dancing horses

dancing horses

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Babe in Woods

Steele and I are continuing to make progress. I've begun lunging ahead of time only every other ride. But I do try to do some in hand work every time. He seems to have settled into our work routine. I realized the other day that he recognizes the leg cue for canter. I still give the voice command but I see that fading out in the near future.

Last weekend was a return of the warm weather. It was actually hot during the day (25 C). On sunday when Cynthia came to ride the horses were pretty quiet. They are starting to get their winter coat and they found the heat a bit much. After working in the ring we headed down to the barn. Ed was doing some painting of our new stall doors. He locked up the dogs for us and then brought us some water (he's such a good man).

We then headed down around the field and into the woods. This was Steele's first time with me riding. He stuck pretty close to Irish. He was so adorable- looking around curiously at everything and then making sure that he was caught up to Irish. I kept the rein loose enough to encourage him to relax but not so much that he could get in trouble. The goal was to make it a low-key experience. To be honest I wasn't remotely worried.
The entrance was pretty close but  didn't mind the tree branches brushing against him. Once you pass the outer part the woods are pretty open down below. I love the feeling of peace that comes walking those quiet paths. My goal is to carve out even more paths and do a lot of hacking.
these are my woods

I haven't been in the woods for a bit and there were a few trees down from the summer storms. Irish stepped over a tree that was about 4 inches around and about 5 inches above the ground. Steele came to a halt and I could see him thinking "there's no way to get over this. My god. I'm trapped." Cynthia and Irish stopped to wait. Rather than pushing him I waited for him to figure it out himself. Which he did. I felt his right foreleg reach up, hit the tree, come back and then again. It was similar to the show when he couldn't figure out how to get into his stall. I gave him a pat "that's it. You can do it".  He then stepped forward again and got his leg over. Then he got his front over and with a hop of his hind legs he was over. I had to giggle. I have ridden him over poles and such but I guess he was thrown by the tree. I'm sensing that eventing might not be in our future but who knows?

We finished up our short trek and headed back to the barn. After that we gave both of the horses a bath. It's probably the last one of the season. After they both were gleaming but we hand grazed them to make sure that they didn't roll while wet. When we let them back to the field Steele was walking in a  very sleepy manner down to the grass.

I think I tuckered out my boy.

those woods were interesting but I didn't see any bears..

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Let's Talk About Spooking

A friend posted on FB about feeling confident after riding her horse through a spook. This led to some discussion about how best to handle it.

 The issue with spooking is not so much the initial 'argh' but what could potentially come after. The biggest worry in riding a green horse or an unknown horse is that you may get hurt, depending on what they do. It's the unknown. And we all know that fear of the unknown leads us to ride defensively, which actually is not helpful. When I feel defensive, I tend to curl up into a ball. This is far more likely to lead to a fall than riding upright. However, it's hard to tell that to your unconscious when it's in 'oh my god we may die' mode. It tends to not believe you and throw curse words at you.

This is why its sometimes hard to leave the ring. In the ring we feel more in control or that we can contain any problem that may arise. But there's a lot of fun to be had outside of the ring. Plus there's the potential for personal growth.

 There are lots of theories and lots of advice out there on spooking. I've read and/or heard a lot of it and I've tried most of it. Some of it worked, some of it didn't.

Here's the thing- the horses haven't read the books or heard the advice.

Here's the other thing- all horses will spook. It's hard wired into their DNA. Being prey animals they need to respond to imminent threats quickly.

The truth is that I have no tricks but I do have an approach. It involves three things that I will try to explain:
1. expecting that a horse will spook and try to be aware of the possible spooky things.
  I don't mean freaking out about everything but just keeping my awareness of what's around. I truly believe that the horse senses if you are paying attention and learns that he doesn't have to worry as much if you know what's going on. I've gotten quite good at explaining stuff to Irish like "that's the dog, and she's likely to come bouncing out". That seems to keep him settled.

2. having a plan beyond "I really hope that my horse doesn't freak out"

This is not new, I got it from Jane Savoie. She talks about the importance of self-talk. The basic premise is that when I'm riding Steele I have a plan in my head in case he spooks at the dog sleeping in the grass. Believe it or not thinking clearly in my head that if Steele freaks out I will keep my legs down, my shoulders back and look to steer him in a small circle really works. Often it means that he won't spook because I'm riding prepared and if he does spook I have a plan that kicks into gear without me having to think about it.

3. knowing how my horse spooks.

This helps me know what to plan for. Steele's spooks seem to be a quick quarter turn away from what spooked him and then come to a halt. These are pretty easy to ride. Irish tends to slam on the brakes, suck back and then turn. This is not so easy to ride and has unseated me many times. When I hack out Irish I allow him to have a long rein but not so long I can't shorten them up if I need to.

That helps with the sudden 'surprise' spook.
Then there's the recurring spook. You know what I mean- that part of the ring that the horse always shies, or with snow falling off the roof, or when the mounting block has been moved and 20 mins into the ride the horse is still a bit freaked. With those, I ignore the spook and correct the move. Let me see if I can explain. If I'm riding Irish and he's worried about the mounting block when we go by he will drop his shoulder and change his bend to bend way from the scary thing. I simply correct the bend and carry on. By focussing on the behaviour that I want and ignoring whatever is causing the issue I change the terms of the discussion.
Instead of:
Irish: Oh my god, it's going to eat me. 
Me: that's nothing to worry about. 
Irish: Yes it is.
Me: No it's not
Irish: Yes it is.
Me: No it's not
Irish: Yes it is.
Me: No it's not

The discussion goes like this:
Irish: Oh my god, it's going to eat me. 
Me: hey, we're bending to the right, not left. 
Irish: But it's going to eat me
Me: so we need to bend this way
Irish: but...
Me: oh good for you. nice bend
Irish: sigh

I've been overheard to say 'yes dear' when my horse spooks underneath of me. It gets me some strange looks from others. But it works for me so I keep going.

what are you doing? do I need to flee

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Mixing it up

Steele is a highly intelligent horse. This has made training fun.

Steele is a highly intelligent horse. This has made training challenging.

I find myself constantly trying to balance challenge with his developmental level. I need to keep it challenging but not over tax his growing joints.  It would be easy to pile more and more work on him and I think that he'd take it but I don't want to do that. In the long run that will have a negative effect.

So I try to find ways to challenge him mentally while keeping the physical demands at the right level. Am I succeeding? I hope so.

I certainly know when I've lost his attention- he tunes into what's going on outside the ring and finds ways to make it interesting.
Oh my god, there must be trolls in the waving grass. Hey, what's Ed up to? Irish, stop eating all that grass!

Things like that. One thing I love about riding in a full size dressage ring is that I can really play with geometry. I find I can't repeat the same exercise too many times or his brain starts to wander. So I try sequences of exercises. This seems to be working. For example:

1. circle at A
2. change rein from K-M.
3. circle at C.
4. change rein from H to F
5. A-C 3 loop serpentine
6. Walk at C
7. M-X-F loop with long rein
I mix up my diagonals so he doesn't think that we only cross one way so I do M-E, M-V, M-K.

Another new piece I've added in is not always lunging before our rides now. I realized at the show that lunging is not always feasible so he needs to learn that sometimes I just hop on. I plan to mix it up when I lunge and when I don't.

I do try to stay tuned in to him so that I know when he's feeling overwhelmed and when he's feeling challenged but it's okay.

Last weekend I was riding by myself and it was going really well. When we finished I opened the gate from his back and we rode down to the barn. And then past the barn to the end of the driveway. That felt good so went across the bottom of the field. He felt a little alert but not worried so I decided that we would do the path that is between the fields and the woods. This makes a loop around the whole field. He was really good about it. And I told him so. We rode all the way up to the top and ended up back at the ring. I could feel him thinking 'hey, how'd we get back here?'
Irish was watching on high alert as we came up to the top of the field.

I dismounted feeling pretty pleased with the both of us. That was our first solo hack.

not how we did the hack. :)

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Hi Ho Hi Ho

Steele and I have been working away at the bottom of the dressage pyramid: Forward, Straightness and Rhythm. And steering. Let's not forget steering.

I've been managing to ride about 4-5 days a week which has been nice. I love the cooler weather of September and the fact that there are no bugs is great too.

So Steele is pretty much forward unless he's uncertain. And then he wants to back off. Any indication from me that I want him to slow down results in an abrupt slow down. So I have to be very very clear. I also try to not get upset. After all he's just figuring all this out. On his own he has the option of moving away from whatever he's uncertain about. With me riding he has to learn to trust me.

One of our recurring discussions concerned the canter. He would pick up a canter readily enough but drop out quickly. I was lucky if I could coax a full circle. I've been patiently picking away at this. A couple rides ago I was riding him and he was very very fresh. He wanted to career around the ring at top speed. I've been around long enough to know that running around is not actually 'forward'. It's just a different type of avoidance. So we worked on control. About 30 minutes into our ride Steele was hesitating on one part of the circle, wanting to duck away, so I put my legs on to encourage him ahead. BUT my legs weren't applied evenly and he popped into a right lead canter. I decided to pretend I asked for that and let it go. It felt different then other canters- there was a lot of impulsion but not crazy. I decided to let it go so that he could figure out that he could carry me around at a canter and it was no big deal. I have no idea how long we cantered - we circled, went ahead, circled again, rinse, repeat. When he felt like he wanted to trot I encouraged him for one more circle and then  brought him back. We both were puffing but felt better. After a brief break we repeated it on the other lead.

That seemed to mark a breakthrough- he's figured that he can canter with me on him and the world doesn't end.

galloping is easy when he's free
That doesn't mean that we still don't discuss 'forward'. But we're getting there.

This is where we've made a lot of progress. Our circles are not horrible anymore. I'm getting better at knowing when he wants to duck in or fall out on a circle so I can correct it ahead of time. Corners are difficult at times- he wants to bend to the outside to look around (especially at the spooky corner). I am trying like mad to make sure that I'm not over-aiding because that just makes me crooked which doesn't help him at all. I have to remember to sit like it's perfect and let him figure out that it's easier to bend around that leg on the inside then against it.

I'm also working on not just riding the edge of the arena but to take advantage of the quarter lines and centre lines. Today we did an exercise where I was asking him to walk-trot-walk-trot every so many strides but on the quarter lines. This helped me to keep my aids straight and not depend on the rail. I think that it made it clearer for him.

This is foundation of it all. I have trying to put into practice what we did at the clinic. It's up to me to set the rhythm so he can relax into the work and stay forward and straight.  If you are coming by you may over hear me saying "1-1-1-1-1" so I can keep the trot rhythm consistent. It was really really hard at first to not fall into random rhythms. But it's getting better.

I'm loving working with this horse that challenges me to be better and better but not because he's difficult but because he tries so dang hard.

so what are we going to do now? 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Getaway with the Girls

Last weekend was my second trip to Broadleaf Ranch in New Brunswick. It's an annual trek with a bunch of horse loving women. I know a few of them but most I only saw last year at the trip.

We stayed at the Chalet which can sleep up to 24 (I think). It's up in the woods and nicely isolated. There's a huge hot tub on the deck and beautiful view (if you like hills and pine trees).

We had a new addition to the weekend. I invited a person that up to now, I only knew on FB. But I figured that she would be a lot of fun and I was right. Not only was she was a funny as on FB but I felt instantly comfortable with her.

Not only do we drink wine and eat (we all bring munchies) but meals were included. The food was incredible and far too much to eat at one sitting (not that I didn't try). I don't worry about how much I eat because there's also riding.

On saturday, after a hearty (and early) breakfast, we headed to the stable to get our horses. These horses are various breeds (largely draft and QH crosses) that know their job and are very safe. I was checking out the horses to see who I wanted when I saw the cutest bay face looking at me with interest. "I want this one" I said. Not that he was the prettiest or nicest put together horse, but he wasn't looking bored but seemed to be checking me out. Turns out I was right. He was quite responsive to my aids and man, did he love to gallop. I had to hold him back during the canter parts because he just wanted to go. Part of me wanted to just let him go and let him show me what he had but I figured that wouldn't be the safest thing.

We rode up into the hills and then down to the dikes. We stopped at noon to have lunch and then back to the barn. After 5 hours in a hard western saddle I really really really appreciated the hot tub.

I have to say that large social events with people I barely know are difficult for me. I usually feel like a duck in a hen house- large, awkward and given to being too loud. But with these ladies I found it easy to relax and be myself.  We talked family and horses all weekend. It was fabulous. Once I knew that Steele was fine I was able to relax - something that I really needed.

Monday, September 15, 2014


Last weekend was our long planned girls weekend. Two nights and 2 days of horseback riding along the dikes with a group of fun, horse loving women. I was really looking forward to relaxing in the hot tub and riding the trails. We arrived friday night and were just sitting to dinner when my phone rang. It was Ed. I answered thinking he had a question about the night feed but his next words made my heart sink.
"There's something wrong with Steele"
I got up from the table and asked for more specific information.  What happened was Ed had given them their night grain and then gave Steele a carrot. He began to made some weird noises and act in distress. As he described it I was pretty sure that it was choke.

Not that I had any experience with it whatsoever. But like many horse people I had heard about it and read about it.

For those of you who don't know (the rest of you can skip this part), choke is when something (usually chunks of food) get stuck in the horses esophagus. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Choke_(horse). Horses cannot regurgitate so not being able to get food down can be quite distressing.

I told Ed to call the vet and to send me a video. Here is what he sent:
When he sent that I became more worried. It's hard to tell if you don't know horses but this is one unhappy horse.

Time seemed to drag on waiting for Ed to call me back. I couldn't eat my food and my brain was racing trying to figure out how I was going to get home (I had gotten a drive with someone else). Unknown to me, one of my friends was planning to give me her car so I could get home (I love horse people).

Meanwhile, back at the barn, Ed is seeing some food discharge coming out of Steele's nostril. He's really getting worried and the vet is not calling back. He asks me what to do and I said something along the lines of 'call again and tell the answering service that she has to get f-ing ass in gear'.  I know, I know but I was upset. He called again but I seriously doubt that he said that. When she finally called back Steele was acting normal. He was able to swallow the stuck food and was perking up.

The vet asked Ed is he wanted her to come out. Ed said "look these are my wife's horses and she's away. If something happens to them I'm dead". 
Of course, that's not true. He told me later that he was worried. "I don't ride them and I probably don't love them as much as you but I do love them. I wasn't worried about the bill". 

On the vets advice Steele wasn't allowed any hay that night. But she wanted him to give Steele some Bute (an anti-inflammatory drug).  This was to ease any inflammation caused by the obstruction. Ed called me asking how to give him bute if he couldn't have hay or grain. I told him to soak some alfalfa cubes I had and put the bute in that. That worked a treat. Ed told me that he checked on him multiple times through the night but he was fine.

My nerves were shot but I realize how fortunate I am that Ed was able to recognize the symptoms and call me. How could I not love that man?

On reflection I think I figured out what happened. The vitamin I give the horses was replaced with a new pelleted version. These pellets are quite hard and Steele is a gobbler. I think that they weren't chewed enough and got stuck. When Ed gave the piece of carrot it added to the problem. So now I'm soaking his vitamin and adding water to the grain so that he's getting more of a porridge than dry matter.

I was able to enjoy the rest of the weekend. With multiple texts.

And Irish wants it on the record that wasn't him this time.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Chapter 6: Steele and I go to school

The pinnacle of this whole experience was to participate in the clinic with the judge at the end. John MacPherson (our judge) is an excellent judge and a terrific teacher. I figured that it would be good for Steele and I to participate. 

Of course that decision is easy when the clinic is weeks away.

To be honest I did not sleep well sunday night. My brain was whirling with plans and thoughts about what time to get ready, should I braid? (yes), what if they fall out? (they won't), what do I say are my goals (revised multiple times), what if I freeze and ride like some sort of lump (don't), what if I forgot how to ride? How can I make sure that Steele has a good experience.... stuff like that. 

The upside to that is that I did not oversleep anyway. I was early to the barn and gave Steele his food. I then took him out and put in his braid, using the waxed string that Nichole gave me. 
See how cute he was:
so what are we doing now? 
I was thrilled to see two of my friends arrive to help out. Then a fan of Steeles blog came by. With their help I calmed down and we headed out to the ring. Steele and I were first and I wanted to lunge him first. More people came to watch. 

He was very good about staying focussed on me. After about 20 minutes I mounted. I put my crop down at the main entrance because I wasn't sure that I needed it. I walked a bit and then noticed that John had arrived. I walked up and introduced the two of us. I explained that Steele had been backed in May and that this was his first time off of the property. I told him that I wasn't looking for miracles but that I wanted some pointers on how we were doing and some things to work on over the fall months. 

And then we went to work. John had me go onto a 20 meter circle. The idea was to keep my hands low and to ask him to trot a few strides and then walk a few strides. But the transitions had to come from my seat- no touching of the bit. So the exercise was trot-walk-trot-walk- switch directions and repeat. I didn't understand the purpose of the lesson at first but rather than question I put my confusion aside and applied myself to the lesson. As we proceeded it began to come clear. As went along I could feel him become more balanced and listening. My keeping my hands low and quiet it allowed Steele to lengthen out his neck and reach for the bit.  

The next part of the lesson was using my seat to keep the pace steady and rhythmical. I was matching my posting to Steele's rhythm  but this was making him not balanced. As we went along the penny began to drop. By my setting the rhythm this allows him to find me and become steadier and more balanced. Aha.  As we were going along there were periodic flashes from cameras. I had to smile at Steele's 'paparazzi'. He did not seem to care about the flashes at all. He was a little worried about the setting but when he lost focus he would always come back. 

Here are some photos that people were kind enough to send me:
I told you it was a hockey rink

trying to sit up and balance with my seat. 
I love how balanced we look here

After we worked on walking, trotting, steering, balance and rhythm John asked me if I wanted to canter. I smiled at him and said 'sure. what could go wrong?'

So we went back to the 20 meter circle and worked on trot-canter. We started to the right because I explained that it was his easier way. I got the trot moving forward and asked him to canter. Which he did- but with the left lead. John said not to worry about that, quietly bring him back and try again. After a few tries we got it. The problem was keeping it. Which is pretty consistent with home. I could him going for a bit but then he would just break. We also did work to the left. 
annd canter!

However, while we were not perfect by any stretch of any imagination we both did our absolute best. After a few circles we called it a day. I was happy with what I had done and learned. Steele was sweaty. John stood and spoke with me for a bit. Steele stood very still waiting for his accolades. However, John kept talking to me. 
Steele edged over a bit. 
John ignored him. 
He shuffled over a bit more and stuck his head on his arm. 
"hello. I was really really awesome. I deserve some attention"
note how carefully we are both listening

After we were done John gave Steele a pat and said "this is very good horse. He also has a fabulous brain"

I know, right? 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Chapter 5: Saddle Up

First of all, my apologies for not completing the show report. I got a wee bit busy and I wanted to make sure that I gave a full report.

Saturday was spent getting Steele used to the show from the ground. But I did plan to ride on Sunday. I figured that lunch time would be a good time to ride in the warm up ring because most people would be eating. That turned out to be wrong. There were people in the ring and one was a young paraequestrian rider. That meant that I couldn't lunge. I decided to do some work in hand, keeping him close. I did let him out to the end of the lead line but no further. This did limit what I could do but he seemed to be listening so I got on.

That turned out to be a mistake. He walked around obediently enough but I could feel him vibrating underneath. I kept breathing deeply and conveying calm thoughts but it didn't work. I could feel him getting more and more balled up. I had to stop and think about this. My goal was not to prove that I could ride him through a melt down. My goal was to teach him that it was all no-big-deal. This was not meeting my goal so I dismounted.

My friend let me know that the show ring was empty so I headed in and began to lunge him. I could see him relax and he was allowed to move out freely. We worked for about 10 mins and then the tractor came in to drag the ring. We had to leave and wait but as soon as he was done we were back in.  Then the rider for the next class came in so we left. I went back to the warm up ring and decided to get on and see how things felt.

He felt much better. He was still tense and on alert but much more listening and we were able to work. I did my best to stay out of the way of the riders warming up but they were very generous about sharing the ring. After about 20-30 minutes I decided that he had done very well and we should stop. I halted and dismounted and told him that he was brilliant.

We hung out together until the show was over and then we went in for the awards. He took it all in. Until he got bored and decided that rolling seemed like the best thing to do. He was not impressed with me stopping that idea.

look closely- we're on the far left

hey where's my ribbon? 

I had big plans to ride in the show ring after the show was over but once it was all done and I helped clean up I was frankly too exhausted to even contemplate it. Instead I fed him and told him that tomorrow was his big day- we were riding in the clinic!
What could possibly go wrong?

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Chapter 4: It's a big world out there

Over the course of the weekend I watched Steele take in all the excitement and activity with wide eyed interest. Wherever we went he was curious. Not that he didn't spook at stuff he did. Often it was something that he had walked by numerous times already. But I think that there was just so much to look at that he was simply noticing it for the first time.

The first day I only led him around and lunged him in the show ring (once the show was over). He attended ribbon ceremonies, listened to applause and saw people coming and going above him in the stands.
day 1 at the ribbon giving

I made sure that I had the same expectations for his behaviour at the show grounds as I do at home. I expected him to be respectful of my space and to lead like a perfect gentleman. On the lunge he was to listen and not run away. While I had to give him reminders those were no different than at home. I believe that he found security in knowing that the boundaries were still the same despite all the distractions.
behaving like an old hand
Someone at the show asked me if mine was the 'big gray' in the front part of the barn. I was confused, Steele was the only gray but he's not big. Not by dressage standards. But in the barn I saw why someone would have thought that- he was trying so hard to take it all in that he was standing with his front feet on the cement lip and had his head up as high as it would go outside of the stall. This made him look a hand taller.

I would take him out of his stall and groom him in the main alley while there were horses and people coming and going. I tied his lead to a single strand of baling twine that was tied to the stall. that way, if he really freaked it would break but I still had a line on him to grab. However, he simply stood there.
check out the braid on the awesome horse 
As always I was touched by how many people at these shows take the time to comment, chat, and help out each other. A lovely rider named Nicole showed me how she did a running braid and then gave me some of her waxed string to use on Steele. That made a big difference in keeping it in. The family across the aisle threw him hay in the morning and checked his water before I arrived. Friends showed up to admire and to assist with the chores.

Many people commented on his colouring. And on how handsome he was. One funny story:
When I was walking Steele around I got to chatting with a woman. She asked about his breeding and I told her he was an Andalusian. She looked at him.
"does he have the gaits?"
I was confused but figured she was asking if he moved like an Andalusian "um, yes"
"oh. Well at least he's pretty"
I agreed that he was indeed pretty and walked away. Honestly, I wasn't even offended it was just such a bizarre thing to say that I found it funny.

I think I'm going to get it put on a t-shirt "at least he's pretty" 

But that was the only negative thing. I do love going to shows.

Next instalment I'll talk about actual riding....

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Chapter 3: Crisis Averted

I used to be amazed at how much stuff I had to pack to take my babies out for just a few hours. However, that was a piece of cake compared to going away to a horse show.

Earlier in the week Ed suggested that I would not need the truck for the weekend since I was paying someone to haul Steele. I didn't even try to hide my laughter. He was a bit peeved but I did point out that putting hay in the volkswagon might not be the best idea.
"oh you need to bring your own hay?"
"yes dear I do"

I began making up my list a few days before (thank heavens for Iphone apps):

  • saddle, girth, bridle
  • extra pair of reins
  • 2 saddle pads
  • 3 bales of hay
  • 2 bales of shavings
  • feed
  • feed tub, water bucket
  • strap to hang the water bucket
  • hook for bridle and halter
  • extra halter and leads
  • grooming kit
  • show sheen
  • braiding equipment
  • bucket for bathing
  • pitchfork
  • broom
  • wheelbarrow
  • saddle rack
  • lunge whip and line
  • towel
  • sweat scraper
  • fly spray
  • hairspray
  • big plastic tote on wheels to hold a bunch of the stuff listed above
  • carrots. god, don't forget the carrots!

And that's not even my stuff. When I left the truck was packed to the brim. In fact, if I didn't have Cynthia I think that it would have taken a lot longer. She has the gift of being able to pack like it's a giant 3D puzzle. I just kept handing her stuff and watching it disappear. 

When I arrived I set up Steele's stall. I realized then that I had forgotten to bring water from our place. Sometimes horses don't like strange water and will refuse to drink. In my defense for forgetting I was still recovering from the flu and Irish never refused water. Since Steele is less of a fuss-bucket than Irish I figured that we would be okay. However, by 1:00 he still hadn't drank anything. I watched him sniff the water and turn away repeatedly. I began to fret. He hadn't had a drink since 7:30 that morning. Some people gave suggestions of putting apple juice or a sweetener in the water but that has never been successful. 

I was beginning to think that I needed to drive home and pick up some water but I decided to try one more thing. I took a flake of hay and I soaked it. Once it was completely soaked and dripping I put it in his stall. I figured that if he ate it he would get some fluid that way. I was pleased to see him hoe right into it. Thirty minutes later and he drank half of his bucket! Yay. Success. I think that eating the hay allowed him to get used to the taste of the water. After that he drank like he normally does and there were no further issues. 

How long is your list? 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Chapter 2: The Attack of the Killer Flowers

I let Steele chill in his stall for a couple hours while I hung about and acted as his social director.

"is this Steele?"
"I love reading about him on the blog"
"thank you"

Around lunch time I figured he had been admired enough and took him out for a walk. I had permission from the show manager to take him into the ring during lunch so that he could see everything. We moseyed around the grounds, peeked in the warm up ring and headed to the main ring.

I should explain that the ring is inside a hockey arena. In the summer they bring in dirt and take out some of the glass. It can be a bit freaky for horses the first few times. The entrance is through a huge open door that leads into the arena. It's used to let in the Zamboni in the winter and the ring drag in the summer. Irish refers to it as the "cavern of death". The first part is an open area with bits and pieces stored along the edges. The next area leads to the arena. To the left is along corridor that is the perfect hiding place for horse eating trolls. Steele walked in warily but he didn't bulk and followed me right in.

We walked around looking at everything. I then stopped down at 'A' and allowed him to look around.

Note where his gaze is fixed. These are artificial flowers used as decoration.

When he asked to move closer I thought 'oh good' and let him sniff them. Suddenly he grabbed the fake grass in the middle and pulled back. With that the flower pot came flying at his head like it was spring loaded and the flowers flew wildly. Startled he leapt backwards and then stood stock still, surrounded by a litter of flowers with the fake grass sticking out of his mouth. His eyes were big and he looked at me
"whoa, did you see that? Those flowers attacked me! " he chewed "and this grass tastes funny"
I'm laughing so hard that I can barely stand. I try to pull the grass out of his mouth but he's resisting. I finally get it out and hand it to my friend who is gathering up the flowers and stuffing them back into the pot before we get in trouble.

Three hours in and we're still creating a sensation.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Steele and Teresa's Awesome Adventure - Chapter 1

So Steele and I are back from what turned out to be an incredible experience. As I was enjoying myself I was mentally logging things that I could blog about later. I have too many things to put in one post so I'm going to do in instalments. Like the serial novels that they used to publish in Newspapers Not that I'm equating myself with such greats as Charles Dickens. I am simply a woman keeping an on-line journal that some people seem to enjoy. I hope that I don't bore you too much. I find myself quite easily entertained with the small stuff.

Travelling in Style

Due to some last minute hiccups with my trailer I had to hire someone to pick us up saturday morning. I woke up really early and could not get back to sleep. After laying there for a while mentally reviewing my packing list I decided to get up and feed. I fed both horses and then let them out for a bit before James came with the trailer. We had settled on 8 a.m. as a very civilized time to depart. At 7:30 I stood up to refill my coffee mug and saw Irish staring at the road. I followed his gaze and saw the trailer parked there. I went out, brought in the two horses and walked down to meet this man that I was trusting my baby with.  He seemed nice enough and I showed him where he could pull in for loading Steele. I explained that it was his first time travelling since he arrived at my place a few years ago (really? has it been that long? Seems like yesterday). He had brought a big stock trailer with two box stalls. He said that these are good for the young horses because they can move around.

 I walked Steele up and he sniffed at it curiously. I stepped up (it was a step up trailer) and he jumped up beside me. When he did that it rattled a bit which startled him. He danced a little but when he saw that I wasn't panicking he calmed down. I walked him to the back and James closed the stall door. Steele looked around and was definitely up, but not too stressed. We let him figure out where he was and that there was hay (life is always better with hay). James and I discussed the best route. At the end of our road, if you go left it's the most direct to the highway but very twisty. If your go right it's more straight. We settled on right. I watched him leave with my baby, did a quick trip to the barn to check on things and was heading to my truck when I saw that Ed had let the dogs out. I brought them back in, gave Ed last minute instructions on Irish and left in the truck. 

It took a long time to catch up to James. Not that he was driving fast- he wasn't but I had dilly-dallied too long. I was just beginning to wonder if he hadn't turned left after all and I had passed him (what if he broke down and you missed it? Shut up head! James has my cell he'd call. Not if he crashed. Knock it off) when I saw him ahead. I followed the rest of the way. I have to say that he gave Steele a nice and easy ride. 

The show grounds are about an 80 minute drive so it doesn't take too long.  When I went to get Steele I could see that he was alert but he was neither sweated nor stressed. And all his hay was gone. I walked him to the edge and James told me to not be surprised if he hesitates. "some horses leap off, others take a while". I gave him the lead line figuring that he was more experienced than I was. Steele was funny- sniffing the edge of the 'cliff', peeking down and looking at me. James rubbed his head and said "doesn't matter to me if you take 3 hours buddy. You take your time." Since I was paying him by the km and not the hour I was impressed with that. I realized that my friend had been completely correct in her recommendation. James and I chatted idly for about 15 minutes when I saw Steele ready him self and carefully bring his front end onto the ground. Now he was half on-half off the trailer. Three seconds later he was totally off. He looked quite pleased with himself. And rightly so. 

I rubbed his forehead. 
"Now we're going to walk over to that big barn. When we get there there's going to be lots of excitement- horses, riders, servants etc. Don't worry. I'm with you"
He followed me through the parked cars and trailer up to the barn just like we were home. At the door of the barn I hesitated to give him a chance to take it all in. We then walked in and up to his stall. 

Now I should explain about his stall. In the Windsor Exhibition Show Grounds there is an ancient barn with stalls of all types. Knowing that Steele can escape at times I booked him into a big one made out of portable panels. that way I knew he'd be safe. So there is a cement ledge on which sits the pipe of the portable stall. All in all it's about 4 inches high. Steele looked at that and froze. He could not figure out how to step over it. He tried once and banged his toe so he stopped. 
"sorry, it's blocking me. I can't get in"
My neighbours came over to help. A couple were gently tapping on his hind quarters while I urged him from the front. I even tried treats. Nope. He wasn't refusing, he just couldn't figure out how to do it. I also think that he enjoyed the attention. After about 10 minutes of this I asked Danielle to hold the lead line and I went up and took his front leg. He's used to me lifting it to stretch out the skin after I tighten the girth. This time I picked up his right leg and placed it into the stall. 

So now picture this adorable young Andalulsian with one leg in, three legs out while three women are coaxing him in and he's completely frozen. Like a statue. 

With a sigh I take a hold of his left leg and place it inside. Now he's half in -half out. In 10 seconds the penny drops and he goes 'oh!" and comes in as nice as you please. I thanked my helpers. One thing I love about the shows here is that everyone goes out of their way to be supportive and helpful. 

We had arrived and were already getting attention. 
do not tell that story! 

um, where's Irish?