Thursday, April 28, 2011

Parelli Pays

Yesterday I beat the husband home (We have nearly the same schedule) so I immediately started cleaning the house. Last weekend I went to my parents house in NC so no cleaning got done then and I have a serious psychological block against cleaning when my husband is in the house. I have no idea why, but I just can't.  This weekend I am making a compromise with the husband and going to the NASCAR races with him rather than doing something horsey. So no cleaning this coming weekend either and I will have the daughters of my friend E, coming over to feed the menagerie in the evening.  So I had to, had to, had to clean. I can't stand other people seeing my house in its usual semi-chaotic disarray.

The High Queen and Cowboy were glaring at me from the back pasture which due to the horses being on it all winter is nothing but dirt, weeds and the hay feeder. The High Queen was not amused that I did not immediately escort her royal procession over to the newly fenced lush pasture. But the weather was iffy and there are no trees, and no shelter in the new pasture and if it was going to storm I did not want my two ponies to become lightening rods. So I cleaned the kitchen, organized, threw things away. Then the husband came home and since the weather wasn't changing I put the horses over in the new pasture, then spent an hour with the husband before gearing up to teach Seneca more Parelli.

I had been watching the videos for a few days and had most of the games down. So I just started systematically going through all the seven games. The friendly game, the porcupine game, the driving game, the yoyo game, the circling game, the half circle/sideways game, and finally the squeeze game.  The High Queen is good at most of the games, but unless I am using the fence the half circle game is confusing for her. She's been lunged in a circle most of her life so only going half way then stopping and going the other without the fence to tell her to turn confuses her so we have to work on that one.

But after going through all seven games I took Seneca over to our "bridge". All the previous times I had to lead Seneca up on to the bridge. But Parelli teaches you how to send your horse anywhere. There are tons of videos on the Parelli site of horses being sent in to the trailer on a long loose lead line. It makes me want to cry thinking of the troubles I have had with our trailer loading. But yesterday I was able to send Seneca up on to the bridge without leading her!  And she was very relaxed doing it. We are one step closer to trailer loading success. That and in 26 days I can start truly looking at buying a new trailer!  No more trying to convince the High Queen that the two horse straight with the mangers up front is a suitably wide enough space for her.

Bring on the three horse slant!

Happy riding.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Weather, Grass and Parelli

I haven't been able to ride in a little while. Mainly just my life getting caught up with my dog who is still balancing between serious illness and holding back the tide of infection and the weather has been so great. You would think I would ride more with the good weather but there are so many little projects around the farm that needed doing that I spend my afternoons after work doing that.

The big project that my husband and I finally got done was fencing in the new pasture. My extremely great neighbors own the L shaped field next door to me and allow me to use it for pasture since they don't have horses and don't want to mow the acres and acres of grass.  We had one pasture fenced in last year but hadn't been able to get all our ducks in a row for the second one.

I came home Monday afternoon to find that on his day off my husband had used his Four Wheeler upgrade money to buy the fencing materials for the new pasture and had already set all the posts and had most of one line of electra-tape done.  He's the man.  Yesterday between thunder storms we finished the last three strands of alternating electra-tape and electra-braid to have the fence completed. So now there is a four foot high fence of electrical goodness swathing the pasture. Because while the High Queen wouldn't stir herself to step outside of a fence whether it was on or not the Spotted Beast is a confirmed escape artist, sometimes even when the wire is hot.

Last year we had to crank the power up on the charger box for the fence three times before Cowboy stopped squriming his way through the fence like a Shetland pony.

So now that all that is out of the way, where are we with the High Queen's non-loading freakness?  Nowhere yet. We're working towards the goal of making her a reliable loader.  Right now I am avidly watching the Parelli videos after having paid about 10$ for the priveledge.  I have followed Clinton Anderson for a long time, and while I like all his practices, I felt like it was too blunt a method for the volatile High Queen, so I checked in to Parelli and it seems like it might help.  We'll see. Right now I'm doing two of the seven games with both horses and actually Seneca is a lot better at it than Cowboy. Which is strange, Cowboy usually picks things up a lot quicker than she does.

Right now I am not making any firm plans for taking Seneca anywhere. After having to eat the 85$ entry fee for the horse trial and then almost crying when I looked at the results board and saw "scratched" next to our names I decided not to disappoint myself that way again. Until the High Queen is a reliable loader, no plans, just going with what we get to.  On the other hand I am going to be spending more time with the Spotted Beast and getting him more broke.  He's green broke right now but needs way more work on stopping and turning before I take him outside of a fenced area or off the farm any place.

So that's where we are. Happy riding all around.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Day That Wasn't.

I would love to say that the weather made me cancel going to the horse trial. The weather for the week prior was great, no rain, lots of sunny days but horse trial day was supposed to be rain and storms. I would love to say I wasn't prepared, or that the truck broke down, or that my dog being ill (He really was and I was going to take him with us and assign my husband nurse maid duties) caused me to cancel.

But it was none of those things.  Friday morning came around and  because there was all these scheduling issues in the afternoon I decided to do the unthinkable. Usually when I rent a trailer from my feed store, which I have the last couple of times because they have big open stock bumper pull trailers, my husband and I go get the trailer together. I'm not great at backing up to hook up the trailer, so hubby has that duty.  But Friday just turned in to a scheduling nightmare. I stood in the kitchen, hubby already gone off to work on the motorcycle, looking at the keys in my hand and the truck in the driveway.  Hmmm, evil one eye brow arch.

I can do this. Which became my mantra the whole way to the vet to drop off my dog for the days worth of care and fluids he needed to hold off whatever infection he has, and the whole way to the feed store. I can do this, I can do this, I can do this.  Thankfully my feed store thinks ahead and has handy helpers right there to guide people backing up, and help with the hook-up and checking of lights.  All hooked up, lights working, off I go. I made it home, and through the big scarey front gate, then the big scarey pasture gate.

HAHA! I even texted my husband after I'd parked the trailer in the pasture to gloat. This was a big deal for me since I had almost never driven the trailer alone, and never hooked it up on my own.  Then I spent four hours playing with the High Queen's loading/non-loading skills.  I even got her all four feet in the trailer half a dozen times. Big sigh of relief.

Except when dawn rolled around the next day the best I got was the High Queen half way in and it went down, down, down hill from there. Head to desk, SMACK! There goes the 85$ entry fee, and the trailer rental fee, and all the money I spent to fill the gaps in tack, clothing, and training.  Damn it.

I contacted a friend who I feel is the expert on all things Thoroughbred.  She says that OTTBs are used to being handled extensively everyday, and that because Seneca had gone without trailering for nearly a year between her joint issue the previous summer and then my deployment, that the High Queen had decided not only was I not her boss and herd leader that she didn't have to listen to me period.  That has some merit, and I will be taking the High Queen back to some behavioral modification refreshers. That and the new trailer comes at the end of May.  I will freaking solve this before next fall. I don't care if I have to set up a round pen around the trailer and make the High Queen live there for the whole summer with the trailer, we are going to have a coming to God over this  I will not trailer crap.  Hell the 3yr old, who had never been a good loader from the start loads himself on the trailer now, there is no reason a big girl of 10 can't do it to.

WE WILL LOAD!  That is the new mantra.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Two Days Away

The ride times were finally posted for this weekend's horse trial.  Our dressage test starts at 10am.  The menagerie of horse, husband, and audio/visual equipment will leave around six am to give the High Queen plenty of time to adjust and calm down.

T. came yesterday since the prophesied rain didn't fall and the footing was excellent. I hadn't been able to ride with T. in over a year, so it had been awhile since she'd seen Seneca. She saw some fabulous changes in balance and maturity.  We worked through the dressage test and then did a lot of grid work exercises to build the High Queen's confidence and back her off a little from her dive bomber style.

Things went well and I'm hopeful that on Saturday even though the weather for that day is looking really crappy that we'll do well.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Nobody Puts Baby in a Corner...except Mommy

This saturday is the Queen and I's horse trial debut.  I have been trying for months to get the High Queen to a baby horse trial, but loads of things, including the High Queen herself have gotten in the way of getting on the road.

But this weekend is it, we are going.  Gaps in tack and clothing that have occured due to over use, lost, or disuse have been filled, the Queen has been groomed, groomed, and groomed some more. We've worked on the trailer loading things as we can, though until we actually get to the day we won't know what we have.  New fancy shampoos, conditioners and sprays have been applied.  Sufficient training time has been put in, T. may be coming out to give me a lesson tomorrow if the weather and footing cooperate and schooling on friday at my friend E's fancy show jumping course hopefully will happen.

So nothing could possibly get in the way of a perfect debut.   Almost.  While Seneca is the dominant horse in the pasture she and Cowboy do a fair amount of back and forth stallion like play, ie rearing up at each other, nipping and chasing. Which unfortunately leaves tell tale marks on the High Queen's polished, show shiny coat.

I was willing to deal with the current marks, but when I walked out in to the pasture yesterday and found a half moon hoof mark shaped area of removed hair on the High Queen's upper leg/lower shoulder only a week away from the horse trial I decided extreme measures were in order.

So Seneca got moved to the adjoining side pasture where she will remain turned out by herself until after the show.  I don't want people to think I've been beating my pony, and I obviously can't trust the two of them to keep their hooves to themselves. So the babies got sent to seperate corners.

Cowboy:  3yr old, ApHC future eventing star.
Seneca's contribution to pre-show grooming was to give herself a mud bath. 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Bridges of Mane County

So I got to ride a couple times this past week, and most of the time Seneca was really good. Last Sunday when the weather was a bit cooler, but not windy or rainy thank God, she was a bit of a pain and we did almost no jumping and mainly worked on transitions, bending and relaxing.   Then Monday when it was freakish windy she was totally sweet and easy to work with.

I can always tell what kind of a ride day its going to be by how easy the High Queen is to groom. If she flits around like a humming bird on crack its going to be a hard day.  If Seneca just stands there on three feet, hip cocked barely moving we're going to have a great ride. 

Over the last several months I have been tweaking the High Queen's feed.  I switched her from a high fat feed that had a lot of starch in it to a lower fat, lower starch feed.  But this didn't have the desired effect, yes she came down from the high strung cloud she had been living on but she lost more weight than I would like.  So I switched her to a slightly higher fat feed but it still had a lower starch ratio.  The lower starch seems to be helping to keep her temperment on an even keel. 

Since we hopefully have our horse trial coming up next weekend I have been working with Seneca on her trailer loading. I borrowed a dvd from my trainer T. and tried to implent the exercises that were outlined.  Basically it's a mix of Clinton Anderson, who I like, and some other methods.  You use the Clinton Anderson sending/lunging exercise to get the horse moving, then use basically a wooden bridge that simulates a step-up trailer.  Seneca already knew the lunging exercise, but the bridge was new.   When my husband built the bridge I used Cowboy our Appaloosa gelding as the guinea pig since his loading skills are almost always guranteed and he's very brave.  He walked right up on the bridge no problems.

So next it was the High Queen's turn.  She bowed away from it during lunging but eventually got tired of circling and gave up giving the bridge the evil eye.  Then I asked her to come up on to the bridge. She would step up to it, sniff it, but would not step up. I finally had to cheat a little, pick up her foot and set her foot on the bridge so she could see that it was safe and not scarey.  

After that we had no problems she walked right up on to the bridge.  The next step is to either pull out the older step-up trailer from the back field or wait until Friday when I have the open stock bumper-pull that hopefully the High Queen will be cooperative about getting in. Because I already spent 85$ on the entry fees.  

In preparation for our debut I trimmed, pulled, and braided over the High Queen's mane. Because she has a wildly massive amount of mane and left to it's own devices it will flop on both sides of her neck.  I also bought Seneca a fly veil to keep the bugs out of her ears and I have to say with her mane tamed and the bonnet on she looks like a total show horse, rather than the wild pony on the range she was this winter and Cowboy still is.  As soon as I get this horse trial behind us I'm going to start spending more time with Cowboy who has grown a little more attitude over the past few months.  He's gotten that teenager, I'm a big boy 3yr old and you can't tell me what to do, attitude that I need to squash pretty quick.  Plus because Cowboy loads well I can take him to the trail rides for the organization I belong to. 

We rode today and Seneca was really good, bending in the circles, listening, and jumped all the new scarey jumps in the riding area although I always have to have lots of right leg and left rein because if she's going to run out she always ducks right.

So everyone think good thoughts, and pray for sun on Saturday.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The High Queen's Gift

Last fall I transfered from one job to another. It's the way of the Navy to never let you stay at one job too long.  My first job at the new command wasn't exactly what I expected and the hours were really hard on me. In the begining I had to stop often on the almost hour drive home to make sure I didn't fall asleep at the wheel.

Finally I adjusted and dealt with all the stress this job gave me, as I was still attending therapy sessions for the combat stress I came home from Afghanistan with I was able to adjust, adapt, and over come.  Then of course I moved to a different department at my new command and hello sweetness.

My new position is a lot less stressful and the hours are sooo much better.  Better because I get more sleep, AND I get more riding time.  Who doesn't want that?  So today was one of those freak spring days where it's 85 degrees, but it was super, super windy. Hmmm how sane was High Queen going to be?

I was game to find out. The day before she'd been a bit of pain in the butt.  I was a little hesitant to risk life and limb to ride so with a plan to lunge her instead I went about grooming the inch of mud off of her. But she was totally different today, standing still and quiet while I groomed and showing me the glimpse of the perfect pony that lived somewhere on the inside but was often hidden by the haughty queen.  So instead of lunging I tacked her up to ride.

And just to be contrary she was great. She did shy once and try to take off but she worked that bit of high edge out and was fabulous after that. The High Queen did try to dodge out of the small oxer like jump that I had built, but eventually went over. She jumped the warm up jump mostly soft without giving me images of steeplec chasing, and towards the end of the session we even cantered a few jumps which I hadn't been able to do with her in a long, long while.

Hug for the perfect pony on the inside, and a nod to the queen on the outside. 

Blue Bird Promises

Part of this story began last summer.  I returned from my deployment in Afghanistan last April and thus began the merry-go-round of farriers that made it impossible to ride the High Queen all last summer.  One balmy afternoon I got home from work, changed clothes, slipped on a pair of flip flops and walked out to the side pasture to give my two four footed babies a couple of carrots.

There is only one small section of fence that didn't have electric wire across it so I stood there and fed her majesty and Cowboy their carrots.  There was a rustling in the grass that I mostly ignored.  My property has a lot of spots where water collects thus a lot of toads. So thinking that I had disturbed a toad I stepped back from the fence only to stare in horror and jump further away as I realized that I had disturbed not a toad but a huge black snake.  I fully admit I screamed like a little girl and then whipped out my cellphone to track down my husband.

I knew my husband was somewhere close because his truck was home but his motorcycle was not. He ended up being down at the neighbors but told me he would come help me with the snake.  I immediately moved my totally oblivious horses to a different pasture then went to look for a big bucket and something to pick the snake up with.

Okay I know you're wondering why I wasn't looking for a gun, and truly if I had known then what I know now I would have. But back then I thought I was doing a good thing.  King snakes, the big black monster in the pasture eat not only hole digging rodents but poisonous snakes too. So I didn't want to kill something that would eat oooh Water Moccasins and Copperheads.

My husband came home and we attempted to convince the huge snake (The largest I have ever seen outside of a zoo) that it did indeed want to vacate the premisis.  The problem was we finally realized why the snake was there when I looked up to see  EEEEK another King snake attempting to crawl in to the Blue Bird box that was on the fence line. There were at least three babies in there that had attacted the snakes.

We fought off the snakes and made them slither way off in to the woods.  We went back in to the house our duty done. Don't read on if you get squeamish.  Unfortunately the bigger of the two snakes returned, got in to the box, ate one of the baby birds and smothered the others.  My husband and I destroyed the bird box and ran the snake off again.

So this year for Valentines day my husband bought me two cedar Blue Bird boxes.  A few weeks ago we put up the first box in an area that was better protected from snakes and we put in some snake deterents. Though after seeing the whole effect I was certain that our resident Blue Birds would not nest in the box because it was in a higher traffic area outside one of the pasture gates that leads in to my backyard.

But today my husband and I were taking a walk through the back pasture and I glanced at the box and saw what looked like a pine needle hanging out of the box.  Funny, I thought then approached the box.  It has a latch that lets you open the front of the box to look inside and sure enough there was part of nest in the box that had not been there the week before.  The Blue Birds had indeed decided to nest in the box.

Update:  A week or so later there are now three eggs in the completed nest. I haven't been able to photograph the parents, but I was able to get one of the eggs.

Rush, Rush, Ride

I wanted to ride at a decent hour this weekend but the weather and my life just weren't having it.  Saturday I had to take Jasper back in to the vet for his weekly, post I-Ate-Something-I-Shouldn't-Have surgery, check up, which turned in to getting a whole lot of errands done including a stop at the feed store to get a different, higher fat feed for the High Queen since coming out of winter and trying to go to a lower starch feed has caused her to lose some weight. And of course when I got home it was on again, off again tag with thunderstorms.  So no riding on Saturday.

Sunday I had to work for a few hours in the middle of the day, early in the morning the footing was too slippery, and so rushing home after work, stopping at the grocery store, finally getting home, and dressed to ride it was nearly 6:30pm, which translates after tacking up in to about half an hour to ride. In which the High Queen was a pain in the butt. It was close to dinner time, never a good time to disturb her majesty, and her pasturemate was in the field across from the riding area stuffing himself on new green grass. Jealousy, and giraffe impressions ensued. So not a bad ride, but not great either.

I have two weeks to get the two of us in shape to debut at Deep Run, we could do it now, it wouldn't be pretty, but we could do it. I am going to try and take some lessons with my trainer over the next two weeks, but it depends on my schedule and her's, and of course the weather.

But I did find, and go walk a xc course that is only an hour away.  It wasn't spectacular, but for introducing a green horse to scarey xc jumps it would fit the bill and it's so close plus for as much rain as we have had the footing was excellent. I'll put up some pictures when I can. Until then, ride hard, jump high, and don't look back.

Jasper aka Croc-o-potomus