Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Wind Crazies

Ugh. Winter weather is creeping up on us. Quickly. I'm not ready! Noooo!!!

It dropped to below freezing last night and has been WINDY for the past couple of days. Holy cow, the WIND! I feel like I am living in Kansas all over again, eyes watering, hair and absolute rat's nest. You know what happens when you mix colder weather with lots of crazy wind whipping through the trees?

You get crazy horses! All. of. them. NUTS. I was going to ride Miss Calypso last night, but I decided it was just too windy and she was just way to uppity to even think about having a constructive, remotely enjoyable ride. I hate getting on and just spending the entire time battling the wind crazies. It's better just to find something else to do than get on and have a miserable time, in my opinion. And I know Calypso. When she has the wind crazies her brain completely turns off and every single thing is a big horse-eating boogeyman out to devour her on one big bite. I spend the entire ride concentrating on just staying on and keeping her from having an absolute blow-up.

And the old man? He was running, tail high, neck arched, fartin' and snortin' all over the pasture. He certainly wasn't acting like a 22-year-old crabby Appy!

And Gabe. WHOO WHEE! He was crazy right along with Calypso and Chief. The boy can buck. He can buck and gallop and rear, all at the same time. And can he vocalize! He squeals like a girl and grunts like a little pig. Too funny.

I love watching the horses all acting like fools and playing hard. I don't want to ride them when they are acting like that, but I sure love watching them. I can just stand by the fence and watch them for hours.

Sometimes, when I'm just out there watching them, Robert hollers out to me asking what's wrong. "Nothing," I say. "I'm just watching them." I don't think he really 'gets it,' but that's okay. Horses are a sickness and I've got it bad.

Really rough days at work find me out just messing around the horses after I get home. It doesn't matter what it is. I can ride or groom, give them scritches and massages, clean paddocks or just sit out there and watch 'em. It's all good for my soul. They are a major key in helping all the bad day work crap just melt away.

P.S. Robert held up his end of the agreement. I now have a new mounting block. Post with pics coming as soon as I get my camera working again! Never let anyone say the man does anything half-assed. You'll see!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Watch out foxes!

I'm SO excited! I've been invited to go foxhunting with some friends next month. It's been awhile since I've been on a hunt so I'm excited and nervous all at once. I haven't been hunting since I had Star and she was a BLAST to hunt. As much as I'd like to haul Gabe out to the hunt, I think it would be too much too fast for him and might just blow his mind.

So, I'll be taking the little pork sausage, Calypso. I've been riding her pretty regularly and she's lost some weight and put on some condition, but she still resembles an overstuffed burrito rather than the sleek little mare she SHOULD be. You know it's bad when you nickname a horse Pork Sausage or Gordita. Poor thing. She's such an easy keeper...she gets fat on grass alone and probably needs about twice as much under saddle work as she currently gets.

Anyway, I guess I'd better dig out my hunt gear, polish the boots and make sure the hunt coat still fits! Woo hoo! My goal for next season is to have Gabe ready to go and try to make a meet at least twice a month, if not more. If you've never been foxhunting, and enjoy a fast, thrilling (sometimes a little scary!) ride, I HIGHLY recommend finding a hunt and giving it a try.

Oh, I've never actually seen a fox get caught on any of the hunts I've been on. I guess you could really call it a fox "chase" rather than a "hunt." Coyotes do get caught on occasion.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A list

Sometimes when I watch Gabe out in the field I just can't believe he's mine. I never imagined I'd have a horse quite as nice as he is and I could have never even dreamed I'd find one with his personality.

But I also look out there and think "Wow, I really need to get my butt in gear and get something done with him!" I've had him since the end of July then left for a two week vacation in California so I couldn't do anything but let him settle in. Before I left I decided I was just going to acquaint myself with him a bit, not really work with him, but "hang out" with him to start figuring him out. That's when I learned he had zero manners. That's when he reared up and took off, ripping the rope through my hands and taking off all the skin on three of my fingers and part of my palm. The rope ripped through the meat on two fingers and almost to the bone on one finger. It took almost a month to heal and was INCREDIBLY painful. I still have the scars and I don't think I'll ever have a fingerprint again on my middle finger.

I purchased a new pair of leather gloves when I got back from vacation to start working him in earnest.

When I came back I learned a lot more about him. Not only did he have no manners, he had no respect and no concept of personal space. He is far too big to not have perfect manners and quite honestly, there were a couple of moments when I thought maybe he was too much for me. But, I carried on, I figured him out, he figured me out and he has learned manners.

So, I decided to make a list of what I have accomplished in the past couple of months, just to prove to myself that I HAVE done something with him. He really isn't just sitting out there being a pasture ornament.

1. His ground manners have improved 100%. He doesn't crowd me, push me around or attempt to take off. He walks quietly at my shoulder, head down, rope swinging loosely.
2. He ground ties. I drop the rope. He stands. I can walk away and he stands there just watching.
3. He ties quietly to the post. Our first attempt at tying resulted in a broken 4x4 and a frightened horse.
4. He walks, trots, canters, reverses and backs up on the lunge. He had no concept of lunging when I brought him home. We are still working on the whoa.
5. He comes running when I whistle. Okay, that's not a training thing, but I think it's awesome. I whistled for him last night to come in from the field. His head came up, ears pricked forward and he GALLOPED, tail high, right to me and skidded to a halt a good 10 feet before he got to me so he could walk the rest of the way up. If that's not a show of respect for my space I don't know what is.
6. I can now fly spray him without him freaking out like I'm pouring acid on his body.
7. He drops his head into the halter when I say "head down." Our first few haltering attempts were quite hysterical to watch, I'm sure. When his head goes up, there is no way I can get a halter or a bridle on.
8. He is polite at feeding time and waits until I give him the okay before he starts eating.
9. I can drape a tarp over his body, open and close an umbrella around him, have him walk over a tarp, touch him all over with the whip and the rope, bounce a ball off him and follow him around with a bike and he doesn't care. I've tied plastic bags around his paddock...he doesn't care.
10. He long lines. Yesterday we long lined in the bridle with the snaffle and he was fabulous. Guess what? We got the whoa rather easily in the bridle! Woot! And we trotted. He has quite the huge trot stride so I got as workout as well to keep up with him.

Now it's time to ride. I'm eager to ride because at this point there's not a whole lot more I can do on the ground without boring him. Yes, we can do more long line work, but I want to be able to enhance the long line work with riding work. That's where you really start seeing results.

So, hubby. Please, please, please, will you build me my mounting block? You know, the 2.5' high design we found this weekend? Or, as Nuzzling Muzzles suggested, maybe I'll just buy a ladder! *grin* I want to ride my big guy!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Working on the whoa

My new long lines feel like butter in my hands. They are soft and sensitive and slide so smoothly through the surcingle rings. And Gabe, he's getting it. He's really, really getting it. We started out lunging on the long lines with the outside line through the surcingle ring and over his back to me and the inside line through the surcingle ring out to me. I clipped the lines to the outer rings of his brand-spanking new lunging cavesson and away we went. The cavesson is a bit heavier than the halter so he tossed his head a few times to figure it out then he got over it. Unfortunately, with a cavesson, the lunge line or long reins are A LOT easier for him to reach with those curious lips of his! He sucked the lunge line into his mouth a few times before we really got started. He is such an oral animal, he loves to suck ropes up into his maw and gnaw on 'em. I don't get it.

Anyway, we worked on long lining for about 45 minutes, the first 5 to 10 minutes with the outside line over his back. I flipped the outside line across his butt, then slowly down off his back to hang across his side and around his hocks to me. No adverse reaction. It took me two weeks of regular work with Star to just get her to quietly accept the long line over her butt...we never got to the across the hind legs part, she did NOT want anything touching her back there! As soon as I'd try, she'd squish her butt forward and crow hop, trying to get away from the offending line.

The lines in the correct position make changing directions a LOT easier! We walked back and forth across the paddock, working on collecting and extending the walk. We did circles, figure 8s, serpentines and turns on the haunches on the fence. I even tried a couple of "leg" yields and he GOT IT! He took it all in stride and only crow hopped once when I accidentally let one of the lines work it's way up under his tail a bit. Ooops! Bad long liner!

Our big sticking point right now is stopping. We still don't have that one down pat. I thought it would be a bit easier to get a good whoa out of him on the lines, but, it wasn't happening. So, I'm trying a different method, and it seemed to work. Instead of asking him to whoa out in the middle of the paddock or along the fence, I aim him towards a fence and when he gets about four steps away, I ask for a whoa with both my voice and my lines. The fence gives him a visual WHOA! aid. He was a bit confused at first and tried to turn on his haunches or yield sideways in response to the whoa and the upcoming barrier, but after about the 6th or 7th attempt, he stopped while still facing the fence.

He stops beautifully on the lead rope. I say whoa or I stop, and he stops without an issue, his head lined up with my shoulder where he belongs. He ground ties and stands statue still while I'm grooming him or whatever. But as soon as I get him AWAY from me on a longer length of rope, he forgets all about the whoa. Or, when I do get him to respond to the whoa out on the line, he tries to walk in to me and stand next to me...right where he would be if I was leading him. It's almost like he thinks whoa means "Stand still next to her shoulder." *sigh*

I'm going to keep using the fence as a barrier to get the whoa on the longer lines. We'll see how he progresses. Once we get the whoa down perfectly, I'll get on. Everything else is as good, if not better, than where I wanted him before I got on.

Now, if I could only get my hubby to get his butt in gear to build me a mounting block. Five-foot-two me, no matter how flexible, is going to have a bit of a challenge getting up onto 16.2hh Gabe without some vertical assistance! Especially on a horse who has been previously trained to walk while the rider is mounting! Ha! That would be a spectacle!

Monday, October 13, 2008

One mystery, solved

I have figured out what the rust-colored stuff on Gabe's face was. He's come in with it a few more times and I've noticed the stuff on my boots, too. Even his tongue was a bit orange-colored last night.

It's grass rust. Fun, eh? I found some of the spores on the fescue and the perennial ryegrass, but not on the timothy, orchard, clover or alfalfa. I've searched the web for info about this stuff and all I've found is info for people who have it on their lawns, not in their pastures. Is it toxic to the horses? I have no clue. I haven't noticed anything off about any of them, but I'm still a bit worried about whether it could be toxic to them.

Until I can figure that part out, I've pulled them off the most-affected pasture for now. I hate doing that because otherwise, my pastures are all still growing and gorgeous. I hate losing all that grazing time! Less grazing time means I have to feed more hay, ugh. I hate having to feed more hay before I actually have to feed more hay because the grass is gone.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Ain't it the truth!

Swiped from the Fugly blog:

A letter from your horse ...original version and the real story ...

When you are tense, let me teach you to relax.
When you are short tempered, let me teach you to be patient.
When you are short sighted, let me teach you to see.
When you are quick to react, let me teach you to be thoughtful.
When you are angry, let me teach you to be serene.
When you feel superior, let me teach you to be respectful.
When you are self absorbed, let me teach you to think of greater things.
When you are arrogant, let me teach you humility.
When you are lonely, let me be your companion.
When you are tired, let me carry the load.
When you need to learn, let me teach you. After all, I am your horse.

And now, the REAL story.....

When you are tense, let me teach you that there are lions in them thar woods, and we need to leave NOW!
When you are short tempered, let me teach you to slog around the pasture for an hour before you can catch me.
When you are short sighted, let me teach you to figure out where, exactly, in the 40 acres I am hiding.
When you are quick to react, let me teach you that herbivores kick much faster (harder) than omnivores.
When you are angry, let me teach you how well I can stand on my hind feet because I don't feel like cantering on my right lead today.
When you are worried, let me entertain you with my mystery lameness.
When you feel superior, let me teach you that, mostly, you are the maid service.
When you are self absorbed, let me teach you to PAY ATTENTION. Remember? I told you about those lions in them thar woods?
When you are arrogant, let me teach you what 1200 lbs. Of "YAHOO LETS GO!" can do when suitably inspired.
When you are lonely, let me be your companion. Let's do lunch. Also, breakfast and dinner.
When you are tired, don't forget the 600lbs. Of grain that needs to be unloaded.
When you are feeling financially secure, let me teach you the meaning of "Veterinary Services".
When you need to learn, hang around, bud. I'll learn ya.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A sunny afternoon

Of course, it's a beautiful day: Sunny and slightly cool with that wonderful smell of fall on the air. But, my riding area is muddy, the pastures are muddy, so no riding and no real working of Gabe for me today.

But, I still wanted to spend some quality time with my critters so I roped my husband and my youngest daughter into taking the horses for a nice, leisurely walk. Of course, I had an ulterior motive - to get Gabe out and about and exposed to new things in the company of his buddies. He was kind of a turd - rushing ahead on the lead, snorting and getting kind of pissy if either of the other two got too far ahead. We had a few little chit chats about who was in charge of this outing.

Chief and Gabe making nice. Kayleigh is encouraging them to be best buds. Not gonna happen.

Robert with his girl, Calypso. He's explaining to Kayleigh the benefits and joys of a nice, leisurely walk. Pardon the mud on our critters. We wanted to take advantage of the most daylight possible. They got the mud knocked off 'em later.Kayleigh loves her old man. At a spunky 22-years-old, I sure hope the old guy is with us for many more years. He worth more than his weight in gold. Sure, he can be crabby, he is set in his ways and sometimes, Kayleigh is the only one who can catch him, but he is SUCH a good boy for her.

Is there anything more beautiful than a little girl and her best friend? Every horse deserves to be loved by a little girl at least once in their life. Chief is a pretty lucky guy.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Little mysteries

There is something freaky going on around the farm.

Last week I left fly masks on the horses overnight...the mosquitoes were HORRIBLE. I sprayed the heck out of their bodies to keep the nasty little things away, but you know you just can't do a good job on their faces. So, on go the fly masks. 

Come morning, Gabe is minus his mask. Okay. I can deal with that, he's tough on his clothes. So, I search his paddock. No mask. I search Calypso and Chief's paddock, thinking maybe they were playing over the fence and one of them stole his mask. Nope. No mask. I thought, well, maybe his mask is hidden in some of the tall grass in his paddock. So, I mowed. No mask. Huh. What the heck? I mow Calypso and Chief's paddock. Still NO MASK. 

Of course I'm wondering if the big pig ate his mask. I even checked in the water tank, under his hay manger and around the outside of his paddock, just in case. Nada. 

We have two paddocks and three good-sized pastures. The horses are all locked into their paddocks at night. No one stays out in the pasture overnight. So, I'm out mowing a section of land that hasn't been fenced yet (that's on next year's list of things to get done!) and I glance over into one of our pastures and what do I see there? THE MASK! Ummm...what the heck? How did Gabe's fly mask get off his face, across his paddock, across Calypso and Chief's paddock and on the OTHER SIDE of a 2 acre pasture? It's a mystery to me! I'm going with the theory that the wind blew it there. Which would be a great theory if we had HAD any wind that night. Which we didn't. I wonder if an animal would carry something like that off. I can't imagine it, but you never know.

Second mystery: Last night I went out to the very far pasture to bring Gabe and Calypso in for the night. They come running up to the gate because they love me (read: Feed us NOW!) and I noticed Gabe's face looks odd. Really odd. Like during the day his head went from steel and dark gray to chestnut. How bizarre is that? Great, my gray horse has a weird color gene expressing itself. 

Nope. It was RUST all over his face. Rust or something like it. But I can't for the life of me figure out how the heck he got a dusting of this rust-colored stuff all over his face. Aside from the fence posts, there is no metal in the pasture. The water tubs are plastic, the gate is currently electric fencing. There is nothing he could have rubbed his head on to get it covered in this stuff. There aren't even any weeds in that pasture that would have rust-colored pollen. It rubbed off easily enough and seems harmless, but it just has me shaking my head, wondering what this horse managed to get into to leave his face chestnut colored! Weird.

I haven't worked with Gabe for the last couple of days. With the daylight waning so very early I'm only able to work one horse a night. Or give Kayleigh a lunge lesson on Chief. She has been asking more and more often to go riding with me so I do. Soon enough mom won't be cool any more and I'll be riding alone again, so I'll take every bit of riding time with her I can get. We're enjoying it. She's been riding the old man bareback which just thrills the heck out of her.

Gabe's new clothes arrived yesterday. I haven't tried them on him yet, but I must say, these blankets are the BIGGEST horse clothes I've ever owned! Star wore a 76" blanket. Gabe wears an 80". I even measured him twice, just to be sure I wasn't hallucinating!