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.


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.

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.

Spring Fever

We’ve gone from the “blizzard of the century” to unseasonably warm in a matter of about two weeks. Lucky for me, Tractor Supply was having a clearance on grooming tools and I got a metal curry, because when I arrived at the barn, I had a brown and tan horse instead of a plain bay. Yes, someone discovered the mud. So in addition to a hairy horse, I had a dusty one, as most of it had dried. Which at least meant he didn’t smell too bad and it came off nicely. Of course most of it went up my nose, and what didn’t went on my coat and jeans, but such is spring.

I think I also have a fat, as-sassy-as-Lucky-gets horse. Today I put the saddle on, and I brought out the pelham on suspicion I might need a bit more leverage, as the ground is soft enough for some actual work but it was cooling off enough he wouldn’t be sweating just from standing around, fuzz or no fuzz. Most of the arena was slop, but the grass side was soft but no standing water. Lucky is definitely out of condition, as the expression goes. I know he’s not too chubby because the girth cinches on the same holes, but he definitely had to act like like the entire business was a massive chore, and required tons of effort. He spent a lot more time bent out, watching, than going forward, and I probably rushed the decision to canter as that resulted in more up than forward, with head-tossing and a very tucked-under, scooty butt. So more trotting, and a long series of serpentines at the walk. We did get some canter later that was more like a canter for a few strides, and I cut him some slack. He IS out of shape, and the footing wasn’t the greatest, and of course the grass part of the arena is on an incline, so too much work would not be fair. It’s probably time to have the dentist take another look, and I’m thinking once he’s a little further along the shedding process and the weather is for sure cleared up, I’ll call the massage therapist to give him a spring tune-up before we get back into three and four days a week and some barrels and jumping.

In bringing out the pelham, I put together an old bridle and was missing pieces. Just the cavesson, so I decided not to bother. And while it looked kind of funny it didn’t otherwise affect anything, as I don’t use a flash or a martingale. I found myself wondering, if you aren’t using any of those, what purpose does it serve, anyway?

The Manner To Which He Has Become Accustomed

I’d like to know who started the myth that thoroughbreds at the track get no individual attention and are largely ignored when they’re not being worked. Lucky probably spends a good deal of time wondering why, precisely, he is not worked for a maximum twenty minutes, they bathed, poulticed, wrapped, hand-walked, and put in a stall with straw up to his knees and a full haynet 24/7. He’ll take being turned out on grass, don’t get me wrong, but there are times I suspect he’s wondering about this whole no-frills thing.

He is slowly getting the hang of jumping, or at least he appears to. However, while he’s going forward without stopping as much, I do notice a trend: he’ll clear each “fence” (6″ and 9″) on the first pass, and the second time he’ll go ahead and knock the rail down. He is CAPABLE of picking up his feet, but it’s as if he decideds “Nah, it doesn’t hurt enough hitting the pole to make it worth more oomph.” Considering, though, that he is now by and large not screeching to a halt before each pole, carefully examining it, and then leaping from a standstill when no alternative option is provided, I’ll consider it an improvement. We even had a little cantering after the rail, which is nice. And Sunday, he picked up the canter from the walk on the left, and hit the lead, and with a minimum amount (about 1/4 the ring, which is minimum for him) of huge trotting he picked up the right. It is not a slow round canter, but it’s a three-beat canter that keeps going forward. Improvement.

Monday, because I found a bite or rub of some sort just back of where the girth goes (it’s not a spur mark; I don’t wear them) I decided let it heal up, so instead Lucky had another spa day. Since the B.O. had Show Sheen and detangler around, we decided to do Lucky’s hair, or at least, make it all clean and shiney. Since I’m not braiding any time soon, who cares, right? He seemed quite pleased with his detangled tail–it makes a much more efficient fly whisk that way. The Show Sheen and detangler were on hand because Lucky is going to be missing his roommate for a few days. Dino is off to the county fair to be displayed as an example of his breed. I’m sure he won’t let this go to his head.

We’re Fine, We’re All Fine Here. How Are You?

Just nothing exciting to report this week. My parents brought down the last two sets of jump standards Dad finished, and even at ten in the morning when we dropped them off it was already chokingly hot. I pulled Lucky out of the pen and decided today would just be another bath day. I brushed him off and gave him an aloedine bath, with lots of hosing. Then he got scraped and toweled and liniment and hoof dressing, and probably figured this was the best day ever because he got handwalked up and down the drive, eating on grass. By the time he had dried off enough to flyspray (again) and turn out, it was up near 90 again. Gag-inducing humidity did not help. Lucky was perfectly happy with no riding in it. I am happy not to experience heat prostration again.

However, we may be facing a more serious crisis: we are out of peppermints. And Costco, where we went after the barn, DID NOT HAVE PEPPERMINTS. They did, however, have wintergreen Lifesavers, so hopefully, he is not highly selective about which kind of mint. Until I can get to a store with bulk peppermints, this may be a concern. Otherwise, we will be at Defcon One.

Lucky Gets a Spa Day

I hit the barn after work, and of course, since I’d worn tights and boots, it was hot and I really just didn’t feel like riding, adequately hydrated or not. This worked out fine anyway, as I’d picked up the old braiding kit and the clippers at my parents, and Lucky needed some work. His bridle path was a mess, as in an actual knot, and I was also curious to see how he handled the clippers. I assume that he’s been clipped in the past, at least had his bridle path done. I also wanted to pull his mane–not short enough to braid, but at least I’d get some weight off his neck with the weather as hot as it’s been.

I confess, I’ve never done either of these things myself. I don’t braid, either (as I mentioned to the BO today it took me until my twenties to be able to braid my own hair and anything involving yarn or thread is best left to other people or it comes out looking like a Boy Scout knot-tying merit badge project gone seriously awry.) My trainer, generally, pulled Benny’s mane, and as for clipping, after the incident at my parents’ barn one summer where an attempt to clip his ears (which had always been a pretty easy prior to that, except the last time our old trainer had nicked his ear) lead to finding out how panic snaps work and a farm call by Dr. Pol to sew his forelock down where he’d bashed his head on the rafter, that involved the vet and tranquilizers. Lucky is laid-back as a general rule, so I didn’t expect drugs would be required (for him, anyway) but I still wasn’t going to experiment with the ears. I figured, start with something hard to screw up and then get his mane thinned down.

Lucky, more or less, was a champ as usual. I am glad I have no reason to try doing his ears, thought, as even brushing them accidentally with my hand or the clippers’ cord lead to head-tossing (I ended up putting a chain over his nose again.) He’s not been a fan of even putting roll-on repellent on, so I suppose it’s not surprising. But once I got going, he suffered the indignity of a buzz cut with good grace. I did a longer clip than I suppose is strictly fashionable for show hunters, but then he’s not going to a show any time soon. I was tempted to roach the whole thing off, but then he would just look funny. I did a bit of testing with the clippers around his fetlocks and his muzzle, and it seems as though so long as we avoid the ears, it’ll be fine.

Pulling took a while, and I can see where it would be very easy to get carried away. Also, horse hair could make an excellent substitute for piano wire if necessary. His mane is now much thinner, and it all more or less hangs on the right. I don’t actually care if he has a split mane, but the overwhelming majority has been flopping on the right now, so best it’s uniform.

I gave him a Vetrolin bath when we were done, mostly to help with the cooling, and also because some of the ingredients are supposed to help with flaking skin and he looks like the before shot of a Head n’ Shoulders commercial along his neck. This time, I walked him and let him graze on the lead while he dried, instead of letting him out to roll right away. We’ll be having some visitors tomorrow morning, and since one is a little girl who is very excited about meeting a real live horse, it would be nice if he could be a nice, clean, shiny real live horse. (Yes, I’ll be getting there before they do and grooming.)

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