dancing horses

dancing horses

Wednesday, April 29, 2015


I'm finding Carmen interesting. These are just a few snippets:

Today the farrier came. When I arrived at the barn he had started at Irish. Actually, his young apprentice was working on Irish. Irish looked at me:
"oh hi. I'm helping to train this youngster. She's trying really hard"
Irish kept nuzzling her and giving her lots of encouragement. It was adorable. When Paul took over he stood there and dozed.

It was then Carmen's turn. I brought her out and as we talked about her she gave him the hairy eyeball. But when she looked at me her ears would come forward. She was well behaved with the farrier and just needed a small trim.

Ed commented to Paul that she wasn't like Steele in that when he came to the barn or in the field she completely ignored him. I looked at him in surprise. When I go out to the field she follows me around.

This morning she dove into her food like always but half way through she came over to me while I was cleaning her stall and just stood there with me for a few minutes.

Last night I was out late and when I got home Ed was in the barn starting on the chores. When I came in I helped him finish up. The horses got their evening alfalfa and apples. But Carmen kept her head over the stall door, ignoring her feed and looking at me. I went up and said 'hi'. She looked at me and I kissed her nose (it is an adorable nose) and then she went to eat.

I'm not sure if I'm reading more into it or not but it seems that I may have been adopted.

see what i mean about the nose

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Princess and the Pea

I love to ride. I truly do. There's a feeling of 'home' sitting on a horse that is rare and magical to me.

So of course I had plans to ride on Sunday. I waited for Ed to get home from Church so that I wasn't riding alone. I decided to leave Irish out in his paddock. I knew that that might cause some issues with Carmen but I'm not moving horses in and out because one might be upset. She would simply have to adjust. That said I shut the barn doors and made sure that I had everything ready so that I could be efficient. I decided to try Irish's memory foam pad under the saddle to see if she liked that (saddle fitter is coming soon).

She came right up to me in the paddock and followed me in. When I put her in the cross ties she began to get upset but I simply reminded her to stand and went about my tasks. I was very pleased that she settled in a few minutes. Not that she was pleased- far from it- but she was well behaved. That was enough for me. Irish stayed out of the barn.

We entered the ring and she showed me that she knew the drill. I was leading her around and she was being lovely when all of sudden all hell broke loose with Irish in the paddock. He began to run up and down, squeal, buck and generally through a hissy fit. I couldn't figure it out. But, what I was thrilled about was that Carmen completely ignored such shenanigans. She stayed focussed on me and really tried to figure out what I wanted.

I brought her over and got ready to mount. She backed up when I stood on the step stool. I got off and had her back up even farther. I then brought her back up. I was prepared to do this for an hour if required- I wasn't getting on until she stood. I must have conveyed that idea because she stood perfectly still. I guess she was just checking.

Our walk work was quite nice so I asked for a trot. She gave a small crow hop and was not happy to go forward.
After a few more small bucks and ear pinning I stopped her and dismounted. I took out the pad and got back on. At my first request to trot she hesitated and then surged forward. Obviously the pad was pinching. Our trot work, while not stellar was pretty good. Our only issue was that she started to get a bit over-tempo. I focussed on slowing my posting to bring her back. She broke into a canter and I let her go forward for a circle or two before I asked her to come back. She really didn't want to but I wasn't ready to let her go- Ed was also no where in sight.

Should I mention that through all this Irish continued to pitch his fit? And this was our first time solo in the ring? I found a good moment and dismounted. She walked down with me like a good girl. I untacked her in her stall and she went out to see Irish. She then came right back in to eat hay keep me company.

As I was doing my chores, a girl mounted on a horse went cantering down the road. Irish freaked out again. Ahh. Ed confirmed that she had ridden by when I went up to the ring. That was why Irish went crazy. For whatever reason, horses going by make him lose his mind. Carmen looked at the horse and then carried on calmly eating. Phew.

just keep listening to me and it will all be fine

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Ride #2

Yesterday my friend (and fabulous farm sitter) Joanne came out to see me ride Carmen. She also brought her camera so all photo credit goes to her.

Cynthia also came to ride Irish, who made sure that he had a good coating of mud so that he was wasn't cheated on the grooming. Don't tell me that that horse does not have a sense of humour.

As soon as Carmen and I started lunging it was obvious that she was not as mellow as the day before. There was far more zip in her step and she was just a beat or two behind listening to me.
'just a sec, I'm busy right now'. 

While I am fine with horses expending energy on the lunge, I believe that it should be controlled energy. I don't like feeling like I'm flying an 1100 pound kite in a thunderstorm. So as we lunged up and down the ring I kept reminding her what I wanted.

Whoa is not 'I would really appreciate it if you would whoa. That is  you don't mind stopping, take your time."

I'm more like 'whoa' and then 'WHOA'.  After a few WHOAs, Carmen tuned in to the 'whoa'. And got lots of praise for it. When she was clearly listening to me I decided that it was time to get on.
ohhh you meant Whoa? why didn't you say so?

Add caption
She walked up to the mounting stool (Ed hasn't finished my big mounting block yet) and stood completely still while I mounted.  When we walked off it was clear that she was still a bit tight. So I did lots of changes of directions and circles (big and small) to keep her mind on me and not all the other things that could get her into trouble. After walking for a bit I asked her to trot. I felt a hesitation at first but that could be the saddle. I posted gently trying to see if she seemed to feel pinched. However, after a few strides out she settled in to the trot work.

Carmen definitely has a lovely forward stride in trot and walk. I kept my reins a bit short because I still don't know what she does if she spooks and I didn't want us to get in trouble.
Carmen looking at the tarp on the ground and me riding a bit defensively. sigh
I was really focussing on sitting up and keeping my core engaged rather than curl forward which is what I do when I'm feeling vulnerable. I'm doing way better with that but it take mental effort. 

Irish and Cynthia were going around doing their work and Carmen decided that that's where we needed to be. I, however, had other ideas so I kept us away. This lead to a  few disagreements. 

 I made sure that I released each time that she went the way I wanted and she started to get the idea. She did do one big spook at something in the grass and started to run away. I pulled her into a one rein stop but it took a few circles for her to realize that she wasn't going anywhere. As I pulled her head towards my knee she was all "hey stop that!" and I was all "you first". As soon as she stopped I released the rein and while she thought that over I stroked her neck. After that things went much better. She might be a bit of a princess but she's a smart princess.

According to Cynthia and Joanne I smile a lot when I'm riding this horse. I am not aware of it.

But can you blame me? 

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Right Moment

This was a busy week at work. I spent a large part of it on the road.  We've also had lots of rain. The good news is that the snow is gone. The bad news is that everything squelches. But I'm not complaining. 

Today I had to go into the city. I texted my friend Cynthia and at the end I was picking her up on my way home so we could play with the ponies. There was rain on the way home but the sun came out when we got home. After a quick change we got the horses ready. Both Irish and Carmen were pretty mellow getting ready. I decided to put on her saddle and bridle. She looked at me as I put her tack on but didn't seem concerned. I used my thick pad and the fit seemed to be pretty good. 

My plan was to lunge her and play the rest by ear. We walked around and then lunged up and down the ring. She was very good. She did spook at the some stuff by the gate but it was no big deal and she settled down very quickly. By the end she was stretching out and blowing. I asked her to halt and then lowered the stirrups. She stood there looking at me. I brought her up to the mounting stool (the one Ed is building isn't done quite yet). She stood while I climbed up on the block. I shook the stirrups and leaned over. She stood there.

I realize that she's a trained horse and I am, perhaps, being too cautious but I've always had green horses to start so this is what I know. I led her back up and stood in the stirrups.

 I swung my leg over and I was on. 


On my horse. 

She stood there with her ears swivelled back. I patted her and asked her to walk forward. We walked up and down the ring, doing circles and changes of direction. She was perfect. Cynthia, who was riding Irish, looked at me and said- 
'you know that you are grinning like a Cheshire Cat don't you?"
 I asked for a few walk-halts and decided that that was a good point to stop. I hopped off and gave her a big pat. 

 She looked at me: "that was it?"

We walked down to the ring for a well earned supper. It was the right moment to get on and it was the right moment to get off. 

And it was great way to start.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Lunging Work

I was off on Monday as well. My friend Cynthia came out to ride Irish and brought a mutual friend Barb. Barb hadn't met my horses yet and wanted to come and see our place. She took the pictures below. 

We brought in the horses to get them ready. Carmen was very good in the cross ties, except when it came to picking out her feet. She decided that I was holding them too long and should.let.go. NOW. Which means, of course, that I hang on longer and kept picking up her feet and holding them until she realized that it wasn't her decision to make but mine. My horses must behave for the farrier so I will do what I need to in order not alienate him. 

I took her out and up to the ring. I wondered if she would mind leaving Irish but she seemed okay with it. We started off with leading work. I led her around from either side, started, stopped, sped up, slowed down, changed direction and just generally was unpredictable. Her job was to follow me, stay out of my space and pay attention.She did very well. Even when Irish came up she stayed focussed. 
Cynthia mounted and walked off and I stood there as Irish went by. She didn't move a muscle. 
here I am leading her on the off side. She didn't mind. 
I love this'what do you want' face

look at that reach

We started lunging. I wanted to focus on response to my commands- walk, trot, canter, whoa. There ware good moments and bad moments. Our trot-walk and halt-walk needs work. I believed that she genuinely didn't know what I was asking (again how I was asking or my accent), so I treated it like she had never been lunged before and showed her what I wanted. After about 15 minutes she walked off from the halt (rather than trot) and I praised her profusely. She likes praise. I fell in love with the rhythm of her trot. It stayed so regular even when she was a bit excited.
see- she can walk! 

me giving some encouragement. Carmen is clearly thinking here. 
The canter was a bit excited at first. She wanted to canter off from the tarp laying on the ground on the corner. After being pulled a few times up the ring I realized that I needed to cue her sooner to not run out of the circle. I started gently reminding her (with tugs) to stay with me and it worked very well.
and CANTER! 

look at that lovely square halt
We finished with me bring out a small step stool. I wanted her to stand by it and not move away. I don't like moving the block to the horse, I prefer to be able to move the horse to the block. After a few trials I could climb up, lean over her and jump down and she stayed. 
getting a pat for good work
After I walked her out of the ring to eat the grass that is starting to come in. Cynthia rode Irish by and back to the barn (in case you wondering Irish was a star too). I was ready to discuss with Carmen that she needed to stay with me and not follow but I needn't have worried. She could have cared less. At first I thought it was the grass but even when I led her back down she moseyed beside me like a seasoned horse. I remembered that Warwick Schiller says that a horse doesn't experience separation anxiety if they have a leader (or something like that). I'm thinking that's what was happening here.

I love that our third time in the ring went so well. I'm getting excited to get on her. Can you tell?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

My Fabulous Weekend

With the snow melt starts the spring cleanup. This time of year when the snow is going and the grass hasn't started everything looks very messy. Some of it is perception and some reality. The accumulation of hay and poop in the snow leaves quite the mess.

I started some of the clean up of the little paddock. I got a bit done and then the tractor got a flat tire. Of course everything closes at noon on Saturday and it's now 11:30. So we use the ATV to finish dumping the cart and leave it for now. I did put some into piles to make the pick up easier. Ed and I also cleaned the house from top to bottom. We joked that it was too bad no one was coming so that they could see it before the dogs tracked mud in.

Ed has also been busy in the garage making some things for me:

new letters for my ring: don't you love that they spell 'behave?'

a new mounting block. it's perfect. 

The weather was getting warmer and I checked out the ring. It's pretty much thawed so I go into the field and put a halter on Carmen. She followed me out of the gate and we went up to the riding ring. She was 'up' but well behaved. My plan was to lunge her lightly. I wanted to see what she knew and introduce her to what I knew and see if we could communicate. She started off quite excited and a crowded me a few times. I introduced her to the idea of my 'bubble'- I have a space around that she's not allowed to intrude into. Once she was quite pushy and hit me with her shoulder. I smacked her with the end of my lunge whip and sent her out. She tried to run away but I kept her with me. After that she was more respectful of my space.

After 15 minutes I called it a good start and we headed back to the barn. when we went out the gate she trotted out ahead of me. This led to us going in and out and in and out and in and out until she was walking like a civilized horse. In the barn I wanted to give her a good grooming.  That, in retrospect, turned out to be a mistake. Irish followed us into the barn which was good but then he left. That's when her separation anxiety kicked in. She became quite agitated and banged around pretty much ignoring me. I did some more ground work to keep her focussed on me but as soon as I put her back in the cross ties she became agitated again. In the end I decided to let her figure it out by herself. So I stopped trying to groom her and stepped back. I kept the lunge whip with me to keep her from charging forward (and the barn doors were closed). She pranced, whipped her head around and pawed. Essentially she threw a tantrum. I realized that I should have left the lunging on a good note and put her right back into the pasture - I prefer to work on one new thing at a time. But it was too late and we needed to work through it. Once she was standing calmly (if not happily) I quietly undid the cross ties and led her back out.

Then two friends came to visit so we got to show that the house can be clean.

After I brought the horses in and then I brought Carmen back out to the cross ties. I was hoping that I hadn't undid my accomplishments. I needn't have worried- she stood completely still and I was able to groom her like I wanted. She seemed unfazed by her experience.

Today was lovely as well. I went for a 5 km run first thing. It was great to be able to run outside again and not on a track. Later I  had a visit from a friend who wanted to meet Carmen. Both her and Irish were well behaved and charming. We had a nice chat and after she left I went in and changed into riding clothes. I went out to the field with lead line and halter. Carmen headed down towards the barn but Irish came charging down and chased her back into the field.
Irish: "no you fool- it's a TRAP!"

I waited and followed them out.
Irish: "don't say I didn't warn you"

I put the halter on Irish and led him down to the barn.

Irish: "wait? what? I thought you wanted Carmen. Hey, you have the wrong horse"

I tacked him up and led him out of the barn while Carmen munched in her stall. When we left she became upset and ran out to the little paddock. I mounted and we headed up to the ring. I wanted to have a short ride working on stretching and suppling. I know that Irish lost a lot of muscle tone over the winter and he needs to be brought back slowly. While we were riding, Carmen ran out of the barn and gave a long whinny. She then ran into Irish's stall, gave a loud whinny. Ran back out and into her stall and then back out. She then stood there and watched us.

The nice thing about a 15 year old horse is that you can throw a saddle on after 4 months off and he'll behave. Mostly. But he's Irish so I didn't give him that long a rein (after all he dumped me last year). However, he was very well behaved. We walked mostly with a little trotting. After 15-20 mins I rode him back to the barn. Carmen was happy to have us back.

Now it was her turn. While Irish was in the barn cooling off I took Carmen up to ring. Every time she tried to get ahead of me I would make her back up. If you were watching us it probably looked we were doing a cha-cha. In the ring I lead her around a bit and she was very good. We then started to lunge. Over all she was very good. Our only issue was she didn't seem to understand my walk command (probably my accent). Every time I said 'walk' she would stop instead. When I asked her to walk on she would trot instead. However, with repetition I finally got her to walk and then gave her lots of praise. She never pulled against me and seemed to be trying to figure out what I wanted.  I really liked her focus and how she didn't seem to care that Irish was calling from the barn. Back to the barn and I let them out to have a few more hours of sunshine.

I was really happy with how well she's settling in.

I had such a lovely weekend playing with my horses and just being outside.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Excited over Nothing

The snow is melting rapidly. Actually, Ed pointed out that it's not melting so much as receding. And it does look very much like flood waters. Especially since all that melting snow is turning into rivers. My ditches are doing their job of taking the melting snow and ice away.

I brought Carmen out to groom last night and she stood completely still and calm while I gave her a good cleaning. I was very excited. When Ed came in I exclaimed 'look!' while gesturing excitedly at Carmen.

What? She's not doing anything.

Exactly. I smile.

Ed has been around this block before so he realized what I meant.

Oh, you're happy that she's doing nothing? Congratulations. 

I'm choosing to believe that he was sincere.

If Carmen poops in the cross ties she becomes very concerned that she might step in it. She gingerly hops sideways to make sure that her hoof does not touch it. It's quite comical. And it explains why her manure is often buried- maybe she's part cat.

The horses are also able to move around more in the field. There is still some snow but it's very shallow. On Wednesday I looked out my bedroom window and saw Irish very slowly and carefully picking through the snow- checking to make sure that the footing was okay and that he wouldn't sink. Carmen was right behind him following. It was too adorable. You could see that she was unsure but willing to try it. Every now and then one of her feet would sink in about 4 inches.

oooh ooh IRISH help! I'm sinking! 

oh wait. No, I'm okay. (*shakes snow off foot*) but that was a close one! 

Last weekend I could barely make out the top of the mounting block in my ring. Last night I saw that there was enough space to begin lunge work. That large open area with nothing  got me planning for Saturday....
mounting block on April 11

Friday, April 17, 2015

Standing Still

As the snow continues to melt I am still easing into our work. One of my expectations is that a horse will stand quietly and without drama in the cross ties. It took a while for Irish and Steele to figure it out. I rely on frequent practice and consistent expectations. Over time it becomes a non-issue.

Miss Carmen is your pretty typical 5 year old. She's happy to stand in the cross ties for a minute or so and then becomes bored. She will paw and shuffle and generally look surprised that I would expect her to stand there.

'come on mom, I've been here for HOURS. And I'm bored. And hungry. And I'm pretty sure I have to pee"

I maintain my patience and keep putting her back to where I want her and praising her for standing still. I do correct the pawing though.

The other day I was giving her a thorough grooming and she was feeling pretty restless. I just kept working away. I usually save the tail for last. I sprayed in some Cowboy Magic (I like it for keeping the mud out of it) and began to brush it. She did not like the spraying
'ohh oooh. it feels weird!"
I just ignored this and kept spraying. I then started brushing. Carmen has a beautiful tail- thick and wavy. I quite enjoy brushing it and getting out the bits of hay and shavings, untangling the knots etc. As I was brushing I realized that she was standing perfectly still. I looked up- her head was lowered, her eyes were soft and it was clear that she was really enjoying the attention.

Turns out that my princess likes to have her hair done.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Let's Talk About Fear

This topic has been rolling around in my head for while. Today seemed like the right time to write it. I was inspired by a fellow blogger and friend Pam Levy: http://thewatertrough.ca/2015/04/11/who-makes-you-brave-2/ . You should check out her blog- it's a good one.

I do not consider myself to be a fearful person. Most times I go along believing that it will be okay and that I can handle stuff. But that all changed back in December.

When I was in the swamp with Steele waiting for help to arrive I have never felt so afraid or helpless in my whole life. That fear settled like a hard knot in my spirit and took up permanent residence.  I managed pretty well convincing Ed and myself that I was becoming okay.

Then Carmen came home and that knot of fear took over my whole being. I became terrified to let her out in the field. Like shaking terrified. Like unable to focus and leaping up to check the window every five minutes terrified.

Now fear can be useful- it lets us know that what we're contemplating doing is probably not a good idea. But it can also be non-productive and paralyzing. Which is what I experiencing and I had no idea how to deal with it. The winter weather didn't help. Somehow, the snow and ice became part of Steele's death in my head and I couldn't separate the two of them. The more it snowed and the colder it was the more oppressed I felt.

What was I afraid of? Essentially that something terrible was going to happen to Carmen.

I worried that she would flounder in the snow and break her leg.

I worried that she would jump over the fence (because the snow was so high) and break a leg.

Mostly I worried that the dogs would come back.

Really I was just surrounded by a cloud of fear and I couldn't talk myself out of it and had no idea how to deal with it.

I was even contemplating leaving Carmen inside until the snow melted. I knew that that was not a good idea and I didn't do it but I seriously thought about it.  Each time I let her out it felt like I was doing the bravest thing ever.

Ed was very very patient with me. He re-arranged his work schedule to make sure that he was home if I was away (he works from home). I was incapable of both of us being away and the horses outside. My good friend Joanne, seeing my fear, came and babysat one day when we both had to be at work.  We would talk about it. Ed would patiently point out that this couldn't go on forever. And I would reply that I knew that but couldn't figure out how to get around it. Every time they were out I would check out the window every 5 minutes. There were times when I actually sat there and talked myself through waiting another 5 minutes.

This has given me a whole new appreciation for people with Anxiety Disorders. I think that their ability to function at all should qualify them for a medal.

Slowly with time it's been getting better.

And then spring finally arrived. This weekend started with warm temperatures and rain which greatly reduced the snow level. Then on Saturday  the weather has warm and sunny. This finally melted the ice locking in Irish's door and we could open it to the outside. And when that happened that knot in soul began to loosen. Which is ridiculous. And freeing.

Carmen immediately popped inside Irish's stall and peed. She checked everything out and hung out with me in the barn. She's been spending the past two days thoroughly enjoying being able to pop in and out at will. Her stall should be free by this afternoon.

let me see if I like this one better
Irish: "I always lose my stall to the mares"

I've been outside digging trenches for the run off and couldn't be happier. Who knew that watching snow melt could be so much fun.

There has also been other interesting developments as well. With this change in myself Carmen is now much more interested in me. She seeks me out when I'm outside and positions herself by me. When I'm  near she blows in my ear. Last night I put her in the cross ties and she was as good as gold. I dropped an item in the food bin to surprise her and she looked at me with disdain "seriously?" If she had eyebrows she would have arched them.  I thought that I was covering up my emotions but you really cannot fool horses.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Full of Piss and Vinegar

That is how I would describe Miss Carmen these days. She is full of energy but unable to expend it in the deep snow and it's resulting in her feeling very energetic.

Yesterday it rained in the afternoon and the horses had to come in. When I came home from work I put Irish in the cross ties, cleaned out his stall and gave him a quick groom. He was, of course, Mr. Perfect.

I then brought out Carmen. She snorted at the radio playing and I had to stand there for a bit while she realized that the radio (which she's heard every day since she arrived) was not going to leap off the shelf and bite her on her delicate nose (she does have the cutest nose). I then put her in the cross ties. I decided to proceed on the side of caution so I shut the barn doors just in case she broke out of her cross ties.

I then started cleaning out her stall.

(Which leads to a question for other mare owners- is there a trick to finding the pee spots of mares? With geldings it's easy but I find looking for hers difficult. Kinda like an easter egg hunt. Only with pee. Not chocolate. )

Sorry, back to my story. Carmen was quite impatient, moving around, pawing and generally behaving like a young horse with an excess of energy. I ignored the unwanted behaviour and praised her when quiet. She does like being praised. I finished by putting hay in her rack and then went to give her a groom. That was okay- she likes being groomed. I then decided to put on her lighter blanket because it's warming up. I remembered that it was in my trunk which is, of course, a catch all for lead lines, brushes and other stuff that I plan to put away. I picked up some stuff and dropped it into the feed bin of the empty stall.

Carmen exploded. I leaped away while she leapt ahead
Flee, run for your lives!
She jumped ahead and hit the end of the cross ties and then bounced back (I love my stretchy cross ties, they give so there's less to fight). She stood there prancing piaffing and looking wild eyed.

"whoaaa" I said soothingly.
whoa? WHOA? I must flee
You're being silly I simply made a noise. 
I began to rattle the items in the feed bin while she stamped her feet. I kept doing it and she started looking less frightened and more peeved.
Stop that!
I will. when you stop dancing around. 
I don't like it
I realize that but noises happen all the time and you can't just flee. 

We ended with me dropping stuff into the bin and her standing there. Looking royally annoyed but still. That's my girl.

I finished up with my groom and changing out her blanket. I walked her back to the stall and she got ahead of me going in.
So we spent some time going in and out of the stall until she remembered what it was I expected.

I did like how quickly she figured out that the noise was no big deal. I tend to not pussy foot around my horses so that they get used to noise and abrupt movements without losing the plot.

All of this is the result of young horse, well fed who needs to be exercised. I've cut back her grain ration and bumped up her roughage. While I would like more weight on her I will have to settle with a slower gain until I get her butt into the ring and put it to work.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

In Which I Score Shiny New Boots!

I have to confess to a weakness for footwear.  Put me in any shopping district or mall and I can walk by most stores but am drawn to the shoe stores. To continue on requires a herculean effort of will. I also have the ability to find the most expensive pair of shoes in any store.  It's a gift. Or a curse, because I have limits on what I will pay. So imagine my excitement when I saw a flash sale on  nifty pair of boots on the Dover Website- Turffrider Sport Dress Tall boots. They were on sale for $99! I clicked through to the website and began to purchase. I was profoundly disappointed to find out that the shipping to Canada was more than double the cost of the boots.
I was annoyed.
yes that's me. 

I posted whine on FB. Which turned out to be a smart decision, no matter what the experts say

Because a friend of mine sent me a message that she was travelling to the U.S. soon to visit a friend and could bring them back. A few messages back and forth and arrangements were made. I bought the boots and had them shipped them to the U.S. address for a reasonable delivery fee. My friend picked them up, declared them at the border and then sent them to me. They arrived today.

Unfortunately kittens don't come as an extra
They are soft and supple- a combination of half-chaps and boots in one.
I love the design

tabs at the bottom and top for the zipper

gussets on either side of the zipper
I measured my calf three times to make sure- but yup I fit the 'regular calf size' (insert happy dance here that I'm no longer 'extra wide'!). And they fit like a glove. I am glad that I ordered a half-size up in the foot though. I have a wide foot and often have to go up a size.

I can't wait to start schooling in them.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

An Upset in the Status Quo

As you know from my last post you know that Irish is being a bit of a bully with Carmen. I think that there's a few reasons-

1. Herd dynamics: there is always a hierarchy with horses. It might be subtle but it's there.

2. Weather: It.Won't.Stop.Snowing. Which means that the turn out space is limited. The horses are
feeling a bit cooped up and I don't blame them. Winter is like a house guest that won't leave.

3. Irish is missing Lexie. I know I'm anthropomorphizing here but I truly believe that he misses her. He's looks in her stall every morning and just seems to be looking for her.

I've taken to putting out 3 piles of hay spaced far apart so that Carmen can have access to hay without being chased away.

Today I let them out late because it had been (surprise!) snowing. They pranced around a bit and Irish had a great time rolling. Before Carmen would watch him with a look of horror. Today she sniffed, pawed, sniffed, pawed and then rolled. She looked like she find it surprisingly refreshing.

Carmen went to pile of hay and Irish chased her off. She went to go around to the other one and he body blocked her.  She turned around and I said 'For heavens sake give him a kick'. At that point she let fly with both heels-missing him but definitely a warning shot across the bow.
'whoa'  Irish backed up like he was on fire.

I swear that I  saw a light bulb go off over Carmen's head. With a squeal and a leap she chased him down into the small paddock while I laughed. She looked at me  like a cat that ate the Canary.

Last time I looked out Carmen was eating at the hay pile of her choice while Irish is down by the barn with a bemused expression on his face.

I am enjoying this young mare. Whenever I'm outside her gaze is locked on me. If a approach the gate she comes right down. While this may change once the grass is in I'm loving her attention.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Irish is feeling naughty

The weather is warming up and things are melting like crazy. I spent Good Friday digging paths for the melting snow so it wouldn't back up into the barn. So far so good. Yesterday Ed and I were heading into the city to watch a match for the Men World Curling Championship. Friends had secured a sky box. After we were to go to dinner.

I had arranged for a 'sitter' but I wanted the horses to be out for a bit in the morning even though it was raining lightly. I figured that I would bring them in around lunch before the rain really started. I put a rain sheet on Irish and took him out. When I went to get Carmen she gave an excited spin in her stall but then stood while I put on her halter. I opened the door and counted to five before we left. I won't take her out until we stand still at the door and she not allowed to pass me. She figured this out pretty quickly and I could see her actively repressing her desire to shoot by me and go out. We then walked out at a sedate pace and I let her go.

About an hour later I look out the window and there's Irish yanking on her blanket at her hind end while she eats. I throw up the window
He stops and looks around in surprise. He can't see me but he knows I'm somewhere. After a minute he reaches for her blanket again
He looks up again. where is she? 
He slowly and oh-so-casually brings his teeth back to the blanket.
I growl something incoherent out the window.
With that Carmen decides to move away.

I sit back down. About 20 minutes later I look out and he's chasing Carmen out of the small paddock. She goes up to the top of the hill and then back down. He pins his ears and she scoots back up. My snow is still pretty deep and I really don't want them fooling around. With a sigh I put on my boots and coat and head out.

As soon as she sees me Carmen comes trotting down the hill right to me.
save me!
Irish gives me his most innocent face.
I bring Carmen in and she walks perfectly beside me. As soon as she's in her stall she begins to spin excitedly.
"oh my god. Where's Irish? I need him!"

Horses are not big on logic.

I go and get Irish who comes in like a lamb and begins to eat his hay.
"I didn't want to be out there. Didn't you know it's raining?"

It's going to be an interesting spring. Once it arrives.

Friday, April 3, 2015

In Which Carmen Meets the Vet

Every year I have the vet come and do the annual vaccinations, teeth floating and general check up.  I was happy that we could arrange it for the week after Carmen arrived. This is the same vet who loaned us Lexie and I knew that he would be interested to meet our new addition.

I had planned to get home before he arrived so that I could bring the horses in, sweep the barn and maybe give them a quick groom. I didn't want him to think that my horses lived in a pig sty. As I'm in the truck heading home my cell phone pings with a message.

I'm pretty sure that I know what it is- and I'm right. It's Ed telling me that he's here an hour early. I send a message that I'm on my way and to start with Irish. I know that the vet had arranged us so that he could home after and that farm appointments with vets are general time frames because they never really know how their day will go. He will have to endure the unswept aisle from this morning.....

I pull up and hop out of the truck. Ed is there chatting with the vet. He says "I learn all sorts of things when Rob comes" I agree. Rob is one of those vets who loves to answer questions. We talk about Irish while Irish makes calf eyes at Rob. Irish loves this vet and will tolerate anything he does. I say "I truly believe that you could cut off his leg and he would stand there and let you do it". 
And while that might be an exaggeration, it's not by much. A few years ago Irish had stitches in his hind leg (up by the inside of his hock) where he got his leg caught over an electric rope fence. Rob was able to take his stitches out while he stood in the paddock without even a lead line. Irish just stood there and let him do it. Irish has his needles and his teeth lightly floated and he's done. We did discuss that Irish has lost muscle over his topline. I'm not surprised. With all the snow he really doesn't have room to move around.

We move on to Carmen. I take off her blanket and she looks at this new person in her stall. He looks her over just like he's doing pre-purchase exam. I'm not surprised, he loves to check out new horses. We talk about where she's from and how I came to own her. He commented that she was lovely, well put together and athletic.

 I said that the vet in Virginia who did the PPE said she needed her teeth done.  He looked and agreed- she had a lot of sharp points along her back teeth. Rob gave her a light sedative and within a few minutes she was all mellow and dozy. He let me feel her teeth and they were quite sharp along her cheek. It took a while but he got them all done and then gave her her vaccinations.  She began to come out of her sedation and began to happily munch on her hay.

As he was getting into his truck and I was checking that he hadn't left anything (he often does) he smiled at me and said 'you have a nice horse there'  and then he drove away. Irish watched him drive away and gave a sigh.

I went back in and hung over her stall door watching her eat. She came over to say hi and and I scratched her  nose.

I do have two nice horses.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Working on the Foundation

I've been spending my free time (time not spent working or ice chipping) spending time with Carmen and working on the foundation of our partnership. I know that this is something that is built on our daily interactions and needs to be built carefully and without shortcuts. One aspect I've been doing is working on her leading. She leads pretty good but she's not solidly following my lead and I need her to understand about personal space, pace, direction etc at a level that is without question.

Weanieeventer introduced me to Warwick Schiller videos. I've heard of him and seen some videos before but right now they are resonating with me. He doesn't do special gear or act like he's a magician. He simply applies simple common sense. He reminds me a lot of Royce (the one who helped me back Steele).  He has some lovely short videos on leading. it's very similar to what is done with dogs as well. The idea is that the horse is to stay behind you and follow wherever you go. They cannot drag you or pass you or act like a kite on the end of a string. What he does is walk around with  a loose line and whenever the horse is distracted or is trying to lead he changes directions. After a while the horse begins to really tune into him because they don't know where he's going next. And once they do that they stop worrying about what else is going around. He also says that as a horse begins to trust your leadership the separation anxiety will fade. 

I've been applying his techniques as I lead Carmen out in the morning and back in. Initially she was quite anxious as Irish goes out first and in last. But now I walk around with her until she's listening to me and not focussed on where Irish is. And it's working. She waits in her stall for me to lead us out  and does not try to drag us back to the barn. She is quite smart and quick to figure out what I want. 

Last night we went out and walked up and down the driveway by all sorts of things and, while she was a bit worried, as we worked she forgot about the house, flapping flag pole, garbage can, snow etc and focussed on me. I could walk and she followed behind. When I stopped she stopped and stood there. As soon as I moved she moved with me. I brought her in and gave her a nice groom. She stood well with no pawing. I took Irish out and she stayed calm and, rather than stand at her door looking anxious, she simply ate her hay.  

Today when I came home from work I changed to go out and do my barn chores. As soon as I came out she lifted her head, looked at me and gave a whinny.  It warmed my heart in way I haven't felt for a while. When I brought her in she was not panicked about where Irish was at all. She was a bit worried but she's moving in the right direction. 

I have a horse who is both smart and beautiful.