Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Can You Count the Flaws in My Plan?

Wednesday was Red's day to go out.  Kelso ran the 8 miles I did on Rhio on Tuesday and was a little sore, so although he needed some exercise for the day, I didn't think another long run would be the best thing for him.  I haven't been jogging in a couple of weeks because my cold had settled in my chest and I've been toting around a nasty cough for a while now.  I devised a plan, the wisdom of which I will leave up to you to judge, which would allow me to jog, exercise Kelso, and ride Red in a seemingly efficient manner.  Although it is light until after 7:30 these days, with temps only in the low 40s during the warmest part of the day, it starts getting mighty chilly as sunset approaches.  My plan was to take maximum advantage of the warmest, sunniest hours of the afternoon, and multitask.

The Plan, Step #1

I dressed in riding attire plus running shoes, grabbed my iPod, corralled the excess canines who would not be accompanying me on the 1 mile trip to Red's barn, and set off on my jog.  The first bump in the road was Bowser.  Bowser the hound who would not stay at home on the farm with Becca, but kept following me & Kelso down the road.  After attempting to return him to the farm three times, I finally just texted Becca that he was with me & she could pick him up at Red's barn on her way home and kept on going.  He was well behaved and we made it to Red's barn without incident.

The Plan, Step #2

Shortly after arriving at Red's barn, Becca stopped in and picked up the wayward hound.  I grabbed Red's halter and went to the gate, then realized that running shoes are nearly the worst possible footwear for catching a horse in a paddock that consists of a gooey mixture of mud, manure, and hay coating an icy base.  No matter, I thought - Red is easy to catch and frequently will meet me at the gate.  Well, no such luck! This time he decided to play hard to get, and after a few minutes of tip-toeing through the muck trying to keep my feet somewhat dry while still putting the pressure on him so that he would give up the foolish & doomed fight, I gave up the pretext of white running shoes and just slogged away.  [side note here: even after a thorough shower, my toenails are still rimmed in grime!  I'm going to have to soak  my feet to get them clean...and don't even ask about the state of my running shoes.]  All the other horses in the group were "helping," and finally Dave offered some assistance.  About the same instant, Red quit his shenanigans and allowed me to walk right up to him.  Needless to say, he did NOT get a bite of the oats Dave brought out to entice the rest of the herd to abandon the fun game we were playing.

The Plan, Step #3

Red, Kelso, and I set off for home at a jog, and Red took no encouragement at all to trot along at my shoulder.  Good boy!  I could tell by the sound of his hoofbeats, however, that his hocks were bothering him.  He has degenerative joint disease (arthritis) in his hocks, and gets them injected in the spring.  This will be the third year I've had to inject him, and so far a single injection in the spring lasts the entire riding season.  Usually, his lameness is mild enough that he willingly goes out for moderate rides and I know the exercise is good for him.  So, yes, I know I was going to be riding a lame horse, but he is no more lame after a ride than before, and I have the medications ordered to do his hock injections.

The Plan, Step #4

At the barn, I tack Red up, switch to my boots for riding, and grab my helmet.  We're off, leaving Kelso at home, and head down the road.  Red is somewhat reluctant to go, but willing to trot.  The trot is way off, however, and feels terrible to ride.  The day is so nice, and he needs to get out, so we continue with our planned 4 mile route, doing most of it at a walk and enjoying ourselves.  Red is spooking at all the little things, par for the course with him, and when we return I have Kristi trot him for me so I can do flexion tests and confirm that it is both of his hocks that are bothering him.  I get him started on his spring course of Adequan, give him a snack with a little Bute powder hidden in senior feed, and quickly get the other horses fed their grain.  Now, since I don't have a car at Red's barn to get home, my original plan was to ride him all the way there, then walk home.  However, since he was pretty significantly lame, it was later than I intended when we got back, and I had to feed all the horses here by myself.

The Plan, Step #5

In order to get Red home before dark, but get myself back here before dark to do hay as well, I enlisted Kristi's help once again.  This time, we ponied Red home via car.  Yep, if you saw what seemed to be a car driving slowly down the road with a horse trotting along on the shoulder, that is exactly what it was.  Red was a good boy, and obviously anxious to get home, since he set a 13 mph - 15 mph pace.  All went smoothly... until about 100 yards from his driveway, when he spooked and bolted across the road (at nothing, I'm quite sure).  Thank goodness we have such a quiet road!  All was well, no catastrophes, and Kristi handwalked him the last little bit to his barn.  He was quite happy to get in his stall to his oats, and we made it home in time to finish feeding before full dark.

So, if you've been keeping count of the flaws in my plan, I came up with about 4, but your definition of a flaw and mine may not be the same.  Regardless, life with horses is never boring!

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Today Rhio & I were gifted a training session with Abby.  Other than the despooking clinic we attended in April 2010, we have never had any formal instruction as a team.  And it probably shows!  I know I have acquired some bad habits as a rider, but I think mostly the way I ride works for my horses, and they do their jobs well.  It's when I attempt to do something other than move down the trail in a (relatively) straight line that we begin to run into issues.  Rhio and I have been working in the arena this winter, and it's become clear to me that he has problems disengaging or moving his front end freely, especially on the right.  Even from the ground, I can't get him to yield his forequarters to me and move away from pressure. (A digression for my non-horsey readers: by pressure, I mean asking him to give ground to me when I use either body language, or a visual cue like shaking a rope or whip at him.  He should step away from me when I ask him to.  It is not a physical pressure, like pressing on him with my hand would be.)  He also doesn't bend to the right, and can't hold himself on a circle to the right, but drops his right shoulder and "falls" into the circle. And, he has never picked up the right lead in the canter; even on the trail we always canter on the left lead.   So, I know what our problem areas are, but I haven't been able to figure out how to improve them.  We've essentially gone nowhere with the things I've tried.  And just let me say, I am NOT a trainer and have zero experience in this department of improving my horse's use of his body.

So, Abby began by doing some ground work with Rhio.  She immediately saw all the issues I'd described (whew! it's a relief to have someone else see the things I'm trying to describe as problems, and be able to pinpoint and refine them more than I am able to) and started asking Rhio to move his front end away from her.  He didn't get it at first, but eventually Abby had him moving more freely and correctly.  He also demonstrated his dislike of having people on his right side.  He uses his head & neck to block you from being on his right, and will move to place you on his left where he is more comfortable.  We speculated a lot about his early training (all I know is he had "90 days" on him at some point, and that the trainer was a man, and rode Western), and we are pretty sure he was never taught to be comfortable with people on his right side.  (Another digression: by convention, we do most horse handling from the left side.  One explanation I've heard for this is that when sword-carrying military types would use horses and had their swords on their left hip, they had to mount on the left to avoid poking their horse with the sword.  At any rate, horses' brains are set up such that they need to learn everything twice - once on the left and once on the right.  They do not extrapolate lessons learned on one side to the other side.  So, it is very important to do everything from both sides of your horse, including leading, saddling, mounting, dismounting, and all the movements we ask our horses to do while being ridden.)

Rhio is a very smart and sensitive horse, and he learned well how to give a desired reaction to a certain stimulus but it seems he wasn't given the opportunity to learn to do the right thing with correct body movement.  He's sort of in self-preservation mode.  He really doesn't like pressure of any kind, and needs to be given the chance to understand what you're asking of him.  If you let him think about it and understand, he really does want to comply.  If you just keep putting pressure on him, he mentally shuts down and "freezes." If you continue with the pressure, he brings out his avoidance behaviors, which include bucking (under saddle) and rearing (if I'm working him in-hand).  He wants to please, he just doesn't always know how and then he gets scared (though, as Abby pointed out, he pretends that he's not scared and acts all tough & confident, when really he's neither of those things!).

Abby observed that he is not using the right side of his body much at all, is very "locked up" on the right, and out of balance.  He doesn't canter correctly to the right even when he's doing it on his own.  As she says, he's afraid to use the right side of his body and he thinks he can't.  I need to teach him that he can, and put him into situations where he has to move correctly and balance himself.

After the ground work, I mounted up to continue his lessons under saddle.  This was great because now I am beginning to know what it feels like when he does it correctly (lifts his ribcage so that he can step under himself with his hind leg and lift the shoulder at the same time) and I have a few new tools to get him to do these things.  He and I were both thinking a lot and I think he was a bit ahead of me at times!  I was trying to coordinate all my aids plus pay attention to him so I could release pressure at the right moment to reward him for doing it right - whew! We definitely need to practice.  But we did make some significant improvements, I think, and the most important of these was having Abby show us exactly what the problem was and teach us a few tools to correct it.

Stay tuned for further progress reports!  I hope to have Abby back to help us again in the future.

Thanks, Abby, for a great session today - we both learned a lot.  And a big thank you to Gesa for giving me this session with Abby - what a generous, thoughtful, and completely unexpected gift!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Happy Birthday Cricket

Cricket is 29 years young today, and I have had the privilege to have him in my life for the past 6 years.  This horse is worth his weight in gold, so I decided to have a little fun with his birthday photo and show him in the golden light he should always be bathed in.  His treat for the day was a bag of baby carrots all to himself (though he did share just a few with his buddies), and his present is going to be a new rain sheet (which I haven't ordered yet).  

Hanging with his buddies in the sunshine.

What a handsome boy! 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Three-Dog Ride

As I sit here listening to the winds howl, with the hatches securely battened down and supplies laid in, (we are under a blizzard warning, as winter storm "Jakob" is about to dump up to 18" of heavy, wet snow on us with sustained 40mph - 50mph winds), I think back fondly to Saturday, just three days ago, when the sun was shining, the wind was calm, and the temperature was in the 40s, and I (with Red) spent a lovely couple of hours riding down the road with Becca (Kaos) & Karen (Duke).  And with Bowser, Roxi, and Kelso.

The main event of the day was trying to shepherd the dogs in a safe & calm manner down the road with the horses.  Kelso, the eldest at 7, and by far the most experienced at running with the horses, also is the dog who can't be bothered to care about what the other two were doing and made it clear to Roxi that he didn't want her near him.  So much for leading by example and letting the other dogs learn the ropes by following him!  Bowser has some experience with the horses and being on the road, but he is a hound and is therefore by definition exceedingly easily distracted by his nose.  Becca keeps a shock collar on him for quick reminders, and generally he does very well.  Roxi is the puppy, an exuberant Boxer with an enthusiasm for everything that wears the rest of us out.  She is well known around the barn for swinging from Duke's tail while he trots around the arena (he does not appear to notice her hanging there), but she's never gone on a trail ride down the road before.

I had a nasty cold complete with muzzy head, delayed thought processes, and slow reflexes.  I really probably should have been in bed.  But the weather!  Oh, the weather was so glorious!  Like I've said before, I don't always make the soundest decisions when I have the opportunity to ride :)

We found our first challenge to be getting forward motion out of all the four-legged critters at the same time and in the same direction.  Roxi tried her trick of hanging on Duke's tail, but then would see one of the other dogs running past or sniffing something, and would dash over to investigate.  Kelso growled at her, but Bowser allowed her to body-slam him repeatedly in her attempts to play, just looking forlornly up at Becca with an expression that said "Why me?!?".  He'd swerve, duck, change direction, and circle around behind us in his attempt to dodge her full-contact mode of interaction.  She'd go back to lunging for Duke's tail, or even nipping at his nose.  It didn't take her long to realize there were two other "big dogs" for her to play with, and she started trying to grab Red's and Kaos' tails as well.  She was having such puppy fun that she completely ignored Karen's attempts to direct her into good behavior, but thankfully Red & Kaos did not kick her and didn't even seem particularly bothered by her at their heels.

At the same time, Kaos was quite enjoying Red's company and forcing Becca to work pretty hard to keep her moving down the road instead of sideways into us in her attempts to sidle up to my handsome boy.  Silly mare.  Duke, huge but often afraid of everything, was leading the group with his long stride and appeared fully confident - until we saw the cows.  They are the pair of yearling black calves that have lived in the pasture next to him since summer, but they are now at the neighbor's house down the road because they kept getting out of our fence.  And they were standing in the trees along the fenceline, back from the road.  All three horses turned to stare at them; Red was easily convinced they were nothing to fear, Kaos seriously thought about running over there to chase them, and Duke was trembling in his boots, never mind that he towers over them and outweighs them put together by at least double.

Our second challenge was crossing the paved road.  I did not have my usual string stashed in my saddle bags, which I use for crossing busy roads with Kelso (loop it through his collar like a leash) and Roxi was showing no signs of listening to Karen & waiting for us to give the all clear.  Becca & Karen both dismounted for safety, and the whole group crossed uneventfully.  It's a good thing Karen has long legs, because even with a slight ditch to put him in, it's a LONG way up there to Duke's back!  With everyone situated again, we continued on in the same fashion with the horses behaving very well and the dogs behaving as well as their individual ages, personalities, and states of mind would allow.   We ended up doing about 7 - 8 miles, including the closed portion of the road which is snow-covered, and using the old Thoroughbred breeding farm as a turn-around spot (with much discussion on how sad it was to see such a nice facility sit empty).

Of course, as soon as we turned for home, Red took over the lead and started to prance, jig, snort, pull, twitch his tail, and flip his nose in an attempt to get me to let him move out.  Oh, he's fun when he is all "up" like that!  I'm very bad, because I know I've kind of trained him to do that, by allowing the antics and then allowing the racing home.  It's our normal routine when we ride out alone - I can't help but let him do it because it's so fun and he's not dangerous when he does it.  But it is exceedingly bad form on a group trail ride when the whole group doesn't want to race!  Kaos was also fired up and wanting to run, and of course Duke had to join in the mental craziness, too.  With everyone starting to act up a bit, we had to dial it back a few notches and resume our former order with Duke leading, Kaos in the middle, and Red bringing up the rear.  Red was not happy about this arrangement, and made that pretty clear, but he did exactly what I asked him to do and the other horses settled back into a nice relaxed pace.

Roxi continued her antics, bugging Bowser ("wanna play? wanna play? wanna play?"), grabbing Duke's tail, and occasionally jumping up at the other horses, too.  She was fascinated by the blaze orange ties I have on my stirrups, and jumped up into Kaos' face once, giving her a big surprise (we don't think Roxi actually nipped Kaos, but Kaos did snort & toss her head up in the air).  Finally in the last 1 1/2 miles, she seemed to slow down a bit and quit all the antics - I guess she was finally tired!  Karen didn't even have to dismount to restrain her at the paved road crossing, but was able to hang back while I checked for traffic, then everyone crossed together.

What a fun ride we had, and what a good learning experience for Roxi.  Hopefully we will have more three-dog rides in the future!  (and sorry about no pics on this one - forgot to grab my camera)

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Gesa & I planned to ride together this morning, as our schedules coincided, and the weather & footing conditions would determine venue & type of ride.  So, when she arrived with Paco in tow, I proposed a quick trailer ride over to the snowmobile trail so we could put some miles on.  She was very skeptical that the footing would be good, but I had the ace in my pocket of having ridden out to the "closed" portion of a local road yesterday - it is frequently traversed by snowmobiles though it is not a groomed trail.  It was in fabulous condition and Rhio & I were able to trot/canter the whole length of the snow-covered portion of the road.  She tried to talk me out of it, but I prevailed - and boy were we happy we'd made that decision! It was not icy, but rather slightly too slushy/soft in a few spots and worn down to mud in several areas.  Overall, though, it was great footing for horses and we merrily trotted and cantered along enjoying the day.
Miles of open trail stretching ahead of us - the only thing limiting our ride is time and energy.  This feels like a real luxury to me because this trail crosses numerous swampy/boggy areas, as all our local snowmobile trails do, and the length of our rides here in the summer are correspondingly shortened. In the winter, when all is frozen, we have access to all of it!  This trail in particular is great because it is very hilly; I can tell Rhio is out of shape because he wanted to canter up the hills instead of trot.  
I should be completely truthful here, and mention the fact that it rained (yes, you read that correctly - I said rained) the entire ride.  March 17th, it was 43 degrees and raining, and we did 10 miles of the snowmobile trail, with happiness exuding out our pores & those of our horses (or was that sweat? hard to tell because we were all drenched with the steady light rain by the time we returned to the trailer).  For whatever reason, Gesa & I seem to have a proclivity for rainy rides.  Mind you, this is not our intent - we would prefer to ride on a sunny, calm, lovely weather day, of course.  But we are distance riders!  Once I'm in the saddle, and especially if I have the opportunity to be out on a trail & not just riding at home, there's not much in the weather department that's going to stop me.

It does help to be properly attired for whatever inclement weather is being offered up. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my lightly insulated gloves are indeed waterproof, and I was riding in my muck boots anyway because they're a little warmer than my Blundstones, so my extremities were toasty & dry.  I had my polarfleece beanie (completion award from our 50 miler last Oct) under my helmet, so my head stayed warm.  My jacket was water-resistant, and held up pretty well since we weren't getting drenched, but I was glad to have a polarfleece layer on beneath it.  I wore my Kerrits Windpro insulated winter tights, which shed rain for a while and are also polarfleece lined.  By the time we returned to the trailer, my legs were cold and if we slowed to a walk, I started to feel the chill creeping in - but, really, for not actually planning to be riding in the rain, I was pretty pleased!  I had also thrown a light polarfleece rump rug on Rhio, and was glad of that decision as well.  The boys were steaming pretty good when we stopped!

We saw two particularly interesting wildlife-related things, one of which I snapped a photo of & one of which I didn't.  The one I didn't get a shot of was a large dead pine that had been extensively remodeled by a woodpecker (or several), so that it looked like the beginnings of a totem pole.  The excavated tree bits littered the snow around the tree in quite an impressive circle.  I have been noting a lot of activity from Pileated woodpeckers recently; I hear them calling a lot and see them flying around.  I presume it is the beginning of mating/nesting season for these native, year-round residents and that one had an enthusiastic plan for this particular dead tree.

See the next photo for the one I did get a picture of:
Moose poo!  Pretty fresh looking, too :) 
There is a very small window of opportunity to ride the snowmobile trails in the spring.  Try to go too early and you run the risk of encounters with the snow machines.  Try to go too late and the poor horses will be slogging through fetlock-deep slush or mud or some nasty combination of the two.  Most years I get one day of perfect snowmobile trail riding - this year I've already had two days!

Sunday, March 13, 2011


So, the dogs got me up to go out & be fed around 6:15 as usual.  Mind you, they don't know it's really 7:15 this morning, and neither do the horses, so I decided I'd stumble through quickly and hop back into bed for a little nap before heading out to feed the horses.  Although I know they'll readjust to our artificial tweaking of the clock, at least for today I can feed an hour late and they won't be banging on gates, convinced they are starving to death.  And, of course, it doesn't mean I actually got an extra hour of sleep (oh, how I wish!), but I can pretend.

In a blurry haze of nearsightedness and muzzy sleepiness,  I thought I saw a horse walking down the driveway when I let the dogs in.  That can't be right...  but, yes, indeed, there is a horse walking towards the road.  Oh, crap!!  I pull my boots on over bare feet, dash outside in my robe, then think better of it, run back inside & upstairs for my glasses and peek out the window at the stairs to confirm that I did see what I thought I saw.  Oh, geez - there's Cricket meandering down the road as if he had a coffee date with an old war buddy.  So dashing back down the stairs, I at least grab a hat & throw a jacket over my robe this time, though my feet are still bare inside my boots, and nab a dog leash off the hook by the door on my way out.

Scanning the fresh snow to count sets of tracks as I go, I do a quick shuffle-walk (there's ice under the snow) down the driveway and pop onto the road.  Cricket is about to the neighbor's driveway at this point, walking steadily along, but sees me behind him and turns around, stops, and waits for me.  Thank goodness my horses are easy to catch!  I can tell that I've only got one horse that's been walking up & down the driveway a couple of times, but that this is the first journey onto the road.  Whew! Visions of trying to chase down a herd of loose horses had been dancing through my head.  Slipping the leash around his neck, we walk back home, with Cricket gently bumping me every 10 steps or so.  He does the head-bump thing when I am asking him to do something he doesn't really want to do, but he complies anyway.

Coming into the barnyard, I scan pastures & do a head count, and in all the pastures I can see, all the residents are accounted for.  This leaves one pasture to tally - Cricket, Rhio, Tomas, & Kaos.  Their pasture is behind the barn and I can't see any of the other three until I walk Cricket through the barn (door was still firmly shut as I left it last night) and back to the gate (also firmly closed).  The three are hanging in a group and turn to look at me and Cricket with great surprise (after all, it's an hour early for food according to their highly accurate internal clocks).  Cricket walks into the pasture with one last head bump, and I release him from the leash.  Unfortunately for him, I hadn't grabbed the barn jacket in my dash outside and therefore didn't have a single horse treat in the pocket for him, so he had to settle for a pat on the neck and loving praise, "You silly old man, what the heck were you doing?"

Returning to the front of the barn, I follow his tracks around and across the snowbank created by the snow which had slid off the barn roof.  The trail includes several piles of poo, indicating that he's probably been wandering for some measure of time, and culminates right at the corner of the run-in shed.  He clearly just walked right up & over the electric fence by stepping up onto the snowbank.  I am so surprised that Cricket did this, not Rhio, and that none of the other horses cared to follow him.  Rhio has a history of getting out (crawling through electric rope or tape fences, which have some "give"), so I would have predicted him to be involved in this escapade.

So much for my little extra sleep this morning!  I'm having a cup of tea & blogging while waiting for my extremities to thaw out enough to suit up properly and go feed horses.  I'll be taking a shovel with me to fix the escape route.

Friday, March 11, 2011


Looking ahead at the icy hill, just before we decided to turn around
We had the opportunity to practice a lot of walk-trot and trot-walk transitions, as well as plenty of leg yields, while we made our way down the road yesterday.  The melt is progressing with agonizing slowness this year, complete with multiple serious setbacks, and today was the first time I was able to ride the whole mile stretch of gravel road in front of the farm.  Much of the south side of the road is lined by thick evergreens, and therefore remains very shady.  The compacted snow & ice do not melt in the shady areas, even at almost 40 degrees.  The north side of the road was a patchwork of slushy snow and muddy gravel, and as long as we stayed along that edge, we had no difficulty.  Unfortunately, Red prefers to travel right down the middle of the road, and I therefore had to use a lot of reminders to keep him in the safest footing.

We still have SO MUCH snow, but at least there's some open water in the creek! 
We did cross the paved road and continue along the gravel road just to assess how soon we might be able to do a longer ride - the answer is not yet!  Red behaved really well, except for a few ridiculous instances of shying away from snow boulders or snow patches on a dark background or a light-colored dry spot on the gravel, but this is so typical for him that I hardly pay any attention anymore. The school bus passed us twice, and Red didn't even flick an ear.  I was pretty pleased, as he often acts goofy about traffic in the spring when we haven't been doing any roadwork for months.

I checked my riding logs from last year, and by March 8th I was doing 7 - 8 mile rides at trot/canter pace down the road.  It's a good thing our first endurance ride is a week later than normal, due to Easter being late this year, and we have an extra week to condition - we're gonna need it!

Sefi's First Adventure

On Wednesday Gesa brought Paco & her 2 1/2 year old homebred filly Sefi up to the farm.  It was Sefi's second trailer ride (the first being just "around the block") and first time to go somewhere away from home.   Upon arrival, she was perfectly calm standing in the trailer, unloaded unconcernedly, and looked around with interest.  She walked right into the barn, went into a stall, and started munching on hay like she did this every day.  We put Cricket in the stall next to her for comfort, and they sniffed noses through the bars.

After creating a carpet of shedding horse hair around Paco & Rhio, we tacked up & headed into the indoor with the boys for a little schooling work.  Sefi was whinnying for Paco intermittently, but Paco was losing his marbles over being separated from Sefi.  I guess it kind of backfired to bring the older, more experienced horse to be a good influence on the young one!

We rode for about half hour (Rhio did well and ignored the commotion that Paco was stirring up, though we are still really struggling with the right lead canter) and then I put Rhio in the barn and brought Sefi into the indoor for some free play with Paco.  It was also the first time Sefi has ever been in an indoor arena!  I don't think she knew she could run around at first, and she was very interested in the mirrors.  Once we got them free lunging a little, Sefi started bucking, playing, and kicking up her heels.  She was interested in everything and seemed to be thinking about & absorbing all her new experiences like an old pro.

Finally it was time to go, and Sefi walked right onto the trailer and stood calmly while we said our goodbyes and Gesa headed home with the horses.  What a successful first adventure for "baby" Sefi, who is not acting much like a baby at all!  What a great horse she is going to be.

Sefi saying hello to Cricket next door

Rhio & I taking a break while Paco continues to worry about Sefi

Paco finally paying attention & working
Paco & Sefi

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Red in his home pasture
"Zhhh-shoop" is the phonetic spelling for the terrifying noise made by snow sliding down the fabric roof of the indoor arena.  Here we were enjoying the sunshine with a nice little mosey down the road, and I had to ruin a perfectly good thing by locking poor Red inside the belly of a huge beast intermittently & unpredictably roaring out in anger.
The darker areas are snow on the roof, poised to slide down at any second
This is the time when my original plans for the ride go flying out the window, and I improvise.  I employed multiple tactics today to attempt to salvage a worthwhile ride out of the horrifically scary (to Red) situation we were in:

1. turning on classical MPR and BLASTING it,
Kelso supervising
2. covering the arena in a plethora of poles, cavalettis, and other devices to hold his attention,
Red hides in the corner furthest from the sliding snow while I get all our stuff set up
3. lunging him over, around, and through said devices to get him to focus on something other than the scary monster
4. riding him over, around, and through said devices to get him to focus on me
5. giving up and retreating back outside, and taking a leisurely walk back to his barn to cool him out
Back home post ride, ready for a few treats and a great big hug
Really, though, it was a good ride because he didn't come completely unglued and he was able to work & think for short periods of time despite the distractions.  When I think back to the rides we had together when I first bought him, I realize how far we've come and how much we trust each other.  I knew he wasn't going to explode and do something stupid, like run us into the wall or take off bucking.  And he knew that whatever that scary noise was, it wasn't really going to eat us because I obviously wasn't concerned about it.  I didn't find myself getting worked up or frustrated with him, but enjoying the challenge of working with him in this less-than-ideal situation.  Did I accomplish what I'd set out to do on today's ride?  No.  Did I enjoy my horse and did we both get a little sweaty in body and mind? Yes.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

My Pinto Arabian

To be fair, this picture is after he'd rolled in the indoor arena post-ride
I have mentioned before how much Rhio likes to be dirty.  One of his nicknames is "Pigpen," as in the Peanuts character.  I often lament the fact that he happens to be grey, and in the spring especially, threaten to dye him a dark color.  It is a very good thing that I have no intention of even attempting to keep him clean for anything official where appearances matter (i.e. the show ring) and that my philosophy is: as long as the bits under the tack are clean, we're good to go!  Winter is many things, but one of the best is that my grey horse stays sparklingly, brilliantly white for the most part (especially when he wears his blanket); the rest of the year he is grungy, grubby, stained, filthy, and generally looks pretty unkempt - just the way he likes it!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Conquering the 50 Treacherous Yards

I have spring fever.  The horses have spring fever.  It is not yet spring, despite the ever-warming sun and lengthening daylight.  Sometimes, though, I just have to pretend it is spring ... and ride.

Yesterday, with the sun shining down and the thermometer finally hitting double digits, Rhio and I just had to wander.  With the big melt of several weeks ago, we now have lakes of ice everywhere, especially in the driveway.  Once past the 50 yards of solid ice on the driveway, the very center of the gravel road is clear enough to walk carefully down, and the tarmac of the paved road is not only clear but dry, too. I decided we would head over to visit Red, tiptoeing carefully across the ice and crossing all available fingers, toes, and hooves.

We made it, there and back again, though I had to dismount and hand-walk one shady ice section.  Our total mileage: 1 1/2 miles.  But, of course that's not why we did this ride - it was all about Spring Fever.