Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Living in El Dorado County

1. Living in rural El Dorado County means that you live in the Mother Lode; the area where gold was discovered and where the California gold rush started.  Neighbors have sluice boxes in their stream beds.  People (still) quit their day jobs to look for gold.  With the drought, the water level in area lakes is way down.  Gold has been found (not a lot, don't get excited) in the exposed areas.  Gold fever is spreading.

2.  Living in rural El Dorado County means that many of the locals are descendants of the original Gold Rush miners and prospectors.  Men with wild hair, tangled beards, and a mouth holding three tobacco stained teeth are a common sight.  I'm told by my hairdresser that every local family has at least one family member matching that description.

3.  Living in rural El Dorado County means that some residents have never left the zip code, have never finished school, and have.... interesting.... political views.  There is a strong movement to secede from California and form a separate State: the State of Jefferson.  The green flags wave in front yards.  These proponents hold a strong anti-government and anti-tax view.  Many of them do seasonal work; collecting an unemployment check when it is too hot, too cold, or too nice a day for fishing.  Some of them fly Confederate flags.  For me, this is the hardest part about living in rural El Dorado County; this mentality of entitlement and judgmental intolerance.

4.  Living in rural El Dorado County means that in the early mornings and evenings, you have herds of deer, flocks of turkeys and quail coveys wandering around the house and barn.  It means you can sit on your front porch with a glass of wine in the evening and watch wildlife as the sun sets in the pines.  It means looking out the dining room window in the early morning and watching a deer eat the rose bush that is climbing on the porch rail.  It means an endless supply of squirrels, rabbits, skunks and deer for Kersey to chase.

5.  Living in rural El Dorado County means that you rub elbows with the Sierra Foothill wineries.  It means that on blistering hot weekends you take refuge in cool tasting rooms and spend hours talking to the winemakers and owners over a glass of good zinfandel, syrah, mouvedre or barbera.  It means there are wine pairing lunches and evening concerts every weekend.  It means that the closet under your staircase is overflowing with wine.

Living in rural El Dorado County means that life is good; very good.  A bit strange at times; but very good.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Cooling Off

No, not the weather.  Its still hotter than blazes here.  This morning we picked up a pool for Kersey.  She wasted no time trying it out.

I think I may join her...

Friday, June 26, 2015

Random Friday

1.  There were a number of comments and one question about Lucy's reluctance to canter. Theresa asked if she canters freely on the lunge or in her pasture.  I haven't lunged her and she doesn't run around much in the pasture (its been too dang hot for that).  She does canter a bit in the mornings and evenings when she sees the hay cart coming but I haven't noticed if she is favoring one lead over the other.  Our appointment for tomorrow morning was cancelled because our vet doesn't do hock injections.  He recommended that we go to UC Davis or contact the vet that did them last time.  He knows her and said that she is a board certified surgeon with an excellent reputation.  The good news is that she cantered perfectly sound and happy this morning, on both leads.

2.  I have been eagerly, anxiously, impatiently waiting for my InterDressage test scores.  The dressage judge went off to teach a clinic (the nerve) so results have been delayed.  I have a number in my mind about what I think our score should be -- I'm curious to see if it matches up.  I'm also looking forward to the tips and advice section; other riders have posted on the website how incredibly helpful those comments have been in improving their riding.  At the moment, I am squarely in last place (of six riders).  I think the class I entered is a bit beyond where Lucy and I are at the moment; we need to get the basics more solid first.  The European levels are different than those in the US -- I'll figure it out eventually.  A rider from Estonia is in first at the moment, followed by a pack of Brits.

3.  There is a couple who live on the dirt road that curves around behind our property; they live about a mile and a half away -- around the back, then up to the top of the hill.  Their property is very steep (not at all horse friendly) with a spectacular view.  They are wine lovers and we seem to be spending a lot of time together on the weekends at winery events, in their wine cellar or on the deck.  This past week their daughter and her family came to visit and we met them at a fund raiser held at a local winery.  There were three small grandchildren, ages 3ish to 10ish.  The middle child, Alayna, peppered me with questions during dinner about our animals, her blue eyes wide with interest.  Of course, a visit was arranged this past week and they came by one afternoon while I was at work (rats).  Brett said that the oldest boy was polite but uninterested.  The youngest girl scampered up and down the creek embankements, with her parents in hot pursuit.  But Alayna met all the animals.  She led Flash to the tie rail where she helped groom him.  She watched Brett pick Flash's hoof and declared she wanted to try -- Brett held the hoof (very heavy for a wee little girl) while she carefully and thoroughly brushed out every crumb of dirt.  ...someone is going to have a pony on their Christmas list.

4.  It has been really hot this past week.  We rode at 5:45 this morning to beat the heat -- and it was 65 already/still.  When I got home from work it was 100.  Yech.

5.  Do you ever have trouble reading a book because you intensely dislike a character?  I'm having that problem now.  I am reading "The Language of Paradise" by Barbara Moss which is very well written but I cringe inwardly reading about the husband and have a horrible sense of foreboeding.  I'm only half way through the book -- we'll see if I manage to finish it or not.  I think I need to or this character is going to keep sitting in the back of mind, bothering me.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Tracing the Pain

For the past few months, since I started riding Lucy on a regular schedule, I've noticed that she is sometimes reluctant to canter.  It started as a slight resistance -- she was reluctant on the first ask but eventually went there willingly.  After all, Lucy loves to canter more than most anything else.

Monday morning, the conversation was a bit more... direct.

After a lovely warm-up with Lucy stretching and sighing and stretching some more, we moved into transition work.  Our improvement is huge.  If I ride all the way through the transition, we are gold.  If my mind drifts, I lose Lucy.  I'm getting to the point where it is second nature for me to ride all the way through and my final half-halt when we are in our first step of the lower gait is just a friendly reminder; nothing more.  Our trot to walk transitions need the most work so that is where we stayed for our entire ride on the weekend and for most of our ride Monday.

Because Lucy was going so nicely, I thought I would reward her us with some canter work.

I gave a light half-halt, slid my outside leg back and ... nothing.

Hello, Lucy. Are you there?  Canter, I said canter.
Head high: Sorry, can't.
What do you mean you can't?

We trotted a big circle, got ourselves settled, changed direction and I asked for right lead canter.
Yes ma'am!  I can do this.  Life is wonderful -- the air is blowing cool through my silken mane as we fly.  What?  Did you say something?  Trot?  Well, okay, if you insist.

We changed directions again and I asked for left lead canter.  The past few times this has happened, she nails left lead after doing the right lead first.
I told you I can't do this.  What part of no don't you understand? (small buck)  It hurts.

I suspect it is her hocks.  She needed (and received) hock injections before I bought her.  I'm guessing that she is due for more.  We have an appointment with Dr. Mike on Saturday for an evaluation and injections if they are indicated.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Cobbler Recipe

I use the same cobbler recipe all the time.  I vary the fruit from season to season, but the cookie crisp topping is always the same.  One of these days, I'm going to add some cinnamon to the topping so it is like a cinnamon cookie but I haven't done that -- yet.  I made cobbler on Sunday.  We had picked up some strawberries at the Farmers Market and I picked some rhubarb from the garden.

I set out my dish and fill it with fruit as I slice it up.  I stop when I have a nice round dome just above the rim.  This recipe works with any kind of fruit.  I've made it with apple, peach, berries and plum.  I mix my fruit; often tossing blackberries in with rhubarb or peaches.

Once I have "measured" out my fruit, I dump it in a big bowl.  You can make this cobbler in a deep dish pan like I do, or a square backing dish -- it's very forgiving.  I add sugar to taste -- use 1/2 cup as a starting point; less for sweet fruit like peaches, more for tart like rhubarb.  You can use flour (1/3 cup) or tapioca (1/4 cup) as your thickener.  I prefer tapioca because it makes a clearer filling.  But they both work well.  I usually sprinkle on some cinnamon or vanilla.  With apples, I add some lemon juice and nutmeg in addition to the cinnamon.  Play with it.

I mix up the fruit with the seasonings and pile it back in the bowl.

Next, I melt some butter in a measuring cup.  I use 1/2 stick for juicy fruit and 3/4 for drier fruit.  In a separate bowl beat one egg.  Set those aside.

In a medium bowl, mix:
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Stir them together, then add the beaten egg.  The mixture will be kind of dry and crumbly.

Pour the topping over the fruit and use your hands to spread it out towards the edges.

Then, drizzle the melted butter on the top.

Bake at 350 for 45-60 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling.
Shut the oven off, but leave the cobbler in the oven.   This step is the one that gives you a wonderful crispy crust.  In the winter, I will open the oven door a tad; in the summer I leave it closed tight.  When the oven has cooled down (in an hour or so), take the cobbler out.

And enjoy!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Happy Fathers Day

My favorite memories of my dad are of hiking and camping in the San Gabriel mountains above my childhood home in Glendora.  We share a love of the mountains, fruit trees, and have some similar personality traits.  I love you dad.  Have a great day!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Random Friday

1.  Michaele had some questions about my post "Two Big Bucks."  She asked if Lucy was bucking to get rid of me, if by doing so she would eliminate some of her stress overload.  Lucy bucked because horse's brains go into "fight or flight -- preferably flight" mode when they reach overload.  She couldn't run off easily since I was asking her to trot in a specific way.  She felt boxed in so she reacted by bucking.  Some horses buck, some rear, some bolt, some spin and some run backwards.  Some horses do all of them at once.  Lucy normally plants her feet, leans sideways, and snorts.  If she is in a pissy mood, she will toss her head.  She wasn't in a snit and she wasn't trying to get rid of me.  She didn't like where Mufasa was and she was frightened by the noise of the banging boat trailer.  It was not a normal reaction for Lucy so I think the overload was pretty extreme.

2.  Michaele's second question was for a description of a bucking strap.  Western saddles have a deep seat that cradles you in secure comfort and a horn for hanging your rope -- or for grabbing when you get off balance during, say, a bucking episode.  English saddles have a flat seat (especially jumping saddles) and no horn.  Dressage saddles come with seats of varying depth/security but the deepest dressage saddle is nowhere close to a western saddle.  If you lose your balance, your only option is to grab a handful of mane -- or a bucking strap if you have one.  Bucking straps are short lengths of leather, semi rigid, and rolled to be comfortable in your hand.  The strap attaches to the front of your saddle to the left of center, lays in front of your saddle and attaches to the right of center.  It gives you a loop of leather to grab for security and stability.

I keep one on my saddle at all times.  The strap can also be used to stabilize your hands when you are learning to keep steady contact.  By looping your thumb through the strap, you can keep your hand still and prevent bouncing -- which translates to banging on the horses mouth.  And, of course, you never know when a horse is going to spook or slide sideways or buck.

3.  Terri asked if the Masterson work I do with Lucy, and the bond it builds, carries over into our riding.  I believe that it does; in two ways.  First, the body work releases tension.  Lucy carries a lot of tension in her neck and poll.  The poll is affected by discomfort or tension in the back and the hind end.  It is "energy central" in a way; tension collects and is held there.  By releasing that tension, Lucy feels better and is able to stretch comfortably into her work.  The other piece to the Masterson work is the intention and focus it brings to our relationship.  I'm learning to read very subtle signs and Lucy is learning to trust me with her tension; to trust that I will make her feel better; that she can relax and let go (not easy for a flight animal).

4.  One evening earlier this week when I went out to the goat area to refill their water, I noticed that Thistle wasn't joining the group.  Thistle is usually up front and center.  He baas as I approach, meets me at the gate, follows me to the water bucket, and then stands on his hind legs with his feet against the fence so I can rub his neck, his back and his belly.  On this evening, which was very hot, Thistle was laying in one of the igloos watching me, but making no move to join us.  I was concerned.  He didn't appear to be injured, he ate some weeds I brought over, and he came out to pee while I was mucking.  The next day he was fine.  He met me at the gate and  followed me to the water bucket.  I noticed that his "shorter" horn was now a stump, with dried blood.  So, that was it.  He lost his horn.  This happens every few years.  We bought him from a first time breeder and I don't think they got the dehorn thing down exactly right.  The other goats, who came from experienced breeders, have never had this problem.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


In watching the video of my test for the InterDressage show, I was disappointed in my transitions.  My downward transitions, in particular, are often more of me falling into the gait and less of the smooth, fluid, balanced movement it should be.  Fortunately, a few days ago I read a great post on the Horse Listening blog about transitions.  As I read it, I remembered all the lessons with Sandy where she coached me exactly the same way.

This morning, I was in the saddle before 6am.  Brett and Mufasa joined us.  Brett spent time working on getting Mufasa to reach long and low in their warmup.  Mufasa got the idea, liked it, and started yawning.  It was pretty funny.  Brett has a tendency to choke on the reins a bit (coming off will shake your confidence, I know).  This morning he was able to let go a bit and trust.  Mufasa responded by relaxing and stretching.  Brett could feel the improvement in Mufasa's walk.

Meanwhile, Miss Lucy and I worked on transitions.  I'm pretty good at setting things up before the transition but I have a tendency to quit actively riding as we go through the transition itself.  I notice this particularly in trot --> walk transitions.  I quit riding and Lucy stops.  Completely.  Today, I started the transition by slightly tensing my ring finger, I kept my leg on (instead of just hanging loose) and changed the rhythm in my seat from trot (up-down) to walk (forward-back).  Then, and this was the big change, I gave another half halt with my ring finger as soon as we were in walk -- with my leg on.  Lucy tucked her butt under me and motored into a beautiful, seamless walk.  I remember Sandy teaching me to do this on Winston and on Lucy -- but it just never stuck.  During the lesson, I'd be saying to myself  "How cool is this!"  Then I would go home and gradually forget it while I focused on other things (relaxation for Lucy, obedience for Winston).

Lucy was happy with me in equal measure to my happiness with her.  She doesn't like being deserted in the transitions.  When I got everything coordinated, her ears were perked and attentive, she was forward, and she was happy.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

June Garden

The roses of May are gone and the summer flowers are hitting their stride:
Blanket Flower

Shasta Daisy


First fig!




Monday, June 15, 2015

Weekend Cooking

During the work week, I cook our dinners from Blue Apron and Plated.  It's easy, it's fast and it's tasty.  On the weekends, I do my own thing.  Saturday we went to a Barbera (wine) festival in the neighboring county of Amador.  There were 80 wineries there, from all over California.  There was food.  There was hardly any shade.  There were a lot of people scrunched into any spare inch of shade.  It was 95.  And miserable.  I was sweating as we walked around and feeling a bit queasy.  Needless to say, we didn't eat anything.  I managed to snag a seat on a straw bale half way under an umbrella and sat there, miserable, while Brett checked out the remaining wineries.

By the time we got home, we were toast.  It was all we could do to get the chores done.  I had a bowl of cereal with cold, cold milk for dinner.

Today, was better.  We had a good ride on the horses in the early morning, ran some errands, and then hibernated in the house.  It was another scorcher.  While we were out, we picked up green beans at the farmers market, peaches (a bruised bag for next to nothing) and blackberries.  We found some Copper River salmon at the market.  Dinner was good.

The peach and blackberry cobbler wasn't bad either.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Counter Canter

InterDressage changes the tests that are part of the virtual "show" each month.  Last night the tests for  July were posted.  This gives me about a month to perfect the test.  I like the format -- a different test keeps us from getting bored and focuses us on a different set of skills each month.  Of course, I always start with the basics and don't do anything else unless we are grounded.  The Intermediate test for July includes 10m trot circles (no worries there), walk-canter transitions (we nail that) and counter canter (gulp).

The test requirement is to pick up the canter, half circle at E, return to the rail going the opposite direction and hold the counter canter through the corner, down the short side, through the next corner, and then transition down to trot.  Lucy and I have done some counter canter, but not a lot.  Honestly, we've been focused on canter without tension this past year.  We have that solidly now about 90% of the time.  I've done a bit of counter canter on the long side; going out to the quarter line and then counter canter back to the rail.

I gave the test pattern a try this morning to get a baseline.  I have no expectation of getting this "show-worthy" by July 15, but it will be our focus this next month nonetheless.  We started with the right lead.  Lucy held the counter canter through the first corner, but it was difficult for her.  A stride down the short side and she lost it.  No worries.  All I wanted was try.  We changed direction and picked up the left lead.  She wasn't sure.

This feels wierd.
I know, hang in there.
I want to change.
No, hold it.  You can do it.
Like this?  It still feels strange.
Yes, just like that.  You are the smartest mare ever.
Another corner.  Must concentrate.  Must not break.
You did it Lucy!  You did it!  I am so proud of you!!

We walked around on the buckle for a few minutes and then called it a day.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Two Big Bucks

I read an interesting article the other day about equine meltdowns that made a lot of sense to me.  When horses spook or otherwise have a stress attack, it is often the culmination of many smaller inputs.  Let's call a horses comfort level 50%, with nervous kicking in at 75% and total meltdown when the 100% line is crossed.  The math varies depending on the horse and rider.  Inputs can be positive (feeling GOOOOD) as well as negative.

Scenario One
25% - confused about job
25% - saddle is uncomfortable
25% - rider is strong with hands
25% - it's feeding time
25% - something changed position around the arena (a chair, a jump, a tractor)
Total: 125% = big spook at strange thing in/near the arena

Friday morning, Lucy gave me her own example.  Each of the situations, alone, would be fine.  All together -- not so much.

25% - early morning, cool weather, feeling peppy
25% - did some canter work, Lucy wants to do more, not happy with just trotting
25% - a truck is coming down the gravel/dirt road next to the arena
25% - Mufasa leaves the arena to walk around under the (man-eating) trees
25% - the truck is towing a boat and the trailer is bumping and rattling down the road
Total = Two HUGE bucks.

Fortunately, I was sitting deep and balanced so I didn't loose my seat.  Lucy did her bucking and stopped.  I tried to find the bucking strap while she was bucking but it was buried in her mane.  I thought of Sandy's nickname for the bucking strap.  She was on a horse that started bucking and realized that there was no strap.  She yelled to friend/client/owner/groom (not sure) "Get me a bucking strap!" -- and the person heard "Get me a f*cking strap."  So, as Lucy was bucking, I was thinking "Where's the f*cking strap!"

The truck and boat continued on their way; Brett came back into the arena with Mufasa; and Lucy and did some lovely trot work before calling it a morning.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Random Friday

1.  Lucy and I love to canter and we both like to fly up the long side.  I can only indulge when Lucy is relaxed otherwise it turns into a high-headed careening mess.  Earlier this week, we had a lovely ride.  Lucy was a bit slow in her transitions at the beginning; relaxation wasn't an issue -- she was tired, a bit sore, and not awake.  We're riding a lot more often this month and getting in shape is hard work. We did our warmup and then a bit of canter.  I asked her to extend on the long side; she opened her stride and we flew.  Brett said he could hear me laughing from the other end of the arena where he sat on Mufasa, watching us.  As we approached the corner, I sat tall and engaged my abs -- she came right back into a nice working canter.

2.  Jackson continues to integrate well into the mare's pasture.  Pistol is happy to graze next to Jackson and to engage in mutual grooming sessions.  Lucy tolerates Jackson for the most part but she does feel the need to boss him around on occasion.  We give him a separate pile of hay at feeding time but it can be close to the girls without incident.  Lucy will trade positions with him, just because she can, so at times she is solo at the hay pile and Jackson is at the feeder with Pistol.  The other evening the three of them were together at the feeder for a few minutes.

3.  We had some thunderstorms up in the Sierra this past week which translated to some light rain for us on Tuesday and Wednesday.  It was just enough to dampen the ground; not enough to wash the fences or water the trees.  Nevertheless, we were thankful for the cooler temperatures.  The reprieve was short lived -- we are back to the 90s at home and over 100 in Sacramento (where I work).

4.  The Cuckoo Maran chicks are doing well; eating, drinking, peeping and growing.  We have the brooder box in the hen house and the rest of the chickens are already bored by their presence.  This is good.  We like to introduce new chickens in this way -- so there is no hen-pecking behavior when we turn them loose.  The chicks will be segregated until they have all their feathers and have grown up enough to eat regular food.

5.  I've been alternating between Blue Apron and another, similar, company called Plated.  One of my frustrations with Blue Apron is the lack of flexibility with the menu.  Sometimes, I like two of the menu choices but not the third.  There are a total of six meals available each week.  Unfortunately, the menu composition is pre-set.  So, for instance, if I like meals 1 & 3 but not 2, I can't select meals 1,3 & 4.  Nope, I have go with a different pre-selected menu which seems to always contain 1 OR 3, but not both.  So, I get 1, 4 & 5 or 3, 5 & 6.  1 is always meat, 2 is always poultry, 3 is always fish, 4-6 are vegetarian.  So I end up with either meat or fish and two vegetarian; not meat and fish with one vegetarian which is our preference. Plated lets you select any combination of 8 regular priced meals -- plus two premium chef specials.  Plated is $2 more per plate so it isn't my first choice.  The servings are a bit larger but Blue Apron is plenty large for Brett and I.  I am still primarily ordering Blue Apron -- I usually love the menu -- but its nice to have the option.  Plated sent me some free weeks to give away if anyone wants to give them a try.  My last box contained a tomato that had gotten squished -- they gave me a credit of $8 which I thought was very generous.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

New Digs

Last weekend, Brett and I drove down to Wilton to check out Sandy Savage's new barn.  We were impressed.  We arrived earlier than expected so we parked the car and went to look for Sandy.  A man in a dusty ExxonMobile teeshirt walked up, with coils of pipe over his shoulder and a valve in his hand.  He peered at us from under his baseball hat and introduced himself as Tad, husband of the new barn owner, general construction dude on the weekend, tech exec in SF during the week.  Brett immediately liked him (we both did, but Brett recognized a kindred spirit).  Tad said that his wife rides dressage and had always wanted horse property.  When her favorite horse died (freak pasture accident) he distracted her by offering to look at horse property with her... and here they were, watching the previous owners load up a moving van while they worked on the property.

There are three trainers at the barn (Clay Station Ranch) -- one for eventing, one for a western discipline, and Sandy for dressage.  Tad pointed us in the direction of Sandy's barn, identifying it as barn 5.  We found the barn, and a woman with her horse in the cross-ties.  I had noticed someone riding in the covered arena when we drove in, and here she was.  A hot, sweaty, dusty blond woman with a hot sweaty chestnut.  It was in the low 90s in Wilton on Saturday.  She was a stronger woman (or crazier) than me; I can't ride in that kind of heat.  It turns out she was Tad's wife -- super nice, and friendly.  She heard about Sandy from a friend of hers who rides with Sandy, and was happy to find a good trainer since she was relocating from the Bay area.  Meanwhile, Sandy had heard that Clay Station had changed owners and that the new owner was looking for a resident trainer.  They hit it off and Sandy moved over to be the trainer at Clay Station.  Her barn is already full -- it looks like all her clients and their horses followed her over.

Sandy arrived (at our scheduled meeting time) and gave us a tour.  The new owners put in a beautiful dressage court with felt and sand footing.  Brett and I drooled over that big time.  The court sits on top of a small hill, with a view to forever.  Sandy said that eventually they will plant some trees to provide shade to the court and the pylons had not yet arrived.  Nevertheless, it was a gorgeous court.

 Sandy also gave me a flyer.  She is going to do a series of monthly weekend clincs.  Each clinic will focus on some aspect of training and include private rides with Sandy each day.  The workshops will be limited to six horses.  I am planning to attend the September workshop.

For those local folks (or not so local) who are interested in the workshops, the schedule for 2015 is:

July 10-12 -- Your position affects your horse's movement.  Apply your aids for a harmonious partnership.

Aug 14-16 -- Presenting a test, optimize your warmup, tips for riding a great test.

Sept 25-27 -- Transitions to improve self-carriage and balance

Oct 23-25 -- Dressage is for everyone!  How it can help your trail horse, hunter, event horse, etc.

Nov 20-22 -- Is your half-halt effective?  Explore and demystify.

Here is a link to Sandy's website if you are interested.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Mufasa Spam

Brett took pictures of Mufasa on Sunday.

Mufasa was hanging out in the pasture.

He saw Brett with the camera and came over to investigate.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Remembering Louie

This morning we were up at 5am so we could ride the horses and get chores done before the sun started baking our valley.  After a quick breakfast, Brett took his overnight bag and climbed into his truck to start the seven hour drive to Glendora.  Today marks 20 years since Louie Pompei, a fellow officer at Glendora PD, was killed.

I never met Louie (his time at the police department was during the period Brett and I were not in contact) but I've heard a lot about him over the years.  Brett was Louie's training officer and they became good friends.  Brett thought the world of Louie; he was a good officer, a good friend, and a good person.  Louie was always willing to help; he was friendly and outgoing and fun; he was engaged to be married.

Louie was killed in a robbery.  He was on his way home from work, off duty, and stopped at the grocery store.  The robbery went down while he was in the store.  The robber started to pistol-whip the clerk and Louie intervened.  Unfortunately, the robber was not alone.  He had an accomplice who was also in the store -- and who shot Louie.  Brett told me that Louie managed to get off five rounds, injuring both robbers, before he died.  They were arrested when they presented at a local hospital ER for treatment.

When Brett and I got back together, one of our first trips was back east to see the Amish country in Pennsylvania and to explore the East coast.  Our first stop in Pennsylvania was the small mining town where Louie was born and raised.  We visited Louie's grave and Brett left a Glendora PD t-shirt on the grave.

A small group of officers is back in Pennsylvania today, including the Chief at Glendora who, back then, was one of the regular guys who formed Louie's group of friends.  Brett is attending a large memorial celebration at at the Pompei Memorial Park in Glendora.  He carries Louie in his heart, always, but wanted to be part of the larger commemoration today.

Monday, June 8, 2015

A Winston Update

I see updates and photos periodically on FB of Winston and his new owner, Nicole.  They were in a show this past weekend.  I love this picture of them.

They did great.  Nicole posted that they cleaned up with scores in the upper 60s and low 70s.  Four blue ribbons.

I asked her if I could post an update and use her picture.  This is what she had to say:

"Today, we rode training levels 2 and 3 because I wanted to qualify for a lower level in junior championships.  He is definitely an "appy," with many of his antics present, but when he wants to be good, he is amazing.  I've never been happier than I am now.  Next year, he'll be moving up the levels and hopefully be starting 2nd level by the end of 2016."

Is that awesome or what?!  It was hard for me to reach the decision to sell Winston.  He was truly amazing when he was good.  But, I couldn't handle the appy-tude.  I'm glad he and Nicole found each other, that they have a great trainer, and that they are doing so well.

Happy trails Nicole and Winston!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Take Two

This morning I was up early to ride Lucy.  Brett offered to video tape the test for me if I decided to give it a shot.  He was sore and thought he should take the day off.  He has issues with his back and it is better if he doesn't push it.  I'm glad he's learning to listen to his aches and pains -- and just give it a rest.

Lucy and I started with a lot of walk work and then moved into trot.  She was stretching down into the bridle well and was relaxed.  Next we did transition work to keep her light on the aids.  We are working on transitions from thought so the aid is super light.  Her walk-canter transitions were especially lovely.  I signaled the camera man and headed down center line.

Lucy was great.  I was relaxed (which is HUGE for me).  Sure, there were mistakes but it was the best test I've ridden on her.  We nailed the geometry -- other than not being straight on our last trip down center line.  One of her transitions from canter to trot was a bit more prompt than I expected and I fell forward a bit.  Her head popped up here and there.  But, in general, she carried herself in a lovely frame, was prompt, and relaxed.

After I put Lucy away, I tried to play the video back on the camera and couldn't find it.  I blinked a few times, swallowed, and started doing chores.  Brett said the video light was on, but he didn't change the setting from "photo" to "video."  It's a new camera and we are still getting used to it.  He was more upset than me; thinking he had let me down.  After the initial disappointment, I realized that the important thing was that Lucy and I had done the test, and done it well.  We have a few weeks until the entries close.  I could get up early tomorrow and Brett could tape me before I go to work.  I would look at it as a two day show -- with the first day behind us and another chance tomorrow.

Back in the house, I downloaded pictures from the camera.  Brett took a bunch of pictures of Mufasa while I was warming up.  Lo, and behold, there was the video.

I sent in my Interdressage entry form.  I uploaded my video following the instructions on my confirmation email.  Entries close the last week of the month and results will be posted the first week of July.  I think that's how it works anyway.  I'll post the video to the blog when I get the results.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Random Friday

1.  I rode Lucy early this morning, before sunup, and she was lovely.  Lovely, lovely Lucy.  I don't know if it was the cool morning air, whether her hormones were settled, or whether it was in response to our last ride (which neither of us enjoyed).  I suspect it was a combination of all three.  Lucy was very forward, very light, but also relaxed and obedient.  Her canter was powerful, but controlled and round.  She extended in trot on the diagonal and her transitions were like glass.  Honestly, I think it was the best ride I've had on her -- ever.  EVER.

2.  After our ride, I halted in the middle of the arena and leaned forward onto her neck.  I reached my arms down, in a kind of hug, and scratched her at the base of her neck, where it meets her chest.  It's Lucy's favorite spot.  I rubbed the tips of my fingers in circles, and then up and down the crease at the base of her neck.  Lucy stretched her neck, lifted her nose to the sky, closed her eyes and twitched her lips in pleasure.

3.  Back at the tie rail, I slipped the bridle off over Lucy's ears and she gently dropped the bit.  She turned to me and dropped her head into my arms.  I scratched and rubbed both sides of her face while she rested her forehead on my chest.

4.  I slipped off the saddle and her protective boots, gave her a quick curry and brushing and then used my fleecy mitt to rub coat conditioner/fly repellent onto her body.  She stood with a hind leg cocked and her eyes half closed.  I led her back to her pasture where she dropped her head for me to slip off the halter.  I gave her a cookie and then put on her fly mask.  She nickered softly. I gave her another cookie.  She stayed until I opened the gate and left.  I put away my tack and headed into the house to get ready for work.  It was 6:45.

5.  At 8am, I parked my car at worked and walked into the building.  My step was light and I felt like singing -- something like "zip-a-dee doo dah zip-a-dee ay, my oh my, what a wonderful day."

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

We Flunked the Test

Remember how awesome Lucy was on Sunday when I rode?  We ran through the test and pretty much nailed it.  It went so well that Brett said he would video my ride tonight after work.  I wore a green shirt to match Lucy's over-reach boots and used my saddle pad trimmed with green.  We were stylin'.  If I enter the Interdressage show I will need to send a video of us riding the test.

Problem was, Lucy is in heat.  She dozed at the tie rail and it was work to get her forward in the arena.  She preferred to amble and self-selected downward transitions.  When she woke up, she was in a grumpy mood.  Obedient?  Relaxed?  Harmonious?  Ha!  Lucy tossed her mane, swished her tail, farted -- a lot, and alternated between charging forward and sucking back.  Oy.

I rode the test just for the heck of it.  We were a total fail; careening up centerline, sliding sideways, and halting with Lucy's head in the air.  It didn't improve from there.

The thing with Lucy is that she has very good days and very not-so-good days.  I knew this when I bought her.  Sandy told me that some days we would have great canter work and some days Lucy wouldn't be able to settle.  I needed to be ready to change the game plan.  When Lucy has a bad day, I typically just ride until she relaxes and then call it quits.  No canter work, just trot.

After riding bombing the test, I worked with Lucy at trot until she relaxed.  Then I started the test again.  She still wasn't there.  I'm sure, too, that I was a bit frustrated and that she felt tension in me.  I let the goal of riding the test well get in the way of just focusing on Lucy and helping her relax.

We have a lot more work to do.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Self Control

Saturday morning we went to Tractor Supply to buy a bag of horse treats.  Outside the front of the store, a dairy goat breeder had set up a pen with La Manchas and Nubians.  They were sooooo cute.  But we were good; we successfully resisted the urge to bring one home.

Sunday, we went to the feed store.  As we stood in line to return our storage container (bought one, then found an extra in the barn), we overheard the people in front of us asking questions about the baby chicks they were buying.

Baby chicks!  When our turn came, I asked what breeds they had.  There was quite a list; including Cuckoo Marans.  We were sunk.  Brett knows how much I love that breed and the beautiful chocolate brown eggs they lay.

He looked at me, his blue eyes glinting with laughter,  and said, "How many are we getting?"
"That was my thought too."

We put them in a cat carrier, in the hen house, for the time being.  Today, after work, my co-worker dropped off our chick breeder that he borrowed earlier this spring.

We named them all Camille -- because we bought them on Camille's birthday.  And, she's okay with that.  Camille 1, Camille 2 and Camille 3.

Monday, June 1, 2015

More Masterson

Every few weeks, I complete a lesson in my Masterson body work course.  I like to give myself ample time between lessons so I have time to practice each release multiple times.

This weekend I completed the lesson on poll release and massage.  I knew it would be challenging with Lucy.  She hates to have her ears touched or her face fussed with.  She does, however, like to rest her head in my arms.  I was curious to see how it would go.

Most of the time, I do body work in the pasture.  Sunday, I thought I would take Lucy into the barn and work with her in her stall.  The barn was much cooler than the pasture and there weren't flies.  Initially, Lucy was thrilled to go into her stall.  She drank in the cool fly-fee air, sniffed at the shavings, and then realized she was alone.  Her head flew into the air, "Where is everyone??!"  She paced, and circled, spinning in place.  I waited.

Lucy, Lucy, you are not alone.  I'm right here.
I know, but OMG, there are no other horses in here!
Lucy, look at you.  You are starting to sweat.  Let's do the kidney meridian and take the pressure down.
It won't work.  I'm stressed I tell you.  STRESSED.   Oh, okay.  Ahhhhh.... keep going.... are you done already?

Next we did some neck flexion.  Lucy rocks neck flexion.  She tries to skip the lower neck release and go straight to the final stretch.
Look at me stretch to my flank.  Aren't you impressed?
She doesn't get to skip/avoid the more difficult (for her) lower neck release. We went back and did that.

Last, we tried the new stuff.
She reluctantly dropped her head but the second I started massaging her poll, she flung it back up.
Don't touch me there.  Ever!
I rested my hand lightly, skipped the massage, and got the release.  It is going to take some time and work to get Lucy comfortable with that exercise.
The last release involved getting Lucy to relax her head into either the crook of my elbow or on my shoulder.  Then, massage and release.  She didn't like having her head on my shoulder but she did relax into the crook of my arm and close her eyes.  Not for long, mind you.  But long enough to get a big release.

I took her back to the pasture where she promptly rolled.

Brett has started the course as well.  We think the work will be very beneficial for Mufasa.

I worked a bit with Jackson in the pasture later in the evening.  He thunked his head on my shoulder, let it go heavy and closed his eyes.  Every horse reacts differently.  That's part of the fun, challenge and satisfaction.