Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Load, Lock, Repeat

Over this past weekend I visited my family. I can't remember if I relayed in this blog that my dad is really sick. Last month he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. So while my riding life is getting better and better, my personal life not so much.

While I was visiting my family I picked up some sort of virus, and I now have a low dose of flu, or a high dose of a cold. Whichever way you want to look at it I am not feeling well at all. But I made myself play with Seneca yesterday.  I had not loaded her on the trailer since last Thursday, and I wanted to make sure I could make a repeat of our previous success.

It wasn't success right away, although she was the calmest I have ever seen her in the trailer. She was almost dozing, three legged. The first two times I tried to close the divider I don't think I had her far enough forward because when the divider came across she freaked and threw herself off the trailer. It was either that or I was moving too quickly trying to close it.

I went a bit slower the third time, rubbing her as I drew the divider closer and closer in. Then finally I had her locked in. I tied her lead line loosely then slipped out the emergency door and came back in to the trailer.  She was still standing three legged and calm. I rubbed her butt for a long while before I decided to let her out.  I went around and tried to feed her a couple of carrots.  If Seneca is really upset she won't eat, not even treats. But she gobbled down the carrots and then let me throw the lead over her neck before I went back around again and opened the divider.

Again she scrunched her body in like a slinky retracting and turned to face the back of the trailer then waited for me to ask her to get off.  She hopped out of the trailer easy as you please then looked around calmly.  As a special treat I walked her down to the main gate to our property closed it then I let her loose to graze on the lush green that still runs down both sides of our driveway. 

She was happy, I was happy. A good day. I haven't tested the new routine in the two situations that are bound to make Seneca a little more worried. Which are in the dark(all my horse trials and xc schooling areas are no less than two hours away, and more often they are likely to be 3 and 4 hours away), and loading up and going off the farm, then trying to reload in a strange place. Those two things are next on my list to try once Seneca gets a bit better with the trailering.

I still can't get Seneca locked in to the first stall. I'm not sure if I ever will, but I'm okay with that as long as I can get her secured for travel. I'll have to figure out a way to tie the first stall divider to the second one so it doesn't swing around while we are traveling. But that is a minor issue considering a year ago Seneca wasn't loading at all much less letting me lock her in to the trailer.

So aside from my family drama all is going pretty well. Keep it between the flags everyone.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Visions of Spring

For the last three years I've been trying to get the High Queen out to debut at a horse trial. The first two years Seneca was on the injured list, this last summer I was on injured list.  The injuries interspersed with Seneca's trailering issue kept us home. I would plan to take her some place we would work on the trailering issue, she would seem like we had it licked but on the day that we would be ready to go she would stare at the empty trailer, it would stare back and no joy was had between the two.

The last year as I've talked about in this blog before I have been unable to either get the High Queen to load or stay in the trailer. I had tried everything, and I even dumped my two horse gooseneck trailer and bought a bigger three horse slant trailer to try and convince the High Queen that trailering could be fun.

We bought the trailer in September.  The trailer had been on the farm for three days when the High Queen finally deigned to step forth in to it.  That was the first step and I nearly cried that day.  Seneca continued to get better at getting in and out. I created a routine.  I get her from the pasture, I tie her to the trailer, I groom her and then on to the loading and unloading.  Then I would either ride, or tie her and groom her again.

Seneca had been spending longer and longer periods in the trailer without just unloading herself which she learned only made me put her back in the trailer. She was only allowed to be done unloading if I asked her to unload.  Now while we are still having the one to two minute staring contests with the lead rope stretched tight, tight, tight between us, she does get on.  I have wayyy more patience then she does. I spent three months on crutches and in casts not walking, and being pretty helpless. If that doesn't teach a person patience nothing will.

This past week I had been adding something new to the routine. I needed to be able to close the dividers in the trailer so I could get Seneca secured in the trailer and then be able to close the doors. I had been trying to work on getting her to tie in the trailer so I could then walk back, shut the divider, and then the door.  No go.  She would not let me leave her. I did manage a couple of times to get all the way out of the trailer, but then Seneca unloaded herself. *sigh*

So what to do?  I began working Seneca up to letting me touch her with the divider.  I could use one hand to hold the lead and rub her, and the other to pull the divider against her.  The first couple of times Seneca got extremely nervous. But eventually she let me push her with the divider, but I couldn't get the nearest divider(The one for the first stall) closed because she wouldn't move all the way up in to the space.

Okay this is a problem. She will let me touch her with the divider but I can't move to close the first stall's divider. How did I solve this problem?  I looped a lunge line around the narrowist part of the second divider and used the lunge line to pull the divider closed.  TA DA! Wonder Pony is now locked in to the trailer.  I then tied her lead line very loosely (She likes to turn her head and look around) and slipped out the emergency door. I then came around and walked in to the trailer to reassure her. I petted her butt and tried to get the first stall divider closed, but she wouldn't move over.

Eventually I might be able to get her to let me close the first divider, but I can probably rig it so she can ride with just the second divider closed, and I'll still have a spot to put Cowboy in.  The beauty of a three horse slant.

So what did the High Queen do when I finally reopened the divider?  I thought she was going to throw herself in to turbo reverse and was totally prepared for it. But that isn't what happened.  My mare surprised me.  I had been trying to teach her to turn around and face the back of the trailer so I could try and pull the divider closed that way. Which would leave her with no where to back up to. I couldn't get her to understand what I wanted. She just thought I was asking her to either turn her head, or unload.

But when I opened up the divider, she scrunched her body together, turned around to face the back of the trailer then just looked at me. I was sort of startled for a minute then I walked on to the trailer and asked her to follow me off.  She jumped off and looked around worriedly for a moment as if she expected to be somewhere else. I think this goes back to the last couple of times I had trailered. Twice she'd gotten in to a trailer and left her friends, her usual handlers, and her routine to be cast in to something new and unfamiliar.

And what did I do after she calmed down enough to see we were still on our farm?  I loaded her right back in to the trailer and made her stand there for a few moments. Though I didn't close the dividers again.

I would call this a win. We are still a ways from Seneca being a reliable loader, but we have come soooo far. Happy, happy, happy!

Flying between the flags!

A Hint of Victory

These days with the time change *Glares, we so need to do away with it* I don't get home in time to spend more than 30 minutes or so with the horses. So I have to pick and choose. Do I work with Cowboy on becoming a grown-up riding horse, or do I work with the High Queen on her trailering issues?  I try to switch off days so I can work with both of them a little during the week.

This weekend I won't get to ride at all. I'm going home to visit my family. I am both happy and apprehensive. Basically my family is falling apart due to my dad's deteriorating health. I don't know how I will react to all of this when I am fully immersed in it. Being three hours away I'm detached from all the craziness, being in the middle of it is going to be a little scary. Which is why I'm taking the puppy with me as a buffer and stress reliever.

Back to the horsey-ness.  Yesterday I was going to take the puppy up to Petsmart to get him some food and let him walk around. I think he licked every toy in the place. But I did get him a new harness since Bull Terrier's are notorious for pulling.

But before I went I wanted to sneak in some time playing with Seneca.  She stood in the trailer for a whole fifteen or twenty minutes without getting off!  This is a huge step, since it's usually get on, get off, get on, get off repeatedly.  She also let me touch her, and push on her with the divider. She even moved over a little.  Soo much progress. I am so close to being able to lock her, sooo close. But I will remain patient. I don't want to scare her, I want her to be happy about being in there.

As a side note my trainer T. earned her USDF Bronze Medal this past weekend. She earned it on her Connemara/TB cross Chagall.  Chagall used to be her event horse but she's stepped away from eventing in the past few years and is focusing on dressage.  I've ridden Chagall before and he is super fun to jump. I never worried about being able to get over the fences with him. He's quirky but really great.  So congrats to my trainer on reaching one of her riding goals!

Anyway that is all from the Midnight Hill Farm front.  Keep it between the flags everybody!

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Temper in the Leaves

This past Saturday was spent in horsey  if not riding pursuits. Because I was still in a cast at the time the planning commitee got together I volunteered to head up the food for my trail riding club's annual Poker Run Trail Ride. Which was pretty fun. I camped out for the first time in my new horse trailer.  It was really cold(adjustments to heating and blankets needs to be made) and my husband didn't stay overnight because he had to work realllly early Saturday morning, but we ate pizza, told scarey stories, made S'mores and generally had a good time.  Other than losing sleep(never let your husband park the trailer under a pine tree that scrapes at the window all night in the wind) due to the noise and the cold, camping in my own trailer was awesome.

The next day I made sure all our trail riders had hot drinks and chili and just a fabulous time despite the chilly weather.  I did almost get run over twice by an idiot who thinks he is an expert rider, but obviously not since he almost let his horse run me over, once while I was on a fourwheeler.  I truly hate people who don't have enough sense to keep an anxious horse away from the pedestrian areas.

But seeing all my friends, and trail riders going off for a jaunt in the woods made me homesick for my own saddle and trail riding fun.  Saturday night I had to work, heralding in Daylight Savings Time is not my favorite activity, so I slept in way late on Sunday.  I did get alot of stuff done on Sunday though. Gave the house a once over cleaning, played with the puppy, went horse, dog and people grocery shopping, (my puppy now smells like coconuts from his  new shampoo!), and then hurried home to get a ride in on my horse.

I purposely left the Spotted Beast with access to the main and side pastures because I knew the minute my mare was out of sight he was going to throw a fit.  Sure enough as soon as I started off across the fields Cowboy started screaming and flinging himself up and down the fencelines.

Seneca was pretty good for a mare who hasn't been off the farm since last spring. She was very up, and anxious, but she went with few complaints. We just walked the edges of the fields that belong to the local farmers. Not a long ride but enough to convince me that I can handle riding Seneca off the farm without putting my healing leg in to peril.

On the way back when we got within hearing distance of Cowboy, who was still screaming, Seneca wanted to trot or jig her way home.  No Ma'mam.  Every time she would move faster than a walk I turned her in the opposite direction. After four or five times the High Queen got the memo about the speed with which she was allowed to move towards home. Once we moved off the farmer's land and on to my neighbors Seneca calmed even more because she's been down there a couple of times.

I thought for sure Cowboy was going to jump the fence and I'd find him wandering about calling for Seneca but he stayed where he was supposed to.

All in all a good weekend.

Keep it between the flags and hugs to all.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Step Forward, A Step Back

Even though I was entirely too tired, and got home from work late (*Sigh* Why does work always get in the way of riding?), I wanted to ride. I needed it.   So again with the routine, groom, load, unload, ride.

Except I added something new to the ride. Okay deep down I've been wanting to canter the last couple of rides but I wasn't sure how my ankle would feel. But I did it anyway.  Not only did we canter both directions, and my ankle wasn't protesting too much, but we cantered on the left lead(Seneca's nemesis, other than the trailer) and there was no bucking, no fighting, no prodding to get there.  I mean the transition wasn't the prettiest, but we got there, and it was good.

The trailering *sigh* I don't know if I will ever get the damn dividers or door closed. I want it, I want it so bad, so I can finally start trailering out to places, but the flipping mare is still protesting. *sigh*  Patience, patience, patience.

In other news. My dad isn't doing so well.  His planned third surgery got cancelled because they didn't think it was going do any good at this point.  His cancer is terminal, and the doctors are saying six months.   A miracle could happen, it could, it could, it could. But, time is a fragile thing, especially when there isn't a lot of it.

I've planned trips home, more than I usually would in a regular year.  My older sister has taken a leave of absence, the younger one is moving home.  And I guess I feel some guilt over not being there, but what would I be able to do if I were there? Sit and watch tv with him, talk about the same things that we always do?  I can't help him, I know this, and me sitting on the couch staring at the tv screen while be both ignore what is happening may pass the time, but it won't keep him from dying.

I also can't just drop my entire life to move home for six months either.  Both of my sisters work for civilian employers who have a bit of sympathy for the situation.  The Navy? Not so much. Unless my dad was very near the end and I got a Red Cross message I wouldn't be able to get emergency leave.  I am taking time in November and December, and probably in to the spring, but the Navy doesn't have too much sympathy for my family's tragedy, and my boss even less.  

My immediate boss A. is also my friend and he's been kind, and considerate, giving me time, and an ear, and a shoulder but my next up the chain boss has said not word one to me.

Anyway,  my animals and my husband are keeping me sane and stable right now. I don't think my sisters understand how I am handling this. Both of them are falling apart half the time, and my mom isn't doing so well either.  But I haven't cried, or been hysterical or fallen apart. I don't think I know how anymore.  I've seen too many things, and while I love my dad, the closeness of his death is not touching me yet.  I feel detached from it, and that detachment, as well as the three hour distance is giving me a cushion that allows me to think clearly, and act in the moment without thinking too far in to the future.

Does this make me cold or uncaring? Does it mean I'm not concerned about my dad's health, or where his situation is going in six months?  No, I don't think so.  I've dealt with death, I've seen it, I've stared it in the eye, and seen those who have but just barely escaped it. It makes me immune to some things. Plus I know that nothing I do will change my dad's fate. Nothing, so fighting, and crying, and falling apart isn't going to get the tasks done that need to be completed.

Tragedy happens, but the horses still need to be fed.

Keep it between the flags everyone, there's too much insanity outside of them.