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.)


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.

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.

The Addressing of Reins

I had thought today was going to be a bust, given the huge storms this morning. Poor Puff was a nervous wreck, and spent some time in the crate (it was that or my lap, and he weighs forty pounds.) But by the time I got out of work, it had cleared up and turned sunny. Not that hot, fortunately. I can do without another round of heat prostration.

Even so, I didn’t ride for too long. For a start, I discovered when I arrived that if everyone is in the barn, and you give ONE horse a drink, EVERYONE needs a drink. Because of the storms, all the horses were inside, and a couple had empty buckets. It was close enough to feeding time that the ones who didn’t need water assumed that I must be there with dinner. So everyone got a little extra water so we could all see no one was getting anything exciting.

Thanks to a recent thread on COTH, I found I’ve apparently been holding pelham reins wrong all these years. I’ve been holding them the way I was taught (snaffle between the ring and little fingers, curb rein beneath the little finger.) Apparently one is supposed to run the snaffle through the ring and little fingers, but the curb above between the ring and middle fingers. Besides feeling quite odd, it doesn’t seem to make a huge difference so far, but as it doesn’t seem to do anything bad (besides mess with my muscle memory and as a kinesthetic learner that’s profoundly annoying) I will work with it. Wouldn’t want to be wrong, and Lucky does not seem to care either way.

After yesterday’s scorching temperatures and storms starting in the evening (which I spent at my first dance party at my new studio here, which was a lot of fun for everyone except my feet) today was actually quite nice. Still hot, but there was a nice breeze. I don’t know if Lucky was enjoying the cool weather, or figured that cooperating would get me off his back faster, but overall, he was good. I’ve been suspecting that he’s a little footsore–the protest-by-stopping, without obvious lameness or back soreness, and his tendency to pick things up in his hooves (I’ve cleaned out more pebbles from his hooves in seven months than I did from Benny’s in fifteen years) so I think he may be more tender some days than others. Today was apparently not one of those days–he was a little fussy about standing still, in fact, and despite not especially wanting to bend right he eventually decided to trot on.

Today was a good day for cantering, in the sense of picking it up. In the sense of getting the correct lead, not so much, but he was consistently wrong–first try to the right he picked up the left, first try to the left, he picked up the right. I did get probably a half-circuit each direction of the correct lead. On the right, we had a stumble, as I picked it up at the far end going towards the woods, which is a downhill slope, but he got it back. On the left, it took a great deal more fussing and a smack on the shoulder (which is probably reinforcing a racing command, but if it gets me a swap, I will take it.) I suspect I’m also a victim of muscle memory here, as the canter cue has always been one thing, but he has the ‘opposite’ racing cues just as ingrained. After getting a good lead each way, I let canter go for the day.

We now have white poles for jumps, and after working on trotting ground poles in a straight line (left to his own devices Lucky drifts right like a car in serious need of an alignment) I took him over a 6″ and a 9″ “vertical” (they’re on standards so they’re not really cavaletti, and yes, I know, baby heights, but baby steps here.) And first time through, we have achieved jump! The canter to it was not asked for, but since he picked it up I went with it. The spot was not the prettiest in the history of over-fences, but he actually put a little effort, I didn’t catch him with my seat or hands, and I didn’t have to go to the stick and heels to keep him forward after the fence. Now, if I’d been smart, I’d have quit there, but I told him “One more and we’re done.” So this time he took the top rail down. Being sans ground crew, I decided to let it go, as there was no stopping and he went forward over both jumps without stopping, and I didn’t want to push my luck. So, .500 for the day overall, but I suppose I should count it as a little bit more victory than failure as he is learning to go ON.

Now it just needs to be a little cooler so we can go back on the track for a little galloping. Or at least a little less humid. Mr. Florida-Bred probably thinks I’m a wuss, but I notice he’s not complaining about getting a hosedown and Vetrolin brace after working, either.

Aw, HAIL no…

I’m still on “be careful” status with the finger, but I wouldn’t have been able to ride in any case as some nasty, nasty weather was rolling in as I got to the barn. We aren’t getting hit as hard as they are farther south, but the thunder was already starting. (It was gorgeous yesterday. Go figure.) Lucky once again dodges the riding bullet. He’s going to HATE me next weekend–my brother is coming to visit. The one who takes regular lessons on horses who are much less cooperative than Lucky. So even if my finger is still not cooperating, he will actually get ridden.

He is finally starting to look like a horse with a summer coat. The world’s itchiest itchy spot still exists under his mane, but most of the long hair elsewhere is FINALLY gone. He has the whole sleek seal coat going on, though it does show off how he’s got some pounds to gain. Not TOO much, I hope! Last week during the ill-fated Tractor Supply trip I was examining weight-gain supplements. I’d like to try something, but don’t want to up his grain intake too much (contrary to what he would tell you, he does not need ten pounds a day.) I don’t want him fat, just a little less skinny. Preferably not by standing there feeding him treats all day.

I finished up while J. was bringing in the others. It wasn’t, per the weather channel, supposed to storm, but we could already hear the thunder. By the time I’d swept up and put away my grooming bucket, the really dark clouds were moving in. By the time I was going through town, the rain had started getting serious. When the first piece of hail hit the car I nearly had a heart attack! I did manage to keep going, and as I went west it got better. I got home in time to rescue poor Puff. Thunderstorms are very, very stressful for him. It was hardly raining when I got there and he spent a half-hour following me around, shaking, and pretending to be disinterested in dinner.

Lucky, as far as I can tell, is not letting his new internet celebrity go to his head. He is wondering why he’s not getting a higher proportion of peppermints in his diet, as is his due for being “famous”.

Hair, Hair, Everywhere

The weather up here is not conducive to riding. Everyone had a case of the windy crazies out in the pastures. I usually don’t have to put the chain on Lucky’s nose to bring him in, but today he needed the reminder. Dino also tried to make a run for the gate, while over in the other big pasture Trudy, Dom, and Takota were running laps. I can’t really blame them all–besides the constant blowing wind and the intermittent downpours (which was an improvement over the day before, which featured thunderstorms) it was cold. Cold enough for a flannel-lined raincoat and gloves, noses-running (his and mine) cold. And the wind wasn’t making it any better. Since I am still one-handed, more or less (the second x-ray is tomorrow, my appointment with the bone and joint specialist is Monday) riding in the wet cold while he was already zooey seemed like a bad plan. Hard to contain a spook if you can’t close your left hand!

I have to wonder if this is the universe conspiring to make me spend an hour at a time on grooming. I swear, every time I think we’ve made headway into this whole shedding thing, I come back and there’s more hair. I’m not exaggerating with the ‘hour’ part. Most of that involved the curry comb, too. I am starting to see what looks like a summer coat on his neck, chest and shoulders, but from the shoulder back, there still fuzz. Wet fuzz today, given it’s been raining on and off and even though they have perfectly good run-ins full of perfectly good hay, it’s more fun to stand out in the wind and rain eating grass and scaring yourself with trees blowing. Horse minds. Even in the barn, Lucky, who is normally pretty unflappable (see last entry for examples) was not exactly at ease with the big door closed behind the crossties and creaking in the wind. Leaving it open, though, would have turned the place into a (cold) wind tunnel, so he dealt. I spent probably thirty minutes just on the curry, and finished up with a rub rag after brushes, which I don’t always use. Overall, his coat looks better. There are a few scaly spots, but not the full-body dandruff. It was too cold to give him an iodine wash, so I spot-treated what I saw. On the plus side, it’s too cold to worry much about bugs!

He was actually pushy going out as well, so back to the chain again. Probably the weather, and he even did a big trot out and a canter circle with what might have been a buck when I let him loose. Dino was duly unimpressed. The sky was getting dark again, but they both kept standing out in the rain.

I am window-shopping now that the Finger Lakes trainer listings and CANTER are back in full swing. (Hey, every hunter needs a couple horses, right? Plus Lucky was so good about one-hand reining and jogging for me off the seat and legs, and is so disinterested in bit contact and goes on a loose rein, maybe he harbors a deep desire to go Western! He could totally do it! I even have a cowboy hat. 😉 ) Looking at all these nice sales pictures has driven home–Lucky has REALLY got a split mane. Half of it’s on the left, half of it’s on the right. He’d been not-quite-roached when I got him, but now that it’s grown out it’s really, really obvious. I’m tempted to just roach it, but he doesn’t really have a fantastic neck, plus a mane gives him at least a little layering to keep the bugs away. Plus I’ve never been a fan of roached manes–but there’s that hunting print I have with all these roach-maned horses. Maybe it wouldn’t look that bad. I’m not planning to braid him any time soon.

It looks like the stormy weather has finally passed by. I hope so–I’d like to get to the barn if the x-ray doesn’t take too long tomorrow. Plus, Puff does not handle storms well. To put it mildly. The other night I ended up with forty-two pounds of shepherd mix crawling into my lap. He has a very, very stressful day when it storms.

Red-Headed Mare!

I cannot decide if my headache is from the weather constantly changing today, or from feminine issues–probably a bit of both. This morning was bright, clear, cold, and VERY windy, and by the end of the day we’d gone through at least two cloud fronts. So either this is my monthly migraine starting, sinus-pressure changes, or both. Huzzah.

Probably with some allergies contributing. It took more than a half-hour to groom today before a ride. Lucky wasn’t dirty, he’s just shedding out. And shedding out. And shedding out. At least one other purchaser of a Finger Lakes’ Finest has mentioned her mare having a downy-soft coat, almost like a baby coat, and that does seem to be what Lucky’s feels like. And it’s coming out in clumps. He was especially happy today to stand and let me scrub his face up between his ears.

It was, as I mentioned, extremely windy, enough that I wasn’t so much worried about spooking as my own discomfort. This was hard enough my car was getting pushed around a bit on the drive over, and it was just as bad on the horse. Every time I turned into the wind I got a facefull of hair (his and mine) and dirt blown up from the footing. Yech. We did have one butt-scooting spook, but I’m honestly not sure if that was the wind, the BO’s daughter coming up to the ring behind us, or something else. Whatever it was, he stood while I talked with her and went on after that and seemed largely disinterested in the kids running around. We stuck with W/T today, and he was back to protest-by-stopping, and I am starting to wonder if the tooth the specialist is coming for is really bothering him. The head-up and stopping don’t seem to be spookiness or related to actual attempts to run. He responds to the bit and leg when asked. There’s no heat in his legs or back and the masseuse didn’t find any hypersensitive points on his back. It’s happened with both saddles (very different shapes) and he’s generally going well in the PDN, so I don’t think it’s a matter of saddle fit. The tooth is a known issue, so possibly it bothers him more some days. If that doesn’t fix the problem then I will see about getting the vet back out to watch him go and see if they can spot anything (I say they because the practice has four and I’m not sure who’d be out.) Chiro is an option if it is alignment, but as the only one I know of locally requires you to haul to him, he’s not an option so I would have to go looking.

Two other possibilities: He’s a morning glory (as he’s gone quite well mornings and this was an afternoon ride), and his feet may have been tender as the farrier was out this week. His feet continue to improve and the front angles are looking better.

The wind was annoying to the point I had a short ride (and my lips are now chapped–it was also cold wind!) Lucky once again was happy to be curried for as long as I cared to stand there doing it. He got another candy cane (he has the most entertaining way of smacking his lips when he gets peppermints) and went back out. The BO, her daughter, and a couple of the kids were working with Trudy–“lessons” for the kids, work for Trudy! Trudy is a Tennessee Walker and a stereotypical redheaded mare. She likes to pin her ears at any horse who walks by, and she loves the fact that she is the only mare on the property and therefore (in her mind) in charge of everyone else. BO asked if I wanted to ride her, so I put my helmet back on and got up. The saddle was a synthetic western and the stirrups were just too short, especially with my dress boots on, so I sat back and went without. Trudy does not neck rein, but she will obey leg, if you can convince her of your intent. She’s also the type of TWH who does not trot, she paces, which isn’t something I’ve experienced before. It’s a weird feeling! A little like cantering, or trying for a canter and not quite getting into one. Her canter is also fast but smooth. She was not especially thrilled to have someone riding her whose legs were long enough to stay on her so she couldn’t ignore them. She also was a prima donna–I ended up having a close encounter with the pommel (though fortunately not the horn) when she abruptly decided to put on the brakes rather than step in the only pile of manure in the round pen. Since that pile was not there when I was riding Lucky in there not long before, I know for a fact she put it there! So not only a red-headed mare but a finicky one, too!

Kitten update: My other two cats, Jet and Marcus, seem to be resigning themselves to the notion of a ‘little sister’ in the house. The dogs continue to view the kitten as their responsibility and are tolerant to the point of letting her stick her nose in their dinners (though poor Tucker was highly agitated by this as she’s on a diet and every crumb is precious!) The kitten’s biggest disappointment is that she is apparently a night person (or a Jellicle Cat!) and when she is up and ready to play, everyone else is ready for bed.

And yes, she’ll get a name eventually. Nothing has really suggested itself so far.

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