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.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Gaye McCullough
    Jun 07, 2010 @ 05:58:46

    Sounds like you had a great day!


  2. Teresa
    Jun 07, 2010 @ 21:29:17

    I love how reluctant he is to do anything that requires any effort…he must figure that he’s already worked hard enough.

    And of course, I’m awaiting kitten photos…


    • luckytocope
      Jun 07, 2010 @ 22:37:00

      If I get a chance to get to the barn Saturday (I’m leaving Sunday; the ‘rents and Molly are going to be dog-cat-garden-sitting while I’m away and Lucky will get what I’m sure he’ll think is a VERY well-earned break) I’ll try to get some kitten pictures.

      I think it must just be much more mental work than he ever did before–instead of “go out, jog, gallop, go in”, he has this weird person asking him to do all these different things. I didn’t even mean to ride as long as I did today, it just all seemed to work out that way.


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