Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Suki LOVES Passage!

So life has been a bit crazy lately.  I started a new job and for the first week or so I had to drive into Philadelphia every day.  Those of you familiar with the area know that this is not a simple task.  The weather has also not been so cooperative and between rain and frozen footing, training has not just slowed down, it has come to a screeching halt.  I try to do a bit of abbreviated work in hand in the barn, and some stretches and such.  Suki and Nikki have been able to go out at least for a couple of hours each day, and although it is primarily in the paddocks, at least they are getting out.  And they always manage to roll and get muddy.  Especially Suki!

That first week at TR was rough because of the obnoxious commute.  I managed to get to the barn each evening except one, but with the late hour and Isaiah's homework the visit was simply to straighten blankets, spoil the girls with treats and wrap my arms around their fuzzy necks.  They begged for more attention and it was difficult for me to turn off the light and walk out the door.  Thursday night when I stopped in for a quick visit Nikki pressed her face into my chest as soon as I opened her door.  For a few minutes I stood there and massaged her ears.  When I went into Suki's stall she immediately began snuffling my hair and neck, not wanting to let me leave again.  Absence apparently DOES make the heart grow fonder!  Perhaps Suki and Nikki will appreciate me just a bit more!  (Indeed!) : )

At the end of the first week I was thrilled to be able to spend time with the girls.  I was still in a crunch for time due to the rapid rate at which Christmas is descending upon us.  Our house is only partially decorated and the tree is up and wearing lights and bows but no ornaments just yet.  It does bring a festive feel in spite of the lack of ornaments!

Saturday, December 6, 2014
Frozen ground.  Arena work was not going to happen today!  When I opened the barn door Nikki called to me and I heard Suki stand up....It was late; 8 AM so I was surprised that she was still snoozing!

But I was finally able to give the girls a thorough grooming and moisturize Suki's dry skin.  In spite of being in the paddock, Suki had managed to roll, although I guess it could have been worse!

Suki's skin was not as dry as I had anticipated in spite of five days without her skincare regimen.  The good thing about winter and wearing blankets is that it actually holds the moisture in enabling me to moisturize across her back a little less frequently.  Face and neck still do best with daily care.  Today I did some stretching with Suki, pulling each leg into an extended position.  She knows the drill, so as soon as I start, I don't actually "pull".  She just stretches out with my very light guidance.  I would have loved to been able to lunge both girls, but that frozen footing is not good for the legs!

Working from home will give me more flexibility and save me 3 hours of commuting time every day.  So the second week I was able to spend more time with Suki and Nikki, although weather and arena conditions prevented me from doing more than just groom and perform minimal stretch and leading exercises.  But time with the girls has such a calming effect so I will take what I can get!

This past Sunday (14 DEC 2014) I really took my time to give the girls a thorough grooming and fuss over them.
Monday, 15 December, 2014
Suki and Nikki were in very mischievous moods today!  Fun and games.  Nikki kept trying to grab treats from my coat pocket while I was picking her feet.  This requires a good amount of flexibility given that her foot is in my hand!  She managed to get to my pocket but could not get inside to gain access to the treats though!  She was rewarded for her effort though.  Suki repeatedly grabbed the back of my jacket nearly every time I walked away from her.  That is when she was not making evil faces at the two new horses (who by the way were not doing anything except LOOKING AT HER!) Their antics always make me smile.  I have found that many people look forward to the FB page posts so they can see how Suki is doing, and hear about the tricks that she has been up to.  She makes people smile after a long day, me included, of course.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Foggy start to the day and the girls were muddy from yesterday's turnout.  Good to see that they are having some fun.  Suki had dried mud all over her face.  While I was putting on her halter she had those short little ears pricked all the way forward (toward the horse that she hated yesterday) making it difficult to move the crown piece over her ears.  This was almost more difficult than when she pins her ears back against her head!  Those are seriously strong muscles!  As I led Suki from her stall she walked past the new horse without a bit of stink eye or snake face.  "Oh", I thought.  "She must be coming into heat!"  Even while I was grooming her, unlike yesterday she didn't even make faces at the horses while she was on cross ties.  Then she squatted.  Not coming into heat!  Well, at least she didn't spend the entire time lunging at the new horse!!  It was a slight challenge getting the mud off of Suki's face until I had an "aha" moment and switched  to the soft mitt that I use for exfoliation.  Typically when I hold this up to Suki's face she rubs her head up and down and from side to side to get just the right spot.

Nikki wasn't quite as muddy and in spite of the fog I decided to take each of them out to the arena for some in hand work.  Starting with Nikki I walked out to the arena which was shrouded in fog. She had her ears forward, seemingly slightly anxious because she was not able to see the scary things lurking in the fog.  Overall it was a productive session.  To calm her I started with leading exercises incorporating a lot of transitions and direction changes in quick succession.  It really didn't take much to settle her.  A few movements and she stretched down her neck and blew out through her nostrils.  In the arena I worked on some turns on the forehand and haunches, primarily to make Nikki move away from a light aid.  She responded nicely so we did a bit of leg yielding as well.  I was pleased with her work and finished with a few trot half steps then a relaxed walk around the arena.  The fog was much less scary by then!

I think Suki was slightly confused to be coming out of her stall again!  She gave me a "look" grabbed a mouth full of hay and reluctantly came out.  She did try to turn right hoping that she was being turned out instead of going out the other door.  I think I was anticipating that Suki would be nervous and she felt that.  Immediately upon walking out the door she lifted her head and sort of puffed up.  I did several walk-halts on the way to the arena which relaxed both of us!  Once in the arena she was a bit "looky" because the horses in the fields looked like silhouettes in the fog.  Suki started to passage by my side in nervousness and when she does this she grows in size (at 17.3, growing is a little unnerving!).  After doing a few turns she settled back to walk, then I asked for passage and a bit of piaffe.  That actually seemed to relax her so I did a small amount of leg yielding and turns on forehand and haunches.  I asked for a bit of passage again, and Suki really doesn't need much coaxing!  I think it is her favorite thing to do!  And while she wasn't really schooling it before the fire, I did indulge her from time to time.  When she does it in hand or in the field or on the lunge I can remember how brilliant it felt to be sitting on her back and absorbing that suspension.....
Suki was pretty relaxed by the time we finished and walked with her head and neck stretched out around the arena and back to the barn.  I am desperate to ride but this bit of work helped ease the pain for now!

Reading about the goings on in Wellington, I am absolutely envious about all of the upcoming learning opportunities.  This winter I plan on attending some veterinary and training lectures, but also I think I will be taking lessons (on school horses/masters) to keep me fit and work on myself until spring.

There have been so many deadly barn fires in the past few years and the loss of so many horses.  Of those horses who survive, many have a long recovery ahead of them.  When I was approached by The Chronicle of the Horse to share my experience I was happy to do it.  We hear so much about the fires but not so much about what happens later....the care, treatment and long term commitment.  So take a look at the link below, the piece by Kimberly Loushin:
I hope it works!  It is in the December 15 issue of The Chronicle.

Once again I have grand plans for spring.  But this time I am really ready.  Throughout the winter Suki will wear equipment when we can get some time in the arena.  It won't be consistent for her or Nikki, but we will do what we can to keep the mind and body in gear!  I will be working on getting a new saddle which will likely take some time (and hopefully will fit BOTH girls!)  Now if I could just get those Dy'on Bridle people to answer my questions!