Blog .:. September 2011 5 Entries


26 September 2011 Comments

All I did today was hose her off and then let her eat grass for a bit while she dried:

Imagine how shiny she would be if I put any effort into grooming her…


Declaration of the Pony/Human Relationship

22 September 2011 Comments

When in the course of pony/human relationships it becomes necessary for ponies to remind humans of the bonds which have connected us through the centuries and to highlight, in no uncertain terms, our place among the powers of the earth—the separate and superior station to which the Laws of Nature and our Own Awesome Ponytude entitles us—a deep-seated desire to ensure that the hands that feeds us continues to feed us requires that we should educate said humans as kindly and rationally as we could wish to be educated in our turn, were we of an inferior nature that requires education.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, or to be evident to ponies and learnable by humans: that all ponies are created superior, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Pasture, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Things to Eat, Torment, or Play With.—That to secure these rights, no Gate or Door that is created by Man may hold a pony without the consent of the pony—That whenever any form of Containment is placed upon a pony without consent, it is the Right of the Pony to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new boundaries around the property, marking the desired layout of the land with such methods that are most convenient, to include hoof marks in the turf, upturned buckets, and the raiding of feed and hay stores, or any other method as seems most likely to sate our Hunger and effect our Happiness.

The relationship between humans and ponies is understood to be long established and should not be changed for light or transient causes, because grass is good but grain is better; and accordingly all experience has shown that some compromise may be required of our patient and saintly nature, namely that we suffer the Children to ride us. But when a long train of inattentive or ineffective riders, pursuing invariably the same pattern in every ride, invokes in the pony a sense of boredom and sourness that cannot be suffered any longer, it is our right, it is our duty, to throw off such Children, and to provide character-building lessons for their future growth and progress.

In every stage of this Character Building we have structured our lessons in the most careful manner: each bite, kick, rear, buck, refusal, spin, bolt, or spook has been planned for the betterment of the human. A Child, whose character is Grown through such methods, may reach a state of Horsemanship in which they will be a fit and suitable Pony Jock and will be welcomed—not merely suffered—upon our noble backs.

Tagged: Horses

Improvement, and Proof Thereof

21 September 2011 Comments

After having a couple days of really nice, soft rides, I decided to get some video. I rarely get to see how Ro is going, only feel it, and I wanted to compare how things are now to some video from earlier this year.

One advantage of being in a barrel racing barn is that the barrels are the perfect height for self-videoing.

Unfortunately my camera (and its memory card) are older than dirt, so I can video exactly seven minutes before I run out of memory. This meant I needed to make sure Ro was warmed up first, so I could see how she was going at her best.

I did not factor into my calculations that after warm up we tend to canter, so you will not be seeing the resulting video. It’s seven minutes of canter anticipation: tense and rushy. Educational for me, not the sort of thing to share.

However, here are two still shots from the video:

I am, you betcha, tipping forward like the hunter/jumper rider I was raised to be. I’m working on that and the myriad other positional issues going on there. Ignore me.

What I like about these pictures is how much reach she is showing.

This is on a day when she was relatively tense and short, and it’s still a major improvement from where we were six months ago. We are making progress!

Tagged: Horses, Horses - Ro, Riding, Riding - Dressage

Pieces Come Together

18 September 2011 Comments

Now that Ro and I are back in more consistent work, things are starting to come together again.

I don’t look quite so much like a drunk monkey on her back.

She’s no longer trotting around like she’s on crack.

We’re working on the canter now.

For a couple rides, we’ve been spiraling in on a circle at the trot, leg yielding out, and cantering when we hit the rail. Our canter transitions are fuzzy—my aids are not clear enough, and she gets “canter” but not necessarily “on this lead.” We’re working on both of these things, and exercises on a circle help set both of us up for success.

Ro is smart—she gets patterns.

So yesterday, when she was doing fabulously at the trot, I decided we’d do some leg yielding on a straight line, intending to really work on the leg yield itself.

As we leg yielded back to the rail, I could feel her preparing for the canter. Sometimes, there is that moment where you know the horse is just waiting, and that if you ask right now you are going to get something special. I asked.

She jumped up into a powerful, uphill, balanced canter. It was easily the best transition we have ever had. It was one of the best transitions I’ve ever ridden. Simply amazing. Ro is going to have some fabulous transitions when she gets strong enough to do this consistently.

My pony makes me happy. That is all.

Tagged: Horses, Horses - Ro, Riding, Riding - Breakthroughs

Fire, Wind, and Water

17 September 2011 Comments

For the most part, I have lived in relatively temperate locations. Disaster planning was something that happened to other people.

Then I moved to Texas. That year, Hurricane Ike hit.

I was prepared: I packed up my car and ran away. Why not? My car was the most expensive thing I owned. I wasn’t going to let a tree fall on it.

After I bought Ro, I discovered a whole new level of disaster planning.

It’s one thing to throw my cats in the car and drive. It’s another thing to throw a horse in a trailer and drive. Even pet-friendly hotels will give you a hairy eyeball if you ask about keeping a horse in the bathroom.

Plus, in my flight from Ike, I saw how bad evacuation traffic can be. It’s not the sort of traffic you want to be stuck in with a horse trailer.

All told, my hurricane disaster planning meant I not only had to have several inland barns lined up, I needed to be watching the weather and planning well in advance to determine whether I would or would not evacuate.

Fine. All done. I have plans. I am fascinated by hurricanes, so watching the weather closely is no problem. I do it anyway.

In May, I stared down hurricane season and said, “I am prepared. I will run away, but I will run in an orderly and prepared fashion.”

Mother Nature glanced sideways at me, said, “O Rly? You are prepared?”, and started throwing 100-degree days at us. In May.

Texas went on to have the hottest July and August in recorded history for the entire United States. We are in our driest year on record ever.

I have learned that there is an opposite correlate to hurricane parties: I Saw A Cloud In the Sky parties.

The longer the drought goes on, the more nervous people get. Currently Houston water supply is ok, but we hear stories of the situation in Central Texas. It would be naive to think Houston’s water supply is indefinite.

The one thing no one can escape is the hay situation.

In early spring, I was buying hay at $7/bale. Now, you’re lucky to find it for $10.50 and the quality has gone far downhill. I talked to one grower who told me he was burning through hundreds of gallons of diesel per day to try to keep his fields irrigated.

Suddenly, I found myself facing a different type of disaster: drought. A world without hay.

One of the first things I did was switch Ro’s feed to Triple Crown Senior. I like the fat/protein/NSC numbers to begin with, but it was more important to me that TCS can be used to replace hay entirely. This is intended for horses who have lost teeth and can’t chew hay, but it will work just as well in a situation where hay is not available. My plan, if it comes to that, is to give her the bulk of her nutrition via TCS and supplement with whatever (likely low-quality) hay, cubes, dengie, etc I can find for the mental “grazing” benefit.

If you think I’m overreacting, I recently talked to my barn owner—someone much less prone to overthinking than I am, and someone with more contacts in the horse world than I can imagine—and she mentioned she had considered a similar approach for her own horses, so she could ensure her boarders continued to get hay.

Meanwhile, I was scrambling around trying to find enough hay to get me through six months or so. I had one lead, but the hay supplier turned supremely flaky and I couldn’t get it delivered. The feed store I had used before had upped prices considerably and was limiting hay unless you were a regular customer, which I no longer was. The next local feed store also had high prices and meh hay. I had a lead on a third feed store—slightly lower prices. I figured if the quality was similar to my local store, I’d buy it. Otherwise, I’d suck up the prices at the local store and buy from them.

The prices are only going to go up this winter, so better to buy now.

Fortunately, my barn owner got a contact with someone would could deliver hay from Tennessee. I now have a feed stall full of enough hay to get me through five or six months. It’s green and fresh smelling and makes me very happy.

We are as prepared as we can be for the drought.

But in the last month or so, we’ve faced a new type of disaster: wildfire.

I can handle most disasters. You prepare for them and then you ride them out. I respect them, but they don’t frighten me.

Wildfires terrify me. I have always been afraid of fire, although over time I have made my peace with things like candles, fireplaces, grills, etc. But the fact is that I still have to fight down panic at the first scent of smoke, until I know where it’s coming from and whether it’s under control. Don’t get me wrong—I live my life, I deal with it, beyond the initial “oh God” moment it doesn’t affect my life. But I am afraid of fire.

Texas is currently a tinderbox. You’ve probably seen news reports about the Bastrop fire outside Austin, which is the worst fire on record for Texas (yes, we’re breaking all sorts of records this year). At the same time that fire was burning, there was a fire northwest of Houston. It was close enough to me that I could see the smoke from my apartment and smell it depending on which way the wind blew. As they got that fire under control, another fire sprung up within five miles of my work. That one was brought under control within 24 hours, but the unfortunate truth is that it was only the latest in a long string of fires.

And given the current heat and drought conditions, the risk of fire is only going to grow this winter.

For a while, I tried to ignore the fire issue more or less. Then I took Ro on a mini road trip and she decided she didn’t want to load to go home, thank you very much. It took thirty minutes to get her on the trailer, and the entire time, all I could think was that if this had been a fire situation, we’d have been screwed.

I own a can of spraypaint now. I know some people like to be critical about people who let their horses go and hope for the best in a fire situation, but the reality is that sometimes you have only minutes to evacuate. I know some people in the Magnolia fires were not allowed to even try to load their horses. And even if you are allowed to try—if your horse won’t load, you’re screwed. I’ve heard stories from Bastrop about volunteer trailer drivers who tried to help, couldn’t get the horses on, and had to leave them where they were or risk their own lives.

It terrifies me that Ro could be in that position. We’re in trailer loading boot camp right now. She’s back to loading nicely. But I am not confident of her reaction in a life-and-death situation. All I can do is hope I will have enough time (hours, not minutes) so that there is no pressure during loading and keep a can of spray paint handy.

I would hope we’d never be under threat of fire, but I don’t think that’s realistic in the current conditions.

Nor am I the only one looking around at the growing number of fires and getting nervous. Barns are starting to consolidate wildfire evacuation plans. Plans that would work in a hurricane—multiple trips with one trailer, for example—will not work in a fire situation. Barn owners are gathering lists of available trucks/trailers. People are touching base with their hurricane evacuation spots to make sure their contacts are good. They are making sure their potential fire evacuation spots are spread out—two of my potential hurricane spots, for example, are within 20 miles of each other. But I have another potential spot south of Houston and another a couple hours north of Houston.

There is something surreal about this entire situation. We need the drought to break. We need the water, we need the relief from the risk of wildfires. The only way the drought is likely to break is if a hurricane comes through—we are so hot and dry that even if rain is inclined to fall, it’s mostly evaporating before it hits the soil. But if a hurricane hits, all our dead trees are going to come down and we’re going to have massive flooding because the ground won’t be able to soak it all up in time. Right now, I suspect even a small tropical storm would cause more property damage than even Hurricane Ike did.

There does not seem to be any happy way out of the current situation. All we can do is prepare, for everything. And hope.

They say spring may be better, once La Nina lifts out again.

I’ve done what I could to get us through to spring. Beyond that, I can only hope.

Tagged: Cats, Groundwork, Horses, Horses - Ro, Natural Disasters & Emergency Planning, Trailering, United States, United States - Texas, United States - Texas - Austin, United States - Texas - Bastrop, United States - Texas - Houston, United States - Texas - Magnolia, Weather

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