Saturday, November 21, 2009

Three big piggies

I'm not much of a betting person.

Occasionally, I go to the track to watch the ponies run and I blow a few bucks on the filly in my favorite colored silks.

But today, I'm willing to bet my horses are dirtier than yours. It's a fine art, and they have it perfected. The week's worth of nonstop rain has certainly aided their quest for ultimate dirtiness.

I mean, really. Come on, Gabe. Is this NECESSARY? Seriously? It's CAKED on there, ground in and just all around nasty. missed a spot. I see some clean hair right there behind your elbow.

And you'd think, as a girl, Calypso would be a little bit more conscientious about the health and cleanliness of her hair. Not so. She gets just as dirty and nasty as the boys.

I'm willing to bet he considers it a challenge. Must. Be. Dirtier. Than the GIRL! MUST!

Face, eyelashes and mane? Check.

Butt? Tail? Back? Withers? Check. Check. Check.

Ha! I WIN! WHEE!!!

Hey horses? You and the mud win. I give up. You can officially be known as pigs from now on!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Havin' a ball

Well, I finally got a new camera! Yay! I can once again take decent photos of my family and my critters.

Remember how I've mentioned how playful Gabe is? I think I've said something about it once or twice.

This is MY ball. Don't touch.

I love my ball. Ball! It's squishy and chewy. Ball!

Nom! Nom! Nom! Nom!

Hey! Come play with me! Please please please!

Dudes! Where you going? Get back here!!!! HEY! I'll share my ball! HEY! COME BACK!!!

*sigh* They left me. At least I'm handsome. I'll just stand by this gate and wait my turn to be let out into the pasture. They always get to go first. It's not fair. *sigh*

This is for my mom. PoPo and HoneyBaked. Quickly approaching goal weight for bacon, ham and chops.

Pigs and goats dig in to breakfast. The goats are PUSHY and like to steal the piggies food even though they have their own.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Train the brain

I love those "ah ha!" moments when everything comes together oh-so nicely. I've still been having some of those occasional fart around like a nutcase issues with Gabe. He hasn't had a rearing episode since the one I wrote about a couple of months ago, but he does threaten from time to time.

Over the weekend I got on and he was being pretty good. Really looky at things and practically skipping around on his tiptoes. It probably didn't help that we've been working on enlarging the arena so things looked different AND I hadn't ridden in about a week. Nice combo, eh?

We were walking around the arena, just relaxing and warming up. I hadn't been on for even five minutes when I felt it. The rounding-up and tension throughout his entire body that indicates he's just about ready to lose his ever-lovin' mind and either start threatening to rear OR start squealing like a silly mare and flinging his head around and jumping/hopping around like a crazy beast. As soon as I felt that tension (it feels a lot like riding what I imagine a SuperBall on a huge upward bounce would feel like) I sent him forward as quickly as I could. Squeeze to trot. No immediate response. Squeeze again applied with a sharp whip tap. Immediate response. I knew I didn't have time to screw around with it - I had to get him moving forward as quickly as I possibly could to get him out of that nutcase brain fart he sometimes gets stuck in.

And it worked! I felt him relax as soon as I gave him something else to concentrate on: Trotting. We trotted for awhile, constantly circling or changing direction or attempting to adjust the stride. We did nothing for longer than 10 strides before I changed it up on him to keep his mind thinking forward and active. Then we work on walk/trot and trot/walk/halt transitions...again, constantly changing everything...direction, bend, stride, much as I possibly could without looking too much like a drunken foxhunter without a goal.

I even popped him over an 18" log a couple of times and rode the resultant canter with a huge goofy grin on my face. What a good, good boy! What an incredible canter! And I think he enjoys jumping...he was eager each time we went over, ears pricked forward and ready to go over. was an 18" log, but it's a start, yes? We went for a short trail ride after our arena session and once again, he was curious about his surroundings and happy to be out and about, but definitely not freaking out or acting like a nut.

So, I think I can rule out any kind of pain or uncomfortableness he is having under saddle causing the goof-nut rearing/head tossing issues. Because once I got him working forward and kept him working forward those issues were GONE. As soon as I let him just wander around on his own and really not ask him to do anything, I felt the tension starting to rise again, and off we'd go, back to work. It's almost like he's like a bored little kid who plays practical jokes and engages in inappropriate behavior just to amuse himself.

As long as his brain is engaged, life is good.

I once rode a little Warmblood mare during my stint as a barn manager in Florida. This little chestnut mare (I wish I could remember her name! It was something long and European) had every one convinced she was a fruitcake. She could be fruitcakey, there is no question about that. The first night she was at the barn she stood at her stall door all night long and pawed and pawed and pawed and dug a hole the depth of her front legs. I remember walking into the barn in the morning and seeing only the tips of her ears in the stall. The rest of her sweat-drenched 15.3hh body was in the hole. She got turned out to pasture permanently after that! But her biggest fruitcake antic that kept most off her back was her tendency to want to toss in a crow-hop, buck and head toss just randomly throughout her rides. She wasn't being malicious, she was being bored, in my opinion. Because, like Gabe, as soon as you got her working and kept her working both physically and mentally, she was an absolute joy to ride and gave whatever you asked. But, she was definitely not one of those horses you could just sit on and wander around the arena while chitchatting with a friend. She wanted to work and be challenged and if you didn't do it, she'd do it for you.

I sure hope I'm able to come up with enough "stuff" to keep Gabe's brain engaged and fend off boredom for him. I'm going to have to really start planning my rides a little better just so I'm not out there going ...."Uhhh...what next?"

Monday, November 2, 2009

And now, the other two

Gabe and his silly little boy antics have been hogging up this blog and I thought I'd spend a moment to shine the spotlight on the other two nags who share our lives.

I wish I had pictures of the other two, but alas, my camera finally, permanently bit the big one Saturday night. Yes, every single Halloween photo I thought I had of my youngest are all kaput. Blur central. And once I turned it off, it refused to turn back on, even with brand-new batteries. So, it now resides in the Dumpster. Hopefully I'll be buying a new, better camera sooner rather than later!


Chief is my daughter's buddy. He's a 25-year-old (or so) Appy who would hang the moon for her if it were possible. I don't know a lot about his history but I do know this: He spent most of his life on one of those rent-by-the-hour trail riding stables. I imagine he had to put up with a LOT of crap and bad riding and cowboying around in those days. From there, he was bought by the owner of the last barn I boarded at as a potential dressage horse. Nevermind this old guy was already 22 years old and had most likely NEVER seen a dressage arena in his life, that was his new lot.

And he failed miserably. He did not like to go in circles, he found it pointless. He did not, would not, lengthen or shorten his strides, he found it useless. He was completely befuddled by requests for any kind of lateral movement. He wanted to trail ride and just bop around without expending too terribly much extra energy. So, he came to us. He's one of those one-in-a-million freebies who are worth far more than their weight in gold. He and Kayleigh clicked and it's obvious he prefers her over anyone else. That kid can do anything with him and he never says NO to anything she asks of him. She rides him bareback in a halter, she pops him over little jumps and ditches, stands on him and lays on him with her head on his wide, spotted butt. She rides him up and down hills and dresses him up as an Indian pony. There are days when he absolutely refuses to be caught by me. He doesn't run, he stays JUUUSST out of reach, which is far more frustrating than those who run! But if Kayleigh walks out there, he's practically in her pocket and following her around like a giant happy puppy.

He can be quite grumpy and has earned the nickname Grumpy Old Man. He has earned his right to be grumpy, in my opinion, and as long as he's not nasty and mean grumpy, he can be as grumpy as he wants to be. He is definitely top dog in our little herd and no one gets away with crap while he's at the helm.

The old man will be with us until the day he dies. He's earned it and he definitely deserves it. He takes good care of Kayleigh and I think he enjoys his life of leisure and his job as babysitter. He's our go-to guy that anyone can ride. Quiet enough for beginners but he definitely knows when there's an experienced rider on board! He has been known to test and challenge the experienced riders just to see how much he can get away with. He's getting a little bit arthritic in his fetlock joints and his body creaks and pops regularly, but he's not lame. He's in good shape for an old guy and hopefully, he'll stay that way for many more years. But I keep a close eye on him to make sure he stays comfortable. Because as soon as he is no longer comfortable doing his work, he'll be retired.

Calypso is my husband's little quarter horse mare. She's 9 now and has definitely matured in the few years we've had her. When we brought her home she was fast and a bit hot and very, very green. She liked to go fast with her head in the air and her stop sometimes worked, sometimes didn't. The woman we bought her from sold her because she was scared of her and I'll admit, she could be scary to a timid rider.

I spent about six months retraining her and teaching her how to be quiet and responsive and how to spook "responsibly" if she felt the need to spook. She was a turn tail and run spooker, now, she stands and stares. She still has the occasional "OH MY GOD!" moment, but those are far, far fewer than they were two years ago. When she spooks she has the tendency to completely disappear from beneath the rider. I swear she comes from strong cutting horse stock....her whole body drops about a foot when she spooks and she can whip that front end around like no one's business! At least she doesn't run away from the scary stuff any more, she just drops and stares. She's still not as bombproof as I'd like her to be, but she is definitely better than what she started out as.

She now neck reins very nicely and I put a little bit of lateral work on her, mostly for Robert's amusement. He gets a kick out of being able to make her go sideways or do a slow spin on her. Her trot is the absolute WORST trot I've ever been on. Worst. Far worse than any bouncy little pony I've ever ridden! It's a whole lot like riding a jackhammer and incredibly uncomfortable to try to sit. She is built like a tank on peg legs...very straight shoulder, very straight pasterns and a bit butt high on a huge, solid body. When she does her nice western pleasure trot it's a bit easier to sit, but definitely not anything you'd want to ride for any kind of extended time.

Calypso is Robert's pocket pony and really adores it when he goes out there to love on her. She rests her head on his shoulder and stands right next to him practically begging for scratches and attention. She is fat. Too fat despite my efforts to slim her down. She gets barely any grain and only grass hay. What she REALLY needs is more consistent riding and plenty of wet saddle pads. Unfortunately, Robert is a mostly a weekend trail rider, which is what he enjoys doing, but it's doing nothing for the fat nag he rides!

Calypso is the only horse on our farm that requires shoes. She has very thin soles and is practically dead lame on any rocky or hard surface if she's barefoot.

And you all know Gabe! I need to start thinking up a "show name" for him for next show season. I'd prefer to keep Gabriel in the name somewhere, so all suggestions are welcome. And for those who are curious, his Jockey Club registered name is "Stick N Rudder." *Gag* His breeder was a WWII pilot. Explains the name, doesn't it?