Saturday, December 29, 2012

Sassy girls, non-resolutions and more snow!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Hard to believe....2012 is nearly over. As we approach a new year I have been making some plans. I don't want to call them "resolutions" because that would simplify my plans and goals. Some of the items on my to do list certainly sound resolutionish but I have thrown some longer term goals in there as well.

The first is to get Suki fit to start some serious long line work and create a musical freestyle, if all goes well. Depending on how she reponds, and how her skin handles a saddle pad and surcingle, maybe I will sit on her again by the end of 2013. There probably isn't serious dressage (under saddle) in her future, but just sitting on her again would be a thrill.

I think it is a good thing that I was not able to get Nikki back to VMF this winter. Although it means the winter off from riding, I will no longer have Nikki do any hunter work, so we will focus 100% on dressage. I will pop her over a few low jumps occasionally because she enjoys it, but that will be it. There were times I used that as an excuse to not do as much dressage, and I am aching to get back to it! It is time to get my butt in gear and focus on my riding and getting Nikki out into the show ring where she (and I )belongs. Once I start Nikki again in the spring I will maybe send her to Heather for a few weeks to really get her started. I have found a barn about an hour away that has a few excellent clinicians that teach every month so that is in my plan as well.

By March 2013, the first draft of my Suki memoir will be ready for submission, and I continue to be hopeful that someone will be interested in publishing it! The children's book and its accessories should be ready for submission by June or July 2013.

I have ordered a few calendars which will be arriving next week. Because I was a bit late with my other obligations and crazy schedule I did not get it finished in time for November as I had originally hoped. Jen was awesome in giving me options and doing so much work on the calendar....I can't wait to see them!

My big non-resoltion resolution is a typical one....better organization of my crazy schedule to optimize my time and allow for some relaxation as well.

Yesterday I had to worm the girls. It was time in the rotation for Strongid, which is much thicker than the others and yellow. Nikki is always really easy about it. So easy, that no halter is even required. She dives onto the tube and then comes back eagerly for the portion of the next tube (1 tube is for 1250 lbs, but let's face it, my girls do not weigh 1250!). After pulling the second tube out of Nikki's mouth (she likes to grab it with her teeth and pull it away from me), she started to search my pocket for the post-worming treat slathering a nice thick glob of thick yellow wormer on my jacket. This was the second newly washed jacked to be christened in as many days...

Her majesty was next. Suki really isn't bad about worming, but she likes to initially raise her head when I bring the tube up to her mouth so it is necessary for me to have a hand on her halter. The second tube is actually easier. just as I released my hand Suki shook her head splattering me my face and hair with wormer. I made a face at her and she nickered softly (laughing, perhaps??)

Both girls were a bit rammy after two days in. But the fields were puddling on top of the frozen layer so it was necessary. Suki fussed a bit in the cross ties, but relaxed a bit during wither scratches! I also massaged her back a bit which made her practically turn herself inside out! I think she misses her weekly massages! When she was in full work I had a massage therapist come out for her once a week.

Nikki was also a bit impatient but I hit her magic spot by massaging her ears. I swear it sounds like she is purring when I do that! The two of them are just so funny. I love that each horse, like dog, cat, bird, person, etc has such distinct personality traits.

Saturday, december 29, 2012
Snowy day! Fortunately the snow didn't start to increase until late morning, so the girls were able to get out for a bit this morning. The temperatures are supposed to really drop tomorrow night, so extra layers will be necessary. It has been snowing all day, so I made the last batch of my famous chocolate chip cookies. The house smelled like fresh baked cookies, the fire was lit, the Christmas tree and the little white lights with the greens on the mantle twinkled as the snow continued to fall......bliss.

The view from my garage this morning was so peaceful....

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Blanket fitting issues

Christmas Eve 2012
By late afternoon the clouds were a heavy gray and the air damp and cold with the promise of snow. I got out of my car at the barn as the first few flakes began to fall. Tucking my hair inside my hat and wrapping my coat around me a little tighter I hurried into the barn. Turning on the lights eight horse heads popped up from their hay, and my two girls nickered to me. I closed the door against the wind and took in the comforting sound of hay being munched. With Christmas preparations complete I was able to relax and enjoy the time with Suki and Nikki. I set the radio to my favorite local classical station, WRTI and took my time grooming. Nikki sweetly leaned her head on me while I groomed her ears and head, occasionally checking my pockets for extra treats. Suki lowered her head willingly while I moisturized her ears and face. Feeding each of the horses one final treat I wished them a Merry Christmas and opened the barn door. Those few flakes had turned to a heavy swirling snow guaranteeing a white Christmas.

As I am writing this the wind is howling and snow is falling. The Christmas tree looks beautiful. My 6 year old son is sitting next to me by the fireplace. He is so excited about tomorrow. I can't help but think about the parents in Newtown, Connecticut, who instead of waiting for Santa with their 6 year olds had to lay them to rest. I pull Isaiah a little closer as my heart aches for those families.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Boxing Day. Christmas recovery day....More snow and wintery weather on the way in the afternoon, so I went to the barn in the early afternoon. The girls needed to have some blanket changes because of the decreasing temperatures. Suki galloped down the field as soon as she saw my car, and Nikki followed in the field next to her. The horses all seemed a bit wild, and Nikki's pasture mate was rearing and leaping! Suki was piaffing at the gate, so I grabbed her first. I put her in her stall then went back to get Nikki who was piaffing at HER gate! What is up with these girls?? I must confess, I do love that they piaffe at liberty!

As I groomed each of them I decided to leave them in for the rest of the day. It was beginning to snow again and as the pace of snow fall increased so did the wind. They had each other for company and I really did not want them to go out and start running. Suki was wearing a nice blanket liner under her Rambo, newly outfitted by Donna, my blanket lady with heavy surcingles and leg straps. Nikki was dressed in a slightly heavier blanket than she had been wearing. I knew J would be bringing the horses in within the next hour or so anyway.
It snowed hard for several hours then changed to heavy rain and high winds over night...

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Muddy fields and hugh winds meant the horses would be in for the day, in the best interest of the horses and the fields.

Wearing flannel-lined jeans, my heavy winter riding jacket and a hat I prepared for the wicked wind and cold. Once inside the barn it was not so bad. Suki tried to push her way out of the stall, annoyed at being stuck inside. She seemed to be pretty comfortable under the liner and Rambo, although the liner had shifted slightly, while the Rambo remained DOES she do that? Suki's blankets shift constantly regardless of how well they fit. I was pleased with the performance of the liner, but I guess the true test will be when she gives it a good hardy roll outside. I know that she did lie down in her stall last night, given the amount of shavings clinging to her mane and tail! I performed an abbreviated groomong/spa treatment and gave candy canes to suck on. She returned the favor by grabbing my pony tail while I fastened the buckles on the front of her blanket!

Suki licking her lips to get ALL of the peppermint flavor!

Nikki, although reluctant to leave her pile of hay was her usual snuggly self. I wanted to try another blanket that I had discovered in a bin in my garage. It had just been returned, cleaned and repaired from the blanket lady. This blanket had been Jenny's and I thought it might fit Nikki better in the chest. Like her other blankets it is an 82, but the current ones (other than the Rambo) do not not fit that well in the chest, and sometimes even gap a little if I give the necessary amount of room by loosening the buckles. The canvas is a bit heavier and filling slightly more so I thought it would be the perfect intermediate blanket. I threw it over Nikki's back and buckled the the chest. PERFECT! The blanket completely covered her chest with plenty of room for movement. The length along her back was also good. Then I stepped back.....
MINI DRESS!!! Why would you make a size 82 blanket and not allow for the fact that this would be a large horse??? UGGH! It will work well under Nikki's Rambo or mid weight sheet as a second layer though. So after her grooming I put the other longer blanket back on.

As I made my last trip through the barn I went into each of the girls' stalls and gave them a last treat (having given each of the horses in the barn treats, also). Nikki rewarded me with a mouthful of water down the front of jacket (fresh out of the laundry. So I got in my car with a stiff, sticky pony tail compliments of Suki and a wet jacket compliments of Nikki. It's definitely a conspiracy!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Hay Dunkers

I can't remember exactly when Suki started dunking her hay, but at this point in our relationship (9 years) it seems like she has always done it. Before I purchased her Suki was living the life of a baby horse in a pasture in Canada. She was handled daily, fed, had her feet trimmed, etc, but did not live in a stall at all, although she did have a run-in shed in her field. I agree with those who believe that this is best for the young horse. So there were probably not many opportunities to dunk hay into a water bucket even though pasture was supplemented with hay during the winter months.

With water dunking comes some bizarre habits. Location of the bucket and placement of hay are key. Location of the hay is easily addressed by Suki. She will move nearly half a bale of hay to the preferred location. Poor bucket location can ruin her day. That sounds melodramatic, but it is true. Suki is a diva and can be VERY melodramatic. Part of the problem is that Suki is very social (nosy). Not that I find this to be a problem. In fact, it is one of her most entertaining qualities. However, this nosiness can lead to temper tantrums in Suki's stall. At one barn, the automatic waterer was small, and located in the back of the stall. This water situation was unacceptable to Suki because the bowl portion was too small to accomodate dunking and the location did not allow for observation of barn activity. Ultimately I had to add a water bucket to the front of the stall for dunking. Problem solved.

Suki also usually has two water buckets any way due to high volume water intake. This set up has enabled Suki to use one bucket for dunking, the other for drinking. The non-dunking bucket is kept pristinely clean, while the dunking bucket always contains mouthfuls of water-saturated hay. In our current boarding situation, the water buckets are on the shared wall with the stall next to it and in front of the door opening. Hay is placed near the feed tub in the opposite corner, which means that Suki moves the entire pile in front of the buckets causing me to trip over it as I enter her stall. Location of the water buckets have another interesting effect.... when I first bought Nikki I moved her and Suki (fresh from the rehab barn) to the same location. Their stalls were side-by-side. Prior to her arrival Nikki was not a hay dunker. Less than one week later Nikki was an obsessed hay dunker. She is to this day. But Nikki's dunking does not have the same fastidious requirements that Suki's habit does. Her hay moving is not as neat either. The hay is sort of strewn across the whole front of the stall, and she will dunk in both buckets at will. But this is the same horse who uses a manure pile as a pillow, leaving me to peel dried poop from the tips of her ears. Must be love!

Second time around Nikki is not in the stall next to Suki's. Suki and Banker have shared that wall for over a year. Banker, the formerly non-dunker...yep...he's a dunker! Another boarder whose horse would occasionally stay in was also never a dunker...yep! he is a convert as well! My logic...there are worse habits for your horse to adopt from watching others, so I think it is all in good fun, and a tribute to Suki's dominant spirit!

So now finally at the end of a crazy busy week at work, and the husband travelling for three of those days I finally got to spend some quality time with my girls. I was out on Monday for full grooming and spa, quick check in on Tuesday, Deb took care of the girls Wednesday, quick check on Thursday, and now today. Last night during my quick check I noticed the extremely muddy state of Suki. I gave her a candy cane, some kisses, and tried to overcome the guilt associated with her dirty coat and her very clear annoyance over my absence. Diva! : ) Baby Nikki was less muddy, sucked in her candy cane and pressed her forehead into mine. Sweet baby. I love that my girls have such distinct personalities.

So tonight both received a huge amount of grooming and attention, then were tucked in for the night wearing heavy blankets for the plummeting temperatures and wind headed our way. So at the end of the busy week spending time with my girls relaxes me body and soul. The healing power of horses.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

I think I actually squealed with delight when I saw my girls!

Wednesday 11 December 2012

Home at last. This conference was particularly stressful and intense, and I wanted to jump up and down when we landed in Philadelphia! I had my nose pressed to the window during the descent, and although it was dark I could see the welcoming sights of home. Santa was walking around the B terminal cheerfully shouting merry wishes. When I got home my son ran outside to greet me and threw his arms around me....the hero's welcome!

The conference was held in Atlanta and the highlight of each day was walking through Centennial Olympic Park everyday on my way to the convention center. The Olympic rings dancing fountain was just lovely, and it was fun to watch people go into the rings when the water was down and stand there while it bounced up again (adults and children alike). I loved being able to see the Georgia Dome where the Mag 7 won Olympic gymnastics team gold.

Now back to the daily schedule which kicks up a notch because of the post conference tasks and the approaching holidays. But I just couldn't wait to see the girls! I know that they were well cared for in my absence and Deb texted me every evening to give me an update. We had a bit of rain while I was away so they had some days in and then some days out in the mud. Deb had her work cut out for her! It is so important to have someone that you trust caring for your "babies"! I still worry of course, but it decreases the stress level knowing that the appropriate decisions will be made regarding their care.

Driving down the driveway to the barn I could feel my excitement building. It had been too long since I had seen my beautiful girls! I opened the barn door and turned on the light. Before I even said a word I could see two eager faces pressed up against the bars of their stalls as if to say "where have you been?" Suki tried to give me the cold shoulder after that, while Nikki nickered to me enthusiastically. Of course, then her majesty had to react in kind, so as not to be shown up by her baby sister.

I got to Nikki's stall first and threw my arms around her neck and let her snuffle my jacket, while I buried my face in her thick winter fur. She grows a thick coat like Jenny always did, something I have never had to deal with on Suki. Nikki won't get body clipped this year since we don't have an indoor to work in during the winter. After she nuzzled me a bit Nikki started to look for treats in my pocket and her face lit up when one was produced. I made my way down the aisle to Suki's stall and wrapped my arms around her neck as well. She responded with a horse hug, something that I love! I leaned my cheek into her neck and she proceeded to search for treats as well. (I am well aware that this is a terrible habit to encourage!)She too was excited to receive her treat.

It was so good to see both of them. I felt complete again. Last night by the time I got home from the airport it was too late to go to the barn. Even though I knew they were both fine it was a relief to see them and touch them again after a week away! Just being with horses makes my soul relax.

Thursday, December 13, 2012
After several days in the paddocks due to the still wet pastures, it was dry enough for the girls to go out in their big field. I'll bet there was quite a bit of kicking up of heels! It was great when J added those paddocks. At least the horses can still get out even when the larger fields are too muddy. By the time they get back out to the big fields they are excited but don't carry on as much and risk injury. Much better for mind and body!

Nikki was not too muddy today. She had rolled but only had mud on her legs and belly. She was very snuggly while I groomed her, probably because I was able to spend more time at the barn tonight.

Suki, on the other hand, was pretty much head to toe mud. She loves to go down and rub her neck into the mud. At least this time she didn't have any mud in her eyelashes! She is very uncooperative when I try to get mud out of her eyelashes. It takes A LOT of gummies in bribery!

Yesterday I contacted Success Equestrian which sells a saddle pad that is supposed to conform to the horse, is soft, pliable and doesn't move. After a few exchanges of questions, they kindly offered to send one to me to try on Suki when we do the surcingle, side reins and long lines. I am so excited! I never expected such an offer! This just may be the answer we have been looking for.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Another Conference

Sunday 2 Dec 2012
The wacky weather of December would be perfect if it wasn't for my wacky busy life right now. Saturday didn't turn out quite as nice as expected, which was just as well given the number of events and activities that needed to be packed into the day. Itnbstill would have been a rideable day which was the original plan. With a conference coming up later in the week and through the weekend I had to get the house decorated for Christmas. I just couldn't bring myself to start the previous weekend while it was still November. That's my rule. No Christmas decorations until December 1. I know, with everything that needed to (and needs to) be done, I should have broken my own rule. But I love having the pumpkins and other autumn decoraions out. So the house is now decorated but I have yet to pack for my trip... and pick up the dry cleaning that needs o accompany me on my trip. And get the Suki calendars ordered, the Christmas cards written, prep for Christmas, order gifts, the horses, the homework, oh that list just goes on and on. Why do we always insist on doing so much?

So by the end of the weekend the house was almost finished and decorated enough until my return. Sunday I spentnice quality time with the girls taking my time to groom each of them thoroughly. I did forget to bring hot water with me (we don't have it at this barn) so that I could hot towel Nikki. Because she is quite fuzzy it is difficult to get all of the deep dust out in spite of my heroic efforts. I managed to sneak in a short lunging session with Nikki and she was quiet and respectful, as she should be!

Suki especially enjoyed a face massage allowing me to really rub and brush her ears. This is not always an easy task but when she is up for it she lets me know it! As I begin to rub her face with the cloth Suki drops her head and moves her ear into my hand. I am then afforded full access to her face, head, ears and (gasp) poll! grooming and moisturizing her poll usually requires much bribing with gummy bears, so it is exciting for me when she offers that area freely.

I continue to be thrilled with the condition of Suki's skin, especially the graft area. There have not been any problems with the skin bruising excessively or opening again. While I feel fully confident that long lining with a surcingle will not be a problem I have days when I not so optimistic about the possibility of riding her again. Sometimes I dream that I am sitting on my noble girl floating along in her lofty trot, reaching forward and stroking her neck. Waking from those dreams can be painful because sometimes it takes a few minutes for me to remember that it was just a dream. It is always so real, because I know Suki so intimately and the memory of riding her has never faded. What is especially vivid is that last time I rode her, just two days before he fire. Everything was coming together and I was excited about our future.

Suki and I still have a future of course, as well as a past and a present. Yes, I have accepted that future but maybe not so willingly at times. But then, just as I feel a little sadness creep in I remember Suki's remarkable gift to inspire others and know that I must embrace it! My mind races with ideas and I jot them down on the notepad on my phone, a running list of plans! Now I need to implement some of them.

Wednesday 5 December 2012
Arrangements for the girls have been made, and Deb is very familiar with both horses as well as their habits and antics! I worry less when I travel now than I used to, but of course I still worry.

So the night before I left I groomed both girls and gave them extra treats. It looked like they had some fun in the mud that day but the head to toe kind of mud fun, fortunately! I speak to each of them the entire time I am grooming and when I am alone in the barn I play classical music. It is such a peaceful time in the barn. The sound of horses munching on hay contentedly and the sheer pleasure of their company. My body and mind relax and I feel completely at peace. As I groomed Suki I recalled something that I had read earlier in the day: "sometimes miracles come at a huge price." The tone of the quote was negative referring to someone who had survived a horrific accident but was left irrevocably damaged. While I have certainly been offered negative feedback from time to time for saving Suki, the price she paid was ultimately some disfiguring scars and the likelihood of never being ridden again. But her life is rich. She is happy and healthy with no pain. Most of all Suki is who she is. Those scars don't effect her personality because she doesn't know she looks any different than she did before! Animals are fortunate that way; they don't care how they look. And all I see when I look at Suki is her beauty, inside and out. I love that she can teach people to just accept who they are even when there are limitations. Just live life to its fullest.

As I walked Suki forward to turn her around she stopped first to talk to Nikki then I let her go to another horse. I usually don't do that and they can't have actual
contact. Suki squealed when she sniffed him through the bars causing Nikki to nicker from her own stall. It seemed like she was concerned by Suki's outburst! Suki turned and nickered back then we quietly walked down thaisle to her stall.

I hugged both girls before I left.