Wednesday, March 28, 2012
This crazy weather once again forces me to go to Suki twice a day so that I can keep her in the appropriate clothing. Thankfully, I don't have to worry about that with Nikki, since they take care of that at Valley Mist. I hated not riding on Sunday! My throat seemed worse when I woke up that morning and my whole body hurt. But things have improved since then and I am really looking forward to my ride tomorrow. We are in the process of planning Nikki's show season (yes, I am a little behind with this). Her first time out will be a hunter show, so I won't be doing the riding. But after that I have a list of dressage shows. It is going to be quite a busy spring and summer as I get into showing with Nikki, and work on long-lining with Suki. Isaiah has also requested to be in some shows....hopefully I will be able to coordinate that with Nikki's shows, to make scheduling easier!
Sunday, March 25, 2012
Friday dawned with very thick fog but the promise of an unseasonably warm day once the sun burned off the fog. That afternoon I was scheduled to work as a volunteer at Shady Hollow therapeutic ridng. A 4 day course was being presented for physical, occupational and speech therapists to learn about hippotherapy. My task was to prepare and lead horses for the students. I took a half day off from work, as my assignment was from 1-3:30. The course itself was very interesting. For this day, the students were to evaluate the horse's conformation, watch it move and think about what it would feel like to sit on the horse. The next part was for each student to sit on the horse bareback with a vaulting surcingle to hold onto and feel the movement of the horse as one of their patients would. The course itself was very interesting, and I enjoyed speaking with the students about how they incorporate hippotherapy into their treatments. There were 15 students from all over the US. I was a little disappointed with one of the volunteers, who apparently is now an instructor. For example, the course instructor told me to change direction across the diagonal. This volunteer was yelling to me to change direction where I was, because I guess she didn't really understand the across the diagonal issue. When I tried to explain what I was doing she waved me off. There were a couple of other examples like that, but I decided to just go with it. But as I said, It was a great learning experience and I look forward to volunteering again. Suki had her feet trimmed Friday. She has a chip on the inside of her right front foot that I was concerned about, but the farrier said that it is growing out nicely, and he is not worried. While his apprentice was doing the finishing work, Suki kept trying to rest her chin on his back....I know that she was thinking of nipping him lightly but i kept her in line....she is just so predictable at times! After that we had a brief lunging session and although it was quite warm, Suki worked well. Jennifer made this collage over the weekend....
Thursday, March 22, 2012
Monday, March 19, 2012 I wake up to another morning of fog, though not as thick as it had been on the weekend. The weather has been unseasonably warm, and I simply don't like it. While it seems pleasant enough, but unnatural. This makes make worry about the girls constantly because horses often colic with rapidly changing weather. The temperatures do decrease quite a bit in the evening, which is nice. But over the past several days buds have appeared on trees and bushes that ordinarily would not be visible yet. Mondays drag endlessly because all I can think about is the girls, riding and writing my book. My ipad sits perched on my office desk, and as I become distracted, or thoughts come to me, I spin around in my chair and write a few sentences. On that day my mind frequently wandered back to the lovely rides on Nikki over the weekend, and I look forward to Tuesday's ride. Meghan said that she was very good on Monday, inside the arena and out. They even jumped the scary wagon wheel jump.
Sunday, March 18, 2012
Saturday morning I awoke to extremely dense fog. As I made may way over to the barn the only sign of life that I could see were the milking rooms of the dairy barn. Barely able to see a few feet ahead of me, the trip took 35 minutes rather than the usual 20. It was still and quiet when I arrived at the barn. The woods behind the outdoor ring were almost invisible. Nikki's deep nicker greeted me when I opened the door and called her name, making me smile. I wasn't sure if the horses had been fed, and with the lights off they all seemed to be enjoying the last minutes of their snooze before the daily activities began. Enjoying the peacefulness the barn, I prepared Nikki to for our ride. I love riding early in the morning, and with temperatures in the low 40's I wouldn't even be cold! One of my goals for the ride was to focus on shortening and lengthening of stride. We were off to a bit of a slow start, but after a bit of canter work, Nikki really began to engage her hind end. The trot shortenings and lengthenings were lovely! As Nikki shortened her stride I could feel her come up in her back and her whole frame lift. When i asked for the lengthening she gave a big push when asked and lengthened stride without getting flat or strung out. It was AWESOME!! The canter transitions within the stride were not as dramatic, but they are definately improving. To help with that I worked on spiraling in on the trot circle then leg yielding back out to the 20 meter. As soon as I hit the 20 meter I ask for the canter transition which was clean and sharp, followed by a bit of lengthening down the long side. She was light and responsive.....I am smiling as I write this, feeling it again. I love giving her big hugs after our ride. She likes to turn around to take the brush and "help" groom! How I love this baby! Later in the afternoon I lunged Suki. Jennifer came over to visit and take photos. Suki seems to respond to her, posing for the camera and giving a full dose of her diva personality! With the other horses still turned out I wasn't sure how silly Suki would behave! Sometimes it distracts her and she tries to leap around on the lunge. But given her current fitness level those antics can't last very long. But also given her fitness level she can get hurt. Suki didn't seem to mind leaving Banker in the field, so we were off to a good start!
Thursday, March 15, 2012
When I arrived at he barn on Tuesday evening the horses were still out. The later sunset gives them more time to be outside grazing. Suki enjoys her time outside and it keeps her moving around a bit. Walking into the pasture, Suki trotted over to me wih Banker not far behind. I laugh when I see how she tolerates him. Oh, she still offers a shake of her head with ears pinned occasionally, but he is not even remotely moved by her antics. In fact, I actually unwrapped peppermints for each of them as they stood side by side!
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
The barn is always a source of comfort for me. In the early morning just after feeding, the only sound comes from the horses, heads buried in feed tubs contentedly munching on their food. A new day is about to begin. Heads begin to pop up as each horse finishes its grain, with the impatient ones stomping around in anticipation of turnout. In the late afternoon when I go to the barn to take care of Suki, the horses are often already in their stalls for the night. Depending on the hour of my arrival, most will have finished their grain and have moved onto their hay. Another one of my favorite sounds....the peaceful munching accompanied by the pleasant aroma of good quality hay.... The fields are beginning to become greener again, much to the horses' delight! With the mild winter and early burst of warm weather this is occurring earlier than usual.
Sunday, March 11, 2012
There are several places in my house where I enjoy writing. When it is snowing, I love to sit in my upstairs hallway looking out at the mountains while it snows. It is the perfect place to watch the snow come across the mountains. This afternoon I sat in my family room where I can sit on the couch and see the bird feeders. I mix a variety of specialty seeds, nuts and berries, and from my spot I am able to observe birds, squirrels, chipmunks, deer and the groundhog enjoy their feast. On some early mornings even the elusive fox family comes through our yard. Sometimes as I take a break from writing, I just sit and watch them. The hour is early, because I like to leave by 7:15 to ride Nikki, but want an hour or so to myself before I leave. On some of those mornings I knit instead of write, just to enjoy the peacefullness of the house as everyone else still sleeps.....Even my drive to the barn is peaceful. Typically there are few cars on the road so I am able to enjoy the beautiful Oley Valley scenery as I make my way to the barn! Two beautiful days this weekend. I had a lovely ride on Nikki early Saturday morning, followed by a day of catching up on laundry! This morning was much colder than expected, so I rode while it was still 25 degrees out! The clocks turning forward one hour certainly did not help. Nikki was not crazy on the lunge, which I was fully expecting given the cold temperature and early hour! Following a brief warm up we I was able to work through a fair amount of lateral work. After some leg yielding and shoulder in, I even snuck in a few steps of half pass..... : ) Nikki was light off of my leg this morning so the lateral work was easy. On Sunday mornings I listen to a local radio show, "Woman of the Week", with Marylin Russel. This morning Marylin introduced Sallie Dixon, who with her husband Saunders, runs the Thorncroft Therapeutic riding program in Malvern, PA. I had the pleasure of meeting Sallie and Saunders a few years ago at a benefit for Horse Power for Life, which offers riding lessons to cancer patients and their families. It was so exciting to listen to Sallie discuss the benefits of horse in therapy on the radio. She even said how her in her own life, the minute she touches her horse, she is at peace.....Sometimes I wonder about the direction of my life. Suki has changed many things about how I think, and what I want to do. I am beginning to believe that everything does happen for a reason, and I am working towards some new goals. Isaiah had a very nice riding lesson this morning. He continues to talk about showing, and also about riding Nikki!!! I think it is funny that because I always have tall mares, Isaiah thinks that big horses are the norm, and really has no hesitation about getting on one of them! I told him that if he continues to do well in his riding lessons that I will let him sit on Nikki in May..... With this beautiful weather I am starting (hopefully) with a schedule to regularly work Suki on the lunge. Once her fitness improves and I think that she can wear a surcingle, we will begin long lining. This afternoon she seemed to really enjoy lunging. Our session lasted approximately 8 minutes, because of her fitness level, but we were able to focus on transitions and and loosening the body through the back. At the end Suki gave a huge sigh...it seemed to me that it was a sigh of satisfaction, and she calmly walked back to the barn. She likes to work and have a job, so this seems to give her great pleasure. For the next few weeks we will work on increasing fitness, and making sure that she stays sound. One of the long term concerns from the fire was that if Suki were to to be put back into full work, we may see the lung damage that she suffered. it is possible that her capacity is decreased, but we will not know this for awhile. One day at a time. I enjoy both of my girls so much, and I look forward to the coming months as we progress toward two sets of goals.
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
March days such as this bring the promise of spring following the dark, dreary days of winter. Sure, winter 2011-2012 in my part of Pennsylvania has not been harsh by any means, with disappointing snowfall and an overabundance of mud. There have been a number of "teaser" days in January and February but they are never taken as seriously as those warm days we see in early March. Yes, we could still have a significant snowfall, but that seems unlikely. When I left my office during lunch I was greeted by abundant sunshhine and temperatures in the mid-fifties. I would have been tempted to put the top down on my car, but with all of the "stuff" on the seats that may have turned ugly. My trunk also has a variety of horse equipment in it making it nearly impossible to close the lid in the trunk which allows the hard top to fold into it. Probably better off not doing that anyway....it would have been difficult to come back to the office! This morning after taking Isaiah to school I stopped at the barn to change Suki from her mid weight blanket into a light sheet. Temperatures dipped below thirty last night, so I really had no option but to make a blanket switch in the morning. All of the horses turned to the door as I opened it and Suki nickered to me as I walked in. I know that she heard my car approaching, and looked like she may have just stood as I arrived. As I entered Suki's stall and stepped in a big pile of manure I was pleased that for once I had taken the time to change into boots before going into the barn. On days where I have to do something with Suki before work I just wear my boots there. But when my first stop is Isaiah's school I just can't bring myself to do it! Vanity will get you every time! Suki hungrily took the carrots that I offered, then continued to sniff my pockets for more treats as I exchanged the blankets. I put on a nice clean light weight sheet which I am sure will look much different when I see her tonight! This time I managed to not get drooled on or have water spit on my clothing, but with all of that nuzzling and pocket searching my favorite perfume scent was replaced by "Eau de Cheval"!
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
I stood in front of the open closet in one of our guest rooms and took a deep breath. As I unzippered the garment bag containing my dressage coat, I felt my stomach do a little flip. The sleeve of my black wool Pikeur dressage coat popped out imediately and I held the fine fabric between my fingers. Freeing the coat from its casing, I held it up in front of me. Thred silk lining shined brightly in the light. Besides the fabulous tailored fit of the coat, that red lining is one of my favorite features. I love the way the back flap dances open as I ride, exposing the red lining. That dressage coat is just so elegant and makes me feel beautiful in the saddle. Next I removed a pair of white show breeches, with the tiny boot polish mark that I was never able to get out! It is barely noticeable, but I know that it is there. A very bad habit that I have is sitting down and crossing my legs wearing white breeches and freshly polished boots. I do that nearly every time after I remove all of my protective clothing from over my whites! Sometimes I would complain about the person who decided that white clothing anywhere in the vicinity of horses was a wise idea! But the combination of white breehes and shirt, black jacket, white gloves and shiny black boots is indeed sharp! Holding my breath I reached under the bed for the box containing my custom made show boots. I opened the box and gently removed one of the boots from its protective bag. Beautiful! These boots have never been worn while riding. Ordered 6 months before the fire I never even had a chance to break them in beyond walking around the house. The sight of these boots makes me sad, but at the same time hopeful. I will begin the process of wearing the boots around the house again, then start riding Nikki while wearing them. The boots will be ready for our show the end of April, and that is the exciting new beginning of my show career. This afternoon I picked up Rugby's ashes from the veterinary hospital. Just when you think you are starting to accept the loss of a beloved 4-legged child, the emotions come rushing back, forcing you to catch your breath. I tried to put on a brave face, but the receptionist saw right through that act! I could picture my beautiful black and white Rugby and wishing that I was holding him in my arms so that he could lick my nose one more time..... Tonight I only had time for an abbreviated Suki visit, so I did a quick exfoliation and moisturizing on the right side of her neck, where it is the driest. Tomorrow morning I will need to change her into a lighter sheet in anticpation of the warmer day. But even during my brief time with Suki tonight she managed to drop wet hay on my head and spit water on my arm....she certainly knows how to cheer me up! Wild Nikki was wild again on the lunge for Katrina, kicking out and being naughty! Then she was perfect for Meghan under saddle. Looks like we have a slight issue to work through. I am not worried though. She is sensible and this is a phase. We will be diligent about corrections.....
Sunday, March 4, 2012
I always joke about crazy baby on the lunge line. On cold mornings sweet baby Nikki will be quietly trotting along on the lunge when she suddenly hears a noise (not necessarily a loud one) and leaps up and does a few bucks. She may do that two or three times, then is fine. Typically she is not spooky, but the cold weather seems to make her a bit more sensitive initially. On those mornings I will work her on the lunge for 10-15 minutes. For some reason, this morning, Nikki would not settle. She would seem fine then something would set her off again. I continued to work her doing many transitions as focusing exercises. This went on for 45 minutes! Just as she seemed to be relaxed and listening BOOM! Another outbust! At one point I heard a constant banging and kept thinking "WHAT IS THAT NOISE!!" But at least Nikki wasn't spooking at it....then i realized it was my head pounding! I was really getting frustrated, and FINALLY she seemed to be finished with the outbursts. Admittedly I was a bit hesitant to ride, but I knew that I needed to mount and do some work, so that we ended on a positive note, and with me riding her. So I got on walked her around a bit then did some walk/trot transitions. She was relaxed and listening. It was a short ride, but Nikki worked well, and we needed to finish on a calm, positive note! I really don't know what was different today. I do have a feeling that she did not get turned out yesterday, because when she was turned out today there was bucking, squealing, extended trot and passage! She had yesterday off, but a day off does not usually make her crazy. Perhaps the nearly 5 year old brain just needed to let off some steam. Tomorrow will be better....and she did redeem herself, so all is forgiven, of course! Every day cannot be perfect! I remembered to grab Nikki's bridle today before I left Valley Mist earlier today. Not an easy task after my adventure with Nikki, followed by Isaiah's riding lesson. A classmate of Isaiah's was starting lessons today, so we got caught up in that as well! Isaiah had a wonderful lesson. So far he is committed to listening and trying to improve his skills. He also has has a new goal.....he wants to win a blue ribbon this summer in a horse show....... Because today was a bit colder and more windy than I had anticipated, so I decided not to lunge Suki today. Add to that horses running around a bit in the field and I figured I would wait until tomorrow for that. I did, however, go forward with my plan to attempt to put on the bridle. With a little bit of trepidation I walked into Suki's stall with the bridle. I decided to do it in the stall because I didn't want her to fly back or raise her head minimizing my control. With my left hand I held the bottom of her halter and slipped the reins over Suki's head. So far, so good.... I removed the halter, placed my hand over her nose and eased the bit into her mouth. Slowly I raised the bridle and slipped it over Suki's now shorter ears. Just like old times, no fuss, and the bridle was on. I cried like a baby. I never thought this day would come. It is a major step toward our spring plan of long lining in a bridle and surcingle. A long time coming and a dream come true!
Saturday, March 3, 2012
Thursday was a rainy damp day, so I decided to do just a quick check on Suki on my way home after picking up Isaiah. I had done the full spa treatment the day before, so I thought it would be fine. I usually do the "quick check" once a week, and I always receive the same reaction from Suki. As I walk into her stall i have a handful of treats. Then I check her blanket, straighten it, give her some hugs and head out the door. As I walk out of her stall I can feel Suki's face pressed against my back as she attempts to follow me out of her stall. That always makes feel sad, because she must truly love and enjoy our time together and is disappointed when that time is cut short. Spending time with my horses is always a joy and comforting after a long day. The greeting that the girls offer when they hear my voice and watch me approach is heartwarming. I always appreciate the help that I receive to take care of Suki, but days when things just don't quite as planned, I am especially grateful. Some days you try to fit everything into a mere 24 hours, and it is just impossible! Friday was certainly one of those days. Isaiah's birthday party at the Lehigh Valley Zoo was today, but yesterday I had to get the house ready for my mother's arrival, go to work and groom, exfoliate and moisturize Suki. I usually leave the office at 4 on Fridays, but there was just too much going on. Nikki gets usually is ridden by Meghan on Fridays, so that My husband was picking up my mother which meant that I needed to pick up Isaiah from school and do the house and Suki. Deb, who takes care of Suki while I'm away, is great. Most of the time she is available to help at the last minute when something comes up, so I texted her late morning on Friday when I realized that at 4 PM I was going to have to be in three places at the same time. Crisis averted! The party today went well, but I was tired by the end of the day and looking forward to taking care of Suki. Because of the time we had to leave for the party (and the distance) my Saturday morning ride on Nikki did not happen. We had quite a bit of rain overnight, so as I made my way down the driveway toward the barn I was not surprised to see the horses out in the small paddocks rather than tearing up the pasture. From the corner of my eye I thought I saw Suki, but she disappeared behind the barn. As I pulled up closer to the barn I could see that her blanket was no longer green, but caked, and I mean CAKED with mud on the left side. While I was looking forward to spending time with her, I was not excited to see so much dirt......but, it made me smile anyway. Clearly she had a great time outside....isn't that what life is about? By the end of the grooming my hair face and clothing were covered in a layer of dirt and dry skin...delightful! The sheet was dry, but had layers of mud on it so I attempted to curry some of that off. Suki's other sheet of the same weight is with the blanket lady for wash and repair. there is another spare by Nikki which I will have to bring that to Suki tomorrow since the weather is supposed to get a bit warmer after this next cold snap. I am SO looking forward to my morning ride on Nikki tomorrow. I am actually going to borrow her bridle to see if I can put it on Suki. She has not warn a bridle since the fire, and with the difficulty that we had re-introducing her to a halter, I think that it may take a bit of time to work through it. I will order a bridle for Suki next week (when I finally decide which one I want!), but I am anxious to see her reaction to wearing one. I planning on lunging her tomorrow, so I will lunge her in the bridle if we get that far! I am SO excited! This post is quite disjointed tonight.....I am going to blame fatigue, and promise of a better post tomorrow......and more pictures. Jennifer took some great ones last weekend and I want to add more of them. Maybe tomorrow's photos will include one of Suki wearing a bridle!