Monday, November 17, 2008

Pictures of me and my horse

Well, as promised, here are a few pictures of me and my horse during our weekend ride!

Actually, there aren't many good pictures of me actually riding. For one thing, my look of concentration is not at all attractive. For another thing, my husband is still learning to use the professional-grade camera his brother gave him, and I think moving targets might be a little bit beyond him.

But here are a few good pictures that he did get, as I was tacking Panama up and just after I mounted.

Panama looks super cute in this picture, doesn't he?

My horse looking cute

This one has the look of a very intimate moment between us, which I like:

An intimate moment between me and my horse

Finally, this picture was taken shortly after I mounted. You can tell in Panama's expression that he was in a good mood yesterday, possibly even looking forward to the ride. So I like the picture even though I think my bulky sweatshirt and my too-big jeans (more comfortable for riding) make me look fat!

My horse behaving himself!

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A short weekend ride

For the first weekend in several weeks, I managed to get out to the barn yesterday for a ride. My husband came with me, which is also out of the ordinary — Michael isn't much of a horse person, and is starting to accompany me to the barn increasingly less often. Put it this way: He hasn't seen me ride since summer!

Yesterday was probably one of our last warm days: 60 but windy, indicating a storm is probably on its way. We were also there in the late afternoon, so it had cooled off a little by this time.

The first thing I did was to pick out Panama's feet and then chase him around the pasture a bit, which my trainer suggested doing after the weather made him crazy the other day. He hasn't shown the same degree of nervous energy since, so I'm thinking it was a one time thing. He seems to enjoy the "foreplay," though, running and bucking around me. I have to remind him sometimes when he gets too close that I am 1) a fragile human and 2) still in charge, but on the whole it seems to be enjoyable for both of us.

After about five minutes I tied Panama back up, groomed him, and tacked him up. We only rode for about 15 minutes, but it was a very good ride. His thing lately has been rushing the trot and ignoring my half-halts to check his speed, but yesterday he was very responsive to my commands. Maybe he was showing off for Michael!

Michael took a bunch of pictures of our ride, so a little later I will download them and see if there are any worthy of posting. It has been a while since I've treated my readers with a picture!

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Unlikely friends

On Thursday, I arrived at the barn around late morning. As I walked up the driveway to talk to the property's owner, I distinctly heard my horse's whinny — the long, high-pitched whinny that he uses to call for someone. (I've mostly only heard it when he's calling for me, such as when he's at a new barn and he can't see me.)

A few moments later, as I was talking to the owner, I heard it again, and I commented on it. The alpha gelding was getting his feet trimmed on the driveway, so I thought maybe Panama was anxious about him being out of the pasture. That didn't seem likely, though, as that is the dominant gelding who picked on Panama quite a bit in the beginning.

The truth turned about to be even more surprising than that scenario, though: Just a short time earlier, the dominant mare's owner had loaded her up into a trailer and took her for a short trip. This particular mare is a close second in command, and is therefore even more bossy than the gelding. Apparently, though, they have become unlikely friends, because Panama was calling for her!

When I found that out, it occurred to me that I had seen Panama and the dominant mare eating side by side the other day. Apparently they have resolved their difference, enough so that Panama became anxious when she was loaded onto a trailer and taken away.

I guess when your entire "herd" consists of four other horses, you can't help but become somewhat attached to them. I'm worried about Panama's attachment to this mare, though, because she is supposed to be leaving in just over a week — her owner is moving cross-country at the end of the month. I wonder how long he will whinny for her before he realizes she is never coming back?

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What I really meant to say was...

Recently I have come under fire for daring to suggest that you should not get a horse you can't afford.

Let me clarify this. What I really meant to say was...

You should not get a horse you can't afford.

Honestly, I don't know what is so controversial about this. You shouldn't buy a house you can't afford, a car you can't afford, or even go on a shopping spree you can't afford. So why would someone even think it is okay to get an animal you can't afford?

A horse is a huge financial commitment. They generally cost a tidy sum up front, but realistically the $2,000 or whatever it costs to buy your basic horse is only a fraction of what it will cost to care for the animal over its lifetime. Hay for one horse costs $70 to $100 a month in my area. Even if you have a prodigious amount of land and can afford to graze your horse during the warmer months, for at least half of the year that is the absolute minimum it will cost you per horse.

And then you have the rest of the expenses: boarding, if you live in the city; regular vet bills for shots, dental care, etc.; and then the amount you have to have on hand in case of a medical emergency, which can rack up vet bills quite quickly.

The biggest problem is, whereas a house can be foreclosed on and a car can be repossessed when you stop paying the bills, neglected horses are often overlooked. And even if by some miracle someone sits up and takes notice, it typically takes a lot of legal crap to get the horses out of there and into a place where they are well cared for again.

And the kicker is, the horse suffers through all of this.

Now I think it should be pretty obvious that I am not talking about people who can usually afford their horses, but go through some temporary hard times (the key word here being temporary). But I also think that these people are generally reasonable enough (since they have already demonstrated their ability to limit their animals to only the ones they can afford) to realize that they either need to make some sacrifices so that the horse's care doesn't deteriorate, or they need to sell the horse.

No, I'm talking about the kinds of people who get horses (and other animals, often) without regard to the ongoing expense. The kind of people who really do seem to think it's okay to make their horses go without hay whenever they can't afford it.

When you get an animal, any animal, you are making a commitment to provide for, at minimum, its basic needs. I believe that before anyone buys a horse, they ought to consider the ongoing financial obligations, and make an honest decision as to whether they can afford to care for this animal over the long term!

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Weather changes make my horse stupid

Wow, I haven't blogged about my horse as much lately! Part of that is because I have been very busy, and three visits to the barn a week has been all I've had time for. Another part is because I've also had a lot of other writing responsibilities, and blogging has fallen somewhat by the wayside.

Anyway, I had a session with my trainer on Monday — the first session in a while that she hasn't ridden at all, actually. She is pregnant and will soon not be able to ride anymore, so she has been focusing more on getting me ready to take over for her — under her instruction, of course.

Monday was about 20 degrees colder than it had been, and it was threatening to rain or snow (although it never did either). My trainer thinks this is why my horse was acting like such a nut on Monday: jumpy, easily spooked, and full of nervous energy. We started out lunging him, since he was acting like he really wanted to run; but he was too hyper even for the lunge line, so Leslie unhooked him and shooed him off. Panama proceeded to run at top speed around us for what must have been fifteen minutes! I don't think I've ever seen him quite so worked up.

Once he had apparently had his fill of running, I mounted up. At first he was still very high strung; he kept rushing at the walk and bouncing along at the trot. Leslie guided me through getting him to calm down and pay attention again by giving him tasks that required more thinking than our usual arena work. Eventually, he calmed down and started behaving much better.

Of course, we haven't tried cantering again since the last time, and there was no way Monday was a good day for it. Maybe he'll be a little more predictable and a little less wound up at our next lesson!

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Panama's competition

I had another busy weekend, and didn't get over to the barn to ride. It was for a good cause, though: I was getting my car running again. It has been sitting for two years, while my husband and I shared a car.

Before I brought transported my horse to Denver, not having a running car was not a big deal. I work from home, so I don't have to commute to and from a job, and most errands could be done in the evenings after my husband got home from work. Once my horse was here, though, I had to start taking my husband to work on days that I needed to go out to the barn. I'm not a good morning person, so lately that has only been a couple of days a week.

Getting my car running helps Panama, in a way, because now I'll have fewer restrictions on visiting him. On the other hand, my car is also competition for him: Working on my car reminded me how much I like it, and there is a pretty good chance that I may skip a visit to the barn here and there in favor of working on or detailing my car!

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