Friday, February 27, 2009

Bar gets custom wheels

Bar not only has clips on the front, he has custom made clips on the front! And I got to watch Mike hand-craft the shoes.

So totally cool.

The iPhone did a pretty good job of taking pictures, even with all the hammer swinging Mike did, but it takes a little extra planning to get them up on the blog, at least and make sense once they're up. BUT! My friend Terrie of Critter Geek and Permidotnet fame showed me a really cool tool called PictoBrowser that helped me build a slide show:

Mr. Shoe-loser

Mr. Shoe-loser
Originally uploaded by spottyhorse67

An experiment with my iPhone and flickr.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Horse holiday has ended

So the good news is I got a job--a full-time job in Sebastopol, no less! The bad news is the era of spending 4 hours a day at the barn is over.

It's probably for the best, but I do have some regrets and I'm sure the horses will face a short readjustment period. "What?! Only 2 carrots per day each?!" I even had to skip the barn entirely today because I had a dentist appointment first thing this morning and couldn't quite figure out how to squeeze them in either before (like, O-Dark-Thirty) or after, since I had to work late to make up for being late this morning. Poor horses. I hope they aren't too traumatized.

I will have to figure out how to balance the new job, but it may take a couple weeks before we get there.

Hoping things will smooth out eventually and I can establish a new training routine. Should be easier once the days get longer, too.

I am excited to be working again, though. I just don't do leisurely very well at all. I even tried to learn, but alas, it appears I am entirely too wiggly for it.

No wonder I have the horses I do.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Riding Lena

All of us sometimes think of Lena as the "easy" horse, forgetting she can be just as tricky to ride as Bar is. This has been known to lead to a false sense of security on occasion, as Katie found out just the other day. Though Lena is usually paying a little more attention to her rider, she can and does act more ditzy, which can put you on the ground just as easily.

Last Monday, we went to the barn and Katie got Lena out. Lena hadn't been ridden hard in about a week and Katie hadn't ridden at all in a couple months. Katie was also a little distracted about school, life, and a few other things and admitted after the fact that she should have been paying better attention.

Hard rain hammered a steady drone of noise on the tin roof of the indoor arena and Lena was antsy and distracted. Katie started to come around the round pen and Lena leaped six feet sideways in a split second. Katie didn't stay with her and I felt that weird parental calmness come over me as I watched her slide off and land in the soft arena dirt, still holding the reins. Slow motion, indeed.

Katie was fine--embarrassed, but fine--and got right back on and continued with Lena's work out. This is only the second time she's come off a horse, and the other time was Bar who was trying much, much harder. Katie's conclusions were two-fold: you can't zone out on Lena, either, and she needs to get back to riding more regularly.

What did Lena spook at? A couple of brooms upended in cones that hadn't been in the arena the last time she'd been ridden. The next day, I spent a lot of time going up to, past, around, next to, and between them. We finally got to the point that she nosed them tried to pick them up instead of veering away from them, but it took a little while, plus a lot of calmness and encouragement on my part, to get her there.

Bar, on the other hand, took one look at them and grabbed ahold of them to pull them up and down in the cones. I had to work with him to ignore them and not play with them every time we went by!

Two different horses, two sets of challenges, and one lesson. Peter says it best, "Relax, but stay vigilant," and I think that sums it up pretty well.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Bar and his Typical Thoroughbred Feet

Bar has a beautiful head and (as Devon put it) "terrible" feet. The hoof walls are thin and shell-y and without shoes on, the poor horse would have nothing to stand on. I have heard the barefoot arguments, but I really don't think there is any way to toughen up his feet. At least not without staying off him and putting him in pain for awhile, neither of which I'm willing to do, even if I was convinced it would work.

Luckily, I have a fabulous farrier who is as stubborn as he is talented, so even though that back foot was torn up and very, very short, we have a shoe on it. That's good, because without it, I couldn't work Bar and that would be a very, very bad thing for all of us.

When Mike came last week to shoe Lena, he came prepared to deal with Bar's back feet. Mike had managed to get a shoe tacked on after we lost it on the trail a couple weeks ago, but the mud we got as a result of all the much-needed rain ended up pulling it off because there just wasn't enough hoof to hold the nails.

As it turned out, Bar had grown out enough that Mike ended up doing all four feet anyway and put clips on the back to help hold the shoe on--hopefully for at least 7 weeks until our next appointment! So far, so good. Both back shoes feel very attached.

Ta dah!

The clips look great! The lumps are mud I couldn't quite scrape off (need a wire brush) and the red is iodine to keep bacteria at bay.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Googling yourself.. or your horse

I was actually looking up some of the horses I was seeing on the reality show "Jockeys" and decided to Google Calabar. I searched for "Calabar racehorse" and got this .. which I wrote about a week ago.

And, as a side note, I love to watch these horses run. They love it. They are poetry, power, desire--all of it, in glorious motion.

On another side note.. I'd love to be able to ride Bar with the wind in my teeth and feel his joy and power. Someday, I promise I'll get there.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Comparing Animal Dentistry-Dog vs. Horse-while job hunting

Even as I go about my daily routine of working with the horses in the morning and applying for jobs every afternoon, I am still trying to determine just what path I want to follow. At the moment, the job market is not very promising and the alternative pathways are ever so much more interesting.

I've gone in and talked to the counselor at the JC about both the Equine Science degree and the Veterinary Technician program and am trying to get an appointment with the Department Head to formulate the best academic plan. In the meantime, I've been talking to my cousin Josh who has been a Veterinary Technician for over 10 years (I think). He has been sending me photo examples of the dog teeth he cleans on a regular basis, and I sent him my old post on horse dentistry to illustrate what "floating" a horse's teeth really looks like.

Here is some of the fine work Josh has done for his canine patients:



Big difference, eh? And I have to say, as weird as it may sound, I could totally get into that kind of a job.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

My photo got picked for a Berkeley Schmap

A few months ago, I logged into my Flickr account and had a message that one of my photos from Golden Gate Fields was being considered for a Berkeley Schmap. Turns out they used it, which I thought was kinda cool.

If you click on the Golden Gate Fields link, you'll eventually see the picture above come up attributed to me.

On the technology side, Schmap has a really nice interface that allowed me to drag a corner of the widget below to resize it and change the color very easily right in the browser window. That automatically changed the code so I could cut and paste the widget wherever I needed it. Pretty nifty.

And if I had an iPhone, Schmap would probably come in handy for all kinds of reasons. Okay, if I had an iPhone and I was still traveling, it would really come in handy. Have to work on one or both of those things, I think.

But in the meantime, I feel vaguely famous!

Friday, February 06, 2009

Learning to be the alpha

Being the alpha doesn't just mean being dominant, it means being patient and teaching your herd what behavior you expect from them. I'm not particularly patient, and much more inclined towards compromise than imposing my will on other beings, so I'm having to reconfigure my behavior so I can train Bar and Lena to be the horses I know they can be.

Both my horses have taught me a lot about patience, but Bar in particular has been the taskmaster when it comes to the art of taking a deep breath and figuring out another way to teach him to do something. And while I have been known to be bossy, it was a hard thing for me to get really tough when it was needed. And it was definitely needed. They are actually happier and calmer with you in charge, but there is a very important balance to achieve.

You can't bully Bar. Well you can, it just won't work. You have to be firm and dominant with him--even thwack him when he gets out of line (no, biting is NOT allowed)--but you can't bully him. (Not that I'd want that relationship with him anyway, but that's another post for another time.) It just sets up a conflict that shuts him down, freaks him out, and prevents the lesson from reaching him. You really have to slow down and set him up to succeed, even more than Lena, really. He is not as dominant as she is, so when we've gotten to a place where he doesn't understand what I'm asking, sometimes he acts out in frustration, though not nearly as bad as he used to. (Okay, here's one of the places patience comes in because I have to remember how far we've come rather than how far I still want to go.)

Now, his favorite response when he's confused is to back up and yield his hindquarters. Since he used to charge forward and try to shoulder me out of the way, I'll take that as a vast improvement. The reason we've gotten here is that I've learned to be more of the Alpha, more aggressive, and not let him run roughshod over me. (And now that term makes so much more sense!) It wasn't easy for me, but it was absolutely crucial in order for us to make any training progress at all.

My newest exercise in patience came this week because of the lost shoe. Mike came out Monday and tacked a new shoe on, but there is not a lot of foot left to work with, and already--after a few round-pen workouts and one pretty easy ride in the arena and down the driveway--I've got two loose nails in the front of the foot. And now, of course, we have rain, mud, and moisture in the equation, too. Argh.

I was grumbling at Steve, who reminded me that I have time. I don't need to have a perfectly trained arena horse in a day, a week, or even a month. Well, truthfully, I don't ever expect a perfectly trained arena horse ever, and Bar has already reminded me we could do a whole lot of this darn training on the trail without all the running in circles, thankyouverymuch.

But you know what I mean.

I have to stop and remember that I am learning a whole lot I never would have with a push-button horse. The mental and physical challenges are, well, challenging, but I figure using my mind and body this way is good for me in ways I don't even recognize, yet. I am certainly never bored with him, and I'm definitely learning to ride better than I ever would have expected back when this whole horse thing started.

Nobody better call me Grasshopper, either.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Escape from the arena

We took the horses out today on a long-awaited (by them, apparently) trail ride today and it went so well, I'm wishing I would have done this much, much sooner.

Neither horse was perfect, mind you. Lena snorted at logs and spooked at some ducks taking off, and Bar argued a little bit off and on over various things--particularly getting too far away from Lena--but overall, we had two happy, relaxed horses who listened and cooperated. A hiker even commented that we had such "calm horses, not like my horse," she said. We told her it was momentary at best, but I was still glad they were doing so well someone else noticed. Bar even went by two other horses and riders without even a single, solitary sidle or funky dance move! That was a first for him--he usually gets very agitated--and I heaped praise on his fuzzy brown head for acting like a grown up horse.

The only downside is that Bar lost a rear shoe somewhere on our way back, and now I'll have to hold off riding him again until Mike comes to remedy that.

They were so happy to be out on the trail again, I'm half afraid to ask either one of them to get back in the arena. Bar gets a reprieve until he gets a new shoe, but I'm not so sure that's a good thing either.

Fugly Horse of the Day posed a question today: What would you buy if you didn't have horses? Gosh, a lot of things, but none that would make my life as full and rich as time spent with my horses. Today was a nearly perfect day, a gift that goes beyond what it cost me in gas, feed, or even a lost shoe. I shared a blip in time with my horses and my friend as we moved together through our place in this universe at the rhythmic pace of hoof beats.