Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Noisy Children Eat Horses, You Know!

Even though my requests for a nice, dragged arena have gone unanswered, I rode my pony today anyway. I decided to do another easy, bareback ride since we're expecting the following weather the next few days:

I'd like to say that Lilly was a really good girl, but I'd be lying. She was a booger. Things started out okay, but about 15 minutes in to our ride, the scary end of the arena got REALLY scary. It's lined with tall trees, so you can hear the neighbors, but you can't see them. Apparently they have a lot of children, or they had some of the other neighborhood children over... either way, there were screaming children (doing whatever it is children do) on the other side of those trees and Lilly was terrified. She was sure they would put her on the barbeque and there would be nothing I could do to stop it.

She didn't do anything bad per se, but she was a nervous wreck and was constantly looking over at the trees, and never stopped chewing on her bit. When they got really loud, she would boogie sideways into the middle of the arena. Because my bareback skills are a little rusty, it wasn't easy to keep her on the rail and focused, but we managed to get in a pretty good ride, I guess. I considered just working her down at the opposite end of the arena, but that's the really hard half, so we just made due.

Even here she's checking out the trees...

Here she was just embarrassed by her behavior.
Even though I have to work on Saturday, Lilly and I were planning on going to a show. I could show for a good couple hours before I'd have to leave, and we have to make it to a certain number of shows to be elligable for year end awards. Needless to say, I had decided yesterday we weren't going because of the heat. Then, earlier today the show manager announced that they rescheduled the show.

So it looks like Lilly will spend the next five days in her stall. She'll be going out at night, but during the day she'll be inside with the fan blowing on her.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Fun Ride!

I've been at odds with my BO about the arena again... they're not dragging it nearly enough, and when they do drag it, they use the smaller drag that does hardly anything to fluff up the footing of the arena. The footing was so hard yesterday that I didn't dare take twinkle toes in there and make her work.

After I sent an email complaining, the arena was dragged with the little drag again, so while I could actually get in there today, I didn't dare work her with any amount of gusto. It sounds like I have to wait for the weekend to see the arena dragged like it's supposed to be.

I was determined to ride, so I decided to ride bareback and just have fun jogging around. After playing around a bit, I got an idea... wonder how she'd do without her bridle? I've ridden her without a bridle in the round pen, but never in the arena. I decided instead to just unsnap my reins, leaving her bridle and fly mask intact. Then I made a loop around her neck with my reins and off we went. At first she seemed confused... she kept looking back at me like, "are you sure about this?", but she did really well! We jogged around, did some circles, and I briefly thought about asking for a canter. She has good brakes, and her go button works well, but I wasn't too sure how she'd do with the steering, so I decided I better err on the side of caution. No one wants to see a bride with a broken arm. :)

Much to my surprise (although, not really once I thought about it), she pivoted and sidepassed in both directions, and even backed up... someone sure did a good job with her training. Oh wait, that was me!

After we were done riding, I walked her out to the pasture where I had placed a giant pile of hay for her to snack on. She is SO good that she just stands there, waits for me to take off her halter, waits for me to put on her fly mask, and then gently lowers her head to start snacking. She has such good manners!!

Days like today remind me just how much I love my sweet girl.

I'm hoping now that I'm done being sick and the dental work I had done on my mouth doesn't hurt anymore, that I'll be able to start riding regularly again. Things have just been crazy!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Happy Birthday, AJ!

Well, probably not really, since I have no idea when he was really born, but it's his made up, pretend birthday today and he's 26 years young!

This is a repost of sorts, but I wrote it three years ago and I didn't have as many readers then. AJ is very special to me, as is our story, so I wanted to share it again.

I was 10 years old in 1990 and had been taking lessons for a while at a local barn. My dad had told me that I could get a horse when I was 14, and I was counting the years! This particular year, though, my dad had a proposition... we could take a family trip to Disney World, or I could get a horse and my brother could get a dirt bike (looking back now, what a completely unfair proposition it was where my brother was concerned LOL). There was no debate at all, I was getting my horse!

So we built an addition on the barn, set up a pasture, built a riding arena, and set off to find my very first horse. Let's be honest... we had no idea what we were doing. We had no help, no one to talk to, and blindly went searching for something we knew nothing about. Books and magazines told us not to buy the first horse we saw, but that's exactly what we did!

The ad in the paper said "4 year old QH for sale. $1000" Sounded good to us, so we went over to take a look. He was gorgeous! 16 hands tall and he shined like a copper penny! We were told that he had been an orphan, was born in 1986, and the man had purchased the then 2 year old AJ at a local auction. AJ didn't have any papers and his pedigree was unknown. The man said he was looking to buy another horse and AJ needed to find a new home. I rode him in the arena, I rode him down the road, and he seemed absolutely perfect. The man even offered to trailer him to our house for us. SOLD!

AJ the day we took him home!
So the next day, AJ arrived at his new home. I was ecstatic! I finally had the horse I dreamed about for years! Things were great for the first couple of weeks. We had so much fun with him and although it was only April, I couldn't wait for school to get out for the summer so I could spend even more time with him. We even joined a 4-H club so we could learn how to properly care for him. I also decided I'd like to get into showing so we were planning for me to start taking lessons from my new 4-H leader. We had big plans!

Enjoying MY horse!
After those first few weeks, though, things took a turn for the worse. I believe he figured out that we were clueless and he decided to take advantage of it. He started chasing us out of his pasture with his ears pinned. We'd have to run into the stall to get away from him when it was time to feed him. He turned in to a downright mean horse and my mom and I stayed clear of him unless my dad was around. We were afraid he would really hurt us. He never pulled that stuff with my dad or my 4-H leader, but he had my mom and I pegged as easy targets. We tried to work on his behavior for a couple months, and we even called the man who sold AJ to us. He offered to come out and help but AJ would only misbehave when my mom and I were alone with him, and we weren't exactly knowledgeable horsewomen, nor were we willing to do what was suggested by some to set him straight. So we made the decision to sell him... he had to go, and we told him so. Our patience with him had run out.

What happened next is something we still talk about to this day... literally the next day, as in the day after we decided to sell him, we had a totally different horse. He stopped all his crap, all his aggression, and transformed himself back into the horse we had purchased. It was as if he heard what we said and decided to straighten up. So he stayed... and the big plans we had for him were put into motion.

He and I were both learning, and we were learning together. He was very green, and he was a challenge. He was way too much horse for me and my 4-H leader told me so on many occasions. That old saying "green + green = black and blue"... oh so true! I shed many tears that first year, but we pushed through. I loved my AJ and I knew we had potential. The second summer we worked even harder. I was more experienced and less afraid of this big, powerful horse. I took lessons, I went to shows, and I even took him to the fair that year. We only did walk/trot classes, but we won the high point for our division. It was a wonderful reward for all the hard work we had put in. I was really looking forward to the following year!

Our fair picture.

Costume class at the fair.  He was a baby and I got him to suck his tongue in the class!
During that second year, we started to notice some problems with AJ's soundness. We saw him dragging his back legs when he went down the hill in the pasture, and he started limping slightly after long periods of standing. We called our vet and she thought it best to get some xrays of his hocks. So we took him up to MSU (what an adventure that was!) to get the xrays and then we waited for the results. In the meantime, we put him on bute to see if he would improve. The bute did help but the results weren't good. He had arthritis in both hocks. Wondering how in the world a 6 year old horse could have arthritis, our vet offered several scenarios, but we would never really know why. He got several shots of Adequan, and was on a steady diet of bute tabs. It was manageable for a while with the bute, but he seemed to progressively get worse. Standing in the cross ties for 5-10 minutes would make him extremely lame. He could walk off most of the stiffness, but he was noticeably off when I rode him.

The following year we trailered him to what would be his last show. It was our first canter class ever and the judge pulled us to the center of the ring because she could tell he was lame. The trailer rides were just too hard on him and the bute couldn't keep up any more. He was officially retired, at 6 years old.

By this time, though, he had become part of the family. We all loved him and what a personality he had! I rode my 4-H leader's horse that year at the fair and we eventually leased another horse that I rode for a couple years after that. We bought a Paint yearling that was my show horse until it was time for me to head off to boot camp. Even with all the other horses in my life, AJ was my pride and joy. He was the horse I wanted to ride, and he was the horse I wanted to show. I'll always wonder what could have been and what we would have accomplished if things had gone as planned.

Riding with my dad and his horse Justus.
AJ is most certainly a special horse. He's special because he was my first, but he's also special because his personality makes him so. He's smart, he's beautiful, and has a presence about him that is just regal. What fun the past 22 years have been, and here's to many more!  Happy Birthday, my old friend! 

A HUGE thank you to my parents for taking such wonderful care of him for me all these years.  Without them, I don't know that he'd still be with me.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Enough Already

It's been pretty boring in the land of Lilly. I finally get over being sick (mostly) and along comes the rain. It's hard to ride when the arena looks like this:

And this:

Suit up... it's time for swimming!
We've been getting a lot of rain... the news says we're finally out of a drought for the first time in two years. That's great, but I think we're good now and it can stop raining anytime. Please.

Lilly is doing well, though. She is still enjoying her fly sheet and it's holding up pretty well. There are some heavily snagged areas on her neck cover, but it still functions nicely and gets the job done. Look how clean she is underneath it!

The white hurts my eyes!
She's been doing a lot of eating and not much else. She's been spending a lot of time in her stall too because of all the rain, but she is definitely happiest outside with a pile of hay.

Noms, noms...

Friday, June 8, 2012

Finally, I Ride!

Until today, I have only ridden my horse FOUR times since April 28th... and all four of those times were at horse shows. That's not a very good track record! I tried to ride yesterday, but I got to the barn a little late and found my horse covered in messy diarrhea... by the time I washed her fly sheet, scrubbed her legs and cheeks, and washed her tail, any hope of riding went out the barn door. Oh, and today? Not a speck of it anywhere... I just don't get it. This diarrhea stuff is one more reason to love the new fly sheet, though. It is super light and easy to clean, and it dries really fast.

Our ride was okay. I didn't want to work her too hard, since we haven't done any real work in over a month, but I started working on the things we need to fix. I did a lot of jogging with only one hand, and then we moved on to the lope. It has been a really long time since she picked up the wrong lead, so I think I can finally say we're good there, which is a bonus. Now I need to make sure she stays soft in her transitions, round while we lope, and slower than mach speed.

When she lopes on the left lead, her transitions are beautiful, but she wants to chug around like a freight train. When she lopes on the right lead, her transitions are awful, but she stays round and slow as we lope. Completely different issues and way too much to try and fix at once. So today I worked on left lead circles, and right lead transitions. She did very well and by the end of the ride I had her going slower and giving me prettier transitions. I'll probably have to start over next time, but eventually it'll start to stick!

After our ride, I rinsed her off and got everything ready for her outside. I put on all her fly clothes and turned her out, wondering if she'd roll... she still seemed quite itchy after the ride. As I was putting away tack, I saw her walking around, sniffing the ground, looking for that perfect spot to roll. She always chooses a really grassy spot, which I appreciate very much. As I continued to clean up the barn, I glanced out at her again and saw her running around like a crazy horse, bucking! She missed her calling as a rodeo bronc because when she bucks, it's straight up and down... the girl doesn't play around. (I'm always glad she has never bucked during training!) I wondered what she was doing until I saw her snake her head around to her rump and instantly knew she was being attacked by a biting insect. I ran outside and ducked through the fence rails to get inside her pasture and she came running over to me and stopped, but continued to buck in place. I told her "easy, easy" and she stopped bucking, but I didn't see anything on her butt. She was still clearly in distress and then I heard it... a faint buzzing sound coming from under her sheet! I lifted it up and a bumblebee flew out from underneath it. I guess when she was rolling, the bee got underneath her sheet! I don't think it stung her because I didn't see any welts or bite marks, but she was very happy to have it gone!

Thank goodness I was there to rescue her! Who knows how long she would have been running around otherwise!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Not Dead, But Almost...

Well, the good news is I'm not dead, but the bad news is at times I feel like I might die... I've been sick, sick, sick and haven't felt like doing anything unless it was mandatory (like work because they won't give me sick days). It seems that I get sick every time I'm around small children, so I either need to hang out with them more and beef up my immune system, or stay the heck away from them at all costs! My honorary nephew is just so darn cute... but he's like a miniature Petri dish!

While I haven't ridden, I've been checking on my pony about every other day. The barn owners are on vacation so I feel obligated to make sure the barn sitter is taking good care of my girl. She seems happy and content, so all is well with her.

I'm feeling slightly better today, but I've been sick for over a week and I'm just tired of being sick, so I think tomorrow I might ride whether I feel like crap or not. I'm not trying to have the next show be the first time I've ridden since the last show again!

And just to make sure this post isn't completely pointless, the Equimax doesn't seem to have fixed the diarrhea issue. The whole right side of Lilly's new fly sheet is stained a very familiar brown color and she had lots of drips down her legs. I guess I'm back to the Omega 3 hypothesis, but the dewormer was worth a shot and she needed one anyway! I was just so hopeful...

Since the diarrhea seems to disappear in the spring and then come back here and there during the summer, only to REALLY make an appearance in the fall and winter, BrownEyed Cowgirl and I had discussed the fact that green grass contains Omega 3's, and perhaps that's the missing piece in her digestive system. This fall I was going to experiment with flax seed and see if I could notice a difference. I could start now, but I wanted to wait until we have a more consistent problem for experimentation. Omega Horseshine contains Omega 3's, and my barn owner RAVES about the stuff, but it only comes in a powder, so I'm out of luck there. Her highness won't eat powder, so I might have to get creative.

Hope everyone is enjoying their horses!