dancing horses

dancing horses

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Would You Melt Already

Just checking in to say that nothing is happening.

dreaming of spring
 The snow is finally going but it's painfully slow.
Me and my shadow

We finally had some temps going in the right direction. Heavy rain friday night into saturday took away a lot of the snow. 

My ring remains too frozen to do anything with. 

from earlier this week

after a day of rain and then sunshine
Seriously, how is the heat of my gaze not actually melting it? 

Realistically, it should all be gone this week. 

But it's taking too long. 

The horses get excited when I come out to the field. I am their entertainment system.

Irish: I have the bowl, quick grab the shovel.
Carmen: wait, I have an itch....

In the meantime I make plans. I realized that I have signed us up for three clinics in May.


Carmen: 'umm, you did what?
I have been buying some things to work on our relaxation. 

pride flag and hand clapper

Fun fact: Amazon is now sending me targeted ads based on pride parades....

Now if the weather would just cooperate.

It really needs to be not so cold at night for the ground to truly thaw.

Or if I could just win the lottery and build an indoor.....

might help if I actually bought a ticket

Friday, March 8, 2019

Stress and Horse Training

The weather is slowly and painfully getting warmer. Winter does not wish to let go.

Which gives me time to peruse the 'net. Not always a good thing but I managed to stop myself from impulse on-line purchases. Well, at least if you don't count things like flags and clappers for desensitization. Which I don't.  Anyway.

I was intrigued by a post on Warwick Schiller's FB page where he was explaining what he means by 'making the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard'. He was explaining that he wasn't meaning that we punish the horse for making the wrong choice but show them and set up the circumstances to choosing the 'right' thing is easier.

Of course this sparked a debate. A few were quite emphatic that the horse should never ever feel stressed or upset. And if he/she does then the trainer is doing wrong. I read along and after a while I got bored- everyone was just repeating themselves. But it did get me thinking.

Clearly, I am not a horse trainer, nor am I an expert. Lord knows that there are enough self-proclaimed experts out there.

clearly I am not a genius horse trainer

I am, though, a thinker. I am an expert in my field. I do understand about growth and progress. 

So when did we start to think that if we are perfect all the time that the horse will be too? Does this not take away the autonomy of the horse? Making them a mere extension of ourselves and not a being with thoughts, feelings and desires?

And why do we think horses should never ever feel stressed? Is it because we want a full and deep relationship and believe that any disagreement means we have failed?

sometimes we keep it together 
If I wanted to achieve a stress-free life for Carmen I can retire because she has that now. Her life of eating and napping in the sun is probably all that she strives for. 

Carmen living her best life
(although more food and grooming is always welcome)
I've been doing a lot of thinking of how to tackle my goal this year of helping Carmen understand how to respond to pressure in a relaxed way and not a get me the hell out of here way. Doing this requires me to add some stress to her and then helping her find the right answer. 

Does this make me cruel? 

I don't think so. 

Science tells us that all stress is not bad. Stress is simply something that tells us we need to do something. Getting married is stressful but not bad (right L?).  Being chased by a bear is both stressful and bad. And in between there's a whole bunch of gradations:

When we train horses we put on stress. We take that away when they respond the way we want. Ideally anyway. Sometimes we can remove the stressor when we get the wrong answer too. But that's a different post. 

The goal, for me, is not to prevent stress from happening but to keep it at a manageable level so learning can occur. I cannot imagine a universe where training is always sunshine and rainbows. At least not for the average ammie like I am. 

My goal is also to let Carmen learn how to make good choices. Which means that sometimes she's going to make a decision that is not the one I want. I don't think that means I have failed. At least, not specifically. Sometimes a wrong answer is given because we don't know the right answer. Sometimes it's only a little wrong but on the right track (and it's only wrong to me, not to Carmen. She thinks it's the right answer). 

Honestly, if I gave up every time I got the 'wrong' answer I would have two pasture puffs and never step into a saddle again. 

I do love sitting in a saddle

Hopefully I'll be back in the saddle soon and I won't have so much time to think.  Or not as much anyway. 

Monday, March 4, 2019

Mischief Managed

Saturday night we got about 30 cms of snow. It was a lot but it was light and fluffy and easy to deal with. While I would prefer that the snow to be done, I had to admit that it was pretty.

I do love my woods

Guinness loves his ball, although a few times
it was lost in the snow. 
Sunday was a lovely sunny day and I was able to get some snowshoeing in. 

Today though was a whole different story. It was predicted that there would be snow followed by freezing rain and then rain. Which is a worry given the flood last week. The morning was snowy but I let the horses out to enjoy the outside while they could and took Guinness for a walk. 

hard to tell but it's snowing here. I still love my farmhouse
no matter what weather I have to endure. 
Around about 11:00 I realized that the horses were hiding in the stall so I went out to shut the doors and lock them in. Irish decided to prance around and generally act like a fool. 

Irish: Nooooo, don't take away my freedom. 

Carmen was conflicted. 

Carmen:  I don't want to be separated from Irish but I really don't want to be out in this. 

After Irish was done voicing his feelings I got a lead line over his neck and brought him inside. 

The sleet/rain started around noon. I went out to clear out my drainage paths. The snow was heavy and the freezing rain was face peeling.  But I was fortunate and the rain stayed off the coast and was not as heavy as predicted. 

Late in the afternoon I brought out the horses to groom them and clean up the stalls. Carmen watched me do Irish and I could see that she really wanted her turn. They are starting to shed and she finds that she feels itchy. 

When I went to get her I fumbled with the halter while she tried to help by shoving her head in it. When I first brought Carmen home she wasn't so sure about being groomed. Now she loves it. She will show me her itchy spots and when I say 'do you want me to do it' she will stop and wait for me to get it. 
Flexible Carmen showing me her itchy spot

Now normally I just ground tie Carmen and she never moves. These days though I am finding her curious. My work with getting her to 'face her fears' has made her want to inspect every single thing that is new. When I brought her out she inspected the little shelf I have to see if there were any treats. There weren't. But there was a blue plastic square (it belongs on the bottom of a water bucket - it keeps the cord inside. It had fallen off and I threw it there to deal with later). She sniffed it a bit and then settled in. 

Carmen: I am ready. You may begin. 

After I finished grooming her she gave a shake like she had finished rolling. That feels better. I left her there and went to clean out her stall. She stood there looking around but not moving.  I went to walk by her with a half bag of shavings and she turned to follow me. 
Carmen: Oooh let me see it. 
Me: ummm. okay. See it's shavings. 
She grabbed it with her teeth. 
Me: NO! Don't spill it. 
Carmen: I need cookies. 
Carmen: Snow days are boring. 

She sniffed the shelf again and suddenly she grabbed the blue square. My jaw dropped. 
Me: wait, what are you doing? PUT THAT DOWN. 
Carmen mouthed it a bit and the spat it out as I walked toward her. 
Carmen: it tastes stupid. I am hungry. 
To be safe I put the square in the tack room. 
Carmen: Yay, the feed vault. Now we're talking! 
Me: Just hang on. I'm working on your dinner.

ooh. I like dinner. 
I have to confess that I am enjoying this curious, mischievous Carmen. It's such a nice change but tense, worried Carmen.

I'm wondering what this will mean for our under saddle work once things thaw.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

The Right Tools for the Job

As expected, the outside stall doors were frozen in ice Tuesday morning. We were able to get Carmen's free. (and by 'we', I mean Ed).

This allowed us to lead Irish outside through Carmen's stall. Which was fine. When I brought Irish in she would follow and then get super excited when I took him into his stall. She would run back out again, just in case he was going out.

 For a couple days it was bitterly cold and very windy. We were able to chip the ice away from Irish's door when the temperatures became more reasonable. Unfortunately, the bottom of his door had a thick coating of ice which prevented it from sliding along the floor guide.

We tried chipping it but couldn't get it off. I poured salt all along the bottom and that helped but not enough.  I sprayed a mixture of alcohol and water on it which also helped a bit.

Yesterday I tried using a hair dryer. It worked a bit but it took forever to get even a little melt.

sitting on a horse blanket over ice holding a hairdryer.
My life is so very glamourous. 
The issue was the angle, and being able to get a direct line to the ice. I think overnight the ice would build back up (like a stalactite). I persisted though, periodically taking the shop vac and sucking up the water.

The horses were suspicious. I did notice though that Carmen was much more intrigued and relaxed by the whole thing.

the noise of a shop vac is not keeping our
heroine  from her meal. 

After a bit I gave up and turned to the next fun job: chipping the ice out of my drainage ditches. I also spent some time doing a good clean in the barn. It was nice and warm (relatively) and it motivated me to do some spring cleaning (not in the house though. That would be silly).

The hairdryer was only marginally helpful. I found myself wishing I had a heat gun. I then realized that I didn't have to wish, I could just go and buy the tool that I need. I stopped at the hardware store on my way to get feed.

nothing like a new power tool

Does anyone else feel that sometimes they are their own worst enemy? It's not like getting this is rocket science. Or even expensive. 

It still took about 45 minutes but it worked a treat. 

I felt a ridiculous sense of accomplishment. 
I finished cleaning stuff up and then opened the door for Irish and Carmen. They were hesitant. Maybe worried that the shop vac was still there? 

honestly, it's like they think it's a trap! 
I have everything working. Just in time because more weather is rolling in. We are under a snowfall warning for Saturday night and another storm on Monday. I am more worried about Monday because it's supposed to be a rain/snow mix. 

Spring is coming though.


Monday, February 25, 2019

The Really Bad, No-Good, Awful Monday

Just last night I was lamenting that I really had nothing to blog about. I haven't sat on Carmen or been able to do any ground work for a few weeks with the weather. My time with the horses consists of grooming and feeding of cookies.

cute face looking for cookies

who can resist this face?

Alternate title: Be Careful What You Wish For. (ominous fore-shadowing)

Last night we had a winter storm. It started as snow around 8 p.m. but overnight turned to rain. This morning the farm looked like a sheet of ice but it was actually deep slush. Things looked okay around the barn so I went in to get their breakfast ready.

When I walked into Carmen's stall the shavings felt squelchy under foot. I took a second look and saw that her stall was flooded.

Alternate Title: I Hate Mondays (well any day with a nasty surprise)

I gave her and Irish their feed and hay, headed into the house to ask Ed for help and then grabbed a shovel. I have drainage ditches around the barn but they were full of slush which was preventing the water from getting carried away.

Between the two of us we got the ditches cleared out and the water flowing. Ed then went and got on the tractor to clear out by the stall doors while I did some more shovelling.

All of this before coffee.

Alternate Title: Love is Shovelling Snow to Save the Horses Because You Love Your Wife (too long I know).

Once it was clear I let the horses out and went in the house to have coffee. I then headed back out to
clean the stalls.

So much mess

Alternate Title: FML (short and punchy don't you think?)

It took forever.

Thank God for shop vacs. Also, they are foul evil things. I can just picture them being invented by a group of engineers:

Here, look, I have invented this thing that is powerful and very useful. 

And it looks like R2D2- super cool. 

But it's not evil enough. What can we do to make it both a blessing and a curse? 

Well, let's put teeny wheels on it that only work on the smoothest of surfaces. 'Cause who's going to use it on those?

Yeah! and then have it move in random directions so that it's guaranteed to either stub a toe and/or bruise a shin. 
*enthusiastic nodding*

Daryll, you are a genius. Now, I've constructed a hose that is stiff to make it impossible to unwind but when it does go it will fly up and hit you in the face. 

Now you're talking! And, and, and, we can put on a cord that is long enough to make the user optimistic but short enough to be just unable to reach the thing needed to be shop vacced.  

Ta Dah! It's now totally rad. 

*high fives all around*

*ahem* Anywho....

In the end I got the stalls cleaned up and the wet bedding put in the manure pile. During the day I kept making sure that the ditches were running. In between the weather alternated between sunshine, hail and snow.

Early afternoon I was out futzing around the stall doors and Irish's door seemed to be stuck. I pulled on it. It wouldn't move. So I pushed it.  And it fell off the track.
Really Universe? You couldn't wait for this little gem?

Alternate Title: Things Can Always Get Worse (sigh). 

I sent another text to Ed and he came out to help. Together we got it down. Turns out that the bolt holding the front runner on had come off. Fortunately Ed had the part to fix. But we couldn't get it back up between us. The snow was built up and the water was making it all hard. So Ed called a friend to come and help. They got it together. Hopefully, it will hold until a real fix can be made when things thaw.

We are entertained.

Things seem to be calm now. My back is killing me. On the plus side I got my steps in (actually by 11 a.m) and the water is continuing to drain. But the temperatures are dropping and I will be shocked if Irish's door is not frozen solid in the morning.

Alternate Title: Cross that Bridge When You Get To It (cross your fingers). 

Carmen enjoying her nice fluffy shavings and clean stall. 

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Servant For Sale

Hello Bloggers, Carmen here. It is with great sadness that I announce that I have to rehome my servant.
see how sad I am? 
There have just been too many times that she has not demonstrated the care and attention that I expect from my help.

Not so long ago she disappeared for months. She said it was something called 'vacation' and that it was only for 7 days, but I don't trust her sense of time as much as my own.

Yes, the male servant stepped up. While he is diligent he does not seem to be as worried about my emotional well being as the female servant.

Yes she returned and has been making sure that I have the optimal blanket for the temperature and has brushed me numerous times.

But still. She left. Making up for it after does not count.

I could (possibly) have forgiven that (but never forget, I am a mare after all) but then I am sure she is responsible for the latest outrage.

Irish has free access to hay in his stall. I have to pick mine from this thing called a 'slow feed hay net'. It is a frustrating device that limits the speed at which I can consume my hay. It is not fair.

I am a clever mare though and have learned how to eat from it very efficiently. It seems too efficiently. Because last night I came into the stall to find this:

Look at those holes! They are tiny. A gerbil couldn't get anything from this monstrosity.

I tried to tell her how upset this has made me:

She just gave me a pat and said 'don't worry honey, it will be better because it will make the hay last longer overnight.'

Can you believe it?! I told her that what would make the hay last longer is MORE HAY but she didn't seem to understand that. She did throw a half a flake in my stall to keep the hunger pains at bay but still. 

If you think I'm exaggerating look at this:

How on earth am I supposed to get sustenance from this? (Irish stop snickering!)

The hypocrisy is unbelievable. She recently posted on FB that she was out to dinner:

do you see this covered with mesh? No, you do not. 

I didn't want it to come to this. I really didn't. But I have spent enough time trying to teach her and 'rewarding the try'. At some point you have to say enough is enough.

I spent a hungry night composing the sales ad. Tell me what you think:

Experienced Servant for sale:
Average height, mature, female servant for your consideration. Understands basic horse care including grooming, keep regular feed schedule and turn out. Not stingy with treats. Worries a fair amount about a horse's weight and manipulates feeding to compensate. Sometimes has ideas above her station and wants to ride and even show. However, with patience these things could probably be trained out of her. 

Requires an experienced horse, beginners need not apply. 
Good home preferred. 

Once I have found a home for her I will post an ad looking for her replacement. If you think you can fill her position send along a resume (attached to carrots) and I will review and, possibly, set up an interview. 

Princess Charlante of Oakfield Farm
Who does she think she's kidding?

 Honey, neither one of us are going anywhere. You will be fine and it will feel better to not start the season off over weight. Plus I noticed that all the hay was gone from the net this morning so you clearly figured it out. 

I may have to, though, start putting a net over my food..... I will take that under advisement. 

Your Servant

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

How to Hike to an Ice Cave

I had many memorable experiences on my vacation but this is one for the books (some things may be exaggerated for dramatic effect. But not by much).

It starts with my best friend suggesting we go on a hike to see an ice cave (actually it’s a tunnel through a glacier but everyone calls it a cave). I agree because, well ‘do all the things’ is kinda my life motto.

Look up hike online, realize that you haven’t really hiked in a long time and you are 54.  Have  doubts as to the wisdom of this.

Suppress doubts.

Drive to small Yukon community with friend and another friend. The clouds are low and there is a light snow falling. On the way see wild elk and horses.

Drive by entry point and turn back. Entry point is a highway km marker and some orange tape tied to trees.

Bundle up in preparation. Be really glad you went to bathroom at gas station right before.

Walk through trees and then up a frozen steam bed feeling confident.  The snow is granular and it’s like walking in sand and your right knee is complaining. Shush knee and keep going. The world is gray all around you and visibility is limited.

Friend of friend points to hazy mountain in the far  distance and declares ‘the ice bridge is in a pass through there’.
can you see that mountain? I had to squint

Decide she must be joking and keep going.

Realize she’s not joking. And the mountain is looking just as far away as it did 20 minutes ago. At some point knee stopped bitching and has subisded into sullen silence. Decide it’s because you worked through the stiffness and not any other reason.

Mountain still far away.

Get overheated and stop to strip off layers. -13 has never felt so warm.  Pack is now heavier but the
coolness is refreshing.

Briefly wonder if this is the leading cause of death for menopausal women in the North.

Mountain is closer but incline is steeper.  Friend of friend (who's 20 years younger) assures you that it’s not far now. Look at her map on phone and feel like she’s overly optimistic or lying to keep you motivated. Decide that it's probably both.
it's in the cleft in the middle (sort of. I think)

Rest breaks are becoming more frequent. Contemplate quitting. Decide you can see cave in distance. Keep going.

The last km to cave is steep and the terrain is harder. Even more breaks. Body is telling you that it hates you and will never forgive this outrage.

Cave seems to be on wheels as it never gets any closer. Begin to feel like Sam accompanying Frodo to Mount Doom. Feel grateful that at least there won't be any giant spiders. Shit, did something just move?  Realize that it's highly unlikely to be giant spiders or bears. Probably.

Decide you are going to cave so that you can tell it to go to hell. Wonder if you are overreacting.  Decide you don’t fucking care.
at last- I can see it but that last uphill was so painful

Make it to cave. Take deep breaths while it dawns on you on majestic this is. You have hiked to a glacier.

Explore cave and take lots of photos. Rest for about 20 minutes while you chew on a frozen granola bar. Wish you had a dog sled to go back.

the floor was littered with ice that has fallen from the ceiling.
It was too treacherous to walk on 

I loved striations

I'm standing in the entrance and took this photo of Cynthia for scale,
otherwise it can seem smaller than it really was. 

Start the trek back. Realize how much easier it is  to go downhill. Relatively.

 Resolve to increase fitness when you go home.

On the trek down grayness clears revealing that you are surrounded by the most spectacular mountains. Breathe in the fresh, clean air and listen the silence. Stop to take many photos. Also put layers back on because -13 now feels cold.
the light in the Yukon is just magical

walking away, the mountain seems majestic. Not daunting

Keep walking wondering if you can find the orange markers to get back to car. Point out a tree that you saw on the way back.
Me: We're almost there. I remember that tree!'
Friend looks at all the trees surrounding us and then at you with a worried expression.
Assure her that you are okay.

See a snowmobile pull out from woods and wonder if they would pick up a hitchhiker. Best friend says 'I really hope they pulled out on the trail that takes us back to the car'.

Finally you see it. Fall into car and drive back to town. Go to local restaurant (only one open) and order large hamburger and fries. Devour meal with all the grace of a starving hyena.

Marvel at the scenery on the drive home. There are mountains in every direction as far as the eye can see. Doze off at some point. Fitbit cheerily chirps at you to ‘go for a stroll’. Tell it to fuck off.

Everything hurts. Back home pour glass of wine and have  hot bath.

Hike to cave: 2.5 hours. Hike back 1.5.

No regrets.