Another Day At The Farm

Puff has a nap.  Waiting for me to finish cleaning the barn is boring.

Puff has a nap. Waiting for me to finish cleaning the barn is boring.

The mighty black panther stalks the yard.

The mighty black panther stalks the yard.

It's a hole, it's a hole it's a hole oh boy oh boy it's a hole...

It’s a hole, it’s a hole it’s a hole oh boy oh boy it’s a hole…

Where to next?

Where to next?


It's a hole.

It’s a hole.

IT'S A HOLE.

IT’S A HOLE.

OMYGOD MOST INTERESTING HOLE EVER.

OMYGOD MOST INTERESTING HOLE EVER.

It's a cave!

It’s a cave!

Nope, just another hole.

Nope, just another hole.

Grazing without a shower for a change.  (Yes, the dark on the ground is divots of dirt from the wet ground being chewed up.)  Look at that shiny copper penny coat.

Grazing without a shower for a change. (Yes, the dark on the ground is divots of dirt from the wet ground being chewed up.) Look at that shiny copper penny coat.

Lucky's new haircut.  Shows off his neck.

Lucky’s new haircut. Shows off his neck.

Guess who had a walk around in a circle with a saddle on his back? Yep, Tice, that’s who. He appears to need a 48 girth, which is mostly what I wanted to know. He behaved quite well putting it on (a Crosby PDN with a foam riser and fleece pad), actually, and walking a quick circuit outside with just a chain lead and halter, but decided to try fussing in the cross ties. Backing up until we decided to stand seems to work, though. Lucky may get some exercise later–Mr. R’s son, who’s been helping clean the barn when I’m not here (Mr. R started doing it while Dad was in the hospital) has a half-day and might be able to come and try riding. For all the stuff he’s shoveled, he’s earned it. If they can’t come today, I may just tool around a bit. The ground’s still soft so nothing exciting. Any time the rain wants to give it up would be fine with me.

What is this green stuff which grows on the ground?!?

ImageImage

Yes, it’s going to be a fuzzy, fuzzy week as all the fluff comes off, but yes, there is GROUND!  With GRASS!  And yes, we may finally have fed Tice enough that he is not skinny.  (He still is a bottomless pit, though.  U-gard and SmartCalm Ultra have not taken the edge off an appetite that makes Cookie Monster look abstemious.)

Also, Lucky and Tice wish to congratulate their mutual “cousin” CALIFORNIA CHROME on his dominating victory in the Kentucky Derby.  (Tice is related via A.P. Indy, sire of Pulpit and Tice, while both Lucky and Chrome have Olympia in their fifth generations, in Chrome’s case through Lucky Pulpit’s dam.  Though Lucky, being triple linebred, shows a lot more of that sprinter style.)

First Day Out!

DSC_0019

Not enough fly spray in the western hemisphere, but we try.

Not enough fly spray in the western hemisphere, but we try.

Coming out!  (Thursday provides an escort.)

Coming out! (Thursday provides an escort.)

Thursday is an expert at photobombs.

Thursday is an expert at photobombs.

You can see Lucky was very excited.

You can see Lucky was very excited.

Whee!

Whee!

Maybe a little excited.

Maybe a little excited.

We're not getting back in the truck, are we?

We’re not getting back in the truck, are we?

Exploring the hill.  And the shade-it's hot and muggy today.

Exploring the hill. And the shade-it’s hot and muggy today.

Finding the good rolling spot is critical.

Finding the good rolling spot is critical.

But eventually the most interesting thing is the grass.

But eventually the most interesting thing is the grass.

It’s a hot and muggy day as the dogs would attest if dogs could type, though not so hot Tucker didn’t grab her chance to run after a rabbit on the road (Dad stepped on her leash before she could keep going into the swamp.) Right now, Lucky and Tice seem most interested in the hay under the lean-to and hoping that someone might think about letting them back into the barn. (No, horses. Go eat more grass.) They’ve been fly sprayed to the hilt, but some of the flies aren’t convinced.

However, we're trying some all-natural fly control...

However, we’re trying some all-natural fly control…

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.)

“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!

Going for a Run

Lucky might be reluctant to work, but he knows what he’s supposed to do when he’s asked. It was bright and sunny and freezing cold (and he is still fat and less than enthusiastic about getting going) so I opened the gates and we went out. The woods are particularly noisy right now–all the dry, dead, leaves, down branches (alas, our big jump log has been chopped up for firewood), squirrels and chipmunks and birds, new growth on raspberry and rose vines sticking out. Lucky was on the alert side, but we kept it fairly short and he stayed cool. Out on the track, I’m not sure who was in worse shape, him or me, but in fairness to me he wanted to stop trotting before I would have NEEDED to stop posting. In fairness to him, I was close to getting left behind when I turned him around at the top of the stretch and he assumed it was time to gallop. The second try was a bit smoother, though he insisted on walking into that one.

Strange as it sounds, I think he might have needed that. Maybe a sprint was good for stretching out the winter kinks because in the ring, he was a lot more cooperative about the trot than he was Saturday. Despite the kefuffle going on in the paddock next door. We have a guest horse, who’s living here while his owner finishes building a barn, and he and Takota were busy chasing each other and playing the ‘got your halter’ game while sorting out who is boss. (Answer: Vandy and Trudy, but that’s why they’re in other pens. Don’t argue with the redheaded mares.) Lucky’s canter was increasingly less awkward, and we managed three times over the poles and crossrail without knocking anything down. On the third try, he even cantered off on the correct (left) lead. Not easy on him, as turning left requires going downhill, but he managed! He even worked up an actual sweat (though there’s still a lot of fuzz going on, which didn’t help) that required real rubbing down after walking. Of course, given winter coats, the girth mark will magically reappear later, but he appreciated the extra attention, including a liniment rubdown.

So, lesson of the day, if you want a happy, forward TB, try and breeze a quarter (or a furlong) first.

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.

Room For One More?

So there’s an empty stall at the barn. And the B.O. asks me on occasion, “Found your second horse yet?” In the winter time, when weather and lack of daylight make it hard to deal with one horse in any detail, it’s easy to brush it off. The days are getting longer, though, and the snow’s melting enough to make riding faster than a walk feasible, and there is that empty stall, which is of course begging to be filled. And when it’s Sunday, and there’s really no need to rush, and Lucky’s only fit enough for twenty minutes (that grass verge in the big ring is on an incline, so we’re doing some incline training–he should just be happy it’s not any steeper) it feels like there’s plenty of time. Though I’m not sure I could survive being buried in that much more horse hair. The yak is shedding out, and his mane is getting long, though I gave him a racing clip for the bridle path last week. (Yes, I like the look when it’s half down the neck, so sue me.) Though looking at Clancy’s horse in “The Man From Snowy River” tonight I still keep thinking I ought to just roach the whole thing. He won’t care and if I don’t like it, it will grow back. Plenty of time for that.

There’s also plenty of horses for window-shopping. For some reason (probably the price), I found myself looking at this one last night. Someone, please tell me I have not been drinking the racing Kool-Aid and that horse actually is fat? I mean, I opened the link and my reaction was “Fattie fattie two-by-four, can’t get through the feed room door.” Yet, I find him oddly appealing. Partially, I”m sure because he’s a chestnut. No more bays, really. I swear. At least no more totally unmarked bays with no white on them.

And of course, there is always craigslist. Though I have to admit, some of the people around here have somewhat optimistic appraisals of what their “could be finished for anything you want!” horse. Not a lot of total freebies, though there are some that tug at you. Like this guy, who at twenty might still have get up and go, but really, people. Or, up near my parents you have the could-be-worses, the reasonably-priced, and the…what now?

Gold star, though to this ad. I think that is first craigslist ad I’ve ever seen that references HYPP status (and N/N to boot.)

And on craigslist, there’s also the ducks. I’m trying to keep myself out of Tractor Supply until chicks-and-ducks-time is over, but the prices on craigslist always seem so reasonable . . . and the fat corgi does need something to herd. Besides the cats, anyway.

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