Friday, September 30, 2011

That's the time I love the best

I rode both Pie and Foggy today. This is a photo of the sweet little Foggy-boy but it isn't from today. Still no sunshine. In fact we had two more inches of rain since I last posted. My boys were snug in their dry stalls most nights because our pastures and sheds are still squishy. I am so grateful we have the barn! Stall cleaning and mud grooming kept me busy because riding was out of the question. 

We did finally have a glimpse of late afternoon sunshine yesterday with a huge rainbow and cooler temperatures followed. Today when I rode, the boys were perky which is understandable given all their hours inside. Even though it was muddy and grey out, there were very few bugs - hooray! Temperatures are to drop tonight - I think our sweet, soggy summer is officially over. Boy, the horses will be feisty tomorrow!

Speaking of feisty, I think I fell off today!  I am not sure if this counts as a fall, because I wasn't really on yet, but I put my left foot in the stirrup and kicked my right leg over Foggy and I think my foot hit his hip bone. That made me pull back, worried that I hurt him - he may have moved too, I am not sure - but the next thing I knew, I was flat on my back! Ouch. I stood up and got on again and Foggy started to trot, right through the forebay! I guess he was scared, poor honey, wondering if his nutty rider was going to do a back flop again.  I stopped him and dismounted and brought him back to a different mounting block and made sure he felt comfortable.  He stood wonderfully so I got on and quietly asked for a walk. He walked off nicely and we had an exceptional ride. Good Foggy. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

In the window there's a face you know

I took this picture of Pie while riding.  I stuck my cell out to the side to take it.  You can tell it is from a few days ago because there is sunshine and a shadow in the photo.  We don't have sun or shadows here anymore. We have rain.  In fact, yesterday we beat the all time record rainfall in our area for September and for the year. Here is a graphic, below, from our local television station. People from around here know that the significance of the 1972 record is from Hurricane Agnes. Unfortunately, this year we had more rain than that year owing to our wet May and our recent tangle with Tropical Storm Lee. 

I have had the boys in the barn for the downpours to save my precious pastures.  On good days I tell myself that our pastures don't look too bad considering that this is a record rainfall year. Our bad days, I cry looking at all the mud and bare spots and squishy sheds and the loss of grass for my horses. 

Yesterday morning I found a secret two hour window without rain and I rode Pie.  He was very UP.  I stayed on, but it could have gone either way at any moment.  Our temperature was hot and humid, but the impending storm/flash flood that hit around 11 a.m. must have been in the air.  Pie is a sensitive horse to weather changes.  I wanted to ride him to give him a break from being inside. The brothers don't seem to mind being in the barn - in fact I think they enjoy it! Pie doesn't. He likes the fresh air and pastures. 

He was quiet to groom and tack up, but right from the beginning he did his nervous high speed lip flipping. I made sure to keep him moving forward in an extended walk. I hoped to use up some of his energy this way, but also if I keep Pie moving out it prevents him from going up. The only way I can describe how he feels is like I am sitting on a very large spring. This is the giant, powerful horse you would want under you if you were entering a ring full of high fences. This is not what you want under you to have a leisurely ride around a farm. I trotted him as much as I could given the squishy, slippery footing. 

The whole ride was dicey and not actually tough enough to do much for his extra energy, but I had a blast.  There is something so rewarding about working with a horse to stay safe. I use the word "with" quite literally because Pie gave me so much yesterday. It wasn't easy for him to listen and yet he did over and over throughout our ride. There are many times on a twisty-turny ride through the woods and fields that he has to follow my lead and my leg and my directions. Pie explains in no uncertain terms that he wants to disobey. He throws his head and flips his lips to tell me that he is nervous and doesn't want to go in THAT direction. There is nothing preventing him from going in that direction - no scary monsters. He is defiant inside his own body, in his own skin. His behavior is so like Maizie when she was little (and sometimes now!) at bedtime when she is tired but doesn't want to go to bed. We call that "out of bounds" or "ginchy" because the horse or child is not willing to move forward so they sort of implode.

Pie was truly a hero yesterday. He held it together and kept me safe. Never once did he give a relaxed snort or release his neck on his own. I could achieve a lovely extended walk and he lowered his head for me and I am sure he looked beautiful, but it wasn't a truly relaxed lowering. It was the walk you would want if you were being judged, but it was a lie. He wasn't relaxed at all. That is why I am so proud of him.

The deception of the ride was crystal clear when we got back in the barn and I started to untack the big boy. He pushed his head this way and that, avoiding the halter in a silly, impish manner. Usually, Pie stands statue-still for untacking and post-ride brushing. I carefully led  him out to his beloved apple tree for grazing just as the raindrops started to fall. I thanked him for the ride and promised him better days soon.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

There must be a Pony!

Our sweet Sage is at graduate school and she just sent us this fabulous postcard.  Do you know the story? If you click on the photo, below, you can read the words. Oh, I just love this card - thanks Sage!

I have delighted in my own optimistic pile all my days and now I get to really live it. Every morning when I walk through my pastures and see the many new manure treasures left for me overnight, I know there must be three Thoroughbred ponies waiting for me somewhere. And what a lesson for the rest of my day - and life. 

Pie's shadow waits patiently for carrots from my mom during our ride on Sunday.

We had a lovely sunny ride in the woods.  Pie is a gentle boy in the autumn light. I rode Sovereign yesterday and he was just as peaceful. Today is to be little Foggy's ride, but it is raining. I still might be able to squeeze in a ride between raindrops. 

I just fed Pie an apple and you can see his applesauce lips in this photo.  Our shadow looks like I am riding a camel or llama!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

That's what it's all about

Our weather has been fabulous and Sovereign and I made the most of it today with an amazing bareback ride.  Thank you neighbor Bill for taking this photo.  I had tons of layers on even though it was in the high 50's - I'm not used to the cooler temperatures - yet. Sovey was such a good horse - I rode him on the buckle the entire time. What a horse! I did add the criss-cross throat latch back on his bitless bridle after our crazy bridle-falling-off-while-riding mix-up of the other day.

Here is a kiss between the brothers.  I am on Sovey's back taking the photo and Foggy is in the pasture.

September sunshine with my Sovey boy. Sigh.

Post ride apple and grass gobbling. You deserve it, sweet Sovey.  

Monday, September 12, 2011

Steal the warm wind

These are Foggy's ears as we made our way out to the barstool this morning for a yummy apple. It was warm and sunny, but the bugs must have still been in bed because we had little problems. Foggy's head is high right at this point in our ride because to our left there was a man walking around on a roof (below).  This is right beside the house that was getting re-roofed when Pie and Sovey first came to us.  It will be interesting to see how/if the other two boys react to this project now.  Foggy did nothing but look.  Good Foggy!

My ride on Foggy was so great. He is an all-around wonderful horse. Other than the fact that he isn't an easy keeper, I can't see one flaw. He is gentle to lead and work around and a joy to ride. 

I have zero photos of me on him though.  I took this one of me in front of a window!

Here is one my mom took after she gave him an apple. She has a kaleidoscope style to her photography -lol!

I asked my neighbor, Toby, to take a photo.  He was so kind to do this for me.  Foggy is a little deer. I love him to bits.

You can hear happiness staggering on down the street

Yesterday was a day for making lemonade because it seemed like there were a lot of lemons tossed in my direction.  Maizie and I went to the barn in the late morning to run and mow pastures.  She agreed to help me try to tackle our extra long post-flood grass. After our run, I put the boys in their stalls with yummy snacks and then realized that the grass was still too wet to mow.  

We went home for lunch and it got windy and sunny so I came back alone to mow.  I got on our big Grasshopper mower, but it wouldn't start.  The engine was not turning over and the more I tried, the more the battery sounded drained.  I could not get the battery cover off (I didn't have the right tools for the job) to charge it.  I phoned Brian and he said he would come back with me after dinner and open it.

So I tried to move to plan C - riding.  I groomed and tacked up Pie and we headed out through the fields.  He was wonderful, but we could barely walk two feet without stopping to swat flies. The flies are the common fly we have all the time, but they are mean and biting hard now. Riding was almost impossible.

Since owning these horses, I have been extra perceptive about all of Nature's ways. Sometimes I can just glimpse the "method to her madness" that we, as humans, try and try to "fix" but to no avail. Flies and bugs in general are awful now after the heavy rains. Is that on purpose? If my horses were to be completely free to gorge down the extra rich grass, they might colic or founder or both. The insistent bugs keep their eating light.  I know it sounds like rationalization, but seeing how futile all my attempts to stop the bugs are, I am left with nothing but rationalization. 

I grazed Pie under the apple tree and went back for little Foggy. But as I walked by, Sovey let out a little, soft, throaty nicker. I was going to ride him after Foggy, but his nicker was soooo cute, so I grabbed him first instead. I put on his bridle and jumped on bareback. My thought was that the brothers might not be as interesting to the flies because they aren't as fat and juicy as Pie. I was wrong. Sovey and I got out to the big field and were besieged by biting insects. Sovey swatted and jerked his head around this way and that.  I tried to keep us moving faster, trotting bareback (which isn't too comfortable on Sovereign), but nothing worked.  He put his head down to scratch a leg, and his bridle came off over his head (I still don't have the throat latch criss-cross part on). Oh, nice, as Onslow would say. I am bareback in the middle of a field with reins in my hands and a bridle on the ground. I slid off and tried to even out my breathing. This is exactly the kind of situation where I convey bad energy. I am fine riding, but on the ground I can't keep it together. Right then Sovey put his head up high because someone started a chain saw in the distance. I somehow managed to get the bridle back on him.  We hobbled back to the barn, stopping to swat flies all the way. A grasshopper jumped into one of my high Wellies and started to bite me in its panic to get out. I couldn't get my boot off with all of Sovey's swatting and swishing. It was a circus. Ugh. 

I grazed Sovey and then got out the littlest angel, Foggy.  I knew better than to try to ride him with the flies.  I groomed him in the cross-ties and out we went to the apple tree.  He was just getting into happy munching when I saw Brian pull into the driveway. He had a big smile and said that he thought he could help me now with the mower. I put Foggy in the pasture and tried to "not look a gift horse in the mouth" - I was so appreciative of Brian's help, but I was just starting out with Foggy and I knew he would get short changed with his special time.

Brian helped me and we got the mower running but by then it was dinner time.  I vowed to Foggy to come back after dinner, but it stormed all evening.  Ugh.  Many lemons, and the lemonade I made was bitter.

Today is Foggy's day.  I am going to spoil him with a long morning of grooming, grazing and riding!  Hooray! 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Sun pokes through my lashes

On Friday afternoon, we were treated to a few rays of much needed sunshine. I hopped on my Pie for our first ride in a few days. I could tell as I groomed and tacked up that he was going to be a good boy, and I wasn't disappointed. It was humid and buggy and our land was slightly squishy and muddy, but we were unbelievably fortunate when compared to most of our area's flooding problems.  

Pie was a little frightened of our downed trees at first, but I circled him and encouraged him forward with gentle leg pressure and he responded perfectly.  Good boy.

Here is a shot of his lovely ears as we headed back home.  He actually picked up his pace here - I think he was taking a double take at my cousin's boat. I was grateful for the pace pick-up - he had been slogging around a bit. Earlier he never flinched when we passed a new, big boat beside our property. Pie is a great horse. 

Above is a nice photo of our sweet autumn clematis (Clematis terniflora).  

And here is another sweet autumn friend enjoying a sweet autumn treat!  This is my Brindle Boxer, Found in the Fog, gobbling yummy apples that have fallen off the tree.  Foggy, a very dark bay, has bleached out to a strange color.  I am looking forward to the arrival of his sleek winter coat, even though I could do without the winter temperatures that come with it.

Friday, September 9, 2011

don't let me catch those rainbow blues

I think it actually stopped raining!  Hooray!

Yesterday I put the horses out in the morning to run and play before the farrier arrived.  They raced around but then the rain returned in buckets. I brought them in and had Pie in the cross-ties when farrier Mike got there. Pie tried very hard to be good, but he was certain that Mike was a playmate and holding up his foot was a fun game.  This is NOT Pie's usual behavior with the farrier.

Pie would stand for a few minutes and then he would pull his foot back and wait for Mike to pull too. You could see by Pie's face and forward ears that he thought it was a fun trick. At one point, I looked back and saw Mike holding on to Pie's right rear as it circled many times in the air.  I thought to myself that I have the best farrier. He never let go and he didn't get angry. He understood that Pie was not trying to kick him. Mike also realized that patience actually helped us keep Pie with us and get the job done faster. It was quiet in the barn as he worked.  There was no slapping, no yelling, no unhappy reactions.  I held Pie's lead and Mike held his circling feet. There aren't many people in the world who would understand the difference between letting a horse get away with something that should be corrected and letting a horse have some wiggle room in an unusual situation. I happen to have a farrier who does and consequently, Pie did stop pulling and his feet were all trimmed and filed perfectly in a short time. And, Mike's patience on this visit taught Pie that the farrier is confident and can be trusted in the future too. I see the idea of instilling confidence in horses thrown around all the time and usually it involves "doing something" to a horse. I love when confidence comes from being patient, still and quiet with a horse. Sovey and Foggy were perfect angels who stood quietly for all four feet.   

I had to cancel the Dairy White spraying for today because the barn won't dry with our rain and humidity so I will reschedule that for later in September. This leaves me free to ride between promised lighter raindrops. I know the footing will be dicey, but I still might attempt a few minutes on Pie. He is a horse who needs his caloric intake balanced with his energy output. Because of the rain, his yummy hay intake has tipped the scales while snuggled in his warm and fluffy 15' x 14' stall. Today I hope to ease him into balance again with quiet walking.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

You're the best team I've ever seen

I put the boys out this morning for some happy romping in the "sacred lake" that forms when we have excessive rains. We call this puddle "Sovereign's Miracle" because he and I wished it to appear and it did! I hurried and cleaned all three stalls and scrubbed their six buckets before more torrential rains would force me to put them back inside. Fortunately, I was able to keep them outside until 3 pm. Our sheds are fine for normal rains, but the ground is beyond super-saturated at this point and it is silly for the horses just to stand in the sheds when there is no cessation in the rain. Maizie's school closed early today because of the weather. 

The farrier is coming tomorrow and the Dairy White man is coming Friday and I have three horses stuck inside because of a flood. Don't you love when you plan out everything perfectly and it all goes cracker dog? The Dairy White man removes cobwebs and sprays the interior of the barn with a horse safe white spray.  I have to move everything (that I don't want sprayed) into the tackroom or wagonshed and I didn't anticipate having an audience when I was moving things around. Pie, Sovey and Foggy watched my every move as I used ladders to take down clocks and cross-ties.  Pie was especially worried when I disassembled the "treat station" (photo below of Pie's beloved treat station after the Dairy White man brightened up the barn in 2008).

Close up of the homemade yummy treats!

I have had plenty of time to groom because of all the rain. Unfortunately, standing still is especially difficult for three cooped up boys. I can tell the sweeties are trying so hard to be good.  If anyone ever needed proof that horses do better outside 24/7 they should meet my three who are currently climbing the walls.  Pie plays frantically with his lips, flipping them up and down at high speeds so they make a loud flapping sound.  This is his way of expressing his nervous, pent-up energy.  His trimming should be fun tomorrow. Riding will be even more exciting...can't wait (eye rolling)!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

it's just a box of rain

It seems like it has been raining for 24 hours straight so I brought the boys in this morning for a thorough grooming and then I left them in their stalls for the rest of the afternoon.  The svelte Brothers Johnson are pleased as punch. Pie-Pie, not so much.  My mom just phoned to let me know that she gave everyone more hay and refilled their water buckets. She said that Pie is nothing but a butterball. That he is.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

I "cloud nine" when I want to

I rode yesterday afternoon and then last evening I went back over to the barn for manure pick-up.  As usual, I had three helpers...Pie has his nose in the wheelbarrow and skinny Foggy is to his left. You can see Sovey's nose peeking behind Pie.

Here Sovey is nuzzling up his buddy Pie.

Sigh. Work isn't work when you are with horses.