Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Forgot to mention this last night.

I went out and fed my horses yesterday! YAAAAAY! I was so busy with moving, working, and housepets that I didn't go feed the horses since Friday. My friends were feeding for me so the herd wasn't actually neglected... but I really missed them. I was really glad to see them last night.

Champ whinneyed when he saw me, came up and got a big deep sniff of my face, then turned and ignored me. He's mad, of course. Champ hates to be neglected. Quinn and Poppy were much more interested in eating than anything else. And sweet old Silky was delighted to see me.

My friend-in-nursing-school was out feeding her horses, and she happened to have her stethoscope. We decided to listen to Silky's heart.

Back in late July 07, Silky choked on her pelleted feed and had to stay for two days at the vet's. One of the examining vets said that he thought her heart sounded a bit muffled, like she was in the early stages of congestive heart failure. It was unrelated to the choke and there's very little to be done for it anyway, so I didn't worry too much about it at the time. But my friend has a nice stethoscope, so we thought we'd see if we could hear a difference in her heart last night.

Yeah, I think the vet was right. Her heartbeat is very very quiet and it sounds ... watery? It sounds like waves crashing. I can't describe it very well, but it's definitely muffled.

Anyway, I stayed for an extra 30 minutes brushing and loving on Silky. I'm always amazed at how loving she is. She's had such a long horrible life, but for some reason she trusts me and she'd rather be brushed and loved on than eat food. I'm so glad she's happy, and I'm really going to miss her one of these days.

I'm looking around for possible treatment options, although I probably won't treat her with drugs. I will figure out what changes I should make in my management - probably a little more light exercise, but nothing too hard.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Dog Pheromones, day one

So it turns out my mom did buy me the dog pheromone plug in diffuser. I brought it home and plugged it in, and we'll see what happens!

Monday, January 21, 2008

The fuzzies are all reunited!

So I moved into a new apartment over the weekend. I boarded the dogs and left the kitten with my parents. It made for a quiet move, but damn, I missed them!

Yesterday I rescued my parents and their old fart dogs from Curtis. Their dogs couldn't understand why the strange new cat kept attacking them and wanting to curl up and sleep with them, and my parents were totally unused to having a wild monster kitten hooked on to their feet at all times. I was *really* glad to see the little bastard, and he seemed at least somewhat glad to see me.

Curtis is definitely shaping up to be a dog-cat. He comes when he's called, at least part of the time, and he loves Jaime and Cersei. He'll sleep with them and play with them, and he seems to enjoy getting slobbered on. What a wonderful weirdo :)

My parents figured out pretty quickly that they could bribe Curtis to leave them alone by feeding him canned Whiskas. For two and a half days, he didn't have to eat the much less desirable yet much higher quality Natural Balance dry food. He was pretty pissed when I dragged him to the new place and refused to break out the Whiskas, but when he got hungry enough that NB looked good enough to eat. I'm not real bright (or I wouldn't keep ending up with all these strays and castoffs) but I did manage to outsmart a kitten!

And today - tonight, actually - I got the dogs out of jail. Well, I picked them up from where they were boarded at the vet's, but same difference in their minds. They had an enclosed outdoor run which they shared, for $28/night. It's slightly cheaper to share a run, but mainly I wanted them to have each other. They've been through a lot lately, and I hated boarding them, but at least they had each other. And it was a lot less stressful for them to be locked up together than to have to do the moving with me. Anyway, all three of us were just stupidly glad to see each other. God, I missed them! At least til we got to the apartment complex...

Jaime hasn't had to walk nicely on a leash for two months. Two months is, like, an entire lifetime to a dog! Obviously he'd completely forgotten that I'm supposed to be in charge of the human-dog-rope contraption. He tried for a good 15 minutes to yank me around.

I'm not a very good dog trainer. I am, however, a surprisingly good horse trainer. That's not to say I'm a bona fide horse whisperer or something, just that *I* am surprised at my (not objectively very high) level of horse training skills. So I've decided to pretend like the dogs are just very small carnivorous horses, and maybe I'll have better luck with them.

Well, it worked out pretty well tonight. I thought of what I'd do if I had a horse on a lead rope that wanted to bull past me and yank me around, and I tried to that with Jaime. Horses, to me, are actually easier to physically manipulate than dogs. I think it's a combination of their size and their jumpy prey-animal nature. But anyway, I pretty much waited Jaime out and eventually he realized that yanking wasn't getting him anywhere. Then he started listening to me, and listening to the leash, and all of a sudden he was a decent dog on a leash. And again - it's not like I taught him to walk nicely on a leash in 15 minutes. It took the stubborn bastard 15 minutes to *remember how* to walk on a leash.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Internet versus Reality

It's funny how what you read - in books or on the Internet - can be so different from reality.

Last night I rode Quinn in her new snaffle bit. It's a French link, supposed to be very comfy for the horse. Now, I've always heard that you've got no brakes in a snaffle, but hell, I had no breaks in a double twisted wire curb last time I rode her, so I figured it couldn't be much worse. And I've always read (and it makes sense to me) that a snaffle is a better tool to teach a horse to bend correctly in turns. That's why I wanted to put her in a snaffle - poor girl doesn't turn well at all. Honestly, she gaits naturally and she doesn't buck, but other than that, she doesn't know anything.

I'm no trainer, but I'm taking good care of her and I'm trying to teach her kindly, which is better than most people around here do. So she's stuck with me.

First, we went through the mounting block dance again. This time I moved up to a slightly higher level of correction to get her to stand still. Last time was strictly positive - I let her move away from me and the block as much as she wanted. I just kept moving with her, and when she stopped moving I'd reward her by scritching her neck. This time I got frustrated with her and stepped it up one notch. Instead of letting her dance all over the place, I made her move where I wanted. I'd ask her to stand, and if she moved off I'd back her up, walk her forward, back her up, etc, and finally ask her to stand again. My idea is to make standing still more appealing than endlessly backing up in circles.

Eventually, I got a good stand out of Quinn and mounted up. Wow. They're serious when they say you have no brakes in a snaffle. I steered her into the arena, barely, at a fast RW, then we galloped top speed in circles for 10 minutes. I had a serious "what the fuck have I done" moment, then I decided that either I'd fall off in the mud or she'd get tired. And I didn't fall off, and she eventually got tired. I tried to get her used to the snaffle and work on turns a bit, but I don't know if she learned anything.

She's very spooky. I suspect she got whacked upside the head a great deal when her first owners broke her. If I move my hands at all from their default position, she LEAPS and tries to run away. I think more riding time will cure that - she's spent a great deal more time with me on the ground than in the saddle, and she's already calmed down a lot on the ground.

Anyway, I rode and didn't fall off. Cooled her down and brushed her off again, and picked all four feet. I'd read about some calming acupressure point located just above the chestnut on a horse's leg, and I tried that. Definitely something there - as soon as I started massaging above her chestnuts, she started licking and relaxed a bit. Neat.

I'm hoping to brush her tail this week. She actually likes me just fine when I'm up by her head, but she gets more nervous the further back I go. I've gotten to where I can touch up and down her back legs and not spook her - hopefully she'll let me start untangling that awful tail soon!

And I need to ride somebody else! Poppy, maybe, or Silky for a turn around the arena anyway. Sunday I'm planning on a big trail ride on Champ, then a second ride probably on Quinn. But I've got a little time in the evenings to ride around the property, and I should quit focusing exclusively on Quinn.

The lady who sold me Quinn wants me to ride her foxtrotter again this weekend. That'll be fun.

I'm going to the barn while it's still light so I can actually take some pictures of the herd.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008


Yesterday I got to the barn about 4, after a big thunderstorm and cold front had moved in. (Cold = 50s instead of 70s. Love our climate.) I was determined to work with Quinn, so I spent three hours down there, mostly messing with her.

I'd gone by Home Depot and gotten some rope and clips, and I installed my very own set of crossties in front of my tack room. There's three other sets of crossties in my barn, but neither the horses nor I like them. Our aisle is maaaaybe six feet wide - a cooperative horse can turn around in the aisle, but just barely. And the other crossties are all in front of other horses' stalls, who can make nasty faces and lean out and try to bite my horses. So I wanted my very own crossties.

Anyway, I put Quinn in the new crossties and brushed her down. Then I brutally attacked her sprayed Show Sheen in her mane. But she was very clear that it was a brutal and unjustified attack. I got a good 2/3ds of her amazingly long silky mane very gently untangled and combed out, and she calmed down and seemed to enjoy it. Eventually, we were both bored with the mane thing and moved on to saddle work.

I tried about half of my amazing collection of random bits, but none of them seemed to suit her as well as the bit she's used to (double twisted wire curb wrapped in vetwrap). So I put the normal tack on and led her out into the dark and windy night to practice being calm. We spent about 15 frustrating minutes getting her to stand still for me to stand on my milk crate and mount up, then we did one lap around the arena and one lap up and down the driveway. Then I got back off, scritched her mane for a minute, and started trying to get her to stand again.

Eventually (I'm slow sometimes) I realized that Quinn did not know what I wanted. No one had ever taught her to stand to be mounted. She was most comfortable with me at her head, and not very happy about letting me stand at the stirrup - she wanted to turn and face me, or back up to put me near her head. But once I realize she just didn't know, things got a lot easier. I rewarded every little half-second of being still by scritching her mane, and immediately stopped scritching as soon as she moved. She was still very nervous about the whole thing, but she started displaying the nervousness by trying to stick her face between my arm and my torso, instead of trying to back away. I spent a while getting her to stand with me at her stirrup, then a while longer getting her to stand with me on my milk crate by her stirrup. Eventually, I mounted up and we did one more lap around the arena and then called it a night. It wasn't much of a workout, but we both learned a lot and we seemed to bond quite well.

This evening I spent three hours mucking two stalls. I proclaim the Stall Experiment to be finished. It's just way too much trouble for me to lock them up and ruin their feet. Tomorrow I'll get the other two stalls stripped and re-bedded, and I'll go back to only stalling them when it's very cold and raining.

This weekend I need to pick a horse and touch up its feet. I'm planning on getting back on the "one horse every Sunday" trimming schedule. Going to keep working with Quinn, both on the ground and in the saddle. I hope she calms down about me touching her soon so I can start trying to untangle her amazingly long silky tail. It's kind of fun having a beautiful horse with that picturesque flowing mane and tail, but it's kind of an awful lot of work too.

I am completely exhausted, and the kitten just knocked over a houseplant. Dirt everywhere in the kitchen. The poor plant (a pineapple plant that I grew from a fruit top) was half-dead from neglect anyway, so I suppose I'll just vacuum up the dirt and throw the plant out. Sigh. He has come to apologize by laying on my chest and purring, so I'm not too mad at him.

Monday, January 7, 2008

...and the FUN stuff

Well, before I trimmed feet yesterday, I rode my paint mare. For complicated and stupid reasons, she hadn't been out of her stall for several days. And she hadn't been ridden in at least three weeks - she pulled a shoe in December and I didn't get the farrier out til late last week to pull the other and trim her. It was in the 60s and very windy yesterday, so it was a perfect day to ride and a terrible day to ride a half-wild horse.

I pulled Quinn out, brushed her down, and tacked her up with no problem. Then we went off to the "mounting block" (i.e. a milk crate turned upside down.) She's 16 hh, I don't want to stress her back hauling my heavy self up there, and I think training a horse for a mounting block is always a good idea. But there were two issues to deal with.

First, Quinn has a weird takeoff. It's her worst habit, probably. You have about 2 seconds from the time you swing your right leg over her back until the time she's charging off full speed ahead. She bows up her back exactly like she's going to buck, but she doesn't buck, she just takes off at top speed for about 15 feet. After that, she'll stop, turn, slow down - generally listen to you. But not for that first few seconds.

Second, the redneck chaos at my barn was in full swing. The big family was out there with all five kids running around, some of their friends and kids were out there, and a few real horsepeople were out. One of my friends was tooling around on her paint QH, and my buddy James was on his gaited mare waiting for me so we could hit the trails.

I led Quinn right over into the thick of things and started trying to get her to stand still and let me climb aboard. A couple of the real horsepeople offered to come hold her head, but I declined - I don't want to get in the habit of having people hold her head. I want a horse that I can mount with no help, not one that refuses to stand still without two assistants. She's not an OTTB and there's no reason for her not to learn to behave.

It took at least five minutes for me to get on her back. She danced and pranced in circles. She stood still, but only til I moved back near the stirrup. She walked away from the crate, and on top of the crate. She lined up a couple of times facing the wrong way. When she started acting a fool, I just looked at her and told her that I had all day to play her games, but she was going to stand still and let me on her back eventually. I didn't discipline her for any of her antics, except once when she started pawing. I generally don't let my horses paw, so I whacked her shoulder and told her to knock that off. Eventually, she realized that I wasn't going to beat her, I wasn't going to get anybody else to hold her head, and I was going to get on her back.

I swung up, got my right foot in the stirrup on the first try, and we were OFF. I knew she'd need at least a lap around the arena to get some of the crazies out of her, but it took way more than that. She charged off in a straight line, as usual. We were headed toward another barn, and there was a BLUE CHAIR in front of it. Obviously it was going to eat her, because she seriously thought about rearing up and running away from it. I got her steered around the evil chair, turned around the back side of the arena, and realized that she was seriously insane. Whenever I tried to give her an inch of rein, she'd try to break into a buck/canter. Whenever I tried to bump the reins to slow her down, she'd bow her head down and tense her back up and threaten to buck. We made it around the back side of the arena and I took her straight inside to let her do whatever it was she wanted to do so badly.

Our arena is horrible at the best of times. The owners don't have a tractor and they don't want to pay anybody to disc it, so it's overgrown with knee-high grass and weeds. It's been raining off and on for a week so at least it was a weedy swamp, instead of hard dirt with weeds. Well, I figured the mud would slow her down and wear her out a bit, and I'd rather fall off in the mud than on something hard, so off we went!

Quinn was on the absolute edge of out-of-control for a good ten minutes. For some reason, I wasn't scared at all. I had a good deep seat, with calm legs and enough energy in my core to keep me perfectly balanced. I had no brakes and very little steering, but I knew that she wasn't actually retarded enough to run us into the fence so I figured I'd just ride it out. And I did! She kept wanting to buck, and wanting to canter, but I just kept her barely in gait and let her slog through the swamp til she got sweaty. Then I asked for a halt, and she halted. I asked her to turn, and she turned. We went two laps in the opposite direction, stopped and turned again, and she was finally ok. I walked her out of the arena, over to James, and said "Let's roll."

We went on a medium-length trail ride - I didn't check the distance on Google Earth, but we probably rode 3-4 miles. I made her lead the whole way, and I made her do what I wanted. James and I usually have the greenest horse lead the way, so the new horse will get used to seeing the sights, not seeing a more experienced horse's tail. I stayed very attentive to how Quinn was feeling physically - if she wanted to speed up, we'd gait for a while. When she wanted to slow back down, I'd make her gait just a little farther - another 20 yards or so at a RW - then I'd ask her to slow down and cool off again.

One of my biggest mistakes with Champ was letting him set his own speed. Now he's incredibly stubborn and absolutely refuses to gait unless he wants to. If I insist that he goes faster when he doesn't want to go faster, he trots. Sigh. He's lucky that I adore him so much. But anyway, that's one of the things I'm trying to avoid with Quinn - I'm not going to push her too hard, but she is going to learn to gait until I ask her to slow down.

We went past a few scary monsters - some big sewer pipes sticking up out of a field, some four-wheelers, and a couple of logs.* She was pretty reluctant to cross the first bridge that we came to, but I insisted and it didn't eat her after all. The return part of the loop takes us back over a different bridge, and she didn't mind that one at all. We detoured back to the first bridge and I made Quinn cross it one more time before we headed for home - she did fine the last few times.

*What on earth is it with mares and logs? Both of my mares are seriously terrified of logs. Dead trees lying beside the trail, stumps near the trail, cut up sections of logs - they're both convinced that Log Monsters are going to kill them. It's pretty annoying... but I guess it's made me a better rider. Last summer Silky would jump sideways every time we saw a scary log, and we would see at least 20 scary logs on a given ride. I got so used to it eventually that I wouldn't even lose my balance. Now the new mare has decided that logs are monsters too! Arrrgh!

Anyway, Quinn was pretty seriously worn out by the time we got home. It was still quite warm, so I was able to hose the worst of the mud off of her legs and belly and check to make sure she hadn't pulled any muscles. Then I turned her out for a well deserved roll, and she ended up dirtier than ever. I'm a little conflicted - I feel like I overrode her a bit yesterday, but I also feel like she brought it on herself. If she hadn't acted so insane when I first got on her, we wouldn't have had to cavort around the swamp-arena and she wouldn't have been so tired later.

It was one of those "maybe I should've lunged her first" days. But it's like the mounting block thing - I don't want a horse that needs its head held for me to mount, and I don't want a horse that has to be lunged before I can get on it.

Tomorrow it's going to rain, but I'm going to ride her again anyway. Maybe 30 minutes working around the property. I want to try out my huge collection of bits on her and see what she prefers. I'd love to get her back in a snaffle and start to develop some flexibility. She's what I call show-broke - get on, kick, and hang on to the reins as hard as you can. Pull hard enough on the curb bit to get her head turned to the side, and she'll go in that direction. But I've got a lot of hope for her. When she was calm and working well on the trail, she figured out my more subtle cues pretty quickly.

I teach neck-reining and leg cues by a really exaggerated and obvious method. If we're tooling along headed straight for a tree, and I want to pass on the right, I pick up the left rein and lay it along her neck. Then I press with my right leg behind the girth, and my left leg ahead of the girth, and finally I increase my contact with the right rein. It seems easier for both me and the horse that way, out on the trail where there's an obvious reason for me to be doing weird things with my legs and hands. I don't have the patience or the skill to teach a horse my particular cues while doing pointless circles and serpentines in the arena. If there's a big friggin tree in our way, and I do weird things with my legs and arms before I do the direct rein cue, the horse seems to catch on to the more subtle cues more quickly.

In other news - I dewormed the other three with pyrantel yesterday, then dewormed Quinn with the same today. I should worm them again around Valentine's Day, I suppose.

My poor toe!

It's a vicious cycle. Poppy is young and green, so he's a jerk about letting me trim his feet. They're huge and it's a lot of work so I tend to put it off a week or two longer than I should, so they get longer than necessary and they take longer to do and he's a bigger jerk about holding them up that long. If I'd just stay on top of the trimming, it would be easier on me, easier on his patience, and better for his feet. I am going to try to rasp his feet every single Sunday for the next few months - obviously, he won't need much taken off that often, but it'll be good practice for him to put his feet on the stand and let me rasp them.

Anyway, I trimmed all four horses yesterday. Yep, it sucked! I did Poppy first, cause he was the worst. He yanked on of those enormous back feet away from me and slammed it down on my poor little toe, and stood on it. I had to holler and push on his butt to make him move off my toe. Instead of beating him to death with the rasp, I sighed, went up to his head, and scritched him.

It's not broken, but it's red and swollen and quite sore. I'm sometimes tempted to buy steel toe boots, but if he stomped on my boots and bent the steel down, that would be way worse.

Champ and Silky's feet were almost perfect. I've been staying on top of Champ's trims lately, and his feet are just picture-perfect. I wish his frogs were a little bigger and plumper, but he's got rock-hard concave soles and all I needed to do was freshen up his mustang roll. Silky's feet were much the same.

And poor little Quinn. I've looked at worse feet before (a horse who's been wearing pads for years looks exactly like a slipper-toe founder case with wedges of rubber strapped on his feet), but I've never seen worse. Certainly never owned worse :( Well, I ordered my new digital camera, so I should have pictures to document her improvement (fingers crossed!) over the next year.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Here we go again.

This is a blog for me to write about my beasties. I'll try not to bitch about money or relationships or school or anything else. I need somewhere to keep track of the cute things my puppy does as she grows up, and how the kitten goes from being a retard to being a (hopefully) dignified grown-up cat, and what my horses are up to.

I've got two dogs - Jaime is a yellow lab/hound mix, and Cersei is a yellow probably-a-lab puppy. Jaime is a little on the dumb side, but otherwise they're well named - J (who is neutered) likes to hump Cersei, and Cersei is a beautiful, brilliant, and evil puppy mastermind.

Curtis is a grey and white kitten. Found him in the parking lot at the university in November! He's maybe a longhair? Maybe not? He's got the super-soft longhair fur, but it's not very long. We'll see what he grows into. He's quite the cutie and really amazingly friendly, for being a kitten. He has his moments of trying to eat my face / hands / toes, but for the most part, he likes to cuddle and purr. He fights nonstop with Cersei. He makes the most amazing squalls and howls as she drags him around, but if I dare to break it up, he swishes his tail angrily and jumps right back on her head.

Mainly, though, I have horses. I have four, which is really one too many but I'll manage. Three Tennessee Walkers and one Percheron. I board them at a cheap DIY stable, which means that I invest more time than money in them, and I get to keep them exactly the way I want them. I try for the most natural living style I can manage, and they're all barefoot.

Champ is a 13 yo grade TWH gelding. Dark bay with a small star, and about 15.2 or 15.3. He is and always will be my favorite. If I was ever forced to sell off my horses, I would keep him no matter what. He's evil and highly opinionated, and he's kind of ugly, honestly. He taught me to ride, and (god, I know this sounds cheesy, but it's true) he taught me to be a better person. He hates most other horses and puts up with most other humans, but he will do anything for me. He's got the most "gears" of any of my horses - walk, flatwalk, trot, canter, gallop, and when he's in the mood (not often) a blue-ribbon true running walk.

Silky is an ancient TWH mare. Dark bay with little ankle-socks around her back coronets. She's taller than Champ, standing about 16 hh, but much thinner. She's built a hell of a lot like a STB and I often wonder if that's what she really is. Every vet, farrier, and shade-tree horse expert I've met has looked at her teeth and told me a different age, so I just say she's 20+. She's in the early stages of congestive heart failure, so she's mostly retired. I take her out on the trails for a mile or so about once a month, just to keep her in shape a bit, but I don't push her. She's extremely pacey, and based on her attitude about the arena and her paciness, I suspect she was a padded show horse in her youth. She'll walk, flatwalk, step-pace and hard pace, and every now and then I can get a few strides of a decent running walk out of her. And she's finally learning to canter under saddle! She's fearful and hardheaded, but after more than a year of living with me, she trusts me.

Poppy isn't a horse. He's a gargantuan dog, or maybe a Sasquatch; I'm not sure. He's a coming 4 year old Percheron gelding, and he's taller than Silky - probably 16.1 or 16.2 by now. Weighs over 1300. Black, with a lovely squiggly star/blaze, and a full undocked tail. When I got him last February, he was going through a serious growth phase and he looked gangly, but he's definitely filled out all over in a year. He's the only draft at the barn, and one of very few in this part of the country, so I'm not sure which aspects of his behavior are drafty and which are just Poppy. I regularly read I Gallop On and Eventing Percheron for clues about my big silly boo.

I've started Poppy lightly under saddle, and I'm happy with our progress. He's slow and steady, except for when he gets excited. He's more curious than scared by new things. He's got a bit of buck still in him when he gets riled up or when he switches gears, but honestly, it's not much of a buck. When I got him, he was a complete wuss re: other horses, but a year of hanging out with Champ has turned him into a large furry evil monster.

And finally, at the beginning of December I bought my fourth (and FINAL, DAMMIT) horse. Her name is Dixie, but I'm slowly changing it to Quinn (short for Harlequin). She's a 3 yo spotted TWH mare. She's the only one of my herd who has papers, and they're actually good. She's registered TWH and I could register her SSH and Racking if I gave a rat's ass about that kind of thing. She's about 16 hh, broad, well built, bay roan overo. I bought her for the exact same reason I bought each of my previous horses - something in her eyes. She was bred, raised, and broke at a padded Walker farm, but they sold her because she's too square and won't go padded.* That doesn't mean they didn't try - her feet look like she came out of pads pretty recently. Her back feet are lovely, but her fronts are long, underrun, and narrow with weird growth rings. We'll fix that with time and good trimming. She's rideable but scared of everything, including me.

The holidays were too busy for me to really work with her, but for about a week now I've concentrated on building her trust in me. We're getting there. I can go in her stall with quiet but determined body language and touch her all over, and she'll come to me on her own. Right now her "no" spots are her head and her girth area. I'm not entirely sure what my "style" is, but it's a combination of NH and clicker training and common sense, I think. I push her boundaries a little (touching her heart girth, for example) then back off, then repeat for a little longer. We're getting there.

I truly think she's going to be my next Champ. She has so much fire and so much personality! If I can win her trust, we will be unstoppable. I paid Way Too Much for her, because her former owner (NOT her breeder) didn't really want to sell her. The former owner was planning on having Dixie as her flatshod show horse this summer, and she's made me promise that I'll show her. Showing isn't my favorite thing, but I think Dixie-Quinn and I can go have some fun at our local shows.

*re: "won't go padded." Padded Walkers are pacey. The huge clunky pads "fix" the pace and make it into a (weird and unnatural) running walk. A good natural Walker who can do a running walk is very square, and putting heavy shoes or pads on doesn't do anything "good" to the gait. Therefore, some of these morons down here breed Walkers who won't RW without gimmicks, up to and including soring. Yes, people still do it. Anyway, Dixie was intended to be a padded show horse, but thankfully for her, she's not built for it.

Mainly, I trail ride my horses. We don't have any Official Horse Trails, so we just ride across the highway and hit the four-wheeler (ATV) trails along the Loosahatchie river. I have one steady riding partner, a good friend who loves to ride as much as I do. Sometimes we talk, and sometimes we'll ride for hours in silence looking for wildlife. I see tons of small birds, and lots of red-tailed hawks. We see deer at the right time of day, and we've seen a few coyotes. There are wild turkeys in the woods, but they're hard to spot - mainly we see their tracks. Once we met a bad-tempered little possum in the trail - he wouldn't move, just hissed at us, and we had to ride around him. I honestly believe our trail horses are some of the best in the world. We go near a police academy shooting range, past a football field, under and beside two active railroad tracks, and of course there's dirt bikes and four-wheelers everywhere.

My four-year-old digital camera finally died back in November. I'm going to order a new one this week, so I can take lovely pictures of my horses and informative pictures of their feet. I do my own trimming, and pictures really help me (and my friends at Barefoot Horse Care) see what I'm doing wrong and right. I am by no means a professional trimmer, but last year when I took Champ and Silky barefoot, there weren't any pro trimmers around here. Just farriers. :( Now there's an AANHCP certified couple trimming locally. I kind of feel like I should give them my business, to support them, but I also kind of feel like I'm doing ok with my herd. It saves me money, it keeps me in shape, and I enjoy trimming.

Anyway, I suppose I'm just a smart redneck. I learned how to sit on a horse and steer it around three years ago. Then when I got Champ (9-12-06), he taught me how to ride. Just like I can't find a trimmer I trust down here, I can't find a riding instructor I trust either. I have a good internet friend who actually gets lessons from a real instructor, and I'm pretty jealous of her! One day I'll find someone who actually knows how to ride classically, and I'll actually get some feedback on how I'm doing. Til then, I'll just keep muddling along. My philosophy right now is if you fall off, get back on, and don't let the horse bully you.