect blustery conditions for two cute Thoroughbreds to buck and act silly. Mom never said a word about it and as we headed out, I realized that my worries were unfounded. Pie and Sovey like riding so much that they don't look for excuses. Also, the few times Pie did buck and shy, Sovereign just stood and watched. We remarked how unusual that is - most horses do whatever the other guy is doing. Not Sovereign. He is calm and trustworthy. After we rode, we talked while we hand grazed the boys under the apple tree. Sovey closes his eyes as he munches apples and grass and I know he is happy. (Pie is happy too - he makes applesauce EVERYWHERE!)