Tuesday, February 19, 2013

What the fling?

Sunday was my last ride with Jacquie for a few months. I know we'll ride again together when she comes back in late spring to pick up Teddy and cart him off to Colorado, but, it was still a sad ride.

The boys were happy to be out and able to really stretch their legs, the wind chilly, and we both came back to the house with wind-burned faces and muscle-sore bodies. We took advantage of riding as much over three days as we could possibly fit in, and it was good.

On another note, I'm a little concerned with a particular behavior Gabe has exhibited occasionally. The last time he did it I blamed it on the hard little ice pellets smacking him in the face while we rode during a sudden ice storm. This time, I'm trying to blame the high wind, but I'm not so sure. It was blowing pretty hard Sunday. Okay, really hard. So gusty were the winds that Jacquie and I couldn't talk because the wind just took our words away, even while riding next to each other.

See, during both those rides he started shaking/tossing his head. This is not his usual fling his head around and squeal with energy and happiness toss, but a quicker, up and down toss like something on his face was irritating him, or, a bug flew up his nose. He doesn't do it all the time, as I mentioned, just occasionally. The last couple of times there was something in the weather I blamed. When we rode Saturday, and the rides before that when the wind was normal and the sun shining, he didn't do it. He's done it occasionally during the spring/summer too, but I blamed it on the bugs we scare up from tall grass that may have hit him in the face and gone up his nose as they flew all around us.

I did a bit of research into Equine Headshaking Syndrome, and some of the the symptoms seem to match, but not all. He's not violent about it, and he only does it while we're riding. He DOES like to itch his nose/muzzle during and after our rides, which is a symptom, but, it's not really excessive and not any more than my other horses do. He doesn't seem to be in pain, just occasionally irritated, and he certainly doesn't do it out in the pasture or in the paddocks, just while we're riding.

There is a definite difference between his goofy, happy, horizontal head fling/swing and this vertical, sudden head toss. 

So, I don't know. I'm just going to keep an eye out for it and be more aware of it, maybe document it when it does happen and try to find some kind of pattern, if there is one.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Beginners again!

In two weeks I'll start giving beginner riding lessons again. It's been years since I've done beginner lessons but I'm actually looking forward to it. The rider is a 7-year-old girl who is absolutely horse crazy. She's been riding Lou (our pony) for a few weeks now, under the supervision of Jacquie, but, with Jacquie leaving for her new job in Colorado, I'll take over the lessons.

I gave Jacquie her beginner/intermediate lessons many, many moons ago so it's been kind of neat watching her give lessons and hearing some of the same things I taught her come out of her mouth. So, I know the kiddo has a good solid start, and with her enthusiasm, I think she'll be fun to teach.

Today, I managed to convince Kayleigh (my daughter) to get up on Calypso just to ride around the arena a bit and that turned into an hour-long lesson which she seemed to enjoy. Usually, she's done after 15 minutes. She enjoyed it so much, that at the end of her lesson she said "Mom, you're a really good teacher!" *shock face!* And, she asked when we could do it again, even suggesting that we start doing a lesson every Saturday. *double shock face!* I've never given her proper, formal lessons before because every time I tried, it ended up with her arguing with me about some thing or another (I seem to remember doing the same thing to my mom when she tried to give me riding lessons), so, I stopped trying. I didn't want to turn riding into an argument with her and make it a miserable experience.

But today was different. She did start out arguing a bit at first. Mostly, the arguing is in the form of her saying "I AM!" when I try to tell her how to do something (ie, heels down, or, sit up straight, or grab mane if you feel off balance, not the rein, etc.), then, she gets huffy and I get frustrated and it goes downhill quickly from there. The arguing ended quickly today when I explained to her that I wouldn't tell her to do something or change something if she was already doing it correctly. She listened and followed my instructions and lo and behold, the mare did EXACTLY what Kayleigh asked her to do. She seemed to get excited when I showed her a few"tricks" that she could get Calypso to do if she just used her body in the right way, like getting her to take bigger, longer walking strides just using her seat, or slowing her down or halting her by "walking" her seatbones slower or stopping them entirely, all done without using the reins or her calves. I showed her how to do a turn on the forehand and showed her that Calypso can spin on a dime if she uses her aids correctly. I helped her find her seatbones, which I never realized she had no idea were there!

So, it was all good, and we both ended the lesson on a very positive note, which I am quite excited about.

I'd like to keep riding exciting and fun for both girls during lessons (no one wants to ride endless circles or drills, BORING), and while I do have a few "fun" lesson plans up my sleeves that I've used before with success, I hope you guys can give me some more ideas to keep the lessons fun. Games? Obstacle courses? I'm open to anything!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Tough questions

In less than two weeks I'll lose my riding partner and only boarder.

And I am sad about it. She's moving to Colorado to take a great job. It's a fabulous opportunity for her and I'm happy for her, but I'll miss the heck out of her and her horse and miss having someone to ride with regularly.

I've ridden by myself for years, and I know I can go back to riding by myself, but I've been spoiled by having a regular riding partner and training friend. You know those days when you know you should go out and ride, and you really want to ride, but somehow the day gets away from you and night falls and suddenly, another day went by and you didn't ride?

There haven't been many of those days since Jaquie has been around, showing up with her infectious smile and suggesting a long, much-needed ride. I'm afraid there will be too many of those non-riding days when she leaves. My daughter isn't as enthusiastic about riding as she once was and convincing her to go out riding with me is sometimes more of a chore than a pleasure, so I skip it. If I force her to ride with me, she complains the entire time, which makes the ride miserable and her miserable and turns my riding time into torture and regret.

I don't know of any riding groups in my area. I don't really have very many horse friends that do much trail riding and certainly none I can partner with for a few fun shows this spring/summer, so, I probably won't be doing any of that this year.

So I start asking myself: Why do I ride? Why do I spend so much time and money and effort keeping horses at home? Well, because I love the horses and I love riding and I love just watching them. I love seeing them first thing in the morning and burying my face into their necks in the evening. I even enjoy riding alone from time to time. But not all the time. When it comes down to it, I get the most pleasure and satisfaction when I have someone to ride with regularly, someone I can share my passion with. Because it's not just about being on a horse, it's about the company, the companionship, the conversation and the hours in the saddle just enjoying life.

I'm going to miss the hell out of that.

It also makes me question the wisdom of keeping a farm and keeping my horses at home. If I'm the only one riding, why do I have a farm and horse property? It's not cheap and it's certainly not always a walk in the park. And why the hell do I have five horses? Doesn't it make more sense to sell the place, sell all the "excess" horses and board Gabe somewhere where I'll have someone to ride with and significantly reduce the expense of horsekeeping?

All these questions, and so far, no real answers. I am, however, actively trying to sell three of the "extras." They aren't being ridden, they are just standing around doing nothing but eating and would be better off somewhere where they will be used. And, they'll be off my feed, vet, and farrier bill.