Saturday, February 23, 2013

Yucky weather, beautiful Suki and Nikki

Thursday, February 21, 2013
I realized as I stepped out of my car when I arrived at the barn, that I smile instantly.  Before I even see my girls.  The wind had been whipping all day and the cold air infused with earth, hay, and yes, manure (from the manure heap) caused me to pause and appreciate the country air of Berks County.  I grew up in a suberb of Manhattan, yearning for life in the country for as long as I can remember.  Maybe it was that commute into the city for ballet, or the traffic in Bergen County NJ to go...well, anywhere.  Once I finally started to ride horses at age 15, all I could think of was wide open space and pastures full of horses. 

Closing the door behind me to shut out the wind, I turned on the lights.  Big brown eyes blinked at me from all directions, adjusting to the light.  Usually at the end of my time at the barn I give each horse a treat.  Today they looked at me so expectantly that I couldn't I started the visit with a peppermint for everyone. 

Friday, February 22, 2013
I always worry about blankets for Suki and Nikki.  Warm, but not too warm.  You know the drill.  Often I feel like I am the only one at my barn who worries about such previous boarding situations, blanket dancing was the norm...  But I sawAmanda who owns Ophelia, and she was asking me about the blanket weight because of the constant change in temperatures. She said that she worries about it constantly...I am not alone!

Saturday, February 23, 2013
Rainy and cold.  Yesterday I spoke to the barn owner about putting the girls together and the barn owner was fine with that.  He said that Kilian's owner has complained that Nikki swings her but at Killian when she is trying to get him.  He rears and strikes at me when I try to get Nikki.  He is very aggressive with her and she is a bit frightened by it.  I have never seen her spin and kick, so we need to stop that now!  Suki and Banker's relationship doesn't seem as good as it was before.  But I worry about Banker because he and Killian went out together once and Killian kicked Banker in the face, requiring stitches.  Nikki was being blamed for the aggression between her and Killian in the field, but it sounds to me like he is the instigator. 

I went to Oley Valley feed for wormer, bird seed and I had hoped, a stall toy for Suki.  Successful for the first two items, but not for a stall toy.  I guess I will have to order one.  The drive over was dreary and rainy, but the Oley Valley is always beautiful.  The dairy cows werewaiting to go into the barn, but one ambitious lady was looking in the window of the barn as if to say "hey!  It's raining out here!".  The quilt shop parking lot was packed, so there was either a class or a 'quilt in' in progress.  I bet they were having a great time!

When I arrived at the barn I was surprised to see the horses out, but it had not been raining earlier and was just a bit misty.  Suki and Nikki were not too wet, but I knew that I would not put them out once i had groomed them.  It was 2 PM when I got there, so that was sufficient turnout time for them.  Both were anxious to get in, and Nikki tried to steal the carrots from my pocket while I was fastening the gate.  With rain falling gently on the roof I played classical music on my phone and enjoyed peaceful, quiet time with my girls!  Suki was slightly fidgety in the cross ties, but she could hear the horses outside so that sometimes makes her uneasy.  Nikki and Banker were in their stalls, so eventually she relaxed.  The whole right side of her (including her face) was muddy, so cleary she had a decent roll, even though they were just in the paddocks!

Tomorrow I will be auditing another dressage clinic.  The clinician is a trainer from Paul Belasik's farm in Gettysburg.  Paul does a lot of in hand work to teach higher level movements.  I am a huge fan of long lining, and one of the riders tomorrow will be working in hand as well.  Paul also has intensive seat short courses which apparently are not for the faint of heart.  I am hoping to attend one this summer.   

here is his website...

REALLY looking forward to this one!
I am also making quite a bit of progress on the Suki memoir.  I put the children's book aside because I have finished writing it and will go back to read and edit it again.  It would be wonderful to have a Breyer horse or plush toy to go with the book.  Plans continue to create an in-hand musical freestyle with Suki so that we can perform exhibitions at some of the horse expos....and dare I say it? Dressage at Devon??  Not 2013, but hopefully for 2014. 

I am really hoping to get Nikki out showing strong this season also. So much planning, so much hope.....

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Why do some people work with horses when it doesn't even seem as though they even LIKE them??

Sunday, 17 February 2013
First of all, it is good to be home. This conference was not as long as others, but three days of prostate cancer talks makes your brain hurt after awhile! As usual Deb and Toby took excellent care of Suki and Nikki, leaving me with not much to worry about (though I did anyway, of course!)

It was about 70 degrees and sunny when I left Orlando yesterday, returning to cold and windy weather. The girls are bundled up since today is blustery with snow squalls from time to time. I went over earlier than usual just to do abbreviated grooming and to offer many treats and hugs.

The horses were out when I arrived and another boarder who I do not know well was holding her horse for the farrier (not the one that I use). Suki's blankets were a bit wonky, as usual, so I brought her in the barn to do a quick moisturizing and to fix her blankets. As I put her on cross ties the farrier was yelling at the horse and speaking in a very nasty tone. Suki started to get upset so I decided to put her in her stall to work with her. Even that was not enough. She was pacing and nervous and this guy's tone was really nasty. Suki pooped twice in her stall while I fixed her blankets. I understand that horses need to behave and stand still while having their feet done and it can be dangerous for the farrier if the horse becomes too unruly. But honestly, the horse did not appear to be doing much at all except some slight fidgeting. And yes, it is cold today, and horses don't always listen....but if you don't really like animals, then why work with them? It is not an easy job to be a farrier and I'm sure that back issues are a a hazard of the trade. All the more why you should truly enjoy being with the horses. Yes, many complain about our jobs and question career choices. Sometimes when I am at an exhausting conference followed by the return and immediate report writing, yes, I complain. But I have chosen to do this. And my complaining doesn't really affect anyone directly (okay, sometimes my husband gets an ear full!). But when you work directly with animals or people (such as medicine, education, etc) your attitude DOES affect them and can even be harmful. Suki had a bad experience several years ago with a farrier, and when I saw him in action, he was promptly fired. It has taken YEARS for her to regain confidence and she finally doesn't seem QUITE as nervous anymore. But I really felt like today gave her flashbacks, as she was obviously adversely affected by this man's behavior. In fact, I didn't even groom her....just picked her feet, because I didn't want her to be in the barn longer than necessary. Nikki was a total love bug, smothering me with her head. Both girls stucj their heads over the fence so I was able to rub their faces at the same time. I picked Nikki's feet while she was out in her pasture, then gave everyone treats and hugs before I left.

Watching the horses interact today makes me continue my thoughtof putting the girls together in a pasture. As I mentioned in my last post the dynamic seems to have changed between Suki and Banker, and Nikki simply has never liked Killian. They seemed to be okay today and there was no ear pinning when they stood side by side waiting for treats.

Now I am home sitting by the fire watching the snow swirl outside. It won't amount to much but I feel a strong sense of comfort surrounded by my loved ones (2-legged and 4-legged) on a blustery afternoon. The cats are happily watching the birds and squirrels dart in and out of the feeders, and Ripley is curled up on the couch. And in a rare moment for our household we are all together in the family room, Isaiah drawing quietly and Michael reading. It won't last, as it will soon be time to start dinner and the members of the house will set in motion.

I think about the girls out in the snow....Suki likes to put her head down and trot into snowy wind, while Nikki sticks her faces up toward the sky as if to feel the snowflakes land on her nose. I half expect her to open her mouth to try to catch the frosty flakes on her tongue!

Monday, February 18, 2013
I was thrilled to be able to spend a bit more time with Suki and Nikki this evening. The horses were contentedly munching on hay when I opened the door, and seven heads poppped up to greet me when I switched on the aisle lights. All except my girls went back to their hay, but Suki and Nikki continued to look at me and nicker....softly at first then with more urgency. I went to each of their stalls offering carrots, receiving nuzzles in reward. The day at work melted away in seconds. Equine therapy: there's nothing quite like it, is there?

It was nice to do a thorough grooming (Nikki is shedding like mad!) after being away.  I was seriously tempted to get Nikki out on the lunge, but the footing was really not suitable.  Suki's face was really itchy today so I just held the exfoliation mitt and let her do her thing!  Sometimes she rubs her face against the mitt so hard that she almost knocs me over!  When she was finished I used her favorite face brush followed by moisturizer.  I had to pull a layer off each of them because tomorrow will be in the 40's.  The blanket dance continues......

Friday, February 15, 2013

Freezing rain and fog does not make for happy horses

Sunday (Feb 10) temperatures were above freezing and the girls had a glorious time out in the snow. Suki trotted to the gate to greet me but fortunately toned it down a bit so I would have a heart attack worrying about her slipping and sliding into the gate! Nikki responded to my call with a nicker then casually walked to the gate, knowing that she would be coming in for the night.

Because I had some extra time I was able to stay at the barn longer and reallly get to enjoy Suki and Nikki. I leave for a conference on February 13, so the next few days will be more rushed, and I will be away from my family and the girls. Deb and Toby will do their usually great job in my absence, but still, I worry.....

I groomed Suki first, because she was pacing in her stall while I brought Nikki in, and I knew that she would not give me any peace if I took care of Nikki first! Baby Nikki (who is really not so much a baby anymore) happily munched on her hay while I groomed and moisturized Suki. Well, every time I stuck my hand in the gummy bear bag to bribe Suki into allowing me to moisturizeher poll and ears, Nikki looked up, so that she could have some too! Suki's skin looks really good, so I am confident that the skin care regimen is appropriate. She has also picked up a little weight, so that makes me happy too. I am going to have to put Suki back on a 5 week farrier schedule. She is barefoot and with the constant freezing/thawing of the ground her feet are a mess. She has good, strong feet, so I think that we just have to readjust the timing again. Suki is always very aware of where I am at any given moment while I am at the barn. Running out to the car to retrieve my bottle of water I only opened the barn door enough for me to get through. As I approached the barn to come back in I could see Suki straining her neck to look for me. Then she nickers to me softly as I re-enter. How I love that sound. The single sign that gave me hope when I stepped into ICU for the first time since Suki's arrival after the fire.

Nikki was all over me while I tried to groom her. She just kept wanting to snuggle and lean on me, so I stopped what I was doing and let her rest her lovely head into my chest. She closed her eyes and gave a big sigh of contentment. I wrapped my arms around her and we just stood that way for a few minutes enjoying the closeness. I took in that wonderful Nikki aroma and allowed myself to relax. I am itching to ride, and dream about it nightly, but for now horse hugs will do. Then while I was grooming her front legs Nikki reached down, grabbed my hat by its tassle and yanked it off my head! My phone was in the car so I wasn't even able to get a picture. She really did look funny and was quite pleased with herself for the little prank that she pulled on me.

Monday, Feb 11, 2013
Fog, freezing rain, sleet, rain.....the weather really ran the gamut today. Suki was not as cranky as I had expected her to be after spending the day in, but she did start to bang her stall door as soon as she heard my voice! As I approached her stall I caught her doing something that I have not seen her do in her stall.....PIAFFE! She was nickering and piaffing! She didn't seem agitated, she just wanted out. As I led her from her stall she puffed herself up and started to passage. I allowed her to do a few steps then chirped at her to walk. I swear sometimes she does these things to entertain herself! Suki was happy to be out of her stall, and although started off fidgety, relaxed once I started to groom her. Occasionally she felt the need to make a face at one of the horses in the nearby stall. Nikki is usually not upset about being in, although since moving back to Suki's barn she gets out more so I think that she misses it more than she used to. But still it seems that she is just happy to be with me. With all of the wet weather I anticipate that they will only go out for a short period on Tuesday in the paddocks. But it is better than another day in!

Tuesday, Feb 12, 2013
Abbreviated visit today because of my departure tomorrow for the conference. With everything organized I am ready to leave the girls in Deb and Toby's capable hands. Deb will send me daily updates and I will obsess about the weather and what clothing they will need to wear. At home all of Isaiah's homework schedule, piano, etc is organized so I hope for the best.

I feel the promise of spring in the air and look forward to getting Nikki going again. Suki will also start to work slowly first with some lunging to increase fitness and sharpen the aids. Then we will move on to surcingle, followed by long lines. So much to look forward day at a time.....

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Just a girl and her horse (s)

Fortunately for us the fury of the storm did not hit. We had some snow and wind, but nothing like they have in New England! The girls were in on Friday due to the nasty weather, but by late Saturday morning it was an all clear for turn out. That makes for happy horses.

What I am finding interesting is that when I arrive at the barn while the girls are still out in their pastures, they are both near the fence, only a few feet from one another. When I moved Nikki back to Suki's barn I decided not to disturb Suki's bond with Banker and to have them in separate fields. The last time they were together, Suki was clearly the dominant one in the field and I questioned how well they got along. When Nikki was with Chester all seemed fine, but now that she is with Killian, I do not like what I am seeing. Suki's relationship with Banker also seems to be less than amicable lately. Yet Suki and Nikki talk to each other over the fence without squealing and seem to be forming a bond over the fence. Now I find myself considering putting them back together. It would certainly make it easier for me when I need to work with them, but my convenience is secondary. So I am still chewing on this.....

I think that my horses must be the silliest girls ever! This is what they did to me today....

And their very presence just warms my heart!
I brought each of them in for grooming. Suki kept turning around to look out the back door of the barn because most of the horses were at the gate. Finally I just turned her around on the cross ties. We could hear Nikki talking to us at her gate, so I had to go out from time to time and talk to her. I probably should have put her in her stall while I groomed Suki. Next time. Just before I put Suki back out I decided to try a few things in hand. First I did the carrot between her legs, because yes, I want to do the parlor trick of bowing. If I work with her every day I am confident this will be an easy trick. As I walked her back outside I decided to use my dressage whip to see if I could get a little passage. Suki performed it easily, so after a few strides I patted her, gave her a treat and put her back in her pasture.

When I brought Nikki in, all she wanted to do was snuggle. I actually had a hard time grooming her becaus eshe kept snuffling my head and leaning on me! When we were finished I brought her back outside also. Suki was still at the gate (talking while I was grooming Nikki)so I let them touch noses over the fence. No ear pinning, fussing or squealing. I could see nostrils moving in silent nickers. WHAT ARE THEY SAYING???

Earlier this week I found out that Suki's case is to be included in a veterinary journal article about burned horses. I sent some recent photos to one of her veterinarians from New Bolton to potentially included in the article. One thing that has always meant a lot to me is what the veterinarians learned while treating Suki. When Boyd Martin's horse and others from his barn were admitted to New Bolton after a barn fire at Boyd's I knew that a treatment plan could immediately be implemented. That fire received quite a bit of press because Boyd is a world class eventer. I am just a "girl" with a horse. We received a fair amount of publicity also, but what I hope is that other "regular" people with their one beloved horse have hope. It has not been an easy journey, but the lessons learned and the people we have met along the way demonstrates that even regular people can beat the odds....

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Cold day at a dressage clinic

Sunday, February 3, 2013

This morning I woke up early as per my usual routine and fed the dog and cats. My plan was to hit the treadmill to get a few miles in. But when I went outside to put birdseed in the feeders I felt the cold air hit my cheeks and kicked the fluffy snow as I walked. The salt trucks had not yet been through so I decided to take Ripley for a walk in the snow. Forty minutes after Ripley's breakfast, I dressed him in his coat (Ripley is a Weimaraner and it was only 15 degrees). The silence of early morning and fresh snow is at the same time relaxing and invigorating, giving me the opportunity to think about what I had observed in the dressage clinic that I audited on Saturday. Ripley likes to walk at a brisk pace so up and down the hills we trekked, encountering only one other morning walker. Feeling quite refreshed after our walk, Ripley and I plunked down in front of the fire while the rest of the house remained silent (at 7:30 AM, Michael and Isaiah were still sleeping). Not wanting to get up for my laptop or ipad I grabbed a notebook from the cabinet near the fireplace and jotted down some clinic notes the old fashioned way!

But now I am back in front of the window watching the birds feast in the snow. This picture of the squirrel watching me from the gazebo feeder is from last weekend.

So Saturday morning, February 2, I left my house at 8 AM to make the 45 minute drive to audit a dressage clinic. The temperature was 12 degrees with a brisk wind when I arrived. I hoped that there was a heated viewing area with sound to watch the lessons, but was not overly optimistic that I would be so lucky. Wearing flannel lined jeans, thermal socks and winter paddock boots, I packed my car with heavy coat, scarf, hat, mittens and two wool coolers. Okay, that stuff pretty much lives in my car much to my husband's dismay (he refers to it as the black hole). Whenever we can't find something Michael turns to Isaiah and says "Go look in Mommy's car. EVERYTHING is in there!" : ) I had inquired about bringing a chair but was told there was seating, so that would not be necessary.

I am not going to name the clinician (who I am not familiar with) or the farm where the clinic was held. There will be descriptions of the horses and level of training at which they are working. The clinician is a USDF Gold/Silver?bronze medalist and has trained a few horses to Grand Prix. I am not an expert...but I have ridden dressage for a number of years with some excellent trainers. These are my own observations, and I am not trying to be an arm chair quarter back....

I arrived in time for the first lesson of the day. It was brutally cold and no, there was not a heated viewing area. I walked into the indoor with me gear and saw a bench. As in one place to hold 3 people. I will always carry my own chair from now on just in case. The bench was fine. I put down my cooler to keep my butt warm and wrapped the rest around my legs. The bench was situated near the open door, and a harsh breeze blew in on occasion. There was only one other person auditing so the seating was sufficient. Beyond 3 spectators there would not have been enough seats, but it is possible that there were some type of additional chairs around if that had become necessary. We have some really comfy folding chairs that fold compactly which I keep in the dressing room of my horse trailer. You just never know when additional seating would be necessary. I should know better, anyway.

The first combination was the farm owner and her Arab gelding working at Prix St Georges/Intermediare I. Something that I was taught early on in my riding career was presentation of horse and rider for a clinic/lesson. The clinician teaches at this farm once a month, so many of the riders know her fairly well, and perhaps that leads to relaxation of standards. But I was taught that out of respect for the instructor and your horse, a clean, tidy and appropriate presentation is in order. It was super cold, so it is difficult to look really tidy, but clean boots, and proper attire can still be accomplished. This first rider was not wearing a helmet. I know, not everyone does, but this was the farm owner/trainer and I feel like she should be setting a better example. The horse was very fuzzy, and I am a firm believer that if you are going to train seriously and regularly through the winter it is in the horse's best interest to clip them. Not even necessarily a body clip. A blanket clip would have helped this guy. Maybe because there are enough people to take the horses from the rider for cool down it is not deemed as important. But this horse was drenched in sweat 30 minutes into the lesson. His tail was tied in a tail bag, and not neatly. I realize that this is common practice for this breed, but again, for a lesson I feel like the tail should be let down and presented nicely. (I feel like George Morris in Practical Horseman Magazine's jumping clinic, with my presentation criticisms!).

So the plan for this combination was to work on the one and two tempi changes at the canter and half steps to work toward piaffe. My initial reaction was that they did not do enough warm up. It was EXTREMELY cold, and they launched right into collected canter. It is possible that the horse had been lunged before I arrived, since some of the other horses were lunged later. But even so, once the rider is mounted a nice loose warm up to get the horse moving through its back really should be done (in my opinion, as this is how I was taught, but I am not an expert). The horse was quite stiff in the neck during the collected canter, but moved out fairly nicely when she asked him to go forward after a line of changes. The 4's and 3's were more honest and clean, but they have just begun the 2's so that is not surprising. I liked that the clinician had the rider do 2 or 3 one tempis followed by a working canter. The exercise worked well for the horse and he relaxed a bit more when asked again. The work in half steps actually looked pretty good, but I still thought the horse was a bit tight in the neck.

The second combination was a gray Arabian gelding with a rider that had not been workinng with him for very long. Apparently the previous rider kept a tight hold on his face making him somewhat nervous about contact. I was appalled by the dirt on the horse's hocks, and again tail in a bag. I had a gray mare, so I know all too well how difficult it is to keep them clean. But I do think that a clinic warrants the extra effort. He too was very fuzzy. I was glad to see the rider wearing a helmet. They worked primarily on getting the horse to move from seat/leg into a soft contact and it was nice to see the horse visibly relax. The rider was nice and quiet with her hands and they produced some really lovely trot work including the spiraling in/leg yielding out circles. In the canter he became a bit tense again, but with some work on and off the 20 meter circle he softened into his rider's hands and relaxed. Then they worked on a little shortening and lengthening exrcises and he adjusted fairly well once he understood. The most appalling event of this lesson was when someone came into the arena with a horse that was wearing a driving harness. She brought him to the corner and hitched him to a cart. Another person got in and immediately trotted away out the arena door! I think they could have at least walked out? I know that horses need to become accustomed to many things but I felt like it was an inappropriate activity for a clinic. The horse being ridden lives at the farm so maybe he is more used to it. (although he did scoot when the cart came lying out of the corner). I feel like I am beginning to sound like a snob or a DQ, but really, I am not! The rider did a fine job and got the horse working nicely under the clinician's instructions.

The third pair. Hmmmm where to start. The horse was a combination of saddlebred/TB and Arab gelding? Also fuzzy but cleaner than the rest. His rider seemed very nervous. She had brought him in earlier to lunge without tack. She was impatient mounting him because he would move his feet a little, but honestly it took her a REALLY long time to get her foot in the stirrup! The horse had been purchased from the clinician a year or so prior, and this person was now training with the farm owner who also rides the horse for her several days a week. They seemed to start off okay, but then the horse began to completely ignore her within the first 5 minutes, exhibiting some of the same tightness issues of the first two horses. The clinician made them face the wall and told the rider to have the horse move sideways while remaining perpendicular to the wall. The horse basically ignored her, swishing his tail, backing up....pretty much doing anything except what was being asked. Over the next 20 minutes or so the clinician held onto the reins and smacked the horse with the whip to get him to move sideways. He kicked, bucked, etc, but eventually would give in for a few steps at a time. There was some yelling at the horse going on as well, which I don't really think helped. Any way, eventually the rider went back out on her own and made the horse stay on the rail and not fall in. He looked much better and almost softened into the contact. However, every time he tried to drift in the rider screamed no at him. While I don't think this is a great tactic, I understand that she wanted to show that she was in control. So in some ways...kudos. They did finish on a positive note. During this lesson the farm owner/trainer brought in a draft cross in a harsh bit because the day before the mare bolted and would not respond to the snaffle. Trainer's comment: "I really though I was going to fall and get a concussion". So you get on the horse AGAIN without a helmet?? During the lesson she was also yelling at the student because she is her regular instructor. I thought this was inappropriate, since another (more qualified) instructor was teaching....whatever! Ultimately the lesson ended well. Clinician said that she would not have done that if he did not know the horse so well, but she knew how he would react to such work. My impression was that he was not behaving quite this way at the time of purchase. Farm owner/trainer has been doing dressage for 6 years and is basically a jack of all trades. TRying not to be too critical but I think that many people completely misunderstand what dressage really is. This woman seemed to have a good seat but the finer nuances do not appear to bethere which shows as holes in the training.

Fourth pair: farm owner on arabian gelding (did not hear age)doing Prix St Georges. Another rider was going to be riding this horse later in the day I each were going to do 30 minutes on him? Again, no real warm up. Launch into canter work with tight neck and work on pirouettes. I liked the way the clinician explained what the issues were regarding activity of the hind legs. Ultimately he ended up doing some nice pirouettes at the end. The person who was going to ride him later in the day has been doing dressage for 6 months and wants to start showing. She has to show the horse at 3rd level because he cannot be ridden in a snaffle bridle.....ugggh. I kind of find that inexcusible. I remember watching footage of Debbie McDonald demonstrating grand prix movements on Brentina....IN A SNAFFLE! Now I understand that some (many?) horses have difficulty doing the upper level movements in a snaffle, but can be ridden in a snaffle to do much of the lower level work. I cringe at the thought of untrained hands holding a curb visual is not pretty, as I have witnessed this on many occasions. The change to allow 3rd level tests to be ridden in a full bridle was a bit controversial as many people felt that even MORE inexperienced riders would be skiing around on the curb rein. YIKES!! In all fairness, I did not get to see the second rider because the snow started to come down heavier during the next ride and I had a 45 minute hilly ride home ahead of me.

Fifth pair was a 10 year old paint cross gelding and with a rider who really has not done any dressage. She sat next to me watching the other lessons before her ride and was very interested in learning. Her horse had been started at age 2 and then did not do anything for the next 7 years. She has owned him for about a year. The horse was fuzzy but clean. Rider was wearing jeans but I imagine that is what she ordinarily rides in. This pair impressed me beacuse the rider listened to the instruction and the horse responded beautifully and quickly. So although she lacked dressage experience and needs work on seat and legs, she really looked to me to get the most out of the lesson. The horse was softeneing into her hand nicely and the pair was performing some very correct leg yielding at the walk by the end of her lesson. Her warm up consisted of walk, trot and canter, nice and relaxed. During her lesson Farm owner came in twice with reining horses doing the spinny thing (I apologize reiners, I have no idea what that is called, but is pretty cool!)and making quite a ruckus. The next horse that she got on must have done something that I didnt see because she was slamming him into the corner of the arena screaming at him. I won't comment further. Neither horse had a warm up, although they were lunged for 5 minutes earlier in the day.

During that time another person came in to ride and the horse would not move after she got on. She was kicking him and trying to spin him...nothing. The farm owner was riding another horse and talked her through it. This horse had similar issues to the other farm owned horses.....

So it was an intersting day to say the least, but I enjoyed it. There are always take away lessons even if it is what NOT to do. But I did pick up a few interesting tidbits, and even though my teeth were chattering fiercely when I got in my car I was glad that I had attended.

Driving home I thought about the training scale and how it applied to what I had observed that day. Instead of a pyramid, the majority of the horses looked like they had been trained with the small block on the bottom as the foundation, with toppling inevitable. The cute paint, in spite of his 7 year sabatical, managed to have more of a Lincoln Log foundation......very nice to see, and I commend his rider.

The girls were in by the time I got to their barn so I was happily greeted by their eager nickers when I called out to them as I opened the door. Being smothered in snuffles by each of them I took in their beauty, thankful for their presence in my life. Smiling to me self, I said good night, closed the barn door and stepped out into the swirling snow.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

No regrets....I would do it all over again

Last week someone who knows me well asked me about my decision to save Suki. "Knowing that you basically have a 'special needs' horse would you do it again?" Her question was without malice, and I understand where the question came from. Although Suki has fully recovered, she requires maintenance that "regular" horses do not. There is no hair across her back and this requires daily moisturizing. Granted there are days here and there that I skip, but for the most part it is a daily regimine. And the skipping of full treatment days has only begun in the past several months. So yes, there are responsibilities that are time consuming and necessary. I try to spend equal time with both girls, which when I am able to ride is easy, but sometimes I feel like Nikki gets short changed with grooming.

Early on during recovery, twice daily visits were required to make sure that the areas that were still healing did not get infected. Then, of course there was the whole bandage issue to keep the last section from getting raw and infected. Finally some progress after the skin graft, but even that was a struggle until we had a special garment made to keep the aggressively rolling Suki from damaging the amazing work of Dr. Fugaro and Team Suki at Centenary College! Now that everything has completely healed there is just routine grooming plus the moisturizing.

I will admit, all of that care has altered my riding career a bit, with Suki's care being so time consuming plus child, husband and demanding career! As disappointing as that has been,I would do it all over again. Many people thought that I was crazy to take on a young horse with everything required to care for Suki. Mentally, emotionally and physically, Nikki was exactly what I needed to help me get through all of it, and I absolutely love her! From a practical standpoint, I agree that the timing was not optimum, and while Nikki is not as far along as she should be in her training, she is smart and talented and I am confident that 2013 will be a turning point for both of us. So keep your eye out for us in the dressage arena!

In spite of ALL of that, yes, I would still choose to save Suki and allow her to recover. I have learned a lot about myself in the process and have met wonderful people. Most of all, I have my beautiful girl and she is happy and healthy. When I look into Suki's eyes every day I know the decision was the right one for all of us. She inspires people and in some cases just makes them smile. Suki's new career is a noble one, and I hope to increase her exposure in 2013-2014 by having the book published, doing visits and hopefully performing in-hand musical freestyle at a variety of venues. So 2013 brings with it some lofty goals for me and my girls, but we are up for the challenge!

On Wednesday (January 30) I made a quick stop at the barn to drop off something. It was too warm to change the girls into heavier clothing for the night, and Deb and Toby were going to take care of that later in the day in addition to grooming the girls. Because of the mud the horses had been turnd out in shifts in the paddocks just outside the barn. I am sure they weere happy to get out!! Nikki was in her stall when I arrived so I was talking to to her and giving her treats. All of a sudden I heard angry nickering and stomping coming from outside. The back door of the barn was closed because some of the horses (Suki and Banker) were in the paddock just behind it. When I opened the door, a very angry Suki stuck her head right in the door at me. She could hear me talking to Nikki and was not happy about the delay! Once Suki was able to touch me she was fine. When Suki was at Centenary for her skin graft I was only able to visit once a week, since it is almost 2 hours from my house. Not to worry....Suki was seriously spoiled while she was at Centenary! On the occasion that I would encounter someone prior to entering the barn Suki could hear me talking. The girls told me that as soon as she heard my voice she whipped her head up from eating hay and nicker softly. I find that to be the most heartwarming sound. I absolutely love when my girls talk to me!

Writing this in the early morning, the snow is once again falling lightly over the mountains. The gazebo bird feeder is very active with numerous pairs of cardinals and doves plus a variety of other birds. They scatter quickly as a family of deer walk through. Once their meal is finished they continue on their way and the birds come back. It was VERY cold when I filled the bird feeders this morning making me feel good about the decision to add a layer to Suki and Nikki's clothing. The barn owner thinks that I worry about this far to much, but I just laugh. I can't help it! It is better for their health to be appropriately clothed since over blanketing and making them sweat and get colder.

There is one thing that I would not do again. The farm where the fire occured had insurance money available to horses injured in a barn fire. Up to $10,000 per horse or $40,000 total for all horses qualifying. Needless to say the insurance company turned us down without any real reason. I consulted an attorney about contacting the insurance company, because as the policy is written I was entitled to some money. $10,000 would not even begin to cover all of the expenses but it certainly would have helped. Foolishly, although I did not completely agree with how it was going to be handled I thought the end result would get the insurance company to turn over some money. I don't want something that I am not entitled to, but that policy indicated that I was supposed to receive payment. Back and forth they went, with a lot of dollars spent. They refused to settle and wanted to go to court. I have decided not to pursue it further. I still owe attorney fees and do not want to incur more, including paying expert witnesses, court fees, etc. It angers me that they won. So the thing that I would NOT do again would be trying to obtain insurance money through an attorney. Now I have fees from that and the insurance company will not be paying out to me even though the policy states that it should. Lesson learned. I have my beautiful Suki, and that is what matters the most.