July 6, 2005
The horses are home. What a chaotic two weeks this has been! I'm not even sure where to start.
First, I haven't done much with the horses lately -- didn't go to the barn for nearly two weeks. Too much going on in "real life." It's a rather involved story of money woes and an unexpected budget cut at work, but the light at the end of the tunnel is a new freelance writing and editing business. I'm not going to announce it officially yet... but my goal is to be officially open by the end of this week.
All that has taken most of my energy, so I simply haven't been motivated to get out to the barn. Part of me wanted to just keep them on the back burner, but another part of me missed them, so on Sunday I made plans to give Jay a lesson on Guin and to work with Blue on the mounting block (and hopefully get a leg over him). Didn't happen.
Remember that the barn is closing? Well, nearly everyone moved on Saturday. When Jay and I got there on Sunday, it was pretty much a ghost town. Our horses, the owner's horses, and just a few others were out in the pasture. No stalled horses were left. Unfortunately, a lot of things were gone... including Guin's halter. I know this is a small thing in the big scheme, but she has a draft horse head, and it's hard to fit her. There wasn't a halter left that would fit her, so Jay and I had to shelve the plans to ride and ended up visiting three tack stores trying to find a replacement. We found one that ultimately worked, though it doesn't fit as well as her old one did. (Catherine found the old one at her new barn and returned it on Monday.)
The halter irritated Jay. But more than that, he saw the lack of supervision for the remaining horses. Catherine, who lives on the property (but is moving this month), is managing a new barn and won't be at CCEC during the day. That really didn't sit well with Jay. I tried to convince him that it wasn't a big deal, but he knew of two times that Blue had gotten out, and he just wasn't comfortable. So he decided that the horses were coming home ASAP.
Whoa! Dude, the paddock was completely overgrown, and we didn't have any pasture fenced. Aw man, as much as I wanted the horses home, I really didn't have the bandwidth to devote to them right then. (And did I mention that I don't have a job, and we're broke??) Oh well, I'm nothing if not flexible. We spent Sunday afternoon buying fencing materials and halters.
Sunday evening we went back to the barn to work with Blue. Sadly, that didn't work out either. Blue and another horse, Warrior, were in a pasture by themselves. I went out to get him without a clicker or treats, and for the first time, he treated me like he treated the staff. The two of them made it clear that they had no intention of being caught. Tanja and Jay joined me, and we worked together to catch the horses. Because he'd kill me if I didn't mention it, let me say that in the end, it was Jay who caught both of them. He had to take off his belt and loop it around Blue's neck to hold him. Too funny. Rather than riding, we just moved them -- Warrior into the big pasture and Blue into the pasture with Guin and a few mares.
Monday, we started work on the pasture. I haven't mowed out there since early spring, and there was grass as tall as I am! My plan is to ultimately divide the pasture into four fields off of a center aisle. We can afford to fence just one field right now though. Since I don't want the horses to eat grass clippings, I elected not to mow that quarter of the field beyond a swath around the border where Jay will put the fence line. We borrowed our neighbor's tractor, and I got a couple of hours of mowing in while Jay got a start cutting low limbs and potentially dangerous brush out of the paddock.
We were supposed to go to the barn that afternoon for a trail ride and then to work with Blue, but neither happened. Too much work to do.
On Tuesday morning I finished the mowing and returned the tractor. Then I pulled thistle and stinging nettle out of the paddock. (Ouch.) Today we cleared the blackberries and other brush that had taken over the fence line around the paddock. It looks so much better! We made sure the horses had clean water, locked all the gates, and cleaned out the barn aisle. Then I went down to get the horses.
Once again I forgot to take a clicker and treats into the pasture, but I caught both horses without a lot of trouble. It wasn't as simple as walking up to them, but it didn't take but a couple of minutes. They were moody, but I was able to walk them both to the barn and stick them in the indoor arena.
I don't have a truck and trailer, so I had Sophie, the western trainer from CCEC, haul them. I never fail to be impressed with how easy these two horses load and unload. Seriously. They just walk up, sniff, and then walk on. They sweat a lot and make noise on the road, but they're perfectly mannerly when I unload them, so I don't think they're horribly distressed.
So in the end, they're home, and I'm thrilled. I almost cried because I was so happy. They seemed much more relaxed than I've seen them in a while. They were curious and friendly while Jay and I were in the paddock.
Welcome home, kids.
July 11, 2005
I haven't done anything with the horses since they came home except to try to make friends with them again. Every single time I go out to the paddock, I make sure to take pockets of treats. I call the horses, and I give them a plethora of free treats. They are coming more eagerly now, and I'm not seeing the cranky ears I had been seeing. We'll get back to work soon, but I'm not going to stop doing this.
Jay fenced the first quarter of the pasture this weekend and it looks fabulous. I let the horses out on it for the first time today -- not a moment too soon, because they have just about cleared the overgrown paddock. They were pretty hesitant to go through the gate, but then they seemed happy to have a new field to play in.
July 15, 2005
The horses and I have made friends again. I've been religious about going out and calling them and treating them a few times a day. Yesterday they were in the pasture, and they came cantering to me. I love that! Today I left the house and get in the car for a run to the store, and when I looked through my rear view, the horses had come to the gate and were watching me expectantly. So I stopped, got out, and reinforced that behavior.
I've done just a little other than that. A couple of days ago I put a halter on Guin -- lots of cranky ears for that -- and then took her on a short walk down the road. She seemed to enjoy that and was surprised to be put back in the paddock so soon. Then yesterday I haltered each of them and put fly spray on them. Lots of clicks and treats made it bearable for them, but it wasn't their favorite task. Still, they were eager to see me today, so apparently they didn't hold it against me. That's a good sign.
I haven't ridden Guin since she has been home. I considered going out a few minutes ago and trying to get a leg over her bareback, but it's raining. Hmmm. Maybe that's a reason to invest in a bareback pad. I'm having a confidence crisis, I think. I really need to get out there. If I just *do* it, I'll be fine and back on task.
Oh! Before I close, I finally got my business Web site up:
July 17, 2005
I had a strange experience today.
I've been wanting to ride... but I've been scared to do it. I don't know why. Maybe it's just that I haven't done it in a while. But today I got Jay to hold Guin's head while I slid on bareback. I wanted him there just to make sure she didn't step sideways from the mounting block or start walking before I was ready.
I was really freaked before getting on. Jay knew it -- he said he could hear it in my breathing. (In my defense, he was hearing the deep breaths I was taking and blowing out in an attempt to calm myself, not rapid pants of fear or anything.)
It took me a couple of minutes and a couple of aborted tries to get mounted. Miss Guin was a trooper, standing quietly and eating the oats I slipped her for being so good. Finally I was on -- and scared to death.
It felt wrong. It was the first time I had been on completely bareback, but that wasn't the issue. I couldn't get balanced. I felt like I was going to fall off with her just standing there. I had Jay LEAD her forward. We got only about a quarter of the way around our tiny little ring, and I had to dismount.
I'll try her with a saddle today, and see if that makes a difference.
It's really frustrating to me. Over the years I have learned something about myself. Much of my confidence is related directly to my weight and level of fitness. When I work out... as I become fitter and stronger... my personality changes. I become more adventure seeking. Right now, when my weight is out of control and I haven't worked out in ages, I am timid and unsure. But all I have to do is start working out -- I don't even have to be smaller than I am now -- and I get more confident. I suppose it's just endorphins. As I lose weight, that confidence grows and I start drifting toward more exciting activities. Seriously, if I ever became truly thin and fit, I think I would be an adrenaline junkie -- something I decidedly am not now.
I like that adventure-seeking person (even though that person scares my husband to death). I truly like her. It feels good to be strong and fit and to believe that I am capable of doing anything.
Knowing what that feels like makes it all that much more frustrating to be like I am now.
July 20, 2005
I rode Guin bareback again tonight. It went much better!
I had Jay help me again. This time I slid a leg over and got on the first time, and I was only a little nervous. I shifted around and really concentrated on finding my balance. Jay started out walking at her head, but pretty soon she outdistanced him, and we just walked around and around the little ring.
She was really sweet. She shivered once when something startled her, but she didn't spook, and several times she stopped and had to be urged to continue. But continue she did, and she stayed at that careful walk.
I really felt pretty comfortable up there. I caught myself leaning too far forward and kept trying to sit back. I found that any little unexpected movement tended to put me forward again. Guess I need to work on my core strength, eh?
I rode for five minutes or so and then quit while I was ahead. Five minutes is a pretty big improvement over the ten steps we took a couple of days ago. Maybe I'll give it a try again tomorrow and take her for a walk around the pasture. How exciting! I would love to keep riding her bareback. That has always been my favorite way to ride.
July 21, 2005
Christina, my wonderful barefoot trimmer, trimmed the horses' hooves today. She said Guin's feet were absolutely amazing and could take me anywhere I wanted to go. (This isn't surprising -- draft horses tend to have great feet.) Blue's heels are getting wider, which is also a good thing.
Both horses were so much better behaved than they were when she trimmed them at the other barn. They were relaxed, had a more positive energy. Blue was treat crazy and a typical nosy four year old, but Guin was just as placid and agreeable as you could hope for. Night and day from what they were like last time. They are REALLY glad to be home.
Guin and I did another short ride this evening. I waited until Jay got home, but I didn't ask him to help me. He watched from the house, just to be sure I was okay. Guin was great at the mounting block, and I got on with no problem. Jay came out and said that I had now proven that I was capable of breaking myself when he wasn't home. I'm hoping to avoid that.
We walked around a bit, but Guin wasn't very cooperative. I just couldn't get her to keep moving, and when I tried to insist, she tossed her head in a way that made me think she was considering bucking. So for a while we just stood there. Really that wasn't bad. I got to really think about my balance and how it felt to be up there.
Eventually we started moving, and I steered her out of the arena. She was more willing then, surprised to be outside. I walked her around one side of the house to the edge of the pasture, then back and around the other side. Total ride was still only ten minutes or so, but it went well.
I had trouble seeing rocks and such in the tall grass. Jay is mowing Saturday, so I'm going to ask him to mow a path around the north side of the house to the mowed part of the pasture. That will be a nice ride for us until I'm brave enough to take her on the road. Maybe I'll take her for another walk down the road tomorrow. That's the key for making me feel safe riding her on the road -- knowing that it's familiar to her and she's not going to spook. Spooking when I'm in a saddle is one thing -- it's quite another if I'm riding bareback.
I guess it's about time I started working with Blue again too. I wonder how he'd do with the mounting block here?
July 24, 2005
We had fun last night. My friends Myella and Jason came out and met the horses. We just stood around and fed them a ton of free treats. The horses were really friendly and not obnoxious at all. Blue was especially friendly, and was very cool about being petted and scratched, even on his head. Yay! Progress.
This afternoon though, I was less happy with him. I intended to take Guin for a ride, but when I tried to take her out of the paddock, Blue pushed through the gate and got loose. Fortunately he ran for grass, not freedom. I was able to herd him into a channel that was fenced on both sides and gated on the far end. It was too wide for me to defend if I got really close to him, so all I could do was stand back and keep him trapped until Jay turned off the mower and could hear me yelling for him.
Once that happened, corraling Blue was easy. Jay shut Guin in the paddock temporarily, and then opened the gate at the end of the "channel." It was easy to shoo Blue in. The whole drama took only ten or fifteen minutes, most of which was standing and waiting for Jay, but I was still irritated. Never did go riding.
July 25, 2005
I had a fun little ride tonight. I rode Guin -- bareback, of course -- all around our back pasture. She kept to a safe walk and seemed to enjoy herself. My balance is awful though. I have trouble balancing when she puts her head down to snatch some grass or when she turns. I need to ride more, and I really need to work out and work on my core strength.
July 26, 2005
I woke up this morning, looked out the window, and saw Blue walking down the pasture fenceline... on the wrong side of the fence. Crap! Blue's out! It took me a few minutes to get shoes on and then to gather halters and pans oat. I got two of each, assuming Guin was out as well, but she came walking up in the paddock. Oh good girl. I gave her one of the pans of oats, and then headed out to the back pasure.
I wasn't terribly worried. Our back pasture, which is where Blue was headed has just one way out, and it was both behind Blue and easy to "defend." Still I was glad that I thought to grab a clicker, because he can be a real bear to catch if he doesn't want to be caught.
It turned out to be irrelevant. Blue came walking up to the gate from his pasture to that one about the time I got there. I dropped his halter and fed him some oats over the fence. Then I put the pan of oats on the ground inside the fence and just opened the gate. He walked through, and I shut it behind him -- absolutely no fuss. Whew.
It turns out that he had pushed through the lower line of electrical tape (which wasn't hot) in search of better grass. Their little pasture is overgrazed. We were already planning to fence another section this weekend, but now we've moved that up to tomorrow and Thursday.
In the meantime, Blue and Guin are stuck in the paddock eating boring old hay. I went out this evening to give them some more hay, and Blue barely acknowledged me, even though I was handing out handfuls of oats. Guin came up to me without being called and was more than happy to eat his share. I did finally go to him and give him a little. I wish I could talk to him and explain that I'm not being mean, I'm just trying to keep him safe.
July 31, 2005
We finished the new section of pasture this morning. It took longer than I planned, but it looks great! We got started on Thursday, and then Jay got a TON done yesterday when I was having a Girl's Day Out. We got up this morning, put clips on the posts, ran the electric tape, and did various odds and ends. The horses finally got back on grass around noon. Of course, it was so hot in the afternoon that they chose to spend it hiding in the barn, but hey, they were happy to have the opportunity to graze regardless.
They were back to their friendly, relaxed selves this evening. It's nice!
So much to do though. We need to cut the weeds in the first section of pasture, clean out the rocks and branches, and then spray the whole thing with weed killer. In October, when the rains returned, we'll put down lime and grass seed all over the pasture. Hopefully next year it will be better grazing!
List and Site Owner: Melissa Alexander, mca @ clickersolutions.com