Thursday, April 27, 2017

A Change for the Better

Those of you readers with horses know its dang hard to find, and keep, a good farrier.  Especially when you live in the sticks.
The guys were back to mill the oak some more, last Saturday.
Up here, at Oak Creek, we have been using a farrier who was recommended to us when we moved in.  He worked at some of the larger barns in the area and, when I mentioned his name, locals would nod and say he was good.  And he was.  I liked how he handled the horses, with kindness, and they all did well.  He and Brett became good friends.  Over time, though, there was a change.  He was in a lot of pain while he worked (he isn't young and shoeing horses is hard, hard work).  The last time he came out, I was pretty unhappy but ... he and Brett are friends and he was the best in the area ... so I felt stuck.  I thought maybe my expectations were too high, considering that we don't live in an area with big fancy show barns and the hot-shot farriers they attract.
They are getting some gorgeous planks of wood from that tree
A couple of weeks ago, that farrier left a message.  He said that he had recently had knee replacement surgery and wouldn't be able to come out.  He called the day before he was due to come.  And the horses were already ridiculously long.  Brett's feelings were hurt at the short no notice and I was angry.  And I was a bit panicked.  Brett called a couple farriers but they were already booked solid.

My solution?  Contact a local fellow blogger, Elinor, who boards her horse close to our ranch.  She recommended the farrier that comes to that barn, and when she gave me his name, I had to laugh.  It was the same farrier that worked on Lucy and Winston when they were in training at Sandy's barn, over an hour away.  I said, "he isn't going to come all the way up here" but she thought he might be able to work us in, on the same day he comes to her barn.  He wasn't able to work us in, but he did recommend that we use his apprentice.  So we did.
Brett and the tree guy's ten year old son worked on knocking down fence.
The guy is local.
He is young and strong.
He graduated from farrier school two years ago and has been apprenticing since then with Sandy's farrier -- who is awesome.
He has experience working with vets and complicated issues.
He is passionate about his work.
He is currently applying for some advanced certifications around complicated cases.

He spent a long time with Jackson.  He took off a good amount and re-balanced him all the way around.  He didn't work for more than a few minutes on any one hoof, rotating around from foot to foot so Jackson wouldn't have to stand three legged on his tender feet for longer than necessary.  After he finished, Jackson immediately walked like a different horse -- and (see my last post) was able to do much more than his usual slow, careful walk.

He was very good with Tex; making friends and honoring Tex's insecurities.

Lucy was pretty straightforward.  He changed her shoes to be more consistent with dressage work. When Lucy went in for her stifle injections on Tuesday, our super amazing sport horse specialist said that she knew who he was, has seen his work, and likes him.

He tried to work on Finessa but said that he wasn't comfortable doing much without a vet evaluation.  She's got evidence of founder (she's got a long history of that) in three of her four feet and there are empty spaces and dead spaces and ... well, she's a mess.  We have scheduled an appointment for her. I was so embarrassed, and mad at myself, for not insisting on more regular trims for her.

Live and learn, right?

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Love and Marriage, Love and Marriage

You know the tune; sing along as I tell the story of Jackson and Pistol.

The sun was shining on the weekend, and Jackson is now under the careful care of our new (awesome) farrier.  He's feeling great, walking great, and ready to rock and roll.  I moved him into the arena/paddock with Lucy and Pistol.  He immediately rolled, then did airs above ground, a few rodeo bronc bucks, and a lovely elevated trot.

Oh, my.  Said Pistol (who is in heat).

Lucy acted as chaperone but when I worked with her Saturday, Pistol and Jackson were left alone together.

Pistol has been married a few, ahem, times.  She's been bred and had a baby and knows the drill.

Jackson was gelded at a young age (I assume).  He was interested but confused.

They touched noses, nuzzled each other, and Jackson went so far as to grab the crest of her neck.  Pistol lifted her tail and parked herself.  I'm ready, big boy.

Jackson just stood there so she carefully backed herself up, until her butt was on Jackson's chest and her tail was up his nose.

He looked at me with a mix of utter confusion and, dare I say, boredom.

Of course, as soon as I put Lucy back in the arena, she broke it up.  I think Jackson was secretly relieved.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Re-evaluating Lucy

When Lucy had her hocks injected in February, her vet said to bring her back in 30 days if I noticed a lack of impulsion.  Last time Lucy had injections, we did one hock and one stifle.  This time, she needed both hocks done and we felt doing the stifles at the same time would be a bit much.

I've been working Lucy in the Pessoa during the week and riding on the weekend.  My goal has been 3 Pessoa sessions and two riding.  Of course, with all the rain (and snow) we had in March and early April, we rarely achieved that goal.  So, we've been working when we can and making good progress.

Except that Lucy is still dragging her hind toes.  And she still looks a bit uncomfortable at canter, particularly to the left.  We had a new farrier come last week (more on that in another post), and I was hopeful that after he trimmed her rather long toes, she wouldn't drag them anymore.  No such luck.

She has an appointment on Tuesday for a re-check.  I'm anticipating that at least one stifle will be injected.

Other than that, she has been just wonderful.  She is getting her muscle back and her coat shines in the sun.  This morning when Brett and I rode, she was stellar.  We rode in the dressage court and she was completely relaxed (except for one small slide sideways when Kersey jumped in the stream).  She was also happy, forward and energetic.  We worked for 20 minutes at trot -- stretching, leg yield, shoulder in -- and she stayed forward the whole time.

Lucy, you're the best!
 Aw, shucks.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Kersey and Rosie

We celebrated Easter with family and friends.  The friends brought their dog, Rosie, along.  She's a nine month old labradoodle who lives in the suburbs.

She couldn't figure out the horses.

And the donkeys weren't too impressed with her.  Imagine lots of barking and braying going on.

Her favorite, though, was playing in the water.

Kersey showed her all the best places in the stream.

Rosie went from fluff ball to... soggy.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Trolls? What Trolls?

Lucy and I made a lot of progress during the two weeks of sunshine we enjoyed until this past Thursday.  From Thursday until Saturday afternoon, we had rain.  The temperature dropped each day, with a hail storm Friday night and snow on Saturday.

Thankfully, the snow didn't stay more than a couple of hours.  The gate latches were all frozen shut this morning and the ground was white - but from frost, not snow.  I'm hoping that the fruit trees are okay since they started blossoming about a week ago.

But, back to the sunshine.  I've been working Lucy in the Pessoa two or three evenings after work and then riding her on the weekend.  She's moving well and getting stronger.  We did a lot of sustained canter last Monday, and then on Wednesday she was pretty sluggish.  I asked for a couple transitions, which were nicely done, and then we went back to trot.

When we lunge, and the last few times we rode, we've been using the dressage court.  The footing is better there and I want Lucy to be relaxed there when we ride.  I noticed this past week that she has been favoring working up at the top of the arena where the sand isn't quite so deep (its all washing down to the bottom of the court).  This is also where the trolls live.

Initially, I worked her up there in the hopes that she would relax and not worry so much.  And then on Monday, when we were doing all the canter work, I let her pick where in the court she wanted her circles.  She clearly preferred troll corner.

Either the trolls are on vacation or she has decided that deep sand, and the harder work that goes with it, is a greater evil than trolls.  I'm guessing it has more to do with the footing, than the trolls.  Silly mare.

Friday, April 7, 2017

The Bridge

There are a number of small streams running through our property.  We live at the bottom of a small valley, that opens out to a larger valley (Pleasant Valley), that is connected to a series of valleys marching down the Sierra Nevada mountains to the Sacramento valley.  We are situated at the very back-end of our valley, with steep hillside on both sides and the back.  All of our streams meet at the front of our property, where they merge, flow under our road and continue on to join the Cosumnes River.  Which is impossible to pronounce.  (I tell myself that it rhymes with "go sum this")

The largest of the streams runs the whole length of our property, entering at the back of the Back 40 pasture, running alongside the dressage court, down past the chicken pen, my garden, the house and the next to the girls' pasture fence before going under the front fence, making a hard left, flowing under our driveway (or over it) and merging with the other streams.  Just before the stream reaches the chicken pen, it passes under a bridge that crosses over to the girls' pasture and the compost piles.  When we moved in, it was in decent shape; wide enough to drive the tractor across and sturdy.

Since then, its been steadily eroding.  Ground squirrels have been excavating the top and sides.  And, we had a bit of flooding action going on this past February.

The bridge had never been quite wide enough to drive a truck across comfortably.  After this winter, driving anything but the tractor across was flat out impossible.  And to make matters worse, there were huge holes in the top, initially dug by squirrels, but enlarged by the exceptional amount of rain we have had this winter.  It made me nervous, walking Lucy and Pistol across.  It felt like crossing a mine field.  It needed to be replaced.

Brett doesn't do a half-way job with anything.  He builds beautiful and sturdy structures.  After countless sleepless nights, where he tormented himself with different designs and calculations, he got to work.

I think its pretty dang impressive myself.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Wednesdays with Tex: The Back 40

There is a large pasture at the very back of our property, behind the dressage court, that we refer to as "the back 40."  We don't use it a whole lot because it is a long walk back there and because the fencing isn't the greatest.  In fact, it is quite low in a few spots -- so low that Flash, arthritis and all, jumped out a few years ago when he was up there alone.  So, we never put a horse up there without a buddy and only for a few hours at a time, when we are home to supervise.

Sunday, after Lucy and Pistol had their turn up there, we brought Tex and Flash up to spend a few hours grazing under the oaks.  Jackson didn't get a turn -- the ground is muddy in that pasture and Jackson needs to stay on dry ground.  I did let him out to graze around the barn, where its dry.

On the way up to the pasture, both Tex and Flash were excited.  Tex walked fast and, as we rounded the corner to walk past the dressage court, he started licking his lips.  Man, that grass looks good. Tex was also leaning into me, the way a young horse will, for security.  I asked him to knock it off, to walk like a man grown up gelding.

Once in the pasture, Flash immediately dropped his nose and started grazing.

Tex felt the need to run around a bit.  I just love his flowing mane and burnished chestnut coat -- even when he's dirty and shedding.

Tex approaches life with gusto; whether he's eating, or rolling, or playing, or grazing.

A few hours later, we trudged up to the Back 40 to bring them back to their regular pasture.  Flash stood by the gate while Brett slipped on his halter.  Tex stood a few feet away from me, thinking about leaving.  Long time readers may remember that, in past years, it has taken upwards of an hour to catch Tex in the Back 40.  Tex remembered, too.

Brett looked at me.

"You can go ahead and leave," I said.  "You're tired and I can deal with this boy."  Brett nodded and opened the gate.  Tex watched them go, with his head high.  Then he looked at me.  Then back at Flash's quickly retreating butt.

I didn't move.

After a few minutes, he dropped his head and walked to me.  I gave him a cookie and then scratched him on the withers and on his back.  Goodness, you're shedding. The halter and lead rope remained hanging on my shoulder.

Then I walked away; away from Tex and away from the gate.  I turned to face him, and called him to me using our signal from liberty work.  He came right over.  Again, a cookie and a back rub.  Eventually, I took the halter from my shoulder, undid the buckle, and stood holding the buckle strap at the top of his neck with the nose just below his.  In less than a minute, he dropped his nose into the halter and I buckled it.

Then we walked calmly down to the barn where I gave him a good grooming before turning him back out in his pasture with Flash.

Another milestone for my big red horse.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

New Helmet

My helmet has been due for replacement for, well, a few years.  Okay, maybe more than a few years.

Helmets are supposed to be replaced every five years, if there is no damage to them in the meantime.  I bought my last helmet before I bought Winston, so it was well over five years old.

But, if you come off your horse and your helmet gets banged, you are supposed to replace it immediately -- even if you can't see any damage.  The internal structure may be compromised, rendering the helmet less effective.  I came off of Winston a few times, and there is a big gash on the side of the helmet from one of those unplanned dismounts.  I sold Winston a few years ago.... but I kept riding in the same helmet.  I know that I'm way overdue for a new helmet.

Not that I haven't been looking.  Sort of.  The thing is, most helmets are not comfortable on my head.  This is true of bicycle helmets and motorcycle helmets too.  My head does not like helmets.  And, then, there is the whole style thing.  The helmets that were comfortable were ugly.  The cute ones weren't comfortable. And, the gorgeous ones were way out of my price range so I didn't even try them.

But I watch others at clinics and on YouTube videos and just drool.  I have particularly suffered from helmet envy with my trainer.  Sandy has a beautiful helmet.

After years of internal debate, I gave in and bought myself a drool-worthy helmet for my birthday.  It came last night.  I wore it all over the house.  Brett threatened to take a picture of me cooking dinner while wearing my new helmet.  Its super comfortable and is, I think, worthy of wearing when riding a princess mare.  I thought about getting the one with crystals, but I'm not a bling sort of girl.  I choose the classic model.

Samshield Shadowmatt 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Queen Lucina

Lucy is always royalty.  Most of the time she is Princess Lucy; high spirited, overly ambitious, demanding of attention, and prone to dramatic outbursts.  Sunday she was a queen.

Brett and I rode mid-morning when it was warm but not hot.  Lucy was in a mellow mood.  We rode up in the dressage court and she wasn't in the least bit worried about trolls.  We worked deep in the corners, even the troll corner.

She carried herself beautifully.  Her transitions were prompt and forward.  We didn't do any canter work.  We have more work to do in the Pessoa before we canter; although I could feel that Lucy would have been willing to go there today.

She still bucks a bit in canter with the Pessoa; but its more about irritation with the equipment (and working at dinner time) than about discomfort.  I have noticed that she immediately goes to a long, relaxed frame now, when I ride.  The Pessoa has been wonderful for conditioning her.  In the Pessoa, after our trot warm up, she is now working on trot- canter transitions, spending 30 seconds in each gait.

Last week, while we were working in the Pessoa after I got home from work, she was in a princess mood.  Kersey sat in the center with me for a few minutes while I lunged Lucy, and then Kersey wandered over to the stream to go for a swim.  Lucy watched her go, watched her swim, and watched her shake herself out.  She watched and bucked and threw a fit.  She wasn't scared, she was looking for an excuse to complain. I simply sent her forward.  It's better that Lucy pitches a fit about Kersey swimming while on the lunge, than while I am on her back.

Sunday there wasn't a hint of attitude anywhere.  After we rode, we let Pistol and Lucy graze in the upper pasture for a few hours.

It was a very good Lucy day.