Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Their coggins I was there to get.
Two horses load in without a fit,
My carrot stick not needed a bit.
We drive, we drive, we drive some more,
I hold my purse close and pass the tack store.
Then we stop in the gravel drive,
Two horses have made it here alive.
I open the door and one steps out,
Quiet and calm, without a doubt.
The other horse nods and does the same,
You'd think the pair was completely sane.
Two quick pokes, they didn't blink an eye
Then one and two load without a sigh.
Back at home both step quietly out,
Leaving me little doubt.
Days this drama free are sweet and dear,
And worthy of posting here.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
On Saturday I pushed my comfort zone. Usually on my first ride of the weekend I keep it pretty quiet and safe. Round pen, arena, local trails.
But I decided to start with Lily and she was so quiet and calm I thought it would be a good day to get her past THE HOUSE. The house is close to the road, with thick trees across the street. It's got many odd shapes and things around it, and at one point there were chickens that would squawk.
Clearly many horses are eaten right in that spot. You can tell by all the horse hoof marks spinning.
We did start with a warm up. In the round pen Lily was rushing at the canter, but we rode through to quieter transitions. Something about that experience made me realize my confidence has actually risen despite my lake adventure. Maybe because of the way Smokey and I ended our adventure; a trainer told me (was it Rashid? I don't remember) how you end your time with your horse has the same effect on the horse as how you feel when you end a date. If the last five minutes are great, that's what you retain about the guy..
Lily and I hit the familiar trails and then made our way to THE HOUSE. I'd ridden by it with Lily when I was with BO and one of her training horses, and had just a slight hesitation. But now we were alone. Lily was solid in our regular trail, but now we were outside her comfort zone. Riding alone, riding far from the herd.
She balked by backing up. I turned her and encouraged her forward. We did these little spirals for a while - walking forward, stopping, backing up, turning, walking forward, stopping, backing up, turning, walking forward. But soon we were past the most concerning area, and made our way further down the road. I stopped at the point I felt was two steps beyond her edge and we stood there for a bit. She was anxious, but listened.
We turned back to the barn, with only one spot where she attempted to break into a trot, but quickly responded to my cue.
All of this was bitless, in her riding halter, the one I used with Canyon way back when (the company I ordered it from went out of business, but I found them here on line and plan on ordering one for Christmas).
I was so proud of Lily, she's never liked riding solo and now is doing so well I am thrilled.
Next up, Smokey. Which was pretty good, except for the brief bolt...
Friday, September 23, 2011
This horse journey for me is about learning from my mistakes. I'm not beating myself up, I just need to learn what I shoulda'.
In the event that these lessons are helpful to others, here is what I would have done different.
1. When I learned they were running late I should have had a plan B. I have noticed that horses know the minute you don't know what to do. I did take him to the street to do some work, and if I'd kept doing some deliberate work, that would have helped.
2. I should have changed him into his working halter. The web halter was not sending a message, it just became a tug of war. He never pulled completely away, but it was harder than it needed to be.
3. Correct the rear immediately. Nuf said.
4. Not spend so much time in the water. He is a good water horse, but we should have cut our time there in half.
5. Someone asked if I was lunging him. Not in terms of mindless circles. More like giving him a chance to move since that's how he releases anxiety. And refocusing. Yes he goes in a circle, but it's about turning ear and eye to me, not wearing down. I'd like to have a longer lead line for these moments.
6. Check my emotions more to not let my frustration build. Shake it off quicker. I'm going to get aggravated. But I can work on getting back to balance sooner.
I did many things right. Most importantly we ended in a very solid place. The next two days we had terrific rides. We will see what's next.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
This post by Sarah at Halt Near X does a great job of summing up the situation in Texas. As does the word dire.
This video by Raymond Schlogel,a camera man who shoots for Larry Gaitlan, was so compelling, I had to post it here. There is a scene, about midway through, of horses who are running on the road, loose, running from the fire or its remains. Or maybe they have no where to go home to.
Texas sure could use a hurricane.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
I pulled out my chair from the trailer, grabbed my cooler, got a little organized. Smokey had his hay bag.
I decided to walk him over to the road area that leads into the parking lot. One of my goals is to work with him on pavement every chance I get since it seems to make him (me) nervous. He was perfect, lead nicely, looked about but didn't get worried.
We headed back to the trailer. Still no sign of the BO and B. I tied him to the trailer and tried to settle down to eat a little. I changed into something suitable for swimming. Still nobody.
How long does it take your horse to unravel? It took mine about 10 minutes of waiting. Then he was a fish on a line, twirling around, convinced that the other horses should be here.
I had to agree. I needed to give him something to do, something to focus on. And me too.
I decided that we'd go swimming. They'd be there soon, and could meet us in the water.
I locked my cell phone and truck keys in the trailer tack room and headed for the lake. Smokey was a little less well behaved, so we corrected here and there. His head was high, he was looking for others, calling once or twice. We entered the water and he was initially doing well.
Then he began pawing at the water. Then pulling on the rope. I only had him in his web halter (mistake number 3 of about 79) and had trouble making my messages convincing. Then it happened.
It was the thing that if I was a more knowledgeable horse woman, someone who understood young horses better, I would have nipped in the bud. He gave the tiniest rear.
Honestly, it was just beautiful and that's part of the reason I didn't think of correcting it. Then came the head moves in the water, and a second, bigger rear.
Don't get me wrong, he was never in danger of falling over, nor was he rearing "at" me, but he was definitely doing this as a show of strength. Not to me, I believe, my sense was it was more of a display meant for anyone who might dare come to eat him.
Right about then I decided to get us out of the water. I'd tried to ride him in the water, but he was too headstrong, too full of himself – in a bad way. He seemed to blank out about me for moments, I reminded him that I was there. He was that frazzled.
We walked out of the water – I turned him twice when he got ahead of me – and we headed back to the trailer. Still no sign of the BO or B.
That's it, we're leaving, I thought to myself. I secured him to the trailer, stepped in to get a manure fork to clean it out, and shut the tack room door. As I was shoveling out manure I saw him rear – again – as he was tied.
That's it! I thought, my last shred of patience gone. I gave him an immediate verbal correction and headed out to do some circles. He was a mess, but eventually got two braincells focused on me. I re-tied him and went to put up the manure fork.
Which is when I discovered that the tack room door was locked. I checked down at my pocket. It was flapped open and a quick check showed there was no key there.
Seriously? I'd lost it during our brief lead line lunging? And how did the door even lock? I was so pleased that I couldn't accidentally lock the tack room door because it requires the key to lock it. Yet I was so gifted that I somehow managed this feat.
And my cell phone?
In the tack room. Cuz, you know, it's safer in there.
Now who was frazzled?
I seemed to remember I'd beeped opened the truck, so I checked the doors. The passenger doors were still locked, but the drivers side was open. I started rummaging for the extra key. Gone. With all the recent moves we were constantly moving keys around.
We have a hidden key, though. I grabbed a dirty towel from the back and lay it on the ground under the truck. Well, now we know why we call it hidden. I sure as heck couldn't find it.
I attempted not to hyperventilate.
I looked back at the tack room door. It has a window. Maybe I could break it, I'd hung the keys on a hook inside the door, surely I could reach them. Fortunately I hadn't locked the window from the inside, and I was able to slide it open and punch out the screen.
I reached down blindly and touched the knob for the door. I figured that this door would have some sort of safety built in so you couldn't lock yourself inside. Sure enough, the knob slid , and the door was open.
See the round knob? I love that round knob.
No sign of the tack room key, but big deal, I already figured out how to break into it anyway. I quickly grabbed my truck keys and cell phone and put them in the checked-three-times,-yes-it's- unlocked truck. Now, to load Smokey.
I don't even have to tell you this part, right? He refused to load. Right about then the BO and B showed up, looking like they'd had a heck of a ride themselves. (they did).
“Will he not load?” the BO called out.
“Oh, he's going to load.” I said. Shortly there after he did, without any help from anyone else (my lone source of pride at that point).
I drove back as rain started to hit my windshield. I was so disappointed, I'd made choices that day that set us back, way back. What was I doing with a five year old horse? I had no clue. I let him unravel because I couldn't see it coming. I bit back the thought that I shouldn't actually have this horse. It's a mental road I've driven many times, thinking I don't "deserve" this horse. I'm over that now.
When championship reiners are being left to starve, I have no illusions that somehow the fact I'm not a top level trainer and dressage rider is a horrible fate for Smokey. Frankly, I'm of the mind that we are both just going to have to deal with our mutual shortcomings. I'll work on mine, he'll work on his, we'll get somewhere because I'm too stubborn not to get somewhere.
At the barn I unloaded him and took him to the round pen. We had a brief session. He listened well after some quick turns. But I knew we still weren't ending this on this note. He needed to get back in the trailer.
Before you think I was totally insane, remember, we are in an extreme fire danger zone, even a day of rain won't cure that. I can't have a horse who won't load.
And we were not ending on a good note. He was going through the motions, but he wasn't connecting with me.
We had another battle at the trailer. He wouldn't come near it, acted like he had no idea where I wanted him to go when I was trying to line lunge him. This is a horse who will change direction in the round pen with a slight movement of my shoulders.
I finally got a glimmer of cooperation. He turned in the direction I asked. We went back to the trailer. He put a hoof in, then back out. I turned him once and went back to the trailer and stood there with him, dropping my head.
“Come on Smokey. We're way past this, we know how to do this,” I said softly.
And he jumped in the trailer.
I stepped in after him. He stood in place, his eyes still wide, but something coming back into them, something I was surprised to see.
The only way I can describe it is it was that look your child gets when they drop the tough guy act and they are there, your kid again. Accepting of your help. Accepting of your role. Letting go.
We stood in the trailer together for a minute. Maybe two. Neither one of us asking to leave. Then I stepped away and said “back.” He calmly stepped back and I walked him back to his paddock and the rain went from a sprinkle to a gentle steady fall.
When I got home to get cleaned up I found the trailer key. It was stuck in my pocket.
I had apparently not dug deep enough.
Monday, September 19, 2011
Things did not go well.
In fact, it was pretty much a disaster. Fortunately, for once, I kept my perspective. Not completely, but darn near.
But let's start at the beginning. On Friday the trainer/BO suggest I join her at the lake for a morning ride. I declined. I knew she was taking her endurance riding client out there and they had been working on conditioning the new Qua-Arab in the barn.
I've been really enjoying my horse time, but sticking to my comfort zone around the barn. Both horses are doing well, we are all having a good time, drama is low.
So riding with two experience endurance riders who will be on horses who have been in training for weeks sounds like a bad idea to me. I'd be on the greenest horse, who I hadn't ridden in a week – and last week with all the changes in our lives with DH, I'd only ridden once. No thanks.
“Just join us for a swim, then. You can come out and meet us afterwards and swim with Smokey.”
Hmm. That sounded doable. We'd haul over to the lake which would be good, meet them, maybe hand walk around, then swim, then go home. Minimal. So I agreed.
That night I packed my lunch with my nerves barely contained, attempting to decide between an orange and trail mix, as if picking the wrong item would throw off my rhythm.
I ended up taking both.
I was out at the barn a little later than usual on Saturday to feed since DH was home and we were hanging out a bit. Rain had finally fallen in San Antonio and we were hopefully that a few drops would head our way. Clouds surrounded us, a welcome gray shade, the smell of damp earth in the air. I wondered if the weather would impact the horses' moods.
I pulled into the barn and set to work to quickly grained the horses I knew they'd be taking – Jake, the Qua-Arab bought from the auction, Tuffy, the BO's latest horse and just about the sweetest, calmest arab I've ever met, and Rocky, the other bay arab (also a sweet horse, but with many soundness issues). I was just starting on graining my horses when BO and the Client, B, arrived. We talked through the plan – I'd call about 11 then head out to meet them. By then I'd have Smokey warmed up, maybe we'd ride in the parking area, then swim and have lunch.
Then I saw a bad scrape on Smokey's knee.
BO checked it, and agreed it was fairly minor, something he must have picked up when they were running loose in the pasture area. I would treat it with a water therapy and decided if he showed any signs of lameness at all we'd call it off.
They loaded up after a while and I focused on feeding the remaining horses. I hooked up my truck to the trailer, triple checking everything since it had been so long since I'd hauled anywhere. Then I got Smokey saddled up and Lily haltered.
I worked Lily in the round pen and rode bareback. We worked on cleaning up our side pass to the gate. It gets better every time. I've grown so close to this mare, and she has so much try it's challenging to not over ask. We're getting the hang of each other.
Then I rode Smokey in the round pen. Not a bit of lameness in the leg. In fact I was surprised to find him quiet and responsive given how little we'd ridden lately. It was as if we weren't missing a lick. It looked like this was going to be a great day to take a step forward.
I took Lily back to have hay with the others and rode Smokey out on the trails. He was perfect. Quiet. Listening. We curved around bushes and trees, up gentle slopes, everything went so well. The swim would be a reward, I decided. A nice topper to a good day.
I called the BO a little later than the time we'd set up. She said they were running late, but to head on out. Smokey loaded easily and we headed out to the lake.
When we pulled into the parking lot I was a little concerned with the number of trailers in place. I thought the BO said no one was there, but maybe they arrived after they had hit the trails. I unloaded Smokey and he was pretty good. A bit up, but not bad at all.
Unfortunately it was a condition that wouldn't last.
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
The big fire still rages out of control. Firefighters are working, now more than 50 hours straight.
Here at the lake, we are safe. But here's a video showing how quick it can change (this was a beautiful park, a real jewel in this area that has been a goal of mine to ride at. Now, it's 90% gone.).
Interactive map of the fires is available here.
I was hoping without the big winds it would be out by now. But after watching that video I realize that we are just one giant tinderbox.
I find myself even missing the mosquitoes which have been non existent this summer. Because there is no standing water anywhere.
This would be a good time for a miracle.
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
We are safe, as are our horses. But several members of our extended herd are not. Our friends in Bastrop have successfully evacuated their horses and those of a neighboring ranch and when I last checked in they were working on moving the residents of the Bastrop Zoo/Rescue. A bear and a tiger are part of that zoo.
A friend in another area couldn't get to her five year old horse at a boarding facility before they closed the roads down. The barn owner there said they just opened the gates, hoping the horses will out run the flames. I can't imagine how horrible both the barn owner and the horse owner must feel right now.
Of course it's not all about horses. At this point 500 homes are lost and the fire is not contained in Bastrop. We had two flare ups at the lake where we live but they were put down quickly.
It's bone dry, and while it's cooling, it's still a crazy tinderbox.
I wish it would rain.
Monday, September 5, 2011
I wanted to take a picture of Smokey and I, just standing around. I didn't want to pull his face to me, because I felt a nice closeness, a nice peacefulness that I wanted to capture. Even though it's not a flattering photo of me, I thought I'd post it...
Then he leaned into me. Then I knew I'd post it. Happy Labor Day!
Sunday, September 4, 2011
I think a curious horse is a good thing and occasionally a dangerous or annoying thing. But most of the time it's an amusing thing. Until they lock you in the feed room like Carson's horse Lyle did - anybody remember that?
Anywho, Smokey is a curious horse and very lippy. Like Lyle, I think.
I had left him tied near the tack room in the barn alley and went to get Lily. I heard the sound of things falling. I was surprised when I walked into the tack room to find this on the floor.
Now we tie Smokey on the other side - near the feed room door. Somehow I'm not sure that's a good idea either.