Blog .:. June 2011 5 Entries
If I ever find out what I did to piss off the karma gods, I will let you all know so that you can make sure you never, ever do the same thing.
I think I broke my toe today. If I didn’t break it, I bruised it very badly.
As it turns out, riding boots, while offering more protection than, say, tennis shoes, do not offer sufficient protection to save your toe if you drop a utility shed on it.
Allow me to explain.
Like most horse people, I have a tack box. But since I can’t do anything normal, my tack box is not actually a tack box in the traditional sense. You may be thinking of, say, one of those very elegant wooden tack boxes that can only be moved with two people and a prayer to the hernia gods. I don’t own one of those. You may be thinking of those very popular and very versatile rolling Stanley tool boxes. I am not so practical.
No, my tack box is more like a mini garden shed. And by “more like,” I mean, “I bought it at Lowe’s, where they call it a mini outdoor utility shed.” It’s about 4’ tall, 5’ wide, and 2’ deep. It is a spacious thing of organizational beauty.
And this afternoon, as I looked at it sitting in my truck bed, I thought, “Hey, it’s made of plastic. It’s not all that heavy. Or fragile. I’ll just pull it off the bed and let it drop straight down. What’s the worst that can happen?”
My foot could be in the way, for one thing.
Unfortunately, dropping a utility shed on my foot was the least of my problems today.
I am going to skip the details for now, but the net effect was that I got a message yesterday and as a result of that message needed to get Ro off the property as soon as possible. Fortunately, I was able to get her back in the barn we were at all winter and she can stay there for a week or months, whatever I need.
But the stress of the past twenty four hours, plus brutal heat (over 100 again), plus a day spent driving around checking out multiple boarding barns, plus, ultimately, my relief to just have Ro out and someplace where I do not have to worry… all combined to set me up for a situation where I stared at my utility shed in my truck bed and thought that pulling it out all on my own was a great idea.
Yeah, not so much.
So, now we’ll see what happens next. My computer broke last week (my life, it’s like a bad country song) and I still have a lot to deal with with this whole situation, so I’m probably going to be absent for a couple weeks while I try to get my life back together, but such is life. It happens. Sometimes it’s all roses and butterflies, and sometimes it hits you on the foot like a falling utility shed. You learn, you go on. Hopping on one foot, perhaps, but you go on…
not a llama, farmer, llama, llama in a car, alarm a llama, llama, duck…*
Have I ever mentioned there are llamas across the street?
I learned this the first time I took Ro out to the big jump field. Silly me—my attention was on the streamers attached to the fence. I rode her aggressively past those, while she passively did. not. care.
Then I relaxed, and then we were halfway across the field and I was trying to figure out how and why we’d gotten there. And where Ro had put her brain in the meantime.
Eventually we found Ro’s brain again and I was able to look to try to figure out what had caused her to lose it.
Not the streamers. She didn’t care about those. Not traffic. She doesn’t care about traffic. I looked across the street. Hmm. Field. With a pony in it? Mmm k. Oh, and a donkey. But I thought she’d seen donkeys before… oh, and look, a llama. Or two. Or…
As I watched, more llamas popped out of nowhere and stood along the fence. Spooky chestnut mares are apparently very interesting. Being stared at by a herd of llamas is not so great for spooky chestnut mare’s nerves.
We went back to work, away from the killer fenceline, and after that I made a point of handwalking her out in the field whenever I remembered so we could walk past the llamas often. Ro is not entirely convinced they are benevolent, but she keeps her brain between her ears when she sees them, so that’s progress.
Today we went out with a couple other riders to ride in the field again.
She was actually pretty good, and where we had problems—getting a little tense and rushy—I think we would have had them anyway, with or without the llamas. She never lost her brain, and once she realized that we were indeed going to ride along that fenceline and I was indeed going to ask her to focus and work, she settled down pretty nicely. I think another ride or two out there and she’ll be very settled, and then I can let her open up and gallop a bit. We can’t really gallop in the arena, but I think she’d love the opportunity.
She seemed pretty pleased with herself afterwards, at any rate. I turned her out and she immediately trotted off to roll (why did I hose her off, again?), but she came back over to the fence when I called her and hung around for a little attention.
Also, if anyone is wondering, the MSM and electrolytes have done wonders for her stocking up. I am no longer wrapping during the day. She is slightly stocked up in the evening, but nothing like she used to be. I throw an ice wrap on her leg while I tack up, and the swelling is out by the time we start riding. I’ve been throwing another ice wrap on after our ride to make sure there is absolutely no residual heat from working in that leg, and this routine seems to be working very well for us. I hope it keeps working for the rest of the summer.
* I know you’ve heard the llama song, right? Surely I’m not the only one who wanders around singing “time for me to retire now and become a duck.” Right? Right? Anyone? Bueller?
Friday Ro was a bit… well, another boarder called her “playful,” and that’s a nice way of putting it. I would have said a bit of a fruitcake.
The problem is the barn grain, which was changed recently, and which I absolutely hate. I have decreased her ration twice and she’s still a flipping fruitcake, so she goes off it tomorrow. I’ll figure something else out by the weekend. Given the fact that she needs to lose weight (can’t feel her ribs, getting a crease on her hind end, etc), she can do with a week or two off grain anyway.
But after Friday’s ride—which wasn’t much more than letting her burn off energy in a controlled way, and finding out that she does indeed love flying changes, even if she’s only doing them when she wants to and we don’t have a cue for them yet—I went out on Saturday expecting… I don’t know what.
I’d arranged to meet another boarder so we could go for a trail ride. The other boarder goes out on trails a lot, and has introduced inexperienced horses/riders to trails, and was happy to chaperone us arena flowers. Unfortunately we had a bit of a schedule mix up, and I ended up being there about an hour before she arrived.
I decided I might as well work Ro some, in case she was still a fruitcake. And if she wasn’t a fruitcake, a little actual work (vs burn energy fluff) would be good for both of us. Right?
She was a lot more settled than Friday, so I didn’t push for very much. But since she was being forward and obedient, I decided to trot her over a cross rail a couple times.
She never jumps them; she goes over them like they are cavalleti. Given how low they are, I can’t blame her for not jumping. As long as she goes forward and picks up her feet instead of demolishing the crossrail, I’m good with it. Right now, I just want her to figure out that poles are no big deal and to learn where to put her feet. I go in two point, stay out of her face, and let her figure it out.
We trotted in, nice and connected, I got out of her way and… she jumped. Color me surprised! Color the trainer who was in the arena surprised, too. I don’t think he’s ever seen us even go over a pole, much less a cross rail, so he sounded a little shocked when he said, “She has a cute jump!”
I’m shocked she has a jump at all!
She also cantered off and didn’t fall apart on the other side of the cross rail; it was a nice canter—not rushing off, not shutting down. I was very pleased.
We trotted it again a second time a bit later, with the same result. I was very happy that she trotted forward to it the second time—no sucking back like she was uncertain, but also no rushing forward like she was worried about getting over it. And a decent canter afterwards again.
She got a break then—I untacked her and let her graze for a bit, then she got to chill out in her stall while the other boarder had her lesson. I was back on Ro by the end of the lesson, figuring we’d practice standing in the arena while other horses did stuff (patience… neither of us has it).
Ro took being tacked up a second time stoically, after an “are you kidding me?” look, and was quite happy to just stand around. They were jumping a gymnastic and she was fairly fascinated by it—kept watching the horses go through it with her ears way forward. I think she may have figured out that jumping is fun…
And then we hit the trails.
Ro has been out on trails once—when we went last fall and she was fabulous. I told the other boarder I thought Ro would be better than me (I am the world’s biggest arena flower), and that proved to be the case. I startled more at things in the bushes than Ro did.
It took Ro a bit to figure out that she needed to pay attention to her feet, because this was not a groomed arena or clear field, but by the end of the ride she was getting better. And she went everywhere I asked with no hesitation—stepping over little logs across the trail, walking on the trail or in grass, and even through some pretty steep ditches. She walked last in the line and didn’t try to charge ahead, but she has a forward walk, so every once in a while I’d ask her to stop and let the others go ahead. She did, every time, and waited until I asked her to walk on.
I was really impressed with her. I love that she takes new things in stride, and I think she actually really likes being out on the trail.
For bonus points, there is a long, straight, wide part of the trail that has some really pretty decent footing. It would be fabulous for doing work—transitions, going forward and coming over the back, or even having a bit of a gallop. I want to take advantage of that—it would get us both out of the arena without sacrificing progress towards my general goals. Unfortunately, I don’t remember how to get there, and frankly I think we broke some laws of physics because passed something we’d passed before, but going in the completely wrong direction according to my internal (mis)compass. But what do I know? I get lost in paper bags.
So my new mission—keep tagging along with people until I know at least some of the trails pretty well, and definitely find out how to get back to that open path. We stayed at a walk just because Ro and I were green, but next time I go out with this boarder, I think we’ll step up the pace. Ro’s clearly calm and happy out on the trails, and as long as she stays responsive, there’s no reason to stay at the walk all the time. Plus, some of those little logs we walked over were very jumpable (good footing before/after). If Ro really has clicked on to the idea that jumping is fun, I bet she’ll have a blast popping over those.
You can guess where this is all going… I don’t think Green as Grass eventing is any higher than cross rails and little logs. If she’ll trot over all this stuff confidently, we may turn into baby eventers yet.
For those of you keeping up with my inability to catch a break, the vet was out Thursday to remove Ro’s staples. We were happy with Ro’s progress all around. Happy, happy, joy, joy, cheer all around.
That weekend, temps soared into the nineties and Ro showed off one of her many talents. She is a one-trick thermometer: temps in or above the 90s? Her left hind stocks up. We discovered this last summer, and I was prepared to deal with it again this summer… in, you know, July or August.
Not in May.
But the temps are already in the 90s, so we are already in the management zone.
Her leg gets hosed and/or iced twice a day, she’s wrapped while she’s in her stall, and she’s unwrapped for turnout at night. And, poor girl, she’s getting worked pretty much daily to ensure she really moves and increases her circulation. This time around, I added electrolytes and MSM in a Hail Mary pass to see if they would help.
Ro thinks this routine is pretty cool, except, perhaps, the working bit. She likes the attention. She also likes getting her supplement mash in the mornings instead of the evenings. She likes her mash, but she likes turnout more; she’s never been entirely thrilled about being left in her stall, even with her mash, while her buddy gets turned out. And, like a kid with a plate of vegetables, she will nose her food around a bit and then stand hopefully by the door: All done! If that doesn’t convince me to turn her out, she’ll nose her mash around some more and try the door again.
No more. Now she gets it in the morning, while I’m wrapping her legs. Because, see, I am not a morning person. Wrapping legs at an ungodly hour of the morning is more than I can handle, mostly because my brain can’t process what I need to do when the velcro ends up over the tendon: I started the standing wrap on the inside of the canon… so if I move it to the front, the velcro will end up… over the tendon, apparently. Eventually I get it right, but if you think I can remember what I did the next morning, you’re sorely overestimating my brain’s early morning processing ability.
So we repeat this daily. Ro puts up with it, because she has mash to eat.
The stocking up is under control—which is to say, she’s not stocking up at all with this routine. I’m going to see how she does this weekend without the wraps during the day; I’m hoping the MSM and electrolytes might make enough of a difference that we can manage with icing.
And, of course, riding.
You know why the ocean’s salty? It’s the run-off from all the Texas horses being hosed after their rides.
And the people, frankly, because we’re hosing ourselves down as much as we are the horses.
I swear that when I walk back in the barn after a ride, the flies start dropping dead. There simply is no deodorant in the world that can combat riding in Texas in the summer.
The only bright spot is that this barn has a covered arena. Since I am not a native Texan and I survived most of last summer without a covered arena… um, which is to say, I survived while riding for most of the summer in open arenas, not that I survived most of the summer and then died… the point being, when we moved to the barn, I looked at the arena and thought: Awesome! Keeps rain off!
Now I know better, of course. No Texan in their right mind would want to keep rain off. We’d welcome it, ride in it, sacrifice small children to it.
Keeping the sun off, on the other hand… priceless. I don’t know how I survived last summer without a covered arena, but I love having one available again. The temps are at least ten degrees cooler under it, and yes, that means I’m referring to 80 degrees as “cool.”
For some perspective, the other morning I showed up at the barn and the temps were in the 70s (if that tells you how ungodly early I am out there) and the barn worker was wearing a jacket. An actual jacket. Seriously. We’re so toasted that people are wearing jackets at 70.
Nothing we can do but gut it out, though. At least we have a routine, and the routine seems to be working.
It’s not like we’d be better off elsewhere—everywhere seems to be having extreme weather. I’m tempted to start mapping the weather articles. I’ll put big red Xs over every location that breaks some sort of historic record in a negative way. A year from now, I’ll move to whatever location isn’t X’d out.
I’d probably end up in… oh god… what if I ended up in Ohio again? I’ve been there once. I don’t want to go back. They say the devil you know, right?
The devil is clearly making his vacation home in Texas; guess I will have to get used to it.
More on the joys of horse keeping in hell later, but here’s something to make everyone grateful for the weather they have, whatever it is:
Eric Berger (Houston Chronicle blogger) recently posted about the drought situation in Texas, summarizing it up as: “Put another way, we have had half the rainfall in Houston since the beginning of February as we had during the driest such period ever in the city’s records. That, my friends, is horrendous.”
If you’re wondering, we’ve had two inches of rain in that period; the previous low record was four inches. I can’t remember our deficit from normal, but I think it’s at least 12” below normal, possibly more.
Meanwhile, our temps are already up in the 90s, and it’s barely June.
Hell. I am living in Hell.
This was not in the brochures.
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