Monday, January 31, 2011

you don't know how much I love you

I think we ended up with an amazing horse in our little Foggy. Already I can tell that he is sweet and sensible.
We had my barefoot trimmer, Mike Glenn, on Friday afternoon. I can't say enough good things about Mike's patience and knowledge. I had been told that Foggy was not good for the farrier so I asked Mike to give him plenty of time to process what we were asking. We both agreed that we would like to get his shoes off, but we weren't going to force the issue if he wasn't cooperating from the beginning.
Our bank barn has low beams that would make any pop-ups dangerous, so we decided to start outside under the forebay. The sun was shining, but there was a huge snow squaw the entire time. It was actually very beautiful.
Mike introduced himself to Foggy by slowly touching him all over, especially his legs and feet. He didn't ask to pick them up, but Foggy offered them. Then, Mike did ask and held them each for a few seconds. Then he cleaned them out and started just pretending to file them. Foggy was excellent with three, but he did try to pull away with the foot with the white sock. He was funny because he would pull it away like he was afraid, but then he would offer it again. Mike said that Foggy was really trying. That made my heart sing because I was up at Foggy's head and I could tell by his facial expressions and ears that he wasn't being nasty and I was relieved that Mike could tell that too.
Mike easily removed the front shoes and the black back. The white (left rear) took a little more time, but nothing bad at all. We discussed trimming him, but decided to stop at that since it had gone so well. Foggy definitely has good memories of Mike and standing under the forebay.
Everything I have done with him so far has been just as easy. I am so relieved and grateful.
I have introduced him to a new pasture that connects to the paddock. He is still separated from the boys, but he has a bigger space to play and can see the horses. Pie and Sovey stay up in the pastures that are near him, which I think is kind. At the end of the day, they look at me like tired older siblings, asking to be relieved of their duties. I am not kidding. The second I put Foggy in the barn for the night they walk out to the far pastures. They could go there all day if they wanted, but they stay near him.
I am trying to maintain the same routines for Pie and Sovey as I did before Foggy's arrival which has been tough because of the snow and more snow we keep getting! I have groomed and "grazed" (no grass) the boys each day, but today was the first day I rode. I chose Sovereign, my go-to-boy because he is the safer of the two. I put Pie in the paddock alone and Foggy in his nearby pasture. Sovey took me out and around the farm, choosing to walk away from the barn on every trail which made me smile. Pie hollered the entire time like he always does, but I could see from a distance that Foggy ate his hay peacefully ignoring the big-baby-Pie-Pie's screams.
I introduced Foggy to hand-grazing today in a tiny little grass spot beside the tennis court. He did very well.
A couple of days ago, Foggy did not want to go back into the barn. Then, one evening he went into the barn, but would not go into his stall no matter what I did. He went into the stall that had been Sovereign's. I made the switch and gave him that stall and now he walks into the barn happily. I am not sure what that means, but I don't think he liked the other stall for some reason. I am listening, Foggy. You are too unassuming and willing to ignore.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

to the racetrack I did go

Today is my birthday and my gift arrived yesterday afternoon - Found in the Fog is our horse now!

Pie and Sovereign see "Foggy" for the first time this morning during the snowstorm.

Maizie took this photo of me leading Foggy around the paddock before I turned him out today. Notice the four ears in the background watching every move.

Foggy plays!

"Hello, Brother."

Found in the Fog, below, getting settled last evening in his stall. It looks like I added Lawrence Welk bubbles but there must have been something (a horsey sneeze?) on my camera lens.

I am so happy and excited to share our news. Found in the Fog really is ours! His kind owners saved him, not only from slaughter by looking for someone to adopt him, but they took a gamble and saved him for 30 extra days in case I might still want him when I returned from our trip. I hope to get permission to share their names - I really can't thank them enough. Their commitment to this horse should be recognized.

If you are new to my blog, you can read how I "found" Sovereign's FULL brother, Found in the Fog, on these two posts:
I want to also thank all of my blogger friends for their kind words of encouragement and support back in November. I did not know how this story would turn out, but I did feel so much better either way because of your comments. Some of you gave me hope to think that it might work out that he ends up with us, and others made me feel good that he might end up in another happy family because I stepped aside. Thank you. Ok...enough of me sounding like I just won an Academy Award! I feel like I won something, that is for sure!
I am unbelievably glad he is with our family now that I have the proper amount of time to get he and my other horses adjusted to this big change.
I received an email from Foggy's owner on the day after we returned from Florida asking if we were still interested in him. We discussed it here at length and decided that adding him to our "herd" was the right thing to do.
Foggy arrived yesterday afternoon around 3pm. I put him into his stall in our bank barn. He did not have a blanket but seems to have a good winter coat. He is thin, so I will probably keep him inside at night until mid-March this year. He still has all four of his racing shoes and he slipped walking onto our old, concrete aisle. I am working on getting the shoes pulled as soon as possible. Foggy is not good for the farrier, I am told. I can not work on introducing him to the boys until he is barefoot.
Pie and Sovereign were in another field when the truck and trailer pulled in. Sovey knew something was up. Pie was happily innocent and oblivious the entire afternoon and evening. Relief. Pie and Sovey's stalls were ready in case I needed to put them inside, but all horses seemed to be calm in their spaces last evening.
I gave Foggy hay and fresh water and a handful of grain when he arrived. Around 6 pm he started rolling in his stall and grinding his teeth like he was colicky. There was no manure and zero gut sounds on either side so I gave him some Banamine and walked him a little in the dark in the paddock. Pie and Sovey were mysteriously missing (Thank You!) because leading Foggy in the dark in a new place was a little like flying a Thoroughbred kite. I called the vet and she made me feel tons better by telling me that his secondary systems, which included digestion, were on hold because of the stress of the trip and a new place. Hooray - I was sure I killed him on the first night. (Pie and Sovey must have had no such stress - I distinctly remember Pie eating happily on his first night!) Foggy passed manure at 8:30 pm - much celebration over a pile of manure!
This morning greeted us with a snowstorm that snuck in so quickly that Maizie's school was cancelled only after we had our coffee. Thanks a lot! Mom trudged over through the snow and fed the horses. She reported that everyone was doing great. I can't tell you the nightmares I had all night so her phone call was very much appreciated by me!
Maizie and I headed over after the roads were cleared and I gave Pie and Sovey hay snacks in the ring pasture. This gave them a front row seat to the paddock where I was going to turn out our new sweetie boy. Out I came with Foggy and attempted a few laps around the paddock before releasing him. I did have the chain over his nose just in case. One of the things I really liked about him in November was that I could lead him around with no chain. He was that quiet. I am sure he will quiet down here too. I don't use a chain on Pie or Sovey and I don't want to use one on Foggy. He was a little silly, but not too bad. What a play he had after I took off the lead. I kept the (enormous) halter on him today while turned out, but I probably won't in the future. He came right up when it was time to go inside.
Pie and Sovey never left their spots while Foggy played. Pie stood like a statue, occasionally looking my way, questioning me with his innocent, puppy-dog eyes, "Julie, what is this all about?" After a few minutes, Foggy settled down too, and all three horses munched grass and hay in the snowstorm. I am very impressed with the lack of fireworks. We have a long way to go in the introduction process, mainly because of Foggy's shoes, the weather, and my vet's wishes that I keep them separated for a few weeks, but it was a good beginning.
So, Found in the Fog's arrival is my exciting news. A new chapter has begun. I am happy for Pie and Sovereign and Foggy. I think there are good things to come for the three of them.
Here is a funny video Maizie made of the horses this morning. Foggy throws three crazy bucks at the very end of it. Turn your sound down - loud buzzing noise - ouch!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

What could make a boy behave this way?

This afternoon when I got to the barn it was 21 degrees and sunny with about a 12 mph wind. I didn't plan on riding, but Pie was super calm during our hand walking, grazing, and grooming session, so I tacked him up.

As we started out around behind the barn and tennis court I was thinking about my last ride and my post about discovering that observing some basic equitation rules helped me out of a tight spot. When I was riding today I started laughing thinking that my post makes it seem like I usually ride without sitting tight or having nice hand/leg positions. But, today, I was aware that I ride differently depending on what the horse is doing under me.

This afternoon, for example, the wind was blowing from the west into our faces. Pie was walking out looking and waiting for anything to tell him that there was danger. In this situation, I have to almost pretend like I am a relaxed sack of potatoes on his back. At the beginning of our rides, I have to use my body to tell him that there is zero to worry about. It sets the tenor for the rest of the ride. If I would sit tall and grip at all with my legs and keep my reins taut, it would be certain disaster! He would "hear" that as a sign that I am prepared for danger and he would prepare himself too. Instead, I lean forward and pat him a lot, giving him his head and reins even though I really have them if I need them. I practice balance in case of a spook, but I am not gripping with my legs at all. It is all a great big lie on my part, but it worked like a charm today. He happily walked into the wind and through our woods and trails. He was so relaxed. He sure didn't seem like a 5 year old Thoroughbred on a chilly, windy day.

We made it out around the field and to his yummy barstool apples. He knocked them onto the ground and then couldn't seem to find them, I guess because they were extremely cold/frozen. I could not believe I was going to have to dismount since we are having mounting difficulties lately! But, I did get off and fed him his lovely snacks.

Here is the barstool. I figured I would take a photo of it and just sort of play around so that Pie would not get worked up and I could re-mount. I focused on breathing out and not worrying about mounting. I decided that we would take our time and he could whip his butt around as much as he wanted. We would just keep trying. We only turned around three times, and then he stood perfectly well. Good boy!
Next, he wanted to go toward the south woods. I decided that we were going to head back to our barn instead. Pie was so willing and wonderful the whole way back. Just as we were entering the driveway to my uncle's barn I started to notice zillions of tiny paw prints. I know they belong to the fox that we have been seeing every time we ride. There were so many prints and I was momentarily lost in thought when something happened. I still don't know what it was but Pie jumped and reared. I lost a stirrup and he kept on doing the half-rear/buck thing he is so fond of so I grabbed his mane and found my stirrup. He was very worked up but I got him back and we walked down and around the honeysuckle bushes. It made me mad that we were almost home because I didn't want to end on such a sour note. I circled him around the farmhouse and barn and he investigated the fire pit again so I figured he was fairly relaxed. All in all, it was a WAY better ride than Thursday's. Pie's behaviour during 90% of our ride today was as good as if it was a warm, spring day. I am very pleased!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

thinking some words I can't name ya

This photo of Pie playing in the snow is obviously from last February. Our pastures and skies and trees do look exactly like this picture, but the dear Pie is considerably more rotund this winter!

I am featuring his cuteness in this post because he and I had quite a wild ride on Thursday afternoon. Brian said that he could get Maizie off the bus which gave me many hours of horsey fun. I love days like that...I never feel rushed and I don't wear my watch. Thursday was Pie's day since Sovey and I had our perfect birthday ride on Wednesday. I grazed him first, allowing him to gobble to his heart's content. I groomed him while he munched. It was cold but sunny. I was in my Carhartts and Sorels, which isn't the best riding outfit, but I am resigned to wearing this "sleeping bag" in order to stay warm.

I said the hell with the ring - Pie hates it so I decided to skip it altogether. He stood well for mounting in his happy wagonshed. It felt a little like cheating by mounting in there and not forcing the issue in the ring since Pie clearly is ginchy about mounting and riding in the ring, but in this crazy cold weather I decided to not fight him. We have warm spring days to practice mounting in the ring. I am fighting the wind and cold, why fight him too?

My mom showed up on foot just as we were heading out. She walked in front of us which gave Pie a little extra confidence. We headed south, up and around our upper pasture. Pie side-stepped a little near the auto auction, but not too bad. We circled out to our big field. My mother said that her feet were two chunks of ice so she headed back to her house and big, brave-boy Pie wanted to go out to the apple barstool. (Duh, of course he did.) I knew there weren't any apples out there, but I let him see for himself. Once there, he wanted to go to the right and walk down the perimeter fence. We did that and it felt like he was wound pretty tight, but held it together in the wind. I thought that was pretty good for our first big outing and started for home, but Pie wanted to duck into the south woods. These are the woods that border the Pennsylvania Turnpike. We don't maintain these trails because part of the woods are not ours and there are long raspberry brambles and overgrown paths. Pie always wants to go in and I always say "no" and promise him that I will trim it up in there, but I never do. Now, with the snow, the overgrown trails are fairly easy to see so I said "ok" this time.

He was all happy and stepping out like he was really going somewhere. The main problem with these trails is that there used to be three ways back, but recently a tree fell on one path and a groundhog hole is blocking another. Therefore, the only way back is the way we came. Well, this is a source of contention with my Pie-Pie boy. He is so funny in his "big feeling" personality. He always plows into a situation with a big, kind, "I-know-what-I-am-doing" attitude and then when things aren't as he expected he gets worked up and doesn't know how to calmly get out of the situation. He couldn't remember about the tree and the groundhog hole and was very adamant that we should go back those ways. He has to go to the tree and then he says, "oh, yeah, I remember now!" - the same for the groundhog hole - he couldn't see it, but thankfully he did remember. Now what? I tried to go back the way we came and then he started his tantrums. He chomped his teeth and with each chomp he winds his temper tighter. He becomes like a nervous, spring, coiled up for an explosion. The whole time we are just 20 yards from the turnpike. The loud trucks are whizzing by and Pie ignores them when I go the way he wants to, but if I ask him to go my way, he hears the trucks.

Of course, Sovereign NEVER whinnies to us when we ride UNLESS we are in a tight spot. Then, we faintly hear a Sovey whinny like a metronome in the distance. I tried everything. Singing, patting, leaning forward, squeezing gently, talking, laughing. Pie was frustrated and springing upward, but he refused to go back the way we came.

Something made me get myself together and especially, of all things, in my equitation. I am not sure why, but I sat tighter, better. I put my legs in a better position and made sure I had a nice line from my elbow down to his mouth/noseband. There wasn't a judge there, but I rode like there was! I sat like I was going into a fence, not a two-point, but more a half-seat and I got determined in my brain. I squeezed and asked him to go forward like I was in charge, I knew how to get home, and that was to go back the way we came. I struggle so much psychologically when I ride because I have this constant conversation in my brain with asking a horse to do what I want and not forcing them to do something they don't want to do. That is embarrassing to admit in black and white (sepia and white), but there it is. Thankfully, this stupid wrestling match that goes on in my head took a backseat to the safety issues at that exact moment. It was a cold, windy day and I was on a horse who was not listening to me and I was too close for comfort to the loud trucks on the turnpike. The alternate route he wanted to take was even closer to the trucks so we HAD to go back my way. And I finally pulled myself together and rode him like I meant it. And, miraculously, he listened! He walked out calmly and perfectly the way I wanted to go!!!

As we made our way back I started thinking about the history of equitation. Perhaps these "rules" were developed and taught for a reason other than looking good in a class. I know, I know, of course they were, but sometimes it takes me years to believe something as true. Well, I am a believer. Riding with the correct equitation sent very specific instructions to Pie, even through my thick Carhartts and Sorels. He felt my intentions and it wasn't delivered in a sappy, muddled mess. I was clear and he was alert and listening! We walked home so perfectly. He was happy and proud.

Back at the farmhouse, my farm helper, Melanie and her family had built a fire ring to roast marshmallows. The new and improved, confident Pie boldly walked up to this stone construction and sniffed and investigated. He got many apples and carrots after our ride and I realized while I grazed him that I rarely ride without learning something new.


Calm, Forward, Straight and Kristen at Sweet Horse's Breath and It's Quarters for Me kindly presented me with a "Stylish Blogger Award".

Thank you!
There are 4 duties to perform to receive this award:
1. Thank and link back to the person who awarded you this award.
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Award 15 recently discovered great bloggers.
4. Contact these bloggers and tell them about the award.

Seven quick things about me:

1. My birthday is next Wednesday - 44 years old!
2. I run daily - I used to be fast - now I am not.
3. I love the United States, but I do wish I lived in England for the footpaths and scenery.
4. Amazingly, for a painter, I am a fairly good mathematician.
5. I can't spell too well which freaks me out when leaving comments on blogs.
6. I want to ride in EVERY field I see along the road and that is really all I think about when driving around.
7. I have very exciting news...I am bursting to share...soon in an upcoming post!

More detailed facts about me:
Click here and here.

15 Recently discovered bloggers:
Please ignore if you already won or are WAY too busy (riding) to do this - I am late getting to this!

8. The "Dutch" ess of Deerfield - Rachel!!! If you see this I have had glimpses only of your blog - and I love it, but my computer explodes every time I go there. That is why I can't comment. I have to upgrade to Windows 7 I think!?!
9. MiKael's Mania - Arabian Horses
12. It's Quarters for Me - oops...sorry...didn't know that you had given it to me! - oops again - I must have known, but forgotten! Ugh! It is too cold to think!
and some old favorites:

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

You're the cutest thing that I ever did see

Seven years ago today, on January 19, 2004, my journal tells me that Maizie was a sweet little 5 year old who hadn't started school yet and whose adorable little twitterings filled my days. I have an entry that says we went to the grocery store and she handed Brian a bag of potato chips and said, "Here, Daddy, are some Tomato Chips." I had no idea that another mother, Western Groom, far away in Ocala, Florida, on this day was giving birth to her adorable baby - Suave Lord! Yes, our Sovereign is 7 years old today! Happy Birthday, sweet boy!
To celebrate, I groomed him and walked him around the driveway. I hoped to ride, but our snow was covered by an ice layer. I watched him carefully. I decided that if he chose to walk through the ice, then he probably wasn't too bothered by it. I knew it was thin enough not to be slippery, but I didn't want the sharp edges to hurt his feet. He plowed right through so I tacked him up!

Here is chub-a-lub Pie in the paddock munching hay as we depart.

And this is the gorgeous view of our field through the Birthday Boy's ears!

Sovey tilts one ear to me as I sing "Happy Birthday" to him. "Ugh," he says! I love the view of our barn in this photo. The snow and ice were melting as our temperatures climbed to 34! Balmy birthday ride! It started getting foggy out there which was very exciting! I can't say why just yet, but, I do have very thrilling Sovey-birthday-Western-Groom-foggy-news! Can you guess?

Sovey's favorite treat - Blueberry Iced Tea!!!! I drink this all the time and Sovereign LOVES it!!! Because it is so cold out now, I only bring one glass full each day and he can't fit his silly muzzle inside. So, today for his birthday, I brought my summertime jug along and he gobbled the ice cubes and slurped his beloved tea. This tea is delicious and has no sugar and saved my life by weaning me off my Coca-Cola addiction. It is especially for people who think they can't live without sugar because it tastes like kool-aid! I will include the yummy recipe below, but it is too cold this time of year to truly appreciate it. I'll post about it again in June when we are all sweating like crazy.

Blueberry Iced Tea
Celestial Seasonings True Blueberry Tea (Do not use another brand!)
1 Lemon

Pour 2 Cups Boiling Water over 4 tea bags. Steep 10 minutes. Transfer to lovely pitcher. Pour 2 more cups of water over top. Store in fridge. I leave tea bags in pitcher. To serve, pour over ice and squeeze lemon wedge into tea. Don't forget the lemon even if you don't like lemon! It mixes with the blueberry and becomes something yummy!
I have a Mr. Coffee Iced Tea Maker so I use 12 bags for 3 quarts and then I pour the tea into my big jug filled with ice. I squeeze half or even the whole lemon over top. It is so sweet and good and tastes like it should be horrible for you and it isn't! Sovey says it is delicious!
Sovereign was the best horse today! He was loving and quiet and our ride was fantastic. He stood perfectly still while I took photos and he didn't mind one bit. Oh, I love him so much! Our post ride grazing included Sovey's favorite garlic grass which I mentioned before. I found out that this "garlic grass" is known as "wild garlic" and "wild onion" . Locally, cows ingest it and this used to flavor the milk when I was little. Now, of course, who knows what they do to our milk, so you don't taste the garlic anymore. Anyway, sorry if I used the wrong term for it. A wordsmith, I am not! Sovey doesn't mind what I call it - just so he can dig under the ice and gobble it up!
Pie was lovey-dovey affectionate too today. He put his head in my hands and shut his eyes and kept making me scratch him all over his head. Sigh. It really can't get any better! Or can it...
Oops! I almost forgot...I recently won a kind blog award from a few sweet bloggers. I will post about that and share my 7 items and pass along to others very soon!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

anyday, I will see you smile

Since Wednesday, I have slowed down the pace with the horses. I groom and graze (hay in the driveway because of the snow) and lead them around the barn and yard, practicing nice leading habits. Pie especially likes this routine because he is basically a lazy horse. Riding is really too much of a bother for him, I've noticed. Sovereign enjoys going out for a ride and has seemed to me to be a tiny bit disappointed that I haven't been riding him.
Today, I decided to tack up and ride. I alternate days, and it was Pie's turn. He was annoyed that he might have to burn a few more calories than necessary. In the ring we worked on standing still to mount. He seems to have forgotten completely how to do this while I was away. I usually mount in our wagonshed by the barn. I think that was a safe zone for Pie and now I am asking him to mount in a "new" space. This will take time to get it perfect, but he is doing much better. I forget that little things that I do every time I ride, like mounting location, become habits to a young horse like Pie.
After I was on, whenever I asked Pie to circle in a direction he didn't think we should go, he threw his head up and down and stamped his foot and pulled a mini tantrum. These antics are similar to what he does out on the trail if he has reached a boundary or is frightened of something and doesn't want to go forward. I was able to move him through these in the ring both today, and the last time I rode. I am hoping I get the same success out on the trail. Last Easter, we got "stuck" in a tantrum in a neighborhood and I had a tough time getting him home.
Today, Pie shied violently in the upper field and we circled around and retraced our steps back to the ring. I gave him some time to relax and try again. He was very rattled, but decided to trust me and move forward. I still don't know what he saw (a manure pile?) but I am glad we conquered it. Eventually, I did take Pie out of the pastures as a reward and around the tennis court, around the buildings, and down the driveway. His antsy behaviour tells me that he doesn't like riding in the ring or pastures. Brian says that Pie knows that there isn't Grandma Carrot or Barstool Apples in the ring and I think that is pretty accurate. What does that say about me? I have a perfect trail horse as long as the trail includes snack stations?
The happy news is that the post ride grooming and grazing were calm and relaxed. Pie was not nervous after our ride which is a big improvement.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I saw my reflection in the snow covered hills

Today I rode Sovereign bareback. Here we are sneaking under the forebay and heading out on our ride. Sadly, the morning sun gave way to icky wind and grey skies. Sovey did not seem to mind. He walked on a long relaxed rein all around the barn and inside the pastures and in the front yard. Out back, he did circle quickly and try to return whenever I went too far from Pie.

I don't like the quick circling and return attempts. It tells me I took him farther than his comfort zone. That makes me mad at myself. He is very calm and enjoys our rides, but after being away for 30 days it is apparent to me that I rate low compared to his best buddy, Pie. This buddy sour behaviour is slight, but still it is there. This happened last year too, and is only natural since the horses spent every second of every single day together. Sovey needs me to ride him where he is comfortable for a week and then slowly push the boundaries. I listen to him, but the immature kid inside of me tries to take it too far, too soon. He wheeled around behind my grandmother's house. He wasn't insistent or rough, but with enough zeal to let me know that he would rather go back. Unfortunately, that opens a can of worms because I can't just let him think that quickly turning for home is a good behaviour, so then I have to work some small circles and figure eights and nonchalantly return to his safe area like I meant to do that all along. It could have all been avoided if I would have just taken it slowly, but I am stupid sometimes.

My eagerness was caused by seeing this gorgeous trail earlier. Mom and I went cross-country skiing all over the farm and I fantasized about riding Sovereign back through the trails.

Nice hat, Mom! She will be ticked that I put this photo of her skiing today on the blog but I think she looks adorable.

Here the boys are waiting for our skiing return.
Even at my age, I find it difficult to do the right thing and be patient with my horses when there are new and exciting riding conditions. It snows and the trails are gorgeous and I suddenly forget that I was away for a month and need to go slow with my two young horses. That is what happened today and the same thing happened yesterday without the snow as an excuse.
Yesterday, I rode Pie, and he wasn't "bad" or anything like that, but I could tell as we grazed after our ride that he wasn't completely relaxed either. He ripped nervously at the grass. I rushed him into a ride, when he really wasn't ready. Pie doesn't exhibit buddy sour behaviours, but he gnaws nervously when I ask for too much. It was the first ride on Pie since I have been home, and I let the thrill of riding him again get the best of me. He was nervous when I groomed him so after tacking up I walked him (me on the ground) around the ring. He did his normal anxious head twists and head butts until he calmed and sighed/snorted and walked nicely in his own space. This is my sign that he is ready. But, he became fidgety again when I tried to get on. I should have just kept walking and then untacked and grazed again and not ridden at all. But I am a dumbhead. So when I got on he turned his hind quarters away from the mounting block and I mounted in a jumbled mess. Then, I realized my error and dismounted and asked him again to stand quietly beside the mounting block. He nervously grabbed a rein and started chewing on it. I took it out of his mouth and inadvertently got my thumb in his mouth while he was still chewing the rein. He bit my thumb (accidentally). I am not a masochist, but I was grateful for the pain because it brought everything to a halting stop. I stood there with him beside me. I was silently wincing but it forced me to stop moving and stand beside him. He stood still for a long time. I remounted and he was perfect and I gave him many "Good Boy" praises. Pie adores "Good Boy" almost more than food. We walked around and he was super good. I can't say too much bad about the ride. He hates the ring and tries to duck out (I leave the gate open on purpose) but when I asked him to walk by the gate he did. A low flying helicopter went over and I leaned forward, stayed with him (grabbed mane!) and patted him reassuringly and he was perfect. We circled in patterns and he was good, but not having fun. We then went out and I wanted to just go around the barn. He wanted to go to my mother's house and I let him talk me into that. Another error. He was perfectly good, but he just isn't really ready for that yet. He got the carrots that he was after, but he was more twitchy and antsy than if we would ride closer to the barn for a few days and then venture over.
This all sounds ridiculous, I guess, but with these two horses, it isn't as much about dangerous behaviours as it is about their confidence in the future. I can feel when they are confidently moving forward, venturing farther over our land, wanting to leave the property and that is what I want. I can feel their confidence when I stay in their comfort zone and slowly make it wider.
Yesterday and today I pushed too far, too fast and lost their confidence in me. I have to remember to quit early. That is SO difficult when I am riding because I never want to dismount. Never.

Monday, January 10, 2011

You know I'm hung up on you

Here are the backs of two grazing boys. I see alfalfa flakes strewn on Pie's side, but what is that dusty mark on Sovey's back? Could that be a saddle mark? Sovey, was someone riding you?

"Dis is Sovey and I'm not tellin' "
It was me! My first ride of the new year! I groomed and grazed Sovereign and debated about riding. I wanted to ride and it wasn't windy, but I didn't want to rush Sovey. We are still in our "get re-acquainted" phase. The nice thing about Sovereign is that he "tells" you if he wants to go riding by walking up to the forebay and standing where I tack him up. He did that today so I said, "Okay!" His girth was almost too tight for him, which made me laugh. My mom's billets are way too short for this girth - we will have to move up to Pie's 52" big boy girth if she wants to ride! Sovereign is the skinny type of Thoroughbred - not the hunter type. I didn't actually think I would see the day when he looked perfectly filled out.
We walked out around the barn and tennis court and then walked around the front grass circle. This area has many maple trees, ornamental and regular size and Sovey likes using these as cones to circle around. He uncharacteristically grabbed for a mouthful of grass through the snow so I made a mental note to bring him back here after our ride. I didn't ride him long - just enough to have a great time! I think he liked it too.
I dismounted and groomed him again (not well enough judging from the dust mark) and headed out to graze. I could smell garlic on his breath and sure enough, when I got back to the spot where he had grabbed a bite, I saw little tufts of green garlic grass peeking through the snow. Sovey loves garlic! He started munching happily. Then, we walked over to my mom's for carrots. She remarked later that she likes watching him walk out and around all the buildings. He is so regal like he is important. He is calm and quiet, but he walks beside me like he is another person or a dog on an important walking mission. He is very interested in buildings and seeing things. You can just see in his demeanor that he enjoys walking around and looking at things. We resumed grazing in the garlic field and our farm helper, Melanie, came out to visit. Just then her son's bus was dropping him off and we worried that the bus driver didn't see that she was home. She and I quickly walked out to the bus and Sovey walked right along with us with such dignity like he was checking out that everything was fine too. He cracks me up! I bet the kids on the bus got a good laugh. We ended up in Melanie's garage talking, which suited Sovereign fine. He likes hearing conversations and being in the center of all the action. Poor Pie was worried when we returned, but I know Sovey enjoyed his walking adventure today.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sad, deserted shore your fickle friends are leaving

We left the sad, deserted shores of St. Petersburg on Friday and returned to icy Pennsylvania and our woolly mammoth twins, Pie and Sovey.

This, above, was the first view I had of them this afternoon. They were each struggling forward, too lazy to break into trots, but still extending their walks and craning their necks to be the first one to see just who was the stranger standing in their pasture. It was me and after a few minutes of awkwardness, Pie snuggled me up, plastering his long nose against my belly and tilting his head so I could kiss his swirl. He is such a lover boy. Sovey was more reserved, mostly because Pie bites him if he tries to get close and, in turn, he (Sovey) will bite me if I try to snuggle him! (I love you - don't touch me!)

They were both so fat and happy. As I was snapping this photo of Pie grazing and Sovey in the background, I realized that some people would not like seeing their lovely Thoroughbreds in such a state. Pie and Sovey are unbelievably furry. Gone are their sleek, refined coats. Gone is the gorgeous sheen over thin, sinewy muscles. Instead, I found two H.R. Puff-n-Stuffs. And, I have to admit - I loved it!!! I am so glad they didn't lose any weight while I was gone and they are obviously happy.
I took Sovey out of the pasture first and carefully groomed him. Then, I allowed him to wander on the lead and graze. I knew where we would go. His favorite walk is around the tennis court and over to my mother's house. He has smartly realized that if he goes there and grazes nonchalantly that my mother will magically appear to feed him carrots. His plan went off without a hitch. The sun was shining, but it was dreadfully windy in the corridor that Sovey likes to graze. I wore my Carhartt coveralls and stood patiently (while he nibbled with his eyes closed) even though I was a frozen popsicle. I kept track on my watch, but I could only take 30 minutes of grazing and then I switched horses. I slowly groomed Pie up, grateful for the occupation in order to get warm. We then headed out to graze. Thankfully, my roly-poly Pie-Pie boy doesn't mind where he eats so I picked a lush spot out of the wind and in the sun. After his special yummy half hour we went back into the pastures and I started to pick manure. My hat was so low and my muffler (scarf thing) was so high that I was startled to suddenly be standing in the shadow of something large. Here it was Brian - stopping in to see the boys! After he visited for a few minutes I went back to my task only to be stopped by Pie. More scratching and swirl kissing required before I could finish the job. Oh, it is so good to be home!

Monday, January 3, 2011

I'm only faking when I get it right

I love this post title from Soundgarden. Sometimes I think that lyric is so profound. Brian doesn't like it. He thinks it is like admitting that you aren't good at anything. But life is like that lyric, I think. Sometimes you get things right and it is a complete surprise, even to you. As we usher in this new year, 2011 (love that number!), I have been reflecting on my journey with Pie and Sovereign. I am so happy and grateful for the progress we have made so far. In the past, I have hesitated to make any sweeping proclamations about training philosophies on this blog and sometimes I think it appears like I am just flitting around, having a grand time riding and playing with my two horses without a thought in my head. That isn't actually true, but I have avoided saying too much about my plan, my ideas, my goals.

Brian has a friend, Surf, who has a quip: "Every time you say something, you are proven wrong." Surf's last name is Murphy, so we love referring to this aphorism as "Murphy's Second Law". I believe wholeheartedly in Murphy's Second Law. I worried about writing on this blog about training philosophies especially in the beginning when I hadn't really accomplished anything worth noting.

I receive emails occasionally from new OTTB owners asking for advice. For a long time I have wanted to come up with an easy way to answer basic questions about what is working for me. Our crazy bad weather here in Florida allowed me the time to finally work out my thoughts. In addition, we have had Pie and Sovereign for almost two years, so I feel a little more confident that some of what I am doing actually works!

I have added new pages and gadgets on my sidebar that talk about retraining, confidence, horsekeeping and books that I recommend.

These pages are LONG (insert the image of me stroking my imaginary beard here, as in "I am growing a beard" because it will take you so long to read these pages). I do not expect my blogging friends to feel compelled to read all this information. I wrote it out mainly for me and for anyone who might like to see how someone else handles the retraining of Thoroughbreds. It is a good time of year for long reading, I guess, so if you have the right amount of coffee and a warm blanket, feel free to grow a beard. I do like the Confidence page especially, as a glimpse into who I really am as a rider. (These blogs can be so deceptive and paint too rosy of a picture when really there is a huge untold history of past victories and defeats that shape our daily posts.)

I will update and change my new pages as needed and I am allowing comments on them - I didn't realize I could do that before with my pages.

Happy Noodle Year from Noodlebug and the rest of us here in sunny (not) Florida!