Tuesday, March 31, 2009

She does *everything*

Oh wow, I'm way behind. Way, way behind.

I'm still riding Champ, every other day. Not much new there - he's gaining weight, slowly but steadily, and losing hair, slowly but steadily. Much to his chagrin I've switched him over to Dixie's bridle (with the d-ring snaffle, instead of his unbroken low port curb) and we are working on contact. It's good practice for me. My hands are steadily improving. So much, in fact, that I am getting baby callouses on the tops of my index fingers, where the reins sit. Not big "I have hard hands and need gloves" callouses, but very delicate callouses from holding the reins correctly for a couple weeks straight.

I've ridden Dixie three times this week. On Monday the BO saw me riding and offered some tips on getting her on the bit. She coached me through a couple circles til I felt the bend - yay! I think I must take at least a lesson a month, to keep in mind what I need to work on. Anyway then she got on Dixie and worked her in a couple more circles... and Dixie trotted for her. It was cool - a very flat extended trot - but WEIRD! I've never had her offer to trot under saddle with me. It's official; I've now seen every major gait possible from her except a running walk. Sigh - I know a good true RW is hard to get, and I know we'll get there one day, but it's kind of discouraging. Like if my racking horse wouldn't rack, or my MFT wouldn't foxtrot.

Tuesday I rode Champ, then the vet came and gave everybody spring shots. I figured they might feel stiff and/or icky Wednesday, so I stayed home.

Thursday was WARM! Finally hit the magic 70*F, so I wanted to ride Dixie then bathe her. Our ride was... very interesting. I was all prepared to not let her yank the reins, but she... didn't. At all. She was completely calm and laid back. She didn't object to contact at all. She didn't freak out, hollow her back, and try to bolt even ONCE. We did some very calm peaceful walk work, then some hand grazing, then a bath.

Her life with me is an exciting mix of fun and horrible. She's coming around to being groomed, all over, every day - that's moving from "horrible" to "almost pleasant," I believe. Then I ride her, which is usually exciting and also becoming less "horrible." Sometimes I hand graze her or clicker train her, which is full on "fun." But then! Then! I bathed her. Truly horrible.

I am pretty sure she's never had a real bath before. She's been hosed down, but I don't think she's ever had a warm water and shampoo bath in a shower stall before. She was not thrilled but put up with it pretty well. I broke my own rule about "no magical horse products" and used Expensive Magical White Horse Shampoo... which worked. She's noticeably more sparkly. Her mane and tail are less dirty but sadly nowhere near white. No pictures til she's cleaner!

Anyway, I wondered if the unusual calmness was a one-off so I rode her again today. She gave me a nice rack at the beginning, then some good walk work with almost no fighting the bit, then a little pacing, then some more nice calm walk work. I let her walk around on a loose rein for a bit, and she walked over to the corner where the jumps and cavalletti are stored. On her own! She very carefully investigated, giving the hairy eyeball to the wood and sniffing at it like a huge dog. When she was satisfied that the jumps were safe, we walked around a bit more and called it a day.

I coaxed her back into the wash stall. Much snorting and eye rolling but she came right in when she realized I was serious. It's entirely too early for me to actually SAY this... but I suspect maybe she's starting to trust me. MAYYYBE.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

We've got to pace ourselves...

My husband came out and took pictures yesterday! Yay!

I did some c/t to get Dixie to stand still so I could mount. It worked fantastically well. I feel pretty stupid for not having thought of this earlier. (Well, I couldn't have thought of it very much earlier; I just started clicker work with her in February. But I could've tried clickering her last February!) I suppose next I should introduce the mounting block. She is within 1/2" of being too tall for me to mount from the ground, and I know it's not good for her back for me to clamber up on her like I do.

She was less awful about the bit. Not great, not like she was in January and February at Hillside, but she wasn't trying 100% of the time to rip the reins out of my hands. I think, in the absence of any better idea, that I'll just keep ignoring her bad behavior. Don't reward it, don't punish it, and maybe it'll extinguish.

And look! I have video of the rare and wonderful* pace!
*Actually, it's common and uncomfortable.

Dixie, pace and rack (?) from Funder on Vimeo.

I think at the very end of the video she breaks into a rack for just a couple seconds. When she switched out of the pace into something more comfortable I quit urging her forward and let her come back down to a walk.

She doesn't usually pace, but that's all she did yesterday. I have five more little videos... all pacey. Weird. I'm off to read up on the pace and how to help her not do it.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


She stepped on MY FOOT! There is a huge bruise on it. All my toes work so no serious damage was done.

The foot squashing occurred during a huge grooming session. I finally turned the corner with her coat - she's still pretty shaggy but I can see the summer coat under the extra fuzz. Finally!

I thought perhaps I should try the lunging thing. I don't generally lunge before I ride; it's just not my thing. But she was so crazy the other day that I thought it was worth a shot today. Unfortunately it is not the answer with Dixie. It just got her MORE worked up. When I mounted she was even wilder than Tuesday.

I ended up working through it better this time. We hung out in the corner of the arena nearest her and Champ's stalls. When she calmed down a tiny bit, we started walking in very small circles, near her stall wall, gradually increasing in size. Eventually we were calmly walking the entire arena.

She was horrid about the bit again. Non stop head tossing and yanking. I decided this time to pretty much ignore her. I kept the exact same very light contact no matter what she did, which was a nice hand exercise for me and very annoying for her.

After like 40 minutes she finally gave in and wanted to stretch her neck out. I let her stretch out into very light contact for a couple laps, then slowly picked her head back up and urged her up into gait. We gaited two circles, then back to a walk, switched directions, and repeated. Then we were done!

She's back to switching gaits constantly. I am going to try to get the Reluctant Photographer Husband to come video us this weekend and figure out what she's doing. Feels like pace to rack, then either a couple strides of canter or a couple strides of running walk in the turns.

Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny and pretty, then rain again over the weekend. I might take Champ out to the park again while I've got the chance!

I do not, in general, believe in magical fixes. But I am mildly hopeful that getting Dixie's teeth floated will help with the bit. Maybe she has wolf teeth coming in? She's way worse about contact since we moved.

Another world

The first day I went out to see my horses in their new digs was, of course, the first time I'd seen the new barn in real life. The BO showed me around and asked how I liked it. Did it look like the pictures she'd emailed me?

I assured her it was just lovely, and it is! Yall have seen pics of it. It's definitely the nicest place I've ever boarded, loads better than the Frayser barn. For comparison, here's some pics of the Frayser barn.

I wanted to begin to try to explain to the new BO how ... strange things were at the old barn - in most barns I've seen - without sounding like a looney.

"Ok, look, at the old barn, we all got the horse catalogs, like KV Vet and Country Supply. We liked to look through them, like every other horse person in the world. But the only place I'd ever seen, say, stall mats, was in the catalogs. I didn't know anybody who even had cement floors, much less stall mats!" (This isn't strictly true - Hillside had a fairly nice modern barn with floor mats and everything, but it was such an anomaly strictly because it was so nice.)

She laughed, and I changed the subject.

Yesterday I saw her again when I was finishing up with Champ. I noticed my name was on the whiteboard, with "70" written next to it, and I asked her what that was for. She said it was the cost to get both horses' teeth floated by the equine dentist, if I wanted.

"I don't know when they last had their teeth done, so I wanted to ask you. It's free for him to look at them, but it's 35 per horse if they need work."

I grinned. "Yes! I definitely want them both floated! Neither of them has ever been done and I'm sure they need it; Champ especially has whole grain in his poop. I think he'd really benefit from it."

She blinked, looked at me, looked at Champ. "He's how old again?"


"Never been floated? Oh my god I'm sure he's got caps and hooks and..." She trailed off, blinking at us again, no doubt wondering what kind of heathen she'd let board at her barn.

"Ok, look, I've never met a real equine dentist. Two years ago, my friend let the vet float her stud's teeth when he came out to do Coggins-"

She interrupted. "A vet floating teeth?"

"Yeah, I know it's not ideal, but it's like the stall mats - I know they exist, from the internet, but I'd never seen one before. So my friend let the vet float her stud's teeth and the poor guy bled from his gums for two days and couldn't eat without Bute. I figured my horses were better off with hooks and caps than having that done to them."

"Yeah, no kidding!"

"But yeah, I'm very interested in having a real equine dentist look at my horses. That sounds awesome!"

So my horses are finally moving into the 21st century.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Two rides, one injury

Yesterday I rode Dixie and then rasped half my knuckle off. The searing pain in my finger greatly decreased my desire to blog. Today I rode Champ and managed to not injure myself any further. My finger even feels better! Yippie!

So. Yesterday. I got great gobs of hair off of the white yak, but the end is nowhere in sight. Surely this too shall pass? Eventually I figured I'd gotten off enough hair so that the saddle wouldn't slip loose on a magic carpet of fur. Time to ride!

We usually start off our sessions at a brisk rack for a couple laps, til Dixie calms down and decides to try to listen and cooperate. Yesterday, we started off at a brisk canter. We got in a huge fight about whether or not she'd get to canter wildly, then I decided I didn't want to have that particular fight. I let her go.

We cantered around the indoor for about 15 minutes. The first three times she tried to slow down, I goosed her back up into a canter. You want to run? LET'S RUN. Eventually when I figured she'd gotten my point, I asked her to slow down and she very politely did.

We rode around for another 30 or 45 minutes. There's so many things I need to work on, but I don't feel like I know enough to do them properly, or I only know what I want and not how to get it. Pretty depressing. I kept riding anyway, trying to keep pushing her forward with my legs, keep her straight except for when I wanted her to bend, find some contact. At one point she finally wanted to stretch her neck out and down, so I let her stretch out as we walked. Then I very very carefully picked the contact back up and very carefully brought up the energy in my legs. We got a really nice active walk on the bit! We! Me and Dixie! Wheeeee!

I quit on that high note. I still don't feel like I have much of a clue about what I'm doing, but... that was nice.

I turned Dixie back out to roll and grabbed Champ. I was planning on taking pics of his hooves and trimming them a bit, but I haven't found my trimming gloves. I've been trimming for like two years now, surely I won't rasp my hands, right? Wrong. I got both front hooves rolled before I rasped my poor middle finger knuckle. Blood everywhere. I got blood all over my jeans trying to get it to stop, and I almost bled all over the camera before I gave up and wrapped it in a piece of napkin and some vet wrap.

Today I went back for vengeance. Champ did not make me rasp my knuckle - only my clumsiness did that - but he didn't exactly make it easy for me to succeed. He kept yanking his hooves away and whinnying for Dixie, so I was trying to hold his hoof on the stand and put my finger in the path of the rasp. Hmph. So I went in today to make him sweat for my poor finger.

We did w/t circles for a while, then I decided I wanted to try Champ in the snaffle again. I swapped out his bridle for Dixie's and maaaaan he was pissed. But he listened fine! More w/t circles, with me trying to get a canter out of him and no luck at all. He doesn't really canter, he just switches from a very fast trot to a full gallop. I'd really like to have a canter. Yet another thing I don't really know how to teach my horses. :(

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Not a washing machine in sight

Picture time!

Yesterday I attacked the yaks again. A pretty horse appears to be emerging from the white yak.
Pretty Dixie

I would estimate that this is one average cat, or perhaps a throw pillow, of shedded hair.
Abstract Hair Art

Today I took Champ on an 11.5 mile ride. That's what Google Earth says, anyway. My legs definitely believe it - my poor knees hurt so bad.

It's such pretty country!

Only about 2.5 miles of the trip was on the actual state park trails. They are so PROFESSIONAL! There's signs, and gravel in spots, and really sturdy bridges.

It's like going back in time. The grass is just now starting to turn green, and the trees are barely thinking about budding out. Back in MS, the early trees are probably leafed out.

But! I did not see a single washing machine! No dead cars, or even car parts. No bullet holes in trees. Pretty cool.

More pictures here. Too tired and sore to write much. Tomorrow - unless I just can't walk - is dressage day with Dixie.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Yaks and newscasters

Every spring, it seems like a neverending battle to get the yak hair off of my horses. It's fun, of course - it really appeals to my OCD side to get all the hair off. I got, mmmm, how does one measure the volume of shed hair off of an animal? I got a half a pillowcase full off of Champ, and maybe half that off of Dixie.

Then I had a challenging ride on Dixie in the indoor. She's still settling in, so she screamed for Champ quite a bit. And she wouldn't stand still for me to get a toe in the stirrup for like 10 minutes. And she was having no part of the bit - she tossed her head and yanked at the reins and tried to run through my rein aids, for the whole hour.

But! She listened perfectly to my legs and seat. I mean perfectly. Something clicked since that lesson last month where I tried so hard to show her to move away from my inside leg. And we are finally starting to get the hang of half-halts and halts, the dressagey way.

After I was done riding, I talked to one of the other boarders for a bit. She's got the Other Walking Horses, and she seems pretty nice. At one point, I was talking about Dixie, and I said "She's kinda crazy, but I love her to pieces."

"Excuse me? Did you said you love her... paces?" asked the Other Walking Horse Person.

"No, to PIECES! You know, little pieces?"

"Oh, yes, I'm sorry, it's just, you know, your accent..." the OWHP trailed off, slightly embarrassed that she couldn't understand me.

"Yeah, I know." I sighed. "Yall all sound like newscasters or something."

We laughed and went our separate ways. But that's just one of the things that's so weird about this place. Everybody has the most neutral accent imaginable! And they're very polite, in a very reserved way. Strange place.

I took some pictures but I didn't bring the camera in, so yall will just have to wait.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Enormous Horse Mishap Meme

Via Glenshee!

1. How old were you when you first started riding? 28. I rode a pony about three times when I was a kid, and the horse-crazy never left me, but I never had the chance to ride or own one until then. Being a late bloomer is my excuse for many of my horsey failings. :)

2. First horse ridden: Big Mama, a grade QH.

3. First horse trotted on: Big Mama. It was not a pretty sight - it was the middle of summer, and I was wearing one of those spaghetti strap tank tops with the not-very-supportive shelf bras. Every man who witnessed my ride that day ended up mentioning it to me later. "Heeeey, I remember you - you were riding Big Mama in that tank top last summer, weren't you?"

4. First horse cantered on: Caramia, an insane Arab. In a round pen. I was not at all ready to canter in a tiny round pen, and to this day I still hate riding in round pens.

5. First horse fallen off of: Champ. I asked him to step over a tiny little rivulet of water on a trail. He leapt it, from a standstill, straight into a scrubby tree. I realized the branch was way too low, grabbed it, and slid backwards off his butt. Landed on my feet, even. Let go of the reins - just the first of my many inexplicable rein releases.

6. Most recent horse fallen off of: Poppy, September '08. He calmly and unstoppably sidepassed into a tree. I realized the branch was way too low, grabbed it, and slid backwards off his butt. Landed on my feet. Let go of the reins. Do you see a pattern?

7. Most terrifying fall: Nothing terrifying yet, luckily! I am always surprised that I'm about to end up on the ground. And once I hit the ground, I'm always surprised that I've dropped the reins.

8. First horse jumped with: Champ. Streams and logs on the trails. I will say that the first fall wasn't my first jump!

9. First horse who ran away with you: Champ. I never really understood that saying, "he grabbed the bit in his teeth," til I let Champ really gallop. I screamed, half in delight and half in terror, until we ran out of field and he decided to stop.

10. First horse that scared the crap out of you: Chocolate Chip. Completely psychotic QH stud. He bit me twice, with no warning, before I learned to never touch him no matter what, and he kicked me and Poppy and almost broke my knee. Again, no warning.

11. First horse shown: Kat (Pride of Katmandu, IIRC), a very fat flatshod TWH show horse. We got 3d, so I can only assume the judge wasn't looking the three separate times she grabbed the bit in her teeth and cantered. Local shows in Memphis are such a joke.

12. First horse to win a class with: Never have, probably never will!

13. Do you/have you taken lessons: Took dressage lessons for about six months, til I moved. I'll probably take them again, when I buy a trailer and find a good instructor.

14. First horse you ever rode bareback: Big Mama. She had the perfect build for bareback.

15. First horse trail ridden with: Caramia.

17. Do you ride English or western?: Both.

18. First horse to place at a show with: Kat.

19. Ever been to horse camp?: A what? No.

20. Ever been to a riding clinic?: Nope.

21. Ridden sidesaddle?: Nope, no interest.

22. First horse leased: I don't think I could lease a horse. I wouldn't enjoy it very much if I didn't have an emotional connection to the horse, and I do not get attached to horses I don't own. That's the road to heartbreak right there.

23. Last horse leased: n/a

24. Highest ribbon in a show: Third.

25. Ever been to an 'A' rated show?: I watched the '08 Germantown Charity Horse Show. I'm glad I went, but it only solidified my extreme dislike of show Walkers and Saddlebreds.

26. Ever competed in pony games/relay races?: Nope.

27. Ever fallen off at a show: Nope, but I've only ridden in two. Or three, can't remember.

28. Do you ride Hunter/Jumpers?: Nope.

29. Have you ever barrel raced? A few times I've cantered the pattern, with Champ, for fun.

30. Ever done pole bending?: See above.

31. Favorite gait: A really fast rack!

32. Ever cantered bareback?: Hell, no, I haven't even trotted bareback. I probably will one day, though...

33. Have you ever done dressage?: I've often done horrible things to the ideal of dressage. One day I hope to do justice to dressage.

34. Have you ever evented?: I would love to one day do Beginner Novice on Dixie.

35. Have you ever mucked a stall?: Yep. It's overrated. Dealing with dirty scruffy field horses is way better than cleaning stalls.

36. Ever been bucked off?: Well, kind of. I put a different saddle that didn't quite fit on Kat, the fat mare, and didn't actually cinch it down corset-tight. Then we rode around the arena. Then the saddle sloooowly and inexorably slid to the right, she spooked and took off, I kicked out of the stirrups and rolled off, and she started doing her bucking bronco imitation with the saddle under her belly. Sorry about that, Kat.

37. Ever been on a horse that reared?: Oh yeah. Many of the TWHs I've seen and rode are light in the front. Champ will still rear sometimes if he doesn't want to cross water, or if he wants to bolt and I won't let him. Lean forward, stay prepared to bail, and wait for the silly horse to put his feet back on the ground.

38. Horses or ponies?: Ponies in my experience are devilish evil fat things.

39. Do you wear a helmet?: Sometimes. I never claimed to have good sense.

40. What's the highest you've jumped: Probably 2' of clearance over a 6" log or an 18" stream.

41. Have you ever ridden at night?: Every chance I get in the summer. Love it.

42. Do you watch horsey television shows?: Nah. We have cable, not satellite.

43. Have you ever been seriously hurt/injured from a fall?: Knock on wood, no.

44. Most falls in one lesson: Never fell off in a lesson!

45. Do you ride in an arena/ring?: Sometimes, when I have to.

46. Have you ever been trampled by a horse?: Nope.

47. Have you ever been bitten?: Yup.

48. Ever had your foot stepped on by a horse?: Yep. Who hasn't, really?

49: Favorite riding moment: I can't possibly choose.

50. Most fun horse you've ridden: Dixie. Or maybe Champ. They both make me feel like I'm the Queen of the World.

Seven miles!

I looked carefully at the map, wrote down the few turns, and decided to ride Champ over to the nearby state park. (It has bridle trails specifically for horses to ride on, wonder of wonders!) It looked like a good distance but actually bothering to check the mileage would have been uncharacteristic of me. Champ hasn't been out on a good long ride in at least 3 weeks, so I decided we'd just scout over to the park and turn around when we got there.

I wore my pretty boots, the ones I'd found in the back of the closet when we moved. When I found them, I briefly wondered why I hadn't been wearing them, but decided it was because they're way too wide. They're not all that comfortable to walk in, but they seem to be fine for riding.

Headed out to the barn and caught my handsome steed. He is still shedding like mad, and I got an enormous amount of hair off of him. He screamed the whole time I was grooming him. Uh-oh, it's going to be Gelding Separation Anxiety Day. Nonetheless, we tacked up and headed out.

Champ behaved fairly well getting out of the driveway and down the main road 100 feet to the small road we were going to take to the park. Once he realized I was serious and we were really Going Somewhere, he started screaming again. Champ has always had a strange hoarse voice. His nickers sound almost normal, just a little husky and low pitched, but his whinneys and screams are no louder than a person speaking quietly. All in all, I suppose that's a good thing. He screamed almost nonstop for the first mile of our trip, and intermittently the entire rest of the time.

And he trotted. There was no other speed available - either he was going to trot, or if I attempted to rate his speed he was going to stop dead and try to spin around. Well fine, you old beast, we'll trot! We trotted - and I posted - what turned out to be 3.5 miles down the most lovely country road you've ever seen in your life.

I think the big difference between Ohio and MS/TN country is that Ohio was divided into much smaller farms at the beginning. There's all these little country roads, with little farms maybe 1/2 or 1/4 mile apart from each other. Little barn, little front paddock, BIG HONKIN HOUSE, some fields. It's not all unchanged since the 1800s, of course, and there's often a series of newer houses in between the old farm houses. Kids' houses, I imagine.

In the South, the land was mainly set out in amazingly large plots for the plantation owners. There are still many plots of thousands of acres, with no road access to the interior, owned by one family.

Anyway. This is corn country, apparently. (No cotton. What a strange thought - a spring without seeing cotton flowers, a summer without fields of white fluff, an August without huge bales of cotton on the roadside.) Couple of the fields had the little signs advertising their strain of corn (I think of them as "Proudly owned by Monsanto!" signs). Almost all the fences were in good repair, mostly cattle wire with a strand of barbed wire at the top. We saw a flock of sheep, of all things, chilling out in a paddock. Two fields of horses. Couple fields of cows. Couple of barking dogs defending their yards. About 5 homeowners burning brush in their yards.

And about a mile down the road I suddenly remembered why I didn't wear those damn boots anymore. They were rubbing my calves raw. I decided to take this as an opportunity to work on my leg position - if my calves weren't swinging all over the place, the evil boots couldn't rub the flesh off of them, right? So I posted down the road, hands steady, elbows open, legs gently but firmly wrapped around my horse.

We got all the way to the last big road to cross before the park entrance and turned around. Champ was sweating some but not blown, but I'm not on a deadline. The park will still be there tomorrow. We turned around and fought about our speed for a bit. I don't mind trotting away from home - it keeps us moving at a good pace, and it's good exercise for me - but dammit, we are going to walk or gait home.

Our ride home was beautiful and relaxing, except that I couldn't relax entirely or my leg (which I was sure was bleeding) would rub against the Boot From Hell. So instead of slouching home cowboy style I had to actually ride home like a real equestrian. Hrmph.

Champ's nightmare wasn't even over when we got back to the barn. The BO and family were bringing all the horses in for their PM meal/snack, but Champ was hot and we wanted him to go outside, roll, cool off, drink some water, etc. So I put Champ back out in his paddock right as Dixie was led in. Poor guy.

Oh, and poor ME - that stupid boot rubbed a totally gross looking blister on my calf. It's only the size of a dime but it's seriously gross. Must wear half chaps today.

I'm pretty laid back about his anxiety because this is the third time I've seen it. When all four horses moved from Frayser to Como, I noticed he stayed extra close to Silky at first, and he'd scream his poor head off when I'd ride him around the fields. Then when we all went to Olive Branch, he was the same way - jiggy and screaming for the first couple weeks riding in the new place. Now Ohio, with a new marefriend, and jiggy screaming. This too shall pass!

I suppose I shall go do the Enormous Horse Meme now!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Triple H Transporters

I'm throwing this out for future panicked cross-country moving horse owners to find via Google. :)

On Paige's advice, I used Triple H to move the horses. They were totally awesome - nice friendly people to talk to, good quality equipment, very professional, good price. I might've just gotten really lucky on my timeframe, but I ended up arriving in Ohio one day after the horses. A++, would use again.

Happy horses!

Rode Dixie for about an hour in the indoor arena. (INDOOR ARENA. Can't stop saying that. Me, in an INDOOR ARENA. Woah!) I snuck the dressage whip with me - tucked it under my belt before I climbed on. There is no getting on her while holding a whip - if it's hidden away somewhere, or if someone hands it to me while I'm on, she's ok but wary. If I hold a whip and try to get on, I can forget about it.

We racked around at top speed for about 10 minutes, which is about what I expected. Scary new place! Arena! Must gait fast! Then she calmed down and started listening. We are both about 3 steps back from where we were 6 weeks ago - I had to think about my hands and my seat and all that stuff, and she doesn't want to bend at all. I got my contact right, she gave to the bit a little, we were both happy. And I got a bit of a faster but still relaxed walk out of her, several times. I'm happy.

Champ was Not Happy. He seems to have completely forgotten Silky, which is really good - it would've broken my heart if he was visibly moping around and mourning her. I don't think horses are wired to remember the past the same way we are. Anyway, Dixie is Champ's New Mare and he gets rather distraught when I take her away. Or maybe he gets rather distraught that I'm riding her instead of him? It's not a big deal if I take him, but he does a bit of pacing and screaming when I take her. But he's a big boy and he'll live.

He has some icky dandruffy crud on his neck, under the Place Where He's Going Bald. Not sure what to do there. Should I ignore it and see if it improves with the new hay/grain? Put something topical on it, like I dunno, Bag Balm or aloe? Yell at him for being scruffy?

Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny and 60s. I think I will ride Champ on the back roads over to the nearest park. Not sure if the park's open or rideable right now, but it'll be fun riding on the roads either way.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Not as bad as I thought!

I rode, yippee!

First I dragged my stuff into a slot in a tack room. This means that for the first time in almost a year my saddle is not upside down in the back seat of my truck. I will not know what to do with all the space! Can't find my brush, though, but I did find a rubber currycomb so I just whacked the mud and some of the hair off the horses with that. Oh well.

I got Champ first. I let him look at the arena for a couple minutes, then we went in and walked around for maybe 10 minutes. There was a lesson of some kind, kids jumping a little 12" jump with an instructor. Didn't pay much attention to them. They weren't young Olympians but they weren't horrible either. I was the only one walking calmly around on a loose rein in a Western saddle, but I actually didn't feel at all self-conscious. Champ kept making a weird sound of some kind - almost a cough, almost a whinny, I dunno. I suspect it was just an almost-whinney, and he has a really deep hoarse voice to begin with. Anyway, the kids were zooming around us and I didn't intend to work him today, so we walked til he got bored, then we trotted one lap, then we walked one lap, then we were done.

Touching Dixie makes a blizzard of white hair. I scrubbed some loose hair off her butt, but I didn't bother to try to strip ever last loose hair out. It'll fall out eventually, and it might get cold next week, and it doesn't bother me too much. Then off we went to the arena. The jumping kids had cleared out, thankfully, cause Dixie did not want to stand still for me to mount. Then she just wanted to rack around at top speed. It was a pretty nice rack, and she didn't try to canter, so it's all good. Again, I didn't work Dixie too hard. I just wanted both of them to see what this new scary arena is like.

Oh, and I met some lady who is a member of the local trail riding association, too - she rides TWH/SSHs, trail rides seriously, seemed nice enough.

When I headed home, I found my poor husband standing outside in his sock feet, holding Cersei on a leash. He'd taken her out the back patio door and the bar fell down, locking him out and his keys and cell phone in. He'd gotten locked out right about the time I headed home, so at least it was the minimum possible time. Poor guy!

Tinky Winky is still above our fireplace.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Mostly moved!

Well I've had the most productive two days of my life!

We got to Columbus about 1:30 yesterday, signed the lease, dropped the pets in one room, and went to Walmart. We ended up spending like $300 on stuff - two Brita pitchers cause the water's awful, two torchiere lamps cause there's no ceiling lights in this joint, an entertainment center that was on sale, etc. Then we came home and Graham started putting together the entertainment center while I unloaded enough crap from the U-haul to get the bed assembled. I crashed hard almost as soon as the bed was ready.

Today I got up, drank some coffee (out of the only glass I could find, a plastic cup), put on a lot of clothes, and started carrying in boxes. I religiously carried in crap for a couple hours, til our friend came over, then he helped me carry in the recliner and the big antique cedar thing. Then we all hung out and found homes for things. We got the living room set up, with only two boxes of random stuff to sort through. I got most of the kitchen set up. We got the hanging-up clothes hung up, and we rebuilt the little cubes that the folding clothes live in. None of the folding clothes got unpacked but whatever.

Then another of Graham's friends came over and the guys were all talking cryptography and I was laboriously hanging my enormous framed map of the world ca. 1960. First I hung it from one picture hanger, centered over the fireplace. It creaked a little so I took that down (and cut my finger and bled on the wall!) I measured some and knocked a bunch of nail holes in the walls finding the studs (on 24" centers, not 16") and measured some more and got two nails at the perfect height to center the map. Then I made a slacker man get up and help me hang it. We hung it.

I yelled at the other guys. "Hey yall need to shut up and admire this lovely map of the world - it has the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on it! - before it falls down and kills us all." Everybody stopped and we stared at it for fifteen seconds, tops, before - you guessed it - it fell down.

I cannot stress enough that it's not actually my fault. The screws holding the brackets on the back tore out of the frame, ripping part of the frame completely in half. I was SO MAD and SO AMUSED all at the same time.

Graham hung Tinky Winky on the middle hanger over the fireplace til we figure out something to do with the ruined space.
Teletubby murder

Also Cersei decided to try to nap in a cat bed. It's a little too small. :(
Cersei thought a cat bed looked good

I visited my horses too - love the facility, horses look great, going to ride tomorrow so more about them tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

In transit

I am at a Drury Inn in Terre Haute, Indiana. It is quite nice. The bed is super soft and Cersei's sacked out next to me. Graham is taking a bath. We're both so tired we've lost about 50 IQ points each. Thus the short sentences.

I get all zen and philosophical whenever I travel, either a move or just a road trip. Usually I (like every normal person in the world) am pretty self centered - I go about my day and interact with people but I am always thinking about me and what I am going to do in my own life next. I mean, I'm a nice Southerner, so I ask about people I interact with and am interested in what's going on with them, but I think primarily about me.

When I get on the road, I realize that I'm just a stranger passing through everybody else's life. I'm an outsider. Nobody on the road in whatever random state I'm in knows me. None of the little towns I pass by are "mine." I don't think about how my grandfather used to farm that hill over there, or how I got WASTED at that bar when I was a teenager, or how I went to middle school with the bank teller. I'm just a stranger, watching little bits of other people's usually predictable lives.

We stopped at a truck stop near Sikeston, MO, and while we were in line to buy beef jerky I was watching one of the underage teenage cashiers who had just gone on her lunch break flirting with some skeezy looking 50ish trucker. Ugh. Not my life. Not my place in the world.

Later, we were sagging so we got Starbucks somewhere in Illinois. Two pretty-boy, gelled hair, metrosexual baristas were happy to give me an extra cup of water for my dog. They were pretty nice, but I kept feeling like I was just a scene in their lives, just a memory they'd probably forget entirely in a couple of weeks.

And all the houses beside all the interstates in America. Entire lives lived. Glimpses of a pretty yards with pretty houses. A dirt yard with a pickup and a dog kennel. Little farmsteads, with big barns and big houses and little silos. A modest clapboard house, with carefully laid out "Horsekeeping on a small acreage" hot-tape paddocks for the two happy looking horses. A sprawling compound, with a big professional sign advertising Puppies For Sale!! and an adjoining mud paddock with a mud-covered pony.

Other people's lives. I am nobody's life right now. Everything we own is zipping down the highway at 65 miles an hour. Except my horses! The new barn called and said they arrived safe and sound, walked around the arena and were drinking and eating hay. Yay. I have horses. I have a new chapter of life waiting for me, tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

They're on the road!

The nice fellow from Triple H met us at the truck stop and my brave horses are headed to Ohio. They looked pretty weirded out about the whole thing, but I'm quite sure I'm projecting. I have been a nervous wreck all day and I am only slightly less nervous now.

Headed to Ohio!

Off to say goodbye to my parents, then finish cleaning. Tomorrow we pack and drive!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Horses are shipping tomorrow!

The shipper is on the way, with a stop in Arkansas. He should be here some time tomorrow. Then I have to put my best loved, psycho, fragile, half-ton mammals on a trailer and wave goodbye. Arrrgh!

Graham is picking up the U-Haul trailer tomorrow. We've got almost everything packed or thrown out, except for the electronics basically. I'll load a bit of the trailer tomorrow, then we'll get up early Wednesday, finish packing the trailer, put the cats in the dog crate and load them in Graham's backseat, make a space in my truck for Cersei, and ROLL. We're going to try to make Terre Haute IN that night, then we'll have a short drive to Columbus on Thursday.

Anyway, I'll probably post something tomorrow re: drowning in boxes, then I'll be back online Friday. It's almost over, wooo!

Sunday, March 8, 2009


Had a really nice Last Sunday at the field. We all went fishing, but nobody caught much of anything. Well, I think each of us caught at least one fish, but they weren't very big and we were just fishing for the hell of it so we threw them all back.

Then we headed back up to the horse field and I decided to trim my horses. (My two horses. Feels so weird only having two - I'd just finally gotten used to "only" having three.) Champ was a breeze to work on, of course, and I just took a bit off of his inner rear heels and a bit off of the high front heel. Then I got Dixie.

Dixie is the devil's own child to trim. I've always gotten it done, but it always ends with both of us incredibly angry at each other. Well, this time I had a huge bag of her favoritest homemade horse treats, and I just stayed really patient and c/t'd really frequently. And I mean really frequently - I'd pick up a foot, nip one time, put it down, c/t. She was still not really keen on the idea but neither of us got mad and I got done what I wanted to get done. WOO HOO!

I really need to take good pics of her feet and ask Mrs. Mom what she thinks. They look pretty good, but they are still long. And not "long walls," just "long feet." It's kinda weird. Welp, she's not lame and we're making progress!

I have GOT to pack my kitchen tonight. I hate packing kitchen stuff. I love cooking and I love a well organized kitchen and I just really hate trying to find a box to hold the rolling pin and a box for the cutting board and where am I going to put the knives and what about the glasses, ARGH.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Horse Treats

Tonight is the "oh holy shit I'm about to move to OHIO" night. Cause I'm about to move to OHIO. Holy shit. I shall be a redneck in King Arthur's court. Ack.

The other day I decided to use up some stuff from the kitchen and made a big batch of horse treats. Extensive testing has allowed me to say that I have made the world's best horse treats. I just made another batch tonight! Here's how you too can make them:

Preheat oven to 350.

Dump some uncooked oatmeal in a bowl. I used about 1 or 1.5 cups of Quaker Old Fashioned Oats but I don't think it matters too much if you use instant or steel cut or whatever. Add some salt - a teaspoon or two. Add some baking powder*, about a teaspoon or so. Beat in two eggs and about 4 ounces of molasses. You will have nasty looking gloop.

Now start adding flour, a heaping spoonful at a time. When it gets hard to stir, start using your hands to knead in more flour until you end up with a Play-dough consistency. I probably used 1.5 or 2 cups of flour - quite a bit. You will have really unattractive brown clay now.

Put some foil or parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Do you want lots of little treats or fewer large treats? Roll your dough into skinny or fat snakes, and pinch off little balls or slice off fat cookies. Stick them on the foil as close together as you want, and bake for 10-12 minutes. They're done when they're puffed up a bit and the edges are browner and they don't feel squishy. While the first sheet is baking, spread out another piece of foil and get the second sheet ready. I end up with three trays of treats, and I make tiny little treats for clicker training.

  • *Use baking powder. Baking soda requires an acid to activate it, and this recipe doesn't have anything acidic. You could use baking soda and cream of tartar, but if you don't have any baking powder on hand you're not likely to have cream of tartar in your cupboard either. In that case you could omit the leavening; horses probably don't mind dense treats.

Anyway, everybody loves these little things, and they're waaaaay cheaper than Real Horse Treats or name brand cereal. I've been working with Dixie for about a week now, doing c/t for her to stand nicely while I brush her. (Yes, I am such a fantastic horsewoman that after a year, I couldn't even brush my horse without a temper tantrum. Sigh.) I haven't even refined her behavior enough to ask for "pretty ears" while I brush her, but she's already figured out that just standing still while I groom her gets treats. Today I was out of the homemade treats, so I gave her some hay in the bed of my truck and she still stood remarkably still while I curried a bunch of loose hair off of her. YAY!

How not to do it, part 2

I went through a lot of saddles at first. Champ came with a saddle - a big ole roping saddle. Real roping, with the super reinforced horn and all. Damn thing must've weighed 40 lbs. Also it was pretty uncomfortable, even without much past experience to compare it to.

I took it to the feed store and traded it in for a crazy lightweight cheap little synthetic western all purpose saddle. This was way more comfortable for me, but probably less so for Champ - it had like 1/8th inch withers clearance. I whined about saddles to Sara and she recommended the National Bridle Tennessean. I whined about it to Graham for a while, then stalked the Endurance.net classifieds til I lucked out and found my saddle for $300. I knew I'd found The Perfect Saddle when I first sat in it, and lo I was happy.

But I still had the totally unsuitable little synthetic western saddle! I ended up selling it to The Redneck Kid for $100 and turning the $100 into a used cutback English show saddle. A cutback saddle is only used for gaited or ASB shows. It features a completely flat seat and stirrup bars hung about 5" forward of the balanced/dressage position - but it's English and that's how you show your gaited or ASB horse. Sigh.

So I had two saddles and two horses. Life was good. For some reason I never rode Champ in the cutback, but I did ride Silky in it fairly often.

On one memorable trip, probably in November or December, we were tooling down the scenic southern portion of the trail along the Loosahatchie. I was riding with my friend Chrissy. I can still see it in my head - we'd just gone past the hairpin turn where I saw a dead possum one time, before we got to one particularly pretty view of the river. My left leg CRAMPED UP, horribly. I tried to stand up in the stirrups, but obviously that's hard to do when the stirrups are that far forward, so I sat back down and kicked my foot out of the stirrups to let my leg relax. The stupid slippy English leathers let the stirrup swing more than I'd anticipated and the iron whanged into Silky's side. She teleported - there is no better word to describe her movement - and like a cartoon character, I was left suspended in midair as she reappeared 18" to my right, very upset.

WHUMP I hit the dirt, all kinds of confused, and all of a sudden my horse was staring down at me. She probably considered running, but Chrissy wheeled her horse George around and boxed Silky in, and I just reached up and grabbed the reins and started laughing. I still maintain that I did not drop the reins, it was just impossible to hold them when they'd teleported to the right with the horse.

I have not gone trail riding in an English saddle since that day. Rationally, I blame my horrible riding skills and the evil design of the saddle, but irrationally I am convinced that English saddle = dirt on my butt. This is why I'm always so confused when Kaci posts videos of her cantering down the trail on Wa. How could one possibly canter down a trail in an English saddle?! Madness!

I ended up trading that horrible saddle for $100 worth of Dixie's price. Which is about the value of her left front foot, or perhaps her mane. But at least I can't fall off of it ever again!

Next up in the "How not to ride" series: The Time I Sank My Poor Mare.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Goodbye, sweet old girl.

I drove up to Millington today to have Silky put down by the vets I really trust. It was a 95 mile round trip, but it was worth it. I just didn't feel very confident about the new vet place.

The vet and tech both reassured me that I was doing the right thing. I've known them both for a couple of years (the tech a little better than the DVM) and I got hugs from both. The vet sedated Silky first, and she almost fell down then. I held her head and told her what a good girl she was. When he gave her the final shot she went straight down and didn't even twitch.

I was really worried that Champ was going to be super pissed when I came back with the trailer and without Silky. Fortunately, the BO was dropping off two round rolls as I came back, and Champ didn't even notice me. I know animals live in the now and don't have great memories and all that... but he was really attached to her.

So... In 2006, I finally talked my husband into letting me get A HORSE! Like everybody else who will ever read this blog, I had always wanted a horse. I figured it was something that would have to wait until I a) won the lottery or b) retired to the country - horses in the city have to be super expensive, right? But then I met a girl who worked in the coffeeshop next to our apartment building who had a horse in Frayser (the low-income suburb just north of downtown Memphis) and it turns out they're not nearly as expensive as I thought. I rode her horse a few times and discussed the issue* with my husband, and in '06 he gave me $2000 to buy and equip a horse.

*groveled shamelessly

I got Champ, the World's Best Horse, in exactly all the ways you're not supposed to get a horse. He came from an ad in the newspaper; I didn't bring an experienced friend with me; I didn't get a vet check; and I didn't know what the hell I was doing. He was, however, exactly as advertised: a very calm trail horse. I didn't even get screwed financially - I got him for $1500 with tack. I still think that's a steal for a horse of his temperament and training.

I rode EVERY DAY. We had a lot of ups and downs at the beginning - the rearing up and the almost backing into a semi on the highway, plus the stumblyness. But mainly we had A LOT OF FUN. So much fun that I rode Champ probably 55 days in the first two months I had him. I started to think that was too much, that I was wearing him out.

(Maybe I'm right and no horse should have to pack somebody out on 1-3 hr trail rides 6 days a week. Maybe I'm not right - people like Andrea and Stacey work their ONE horse 6 days a week to really good effect. I don't know!)

I kind of thought maybe I needed another horse to split the burden with Champ. I wasn't really interested in any other horse at my stable... except one. She lived in the same barn as Champ and she looked a lot like Champ and she always LOOKED at me. I swear to god she always gave me this "save me? please?" look. She was very thin, standing knee-deep in manure, with a 5 month old filly still nursing on her and eating her mane and tail out of boredom. I mentioned to somebody how I didn't really want another horse except maybe that Silky on the end and he told me she was for sale. I called her owner, That Fucking Jackass, about her, and he wanted $500 for her. I haggled (for the first time in my life!!) and got her down to $450. Four hundred fifty dollars for a very thin horse with manure matted in her fur, no Coggins, no halter, 5 inch long feet, and no mane or tail. And That Jackass had the nerve to ask for her ($20, heavy) shoes if I didn't want them!

Here she is, a couple days after I got her. The farrier hadn't come to pull her shoes yet, and I'd brushed the caked manure out of her fur.
Skinny and very wary

So I had not one but TWO horses for the bargain price of $1950! Isn't that cool!

Well, yeah, except that one of them was challenging. She was a bit freaked out about everything. My entire riding experience was limited to my friend's dead-broke QH and my own dead-broke TWH - tie saddle on, affix bridle, clamber on to horse, thump in ribs to go and pull to stop. Silky was my first taste of a "normal" horse. She wouldn't stand still. And she was about two inches taller than Champ, so I had to bounce around just to get my foot in the stirrup.

How not to do it, part one.
So your horse won't stand still for you to mount, huh? Well, there's a bunch of different things to try - from ground work to just asking a friend to hold her head every time you ride - but here's what not to do! Leave the halter on under the bridle. Leave the horse tied to the hitching post and climb on while she can't jig too far away, then lean waaaay forward and unclip the lead rope. Ride away triumphantly into the sunset!

Yes, I did this. I did this for about two months until she finally realized I wasn't a heavy-handed unbalanced clueless dude, and I wasn't going to spur her or yank on her mouth.

This post is getting pretty long, so I'll just promise more "how not to do it" excerpts tomorrow. She was a sweet horse and she taught me so much, without once trying to kill me. Here's a set of her pictures on Flickr, if you want to see them. :)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Health certs, and time to say goodbye

Welp, I think everything's lined up. The shipper is coming next week - they're taking a horse from CA to TN, and they'll pick my guys up then. I don't know exactly when yet but there's only so much I can worry about :) I had the local vet (well, a timid new young vet at the local practice) come do the health certificates on Champ and Dixie today. Kind of a waste of $70 but I suppose it's important.

I am going to put Silky to sleep. I'm pretty sure it's time. She's losing weight, because she's not eating, because (as I understand it) the fluid is building up in her abdomen and making her feel full. And she's started laying down a lot. She just seems very very tired. I don't think she would survive the trip to Ohio, and I don't want to leave her here to suffer.

It sure sucks though. :(