Ladies Night

On midnight Christmas Eve, animals talk. This year, Mathilda gave us an earful:

“Nobody ever asks the other horses. You are at the barn, what two, three, hours tops? We are the ones who have to live with your choice 24/7. Okay, I admit, he’s cute in his way. However, 19 years of an arranged marriage to one Thoroughbred was enough. Now I gotta train another one?!

“It started well enough. The first pasture had lots of space, lots of grass, lots of horses. Once I convinced the residents that I had hooves and wasn’t afraid to use them, I made a some friends. Life was good. One of the horses living in that field, a skinny Thoroughbred, thought he was all that. He screamed like a stallion, even though we could all see he wasn’t. He was a pig about getting to eat first and had to be the one standing closest to the fan. He didn’t bother me much. I wasn’t his type. He always had some silly filly who didn’t know any better off in a corner.

“Of course you know what happened. We moved. You brought him. Of all the horses you could have chosen, you picked him. HIM! Have you no sense? Didn’t you see me trotting back and forth along the fence line begging you to bring another horse, any other horse?

“I guess over the years we worked out a sustainable living arrangement. As long as I let him eat first, he thought he ran the field. I can’t say we ever got to be buddies. Oh sure, there was the occasional clandestine nuzzle. And yes, I threw a fit when you took him down the driveway, but that was self-defense. I was afraid of being alone.

“Silly me. Alone wasn’t so bad. I got to eat any patch of grass that caught my fancy. I could nap in the barn whenever I wanted. I left part of my breakfast for elevenses.

“After a year of my getting used to being single, you bring in another bay Thoroughbred. Okay, this one is nicer, but there are rabid skunks nicer than that other horse. And, yes, I made a bit of a fool of myself over him at first but I’ve calmed down. I mean, he’s less than half my age. I’m exhausted. It’s nice having a boy toy, but all the time? Perhaps some sort of visiting hours?

“Plus, this one has issues. He thinks of the entire run-in shed as his own private stall. Seniority clearly means nothing to him. What his kicks lack in snake-like speed they make up for it in reach. I’ve learned to just walk away. There is no reasoning with a Thoroughbred.

“Also, more carrots.”

Not a Mudder

Work: More rain. No work but a surprise heat therapy session.

As it had been raining since breakfast, I assumed the day was a write-off. When I went to do a carrot check in the afternoon, I found my bold future event horse completely dry from standing in the run-in shed all day. Mathilda, a mare, had naturally been out on patrol and was therefore soaked.

How does your horse feel about rain?

Thank you, Duke*

[*The wellington story]

Work: AM heat therapy/very short walk, albeit with bouncy dog. Walked over schooling logs as a sop to me.
PM groom/ground ex [turning box, plank]. It’s shaping up to be an easy week, so why push it? Although on the way out of the ring, I asked him for an in-hand jump over the tiny upright logs. Just because.

More rain last night. Squish. VOE: Not all tall, green, rubber boots are Wellies, no matter how they are advertised. The field mark is the red-rimmed label on the upper front of the leg that says HUNTER. After finally forking out for the real thing, I found out why an entire nation goes nuts over these boots. They are waterproof (of course), sturdy (a pleasant surprise), and comfortable (a great surprise). I can go for a long mare walk without feeling as if I have done so barefoot. When we have had a run of mud, I will often find myself still wearing them days after the mud has gone. They are that easy on the feet. Now, if I could only do something about the mare’s mud-pack, spa treatments.

How do you stay dry in the wet?

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?