Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Out of the Frying Pan - Into the Fire

Today I shot off the poop list, and onto my own list. Brita says she has no idea what to call it.

Firstly, as I've said before, once I learn something I don't forget it. Today when Brita came to get me, I was standing at the gate with the chin piece of my halter chewed and hanging from each ring. I'm not telling how I do it. Obviously I don't have to have it off to chew it. It's my special secret. So, that aggravated her a little and she put me in my stall.

She clattered around the barn for awhile and then brought me out onto the crossties.... and I saw a...a...a vision. A Miracle. It was a baby horse.

Right there in my arena. Just like something out of a story book. I was so overwhelmed that I lost all composure. I threw up my tail, arched my neck and bellowed like a wild stallion. I was so inspired! I could barely hold myself together. Brita shoved me back into the grooming area and wrestled me onto the crossties. I couldn't even see straight. I bounced up and down and called to the little guy. Oh we could have so much fun together. I was making such a ruckus that Mom came down the aisle and had to hold my head. She and Brita conferred and decided I had lost my outside riding privileges for the day and maybe we should just concentrate on a good grooming while I regained my senses.

I couldn't even think about such things and continued to carry on. It took the crossties and Mom too to hold me in place. I even forgot my manners and cow kicked at Brita. Unfortunately for me, because of my poor behavior, she had a whip in her hand and I got a lickin. I should have thought about that. She had been rapping my ribs with the butt of the whip trying to keep from getting trompled and I never noticed it until I got laced with it. That sobered my up pretty quick. My 10 minute tantrum was over.

I think I got groomed, it's all sort of fuzzy. After awhile I got put back in my stall where I kicked and carried on. I think Brita went and played with the little colt without me. That made me very jealous and angry. I was so restless in my stall, she put me back out before she left. I ran all over looking for the little colt and smelling to see where he was, but he had vanished, like a mirage. Boy was I mad. I have had a very bad day.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Boy am I in Trouuuuuuble...

I have been having to pull out all the stops lately to get attention. We have a new foal in our barn. My "staff" is in and out of here all day and late into the night, but I have not been getting any more attention than usual. Luckily, I am a skilled trick horse and I am able to show off for the frequent visitors. However, I have had to resort to some crazy ideas to get my people to notice me as they go about their routine.

Throughout the winter and into spring, I get a hot breakfast of sugar beets every morning. Saturday I decided to try wearing them to see if I would get noticed. It worked. Not only do I have them on my face (as usual), but you will notice I have them on my shoulder and both ears. I have already been interogated, and for the record... "No I don't remember how they got in my ears."

Then... Today, I took my halter off and chewed it to smitherines.
Brita is mad because she said she almost took the better one off on Sunday to take home and clean the beets off of which means I would have been wearing the one that already got broken. Luckily, the part I chewed up is OK on the spare, so she stopped by, and replaced the piece I chewed. Now I have one totally ruined "parts" halter that is all out of parts and needs to go to the Amish for repair. And my name has been officially changed to Mudd. But, the baby horse got a brand new halter. Is there some reason why I can't have one too?

So, in short, all this juvenile behavior: the beets in the hair, the teething on equipment, have put me at the top of the poop list. The baby horse has been getting away with all sorts of mischief. I think it's an unfair double standard.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Crossing the Grand Canyon

Today I went on my first ever honest to goodness trail ride! And what do you think we saw? The Grand Canyon. But, more about that later.

Today was such a beautiful day and dry for March. Uncle Dad has been working on trails since last summer. There was a logging crew in the woods last year and they left some trails, and a lot of tree tops, so he has been working in there cleaning up, cutting fire wood and grooming riding trails. He even drew us a map to help us find our way. Of course, I'm not real good at reading maps, so today he offered to give us a guided tour.

He met us down at the corner of the field by the gate to point the way. You remember the gate with it's scary muddy ruts. I did much better today. I had to think about it for a minute, and kind of give myself a pep talk, but once I've learned a lesson, I remember it and I even went through it face first! I was ready to go the same way towards the open pasture, but Brita turned me along the muddy trail towards the woods. Uuummm, OK. My sense of adventure and curiosity won out over my aversion to mud.

Any of you who are familiar with Saddlebreds will probably realise that we like to sound a little warning with snorty blows. This is so we don't accidentally sneak up on any monsters. It's better if the monsters know you're coming so they can get out of the way ahead of time. Uncle Dad called after us to turn right at the fence and meet him at the tree stand. The deeper I got into the woods, probably 25 feet or more, the scarier it got. I began to have second thoughts. Maybe this wasn't a good place for a horse to be. I recognise horse places. They are usually level with sand and have harrow tracks in them. This didn't look like that. It had mud and ruts and tree branches. Brita made an executive decision and pointed me towards dry firm ground. Things went OK for another 50 feet until I saw it. The Grand Canyon.

Now those of you who know me know that I don't like drop offs much. They're dangerous. Even what looks like dry firm ground can suddenly drop out from under you. Well this was the biggest drop off I'd seen yet. There was a river running at the bottom of it full of huge boulders the size of houses. I decided this might be a good time to renegotiate our route. I stopped and explained in horse language that I thought we'd better scrap this idea and detour right towards the gate. I pointed with my ear and engaged reverse. When that didn't work I even stomped my foot for emphasis. "I'm not kidding, this is a bad idea."

Brita tried to explain to me that this wasn't a canyon. This was a ravine. A baby ravine not even as old as she was. In fact, not anywhere near as big as the ravine over there which we'll get to next month. What?!? Apparently the real Grand Canyon is like a million years older and thousands of times deeper. But how was I supposed to know? I don't have anything to compare it to, and if we're expecting me to make judgement decisions, we're going to err on the side of caution.

So, she called over to Uncle Dad who was waiting at the tree stand and said I needed to be carried over. Yeah right. Carried. I was glad to see a friend though. I was beginning to think we were lost. She told him to stand at the bottom of the canyon so I could see how deep it was. Well that helped! All of a sudden things swam back into perspective and I realized those boulder the size of houses were really only pebbles. Thank God! We're not going to die!

Now I knew I wanted to try, but I was still a little scared. Uncle Dad started up the other side and I started to lose my perspective again. But I got right down at the bottom by what turned out to be a trickle of water, and I prepared to leap for the other side. My knees began to wobble, and my fanny started to waggle. "Watch your back" she says "He's coming over!" Mid flight I realised the other side was a lot closer than I thought, so I only ended up with a little hop. Uncle Dad said that was a lot of preparation for what turned out to be a "little fairy flight".

I took a deep breath and accepted my praise. How am I supposed to know how to do this? I've never even seen anyone do it, and I'm out here alone improvising. I followed him out of the woods which opened up into a lovely field which looked like it would be great for a romp. The ground is still a little soft. He pointed out two or three places trails went off so next time we could try some new places. Brita thought I needed to relax a bit and just stroll around that field. She laughed when we got back because she said I missed all the stuff that would scare normal horses like the web electric tape added to the fence line for visibility that was fluttering in the breeze. I was too busy rubber necking over the fabulous new view. I can't wait to explore more territory.

Uncle Dad suggested we go back an easy way but Brita thought I could handle that ravine, so back we went. When I got there, I started to look around for a better place to cross , or preferably go around. After all, Uncle Dad was off to our left on what looked like a short cut, so he had to come back down and walk across with me again. This time I made a much more impressive leap which surprised even me. Brita stuck pretty good up there. She's good at giving me all my rein and somehow staying with the saddle on her own. I had no idea she could ride like that. I'll have to make things more exciting for her.

We made it back out through the mud hopping over a fallen tree and had a nice gallop through the corn field so I could release some of my tension. The riding ring was freshly dragged so we went in there and did a little stretching and schooling, but I never realised before how boring that can be. I remember when I was just a kid going outside to the ring was new and exhilarating. Now my horizons are expanding and I can't wait to get out and see more of the world.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


I need to hijack Grey's blog today...

One of my favorite literary characters, Miss Elzabeth Bennett of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice once said:
"The more I see of the world, the more I am dissatisfied with it."
That's an attitude that is pretty easy to understand in this day and age, and that's basically what my attitude has been, particularly this week. There is a lot to be dissatisfied with, and some days it is difficult to find a reason not to be.

After my lunchbreak ride today, I can safely say I have never been more satisfied with any horse I have owned or worked than I am with Grey right now. I could go on and on about how willing and well mannered he was, and how he was supple and worked through himself with impulsion and collection. But why bore you with details. I am happy with my horse. He is a good boy, and today he has proven that he has achieved all the training goals I have set for him. I am proud of him, and pleased with myself. The only questions is.... where do we go from here? I have some ideas, but I'll have to let Grey tell you about them.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

It's easy to behave indoors, or "How I became acquainted with the Half-Halt"

What a gorgeous day! If you had been outdoors 5 times in 5 months, and you were faced with perfect footing and sunshine what would you do? Now I behaved myself perfectly this weekend, negotiating all of the slippery frozen mud at a walk on a loose rein, but today was a day for kicking up ones heels and celebrating!
Most often, when we go outside down the road, it is for recreation, not schooling! I can't imagine why anyone would want to do lessons on such a wonderful day with the open road beckoning, and a fresh spring wind. I tried to make suggestions to the itinerary like "Wouldn't it be a good time to practice our trot-canter transitions?" Or, "how about a nice Capriole?" but NoooOOoooo...
I did sort my feelings out and ultimately did everything requested as requested. Brita said the training session could have really fallen apart, and she gave the credit to my cooperative nature over her patience as a trainer. When we got back to the indoor, Uncle Dad had provided us with four ground poles. I've recently learned to walk over a wooden bridge so the idea of having to step over something on the ground wasn't entirely new to me. Still, when Brita rode me up the the poles I stopped and considered whether or not I had accommodated her cockamamie ideas enough for one day. She took it slow and patted my shoulder, so I decided to continue to humor her, and walked over the poles as requested.
When she turned me loose in the sand to roll, I ran right over and started chewing on the poles while she gathered them up and put them away. After all, I had to think of something naughty. If I am completely compliant she will forget that our relationship is based entirely on my willingness to cooperate.

Monday, March 16, 2009

A little ray of sunshine

It looks like Spring may have finally come to our neck of the woods. Saturday was a beautiful day although it took a while to warm up properly. We went for a ride, and I explored some uncharted territory. We started in the hay field which was frozen on top and very slippery. I kept gazing off over the fence to the cow pasture. It looked so much more interesting than the hay fields. Luckily, the gate was open at the corner. It would have been so much easier if the fence hadn't been there. Brita tried to explain to me the hazard, and showed my the high tensile fence. Then she pointed me at the gate. Problem... the drive leading to the gate was rutted 10 inches deep with mud, frozen on top. I got as far as the gate post, but I kept turning my head and wishing I could just go through the fence somehow. It took me awhile to muster the courage to get through that frozen mud. Finally, Brita just turned me around and backed me the last 10 feet. I feel so much more brave when she's in charge and I don't have to look. When I have to make the decision about whether or not it's safe, I always like to err on the side of caution. However, as my frame of reference grows, I feel more qualified to make these decisions.
We had a nice walk through the cow pasture. The ground in there was also frozen and slippery. We went along the fence so I would know where it was in case I ever have to find my way home alone. There are a lot of dangerous situations to get into out in the wide world, but I'm learning about them one by one so I can be a safe and responsible mount.
Uncle Dad (that's what we call Brita's Step father) said he was going to mark a trail through the woods that would be safe so we can go exploring even further. And, he brought us some poles so I can work on my obstacles at the barn in my spare time.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Rudy the Red Headed Step Child

In my last post, I did not mention my friend Rudy because we did not get a picture of him. Poor Rudy. He feels left out. Rudy doesn't really have a special person, or a special job (besides chewing on my halter) so he gets overlooked a lot. Here is a special note about Rudy so maybe he will feel a little more special:

My last blog didn’t mention Red Ridge Rudy at all
Is it because he doesn’t have his own permanent stall?
I know he is different, but Lucy the Appaloosa is too
Some people like little Quarter Horses, (maybe a few)
The vet doesn’t come see him, he’s pretty darn sound
You’d never guess he’s got cutting horse background
Maybe someone would love him and he’d find a home
He isn’t any Saddlebred and has no Appy-like chrome
He’s a trail horse or 4H project that someone needs
It’s not his fault that he isn’t one of our favorite breeds
Brita should mention him the next time, maybe he’ll be
Bought up by some one who’ll love him just like you
Love me

Here's a picture of Rudy from his Christmas card last year.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Friends and "Neigh"bors

Since we snapped a lot of pictures this weekend, I thought you might like a chance to meet some of my stablemates.

This is Lucy the Appaloosey sporting her crAppolution spring fashion. Lucy's stall is right across from mine, and I try to teach her everything I know like how to bang on the door to make the food come faster, and how to dunk your hay.

This is Hairy the Saddlebred. Hairy had just gotten caught in a rainstorm and was drenched. Hairy doesn't do anything, but he is very friendly. I always stop to visit him on my way down the barn aisle.

This is Face-Off a.k.a. "the Pinkster". He might look like an ol' spotted cowhorse from the front, but he is really a winning Country Pleasure horse.
Here is what he looks like when he and I go to the horse shows.

And this is our expectant mother "Copy". I can't wait to meet my new little playmate. When he or she gets big enough, we're going to be best buddies.

Saturday, March 7, 2009


We took an otherwise grey day, and put a little dapple in it...

Finally, the ice on the driveway has melted, and it's safe to go outside. Actually, it was melted last weekend, but someone was off galavanting and left me home standing in the barn. We made up for it today. Brita came to the barn all clean and spiffy, toting clean tack and she decked me out in my "going outside gear". She took a picture to begin with, just in case I came back in looking like a mudpie. So, here I am all ready to go... but what have you done to my tail? Actually, besides the mud knot in my tail, you will notice in the pictures she also braided my mane. She does this when we go outside to avoid getting tangled up in it. She says 3 minutes of braiding can save a lot of hair, and some potentially awkward situations if I get a little out of hand.

Since we have not been outside since the last thaw at Christmas, and because we have only actually ridden about once a month all winter, we started inside to work some kinks out and get a feel for each other's mood. Most of the time, I am a regular kinda guy inside, but now and then I like to pretend I'm Pegasus.

We cantered inside to see if there were any bucks stuck in there anywhere. I did fine, but she decided I was just full of it enough to install an emergency brake, so she added a rein through the martingale before we went out.

The first few steps outside in so long got me so excited I wanted to jump for joy. I only got about 3 hooves off the ground before she growled at me and threatened to go get a "persuader". I don't like to be "persuaded" on my fanny, so I straightened out.

At first I did my best imitation of a Lippizan, arching my neck and first trotting, then cantering in place. I didn't feel much like a hunter today. I felt a lot more like a Park Hack, and I did a few saddleseat steps just because I can.

After I got my legs stretched a little, we had a refresher in road safety. It will be a month or two until either the fields or the outdoor arena are suitable to ride in, so we will make use of the shoulder of the road. We practiced walking on the side with the big deep ditch. At first I wasn't brave enough to go over there, but she asked again in five minutes, and I was OK with it.
We practiced crossing the pavement safely. You have to be careful, especially when it's wet. I always walk cautiously on the road. No dancing around here.

Then we practiced getting off the road at several spots in case of traffic. The field slopes away quite steeply on one side, and I have gotten used to climbing up and down off the road, just in case we ever have to do it in an emergency. This is something I never had to do in my early training as a show horse. I wasn't brave enough to do this at first, now I will climb up or down almost anything, and can even hop over a ditch or log.

We spent most of our time walking since I am a little out of shape, and Brita says I need to learn to be patient, especially headed towards home. We did trot and canter, and I was pretty patient walking. When I got too eager and wanted to jog, Brita made me do shoulders in. That slows me down because it's hard to jig and fuss when you're crossing your legs.

It was pretty drizzly out as you can see. We were both steaming and all the dampness brought out the yellow grunge in my coat. Really I didn't get that dirty. Now, if I had had my way, and gotten to enact that scene in Seabiscuit where they "run until he stops"... now then I would have been muddy. As it was, it only took a stiff brush to get the mud off when it dried. I put on my big wool cooler until my coat dried out.

It really was a great day. I felt so good afterwards. Too bad it wasn't sunny and pretty out, but at least we didn't get caught in the rain. I really hope that winter is over and we can go outside every day. Although Brita arrived all spiffy, with clean tack, by the time she got everything put right around the barn, she was sweaty, covered in hair and hayseed, and had an armload of dirty tack and yucky towels. While I spend the afternoon munching hay and feeling all relaxed and happy, she muttered something about laundry and cleaning. At least she will have these pictures to look at to remember why she she has to do all that.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

It's the little things

Well, you can teach an old human new tricks. Brita came back from the training clinic with at least one good idea we can use today. Since we have a very nice indoor round pen available which has the best footing possible all year round, we do quite a bit of long lining. Plus, I think she enjoys watching me. Well, just the weight of the lines seems to tighten up on my bit, and I have a very light mouth. It would be nice if the lines would loosen up a little easier when we stop, and just be a little lighter in general. The friction of the line through the surcingle ring, and against the leather of the back pad really seems to lock it in there. Today she came from the hardware store with two big brass swivel snaps and snapped those onto each surcingle ring and ran the reins through the swivel end of the snap instead. Having those rings on a two inch snap so it can raise away from the leather, and sort of swing around gives a lot more play to the lines, and seems to make them easier to release. I really appreciate little things like that.

Also, we have worked around our technical difficulties, and I have posted my snow angel pictures if you want to go back and look at those.