Saturday, August 28, 2010

Sarcastic mister know it all

Sovereign and I had a tough ride yesterday morning, but it all worked out very well in the end. I learned an awful lot as a rider. I chose my post title today because Red Hot Chili Peppers were singing this when I got in the car to go home from my ride and it suited Sovey perfectly, BUT, in his defense, he only becomes a Sarcastic-Mr.-Know-It-All when I don't give him any direction. In other words, when I as a rider stop paying attention and leading, Sovereign (and probably every other horse in the world) has no alternative but to lead himself.
Everything started out fine. We rode all around the pastures and over to my mom's house for carrots. Sovey was listening perfectly. We headed out through the fields and he was wonderful - calm and quiet. After about 20 minutes, I pulled out my camera. I had cut new grass paths in the hayfield and I was eager to ride on them with Sovey. I also was eager to take photos of the paths, but I should have taken pictures on foot or in the golf cart. Instead, I tried to ride and take pictures and I ended up with a horse under me who was acting badly because he was looking for direction and his rider was fiddling around with a camera. He needed me to be with him and I wasn't really there. So he left. He didn't dump me, but he was gone. He wasn't present anymore. He was back at the barn with Pie.

This is my last photo, blurry because he was rushing and circling with worry, and I put the camera on the ground and attempted to start again. Ha. Very funny. Just because I knew I had made a mistake, didn't mean that Sovey was back with me. He was gone - done listening - done riding - let's get this over and get back to the barn. I circled him in figure eights. He did them rushed and nervous. I dismounted and walked around with him. Still nervous. I remounted and walked in the woods and around. Nothing - Sovey was jigging and chomping his teeth and hurrying. No amount of anything was going to get him back. What should I do? I didn't want to quit like this, but I couldn't get him to realize that I was still riding and we were together and we were a team. Pie was screaming at us from the paddock. When Sovereign is with me, he ignores Pie. When Sovey is not present mentally, he hears Pie and reacts like a volt of electricity is going through him. That is what he was doing at this point in our ride. I rode him back to the pastures and dismounted and opened the gate and remounted inside the pasture. I started thinking about connecting with him by giving him small little cues that he would be able to hear now that we were back in his pasture safety zone. Quiet circles, slight leg yields, and alternating between a collected walk and an extended walk. It took a few minutes (18 to be exact because I timed it) but he suddenly heard me again! I knew he was with me and it felt amazing! I walked him back out the gate and around the paths. What a quiet good boy! No amount of Pie's yelling would alter Sovereign's attention. He was with me and I was with him! Oh happy day! We then had a fabulous ride around the farm.
What an idiot I was in the beginning of this ride. I feel terrible for not paying attention to him. Of course there are horses who are fine with camera fiddling, and of course, some day Pie and Sovey will be too, but they are too young now to "be left alone" on our rides. They need my attention. The whole episode reminded me so much of my motto for life: quality. I believe that you can do anything in life two ways - with quality or without. It is possible to run, drive, clean the house, read, talk, write, cook, teach, do homework, ride horses all on auto-pilot and not really be there. The activity is "completed" but it was done without quality, without focus, and without true meaning and true success. Or, you can be present. It is tough to hold focus for a long time and it takes practice keeping your attention in our hurried, cellphone interrupted society, but if you can do it, the payback is great. I know that my rides are so much better when I am present because my horse is present too. Poor Sovey. I hope he forgives me!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

In platform double suede

It is true and very sad. We said goodbye to summer. Maizie started sixth grade on Wednesday. Her bus picked her up at an unspeakable hour, but she is very happy in her middle school with her new teachers and new friends.

I comforted myself with my two friends, Sovereign and Pie. The wild mane photo, above, is of Pie this morning when a wind gust sent his mane flying in the air up and over to the wrong side!

Here we are in a shadow.
Yesterday I rode Sovey around the farm and through the woods. I used the bitless bridle without any sore spots. Our paths in the woods need to be made wider. They grow shut with rose and raspberry vines that are sharp and pokey. I haven't ridden back there for a few weeks and I spent the entire time yesterday apologizing to dear Sovey boy. He was so sweet to plow forward anyway. After our barstool apples, we turned onto the trail with the neighbor with the "Golf Tent". This neighbor added a frisbee golf stand beside the golf tent and also a tarp to their lawn since last ride and Sovey was not pleased and there was no Pie to go first. Sovey tried to wheel around to go back to the barn, but I turned him back around to face the new ornaments. He snorted and backed up. I dismounted and walked him by the scary stuff. I walked to my mom's bench in the woods and got back on easily. Then, we circled around and approached the scary yard again. This time my sweet Sovey boy walked by perfectly!!! Hooray! Back home for well-deserved grass and appletree apples.

Today was Pie's turn to head out. His rear leg is still sliced up but the swelling is gone and he is sound at the walk. I did not trot him at all today. We walked around the perimeter of the farm. The hayfield was deep when we rode (I cut trails through it later) and Pie was very good about not sneaking grass. This is tough for him because the yummy grass is mouth-level. At the barstool, there were no apples because Sovey had gobbled them yesterday. I remembered that there is another apple tree far out there near the barstool. I dismounted and walked Pie over to it. He was so surprised! He never knew there was an apple tree out there for his enjoyment! I put my stirrup to the lowest position and grabbed his mane to hoist myself up. I was able to adjust the stirrup when he was finishing up his snack. Our temperatures are so much cooler and we finally have low humidity, so my sunshine-y rides both days were very special.

Who is this grazing one fat Pie-Pie boy today? Could that be my mom, returning to the horse world after 3 1/2 weeks of recovery? Yes, it is true. Mom is slowly being lured back into the world of Pie and Sovereign. And, who can blame her? The cuteness of these two puppies is too much to ignore.
We've been having fun lately coming up with new and exciting ways to keep my mom safe. Our dear cousin, Glenda, sent mom this link to a New York Times article about a vest that inflates like an airbag when you get separated from your saddle. I can't help giggling picturing my mom walking around like a marshmallow when she forgets to unhook the cord and dismounts on purpose at the end of our ride! Glenda's entire emailed cracked me up - I couldn't stop laughing because she mentions the idea of us getting a Haflinger for mom. (Glenda - I hope you don't mind if I print a portion of this email - it really is too funny to miss!) Glenda writes: This article is so cool. Maybe you can ride Sovey boy again -- with this kind of protection.
Or, you'll have to get yourself one of those little short "half thinger" horses. :-) ---- Glenda

Half thinger!!!! And, on the trail ride last October, my mom told me she was riding a "half Thoroughbred" - I can't stand it - even now I am laughing! Not only are Haflingers the most adorable little guys around, but their breed name is so cute and funny (in our circle, anyway!).

Mom is probably going to stick to her Sovereign boy with or without a parachute/vest/airbag. During the years that we didn't have horses my mom and I promised each other that we would not get Thoroughbreds. We wanted nice, calm, sensible horses. When the time came, we caved in and admitted that we both have a weakness for TBs. Amazingly, we actually got everything we wished for - nice, calm, sensible horses - that just happened to be Thoroughbreds too!
Here is a Sovey boy gobbling more apples this morning.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

After nine days I let the horse run free

(Warning: cell phone photos - poor quality - sorry!) Last night I rode Sovey in just his halter with two green leads attached.

Below is a photo of mom coming out to give the good boy carrots. She is almost completely recovered from her fall. Every now and then she has a twinge of a spasm in her back/hip where she landed, but she is doing great. Recently, we have been reading my grandmother's diaries from 1955, 1956, 1957 and 1958 and it tells of my mom getting tossed off all the time. In those days she was healed and back on the horse within minutes. Now, at 66 years old, it takes longer to heal and that makes my mom mad.

On Friday evening, I gave Pie a thorough grooming in the barn in the cross-ties. He loves that time together, (I think). In the cross-ties, Pie can see Sovereign in the small paddock right in front of the barn and he allows himself to relax and drift into a sort of alpha state as I am currying and brushing him. Pie isn't quite as ticklish as Sovereign - much more thicked skinned - so it gives me the closeness of grooming that I crave and miss having Thoroughbreds as opposed to other types of horses. I then took him out to graze for a few minutes to add more relaxation. Then, back in and quiet tacking up. He was a lovebug as usual. We rode all around the barn buildings and houses and over to my mother's for carrots. The rides are so short now because of darkness. Next week when Maizie goes back to school, I will switch back to the morning riding schedule. I think the horses prefer that.

My ride last night on Sovey was fun. I decided to ride in a halter because the last time I had ridden him I discovered two tiny cuts/rubbed areas under his chin on his jaw bone. I wasn't sure if it was from the Bitless bridle. I was mortified to think that the Bitless caused it and I want the cuts to heal completely before I ride him in that bridle again (if I ever do). The pasture antics of these two geldings make abrasions and cuts so commonplace that it is difficult to tell what is causing anything. I have never before experienced first hand the playful nuttiness of geldings, although I've heard about it. I laugh when I think of how we used to react (overreact) if my mare had a tiny cut. We were beside ourselves with worry. Now, with these two clowns, the cuts are numerous and the fly masks are in shreds. Everyday. Pie's favorite place to grab Sovereign is under his chin which is why I can't tell if it is from the bridle or not. It worries me though. I emailed Sydney and decided to try the Nurtural before I discovered the rub marks so hopefully I will get a new perspective soon. The halter isn't great - obviously it doesn't offer too much control and could rub a horse horribly if you would tug too much. Our halters are ridiculously loose and I was very careful not to pull on Sovey. I mostly remained in the pastures (to my mom's delight) but when she went back in the house, we snuck out for a tiny bit of riding away from the road. Sovereign was funny when I first tacked up. He would not walk forward from the forebay like he was trying to tell me that he still only had his halter on. I had to convince him, "the smarty pants" that I hadn't forgotten the bridle and that I was doing this on purpose. Once he realized that we were going riding like this, he was very cooperative. I love this horse!
Sadly, when we returned, I discovered that Pie had a mangled left rear thigh in front of his hock. I can't believe he was like that when I put him in the paddock so I could ride Sovey, but I can't find anything that he may have cut himself on. His leg was swollen there, but the cuts are not deep - only the top layer of his hair/hide is ripped off. He won't allow me to touch it. I managed to get some triple antibiotic on it between kicks. He was walking on it ok and better this morning so I am certain it will be fine. Ugh! Horses worry me at every turn!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I've got to keep on keepin' on

The days have been hot and humid and buggy with little or no time for proper riding. I did sneak in two rides - Monday night on Pie - Tuesday on Sovereign. Both horses were good, although Pie was better than Sovey. I rode Pie in the pastures because I got to the barn late and it gets dark too soon now in the evenings. This is a sad sign - summer is drawing its curtains! I hate to think about it. While we rode, I could hear the high school marching band practicing. This sound brings back a flood of memories of riding my mare, Penny Lane, at the farm in the late summer. I remember the feeling of anticipation (and dread too) about the coming school year whenever I would hear the marching band practice. My sport in high school was tennis, but it seemed wherever I went in the fall, whether on the tennis courts, at the football games, or even riding on my horse, I would hear the marching band! Pie didn't care one straw about the band. He was eager to finish to get to his apple tree.

Our poor apple trees, shown in this photo from last September, had too many apples this year and both had large branches break! We had them trimmed earlier to try to prevent such an event, but the amount of apples that showed up was obscene. The branches just could not support all the weight. I hope our tree trimmer can salvage the trees. Can you imagine - too much abundance? The same is true with the behaviour of both horses and these apples - too much of a good thing. Last year, if you recall, I had problems with both horses leading without head diving for grass or apples. You can read that post here. That problem worked itself out with me being vigilant about "one last bite" really being the last bite and then we move forward without another thought about lingering. This year's problem with the apples is coming in the form of obsession. Pie (fatty) is amazingly the less obsessed of the two boys. He happily eats the apples, but he also grazes on grass and seems to enjoy his ride. Sovereign is apple nuts. I think that he thinks of the apple tree the entire time we are riding. It makes me wonder about his rushing last fall on the trail. Maybe it was all about the apples. All I know is that he was very naughty on Tuesday evening and would not go forward on the trail when we were heading back out, away from the barn. He had walked out perfectly fine to start, but it was clear that after 20 minutes he decided that we were done and it was time for his untacking and grooming and apple grazing. I wasn't finished and it really irked me. I don't carry a crop - I probably should for GENTLE urging, but I am not a crop person. He was very obstinate so I dismounted and walked him forward until we were by the turnoff. He stood very nicely for me to put the stirrup to its lowest position and I got on easily. (This is nearly impossible on Pie because of Pie's height.) Sovereign stood for me to re-adjust the stirrup. I walked him forward and repeated the practice of going back to the barn and then back out away from the barn. He stopped again and no amount of urging was going to move him. I dismounted again and repeated the exercise. On our third time, he walked forward and out in the direction I wanted to go. Success. Still, he is way too excited about the apples. I started the whole problem by allowing them this special treat. It does seem to be like looking a gift horse in the mouth to ignore these wonderful trees when we have horses, but I guess only Pie can handle the treat without becoming a spoiled little boy.

Now I have a question for everyone. Can you please help me find out what kind of bridle this is (above) and what kind of saddle is pictured below? I use the terms bridle and saddle loosely because obviously neither are your average bridle or saddle.

The bridle was featured in one of my favorite blogs, River Ridge Farm, which disappeared from Blogger as soon as I discovered it. The rider and her sweet Fjord, Izzy, used this bridle often, judging from their photos. I am certain you all (especially Sydney) will quickly fill me in about what kind it is.
The saddle, I believe, is more elusive. I consider myself fairly adept at internet research, yet this precise saddle/bareback pad has me stumped. This photo is from a Mini Boden's catalogue, circa 2007 (click on the photo to enlarge). I ripped it out and glued it into my journal as soon as I saw it because it is exactly what I want. I have found many similar type saddles, but they are just not quite it. The problem of course, not to get too risque, is that a Google search of "bareback saddle" often should I say...colorful returns! So any help out there would be GREATLY appreciated! Thanks!
I hope the end of this month (and glorious season) finds you with much horsey time. I will have to live through your blogs vicariously for a week or two. My dear, sweet, kind Maizie girl is heading off to middle school and I am having a nervous breakdown. Her bus was to pick her up at 6:37 am!!! We finagled a way to walk to another stop and gain 20 minutes, but it is still quite a change for us. We like her to have a good night's rest and to be fully awake without hurrying and rushing, yet we would have to put her to bed at 7 pm to achieve that!!! What is wrong with this world? Is it any wonder why middle school kids are so prickly - they are all just tired. Ok, I am stepping off my soapbox now...sorry!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Running with the pack

Summer has been busy with Maizie and her activities. I was able to carve out 3 hours each evening this week of actual horsey time, but I was absent from visiting all my horse friends' blogs. I promise to catch up! Riding this week was productive and I am sore to prove it. I alternated riding Pie and Sovey beginning with Sovey last Sunday evening and then Pie on Monday, Sovey Tuesday, etc. On Sovey's rides I worked on slow trotting, trying to get him to relax his head and neck. I worked in the ring and on the trail. He relaxes nicely on figure-eight turns, but stiffly cranes his neck on the straightaways. I even did some sitting trot which is not his most comfortable gait. I feel, and probably look, like a sack of, but we made some progress (translation: I learned that I only want to post on him in the future!). He walked around the field and through the woods quietly and calmly. He had no problem with the apple-barstool-friends inflatable pool or with darkness in the woods. He hurries back a little, but I discovered accidentally that he is NOT hurrying to return to Pie, but to his beloved apple tree. I figured this out when he made a beeline to the tree instead of to the barn!
Pie and I worked on mounting from the ground all week. I want to be able to dismount when I am off our property and not have to walk home. I practiced mounting from the mounting block in the ring and then put my stirrup down the whole way and mounted a few times from the ground. Pie doesn't like it at all - (he turns his head around to look at me and his butt follows, moving away from me) - but he did improve. When I am up I only have one stirrup and he stands perfectly while I adjust it, but I know from experience that he doesn't stand perfectly for me to adjust it when we are out in the wilds. Last evening, Maizie walked on the ground in front of Pie for our ride across the street and into new territory. Pie also discovered a new juicy apple tree over there, so I am certain he will want to visit there frequently in the future.
Mom is still stiff - she fell last Saturday night, but she is making progress. Thank you to everyone for you kind comments and well-wishes. She reads all the blogs - mine and yours - and she appreciates your kind thoughts! She watched Sovey and I riding in the ring one evening this week and she was practically trotting too on the bench she was sitting on! She can't watch anyone ride without "riding" too and urging riders over the fences with her body.

Monday, August 2, 2010

august and everything after

Sovereign and I had a nice ride last evening. I let him choose where we would go at the beginning and he picked a new route that took us near the turnpike with heavy traffic and loud trucks. He was calm and wonderful. I was very proud of him. After that we walked the perimeter of the farm and back through the woods. We stopped and talked to our apple barstool friends where he gobbled two juicy apples. I took him to the spot where he jumped around and lost my mom the night before. He didn't have any problems there. Then we stopped at my mom's house where she and Maizie were playing Scrabble. Maizie came out and fed Sovey carrots while my mom talked to us from the deck. She is still stiff, but doing amazingly well. She is fairly fit and athletic and heals quickly. I grazed Sovey under his beloved apple tree when we returned to the barn.

The leaves of his favorite apple tree are in the photo above. This picture is from our auction last Monday and I love it because you can see our auctioneer on the barn bridge and Maizie in the shadows below looking up at him. Most kids age 11 ask to go to Hersheypark. Our Maizie wanted to have an auction so this was her gig. She helped prepare the items and she held up the smaller items on the auction block under the tent. She loves to observe the personalities of different people. The auctioneer and his helpers, not to mention all the auction goers, were all under her watchful gaze.

You can see Pie and Sovereign in the background of this photo. They loved the auction too. (Especially when errant children came into the pasture to feed them grass! Luckily, my mom spied the kids and got them out of there!)

Neither horse raced around or did anything out of the usual. I actually was able to ride them right around the auction items before and after the "big show". The tent and the port-a-potty were scary to them, but they really didn't act goofy, just cautious. I rode Pie bareback the night after the auction and a huge truck came through the grass to pick up larger items. Pie went right up to the truck and we talked to the driver for a few minutes. Amazing horse.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Looks like my stop, don't wanna get off

Last night my mom fell off of Sovey. She is doing well this morning, but she is going to be sore. She is 66 years old so any tumble is rough.
I tacked up Sovey about 6:30 pm and just put a bridle on Pie so I could ride bareback. As I was leading Pie out into the forebay, a huge insect kept landing on his big round rear. The thing looked like a Palmetto bug and it was buzzing and apparently biting every time it landed. Pie was understandably upset and he was doing his signature half-rear/buck combo. I was still on the ground and I just went with him in circles out on the driveway and in the grass. Mom and Sovey were in the forebay and Sovey was worried about his friend. When the bug left were we able to get on and as we headed out we were laughing about how difficult it would be to stay on Pie's "bug bucks". There would be no way.
Come to think of it, during the whole ride we were talking about falling off. Maybe we jinxed ourselves. At the far corner of our big field we were letting the boys graze while we talked. I was facing my mom and something scared Sovereign from behind. He bolted forward and skittered a few steps toward me. I saw my mom almost come off as she was surprised and left behind his quick forward motion. She stayed on though, and we kept on riding. We walked down the east side of the field and into the woods. We kept talking about what a close call she had just had. I said that I felt physically sick watching her almost fall off. I had had two too many desserts (as in 2 desserts!) after dinner and the combination of the food and her "almost-fall" was enough to make me sick. She and Sovey were leading in the woods and she was saying that she is going to fall off sometime - it is just a matter of time. I knew she was right, of course. You can't ride without falling off sometimes, but I just try not to think about her going off. While still in the woods we started talking about how injured she got two years ago in a rollerskating accident. (I never worried about her skating and then, in the Spring of 2008, she took a fall right on her face/head and was terribly beat up for a while.) We popped out of the woods into a grass inlet of the larger field. Pie was leading and we were still talking about falling off. Mom was saying that she rides by balance and that she should grip a little more in her legs. I was thinking that both of us ride a little too loose. Our relaxed style pays off more times than not because it keeps the horse calm. Sometimes, though, we are too relaxed for our own good and a sudden jump or side-step leaves us on the ground! That is what happened right then. Pie was in front and skittered to the side. I was hanging off the side of him with no reins sure that I was going off. I looked over at Sovey and he was skipping over toward us in a bolt/dash maneuver. I saw my mom hanging on and then tumble off the right side of him onto her back. Pie twirled around which actually kept me on, but I couldn't see anything else of my mom and Sovey for a second. I slid off and Sovey was beside me so I grabbed his reins and turned around. No Mom anywhere! The grass was super tall and I could just hear her moaning. I walked a few steps forward and saw her on her back saying that she couldn't breathe. I think the wind was knocked out of her. I had the urge to scream, but I couldn't scream or I knew the whole pack of us would lose it completely. I couldn't reach down to help her up because I thought the horses might wheel their backends around and step on her. If our farm was fenced in I would have just let the horses loose, but it isn't so I held on to their reins and slowly started counting out loud to ten. The horses' faces were tight together and we were all watching my mom. After the first count of 10 she stopped moaning. After the next count of 10 she sat up. After the next count she rolled over and got up. Relief! She walked over and put Sovey's stirrups up, but she said that she didn't think she could lead him because her back/hip was hurting too much. My mom is not a quiet, silent person. She is a talker and when she is injured, she moans and cries loudly. The horses were fairly worked up about the fall and the moaning, and I didn't know how I was going to walk them back to the barn in this state. Sovey was so great, allowing me to walk single file through the woods with Pie in front and he behind at Pie's flank. Pie, though, was upset and nervous. He was crunching and grinding his teeth, a habit he does when wound tight. He reared a couple of times and did not make the double leading very easy. Mom came out of her house with an ice pack on her hip and hobbled over the rest of the way to the barn leading Sovey. I untacked him and stuck both horses in the pasture. They seemed puzzled and worried. Later, after making sure my mother was comfortable, I groomed and grazed each horse so that they knew that all was ok.
This morning my mom is walking and driving, but not bending too well. I have had some time to think about how lucky she was to have landed in the tall grass. She didn't land in the woods on a rock or branch or on the hard road or driveway. And, she was lucky to have landed on her back rather than her head, hand or face, like the skating accident.