If You’re Not Almost Falling, You’re Not Almost Learning

Well, Frank Carroll didn’t say the part about “almost.” I owe msj from Chronicle Forums an apology–Lucky did in fact jump me out of the tack, at least enough for my knees to come much higher up his sides than I strictly find comfortable. Ironically he wasn’t actually jumping anything especially high, having knocked one rail down of the X oxer and being very reluctant to go over my strategically-placed buckets (serves me right for giving him something ‘interesting’ to jump.) The next time through, he picked up the canter with substantially less arguing and jumped it without quite so much drama. And, as I pointed out to the B.O., back when I was taking lessons and riding the old OTTB a jump like that and I’d have been eating dirt, so I must be doing something right.

He also seemed somewhat enthusiastic about barrels, actually wanting to run for the finish line (though as long as he takes to get rolling, it’s probably not going to be beating any Quarter Horse gaming types any time soon.) Saturday, and to finish up today, we took it outside. Saturday was just pure play–a little riding on the track, and some wandering through the woods, semi-enjoying the unseasonably warm weather. All the fall colors, and the falling acorns, and the suicide squirrel squadrons racaing across the trails. Lucky did have a leery moment when we came up behind one of the houses next door and they were burning brush in the yard, but he relaxed when the man waved and the woman said hello and he could tell they were people and not horse-eating tree monsters. We pretty much did nothing but tool around, and he got what’s probably his last bath of the season courtesy of the warm weather. He was more than happy to stand there dozing off while I did it. The new puffball kitten, meanwhile, likes to sit and stare at whatever you are doing, even if she has to sneak up very quietly behind you to do it. I actually plopped her on his back in self-defense, as it seemed the place where she was least likely to get stepped on! Lucky didn’t care, the puffball just thought it was interesting to have a better view of the saddle going on.

After riding Lucky on Sunday, I took the B.O. up on the offer to get Takota out. As there are only so many hours in a day and Dino needs all the work he can get, Takota’s had a few weeks off. It showed. Probably the most interesting thing about riding someone else (besides going “WOW, he’s short!” while I was grooming and could actually see across his back) was how used I’ve become to Lucky’s relative unflappability. Takota wasn’t really spooky, he was more fresh and experimenting to see what he could get away with as far as the new monkey on his back went. Answer? Probably not what he wanted to hear. I wouldn’t call any of it a genuine “come to Jesus” meeting but the experiments with bucking at the canter ended right quick. Probably surprised the heck out of him, too. He also was determined to scare himself looking at the woods (something he’s perfectly familiar with and should know better than to spook at) so I had to spend mmost of the time convincing him that it was far less work to come quietly than it was to be a goofball. It was an interesting change from tooling along on Lucky, who naturally tends to prefer the path of least resistance.

In a public service announcement: It’s October, and that means the end of racing at Finger Lakes is coming up sooner than you think. Some horses are already looking for new homes and careers, and since I really haven’t got the place to put another one, please save me from myself and consider horses like Dewanna Brushon Me. Quite the handsome devil, and look at those gentle eyes. For my fellow pedigree fanatics, why yes, that Brush in there stands for Broad Brush, his grandsire, which makes him the great-grandson of the great Ack Ack. And please note one two, not three, but FOUR crosses on Turn-to, so if you’re looking for a sport-horse prospect, won’t you please think of him? All for the low, low price of only $500.

Lucky’s Not the Lone Ranger

Not anymore. Though his new roommate is not exactly in the same racing class.

The new boarder arrived Friday. Lucky is no longer tallest. I would guess his new paddock-mate is more in the 16.3 range, and he’s bigger-boned. Since I haven’t met his owner yet, I won’t “out” his registered name. His barn name is Zoey, and he’s twelve if the registered name is correct. He had two starts in his career, and according to equibase he was . . . we’ll say undistinguished. Does not keep him from having a very pretty trot and canter at liberty. Which he demonstrated. Repeatedly. Up and down and around. Because he did not like that I came and got Lucky, then taunted him by riding in the ring right next to their paddock.

I swapped bits again today and put the “fun” bit and reins on while I rode in the close-contact. (By “fun” I mean the rubber mullen-mouth dee and racing reins.) Lucky was either well-rested, as I hadn’t been out since last Monday, or just feeling good after a week of cold weather (despite that having changed drastically and gone back to the mid-nineties this weekend) but I nearly got left behind on a couple of transitions! I’m used to having to ask nicely, then ask more firmly, then potentially get the crop involved. Today, I had a couple times where I only had to ask once. And very nearly got bounced out of my seat. Maybe he was showing off for the new guy. I even popped him over an X (I hadn’t planned to, especially as I forgot to throw my low boots in the car and was riding in my work shoes. As my stirrups don’t have pads in, not too big a worry.) He was not hugely interested in jumping, but he wasn’t ready to pack it in immediately, either.

We even had company. The B.O. came out with Dino, and I actually got to ride with another person! Lucky was fine about it. He and Dino were not especially thrilled with the flies, though. They could bathe in fly spray and probably it wouldn’t make any difference: they’re nasty.

And of course, on a day when someone else was riding, and it was suggested I could get out Takota to ride if I wanted when I was done with Lucky, I didn’t have time. Lucky got a sponging down and his peppermints (peppermints: life is good) and I was off to the Meijers’ in Three Rivers, with a toss-up whether I had enough time to get from there to home and still have time to make it to my dance lesson. On the assumption I wouldn’t, I had packed a cooler with ice packs. And I was out riding Lucky despite having worked and having a lesson and having no food because I likely will not get back out until Sunday (when hopefully I can take Takota for a spin as well.) Dance competition on Friday–my first time doing all five Latin, and my first with the New Pro. So I don’t especially mind having to run like crazy. But it would still be nice to get a ride on another horse.

Happy Trails!

Guess who went for a walk in the woods all by himself? Well, whose name is the title of this blog? It was hot again, no surprise, so I wasn’t planning any serious work with him, and no jumping. Just to keep myself honest, I switched my stirrups (I really need a second set of irons and leathers) and used the all-purpose saddle today. I can jump in it, but it’s a deep seat and a straight flap so it doesn’t lend itself. Instead of going into the ring, I unlocked the back gate and we rode straight out. The trails in the woods are well-maintained, but there are still leaves, branches and trees that have come down, plants that grow out into the trail. And of course you can hear any noise from the neighbors, or from the horses in the pastures behind us.

Lucky was a champ. He was not bothered by the unusual footing and the noise it made, things brushing along his side, my occasionally ducking down flat on his neck to avoid branches (or spiderwebs; I hate spiders.) He even stepped over a downed log and was unimpressed when he stepped on it (lazy feet) and the weight made the end, in the bushes, move and make noise. We stuck with a walk, and it was no problem. He was so good, when we came out of the first loop at the far corner of the track, I gave him a little three-furlong hand gallop, letting him pick the lead. (Note to self: swap the stick to the RIGHT hand to get him to swap, as when he carries the right lead around the turn he drifts WAY WAY out and the track isn’t wide enough for that.) I walked him back along some of the other trails, including the one that parallels the big pasture where Trudy, Takota and Dom live. Lucky ignored hoofbeats, and the squealing when Takota was busy reminding everyone that he is boss. I’m not sure Lucky would have been quite so phlegmatic if one of them had charged the fence (Dom likes to pace the fence when someone’s riding along it, probably feeling left out.) But no one did.

Just to make sure he remembers we DO need to work for our living, I took him to the ring for a little work. He is getting better at trotted figure eights, and while cantering them is still a little beyond him (he’s not quite flexible and balanced enough for smaller canter circles) we were able to try a simple change across a long diagonal. Lucky remained unflappable even when the wet towel I had around my neck slipped out and bounced off his rump.

I sponged him down and put him back out, with peppermints, when we finished. Tomorrow, if I go out, it’ll be more ring work. But tomorrow’s the first day of the county fair, and the only day of it that I’ll be off work, so I’ll throw my boots in the car when I go and if I don’t spend all day at the fairgrounds I might head out for a quick ride.

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.

At least the weather’s improved!

It is back to being more like pre-summer than November. Although looking out the front window as I type this, the clouds are looking kind of gray in the distance.

Today was a busy day, at least for me. This was my Saturday to work, and it was also Tractor Supply’s one-day pet sale, so before work I ran down and picked up dog food, cat food, dog treats, and hey, there were 24-packs of AA batteries for $5 (and of course everything in the house takes AA, except for the occasional oddball remote that takes AAAs.) I really only went for the dog and cat food. Of course Tractor Supply is like Toys R Us for grownups as far as I’m concerned. Last week’s massive trip when my parents were visiting was a shopping spree including a huge discount tub of biotin, a new Troxel, and three pairs of my Best Jeans Ever. (When you find comfy jeans, stock up.)

AFTER work, which was uneventful except for the ghost haunting the office being especially noisy today, I went down to the barn. I fully expected this to be a short trip. I can hear you laughing. When I got there, it was still sunny and warm, but the wind was pretty fierce. As long as it’s not bringing in more rain . . . Lucky didn’t wander off to the very far end of the pasture, but he didn’t go out of his way to come any closer. Dino did not give us any problems about going out the gate, and we managed not to run over Pest, who was hanging out in the barn aisle.

Lucky is still fuzzy, though it’s starting to come out in large quantities, so I have hair all over everything. The recently-oiled girth is going to be fun to clean. Again. It was attracting hair before I put it on the horse. While I was grooming him, I found another of the spots the vet tentatively identified as a sarcoid. I don’t want to question the vet, but it really behaves and looks an awful lot more like a fungal condition. The old patches are responding to the iodine and bag balm, so I’ll keep treating that and talk to the vet. If I had a trailer I’d be tempted to haul him up to my parents’ and have Doc Pol take a look. I know he’s a good horse vet. Not that the vet here isn’t, but when there’s only one large-animal practice that people can use, you wonder how complacent they get.

We started in the round pen today. Lucky was having another ‘looky’ day and it took me forever to spot what it was. In the Big Scary Woods, the guy next door was cutting wood from downed trees (of which there are a lot–we had a huge storm this week and in some places whole buildings got taken out). And he was using a lawn tractor and trailer to haul it. I think I’m going to be really glad when the trees leaf out. As long as we were moving out it wasn’t really an issue, though, so I asked for a bit of a canter. As Natalie said over on her blog the opposite of “forward” is “up”, and we had a lot of Mach 3 trotting with the head well above the bit (hey, at least he goes on a loose rein), a wrong-lead canter, and a few strides of labored left-lead correct canter. The opposite direction we got almost all the way around on the correct lead. He is really the opposite of what I’d expect from an OTTB, much more flexible to the right than the left. While he’s not exactly bending, he does yield to my right leg more readily than my left (quite well today; “Yes, that is my foot, and that is the fence. You don’t have to go THAT far over!”)

I decided that since he was going so nicely, except for the ADD moments, we’d go into the big outdoor and do a few trot poles. I managed to open the sticky round pen gate from his back and we were good right until we were approaching the gate to the outdoor. This pointed us right at the scary man in the scary woods with the scary trailer of wood. Lucky decided to stop, and leg and stick had him thinking about going backwards. So I hopped off–I realize this can be construed as rewarding the behavior. As I’m out there alone (J., BO’s Husband, was in the house and knew I was riding but wasn’t anywhere he could do anything) I’d rather deal with issues on the ground if they seem inclined to head south. I flipped the reins and we walked into the ring, and walked down to the far corner closest to the scary man in the scary woods with the scary trailer. He got to have a nice long look, and it did seem to be less weird than before. I don’t know why things are just less scary when the monkey is standing next to him instead of on his back, but whatever works.

This also meant time for another solo attempt at using the mounting block. (Unless I grow two inches or he shrinks, the block is a necessity.) I have two choices in the outdoor, a big set of steps and a stump. Lucky has his own style of approaching the mounting block, mostly not doing it. He doesn’t make a fuss, he’s just very good at planting his weight. In the round pen we just use an upturned five-gallon bucket, and I can move that. I picked the stump, and it worked without too much fuss. He did step off again, but he stops right away if I ask.

We did some more trotting, and tried a line of poles, with a small stack of poles (a little pole pyramid, probably the height of two poles) at the end. Steering is still a big issue, but he is learning to pick up his feet. He even tried a teeny hop over the pile, once, before realizing that he didn’t have to make that big an effort. Lucky prefers the path of least resistance (or no resistance) as a general rule. We did the line maybe three times, and I figured we could finish off with a walk outside the ring.

We were okay approaching the gate, but it was like his feet hit the grass and that was just too much. I got him back once, and we were pointed at the paddock fence, and then he started a scramble again and it was half up, half backwards. I got a very short halt and hit and the ground, and decided we were going on a walk up the Scary Lane, which parallels the outdoor between it and the big pasture and ends at the gate to the trails through the Scary Woods. This is the direction he had decided to head very quickly away from, so we took a walk that way. He went from a bit of scooting to a fast walk to standing at the gate looking at the Scary Man in the Scary Woods to finally wondering why we were looking at the boring woods. I took him up the middle lane after that to the track gate and back, and since I hadn’t gotten off when I wanted, we went back to the round pen and I got on again (he was probably sick of it by this point) and we went around a few times. By then he was cooled out (I will be SO happy when he’s done shedding) so I took the saddle off and we went back to the barn. To his disappointment, I just curried (more hair, everywhere), did the iodine on the scaly bits, and put him back out. J. had put out their dinner and Lucky was hoping it was suppertime. I’m sure the treats tided him over.

On the list of “things you see when you don’t have a camera” I found the small flock of cowbirds following Trudy, Dom, and Takota around amusing. I know they’re nest-stealing pests, but at least they were doing what they’re supposed to do.

Weather permitting, I’m hoping to get back to the barn earlier tomorrow, since I don’t have to work. We’ll see how long I end up sleeping, though!

Apparently I Have a Clever Horse

So I got an e-mail from the BO today saying Lucky was turned out in the lanes behind the barn. He’d visited with Trudy, was hanging out near Takota, didn’t seem worried when they took the tractor through, basically having a good day.

So I get home from a late day at work (our monthly lecture–hey, extra pay and they’re usually interesting speakers.) I have another e-mail from the BO. When a horse is turned out in the lanes, she and her husband string a rope across that end of the barn to keep the horse out (the house side has a roll-down metal gate.)

You see where I’m going with this.

She came out to feed, and lo and behold, there is Lucky standing in the barn aisle. He has pulled down four bales of hay and is having himself a hay buffet. He’s very casual about it when she comes in. The rope is still up across the end of the barn. It is high enough he probably did not jump it and low enough he would have had to crouch down quite far for a horse to go under, but I am fairly sure that’s what he did. (Good to know he’s fine with stuff brushing his back.) She put him in his stall, cleaned up his salad bar, and got a bin and pitchfork to clean up in the lanes and the barn aisle.

No poop.

It took a minute, apparently, to figure out why. In addition to deciding grass is boring and the pile of hay out for him in the lanes is not as good as bales he chose himself, Lucky also figured “Why get the grass or the cement dirty when I can just go into Takota’s nice clean stall and do it there?” Yes, he went back INTO the barn, into Takota’s stall (the biggest, of course) and did all his business for the day there.

I have a clever horse. Worthy of a midweek update at least.