Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Doc's Diatribe: Oh Bother!

Just when I was getting used to being alone....
He's back!
He's back with his pokey, inquisitive nose!
He's back, pushing me out of the water bucket!
He's back with his agile, ticklish lips!
He's back, pigging out on the best morsels of grass!
He's back, sticking his nose in my business!
He's back, getting his smelly sweat on my saddle blanket!
He's back, getting attention from my Mrs. Owner and the guy who always hangs around her!

Pippin, I don't think I like you anymore.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

60 Seconds

I visited Pippin at Mr. Country Cowboy's place. We were both going for a ride. I saddled Pippin, and while I waited for MCC to get his horse ready, I became fascinated with Pippin's constant movement. ADHD to the max! I thought it might be interesting to make series of time-lapse photos:







Now to be fair to Pippin I do have to confess that in a later sequence of photos there was just about a minute where he stayed more or less in place. And, in the later sequence there wasn't a predator lurking in the shadows of the tree, or a predator jauntily passing by!

So, what other excuses could I come up with for my horse?
  • It is a cool, brisk morning
  • Pippin just come out of his stall
  • The wind is gusty
  • The trailer is in a new spot
  • The flies are bad
  • The rope halter is pulled up near his eyes (to keep him from rubbing it off)
Do you make excuses for your horse?

Following these pictures I worked with Pippin on the ground and then climbed on for a 'supervised' ride. I like the way MCC invites the owner out for a few rides about a week before the training period is to end. He feels this way he still has a few days to work on sticky spots, or if issues remain the training contract can be extended.
Pippin didn't do any of his former scooting. He is very light and responsive to legs and reins. He is the antithesis of Doc. He jumped a bit at the canter. MCC asked me what I had done to cause it. The first time I have to admit I was tense and came forward while at the same time leaning on the reins, and possible digging my heels in his sides. The second time I had no clue. Up until the little hop things had been going nicely. I remained in a nice position and had given Pippin plenty of rein, and Pippin had settled into a fairly evenly paced canter. MCC wasn't sure why he hopped either. So, he got on and got the same reaction. He was puzzled, looked around and then saw the saddle strings! Evidently the strings weren't an issue until we cantered. Then, they flopped down and 'slapped' Pippin's sides so he jumped a bit. MCC shrugged and explained that since this is Pippin's new saddle, he'll just have to get used to them! MCC loped him around a bit more. Then I climbed back on and we cooled him out with a short trail ride around his neighborhood.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Tuckered Out

Nope. Not the saddle. (Although some readers may be tired of hearing about the new saddle and thus they may be 'tuckered out'!) This post is about Tucker the puppy. We have begun puppy classes. Tucker is learning and is a fairly quick study. Oh, and did I mention that the cute little puppy is growing?! When we came home with him 10 weeks ago he weighed 9 pounds. He now is over 30! Our trainer suggested that we take advantage of a few free opportunities for our puppies to be socialized. PetSmart has a free social hour on Fridays and Camp Bow Wow has a free 5-hour puppy play time on Monday's. Tucker enjoyed playing with the dogs at PetSmart and had a chance to burn off some excess energy. So, if that was good, the play day should be even better! Off Tucker went to camp. One of the fun things about the day care facilities is their web cam. Both my hubby and I found ourselves checking on the puppy now and then. Never was there a time that Tucker wasn't moving. His antics made me tired!

Tucker looks up at Aspen, wondering if she is going to pounce on him from the ramp.
Tucker received a good report card for his first day at camp. 
The 'counselor' even personalized it with a color photograph.
Tucker actually looks like he is smiling in the picture.

Tucker climbed into the car and was sound asleep within a few hundred yards of the camp. We hardly heard a peep out of him all of that evening. He was exhausted from his day of play.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Oh, What a Ride

By now you have probably read about my new (to me) saddle. After suffering incredible pain torture on rides in western saddles owned by my friends, I decided that it was really important to truly test the Tucker saddle to make sure that it would be the saddle for me. I have discovered that as I have gotten older my knees grow less tolerant of torque created by the fender on Western saddles and my posterior, with less padding than in younger years, suffers from pounding on hard saddles. So, one morning, not so long ago.....

8:15: lightly groom and tack Doc, lunge
8:35: mount and begin to ride south to meet 'M'
9:05: connect with 'M' on her cute Paint/Quarter horse and head toward open community property
9:15: begin a loop of the community property (down the hill, through the marshy area, across the dam, through the field, across the bridge, up the hill). This loop included some trotting and a bit of cantering and is about a mile in length.
10:00: ride up the street with 'M' as she heads home.
10:10: ride down the street, with Doc calling plaintively to 'M's' horse.
10:15: ride into 'F's' yard and chat as she and friends finish tacking their horses.
10:20: ride out to the community property (down the hill, through the marshy area, across the dam, through the field, across the bridge, up the hill). We head back to the low area and spend some time trotting in large circles in this nice, flat area.
11:00: leave community area and begin a 1.3 mile loop along the roads.
11:20: arrive back at my barn. I hop off the horse and I am pleasantly surprised that I can land on both feet and remain upright. My knees are working and there is no pain. My first few steps are steriotypically 'cowboy' steps, with a wide stance, but within moments I feel fine. The Tucker saddle rocks! It is a keeper!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Oops! I Did it Again!

How would you fill in the blank?

One can never have enough ___________________.

Apparently I would have to insert the word 'saddles', as I now have saddle # 4!

Last year I stopped by a large saddle shop and tried saddles that were appropriate for Haflingers. There were three options. Sad, but true. One was a hugely expensive, very heavy, beautifully tooled, hand-made western saddle. I immediately struck that off my list due to the weight and price. The next was a Tucker, with a 'gel cush' seat.  A little bit of heaven, but a bit pricey. The third was a Fabtron. This was a pleasant mix of leather and synthetic and was light and comfy. But, would the saddle stand the test of time? I left without a saddle.

Through Craig's List I found a used Tucker about six months ago. I was thrilled. My dream saddle at a good discount. Sadly, the saddle did not fit the boys. The tree was too narrow and pinched my guys' withers/shoulders.

Then, I won the bid for my funky military police saddle at an auction. The saddle was a great fit for the boys and a good fit for me. The price was great. It was light. I was in love. I rode in the saddle, a lot. I was happy.

I was content, that is, until a friend told me of a Tucker saddle at a local tack resale shop. Oh no! I resisted stopping in to check on the saddle for 3 days. Well, OK, it really was only 2 days. The saddle looked perfect. It was the right size for me. The serial number was followed by a "W", as in 'wide tree'. The price was high...a bit over half the retail price. I came home and consulted with my hubby. What a great guy! He told me to go get the saddle and try it out. So, of course I wouldn't disregard what my hubby had to say! I plunked down a blank check and brought the saddle home for a 4-day trial. After spending close to 3 hours in the saddle a few days ago I knew this was the saddle for me. My knees didn't ache. My posterior was only mildly discomforted, and most importantly, the sweat marks on the horse showed even pressure across all areas. Sold! So, once again, I have purchased a new (to me) saddle.

So, it seems that I collect saddles. I guess there are worse things!

What do you collect?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Summer's Bounty Begins

All ye who live in the neighborhood......

 be on guard...

 Lock your cars at night.....
or you may find bags of summer's bounty in your front seat!

(Thanks to my dear friend, Jim, for the great idea for dispensing my garden's overrun!)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Horse of a Different Color

Scroll down to the second picture to see my entry for the photo contest. Thanks!

Imagine my surprise when I walked into the barn to feed Doc, and found this beasty in my paddock. It was kinda early and my not-so-awake brain thought that Doc must have leaned against something with oil on it...over and over again. (Do keep in mind that my first view of him was through the bars of the stall while he was standing outside. I hadn't had any coffee, yet!)

My next thought, well actually, it was more than a thought... I said, to no one in particular, not realizing that there was someone in particular, that I had to go get my camera! After all, this is great blog fodder!

Whereupon my son and one of his friends, who were taking the show in from the hay loft commented, "It's a Z-Bra!"

 It seems that my son never did get around to pulling an April Fool's prank on me. What the heck, August is close enough! They both start with A! He went on some horse sites to find out what he could use and then ordered some horse-safe, non-toxic paints. He and his friend left around 4:30 in the morning to get here in time to decorate the horse. He was really sad that Pippin wasn't here as well. He had thought to make Pippin into an elephant! He was also sad that Doc decided to roll while the paint was still wet. I think it made the paint job look all the more realistic!

I think I frightened my husband a bit when I went up to the house to tell him that Doc didn't look right. He asked what was wrong. I said that I didn't know, but that Doc just seemed off-color, and for him to please come and have a look at him. He enjoyed the prank, too. Unfortunately we had an appointment to get to so we couldn't take Doc around to show him to friends and neighbors. I also didn't think it was fair to put him out in the pasture in his 'costume'. Who knows what the neighbor horses might say to him! So, the kids young adults washed him.

Oh, no!! The stripes still show! Will he ever look right again?!

I love my son. What a wonderfully fun way to surprise his mom.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Gnarly Horses

I received an email with these pictures of driftwood horses. They are made by Heather Jansch, a sculptor in England. More pictures are available on her site. Wouldn't you love to have a herd of these as yard art?!



Monday, August 16, 2010

By The Numbers: A Sh!++y Week

  • 1.5:  The number of bucket loads of manure (using the lawn mower on steroids) that will fit in our small manure spreader. 
  • 6: Number of months it took to accumulate the manure for this pile.
  • 9: Tons of manure produced by the average horse in one year.
  • 10: Number of bucket scoops used to augment gardens and provide composted manure for friends.
  • 24: Number of loads spread in a 1 acre (+/-) pasture before running out of manure and steam!
  • 145: Highest temperature noted while the manure pile was composting.
  • 183: Approximate number of wheelbarrow loads transported from stall and paddock to the manure pile.

Now we can begin to fill it up again!

    Saturday, August 14, 2010


    I went to visit Pippin at cowboy camp. He looks great, maybe a bit tired from all of the fun things he gets to do there. Mr.Country Cowboy saddled up and began working Pippin, all the while telling me Pippin stories.

    First there's the story of Pippin and the trailer. Mr. Country Cowboy says Pippin doesn't tie worth a darn. So, it seems that Mr. Country Cowboy (MCC for short) ties his horses-in-training in different places just to make them learn that they have to stand there. But, it seems that MCC is doing the the learning! First, he's learned that Pippin can scrape off just about any halter or bridle. Second, he's learned that if Pippin can't scrape it off, he might just try to break it off. Third he's learned that Pippin will not only paw and stomp his size 2's....but if he still isn't getting attention, he'll climb on the fender of the trailer! With a chuckle, MCC told me about looking over at the trailer, and there was Pippin, like some circus horse, both front feet planted on the fender just above the wheels of the trailer! I can just see him proudly looking around with that mischievous twinkle in his eyes! (Pippin, not MCC!) MCC has said that the next time he ties Pippin to the trailer, he'll put him on one of the old, beat-up trailers, not his new Featherlite!

    Then there is the bucking bronco story. It seems that Pippin took exception to the rear cinch on MCC's saddle. I know that Pippin is extra sensitive about his hind end, which may be the root of our problem, but evidently he put on quite a show the first time MCC saddled him. MCC chuckled, again, in telling how Pippin bucked and bucked and bucked in the round pen, trying to get rid of that saddle, or at least the strap on his belly where no strap had ever been before. MCC explained that after watching my slightly stubby, short-necked, out-of-shape horse buck, he didn't worry about getting on him. It seems that Pippin's buck is hardly more than a rough canter when compared to some of the bulls MCC used to ride in his youth - 3 years ago!

    MCC's 'Little Lady' also had some stories to tell about my Mr. Pippin. She's got his number! She laughs at how Pippin has to investigate EVERYTHING! He mouthes ropes, halters, buckets, tools, etc. He checks her pockets for treats - sorry, no treats at cowboy camp! He tries to follow the dogs and even follows the goose, sniffing to see just who she is. The little lady feeds Pippin last because he is so impatient and she will not respond to his stomps and indignant behavior when asking for his dinner. But, her favorite story was her first experience with him in the round pen. This was on day #1 at camp, and Pippin was a bit of a handful. He ran and ran and ran some more. He found it hard to settle down to even a nice trot. So, the little lady continued working with him. Or rather, she claims, she continued to stand in the center of the round pen to watch the show. The little lady was getting a bit concerned as some bad weather was moving in. She wanted to end this session on a positive note. As the wind picked up and the rain began Pippin continued his wild-horse antics. Finally he began to respond to her commands to trot and walk. The little lady was pleased, and only a little wet. She felt she had arrived at a good stopping point. She asked Pippin to halt. He did. She asked him to come in....he did, sort of. You see, it seems that a fairly large puddle had formed between Pippin and the little lady. Pippin did not particularly care to get his feet wet, so he walked completely around the puddle before coming up to the little lady for a scritch and a pat! That's my silly boy!

    Finally, MCC talks about Pippin's boot scootin' boogie. This is the unsettling move that sent me to MCC in the first place. Whenever I would ask Pippin to trot, he ducked his rear end and swung it to the right. would  work on transitions; walk-trot-walk-trot-walk-trot, etc. Eventually I'd get a smooth departure. But, the next day, I'd get the boot scootin' boogie again. I thought it was me. I thought that perhaps I was thumping him with my left leg. Or, maybe it was my hand, moving down the rein as I collected the reins for the trot. Or, maybe my weight was shifting and upsetting the horse. But, I have been vindicated! As I walked into MCC's stable yard, he looked up and said, "Ya know that move he makes? It is really annoying!" MCC told about taking Pippin out for a trail ride. He pointed to a tree, oh, maybe 200 feet from the stable. That was where Pippin gave him quite a show. He dropped and scooted his rear to the right and prepared to take flight (oh, I know that move)! So, as MCC explained, Pippin never got much further on that trail ride as they proceeded to work circles and walk-trot transitions right by that tree. MCC looked at me with the characteristic twinkle in his eye and said he wasn't about to ride him out on his own and have something happen that would lead to a long walk home without the horse!!

    Although my horse isn't 'fixed' I came away from my visit feeling great! I wasn't imagining the problems I was having with Pippin. I wasn't overreacting to his actions. I wasn't causing the reactions. I felt exonerated in knowing that a professional who rides and trains bunches of horses each day, had the same issues that I have been experiencing.

    As I left the stable yard, MCC told me not to worry. He told me that I will love this horse when I get him back. I can't wait. I miss my silly boy. Doc misses his buddy. It will be nice to have him home again!

    Thursday, August 12, 2010

    Dolly Dimwit

    Every so often, probably more often than I wish to admit, someone says something or does something and I realize that I used to know that or do that, but for some reason that little bit of knowledge was stuck on a dusty shelf way back in some dark crevice of my brain. I'd like to think that it's because I have too many way more important things to think about! This week I had one of those epiphanies. I was watching someone ride. He was talking about lateral and vertical flexion. He explained, as he gently pulled the horse's head to the left, initiating a turn in that direction, then lifting the right rein and turning in that direction, that before a horse can flex vertically he must have the flexibility to bend laterally. Duh! I know that. Well, ah, I knew that, but hadn't really thought about it, or applied that knowledge in my work with Doc. So, after doing some work yesterday I walked around the arena and dropped Doc's reins. I picked up the right rein, looking for him to turn his head and neck to the right and begin a turn in that direction. Then, dropping that rein, I picked up the left rein, expecting to initiate a turn in the opposite direction. Lo and behold...the horse doesn't yield to the rein pressure on the left. I might as well have had the rein attached to a 2 X 10! Whereas Doc exhibits some softness in turning to the right, there is no softness, and actually you can feel resistance in going to the left. I may have a bruise where I put my palm to my forehead during this ah-hah moment. Just call me 'Dolly Dimwit'! Is it any wonder that I've had issues with circles and straight lines?

    Clinton Anderson writes, "The key to Vertical Flexion is Lateral Flexion. The softer and more flexible we get our horse through lateral flexion (bending) the easier it is to get softness and collection (vertical flexion) of our horse's poll. This in turn gives us greater overall control of our horse's direction, speed and attention."

    It's not that I don't do some lateral flexion work. I ask him to bend and bring his head towards the stirrup, either from the ground or on his back, releasing as I feel him yield to the pressure. But I don't do that often enough. And, now that I think of it, when I'm astride and ask him to bring his head around to the left, he'll walk in a circle, kinda like a puppy chasing his tail, for a moment. (Gosh, darn it....I hate when I don't put two and two together!) I've been asking for turns around cones and other obstacles. I have noticed that he is getting rounder on circles and is softer when I lunge, so we are making some progress. I'm going to incorporate turns with a loose rein as I was doing yesterday, and include more serpentines. I can also spiral him in and out both online and astride. Whew....I'm going to be a Dizzy Dolly Dimwit over the next few weeks!

    What exercises do you incorporate to help encourage softness and lateral flexion?

    Sunday, August 8, 2010

    I Toad You So

    I hate to admit how much I am enjoying having an 'only' horse. Doc has settled down and only occasionally whinnies to neighboring horses. He gets 100 % of my attention and more importantly than that, 100% of my energy. I have worked with him every day but one in the last week, and that was because I had to be in town most of the day.  Since he still has some issues with being touched (I am convinced that our cart wreck was because he was startled by the whip) and with quick movements, our work begins with desensitization. My poor horse has been assaulted with the carrot stick, the lunging whip, a tarp, a bag with cans and plastic bottles in it, a large ball, a rain coat, a towel, a flag, a WalMart bag, a scarf, the rope....hmmm, have I forgotten anything? Then I make him move.

    I had a great lesson on ground work and got some insight into lunging. We worked on a small hill and trotted, round and round. The instructor pointed out how Doc, after a period of time, brought his head down and began to swing his back. He rated his stride and began to work as efficiently as he could. She explained that I should do this at least 3 times a week, and that sometimes it could take a long time to get a horse into that frame. I was amazed that when I took Doc out for the second hill lunging experience, he settled into his trot, head down, back relaxed, within 3 circles. My smart, lazy horse figured out it would be easiest to do what I asked, right away, than to go around, and around and around again to get there!

    I've also been asking more of him in the round pen. He is finally responding to 'walk' within a few strides, and will maintain the walk until asked to do something else. Well, OK, so after we've been at it for a while he will try to stop, as if to ask, 'Are we done, yet?' I'm really happy with his walk and trot, so now we will focus a bit more energy on the canter. The energy thing is hard for Doc. He'd rather only do a few strides, thank you!

    I can really see that the ground work is helping with our mounted work. I am enjoying riding, even though sometimes we still have the disagreement about what direction we are headed! He is more inclined to settle into a sweet trot or a calm walk when we are out in the field, and if we disagree about where we are going, I ask for some circles, figure 8's or serpentines. When Doc starts to head in a different direction than I intended I have also begun to go through a 'flight check' of my own. Eyes up, looking at intended destination? Check; Weight evenly distributed on seat bones? Check; Hands even with same degree of contact? Check; Feet in proper position in the stirrups and with weight evenly distributed? Check; Body sitting straight in the saddle? Check. Shoulders even? Check.

    We've taken some great rides out of the round pen. We've gone out in our pasture, visited a large indoor arena, and we've ridden in the open community area and along the streets in our neighborhood. Doc's walked or trotted calmly past mail boxes, barking dogs, the electrical boxes (which must have some sort of hum that horses can hear) and isn't at all concerned by vehicles passing us on the gravel or paved roads. So, is it any wonder that I was taken totally off guard as we trotted across his pasture the other day? We were ending our ride and were finishing up a nice large circle at the trot, when Doc jumped abruptly to the right. I stayed on, but was a bit perplexed as I had not seen anything to warrant that reaction. No dogs. No predators hiding in the grass. No ground squirrels waving whips or flags. No kittens bounding up out of the grass with claws out and fangs bared. Nothing. Oh, wait....what is that? I circled back to where Doc jumped. Looking down I saw the largest toad I have ever seen in my life. Surely that toad could take a serious chunk out of a horse - at least that's what Doc must have thought. However, I do have to keep in mind that Doc has shown an inclination to be petrified of small mammals - so is it any wonder that this creature, albeit a rather large specimen of his kind, would scare him? I guess he might say, "I toad you so!"

    Friday, August 6, 2010

    Heading for a Fall

    I received an invitation to a party on Saturday. My friend is calling it the "End of Summer" party. No! It can't be. It's only the first week of August. I refuse to consider that this glorious season is coming to a close. But, as I look around, I'm seeing evidence that supports this statement.
    • Our currents and cherries have ripened and have been picked off by the birds. 
    • There are school buses on the roads in some districts, and in others, teachers are heading back to set up their classrooms and prepare lessons. 
    • There is a bit of color showing on some of the shrubs and trees. 
    • The baby robins have fledged and it's difficult to tell them apart from the adult birds. 
    And.....Doc is shedding! I almost cried when I brushed him yesterday releasing clouds of short hairs. Soon these will be replaced by his long, wooly coat. It's nice to know that he's planning ahead and will be warm during our cold, snowy months, but it makes me sad to think about dragging out the heavy coats, boots, gloves, and hats. I guess my friend is right that it's about time to say farewell to summer, but that doesn't mean that I have to like it!

    Tuesday, August 3, 2010

    Doc's Diatribe: Singing

    So, I am not so good at karaoke, but my Mrs. Owner and the guy who is always hanging around her recognized the tune I was singing all night long, even if I was a bit off key and sometimes didn't know the words.
    I wonder if Pippin is singing the same song?

    Care to help me sing my song?

    Sunday, August 1, 2010

    Pippin's POV: It's Not Easy Being Green

    The other day Mr. Country Cowboy said I was green. I was terribly confused 'cause I know my colors. My Mrs. Owner explained that when a horse is green he hasn't  had much training. Once again I was confused 'cause I thought I had a lot of training. After all, I know how to do lots of things:
    • I can whoa and stand still, most of the time. Well, unless someone has cookies nearby or unless I want to make noise by pawing at the gate.
    • I know how to walk, trot and canter. I do it in the round pen and on the end of the rope. Well, OK, so sometimes I put a few extra hops in when I begin to trot when my Mrs. Owner is on my back. And, well, I guess I don't really know how to canter the right direction when my Mrs. Owner asks me.
    • I know how to pull a cart. Even the trainer guy, Jeff Morse, said I was good.
    • I know how to get into the trailer.
    • I know how to look really cute so my Mrs. Owner will give me extra hay.
    • I know how to untie my rope.
    • If I can't untie my rope, I know how to scratch my halter or bridle off.
    My Mrs. Owner hugged me and rubbed me in my favorite places. She said I was a really smart horse. But then she explained that I was going to go to camp at Mr. Country Cowboy's house. She said I'd have all kinds of adventures and I'd be with lots of other horses. I'm afraid. I don't think I want to go. It's not easy being green....

    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....