Saturday, February 28, 2009

Spring is in the air

Went out to check on the horses kind of early today (since we're all going to die tonight). I couldn't find Champ and Silky so I hiked all around the two fields. Of course they were eating hay at one of the round rolls when I finally decided they'd died and headed back toward the truck.

Anyway. The mares decided it was Crazy Time as I walked back toward the gate. One of the young QH mares went tear-assing past me, tail flagged like an Arab. Then Dixie and two more mares snorted and dashed around the house. The geldings alternated chasing the mares and chasing each other. I went and stood on a little hill with some trees and watched them play for a while.

Champ decided that no other horse should come near me. (What if I had treats in my pockets and I accidentally fed them to another horse?! Unacceptable.) Poppy thought maybe I had something tasty for him so he came up, but Champ came stalking up behind him, ears flat, swinging his head back and forth. Poppy tried to ignore Champ, so Champ went to bite Poppy's butt. Poppy turned around and Champ reared straight up and pawed at him. Poppy is even lazier than Champ so Poppy backed away and walked off. In a circle, behind me, to come up on the other side. Champ went and headed him off again.

Meanwhile, Goblin (the very pale palomino QH gelding) came dashing up with the mares. Dixie was hanging out near me and the round roll. Goblin seriously miscalculated his stopping power and slid 5 feet on his haunches in the mud, crashing into Dixie. This was a huge faux pas, because she immediately squealed and started kicking him. He scrambled away as fast as he could.

Then two of the young QH mares came up, Penny and April. They're buddies, always hanging out together. Apparently they're more than just buddies, because the sorrel rubbed her head on the bay's butt, all lovey, then halfway mounted her. A couple minutes later she did it again! Awww, lesbian horses!

I finally got the new spare tire winch for my truck. Later this week I'll put it on and finally get my spare tire out of my truck bed. Still waiting to hear back from that shipper; if she doesn't call me tomorrow I'm calling someone else Monday. Rrrrgh.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The mating call of the Terror Bird

Yeah, I did it again. Earlier this week I mentioned to someone how Champ is completely bombproof, so today he proved me wrong.

I've been (of course) super busy with all the little stuff to arrange to move. Today was the first day I actually got to spend time with my horses. At least it was a lovely day, about 60 and overcast when I went out.

I saddled my reluctant gelding and we moseyed away down the trail. All was going pretty well until the mating cry of the terror bird, when he spun 180 degrees and tried to bolt. I spun him back around and he JIGGED down the trail. He actually jigged! He never jigs; it's entirely too much work, but damn if he didn't do it today.

In case you were wondering, Terror Birds sound a lot like ducks or something. I don't know much about birdcalls, but no NORMAL bird could've freaked out my dearest Champ like that.

Anyway, we rode everywhere I wanted to go and made it back safe. Then I worked with Dixie a bit - picking up feet and letting me groom her without dancing around like I am stabbing her. She did very well!

Found a new barn, very near where we're going to get an apartment, reasonable rates. Found (thanks Paige!) a shipper, waiting to hear back when they can fit me in. Got a crapload of boxes and all of our nonessential stuff is already boxed. (Not that most of it ever got UNBOXED, but whatever.) U-haul is reserved, for what that's worth.

Tomorrow or Monday I'll get health certs and rabies shots for the horses. The vet recommended Benadryl instead of Valium for the cats, and god knows I always have benadryl on hand. I need to meet up with Stephen and dispose of the rest of the stuff in our shared ministorage. He said he'll build me a box for the tv, too - we don't have the original box for the TV, and it's a big ole widescreen LCD HD TV. Hard to pack it without scratching it or breaking the whateveritis that makes the pixels light up. And tomorrow my new spare tire winch thing should come in, so I can install that and get the damn spare tire out of the bed of my truck. FINALLY.

I think I am going to cancel my lesson on Sunday. I haven't done jack with Dixie and I don't know if I even have time to ride her tomorrow or Saturday. My mind isn't really on dressage right now.

Monday, February 23, 2009

On the road again

We're going to be a band of goddamn gypsies for sure. He's starting work up there on the 16th, so we'll probably head up on the 11th or 12th. We just found out, officially 100% for sure, today - so we went straight out and traded the BWM for a truck. A proper truck, an '09 F150 XLT with the (supposedly) awesome new tow package.

Now I can't sleep, wondering how to make this all work.

Anyway, having two trucks means we can definitely rent a 6x12 U-haul. Is that cool or pitiful, that all our belongings will fit in a 6x12 and the insides of two trucks? I'm inclined to think it's cool... but kinda sad.

I still don't know if I'm going to haul her myself or pay a shipper. He's checking in with work to see if horse hauling is a "moving expense," but I still don't know if I want to let somebody else haul my precious horse. But dear god I don't know if I want to do it myself either.

Can't sleep. Can't stop worrying.

Also my dressage instructor yelled at me for not riding Dixie at all last week. :o He's right, though, she needs consistent work to build muscles, etc. I'm going to haul her out to the main barn and ride her four days this week. That's my goal.

And pack. To move. Oh god. Can't sleep.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Welcome to 2008

I just watched Die Hard 4 for the first time. Man, I love Bruce Willis, but I just don't watch TV/movies very often. Anyway, I think he reads my blog. At the end, he does something kinda dumb yet clever, and his daughter asks him why he did that?! He said "It seemed like a good idea at the time!"

Hell yeah.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Worms, videos, clicks

I was a week behind my normal schedule, but I got everybody dewormed with pyrantel pamoate. I used the traditional method of luring the horses to me with their usual handful of grain, sticking a halter on each horse, and hanging off the noseband while I convinced each appalled horse that YES, I really WAS going to violate the victim's personal integrity in such a horrid fashion. Then everybody got grain and completely forgave me.

It sounds like I'm making light of alternative horse handling methods, but I'm not, really. I'm lucky that none of my horses actually act violent about dewormer or are terrified of it. It's more like I'm extremely amused by my horses' individual drama queen reactions to the hated wormer.

Champ, who is normally the calmest horse in the universe and puts up with any weird thing I want to do to him, flips his nose up and down as fast possible til I get mad and cuss him. Once I get the dewormer tube in his mouth, he starts actively trying to spit the paste out as fast as I deposit it on his tongue. As soon as the grain appears, he completely forgives me.

Silky is appalled that I am invading her old-lady dignity in such a horrid fashion. She stands perfectly still, but clamps her lips shut as tightly as possible. It's like trying to feed a three year old kid her least favorite food - except I have a syringe, instead of a spoon, so I win. Again, once the halter comes off and the cookies appear, she's back to being a quiet and respectful pocket pony.

Dixie seethes with barely controlled rage. Her ears alternate between pinned-back and focused on me, like she flipflops between "I will kill you for this!" and "Oh wait it's the boss human!" She actually never left all afternoon - she was caught, dewormed, and fed some grain. Then she hung around hopefully until I broke out the clicker, and after I was done clickering her she hung around a little longer to watch me and Poppy.

Since Dixie had gotten over her snit so quickly, I decided to clicker clean her feet again today. IceRyder had asked for video of it, and I tried to oblige. However, my skills at wiring a camera to a round pen panel are somewhat lacking and it's really not all that great. I uploaded it anyway, as proof of how good Dixie was about the whole thing, and how amazingly effective clicker training is.

Dixie clicker training feet from Funder on Vimeo.

The people talking are me and K, Poppy's new owner. The periodic "earthquakes" happen when the dogs, Cersei and Lucky, run under that round pen panel to get in or out of the pen. And apparently my camera only takes 3 minute videos, so yall missed the last hoof cleaning.

I know, I need to wear a belt.

Clicker stuff: I think it's fascinating how Dixie has her ears pinned almost constantly. She really doesn't like for any creature to touch her anywhere under any circumstances, except for humans offering her treats directly under her nose. Well, and she does seem to like me - whenever I offer her the halter, she sticks her nose in it, and she leads great, and whenever I look at her she's got pretty ears. Apparently not when I'm picking her feet! But look at those ears pop forward whenever she hears a click.

For a cue, I'm tap-tap-tapping with a finger on the lower part of the leg I want. It's clear and not painful. When I started her near side, I started adding the "up" verbal cue. I really prefer a verbal cue for foot lifting - it's kind of sweet yet annoying when the horse keeps picking its hoof up for you when you only want to brush off its muddy legs or trim its feathers. I'll keep doing both the tap and the verbal cue for a while, then try to fade the tap.

I'm planning on adding trimming next. I'll bring my makeshift hoof stand out and see if I can't get a second of duration when I put a front foot on the stand. I think trimming should progress almost as fast as cleaning has... I hope!

Clicker people, any critiques or suggestions?

And here's a video from earlier this week, when I was trail riding on Champ. This is the fishing lake, and it's my second favorite of the seven lakes. I think it's just gorgeous out there.

Trail ride, fishing lake from Funder on Vimeo.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Clicky Dixie

I was inspired by Michelle's recent posts. Her horses are so well behaved, and I know it's cause she clicker trains them, and dammit I can do that too! So off we went to Walgreens for some Frosted Mini Wheats and then out to work with Dixie.

I started off with head-down to get her thinking about working with me, then I tied her up and did some foot picking up stuff. Ideally I'd be able to pick up and work on her feet at liberty, but I wanted some successes to reinforce. I have a short attention span. Here's how it went:

First, I'd c/t (click/treat) for her picking up a hoof, no matter how briefly. It's absolutely crucial to get the click in that split second where the hoof is in the air - otherwise, you're rewarding the horse for slamming her feet back down and then you'll have successfully clicker trained pawing. I have already successfully clicker trained pawing with one horse so I'd like to skip it with this one. I did all four feet this way, maybe 5 times on each foot.

Then I moved to "let me hold your foot." If she yanked her foot away, no c/t. If she let me hold it, just for a couple seconds, she got a treat. I did that on each hoof several more times, then I went and got a hoofpick.

I am not coordinated enough to hold clicker, hoof, and hoofpick, so I decided she'd just have to be patient - and anyway, I want to reward the entire action. I cleaned all four feet - twice actually! - and she behaved quite well for it. She is usually a horribly impatient bitchy mare - yanks her feet away, every now and then she'll cow-kick at me, paws nonstop, threatens to lay down if you won't let go of her foot. It's not that she doesn't understand picking up her feet, it's that she doesn't want to cooperate about it.

In a sense, clicker training really is just bribery. But it's exceptionally clear bribery! And the alternative to bribery is pressure/release, which boils down to "do what I want or I will annoy you nonstop til you give in." Sometimes, I can see a better way to do something with pressure/release, and sometimes I can see an easier way with clicker training. It depends on the difference in the horse's personality, too.

I think the more traditional way to get her to pick up her feet and hold them up would be to just refuse to let the hoof go until she quit fighting, repeated over and over til she decides on her own it's quicker to just cooperate. The NH way would probably be to send her out in circles, or make her back up, or something similar, whenever she yanked her feet away - making the wrong thing hard. Both of those methods don't work well with Dixie. She has a tendency to get angry or panicky or something and try to lay down if you refuse to let go of her hoof, and she gets kind of spazzy and her brain shuts down if you keep punishing her with round pen work. But clicker training leaves her intrigued and relaxed and really thinking about what on earth I want from her.

I don't think I'll train everything with the clicker. Our under saddle work is coming along really well with the sort of classical pressure/release work we've been doing. But ground manners with the clicker is a lot of fun and works pretty well too!

Anyway. You never see pictures of her feet, because she's so horrid about picking them up and I have no doubt she'd step on the camera if I dared to set it down. But hopefully I will have pictures of her (still kind of strange looking) hooves to show off soon!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

My Champion :3

Hmm. I just realized yall might not know what the :3 smiley face looks like - it's this!

Anyway. This is a Champ Update. Sunday his former owner called me! I've been meaning to call him and let him know I've still got Champ and I still <3 him and he's still a good horse, but you know how that goes. Mr. Delbert called me first! He just wanted to see how we were doing and remind me that Champ's birthday is March 1. My silly gelding is going to be sixteen! I mailed him some Christmas parade pictures today. He'll like them, I think!

Yesterday, my knee still hurt from all that "move away from my inside leg" dressage Sunday, so I went on a nice long trail ride with Champ. He was fantastic - very alert but calm, happy to w/g/t/c when I asked. The footing was absolutely perfect so I let him canter a few times - he always wants to run up hills in the woods, because there are Lions in the Woods and because it's easier to get some momentum to get up the ravines. I usually insist he walk them, but like I said the ground was perfect so we went tear-assing through the forest. WHEEE!

We are not yet ready to do eventing, though. He asked to gallop down a flat section of trail that we've been on a million times, so I let him. We got to the turn in the trail and he didn't want to slow down and I didn't think we'd die, so I let him rip through it, but he kind of forgot where the ruts were and had to do a crazy damn sideways full-speed leap to the left while I ducked under the branches and screeeeeamed like a girl. We cantered-then-galloped a couple other times - we are not good with rating speed.

I will say this - my seat is way better, and that horse is phenomenally surefooted.

And speaking of feet, here's a bunch of pictures of Champ's feet. I think his frogs look better? And I think the club foot / long toe thing is improving. I've been whittling away at them whenever I think about it, maybe once a week. And I've been picking them out every time I remember, which is maybe 4x a week - it really does help, Michelle. Thank you!

As always, I welcome comments, critiques, and suggestions. And if you click on the pictures, they'll open in Flickr and you can see the bigger versions.

From the side, it looks like the left was clubby/upright and the right was underrun/long toes. He's not standing square here, but at least you can see the general shape of them (and how unflared they are!) Looks like I've got the left front heel as short as it can be right now.

Front side view

Left front solar and left front, uh, heel view. His front heels are pretty even, medially/laterally. Also note my chewed-off boot toe - thank you Cersei! (She was a quite good puppy, and the toe of my boot is one of the few casualties of her teething phase.)
Left front solar Left front heel

Here's right front solar and right front heel. The right side pictures are much worse, because the camera button can only be pressed by one's right finger and the right hand is busy holding up the horse's right leg, etc. Anyway, the "heel" shot isn't straight, obviously.
Right front solar Right front heel

My horse is so laidback that I did not hesitate to set the camera on the ground between his feet for these shots. Here's the rear left - look how it's more flared on the outside than the inside. I think (with the usual "I am not an expert" disclaimer) that it's flared outside because of his conformation - he is pretty cowhocked, so he stands more on the insides of his rear feet than the outside. Therefore the outside grows and flares, because the force of his body is pressing more toward the inside. Make sense?

Probably not. Anyway! Left rear floor shots:
Left rear front view rear hooves

I've gotten his inside rear heels down as far as they'll go right now.
Left rear, holding the hock

Solar looks wonky and unbalanced, though. Look at how the medial (inside) part of the sole is so much narrower than the lateral (outside) part! Even if you assume 1/8" of the lateral is flared sole, it's still all wonky.
Left rear solar

Due to the aforementioned difficulties of holding up a right leg and taking a picture, I didn't shoot the right rear. It's about the same as the left, though - wider laterally than medially, with heels that want to grow high medially. I'm going to keep dealing with his rear feet the same way - keep on top of the medial heels, stay out of live sole, make sure he's still comfortable and sound with what I'm doing.

Here's his blue cloud.
His cloudy blue eye

I dunno. It's been like that since before I got him, and it doesn't seem to bother him. It's pretty, but it's probably a scar from some mishap in his younger days.

I sure do love that fugly bay horse.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

"Dressage" photoshoot!

But first yall need to see my adorable dog.

D'awwww cute Cersei

Tres cute, yes? (And don't laugh but I made that dog bed myself, out of an old flannel sheet and the stuffing from a crappy pillow. She loves it.)

Ok, on to the "dressage." It's in quotes because it doesn't actually look much like dressage - a gaited horse, a western-ish saddle, jeans. She's in a single jointed D ring snaffle though! That's gotta make it more dressagey. (Also please note I am wearing a helmet and not smoking. It's one for the record.) My husband came and took some surprisingly good pictures and video of us!

Yesterday, I experimented with different bits for Dixie. She wasn't doing fantastically with the wide Pelham, so I went to my parents and dug out what I vaguely remembered as my Tom Thumb. It's not actually a TT - it's got a copper roller thing covering the joint in the middle, so each side moves very little. It's also a good bit narrower in diameter than the pelham. She was pretty "meh" about it - didn't hate it, didn't turn or stop any better in it than in the pelham. Then I thought back to one of my Life Lessons About Horses, one that's stood me in good stead for a long time so far:

There are no magic bits. (In fact, there are no magic items of tack. Obviously there are exceptions, like if the horse bucks because the saddle fits so poorly, but in general there's no magic.)

I dug out the single jointed D ring snaffle. The worst she could do is run away, right? And if she runs away, I'll just circle her til she gets tired. This isn't much different from our "bad" days. There is no magic bit. There is no magical brake pedal. As long as I don't haul back on both reins and poke her palate with the bit, it'll all be ok.

She liked the snaffle, quite a bit. We had no brakes, but she was in a bit of a mood and she never woahs when she's in that kind of mood no matter WHAT bit she's in, so I decided we'd stick with the D ring.

So today we had a long lesson in the honest-to-god snaffle bit. Worked on several horse lessons: basic bending at a halt, giving to inside leg pressure, and speeding up without panicking. I had several human lessons going, too: quit flapping your legs off and on the horse, do NOT thump her with your heels and expect her to stay calm, SIT DOWN when she gaits, and teach her to give to inside leg. All in all we did quite well together - not perfect, but we both tried really hard. And my knee hurts - if I hurt my knee, I must be using my legs in a different and hopefully better way, right?

I got a bit of carrot stretching / bending at the halt. We got Dixie to give to inside leg - to spiral outwards on a circle, basically - to the left. The right, not so much - she's very one sided right now. And I bollocksed the first time I asked her to speed up. We got a really hollow choppy racky thing. But the second time I got a smooth upward transition... to a trot! D'oh. Oh well, both she and I know that she can gait just fine and we'll get a really smooth gait one day :)

Here we are at a halt while I talked with Hardy. I love her alert but calm expression. (By the way, that's a halter on under the bridle, not a weird noseband.)

Pretty picture, stretchy walk. She's not even going fast; this is just how she walks if she's not collected at all.

Here's a video of her "totally normal walk." I think we were working on the elusive inner leg cue, but I'm not 100% sure.

Dixie, walking around from Funder on Vimeo.

Here's our bad upward transition. I thumped her with my heels to speed her up, and she went way faster but very hollow and freaked-out.

Dixie, fast gait from Funder on Vimeo.

And here's our good upward transition. This time, I kept increasing leg pressure without resorting to heels or tensing up, and I got her to speed up! Yay! To a trot. Rrrgh. Still, it's progress.

Dixie, trot from Funder on Vimeo.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Cersei got a Valentine's treat!

I am a heartless wench who does not usually give holiday treats to pets.

Well, ok, fine, I always buy way too many Christmas presents for my animals, but that's just because I cannot resist Christmas junk. But OTHER holidays, no way. Mainly because I don't usually celebrate other holidays - for example, I think you should be romantic with your honey EVERY day, not just February 14th. So no heart shaped rawhides for Cersei!

I did a lot of pre-moving running around today. When I got home, I realized I'd forgotten a 2-liter of Coke for the all-important Friday night "drink and play Guitar Hero" ritual. So I grabbed Cersei and took her to the gas station up the street.

When I got out of the truck, a guy was getting out of his truck and noticed Cersei. He said she was cute, and I said her name is Cersei, and we went in. I got my 2 liter and he got three bags of ice. I was in line in front of him, but he had more stuff so I told him to go ahead. When I got out, he came up and handed me a cute little Valentine's bag of dog treats for her! So she got a V-day treat because she's super cute. :3

Tomorrow's feast is probably going to be rib-eye steaks, some form of potatoes (baked? crash? au gratin?), creamed spinach for me, and homemade creme brulee. I hope yall have a wonderful V-day with your sweeties tomorrow :)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Looks like the hiatus is almost over

We're one step closer to being officially Ohio bound. Right now we're waiting on a date he needs to be up there and a relo amount - once we know how much money they will give him to relo, we can start really arguing over me packing and driving a borrowed utility trailer versus hiring movers, and me borrowing a trailer and driving the horses up versus hiring shippers. No point in getting our hearts set on doing this one way or the other til we know how much we've got to spend, though.

We are definitely getting some Valium for the cats. I already called the vet about that and she said she just needs to know their weights. I am so not looking forward to 10 hours in a truck with three squalling miserable cats.

Mmmm, horse stuff.

I've been in a bit of a slump. Waiting to find out if/when/how we're moving has taken a lot of fun out of life (for both of us, truth be told!) Cersei, as always, keeps me honest. Yesterday I took Champ and went trail riding. Today I just didn't even feel like riding, so I took Cersei out and threw The Ball for an hour.

Poppy found us and was the most adorable pest until I gave in and played with him. He hovered near me, running through all of his tricks (head down, head up, paw, stretch left, stretch right, back up) like some equine Tourette's sufferer. Eventually I couldn't help but give in. Went to Walgreens for a box of Frosted Mini Wheats and back out to pay him some attention.

After we clickered our way through half the box, I kicked him out of the round pen and let Dixie come in. I'd never done clicker work with her before (and I'm not entirely sure why not?) but she did well. I started off charging the clicker - just click stuff a treat in her mouth repeat. Then I waited til she got frustrated and nosed the ground, then started clicking for head down.

She's funny. When things don't go quite like she thinks they should, she gets very frustrated and obviously furious. She didn't paw or pin her ears at me, but you could just see her temper rising as she tried to figure out how to make me give her a mini-wheat again. She eventually stumbled on the right answer, and repeated it, and we had a pretty solid head-down (no cue yet) by the end of our session.

I don't know if this is "correct" or not but I don't like doing the same one command over and over for an entire session, so we broke it up with backing up and the beginnings of carrot stretches. I'd just put my hand on her heart girth and wait til she swiveled her head back to see why I was touching her, then click and treat.

It was good fun for everybody! Oh, and I trimmed Silky and checked Champ's feet. No pictures cause I was feeling like an uninspired slacker. Then I came home and found out we're' like 95% go on Ohio.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Dressage, guns, trails, fishing, and MORE!

Yep, I had a super busy day. It's very springlike here right now - we'll probably get one more nasty cold snap before "winter" (as we know it) is over, but I'm perfectly happy wearing a tank top again!


Had a cool lesson today. Let's see - Michelle asked if I'd changed saddles, and no, I haven't. I've always ridden Dixie in this saddle. The change I recently made was to tie the fenders back a couple inches, so that my legs naturally hang in a more balanced position. Instead of fighting constantly to keep them back, they "want" to hang with my heels under my hips. And after watching her yesterday, I'm pretty sure she was just in heat. Why do the highstrung mares always have the worst heats? I may try Andrea's raspberry leaf stuff and see if it helps Dixie too.

Anyway, we trailered over and had a productive lesson. Dixie did ok at a slow walk and a flatwalk, but we kept really falling apart at a rack. She'd go hollow, with her nose up and out, whenever I asked her for more speed. I know that if I grab the curb reins and pull her nose in, she'll gait more smoothly, but that seems an awful lot like riding "front to back" and it's not what I want to explore with her.

She doesn't understand inside leg yet. Obviously this is my problem, and in my defense, I've spent almost a year desensitizing her to leg pressure. She used to think any leg at all in any position meant "go as fast as possible." I've finally convinced her that I don't wear spurs (right now) and I'm not going to beat her with a whip if she doesn't explode into motion when I move my leg. Now it's time to teach her what I want when I move a leg. Anyway, when I bend her into a circle, she sets the diameter of the circle because she doesn't move out away from my inside leg - I can't do spirals with her. We worked on that a bit, got a couple of slightly larger circles, and called it good progress.

And Dixie doesn't bend! Well, she bends ok sometimes on circles or spirals, and she's flexible as all get out at liberty, but she hasn't ever been asked to stretch her neck at a standstill. We did a bit of that too; it's something I should continue working on.

Finally, somewhat against my better judgment, we switched bits. Hardy wanted me to try her in a Tom Thumb. I generally hate tom thumbs, because of the whole broken mouth double twisted wire curb balance on the reins to get them to gait thing. And there's a whole lot of dressage-y sites that hate on the Tom Thumb - apparently it gives conflicting information to the horse cause of the combination of shanks and a broken mouthpiece.

But... if I was doing a perfect job training Dixie, I wouldn't be taking lessons. I didn't think a smooth mouth Tom Thumb was going to actually hurt my horse. Maybe confuse her? Maybe jab the roof of her mouth if I was too heavy handed? But not hurt her or make her scared, any worse than we've done to each other in the past. So I tried it.

She loved it. We'd gone up to the barn to look for one, then over to the round pen to try it out. She didn't fuss with it at all, not one bit, and she seemed to bend very well to it. I'm pretty sure I have a copper roller TT in my giant collection of bits at my parents' and tomorrow I'm gonna go pick it up and try again with her.

I was hoping to get some pictures of Dixie stretching out and down for DiJ's Long and Low post but my husband (aka the Official Funder Photographer) wasn't able to come out. He feels appropriately guilty though so hopefully I can get some pictures this week.


After Dixie and I got back to the field, K came running up. "Did you bring your gun? B's got his rifle and I've got my pistol and let's go shoot!" So I headed back home and picked up my gun and then we went and killed the hell out of some inanimate objects.

I love rifle shooting it's the best and yall need to try it!

B has a .22 target rifle with a scope and a bipod. (Little legs that fold out from the front of the rifle, so you can lay down and get it perfectly steady.) He's spent the last week getting it perfectly sighted in. We shot our "targets" from about 10 yards, which is not very far at all for a rifle but fun for us newbies. I laid down and shot the UPC code on a Mt. Dew bottle with no problem, then spent my next two turns with it trying to nail the cap to the bottle. Never quite managed it. It's some combination of my breathing and me jerking (instead of slowly squeezing) the trigger. I did a round shooting from the shoulder, which is surprisingly hard. And I tried propping the rifle in a convenient tree branch and shooting at a snag in the lake, about 50 yards out - never quite hit the snag, but I was maybe 6" off from it. Pretty cool.

Everybody liked my .40 again, and we all plinked away with the terrible .22 revolver. I don't mean to hate on the revolver, but... I don't particularly like the grip, the sights are a bit off, it's louder and harder to hit with than the rifle, and it makes teeny weeny holes in cans. My .40 is incredibly loud and not nearly as accurate as a long gun, but at least it makes satisfying holes!


After we'd shot up all the ammo, we headed back to the horse field. K immediately jumped me again and insisted that we needed to go trail riding! She and T had gone yesterday, on Poppy and Goblin, and had a great time. They wanted to go again! So we all caught our reluctant horses and headed out. I took them on the "easy" trail, the one that has a bunch of short steep ravines. (The hard trail, by comparison, has one VERY STEEP ravine that's twice as long.) They are kinda wussy and I took pity on them and we walked the horses up and down the ravines, but I did assure them that I do regularly ride Champ up and down those slopes. You've gotta believe that your horse can do it, and trust your horse, but you can in fact ride any hill back there.

Poppy did so well. K is not ready to take Poppy trail riding alone, but she knows it. If you and your horse are going out alone, at least one of you needs to be totally confident for it to work out. When I first got Champ, he had the confidence for both of us. Later on, I got more ballsy and now I can ride a green horse alone... but I don't think K can yet, and she doesn't think she can yet either. But she's got her daughter T and Goblin, so the four of them will be fine together. And in a couple months, when Poppy knows every inch of the trails, K and Poppy can go alone if they want.

She's really doing well with him. I'm so very happy. I do think they'll be perfect together - neither of them wants to go anywhere fast, and he's naturally unflappable, and she's neither googly-eyed or scared of him right now. I am pulling for them. :)


We got back to the field AGAIN about 4:30. But it's February and it was warm and I'd been itching to fish all day. I put a silly artificial minnow thing on my line and fished for about an hour. I hooked one decent-sized fish but it slipped off my hook a foot from the bank. Sigh. Then I hooked a willow tree and had to cut my line, double sigh. By that time it was getting dark and chilly, so I packed it up for the night.

I am bound and determined to catch at least one fish with a completely artificial lure. I've only ever caught fish with live bait. I will figure out this lure nonsense. Also I will figure out a really kickass fish recipe, other than "bread in cornmeal and fry."

Cersei accompanied me everywhere today. After dinner (neckbones, if you're curious) she collapsed on her bed by my chair and has not moved since. If she had a blog, she'd tell an entirely different story... but I bet she's just as content as I am.

Friday, February 6, 2009

...two steps back.

Rode Dixie. She was completely psycho! I don't know, sigh.

It was sunny and windy and mid-60s. Maybe she's coming into heat pretty hard? Maybe it was too windy and she could smell the monsters trying to eat her soul? Maybe she was just in a mood? Anyway, we got in a protracted battle in the big field - every time I would think "quit pulling sit back relax" and try to implement my correct riding skills, she'd ABSOLUTELY BOLT. And to keep her from diving headlong into the treeline I'd pull her into a turn.

The one bright side, I suppose, was that I felt completely secure with the stirrups adjusted back. Rack canter gallop whatever, I never felt like I was one bounce from eating dirt.

When we got back in the field, I tried to ride her at a walk to cool her down. No ma'am, not happening. We did some more horrible horrible riding - me hanging off the reins while she racked, me trying to relax and get out of her face and her cantering. She wanted to veer right at one point and I was pulling her left and swear to god she got to within 5 inches of a post before she turned. I hate playing chicken.

I was completely determined to salvage something, so I rode a few circles near my truck til I thought I'd gotten a couple of almost-respectable bends, then I got off. As soon as I had Dixie untacked and brushed down, she was my best friend again. She let me scratch her sweaty face, she hung out near me for a while, and she rolled about 5 feet from me.

I don't get it. I feel kinda discouraged, but I'm just telling myself that this will pass, and this is how she and I have always been - one step forward, two steps back, then four or five steps forward. It's just time for us to step back right now. Surely this will pass and we'll be back to lovely cooperation soon?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Funny ha-ha or funny uh-oh?

Kacey at All Horse Stuff rocks my crazy trail-riding bay-horse-owning socks! She gave me this very odd goat award:

This award is given to the blogs that make you laugh. The blogs that stand out and amaze you with wit and wisdom humorously delivered to your heart and funny bone!
The rules are easy and simple.
1. Blog about the Hamfatter award, tell where the name came from (you can copy and paste, that is what I did!!)
2. Post the Hamfatter Award Proudly on your blog!
3. Pick 5 blogs that just make you laugh and link to them in your post.
4. Link back to the person who gave you this hilarious Hamfatter Award.
5. Let your blogger friends know they were awarded a little something.

I am sending this one on to Mrs Mom at Oh Horsefeathers. The Chupacabra Story really made me laugh! (I knew the Golden Menace's twin brother, I believe - another truly rank 32" palomino mini stud, in Memphis!) Now I just have to go tell her about it - believe it or not, I'm kinda "shy" about new blogs and I usually have to read them quietly for a month or so before I get up the nerve to comment! It'll be good for me I bet.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

It's like a brand new saddle

It really feels completely different with the stirrups tied back. I think it feels better, but it's so wildly different that I can't honestly say I love it yet.

This looks correct, though, right?
Me on Champ

Here's a closeup of what I did.
Saddle mod

Here's my February Appreciation Photos.

The moon's technically more than half full right now, but in daylight it looks pretty small. I don't like this photo as much as I thought I would've, but it was too cold to take lots of pictures today!

Yellow Dawg, snuffling around.
Cersei sniffing around

Headed back.
Cersei scouting ahead

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Lemonade, dammit, lemonade!

Looks like we're going to move to Ohio. Specifically, east or southeast suburbs of Columbus. It'll be an adventure for sure!

Longer term, lawyerly, I should be able to just take the one-day Ohio essay exams and get admitted to their bar. And it's a much bigger market, I should be able to find work.

Short term - oh shit! Lots of logistics. Where will I board the horse(s)? Where will we live? Will I bring up just Dixie at first, or will it be cheaper/more sensible to bring up both Champ and Dixie? (I'm pretty sure I'm going to leave Silky retired in Mississippi.)

Things I need to figure out:

What do I need to move a horse to Ohio? Coggins, obviously, but what kind of health cert will keep me out of trouble as I travel between states and settle in to Ohio?

How am I going to move the horses? Pro shipping company, borrow a trailer from a friend, or bribe a friend into hauling for me?

What's the best location for us? Ideally, I'd have field board with a run-in and hay, some type of arena access, an on-site trainer as good for me as Hardy, and ride-to trails. I'll settle for field board with no shelter and residential/country roads to ride on.

On top of those questions, I'll need to rent a trailer, pack, shove three cats and a dog in two vehicles, and move. Oh and there's that fucking ministorage unit that STILL has half of our furniture - I need to Do Something with the antiques in it, sell or move the books in it, and toss or move the other junk.

Anyway, I welcome suggestions / advice from yall.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Classical redneck

I took Champ and Cersei on a trail ride, and spent most of the ride sulking about how my stupid stirrups are hung too far forward. When we got back, I thought about it for a bit and I think I've fixed them.

My saddle is rigged kind of weird. It's got a normal 7/8 cinch, but it's got a back ring that's set up to optionally rig it "Mcclellan style." This first picture is a pretty good representation of what my saddle looks like. (I checked National Bridle, where I got my saddle, but they don't rig the saddles the same anymore.)

Anyway. There's a very sturdy back ring that sits underneath and about an inch to the rear of my thigh bone. I've been toying with various ideas of getting the saddle modified to hang the fenders "correctly", or taking off the fendered stirrups and attaching some English leathers... but why fuss with all that? I ran a piece of leather from the back D ring through one of the holes in the fender leather and tied a knot. Once I got the leather exactly the right length, the fenders were pulled back to exactly the right spot. And the best part? It will fail safely. If the leather strings break, the stirrups don't FALL OFF, they just move forward.

I did a brief test ride with my modded stirrups. It's extremely weird. I think it's perfect - from my POV my ankles hang under my hip bones, and K and T, observing on the ground, agreed. But it's definitely weird!

I hope this helps the horses carry me better. If not, it'll be easy to undo!


The kitten is a fetchcat. I made her a little bat catnip toy - it has crinkly plastic in the wings, and catnip in the head and outer wings, and a cotton string tail/handle. For some reason entirely on her own, she decided that we are suitable to throw the bat for her.

(I don't think she learned it from me and Cersei. We live on the second floor, so I hardly ever throw The Ball inside for Cers. Our downstairs neighbor is almost deaf but a 65 lb dog crashing around chasing a ball is pushing it!)

She will periodically go find the bat and bring it to one of us and drop it. We are expected to throw it until she no longer brings it - that means she's tired and wants to take a nap, thank you. Jabber is the most fun of all the cats, and she's probably the most fun cat I've ever had. Getting her was one of those "good idea at the time!" stupid decisions.

I hang out in a vaguely pet-oriented IRC channel. (Sara, if you can/want to connect to IRC at work, come to #petisland!) Over the summer, when I was studying for the bar, my daily routine was this:

Wake up between 8-10 am. Make a big pot of iced coffee and study until 4 or 5. Take Cersei to the dog park and throw The Ball for an hour. Head home, cook something that fulfilled my daily caloric intake, and drink myself into a stupor while talking on IRC. Repeat the next day.

I think you can see the problem here. I was on IRC all the time, and I was drunk most nights, and drunk people agree to foolish things. My friend in Arkansas took pity on the pregnant stray and let her come in the house to have kittens... and couldn't find good homes for the kittens... and I agreed to take ANOTHER FUCKING CAT! What was I thinking? I already had two extremely strange cats. I needed another one like I needed a hole in my head.

But I couldn't just back out. One more cat is just an incremental cost. Going from no cats to one cat is a huge change in lifestyle, but adding another one isn't too hard. So I got the kitten... and she's adorable. Fetchcat is just the latest stupidly cute thing she does.

I am now super extra vigilant to never agree to anything while drinking.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Car update

Do not try to jump a BMW! Or any modern car for that matter! The internet is chock full of warnings about how you'll fry all your nifty electronics. I discovered this when googling to figure out which terminal to disconnect first and/or how to hook up cables.

I took the battery out (of the trunk! BMWs are weird!) and dropped it off at Autozone for a test/charge. Unsurprisingly, it was bad - poor battery was made in May of 2001. It gave its all. Also unsurprisingly a new battery for the Expensive Car cost $150.

I did almost have a heart attack when, as I was reinstalling the ground cable to the new battery, it sparked and the trunk lights came on. Once I convinced myself the lightning wasn't going to eat me, it was pretty uneventful.

Sunday I'm in love

Robert Smith was wrong. Friday was terrible, but Sunday I'm in love with my mare.

We had a lovely wonderful interesting lesson. Highlights:

First, relax. My upper body started off locked up. Then I got into the groove at the walk and started tensing up when I'd ask her to gait, which lead to a choppy bouncy racky thing. I finally started relaxing when I'd ask for more speed and the racky thing smoothed out a bit.

Next, look, she's lowering her own head. I've been noticing that as I've gotten better hands and more consistent contact, she's been actually reaching for the contact instead of ignoring it or slamming her chin to her neck to evade me. Today I noticed that after I ask for speed, when I slow back down, she really stretches her neck long and low.

She's also almost entirely quit trying to canter into turns. She still "changes gears" in turns, but it's something different from the choppy racky thing, something much more comfortable that feels more correct. I think it's a few strides of a real running walk.

I talked about that with Hardy for a bit. He and I don't think horses can really gait long and low. I'm not 100% sure though. Sara, you know anything about that? Assuming that it's not possible, that she needs a higher head to counterbalance a faster gait, we talked about how to work her head back up and encourage her to collect up a bit before I ask for more speed.

So I tried that. We did a big stretchy circle with her head down, then I picked her head up - super gently, super slowly - then I asked for speed. She was very confused about me asking her to pick her head up, but really willing to try, and we got a nice lap around the arena at the "good" gait.

Then I slowed her back down and offered her some room to stretch back out, but I slipped the reins too fast and you could tell she was a little confused. Where'd the contact go? I picked my light contact back up and she started stretching back down. It was so very sweet, such a nice affirmation that the dressage people are right and horses do learn to like (love? anticipate?) the connection with the rider's hands.

We ended there. It had been an hour and she'd really listened so well and worked so hard for me. And it was a beautiful day, too! It's sunny and 61.

I'm going to try a pad under my saddle next week. My saddle is a smidge too wide for her and I don't have enough clearance under her withers. Alas, this is an imperfect world and I can't spring for a new saddle for her right now. But I think a pad with some shims under the front will help a lot, and the kind of work we're doing right now will help her back fill in and fit my existing saddle better.

I might tempt fate and take the curb reins off next week too. :O She is listening and working so well on just the snaffle reins. I haven't had to use the curb reins in four rides. Sure would be easier without that tangle of leather in front of the pommel.

I'm off to fix my husband's car. We were going to go to dinner in the Beemer last night, but the battery was dead. I need to find or buy jumper cables and see if I can jump it and get it to hold a charge. I hope I don't electrocute myself :(