Sunday, March 31, 2013

Stupid, Stupid

Happy Easter to everyone!
We had a cold, windy, overcast Easter.
No kids.
No chocolate bunnies.
No Easter Egg hunt.

That's just not right.
We decided to have a carrot hunt.
Brett tossed carrots onto the slope in front of the barn.

Then we let the horses out.
They were more interested in the grass.
Can we pretend that the yellow dandelions are marshmallow chicks?

After the horses had finished the carrots grazing,
we put them back in the pasture.

Well, except for Winston.
I thought it would be fun to jump on him bareback.
No bridle, just a halter.
No helmet.
I'd never ridden Winston bareback before.
It was a bit blustery out.
I wasn't wearing a helmet.

No, I didn't come off.
But he wasn't at all sure about the sensation of me on his back.
He took a few steps forward;
he tried to get rid of the weirdness on his back;
he bucked a bit.
I was scared;
I didn't come off.
Thank goodness!

We walked over to Brett;
with my hand wound tightly in Winston's mane.
And I got off.
And shook.

So stupid.
Always, always wear a helmet.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Cavalletti Work

My birthday was sunny and warm, with the cherry tree bursting in bloom.

I made a rhubarb pie for my "birthday cake."  I used the rhubarb that I've been keeping in the freezer from last summer especially for today.

While the pie was cooling, I went down to ride Winston.  I read an article in the April issue of Dressage Today at breakfast by Ingrid Klimke about her classical approach to dressage, carrying forward her father's teachings and incorporating her own holistic approach.  I loved the article.  She writes about using variety in training, about taking small steps, and fostering the horse's personality.  One of the tools she uses to create variety is cavalletti.  She gives instructions on how to use cavalletti in walk, trot and canter.  I couldn't wait to try it.

Brett was just finishing up with Flash.  His back is still hurting so he called it quits after a short ride.

I set up the cavalletti for walk.  The article suggested using four poles, spaced 3 feet (80 cm) apart and about a foot high.

Winston and I warmed up with some review of bending from our last lesson.  I practiced sitting up tall with my shoulders back far enough that my abs engaged and my seat bones sank into the saddle. 

And then we headed over the poles.  Winston did the exercise well.

Next, I adjusted the poles for trot work.  I moved them further apart (4 feet, 3 inches) and higher off the ground (1 1/2 feet).  Yipes.  Winston maneuvered better than I expected.  He tried to jump the last two poles on one of the trips through.

The last time through, he couldn't decide whether to jump or trot and ended up taking out a pole.  Oh, well. 

I didn't even attempt canter.  Winston was happy and excited and ready to jump, jump, jump.  I think I will incorporate a cavalletti day into our work every week.  We both had a blast and it is excellent for his back.

For my birthday dinner, I made chicken curry.  The recipe is one my mother got from an Indian friend when we lived in Tanzania.  It's a bit of work, but not hard, and so good.  While the curry simmered, I cut up all the fruits and veggies that are piled on top.

Kyle and Camille did the dishes.  They came up just for dinner, after Camille got off work.  They will head back down the mountain tonight so they can spend Easter with their father and his family (its his turn).  So, it was wonderful that they made the drive up.  How did I get so lucky?  Great husband, great kids and a great horse.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Jackson Time

It's kind of like Miller Time.  Remember those old commercials?  Grab a beer and relax.  Or grab a lead rope, in my case.

Jackson has been a bit foot sore for the past week or so.  This afternoon, I found him in Flash's stall taking a nap.  The poor boy was sweaty and uncomfortable.  Our warm spring day isn't very comfortable when you have a heavy winter coat.

I took him out and gave him a thorough grooming.

Next, we went into the wash rack and I scrubbed his tail.  Flash was in Mufasa's stall, which is closest to the tie rail, keeping an eye on things.  Nosy beast.

On the way back to the pasture, I let Jackson graze on dandelions for ten minutes.  So tasty, and so good for them.

Back in the pasture, Mufasa greeted Jackson and then saw me standing at the fence.  Mufasa ambled over and stood close, but not too close, to me.  He's a funny horse.  He will follow me around and stand close by with his eyes soft and relaxed.  Sometimes, he'll let me scratch his withers.  But just sometimes.  Most of the time he walks away if I try to touch him.  He's getting braver but it's definitely taking time. 

Lori has been playing with the watercolor effect on some of her pictures.  I thought I would give it a try.  Doesn't Jackson make a beautiful painting?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

First Ride in Hawaii

When Brett and I were in Hawaii earlier this month we went horse back riding on two different days.  The first ride was into the Waipi'o Valley.  The valley is on the west side of the island, very tropical and has very steep sides.  This creates spectacular waterfalls but it also means you can only get in by hiking straight down a very steep road or via four wheel drive. 

We gathered with the rest of our group at the top of the valley and then climbed into an old four wheel drive van for the descent down the single lane, first gear, steep road.  At the bottom we were mounted on our horses.  This was a nose-to-tail walking ride through the streams and rivers that criss-cross the valley floor.  We passed by taro root farms, past trees twining above us dripping heavy with papaya, mango and avocado.

Our guide wanted us to give the Hawaiian hand signal for "hello" in a hang-loose kind of way.  Brett had trouble getting it right.  His index finger kept popping up.  It's a thumb and pinky wave.

On the way back, we came across one of the herds of wild horses that live in the valley.  They seemed pretty accustomed to people and wanted to investigate us.  We were advised to keep moving as they also like "rodeo" a bit.  There were babies... so cute!


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Early this morning, Gayle came up to give us lessons.  Winston and I were up first.  Because we are just getting back to work after three weeks off, Gayle gave us a long warm up at walk.  We worked, though.  We worked on my position.  Gayle said that I was slouching forward with my shoulders.

So while Winston warmed up by walking on a loose rein, I had to lift my shoulders and lean back.  More. More. There.  I felt like I was leaning over backwards; like I was going to be laying across Winston's butt if I went another inch.  But, I wasn't.  I looked like this.  The camera doesn't lie.

Gayle told me that if I keep my shoulders up and back and stay centered over my body, Winston will be able to balance easier and carry me.  Otherwise, I'll have to work too hard to keep him together.  Of course, getting there is going to take some work.  My body likes slouching.  Sigh.

Next we worked on corners; starting with 15m circles and working down to 10m voltes.  Winston needed to stay active, reaching under with his hind inside leg, and bending around my leg. 

I had to press with my inside leg so he didn't fall into the middle of the circle; I had to sit tall; and I had to not pull him around with my reins.  

When he was moving with energy, we did pretty well.  When he slowed down, I had to work harder and steering was difficult.  I felt like I was pushing a 50 lb bale of hay sideways with my calf.  Making faces helps.

We got it done but it wasn't easy.  Keeping Winston forward and active is key.  I get that.  I really get that now.  Gayle worked us for close to an hour.  Walk and then the same thing at trot.  We finished with some leg yield.  After getting a good 10m circle in the corner, I would straighten onto the center line and then push him sideways to the rail.  He wasn't quick enough or reaching under far enough for Gayle (this is not a new exercise for us).  I had to tap him with the whip to get good effort.  I said a Hail, Mary first.  He fussed but he didn't buck.  Phew.
Happy team! 
While we were working on leg yield, Brett was busy getting Mufasa tacked up and ready to go.  Brett tweaked his back the other day while riding Mufasa in the arena.  Mufasa spooked at the cat, scooted sideways, and Brett stayed securely in the saddle but he got a good jerk sideways and that hurt.  He loaded up on Aleve, crossed his fingers, and mounted up.

Gayle told Brett not to worry about Mufasa's frame at this point.  They worked on getting an even tempo, especially in the corners, and getting Mufasa used to light contact on his mouth.  Mufasa steadily improved as the lesson progressed.

There were also moments where he got discomboobalated.  Brett stayed steady and consistent on his back which wasn't always easy.  There were times when Mufasa got a bit strung out.

Mufasa has a lovely, forward trot.  The balance will come.  This horse tries hard.  After working on trot, they moved onto canter.  Unfortunately, canter hurt Brett's back so they didn't do it for long.  Their lesson wasn't long, but they accomplished a lot.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Chicken Named Peg

A few days ago, Brett and I noticed that one of our Rhode Island Red chickens wasn't able to walk.  She was lying in the middle of the chicken run and, at first, it just looked like she was taking a sun bath in the dirt.  She was bright eyed, looking around with no sign of lethargy.  Then she tried to move which was a kind of flop forward and drag motion. 

During the day, she managed to maneuver herself to the water and yesterday she actively pecked at the food I sprinkled in front of her.  The other hens didn't harass her; she seemed content; we crossed our fingers and left her alone.

This morning, she pulled herself up to standing and hopped forward on her good leg.  Then she rested.  I watched her do this a few times.  She ate with gusto (salad greens and mango peelings in the chicken pail this morning).  I thought of Ahab, with his peg leg, searching for Moby Dick.  Voila!  This chicken has a new name.  She's a fighter, a survivor.  Heck, she even managed to lay an egg!


Monday, March 25, 2013

Morning Light

Sunday morning, the light was gorgeous.  The air was cold and the horses were frisky.  The horses were running in the pasture - until I stepped outside with my camera.  Of course. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Too Tired to Buck

This morning my body did not want to wake up.  At 7:00, Brett mentioned that there was frost on the barn roof.  I opened my eyes, saw the frost, groaned, and went back to sleep.  I didn't manage to drag myself out of bed until 8:00 which is unheard of here.  The muscles around my shoulder blades ached from the upper body work I did at the gym and my legs felt like lead from the fitness work I did with Winston. 

Brett and I did an easy ride on Flash and Winston around the ranch roads.  Winston didn't want to open his mouth for the bit when I put on his bridle.  I had to slide my thumb into the corner of his mouth and press; something I haven't done since I first bought him.  Then, halfway to the mounting block he stopped and said, I don't wanna work. I'm tired and I'm sore.  I assured him that we weren't going to work; we were simply going for an easy, slow walk on the level roads of the ranch.  Winston walked slowly; so slowly that we hardly had to stop and wait for Flash at all.  He never refused to go forward; he looked around taking note of horses in pastures, cars slowing and then passing us, people working in their yards, and dogs charging their fences and barking.  He never did more than flinch -- even at the evil pit bull who made his usual ruckus.  It was a no-stress ride in the March sunshine.  It gave me renewed faith in Winston as a trail horse and it gave Winston a break from the arena.

In the afternoon, I went back outside to clean out the hen house.  Winston and Mufasa were snoozing together by the run-in shed.

I grabbed my energy drink, gathered my tools, and got to work.

I shoveled out all the dirty shavings, dumping them into the run area where the chickens gleefully scratched and pecked until the piles were evenly spread. 

After putting a bag of clean shavings into the hen house, I closed everything up and returned my tools to the barn.  Flash was in Mufasa's stall.  Winston was half in the stall and half out in the run-out.  Mufasa was standing outside next to Winston.  They were all dozing. 

I'm heading back to the couch.