Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Baa Baa Black Sheep

Sunday evening as Brett and I were finishing up chores, a small grey car pulled up to our gate and stopped.  I didn't recognize the car and thought it was most likely someone out wine tasting who drank too much and thought we were a rental stable.  Or something along those lines.  My inclination was to hide in the barn before they saw me but I squashed that thought and walked down the driveway.  A middle-aged man in shorts got out of the car and waved to me.  He said that he was from out of the area (I was right about that) and had been looking at property in our area.  On the road behind our property, next to a fence, he and his girlfriend had found a lamb stuck in the bushes.  Was it ours?

"No," I said, "but the lady across the road raises sheep.  She might know."  He said they had gone there but no one was home.  Could they bring me the lamb?  He said they were from the city and didn't know how to care for it.  I said yes (of course) and the little car backed down the driveway and headed up the dirt road behind us.  Brett walked over and I filled him in.  "You said yes?"  I nodded.  "Good."

The car returned and pulled up to the barn.  The man was holding a very small, jet black lamb, wrapped in a blanket.  We settled the lamb on a pile of shavings in Lucy's stall.  He was very small, and thirsty -- sucking on my finger.  I filled a bottle with water and he drank it while we talked to the couple about where they found the lamb.  When they left, Brett and got in the car to go to the market and buy some goat milk.  On the way, I noticed our neighbor out in her pasture with her sheep.  We pulled in to her driveway and flagged her down.  It took awhile for her to make her way over to us; she must be 80 years old and she was up on a steep slope checking on one of her ewes.

"Yes," she said, "That was my lamb.  It's front legs are paralyzed.  It's two weeks old.  I can't kill it, so I left it on the side of the road for coyotes."  She didn't offer to take it back -- and we didn't ask her to take him.

Back home, weak cries came from Lucy's stall and the lamb eagerly sucked down his bottle of milk.  We didn't know what to do.  Brett doesn't have a shotgun and he wasn't sure he could kill it even if he did have one.  The humane thing to do was to put it down but it was now late on a Sunday so we made sure it was comfortable and called it a night.

In the morning, we were greeted by strong baa-baaing for milk.  Once again, it sucked down a bottle of warm goat milk.  This time, he kicked his hind legs energetically -- but the front ones didn't move at all.

Brett went to our vet's office at 9am when they opened.  The vet tech said that they don't care for, or put down, farm animals.  She suggested calling animal control which Brett did when he got back home.  The woman was there was friendly, said that they had some other lambs, and to bring our little guy over.  Brett laid the little guy on a fleece bareback pad and put him in the car.  The animal shelter was clean and they told Brett that their vet would check the lamb -- and then they would do whatever was indicated.

While Brett was gone, there was a knock on our door.  A neighbor from up the dirt road stood on the front porch.  He said he had talked to the people who found the lamb (and suggested they bring him to us). He wanted to know how the lamb was doing.  I told him.  He was quite upset that someone would leave a lamb for coyotes in a residential area -- right by his house.  He has shelties and did not want coyotes, or other predators, coming to get "bait" by his house.

I can't say I blame him.  It seems to me that if you are going to have animals, and especially if you are going to breed animals, you need to be willing and prepared to humanely kill them if that is the best/only option.  Euthanasia is preferable in my book; but I know that is expensive.  A shotgun works too.  If you don't have the guts to do that (and we don't, so I'm not judging), for Pete's sake don't leave the animal a mile up the road, in front of someone else's home.  If you don't want to draw coyotes to your property, I understand.  But don't draw coyotes to your neighbor's either.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Evening Chores with Lucy

I love doing evening chores.  It's a great way to decompress after work and the evening light is spectacular.  I love the way the sunlight catches an individual oak and bathes it in golden light.

Did you notice all the little yellow flowers in the pasture with Lucy?  That's mustard.  The horses don't like to eat it and I find it impressive the way Lucy can nibble all the way around a little mustard shoot, getting every blade of grass, but not eating the mustard.  I tried to get a picture, sitting on the ground.  Lucy swung her nose over to investigate.

She didn't eat around any mustard while I was sitting there, but I did get some shots of her grazing.

The view from the ground wasn't bad.  I'm looking out towards the road that goes past our ranch and up to the wineries (turn right onto the road just past our well-house, top right of the picture).

Sunday, March 29, 2015


...are my favorite flower.  Last fall, I planted 500 of them in front of the house.

I love coming up the driveway to this.

And the view from the porch isn't bad either.

I'm going to plant more this fall.  One can never have too many daffodils.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Girls Get a Turn

Brett has been taking Flash and Mufasa up to the back pasture for the past few weeks.  They graze under the oak trees during the day and spend the nights back down in their pasture. The fence is low in a few spots so it isn't a good place for escape artists.  Brett worried about putting the girls up there because Lucy was a jumper in her previous life.  I didn't think she would jump out -- she doesn't love to jump and she likes to stick close to Pistol -- who is definitely not a jumper.  I decided to give it a try today.  I planned to work in the garden all day so I would be outside keeping an eye on them.

I led the girls up to the pasture together after breakfast.  They were both good; Lucy was looking around trying to figure out the plan.  Pistol walked placidly beside me.  She's a wonderful, level-headed mare.  Once in the pasture, I removed their halters.  Pistol dove into the grass.  Lucy put her head up and lifted her tail like a flag while she proceeded to trot/float around the pasture checking it out.  Pistol didn't look up from the grass.  Lucy floated a few steps, came back to Pistol, ate a few bites, and floated off again.  Eventually, she settled down next to Pistol and grazed.

Meanwhile, all hell was breaking loose in the boys' pasture.  What the heck were the girls doing up in that pasture?  And why weren't the boys invited?  Unfair!

Mufasa ran laps, skidding in his turns at the fence line facing the direction of the back pasture.  Once, I saw him spin so fast that he was almost laying on his side.  Flash stood watching but didn't join in the gallop-fest.  ...until I walked back from the upper pasture, towards the gate to the boys pasture where I would turn, cross the bridge and go into my garden.  Flash saw me coming and let loose with a loud whinny, then trotted over to the gate and thrust his head over expectantly.  Take me!  Take me first!  I laughed so hard, I almost cried.  Sorry Flash we aren't mixing boys and girls together.

Throughout the day, peace reigned.

Every few hours Flash would call loudly to the girls and Lucy would answer.  I planted lilies in the flower bed and dahlias by the barn; mulched everything, fertilized the fruit trees and weeded.

Our resident Canada geese spent most of the day in the empty girls' pasture, but they did wander around the driveway a bit too.

At dusk, when I closed the hen house door, I saw a wild turkey walking across the bridge.  This little ranch feeds my soul.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Random Friday

1.  I picked up my tall boots from the cobbler earlier this week.  He added zippers and a leather gusset -- they look fantastic and fit perfectly.  The leather was too stiff, and the amount of stretch needed too great, for stretching the boots.  I'm super pleased with the result (and SO much cheaper than a new pair of boots).

2.  When we moved into the house I found a very shrubby, overgrown lilac planted underneath the kitchen window.  I've never had much luck with lilacs in the past; Southern California didn't get enough chill in the winter to create spring bloom.  I pruned this one aggressively, knowing that I was sacrificing any potential bloom for last year.  I noticed buds on it earlier this week and they are starting to open.  I am ecstatic!

3.  Mufasa continues to do well.  He's in a five steps forward, one step back place.  This past Tuesday Brett sent me a very frustrated text saying that he couldn't catch Mufasa in the top pasture.  He did, eventually, but it concerned him.  The next evening, I was home in time to help with chores so I went with Brett up to the pasture.  Mufasa, again, walked towards Brett then changed his mind and walked a few steps away.  Brett and I reviewed the work Mark did with Mufasa the first day.  Brett walked towards Mufasa and Mufasa walked away, passing by Brett.  As soon as Mufasa's butt was past Brett, Brett swung the rope (don't point your butt at me).  Mufasa went, "oh," and swung his head to face Brett.  He did it one more time, then waited quietly for Brett to approach.  Brett didn't halter him right away but spent a moment or two connecting.  Progress is a good thing.

4.  I did some research on the Masterson method of horse bodywork.  I was pleased to see that it is relatively easy to learn and that it is endorsed by USDF and USEF (so its legit).  I've done basic T-touch with the horses but anything beyond basics is way above my memory capacity.  I cruised around the website and found a sample lesson on lateral cervical flexion to try for free.  I read the instructions, watched the video, and then tried it out on the horses -- all of them.  Lucy was tight up by her poll, Flash was tight by his shoulder, Jackson wasn't tight anywhere, Pistol tried to groom me -- and Mufasa (who Brett worked on) was good about it too.  I've decided to do the online course.

5.  The last few times I've ridden Lucy she has been resistant to trot -- and then felt slightly off.  I couldn't tell if she was sore or just resistant so I lunged her.  As I suspected, she is a bit sore on her feet.  It isn't like Lucy to be resistant or to suck back.  We have had very little rain (as you all know) and the ground is drying up and getting hard.  Our farrier comes next week and I'm going to ask him to put shoes back on Lucy's front feet.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Back Home

Mufasa enjoyed rolling in the pasture and sleeping in the sand with Flash yesterday after breakfast.

Across the driveway, Lucy and Pistol did the same.

Monday evening we rode for a few minutes before chores.  Mufasa met Brett at the gate and didn't move away from the halter at all.  At the tie rail, he moved his head into Brett's shoulder and was downright affectionate while being groomed and tacked up.

While Brett and Mufasa practiced their new way of interacting under saddle, I tried a few things with Lucy.  First, I wanted to ask her to halt -- thought, stop, release.  We walked along, I thought -- and she stopped.  Whoa, I never said stop.  I tried it again paying attention to my seat (I usually stop by stilling my body) and not giving it away.  Either I am incapable of not being still with my body when thinking about halt, or she is already there.  Either way, I'll take it.  I also introduced her to backing in the way Mark taught in the clinic.  From halt, I rocked her back on her haunches with my weight, and then took a bit of contact; not a lot, just enough to say I need something.  She thought, and chewed, and thought, and then took a tentative step back.  I immediately released and praised her.  After a few more tries, she was floating backwards in a smooth cadenced march, with nothing from me other than the initial ask.

We stopped and I asked her to walk forward.
She said no, thank you.  I like this stopping and backing stuff.  Let's do more of that.
Really Lucy; we need to walk forward.
Okay then, let's try a turn on the haunches.
She rocked back, but instead of going backwards, I asked her to cross her front legs and turn in a circle.  She was happy to give that a try.

I may have created a monster.  She doesn't want to do the same old things.  She wants to learn this new stuff.  Yeah, that's a smile on my face.

Monday, March 23, 2015

What I Learned from Mark Rashid

I went with Brett to his clinic with Mark Rashid.  I wanted to be there to support Brett, but I was also intensely curious to see this guy at work.  Even though I'm one of "those dressage riders" Mark disparages a bit, I am in lock-sync with his approach to horses.  My primary hope for the clinic was that Mark would help Brett and Mufasa; that Mufasa would learn to trust a bit more and that Brett would learn to ride from a place of energy and feel.  There was no doubt in my mind that Brett could do it if he just understood how.  The results on both those fronts blew the lid right off of my expectation box.  You know that from my last three posts.

While Brett took care of Mufasa and practiced directing his energy to pull Mufasa to him, I was busy watching all the other rides and absorbing things to apply to my riding.  My attraction to dressage isn't the "tricks" or the fancy moves, although they are very cool.  I want the harmony between horse and rider, the unspoken felt connection that creates a dance between the two of you.  I felt it first with Starman -- we did our transitions based on thought and they were mind blowing in their accuracy because we were in perfect sync.  I was trying to get there with Jackson, and we were making progress, before he was retired.  Winston -- nope, never.  But with Lucy I know we can get there.  She is already very light and I have been working on getting to softness.  As Mark says, "Light is not the same as soft."

I ride Lucy with contact; just enough so we stay connected but I never pull.  I was pleased to hear Mark talk about being close enough through connection to communicate.  Most of the time, Lucy carries herself and I just keep myself in balance, soft and following so I don't mess her up.  Mark talked about doing just that so I will continue to concentrate on keeping my shoulders, arms and elbows soft while riding.  Lucy is incredibly responsive when I am soft.

Lucy hates walking under trees.  I have no idea why but she just can't handle it.  Mark talked about one of his horses that is fantastic at everything he does except trail rides through the walnut groves.  Marks advise was to work on it with the horse if it is of critical importance to you but if not, to just let it go.  And don't take it personally. We all have things we are better and worse at; things we like or don't.  Lucy will be happy to know that I am not going to keep walking her under the trees that make her nervous.  She is gold in the arena and brave about most things.  I don't personally care about walking under trees and if I do get the urge to do so both Pistol and Jackson love it.  I'm going to let that go.

Lucy is also not a fan of having her ears touched.  I'm going to practice some energy work on that.  She's a bit head shy (nothing like Mufasa was) at times so I'll use the same technique of resting my hand and releasing when she gives.  Of course, there are also days when she snuggles her head between my arm and my belly in a hug -- like a dog will do when you stop petting them.

I loved how Mark taught backing.  Lucy and I haven't done any backing work but I'm going to start.  I want to get to fluid walk-halt-back and eventually add turn on the haunches.  ...and do it with 0.5 pressure (or less); doing it from thought would be awesome.

And if Jackson stays sound, I'm going to continue learning to dance with him as well.

Lastly, I'm going to learn more about Masterson touch therapy and try to master the technique.  Mark's wife, Chrissy, does body work and she worked on Mufasa before we headed home yesterday afternoon.  He loved it.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Mark Rashid Clinic: Day 3

This morning Brett had his third, and final, session with Mark.  While Brett was tacking up Mufasa, there was some commotion and Mufasa pulled back on the lead line.  Brett released the quick-release knot and Mufasa settled down.  At the start of his lesson, Brett asked how best to help Mufasa in a meltdown.  Mark told Brett to act like nothing happened; to go about his business as usual.  This boy, he said, needs confidence from you.

Then they got to work under saddle.  Mark noted that Mufasa has questions about his job under saddle and this leads him into worry.  Brett needs to always go back to the foundation/basics between he and Mufasa.  He needs to get a positive response from Mufasa with pressure at less than one (on a ten point scale).  Mark explained the Japanese concept of Maai, which means shared space.  There is shared space between everyone and everything.  Most of the time, things just go along but when things go bad, the person in charge of the space is important.  Brett needs to be close to Mufasa at first by maintaining light contact with the reins.  If the reins are too long, there is too much space, and Brett can't be there to help Mufasa.  Brett needs to feel the point of meaningful resistance in Mufasa, the point at which Mufasa starts to do what is asked of him in a movement.  The amount of resistance created is very small.

They started with work on the halt.  This is how Mark explained how to teach Mufasa a soft, light halt.
Don't release in halt until he gives.  Don't pull -- either of you.
Keep Mufasa's head straight.  If his head is off by one degree, his hind will be off by three.
You need to give and soften in the stop; not push him into your hands.
Stop internally first; think about stopping; it isn't a physical change.  (Mufasa hesitated, feeling for Brett).  Eventually thought will be all he needs.  Think about stop, then stop, and wait -- look for a stop with no brace, with softness.

Turn without the outside rein (Brett was trying to use inside leg to outside hand).  Don't use your leg.  You don't want to set up a brace.

Shorten the rein.  Take contact and wait.  Keep his head straight.
Getting the distance correct in the contact is key.
Don't let him do it for you.  If you pull, he has to push.  Hands low. Give him time to figure it out.

The backing work cleared up misunderstanding for Mufasa.
The initial brace is why he had trouble.  He was waiting to be pulled back.  Mufasa needs to work it out himself and do it.  His feet were going backward before (when pulled into a back) but not his mind.  It's like memorizing the answer of 1+1=2 without learning how to add.  Mufasa needs to learn to add; to think; to feel better because he understands.  By waiting for him to figure it out, without pressure, you are showing and not telling.  You are doing this together.  Help him by explaining what the heck we're doing.  He's offering stuff (sideways) we don't need because it's how he got release before.  Pick something on the fence as a target and use that to keep his head straight.  If you look at the back of his head, you will go in circles.

Mufasa figured out that he needed to go backwards and took a few steps back.  With a little more practice, Mufasa was floating backwards with 0.5 pressure from Brett.  It was beautiful to watch and Brett couldn't believe how it felt (neither could Mufasa).

Mark continued:
We want this same soft feeling in everything we do.  He gains confidence because there is consistency in everything you do.  If he doesn't understand, it feeds anxiety.  You want him to wait for you, not have him take you.  That's the leadership he needs. 

Brett walked a very relaxed Mufasa around.  Gather the reins, think about stopping, stop, wait for him to soften.  When you get him home, stay consistent.  Have the attitude, "How can I help you with this?"  You have his best interest in mind.  Stay in walk until you have reinforced the feel.  If you have good feel, you don't need to back.  He's a good guy with a lot going for him.  Even with his issues (which will drop away), you bought a good horse.

Brett and Mufasa have a lot to practice before the next clinic with Mark.  Because there is no doubt that the next time Mark comes to California, Brett and Mufasa will be there.  We felt fortunate to have the opportunity to have Brett ride in the clinic with Mufasa.  Many of the other riders came from too far away (Washington, Alberta Canada) to bring their own horses so had to rely on ones at the barn.  One guy trailered his horse down from Oregon, a two day trip.  We were only four hours away, closer than most of the other participants.

Mufasa was happy to get home tonight.  He immediately rolled in the pasture and got caught up on the news from Flash.  I can just hear Mufasa saying to Flash, "Guess what?  Being with people is a good thing!"

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Another Amazing Session with Mark Rashid

Another excellent session today.  I'm going to give you my notes -- most of it direct quotes from Mark as he worked with Brett and Mufasa.  Brett brought Mufasa into the arena, without tacking him up, expecting to work in the round pen.  Instead they worked a bit in the arena, reviewing and adding to the work from yesterday:

Mark: "Move with him and towards him.  Don't act like there is a problem.  He feels the need to flee. He has learned to move away from people when worried.  He needs to learn to come towards people when worried.  Moving away should not give him a release.  (Mark had his hand lightly resting on Mufasa's neck or forehead).  Go with him.  Don't add pressure but don't release.  Release when he comes back to you.  Your hand is following; not pushing.  He is learning a different way of helping himself."

Mufasa initially moved away from the contact by turning his head or stepping backwards; he didn't flee.  Mark stayed with him, and Mufasa turned and moved towards to Mark -- getting an immediate release.

Mark: "You see this a lot with dogs.  Horses don't want to feel how he feels.  Whatever happened in his past, happened.  We can't change that and the details aren't important.  Don't reward him for being scared (it's like dogs who are afraid of thunder).  Mufasa's response has been to escape/run when he gets worried.  If he is allowed to go (if the hand is released instead of following) then he is being rewarded for the escape.  It's a double reward."

"Today, he isn't head shy.  The work yesterday, moving his head and the energy work, helped with that.  Today his energy is toward us.  All he wants is to feel better.  This is a tribute to how good a horse he is; that he doesn't hurt anyone."

Mark moved his hand over Mufasa's body, stopping with it resting on Mufasa's back.  "My hand stays on his back until he finds a way to stop moving and relax.  Inadvertently, he has been taught to feel bad.  He doesn't want to feel that way.  He's nowhere close to where he was yesterday.  This is big improvement.  Today we can do more.  Don't tiptoe around him."

Mark felt his shoulder and noted that it was very tight.  He proceeded to massage it and Mufasa shifted so that Mark could get his fingers in deep, behind the scalpula.  Mark was impressed that Mufasa was doing his part to help find the release of the muscle tension.

Mark continued "He can't distinguish between how he feels and how he acts.  We need to break that pattern.  We are trying to make everything easier so he can learn that it can feel good to work with people."

There was still about 20 minutes left of the lesson so Mark sent Brett and Mufasa out to tack up.  Mufasa was very relaxed -- the most relaxed I have ever seen him.  Amongst the auditirs, there wasn't a dry eye.

Brett asked how he much he should work with Mufasa on the touching and release exercises.  Mark said that Brett should note how Mufasa is, each step from haltering to saddling to riding.  If it is worse, stop and address at that point.  Having Mufasa relaxed on the ground first will really help.

Meanwhile, Brett and Mufasa were walking around and Mufasa was yawning and stretching.  The nest step, which they will work on tomorrow, is for Brett to be a good leader.  Brett needs to be nice about it; but he needs to give direction.

I can't wait for tomorrow's session. Brett is on cloud nine.  His eyes were pretty leaky too.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Mark Rashid: Day 1

Brett tacked up Mufasa, went into the arena, mounted and rode over to Mark.  After listening to Mufasa's history of being head shy and having difficulty trusting, Mark suggested taking off the tack and working in the round pen.  He wanted to see how Mufasa reacts to strangers and felt that if they could work through the trust issues, the rest would fall into place.  We got the tack off, and then Mufasa ducked out of the halter; heading over to a patch of grass to eat.  In typical Mufasa fashion, he didn't run from Brett but eyed him with a bit of trepidation stepping a few steps away each time Brett approached.  Others walked over to help and that pushed Mufasa over the edge.  He left, running down the track that runs around the barn.  Brett went one way and I went the other -- Mufasa, realizing he was trapped between us, ran into an open paddock.  Mark walked over and worked with Mufasa in the paddock.

Mufasa wasn't being "bad."  Mufasa was scared.  He was running like a deer -- bounding with his tail in the air.  Mark said Mufasa was so bunched up with fear that he couldn't think and he wasn't breathing.

Mark explained the four phases of fear in horses.
1. The horse goes on high alert; prepares to flee.
2. Fight
3. Flight (run as fast as you can)
4. Relax and shake it off.

Mufasa was stuck between 2 & 3.  Until we could teach Mufasa how to reach level 4, the issue would never be resolved.  Brett would make some progess, as he has, and would be able to halter him and ride but Mufasa would always have that bunched up ball of fear.  He'd never be able to relax into his work.

Mark spent an hour with Mufasa, teaching him to stay and trust instead of fleeing.  By the end, Mufasa was allowing Mark to walk around him, even on the scary right side.  It took a full hour for Mufasa to reach the point where he relaxed and shook.

It was a huge breakthrough for Mufasa -- and a huge breakthrough for us.  Brett worked with Mufasa a bit at the end; getting the same results.

Mark and I followed as Brett walked Mufasa back to his stall.  Mark shook his head.  "It's so nice to see Mufasa walk relaxed next to Brett.  He's a nice horse; it's a shame someone messed him up."

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Random Thursday

I know, I know, the random posts are usually on Friday but I'm hoping to blog about Mark Rashid tomorrow and, meanwhile, the random thoughts are piling up.

1.  Today is my mother's birthday and marks just over one year since she died.  I still miss her and I still have moments where I think, "I have to share this book (or thought or bit of news) with her."  I talk to her often, usually in the car on my way home from work, silently telling her about this and that.  It's not the same as having a voice respond but it is comfortable in its own way.

2.  It has been a warm, dry winter here in California.  While much of the country was buried under mountains of snow, we got very little.  The snow pack is at 12% of normal for this time of year -- and the snow pack gives the State one-third of its water.  The Tahoe area ski resorts are all closing early due to lack of snow.  We have some small rain systems that may come through but nothing big and cold.  A couple of our neighbors, a few properties up the road, have no more water in their wells.  Scary.

3.  Water brings out snakes.  Our property sits at the lowest point of our neighborhood so we stay green the longest and trickles of water remain in our streams after others have gone dry.  A few days ago while doing my walk through of the garden, I noticed a garter snake trying to eat a toad.  The entire hind leg of the toad was in the snake's mouth and there they sat.  After chores, I checked and the snake was gone -- but the toad was sitting there with it's mangled leg.  Ewww.  Brett found three more snakes when he was mowing yesterday.

4.  I had a frustrating ride on Lucy tonight after work.  90% of my rides on Lucy are sheer joy so I really can't complain... but I will anyway.  She was sluggish and resistant to start.  I have never had to carry a whip with Lucy but tonight I could have used one.  I don't believe in being a nag but I was working way too hard.  That all changed when she glimpsed a small herd of deer across the road.  They were grazing and making their way across the hill from one property to the next.  Holy screaming crap.  A snort, a spook, a half rear, head in the air like a llama and flat out refusing to budge.  I had to remind myself that she isn't Winston; that it wouldn't escalate; to relax and work through it.  We did work through it so I suppose that was a success.  Silly Lucy -- she's been living with deer, sharing her pasture with deer even, for nine months.  It was hard to be sympathetic to her panic.

5.  Brett rides with Mark Rashid this weekend.  We are hopeful that Mark can help Brett figure out what makes Mufasa tick.  Brett feels like he is spinning his wheels, going nowhere, in his riding.  Mufasa's trust in Brett has increased tremendously over the past two years but under saddle they just can't get in sync.  Brett doesn't expect miracles or Mufasa to immediately be as balanced under saddle as he is at liberty, but he is hoping for progress and tools to put in his toolkit.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Master Bath: Before and After

The shower glass and mirror have been installed.  Fini!  This remodel made a huge difference and our bathroom has gone from meh to wow.  I guess maybe the shower leak was a good thing after all.   Without the leak, it would have been years (if ever) before we did this remodel.

First, before and after shots of the entire bathroom.  We started with the toilet to the right, by the window, and the shower to the left.  We flipped their locations and doubled the size of the shower -- borrowing space from the reeeeeealy long vanity.  Now we have a larger shower and a smaller counter - but the bathroom feels like it doubled in size.

The shower went from minuscule to huge.

And we don't even miss the long vanity and counter space.  I love the wall size mirror, the trough sink, and the linen storage on the opposite side (where there had been another sink).

Monday, March 16, 2015

Lucy gets the Hiccups

Sunday morning, Cara Choy came to give Lucy her massage.  You would think that Lucy would be thankful for a massage; I sure would be.  But, no, Lucy was far from happy.  To start with, the horse trailer was still out with the back doors wide open.  Brett has been practicing loading Mufasa in advance of their clinic next weekend.  Lucy thought FOR SURE she was going back in the trailer.

I walked out to the pasture to get her and give her a nice groom before Cara arrived.  Lucy was standing in the far back corner, under a pine tree.  She saw me coming.  She knew there were cookies in my pocket.  She didn't care.  Pistol looked at Lucy, looked at me, looked at my lumpy pocket, and ambled over.

Excuse me, if Lucy doesn't want those cookies I'd be happy to take them off your hands.

Did Lucy care that Pistol was eating all her cookies?  No.  I had to walk all the way to the pine tree.  Lucy didn't move one inch in my direction.  She didn't run away either, and for that I was thankful.

She walked docily behind me to the pasture gate but once outside went into high alert.

Don't put me in the trailer!  I'm too tired and sore to go anywhere!  No! No! No!  I won't go.

"Lucy, you aren't going anywhere.  Eat some grass and calm down while I shut the gate."

"I'm too nervous to eat.  Don't make me go in there.  Pleeeeeeze."

I groomed Lucy at the tie rail and when Cara arrived, I led Lucy into the barn.  Last time Cara came, Lucy scooted around so much that we had to put her in the tie rail/wash stall so Cara could work.  We decided to start there.  We had to walk by the trailer on our way to the barn.  Lucy danced.  She wasn't any happier in the wash stall.

What is this person doing, pushing and prodding my sore muscles?!  I don't like this.  Lemme outta here!

After fifteen minutes, when Lucy didn't come back out of the barn, Pistol got worried.

Pistol screamed for Lucy -- Where are you?  When are you coming back?  Are you leaving me again?  Girlfriend, where are you?

Lucy: I'm in the torture chamber.  This is undignified; it hurts; and I'm sure I'm going back in the trailer when they finish.  Help!!!  

...and then Lucy started to hiccup.  It wasn't cribbing and it wasn't thumps (she was well hydrated).  It was hiccups and Lucy didn't like it.  Lucy let loose with a hiccup (not gentile in a 16h horse) every few minutes.  They annoyed her no end and she tossed her head around, each time, in response.

Pistol kept calling.  Lucy kept shifting around and hicupping.  And then Lucy started answering Pistol, loudly.  The hiccups went away.

After her massage, I took Lucy back to her pasture.  Pistol was waiting at the gate; waiting for Lucy and waiting for more cookies.  Normally, I walk Lucy into the pasture, then turn her to face me with my back to the gate.  She lowers her head, I slip off the halter, and she gets a cookie. Then she wanders off to roll or nibble grass and I slip Pistol a cookie.  This time, she jerked her head high in the air the minute the halter was off and spun away from me.  As she left she bucked, just in case I had missed the message that she wasn't happy with the morning's activities.  Temper, temper Lucy.

I think next time we will try doing her massage at the tie rail where Pistol can see Lucy. And hopefully, the trailer won't be out.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Lesson with Sandy Savage

Saturday Lucy and I had a lesson with Sandy Savage; our first lesson since last July.  I was hoping that Lucy and I would be able to show Sandy work that was representative of what we are doing at home.  Lucy had been very sluggish during the week so I was a bit concerned.

Lucy trailered well down to Sandy's barn in Wilton, south of Sacramento.  It was in the low 70s at home -- and in the low 80s down in the lowlands of Wilton.  Lucy stood quietly (for Lucy) at the trailer while I groomed and tacked her up for our lesson.

We discussed our game plan.

She allowed me to brush her face.  Lucy does not like to have her face fussed with; she does, however, enjoy my uber soft face brush.

And she doesn't like having her mane brushed, much less pulled.  I cut her mane instead of pulling when it needs a trim and I try to be very gentle when I brush it.  You can see by her ears she isn't thrilled.

Then it was off to the covered arena which was nice and cool -- and crowded.  Lucy was a tad looky.
Do I know you?  You look familiar.  I used to live here, you know.

Hey!  Stay outta my bubble.

Ack!  A mirror!

Sandy suggested going outside to the dressage court which was quiet.  I readily agreed.  Brett and Sandy sat in chairs in the judge's booth so they were in the shade.  Lucy and I, not so much.  It was warm but Lucy settled into a good representation of the Lucy I work with at home.  I was pleased.

We started out with trot, encouraging Lucy to stretch into a long rein.  Last year, we often spent an entire lesson on this because Lucy wasn't able to maintain the stretch.  Ever since her massage in December, she's been much happier to stretch.  While she stretched, I worked on my hand position and not getting in the way.  Brett took video and, since he was sitting right next to Sandy, you can hear all her commentary.  So, I won't bore you with it here.  This first segment is our warm up.

The second segment is our trot work with a focus on connection and transitions.  We did a lot of walk-trot-walk transitions.  I learned to barely tense my ring finger for a transition.

The third segment is more trot and transitions -- and more work on my softness through the elbows, arms and shoulders.  Leg position, hand position... So much room for improvement.

The last segment is our canter work.  Lucy was pretty hot and tired by this time and didn't want to canter.  She did though; she's a trooper.

Then we were done; hot and sweaty and happy.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Tall Boot SOS

The last time I wore my tall boots was at a show with Winston more than two years ago.  The boots were brand new at the time; a bit tight and uncomfortable at first but okay by the end of the three day show.

I tried to wear them this evening when Brett and I rode after I got home from work.  I expected them to be a bit tight since they were never fully broken in before our move.  I want to show Lucy sometime this year so they need to be fully broken in.  My plan was to wear them at least once a week.

I was able to get the right boot on.  It was tight but bearable.  The left?  No go.  I couldn't get it past the base of my calf.  It must have shrunk -- I can't believe that one calf swelled up and the other didn't.  I need to measure my calf to make sure but I'm 99% certain it hasn't changed substantially.

The boots were expensive; semi-custom Petries.  They do not have a zipper or gussets.  I can't afford new boots -- heck, these are new boots.  What to do?  Any advice?  I'm going to google the question; I'm not adverse to adding gussets.  I need that darn boot to fit.

I'm sending an SOS out to all of you who ride in tall boots.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Jackson and Flash Get a Turn

Sunday was a beautiful spring day.  I think I mentioned that on my post yesterday but it bears repeating.  The highs just touched 70F with a very light breeze, Canada Geese honking in the pasture, daffodils blooming like mad and the feeling of needing to be outside enjoying it all.

So, we rode twice.  Lucy and Mufasa in the morning followed by Flash and Jackson in the afternoon.

We mounted in the small arena behind the barn but decided to ride up to the dressage court.  The sand in the small arena was packed hard and I was concerned about Jackson's feet.  Brett had dragged the dressage court Saturday so the sand was soft and fluffy.  Jackson marched up to the dressage court with no trouble at all.

We walked around the arena on a loose rein to start.  No problemo.  I put my inside leg on at one point to see if he would bend a bit while turning -- and instead he took a nice step of leg yield.  I laughed.  That's Jackson; an over-achiever.

I picked up the contact a bit and he curled behind the bit but continued to march.  So I gave him a squeeze to push his hind forward and get rid of the evasive head carriage.  Instead, he offered to trot so I let him for just a couple of strides.  He didn't want the contact at all and started fussing with his mouth; throwing his head around.  I kicked him forward.  He tried to canter.  I said no and he got very upset.  He didn't want anything to do with correct.  He just wanted to go.  He put his head high in the air, opened his mouth and chomped loudly, then backed up as fast as he could.  When I kicked him forward, he reared.  Honestly.

I was concerned that maybe he didn't like the bit (although initially he had been fine) or was in pain.  So, I hopped off.  He immediately stood quietly and stopped fussing.  I checked his mouth.  It was fine.  He looked at me mildly.  "hi there.  Nice day isn't it?"  Mr. Innocent.

As we walked back to the barn I racked my brain, trying to figure out what set him off.  I wasn't pulling back, I wasn't taking a strong contact, and he didn't seem to be in pain (just the opposite).

I remembered that I had issues with him when we started riding dressage, instead of just trail riding.  Gayle, our trainer at the time, had helped me work through it so I decided to go back and read some old blog posts about those lessons.  Bingo!  Gayle advised me not to get caught up in Jackson's "bridle wars" -- to ignore his head tossing, give him a long rein so he couldn't argue with me, and push him sideways with my leg.  I remember now that it didn't take long for Jackson to figure out that his game didn't work anymore -- and then he was gold.

Now I have a game plan.  And a sound horse (in 15 minutes of work at any rate).

Meanwhile, Flash was perfectly obedient and willing for Brett.  They stuck to walk for the most part.  Flash didn't look completely comfortable at trot, although he wasn't off.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Good Work and a Good Roll

We had another warm sunny spring day today.  Lucy and Mufasa were both focused and well behaved.  Brett has been working with Mufasa at the mounting block.  When we first got Mufasa, he was hugely distrustful of mounting blocks.  It took many months before Brett could mount him there without me holding Mufasa still.  Mufasa didn't like Brett climbing up the steps of the mounting block and getting on from up high -- maybe he thought it was too much like a mountain lion jumping on his back.  He has finally reached a place where he stands still for Brett to climb up the steps and mount.  Now, Brett is focusing on having Mufasa remain standing still at the mounting block once Brett is in the saddle.  No walking off the second Brett's butt lands.  Mufasa did a great job with that today.

Kersey followed us up to the dressage court again today and went for another swim.  When she approached the stream, I put Lucy on a 20m circle and we worked on leg yield, at trot, on the circle.  Lucy was so busy concentrating on her work that she didn't notice or care about the dog.  After her swim, Kersey came into the arena and rolled in the sand at X; moaning and groaning in pleasure in the soft warm sand.  Lucy ignored her.

Today, Lucy was spot on -- relaxed and focused and prompt.  I concentrated on effective half halts, especially in the corners -- a still outside hand, a bit of inside leg, and we cruised around with beautiful bend.  We even practiced going from extended to working canter and back numerous times with no silliness.  At one point, she offered a few steps of collected canter which I hadn't realized I was asking for.

Afterwards, Brett took Mufasa up to the top pasture with Flash where he promptly rolled.  Lucy did the same in her pasture.  There's nothing like a good roll in the dirt after good work.