Thursday, June 28, 2012

updates, fires and horses

Some good news on the fires.  The Fort Collins fire is gradually becoming contained.  Some of the people who were evacuated over 2 weeks ago are finally being able to go up into some of the canyons, but many many homes were destroyed in these areas and it was sad to watch people waiting in line in their cars to be allowed to drive 'home.'  The ones whose homes are gone already have been told, but as they say, you have to see it for yourself.  Imagine being evacuated in an emergency, waiting for weeks and then being allowed to return to wreckage.  Long drawn out torture.

Boulder fire seems to be under control and contained up on the mountain.  Less wind and more rain would be nice.

Colorado Springs
The Colorado Springs fire is just an escalating nightmare as the fire burns its way into the northern part of the city.  The last I heard the Air Force Academy was trying to defend itself with bulldozers - good luck with that.   The north suburb has lost hundreds of homes, others look safe, but the fire changes direction all the time.  There is less smoke today so it is easier to see the area.

Horses...... Nina.
Poor Nina has not been out of her pen for 8 days.  And while I had vague hopes that 100 degrees might give her a hint to just calm down - Nope.  Actually I just didn't have any energy and was hoping.  I never did make it out to the barn yesterday, the days kept piling up.
But Nina is improving.  I don't know exactly why but her bad habits are quietly being pushed into the background. 
I hosed her off before tacking up and she was quiet until she was 90% done.  When I walked her to the round pen she started prancing and stepped on the edge of my boot - I chewed her out a bit and she settled until I closed the gate and took her lead rope off.  She did her tearing around thing for a few minutes.  I went to get my helmet and when I came back she was eager to greet me and stood quietly while I slipped her bridle on.  Then she trotted around a bit, stiff legged like she gets with worry, but only for a few minutes. 
Really not bad considering being cooped up for a week after only being ridden for a few days  and her apprehension at being ridden. 
I felt a little bad when I got on - no energy, remember - I clipped her on the butt with my boot.  She did look over her shoulder at that but did not move. 
Then I only rode her for about 10 minutes and she launched into a big swinging trot and was so nice to sit on. 

Something has clicked for us and it feels like all the bad behavior and nervous resistance have moved into the category of minor obstacles to be dealt with so we can move on to fun things, instead of those issues being all there is.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

little update

cresting the canyon wall

First some weather/fire stuff.
Fort Collins is not, at this moment, under threat from the fire, but hundreds of homes nearby have been destroyed.
A brand new fire started by lightning was suddenly threatening the edge of Boulder.  A sudden evacuation notice for the closest area went out yesterday afternoon, so far the fire is being contained.
I stayed up late last night watching the horrific fire in Colorado Springs.  It seemed to come to life mid afternoon exploding, swirling and sending cyclonic fires into the sky.  It also marched down a canyon too narrow for the air support to fly into.
I was fascinated at the sheer insanity of the helicopter pilots flying over this fire while it exploded, creating its own weather and wind.
Firefighters were working to beat this fire back when it crested the side of the canyon where there was minimal fuel.  Unfortunately, as it crested a wind sprang up - 65mph and it blew through the firefighters and started an unstoppable march into a suburb called Mountain Shadows.  32,000 people evacuated almost instantly.  I-25 closed for a while for the evacuation.
The picture above does not have location identification, but all of the information coming from the ICP was discussed at a location on I25, looking toward the mountains, with the subdivision in between, burning.  If this pic is near where I think it is, the Air Force Academy is just off to the side - also evacuated.

I do have to comment that I have been watching these ICP briefings, given to press and public at all the fires and ONLY in Colorado Springs were people accusing the firefighters of not doing their job to put out the fire.  They were demanding to know NOW whose homes had burned - as you can see the area beginning to burn.  They accused the firefighters of quitting when the truth was that they were IN that burning suburb fighting the fire in the dark.
I can understand the fear and anxiety and panic as you watch an out of control fire march toward the area where you live, but this sort of finger pointing accusatory crap is totally uncalled for.
At the briefing this morning people were insisting that they wanted more information about the 'person of interest' being talked about on FB.  Questions until the Chief of Police stepped in and said there WAS NO PERSON OF INTEREST.  He had to repeat himself several times.
This crowd was demanding, rude and ready to fire the incompetent 'help' - too bad one outspoken asshat, who told the Commander that obviously nobody was in charge, couldn't take a little stroll up to the fire, hundreds of feet high, stretching as far as you can see and moving faster than you can run, and just tell everyone what to do to put out the fire.  He needs to get out of his glass cubicle more. 
Ok, only a handful, but you don't see this attitude after weeks in Fort Collins or in the  panic in Boulder.  It says something.

ok, horse update.  
I got to the barn to feed on Saturday and Sunday and expected that Nina would have lost weight, but Fawkes owner very nicely was feeding her alfalfa and she looks fine.  She also has a new best friend!

Did a lesson with Fawkes and even though it was almost 100 at 9am we made some progress.
Here's a hint.  Want to learn some new ways to deal with some evasions?  Gather up your reins in one hand, hold a bottle of water in your other and deal with it.  You will come up with some interesting cures that will shock him and straighten his game playing butt out.
We made some progress and he jumped a grid again with nice forward impulsion, sometimes too much.  I had to sit on a barrel to be able to talk.
I was so exhausted I could barely put away the jumps and did not have the energy to even get Nina out.  I was less than happy about people making fun of me for being worn out by the heat.  F--- you!  And may you enjoy this nasty bug. Still feeling crabby.
I was watching the timeline countdown to the fun show and it has been cancelled and moved to fall.  Much better for an enjoyable day.
Today it is supposed to be only 90 by noon so I am going to ride, or at least sit on my horse.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

no energy and tooooo hot

I finally got out to the barn today.  Nina was happy to see her beet pulp and allowed me to pat her neck while she ate.  I had planned to get her out to lunge or turnout or roll or something.  I did not have the energy to ride.  A bank near the barn said that it was 103 degrees.  That and nothing to eat for three days about did me in.  I was exhausted walking from my car to Nina's run.  And she showed NO interest in getting out, it was probably too hot to roll in the burning hot sand.
Just put that beet pulp right here in the shade and all will be well.   There was a little breeze so the shade wasn't bad.  I gave Fawkes some alfalfa pellets and left them both happily munching away.

Friday, June 22, 2012

All better

I really think that when you get one of these bugs you should be able to check out for 48 hours or whatever it takes instead of living through it.
I spent the last two days mostly in bed, miserable, wondering if dead was this bad. 
Tonight I dragged out to the den, wrapped in an electric blanket (in 97 degree heat) and curled up to watch Big Bang Theory while I tried to die. 
Suddenly I was thirsty and then hungry, very hungry, ready for pizza or some other greasy junk food.  Apparently the bug is gone, like flipping a switch.  I'm glad it's gone, I think I will settle for a good night's sleep and skip the pizza.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

I am so sick!

I have been dragging around for the last few days with no energy - but it has been 100 degrees so I didn't think much of it. 
Yesterday I was really tired when I left the barn and by 9pm I was puking my guts out.  I still am.  A tablespoon of water was enough to set it off.  Although I am taking tiny sips of limeade for a little while and haven't died yet.
I hurt from my head to my toes and I have lessons to teach tomorrow.  I don't usually get these bugs that go around and I am not very happy.  And it hurts!  Somebody send magikal relief!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

prattling on

So now that Nina is back to work you have the choice of skipping this blog - or listen to me prattle on about every little thing.  Repetitiously!

So we have only had 4 rides and she is being great.  I feel like we are picking up where we left off 2 years ago, which is the last time I had a plan, goals and some focus. 

I have been letting her do her crazy flipping around in the round pen before we work.  It is caused by her apprehension and she can just work it out.  She behaves while being tacked up and waits to be released before she takes off.  When the nervous energy is gone she stops.  I think this will disappear with regular work.  Today I tacked her up, let her go to run and she whirled around, ran about 2 strides and turned to look at me.  'What am I supposed to be doing?'  She did launch into a 19h trot but only for a few minutes, looking sort of puzzled.    I don't expect that the running is over, but this does indicate that she didn't get wired up with adrenaline today while being tacked up. 

My plan is to start with nothing and introduce asking her for something new everyday.  We started with a day of walk.  Added some trot transitions.  Added trot over poles.  Today we added trotting laps in a nice forward rhythm.  This sounds simple but it was an issue for us.  She fussed about maintaining a rhythm, fell into a jog or spurted into a canter and was pissy about having to go back to a working trot.  Today we did laps and laps, reversed over some poles in the middle of the arena and did more and more laps.  Forward, driving trot, totally relaxed.   For all her foibles this is the most powerful horse I have ever sat on.  She isn't powerful charging forward or when she feels like it - instead she pushes off hard with hind legs for every single step when she trots or canters.  You better sit up to post or you could slide off the rear!

She had some hardware problems today.  My fault.  She walked off at the mounting block - a huge No No for me and I corrected her more harshly than needed with a hackamore.  She spooked and gave me a dirty look, but stood like a rock.  Sorry 'bout that - sort of.
Later she was falling out of the trot, I was using more leg, I got tired of that and gave her a swift kick - forgetting I was wearing spurs.  Ooops.  Oh well, no more lagging in the trot.

Not a big deal, she is accepting and seems to be glad to be back to work. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

back to work Nina

Nina was very good today.  Very forward and mostly relaxed. 
She did bash herself with the hackamore by sticking her head down between her knees but it wasn't me and she seemed to know it.  Two tries and no more.
We did figure 8s over a line of poles, she changes bend nicely.  Leg yields were good. 
She is so sensitive - when her mind is on her work she is great.

She is very apprehensive when I am tacking her up and wants to run around the round pen with her head up in the air, but she is getting over it.  I think it is odd that she can remember things that I taught her, like the leg yielding and do them calmly and cheerfully, but she is worried about being ridden until I actually get on. 
She would delight a shrink.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Onward and upward

I am feeling very psyched about getting back to work with Nina. 
Last year we did nothing.  I rode, we worked on things but I had no focus, no goals, I was overweight and out of shape and did nothing about it. 
This year I have lost weight and I am getting in riding shape.  I know there are a lot of riders who are pretty hefty and ride like I wish I could, but for me if I am not feeling in shape I feel off balance and vulnerable when riding.  Not all the time but often enough that it discourages pushing hard toward goals. 
Also last year I spent 6 months recovering from multiple skull fractures which kind of sapped my energy. 

This year I am feeling antsy to get things done.   I rode Nina on Wednesday and Thursday and she was fussy and then great and I was totally relaxed and enjoyed just sitting on her.    When I got on her a few times in the last few weeks I was tense and she was tense and I was anticipating an explosion and she was threatening. 
The last two rides have been like old home week.  No tension.  She pinned her ears and shook her head and stomped and then just abruptly stopped.  I rode her around in the arena on the buckle, turning and stopping and starting, walking and trotting, just off of leg and seat - so she did learn something last year - and it felt great!
I hope this continues, I am getting excited about saving the summer!

Tamarack Hill photo

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


The hackamore may actually work. 

Poor Nina has been standing around for months and all her old defensive-you-can't-make-me attitudes woke up at the sight of a saddle.  Yesterday she was a jerk.

Today I put a surcingle on her.  I just wanted to put a little pressure on the hackamore without getting on her and see if she flipped out at the pressure. 
So I lunged her a little in the surcingle and suddenly she did not want to be caught. Running wildly.  She would stop when I told her to and then wheel around and run off in the other direction.  

When she got tired she seemed to suddenly realize that I was not the enemy. 
Followed me over to where the bridle was hanging, stood quietly while I put it on and took it off and adjusted the headstall and the curb.  Waited to be told to trot off and was very obedient.  I tied up the reins to put a little pressure on her and while it pissed her off when she ran into it abruptly, she seemed fine with it. 

I suppose it is not at all surprising that after so much time off she would revert to her old behavior.
It is just so odd to watch her flip from scared wild animal to following me around and sticking her nose in the straps I am trying to fix like "what's up? what are we doing now?"
I am glad she is able to make the switch and that our experiences seem to bury the old bad ones - after a while.

And while I can't do the training she really needs in a hackamore (accepting the bit), we can both get some exercise and work on lots and lots of other things. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

good Monday

 I did a lesson with my newest student today.  With the horse that was previously left at my barn.  She has worked hard this week and he is SO much better.  Slower than the speed of light.  It is always nice when something works.
We actually jumped him over a crossrail today, just to see if he would.  He thought it was boring and wanted a different fence setter who could reach higher.  She would love to jump him - might be able to.

I tried a hackamore on Nina today.  I wanted to see if there was a possibility that I could ride her in one until her teeth get done.  I put it on the wrong headstall, it hung down to her nose and she was a JERK while I was adjusting it, jumping around.  So I took ahold of the top of the headstall and pulled it off of her - intending to adjust it and then put it back on - but I left the reins looped around her neck, forgot about them and she took off, dragging my good bridle in the dirt.  We were in the round pen so she couldn't go anywhere.  She only went to the other side and stood ON.MY.BRIDLE!  But she stood still while I walked over and unbuckled it so it fell off her.  I was a little pissed.  The bridle wasn't damaged but it is SOOOOO dirty it may never be the same again (not really).
I adjusted it, slipped it back on her and it was still too far down her nose.  I was going to take it back off but she was back in jerk mode, flipping her head up and down so I couldn't unfasten it.
So I lunged her, at a canter, balancing the hackamore on the tip of her nose.
I found an old headstall at home that is just a little shorter, it may work.  Try again tomorrow.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Yay Fawkes!

Fawkes has been difficult to get started jumping.  He can jump beautifully, but he could not deal with the idea of more that one jump.  He would leap over one jump and bounce around in a panic because there was ANOTHER one.

We have not tried him through a gymnastic in over a month.  Gymnastics teach them so much about balance and speed and jump that it is difficult to progress much before they understand a simple grid.
Getting him to watch where he is going has been difficult but stepping up on the flat work and demanding that he pay attention seems to be paying off.

He jumped through a standard 3 jump grid today, watched his distance, jumped beautifully and didn't get frazzled over it.  YAY!  Big big big progress for him.  And he was jumping using his neck and back and picking his knees up - not just vaulting or cantering over.  I was very pleased with him.
I did tell his owner that if by the time he is jumping 3 ft courses, he is going around quietly and Nina is going around like her hair is on fire - I will be pissed.   I was promised a round on Fawkes to make up for it.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

the Camelot horses

Like many others I try to share photos of the horses at Camelot in the hope that someone, somewhere will see a horse that interests them.
 I am always amazed that the photographer, Sarah K. Andrew, manages in this stress filled environment to capture such great images.
This is an article about how she does it.

This is the head shot of the last horse I posted, last weekend.  He found a new home.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

crappy day....

Nina is feeling good so the day wasn't all bad. 
But Fawkes was adamant that he has never had a person on his back before and he was a jerk.  He eventually was fine but it took a while. 
One of my students has scheduled and cancelled three lessons and a schooling show this week.
That is a lot of time to have set aside and not make a penny. 

I only have to survive three more months to have some income that I can count on again. 
If we can survive for three months.

goofy Nina

I threw a saddle and halter on Nina and was going to spend about 5 minutes riding her around the round pen.  And hour and a half later we had FINALLY worked through one of her hangovers from her previous life.

I know I posted about this before but I can't find the post so here is the Reader's Digest version:
Only in the round pen and only under tack a very strange behavior emerges - only a few times since I have had her.  She stands facing me, about 19h tall, sweating down her neck, rolling her eyes and determined to stay facing me no matter what.  She can back faster than I can run.
I first thought this was some sort of aggressive play but I am sure this is a learned/taught behavior and it is high stress for her.

When she has pulled this in the past I have been totally unable to change the behavior after trying everything I could think of.  I ended up just leaving her tacked up in the round pen and eventually she would relax.  But that is not dealing with it so yesterday when she did this I tried again.

I had a stool in the ring to use for a mounting block so I just sat down and ignored her for about 20 minutes.  She stood like a statue for a long time and never did move, but she finally let me walk up to her and touch her without running backwards.
After a while more I was able to lead her around the edge of the pen, when her neck relaxed I was able to back away, tell her to 'walk' and she would continue.  At the 'trot' command the weird behavior re-appeared.

But I was onto something, this is a horse that lunges to voice command like a machine so I just continued and eventually I was able to get her to relax and walk and trot.

Then I got on and had my 5 minute ride.

This is a bizarre, frustrating behavior that is learned, stressful and involves her just tuning out.  It also only appears at undetermined times and I am not sure what triggers it.   But at least I think I found a way to relax the tension and get her doing something that she understands so maybe with some luck I can make it disappear.
I would really like to meet the person who taught her these weird things with all the fear involved.  They need to be banned from ever watching a DVD on NH again.   Banned from getting within 5 miles of a horse, except possibly to shovel shit.

Today I need to make up the ride on Fawkes that bit the dust while I was spending all this time on Nina.  I will try to get to the barn earlier before the heat and the wind.

Monday, June 4, 2012

new student

I started working with a new student and horse this weekend and this team has a special little twist.  The rider is experienced and the horse used to live at my current barn.

As far as I know he was primarily a trail horse but he scared his previous owner.  I don't know all the details but eventually she gave up riding or trying to sell him.  Nothing worked for them.

He stood around at the barn for a while and several people tried to figure out what to do with him.  Then he left and that was the last I knew.

Horses who have scared their owners into getting rid of them often have a dismal future.  There are just too many unwanted horses in the world.

Well this one got VERY lucky.  His new owner is not the least intimidated by him, enjoys him a lot and wants to progress with his training.  He seems equally happy, trying hard and tuned into his rider.   It is nice to see a happy ending.
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