“He Was Something Like a Racehorse Undersized”


He was hard and tough and wiry – just the sort that won’t say die -
There was courage in his quick impatient tread;
And he bore the badge of gameness in his bright and fiery eye,
And the proud and lofty carriage of his head.

Or not, precisely. But at the BO’s suggestion we tried her Australian saddle on Lucky today. This is the first saddle I’ve ever put on him where he genuinely looked a little bug-eyed at the bulk of the saddle. That, or the size of the flaps, which go very far back over his flank compared to the PDN or the McClellan. I was surprised by how heavy it was-it’s been a long time since I’ve hefted anything bigger than a synthetic western onto a 15hh horse (Lucky never feels so much taller than Dino and Takota to me, but then I had to get the saddle UP.)

He walked out okay, so I figured I might as well try it. I think, ultimately, Lucky was more comfortable with the saddle than I was. I’ve sat in it before on Trudy (the resident red-headed mare) and didn’t really like the feel of having those “fenders” for lack of a better word almost over my thighs–it had the unnerving feeling of being strapped in. Actually riding out in it, I had the strangest sense of being in a saddle midway between a dressage saddle and stock seat. My butt thought it needed to be back on my pockets, but my legs couldn’t quite line up with that. I wound up in a sort of half-forward seat, never quite adjusted comfortably. I also forgot my crop, and with that much leather between my leg and his side I could barely get my heels on. Of course, this was pretty much fine by Lucky! For all it was cold and windy he was generally all right, though he had a very looky moment at a flyaway sheet of newspaper. He also definitely remembers turning around barrels, and considers an upended bucket and acceptable substitute (tomorrow I might get the barrels off the cart where they were moved for winter storage.)

I didn’t ride for too long. I don’t think the saddle was heavy enough to be dangerous for him, but it just wasn’t comfortable for me! Lucky did his best falling-asleep-underneath-you impression while I stopped to talk to P-Nut, Vandy and Sky’s owners as they were going out to the pasture. Of course, that might have been a hangover, as the dentist was out yesterday and everyone (except poor old P-Nut, who’d been done by the vet the day before along with that ‘delicate’ cleaning some geldings need sedating for) had their teeth done with the help of a few ccs of Xylazine. Lucky’s teeth, by the way, are quite nice, and at the floater’s request I passed along the name of the dentist who did the major work on him for future referrals (as this dentist doesn’t do serious power-tool fixes as Lucky required last year and was happy to have someone to call.) The day before that, the vet was out for spring shots and Coggins, so if we want to go anywhere he’ll be legal! All we need is a trailer and somewhere to go. I’m starting to think it might be good to find a schooling show and simply go for the experience, even if I end up not riding, just so he gets the idea of traveling being something routine.

We did take a walk in the hayfield after I unsaddled him (and found the Aussie saddle is almost as tricky to get OUT of as it is to get on him, and lifting it off his back, rather than dragging it over, was another reminder of how tall he is!) I thought about a walk in the woods, but he preferred someplace he could snack as he went along. And anyway, with the wind, I wouldn’t be surprised if a tree came down on us. Lucky had the pasture all to himself when I left, as his three buddies were all getting their turn being ridden (or tagging along after his girlfriend, in P-nut’s case–he’s touchingly devoted).) When I got home I found one of my sheds with the doors banging open and my plastic watering can I’d left on the bench by my door halfway across the yard. The trash bin was also on its side, but then for all it weighs when I’m having to drag it to the road it seems to blow over if there’s just a stiff breeze! The dogs got an extra-long walk, wind or no wind, as the rain passed us by and the rumored s-n-o-w seems to have also given us a miss (lucky us). I think I have succeeded in wearing them out (as I got up for a bowl of cereal while writing this and Tucker, who is firmly in the ’round is a shape’ camp and never misses a chance at food barely even looked up.) I just wish wearing them out didn’t involve wearing me out!

So, How Sick Is Too Sick For You?

So, yesterday morning, I woke up about five sick to my stomach. Not the worst stomach bug I’ve ever had, but not great, either. After ten or fifteen minutes of sitting by the toilet, which couldn’t have sounded too bad as the dog who sleeps in my room didn’t come to check on me, I decided it was safe to go back to bed until my alarm.

Is this the face of a dog who wouldn't be concerned? I don't think so.

After a few snooze alarms, while I debated whether or not to call in sick to work and see if sleeping a few extra hours would mean I’d be able to handle my dance lesson that afternoon (those I lose if I cancel on short notice, meaning it would need to be a raging fever and ER trip for that, whereas I’ve got hours to use up at work plus a boss who practically sets up a quarantine if anyone has the sniffles), I had to get up anyway to take the dogs out and feed the cats, and decided I was functional enough to go in. Dry toast and no coffee later, I did make it in, not that I got a huge amount done. I felt better enough by the time I got to the studio to make it through the lesson more or less as normal, besides a little jive fatigue. Brian even commented, “I almost hate to say it, but everything seems pretty good today.” I suggested I was just too tired to ‘argue’ (resist leads, overthink things, etc.) After a stop for ‘sick-day food’ (cream of wheat, vanilla ice cream, yogurt, and of course Vernors, a must for a sensitive stomach) I fed the in-house creatures, got the dogs out and in, took a nap, pretended to be productive, gave up, took an ibuprofen for the splitting headache, and went to bed.

After sleeping until almost ten (with a break at nine to see what dog outside bedroom was destroying–as it was Time Magazine, I left her to it)

She finds the Wall Street Journal and The Economist a bit too heavy.

I felt better enough to putz with housecleaning, and as that didn’t bring back the headache of doom or a visit to the bathroom floor, and it was nice out, if freezing cold, I figured a trip to the barn couldn’t hurt. Lucky required some bribery to come from the far end of the pasture (a little peppermint bribe never hurts) and the spring molt is in full force. He’s now in the funny fur-coat stage, where there are a few clinging ‘guard hairs’, and a silky medium-weight undercoat that’s going to grow out before he turns back into a sleek shiny blood bay again (right now he’s more brownie-brown). He’s also in the ‘fatty fat fat’ stage, and as the weather warms up there may need to be some cutting back on the grain, as the girth that used to go up three holes on the left now barely reaches two if I walk him long enough he has to exhale.

As such, he really does need to work, but while I wasn’t feeling as ‘run over by a truck’ as I was yesterday, I didn’t quite feel like making him. Not least because while I wasn’t feeling dead, I wasn’t exactly sharp, and in the event he bounced over a fence or decided to adopt an entirely new personality and bolt I wasn’t entirely sure I’d stay with him. We did get some trotting and circling done, but I came out of it far more sore than I really ought to be. Which has me wondering–obviously, if you have your horse at home, or if like me you have a house full of creatures that have to be tended, rain, shine, or splitting headache, you have to get up and do the basics. But as far as going out to the barn (if you board), taking the dogs on more than a perfunctory walk, when are you too sick? What’s the line between functionality and more harm than good? I’m notoriously bad at drawing it anyway, and when it’s the first decent weather of the year, it’s even harder to make the call.

Is One Week Without Something Breaking Too Much To Ask?

I’m fortunate as far as horses go. I know some people have animals who are constantly on layup for one thing or another. Lucky may not be the fittest horse on Earth, but he doesn’t need a vet out twice a month.

Now, is a house that doesn’t need a plumber, a furnace installer, and a well driller out in less than two months too much to ask? I was late to the barn this morning because I was waiting for an emergency visit from the well-drilling guy, because in the middle of last night my running water stopped running. Luckily for me, there was a well company answering their phone on a Sunday morning, but it did mean an hour of waiting for him and replacing the part. The furnace (which was twenty years old and really did have to go) was replaced last week. Before that, the plumbing backed up. How am I supposed to get anything done if nothing in the house works?

At least Lucky works. Grudgingly. But now the snow’s melted and the ground’s thawed so actual riding could occur! I unlocked the gate to the track and we tried for a little jog around the track. It was cold, overcast, and windy enough that Lucky wasn’t much for keeping his mind on things. We went halfway one way, and halfway back, and then went to the arena. Cantering is going to take some work again, and I think he definitely needs a visit from the massage therapist. That, and/or lots of round pen work with bending whether he likes it or not! Someone is more out of shape than I am. (Though I’m sure he’d say round is a shape.) I might even have to buy a 48″ girth!

Someone left an X up and ground poles, so I figured, why not. Lucky actually managed to more or less jump the crossrail three times without knocking it over. I called that good. It was starting to rain anyway. Of course, Saturday, when I had to work, was gorgeous. Lucky got his peppermints either way, though, so I think he was happy, and we did finish before the downpour started, which wasn’t long! By the time I got to the stores in Three Rivers is was a torrential downpour and of course the poor kid at Tractor Supply had to run across the parking lot to unlock the shed where the straw bales were. My trunk fits exactly one straw bale, which I’m going to use to try straw-bale gardening. It can’t possibly do any worse than I do with dirt!

And as far as Tucker the Corgi is concerned, I am the BEST OWNER EVER. I finally figured out that she wanted a BIG fuzzy squeaky toy (all the destroyed kitty mice were a clue.) And (since Meijer’s has buy one get one for $1 this week) I got her TWO. It’s better than biscuits! Definitely better than long walks like the one they had yesterday. Tucker feels about long walks the way Lucky feels about jogging a half mile–really better for someone else.

You may have noticed the lack of entries.

Of course, if you live in the right part of the country, you probably also noticed the Snowpocalypse Now event. I was reasonably lucky–my power was only out overnight Tuesday-Wednesday. On Tuesday night my boss was chasing us out the door barely at five, and we already had drifts over the roads. And for once the college wasn’t fooling around–we were closed by 9pm for Wednesday. Which was just as well. I wouldn’t have gotten out of the driveway on Thursday if it weren’t for the kindness of a stranger with a plow on his pickup, let alone Wednesday morning. The barn apparently is fine, with a tractor to plow out the worst of it. Tomorrow, I’m hoping to get down that way. Today I shoveled another inch that fell last night and am staying inside, making American chop suey in the crock-pot (for the uninitiated, it’s basically a tomato-sauce-like thing with beef that goes with elbow mac, known to some as goulash in the Midwest) and working on jewelry for my Etsy Store, Steampunk Sweethearts. My lovely coworker Tom helped break down a seven-day clockworks and I’ve now got plenty of lovely gears to play with.

To give everyone some idea of what we’re dealing with here in the lake-effect belt:

Climb ev'ry mountain....

I CAN SEE MY HOUSE FROM no, wait, it's the other way.

The Grant Memorial by Henry Merwin Shrady

The Wall Street Journal’s weekend edition had an article by Michael F. Bishop about the Grant Memorial at the U.S. Capitol, bemoaning its neglect and regretting how most visitors only pause near the bronze statues of a caisson unit and a cavalry charge to take pictures of the (admittedly imposing) West front of the Capitol.

I read the article and realized: “Oh, THAT’S what those statues with all the horses were about.”

From my June trip to Washington:

His legs are tucked high enough to please George Morris.

So you see, Mr. Bishop, not everyone who stands there is just photographing the Capitol dome from yet another angle. If anything the side groupings are infinitely more interesting than General Grant on Cincinnati at the center.

I will shortly be making prints of these, and other photos (from D.C. and elsewhere, horse-related and not) available as prints on my etsy store, Steampunk Sweethearts. Once the prints are available for purchase, for every sale, $5 (one bale of hay) will be donated to Sunkissed Acres to benefit the new arrivals and the resident herd. And, if someone buys one of the ‘high-ticket’ jewelry items in the main store, I will also make a donation to Sunkissed based on the value of the item. Let’s get those horses fed!

And I am posting from McDonald’s today, enjoying a coffee after a very cold walk-and-a-teeny-trot in the snow (with a McCellan not unlike those on the statues pictured!) Lucky looks increasingly yak-like, and was generally cooperative on the roughly six inches of lake-effect snow on the ground. (Much nicer than at my house, where Tucker the Corgi is swimming in two feet of the stuff! She thinks it’s fun, at any rate. My knotted-up back, from digging out the drive, would disagree profoundly. Puff just likes eating the snow like ice cream.) Lucky was very steady, and surprisingly cooperative despite my leaving the crop in the barn. Most impressively, and I have no idea how he figured this out as it’s certainly not something we practice a lot or even at all recently, he turned in the box of poles without stepping over, and when I asked him to stop in front of a pole and try a sidepass along it, much to my surprise, he did! To the left, it was a fairly pure one, even, and with the snow I could see lovely clean steps.

I suppose I should step up my search for an antique western saddle, meant to fit a high-withered horse. He has more talent for trail and barrels than he’s ever shown for jumping!

Thoroughbreds Do It All

No, really. Anyone who doubts it is welcome to come visit Lucky. An OTTB who finished racing a little under a year ago can go out, do an old-school work (jog 1/4, gallop 3f), go for a walk in the woods (proved to be a tactical error, though he’s vaccinated for encephalitis even if I’m not), walk around the track and go for a canter in a wide-open hayfield, walk back to the ring, do a few canter circles, and toss in a couple turns on the forehand before letting his rider play around with sitting ‘side-saddle’ (disclaimer: experienced rider on lazy horse. Do not emulate.)

That was Lucky’s day today. Yesterday also featured a track gallop, but after that mostly ringwork, including jumping. I am proud of him–on the third try, he took the oxer at the canter from a spot I picked, rather than from the best we could manage as he wove coming in (he still does a little, as if he’s not quite sure how to look at the fence) and he cantered off after. Strictly speaking, the line from the x to the oxer should probably be five strides, but I’ll take a slightly choppy six without a stop. After that, he got a turn around the barrels, at the trot and the canter. I don’t know if it’s the cooler weather, but he’s picking up the pace, by and large. He’s also gone from being stuck on the right lead to being stuck on the left (even on the track–he swapped for the turn and I couldn’t get him to switch back, even swapped whip hands to see if that helped. It didn’t.)

The dogs are coming home this week, rather than my going to pick them up, so hopefully I will get out to the barn again this weekend, possibly with pictures. I’d love to get some of him on the track–he likes to run with his head up (classic sprinter style) and his ears pricked.

As to why the dogs were gone, I was away this weekend at the Windy City Open dancesport competition in Chicago. Hopefully I’ll have some pictures of that, too. I can do something that does not involve barn grime, too!

Just for houndblogger…

Bedtime for doggies.

I need two pillows.

Sleepy time.

Sleeping dogs. Let them lie.

“Stretch” up there is Puff, a shepherd/sight hound mix, and the close-up is Molly, a beagle or beagle/basset mix. They’re old dogs. This is their favorite activity.

Getting ready for a week away!

Lucky is getting a break from me for a week! I’m off to DC, and that means while I may do a couple aside posts (like that one I mentioned explaining why Let It Ride is my favorite horse movie) there won’t be any Lucky updates. Puff, Tucker and the kitty crew have my parents and Molly to keep them company. Lucky has the herd, including three new members. The new boarders finally arrived last night, about an hour after I left. There are three new horses, two paint mares and a palomino gelding, who are getting settled in one pasture. One of the mares, the piebald, came over to say hello while we were cooling out, and Lucky seemed quite intrigued.

We do have six jump standards now, with holes up to 3’3″, not that I anticipate getting over THAT any time soon! After today’s ride (picking up the canter proceeds apace, the trot is better, both days would have been much nicer if we both weren’t ready to keel over from the heat and the ABSOLUTELY AWFUL humidity) taking crossrails at the trot is a victory. We didn’t achieve that, but I accepted a walk/hop over the two xs with a big forward trot after the second on our third try as good enough. Stylish it was not, but it was forward and he didn’t take a rail down.

His feet are looking lovely, by the by. The farrier came this week, and was pleased with the amount of growth all round. He will be back in three weeks to tweak the right front that had the quarter grab and said in the meantime to keep doing what we’re doing.

And yes, since I am hoping the hotel has wireless/high speed (and I am fairly sure it does, there will hopefully be a Monday update with some lovely photos–yes, including Nova and Nanook, the new barn residents. I was hoping to leave you with a teaser, but my connection isn’t cooperating, so you’ll just have to wait for Monday to see the stunningly gorgeous gelding and the complete adorableness of kittens. Lucky will have to wait for more work until the following Monday, when hopefully he’ll also have some new duds to show off, too.

An aside: Lucky and I would like to congratulate his fellow Finest (who had a much longer, harder road to her new life) Ducky’s Ho Oh on the arrival of her own little Goose.

A Day at the Barn

Sunday is often my free day; the day when I don’t have to work, and don’t have any other demands on my time. Sunday and Monday are the days I’m most likely to have off work (Saturdays rotate through our staff, so we all end up doing at least one a month, sometimes two) and Mondays often have to be reserved for things like vet appointments for the small animals, doctors’ appointments non-grocery shopping, oil changes and other things I have to do that require a business day. But Sundays, while Meijer or Wal-Mart will be open (and today Meijer had 2/$1 blackberries, so I am in blackberry heaven) most offices are closed, our museum isn’t open, my dance studio prefers not to schedule lessons, and I am generally free to do whatever I like, with no ticking clock to get somewhere else.

First order of business today was sleep in! It was a late night, with a dog having a nervous breakdown, near-blackouts, and dodging the tornado bullet again. My satellite went out with the rain, my plants got beaten up again, but all in all we were quite fortunate, again. Puff would disagree, as he is one of those dogs who simply can’t handle thunderstorms. So I didn’t even bother with the alarm today. I was planning on the barn, as the new arrivals are coming tomorrow and I’m not sure where they’re going to be turned out. The weather decided to cooperate, so after getting the dogs out for a quick walk and the cats fed, I grabbed my little cooler with a freezer pack in it and headed for the barn.

The thing about driving to the barn, it’s state two-lane highway most of the way, which is my favorite kind of driving, the automotive equivalent of taking the train instead of flying. You see the backyards (or front yards, in a car, I suppose), the little stores, quirky restaurants, yard sales and all the other sorts of things you encounter in rural or semi-rural small towns. Unfortunately because I’m usually in a hurry I don’t generally get a chance to stop. But yesterday, on my way home, I noticed that the guy who has a sign for deer processing and smoked meats had finally opened his retail shop, and I needed the cooler if I was going to get something perishable. The ground sausage (which, given the number of pig farms and hog auctions around here, was probably not far from its ingredients point of origin) made a great base for a spaghetti sauce tonight (another thing I can do on Sundays–cook!) and I now have venison sticks for protein snacking.

At the barn, I thought I had a missing horse. Two horses, actually. Lucky and Dino’s pasture was empty, I could see that they weren’t turned out in the lanes because the back barn gate was open (we now have a back barn gate because a rope kept everyone else out, but as some may remember, I have a clever horse. I knew the B.O. had been turning them out in the front paddock, but I hadn’t seen them in there when I parked by the fence. I was starting to wonder if Dino had learned the chain-slipping trick and they’d wandered off, or worse, until I finally saw a tail flick from behind the run-in. Yes, in a paddock full of grass that hasn’t been grazed on since last fall, they were both standing on the dirt in the run-in with the hay and mineral block. And of course Dino had managed to get his halter half off again. This is halter number two-he has a positive genius for slipping them. He also tried to sneak out behind us, but the one place Lucky has mastered the fine art of sidepassing is squeezing through gates. Dino is a little too big to squeeze.

Since riding in the pasture worked out so well yesterday, and in the continuing pursuit of not getting locked into routines, I hauled out the plastic steps and mounted in the lanes, and started out in their conveniently-empty regular pasture. Right away, we got a nice forward trot around the whole pasture, with a minimal degree of wandering eyes. He has moved from impersonating a giraffe to impersonating a Saddlebred, which is an improvement. And when we decided to canter, well–forward, correct lead, a little head-tossing to start, but I think he’s just trying to sort out what we’re doing and where his feet are going. Two-point made it easier on him, though on the right, surprise surprise, it also took a little more leg, little whip tap on the shoulder, and a little growling. Funny how he digs down and works when I do that. Most impressive was when the herd in the next pasture (Trudy, Dom and Takota) saw us cantering and decided to join in. I had actually just asked for a walk and Lucky, hearing oncoming hoofbeats, wasn’t sure about that. But he still came down to a walk.

Our next accomplishment–Lucky has been good about my opening gates from his back, but so far we’ve failed at closing the arena gate behind us. Today, despite backing still being a hit or miss concept, with a little extra reach from the bat and lots of leg, I managed to get the gate closed without having to dismount. One of the down sides to not having ‘ground crew’ (ie parents, brother, etc). I had also prepared in advance for riding in the ring. We don’t have any jump standards, but we do have poles, a stump, and a bucket. So we have an ersatz cavaletti, with a lead-in ground pole. After some more flat work, we made our first try at something higher than two poles stacked on top of each other.

Lucky put in basically the same effort he does for the poles. A little more leg, and he took it with slightly higher knees. But it’s apparently not something he feels the need to put in effort about. To the point he knocked a rail down. Lacking a ground crew, I had to get off to reset it, so while I was down there, I figured I would shorten the stirrups a hole. And put the rail up as a vertical. Not a very tall one, but enough he would at least have to think about it.

He obviously was thinking, as we got a big bounce over it. On the second attempt, however, Lucky learned how to run out. As the stump is up against the fence, he had only one option and went left. So I got down and turned one of the poles into a very small version of a chute. This time, he tried to go left and jumped the end of the rail on the bucket, and rapped the rail, taking it down. I was getting a lot of practice getting off and back on, which he was perfectly tolerant of. Finally, FINALLY, with a lot of forward and left leg and right rein and technique that was not going to win any ribbons in the Hunter or the Eq ring, he got over it two or three times. On the plus side, not matter how sloppy, he doesn’t swerve, bolt, or stop dead after the fence. He’s just kind of puzzled that I want him to do something requiring that much effort.

We cooled out walking around the pasture again, and I gave him a real bath, complete with shampoo. I’m not sure if he enjoys the being clean part, or the part where he’s getting hosed down. But he definitely will stand for it. While I was scrubbing, the B.O.’s daughter and her daughter arrived with two new small barn residents: Nanook and Nova. I wish I’d had my camera–Lucky of course needed to inspect the kittens. Nova (who is a pale gray tiger-stripe) was not entirely sure about this big giant nose that wanted to sniff him. Nanook did an excellent impression of a toddler clinging and burying his face his mother’s leg until the big scary thing went away.

Another nice thing about Sunday is I can do all this, feed Lucky his peppermints, and still have time to go shopping and get home to walk the dogs while it’s still light out, and have time to cook dinner for myself without feeling rushed. Sometimes you just need a Sunday.

Ohmygodit’s HOT!

Sorry, not a very original subject line, but it is hot. No Bataan Dog Marches today–there might be actual collapses from heat exhaustion. They’re still sacked out on the floor, waiting for the AC to help.

That did not let Lucky off the hook, though. Today we started in the big ring, and he was more or less all right. Maybe yesterday he was just done with working. The hand is still highly uncooperative, but Lucky was, in general, more so. Maybe it was the heat. He wasn’t overenthused about trotting much, and I didn’t argue as we were more or less traveling in straight lines when so asked and going all the way around. The BO had Dino out to give him a bath, which meant that their pasture was empty. I managed to get the gate open from his back, and decided we’d try going for a ride in their pasture. Lucky seemed slightly puzzled at the idea of going through his pasture gate with me on his back, but he did what the crazy lady on his back asked and went. It was kind of nice–more open space than the ring, but still with fences. It also gave Lucky a chance to have a drink from their tub.

He got a real full-out bath today with shampoo (and iodine; he still has that itchy spot) and he was more than happy to stand there and get sprayed everywhere. I can’t say I blame him. He even stood, even anticipated, the sponge squeezed between the ears. I should have taken my camera–he’s finally starting to look like a sleek, shiny thoroughbred. Of course I’m sure he found a sandy spot to roll in as soon as I turned him back out, but he was all pretty and clean for a moment, anyway.

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