Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Quick Update

Well, I don't know what it was, but it appears to be gone. Jessie seems almost back to 100% as measured by how much she kicks up at feeding time. She doesn't kick up excessively but I can entice her to kick up if I make a few playful moves or if she is just feeling "perky".

The swelling in her pasterns is down. I'm still a little concerned with the crack in that hoof. I'll keep an eye on it. The farrier is do out week after next.

It's what I call a fugitive occurrence or, as Paul Harvey might say, "Not why, just what".

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Trouble in Paradise?

So far I've had Jessie for three + years and thankfully no health issues. We were scheduled to leave town for a family wedding 250 miles away last Friday. Thursday night I came home and was busy getting ready for the trip. About dusk I went out to see Jessie and noticed she seemed a bit lethargic. I went in and rubbed her and she felt warm so I took her temperature...103.4. She was eating her dinner, her stools were normal, her rear pasterns were a bit swollen but held no more heat than the fever, and she walked, but it was a laboring kind of amble. No discharge from either the eyes or the nose. Normal stomach sounds. I ran my hands over her entire body and found no wounds or marks of any kind. I gave her some bute hoping it was an antipyretic. I checked on her a couple of times that night and she was still up and moving. She usually lays down around 10 or 11 pm and she followed that pattern. (A couple of other tidbits: I had noted in my journal that she was in season on the 9th [this was the 21st], and she is up-to-date on all her vaccines having had them about a month ago)

The next morning I checked her at 6 am. If her temperature was still high, I was going to take her to the vet for the weekend. She had pooped two more times overnight, both normal, and peed once. Her temperature was 97.8 which is a little below normal but it was a cool morning and I think she had just gotten up. She went after her breakfast with "almost" all of her usual gusto. She seemed to be walking better and her rear pasterns seemed less puffy.

We went on our trip and had a good time seeing family and friends. The neighbors took care of all our animals. We got back and Jessie was looking better. She had had a crack in her rear hoof that I thought was just a minor thing. Sunday afternoon I lunged her around. At the lope she was more willing and balanced going to the right. Going to the left her gait was choppy and less smooth. The crack in her hoof is on the outside of the right rear hoof.

right rear

bottom closer

It is somewhat interesting to note, although I really have no idea when they appeared, but there are several "dents" in the TOP rail of our good Priefert panels. Not to say these could have cause the cracks, just that they are there.

Kick points

This morning she looks like she is getting her energy back most notably by the display of impatience at my hay dispersal techniques...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Oldest Trick in the Book

After 55 million years of evolution, you gotta believe they have us figured out. So much so, that I believe there's a book of tricks hidden somewhere. They all have it. They all know the tricks. You know what I mean. Leave the reins in the wrong place - they get chewed on. Trying to take a picture - your "stone still" horse appears to be standing on an ant hill. Late for a trail ride - your horse decides the trailer is "just not for me right now". There has to be page after page of these tricks. Gotta give 'em some medication - suddenly your horse "hates" oats and molasses or tips over the bucket.

I almost fell for the oldest trick in the book. Page One. Right inside the front cover. We had taken off on our morning ride. We had about 45 minutes scheduled. I had some very specific exercises to work on. It was windy. We got about 1/2 mile out and Jessie "decided" that was far enough. The tree we've passed a hundred times was frightening. The horses in the nearby stables suddenly had horns ready to attack. She was all over the place, going everywhere except forward. And, I bit. The hook was in. She had me for about ten minutes as I worked, cajoled (I like that word), and encouraged her to move forward.

After about ten minutes I realized, this wasn't what I had come out here to do. She had tricked me into playing her game. I went back about 1/8 mile. I could "feel" the smile on her face as she thought she had won and we were going home. There was a wide enough spot, in a place big enough for us to work, and we did. We worked on the stuff I had planned. The fight was over. We were working on transitions from walk to trot to canter going both up and down. And, we had enough room to work on the flexing, bending and softening I had wanted to do. Just before we were done, we headed down to the "scariest" part of the canal and as she took a couple of relaxed steps, we turned and headed back home. I wonder if Amazon has that book...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Five Straight Days

I'm not a morning person, but I will get up if there is an opportunity to ride Jessie. We rode Thursday and Friday mornings before work and got two two-hour rides in on the weekend, then another hour ride Monday morning. I don't know about her, but I'm a little sore.

The Sunday ride was out to the city farm area. There are a lot of natural obstacles like this ditch to cross.


Of course, I neglected to get the picture of us coming upon four half expired helium birthday balloons flopping around in the weeds. Jessie was fine with it and actually wanted to bite them. Dusty got to do some work around them.

The temps were in the mid 80's and there was a slight breeze. It was very comfortable.


We ran across these little "training" areas the Hispanics use. They are fairly small circles. I don't know if they are on the ground or in the saddle when they wore this into the ground, but from the looks of hole you can tell the horse was working hard.


Sunday evening the weather turned cloudy and windy. Monday morning at 5:45 am it was still quite threatening and breezy. Neither Jessie or I wanted to go back to bed (although I got the feeling she would have preferred to just have breakfast), so we decided to ride. Rain came later in the day.


I highly recommend a sunrise ride if you have the opportunity. We are looking forward to one tomorrow.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

A conversation with Jessie

I was up at six and had the horses moved and Jessie saddled by six-thirty. Armed with with my index card of exercises, fresh from re-watching the DVD's for the ??th time, we were ready to go.

The first exercise, Yield-to-Stop at walk, trot, and cantor, went pretty well. Jessie stops easily and isn't crazy about yielding or flexing, but I could feel her trying and getting softer in the process. The next exercise is the same except I add a bending circle around my inside leg and her head is supposed to stay tucked. Sounds easy enough. Here's the transcript:

Me: Hey, why are you popping your head back? Keep it tucked. Don't stop walking. Keep moving forward. Don't bail on the circle. Okay, okay, stop. Let's try this again. How can I get you to understand?

Jess: Simple. You give a cue. I'll do a series of things, when I get to the right one, let go.

Me: Do you speak English?

Jess: No, you idiot. You cue. I'll give you a series of choices, when I get to the one you want, let go. That's how I'll know.

Me: Okay. Here goes...Hey, you pulled your head back to quickly after the flex.

Jess: That's when you let go. I thought that's what you wanted. Listen carefully. I'm quick. Whenever I feel you let go, that's how I'll know what you want. Do it again.

We trot off, I give the cue..

Me: Hey, you stopped!

Jess: You stopped riding. Hello! Remember our deal.

Me: Crap. Okay once more....Yeah...good girl...that's you've got it.

Jess: Ahem!?! I've had it all along. Now YOU'VE got it.

Me: Well, maybe...for now...

Monday, May 10, 2010

Another River Ride

We try to take the trailer out at least once a month. Family obligations are taking up many of the May weekends so we decided to take another river ride on Saturday. It was a beautiful day and we planned to ride out to a little bar about 4 miles away, have a beer and a snack, then head back.

I always feel like I should be doing something - trotting, loping, doing circles. Just walking along the trail for an hour is challenging for me, so I figure I need to do more of it. It's okay for a change of pace.

The trails are nice and the bar has a hitching rail. It's good for Jessie to stayed tied up for a time while we have lunch. Kind of like a mid ride patience pole experience. My camera somehow switched to B&W mode. Sometimes I think everything I have has a mind of it's own.

The terrain is nice and we have the Bakersfield oilfields as a back drop.

A hawk checking us and the air thermals out as he searches for lunch.

Friday, May 7, 2010

I Love Gadgets

I love gadgets. I'm also pragmatic and I have to rationalize their purchase or I am left to just admire them from afar. Like the ipad, for example. A very cool machine, but I don't have enough of a reason to justify the expense...yet.

One gadget I picked up a couple of years ago, my Garmin Forerunner 201, is a very cool tool I use while riding. The Forerunner 201 is an outdated model now. If the folks over at Garmin would like me to review the newer models, and they have an old Forerunner 305 or 405 rattling around their junk drawer, I'd be happy to take it through a few shakedown rides. I really think Garmin has missed a whole market of equestrians who could really benefit from their products.

My "used" Foreruner 201

Even though my Forerunner 201 is old and is lower on the features meter than the 305 or 405, it is still an extremely useful tool. I turn it on right after I've tightened the cinch the second time and give it about a minute to locate the satellites before we start our ride. Then, one more cinch check and I strap the Garmin to my wrist. The velco strap is very comfortable even if I am riding a long time. I start the timer and we take off.

My Forerunner 201 keeps track of the "Time of Day" and "The Time of Ride". I use this feature to help log my hours in the AQHA Riding Program. It even stores them in a history file, just in case I don't remember to write my times down when I get back from a ride.

The big screen is easy-to-read

The big screen is easy-to-read without glasses. The Forerunner 201 also keeps track of "Maximum Speed" and "Average Speed". The "Max Speed" feature has helped a lot in our training. When I first purchased Jessie, her lope speed was 17-18 mph. Through our work, I'm now able to glance down and see the speed we are loping. Quite often it's 10-11 mph. (The 13.6 mph you see in the top picture is because I like to speed her up just before we stop).

I use the "Avg. Speed" feature to give me an idea of how hard we are working. Some rides, where we are walking or stopping a lot, may have average speeds of 2.2 - 2.4 mph. I consider anything over 3 mph on a two hour ride to be a "good" workout.

The other feature I use a lot is the "Distance" feature. This essentially tells us how far we've ridden. I can compare myself to some of those endurance riders. I don't know how they do 25 miles a day. We've ridden 20 miles a couple of times and that's a long time for this butt to be in the saddle.

There are several other customizable screens you can plug into the Forerunner 201. One feature I don't use much, but would come in handy if you ride in unfamiliar territory, is the Trackback feature. If you get lost or disoriented you can activate Trackback and it will give you step-by-step directions back to your starting location.

There are many more cool features buried deep in this device. Some are practical for equestrians, some aren't. Once the Garmnin people read this I'm sure they'll send me that latest 305 or 405 model I covet(hint-hint). I'd love write about all the additional features of those models. My old 201 has stood up to the rigors of riding in dusty environments very well. I charge it about every other ride or so.

They also have a serial port to connect to your computer if you want to log your rides on the computer. I did this for a while. You do get an interesting look at the topography of your riding area. Since most of my riding is done right here in town, I don't use this feature much anymore.

The 305 and 405 models have heart-rate monitors built which would come in handy during my aerobic workouts. I saw the 305 advertised, I think in Best Buy, for around a hundred and fifty bucks. If the Garmin folks don't come through, that's really not that hard to justify. Now, if I can only get this old 201 to break....

Trail Ride or Train

The sun is rising earlier. The sun is setting latter. The opportunities to ride are more plentiful. Anyone who has followed this blog or it's shadow on Barnmice knows that I'm trying to work through all the exercises in the two Downunder Horsemanship's Gaining Respect on the Ground and Riding with Confidence DVD series. We can do all of the exercises in Series I & II, Series III has been a little tougher. Not because the exercises are more difficult. Clinton has a straightforward, simple way of teaching them. It's because of the time factor.

It's like learning to play the piano by doing scales or by playing songs. Practicing scales will improve your skills, but it can get boring. Playing songs is much more fun. So, it's do exercises or trail ride. When time is at a premium I most often opt for the trail ride. About every six months or so, I recommit myself and Jessie to learning all the exercises and we start practicing again. I've found one of the best times to practice is early in the morning. This morning at 6 am we were up and at it. Luckily I don't have to be at work until about 9am, so if I can get up and moving early we can work anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes. It takes about 10 minutes to get the neighbor's horses moved around so we have a place to work (they generously allow us to work in the dirt field their horses board on).

While it's sometimes difficult to get out of bed, once I'm out there, it really is enjoyable. We are alone with few distractions
except for the traffic and the dog, Rusty, and the cat, Panama, who come out to keep us
company. We get to work on the exercises with a bit more focus and
concentration and I know it really helps me. I have a 3x5 card in a zip
lock bag that tucks into my saddle nicely. It has the exercises I want
to work on, because it seems I can think of them when I'm not in the
saddle, but once I get up there it's like, "Okay, what were we going to

It's been a good week. We got a trail ride in on Thursday evening along the canal bank and then the workout on Friday morning. I am hopeful we'll get to trailer somewhere this weekend because the weather is supposed to be perfect.

Monday, May 3, 2010

A Busy Weekend

Friday night we had tickets to the rodeo... It was fun except for the second bareback rider got hung up and then under his horse. They said he was okay, but they took him out by stretcher anyway. Those guys are crazy tough.

Saturday morning I had to get more hay. The rain and cool weather has limited the supply. Most farms are just now cutting their second, so I opted for getting more of last year's hay. It looks good.

We rode for about 2 1/2 hours Saturday afternoon. Mostly just the usual haunts, except we went a bit further south. It was a beautiful spring day with temps in the 80's. When we got out to the open field we call the big square, we started loping. My wife's saddle had slipped and she got off to make adjustments, so we just kept loping around while she mad her adjustments. I'd change directions every once and awhile and we kept loping and loping. It felt like at least 10 minutes, which I know isn't a long time, but when I stopped Jessie hardly had any sweat on her. Later there was an even bigger area and we loped around that too.

On Sunday, we went over to the neighbor's roping arena. He is riddled with arthritis and doesn't ride. His arena has a squeeze and two boxes on one end and it's hard to follow the rail all the way around. The footing is good and it's big. We set up some cones so we could do some patterns. I loped Jessie around and around here too and she only got damp under the pad. I think the girl could go on forever.

She still tries to pull me around a little. She wanted to hang out at the gate. We worked on rollbacks and turning into the fence and that helped get her attention back on me. We did the clover-leaf pattern around the cones and then did figure eights to ask for a lead change in the middle. She is good at changing leads. A little of the serpentine at the trot helped with steering before we did the Post-To-Post exercise at the lope. Again I thought it would tire her out, but I don't think it did. I still walked her out for about ten minutes to cool her down.

The rest of the afternoon was spent power washing the saddle pads and cinches and then cleaning and oiling my saddle. Our neighbor came by to work with her horse. She asked me to give them their vaccines, which I did. We hung out and offered moral support as she did some groundwork and then some one-rein stops.

She was having problems mounting. I had taught her other horse the mounting block exercise I had learned on a Ken McKnabb TV show and she asked if I would teach this horse. It took about 20 minutes and "Frosty" was getting good at it. She was very sensitive but smart. It was fun to help her figure it out and to know I still remembered how to do it.