Saturday, May 28, 2011

You just might find you get what you need

Thanks everyone for the great feeding suggestions to help Foggy with his weight. I did start adding beet pulp to his diet. This new addition has caused comic relief just when I need it most. I don't know if these three are actually funny horses, or if it is my perception, but every new "event" seems to elicit a response that cracks me up. Pie especially, is a funny horse. He is so huge with big expressive eyes and big head and body movements that "act out" what he is thinking. I have been bringing the horses inside the barn and putting them in their stalls in order to give Foggy his beet pulp and grain. I give Pie a meager handful of grain to keep him happy. Since Sovey is on the thin side like Foggy, I give him some beet pulp with his grain.  They all have hay and water in there too, but Pie finishes his gratuitous grain without beet pulp long before the other two.  I get him out and put him in the cross-ties to groom him, but you can hear the other two boys slurping and gobbling and chewing. Pie stops fidgeting and listens.  He holds his breath so he can hear better. He looks around the barn and then lowers his head to look at me all cross-eyed and serious, like he is questioning, "Hey, Julie, what is going on in here?  I think there is some yummy chewing going on.  Do you hear that?  What is all that slurping and gobbling? Did I get that food too?  I am not remembering eating something that sounds that yummy?" I feel sorry for him, but he is such an easy keeper in a barn full of svelte, beet pulp gobbling brothers. 

My rides have been consistent, although it has been hot (80 - 90 degrees) and buggy. I ride Pie and Sovey bareback and wonder if I will ever be able to ride Foggy bareback - he has very high withers. 

Last evening I had an unexpected gift of quality time with all three horses. I got Pie out of the pasture to graze and ride. As I was standing there with him, though, I realized that the whole barn scene was chaotic. The heat and humidity were oppressive. The gnats were driving Pie crazy, causing him to swish his tail and kick and circle like a madman. Maizie and her friends were whopping it up loudly on the tennis court.  My mom was flying around on a riding mower and our sweet farm helper, Melanie, was using a hand mower. Brian was periodically banging a sledge hammer into a pasture gate (I had hit it with a mower earlier and bent it!). Sovey and Foggy were pacing furiously in another pasture trying to escape the bugs. I brought all the horses into the barn to give them a brief respite from all the activity and just then a loud clap of thunder sent everyone scattering. Brian took Maizie to our home and mom and Melanie and kids went to their respective houses. I was left in the barn alone with a pouring rain storm outside and the three boys safe and sound inside with me.

Talk about a gift!  Grooming in a barn with no chance of riding can be the most peaceful activity in the world. There is no rush, no hurry, no expectation of the next thing. Grooming is the destination. I stretched it out long and thorough with each horse. They were quiet and I could tell loved every second of me currying and brushing out all the day's sweat and bug itches. Happy, happy. Sigh. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Black Mountain Side/White Summer

Rain and more rain has made riding challenging. I was able to fit in good rides on Pie and Sovey last week between raindrops.  The footing is terrible and my grass paths in the field are almost gone because they've grown back.  Our tree seedlings are very happy, though.  Some sunshine on Saturday and Sunday and nice trotting work with Pie.

Pie has been bossy in the pastures to sweet Foggy and Sovey, shoving them off by light hock biting as soon as they get down to relaxed grazing. I take this as a cue that I am not working him nearly enough.  He is easily my fattest, happiest boy with tons of boredom and naughty ideas. His extra energy is my responsibility, so we went on a long adventure to the church across the street on Saturday and then trotted our paths in the hayfield on Saturday and Sunday. 

Foggy is still struggling to gain weight. He is not thriving like I want. I am up at night with worry. You can't force a horse to eat. His teeth are great. He is worm-free. I gave him a course of U-Gard. We have gorgeous, leafy alfalfa mix hay. I am supplementing him with a little grain. He has nice pastures. My staccato sentences illustrate my frustration. Insert my signature foot stamping here. Other than moving him into my house (I would love that but Brian is not buying) I can only pray and be patient. So I wait and groom and graze the little guy. I think he wants to go riding like the big boys, so I will keep up with our light walking. He just seems sad to me. Sovey did too when he came and it took some time for him to prosper. Pie has prospered enough for the whole lot of them. He is so full of himself, I wish he would share just a little of that joie de vivre with the sweet brothers.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I guess there's just one thing left for me to do


Yesterday morning I rode Foggy for the first time!!!!  He was a perfect angel. I have waited a long time to ride him, mainly because of his weight.  He is still thin, but he has put on some nice pounds with our grass and his coat is sleek and shiny.  Mostly, I knew that any worry he may have had initially about being at our home has vanished.  I like horses to know me long and well enough to be completely confident that I am offering only kindness.  That way, when I introduce something new, like riding, they are happy to see what it is all about. 

I groomed him while he grazed.  This is our normal routine. Then, we walked up to the barn and spooked around in there. For the last few weeks, I have been taking Foggy into the barn and getting him used to the cross-ties. He is not at all worried about the cross-ties. Pie cross-ties perfectly, but Sovereign has never stood well in the cross-ties or relaxed in that space. Instead, he stands out in the forebay for tacking. I am happy that Foggy has zero problems in the cross-ties. 

Yesterday, though, he stopped in the forebay and just stood there. This is probably not accurate, but it seemed to me like he has observed Sovereign standing there for tacking because he stood in the exact position where Sovey stands. So, I put the lead over his neck and left him there and went into the tackroom and got a saddle pad.  When I returned, Foggy was standing like a statue. I used a thin, quilted pad and two fluffy white fleece pads.  Foggy has high whithers and until he is the correct weight, I can't properly tackle saddle fitting. My saddle was high atop a pile of fluffy pillows, but I didn't care. I knew I was only going to walk him around a little.  I hooked the girth very lightly and popped on the bitless bridle.  I have tacked Foggy up before, but he always seemed nervous after tacking.  This time, he was calm and relaxed.

Foggy is the type of horse that will do anything you want him to do. This sounds like a good thing, but it can be tricky to be sure that he wants to do something. Just because you can make a horse do something doesn't mean the horse is necessarily ready to do that. There is no worry in this camp with Pie. If he is willing, then he is happy and relaxed in his entire body. Sovey also is more demonstrative if he does or doesn't want to do something. Foggy, by contrast, will willingly do anything, but I can tell that sometimes he doesn't really want to do it. I don't want to rush him in anyway so I have to really keep a watch on my own enthusiasm and make sure he is completely ready for the next step. 

Yesterday, Foggy was happy to be tacked up so I walked him down and we carried the mounting block around. He is afraid of the mounting block. This is a perfect example of what I mean by his willingness to do anything even if he isn't comfortable. When Pie first arrived, he was terrified of the mounting block. He would snort and back up and let me know with his whole being that he was scared. I used treats to slowly introduce the green, plastic contraption to him and he got over his fear in a few introductions. Foggy is also scared, but he is so slight and less vehement about any fear. He will walk around the scary thing and let me carry it and stand on it, but Foggy really isn't over the fear. Just because I can "force" him to be near it doesn't mean I shouldn't take the same time I did with Pie. So I've been putting treats all over the block and letting Foggy "meet" the monster. Easy horses get the short end of the stick sometimes and I don't want to cheat Foggy out of proper introductions and training.

I had Foggy stand beside the block and easily leaned over and put some weight on the saddle. He is so short compared to the other boys. Then, I got on gently. He stood still and I gave him many "good boys" and a few treats, which he could not believe he could get with a rider on his back! We stood quietly like that for a little bit and then I asked him to walk with a light squeeze. He walked nicely around the ring with his head a little high, but not too worried. The auto-auction was using a loud backhoe and he watched that with interest. As we circled a few times, he lowered his head and relaxed his whole body. I stopped after ten minutes. He walked forward on the dismount.  I remember Pie did this too at first, so I know we can work on that later. All in all, it was a great first "ride"!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Time ticks by her one race at a time

Saturday, May 7th was Pie's 6th birthday and our Kentucky Derby Tree Seedling Planting Party.  The weather was strange - first sunny, then cloudy, next wickedly windy and then cold - in that order!  My family, friends and neighbors were true troupers, though, and kindly planted many of the 350 seedlings.  The horses were front and center for most of the festivities as you can see in the photos below.  I have uploaded more photos on a special page HEREThank you so much Melanie P. and Melanie B. for the superb photography!

Our sign out at the road.

Maizie and her friends served as tree planting helpers.  Here Austin is pointing out where to plant.

Maizie leads a group out to the fields.

Of course, Birthday Boy Pie and friend, Sovey, had to get some snacks from the tree planters!

Dappled Pie and Foggy grazing.

Two brothers grazing.

Our kind Apple-Barstool friends joined in the fun!

We planted Crabapple, White Pine, Shag Bark Hickory, Dogwood, and Hawthorne.  All are "horse safe".

We set up tables in the backyard.  This area used to be a swimming pool!  The pool was built circa 1959 and it collapsed in the 1990's. The view of the horses and pastures from here is perfect. Guests brought a dish to share and the food was fabulous.  

My Aunt Martha and her friend had this amazing cake made for our party!!!! Isn't it wonderful? She took the design from the top of my blog! I was so surprised!  It was delicious too - a vanilla and cinnamon spice cake. Yummy! Aunt Martha reads my blog and I am so glad she could share in our special day. She really knows the history of our farm - here is a photo of her walking out to this very pool (when it was still there) on July 4, 1966. 

Here's one of Maizie and her friends - the tree planting crew!

I brought Foggy up to the party and of course, the Birthday Boy, Pie, above, had to get some loving and treats too. I had groomed the horses perfectly, but Pie rolled and has mud above his eye!

Maizie organized a Kentucky Derby dollar pool.  Here she is with our friend, Greg, collecting money.  I think they look like two Bookies!

Our friend, Kathy, above, not only planted trees in her lovely Kentucky Derby skirt and hat, but she split the Derby pot with my father-in-law, Ernie, by picking Animal Kingdom to win. Congratulations to you two!  As usual, I couldn't watch the race, but I had fun grazing my boys while the race was running.

It was a great day. Thank you, everyone, for planting trees at Honeysuckle Faire!

Don't forget to see all the photos - CLICK HERE!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Making bets on Kentucky Derby Day

Today is Pie's 6th birthday!!!  Here we are on the trail yesterday morning.  I have been riding every single day first thing in the morning and then I work on a huge project...

We are having a Kentucky Derby - Pie-Pie's-Birthday - plant a tree seedling picnic today!  I can't believe it is finally here and it might be sunny!  Hooray! 

I got 350 (!) seedlings from the state and I have been preparing our fields with paths and pre-dug holes for the little ones and older guests. I woke up today at 5 am without an alarm.  That isn't like me!

My only rule with this project was that I rode every day before I started work on the seedling preparations. Even today, I might sneak in a ride.  It took me 44 years to get my priorities right - ride, groom, graze, first - do the rest of life after.  It is the only way to be happy and keep sane! 

Happy Kentucky Derby day.  Love up your ponies.  I will have photos of our event and finally get back to reading all the blogs next week!