Rain Delay

Work: canceled on account of rain.

I’ve paid my rainy day dues. At one show, the heavens opened as I was on deck for a jump-off with a friend’s horse. I knotted the reins for grip. I put a big, honking knot in my friend’s new leather reins. Her mare pulled on one end. I pulled on the other. It took my friend months to get kinks out. One upside to being involuntarily retired from a show career is that one doesn’t have to engage in such silliness. No showing in the rain. No training in the rain to be ready for shows. Give the whole day the raspberry & stay inside.

If you don’t show anymore, what don’t you miss?

Daily Temps

Work: PM heat therapy & groom. Ran out of daylight.
Grade: none.

We have a cheap digital thermometer, which makes taking daily temperatures a breeze. Beats the stuffing out of the days of glass thermometers & clothespins. Speaking of breeze, both horses break wind as soon as I, um, begin the process. Every time. It’s like sticking a pin in a balloon. Plus, ejected air is apparently a few degrees cooler than the surrounding system. I’d have to retake for an accurate number. Usually, I just round up & make sure the result is under the fever/no fever barrier.

To date, we have already noticed that a horse is sick before we check temp.  Has anyone ever caught a problem with daily temperature readings?

Equine Tics

Work: AM heat therapy/walk – top of the hill.  He realized he was farther from the barn than usual but held it together.
PM long groom/no exercises  – yesterday’s trip down memory lane put me in a mood, so I fussed on him until I got over myself. Plus, he met me at the fence & stuck around the entire time without benefit of halter. So that was a warm fuzzy.
Grade:   for the walk, grading on a curve only slightly less steep than the hill.

As I posted in September, one of my daily time sinks is to take my husband’s retiree for a walk. When I do, Rodney goes to the run-in shed. If he’s out by the hay, he strolls back. If he’s at the far end of the field, he gallops back. Given that he often naps in there and that he retreats there after a panic attack, I assume he sees it as a place of safety. So, something about my taking the mare for a spin makes him want to hide. How weird is that?

What are your horse’s tics?

In the Beginning

Work: AM heat therapy/walk [reverse of Tues], PM groom/ground exercises [weave cones, turn-around box, reverse poles, plank]
Grade:   [spookier than strictly necessary during grooming but redeemed himself in the ring, which alone is worth a star.]

In their infinite wisdom, Horse Illustrated has published my story of shopping for Rodney as “Horse Tales: The Horse Next Door” in the February 2012 issue. The punchline is that while he lived several hundred miles away at the time of purchase, we initially met at a barn down the street. Aside from being blatant self-promotion, going over the story reminds me how captivated I was when I first saw him. If you had told me that four years later I would have that horse in my backyard, I would have said you were dreaming. If I knew then what I know now, would I still would have bought him? In all honesty, yes. The entire time I was trying him out, something drew me to this horse. Which means either that I have a discerning eye for horseflesh and marvelous things may yet happen OR that I am an emotion-driven idiot who bought the wrong horse for the wrong reasons. Time will tell.

What is the farthest you have ever traveled to look at a horse?

Helmet Evangelism

Work: day off.

First of many rants on the subject.

A few years ago, I decided to go on a short, quiet walk at home on my husband’s horse. Who needs a helmet under those circumstances? I did.
Factoids:
Matilda was 25 years old at the time.
We’d owned her for 18 years.
She had lived on this property for 15 years.
She was known to be a nutcase & IMHO not the most talented horse on the planet.

Since she is round & comfortable, I bridled her & hopped on bareback. The intention was to walk around the edge of her pasture 2-4 times. We did this regularly for cool-downs & brief rides. She could get a little stupid, particularly in one corner of the field. I kept at it, hoping she would eventually associate the walk with relaxation.

We had gotten past the scary bits and were walking, strolling, meandering along the calm part of the pasture. She was on the buckle with her head down and relaxed. I don’t remember if I was holding the reins or not. If I was, it was in a loose grasp with one hand. We were headed slightly downhill.

Suddenly the front end disappeared downwards. She had tripped. I grabbed on with my legs, partly out of instinct, partly waiting for her to sort herself out and stand back up, but mostly to avoid pitching forward and rolling off. She shuffled and stumbled forward a few steps on her knees. Then she displayed the talent I always suspected she possessed, gave up the battle, and rolled over on her side. Her front legs had pretty much folded up by then so it was a slow roll more than a sudden flop. My feet, leg, and hip gradually got steamrolled under her side. When my hip/thigh area was on the ground, the whiplash (leverage? torque?) took over and snapped my trunk and the side of my head to the ground. It was less than a fall from a standing position and certainly less than a fall from the top of a horse. Yet, I was surprised at the resounding whack my head made when it finally smacked down.

Results: Nothing broken. My foot was squashed flat with eventual stellar bruising along the sides. Head safe and sound inside my ASTM-approved helmet.

I was in the most harmless, most likely for someone not to have a helmet situation and yet I still hit dirt. It could have been much, much worse. I did have a moment where I looked along the length of my torso to see a horse lying on my leg and thought, “This can’t be good.”

Every ride, every time.

[This example was originally written up for “It’s Only Your Brain After All” by Kathie Mautner, published on the Chronicle of the Horse website on 6/4/10. It didn’t get used there & I wanted to talk about helmets here.  Fortunately, I’m a pack rat and I could find it.  I hate to see text go to waste.  Hence the excessive length of today’s post.]

Ground Exercise 4: Plank

Work: PM heat therapy/walk, 1/4 of pasture
Grade:

Set up: 24″ x 30″ plywood board.
Exercise: Stand on with both front feet.
Saturday was our first day with this.  As I suspected, he came right over to chew and paw.  With a modicum of convincing, he put one foot on & then both feet. Sunday, he walked up, plonked both feet down, and did his statue impression. I can think of many horses who would still be giving the plank the hairy eyeball. Rodney’s willingness to investigate new things gives me hope for his boldness should we ever make a cross-country debut. Future exercises with the plank will include rotating while keeping both front feet on it & possibly getting all four feet on it. Who knows, I may get him turning on the spot like an circus elephant.

What is the weirdest – while still safe – thing you have ever asked a horse to do?

Ground Exercise 3: Weave Cones

Work: AM heat therapy only, rider [a courtesy title] on disabled list. Cough. Sniffle.
Grade: n/a

Set up: 4 orange highway cones in a row, approximately 5′ apart.
Exercise: serpentine around cones.
If we ever get into the jumper ring or out on cross country, Rodney will have many winning virtues: stride, power, boldness. However, catlike agility will not be his go-to move. ‘Zippy little sports car’ will never describe him. Therefore, I had to work at staying supportive rather than laughing while he maneuvered his oversized carcass and hay belly through a series of 180o switchbacks. Yesterday, he did it on the first go, albeit with consternation evident on his face.

If your horse was an automobile, what kind would he or she be?