A new way to soak hooves!

July 1, 2009
New Hoof Soaker

New Hoof Soaker

I parked my trailer on the grass and tied the horses to it, with a hay net. Then I set up a sprinkler next to them, to soak the grass and their hooves. Etta was concerned at first, but soon got over it and they both stood there eating — and then dozing — for a couple of hours.

I managed to get Etta’s two front feet trimmed when who should drive up but Jerry! I told him he must have read my mind — and he graciously finished trimming her. I hope to set that system up again and get Magnum’s feet done in the next day or two.


An interesting episode…

June 21, 2009

This morning as I finished mucking the paddock, Etta’s head came up from her hay pile and she turned to focus in the distance, towards the front pasture. She quickly pivoted and walked over to the fence, totally intent on something.  After walking over closer to her and following her gaze, I could see the neighbor’s chocolate lab wandering in the pasture, looking a bit lost.

After watching for a few moments and losing sight of the dog behind the trees, Etta turned away and trotted to the back fence and looked very intently into the back yard. This is where Lucy normally snoozes, and sure enough, when I checked, that’s where she was. Etta’s head bobbed up and down several times, and it was clear she was trying to communicate to Lucy, “Hey! Wake up! There’s a strange dog in the front yard and you need to do something about it!”

However, Lucy was fast asleep and I surely wasn’t going to wake her up and encourage her to chase the dog (which could no longer be seen). So I wandered back to the hay piles, where Magnum was still chowing down, totally unconcerned by all the activity. Etta soon followed and resumed her meal while I put on fly masks and dabbed some fly repellent on their bellies.

Lucy slept through it all.

Happiness is…

June 15, 2009

…riding Grandma Gale’s horse!

Trinity, happily asride Etta

Trinity, happily asride Etta

Gracefully moving into the ‘senior’ years…

June 10, 2009

I haven’t been messing around with the horses at all lately… my friend and riding pal, Kathleen, took a minor spill the other day, after climbing onto her mustang filly bareback. The filly has a nice foundation on her now, thanks to a great local trainer who works at Freedom Farm. But the mare is still sensitive to noise, and when her hoof clonked the mounting block she scooted sideways and Kathy hit the dirt (or perhaps the mounting block). She felt rather stupid, as we all do after a fall like that, but I suggested she not be too hard on herself… it’s a good learning experience. We’re learning that we’re no longer the spry little teenagers we once were!

When you get to be in your 40s, 50s and 60s, it’s sometimes hard to accept, or even realize, that we just aren’t as agile as we used to be. Despite the fact that most of my, dare I say it? “older” friends are still quite active, I’m sure we have all slowed down somewhat from what we did and were capable of doing in our 20s and 30s. But most of us are, I think, gracefully moving into our ‘senior’ years.

My folks are excellent role models for aging gracefully. At the age of 75, my mother was still playing tennis with other very active seniors. She is still active at 85, but a broken ankle slowed her down somewhat; she does more painting now than panting across a hot tennis court in pursuit of a little fuzzy ball. My Dad jumped off of Tiger Mountain in Issaquah (parasailing) when he was in his 80s, bowled a perfect 300 game when he was 90, and still bowls several times a week now, at age 94. They have their share of aches and pains, of course, but that’s not what they focus on. I hope to be like that.

Kathy’s little episode was a good reminder for me, too. I hate to be overly cautious, but a certain amount of caution is a good thing when working with or riding horses. By learning from each other’s little mishaps, perhaps we can keep all future mishaps little!


June 7, 2009

I just wrote a Black Buddha blog entry about noticing, and then I realized that my horses provided an excellent example of this type of focus or awareness twice in the last two days.

Steve & I opened a section of fence two days ago to be able to drive into the paddock and unload hay. We had to move a little cart from the outside of that fence, and when I put the fence back up, I did not put that cart back. I also mowed the grass there, and left the mower not too far away. When I turned the horses back into the paddock, both of them took immediate notice of the change in how things looked. Even though I had put hay out for them to eat, they went over and investigated that fence… Magnum was much more concerned about the change than Etta appeared to be. He was hesitant to approach and moved his head up and down and turned it left and right to check it all out with both eyes. Etta just wandered over for a quick look and then made a beeline for the hay piles.

The other example occurred yesterday. While they were in the back section of the paddock, I cut limbs off of several trees in the front section. (Etta has actually broken off a number of limbs trying to scratch and rub herself.) I put all the branches into the wheelbarrow and removed them. A few hours later I turned the horses back out into the front section, and both of them walked directly to the first tree I had worked on. They then went to each and every other tree I had trimmed to check them out.

This kind of awareness helps animals survive in the wild. It seems like there is, or should be, more to it than that for us… but maybe that’s really all there is to it: noticing.

6/04/09 Ride Report

June 4, 2009

This morning I worked out at the gym for an hour, and then rode Etta over to my neighbor Kathleen’s place to join her on a ride. We loaded the horses into her trailer and hauled them to Robin Hill Park. Etta loaded up the ramp and into the straight load OK, after a little refresher course going in and backing out. At the park she was tense unloading, but basically did fine.

As we drove over we chatted about life, and I was telling her that my priorities seemed to have really changed this past year. I suspect part of this change is the result of having said to myself for so many years things like, “I wish I could ride more” and “This summer I plan to ride a lot” … and then not following through. We agreed that getting older tends to make one look at life differently. The chores and work and other things that I used to feel were important no longer seem to be; the weight of responsibility is lifted. For the most part I don’t feel like I should be doing anything other than what I am doing. And it seems these days that I am doing things I want to be doing more often than not.

Whatever… life is good and I am very grateful that I have a loving husband, beautiful animals, and that I am able to spend time with a kind and warm-hearted new friend riding our horses in such breathtaking beauty. People actually take vacations to come to a place like this. And we get to live here! Sigh.

So we did about three loops. We walked and trotted the first one, swapping positions, and then walked, trotted or cantered the next two. The horses did great, even when we separated for a short time. Perhaps the fact that it was hot influenced their mood. I think it kept us moving slowly and feeling very mellow. We totally enjoyed ourselves, and the horses were very content.

I slung my camera over my neck and took several photos on the first loop. The light filtering through the trees in the forest is truly magical, but it’s not the best light for taking photos. The full light of the meadow made for a clearer shot. (You can click a photo in this gallery to see a larger view of it.)

I hosed off Etta when we got home and turned her out to graze for awhile, just by dropping her lead rope on the ground next to me. Steve went to halter Magnum to bring him out and I decided to quickly go inside to get a gatorade, leaving Etta to graze. This is something I have avoided, but decided in the last few weeks that in some ways it would be great to be able to let them eat down some of the grass like that, while we dinked around outside. Well, Etta took those few moments to wander into the neighbors’ (incredibly well-manicured) yard. He was out after her in a heartbeat and managed to influence her to head back into her own yard, but then she sort of darted away and made it into the big (newly planted) pasture. She raced around half of the perimeter looking sideways at the lead rope bouncing along next to her. She wasn’t totally freaked out, but was clearly bothered. Hmm, a hole in her foundation that needs to be filled… she finally stopped in her tracks and whinnied to me and I walked out and collected her.

Steve and I then sat in the shade for half an hour or so, drinking gatorade and chatting while the horses grazed on their lead ropes, which were now in my hand! Live and learn, eh?

5/30/09 Ride Report

June 3, 2009

Audrey picked me and Etta up this morning just before 9 a.m. and we met the other two gals (Mary and Linda) at Freedom Farm shortly after that. Arrived to find they were having trouble loading one of the horses. As we drove up the one gal working at it stopped trying to drive the horse in (with a carrot stick) and when we got out of the car we walked over to say hi, chat with her and I reached out to pet the horse as we all stood there next to the trailer. The gal tried to hand me the lead rope and I said, “No, no, I was just petting her…” She said, “That’s fine, but please feel free to give it a go—we’ve been at it for half an hour.” Hmmm…. I don’t usually work with other horses. But I know this mare has been Parelli trained and I’ve seen her in a cow clinic—she is an Arab cross with a bit of an attitude, but she seems well-trained and mostly harmless. My thoughts were that whatever trouble she was giving them was probably mostly bluff. So I said, “OK” and turned and walked into the trailer. The mare hesitated for a moment and I asked the gal to, “please just lift the stick off the ground a bit at her hq there, thanks…” and the mare stepped right in. She was totally relaxed (I suspect if they had walked in with her she would have loaded for them just fine!). I tied her and closed the divider, they loaded the other horse and we were off.

It’s a short drive to the Olympic Discovery Trail Adventure Route trail head—maybe 30-40 minutes—but you have to park alongside the hwy to unload and saddle. There is a big wide area, so it wasn’t too bad, tho was noisy with traffic (going 55-60 mph). We were saddled and on the trail in 150-15 minutes. I brought a camera, but the batteries went dead after the first few photos… none of which are that impressive. I will take photos next time I go—it is too lovely not to!

We only rode 3.2 miles one way and rode back—so a total of 6+ miles. The trail was gorgeous, and I thoroughly enjoyed the company—neat gals with very nice horses! Next time I will boot my horse—the others had boots on the fronts, but Etta was barefoot. She was fine, but it was a bit rocky and I think boots would only be fair. A short, narrow bridge, and a long low wooden section both have Astroturf on them, and that stuff concerned Etta, but she went over them eventually. She was very relaxed in any position and I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. I will happily ride the trail again, and wander farther on it… in fact I am hoping Steve will either hike or bike it with me at some point soon. Heck, maybe he’ll even ride Magnum with me!

One thing happened on this ride that kind of spooked me, but in a good way. Ray Hunt is not a person I think about a lot, but this little episode is all about him… As I was riding back to the trailers, pulling up the rear in our little party of four, there was a lot of exposure on one side of the trail. We came around a bend and I gently asked Etta to move to her left with my right leg and by barely lifting the right rein and moving it into her neck. I would guess these cues would be almost imperceptible if someone had been watching—I think all of our horses are that sensitive around a bend on a trail like that…. Well, as I made those moves, suddenly, and only for the two strides in that leg yield, my entire body felt like it was Ray’s body. My hands were these giant beef-steak hands, my legs bigger, heavier, my teeth gaped, with a big smile on my face (tho I don’t think I was smiling, really), and my eyes felt like they were sparkling with mischief and joy. My whole being felt filled with him, with the pleasure he would feel from that maneuver, from being horseback, from being on that beautiful forest trail on such a glorious day. I tell you, it was incredibly eerie, but it lasted for such a short moment that it was almost past before I realized it happened. And in a way it felt completely natural, like Ray’s spirit just came into my body for a bit of a horse fix.

5/29/09 Ride Report

June 3, 2009

Today I hauled Magnum to Robin Hill alone, with the intention of meeting Kathy & her husband, Mike, who was going out for the first time in many years. He rides their 12 y/o mustang mare named Rosie, who is a pretty solid trial horse, but he lacks confidence.

Magnum was jacked up when I got to the park (I arrived early on purpose). As I groomed him, someone drove up with a trailer and he lost all focus of me and actually turned into me and stepped on my foot. I worked him enough to bring him back and then he stood in one place, though he kept gawking off to see where the trailer and other horses were (a horse and a mule, actually).

By the time Kathy & Mike arrived, I had saddled Magnum with my treeless saddle. I worked him on the ground and he never offered to buck or be offended by that saddle. I bridled him and got on and did some bending while they got ready. We took off with Kathy on Summer in the lead, Rosie in the middle and Magnum bringing up the rear. He was super responsive and stayed back about 30’ so as to not crowd Rosie. The one time he did try to trot up her butt, I set him back so firmly that he ended up shaking his head a couple of times, but my point was clearly made because he never tried that again!

Mike & Kathy’s horses both jigged most of the ride, and it was mildly upsetting to them—I think the horses picked up on their nervousness and apprehension. I suggested swapping positions a bunch to experiment, and once we’d completed one loop I said I would ride off alone and they should ride together to see if the horses settled. I rode Magnum at a trot for a long way, and then cantered (his canter is so lovely), and trotted for a long time again, and then we walked for a bit. He called out only twice—once as we left and once as we came into the meadow.

So guess what? He has a long trot like Etta’s! I have just never had the opportunity to get him into that. Wow! Eventually when we arrived at the meadow I walked him across most of it and then dismounted and let him graze for about 10 minutes, sort of as a reward. They never showed up, so I mounted up and completed the loop back to the trailers at a great loose reined walk. Magnum again called just as we approached the parking lot. They were unsaddling—said the horses had done better, but they were done riding for the day. I decided to quit then, too, because Magnum was so good, and was still very relaxed. I was so happy with him!

Tomorrow I am going with Audrey to ride The Adventure Trail (or part of it), west of here. It’s a 24 mile trail that is used by hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders. I’m toying with the idea of taking Magnum instead of Etta, but we’ll see what the morning brings.

5/26/09 Ride Report

June 3, 2009

Tuesday I rode at Robin Hill with Kathleen. I saddled Etta and walked her over to Kathy’s place. Steve took Magnum and Lucy along and they walked the neighborhood loop together.

Kathy has a new straight load trailer with a ramp. Etta has never been in a straight load, nor on a ramp (other than to walk up onto a bridge or something). She was pretty hesitant and after a few minutes I decided to take her saddle off, because it felt like it would be unfair to ask her to step into that tight space and have something catch. She loaded in less than five minutes. I failed to back her out a few times before we left, though, and I regretted that decision….

We got to the park and opened the door, dropped the ramp and scooped the poop away. Kathy unloaded Summer and then I unloaded Etta. She has a tendency to really squat when backing out, which has never been a problem, but by doing that she unloaded her front end too much and her front legs just slid down the ramp and she fell to her knees. She was startled, but wasn’t overly upset by that—but I decided to load and unload her a bunch more times, right then. She got really tight, but figured out how to do it without falling down. She still tucks her hq too much, but she took these itty bitty steps to keep her feet on the ground. Sigh…

The weather was perfect (warm and sunny, but not too hot). We had a FABULOUS ride. We walked, trotted and cantered, rode together, separated, came back, separated…. the horses were great. We probably put about 12 miles on our horses and we both we super happy with how well they did. Etta trotted on a long rein and did some slower cantering (unusual for her). Both horses worked up a nice sheen, but weren’t too sweaty (neither one got upset at all). It was a fine afternoon!

5/24/09 Ride Report

June 3, 2009

Audrey conducted a “Colic Drill” workshop today at Freedom Farm, starting at about 1 pm. Mid-morning I decided I would ride Etta over, and pony Magnum. The only wonky part of the ride to the farm is along Old Olympic Hwy, where the speed limit is 50 (or maybe 55?). I’ve ridden it before though and figured it would be fine. It was, basically, but I forgot a couple of things about this weekend: 1) it’s Memorial Day weekend and there is a LOT of traffic, 2) I haven’t ridden that strip along the hwy since last year, and 3) there was a garage sale going on alongside the road and they had a bunch of little orange flags planted in the grass and stuck in the fence… and a huge wood sign with ‘Garage Sale’ written in giant red letters. I knew that sale was going on there this weekend, because I drove past it yesterday. But I totally forgot until I turned the corner onto Old Olympic and saw those flags.

Fortunately the horses did great with those little flags, but Etta spooked at the sign. As I approached it there were no cars in either direction, but right when I was trying to slot her past it (on the inside) she scooted sideways into the road—and hmm, suddenly there were cars there. It all happened so fast I didn’t really have time to correct her and I just immediately jumped off and led her over and around that sign (which she was still afraid of, but being led gave her enough confidence to follow me past it). I am sure some folks might think I’m nuts to do something like that, and the drivers were probably thinking I had lost my mind, but I honestly did not expect all the stuff going on there when I planned the ride, nor did I expect that kind of reaction to the sign out of Etta!

Anyway, I just led them all the way down the road until we were off that hwy and then I mounted again. She was tense and tight for about 10 minutes, but behaved fine. I did a lot of long trotting when I could, but I had not booted either horse, so only did that when the footing was reasonable (not pavement or too rocky). There were a LOT of families out with their kids on bikes, including bikes hauling those little kid-trailers. There were also a lot of US flags flying in yards and on posts. The horses were fine with all of it.

The two annoying parts of the ride were Magnum trying to nip Etta (and me) and not really knowing quite how to correct him for that (I think a taser would be good), and I think Magnum’s lead rope must have been dragged through nettles. My hands are still kind of burning!

It took me a bit over an hour to get to the farm. The workshop was great—there were about six of us and we all got to practice finding the acupressure points and telling which remedy we would give under what circumstances. Besides Mary and Audrey, three of us have used homeopathics, tea and the red light to treat colic with success—and all but one gal have had a horse colic. The old lesson horses at the farm were so wonderfully patient with all of us poking and prodding them.

On the ride home I passed the back pasture and noticed that Honey was out grazing with Mary’s horses. Man does she look good! I called her… she looked up, saw us, gazed at us for a moment, and then dropped her head back down to graze… which made me very happy because she was clearly very content. When we got to the hwy, the folks had just finished pulling the last flag (I saw them do it), and they saw me and smiled and jogged over to pick up and remove the big sign, and Etta and Magnum walked past them and along the road with nary a problem. Sigh…