Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Back in the saddle!

I just got off a horse! For you diehard blog readers, this is kind of surprising since I haven't gotten on a horse since the ride on Lucy that I detailed in November. Between bad roads and bad schedules (I won't get on green horses unless someone else is at the barn), I have done a whole lot of mucking and bucket-cleaning and zero riding.

Today we finally got everybody's
schedule together thanks to the holiday, so I was able to start working with Sly. Sly (reg. name One Sly Private Eye) is a buckskin tobiano APHA mare who was rescued as a weanling from a PMU farm in Canada. Her training history is a crazy story, but not that unusual. She was sent out for 90 days of training as a three year old. She returned, and someone got on her who admittedly did not do the smartest thing and gave her a boot in the ribs.

Sly, somewhat understandably, took off bucking. Her owner called the trainer, who said, and I quote "well, I never rode her with a


Since that time, Sly's mom has ridden her with a saddle at a walk and jog in the round pen without incident. That was a few months ago and now, again thanks to the weather which necessitated 30 horses living in the indoor arena here til the flood went down, she has been vegetating and eating for a few more months. She's my new project, starting today. I started off with some basics, just longeing both directions. She started off perfectly and then decided to see if she could stop and back up instead. Of course, the only way to correct this is to get yourself behind the point of their shoulder again and urge them forward, so she would start backing and I would scoot to where I could get her forward again. A few verbal corrections and finally I gave her the butt-smack she was asking for. Amazingly, she instantly remembered how to longe nicely without stopping up and backing. Uh-huh. We had a good laugh about that. She has a good "ho" although not quite AS fast a response as I like. We will be working on that.

She knows how to back and she moves away from pressure on both sides, faster on the right side. I tested that out some before getting on her, mindful of the kicking --> bucking incident, but she's not that sensitive. The guy must have really booted her a good one. I got on her today and just got led around and then longed at the walk. I like doing that as we can reinforce the going-forward thing on both ends - she tried to stop and back a few times and both got leg and encouragement from the ground. Worked great. What I was particularly excited about is that we reversed and she did a nice little half-turn - stepped right around, crossing over. Some of them would happily let you drag them on a half-circle to reverse like you're turning a riding mower. I like it when the lateral moves come so naturally.
Last night I went to visit Bessie, the ex-broodmare I worked with this summer. She has now had a few weeks of additional training and is solid at the walk and trot. Monica says cantering is not exactly her idea of fun yet - she said she will lope a few strides and then balk. However, apparently she can't buck to save her life because she is too big and unwieldy (I believe that - this is a moose of a halter bred mare, she wears a 54 huntseat girth!) so it is more funny than anything else when she tries. She is doing very well and is on track for her owner, Sydney, to show in 4-H this year. Here she is in her stall, which is covered with Christmas decorations!

I also saw another happy ending rescue at Bessie's barn. Seven in the Tropics came off the track this year with a blown suspensory. It looks great now, and he is on track for an eventing career. He was bored to death on stall rest, so his teenage owner started teaching him tricks. When you say "show us your ID," he flips his lip to reveal his racing tattoo. How cute is that?

There's also a particularly cool Thoroughbred there looking for a home. He is over 17 hands, 10 years old, bay, personable and sound. I am told he is a nice boy to ride. I might go try him out myself (not for me, but just so I can tell you all what he's like). He's looking for a good home "make an offer" so if you are around Seattle and looking for a bargain on a new dressage or low-level event prospect, contact me and come check him out.

The VLC is back to work and he also started a very important lesson this week - clipper training! This had been delayed as the clippers had fallen into one of those black holes in the barn. The harder we looked, the more we couldn't find them until finally they chose to reappear :-) He was fine as soon as he realized clipping was going to happen in conjunction with cookie feeding. He is extremely food motivated. He would walk across a bridge with flames at both sides if you had an alfalfa flake on the other side.

So that's my update. Have the rest of you been riding over the holidays, or have you let it slide?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Well, I don't have much to talk about. With the recent blizzards, the VLC's progress has come to a screeching halt because I can't get out to the barn he's at. I haven't made it further than the grocery store in over a week.

For those of you in the Midwest or East coast who think I am a wussy, let me explain what happens when it snows in the PNW:


Yes, that's right. Because it's such an infrequent occurrence, we are not set up for it and so nothing gets plowed, salted or sanded. It just sits there on the road. Everything closes up and you are expected to simply stay home. So, despite three decades mostly in Wisconsin and good winter driving skills, this time I am stuck. I am assured that the VLC is fine and that a friend actually made him a nice hot mash with peppermints in it the other day. He goes out in the indoor with the geldings and they play tarp tug-o-war. Well, the other gelding is trying to teach it to him. He hasn't quite caught on yet, and simply drops it and lets the other guy have it. He's not the most competitive, ha ha.

*shrug* What can you do? Can't fight Mother Nature! The VLC blog will return when the weather cooperates and he can get his furry oversized butt back to work. For those who missed this in the comments, he's been seen by the vet and put back to work - slow conditioning, backing up in hand and hill work if we can find a hill (nothing on the property, unfortunately). It was his stifle, as I thought, plus he was a little bit out in the hip so that got fixed. He also needs work on neck flexibility so he was prescribed carrot stretches. The VLC thinks the vet-chiropractor was like the best idea ever.

So that's it for now - Hope you and your horses are having a wonderful holiday season!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Cross your fingers...

I finally got the vet I wanted (the vet who is also a chiropractor) scheduled to see the VLC and hopefully figure out what is going on with his very mild left hind lameness. We discussed it on the phone and she thought he might be out in the back which honestly would not surprise me as he is a big goofy dork and does things like jump sideways on to his gelding friends and fall off, and he has been doing things like that as long as I have known him. So, please cross your fingers that we can resolve this and get his big furry butt off to training ASAP!

In the meantime, allow me to introduce my next project. Sly is a young buckskin and white APHA mare who had 30 days of training on her a year or two ago. I am assured she did not make any effort to kill anyone during that process and that she will welcome further training. :-) She is a very sweet and people-friendly mare, and we have always gotten along well, so I'm looking forward to working with her. Her bloodlines look like she ought to be interested in cows, so I am hoping that is true because I'd like to do a lot more of that stuff myself. I'm dying to have my own cutting horse but that is probably several years down the road, so in the meantime I'd be very happy indeed if I had something I could go team sorting on, and Sly might be it!