Thursday, January 27, 2011

In Which I Traumatize My Cats

No, not on purpose, I haven't gone mad (yet), don't worry.  I'm just moving, and the cats are relatively traumatized.  Well, not right now.  Right now they are exhausted, from the day's activity.  They've found the last two comfortable places in the house (the bed and the couch), and they're both so sound asleep that my camera flash didn't even wake them.  Poor kitties.

Lilly

Sterling

Lilly is completely traumatized about the moving boxes, the suitcases, the emptying of drawers, the relocation of furniture (all clearly signs of the apocalypse, as far as she's concerned).  It started yesterday evening.  I started taking down the drapes, it made her nervous, she puked.  Then I pulled my biggest suitcase out from the back of the closet, and started packing up all my sweaters.  One glimpse of the suitcase and she puked again.  The poor thing has probably lost two pounds in the past 24 hours.  Her day is an endless cycle of shedding, puking, running under the bed, and looking up at me and crying the most helpless meow you've ever heard.  She's totally stressing.  Over what, I'm not sure, because I've moved with her before and she made it out alive then.  I'll never know what goes on between those little pink ears.

Sterling, on the other hand, thinks this new game is fun.  Every time I open up a new box, he climbs in.  I'm half expecting him to yell "Surprise!" at some point.  When I make a pile of something (shirts, towels, books, papers, dishes), he jumps to the top of it and balances precariously for a minute until I gasp or shriek (depending on the items in the pile) and then he jumps off, runs around the apartment, and waits for the game to start again.  He hasn't noticed that the drapes have come down, has no idea what large suitcases signify, and could care less if my books have been put in boxes.  As long as there's still a box around for him to jump into.  And out of.  And into.  And out of.  Oh look -- something shiny!  Oh look -- Lilly is making that face that means she's only pretending to be asleep and wants me to pounce on her!  Weeeeeee!  Moving is fun!

The best part of my day today was spent watching the cats process me moving the full length mirror out of the bathroom.  I carried it out (not without tripping over Sterling, obviously) and set it on its side by the stairs.  Sterling sat in front of it and played a nice little game of patty-cake with the totally awesome gray cat on the other side, who wanted to play as much as he did (imagine that).  He's more of a live-in-the-moment kind of guy, unbothered by the fact that the mirror has now appeared in the living room, and just happy to have something to amuse himself for the next few minutes.

Lilly, on the other hand, was deeply suspicious, and took a break from her puking and crying to investigate.  She paced back and forth in front of the mirror, eyeing the cats inside, sizing them up.  She touched noses with the little white cat (who, she has always thought, is awfully pretty), and then walked around back to see if she could find her.  Nope, cat was gone.  Then she came back around the front and sat staring at the little white cat for a while.  Suddenly, it dawned on her where she's seen that cat before, and she turned and ran into the bathroom (confirming once again that Lilly is indeed the brains of this operation).  I waited a minute to see how this was going to unfold, then heard her pathetic wailing commence again.  Not only am I taking down drapes and putting things in boxes and taking out the giant suitcase, but the cat in the bathroom is gone.  Clearly, the cat in the bathroom knows about the apocalypse too, and has fled for higher ground.

Normally I would just chalk this all up to the fact that Lilly is crazy (and Sterling isn't exactly a thinker), but she may be on to something this time.  We had thunder snow this evening (huge snowflakes falling from the sky, accompanied by thunder and lightening. Lilly damn near had a heart attack getting herself under the bed as fast as possible, decided that wasn't safe enough, and retreated to her bomb shelter in the back of the closet).  She may be right.  Thunder snow?  SeriouslyIs the apocalypse coming? 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Reading Your Horse's Vital Signs

I'm being wimpy because the temperature has been in single digits, which is way too cold for me to spend any amount of time visiting my horse.  This is the benefit of being at a nice boarding facility -- you know your horse can survive without you for three days.  I do, however, intend to go and see him this evening.  I will probably lunge, not ride.  Ease ourselves back into work....

So, since I have nothing to report related to my horse specifically, I thought I'd pass along something on the Smartpak blog that caught my eye:  How To Take Your Horse's Vital Signs

Pretty much all of us know how to take a horse's temperature, but I personally didn't know exactly how to take a pulse or measure his respiration rate.  I was asked to take Jack's pulse during his colic, and unfortunately couldn't read it.  I was trying to feel for it on the jawbone, and found that every time Jack swallowed, I lost count.  So I found a couple of videos that I thought were quite helpful, and demonstrate a few additional places on the horse where you can find a pulse.  Of course, being the picky researcher that I am, I didn't find one video that I thought was thoroughly comprehensive, but a combination of the three below should do the trick.

This one is helpful because the vet explains the amount of pressure you should use, and points out a place on the horse's face, jaw, and jugular.  I have a feeling the jugular vein is probably a very easy place to find a pulse.



This one is also good (once the horse stops trying to eat the tree in the background), because the vet demonstrates additional points in the horse's leg, including the digital pulse, which can indicate lamintis when it is "bounding" (I've seen vets do this before, but thought it was helpful to see it explained).  This vet states that the normal range is between 36-44 when at rest.



Lastly, I liked this video, because the vet shows and alternate way to take the pulse at the jawbone, and demonstrates the correct place to take a horse's pulse using a stethescope.  He says the normal resting pulse rate of a horse is 36, but explains that if the horse is nervous about being handled by the vet, etc., up to 48 would also be expected. 



So, now that I have these helpful tips, I'm going to practice on Tucker.  I know that Tucker's normal, healthy temperature is between 99.5 and 100.5 (he seems to run hot -- around 100 most of the time), but it would also be good to know his normal resting pulse rate and respiration rate, and keep those ranges listed on the lid of my track trunk in case someone needs them when I'm not around.  Good cold weather activities, right?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Stylish Blogger Award

The stylish blogger award has been bestowed upon Tucker and me (I know, I know, we're a little late getting aroudn to it), and we are most grateful.  Though Tucker was rolling around on the ground and covering his eyes with his hooves, laughing hysterically, like the horse in the Goofy cartoon (skip to 3:15) when he heard that someone called me "stylish."  Most days when he sees me I'm barely recognizable beneath several layers of turtlenecks, fleece, and down, and brightly colored wool socks.  Soon thereafter, there is hay in my hair, shavings on my socks, and alfalfa smeared somewhere across my person.  Then there's the summer, when he sees me in a permanently stained t-shirt or tank, brightly colored boot socks, dust and dirt sticking to my sweaty arms and face.  In either case, not exactly stylish.  Though he and I do clean up pretty well in the ring, for about 3 minutes, so maybe that counts.

Anyway, we love awards, and we are always happy to receive one and pass it along.  The Rules:

1. Thank and link back to the person who awarded you this award
2. Share 7 things about yourself
3. Award 15 recently discovered great bloggers
4. Contact these bloggers and tell them about the award!

1.  We have been given this award by Kate at The Adventures of Lucy, Kristen at Sweet Horse's Breath, and Ruffles at Just A Girl and Her Horse.  There may be others that I've missed, and if so -- Thank you! 

2.  Seven things about me.  Do they have to be true?  Do they have to be things you don't know?  Do they have to be interesting?  Let's see here....
  1. I dream of being a writer for a living.  I am working on a novel, aimed at the tween/teenage group, about a girl and her horses.  I am also sending queries to some of the equestrian publications about writing an article.  Stay tuned for more progress on that one.
  2. I love being an Aunt, and I didn't think I would.  I've never liked babies, and I was secretly very fearful that I wouldn't feel anything for my niece at all, and I'd feel like a terrible person.  I was sort of uneasy with her for the first few months (she was so tiny and fragile, and sort of purple, and not very interactive), but now I adore her, and miss her when I haven't seen her in a few weeks.  I can't wait to watch her grow up.
  3. My guilty pleasure is sit-coms -- cheesy, mildly amusing, laugh-track in the background, conflicts resolved in under 30 minutes, intellectually unstimulating sit-coms.  I should probably read a book instead, but I can't help it, I love them. My DVR is set to record a lot of them.  On snow days or sick days, I still watch Will & Grace, Friends, Seinfeld... you get the idea. 
  4. My tack trunk is always neat and organized, my tack is always clean, my trailer is spotless, and my horse is always clipped and groomed.  Yet, keeping my apartment clean is a constant struggle, my truck is a complete nightmare (haven't seen the back seat in months), and I can be extremely disorganized when not in a barn.  Something I'll never understand.
  5. I love to sketch and I haven't done it regularly for years.  I've done some things I am really proud of that hang in various homes and offices of my family members.  I stopped in law school though, because I didn't have the time, and never picked it up again.  I'm going to try to create some nice sketches this year.
  6. My favorite actress is Audrey Hepburn.  My favorite actors are Jeff Bridges and Kevin Spacey.  There are others I like too, but I'll watch and enjoy pretty much any movie starring one of these three.  Of course, the same goes for Ryan Reynolds, but for slightly different reasons....
  7. In my fantasy life, I am on the road at horse shows all the time, with my two lovely horses, living in a camper with an adorable jack russell.  If I win the lottery, what I do with the money will be a very, very easy decision.  For now though, I'm willing to settle for a horse that I love and get to show locally.  Most days, I feel pretty darn lucky to have that.
3.  Fifteen recently discovered bloggers.  Two of the blogs that gave me this award (Kate's and Ruffles', linked above) are actually new to me, so I'm counting those as the first two. They've been following me and I have not been returning the favor, but I will start!  I don't know if I have thirteen more, but I do have some new ones to share with you, so here goes (in no particular order):
  1. On the Line
  2. A Process of Learning
  3. Ravishing Roxy
  4. A Collection of Madcap Escapades
  5. Sojourner
  6. Tails of the Off Track Thoroughbred
  7. Sakura Hill Farm
  8. Training My Off Track Thoroughbred
  9. The Many Misadventures
  10. Show Ring Ready
  11. Jimmy Choo | The Blog
  12. G is for Greta
  13. The Adventures of Cathy and Valie
What do you know?  I did have 15 new blogs to share!  I hope you all check them out and enjoy.  Now on to Step #4... contacting the bloggers.  That may have to wait for another day.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Time Has Come....

Maybe it's because I spent the day with my baby niece yesterday, maybe it's because I've been overly sentimental every time I see my horse (translation: crying every time I see him) after losing Jack, maybe it's too dang cold to ride so I've got nothing else to report, maybe I need a little cheering up, or maybe it's because I'm finally trusting my dear readers enough to truly share with you all. 

For whatever reason, maybe a combination of the above, I've decided that the time has come.  It's time to share Tucker's baby photos.  You may not want to drink anything as you scroll down, because you will at some point snort with laughter, and possibly point at your computer screen, your shoulders shaking in a silent fit of laughter.  It's a perfectly natural reaction (in fact, the unanimous reaction whenever I have shown these to anyone), but we don't want to hurt Tucker's feelings, so remember to be kind in your comments.

So here we go.  First, a few of my personal favorites of just Tucker:

(Stop laughing.)

"Mom, get my good side."

Who is that handsome horse in the mirror?

Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Loved that fluffy pony mane. 

As you can see, the farm where he lived as a baby was horse heaven.  The field we're in right now was 16 acres, full of nice big shade trees, a huge run-in shed, and this stream, which the babies had to wade across every day for their breakfast (none of them ever have a problem with crossing water after that!).  It was the perfect bucolic heaven for me to get away every Sunday from scenic concrete-and-steel Newark, NJ, where I went to law school, and Tucker was extremely happy there. 

And here are a few of Tucker and his friends.  I took about a million pictures of him in the middle of his baby herd.  He lived in a little paddock by himself in Connecticut, so when we moved to New Jersey, I was just overjoyed to see him turned out with all these other babies.

Tucker makes a good head rest.

(Seriously, stop laughing.)

Sometimes friends make good head rests too.

Incidentally, the little black mare that Tucker is resting on in the last picture is Julie's older full sister, whose name was Mandy.  She was such a gorgeous little filly!  I had the privilege of breaking her a couple of years later and she was just lovely.  This little girl is probably the reason that Julie came into existence.

And finally, just so that you all know I wasn't exaggerating...  Remember when I said that his ears were as big as they are now, and his neck was as long as it is now, and he closely resembled a baby giraffe crossed with a goat?

Goat head.  (He looks kind of sad about it, doesn't he?)

Giant ears.  Compare with these, taken last week.  Not much has changed.

I swear, this hasn't been photo shopped.  He really did have a periscope for a neck. 

Okay, so, maybe it's okay to laugh at that last one.  It is pretty absurd.  I mean, just for the sake of comparison:


And lastly, here is one of me and my boy, the day that he arrived at his new farm and it hit me that he really was mine.  Madly in love written all over my face.

Tucker love.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Rest in Peace, Jack of Diamonds (1994? - January 15, 2011)

I write at this late hour with a bit of a heavy heart, to pay tribute to the memory of a very sweet horse who lived in my backyard for the past year. 

Around 4 pm today I was on my couch trying to gear up to go ride my horse and there was a knock on my door.  Daniel, who takes care of the horses on my farm, was standing outside, and between the dozen or so Spanish words that I know, and the dozen or so English words that he knows, we established that Jack was not eating, and might be sick.  I quickly dressed for the cold and headed out the door.

I found Jack showing classic colic signs, pawing, sweating, biting at his sides, and crouching down as though he wanted to roll but wasn't sure about it.  I made a call to his owner (my landlady, who is away this week), and then headed across the farm to get the banamine out of her kitchen.  I gave him 10cc's IV and then took him for a walk up and down the driveway for a while and he immediately perked up.

Unfortunately, 5 hours later, still no manure, no drinking, and as the banamine was wearing off, he was becoming uncomfortable again, quickly.  Given Jack's age and overall health, he was not a candidate for surgery, so after a few calls with the vet, his owner made the decision to relieve his suffering.  I gave him another 10 cc's of banamine around 10 pm to keep him comfortable.

About an hour ago, I met the vet at the little barn next to my house and we led Jack out to a paddock where he stood in untouched, pure white fluffy snow that sparkled in the moonlight.  The night was quiet and peaceful, and the icicles on the trees were catching the light of a full moon.  It was a beautiful, peaceful setting. 

As I stood with Jack, stroking his neck and watching him become increasingly sleepy, I told him to make sure that the first thing he does is go run and find his mom.  Jack came to us through Re-Run, a thoroughbred adoption program, because his mom died of breast cancer last year and Jack was sadly no longer being cared for.  As I stood there in the dark and the cold, our breath making little clouds around us, I felt sure that she was looking down on him and couldn't wait to see him again.  I pictured how sweet their reunion would be, and how happy Jack would be once he was free from pain, free from arthritis and running joyfully the way young thoroughbreds do.  I kissed his face again and reminded him, first thing, to run to his mom.

Jack's passing was peaceful and quiet, and dignified.  He laid down softly in the snow and then quietly drifted off to sleep.  I am glad that I was there to witness it, though I write this with tears in my eyes.  I have poured myself a nice glass of red wine, and I raise a glass to the reunion of Jack and his mom.  Run in peace, Jack.

"God forbid that I should go to any heaven where there are no horses."
- R. B. Cunningham-Graham, 1917 letter to Theodore Roosevelt

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Boarding Matrix

Finding a place to keep your horse can be one of the most difficult and agonizing processes that we face as horse owners who are not farm owners. It can take hours of phone calls, travelling all over your state, laying awake at night wondering where your horse is going to be safe and happy and what the right decision is. Below is my attempt to take some of the guess-work and confusion out of this process.
The spreadsheet embedded below is something I created a while ago when I was doing my own barn search, and I decided to publish it in case it's helpful to others. It has one sheet for all of the contact information one needs for keeping track of barns, and another sheet to evaluate each barn based on a specific set of criteria. The criteria are based on what is important to me (and likely others looking for a boarding facility).

If you have Microsoft Excel, you can download the document (right-click and select "Export to Microsoft Excel") and make use of the pre-formatted answers to each criteria (you may have to select the columns, go to the "Data" menu and select "Autofilter" first).  In preparing the answers, I tried to account for the broad spectrum of farms that we all come across in our searches.  For example, in the "turnout type" column, you can select from the following choices:
  • Grass fields with sheds
  • Grass fields no shelter
  • Small paddocks with sheds
  • Small paddocks without sheds
  • Stone Dust
  • Grass or Stone Dust
  • Dirt/not much grass
  • Mud pit
  • Junk yard
 And in the "Fencing" column, you can select one of these:
  • Post and rail
  • 3 or 4 board
  • Electric braid or tape
  • Vinyl
  • Wood or vinyl plus electric
  • Electric wire
  • Bailing twine and duct tape
  • Unsafe/unsturdy
Under "Atmosphere," you can describe the barn environment in one of the following ways:
  • Laid back  
  • Busy and Active 
  • Serious 
  • Boisterous 
  • Deserted 
  • Peaceful 
  • Friendly
  • Cold and unwelcoming 
  • Hostile
I tried to make these options work for whatever type of barn you are looking for (self-care, full board, show barn, trail barn, dressage barn, stall board, pasture board, etc.). So, for example, under "Stalls Cleaned," I tried to account for all the options:
  • Twice a day, well bedded  
  • Once a day, well bedded 
  • Cleaned every day, but not enough bedding 
  • Not every day 
  • We don't believe in bedding 
  • Clean your own stall, with our bedding 
  • Clean your own stall, buy your own bedding 
  • No stalls
I'm trying out publishing a Google Document for the first time, so if you do use it, please let me know if you find it useful and whether it works (either as a download or as a publicly available document). I'd also love to hear other ideas if there are other criteria on which you base your decisions on boarding barns.

Alternatively, here is a link to the document, let's see if that works.

I'm going to set up a link to this in the sidebar, assuming it's somewhat functional.  Please let me know what you think!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bashing on, Regardless

As far as the "life stuff," I'm still inching along in the right direction on all fronts.  Interviews are happening, new opportunities appear to be on the horizon in some form or another, and all in all I think I'm making decisions that are going to set me up for being happy, long term.  It might not be a perfect, smooth, easy transition, but we're headed in the right direction.  As a friend of mine often says, "Bashing on, regardless."  (She's chuckling to herself reading this right now.)

Things are going well in the world of Tucker too, although it's been way too cold for the past few nights for me to ride (and we're pretty much buried in snow at the moment).  Tucker got new shoes on Saturday, so I got to chat with our new farrier for a while about his feet (a rarity for me since farriers are usually there during the week, when I'm behind a desk), and I was very happy with how knowledgeable and patient he was.  We discussed a few minor changes, some things he had noticed,some things to try.  All in all, a very informative discussion. Tucker likes him too, which is always a good sign.

As I mentioned in the "Snowflakes" post, I had a wonderful ride on Sunday.  It was freezing out, and incredibly windy.  Tucker was spooking at the windy noises even on the cross-ties, so I had made up my mind to turn him loose to run when we got in the indoor.  It was all he could do to keep his feet still while I pulled his tack off and as soon as his bridle was off, he turned on a dime and galloped off.  I took some great video on my phone, but of course they're just slightly too big for me to email them to myself and share with you.  I captured the drama llama in full force though.  Hilarious.  I must get a still photo.

When he was done running around, I let him wander around for a bit at the walk to chill out a little, but he was still spooky and on edge while I was replacing his tack.  I needed something to get him to relax and was standing by the gate contemplating what to do, and saw a set of side reins and lunge line hanging there.  Huh.  I rarely use side reins on him because they have a tendency to make him heavy, but I thought it might just help him relax and focus.  So I got him set up (while he spooked in place at the wind outside) and got him out on the lunge at the trot, with the side reins hooked up low and loose so that he'd stretch down.  I worked him for less than 5 minutes in each direction, and it was just enough.  His eye got softer, he took a few deep breaths, and started relaxing through his neck and back.

By the time I climbed on, another horse had joined us in the ring, so he was already feeling better about himself.  He started off so nicely at the trot that I thought to myself I might want to try putting him in side reins for a few minutes more often.  He was light, and soft, and rounding through his back, and balancing off his hind end (rather than our usual first five minutes of discussion about whether I'm strong enough to hold him up, or whether he really has to do it).  Springy, forward, bouncy warm-up trot.  All that energy was channelled into productive, balanced, lovely forward movement... no spooking, no crawling out of our skin, totally focused and ignoring the wind. 

Then we were joined by two more horses, which made Tucker even happier.  One was his turnout buddy Tigger, so he started showing off.  Leg yields at the trot and canter, shoulder-in, haunches in, soft supple transitions.  He felt so happy and willing to be working, it felt like we were playing.  I just tried to think about staying centered and relaxed, riding from my core, supporting and not restricting, and letting everything just flow forward.  I just kept counting the rhythm of the trot or canter and enjoying how athletic and soft he felt.

The last thing we worked on were little turns on the haunches, keeping the forward motion going, directly into our canter.  So, I'd ask him to turn left to right, and then pick up the left lead canter, then turn right to left, and pick up the right lead canter.  The canter transitions were amazing.  Asking him to turn on his haunches made him step all the way under with his inside hind, and then he was perfectly set up to step right up into his canter transition -- uphill, soft, and forward, without leaning on my hand or losing the connection.  So wonderful.  Sigh.  I ended with huge pats and lots of praise, making Tucker lick his lips and look around like, "Who's the man?  I'm the man."

By the time I was cooling out, there were four more horses (that's seven total!) in the ring, which basically put Tucker onto a cloud of joy and happiness.  Nothing he loves more than having lots of friends in the ring -- the more the merrier, he thinks.  Then he got to cool out alongside of his turnout buddy while I chatted with Tigger's rider (which Tucker thought was just the best idea ever, especially since Tigger was pinning his ears at all the other horses because Tucker belongs to him.  Tucker loves belonging to someone.  And Tigger is pretty much the coolest horse ever, as far as he's concerned, so belonging to Tigger makes Tucker also pretty cool, by extension).

I'm hoping that I can ride tomorrow if it's not too cold, and might just repeat the side reins routine since he's now had three days off.  I don't want to use them too often, but it could be a good way of hitting the reset button over the winter when he's had a couple of days off.  I'm also anxious to see if he continues to go as well as he did on Sunday.  I'm curious as to whether the little changes we made to his hind shoes are making a difference for him, or whether he just happened to be having a spectacular day.   Either way, I'll take one spectacular day.  Those rides make you understand and appreciate why we do this, and why we keep coming back for more.  You have a ride like that and realize that you'll just never get enough!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

"Why Do I Like Horses"

My brother sent this to me.  He apparently has a friend-of-a-friend through facebook who "is always posting horsey stuff," according to him, and a link to the poem below was posted on her wall.  My brother doesn't have any particular feelings one way or another about horses, other than what I think he'd describe as a "healthy fear."  But he saw this and knew that his horse-crazy sister would love it.  Truth be told, it brought tears to my eyes (me, the girl who is stoic through sad movies, tragic world events, weddings, and the like).  I know you'll all love it too.

Why do I like horses? I think I must be mad.
My mother wasn't horsey - And neither was my dad.
But the madness hit me early - and it hit me like a curse.
And I've never gotten better.  In fact I've gotten worse.
I hardly read a paper - but I know who's sold their horse.
And I wouldn't watch the news - Unless Mr. Ed was on, of course.
One eye's always on the heavens - but my washing waves in vain
As I rush to get the horses in - in case it's gonna rain.
I spend up every cent I've got - on horsey stuff for sure
I buy saddles, bridles, fancy boots - and then I buy some more.
I can't sew on a button - I don't even try
But I can back a truck and trailer - in the twinkling of an eye.
It's jeans and boots that I live in night and day
And that smell of sweaty horses just doesn't wash away.
I ache from long forgotten falls.  My knees have got no skin.
My toes have gone a funny shape - from being stomped on again and again.
But late at night, when all is still - and I've gone to give them hay,
I touch their velvet softness and my worries float away.
They give a gentle nicker and they nuzzle through my hair
And I know it's where my heart is - more here than anywhere.

~ Author Unknown

I had a lovely ride today, probably the best one we've had in weeks, and it did my heart more good than anything else has in a long time.  If this is a curse, I couldn't be more grateful to be afflicted.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Sometimes, Life has other plans

Remember how a few days ago, I talked about how I'm learning to be flexible?  Well, apparently the karmic forces read that post, had themselves a chuckle, and decided to mess with me.

I headed out to the barn, fresh from being totally inspired by watching Mr. Morris's clinic, thinking I'm going to work on getting Tucker light, and forward, and supple.  Use my legs.  Allow my upper body to "accompany" the horse.  Allow his back to be free beneath me.  Haha.  Ha.  Ha.  (The karmic gods are grinning an evil grin, even now, as I write this.)

When I got to the barn, I was given the great news that we are getting a nice indoor bathroom installed in the indoor.  No more freezing our butts off in the porto!  This is excellent news.  What I hadn't realized, though, was what this was going to mean for my ride. 

We walked into the indoor and were greeted by a large orange excavator, an SUV, a big hole, a cement pad, and a very polite man in coveralls in the corner, doing something with the cement pad.  We exchanged pleasantries (well, I did, Tucker was kind of dumbstruck), and I gave Tucker lots of time to look everything over before I mounted, gave him lots of pats, humored his snorts and big scared eyeballs, and once he finally took a deep breath, climbed aboard.  That's when the fun started.

Mind you, I'm a little spoiled.  He doesn't do anything really that bad when he spooks, so I was able to be amused, instead of annoyed or frightened.  Another horse could have seriously lost it. 

My first pass at the walk, Tucker was in full drama-llama mode.  I imagine his thought process went something like this:  "Mother, do not panic, but there is DANGER in that corner.  Fear not, m'lady.  I, your valiant steed, shall protect you from the Man, and the Hole, and the Large Orange Thing.  I have experience with these sorts of Things and will tell you that Large Orange Things have a tendency to Make Loud Noises, but do not be alarmed.  I shall move swiftly past this dangerous area, I shall not take my eyes off of these creatures, lest they should attack suddenly, and I shall escort you quickly to safety." 

I gave him a pat for his "bravery" and we changed direction and did another lap of the ring.  Upon reaching that corner, we repeated the same pattern, with slightly less "high alert."  More like "moderate alert."  "Once more into the breach, dear friends, once more.  As I have done before, I shall carry you through this treacherous territory.  We shall face all manner of evils.  There is a Man, and a Hole, and Large Orange Thing with a Tendency to Make Loud Noises -- but do not give up hope.  I, your brave and conquering hero, will not rest until you are carried safely past."

I figured since he managed not to give himself a heart attack yet, we could probably attempt a trot.  We circled at the other end of the ring for a few minutes, where I had about 80% of his attention.  Not bad.  I figured we could try trotting down the long side.  "Alas, I fear the worst is upon us.  My rider has lost her sight.  She moves forward blindly, completely unaware that she is steering us straight into the belly of the beast!  I must take over the helm!"   We then started trotting sideways, across the arena.  Lovely half pass Tucker. 

I made a circle to see if we could possibly travel in a straight line past the corner of doom.  "She may have lost her mind entirely!  I've got no choice but to move as fast as I can past the Man, the Hole, and the Large Orange Thing with a Tendency to Make Loud Noises!  She clearly has no sense of the imminent peril we are facing!  Thank God one of us is a flight animal!"  We managed to trot around the corner, albeit at a pace a little quicker than what I had in mind.  Still, though, he was holding it together.

I stuck to the top half of the ring for most of the ride, occasionally venturing down to the bottom third but trying not to make too big of a deal.  At one point though, we were tracking left, approaching the death triangle from the short side of the arena, when the nice man working on the cement pad emerged from his SUV.  Tucker stopped dead in his tracks, head straight in the air.  "The Man is emerging from his cave of death and destruction!  What evil plan is he hatching now?  I mustn't move a muscle, and perhaps he will move along and leave us unharmed.  My rider is oblivious to the danger, it is up to me now.  If I move one inch, there is a chance that the Man will use his Large Orange Thing with a Tendency to Make Loud Noises to drive us into the Hole, never to be seen or heard from again.  Well I've got news for him:  Not on my watch buddy!  What's this?  She's sending me on?  Has the WHOLE WORLD GONE MAD?!"

Given that he was actually twitching at this point I figured I better give him a break and stick to the top end of the arena for our canter work, staying on the far side of the few jumps that were set up.  Cantering circles at the other end of the ring went reasonably well, though at one point he almost fell over trying to turn left and look right at the same time, and accidentally crossing his front legs in the process.  I tried really hard not to laugh out loud at him.  I figured at this point we could probably risk cantering the top half of the ring.  "Alright mother, I've been quiet long enough but now you are just being unreasonable.  Have you totally lost it?  There is a MAN!  And a HOLE!  And a LARGE ORANGE THING with a tendency to MAKE LOUD NOISES!  Get it together will you?  You are going to get us killed!"  As we scooted across the middle of the arena with our tail between our legs, it occurred to me that perhaps I should return to the circle.  "Phew.  She seems to have gotten the picture.  At least now we have returned to the safe corridor, behind these wooden barricades.  They're not much, but they're something."

I came back to a trot and did some little figure eights, looped around the jumps, anything to get him to focus for more than a nano-second.  He actually relaxed for a few minutes, even stretched down (!) when trotting away from the Center for Horse Torture.  So I figured we could canter left now.  Nice transition, decent canter.  Wonder if we can circle around the jumps?  "MOTHER!  Pay attention!  MAN!  HOLE!  LARGE ORANGE THING!  LOUD NOISES!  Must I constantly be in charge of everything?"  Okay so, maybe not.  We ended doing some more trot work so that his eyes could return to their sockets and he could resume breathing, and quit for the night.  I figured a couple of minutes of relaxation was a success, given the circumstances. 

While cooling out, he wandered over to the corner.  Reached his nose out and touched the excavator.  Peered down into the hole.  Put on his cutest face for the man in coveralls.  "Hi!  I'm Tucker!  What's your name?  You sure do have lots of pockets.  Anything for me?  Hmmm?  I like mints.  Got any mints?  What's that thing for?  Can I eat it?" 

If nothing else, he is certainly entertaining.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Live Streaming Video

George Morris Horsemastership Clinic, in Florida.  Go here

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Changes

This post may be a little off topic, and will almost definitely be rambling, but I've got lots of stuff swirling around in my brain and it needs a place to go.  I figure stuff out when I'm riding, or by putting things in horse terms, so bear with me here.

The last time I rode Tucker I set up three little cavaletti on the center line, one at each end of the ring, and one in the middle, and worked on figure-eighting over them at the walk, trot, and canter.  At the walk I worked on keeping him coming forward and bending correctly without leaning on the inside rein or bulging through his shoulder, pushing his inside hind underneath him.  Then at the trot we worked on the same things, and getting a steady rhythm, and paying attention to what's in front of us (ahem) instead of what is outside the door.  The real success was at the canter though, when he was able to either switch his lead over the center cavaletti or canter one stride and then smoothly do his lead change, and all I had to do was change the bend in order to accomplish this.  It was one of those rides where I felt elated, and Tucker was clearly pleased with himself.  One of my favorite things about this horse is that he knows when he did a good job, and it puts him in a good mood.  As we were cooling out I said to him, "These changes are just getting easier and easier for us huh?" 

Right now, I'm hoping that applies to my life as well as my horse's canter leads.  I've been thinking a lot lately about how my whole life I have been working toward being "the best."  All through school, I was laser-focused on getting the best possible grades, to set me up for the next step.  In grammar school, I was working on getting really good grades so I could get a scholarship to boarding school. Accomplished that, and then it was studying hard and taking AP classes so I could get into a good college.  Did that, and then I repeated the same pattern so I could get into a good law school.  Once I was in law school, it was work-work-work so I could get a spot on the Law Review, and the Moot Court team, and build up an impressive resume so that I could get a job at a top litigation firm.  Are you exhuasted yet?  Because I am.

The trouble is, at the end of all this herding or funnelling toward the top, I've realized that the work at these top firms isn't really for me (which by the way was a shocking revalation that took me months to come to grips with), and now I'm trying to figure out what my next step should be so that some of the things I love about the law, the things I'm passionate about, can become part of what I do for a living.  I'm not quite ready to find a whole new career, but I need to do something different.  As I mentioned in my prior post, I want the rest of my life to start matching up with my horse life.  I need to be content with my whole day.  Granted, they don't call it "work" for nothing, and some days will be better than others no matter what your job is.  But I don't want to dread going to work, and I want to stop feeling like I'm "stuck" doing something I don't like at the end of all those years of hard work to get there.

I've never been great with change, but I'm hoping that at this stage in my life it will be a little little less nerve-wracking.  Finding a new position will probably mean that many things have to change, and I'm preparing myself.  I'll most likely be moving, I'll have a different routine, and sadly, it is probably time to cull the herd down to one horse.  So Julie's officially listed for sale again, as much as it pains me to do it because she's going so well.  (So blogger friends, you've all seen Julie grow from an opinionated little yearling to a lovely well-mannered mare, and if you know of anyone who is looking for a young prospect, feel free to send them my way.)  Part of knowing that I need to do something different means (I think) that I'll no longer be in a position to support two horses, especially two horses that are in training, and eventually actively competing.  I suppose you never really know though, and if she doesn't sell then maybe I'm not meant to part with her yet, but I think at this point that it's for the best to see if I can find her a new home. 

Tucker took several years before his changes were smooth, and we're still working on them.  I've gone through lots of changes myself in the past year or so, and now I'm working on doing it smoothly.  Probably the reason that Tucker is so well-adjusted is that he wasn't pushed to be the best he can be as early as possible, but instead we took it slow, let him grow into himself, and made sure that he was always very confident in what he was doing.  I'm trying to give myself the same level of care right now, even though, to put things in horse terms, I had a much more rigorous training program when I was younger.  I'm learning to be flexible, to consider all my options (not just the most elite choices), to keep myself from feeling "trapped."  I think the right opportunity is out there for me, and I think I'm ready to find it.  Kind of like, once he was ready (balanced enough, strong enough, confident enough), Tucker found his lead change.

See how it helps to put things in horse language?  Always helps me figure life out.