Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Tribute to an Incredible Horsewoman

We lost a special horsewoman to cancer today.  Kim H. was not a glamorous or famous woman.  She did not win the Medal Finals or go to the Olympics.  In the years I knew her, I never saw her ride.  She was just a hard working barn manager at the local hunter jumper barn where I take lessons.  A woman who knew every horse in that barn like it was her own child, could tell you which horse was "not quite right", which one needed bute, bandaging, soaking, worming.  She nursed them tirelessly and well.

She was a strong woman, with a strong personality, and wasn't shy about giving her opinion of a horse or a person.  A wicked sense of humor that some people didn't 'get', but I loved, and I count myself as blessed to have been a person that she seemed to like, because when it came to her horses, her standards were high.  A lot of really good riders didn't make the cut with her.

She was a loyal friend, a good caretaker of her animals, and a force to be rekoned with if you didn't treat your horse right. 

Godspeed Kim.  You will be sorely missed by those you leave behind, but I know there are a lot of very happy horses that have gone on before us running to greet you at the Rainbow Bridge.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Nostalgia on Life as a Barn Rat

My daughter is riding for our trainer's adult equestrian team.  For some bizarre reason (maybe just token politeness, LOL) I've been asked to join several times, but can't change my schedule to make it to practices, so I'm not able to participate.  Their first meet was yesterday.  I did my booster duty, enjoyed being a spectator and cheering for the team.  It was a beautiful day, and I think everyone had a great time.

And inside I was was so envious of the riders it hurt.  I miss the camaraderie and the friendships of riding with a group.  With my schedule, I can only fit in a private lesson early in the morning.    I miss those group lessons with other adults.  I miss the different feedback you get from both students and instructors in a group lesson.  I miss being the barn staple that was always there to help the beginners find their way around and tack up their horses. 

For some, riding is a end in of itself.  For me, it was a chance to bond with other horse lovers.  To nurture the beginners, and celebrate with my barn mates when someone had a good show or a great ride.  To mourn when a much loved friend went over the bridge.   To pitch in for a barn cleanup, and lend a helping hand when needed.

I keep my horses at home, and love it.  But sometimes, I just really miss being a barn rat in a barn full of other barn rats. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Accepting Setbacks Gracefully

The weather is perfect for riding.  Rico and I have been getting along beautifully.  My confidence has grown in direct porportion to my strength and balance in the saddle with thanks to my trainer and a wonderful mare named Ladybug.  After my last ride on Rico, I promised myself that we would canter the next weekend.  I'm not totally stupid - it has to wait for the weekend so that someone is home to call the paramedics. :D

Alas, it was not to be.  Monday morning I found my boy with an eye swollen shut.  I was fortunate enough to be able to get the vet out within the hour.  Diagnosis is a scratched cornea, prognosis is good if I can get ointment into his eye for several days and the swelling doesn't come back after stopping the ointment.  Stopped the ointment on Friday and hooray, his eye looks good, but in my usual overprotective manner, I decided to give him a few more days before riding him.  So - no weekend canter joy for us!

My graceful way of accepting this minor setback was to take myself off to the Capital Challenge horseshow Saturday and treat myself to a new Devocoux close contact saddle. 

Retirement will have to wait another 6 months I guess.  :D

Sunday, August 12, 2012

I Think the Goat Won This Round

Its been an eventful weekend. As they've eaten down almost all of their fenced in area, things have certainly gotten interesting. I'm glad I've read so much on COTH about goats!  Yesterday was jsut te beginning. One goat decided she really liked getting her head stuck in the fence.  6 times in 2 days.  And she wasn't very cooperative with our efforts to free her.

This morning as I went back to feed the horses, I found the gate between their pasture and the goats was wide open.  I'm sure I sprouted several new gray hairs when I saw that open gate and couldn't see the goats until I got down to the fence. Amazingly, all the goats were still where they belonged, down in one corner of the woods. Horses were up by the barn but there was clear evidence that they'd been down in the woods 'visiting'.  Owners came out this morning and said they'll probably move the fencing tomorrow or Tuesday.

Then, around 5:30 I go out the throw the horses some hay - goats are all yelling down in the woods - and I notice a bunch of them are on the WRONG side of the fence. Total 3 ring circus trying to round them up and get them back where they belong.  A few of them made the mistake of going into the horse's paddock and Inky literally tried to kill them.  I now realize that we have a very nasty, territorial horse with other animals.  I guess we won't be getting any goats as horse companions.  Get everyone safely back where they belong, reinforce fence, call goat owners to let them know what's up and reassure them all goats are accounted for and safe. (Where IS that sweating bullets icon?)

Owners come back out, say yup, they've run out of fun things to eat and are ready to start getting into trouble, so we decide to drop a few small trees to keep them occuped. 2 husbands, and 3 teenage boys playing Paul Bunyon while Cindy and I watch laughing our heads off and enjoy the spectacle of boys AND men being boys. I sure was missing my video camera!
Dumb and dumber are locked in their stalls tonight just to be on the safe side.

And of course, I now have poison ivy.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Land Clearing the Green Way.

I'll admit to being something of a closet hippie amd am a firm believer in Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.  I try very hard to keep the environment in mind in my daily life and am very conscious of the fact that the earth has a finite amount of natural resources.  I compost.  I don't dump 1/2 full water glasses or old water bowls from the pets down the drain, I dump them in my plants instead. 

I desperately wanted to get the 'back 40' cleaned up and usable.  Its almost an acre of land that is a wasteland of downed trees, deadfall, poison ivy, briars, and weeds.   We tried several years ago to have a contractor clean it up, but the results were short lived for the expense and aggravation of having the heavy machinery  brought in.

Then I learned about goats!   Amazingly, Dave agreed it was a great idea.  We found a local farmer who rents their herd of goats for land clearing.  They put up the fencing and check on the goats daily.  We get the weeds and undergrowth knocked back so that we can get in there and clean up without having to wear armour.  We put money back into our local agricultural economy.   The goats are fun and entertaining, eating to their hearts content, and our land is cleared without heavy machinery.  Although the horses took a little bit to accept that they weren't the dreaded 'horse eating goats' eventually they also decided that they're kinda cool.

All in all, a win/win, I think.  And did I mention how cute and entertaining they are!  


Monday, July 9, 2012

Finally - Weather Relief & A Healthy Horse

The ridiculous heat wave of the past few weeks has finally broken and I might finally be able to ride Rico again tomorrow.  90+ and even triple digit temps combined with a stable cough have made riding him the past few weeks an idea that was quickly dismissed. 

Yes, I baby my horse. But really, its not like we're training for the Olympics.  But the weather has broken, and the vet has given him a clean bill of health, so tomorrow morning its go time, and I am so looking forward to being on my boy again.
Unless, of course, its raining.

Monday, July 2, 2012

We Finally Hung the Sign!

Since the man was adamantly opposed to hanging the sign on the mailbox (he still insists were NOT a farm), the sign is now proudly displayed on the barn between the loft access door and the peak of the roof.

It was quite a comical scene of me, my parents, and my uncle (all in their late 70's)  trying to figure out the best way to hang the sign as well as manipulate a 20' ladder to get it up there!  I'll post pics tonight!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Spook, Buck, Bolt, Crash! NOT This Time!

The weenie rider is slowly growing into her big girl panties!  The woman who was afraid to canter a year ago sat through one of Rico's classic *spook*buck*bolt* episodes without losing her seat, courage, or balance. Then put him right back to work.   I don't know who was more shocked that it didn't work for him this time, me or him! 

Those brutally challenging Thursday morning lessons are getting the job done.  Thank you Catherine for knowing exactly when and how to push me out of my comfort zone.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Program Worth Supporting

This is something I've always dreamed of doing.  Using the power of horses to change young lives!  Thank you Lezlie Hiner for your hard work and dedication!

And yes, I did put my money where my mouth is in the name of the horseman who generously gave me my start at the age of 11.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Am I Torturing My Horse?

Inky left for equine boot camp on Saturday.  The plan is to let our trainers have a go at him for a month, two if necessary.   We discussed various alternatives for Rico, but in the end, our only option was to leave him at home alone.  We were hoping our trainer would send us one of her inactive horses, but that did not happen.  I've been unable to find a suitable temporary boarding situation for him.  I can call around and 'borrow' a horse to keep him company, but this would probably just result in a rough transition for both Rico and the borrowed horse, who would possibly have to be returned almost as soon as it settles into a new environment and routine. 

Most of my readers are horse people, so you know that 'alone' is not a happy thing for a horse.  I tell myself its only a month, and so far, he seems to be doing OK, although he is displaying signs of loneliness.  At least he's in a familiar place where he feels safe and knows the routine.  We'll know in a few weeks if Inky needs to stay longer, and if so, I'll start calling around to see if I can borrow a companion for him for the next 6 weeks.  But I feel horribly guilty.   Should I try harder to either find him a temporary boarding spot where he'll have equine companions, or borrow a horse now? 

Please weigh in, gentle readers.   Am I torturing him needlessly? 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Chardon - I Didn't Want to Think About it, But I Must

I posted this on a thread on COTH today.  I did not want to think about this, as its become such a horrifying trend, but I guess it bears repeating simply because the subject is so serious.  So please forgive me for being redundant, and also for preaching, but this is something that bears thought by everyone old enough to read and think about it.

"The truth of the matter is that teens emotions are deeper and more extreme than many people are willing to accept, and the vicious partisianship, rhetoric, and rancour being set today in public life by our politicians, pubic figures, and press are contributing to the emotional upheaval that is pushing them to turn on each other, and even themselves, in unspeakably vicious and violent ways.

Today's teens are surrounded by viciousness and violence. From video games to political elections, they are bombarded constantly with the concept that he who can intimidate his foe, get the last word, the last shot, or the last dime, is the winner.

If public figures and parents can't show self restraint and respect for others themselves, how can we expect these overly emotional, vulnerable kids, to not give in to that combination of an overwhelming sense of anger and helplessness that leads them to take desperate actions. Every kid in that school now has to live with the loss of someone they knew, the realization that it can happen to anyone, anytime, and the nagging question of 'did I somehow contribute to this problem?'.

When in reality, its not the kids who caused this problem, its the example the adults have set for them."

I Want to be a Barn Biddie!

For some reason,  this thread is first trainwreck that I actually took an active part in contributing to the pile on.   I don't really know why this got me so riled up.  I'm really not a person who cares what other people think.  (To a fault.)   Maybe the fact that I'm a middle aged woman who dotes on her horse but has no serious riding goals is the reason I was annoyed at having the whole demographic dismissed as a subject of ridicule.  Not because the shoe fits, but because it is so easy to create the stereotype that all middle aged women with the means and time to hang out together and dote on their horses without having serious goals are troublemaking biddies.

So I've decided that I aspire to be a barn biddie.  I can think of nothing more blissful than the idea that I would actually have enough time to hang out at the barn with my friends or spend so much time riding with them that I could actually be in someone else's way!   Please God, will you someday give me the time to be a barn biddie?  I promise to be the biddiest of them all if you grant me this wish.

Why Am I Stressing? He's NOT My Horse!

Inky officially belongs to my daughter.  Tomorrow will be the first time in 3 years that he will be separated from Rico for more than a few hours.  He is going to the equine equivialent of boot camp, our trainer's very busy hunter jumper barn.  For a month, maybe two.

Why am I totally stressing out.    He will be in good hands, our trainer is the most knowledgable horsewomen I've ever known.  Her horses are all sane, fat, and shiny, even the ones that come to her skinny, dirty and neglected.   Its only  a month and he's NOT my horse!  

Its the overprotective tigress mom thing all over again.  Does anyone else have this problem?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Am I Actually a Mare Person

I'm beginning to wonder.  I love geldings.  I have geldings.  I love their goofy personalities.  But I am always put on the mares at my trainers barn and I seem to do really well on them.  Much better than I do on my own geldings.  Is it just that they're school horses, or am I actually a 'mare person' without realizing it.  It just seem that I have always ridden better on mares.

Are mares really a 'different' ride than geldings?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Horse 2, Fence 0

I am beginning to wonder if Inky just has a deep rooted hatred of fences.  I've never had a broken board until he arrived on the scene.  But I have to say that Sunday morning he really earned his honor badge in fence destruction.  At least he has enough sense to stay off the perimiter fencing.

His $89 turnout sheet has also gained my admiration for its fortitude.  Not even a snag.  I have no hesitation at all in recommending the Tack of the Day 1200D turnout!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Good Lesson is Priceless!

I both love and dread Thursdays.   Thursday is lesson day at my trainer's barn.  At 7:30 A.M.  I love my trainer, I love my lessons.  But I am NOT a morning person, and dread getting up at 0 dark hundred (6 AM), throwing feed at Rico and Inky, and then schlepping up to the barn.  A more motivated person would be up at 5 AM and putting their own horse on the trailer for the lesson, but I am *just*not*worthy* of the title 'motivated rider'.  Especially in winter.

I was late arriving because of a flat tire, rushed tacking up the delightful Ladybug, who was full of enough piss and vinegar to show me teeth and a back hoof that required a sharp reprimand.   We even had a little squealing contest with the pony in the ring at the in gate.  The kind of start that would give anyone a slightly dim outlook on what was next.  Add to that the fact that I hadn't ridden the week before due to flu, and I was sure today's lesson would be a struggle both physically and mentally.

Au contraire!  As soon as pony menace was out of the ring and miss Ladybug and I were at the mounting block, it was like she suddenly decided there was no where else she wanted to be but in that lesson.  For the very first time ever, she stood like a rock at the mounting block.  She even waited like a perfect lady for me to get my feet in the stirrups.  And it only got better from there.  For some reason, I actually felt strong and balanced.  I was actually able to control my leg and upper body.  This mare, who is generally difficult to keep on the rail moved straight and forward today. I was even able to get her into the corners at the canter!  Did she somehow understand that I needed at least *one* thng to go right today?  I think she did.  It was the kind of lesson that reminds me why I get up at 6 AM, and do a commute I hate to a job I only tolerate so that I can afford my horses.  And why I think these animals are the most loving, generous, and beautiful creatures on earth. 

Because a good ride on an otherwise crappy day, is pricesless!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Winter blues and decisions for spring

The winter blah's have taken hold.  Its not the cold, but the lack of sunshine, I think, because we've actually had a wonderfully mild winter.  But my wonderful routine of riding in the morning before work has been destroyed by the incessant voice in my head that  insists that cold weather and 7AM sunrises make riding no fun.  So following the path of least resistance, I give in to the 'rack monster' and stay in bed until its too late to cram both morning chores and a ride into the time allowed before I have to leave for work.
But spring is around the corner, testified by my friend Leann's daily facebook count down to spring posts!  And Inky will be going to our trainer for March, leaving Rico without an equine companion.  I do have options.  He can stay home alone for a month, which is a sad situation for my Mr. Herdbound Socialite, I can take in a short term companion who will hopefully enjoy being spoiled rotten for a month instead of traumatized because its in a strange new environment, or I can send Rico somewhere with an indoor for riding or training for a month.  I did call a local trainer.  It would be nice to have someone re-install his work ethic and trot rhythm again.

The problem is, I am NOT good boarder material.  In fact, I'll truthfully admit that I'm a control freak.  After 15 years of the daily responsibilities for my horses, knowing all their little idiosyncrasies, and doing things 'my way', I am just not able to relax and enjoy letting someone else do it.  Its not that I don't trust others, or even that I think that my way is the 'only way'.  I just think my poor little delicate flower will have a total meltdown and just wither away because his human caretaker isn't around to interpret, explain, and cater to his every little whim and idiosyncrasy.  My brain knows that the change would probably make him a better, or at least more adaptable horse.  My 'maternal instinct' insists that only I know what he needs.

I guess its just simply that I need something to mother, now that my daughter is all grown up and doesn't need me.  Life would be so much easier if I did not have the maternal instincts of a tiger.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Creating Witherun Farm

So yes, I am officially out of control.  After consultation with my virtual friends, I decided to finally officially name the farm.  Then of course I had to have a sign.  Now the blog.

But really, the farm is the fulfillment of childhood dreams, thoroughbreds, white fencing, and all.

Of course, the plan is to paint the fencing black. And my thoroughbreds' racing days are over.  In fact, Rico actually prefers that his working days are over as well, but we're negotiating.