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.

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.

Stylin’….

New tack! Oh, new tack. The nice leather smell, the fitting it to the horse, the first ride . . . .

Okay, so they’re not NEW. In fact God knows how old the bridle is–it came with a nickle full cheek that doesn’t look or feel like anything I’ve seen in bits in a while, and it IS a flat hunter-style English leather bridle. It’s also in a cob size. He’s now wearing it with the caveson on the second hole, the cheek pieces on the second hole, and the throatlatch just barely reaches, while in the raised (yuck) horse-size everything is on the very shortest hole possible and the cheek pieces are still too long. You can only punch so many extra holes before you run out of leather. I may take it down to this man in Shipsie who does leather work and have him make the throatlatch longer, but the rest fits pretty well. He just has this very teacup muzzle, dished short face, and then a regular old horse-style throatlatch. (Also, anyone know where to get a set of Havana brown snaffle and curb reins? Because my reins do not match.)

The saddle, meanwhile, is a Crosby Prix des Nations that has obviously been VERY well cared for. The flaps are like butter and the seat is beautiful. The tree, obviously, is fine and he does seem to take a medium comfortably. Even with a 17.5″ seat it’s still not GREAT for me. Still like sitting on a board. But he seemed to like it better, and it’s definitely lighter than the Stubben. He was okay with that, but lightening the load a bit can’t hurt.

He is still suffering from horsey ADHD. Anything a half-mile away is more interesting than what is going on, sometimes enough to get bouncey. And Trudy being ridden in the woods was downright mystifying and scary. (Apparently Trudy wasn’t thrilled to pieces with the idea, either.) We also had serious issues with standing still while dismounted and NOT using owner as a scratching post. We had a good amount of trotting in the round pen, and I realized very quickly why I have to shorten the stirrups about two holes from where I had them on the AP. Ow. Hi, knees. Sorry about that. Between this and the dance shoes this was not a good week for you. Something in the woods got scary and we had a minor spook, and finally a stop with complete ignoring of the bit. I got off and we walked over to the big ring and had a couple walks around to the far end where the scary things live. I got back up and again we had the inverting and the horsey ADHD. The BO’s daughter (mother of T., who rode Lucky a few weeks ago) hopped up and decided to take him around the ring, spooks or no. (I meanwhile was starting to consider the virtues of acepromazine as horsie Ritalin.)

It was VERY nice to not only stand back and watch him go under saddle but to have someone on him who had ridden an OTTB a lot. The BO didn’t quite get why I was not entirely thrilled with his brain, saying that he doesn’t have a vicious bone in his body, which of course he doesn’t. Her daughter got what I meant about ADD. He’s a looker. He is paying attention to everything everywhere all the time. She also agreed that there’s something just a bit funky with his right back leg. I watched her trot him, and she watched me trot him (and then we stopped as he had been ridden for almost forty-five minutes, the longest yet!) and while he’s not in any pain that we can see, he’s just kind of unbalanced. Not in a wobbly way, just in the sense that his right side is not as developed as his left and it shows particularly in his right stifle. When the ground’s uneven (there’s a bit of a slope to the big ring) it seems to work him harder. So nice to know I was not imagining that! We both agreed that the saddle is also a great ride. He seems to like it, too.

Back at the barn, we talked about our respective OTTBs, her old one and mine. Both were much more ‘hot’ than Lucky (who is not so much hot as very easily distracted) and yet both seemed to have a knack for knowing when their rider was not someone who knew how to deal. You could put a little kid on either of them (and I suspect Lucky, too) and they became the blandest lead-line pony imaginable. They were just smart like that.

Lucky, by the way, saw the vet and equine dentist while I was away (I had a ballroom competition on the east side of the state, which was a ton of fun and went extremely well for my not having danced in six months.) The vet gave him his vaccines and checked out the two hairless patched on his left shoulder. In her opinion, they are a benign sarcoid (yay, not mange, fungus or fleas) and I can treat it with an iodine wash and/or bag balm, and they will not bother him. They don’t seem to, certainly, not the way Old OTTB went mildly nuts with a fungal infection that made him itch. The equine dentist, meanwhile, was yet another ho-hum moment for Lucky (he was the only horse who did NOT need sedating) but his teeth are worse than mine. His funky double tooth in front is a baby tooth that never fell out. And there is one tooth in back the dentist could not reach and he is recommending having someone who uses power tools get it. Rather than call the vet back out, I’m first going to check with my friend B., who had mentioned having someone who uses drill grinders do her two Arabs and she was quite pleased with the result. She is an older lady whose family bred Arabs and she’s quite picky about caring for her two, so I would trust her recommendation.

And I came home from the barn with a, hopefully temporary, souvenir. While I was putting the iodine and Bigeloil away (iodine for the hairless patch, Bigeloil for his legs) I heard a loud kitten meow behind me. I turned around and saw a black and white kitten prowling the tack room. Now, the BO does not have a black and white kitten. However, her daughter is the source of Pest and Pest’s brother (who went home with another boarder) so I thought, okay, maybe she brought another one. I scooped the kitten up and called BO and daughter back to the barn. By then I’d seen the goopy eyes and figured that this was probably not a new resident-at least not a planned one. I held on to her while I gave Lucky his treats and put him away (he was very tolerant of the strange snuffly thing in my other arm, probably because everyone else was getting dinner and he just wanted to get to his stall) and the BO’s daughter (vet tech) took a look. Kitten is dehydrated, lungs sound clear but the eyes and nose as goopy, and kitten obviously is cold and tired.

Long story short, the BO’s dog would eat it if they took it in, daughter has a pregnant cat at home and can’t take a cat with an infection in, while I have a mud room where I can keep her isolated. BO had some leftover pink liquid (tetracycline–they make the same nasty pink stuff for animals as humans) from one of the other cats, loaned me a carrier and a big towel, and off she went with me. Right now, she’s curled in the cubby beneath my deacon’s bench, and has had her first dose of tetra, eaten a bit, and has a full water bowl, rugs and towels, and a small litter box. Hopefully she can get some rest and get in shape to be a barn cat. She’s probably eight or so weeks old-barely enough to be on her own. She did eat the little bit of food I gave her, and I think she drank some, so now I’m leaving her alone for the night. Pictures tomorrow, when hopefully she’ll be feeling more social. Tucker sniffed, Puff kind of glanced at her, and I don’t think that my cats (who don’t go in the mud room) even realize she’s here.

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.