Monday, October 20, 2008

Longest week of this month

Last week was a long week. My sister decided to go out of town the weekend before last so we spent most of last week in a flury to try to work enough hours that I didn't have too much to do while she was gone. We work about 5.5 hours each week at the ranch we board the horses at. It's getting harder now that the days are so short. And then I realized I was going to have to go pick up a load of hay (20 bales) by myself. I made my husband help with the unloading so he was all grumpy too. My hay guy freaked me out while I was there because there was a big fire that I drove past last week. Apparently, the guy who started it was hauling hay on a trailer like mine and the wheels overheated and caught fire. He pulled over and it set the field next to him ablaze. Well, then...I told him do NOT put as much on my trailer as he did that guy and then I drove the 8 miles to the barn at about 30 mph.

Last Wednesday night I got an idea I was going to work with my sister's horse, Promise, on standing still for mounting. It's been an issue since we got him. He just doesn't like anyone that close to his butt. I took him in the round pen with just a bridle and lunged him for a bit. Then I stopped him and tried to mount from the fence because I'm too short (a whopping 5'1") to get on him without. Each time he moved I would hop down and lunge him a few laps. Finally he stood still! Until I got on that is.... The minute I was on his back he took off bucking like a rodeo bronc. I'm pretty good at sitting through bucks if I'm in a saddle but there was no way I was staying on him. I landed on my shoulder and hit my head. It was the first time I've fallen off since I started riding again 5 months ago. I was angry but I was also concerned. He has never been anything but quiet when we've ridden him in the past. Normally, once you're on you're golden. I picked myself up (falling sucks a lot more at 32 then it did at 18) and started over. I lunged, I tried to mount, I lunged again. Finally he stayed completely still again while I very quietly threw my leg over him. I gently sat on his back. I felt him tense all over and I just stayed quiet and still until I finally felt him relax. He sighed a big horsey sigh. I asked him to move foward and had him walk a slow circle around the round pen then I hopped down and ended for the evening. I was really worried because the bucking didn't seem like him.

The next day I got of work early and decided to go back out to ride. I noticed Promise hadn't eaten all of his hay which was strange. I cleaned stalls and got Tax tacked up and ready to go. We had a awesome ride. It was my third attempt at really focusing on soft hands and he popped into a relaxed trot almost immediately. We worked a bit on backing and then a couple of canter strides and ended on a good note. When I was done hosing him down I went back and check on Promise who seemed a little sullen. I had just read a great article about turning horses out together so they get some "herd" time. My poor guys are in their stalls all night and get turned out alone every other day. I decided to take all of them and turn them out together. Their stalls are right next to each other and they know each other. I guess I need to read more about how to introduce them in the open like that. The boys got into a serious fight and I had to grab a lunge whip and go break it up. I don't see that Tax landed any kicks but he decidedly won the war as Promise crept off by himself at the other end of the pen to stand in the corner. Promise on the other hand won the battle and landed one good kick with both feet in Tax's side. He's got a welt from one foot and the other hoof scraped a big chunk of his hair off. *sigh* I won't be trying that again soon, and I kind feel like an idiot. Their stalls are next to each other, and they stand in the attached run nose to nose whenever they aren't turned out so I wasn't expecting an all out battle. It's not like they don't know each other. Once I decided they were going to stand in their own corners and leave each other alone I went back to cleaning right outside their pen. A couple of minutes later I saw Promise go down. He didn't fall...he carefully laid himself down but it seemed weird. I went over and he let me walk up and start petting and checking him all over in case I'd missed a kick mark the first time. It seemed weird that he didn't freak out about being touched up close and personal by a human while laying down. Again, I found nothing. I thought maybe he just tired himself out with all the rearing and kicking he'd been doing. I took Promise back to his stall and then cleaned up Tax's skinned area and dressed it and left them for the night after asking the barn owner to keep an eye on them.

Friday I went out after work to ride one of the BO's horses but when I got there she let me know Promise hadn't eaten all of his hay. I went to check on him and he was laying down...again. I got him up and he just wasn't himself. I couldn't put my finger on it but it he was just not his normal worried "don't touch me" self. Normally it would have thrilled me, and I would have hoped that it meant he was getting used to me but combined with the not eating and laying down I began to worry even more. I called the vet thinking that maybe he was going to have an episode of laminitis. Judging by his feet we're pretty sure he's been chronic laminitic but it hasn't caused a serious rotation thus far. The on-call vet told me that if he wasn't showing signs of lameness (he wasn't) then we could rule out laminitis. She was more worried about potential colic but I didn't think he was showing any real signs, and neither did the BO who has dealt with a fair share of colicky horses. The vet and I finally agreed he could have 1-2 grams of bute and we'd see how he was doing in the morning. I hate that my horses aren't closer but the BO agreed to check on him that night and call me if anything seemed to change for the worse. The next morning, Promise was back to normal. I wonder if he had a bellyache or muscle ache or something that set off the bucking spree?

In other news, I started giving lessons to one of the girls, AJ, that just moved to our barn. She's 9 and wont listen to her parents advice. They asked me to work with her just to make sure she's safe with her new horse and can get her to respond to her cues. Now, I'm not a real trainer but I've taught several adults how to ride. My sister learned from me and I think in many ways she's a better rider than I currently am. She's done pretty well at shows and even beat my trainer (who is incredibly good) in a jumper class. I don't want to give anyone the wrong impression though, and I've been very honest about the fact that I'm not comfortable teaching more than the basics. Also kids are new so I'm finding ways to communicate ideas differently. I've worked with my own kids and their cousin but they aren't serious riders and just giggle and hold onto the front of the saddle anytime I try to teach them to trot. If AJ outgrows me and still wants to show I told her parents I'd refer them to a real trainer. AJ's new horse is the cutest little morgan pony. She's very easy going but she'd been out to pasture for a couple of years and really doesn't want to move forward. Our first lesson was a little rough with Tiara not wanting to move and AJ accidently pulling on the reins whenever she'd finally get a trot. Other than that her balance is good and except pulling back occasionally her hands are positioned well. She's fiesty and serious too and I like that in a lesson kid. Our second lesson was this past Saturday and already she's doing better at focusing on putting her hands forward and legs back (she gets them out too far in front sometimes) when she cues the trot with her legs. Tiara trotted around the round pen for her 3-4 times each direction and AJ said that's the longest she's been able to make her trot. Yay!

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