Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Real winter

The Puget Sound area's idea of winter is generally in the 40's to 50's with grey skies, often with drizzle. Dismal, depressing and oh so muddy. While I will happily ride in most weather, riding in the rain or even just in the wet (assuming it isn't raining at that moment) takes a lot of ambition and sometimes I really have to force myself to do it.

This week however, snow lovers like myself got an early present. Snow! And lots of it (for around here anyhow). My backyard has nearly a foot in places and we've had snow for nearly 6 days straight. Sadly, today we're getting freezing rain instead but I'll ignore that for now. So this weekend I had to get out and enjoy the snow with Ketah!

Friday afternoon Ketah and I went out for a fairly quick jaunt and took Sati along. We didn't go far, but everything is covered in snow so it was a new experience for the young'un and she was fine. Saturday I talked a friend from the desert into coming along too and we got far enough up the skid roads to enjoy snow on the trees, and we were riding while it was snowing! I haven't done that in years. Ketah was feeling energetic and Sati was great. She'd skitter at things occasionally, but with Ketah just moving on Sati didn't want to be left behind and her scares didn't amount to much.

At one point on the way home we decided to let them trot. Ketah's trot, especially her extended trot, tends to leave all other horses behind. My friend on her little Quarter Horse had to canter to keep up with Ketah's energetic (but not yet extended trot). Sati kept on trotting. Finally we let them stretch a bit, I didn't want Ketah galloping with the youngster so I just asked her to extend her trot (little QH had to gallop though, and still got left behind). I fully expected Sati to start cantering to keep up. She's a bit taller than Gali (sorry mom, I never spell it right) and all leg, but most horses would rather canter then stretch. Not Sati though. She stretched right out into an extended trot, never even tripped herself (amazing for a youngster) and I had the distinct impression she could've stretched it even further before breaking into a canter.

This one is going to be a lot of fun and a lot of work to ride! I better work a lot harder at the gym to be ready for her.

The pictures are from Sunday (when ponying a young horse there is no way I can take pictures too). I decided Sati had worked her young brain enough and Ketah and I went out again to just enjoy ourselves. It was colder and snowing but it's the same trail so you can see how lovely it looks right now! I'll pretend that it won't all be mud in a week...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Weather strikes again

In case any of you are checking this regularly I'm not doing much horse work right now. It's been at or below freezing for about a week now and we lack a truly indoor arena. I have been out to check on them and I reminded Sati about her manners and what I expect her to do. She's doing it great. However, I haven't been able to try anything new lately. Maybe this weekend (though if this weather keeps up we'll all be iced - not snowed - in).

I'm not complaining. We've had a few days of clear skies and cold temps that actually feel like winter! I'll take it, I know it won't last. Interestingly her "scratches" have cleared up completely with this weather. I was medicating of course, but the last time I saw her she still had them. Curious!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Learning together

This weekend saw another step in the training process with Sati and a small realization for me. Saturday was nice and sunny so I went to spend a few hours with my girls. I decided I'd work Sati first then maybe Ketah and I would go for a ride. Since it was nice I took Sati out into the arena (well the area that will be an arena but isn't yet) and lunged her on the long lead. She's getting better every time. She stops on a dime, when she's paying attention to me. I can mostly get her to move out in both directions without a fight, though she still dislikes doing circles to the right and she'll generally stand still, again with the caveat that she can see me at the end of the rope. For some reason that isn't translating in her head to the tie rail.

However, she had done great through the week. Including workin on her feet (still trying to get rid of the "scratches"). My farrier came on Friday and trimmed both girls and Sati was great for him, picked up all four feet without a protest at all. Anyhow, we were doing pretty good on Saturday. So I put my dressage saddle on her. She's had it on several times now and doesn't much care. Though I can't tighten it down as much as it would need to be to actually ride her. The girth is Ketah-sized. Even with it slightly loose she is a little unsure of herself and instead of making her nuts, it slows her down. Not a bad thing in my opinion. I put her, with the saddle, back out in the arena at the end of the line. We lunged a bit more and she did pretty well. She gets a bit grumpy when she's tired or bored so I didn't push it too far. Next week we'll try a bit in her mouth.

Well, I let her loose in the round pen so she could watch me ride Ketah as we did arena work. Ketah has slowed down a lot lately but we did manage some good trot and canter work and she was bucking a little on the lunge line. Sati was having fits, pawing at the gate and yelling at Ketah. She did listen when I yelled back at her for pawing though.

I finished up and decided now was a good time for tieing up and reminding Sati that I can groom her, including her feet. First foot was no problem. And came running and screaming and making all kinds of noise. Someone else tied up a horse at the other end of the rail. It was too much for Sati's brain. She started dancing and jumping. Despite that I did eventually get all four feet without any kicking.

I've determined what I need for training her now is a lot of distractions. Since most of our work lately is in the evenings alone I need to come up with a way to make up those distractions. The radio doesn't bother her much and the kids are in the house. So plastic bags, loud noisy wheelbarrows, maybe a bicycle...

I would make one final note. I can't help but compare Sati to Ketah at that age. Poor Ketah had been abused and mishandled (by other people) for some time and was a basket case. She wasn't trying to hurt anyone but she didn't trust people either. Sati is just acting young most of the time. And she does trust me, so I can generally "talk her down" without broken halters or tie rails. If I think about it too much I'm sad that I didn't know more when I started working with Ketah and that she had to grow up so painfully. She never really showed the curiosity about me that Sati has until much later in her life. I know we've made up for it, 20 years and all, but it did leave scars that took a long time to heal for her. I'm glad I'll be able to do better with Sati.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


I suppose since my last post about Sati was describing how bad she'd been I should make another one about how good she was this weekend. Thanks to the DVD mom sent me I've been working on lead line stuff. Sati now moves out in both directions and changes direction pretty well. She still has trouble on the right side but she's getting better and challenging me less often.

I've also been medicating her ankles for "scratches" and she's getting better about me messing with her hind feet. I can now usually pick up all four feet (albeit, I'm very slow about her hinds so she can think about it) without a fight. The "scratches" are getting better slowly. She doesn't seem to be sore anymore. The test is on Friday when my shoer comes to trim her feet. He did ok with her last time, but she danced around and was generally difficult. This time I'm hoping all our work on standing pays off.

Planning for the next generation...

I have a rule about my horses. It's pretty simple, a kindergarten rule really. Share them, especially with anyone I know who has children. Most young girls are at some point enamored with horses so I like to encourage that. Their parents don't always realize what I'm getting them into, it's better that way. However, this time they knew and fully approved. My best friend Dan and his wife Kelley brought their 4 month old baby down to visit for Thanksgiving.

Dan expressed a specific desire to start Aylee early on her potential obsession with horses. Expose her to the sight, smell and sound of a barn. Plus he and Kelley wanted to meet Sati. Now, before you get worried I was very safe about it and Kelley knows horses well enough to be safe too. I didn't let Sati near Aylee and I watched Ketah very carefully. Ketah, being older, fairly lazy these days and in a very calm mood was perfect for us. Aylee got to sit on Ketah, while Ketah went to sleep and when Kelley was moving away Aylee was reaching out to Ketah. While I am fully aware that at 4 months old she's just reaching out for everything, I figure we got it in her head. Mission accomplished. Thank you Ketah.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Counting eggs...

I should know better than to crow about a youngster's great manners. Oh, before I get started here I am trying out the name "Sati" right now. It's cute, already as short as it can get and it's the name of a Hindu goddess. Anyhow, my last post mentioned how great Sati was doing in her manners. Well, following that I failed to work with her for 5 days. Just too crazy at work and at home.

So the day after I discovered the "scratches" I came back to clean up her legs and apply ointment. Mind you, my last post mentioned that she has picked up all four feet for me a few days earlier. Well Sunday she decided she not only was not going to pick up her hind feet (this is our big problem) she was going to return to plowing me over when asked to move out and kick when I try to pick up her hind right foot! Instead of a quick 15 minute vetting, I spent an hour and half working her, cleaning her legs and finally getting ointment on most of her hotspots. I had to get Kristine's help to do it too. Sati has a hell of a temper when she doesn't want to do something.

Apparently our discussions about manners on Sunday made some impact. I went to take care of her feet yesterday and after a short session on the lead line where I required that she stand still then move out in a circle around me, she let me clean and put stuff on her feet without even twitching her tail.

I admit to wondering why I didn't stick to my guns and get a gelding, but I am also glad she's got some attitude. I'd probably be bored if she was too easy.

Ketah is feeling much better too. Due to the time it took to vet Sati on Sunday I only had about an hour and half of daylight to ride (and it was a nice sunny day too). I took Ketah out and she wanted to trot and canter the entire time!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Another ride aborted

It's that time of year. Windy, chilly, and rain. Only right now the rain is anything from sprinkles to hard, freezing rain. I saw every variation today, and we never made it out of the barn!

So I worked both the girls in the round pen and hope tomorrow is nicer. Sadly I have learned yet another pain of living here in the northwest. It's called "scratches" or "greasy heal". Basically horses whose living areas are too wet can develop this fungal/bacterial (can be both) infection on the skin above their feet. Apparently horses with white socks or feet are more susceptible. Ketah's hair is white but her feet are black which means her skin is black. Ginger has white or white striped feet, especially her front. And two weeks in a muddy paddock waiting for her new (nicer and far less muddy paddock) caused her to develop it. Ketah can't be stalled so I don't keep them in a place that stalls the horses. They do have a good sized (acre+) paddock with a shelter to themselves now so once I deal with the "scratches" she ought to be ok.

On the plus side. I've been using Julie Goodnight's techniques for some basic manners and it's working great. Ginger is now willing to move off in either direction without crowding or stepping on me as she was previously. She learns very quickly so I need to move on to something else before she gets bored...

Monday, November 17, 2008

Riding by moonlight

Saturday night I was invited to go on a night ride with Kristina and two women I had not ridden with before (but both of whom have very nice Arabians). I haven't done this since I was 15 or 16 years old back in Colorado, and though it was going to be chilly and the trees around here make night riding difficult I said "you bet"!

First of all let me just say that I did not and would not take Ginger on this just yet. So far she's been out on the trail once, during the day. That's hard enough for a young horses' brain. We were all riding seasoned, older horses who know the trail well.

So, we gather around 10:00pm when the moon is up and saddle up. We have to ride a little ways on a road (I described that in a previous post) and there are no street lamps. Since it was shortly after Halloween we all had glowsticks! We didn't plan it, but each of the four of us managed to have different colors. I had green ones that I attached to the saddle. I also had a couple of bicycle lights that I use when biking to work, I put the flashing break light on behind my saddle and duct taped the front light to my helmet. We were quite the crew. From a distance all you could really see were floating colored glows: pink, orange, green and yellow. Finally we were off, the moon was up and mostly full so the roads were brightly lit. The horses weren't spooky or cranky about being roused from their pens at night and it was a gorgeous (if a bit cool) late fall night.

We decided to stay on the main lumber roads. If you've never ridden out here (or hiked out here) it's worth noting that the vegetation is very thick and the trees are tall and tend to grow close together. In the daytime, with the sun out it can be too dark to ride/hike these trails with sunglasses! The lumber roads are old truck roads that they would cut through the trees to bring equipment up. These are usually 2-3 horses wide and even when it's really wet they aren't muddy. The trees still often obscured the moonlight of course, but that's why we all had flashlights.

We'd been out for about an hour trying to find a particular outlook. Again, trees often obscure views here but in some areas the trees were cut recently enough that you can still see and it's really amazing. We'd gotten up to a small clearing, but it was the wrong one. No view. We were turning around to find the other road when we all got a very strong whiff of cat. Anyhow who hikes, even in wilderness close to towns knows that cougar are more likely to be out and about from dusk until dawn. The horses weren't reacting (they have better noses) so I think it wasn't very fresh, but it was enough we decided to just go home. We had no encounters on the way back, but we were careful to make lots of noise too. Cougars hate that.

At about 1:30am we rode back into the barn. A little cold, tired and hungry but happy. There is really nothing better than an good ride for a girl's mood. Ginger was extremely happy to have us back. She's become quite attached to Ketah (not that Ketah cares). The horses went back to their interrupted dinner, and we headed home for warm beds.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


I was all excited to go work with the young'un tonight.  Mom sent me a DVD by Natural Horsemanship trainer Julie Goodnight that was all about working the horse on the lead line.  As I mentioned previously, Ginger needs a lot of work on respect and this looked like a good start.

So I watched it and headed out to the barn.  I would note that at this time of year it's completely dark by the time I can get to the barn and raining.  Note my devotion (some might say obsession) to doing this well.  You can't work a baby once a week and get very far.  I got my flashlight (they're still working on getting things like outdoor lights up) and tromped through the mud to the paddock.  My two girls are standing on opposite sides of the paddock from each other and Ketah comes right over to see me.  Ginger actually nickers at me, how cute!  I haltered her and start to lead her away and...she's lame.  

*Sigh* We do end up having a bit of a lesson on standing still (part of Julie's lesson on the DVD) because I really needed to clean her feet to find the problem.  Took us a while.  That horse can move amazingly well on three feet while I'm holding one!  And I didn't see anything obviously wrong.  I HATE this time of year.  The horses's feet are a mess.  She may have just bruised her foot, but in all this wet and mud it will likely become an abscess (this is when I wonder what the hell I'm thinking trying to have horses out here).  I clean her up, walk her around, inspect her legs and feet and find nothing.  The barn manager says I can go ahead and stick her in a stall.  Mabe tomorrow I'll find it, or else Ginger and I will have a fun discussion about soaking her foot.  

Monday, November 10, 2008

The price of a horse ain't in what you paid for her...

It's true that I didn't pay anything for Ginger, but as a quick example I paid $200 to buy Ketah about 16 years ago. I won't bother tallying up the monthly feed and board in that time, I'm thinking entirely about gear right now. Over the years I have amassed a good store of gear. For my one horse I have two saddles, three bridles, two blankets, two halters, side reins, whips, a good first aid kit for the barn, brushes, etc. Some of that is universally useful, such as the brushes, hoofpicks and first aid. Sadly however, I have discovered that none of the really expensive stuff is. As we all know now, Ketah is a Morgan-Quarter mix. This means that in general she wears "horse" size bridles. Ginger has a pretty little Arab head, she needs "cob" size instead. Ketah wears saddles that are considered "quarter bars". In english saddles that means she generally uses a "wide" tree. In western saddles most will fit her. Not so for Ginger. Arabians tend to be either really narrow, or really wide. I got the wide one. My favorite saddle appears unlikely to fit her even with the widest gullet I can put in it. I'm going to try, but I have little hope.

On the plus side, I have placed a saddle on Ginger twice now and asked her to walk around with it on. She quite literally doesn't care. Of course, since neither of my saddles fits her neither has been cinched down. Ketah's cinches are too long, even as skinny as she is right now...

The point of this post is that I know I'm crazy. And it's a damn good thing Shane knew that before he got involved 'cause it's just going to get worse. Saddles ain't cheap!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

First time out

Ginger and Ketah have been in the same turn out together for two weeks or so now. While Ginger still has respect issues with me (she almost knocked me down a couple days ago while freaking out over nothing) she respects Ketah quite well. She's been working better on a lead line daily and I thought we should give her a trail lesson today if the rain let us.

I got lucky, today it was not raining (first time in a week it felt like) and at this time of year you have to take every chance you can get. I tacked up Ketah, put the rope halter on Ginger (that was a lesson too, rope halters work much better than flat nylon halters right now) and ponied around the property a bit. She followed pretty happily and I thought we'd do a short trail ride. Right now the gate out the back of the property is locked while they work on the fences so we have to go out via a paved road. Ketah was feeling much more energetic than she has in weeks (though she still needs to gain weight) which promised an interesting ride if she didn't calm down. Ginger was great though, she didn't pick up on Ketah's mood at all. Both of them were in heat though, so I was taking a chance! We walked past other horses, had cars pass us (and people around here are so dang rude, won't slow down even when I'm flagging them), mountain bikers ride past us and dogs run out and bark at us. The only thing that bothered here was having cars come from behind us. She danced a bit, but that was all.

I think the paved bit is about a quarter mile, then we have to walk on a hard pack dirt and gravel road for maybe another quarter. No problem. Then the fun part, trails! The trails here are not like what I grew up with. For the most part they are single track (only enough room to walk single file) trails that started out as deer trails. They aren't maintained trails so they can get very muddy and after this past week the mud was well up over their ankles and sometimes nearly halfway to their hocks. Ketah is still a pain about the mud. I don't really blame her but it's difficult when her attempts to avoid the mud involve taking us through a tree. My knees don't really need that. Ginger was much better about it. Thankfully not taking her cues from my supposedly steady, older horse she went right through nearly all the mud.

So, I took her on the shortest loop trail I know. Again, these aren't easy trails. There just aren't any here. But we went out a single track trail with lots of mud. Up a hill (this is the foothills of the Cascades) then looped around to head back down. We'd been out for maybe 45 minutes (total) at the halfway point and Ginger was getting tired. Ketah on the other hand, would have gladly run a race (literally, first time in weeks!) and I was constantly fighting to slow her down so Ginger could keep up. Yep, first Arabian I've ridden with who didn't keep up with Ketah. But probably as she gets in better shape she will.

Well, I haven't taken any youngsters on these trails before and I made a small mistake. I took Ginger out the easier way, leaving a somewhat more difficult route back. This involved going down a slippery hill, around a couple of hairpin bends, back up a hill and finally a large step over a downed log. She worked her way through all of it! She stopped twice, I think because she was tired and didn't want to think anymore. The first time she stopped was at the top of the hairpin (downhill) bends. I couldn't blame her, it's hard work! She got a little confused by the turns but eventually managed it. The second time when we came to the log. At one point this had been a fairly large tree, but half of it had rotted and Ketah steps over it easily. We were going uphill at this point, and Ginger needed to stop to figure it out. She is still not quite graceful at the moment. This was probably the first time she really had to pay attention to where her feet were and she did a lot of tripping. She did finally step over it with very little urging from me. Then back down the road to home.

Honestly, she did far better than I expected her first time out. Especially with Ketah being her old self (for those of you who know her...). Next time however, I need to do two things. Ketah will be exercised either in the round pen or by riding her the day before (I am glad she's feeling better though)! And Ginger needs horse boots of her own. At least on her front feet, she was pretty ouchy on the rocks.

All in all though, a very successful lesson and a good step on the way to being a good trail horse!

Friday, November 7, 2008

AHA Membership

Short post today. I'm finally getting Ginger's paperwork turned in to transfer ownership to my name (she's a registered Arabian) and I figure I'd join the Arabian Horse Association while I'm at it. I get a magazine full of pretty horses, cheaper registration fee and I can join a "frequent rider" program and get prizes. Turns out...I should've done this years ago. I helped train Sully and I rode him plenty before moving away and all of those hours would have counted. Ah well, I'll start now, or as soon as I can ride her anyhow.

Of course, it would help too if the sign up page weren't broken....gotta love computers right?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Already I deviate

I did warn that I would not always write only about horses. But I feel I have to make some comment on the election.

A comment that's more interesting than "whoo hooo", I hope! First let me say that I don't consider myself a democrat or a republican. Probably I'm more closely aligned with libertarians or old republicans, often that leaves me feeling like I have no good choices. That is how I have felt for the last 8 years at least and the start of this election season that had not it changed for me.

To be honest, I had no intention of voting for a republican president unless he/she was a serious superstar, and none of the potential candidates were. I had felt that if nothing else I needed to send a message that I was very unhappy with what they have presided over in my country the last 8 years. Starting a war, then an occupation. Ballooning our federal debt (doubled in 8 years!), dismantling our civil liberties and giving religious nutjobs credence and power they don't deserve. That's just to name a few of the obvious issues. I felt that if my vote meant anything it needed to make the republican party take a look at itself, or at least provide a swat with a newspaper as you might do to a naughty puppy (though it's hard not to feel like an ant biting an elephant at times). I had thought McCain was at least the most reasonable of the republican candidates (Ron Paul might have been interesting though). At least, until he chose Palin. That made me take a closer look and left me absolutely horrified. Now I was voting against him not only because he chose a religious nutjob with absolutely no education or experience for the potential post of President, but also because he himself could not be trusted to sit on the proverbial "big red button". I was scared.

I initially didn't care if Hillary or Obama was the candidate, either one had my vote by default. I didn't like Hillary much to be honest, and I didn't know anything about Obama. So I didn't expect to like or even feel excited or hopeful about the candidate I would ultimately vote for. Watching his poise, his constant optimism and strength while campaigning as well as seeing his willingness to learn and challenge people's assumptions made me feel increasingly confident that he would be a good leader, maybe even a great one. I don't agree with all of his positions, but of all of the democrats I could have been voting for I think we got one of the best.

Now I can dare to hope that our country will get back on track. Maybe this is the feeling my dad has talked about that pervaded the country when JFK was elected. It's new to me, and I find I really like it.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Two Weeks

I've had Ginger (still needs a new name) for about two weeks now. I've managed to spend weekends and once or a twice during the week working with her and Ketah. Reading through Mary Twelveponies' book Starting the Colt, and remembering lessons from Sully and Gahli, I always start working on Ketah with Ginger next to her and watching. They live in the same pen now and Ginger has attached herself to Ketah. Of course, Ketah doesn't care but she doesn't bully her either.

Ginger and I have had a couple lessons right away. She doesn't respect my space at all, and she does it with attitude! I admit, I like seeing a bit of that in her but not when she's trying to kick me. For some reason she hates having her hind left foot picked up and she starts stomping and swinging her butt into me. Thankfully she is just a little snotty, not mean, and smaller than Ketah :) It can be difficult to take her tantrums truly seriously when I recall how Ketah was at three years old.

We've been working through the respect issues by doing some Lyons type roundpen work. She has been trained to lunge on a line...but only in one direction! In the other direction she would rather run me over. So we work in a round pen, without the line just asking her to move off away from me and stop when I ask. Again, she's a little snotty about it right at first. Sometimes even kicking at me when I ask her to move the direction she doesn't like. After this weekend though I can ask her to move away from me both directions on the lead line. Not perfectly, but she's not trying to run me down either.

We shall see if she still remembers those lessons tomorrow night...

Well, I promised...

A blog that would let (mom) hear all about my horse training trials and fun. I can't promise that this will be nothing but horses, but a lot of it will be. Brief introduction is probably in order. You know me of course, but my horses must be introduced (they are the important ones). Ketah is my 23 year old Morgan-Quarter mare. I've had her for going on 20 years now and she's taught me a lot, not all of it good I'm sure! She is finally slowing down though, so now was the time to get a young one (or quit, you know which I chose). Ginger is a 2.5 year old purebred Arabian filly - who really needs a new name. She's sweet and has almost no training. So it begins...