Friday, July 30, 2010

Pippin's POV: Interview

My Mrs. Owner told me that I was going to be interviewed. That's really neat. Famous people are interviewed. I must be a famous horse! So, along comes this guy. I call him Mr. Country Cowboy 'cause he's wearing this raggedy cowboy hat and 'cause I like alliteration (a people term for words that start with the same consonant sound - I like impressing people with my vocabulary)! He meets me at the stall and talks to my Mrs. Owner a lot. He asks her a lot of questions. Hey, I thought I was the one being interviewed! He's supposed to ask me the questions! He rubs on my head. He finds a special scritchy spot on my muzzle. He squats down (good thing he wasn't wearing spurs!) and I put my head down to see what he was doing. I was hoping he'd have some cookies. He didn't, but he pet me some more. Mr. Country Cowboy takes the lead rope from my Mrs. Owner and takes me out. He twitches the rope at me a bit. He does some silly things, like putting his hat on my head...and on my back...and on my butt. The hat fell off and it made me jump a bit. He takes his shirt off and swings that around a bit. He puts the shirt on my head, and on my back, and on my butt. Ho hum, if this is an interview, it's pretty boring. He makes me go around in circles. Arrgghhhhh! You know how I hate circles!

Finally Mr. Country Cowboy tells my Mrs. Owner that I'm a good horse and he can tell that I've had some of the basics of ground work. That made me feel really nice. I puffed my chest out and held my head a bit higher. I put my ears forward and tried to look especially important. Then Mr. Country Cowboy told my Mrs. Owner that my only problem is that I'm green. Wait a minute, I'm not green. I'm a beautiful shade of light chestnut modified by the pangare trait (I learned this from Heather at Drafts with Dots)! Do I look green to you?

To be continued.......

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


We took my husband's parents to visit the kitties at the Serenity Springs Wildlife Center. The amazing thing about this big cat sanctuary, which houses 110 large cats,  is that even on a rather warm summer day there is no odor. To see some really great photos of the big cats at the sanctuary, or to learn more about this amazing place, visit the link above.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Tucker Teaches New Tricks

Tucker is now 4 months old. At times he is all leg, waiting for his body to catch up to his most recent upward growth spurt. He has lost some of his puppy ways and we are beginning to see beyond his adolescent insanity to what he may become in the future. He is learning new things all of the time and and at the same time he is teaching us new tricks.

Teachings from Tucker:

1. Place your shoes, or anything you care about, on tables. Chairs are no longer out of puppy reach.
2. A glove on Anything on the floor is fair game and will end up with new holes in it.
3. The value of an item and the speed with which Tucker runs away from you with that item are directly proportional.
4. If you leave the cabinet door open where the garbage can is stored, you will have a dog in there rummaging through the cabinet and the garbage.
5. The moment you sit down to dinner Tucker will announce, in his shrill adolescent bark, that he has to go out.
6. Picking up manure/sweeping/watering means dodging Tucker with the fork/broom/hose nozzle as he tries to pounce on it.
7. Bugs taste good. We'll take Tucker's word on this one!
8. The speed with which Tucker responds to 'Come' is indirectly proportional to how important you perceive the situation and the importance in his getting to your side.
9. The worse something smells the more attractive it is.
10. Humans are suckers for a cocked head, cockeyed ear look.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Doc's Diatribe: Once IS Enough!

My Mrs. Owner came out bright and early this morning, like she has every morning this week. She put on the lumpy halter, played with my hair and put on the saddle and bridle. But, instead of going into the pen to go around and around she took me to the end of my pasture. There was a huge machine on the other side of the fence. It sounded like thunder. It was cutting the tall, tall grass. Darn, that means I won't have an easy time of snacking when we go riding there. I kept looking at the thunder machine to make sure it wasn't going to come too close. Mrs. Owner kept tapping me with the string thing. It was really hard to watch her and watch the machine. My ears had a hard time swiveling between the noisy machine and noisy Mrs. Owner. After she tickled me with the string thing she climbed on and we did some walking and trotting. My Mrs. Owner kept asking me to go this way,  then that way, then this way....why can't she make up her mind? I kept trying to show her what way we ought to go, but she would never agree with me. Finally she climbed off. After taking off the saddle and bridle she actually let me go out into my pasture to eat. Yum.

Later, after the sun was as high as it would go, my Mrs. Owner showed up in pasture with some horse cookies. It used to be that I didn't like to eat things from my Mrs. Owner's hand, but I have acquired a taste for cookies. I leaned forward to get one and she caught me. She put the bumpy halter on me again. Uh oh. That halter means work. Is she having problems with her memory? We already worked today. Surely there must be some sort of mistake. But, no. Before I knew it, my Mrs. Owner was on my back and we were heading out to the common property where the thunder machine has been grazing and has cut down all of the grass. Then we turned and headed to my Mrs. Owner's friend's working place in a building. I had a chance to visit with Cheyenne, and later with Sweets and Sundance. We walked and trotted and climbed over the box. The wind began to blow and it thundered and rained but we all stayed dry. I got to 'run' the barrels. We trotted in tight circles around the blue barrels. Don't tell my Mrs. Owner, but I liked doing this. But, even though I liked the barrels I did not like having to put up with my Mrs. Owner on my back twice in one day. I was a bit grumpy about it. In fact, when my Mrs. Owner's friend wanted to take a picture I wouldn't look at her. My Mrs. Owner had to push my ears up to make me look interested cute.

 Do I look interested here? Humph, the indignity of it all!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Trading Spaces: The Locked Gate Episode

My horses have confounded me again. I am still scratching my head over this latest puzzle. Yesterday when I went down to feed in the morning Doc was is Pippin's paddock....and Pippin was in Doc's paddock. All of the gates were shut and latched. The horses had access to the stall that opens onto the paddock, but the interior stall doors were securely latched. No fence panels were bent or in anyway compromised.
My husband fed the boys the previous evening as I as away from home. He called them from their pastures. Each horse walked through his gate from his own pasture into his own paddock. The fence between the pastures is in tact, although it is low enough for them to jump and I suppose, if they really wanted to they might be able to play limbo going under it. However, my lazy boys probably did neither. And, had one thought to do that, they would have stayed together as they are best buddies. My husband does confess that he didn't look closely at the horses, and they are remarkably similar in size and color. The switch could have already been made when he went to feed, but he swears that he was not the one to swap the horses.
Our neighbor is a fun-loving guy and has been known to pull a prank here and there. However, he swears he did not sneak down to the barn in the dark of night to switch the horses.
Our son laughed a deep hearty laugh when I told him, saying that he wished he had thought to pull that prank on me, but alas, he did not. He also lives about 90 minutes away and probably has far better things to do than to drive to mom and dad's house to conduct a horse version of trading spaces.
So, I remain puzzled and intrigued. Ah well, it gives my feeble aging brain some exercise and perhaps will stave off Alzheimer's!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Riding: The Art of Keeping the Horse Between You and the Ground

I've been practicing this art and find that sometimes it is a challenge! 
The other day I had a close call. I was working Pippin in the round pen...again. He was doing his funky move at the trot, so we were going back and forth between walking and trotting. His 'funky move' is a quick side step, almost always moving his hind quarters to the right, when I ask for a trot. Sometimes he just drops his hind end and moves up under himself. I have found he's been sensitive to seeing my hands and feeling my legs so I've been working to desensitize him to this by moving my hands, patting him, swinging my arms out, dropping my stirrups and picking them up again, and brushing my legs along his sides. We had been doing this and he had settled into a nice trot when I blew it. My toe came out a bit too far and caught the vertical bar of the panel of the round pen. It caught enough to begin to pull me off the saddle. Oh, and did I mention that Pippin seems to get unsettled if the rider gets off balance?!! Oh, and I suppose I should mention that he doesn't like people hanging onto his mane! So, there I was, hanging out over space, hand buried in the mane and horse showing some signs of being unsettled by trotting a bit faster....but he kept it all together and I managed to get centered on the saddle again and all's well that ends well. Well, sort of....the ankle is a bit sore, but only when it has to bend!
Maybe I should take up a different art. Perhaps origami. Nah, too much risk of getting paper cuts!

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Sometimes I imagine myself as some sort of big tiny game hunter when I 'run my trap lines' each morning. We have a problem with ground-dwelling critters. They are darn cute but wreck havoc on our pastures and gardens. Yesterday I pulled up a trap, expecting to find

but found this instead

This is a Tiger Salamander (not my picture - the real/dead McCoy was a little too unsightly). I had no clue that things like this live in arid areas. I was in shock. It turns out that they will take over rodent burrows....ah hah, Mr. Gopher is gone! They are nocturnal and can grow to just under 14 inches. (My specimen was about six inches in length). OMG - we have the ingredients for a Godzilla remake. Well, suffice it to say that you won't find me outside at night without my shoes on. I would hate to step on one of these guys....shudder!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

And you have a problem with...

....and you have a problem with my getting a drink of water because?!!!

Need I tell you that we no longer have large water bowls in the house? Ugh, just wait until he can reach the dog fountain (aka toilet)!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Going Straight

So, Pippin doesn't think he needs to walk around in circles....but he does it and he is developing a nice bend. I am so pleased with how responsive he is. Then, there is Doc. He is like riding a Mack Truck or an M1A1 Abrams Tank without power steering. Actually, I know the tank would steer better than Doc does!
I am frustrated beyond belief. I am looking for suggestions - I am at a loss!

First, a bit of background on Doc. I purchased him a year ago. He was 'broke to ride and drive'. He was an Amish horse. I believe he has had more experience driving than riding.  I think he is very green under saddle and very unsure of what a rider is asking of him. When I ride he brings his head down and stretches it out in front. I tried lightly playing with the bit to ask him to bring his head up, but that seemed to backfire on me - he just began to get excited and wanted to go faster, perhaps a bit evasion thing. I've also tried driving him forward into the bit, but he just seems to continue to bear down on the bit. So, I've gone back to looser reins and only doing something with the reins when I want to communicate to him. He will move laterally in response to my leg. But, again, whoever trained him must have thrown a lot at him too quickly and he isn't too sure about it all. He will quickly respond to my leg, moving away from it. But, sometimes if I ask him to go in the other direction, he does not. He moves toward my leg. I've been working on moving away from pressure on the ground and in the saddle, asking only for 1 or 2 steps at a time.

A bit about me: I rode a lot in high school and college. Most of my training was through Pony Club. I achieved a B rating, which, if  you are not familiar with PC, is quite advanced. I have done some 3-day eventing and fox hunting, with a little showing thrown in here and there. I have had 4 horses of my own, 2 that had only been backed when I got them. I did the training and I hunted and evented one of those and did some Western pleasure with the other. 

So, back to my frustration. Imagine riding a big piece of spaghetti. That is Doc. He will neither go in a straight line nor in a circle. He wanders more or less in the direction I suggest.

Let's begin with circles.
I ask Doc to perform a circle, using inside leg on the girth and outside leg behind, and trying to get him to flex at the neck so I just see the eye on the inside. Oh, I am also turning my body in a bit and I'm looking where I want to go. What I get is no movement of the shoulder to the inside. He often will continue straight, or move in towards the center a bit, but not as far as I had envisioned. If I get frustrated and pull his head in, he continues to resist, still not following the path I am trying to prescribe. Then, he will make a sudden shift. I can feel him move in towards the center, but he overshoots my line and we made some sort of weird egg-shaped circle.If I wanted him to stay on my envisioned path, I'd need to pull his head to the outside...not just a little, but a lot!

It used to be that he'd almost do this on the lunge line. He'd go around, but would stiffen and pull away from me on one side of the circle. He seems to have gotten a bit better about remaining on a circular path on the lunge.

Yesterday I tried asking for a circle, and waiting. When he finally dodged in, overshooting my line, I'd have him walk or trot a few steps then ask for a circle in the other direction. Again, when he ducked inside, I'd ask him to go the other way. We zig-zagged across the pasture like a drunken sailor. I'm not sure that any of this did anything for my issue with Doc.

Then we have the not-so-straight, straight lines. If I'm walking right along a fence line, Doc will almost always go straight. However, if I decide to make a trek across the pasture, he doesn't get from my point A to my point B unless I do a lot of intervention. I have been making a point to stare at a house, fence post, tree or some landmark and aim for that. If I am indeed going to get there, Doc's head is often at an angle, or I pull his head to the side I'm aiming at, release, pull again, release, etc.
I've heard that going in a straight line is much more difficult than a circle. But we can't seem to manage either.

I can't decide if some of this is the bit. I've tried a snaffle and then switched to a Kimberwicke. I think thought he is better in the Kimberwicke because it connects along the side of his mouth, instead of a round ring that might slip through. Yesterday he was horrid, though.

I'd love to hear your thoughts. As I said, I'm at a total loss.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Does this helmet make my head look fat?

Helmet Awareness Day
July 10, 2010

I can't believe I unearthed this picture!

How did I know, oh so many years ago, that today I'd have a need for a picture of a horse wearing a helmet?!

This is my first horse, Socky, trying my helmet on for size.
 Don't you just love his expression? What do you think he's saying?

You can tell from my serious case of 'helmet hair' that I was wearing my helmet before the picture was taken!
Oh, to be that young again!

Oh, and if you have a second, take the Helmet poll on the right navigation bar of my page!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Pippins POV: I'm So Dizzy

What's with the circles? I mean, I like my Mrs. Owner, but enough is enough! A horse could get dizzy  already! Yeah, Doc would tell you that I'm dizzy enough as it is! Yuk, yuk, chuckle, chortle! I made a joke! Anyway, my Mrs. Owner comes out to the barn and messes with my hair. Then she puts stuff all over me. Sometimes it's that saddle thing, other times it's straps of leather that tickle me, especially under my tail - yeeech, I hate that feeling. Then she takes me to the paddock place that is round. She pushes me around a bit and flails her arms and waves strings at me. She walks and talks and flaps her arms. It is all very distracting. I have to keep a close eye on her because I never know what she is going to do next. So, I trot off and that seems to make her happy. Then, suddenly she backs up, so I stop and look at her. 'Lady, don't trip! What is going on? Is it time to go? Good! I don't like these circles.' Evidently it's not time to leave. She waves her arms again and squawks and flaps and I am seriously concerned about her mental health. So, I trot the other way, as that seems to be the only way to go without getting caught in the string thing. She makes happy noises, so I guess I'm doing the right thing.

Trot, trot, trot, trot, trot, trot, trot, stop.
Trot, trot, trot, trot, trot, trot, trot, stop.
Trot, trot, trot, trot, trot, trot, trot, stop. 
Can you just see it?

Then my Mrs. Owner tells me to 'walk on'. I don't get it. I trot. I don't want to walk.

Monday, July 5, 2010

National Helmet Awareness Day

Saturday, July 10
National Helmet Awareness Day. 
Spread the word to all of your equestrian friends.

Some retailers and some manufacturers are offering a discount if helmets are purchased on this date.
Now is a good time to get a helmet if you don't already have one!
Now is a perfect time to begin using a helmet every time you ride or drive a horse.
Helmets have saved people's lives, even when doing groundwork.

For me, donning a helmet is just about as automatic as putting on my pants. My early riding years included Pony Club where helmets were required. I once had a nifty helmet that had a deep 2" dent in it where I hit a fence post on a cross country event. What if that had been my head? That dent was a sobering reminder of the importance of wearing a helmet.

For more information visit the riders4helmets site.

Show your support of this cause by sharing the information with your friends and by becoming a fan of the riders4helmets Facebook page.

Take the poll on my page. It's just under Pippin's picture on the right.

Recent blog posts on the subject:

This is Why You Always Wear a Helmet  on Sydney's Bitless Horse blog
Just a Spoonful of Sugar on Once Upon an Equine's blog

If you know of other posts about helmets, or would like to tell about your experiences with or without a helmet, please leave a message! 

The design was created using Wordle. This is a fantastically fun site allowing you to play with words!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Mouser - Chapter 2

Doc now has some reinforcements in the mousing department. Meet Thing 1 and Thing 2!

Thing 1, AKA Black Kitty, is a little bolder than Thing 2, AKA Gray Kitty.
Thing 1 will let me pet her and pick her up. Thing 2 occasionally allows a gentle head rub.

Hide and Seek. Can you find me?!

Peek-a-boo! There you are!
Thing 2 makes me laugh. She'll turn her head so she can't see me, thinking she's hidden from my view, too!

Thing 1 is the first to attack. She likes the low, fast approach.

Thing 2 studies the situation, then pounces from above.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Tucker's Busy Day

Tuesday the Good Doggie Doctor took one look at Tucker as he explored the clinic examining room and declared him 'healed'. The Good Doggie Doctor reminds me of Glinda, the Good Witch. She is tall and slim and works magic. Although I haven't actually seen her with a magic wand, I'm sure she must have one somewhere! She noted that in two weeks he has grown at least an inch, gained over 3 pounds and isn't favoring the leg with the break at all. She felt there was no reason we should spend our money on an x-ray. She sent us on our way, to come back to spend money some other day!

 Tucker helps us plant a shrub. He mixes the compost into the soil and tamps it down!

So, this morning Tucker had the opportunity to resume puppy life as it should be!
I got the wake-up call today. My dear husband and I have been sharing this duty and it was my turn. Tucker and I head outside to greet the morning, me with one eye closed because two don't seem to focus and Tucker full of bouncy puppy enthusiasm. Tucker quickly takes care of at least one of his bathroom duties and then begins to explore all of the new smells that have collected during the night. This actually inhibits his performance in the other area of his bathroom chores as he is easily distracted. He has established potty places, and will head in that direction, but will stop to smell something in the grass by the pear tree. Then he'll remember what he was off to do but will hear the neighbor's dog and will sit and watch her for a while. Oops, back to his task at hand, but oh, look, it's a dried out worm. Oh! yum! But finally the necessities are accomplished and it's time to run back to mom full of wiggles and puppy kisses. Oh! Bleech! After a quick snuggle and rub Tucker dashes to the neighbor's pasture to snatch just one horse apple. Oh! yum! Mom takes a seat on the front step, resting her weary head on her hand. Tucker comes back to check on Mom - more wiggles and puppy kisses. Oh! Bleech! Then he's off to explore other favorite places: There is the spot in the grass where he found a dead bird on Monday. The bird is gone. It was removed from Tucker's mouth as he tried to swallow it in one gulp, but Tucker keeps checking that spot. You just never know when another bird will end up there. Next he's heading to the barn. The farrier visited and left all number of yummy things near the horses' paddock. Oh! Yum! Here is a piece of dessicated frog. Tucker's favorite! Later it's off to romp through the the gardens. One time I made the mistake of using an organic fertilizer. It turns out that it was made from chicken byproducts and ground up feathers. Tucker, who's first home was in a re-purposed chicken coop, must have felt he had returned home with the smell and taste of chickens all around him. Tucker romps back to me. More wiggles and puppy kisses. Oh! Bleech! We head into the house for Tucker's breakfast and a bit of play time with tug toys and balls, hoping that Tuck will get tuckered out and that I can catch a few winks on the sofa. But, it doesn't happen and it's time to head to the barn. Tucker loves exploring as I hay and water the boys. He looks into the stalls. Pippin snorts. Doc just turns his big head and glares at the intruder. Then we get the wheelbarrow and clean up the paddocks. Oh! Yum! More horse apples. Lots of horse apples. Oh, and look at the manure pile - what glorious fun! We head back into the barn to get some grain and Tucker discovers the kitten food - Oh! Yum! And kitty crunchies - yummier still! Oh! Bleech! Please, no puppy kisses! The final chore is sweeping the barn aisle. Tucker LOVES this. It is his first opportunity to herd something. That broom is gonna listen to him, or else!
I'm ready to crawl back in bed but my wonderful husband has started the coffee. We take our shot of caffeine out to the porch to plan the day as the sun rises higher in the sky. Tucker follows and succumbs to a puppy nap. It's 7:20 AM. Another busy day has begun!

What is Four?

Have you ever thought of the meaning of "four"?  Four is the number of: seasons in a year. corners and sides to a square. virtues....