Thursday, April 30, 2009

Real life

Since dentist day, a few things have happened that have interfered with horse time and riding, but I've also let way too much time go by without getting back on Bar--or even Lena.

Work is crazy, and since I'm new, I feel like I can't just wander in late (dusty, fragrant, cheeks smeared with horse snot, etc.), so can't really stop at the barn first. Most nights I can get out of there by 5:30, but that doesn't necessarily give me time to ride (not if I want to spend time with Steve before he goes to sleep, that is), though I can usually work Bar in the round pen at least. There is also the challenge of being tired and preoccupied after work and not having enough focus to be able to give Bar the work he needs, and stay on while I'm at it. I know, I know. This is what most horse people deal with on a regular basis. I didn't realize quite how good I had it.

Then, two weeks ago, my dad went into the hospital because he was short of breath. Long story short, his health is very poor all the way around, but if he hadn't gone in, they wouldn't have found (and removed) a tumor on his lung. He's home, now, but I was down in Berkeley a couple times last week, too. It doesn't seem like that far away, at least not until that drive home.

And, yes, this sounds like a lot of excuses, even to me. I used to just get on and ride Bar, and we did okay--until that first time he dumped me. I know he and I have done a lot of great work together--over the last six months in particular--but I haven't been on him enough, and that's really what we both need.

One bright spot? Last Sunday, after I worked him in the round pen, I started goofing around with him and trying to pull/push myself up on his back. I'm either not strong enough, or don't have the technique down (Steve says it's the latter), but either way, he just stood there patiently while I tried. On both sides, no less. He kept turning around to see if I'd made it up there, yet, so I had Katie come over and used the mounting block to actually get on him bareback. No reins, just Katie holding his lead. He stood there just fine until I kissed at him to give him a carrot (and get a nice neck stretch/bend out of him). Oops. Even then, he danced for just a second, trying to do what both of us wanted--move forward for me, or stand still for Katie. I could tell Katie got a little nervous, but I concentrated on relaxing and holding on, she calmed down, and he just settled and held still. I got off and gave him a big hug.

I've played with that a couple of times since, and he stands perfectly still while I drape myself over his back from both sides. He turns around and looks at me as if to say, "Do you need a boost?" but he doesn't bolt and he tolerates my silly shenanigans with good humor and usually a snuggle, too.

The other bright spot is that Dad is home from the hospital now, which is good because he was getting really bored and grumpy. Seeing him go through this, not knowing how it will all play out, makes me realize I just need to get on with it. Life is too short and Bar and I are both too special to waste any more time with excuses.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Dentist day for Bar and Lena

The horses survived a day of dentistry!

Our vet came out to the barn, armed with drugs, her dremel, and hand floats. Leslie was pretty sure Lena's mouth was in good shape--having done Lena's teeth once herself and assisted once, plus checking them periodically--but we had no idea what Bar's mouth would be like.

His was not the worst mouth Leslie had ever seen, but he definitely had some issues. He had a lot of hooks, including caudal hooks way in the back on "tooth number 11" and some pretty severe rostral hooks. He also had a pretty good wave going on in his mouth that will need more attention before next year. This page has some good pictures of the things we found in Bar's mouth. The wave is caused by, then exacerbated by, uneven growth and wear. Leslie took it down a lot and we'll have her back in eight months or so to be sure we're staying on top of it with him.

Horses, like humans, can have good mouths or bad mouths. Lena has a genetically good mouth, but some breeds are known for not being so lucky. Mustangs apparently have (overall) great mouths, which makes sense--natural selection would pretty quickly weed out horses that didn't. Thoroughbreds, not surprisingly, are not known for having good mouths. Bar's isn't deformed (no over-bite or under-bite), and the good news is his teeth do line up beautifully, so with good care we can alleviate a lot of the challenges he has.

Both horses were really well behaved--even with drugs, some horses are not easy to work on. Bar's worst moment was waiting in the stall beforehand while Leslie got the first shot of drugs ready for him, but even though he did a little dancing, he hung in there and listened to me without getting out of control or aggressive. Even when he would start to come around, he didn't fight--and he was in the "chair" for a long time.

Leslie told me she can see how far Bar has come, not only how much he trusts us and how bonded he is to us, but also how much more "in his head" he is than when we first got him. That was a nice compliment, and validates what I see in him. I don't know if the tooth issues have anything to do with his behavior under saddle--and I won't know for a couple days because he's getting a break from the bit for a few days while his mouth heals--but it certainly couldn't have been helping the situation.

Here is a slide show of some of the choice shots from the day:

Bar before

Bar before
Originally uploaded by spottyhorse67

He had no idea it would take overcam hour and three shots of drugs to
get his teeth done! And we have to do it again in 8 months. Poor guy.

Jessica Boyd

Lena and Katie--my girls

Lena and Katie--my girls
Originally uploaded by spottyhorse67

Before the start of dentist day.

Jessica Boyd

My two gals

My two gals
Originally uploaded by spottyhorse67

Little did Lena know what was coming later on--dentist day went well,

Jessica Boyd

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Belated Happy Birthday to Bar

I just realized I'm a terrible two-horse Mom.

I remembered Lena Rey's birthday and posted to her, and I remembered Bar's birthday, but didn't write a special post for him. He was 9 years old on April Fool's Day!

He is certainly worth a happy birthday post.

I've had a challenging year with him, as anyone who knows me or reads this blog knows. He has made me come up with new tricks and face my own fears more than once.

He has also come so far and shown so much willingness to learn and work with me--okay, not always when I'm in the saddle, but we'll get there--that it gives me much genuine joy and amusement and keeps me engaged and entertained with that big, beautiful, brown horse.

Happy (belated) birthday, Bar!!

Lena's Easter flat tire

Sometimes, even the simple things about owning horses happen at odd times.

Lena just got a new set of shoes on Friday, Steve rode her that day, then went back Saturday while Katie and I were at the mall picking up "The Prom Dress." He got home a little after we did and said he didn't ride because one of Lena's front shoes was bent away from her hoof in back. It wasn't loose, but had somehow pulled away from the buttress of her heel on one side.

So I called Mike, and he met us at the barn bright and early (7:30, groan) this morning to fix it. Easter morning! How can I not love this farrier?! Mike said she probably over-reached a little and caught the front shoe with her back foot, which happens all the time with certain horses. He even showed us the shiny part on the shoe that was the likely "impact" zone.

He flattened the shoe out again and bent it in a little more at the heels before tacking it back on her foot. He told Lena she was stuck with a little less freedom for that hoof, but better that than her pulling it off again. I think what he meant --based on a recent horse-shoeing refresher with Santa Rosa JC's Farrier Science guru, Stuart Greenberg--is that the hoof itself is dynamic and flexes with the horse's natural movements. Horseshoes by their very nature restrict that even as they provide support for the work the horse is doing.

She's all set and we'll probably head back to the barn this afternoon for an Easter ride.

Stay tuned for next Friday's day of horse dentistry. Bar and Lena are both getting their teeth done. Exciting stuff! My plan is to do Bar first, since he tends to be the more suspicious of the two and I've been through this with her twice already and know how she'll react.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Small successes

Sometimes, even when I didn't get the exact training session I wanted, I get one that turns out okay.

I had planned to work on speed control with Bar, including the canter. We managed to do a little of that, but the real lesson today was that I can stay on him, in balance, pull him out of losing his little horsey mind, and get us both back on track.

The first time he tried to take off, I lost both stirrups and started to slide. But instead of accepting the inevitable and hitting the dirt, I wrapped my legs around him and pulled his head around until he gave and stood still. Got my feet back in the stirrups in the process, too.

We did okay for a little while, and then Lena and Katie came back from their walk down the driveway and Bar decided he was done working for the day. I disagreed, he argued, and tried to take off again--using some weird noise in the back of the arena as an excuse. He even did his favorite trick of pretending to spook towards an obstacle to see what I'd do. It didn't work well, though, because he slowed himself down to carefully jump over it, completely negating the facade that he was terrified and out of control. Not that I was buying it in any case, but that just made me laugh.

Both times I stayed on, both times I pulled his head around and got him back under control. Steve heard a ruckus, then heard my triumphant "Ha! I'm still up here!" and figured I was doing okay, even if Bar was being evil.

I know I should have been mad at him, and I was, but a lot less mad since I was so proud of myself for staying on and dealing with his behavior from the saddle. I rode him until he was paying attention to me instead of trying to spook in the back corner or stop at the gates the whole time.

So I didn't do exactly what I set out to do with him today, but I'll take this day as a small success anyway. It's all part of the path I need to walk with him, and sometimes that road is a little rocky, but it's also given me a lot of opportunity to push myself to the next level and grow--both as a horsewoman and just as a human.

I could sometimes wish for an easier route, but then I look at that big, brown face and think of how far we've come, and decide this is the path I was meant to take.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

More horse therapy

My daughter Katie had her first horse therapy session in awhile and by the looks of things, enjoyed it thoroughly.

She spent the first part of her session riding how she wanted--fast, just enjoying feeling Lena's power underneath her. Then she sat back and rode a little more conservatively, but not too. Mainly she just rode to get back to it and remember how we all got into this horse mess in the first place.

Why hasn't she been riding? Well, as sometimes happens with young women, a boyfriend entered the picture and took her focus for awhile. The rest of it is her story to tell, but she has more time to ride now and today she took advantage of it.

It was a good thing to see.