Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Wild Nikki and the search for an illustrator for Suki's children's book

Saturday, January 18, 2014
If you can predict one thing about life with horses it would be that it is predictably unpredictable.  Once again I sit writing this in front of the window watching snow fly about as the birds and squirrels brave the elements to feast at the feeders.  Having been on a nice consistent roll in my riding an arctic blast (followed by a hock injury, sprung shoe and another arctic blast!)brought it to  a screeching halt. While I have no problem riding when the temperatures dip, I will not compromise my horses' legs on hard footing.  Many people will still hop on their horse and walk, but alas, Nikki is just not that type of horse.  Most days I lunge her with side reins prior to ring allowing her to stretch and move out before I mount.  During the warmer weather I abbreviate or eliminate this step, but on cold days this is not really an option.  Especially during extended periods of limited or no turnout.  Unfortunately Suki is just doing stretches and abbreviated in hand work.  Sadly, training has been somewhat crippled by the weather.

While I was able to get in a few consecutive days of lunging it unfortunately did not lead to riding. At least Nikki had some good workouts though.  I worked a lot on transitions and focus but also let her do some trot sets to expend some energy.
 Louise lunged Nikki yesterday but a few things set her off galloping around on the lunge line forcing Louise to make the (very wise) decision not to ride.  I will not have the opportunity to work Nikki again today because of Isaiah's hockey practice and frozen arena.  I have decided to cut Nikki's grain a bit because of the lack of work and turnout.  The muddy field will hopefully get hard enough to allow turnout beyond the paddocks over the next day or so.  That will help Nikki's need to expend energy but a snow event Tuesday and sub zero temperatures may lead to less time out again.  Of course!

Sunday, January 19, 2014
The fox hunting ladies were at the barn when I arrived, ever hopeful about getting in another day in the field before the next batch of bad weather.  It was nice to be in a busy barn among friends sharing our passion.  Yes, our passions differ regarding equestrian discipline, but the main part of our passion creates a common bond.  Love of our horses.  The insanely cold temperatures have presented difficulties for all of us.  Again, we have one common obstacle: frozen ground.  But J and R had not been hunting in awhile and were looking forward to their outing.  The ground was too frozen for me to consider lunging at that hour but both girls would receive a thorough grooming, and Suki moisturizer.

We needed to utilize all three sets of cross ties, which requires a bit of ingenuity because of horse size.  Well, primarily my large horses!  I had finished with Nikki by the time R and J were ready with their boys so Suki was next.  And as much as love the big girl she can be difficult at times with other horses. Mostly she makes mean faces and loud noises at them.  The only time she really bares her teeth is when she is in her stall and I am near.  Then look out horse next door!

J put Parker on the cross ties behind Suki.  He kept stretching forward to sniff her, making me a bit nervous!  Another example of underestimating my girls.  Suki did not even make a face, and after a few sniffs Parker relaxed in the cross ties and Suki stood like a rock for her spa treatment.  I was even able to have her do stretches and her partial bow.

Monday, January 20, 2014
Another sprung shoe for Nikki?  REALLY?  uggh!  This time I was a bit concerned about her even going outside on it, but I put a bell boot on her door for turnout.  The next few days promise snow and high wind, so there may only be brief periods in the paddock.

My awesome farrier came out tonight to put a new shoe on Nikki!! He wasn't sure if he would be able to get there Tuesday or Wednesday given the weather.  Thank you Josh!!!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014
An early trip to the barn this morning before dawn.  School has been cancelled due to the approaching snow followed by yet another arctic blast.  This necessitates an additional layer of clothing.  The blanket dance continues.  This snow event is a bit entertaining.  Initial forecasts predicted snow starting at 5 PM.  Then 3PM, then 1PM, then 9 AM.  At first I expected early dismissal for Isaiah, but by 6 AM school had been cancelled.  Snow started by 7:30 once again covering the Oley Valley in silent white.

I need an illustrator!
In no hurry to get Isaiah out of bed, I decide to conduct a bit of research, as I put the finishing touches on the first children's book about Suki. The process has not been so easy because I had some conflicting ideas about the theme.  At this point I am comfortable with the text, but am in need of an illustrator.  It is crucial for the illustrator to capture Suki's personality.  Illustrations prior to the fire, shortly after and recovered.  There are dressage show scenes and playing in the field.....  So I am starting here as i do my search.  Anyone interested can email me at fwadewhittaker@yahoo.com and I will send a few sentences of text for the artist to use as inspiration for illustration.  A photo of the sample can be sent to me at that same email address.

The remainder of the week consisted of navigating the driveways and roads, grooming and treats.  Please, someone smack me the next time I declare my love of winter!

Saturday, January 2014
As the gray light of a new day begins to overtake the woods behind my I notice a herd of deer making the first of two daily trips across the hill.  More snow is expected to begin in just a few hours so I suspect the return trip will be a bit earlier than usual.  Late yesterday afternoon a large buck ventured down the hill to the bird feeder below while Isaiah and I quietly watched him.  Fortunately Ripley was sleeping or he would have barked frantically at the window!

This morning I will go to the barn to once again feed nice warm bran mashes to Suki and Nikki and groom their legs and faces and pick their feet.  I have only been removing blankets to perform thorough grooming every other day due to the extreme cold.  But for now I sit before the fire observing nature.

Habit made me take my car this morning when the more obvious choice would have been the truck.  The driveway down to the barn has been plowed but the packed snow makes the journey back up the hill questionable.  So I put on my Yaktraks and made my way down the hill.  At 19F the air felt comfortable as the highest temperature that the Oley Valley has experienced in the past week.

The front door of the barn was frozen shut and although I can usually jiggle it open today I was unsuccessful.  I simply climbed the fence and went to the back door.  Entering through that door I met Suki's gaze first.  Her nostrils rumbled silently at first, followed by a low nicker.  Nikki's greeting was much louder followed by a kick to her stall door just to be sure that I heard her.  I hate that habit, but she is quite the impatient girl at times!
The girls happily gobbled their warm mashes, to which I added some carrots and applesauce.  Yes they are spooled.  But these temperatures are crazy!

On Sunday I went out to the barn a little later than usual and the girls were out in the big field.  I decided to just feed them treats and straighten blankets.  Finally out in the big field again was a treat that they needed to enjoy!
Suki's expression makes me feel like she is looking deep into my soul, as I look into hers.  

Nikki enjoys some peaceful hay eating time while Suki is otherwise occupied!

So back to reading and videos.  I think I am going to hunker down for a bit with some SRS footage and an old Reiner Klimke video for inspiration.  Maybe I can lunge the girls next week.....

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