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.

Everyone Ought to Have a Pokey Pony

Well, sometimes Lucky is a bit too lazy. He is not the world’s most motivated horse on the best days. The bugs are not helping at all. Now I’m getting eaten alive. Saturday, we took a long walk around the track, and the toughest part was convincing him that if he kept moving, the bugs couldn’t get him. Or at least not as effectively. We didn’t do much in the way of galloping or even a canter, and there was much bending at the walk. He was also perfectly happy to stand very still for his bath (with the nice Finish Line shampoo with tea tree oil, which smells very nice) because the water meant the flies had trouble landing. Sunday, I lunged with the side reins again. I actually saw something that might be dropping the head and engaging with the bit. Progress! I don’t think, though, he is ever going to be a big-moving hunter with a sweeping trot. His hind end does not work that way. As he seems to harbor ambitions of growing up to be a cowboy, this is probably not the colossal problem it might be elsewhere.

Monday I had the chance to hack out on a pokey pony. Yes, an actual pony! 13.1 hh. Over on Chronicle Forums, I’d mentioned that I was trying to find a western saddle for Lucky. (Someone, please stop me from buying that barrel saddle with the teal ostrich seat and teal heart cutouts? Must…resist…cute….) COTH poster fordtraktor let me know she had an old barrel saddle I could try, and since she doesn’t live far, if I wanted, we could go for a hack when I came by to get it. As I will rarely pass up a chance to ride a new (to me) horse, I said sure! The saddle, underneath the dust (it has been honorably retired for a while!) is red leather basketweave, and does clean up nicely. Now to see if it fits (maybe after Labor Day it’ll get cold and all the bugs will die!) After taking a look at the saddle, we went for a leisurely hack. I had the pleasure of riding one of those ponies who is big but little. I believe 13.1 is technically a medium, but as fordtrakor put it, she’s like a Quarter Horse body on short legs, and I didn’t have any issue with taking up leg. Pony might have had an issue with having a rider who is strong enough to make her actually trot (which can be surprisingly big when she wants it to be!) and even a bit of a bone-jarring pony canter. Even then, she still could only get halfway around the arena before fordtraktor’s Big Bay TB (to go with her Big Bay QHs) swept on by and lapped us. I know, pony, it’s tough to be short. It’s wonderful to actual go riding with someone–I’m used to hacking out by myself and working in the ring alone, to the point Lucky was moderately fried by having four others in there for the clinic this summer. Hopefully she can haul up to visit (as I’m tow-vehicle-less for now) and Lucky can get some thoroughbred company. (Maybe it will encourage him to speed up a bit, too. Then again, probably not.)

“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.

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?

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