dancing horses

dancing horses

Monday, December 29, 2014

A New Addition

Ed and I had been discussing getting a second cat. A female who might actually want to hunt.

Unlike Martin. He hunts when the mood hits. In fact we're not sure if he just doesn't pick up mice that have died of natural causes and bring them home for credit.

With all that has happened Ed suggested that after Christmas we go to the shelter and pick up a kitten. So on saturday we went to the shelter and got this little love:

We named her Peach. 
She was quite vocal in the cage and as soon as I picked her up she began to purr. 

I love kitten toes

We brought 'her' home and she immediately imprinted on me.

Today I got a call from the Shelter. Turns out that we brought home a boy cat. Oops. I sent Ed a text. I also said that it's too late to return 'her/him'. All he said was, 'fine. I hope that he likes to hunt because we're not getting a third cat.  So we need a new name. 

Since we got him she has been stuck on me like a little burr. For the first time in a while I found myself laughing out loud at  his kitten antics. His purrs are like little warm vibrations wrapping around my heart.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Grief and Comfort

Pushing a boulder uphill.

That's how it feels.

Not that this is going to be a wallowing post. I promise. Well maybe a little bit. It's not that I've not experienced grief and loss before. I have. But it never gets easier.

The response to my blog was tremendous. It went viral over FB and then beyond. That post have over 10,000 hits. That led to lots of people getting in touch. And it opened me up to some who were looking to add to my pain. I had to put on the comment moderation feature. I'm glad that I did. Some 'comments' were so awful that they left me shaking. It would be easy to focus on those and let the whole experience make me bitter. But I refuse to allow that. It would be a dishonour to Steele who's approach to life was one of optimism and confidence. And it would make me a lesser person. I do not want to do either of those.

So let me tell you about the incredible generosity of spirit offered by friends, family and perfect strangers. Some have shared their stories of similar loss, not to take away from my experience but to let me know that they understand. Two friends came by on the one week anniversary of his death to make sure that I was not alone.  We have received flowers, cards, calls, emails and hugs. A woman I barely know sent me a painting that she did of Steele. It is incredible. But I can't show it to you because it's off being framed.  I cannot begin to list all the small kindnesses and love shown to us. But I am grateful to everyone.

Ed has been my rock. Despite his own pain every time I turn around he's there trying to look after me. I was unable to sleep - I keep reliving everything every time I closed my eyes. My doctor gave me some sleeping pills which are helping. Being able to sleep makes it easier. The daily chores of work, barn and house help establish a rhythm.

There was a special gift under my tree from a dear friend.

Steele in a SnowGlobe

Another friend sent me this poem:

Requiem for a Spanish Horse       
The eyes tell all
bold blood of ancient breed
gazing out in curious joy
fringed in beauty and
as deep as a starry night sky.

Quiet respect flows through that great heart
beating within the curved chest,
bonded horse and woman
woven, golden thread by
golden thread,
through daily patient persistent intent,
and love,
and action.

Those eyes are closed now
the heart is still
and we as the human halves
of this equine equation
must suffer the curse of memory
and rage at the broken bond
and stories stolen from us too soon -
too soon.

Yet comfort comes in unfathomable form
A dream, the hour before waking
an endless herd of joyous galloping,
beautiful horses
tall and small,  all colours and shapes
and breeds
wheeling by
and there in the centre
our boy, our beautiful perfect boy
mane flying,  tail plumed, carefree bucking
in a prairie of scented, flowing grass -
There were people, too
some astride, some running beside
no saddles nor bridles needed
in perfect balance and harmony

There in the centre,
our beautiful, perfect boy

solid and whole.

Day by day my heart is being eased by the love and friendship of those around me. 

Thank you. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Season's Greetings

Wishing you all the best for the Holidays whatever holiday you celebrate (or don't). May the season be filled with joy, love and laughter.

Give your 4 legged companions an extra hug from me. K?

Saturday, December 20, 2014

A Companion

As I said in my previous post Irish has also been profoundly affected by the sudden loss of his buddy.  We had to give him a sedative in his feed to keep him from running the fence line. This took the edge off but he was still terribly lonely. He spent his day moping by the barn (often in Steele's stall), staring over the fence line into the next field and moping down by Steele's grave. It was heart breaking to watch.  Friends of mine who live nearby offered me a loan of a horse for Irish.  I did not want another horse and I was definitely not ready to see another horse is Steele's stall but that was not the point. The point was that I would be letting Irish suffer because of my own pain. So I agreed.

The next hurdle was going to pick up the horse. The idea of trailering a horse and holding it's life in my hands seemed to be more than I could do. So I called a friend who has tons of experience trailering. He said he would help. When he arrived Ed had the trailer all hooked up. My friend said 'you might as well drive there. I'll be with you.' I looked at him but agreed. So I climbed in. After all, the trailer was empty, what could go wrong? By the time we arrived it was pitch dark and I was trying to figure out how to back up the trailer. Seriously. I back it up all the time but I couldn't wrap my head around it. So my friend asked if I wanted him to do it. I said yes and he backed it up like a pro.

When we loaded up the horse my friend told me 'I'm not sure how to drive your truck so you better do it." That was, of course, a lie that I saw through but decided to give it a go. And so began the slowest trailer ride in history. I was so careful that the progress was practically glacial. But we made it.

Ed was in the barn with Irish waiting. He said that as soon as I drove up his head came up and the dull look in his eye disappeared. I brought in his new barn buddy and with tears in my eyes put her in Steele's stall.

So meet Lexie. A little quarter horse mare on loan to Irish.  She is sweet and gentle and with the kindest eye. 

The next morning I put halters on both of them, tied up d'Arcy and  turned them out together while I did the chores. They got along famously from the beginning. Irish spent that first day staying within 10 feet of Lexie all day. He showed her around the paddock. 

A horrible picture from my iPhone but it shows Irish feeling much perkier
I spied them both staring over the fence at the next pasture.
Lexie: "that looks like good grass over there"
Irish: "yes. It's very good. You will love it"
Lexie: "how do we get over there?"
Irish: "we can't. The servant blocks it off when the weather turns cold. She won't open it until the weather turns warm again."
Lexie: "why can't we go now?"
Irish: "I don't know. She says something about saving the grass and hooves and winter. To be honest I don't really listen"
Lexie: "Servants are weird"
Irish: "Ain't that the truth?"

My heart feels better seeing Irish returning to himself. He and I have been through a lot together over the years and he deserves to be coddled. Lexie gives me breathing room so I don't have to make any decisions soon.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Of What Value are Horses?

The support from everyone to what happened to Steele has been met with overwhelming support. However, I feel a need to respond to an Anonymous comment on my post about what happened to end our journey together.

First off, I'm sorry your horse had to be put to sleep, but to say "fucking dog" is not fair to anyone. A horse is a hobby, a dog is a companion, a friend, a protector, an aid to the blind, an aid to the sick, an aid to those with PTSD .... I could go on and on. You see, although some people like, maybe even love their horse(s), what do they really do? When was the last time you saw a "seeing eye horse" or a "watch horse", or one trained to find drugs, survivors in an earthquake amongst the rubble, I didn't see one helping find the bodies from 9-11 or the Haiti earthquake. I can't seem to find any horses that are MWH - Military War Horse. None that can sniff out IED's, unexploded ordinance or weapons caches. Dogs have been known to frequently give their lives to protect humans ... again, no stories about horses doing the same. Dogs are smarter, can be more easily trained to benefit man, are more agile, more adept, less fragile, have keener sight, hearing and smell. Yes, I feelsorry for you and your horse, but please ... just because 2 dogs doing what to them was natural and fun, to run ..... don't put all dogs in your "fucking dogs" category. They are far more beneficial to man than are horses. (from a loving dog owner)

I do realize that the dogs were doing what they do naturally and I am a dog lover. I thought about removing that last line but decided to leave it. I could try to help others understand with long explanations as to why I said what I said but what would be the point?

However, there are many points wrong with these whole perspective. First of all it demonstrates a flaw in logic called the Unwarranted Assumption Fallacy. To quote Wikipedia:
  • Unwarranted assumption fallacy - The fallacy of unwarranted assumption is committed when the conclusion of an argument is based on a premise (implicit or explicit) that is false or unwarranted. An assumption is unwarranted when it is false - these premises are usually suppressed or vaguely written. An assumption is also unwarranted when it is true but does not apply in the given context.

So first of all let's look at horses are companions/aids etc:
1. guides for the blind: http://www.guidehorse.com
2. Helping veterans, police officers and others with PTSD: http://www.va.gov/health/newsfeatures/2014/September/Reining-In-PTSD-With-Equestrian-Therapy.asphttp://www.calicojunctionnewbeginningsranch.org/ptsd.htmlhttp://globalnews.ca/news/1565784/equine-therapy-program-launched-for-rcmp-members-with-ptsd/
3. War Service: seriously? My grandfather was in the British Calvary. How could this person not know the long history of horses and war. But here are some links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horses_in_warfare, and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YIo3ZfA9da0
4. Dogs and humans have a long history. So do horses and humans. Horse made agriculture easier, allowed for travel and trade.
5. assuming that the dogs were having fun so it's all okay and i should get over it. Well. We will never agree on that point.

Now let me tell you all a personal story. This is one I have about my first horse- a small Quarter Horse named Woody. I did a blog post about him last year. He is an awesome horse. One summer he was being pasture boarded and was turned out with another horse. I would go and get Woody, ride him and bring him back. His pasture mate ignored me. One day I was there riding over feeding time. The Barn Owners asked me to take both horses feed out when I was done. So after my ride I brought Woody to the field and he trotted off like always. I grabbed the feed bucket and was heading to put it in his pasture mates feed bin. I heard a noise and looked up. This horse was charging me with his teeth bared, his ears laid back and his neck snaked out. I was too far away from the fence to run and it was clear that this horse was coming at me intending damage. I grabbed the feed bucket to swing at him and hope that it made him veer off. When he was about 10 feet away Woody came flying out of no where and stood between me and the other horse. That horse tried to get around him to get at me but Woody kept between us and would not leave no matter that the other horse was biting and kicking at him. I quickly walked to the feed bin and dumped in his feed. I backed away and the horse went to his feed. I went over to Woody's bin and dropped his feed in. I began to head back out of the field keeping my eyes peeled but Woody left his grain and followed me all the way to the gate. Once I got to the gate he went back to his feed. After that he always escorted me to the gate every time.

And a more recent story. When Steele was laying in the mud, exhausted, going into shock and his hind leg was trapped under the roots and muck I was trying to frantically to free it I could not get a purchase or on the right angle. I climbed by his belly so I'm in between his front and hind legs. This is an incredibly dangerous position- if he began to flail I could have been seriously hurt. I knew that but I couldn't get a purchase. So I risked it. As I worked on freeing his lower leg he kept the one on top dead still. When I moved away he would kick and try to get a purchase. When I went back in he would hold it still.  This happened again and again. I am convinced that he was being careful of me.

There is the stuff you know and there's the stuff you don't know but you know you don't know it and other stuff you don't know and don't know you don't know it (read that a few times) So my point is don't assume that because you don't know something that it doesn't exist.

I can't answer the question about the value of horses. Obviously to this person they have no value. To me and many of my fellow bloggers and friends they are priceless.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


First of all let me say how honoured and touched I am by the support I've been getting from all my family, friends and strangers. It seems that my blog post has gone out into the wider internet and has had thousands of views.

Through my blog post and through FB dozens have strangers have reached out to offer condolences. I want you all to know that it helps. It truly does. Ed and I are still shattered but the support makes it bearable.

As a result of so many people sharing my story I was contacted by two radio stations to do my story. I didn't want to. the thought of speaking about it was horrible. But I wanted to get the message out about controlling and training dogs.  So I agreed. The first was last night. I was able to get my full story out and after the host called me back. He wanted to make sure that I was okay.

This is the one I did this morning: http://www.cbc.ca/informationmorningns/informationmorningns/2014/12/16/spanish-horse-suffers-disturbing-death/

It was much briefer and I thought I was composed. Turns out I wasn't. It was awful. I was awful. But if the causes just a few people to take more care with the dogs they choose and the training they do then it's worth it.

The night of Steele's death I went out to the barn to check on Irish. The barn felt colder and emptier. He was standing in his stall with his head hanging. His hay was untouched. I hadn't offered him grain but had given him alfalfa. That was untouched. He lifted his head and looked at me and I saw my sorrow reflected back. I cried again. I went and put some of his oats in a bucket and held some in my hand.
"you have to eat. I don't want you to colic"
He softly took some and chewed. I stayed out there for a while, slowly filling my hand with grain while he slowly ate. When he stopped I put it the rest on top of his alfalfa. Before I left I turned on the radio. I'm not sure if the noise was of any comfort or not but I believed that it wouldn't hurt.

After a sleepless night I went back to the barn. Ed offered to go but I needed to do it.  He had eaten some hay and some of his feed. I mucked out and then went out to secure the small paddock. When I let him out he trotted to the fence, looked towards where Steele had run and whinnied. He looked at me and then spied d'Arcy, my BC. He leaped away and ran back to his stall. I realized that he wasn't seeing the dog he grew up with and who shared his paddock. He was seeing a predator and he was terrified.  I took my dogs back to the house.

Ed and I went out and repaired the fencing. I could follow Steele's path: he ran through two fences and two gates. I took photos before we repaired it and then turned on the electric. I then let Irish out. He seemed to settle at first but then he started running the fence line calling. All morning he rotated between running and calling and standing there with his head hung low. I went out to bring him in and had a moment of panic when I couldn't find him. He was in Steele's stall. I closed him in and gave him hay. Which he ate. He seemed happier in that stall so I left him there. I then called the vet who prescribed some sedatives for him. Cynthia came to help and he seemed to relax in her company more than with me. I believe that we were just feeding each others sorrow. She could treat him more normally. In fact she was a balm to both of us.

Irish is responding well to the drug - he's eating and drinking but that is a short term solution. I realize that I need a companion for him. I can't even imagine another horse in that stall but it is not about me. My vet says he has a horse that could help I just need to figure out how to get him. I know I have a trailer but I feel in no fit state to drive myself, let alone take responsibility for a horse. Then there's the bills. I have a bill over $500 for the vet and I have no idea what the excavator cost. I have no regrets but because of a careless dog owner I have a substantial bill and broken heart. Steele paid with his life and I would give anything to have him back.

However we will figure it out. We always do.

I also have to figure out what to do about this blog. I'm not ready to let go. My journey with my dancing horse is over but not over. If that makes any sense at all. I wouldn't expect too much coherence. However, I don't want him remembered for his death but for who he was. My funny, beautiful, infuriating, perfect, argumentative companion.  I would say that he was going to be a star but he already was. Like Achieve1dream said "I never met Steele but I loved him anyway." http://rdxhorses.blogspot.ca/2014/12/rip-steele.html

We all did. and it's helpful for me to know that.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

It's all Over

I cannot believe that I'm typing this. I keep starting and stopping but I am filled with such rage and sorrow that it needs to come out.

Steele is gone.

In a horrible, tragic, senseless accident.

I rode him this morning and we went on our first solo hack in the woods. I was so happy. I had some friends drop over and when they were getting ready to leave I saw two strange dogs in the yard. When I went out I saw Irish running frantically and Steele in the neighbours field. I screamed for Ed, grabbed a halter and lead and took of running.

I called Steele and he saw me but one of the huskys went after him and he bolted again. I saw him go through the fence and then into the swamp. Where he fell. I ran up to him, he was wet and totally panicked. I put on his halter and spoke soothing to him. He tried to get up but fell. And fell again. And again.

Ed has caught up to me and I told him to call the fire department and the vet and put Irish away. He ran back to the house while I desperately tried to keep Steele's head above the water. It was the longest time in my life. I also asked Ed to call a neighbour who had a lot of experience with horses. He arrived right before the fire department. We realized that his hind leg was trapped in the swamp under some branches and muck. The vet called and I told her to come right away. Steele was going into shock. He would struggle, each time more feebly. He started to tremble and close his eyes.

The fire department guys arrived and I handed over Steele's halter and ran to trucks. "Get some ropes, blankets and a shovel" I ordered. The chief looked at me and did what I said. We got the blankets on him and his hind leg loose. He tried to get up but kept falling over. The damn dog was around too. I told one of the fireman to take care of it or I would. It disappeared.

After an incredible ordeal of wedging tires under his back and getting a rope around him we got him to his feet. He walked forward but couldn't put weight on his right fore. He stood there, covered in sticky, awful mud and was shaking. I put a blanket over his back. The man who owned the two dogs arrived. A neighbour came over and told us that he saw the dogs chasing Steele. At that time the vet arrived. She examined him, asked me to walk him forward.

She came up to me and said "I'm very sorry but your horse has broken his humorous"
I looked at her. "He'll have to be put down" I said.
"Yes" she answered. "the fire chief is taking me in his truck with the siren so I will be as fast as I can with the stuff"

I turned away and the guy who owned the dogs was looking at me.
"You killed my horse" I said
"I'm so sorry"
And I couldn't stop screaming it as I advanced on him. Ed caught up to me and grabbed me. I collapsed to the ground screaming. I was making a hysterical spectacle of myself and I didn't care. I screamed at the universe over and over. I couldn't breathe and I cannot describe the depth of pain and rage I was feeling. It was swallowing me. I could feel Ed holding me and it seemed like he was an anchor holding me to the earth.
I took a shuddering breath and got up. I walked to Steele who looked at me with such pain and confusion my heart broke even further. I wrapped my arms around his neck.
"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I should have protected you. I'm sorry. I love you." I said it over and over didn't care who heard.

Ed helped Steele keep his head up and 3 other fire men helped him to stay upright. I will always remember that. How they gave what they could to support an animal they didn't know so he wouldn't suffer as much.

After an eternity the vet arrived. She explained that she would sedate him and then administer the dose to send him on his way. She said that he might react badly and that I did not have to stay.
"I'm staying"
"are you sure"
So she sedated him and slowly the pain faded from his eyes. I was shaking and couldn't stop. It was shock and the cold water I had been in for what seemed like hours. She then administered the injection. He fell softly not injuring anyone. I held his head until his eye showed that his soul was gone.

Ed walked home with me and arrangements were made to pick up his body and bring him home. I walked along the road and my regular vet pulled up. He had heard what happened.
"get in" he said
"no" I said
"get in"
So I did and he enfolded me in his arms and I broke down again.
He drove us home and I got out. I went right to the barn to check on Irish. He was upset but uninjured. I wrapped my arms around his neck and he enfolded me in an embrace.

I went into the house and got into the shower. I was filthy. Next thing I knew I was huddled on the bottom of the shower sobbing uncontrollably. I got out of the shower and dressed. I looked out the window and saw Steele's body- they had brought him home and a back hoe was digging a hole.

I had one more job to do.

I went out and Ed came up. I asked him to stop the back hoe and I put a halter on Irish and brought him out. He was agitated but walked beside me. He stopped and looked at Steele. I stood there with him and reach forward with his nose and blew gently on his leg. He gave him a nudge and then looked at me. If animals know (and I think they do), he knew his friend was gone.

I am sitting here experiencing waves of rage, pain and numbness. I cannot get warm.

My perfect, wonderful, beautiful boy is gone in a pain filled, terrifying ordeal.

Because of a fucking dog.

run free my darling. I'll see you again.
DC Acero, AKA Steele, 2010-2014

A Break in The Weather

The rain has finally stopped. Which is good because everything is a soupy mess and the ground can't absorb anymore. And not only did the rain stop but the sun is out and it's reasonably warm (for Canada in December). So I made plans to ride every day for the next three days. 

My friend Cynthia has loaned me a horse size bridle for now so I don't have to make any decisions. She also had a hunt style bridle but after trying it on, I realized that I didn't actually like the wider nose band on him. 

Steele doing his donkey impression. He just wants to get going not mess about with photos. 
Cynthia came out to ride to. this is a picture I sent her of how Irish was preparing for her.

He used to be the cleanest horse but these days he's embracing his inner foal. He had so much mud caked on that I decided to start removing it outside with the shedding blade. I'm glad that I did- there was a lot of dust. 

I got Steele ready earlier and headed up to the ring. I wanted to see how he'd respond to Irish coming in after. I could definitely feel that he was excited and I had to regulate his pace a bit but he listened nicely. When Irish came up the hill to the ring he got even more excited but I simply put him to work steering in different ways and walking through puddles so he couldn't be too distracted or do something silly. Irish was also excited and was trotting beside Cynthia as she brought him up. But he's older so the silliness doesn't last long. 

After some walk work I asked Steele to trot. He responded with enthusiasm. I was really making use of engaging my core while riding and I find that that makes such a difference in getting him to respond. I'm actually beginning to overcome my tendency to lean forward when a horse is feeling excited and engage my core and lean back as a first response.  (Thank you Jane). A couple times I could feel him getting a bit balky but I sat up and urged him on and that disappeared pretty quickly. We did lots of circles and figure 8s and serpentines. I find that those help keep his mind on me and not on the million other things that he could pay attention to. After some trot work I let him walk and then we stopped in the middle while I coached Cynthia on some exercises to loosen Irish up a bit. Steele loves this part. He stands like a statue and enjoys the rest. 

After a few minutes rest we went back to work and I asked for a canter. It was a bit wild and wooly but I've been working on making sure that I'm relaxed with it. He cantered a bit frantically and then broke to trot. I just took a deep breath, regrouped the trot and asked again. Each canter was a bit better. He tends to get a bit excited going down the long side and it's more of a hand gallop (or thats how it feels) but it's easy to ride so I simply try to stay balanced and let him know that there a corner coming up so we probably should slow up a bit. He began to lower his head and blow at the canter. At first I thought it was a wee buck but it wasn't. It was just him loosening up. I hope I'm not cursing myself but he has never bucked under saddle. 

It was great schooling session. I'll tell you what we did next in another post. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

What to do when the weather won't cooperate.

The weather since we've been home from our trip has been a yo-yo. If it's warm it's raining- hard. If it's not raining it's freezing cold. In the past week the temperature has fluctuated from 12 above to 12 below. It's making it hard to adjust to coming home. I find myself looking at photos from Australia- where it's getting warmer not colder.
warm seas and sunshine. sigh

I've been able to ride a grand total of 3 times since returning. It's weather like this that makes me long for an indoor. However, that is not likely to happen unless I win the lottery. And if I understand how that works I would need to buy a ticket first.

Irish has been been trying to help me by coating himself with mud.
Irish "see, now you're not bored"
Me: "no I'm just coughing"
Irish: "well nothing is perfect" 

Another way to occupy the time is on-line shopping for a new bridle. Steele has outgrown his cob sized bridle. I'm having a hard time finding a replacement. Which is, I know, ridiculous. I mean how hard could it be? I love the hunter style bridles but they only seem to be brown. The 'dressage' bridles all come with flashes and I don't want a flash. I know I can take it off, but I would be irritated by the little holder on the nose band. I have a flash attachment for Irish's bridle and use it when I'm hacking out. But I don't want to put a flash on Steele. I've actually started saving to have one made. But in the meantime I need something to school in. I have his current bridle on the last holes and it's workable but not ideal. I don't want it to rub or pinch.
love this, but it only comes in brown
So while I scan the internet does anyone have some ideas for me?

Thursday, December 4, 2014

d'Arcy goes to the vet

My Border Collie, d'Arcy is 10 years old. Or is it 11? I can never remember. Anyway, he has lived to the fullest and has had his share of knocks.

  • At 7 months he underwent surgery on his shoulder for OCD
  • At the same time the vet removed a tooth that he broke off leaping at a ball- that was about to be hit by a bat. 
  • he's been kicked in the face by a mare who did not appreciate his dedication to duty. 
  • he's banged into trees, rocks, rolled down hills and generally run into stuff. 
  • and he had his leg in a  cast after getting under the horses while they were galloping in the field. 

If he had a mission statement it would be "It's just a flesh wound" 

So Ed and I were not surprised when this summer he began to exhibit signs of arthritis in his hind end. Not that he let it slow him down at all. At night though he seemed to be in discomfort. So we cut back on his exercise- I stopped taking him for hikes through the woods. When he seemed really bad we gave him an aspirin at night (on advice of the vet). This fall I often needed to help him upstairs at night. 

Last week I came home from work and changed to go out to the barn. d'Arcy tried to get up to go with me. The operative word is tried. I watched him struggle and realized that he couldn't get up. I immediately grabbed the phone to call the vet. By the time I was done booking that appointment  (for an hour later) he had struggled to his feet but was standing all off-kilter. I did the chores without his assistance and we took him to the vet after. 

I hadn't ever seen this particular vet before I was impressed with her. She took a thorough history and did some neuro tests. One of them was to bend over his foot to see how quickly he flexed it back. On the front his reactions were normal. On his right hind it was delayed and on his left hind he let it there, seemingly oblivious. We reviewed all that it could be and prognoses. We decided to start him on some anti-inflamatories to see how he responded. 

That was Wednesday. we carried him upstairs at bed time. 
Thursday- he was perky in the morning and that night he walked up with assistance. 
Friday- he walked up on his own.
Saturday- same
Sunday- he ran up the stairs and was bouncing around like his normal stuff. We also noticed that he was sitting. He hadn't done that in a long time. 
Monday I called the vet to give her an update. She called me back. She was surprised that he was doing so well. As we talked she said that his response made her think that it might actually be something else causing all this. She said that they will sometimes see this dramatic response to the drugs with Lyme's disease. hmm. We definitely have ticks and while I had both dogs vaccinated and I do the repellent it's never 100%. 

So I brought him in for blood work. The vet called back- the results were positive. 

So now he's on a course of strong antibiotics. While I'm not happy that he has Lyme's I am really happy that it's not degenerative arthritis, cancer, stroke or any of the other horrible things. 

With luck he'll be back at it in no time:

Wish us luck. 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Where does the time go

Steele had a birthday on Nov 22.

He's now officially 4 years old.

I can't believe it. I remember when he came home like it was yesterday. In fact it feels like it was yesterday!

Steele and Irish together in the field for the first time

Now he's under saddle and looks like a real grown up horse. He took to being backed like he'd read the books too. I rode him today for the first time in a week. With the weather it's been too hard to ride on the ring, but today was warmer so it had thawed. He felt the same as when I was riding him 4-5 days a week. In fact, when we cantered he felt the most balanced ever. His is sensitive and can react but he prefers to be mellow. As long as I relax on him he settles into work like a much older horse. I've been asking him to leg yield but today we trotted down the quarter line and when I asked him to move over he just did. Like it was no big deal. So it wasn't.

Now I know that 4 is not truly grown up yet. He has some more filling out to do and his musculoskeletal development to occur.  He will have some time off over winter but I'm not worried. There's still stuff for me to do with him- including introducing him to being ridden in the snow.

And plan out our show season.
four years old and feeling good

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Working Dog

There are not just horses on Oakfield Farm. I also have two beautiful dogs:

Belle on the left is pure princess. d'Arcy on the right is always looking for a job. Mostly he thinks it's to monitor the horses. Often d'Arcy seems like a well intentioned, over-enthused goof.
'who needs fences?'

Irish wears bell boots because he has a habit of pulling off his shoes in the field. So instead of hunting for shoes (as much) I spend time looking for bell boots. Last year I got the idea that I should train d'Arcy to find them for me. 

Here's a video of this: 

Brilliant right?
But can you spot the flaw? With the way he shakes the boot it's a bit of a problem. However, I figured that we could work on that. However, after this day I mostly got sticks. He was just as cheery and enthused but ran over the boot to find the stick. So I gave up and decided to buy brightly coloured bell boots instead.

sticks are totally awesome
When I do my night tuck in the dogs always come out with me. When I came back in the house d'Arcy was not there. I called but he didn't come right away. I went in the house figuring that he'd come back soon enough. But he didn't. So Ed and I were out trudging in the rain calling him. He finally came back. I have no idea where he was but I was not impressed.

Today when I brought the horses in for supper I saw that Irish was missing a boot.
Damn it he just got new shoes
With trepidation I lifted his foot.
His shoe was still on. Just the bell boot was missing. I figured that there was just enough light to look around the paddock for it. d'Arcy came with me with his usual enthusiasm. As we walked I decided to give it a try so I looked at him and said 'find it'

He looked at me and then began to zig zag back and forth. After a minute he stopped, looked at something and then back at me. He then ran off. I saw the bright green bell boot.
"That's it! Good Dog!"
He stopped and returned to the bell boot, picked it up and brought it back to me.

Maybe he is a genius after all.
of course I'm smart. I'm a border collie

Sunday, November 23, 2014

It's like riding a bike

Here is where we stayed for much of our vacation- my Aunt and Uncle's house which is made up of modules shaped like hexagons:
isn't it cool?
As much as I had on our vacation (and I had a ton!) I missed my animals. And I really missed riding. When we got home saturday was cold (-4) and given the temperatures that we had just left it felt really cold. However, today was 8 (celsius) and the sun was shining. I was excited because that meant I could ride. I sent a text to Cynthia and enticed her to join me.

Before she came I dragged the ring and put away the drag for the year. I can always get it out again if I need it but I didn't want to leave it to get frozen to the ground. When Cynthia arrived Steele came down to say hello. I put some carrot peelings in his dish (thanks Cynthia!) and he came right into his stall. I closed him in. With a sigh Irish followed.

Since it had been over 3 weeks since I last rode I decided that it would be prudent to do some ground work first. It's not that I expected him to be wild but I wanted to re-establish our working relationship from the ground first. He stood very still while being groomed but moved a bit when I tightened the girth. I think I was too fast and surprised him. I went to put the bridle on but when I took off the cross ties he tried to go to Irish. I corrected him and he stood and took the bit like he's supposed to.

When I brought him into the ring he swung away to watch Irish come up the hill. It would be easy to ignore that but I went around and moved him back to where I wanted him to stand. With a sigh he stood while I prepared the lunge line. I started with some turns on the forehand and backing up. I then put him out on the circle to work.  He was looking around and was obviously fresh but he listened to me and as we worked I could feel us connecting back together. At no time did he pull or try to run away. Twice he indicated that he was going to stop and reverse but I know his signals so I got on him before he could be successful.

After about 5 minutes I decided to get on. I lined him up at the mounting block and off we went. I was so impressed with him. I had my first ride on him on May 3 of this year (6 months ago), he just had 3 weeks off and I wouldn't have known it from his behaviour. He responded to my aids really well- better than I deserved with some. There were a few times when I could feel him tensing up and getting ready to spook but I just tightened my core and breathed and he relaxed right back to me. I have to say that I could truly feel him looking to me as a leader as his rider. This has been growing but today I felt like it was there. I rode for about 45 minutes and decided to call it a day.

I was quite happy to be back in the saddle and he seemed to be quite content about the whole thing too.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

I'm Back

Did you miss me? Or more accurately, Steele and Irish?

of course they missed me- I'm the lovable one
and me. I'm the handsome one. 

Ed and I just returned from a 3 week vacation. It was one that we have spent a year planning. I'll give you a hint:
wild wallaby on the side of the road

That's right- we went to Australia! I've always wanted to go and the trip did not disappoint. I have 100's of photos, which I may subject you too over the winter (you have been warned). On the way home we stopped in Hawaii for a few days. That was a magical place.

A trip like this is only possible when care can be arranged for the critters. Fortunately our usual 'sitter' was willing to do three weeks so that we could go. It was wonderful to not have to worry while being so far away. Ed and I spent the days before trying to make sure that we had in all the supplies she would need. We did okay- there was a bag of shavings and a half-bag of feed left.

We returned from heat to winter weather. While it was hard to go outside in the cold this morning I loved coming back to the barn and having my morning with my two guys. Irish was funny- he refused to look at me this morning. Steele ignored me as well. I didn't worry about it. Tonight I brought them out and gave them a good groom. By the end Irish was back to his snuggly self and Steele was feeling good. I'm hoping that I can get a few rides in before the winter freeze really hits.

While I was away I did manage to get to a tack shop. I'll give you two guesses what I bought.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Autumn Colour

This is not a riding blog post. I rode yesterday and it was fabulous. Again.

But what is also fabulous is the colours around us.

So I decided to post some photos. I got the idea when the photo I posted in my last post was 'explored' on Flickr. What that means is that my photo was selected by someone who works at Flickr as worthy of posting publicly. It results in lots of views and comments.
Why they chose this photo over all the brilliant work on Flickr, I have no idea. However, I must confess is that the subject is pretty darn compelling.

However, Irish looks fabulous against the colours:

Fall is my favourite time of year. the weather is usually beautiful, the bugs are gone and it's not too hot nor too cold.

And some random shots of the dogs and a squirrel, just, because. 

this weather frizzes my hair!

looking for critters in the tall grass

come on down and play!


with all this harassment I need some compensation

And one cute story about Steele: this afternoon I was filling water buckets and got distracted. I heard the water overflowing and ran to shut it off. Steele came into the stall to see what was up and surveyed the damage. He then drank off the top of the bucket so it stopped spilling over. It's lovely to have a horse that is so helpful.

I'm going to be offline for a couple weeks so don't worry. I'll be back. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Good Decisions

The more I work with my horses, the more I realize that training is a series of decisions- some good some bad.

Sunday dawned cloudy and cold. As I drank my coffee I saw that the sky was getting heavier and  even more threatening. I sent a quick text to my friend that if we wanted to ride we better get on it. While she on her way I brought the horses in and got things ready. When she arrived we tacked up quickly and headed up to the ring. As we rode it began to sprinkle. However, once I'm on I don't want to quit. So I decided to keep riding. I like having a horse that is used to being schooled in the rain. That way if I'm at a show and it rains it's no big deal. And I'm not so sweet that I melt.  I'm glad that I decided to carry on with the riding because it went really really well. The trotting poles were easy and Steele is starting to pick up canter with just the leg cue, and not needing the voice cue. We stopped before the rain got too heavy and then dried off and conditioned the leather. Later that day the rain became torrential so I'm glad we decided to carry on riding.

Monday was back to work and I needed to go to the city for meetings. The drive in was long due to to traffic and the drive home was longer because there had been a fatal accident on the highway. We were diverted off the highway onto a secondary highway. It doubled the commuting time. Today I had to head back to the city and again it was a long drive. The weather was also cold and dark. As I drove home I decided that I wouldn't ride when I got home- I was tired (physically and mentally) and cold.

However, when I got home the sun was out and it was warm.
So I put on my riding clothes and went out to get Steele. One thing that I'm careful about is to not ride if I can't be patient. There's no point and it can do more harm than good. So I decided that I would monitor my mood. He started off with a nice forward walk but then got distracted by Irish (who was throwing a tantrum down in the small paddock). So the work, I decided, would be on keeping his attention. And it really didn't take long at all to get him on my page. As we trotted along I slowly made it more complicated. We started off with a circle on one end, cross the diagonal and circle the opposite direction and repeat. A few times he began to rush so I simply brought him back to walk and then back to trot.

Belle decided to do some hunting in the long grass beside the ring. As we trotted down by her she popped up her head which sent Steele in a spook and canter. However, now that I'm getting more consistent in keeping my core engaged (thank you Jane) I went with him and simply brought him back to trot and then we carried on. Because I didn't react emotionally he settled right back to me.

I gave the cue for canter and he picked it up right away. We stayed on the circle and I tried to use my seat and legs to get him to be more relaxed and not quite so excited. As I asked and stayed patient I felt him relax under me and blow gently. I asked for a trot and he came right back to me. After a walk break I tried it the other way and it was the same thing. I finished there and told him he was genius. All he said was "I know, right?"

I'm glad that I made the decision to ride today.

Steele making his favourite decision- which blade of grass to eat

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Riding Double

Today I rode Steele twice.

My friend was coming out to ride Irish but couldn't ride until late afternoon. I wanted to make sure that I rode Steele in case it rained. Again. We've had about 100mm in 3 days. This has meant that Steele has not be worked since monday.

This morning I went out and brought him in. He stood in the barn like a pro and was calm while I mounted. The only thing that I noticed was that he was quite forward in the trot. But he didn't spook at anything and stayed focussed on me for the whole ride. The ring was quite wet but not as bad as one might expect given all the rain.

We rode for just about 40 minutes and I put him away. After I dragged the ring and did some chores before lunch. After lunch I headed back out to do some more work (fix a break in the fence, wrap shrubs for winter etc). I heard a ruckus and looked up to see two riders cantering down the road. This got Irish and Steele quite excited but I hate seeing horses cantering on pavement. I don't think that it can be good for their feet or joints. Shortly after Cynthia arrived and we brought the horses in. Irish was quite excited still.

While he stood in the cross ties Steele gave me a look when I put the saddle back on.
"um, didn't we do this already?"
"yes, but we're going again. You're young and strong. And we didn't work hard this morning"
"I'm pretty sure it's only ONCE a day"
"nope. At a show it will be more than once."
"I think I need a union"

Up in the ring I could hear a noises coming from the farm next door- it sounded like the grandkids were visiting and we could hear ATVs and a chainsaw. After I had dragged the ring I set up some trotting poles. I wanted to add in something new to keep his brain occupied. When I entered the ring Steele began to blow and puff up. I looked around and realized that he was concerned about a wheelbarrow. Earlier I had seen that it was full of rain water so I tipped it over.
"hey that wasn't like that before!"
"it's a wheelbarrow"
"is it dangerous?"
"Nope. It's just in a different position"
"well I don't trust it"
And he didn't. He kept a weather eye on it for most of the ride. Initially it was all he could think about. However, walking over the poles helped get his mind back on me. But he was tense and not at all the horse I rode that morning. I just tried to keep my aids steady and supportive.

One thing is that his neck is much straighter and I think I'm getting better with the outside rein. After a bit I decided to try a canter. He was quite willing to canter. If you want to consider leaping forward into a hand gallop 'willing'. I steadied him back and got the trot steadied and asked again. This time there was more control but definitely forward. I moved up to a 2 point and let him find relaxation in the movement and rhythm.  The nice thing about Steele and his canter is that no matter how scrambled it gets I never feel like he'll buck or scoot out. So I have the confidence to let him go and simply work on steering.

We circled a bit and then we went down the long side. I saw him eyeing a largish puddle along the long side.
"have you ever galloped through a puddle?"
"um. no?"
"Okay then, lets go"

We headed down and although I could feel him hesitate when I put my calves lightly on his side he cantered on through.
"wheeeee" I said as the water splashed up over us. We came back around again.
Steele "Irish what the heck is she doing? Has she lost her mind"
Irish: "don't worry. Every now and then she thinks she's 12 and that we are Thelwell ponies. Just humour her"
Steele: "well it IS kinda fun"

The next time through I could feel him really stretching out.

After a canter both ways he settled down into work. I ended up by trotting him over the poles. I went up into two point and put my reins steady on his neck so if he bobbled I wouldn't hit him the mouth with his bit. He trotted through like he'd been doing it for months. Not like it was his first time.
We tried it the other way- same thing. So I brought him back to a walk and let him cool down.

It will be fun to do this again. However, between the morning run (5 km), riding twice and the chores I am exhausted. But in a good way.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Rude Awakening

My morning routine is pretty much set: The alarm goes off, I get up, turn on the coffee and head out to the barn. I feed the horses and then muck out the stalls while they eat. When Irish is done (I'm sure that you would be surprised that Steele is always done first) I go outside to open the doors from the stalls to the paddock.

There is a gap between the fence post and the barn that is just large enough to squeeze through. I always go through there and walk along the barn wall to get the doors open.

Bear with, this is relevant.

These days it is still dark in the morning. There are motion lights over the large barn doors but not on the side of the barn.This means that I really can't see when I go out to open the first stall door.  But this doesn't matter because I know where everything is.

Or I thought I did. This morning was particularly dark because of the heavy cloud and rain we've been having. I was on autopilot this morning doing my chores and thinking of the warm house and hot cup of coffee that would be waiting for me when I went in. I headed out to the side of the barn and was walking towards to Irish's door when I hit something with my shins.

what the... was all I could think before I plunged head first into the water trough. I came up sputtering and soaked.  I realized that had happened but couldn't figure out why.

WTF  good heavens why is the water trough by the barn? 

I realized that the water trough had been moved from the location that I had it to be beside the barn. And since I didn't move it that left just one person.


Now it's not unusual for Ed to move stuff around according to his sense of order. I have also my own sense of order. We typically manage by respecting each others' space. Every now and then though, Ed can't help himself.

The combination of cold air, rain and the water I fell in meant that I was soaked and cold. However, I was so pissed off I'm sure that there was steam rising off my head.
It was lucky for him that he was still in the house. I finished up my chores and squelched back to the house. Ed was sitting there with his iPad, drinking coffee and looking warm and dry. I couldn't help myself. I threw my soaked glove at him. It splatted on his leg.

Why did you do that? 
It's a surprise isn't it? Kinda like falling into a water trough in the morning because it was moved 
why would you fall in it? 
Because it's dark out! 

I saw comprehension dawn. Turns out that he moved the water trough so he could get the tractor through the gate and didn't put it back and it didn't occur to him that it was a trap for me.

At least that's what I'm going with.

So we talked about moving my stuff. And how I felt about that.

works for husbands too

There's never a dull moment on Oakfield Farm.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

It Takes a Village

Sometimes as I ride I get a bit philosophical. However, I did minor in Philosophy in University so I guess that I shouldn't be surprised.

Anyway, my thoughts are not new to myself and certainly not to anyone else. However, it did come home to me how a number of elements came together to create Steele.

First off, there's his breeders: http://www.doscompaneros.com/index.php who were committed to breeding quality horses that would be rideable. They were careful in who they chose to sell to as well.  I know that there can be good horses out of all sort of circumstances and we can't all buy high end horses. However, it's not rocket science that just because you have a mare that it should be bred.
The breeders also did a great job raising their foals. So that when Steele came home to live with me he was well used to people and being handled.

My vet and farrier have been fabulous in helping him learn how to be a model citizen.

There are all my fellow horseman who have given me the benefit of their knowledge and experience as I raised a yearling. If they engaged in any eye rolling they kept it to themselves. I loved having them come to visit with us and tolerate my 'oh isn't he beautiful' gushing (seriously- I'm sure that I was/am very annoying).

Then there's all the people who have taken the time to teach Steele and I. All have been keen to work with us and were able to help me develop a plan for continuing to work. I fully appreciate the patience and sense of dedication (not to mention sense of humour) that is required of riding instructors.

Then there's Royce- he gave us a great start allowing me to carry on and feel safe. So safe that today we went for a hand gallop around the ring.
a photo I took of Royce at a local barrel racing event
Let's not forget Ed- not only does he do a ton of work around the farm but he also does all sorts of stuff never expecting Steele to spook. All of which has led to Steele tolerating all sorts of stuff that many horses don't know about. Not to mention a desire to play with power tools.

*cough**cough* ahem. and what about me? 

Right- Irish. He's done a brilliant job raising a baby with manners around other horses.

What's my role in all this? Basically to not screw up. Of course there's more to it than that. I have worked very hard over the past few years getting him used to lots of things and riding him to the very best of my ability. I do believe that we are forming a partnership and I can't wait to see where it takes us.

So the next time someone tells you how 'lucky' you are to have a such a good horse keep in mind that luck has nothing to do with it.
ha! I was always perfect. She just loves to exaggerate...

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Keep Calm and Ride On

"Success isn’t measured by money or power or social rank. Success is measured by your discipline and inner peace.
Mike Ditka - "

It's going to rain tomorrow so I wanted to squeeze in a ride today. The weather has been unseasonably warm and there is a feeling of pending weather. I quickly changed into my riding clothes and started my barn chores. I was waiting for the horses to come in for their supper but I believe that they sensed a trap. I looked out when I heard galloping and they were tearing around their fields like the hounds of hell were on their heels. I carried on with my work and finally they came galloping into the barn. Steele was blowing hard. I closed them in and brought him out to the cross ties. He was very calm while I got him ready and walked up to the ring without any ruckus. However, when I went to mount him he became tense and walked off. I brought him back to the mounting block and he walked off again. I got down and brought him back, this time he pulled away and got loose. I stayed calm and got him penned into the corner.

I decided a change in tactics was called for. So I ran up his stirrups and did up his reins for a free lunging session. After a few spins around the ring with me directing which way he went I stopped and turned away. He immediately came trotting up to me and was stuck to my shoulder like glue. Back to the mounting block we went and he stood quite still as I got on. With the weather and his winter coat coming in he was puffing so I my goal was for a quiet walk. He started off tense but I simply sat back and rode on.

It's always interesting what sticks in  lessons. From my lesson with Jane what seems to have become entrenched is to sit up and back rather than hunch forward. As soon as he tenses I find myself going back without thinking. This is great because if he spooks I find that my seat is rock solid. However, he didn't spook. I believe that because I was sitting up and kept my legs relaxed he began to relax as well. I loved how forward his walk became and his back was swinging nicely.  Not that it was all the time- it was a cycle of tense-relax-tense-relax but each time his period of relaxing became longer.

I then asked him to trot on. Initially his trot was quite tense and choppy. I realized that if I wanted him to relax he was going to need my help. I began to slow my post. He responded immediately. Finally the penny dropped. It's not that I didn't realize that I could use my seat to set his pace, it's just that this was the first time that I felt the immediate effect. At that point it seemed to become instinctive. So we spent the next 30 minutes trotting and walking with me using my seat to set the pace. I was pleased with how relaxed I was able to stay both mentally and physically. I believe that because I was not fussed I gave him the leadership he needed to relax. He began to blow and we went along. I love that sound- it's the sound of a horse relaxing.

Our trot-walk transitions were much improved as well. He wasn't being so abrupt with it this time. However, it did take many more strides for the transition to occur. I decided that that was okay since he was moving into the walk rather than dropping into it. I believe I can get it prompter.

I then brought him back to walk and let him cool off on a long rein. He stretched out his neck and lengthened his frame. I was so happy with this response it was hard to contain my glee. As we walked around I was able to direct him using just my seat and legs. I then sat up and stilled my seat. He came to a halt. I dismounted and praised him heavily.

I'm happy that some of what I learned in my lesson is coming together. Now if I could just sort out that inside rein......