Sunday, January 11, 2015

Horses and Winter Weather

As I begin this post after a bit of a long break again, the wind is howling fiercely around the corner of my house.  The weather, footing conditions and schedule continue to plague any hope of real training and progress.  I do my best to remain positive, and believe that a break for both Suki and Nikki is just fine.  In just a couple of months I will put my goal sheet into action, but for now I must be content with pampering the girls, working through some exercises with them and getting them out to the arena when possible.  During this time I am also thinking about possibly taking a few lessons on schoolmasters to hone my own skills.  I will also audit some dressage clinics and watch training videos.  It's going to be long 2 1/2 months.  saddle shopping is also on my list, and I would love to get something to work for both Suki and Nikki.  There is a Stubben that I like but I am not sure how well they fit warmbloods.  So I have some investigating to do.

One person who I would love to watch train is Paul Belasik.  He is fairly local to me and while I know that he teaches and takes horses in for training as well as training his own youngsters, etc, I don't know how he feels about people auditing.  Maybe I could try a few lessons on his school masters and see how that works.  He does classical dressage so I believe it would be a good fit.

Just before the holidays I took a few photos of Suki and Nikki in Santa hats and reindeer antlers.  The final photos were great, but we had some hilarious ones while working to that point!

Nikki was less than excited about the Santa hat:

She would then put up her ears until I stepped back to take the photo:

The antlers finally worked, but only after I held up a sugar cube!
Then there was Suki.
and again....
After 9 pictures and a crinkling of peppermint candy....
but I got it!

Another really lovely surprise was a gift sent to me from a follower of Suki's story.  Jessy is a true animal lover!  These awesome leather horses are over 30 years old.  Such a wonderful and heartfelt gift....
I will cherish them always.  So many people have sent me such thoughtful gifts in Suki's honor.  It is humbling....

We have some crazy ups and downs with the weather, all of which has been unsuitable for training.  One day I had the girls to stretches while I held treats under their bellies, making them reach between their front legs to retrieve them.  We also did the side stretches.  Suki and Nikki both seem to enjoy this work (at least the reward!).  I did take them out back one not so cold, not so muddy day to work on some in hand training.  Some lateral work in hand keeps them sharp on the aids when full work is not possible.  Since classical dressage training is based on this type of work I know that it encourages and continues correct work.  I SO need to spend some time at The Spanish Riding School!  Hopefully this year I will get to go to Vienna for the workshop with my friend Beth!  I will definitely be going to the Andreas Hausberger clinic in New York in July though!

The cold weather certainly adds a flair of drama and health concerns we have been experiencing temperatures in the single digits (Fahrenheit) which leads to frozen water buckets and worries about adequate water intake.  I try to go to the barn in the early morning to break the ice on the buckets and give water to be sure that Suki and Nikki are drinking.  Nice warm, soupy bran mashes also help.  Nikki will eat hers without extra flavors added to it and usually ends up wearing some of it on her face and ears!  Suki is more particular, so now I take the bucket of mash and and add apple sauce, bits of carrots and apples to it.  These girls are so spoiled!

Thursday was really cold, and after some snowy weather I was hesitant to drive my car all the way down the driveway at the barn (yes, I should have taken the truck!).  So I parked up top and bundled up for my walk down the driveway.  Wearing my YakTraks for grip, a scarf around my mouth (still coughing, uggh!) I carried a thermos of hot water and the rest of my supplies down to the barn.  The sun was out so I somewhat enjoyed the walk!  After preparing and serving the girls their mashes (Nikki does not come up for air until she has slurped every last bit) I set to the ice breaking.  They had each drank about half from each of their buckets, which I was happy to see, and had good amounts of manure in their stalls.  As the water splashed up from my hammering it froze as it hit my jacket.  Yikes, that's cold!

With a teleconference scheduled within the hour I decided to do an abbreviated grooming and moisturizing.  The girls are wearing multiple blankets so I straightened them and felt underneath to make sure they were warm enough.  I have been keeping moisturizer, mane and tail products and first aid ointments in my car so they don't freeze.  Aaah yes, this is why people take their horses to Florida in the winter!!!  But seriously, I do enjoy winter.  It would be better if I had an indoor though!  With the nearest suitable dressage barn with indoor more than 40 minutes away it just doesn't work right now.  While I was driving home bits of ice started to drop off my hat....guess that water splashed onto my hat as well!  Of course I was also wearing dried bits of bran after being nuzzled by my very affectionate horses!  When I got home I noticed there was also some bran stuck to my face.  I am SO glad that I didn't stop anywhere on my way home!  And grateful that the teleconference was strictly that, and not video!

Friday Jen went out to check the girls in the afternoon.  I worry a lot about frozen buckets!  Suki's skin was dry so she managed to do some moisturizing on her neck.  Some days it is really difficult to get to the barn more than once so I always appreciate the help!  Amanda and I do double duty when we can, so that helps also.  The farm owners are keeping on top of things and have managed to get the horses out most days.  Even just a few hours helps with their sanity!

This morning (Sunday) was off to a cold start (12F), but warmer than yesterday morning (7F).  I could actually feel the difference!

Beautiful morning!  I gave the girls their bran mashes and some fresh water as I set about to gather my grooming supplies.  Today is going to be over 30F so I pulled one of their 3 layers off.  Suki received a full moisturizing and though the some areas were dry, overall under the blanket was not so bad.  I even took off my jacket while grooming!

It's funny, whenever I step back to take Nikki's picture she often pins her ears.  When I put my phone down the ears go up and she makes her sweet face.  So we tried this...
Suki posed for me
I so wanted to get a video of Suki and Nikki after they were turned out today.  There are two piles of hay in the snow.  One for each.  They are separated by a good distance because, well, Suki can be a little possessive over the hay piles.  But she does this really mean thing to Nikki each time.  Nikki settles at a pile of hay then Suki chses her from t and starts eating.  So Nikki goes to the other pile.  Suki walks back over and chases her away again.  This goes on for about 5 minutes at which time Suki declares "game over" and allows Nikki to settle down and eat.  I held up my phone to capture the antics but at 14F degrees outside my phone immediately turned off.  So I missed the game.

I think people underestimate the amount of care (and worry) that accompanies horse ownership.  Each season has certain health concerns which adds to the daily needs of our friends!  But it is totally worth it and I wouldn't trade it for anything!  

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