Getting Down to Work

As much as not having ridden much in months and the weather allows, of course. For the observant, yes, we’re riding in the corral, because there basically isn’t anywhere else except the field, and for his first ride here, I’d rather stick to inside the fence. (Yes, safety mavens, the fence is off.)

We have an escort. Actually he’s just looking for an excuse to hang out under the corn crib where the skunk lived.

Pardon my sweats but it’s 93 and it’s not like we’re jumping.

Despite a brief pause to fuss over the tractor and cutter in the field, not that he hadn’t been staring at it all day, he did pretty well. Even cantering, not for long, true, but he managed to get the lead both ways and held it through a half-circle. We also went up the hill behind the barn, which was fortunately not at all exciting.

Since he worked SO HARD (in his mind) he got a Vetrolin bath and a special treat:

“See? CLEARLY, I worked. I wouldn’t get a poultice otherwise. Obviously I am in intense work. More peppermints.”

Yeah, he probably didn’t work THAT hard, but pampering never hurt anyone. In any case it’ll keep the flies off his legs.

The Heat Goes On

It’s hard to express how a drought feels to people who haven’t been in one. It’s even harder when you’re in an area not known for a shortage of water. But here we are. The ground is now rock-hard, and the grass has turned brittle yellow. So far, my garden survives thanks to the hose and judicious watering morning and night, and one squash plant even has a blossom. I’m watering the puddle in the driveway, even, to the benefit of the swallows nesting in my open shed and the wasps who are looking for mud daubs. The dogs refuse to walk for any length of time, between the heat and the deer flies, and we encountered a box turtle (a land-dwelling species, but everyone needs to drink) making a long journey across the neighbor’s field. The crops are in trouble again–the fruit farmers are already doomed, as the summerlike temperatures in March caused things to bloom early, and be wiped out when normalcy reasserted itself in April and the hard frosts hit. Now the corn and soybean fields have irrigation systems going constantly.

At the barn, finding a patch of grass that’s actually green is a challenge. The clover flowers are all turning prematurely brown. Everyone’s hooves are dried and Lucky’s that has the split looks worse. They all stomp, constantly, because of the flies, and they don’t want to move too much because of the heat. I went out Sunday morning, earlier than I normally would, hoping to maybe lunge a bit, but wound up simply bringing him in, grooming, and giving him a bath. Maybe the tea tree shampoo from Finish Line will add that astringent cooling factor and feel better than just a bath. I didn’t even feel bad when he immediately rolled-dirt is just one more layer for the bugs to punch through. The heat on Saturday was oppressive in a way that’s hard to describe-not humid, not especially dry, but intense and constant and inescapable.

Today we lunged, briefly, and I remembered I had oil-based wipe on fly repellent. I swear, at one point in the crossties, when he couldn’t reach around, Lucky actually presented his hip so I could smack the horsefly chomping on him. He was cooperative, for him, on the lunge, though I kept it to walk, a bit of trot, walk, reverse and repeat. Today the weather wasn’t as hot, but there was just enough humidity to taunt. It was overcast when I arrived and while we worked, but by the time I left the sun was out and the promising clouds were gone. All day, the weather taunted me. I think I even heard thunder this evening, but Puff remains calm and the ground is still dry. There is nothing more frustrating than seeing dark clouds pass by and wishing it would rain, and then they pass by.

(Yes, I saw the Belmont anyway. I didn’t really care who won, still not a fan of Union Rags, and still want to know what on EARTH Guyana Star Dweej was doing in that race.)

Lucky’s Looking Spiffy

I was not at all surprised to see everyone inside at the barn today. We’ve had about four days straight of brutal cold, though not as brutal as up my parents’ way (they got a -19 reading the other night) and today there was more snow with a ‘balmy’ 20 degrees.

Don't let the sun fool you.

After being mobbed by cats and greeted by a lot of whinnies (I think some folks had gone through their morning hay and were looking for more) I got Lucky out in the aisle to try on his birthday present:

He has a certain yak-like quality, don’t you think? And the halter does need a bit more oiling, but I chose London Tan because the dark leather just blends in, so it will not get too much darker.

Lucky gets his very own nameplate.

After a good grooming, I walked him in the barn aisle, and for fun, I tried it without a lead (as there was nowhere for him to go except into his own stall. Much to my surprise, at least walking in the closed barn, I can lead him, stop him, and back him without touching him. He does get a little confused by the idea of turning away from me without the lead, but he does it. All without any fancy training, DVDs, ‘join-up’ or analysis of his “horsenality.” Just playing on a bored day. He might just have been bored and looking for something to do, but he did cooperate. And he was quite happy to go back in his stall, where it was warm and dry. I’m sure by now he’s replaced all the straw that I picked out of his tail with new stuff.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

But I went to the barn anyway. Good thing I left early and was not planning to actually ride.

Nor was I planning to precipitate a stampede. In fact, given all four of the herd were at the very far end of their pasture, I was more worried about running the gauntlet in the lanes–Zoey and Dino were out in the lanes, and Zoey assumes that everyone is coming to see him so he gets more than a little personal. I made it past them, and was headed for the far end of the field when J. must have come out to help. P-nut looked up, and two people coming normally means “time to go in!” Now, P-nut is looking much more spry these days (thanks to getting much better feed than he did at his old place) but I didn’t know he could run like that. And, of course, that meant Vandy, Sky, and Lucky had to come charging, too. I probably looked pretty silly swinging the lead at them, but I was not trampled, so that was good. The best part was, when I made it back to the gate, while P-nut was happy to come over for scritches (as P-nut is a very friendly horse) Lucky realized who it was and started walking away again! Fortunately, I had Wint-o-green Lifesavers in my pocket, and Lifesavers have a crinkly wrapper. Yes, Lucky can be bought with crinkles.

We live in the lake-effect snowbelt, and for those who haven’t been watching the weather, we are getting winds and snow. Less snow than last weekend, but the wind is pushing it around. Also, yesterday was rain, so overnight, it all turned to ice. I’m closer to the lake and a tad farther north, so I tend to get more snow than the barn. Still, I had figured it would just be a ‘beauty parlor’ day, and I was right. While J. worked on the stalls, I gave Lucky a scrub with the curry and a little Bath In a Bottle, including picking out all the shavings and straw in his tail. He also was due for a clipping of the bridle path, as it was starting to look more like a mohawk. Yet again, I resisted the urge to give him a crew cut (I think he’d look cute with a roached mane) though J. had to remind him, don’t move when the barber’s working or you get a bad haircut!

Lucky got his first candy cane of the year. I also put candy canes in everyone’s stockings (yes, everyone gets a stocking on their stall door) and found that his pasturemates (ie, their “mom”, C.) had left a bag of horse cookies in Lucky’s. Lucky appreciates his Christmas gift. We tried putting him in his stall instead of trying to fight our way back to the pasture, but he decided to chew on his feed tub bottom. So, J. got the big door and I turned him out in the front paddock, since he obviously wanted to be outside. Where he promptly went and stood in the shelter, which is much less cozy than his stall. But he does set his own agenda.

Sharp-eyed readers of Susan Salk’s blog may have noticed that next week’s edition will feature a certain internet-celebrity thoroughbred! Lucky gets more press than some Derby winners. All to the good, as hopefully Lucky will inspire folks to call on those Finger Lakes’ Finests! It’s down to the wire (no pun intended) at the track, and weather or no, now is the time to buy!

Dino Hates Me

Well, probably not. The B.O. does not always get to ride as often as she’d like, so I offered and she nicely let me ride him this weekend.

Dino is not a bad horse. He’s just, like 99% of horses out there, not inclined to do more work than he has to. Lucky is another example. On Saturday, we decided (or rather I decided, as this is not a democracy) to jump the big log in the woods. (There’s a large tree down over one trail.) I realized, after our first couple attempts, Lucky was not so much refusing as he was testing. He wanted to see if, as there didn’t seem to be any way around the sides, it was possible for him to step rather than jump over it, or to knock it in some way as to make it lower. It’s just a shade too high to make that really practical, and it’s long and big enough he wasn’t going to move it, and so on about our fourth approach, he put as much hop as he was willing to muster into getting both ends over. He seemed quite disappointed by this.

Lucky does, however, show increasing enthusiasm for barrels. Not that he’s actually interested in RUNNING, oh, no, that’s too reminiscent of actual work, but he definitely has learned the pattern and in fact is getting very enthusiastic about turning close to the barrel (a little too much so, as we’ve actually tipped one over.) And on our first run-through Sunday, he picked up the canter without asking for the run back to the ‘timer’ (actually just back up to the fence.)
He is probably not going to be out-sprinting any gaming horses any time soon, but he does seem to be having fun pretending.

Dino, on the other hand, was not having fun. Dino does not like to go forward. I’m given to understand his previous owner mostly used him for driving for two years, and not much of that, so B.O. has had to deal with a horse who is no longer all THAT enthused about toting people around, despite having somehow survived as a trail horse another owner back. I rode him Sunday, after he’d been worked already, and just getting him to keep walking around the round pen was an effort. Trotting was not on his agenda. Having ridden four different horses in the round pen now, I begin to think a little of the problem (Dino’s laziness, Takota trying to buck at the canter, Lucky’s adamant refusal to canter on the right) in there is that it’s basically like riding a twenty-meter circle over and over. If the horse isn’t very fit and supple, it’s a ton of work for them to stay balanced. So Monday Dino and I skipped the round pen entirely and just went to the big ring. And trotted.

And trotted. And trotted.

I did not expect a whole lot of flexing or bending, but he did go forward. He tossed his head, we went forward. He tried to slow down, we went forward. He stopped, we went forward. He used stumbling as an excuse to walk, we went forward. We probably spent ten or fifteen minutes just trotting. One direction, then the other. Some very ‘vehicle makes wide turns’ circling and serpentines. We even managed a canter. On the left, at any rate. I didn’t ask for more than ten or twelve strides (as it’s been so long the B.O. was not even sure he knew how, but I figured as long as I had him out, why not ask) as he is woefully out of shape. But he has a very comfortable canter when he gets into it.

There just aren’t enough hours in the day, really. Dino and Takota need more riding, Lucky could progress much faster if I could ride every day, the B.O. bought that lovely pony cart for Dom and barely has time to use it . . . horse people need horse leave days, they really do.

The Weather Changes But Lucky, Not So Much

As folks who’ve looked at his pictures from the last entry may have notice, Lucky is, to put it politely, svelte. A little ribby, in fact. So the B.O. has been adding a morning grain feeding to his diet (previously he got all-you-can-eat hay plus grain in the evening only). As always, more grain can equal hotter behavior. It’s also officially fall now, the trees are turning, the acorns are falling, the dried leaves are crunching, the wind is blowing and the temperature’s dropped, meaning horses without their winter coats are now cool enough to feel a bit more energetic.

But then again this is Lucky we’re talking about.

Yesterday, he seemed a bit stiff, and since he’d had almost two weeks off, I was using the AP saddle, and had switched to the kimberwicke, I wasn’t sure what to expect today. I kept the kimberwicke, and (whether my butt liked it or not) used the PDN today. No galloping, just ring work yesterday and a little hacking in the hay field, and I started with the ring again today. The ring backs up on the scary woods of doom, which Lucky has been largely ignoring, which today were waving and crackling like Halloween come early. Lucky was more concerned with the monkey on his back wanting a lot of trotting than with the woods. I was doing a sort of half-remembered version of the training level one test (or what it was when I rode it years ago; I’m pretty sure I at least had the 20m trot circles in the right place) though that pretty much ended asking for a canter as going into the right lead was something of a scramble. As such, I think the last half of the pattern was somewhat out of whack, but going around the whole ring an extra time will do that.

I tried being fancy and setting up some proper gymnastics, which Lucky promptly knocked over for the most part. Though he did jump the x, after the first go-through. He demolished the back rail of the oxer and on the second pass took out the front rail, but when I cantered him at the three poles lying on the ground he took what felt like a massive jump over them. Deciding that was good enough, I followed everyone else out to the track where the B.O. was hacking Dino, and two of the other boarders had P-nut (looking much fatter and sassier than when he arrived) and Sky out for their amble around. We walked along with Dino, and Lucky was not in any hurry, nor did he show any indication of a desire to overtake. In fact a few times I had to bop the OTTB with the bat and jog a bit to catch up with the Gypsy Vanner.

After a leisurely tour of the hay fields, the B.O. and Dino headed back to the barn. Lucky tried to follow of his own volition, so to teach him a lesson I made him walk on past the gate and along the edge of the woods. The trail runs along the pasture and arena fence, with a relatively wide (golf-cart-width) path that only has a few overhanging branches. Which Lucky at one point stopped and tried to eat. The trail ends in the yard of the house next door (which has been for sale since I moved in) and I was debating riding him up along the edge of the road, but the ditch there is fairly steep. So my choices were to ride through the backyard, back the way I’d come, or into the woods and back to the track that way. It was cloudy, and windy, so of course I decided to go into the woods. Lucky’s reaction was mostly to prick up his ears. He walked over the acorns that were over most of the trail, let branches brush him, and though I did my best to steer around them, he stepped on downed branches if they happened to be in his way. Overall, the only down side of our ride today (if one discounts Lucky’s ‘shorter is easier’ view on jumping) was how sore I was when I got off after riding in the PDN that long.

In the barn, we may have a new resident. The B.O. and J. found a kitten by the side of the highway, looking lost and contemplating an ill-advised imitation of the proverbial chicken, for equally unfathomable reasons. She is a small and fluffy dilute calico who spent much of her time in the tack room, practicing the belief that “If I scrunch up and close my eyes, they can’t see me.” If she hangs around, I will get some pictures, as she’s very cute in a fluffy way. Nanook and the Pest aren’t entirely thrilled.

Now for an update, with photos!

Hopefully, I’ll also be able to upload some video, as Dad filmed some video of the riding (and the jumping at least looks better when we’re moving.)

TBs Together: Lucky and his new roomie.

Me setting jumps. Not sure why Mom felt like taking this one, but there it is.

Dad meets Dino. Dino meets Dad.

The B.O. was riding when we got there, and asked if Dad wanted to hop on. It took some persuading, as he hasn’t ridden since my old OTTB, Benny, died. He’d taken a few lessons on him while my brother and I were both at college, but that’s it for a while. Now, Dad is not particularly short. Dino is not especially tall. But Dino is BROAD.

Lucky and Dino. I really don't feel THAT much taller.

We were just walking around, killing time while J. finished dragging the track. The day before it had rained and their friends had brought over their trotting ponies to work after the races they’d been headed to were called on account of weather. Once he’d finished grooming it, we headed out so Mom could get some good pictures.

Jogging wrong way round.

We jogged for about a quarter-mile.

WAY down...

And then we turned back.

WHEE!

I like how he cocked his right ear back to listen to me.

Believe it or not, my stirrups are on the top hole, which I punched in them. I think I need to add another.

This is actually after we stopped after the half-mile pole, jogged back, and went for a walk/trot/canter in the field to the left in the photo and spooked up a little bird that was either a woodcock or bobwhite quail. See the crazy OTTB who must never be allowed to run because that's just CRAZY.

Seriously. Lazy-butt didn't even break a sweat.

After that, we went back to the arena for some flat work and a little jumping.

Some groundwork.

Jumping, with funny facial expressions (because I'm clucking at him. A lot.)

Cat crossing.

Did I mention Nanook really wanted to help?

They will NEVER find me here.

And here is the OTTB running barrels.

Speaking of crazy. Do not try this at home (unless you have a horse as sane as Lucky.)

Seriously, don't try this. Aren't you terrified of OTTBs yet?

If anyone’s wondering, yes, I’m riding aside on the PDN, and yes, he’s listening fine with the stick on the right and my leg on the left. The bit I’m riding in for all of the above is the rubber mullen-mouth dee.

Lucky getting a nice hose down and liniment on his legs. Not that he wasn't bone dry under the saddle. Lucky doesn't break a sweat unless it's 90 out.

Mr. Biscuit has no time for your shenanegans. (And in case anyone was wondering why there's cat hair on the barn towels....)

Yes, see the terrifying OTTB, who cannot be trusted outside the ring. For the record: rubber dee bit, no tranquilizing agents (though given he probably did that 3f in something like :48, he might as well have been on them), galloping, open fields (the track and the hayfield have no fencing), jumping crossrails, trotting and cantering barrels, letting silly rider tool around side saddle. And as for me, I’m happiest that while we were doing flat work, as I argued about picking up the right lead (LOTS of circles and rebending and trying it again) I lost an iron when we finally got the correct one and decided not to fuss picking it up and risk losing the canter. I stuck it so well my mother, the one who’s watched me ride for years, despite me passing less than three feet from where she was sitting with my right ankle at her eye level, didn’t even notice I’d lost it.

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