Thursday, October 23, 2008

Ups and downs in the horse community

My mom sent me an email telling me about this very sad story. I can't believe people sometimes. What possesses them to be so full of cruelty? I just don't understand it. Not one little bit.

Than again, there are people out there like this. These kind of folks make me have just a tiny bit of faith in humanity.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Why horses matter to me

It's no secret I love my horses and what they bring to my life. But in explaining my newest obsession to my aunt and uncle, I struggled a little to translate that feeling, that bond, into words that adequately expressed the joy and wonder of inhaling horse into your lungs.

It's grounding and real. It's dirty, warm, earthy, and holistic. It's life, in 3D, full color, and smell-o-rama.

It makes me feel alive, it gives me as much back as I put into it, and it balances me both physically and mentally.

It all matters in ways that are beyond logic, beyond anything but the feeling of wind in your face and the cooperation between you and your horse.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Quick update

It's been awhile, I know. I've been on the road for a week so far, first at Maker Faire Austin, and now in NYC (again) for a week for Photo Plus Expo.

So, here is a quick update on the horse and cat front.

I did connect with some horse slobber in front of our hotel in Austin. His name was Rowdy and he was a huge black Clydesdale who was ready to get rolling with his carriage full of little girls (and their parents), but let me scratch his neck and pat his nose first.

Lena is doing well and seems to be healing. Karen came out last week and said her muscles felt much looser and no more treatment is needed for now. Karen wants to go on a trail ride with us because the last time she took her mare Ellie out, Ellie acted just like a Thoroughbred and scared the woman Karen was riding with too much. Since we ride crazy horses, we may be a better set of trail partners. Of course, we may end up with a race on our hands, too.

Bar managed to lose Steve in the big arena on Sunday, then proceeded to buck, fart, and take himself over the jumps before settling down. Apparently, it caused a bit of an uproar at the barn. We think riding him more often is probably the best solution, though he may not agree.(At least at first.) I like to do a lot of ground work with him before I get on, too, because I think it helps. It doesn't always take the fire out of him, but it usually gets him a little more focused and in tune with me.

Katie D. had a horse show in LA right before that. I know she and Willoughby did really, really well and there were neck ribbons and everything! She was really happy with the way they performed, but I'll let her elaborate.

Lastly, we still haven't seen Wesley. He was in the house snuggling with Steve and me the Friday before I left and that was the last we saw him. We've checked the neighborhood and called and called, but it's been over a week now and we don't think he's coming back. I like to think he found some nice person who stays home with him all the time and feeds him steak. Wherever he is, I'm glad we had him in our life, even if it was for only that short amount of time. Mostly I don't think about it too much because it makes me so sad. I've been dreaming of him coming home since I left and have that brief hopeful moment when I wake up, only to realize seconds later it was only a dream. Bah.

And now I'm off for my first NYC subway ride, meeting up with my aunt and uncle and doing a little bit of shopping for warmer clothes! NY is a bit cooler than Austin was and I could only pack so much in my poor suitcase!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Lena gets a massage

A month or so ago, I noticed Lena's left "hip" felt warm to the touch. It was after a ride my daughter and I took at Lake Sonoma, when Lena was particularly rambunctious in the trailer--banging back and forth into the divider and scrambling bad in the front slot. It was also after that same ride that Steve and I got the call from Peter that he thought Lena was colicing. That makes me think she was laying down to soothe her hip, not her belly.

We watched the area and noticed some days it would get sweaty, even if she wasn't hot anywhere else. We kept it rinsed and clean, thinking maybe it was a skin irritation and that seemed to help, but it wouldn't go away. Lena wasn't lame on it and showed no real sensitivity to pressure (and believe me, I poked and prodded a lot), and the vet didn't see anything when she came out to do shots a couple weeks ago either.

It was quite baffling and starting to worry me more and more every time I got to the barn and saw it wasn't getting better. Mind you, it wasn't getting worse, either, but not being able to figure it out was aggravating. Peter suggested it could mean she needed an adjustment, so before I started the search for a horse chiropractor, I called our friend Karen the masseuse to come out and see what she thought.

Karen started with stretches, then worked her way down each side, starting at the shoulder. Not the world's most patient horse, Lena danced quite a bit, but she did let Karen do her work. I think that means it felt good and was helping.

Karen doesn't think we need a chiropractor yet, and is going to come out again while I'm gone to do another session to be sure. I noticed a change even before I got on and rode her. Lena looked more relaxed and her hip and the muscle on that side looked more "right" (for lack of a better term).

Karen worked a lot on Lena's hind quarters and up on the lumbar area, resulting in some serious head-shaking and yawning on Lena's part. Those are good symptoms and it looked like Lena released a lot of tension during the whole process, so that was a bonus.

We have things to watch for, like how she's standing, and things to do for her to help the healing along like stretches and some pressure points to hit a few times a week. Steve is in charge while I'm gone, but since he does a fine job whenever I need a massage, I'm sure he can handle his spotty horse, too.

I will admit to feeling guilty that I haven't given Lena the same amount of attention and massage she was getting before we got Bar. I promised her I'd try to do better when I get back from this trip, at least until I'm sure she's healed.

And for the folks who tease me about my horse getting massages instead of me, I do see my chiropractor once a month in order to stay somewhat symmetrical in the saddle. And I don't have even carry non-symmetrical yahoos on my back all the time!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Horse lessons

Bar has been giving us all lessons recently, and through it all, we've all learned a few things about him, and I've learned something I need to keep working on, both with the horses and with the people in my life.

Katie worked with Bar in the round pen the other day and we're still debating who exactly was in charge. He got a good work out, but Katie was a little frustrated because he didn't do exactly what she asked when she asked it, though she took control at every turn and didn't let him get away with anything, either. She learned that sometimes Bar doesn't cooperate (or switch direction, for example) when you think he should. He's tricky that way. But on the plus side, when you do connect with him, it's really rewarding.

I rode Bar on Tuesday morning and, well, he was mostly good, but not great. We made it through the ride, though, and I learned that giving that extra bit of time and energy is sometimes necessary to get to the right place to stop. He was pretty distracted by the noises coming from outside the arena, but was mainly just using that as an excuse to act goofy. I had to work with him a little longer than I'd intended (since I had to go to work afterwords) but I knew if I didn't, we'd backslide and that is the last thing he needs from me.

Steve rode Bar Thursday night and learned that even a race horse can be a little lazy sometimes. Or at least not always willing to run. (I know, shocking.) Steve kept at it anyway, and then took the dancing horse down the driveway for a walk. I was longing Lena at the time--due my current unfortunate pattern of getting to the barn too late to ride and still make dinner--and didn't see how things were going, but I could tell Bar was not at his most cooperative. Steve had a couple of theories, but one never quite knows with Bar.

I (again) got to the barn too late last night to ride, so I replaced Bar's bit with an egg-butt snaffle while they munched grain, then tried it on him to see what he thought. He thought I was weird to bridle him in his paddock, then take it off and go get his halter. He wandered to the other end of his paddock and stared out over the pasture, but I waited, halter in hand, until he turned around and came over to me willingly to go down to the round pen for a little bit of exercise. Only once has Bar ever refused to come and get haltered by us, so he must enjoy himself at least a little bit. (That time, he thought we were having a lesson.)

Then we just did some ground work and played with each other a little. I try to do new things with him and not just stick to the same routine. While he's comfortable with a routine, it means he isn't learning and neither am I. Sometimes it's big things, like walking over wet tarps on the trail course, sometimes it's smaller things, but I try to think of one new thing to do each time I handle him. Each time we get through one together, I feel like we've built one more inch of trust between us.

He still thinks I'm weird half the time, but now at least he goes along with what I'm asking with only a slight sideways glance out of a worried eye. It's almost like he's saying, "Okay, I'll do it, but only because you haven't gotten me into a mess lately."

I don't always remember to do that with Lena because she's not the "problem" child. (Well, most days she's not, anyway.) But she grows and learns from new things, too, and she certainly needs our input just as much, if in a slightly different way than Bar does. Have to put that on the to-do list, though, because I think it's important.

The last thing I learned (relearned) this week is that I have to let the people I care about build their own relationships with the horses I care about. It's really hard for me, particularly with Bar, to watch other people work with them and do things differently than I would. However, it probably won't hurt any of us to have the different inputs, and it is certainly not helping things if I'm hovering anxiously while someone else is working with one of the horses. Lena has always managed to respond to her rider based on who it is, and she certainly expects different things out of each of us. (More carrots from Katie, for example.)

Big week of lessons all the way around.