Monday, April 25, 2011

The Herd Instinct

Saturday afternoon we were on our own as the clouds rolled in and the wind kicked up. Saddle time has been scarce, so sorry dear Jessie, but we are going out. As we reached the canal we could see a pair of horses a quarter mile away and you wold have thought they had three heads. Jessie desperately wanted her buddy along side so these monsters' appetite would be filled long before they reached her.

As we headed south, like we've done a hundred times before, everything was new and scary. It's really difficult to know exactly how to handle this. There really isn't enough room to do more than yielding of hindquarters. A couple of times in the past I've gotten off and worked on the ground, but that just seems to jack her up more (probably an indication I'm doing something wrong there too). My approach was to pretend it was no big deal and just ask for forward movement and when it happened, back off. Sometimes that was only one step. It was a bit frustrating riding down the canal one step at a time. She kicked up a couple of times and I really got after her hindquarters to let her know that was not acceptable.

We finally got out to our riding area wand I got to lope her around a bit. It wasn't much. The weeds and brush in our open riding areas are up to her cinch, but after getting a couple of good circles in each direction we headed back. It was amazing how fast she walked back home. There were a couple of stretches that were wide enough to do the serpentine exercise. And, because I had more control of her, at the places she balked on the way out, we did the rollback exercise.

Sunday mornings ride with Dusty was much less eventful. It was a fairly casual Easter Sunday ride before meeting up with the family. We did get our ten minute lope in which I did, I must admit, with a little more zeal as payback for the Saturday adventure. Just more evidence that we need to get out and ride alone more.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Riding For the Average

We thought we might be able to ride out to the roping arena on Saturday morning. It's a little more than six miles away. We got about five miles out and clouds started to roll in. Not wanting to risk getting wet we turned around. As it turned out there was not a roping be held there anyway. I was wearing the GPS and we were trying to keep the horses moving, we averaged 3.8 mph, which is pretty good considering it included a short break. It was a 2 and 1/2 hour ride that covered 9.5 miles. We loped quite a bit and, as we continue to put miles on, Jessie gets better and better. It's not a slow lope but it is controllable and that's what I'm really looking for.

Sunday's ride was in the afternoon and it had warmed to the mid-70's - a beautiful afternoon for a ride. Jessie and I worked around the big square as Ranae rode off on her winding road trail. We worked on trying to two track at the lope and she was moving off my leg with just a little spur. We also tried some rollback, which she would like me to note here, she HATES! We did a couple of stop, backups, and rollbacks and about the third one she stopped stopping. She knew what was coming and she didn't want to do it So we spent about the next ten minutes working on "whoa" and when she got that we did one more rollback and headed for home.

Ferrier came yesterday and said everything looked good. On a side note, I am once again volunteering for a CA Tour stop in Rancho Murietta in May.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Of Vets, Mules, and Shooting Ranges

Saturday was our every-other-year dental/vet check. The appt. was scheduled for 8:30 am. The horses had not been trailered anywhere since I don't remember when...

We had hooked up the trailer on Friday night. I was up early to feed the horses and make us breakfast. We had just enough time to brush them up a bit and load up. Jessie loaded very well. She didn't jump in the trailer with glee and enthusiasm, but it wasn't a fight.

Our vet is about 15 minutes away and we were a little early. I was in talking to one vet, when the other one came in and said, let's do this. I walked out to the trailer and Dusty was already out. The vet tech was unloading Jessie and as soon as she opened the divider Jessie went blowing out the back of the trailer. Good thing she was on the tie ring and the lead rope just slipped all the way through. Jessie scraped her left gaskin on something coming out. It didn't look too bad. I took her from the vet tech and we proceeded to load and unload a couple of times before heading off to the waiting pen. The tech apologized and I told her it wasn't her fault and that I should have Jessie trained better than that.

The dental work went well. The two year plan is working . There were "points" on their teeth but not sores or cuts in their mouths. Dusty got a sheath cleaning. They both got vacs and we put them in holding pens until they woke up a bit. I had my camera but didn't have the heart to take Jessie's pic while she was in the dental contraption. She looked so vulnerable.

We were hanging out at the vets playing with the hospital dog and looking at a new foal and a women had brought a mule (or donkey, I still can't keep track of the difference) in to be gelded. They said we could watch and I jumped on that. It had been years since I watched a surgery. They had the mule (we'll go with that, it's easier to spell) out on the ground. The tech held one back hoof with a rope leaving the target area exposed. It was an older mule and there was a lot of fatty tissue. Both doctors had gloved up and were tying things off when they realized they needed the "emasculator" which was still in its sterile wrap. I got to open it up and hand it to them in a sterile manner has if thirty five years had not passed since the last time I had done that.

They finished up and our horses were ready, so we loaded them up and headed home. We left the trailer hooked up in the hopes the weather held for a river ride.

Sunday morning was cool and cloudy and we grabbed an extra jacket before loading and heading for the river. Once there, it was a beautiful day - the skies had cleared and there was a nice, cool breeze. Much of the ground was soft and we did a lot of trotting a loping at every opportunity. Dusty was having issues eating grass and Ranae would lope him every time he took a bite. He was quite sweaty an hour into our ride. Ranae was enjoying loping the single track trail along the river.

We really didn't have any plan on where we wanted to go and finally decided to head out to the restaurant about 5 miles away. Most of the trail is along the river, except for about the last half mile. We needed to ride along an asphalt road with a good shoulder. The restaurant was a quarter mile past the Highway Patrol's Club room, which also houses their shooting range. We had ridden by this before and had never seen anyone there. Sunday they were having target practice. The road goes up a bit and the shooting range is down in a little hollar. The firing area was no more than 100 feet off the shoulder. Jessie is a big sissy on these rides and feels, because she still has potential DNA to pass on, that Dusty should ALWAYS go first at anything that has even the slightest potential of being dangerous. Dusty wasn't buying it and, as I explained to her, since we were the ones who had done so much de-sensitizing, we should go first. We had Ranae and Dusty move back about 30 feet. That seems to be the distance where they stop feeding on each others' anxiety. Jessie started to plod ahead, very slowly at first. The gun went off and I could feel her flinch under me, but she kept moving. There were a couple of more shots right as we walked by. Her ears were up and she was attentive and calm.

At the restaurant, Ranae hadn't brought a halter, so we took off one of her saddle strings and tied Dusty up with that. He could have broken it with one little tug, especially since there was a luscious, green weed looking to get eaten right behind him, but he didn't.

There were a lot more shots being fired on our way back past the shooting range. They were using the rifle side of the range too and all the gunshots sounded a little different. She was a little more jiggy about the whole thing, but we were headed home and that made it all worth it. Once we got back home they got a bath and some hay and the afternoon off...