Friday, February 27, 2009

Happy Trails

On Wednesday, Tule and I joined up in a posse and hit the trails at Dupont State Forest. There were four of us; Flicka and Teri, Apache and Rhonda, Shawn and Manzie, and Tule and me. We left the barn at about 9:30 and were on the trail at 11:15. Tule never gave me a moment's trouble. He crossed wooden bridges, went over/through a covered bridge, drank out of the river, saw a waterfall, tied to a picket line, and was in general Wonder Horse. (I feel like saying "as usual.")

There were some things along the way that he sure looked at intently, but he didn't spook or freak out about anything.

We spent about four hours total riding. We stopped twice, once for lunch and once to climb around a beautiful waterfall. There were some brief moments of canter and trot but mostly we walked; Manzie is a TWH so Shawn did step out a little but we did all stay together for the most part.

Now, if I can just get Tule on our trailer...we'll be unstoppable. (There, I've admitted he has one flaw.)

Here we are in front of the first waterfall!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Not a winner but it's still fun to see

Southern States had a Barn Buddies photo contest for the spring issue. I entered a photo of Stock, the retired TWH show horse, and Tony, the junior barn cat. And while it didn't win (obviously the judges are blind...) it is one of the Notables. So, go to this website and it's entry 14!

I think it's a poor choice that they went with the rescue for the winner...c'mon, get over it, the photo's not that great...but I suppose since the prize was 5 bags of horse chow, it's a nice thing to give it to the rescue. So I'll stop whining and just know that mine really is much cuter...

You work with the horse that shows up

And you hope a different horse shows up the next time!

So we went from, Tule-doesn't-have-a-canter-in-the-arena, to, Tule-only-wants-to-canter-in-the-arena. Talk about your difficult situations. I'm so glad I've learned to deal with what he dishes out. I'm not about to imply that I can take anything he might throw at me, but at least I've gained enough confidence and control to handle him up to this point. In lesson on Sunday I was told my balance and seat have improved a lot, and that's such a good thing, because I sure needed it yesterday.

I had to hold him back for a loooooong time, tried to wear him down as much as possible and it still didn't work. He wanted to RUN. So when I finally said, okay, if you want a canter that's okay, he went to buck buck buck buck little cowhopping canter strides that had me with so much air between my tush and the saddle...well it was game over.

I told him if he wanted a run we'd run up the hill to the gov't gate. He didn't want to do that, he wanted to run in the arena. But when we did get a ways up the hill he didn't want to turn around and come home either. Silly horse.

I decided a little trailer loading practice was needed too. BAD idea. Tule wasn't having any of that nonsense. He loaded so nice last year when we moved him...but that was, I think, sheer desperation on his part to get the hell out of that other horrible place. So now we are back behind square one, and it's just not going to be any fun for a while.

Oh well.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

So what if it's cold? Wear layers, ride anyways.

Sundays are lesson days. Tule and I have ours at 11:00 am. It snowed today, it never got over the freezing mark, but who cares? That's why Carharts are in business, right? So it's layers on top of more layers, and get on that horse missy.

Tule was funny today. He is so smart (of course) and he thinks when I get down, he's done. Well I had to get down to take my overalls off about ten minutes into lesson. He thought that meant he was done...attitude ensued. And I spent the remainer of the lesson exerting my authority. He really did not want to work today, and I had to insist, repeatedly. But my trainer said some wonderful things balance and seat have improved noticeably, for one thing, and his topline is really coming up for another (a testament to our riding and conditioning program). At one point during trot he threw in a fairly big cowkick and I barely even noticed, just continued with the direction and the plan. Before, that would have scared me into at least thinking about stopping...this time, I literally said "Tule we're still working so get a move on" and he gave up on the shenanigans.

At the end of the hour, I decided to go ahead and see if I could get him in a canter, but I didn't tell my instructor that specifically...I just said we're going to go around again and see what happens. Well Tule knew what I was thinking and he broke into a beautiful canter and I started laughing so hard! I hadn't asked for it, you see, I was just thinking about it....and my reaction, the fact that it made me that happy, means he now probably thinks he's a Good Boy and should do that all the time. I may have created a monster!

It was just too darn cold to stick around, though, so I did some basic tack room tidying and got the heck out of dodge. I'm hoping that it warms up enough for a nice long trail ride with Rhonda on Tuesday.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

With limited commercial interruptions

I had to work today. That's a sentence I have to dissect! First, few people "like" to go to work, right? And I don't claim to be some heroic exception to that. But I will say, I love my job. I wish there were fewer people involved with it, certainly, and there are times I'm in tears over things that happen....but you should see my co-workers.
Big, beautiful, amazing Belgians. And how I love them so!

Today the working pair were Brad (in the photo above) and Pat, and I'm kind of getting over dealing with the same two over and's just worked out that way in the rotation, and Brad is my special darling, but I want to work with Bill and Chester more! Or Jesse, he's a hoot and a half :) Or Duke, who needs the work...Willie and Waylon are dollbabies too...and of course, there's Doc, such a sweetie peach. Nine all together, and not a bad egg in the bunch. When I started there, I almost immediately laid claim to Brad, so when he retires he's coming home with me. He's already 19.2 and he still has some growing to do! And he's such a unique individual. He plays any water he can find...the troughs, puddles, you name it his feet are in it.
I work again the rain, snow, cold, wind, I don't care. I love the boys!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

So what if it's cold outside

Tule the Wonder Horse did it again.

Here's the view I get from the saddle--

Today we had a short trail ride and then a magical experience in the arena. I figured we could handle going up to the gate that leads to the government land that the farm borders. It's part of Pisgah Nat'l Forest. We are allowed to ride there, but there's a locked gate. So I told Tule that we'd go to the gate and come back. I swear, he knew what I said. He went the whole way, ears up, forward moving, no balks, steady and fine all the way there. So we went through the gate and then he got a little nervous, so we worked that out and then came back.

Figuring that we were doing so good, we might as well capitalize on it, I aimed him at the arena gate. This we got open without me having to get down, another first for the team. And then we went around...and, drumroll please...I got a perfect canter transition! For the very first time, ladies and gentlemen, Tule and I cantered on the flat in the arena. I was so thrilled that I actually cried tears of pure and absolute joy right then and there.
It felt amazing. Tule is half TB from the Native Dancer and Man O'War lines, and he's built like a TB. I have been a little anxious about his canter because I know he's fast and he doesn't quite have his balance under saddle at speed. Now I know we can deal with it.

It's too bad that the weather is going downhill fast over the next several days and I'm also working three out of the next four, or we'd totally build on this right away. But now that I know, and more importantly he knows, we're Game On.
Dillon enjoyed having a snack and a brush today. The biff on his forehead is finally regrowing hair, which is nice. I think his ear's toast though. Oh well, right? Having a notch out of the top is a talking point :)

Monday, February 16, 2009

The long and winding road beckons

I bought a trailer today. It's not what I thought I'd get, but it's an excellent trailer and will work great for now. I had been looking for a gooseneck, and this is a bumper-pull (aka tagalong), which is compromise number one, but I was really getting to the end of my rope with anxiety over not having a trailer. It's in pristine condition, as the previous owner only used it to haul hay. That means no horse has ever pee'd in it :) so the floors are solid and there is no rust, anywhere. Also, it'll hold its value well. It's highly likely I could sell it for what I paid for it within the next two-three years when I finally find the perfect GN.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Getting into shape tires a person out

Tule had a lesson today, and I really couldn't ride him as long as I should have. This was due to two things. One, I've been riding almost every day for weeks, but I'm still not in shape to drive him onwards when his feet get stuck in arena mud. Two, I got a little frustrated with my teacher. Not to disparage her methods, because she's great, but there are some times when I just know my horse better than she does. And honestly, I don't want to teach Tule to explode under pressure, I want him to learn that there's a less bothersome way of dealing with it and that's just to move on. So, in order to preserve my sanity, I got off before it got ugly. I do know what I need to work on, however, so when I can this week I'll be working him on those things.

Then, joy of joys, another trail ride! I have a friend at the barn, Ann, who has the most beautiful mare, a Percheron named Libby that all the geldings are hopelessly in love with (you should see them, it's like she's the prom queen or something). We've been on one trail ride previously, months ago. Ann works a lot so she can't be at the barn as much as she'd like, but last week we decided to meet up today and give it a try. We also wanted to try out my other Western saddle on Libby. And it went great. There were a couple of moments, again, where Tule needed convincing that my way was the better option, but we made it with much less fuss this time. He's learning! And we had so much fun.

Pepper is sooooo busted, too. I actually saw her, with my own eyes, galloping through the pasture. She ran up and down at least three times. She was motivated...all the other horses left her alone in there! She panicked! It was hilarious :) If I hadn't been kind of worried about her, I would have let her get some much needed exercise doing it longer. There are only three other horses that live in that pasture right now. Two of them are lesson horses and were out with students. The other, Charlie, is a gorgeous OTTB bay whose owner Amy came to feed him, which left Pepper alone for the first time in a very long time. So she's totally, completely busted...she can move that big tushie!

Dillon got a new stall today. Well, not new really, but he got moved to the other end of the row. The horse previously there, Blue, has been a very bad boy indeed. He bit another horse yesterday when the barn owner, my friend Rhonda, was bringing everybody in for the night, almost causing her to be squished between two horses. So Blue is banished to the other end of the hall, and Dilly-doodle gets the end with the view. I think he'll like it.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Flying Solo

Tule and I went on a trail ride, just the two of us today. And it was such an incredible experience. I'm exhausted though, it was hard work!

There were several times when he just refused to keep going. I was having flashbacks of Pepper trying to back us over the cliff a few weeks ago....and I was also having Ghengis Khan visions of beating the everloving snot out of fact there was even a moment when I about burst into tears, I got so frustrated. But I got over it, and he did too. It was just a matter of being more stubborn, really. I didn't let him have any options but my way or nothing. He wasn't allowed to put his head down, or turn around, or back was, go THAT way, or don't go at all. And after about the third balk....he did.

I will say that constant pressure on him did not work. So kicking him, pushing into his sides, flapping the reins and smacking him, all that did was make him mad and dig his heels in more. It was when I relaxed and just waited him out that he chose to move forward.

We did a very short uphill canter and a tiny bit of trotting as well, but most of the ride was walking. There were changes in walk speed for sure, but mostly just consistency.

If we'd had company along, there's no way it would have been this hard. He would have been pulling like a freight train. With that said, though, now that I've managed to do this alone, I'm fairly confident that we could do it again. I guess we'll have to'll be a while before we get another beautiful day and chance to try it.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I'm ready when you are!

Tule, Wonder Horse

How can I put into words, that I really do have the best horse in the whole entire world, without sounding like I'm just bragging again?

On Tuesday, my friend Rhonda called me to see if I had plans for my day, and she invited me to go on a nice long trail ride with her at Fordbrook. Well of course I jumped at the chance. Rhonda is someone I really enjoy spending time with, and it's been great having her support around the barn when stuff happens with the horses. Rhonda is the owner and barn manager at Fordbrook, so she really knows her stuff :)

I was a tiny bit anxious about setting off with Tule, because I'd not ridden him out on the trails myself yet. But, a lot of confidence goes a long way. I knew he "could" do it, because I've seen him do it with Lynn (our trainer/riding instructor). And I've been riding him almost every day for weeks now, and we've made great progress. So I just decided to go for it. If something were to happen, I was sure I could deal with it and get us safely home.

Turns out I had nothing to worry about. Tule can do it all. He led, he followed; he crossed water, he went over downed trees, he trotted and cantered up the hills, he never once lost his mind. There were deer, and squirrels, and power lines. We stopped for lunch, and he stood tied to a tree while we ate. It was amazing.

I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that there's nothing he can't do.

I will concede that he seemed more interested in being in front. He tended to climb up into Apache's personal space rather a lot. But this is easily handled. Practice makes perfect!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Trails with Tule, saddle for Dilly, friend rides Pepper

All told, a good day.

My good friend Michelle came down today with her boyfriend, Jared. Pepper was the first horse Jared ever rode :) He's actually getting pretty good dealing with her, too. So while I was waiting for them to arrive, I got Dillon out of the pasture. Michelle was invited to ride one of my friend at the barn's Rocky Mountain horses, so she got busy with those three beauties and I decided to put the saddle on Dillon. Now, he's been saddled before and he's had things strapped to his back before, so I wasn't worried at all, but this was the "real deal," the saddle I'll be riding him in, back cinch and everything.

And honestly I don't even think he cared. He did notice that I was getting all this equipment on him, and he didn't stand perfectly still, but he never gave any indication of being uncomfortable or upset about things.

Jared rode Pepper in the arena for a while. She wasn't horrible, but also wasn't great. The vet's coming tomorrow to do spring shots for her so I'm going to ask him to evaluate her for possible pain issues.

Tule and I had a great ride. We trotted around the arena a bit, then headed down the road. I thought two others were coming with us, Charlie and Jared, but when I got to the field that was our destination, I realized Tule and I had made it all the way there alone. This is a big step for us, because for one, I'd never ridden him down the road in that direction before, and two, we've never gone anywhere like that alone. And he did great. (I do so love my horse.)

Dillon got to make his baby face at Pepper today and it was adorable. Wish I'd had my camera out for it. I tied them across from each other and he reached over and did the open mouth baby thing for her, and she completely accepted him, no mare squeals or fussy b**** behaviors.

I had a breakthrough with another horse today as well. There are two geldings that get turned out with Dillon, that both used to be in Pepper's pasture. On April 1 they'll all go back out together, so I'm pleased that Dillon's already "in" with two of the boys he'll be pastured with in future. Well, one of them is Pepper's boyfriend Mozart (I promise, this horse is a unicorn, we just don't have the right eyes to see his horn) and the other is an appy named Moonshine. Well, Moonshine rears when anyone tries to give him wormer. I've seen it, and it's scary. I told his owner, that I thought if I worked with him on some stuff, that I might be able to do something to help that. So every day for the last week, I've been working with him, sticking my fingers in his mouth on both sides, really messing with him, and then rewarding him not every time but about half the time so he thinks there's a chance for a treat if he's good. And today it paid off. His owner came out with wormer for both boys. We decided to try in the pasture. And I walked right up to Moonshine, and got that wormer into him with almost no fuss whatsoever. It was amazing. Mozart takes his easily, but I did him too just to be friendly, but then I offered to let her do Pepper so she could get some practice on another easy horse :) She called me the horse whisperer, which made me a little uncomfortable, so I told her I was just the worm whisperer!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


I bought a truck today!

I've been wanting one for months. And months and months. I hated having to rely on others to transport my horses, even though I have been lucky enough to be able to work that out when I needed it. So now I just need to find the trailer to pull, and I'm all set!

It was too cold today to be at the barn, and in fact both Tule and Dillon stayed inside. I visited briefly but didn't stay, and I visually checked on Pepper but nothing more. Tomorrow I will have to suck it up and deal with being cold to feed her; I don't want her going two days without grain.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Mare versus human; score, 1 to 1.

Pepper is on her last chance. Well, maybe not...I'm just really, really angry and frustrated with her tonight.

I rode her around in the hay field and she did reasonably well, enough that I was willing to take her into the arena for a lap or two. And all hell broke loose. She balked completely at the gate, and went basically right into cowkicks and bucks from just a little leg pressure. I got so mad, I got down and popped her...and she tried to kick me. So it was Game On. Went up to get the lunge whip and 30' line, and I worked her. And worked her. And popped her again and again at the gate, both directions. It was one of those really awful times when, if I had something harsh enough, I would have beaten her with it, I was so mad at her. All the lunge whip can do is a tiny little sting and a loud noise, but it was effective. Unfortunately what I have now is a mare with a major problem in the arena. *sigh* I don't know what I'm going to be able to do about it, and I hate to think that I might have to find her another home. I mean I really, really hate even considering that possibility.

On a good note, I bought Dillon his bridle today. I decided on a one-ear headstall and a rubber cased snaffle bit. We'll start putting the bit in, in stages. I let him look at it and sniff it today, and I put the headstall on him twice so he could feel that. I mess with his mouth all the time anyways, so we'll continue with that as well. Soon he'll be ready to feel the bit in his mouth for a few minutes. I will use long reins and a side pull from the ground to teach him some basic rein cues before we go to colt start in July.

Tule got the day off because by the time I was done with Dilly, the weather had changed for the worse and it got C-O-L-D. So I went to lunch, and to Circuit City (a huge mistake) and then picked up my son. And then, I went truck shopping! I found one I'd like my mechanic to take a look at, and a friend of mine is also going to check it out for me. Yay!

Monday, February 2, 2009

It's Groundhog Day!

And I didn't get to see my horses today, darn it! Well that's not entirely true, I did get to see "my" Belgians today. I count myself incredibly lucky to have gotten this job, but I sure do wish I worked more than just eight shifts a month.

I am so, so, so sore from yesterday though. I really had an incredible lesson with Tule, but I'm paying for it now. And I can't believe this, but I have bruises on the insides of my knees!

It's supposed to snow tomorrow, but that isn't going to keep me away from the barn. I have until July to get my self into top form on horseback, and that means riding every day I'm not physically located elsewhere by financial needs (i.e., my job). I might only saddle up for a few laps around the arena, but I'm doing it.

I'm taking Dillon and Tule to a clinic in July. We'll do colt starting with Dillon in the mornings, and horsemanship with Tule in the afternoons. I'll be in the saddle for hours, working hard, three days in a row. Therefore, my tushie is getting into SHAPE.