Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Search is On

After 9yrs of making the hour drive to the barn, my parents have begun to search for a place where we can live and bring the horses. Spurred by a call from my brother, who will need a place to go when his rental sells, my dad finally went to the back to see if it was even a possibility. Our current house is upside down and would be hard to sell. My brother is willing to rent the house, but that means finding a place before he needs to move. Otherwise we would have to live with his family moving into our house. Did I mention he has two girls under the age of four and 3 cats? Sharing can be done, but not easily.
So armed with a small budget and a bank letter, my dad met with a realtor recommended by Peggy. Of course he also had some locations that Peggy had already found. One place seems to be under contract already, while another one we would need to get for a song to make all the renovations needed worth it. The best place she sent was in her neighborhood, just a couple miles from her place. Huge house, plus another townhouse, deck pool and a garage. Blah, Blah onto the important stuff. Though no longer there, the barn used to be a four stall with wash rack and a tack room. The owners took it down so it would not be part of the foreclosure. The cement pad is there though along with water and electric. Although some of the fencing is wire, the rest is wood. There is one big run in with two gates in one of the fields. Temporary stalls, possibly. There is another field, which means we can separate the boys and the girls. Kind of important due to Roscoe. It also has a very small blue stone arena. I would definitely miss our open fields, but to have my ponies in my backyard I would live with it. The arena could also serve as somewhere to put Winston off the grass, but still close to the other horses.
The only problem is that the house is not totally in foreclosure yet, so it is not in the banks possession. The realtor called the owners and found that the bank kept kicking back offers they had previously received with additional $100,000 tacked on. With our budget that could be the kiss of death. Our high end is below what they say the bank wants. Hopefully my dad will still try for this place because the location is so great. He may even see about adding my name into the mix to see if that helps.
We really don't want to go too far away from work, unless the place is totally worth the drive. One place my parents looked at did not meet that standard. For my dad, it has been a good learning experience to see that paying a HOA may be worth it to get certain amenities or that long drives are not that great. He had to see that just because a place did not have a barn did not mean it was not a workable location. We won't have what the barn gives us now. That is a million plus dollar property, but eventually we will find our place.
Feed room cabinets serve as cat condos :)

Fingers crossed and pray for housing miracles :) Maybe by this time next year we shall all be together.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A New Confidence

When I made the crazy decision to buy a pregnant mare, I did it knowing I had the support of my family and friends. We made it through the pregnancy and the birth, to find a new challenge: A Bouncing Baby Boy ;)
Already trying to move away from Mom

Since Roscoe was our first foal, we learned day by day. We had nothing to compare him to, so we treated him like we treat any of our horses. From the moment, he appeared in our lives he has had his own opinions. He also came with the huge personality.
"Yes, I am wonderful. Adore Me!"
 Roscoe was independent and did not have issues moving distances from Rosemary.Roscoe two weeks old
He also came with a healthy rear and loved to come up and jump at you.
 After a few bruises you start to realize that yes he is cute, but he can hurt too. We all worked hard at discouraging him from rearing. Over the next months we made progress, but in stressful times he would revert to naughty behavior. I won't lie, for me I would get nervous to handle him when he got really rotten.
That nervousness and his continued episodes combined with the fact that we were considering keeping him a stallion drove home that we needed to get him under control. Peggy is the one who showed us Clinton Anderson's Method. Her husband helped get a program for Wounded Warriors started which utilizes the caisson horses for therapy. To help bring consistency to the program they began to use the Method. More about the program later, but what Peggy saw really impressed her. So she got use some videos and books. We also started watching his TV programs.
Although we don't have the formal kit for his method, we picked up some of his training. When Roscoe started misbehaving, we would take him out to work on the line. Gradually we both started learning the expectations and how to handle the steps. Roscoe picked it all up really fast and enjoyed the work. It was funny when we realized one day that Roscoe had not worked in a while, because he had not misbehaved. We started to actually have to plan to work him. What a difference.
Recently I realized that the nerves I had when his acted up, no longer effected my ability to handle him. I know now that if I do certain exercises, he will find his head and come back to reality. One day he came in the barn, bucked, reared and said "F you." I walked up to him, got him to yield his hind end and back up. He dropped his head and chewed. I turned my back letting him walk up next to me and put his head down asking for a treat. Then I wrapped my hand around his cheek and walked him to his stall. When you have the tools to do a job, that job is not so scary.
When I took this picture of someone handling Roscoe at a show in 2012, I was impressed she was so calm. Now I feel like I could do this too. Though he is much better now.

Roscoe is a smart, opinionated nearly 3yr old stallion, so we have those moments. That's okay as long as he remembers me when I ask. With spring coming, he is feeling frisky. He bucked at me the other day and I knew he needed work. I took him out in the snow wearing his blanket and put him to work. It did not take much before he knew I meant business and settled into responding. "Yes Ma'am" The next day he did not act up, but I worked him again. This time I was able to take his blanket off first. He was awesome. The snow made him pick his feet up and bend his joints. He dropped his head and pushed too. Since he was so accommodating, I took some pictures.
Two eyes, Progress

Nature's solution to lazy ponies

And open stride

Dropping his head to push

 Then we worked canter. He figured out quickly that when I pointed and clucked he better canter or I would use the whip. We worked both directions and then I asked for quick changes. In the snow he really had to stop and roll back to turn on his haunches to make the change. Did I mention we did this at the canter? I don't know who had more fun, me or him. His responses were sharp and true. By the end we could do a quarter circle at canter, stop, roll back and leap into canter the other direction for a quarter circle before repeating. I wish I had one more hand to have taken pictures at the canter too.

Neither of us is perfect, but as long as we eventually get "two eyes instead of two heels"(a Clinton Anderson saying) we are on the right track. Now I shall bask in my new confidence. Ah, life is good :)

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Winter Workout

Well we finally got hit with some bigger amounts of snow.At home we got about a foot. The barn amounts are a little harder to tell with the drifting. Mom and I had to clear four wheelbarrow loads of snow out of the aisle. That much blew in. All the horses handled the snow great and enjoyed the choice of staying in a run in or wandering about.
Dogs exploring the deck at home

Girls walking in from the Big Run In

Leg Lifts

Boys got less snow in their area

The worst part was that the plow broke, so the barn owners did not clear the parking area. Talk about chaos when all of us boarders showed up with no where to park. Mom and I ended up shoveling snow Saturday so that we had parking, which meant we could stop driving the big truck. Gas is too expensive to drive that truck on a regular basis. Two hours with a wheelbarrow, muck fork and a shovel and we had the area cleared. What kills us is that they own a snow blower, but only did a path to each barn and the driveway hill. Great workout though.
Walking through the snow makes me and my short ponies work too. Gradually I started putting their hay further and further out into the snow. Might as well take advantage of exercise provided by Mother Nature. We make it a little easier on us, by using a sleigh to bring hay out. Pop a bale on and drag it out. Works like a charm.

Sleigh and Deliah trying to follow in my foot steps

Deliah and Bailey on the sleigh with Griffyn on the side

Today I was determined to ride. I LOVE to ride in the snow, especially if there is any kind of depth. I put the bareback pad on Rosemary and headed out. She has been asking to work for a few days now, so I gave it to her. Being the shortest, she worked just walking in the arena's untouched snow. I did do some trot circles, and she handled the work super well. Bareback I had no issues sitting on her. Love that pony :) Then I decided to go back to walk and work her mind with some lateral work. This is still new to her, but today I felt the cross over in the leg yields. Thank you deep snow. It slowed her down enough to be truer in the lateral movement. I was really impressed with her. And to top it off, the deep snow let Deliah be able to jump up and put her paws on  Rosemary's belly. Pony girl just stood there, not worried at all.

Short pony plus a snow drift equals hard work

Happy girl, both of us

Griffyn support

Deliah following closely
Super day overall. Now if only I can kick this chest cold, things would really improve.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Egg Alternative

Well it seems that one of my mares has decided to start egg laying. If only! I walked out to their field to spread hay and I spied this:

In a brown field it stood out really well. I knew right away it was an egg, but of course I had to shake it just to be sure. Poor sucker was totally frozen. Only a dull thud, thud as something moved side to side within.
I had to share with Peggy who has chickens. I told her that my girls lay bigger eggs :) She said her girls would definitely cackle over that one.

All fun aside, we are still baffled how it got into the field. We figure it is an Emu egg, since there is a farm just down the road and across the railroad tracks. I seriously doubt one escaped, came to visit the girls and left an egg, then went home. Something, big, must have picked it up and brought it over. Pretty amazing it survived the trip as well as Dottie's feet.

Otherwise things have been same old stuff, me sick and more winter weather coming. I did crawl on Comrade bareback. After a conversation to remind him that even sick I am the boss, he proceeded to take very good care of me on a walk in the woods. Gotta love that pony.

Ah well back to work for me.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Comtemplative Stall Cleaning

Ha, How's that for a title?

With all the weather we have been having, stall cleaning is one thing that can still happen. We are lucky to have the facilities to allow the horses to stay out as much as possible, but there are times they need a break. I decided to have M and K bring them in since the forecast showed freezing rain. They all were just fine getting off of the bog like fields and slippery mud.
I know some people dread cleaning stalls, but I am weird in that I like the activity. Maybe because cleaning stalls paid for my shows and lessons when I was younger, I can feel positively toward them. I use the time to do a lot of thinking. Sometimes random. Other times specific.
Example of random would be how bad the Appie's owner's hair looks. I feel bad because she donated it to Locks of Love and ended up with the WORST cut for her face ever.
Example of specific would be actually thinking about writing this post as I was cleaning stalls.
Cleaning a stall is one of those activities you can let you mind wander. I figure it is time saving, multi tasking. Cleaning and planning :) The five stalls take me about an hour to clean, giving me an hour contemplation.
This round of cleaning brought up the topic of exercise for me. My brother is big into P90X3 and is even a coach. He has been pushing another program at me for a little while. I told him since I had to pay for car repairs, I could not pay for this program. He said he would pay part of it and crazy me said OKAY. My biggest hope is that he will get something out of me signing up. Next would be that maybe this will motivate me to do the exercise. I really don't like to exercise, but I can't deny the positive effects on my riding. I just need to get in practice and then it won't be so bad. I do need to be able to keep up with Roscoe. We shall see in two weeks.
Other thoughts were, "I can't believe anyone would leave dirty stalls for days, even if the horses were not in them." The QH lady said it was too cold to clean, after leaving her horses in for 3 days, eek. That barn stunk like crazy. Thankfully a different one from ours.
"Hmm, is that a scratchy feeling in my throat?" Turns out that yes it was. I am sick for the 3rd time in 4 months. Just colds, but they keep bouncing between my parents and me. Though this time seems to have hit my sister too.  So over feeling sick.
Mental checklist of things to get done before going to work: Hay tossed outside, check water, drop hay for tomorrow, prepare Rosemary's Med ball and on and on...
Most of the time, my thoughts are interrupted by ponies wanting attention. They come over and start doing tricks or checking my pockets. So I just have to stop and give scratches. Like I could resist those big brown eyes.

Anybody else find stall cleaning enjoyable? I will say that some stalls are a pain to clean, but all of my horses are easy which helps.

We have more weather heading our way this weekend and that means no hope of fields drying out anytime soon. Ah well the days are getting longer, so there is hope for future rides.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Chiropractic Revelations

What a great day today was. It was warm, I finally got real work done at the barn and I got to ride Comrade. During the week Comrade had his second session with the chiropractor. Peggy told me about the visit as we chipped him out of his hard mud coat.
The vet thinks Comrade may have some arthritis in his neck. I am not too surprised because I have always felt a blockage in that area and he did not use his neck in the walk or canter. She does not feel he is at a point where he needs shots. The joint medication is doing fine for now.
This visit Comrade realized she was helping him and did not fight what she was trying to achieve. He even helped her at points. I have heard that before from when our vet used to work on Barry and Sherman. Animals are easier to work on than humans because of that attribute. From the sound of it much of what the vet did is similar to the stretch work we do with our horses. The difference is, she has the knowledge of a horses body and how to push or pull.
He responded more to the tail pulls this time and she worked to get him to touch his hip on both sides. Left side, not much of an issue. The right side she had to work his neck, pop, pop before he was even able to go past his shoulder. He did in the end touch his hip. Such simple exercises that show so much.
After hearing the recap, I really wanted to see how he worked. Unfortunately it was too dark to get any video. So was there a difference? Oh YES, right from the walk. He felt free and he started using his head and neck in his walk. Plus he was more engaged overall. At the trot he had suspension, to the point of feeling bouncy :) He still tried to get fast to the right at times, but he needs to build that muscle. His canter work was great too. To the left we even managed a canter spiral. He tried to the right but could not carry it. I ended letting him open up down the long sides, getting off his back. Then I had Peggy get on so she could feel the change too.
Now we get to see how he maintains. He has another appointment next month.

Switching gears here are the 3 pictures I sent in for the photo contest that will take place at the Welsh annual meeting:
In the "Selfie" category
In the "Stepping Out" category
In the "Life is Good" category

Hope everyone enjoys this weather while it lasts :)