Red Light, Green Light

Where is all the grass?!?

Where is all the grass?!?

So here we are at the end of the last weekend of February, but with the temperatures that we had, it felt more like early April.  Had a to-do list a mile long, but I did manage to get to the barn Saturday morning and Sunday morning.  There was no way my ankle or my list were going to keep me from the saddle.  I also managed to sneak in a lesson with Ms. C for the first time in over a month.

Has it really been that long?  Sadly, yes.  Trying to ride this winter has been like a game of Red Light, Green Light.  Oh, the sun is out and the temperature is above freezing!  Quickly tack up and ride before the rain/sleet/snow/sub-freezing temperatures return.  Bummer – Put on those brakes boys and girls, because it is time to stop and stare wistfully out the window as the snow obliterates any view.  Sigh, just as the snow melts, you get catapulted off your horse…more red light time.  About the time the body heals, Mother Nature dumps another 10 inches of the white stuff.  Ugh!  Then as temperatures warm up, the snow turns the ground into boot-sucking mud and slick riding rings.  Then, a glimmer of hope appears on the horizon and Mother M graces us with two gorgeous 60+ degree days!  Green light!  Burn some rubber and get to the barn as soon as possible.

As excited as I was about getting back in the saddle, I knew better than go with a full head of steam.  Ike has had limited work; I’ve been out of the saddle.  And as much as I’d like to say that I’m better from the fall, I must admit that my ankle is still not 100%.  Still has pain and swelling.  Grrr.  So we tacked up and met Ms. C in the ring.  Since Ike has just been decorating his paddock, we knew that his topline would not be as strong as it needs to be.  What did that mean for our lesson?  A lot of long and low work getting him to stretch over his topline.  Well, that was the game plan once we got through the initial crankiness…I think someone has been enjoying his winter vacation a bit too much.  The boy finally decided to be cooperative and our lesson was very productive.  Could not trot for as long as I would have liked and had to stop and relax the ankle from time to time, but some saddle time was just what I needed.  By the end of the lesson, Ike gave us some excellent stretch down trot, fluid walk/trot and trot/walk transitions, and a pleasant attitude.  Canter work would have to wait for another day.

I’m a bit achy today and walking like a cowboy that just finished a seven day cattle drive.  The hip flexors hate me, but I’m happy as a clam.

Can’t wait to keep building our strength and filling out the entries for our first show of the season.  Barn time is good for the soul.  🙂

One of Those Hard Barn Days

IMG_20130613_135502_294

Today dawned a peaceful Thursday, no snow, no wind, no wretchedly cold temperatures.  The boys were scheduled for their monthly pedicures that had been rescheduled from last week when Mother Nature dumped almost 10 inches of snow on us.  I was in the middle of a typical work day when I received one of those emails that makes you pause, “Dooda is colicking and it doesn’t look good.”  There is that word that strikes fear into every horse owner’s gut – colic.  No, no, no, I thought to myself.  This can’t be happening to Ike’s best buddy, but it was.

Dooda was Ike’s first friend when Ike came to Virginia almost 3 years ago.  Yes, Ike has his brother, but brothers have to like each other.  Doo’s stall is across the aisle in the barn and their paddocks share a fence line.  One can only imagine the conversations they would have at night when we left them alone.  It brought a smile to my face to watch them play over the fence.  Dooda has been the barn’s first alert system to let everyone know when Ike left the farm and then again when we returned.  He never cared what color ribbon his friend had earned; he was just thrilled to have his buddy safe at home.

When I arrived at the farm today, my heart skipped a beat.  I did not see Doo’s grey head staring through his window nor did I see him in his paddock.  I then spied my boys staring towards the paddock at the end of the row.  There I found Ms. C and Mr. D sitting on an overturned water trough while they kept Dooda company.  He was laying down with his legs tucked under him.  The look on Ms. C’s face said so much.  My tears welled up as I approached my buddy.  I called his name and he nickered in response.  I crouched down next to him and whispered encouraging words.  He pressed his head into my chest as I scratched his ears.  It was a beautiful moment that I will not soon forget.

Recent articles online have declared that it is time we accept that animals are sentient.  One noted, “Shouldn’t we stop bickering about whether they are conscious, feel pain and experience emotions?” [http://www.livescience.com/39481-time-to-declare-animal-sentience.html]  I can confirm that they do feel pain and experience the same emotions we do.  End of discussion.  Both my boys today were very quiet for the farrier which is not normally the case.  All the other horses on the farm were also very quiet.  When I stopped to visit with each one, there was a knowing look in their eyes as they stared at me.  I have no doubt that they knew their herd member was suffering.

I helped get all the horses into the barn before I headed home.  My grey buddy immediately lay down with no interest in dinner.  After getting my boys squared away, I went and sat with Doo for one last time.  He sat up when I entered and again pressed his head to my chest as I stroked his neck and cheek.  Was it his way of trying to ease my pain?  I told him to be brave.  I told him how much I would miss him if he was to leave.  I told him to fight, but that I understood if it was his time.  I told him that Ike and I loved him very much.  I hugged Ms. C, kissed my boys, and headed home.

The sad news from Ms. C came late this afternoon.  They had to say goodbye.  Ms. C said that Ike called to Dooda as he walked out the barn doors for the last time and that Dooda nickered back to Ike.  Two dear friends saying their final farewells.  Rest in peace my friend.  We will always remember you.

Things We Equestrians Know for Certain

014

Mark Twain is credited with stating that the only things that are certain in life are death and taxes.  Well, no disrespect to Mr. Twain, but we equestrians know that when you own and ride horses, that there are other things that we know for certain:

1)      Your horse will lose a shoe right after the farrier leaves or the day before your big show.

2)      The worst injuries and emergencies always occur on holidays, over the weekend, or after 10:00 at night.

3)      The more expensive the medication, the more likely you are to wear it.

4)      You will fall off…so don’t be too proud or arrogant and wear a helmet.  Your head will thank you.

5)      Your foot will eventually meet the underside of your horse’s hoof, so always wear the appropriate footwear at the barn.  Flip flops are never appropriate.

6)      Nothing from your first horse will fit your next horse.  I speak from experience.

7)      Admire your new white pad or breeches at home because as soon as they arrive at the barn, they will never look that clean ever again.

8)      You will not die if you eat your lunch right after mucking stalls even if you do not wash your hands first.  Sorry Mom.

9)      Your horse will always manage to find the one loose nail on the fence in the paddock; you will never find it.

10)   You will be pooped on at some point.

11)   Training horses is two steps forward and three steps back.

12)   Shortcuts in your training will only get you so far.  Take the time to do things correctly.

13)   Horses can count and do fractions.  Ike knows when he only gets half his grain or when I only give him three of the four treats in my pocket.

14)   Your horse will always know when the hot wire is not working.  Cigar is a master hot wire tester.

15)   Most scary things are invisible.

16)   Bailing twine is as handy as duct tape.

17)   Vet bills are never under $100.  If yours are, could you please share your vet’s phone number?

18)   Your horse will mysteriously go lame the day after the show closes and there are no refunds given.

19)   Horses are the best at keeping your secrets – like how much that saddle really cost or where you hid grandma’s silver.

20)   Nothing improves a bad day like the sound of a nicker or the smell of the barn.

Alison

p.s.  I also know for certain that I am so ready for spring.  This latest round of snow needs to melt quickly!

Eighteen Days Later…

Yes, that is a bridle on Ike!  You know what that means!!

Yes, that is a bridle on Ike! You know what that means!!

Today was the day I have been waiting for since my acrobatic separation from my horse…today I finally swung my leg up and over and made contact with my saddle again for the first time in 18 days.  It is the longest I’ve been out of the saddle since Ike joined the family.  It felt like an eternity.

It was a very low-key session with both Ms. C and Mr. D on hand to make sure that there weren’t any vultures lurking on the fences, or that I wasn’t going to crumple over in pain and slide off because it was too soon after the thud.  I have to admit that I was a bit apprehensive as I stood on the mounting block.  My fall was the worst I’ve ever had and the only one that I was unable to get right back on the horse to finish my ride.  I know that my ankle isn’t 100%, but the physical therapist who I saw today is a rider and said that I would be fine to do some walking (she cautioned against any rising trot for a bit longer).  The spasms in my back and hip are gone, so I saw this as my opportunity to test the waters.

Breathe in, breathe out.  Left foot in the stirrup and there I was, back on my big man.  Breathe again and give Ike his peppermint.  Ms. C had me stay in a third of the arena and just maintain steady contact at the walk.  Just relax and let the back swing.  Let the reins out and let Ike stretch over his back.  Change direction.  Collect the reins and halt.  Flex right…or try to flex right without Ike moving his legs.  Ha – easier said than done.  It took a few tries for him to understand that exercise.  Walk on and halt and flex to the left.  No Ike, do not jut out that jaw and resist.  Resistance is futile.  Good boy.  Now how about a turn on the haunches.  Can you see the smile on my face?  Just because we were only walking doesn’t mean that we couldn’t accomplish something.

And then it happened, Ike offered me a lovely collected trot.  I relaxed and went with it for 20 meters.  No searing pain anywhere; my ankle was aching, but it was like that after my therapy this morning.  Tried two more short trot lines and then called it quits.

Then it was time to come down from the heights.  Luckily Ike is a cooperative fellow and stood quietly at the mounting block so that I could dismount onto the top step rather than having to drop to the ground and risk re-injuring my ankle.  Thank you Ike for being such a good boy.

Day one is behind us, we are back on centerline, and ready to move onwards and upwards.

Life is good.

Still Not Back in the Saddle

Ike Jan 2014

So this picture about sums up what Ike and I have been doing since my fall…staring at each other as he begs for treats.  I am trying to be patient and let my body heal, but it is so very frustrating when the weather takes an upward swing to 70 degrees (yes, you read that right, that is the temperature today) and all I can do is hang out with my boys.

Why am I not back in the saddle?  Sadly, my ankle is still in recovery mode.  I did have it checked by an orthopedic doctor just to make sure that there wasn’t a stress fracture lurking in one of the many bones that comprise the foot and ankle.  He told me that I just have a doozy of a sprain.  I am now sporting a fancy ankle brace that narrows my shoe choices to one…and it isn’t a riding boot.  I have tried to shove my foot into all of my boots just on the off chance that I could make it work.  No luck whatsoever.  The bulk of the brace makes a riding boot an impossibility.  I guess that is one way to keep me grounded.  I’m not happy!

Ms. C has been able to ride Ike once during my unexpected hiatus.  The crazy mid-Atlantic weather has made riding challenging – one day of rain, a day of snow and ice, freezing temperatures, icy arenas, slushy arenas – we have it all.

The good news to share is that my bruises are fading, and I no longer look quite as colorful.  I have now returned to my pasty winter white tone.

The great news to share is that Ike’s brother Cigar has predicted that we will have an early spring.  Yes, this flies in the face of the groundhog’s prediction, but if you saw how much hair is blowing around the barn, you too might be persuaded to call the groundhog a liar.  I’m going to choose to believe my horse and his barn buddies since they haven’t been hiding in a hole for the past two months.  Bring on spring! 🙂

alison