Friday, January 29, 2010

Warm Thoughts

Sleek Hides

Cool water from an unfrozen hose

Fresh Grass


Bare pavement ....

And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming....

Saturday, January 23, 2010

They Say It's My Birthday!

Today is my Birthday! I'm 7 years old. Apparently, Birthday is yet another gifting holiday. I got extra food treats, and a brand new Uncle Jimmy Ball 'cause my Christmas one evaporated. Isn't that strange?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Fresh Air and Sunshine

I got to go outside today! Outsideoutsideoutside! Boy was that a surprise! A whole month early, and I was barely ready. It was a gorgeous day. Thirty six degrees and blue skies. Of course, last night was cold. It was only seven degrees this morning, and our carrots had frozen solid in the tack room overnight. Brita had to drop them in the hot wash water to thaw them out.

I spent the morning out back. Yes, I was brave enough to go out there by myself. I explored and had so much fun. I rolled in the snow and my coat was all swishy and crinkly from getting damp and then drying in the sun. Brita came after lunch and immediately put my saddle on. It may have been thirty six degrees out in the sunshine, but it wasn't that warm inside the barn, and my saddle felt like a block of ice. All my tack was cold. Not the bit of course, but the bridle behind my fuzzy ears, and the girth in my warm armpits. Brrrrr... I made some bad faces, but you would have too.

First Brita turned my loose in the arena with my tack on. I took some great big leaps for joy. I was excited at the prospect of being ridden. Pretty soon I pulled up and stood still to let Brita know I had my saddle where I wanted it and I was ready to see what we were going to do. She mounted up and we made a few rounds, but we weren't really interested in going in little circles. We wanted some fresh air and sunshine!
Now the shoulder of the road may be thawed and nice soft sand, but the barn driveway is still hard and frozen thick in ice like an ice rink. So we picked our way around the picnic table and through the yard. Mom was so proud of me for being such a Steady Eddy. I was cautious of things but was very solid and reliable. Brita hadn't even bitted up or put a martingale on me or anything. This was me leaving the driveway last March on my first spring ride. I was well behaved, but a bundle of nerves.

This is me today, sauntering casually up the road on a loose rein. Mom says it's official...I'm a grown up, trained horse. I admit I did feel quite mature and responsible.

We trit-trotted a bit. I was a little more tender footed with my bare feet than I expected. When Brita said I could canter, I was so excited I wasn't sure which leg to use first. I invented a whole new gait which was a mix between a rack and a canter. Brita called in a "ranter". But I got it sorted out. Boy it was great to be able to move out in a straight line on nice smooth footing.

Face-Off and Hairy were out in the paddock. I think Face-Off would have liked to go with me!

We didn't stay out long. Pretty soon we were picking our way back through the snowbanks in the yard back down to the barn.

Even that little bit of exercise warmed me right up and I got to use my new Christmas sweater. It worked great! In no time at all I was dry and comfy and ready to go back to my stall. The carrots were thawed, and I ate one of those. I enjoyed napping in the warm afternoon sun coming through my window, and I felt so good having stretched my legs and seen some sites. The thought of being able to ride outside will give me motivation in my fitness training for the next couple of weeks....or months.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Back to Basics

I have been enjoying my vacation but we have hopes that someday the snow will thaw, the mud will dry up, and the sun will come out. With that in mind, I have started a little basic exercise program to get toned and limbered up.

We always start with the Kindergarten basics. Like, what shape is a circle? hint: both fit in a "round pen" but only one is acceptable. There are no extra points for creativity.

We start with the "starter bit". Yes, it's actually a pelham, but we only use it for it's big fat rubbery mouthpiece.

And side reins... This is my "Shhhhh I'm concentrating" face.

And we work on stuff like

What should you be doing when you are asked to "Whoa"?

a. slam on the brakes and face your trainer
b. drag to a stop, and then inch backwards one step at a time chomping on your bit
c. engage your hindquarters, ease promptly to a stop, stand square on the circle waiting for the command to walk off
d. I'm sorry, what was the question again?

Actually, I'm pretty good at this. After a few sessions, I get used to carrying myself in a proper frame again. I never forget the words, and I have nailed every walk canter transition. Yay me! After a few short session a week on the longe, I can graduate to mounted work where we can do more interesting stuff like bending and leg yielding and maybe some ground poles. I plan on being all tuned up and ready for March when we can maybe get OUTSIDE again.

Yes, I know that I am allowed to go outside on my own, but it has been kind of scary looking out there lately. The other day it was really really bright like the aliens were landing behind the barn or something, and I'm scared to go by myself. If someone goes with me I'll stay out there and explore. But it takes a more courage than I can muster to walk into the light alone. Plus, the arena sand is nice and soft and great for running and playing. The ground out back is hard and rough. A guy could twist an ankle out there! I'd rather just stand at the door and look.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Who Are The People in Your Neighborhood?

Bif's Mom commented on the last post that she was confused as to who my "human staff" is. We've got a lot of new followers so I thought it might be a good time to stop and introduce everyone so you can keep them straight.

This is "Mom". She's in charge around here.

She takes care of me from dawn until way after dark. She makes my hot beet pulp, makes sure I always have plenty of hay and dry bedding and brings me lots of goodies. She likes to garden so we get carrots and pears and things like that. I even took her for a little ride once. But mostly, she waits on us hand and hoof. All day long, every day. She contributes many of the photos here.

This is Brita. She is Mom's daughter. Does that make her my sister? I don't think so.

She is my BFF! Brita is the one who got me started blogging and helps me edit my writing. She doesn't live here but we see her about 4 times a week. She brings a lot of supplies and toys, and does my grooming. We go riding a lot! She is the only one who has ridden me since I got here when I was two years old. Except for that one time when I took Mom for a ride.

This is Uncle Dad. I used to call him Uncle Dick. Then he married Mom so I changed it to Uncle Dad. Everyone else calls him Richard.

He is my friend. He does all the hard work around here. He likes to farm and has a tractor and other equipment. I think he planned on using them for his cows, but it seems that us horses require a lot more work than the cows do. He cleans our stalls, brings the hay from the hay barn and does the grounds maintenance. Sometimes he brings us our food but he does not give treats and a half empty hay net does not seem as dire an emergency to him as it does to me! Sometimes I have to bite him to keep him in line and remind him that I am more important than his casual treatment of me would indicate. He also talks to the other horses too much. Hairy is his snitch and tells on me so I get blamed for a lot of the maintenance that has to be done when it isn't entirely my fault.

But we all try to be nice to Uncle Dad because he does lots of stuff for us. Here he is this summer trying to keep our pasture (and barn!) from flooding. That tractor comes in pretty handy. Between mud and snow and stall cleaning it gets a lot of use.

And finally, this is Tim. Tim is Brita's husband.

Tim only shows up when there is a big project to do. When Tim shows up with tools, we know there is going to be a lot of noise and disruption. But he does bring treats. And he doesn't even make me earn them. And he likes to play ball with me, so I consider him to be a good friend too.

So that is my human family. I'm a pretty lucky horse to have all these people at my beck and call all day. Of course, it does take a small village to manage all of the things I need doing all the time, and I appreciate all they do for me.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Snow Days from the Human Perspective

Since most of North America has been plunged into uncommonly cruel winter weather, I thought it would be a good subject to touch on. Grey has gotten over the novelty of going outside in the snow, and hangs in the indoor next to his haynet and heated water bucket, happily dipping and munching.

His human staff has been persevering despite the inconvenience of frozen buckets, frozen manure, deep snow, and general unpleasantness. Day in day out we head to the barn to battle the elements. The first battle is getting the sliding door open. No wait, the first battle is staying on your feet on the glare ice of the driveway. Still, we have not adopted too many of the modern conveniences that make winter horse care so much easier. We don't have hot running water, or a heated tack or feed room. The tractor and spreader are parked outside. There are no heated buckets in the stalls which seems just plain silly but would require some rewiring (in the summetime). I don't have an electric wall mounted bit warmer. If I decide to ride or long line, I have to spend 10 minutes trying to thaw out the bit. I do enjoy my chemical hand warmers though. Those are nice to have in my pockets when I start to lose feeling in my finger tips.

Owning horses in Western New York in the winter has never been easy, but I remember it being a whole lot more fun when I was younger. When I was a teenager, a fresh snowfall was irresitable, and I could be found charging bareback through snow drifts and hoping for at least a little bucking. One winter my sister and I spent so much time riding we literally wore the hair off them. Both of our horses had thigh shaped patches of fuzzy worn hair on their backs. When we got bored with riding, we found other winter activities like...



And sleigh riding

I even competed in the local Sleigh Rally a couple of years. I was so frozen in the photo below! I caught cold and missed three days of school. Actually, I saw that as a bonus.

A year or two later later, we found these note cards in a local gift shop... Ironic that Mom should have snapped the exact same photo.

Sleigh riding may be very picturesque and romantic, but it has been a long time since I had the gumption to put it all together. I'm still hoping someone out there will invent an automatic, push button remote control horse harnesser. There's not much I hate worse than frozen harness!

In fact, it has been a long time since I rode in the snow at all. Much less exercise outside or practice a winter sport. Heck, with the weather we've been having, it seems inconvenient to leave my warm office in the afternoon go to the gym to work out, sloshing through ankle deep snow and braving winter roads. And, woe unto she who forgets her gym bag in the car all morning and has to put on cold shoes, or worse, shower with frozen soap! But, despite the "inconvenience" I soldier on, every other day, in the comfort of the nearby YMCA, keeping in shape so when riding weather returns I will be fit and ready to go... and will be able to get into the same breeches.

Of course, not all my winter horse memories are of fun and frolicing. I also kept some cows at my grandparents farm half a mile away. Every evening after school, and before dinner I would ride half a mile to the farm to do chores and milk my cows. Then I would ride home with a gallon of warm milk wrapped in my coat. That was another bitter cold winter. I remember making the trek with the Jim Reeves song Just a hundred yards from Mary Ann where the cowboy freezes on his horse outside the door of his lover, running through my head . It seemed a distinct possibility. Nowadays, freezing before I get to the barn door also seems possible!
"Dan, get up you ornery cuss, or you'll be the death of us.I'm so weary, but I'll help you if I can. Alright Dan, perhaps it's best, if we stop a while and rest.For it's still a hundred yards to Mary Ann's. It's still a hundred yards to Mary Ann's."
And yes, my horses name was Dan. Well, Daniel to be precise.
But, hang in there. Every day is one day closer to spring. How is everyone else handling their winter weather?

Friday, January 1, 2010

2009 The Year in Review

It has been nearly a year since I began blogging. A lot has happened, and now I have 30 followers! WOW! I enjoy sharing my day to day experiences and love to hear about yours. I'm so glad that my view of the world is interesting enough to keep that many people coming back for more. Let's look back at some of the happenings from 2009.

One momentous occasion was the arrival of the baby horse which awakened my studly instincts and made me want to gather a herd and act like a wild stallion. Now he has grown up to be a teenager. My how time flies!

In more quiet times, we followed the activities of my real family. This portrait features my big brother Preston winning at the Royal.

As the weather improved, we went riding. This photo was from last March when the ice first melted enough for me to make it out the driveway safely. Now the ice is back! Ho Hum...

Some days were just beautiful. The rest were RAINY!

We went galloping a lot. I LOVE galloping! Brita does too!

But we encountered many hazards. The worst of which was featured in the Great Cow Incident. Jeez! She still looks sinister lurking in the high grass! It was just as traumatic for Brita.

As it was a wet year with record rainfalls, I had many opportunities to plumb the depths of puddles.

And investigated all available soft earth.

Brita and Mom dealt with the consequences.

I struggled with my fear of confined spaces, and have gotten quite a bit better. Now you can shut me in the tin box without me trying to take it all apart.

Did some product testing which, basically, involves destroying things.

Although we sort of put my athletic endeavors on hold this year, I did do some actual work, and tried to further my education.

I learned some fancy tricks, and was photographed for a book.

And there was lots of fun and frolicking!

I'm looking forward to 2010 and hope it will be just as good or better for us all.

Happy New Year!