Thursday, February 26, 2009

Yesterday's visit to the barn

I thought I'd share a few pictures from my visit to the barn yesterday.

My horse Panama

I released Panama after grooming him post-bareback ride, and he went right to where the other three horses were standing facing the fence. They all looked rather expectant, like they were waiting for something to happen, or someone to come down the street.

Horses sunbathing

Oh, wait, they're sunbathing... See how relaxed Panama is?

My horse sunbathing and letting it all hang out

I can't believe you put a picture of my schlong on your blog, Mom!

My adorable horse was licking when I took the picture, so it looks like he's sticking his tongue out at me.

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A quick bareback ride

A couple of hours after my farrier's visit yesterday, I went back to the barn to squeeze in a quick bareback ride before Michael came home. I had to celebrate the farrier's good news that I could ride Panama despite the crack in his hoof!

It's been just over a month since the last time I rode Panama, and that time it had been at least two months. And I can tell you, my muscles felt the neglect!

Bareback is somewhat of a balancing act on Panama. He's young still, so he's build rather like a balance beam: narrow on top and a sheer drop on either side. My saddle fitter calls it "slap-sided," and says he'll grow out of it. I certainly hope so!

But we managed, and it was good to be on horseback again. For me, I worked on finding a happy medium between muscle control and relaxing. I worry about slipping off of his narrow back, so I grip so hard with my upper thighs that it shoves my center of balance up and forward. Relaxing my grip lets me sit back and ride more comfortably, but doesn't give me quite the same level of control. Evidently I need something in between.

Besides my balance, we worked on refreshers for Panama: framing up, leg yields, that kind of thing. Then, because we were doing so well, I decided to try a couple of steps of a turn on the forehand. He got it on the first try, and every time after that, too! I was really impressed because the last time we tried this — which was admittedly nearly a year ago — I couldn't get him to do it at all.

One thing I think makes a difference is riding him bareback. I feel like he can feel my body and my cues much better. I can feel him better, too. Overall I enjoy riding bareback — I just wish I were confident enough (or he were broad enough) to trot on him comfortably!

By the time we were done with our short (10 or 15 minute) ride, my inner thighs were quivering from the effort of using those muscles again after so long. I clearly need to start riding again more often — and with the lengthening days and the gorgeous spring weather we've been having, there is no excuse not to anymore!

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

And my farrier says...

The crack in my horse's hoof is no big deal.

He cleaned the edges up a bit with the file, and sanded the hoof wall with a sanding sponge, just like what you buy at Home Depot. It looks much better now, even though the crack is still there:

The crack in my horse's hoof, AFTER the farrier visit

I'll have to keep an eye on it, and my farrier wants me to keep it moisturized with Hoof Heal. But I can ride Panama without worrying about harming him.

The farrier did say that if the crack worsen, I may have to consider putting shoes on Panama. I made a face and said I'd rather not, and to my surprise, my farrier agreed: "I like to keep most horses barefoot if I can," he said. He did mention that there may be other options, which we'll discuss if it comes to that.

The threat of having to shoe Panama should be a good motivator for applying Hoof Heal regularly!

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Discoveries

Okay, one more quick little story about yesterday's visit. This one is really cute, so I couldn't resist.

I had the good fortune to be present when Panama made an amazing discovery. I went into the tack room, which is actually just an old chicken house all cleaned out and fitted with shelves and saddle racks. Panama stood in the doorway for a moment, looking at me, then walked down the outside of the building a few steps.

He was standing with the lower part of his face visible through the window that is next to the door, so I put my face in the window and tapped on the glass. I thought he'd probably spook, but it was actually rather the opposite: His eyes went wide, and he abruptly dropped his head so he was looking right back at me. I could totally see in his face that he'd just figured out what that little box was, and that he was surprised and interested, not scared.

My horse is such a funny creature sometimes.

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One more horse picture...

...From yesterday's visit.

My horse and his girlfriend

He was sniffing and nibbling on his girlfriend's butt just before I took this picture, but when I got the camera out he turned and gave me this look.

He looks like he's saying, "Do you mind?"

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Vacationing without my horse: Can I survive the guilt?

For the first time in almost a year and a half, my husband and I are planning a vacation that will keep me away from my horse for a significant length of time.

I suppose I'm more worried about it now than I was the last time, which was for less than a week around Thanksgiving of 2007. This time there is the potential for it to be snowy, and the barn owner where Panama is at can't catch him. What if it gets really cold and the owner can't blanket him? What if something happens?

I have asked a friend to check on Panama periodically and act as an emergency contact, and of course we'll have our phones on us while we're gone in case of emergency, but I'm still anxious about it.

Those of you who board your horses, do you worry about this too, even though you have someone to take care of your horse's basic needs? And if you have horse property — how do you manage if you go on vacation? Or do you go on vacation?

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The crack in Panama's hoof

Yesterday I blogged about discovering a crack in Panama's hoof.

Here it is:

A hairline crack in my horse's hoof

As you can see, it's really quite a thin crack. However, I'm worried for two reasons:

1) It goes all the way from the bottom of the hoof, almost to the coronary band.

2) It is just below the lump of proudflesh at the coronary band, scar tissue from a trailer accident when he was a yearling. The injury damaged the coronary band and causes a vertical ridge to form on his hoof, which my farrier always files down. This crack is just to the left of where the ridge has been filed down, which makes me nervous that it might have something to do with the old injury.

There's only one way to find out for sure. That's why my farrier is coming tomorrow!

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Monday, February 23, 2009

A four-legged, 750-pound toddler

I think my horse is just like a toddler: He knows how cute he is, and plays it up for all it's worth.

"Hey, Mom, whatcha doin'?"

My horse is cute and he knows it!

I visited for a little while again today. Can you believe I got out there three days in a row? (Never mind that the biggest reason I got out there today was because I had to get grain, and the feed store wasn't open yesterday.)

A friend of mine came out and visited with us. Since a different friend came out yesterday, Panama had two days of visitors — and this is why I'm sure he's figured out how cute he is. He is showing off in front of visitors by acting extra affectionate, following me around, and — unfortunately — by biting me in the leg today when I was chatting instead of paying attention to him.

That part wasn't so cute. He got a big slap on the shoulder for it, which made him back up a couple of steps and stare at me sulkily.

See, a toddler, just like I said.

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The horse lords of The Lord of the Rings

Michael and I just finished watching the trilogy The Lord of the Rings — some of our favorite movies (and books, incidentally).

This is the first time I've actually seen The Lord of the Rings since before I became a horse owner, so I found myself paying far more attention to the horses (of which there are lots!) than I had before.

In fact, Michael and I had a conversation about who we would have been: hobbit, elf, dwarf, or a human from Gondor or Rohan. Of course, I chose Rohan — I would have been one of the horse-lords, no doubt about it! Even better if the Rohan theme would play as I galloped across golden fields. With mountains in the background, no less.

With the horses of LOTR still on my mind, I got on YouTube tonight and found several interesting, endearing, and even amusing videos about the actors' work with the horses in the filming of these movies. Here they are, for your viewing pleasure:



Does anyone else giggle seeing Orlando Bloom kissing his horse's nose repeatedly?



Viggo Mortensen is such a cowboy, but he is amazing with the horses too. I saw another clip where his horse goes to town itching his face on the back of Viggo's shoulder. You can tell by the way he stands so close to them, and appears to be so relaxed, that he is completely comfortable around them.

Not everyone was on the set was a great horseman, though. After seeing the other videos, I feel kind of bad for David Wenham...



I'd wondered during that charge whether he was actually riding a horse...

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It finally happened...

...The barn owner got kicked.

He told me about it the other day when I was visiting Panama. Apparently he was graining the horses, and the mare (Panama's girlfriend) got impatient and kicked. He says he thinks she was aiming at Panama, but I have my doubts. She planted her foot on him only about two and a half feet off the ground, which is too low if she was trying to kick at another horse.

I've mentioned before that he tends to let the horses push him around. In fact, just the other day I blogged about making the alpha gelding mind his manners with me, which the barn owner doesn't do. I've also seen the mare — who is the owner's daughter's horse, or was before she lost interest — push him aside instead of walking around him.

I asked if he yelled at her or anything, and he said no, it was his fault. I can't quite determine what exactly he thinks he did "wrong," though, and in any case the horse still needs to know that kicking out of impatience for food is absolutely NOT okay. I suggested he yell and get his arms going and run her off next time, like I did with the alpha horse the other day.

Amusingly, when we were talking the mare brushed right past me, so close that I would have to move to avoid being shoved to the side. I put my elbow into her side repeatedly as she passed, not hard at first, but increasingly harder as she failed to get the picture. She didn't move over much, but by the time she got by me she sure was hurrying to get away from my elbow! With any luck she'll think twice about doing that next time.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Playing it safe

I fulfilled my goal for the week and visited my horse both days this weekend!

Today I went with a new goal in mind, but events totally changed my plans. I had wanted to ride Panama, first in the pasture and then out in the field if he seemed in a good mood. Unfortunately, when I was picking his feet, I noticed — totally by chance — a vertical hairline crack extending from the base of his hoof, almost all the way to the top.

The crack is extremely narrow, and when I picked up his foot I could see that it is only through the very outer wall of the hoof. Still, I am concerned by the length of the crack, and the fact that it runs alongside the ridge caused by the proudflesh at the coronary band (a souveneir from the trailer accident that resulted in his mother's death, and us rescuing him).

I decided that it is better to be safe than sorry, and abandoned my plans to ride. I also called my farrier and tentatively scheduled for him to take a look on Wednesday. (Tentatively because I discovered his wife just died, and I told him if he's not ready to come back to work on Wednesday, to PLEASE call and cancel. I'm not in THAT big a hurry to work Panama, and I don't want to rush my farrier's return.)

Afterward I was talking to the new renters in the barn owner's other house, and the mother mentioned how pushy some of the riders are at her daughter's barn, and how bad she feels for some of the horses. It made me think how many horse owners and riders wouldn't have given the crack a second thought, simply because they are too selfish to give up their own plans. It seems impossible that anybody could be like that, but at the same time I know that they exist in the horse world.

Me, I'd rather play it safe and give up my plans, than risk laming my horse. Honestly, I was excited about possibley getting Panama out into the field today, but what's the point if I end up not being able to ride him again for a long time because of an entirely preventable injury?

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Teaching the alpha horse some manners

No matter where I board Panama, I always get attached to one or more of the other horses, usually one that is somewhat ignored by their owners. At this barn, that's Valentine, the alpha gelding.

Technically it's only lately that I've gotten attached to him. I've always felt bad for him: His owners have four little girls who used to ride him all the time, until they discovered last summer that he had back problems. Now they don't visit anymore at all, not even to groom him.

Horses are like any other animal — if you don't work with them regularly, they tend to revert back to a wilder or more natural state, forgetting to behave politely around people. After months of being ignored (except for the barn owner, who only feeds him), Valentine has become very pushy. He crowds you, blocks doorways, chases the other horses with you standing right there (I'm surprised no one has gotten trampled yet), and refuses to let you handle his head.

The barn owner is pretty permissive, but I don't put up with any of it. I make him back up when he blocks the tack room doorway, and drive him away when he chases other horses and puts me in danger. I'll hold onto his head until he stops tossing it and stands obediently, and drive him away if he tries to evade me. I don't care if he's not my horse — he is NOT going to get away with being pushy in my presence.

Recently I've started seeing results. He's started holding his head still for me, letting me pet him and mess with him. He's completely stopped blocking the doorway when I'm in the grain and tack room. I think he might even be chasing the horses less when I'm present.

But what I was most proud of happened some weeks ago. I'd been talking to the barn owner, petting Valentine's head and scolding him when he'd mouth me periodically. (I don't put up with that either.) Then at one point, I reached for his head and he walked off. Hello — rude!!! So I drove him away, clucking and waving my arms at him.

This is my main way of disciplining Panama when he mouths me in the pasture, or when he runs away when I'm trying to catch him. Panama knows the drill and usually will very quickly start working his lips and tongue — the sign of submission signalling that he's sorry and is ready to behave himself again.

Valentine is the alpha horse, though, and although I'd driven him away before, he had never given me this sign of submission. This day, however, I spotted a very slight working of his mouth. I immediately stopped driving him, relaxed my body language, and praised him verbally.

We'll see if he remembers next time... But I'm still encouraged. My goal is to make sure he knows that when I'm present, I'm alpha — not him. It looks like I might finally be getting that message across!

And what do you know — he seems to like me better for it, too!

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Do you ever neglect to blanket?

Last night was supposed to only get down into the upper teens. Since I only blanket my horse under 15 degrees, I didn't think he'd need it last night.

So, oh! I felt bad when I happened to see around 1:30am that it was only 10 degrees! According to one site, that is. Another site said 14 degrees, and it was late, so I decided to leave it be.

Of course, Panama was just fine today, but he was shedding like crazy when I groomed him. It may have been cold last night, but it climbed well into the 50s this afternoon!

Do you ever neglect to blanket your horse when you should? Do you feel as guilty about it as I did last night?

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Progress and lost pictures

I spent a fantastic afternoon with my horse today. I had some pretty good pictures, too, but unfortunately my SD card became corrupted when I tried downloading them, and I lost everything on it.

It had been a week since I was out there last, and Panama definitely seemed happy to see me. I groomed him and turned him out to run in the back pasture, but he apparently had no interest in it. I then lunged him, and we worked a bit on keeping the circle even, rather than working his way toward home as he often does. I didn't canter him on the lunge line at all today, because I didn't want to get him all fired up.

Once I felt we'd accomplished a decent session, I took Panama out into the field and lunged him a little more out there. He did just fine — his only hangup was wanting to graze. As soon as I fed him some line, he put his head down to start grazing. I gave the line a jerk and hollered and clucked at him to "walk on." He did, but he kept trying to sneak a bit in here and there — "drive thru" for horses, I guess!

Every time he tried to snack, I made scolding sounds at him, and he got it pretty quickly. He got to the point where I just had to make that sound when he dropped his head to get him to stop, and then to where he didn't even try at all.

When I finished lunging him, I did let him graze for a few minutes, which probably undid all of the work I'd just done. But I suppose he needs to get to the point where he understands the difference between me letting him and me not letting him, right?

After our practice in the field, I took Panama back and released him in the pasture. I spent a little time with him there, and at one point he rested his nose in the curve of my neck. I love it when he does that, but lately I've been nervous about him biting because of how mouthy he has been since people have been feeding him treats at the fence. But he didn't mouth, and we had several special snuggly moments before he went back to looking for leftover hay on the ground.

I think I should be able to try riding Panama out in the field very soon. If I have a chance tomorrow, I'll ride him first in the pasture — and if he seems to be in a good mood for it, I'll take him out into the field, too!

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Goals for the rest of my week

I haven't seen my horse since Valentine's Day, primarily because of work. I had several client projects that had to be finished over the weekend, plus a major 2,000 word magazine article I was working on. But now the article is done, my work schedule is somewhat lighter, and it's time to make some goals for the rest of the week.

1. To get over to the barn at least twice before the end of the weekend. Hopefully tomorrow and on the weekend, three times if I can manage it.

2. To lunge Panama in the field. He's been doing so well with the hand-walking out there, I think he's ready for something a little more challenging.

3. To take some pictures. It's been a while since I've had recent pictures to post!

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Book giveaway winner

Sorry for the delay on announcing the winner of my Valentine's Day book giveaway, folks. I've been especially busy over the last few days, and as a result I wasn't able to get to it until now.

The winner of the book giveaway is Robin Titan. Robin actually has a review blog entitled T.V. and Book Addict, so I look forward to seeing what she writes about our giveaway book!

I did the drawing the same way as I did last time: by writing everyone's name on a little (identical) scrap of paper, and folding each up in the same manner. Then I dropped all of the names into a shoebox, shook them up, mixed them around, and drew out a name.

Congratulations, Robin!

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Anyone who supports horse slaughter needs to see these pictures

I didn't need to see these pictures to be convinced that horse slaughter is a horrible thing — whether it's done in Mexico, Canada, or the United States. (No, folks, reopening slaughter plants in the United States doesn't guarantee more humane slaughter for horses. It's still terrifying and inhumane for the horses. It just makes it closer to home, and therefore easier for kill buyers to access.)

And these pictures are only of the injuries and deaths suffered by horses during transport to slaughter facilities! Imagine what horrors await the ones who were "lucky" enough to survive!

Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who do support horse slaughter. If you do, you NEED to view these pictures and see what exactly it is that you're supporting!

Warning: The pictures are extremely graphic. But if you support horse slaughter, then it shouldn't bother you, right?

And while you're at it, read this post about the horse slaughter pictures over at Fugly Horse of the Day. Her rant voices my feelings on the subject perfectly, plus she gives you links where you can do something about these atrocities.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Delay on horse book giveaway

Sorry for the delay on the horse book giveaway. I will announce the winner tonight or tomorrow. Right now I am working toward a major deadline, and have little time to sleep, let alone blog!

In the meantime, though, here's a picture for you, taken earlier this month on my cell phone:

Pretty Panama horse!

Isn't he cute?

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's Day with hubby and horse

So far today promises to be the perfect Valentine's Day. I got to sleep in and catch up on the sleep I've missed the last few nights because of work. Hubby even snuggled with me, which makes sleeping in that much better! After we got up, we went out for brunch, and then straight over to the barn. Tonight we plan to eat our favorite casual dinner and watch one of our favorite movies.

We didn't stay long at the barn — it was a little cold for Michael's tastes (he's not fond of visiting the barn, so being cold just adds insult to injury) — but the perfect Valentine's Day just had to include a little time with my horse. To make up for the shortage of time, I did the same thing I did on Thursday, and just practiced hand-walking Panama in the field across the street.

Once again, we went a little farther, and I spent some time acquainting Panama with another of the random fences that enclose (presumably) broadcasting equipment in the field. I knocked on the fence a couple of times, which startled him a bit but not bad. When I pointed at the fence (i.e., tapped it with a finger), he always sniffed it obligingly (just like a dog — haha!), so he apparently wasn't holding a grudge against it.

We aren't totally done despooking, though. I noticed that if I tried to position Panama between me and the fence, he stood almost on top of me in order to keep his distance from the fence. The last thing I want is for him to freak out about a fence when we are riding in the field, so we'll revisit the fence thing next time we go for a walk in the field.

All in all, though, I think we are making good progress with the field. Panama tends to be on alert out there, but not spooky. Now I know this could change when I'm riding him — when I'm standing next to him I think he feels more comfortable, probably because he is able to read my body language and take comfort from my presence better than when I'm on his back.

I think we are ready for the next step: lunging him in the field. Hopefully I'll have enough time tomorrow to try it!

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Horse book giveaway reminder

Don't forget, the drawing for my Valentine's Day horse book giveaway is tonight. Entries must be in by midnight mountain time.

Also, don't forget to check out my Valentine's Day video, which I posted yesterday. I'm very pleased with how it turned out! I have another video in mind to make soon — I just need to locate the music I want to use for it.

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!

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Friday, February 13, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day!

Yes, I know this is a day early. But I had lots of fun making this video of my horse, and wanted to post it as soon as possible.

Enjoy!

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hand-walking my horse again

I haven't been doing great at keeping my New Year's resolution to spend more time with my horse, but today I was proud of myself: I only had about 20 minutes at the barn, but I went anyway, even though that meant getting fast food and eating while driving!

Since we didn't have much time, I decided to forego grooming (gasp!) and take Panama on a quick walk in the field. After my work to expand his comfort zone over the weekend, I decided we need to work on this more often. My goal is to be working on riding him on the trails alone by summer. Even if we don't get very far each time it'll be a nice thing to be working on when the weather warms up.

Today I just hand-walked him again. He's getting more confident and I think I may try lunging him out there this weekend if the snow we're supposed to get tonight doesn't stick. Today he crossed the road on a loose lead, perfectly relaxed until we got into the field. Then he noticed how many cars were parked right off the road there — mine, the instructor who gives lessons on the property's owner's horse, and the mom and siblings of the little girl who was currently riding.

The thing that startled Panama was that he heard sounds coming from the minivan. I don't think he is fully understanding yet that people can be inside cars. Whenever I call out to him from inside the car, he looks around like he can't figure out where my voice is coming from. So I think realizing there were people in the minivan was something of a shock for him: He froze, stretched his neck up as tall as it would go, and stared daggers at that van!

I let him look for a moment or two. He was very good and didn't spook, but when we started walking again I had to jab his shoulder with my elbow a few times to keep him from trying to lean against me as we walked. Once he forgot about the minivan he was fine again, but then four teenage boys jogged down the street behind us, so of course Panama had to stop and watch that, too. It was curiosity, though, and not fright, so I let him.

Ultimately we walked farther away from home this time than we have before, and he was fine with it. Way out in the field, I stood at his shoulder and encouraged him to bend his neck around me, as an effort to keep him focusing on what we were doing. He resisted at first, then realized what I wanted and turned his head into my chest. We were both quite content to stand and "snuggle" like that for several moments, gazing across the field at the late afternoon sun. It was a beautiful moment and I wish someone had been there to take our picture.

Only after the moment ended did Panama take an interest in grazing. (He hadn't tried once this entire time.) I let him munch for a few minutes and then tugged gently on the lead and said, "Head." He lifted his head right away. I was so proud! Hopefully by the time the grass starts coming in green, he'll be so used to not grazing much out there that he won't be too distracted by it.

We finished our walk back with a "Meet Mommy's car" session. I opened the door, let him sniff, and then swung it shut. Panama tensed but didn't jump, so I did it all again. That time he sniffed the door more boldly, and didn't tense at all when I shut it. We've seen rangers' vehicles periodically while trail riding, and it's hit or miss as to whether he's okay with that, so I decided getting him used to my car (any car) would be a good thing.

It was a satifying walk, and a good use of my limited time. I hope I get a chance to work with him on it this weekend too!

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Riding bareback with the security of a saddle?

Scaequestrian over at Tacky Tack of the Day posted yesterday on bareback pads. I love riding bareback, but it's difficult on Panama because he's so slap-sided, still being young. Plus, my bareback pad tends to move around a lot, so I have to ride without it — and I'm not yet comfortable doing anything more than a walk while sitting on slippery fur!

Scaequestrian's post gave a good rundown on what to look for in a bareback pad. Breast collar: good. Stirrups: not good. But what I found especially interesting was the last item, the Natural Ride: a combination bareback pad/saddle with stirrups and a half-tree in the front to support them. (It also helps that the company is a Colorado company. I love supporting local businesses!)

Despite the fact that this glorified bareback pad has the same price tag as my regular saddle (okay, I got it used and cheap, but still), I think I'm in love. Luckily my birthday is coming up in a couple of months... (Hint, hint, hubby!)

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Valentine's Day horse book giveaway

icon
iconI recently read Hope Rising by Kim Meeder. There are some really wonderful inspirational stories in its pages about horses saving children and children saving horses, but unfortunately there was a heavy religious theme that made me a bit uncomfortable and kept me from fully enjoying the rescue stories.

Although religion is not my cup of tea, I know many of my readers would appreciate this book more than I could. So just like I did a few months ago when I did my holiday book giveaway, I'm going to do a drawing to find this book a new home. All participants must contact me by 11:59 pm mountain time on Saturday, February 14, and winners will be announced on Sunday, February 15.

I'll do the drawing the same way I did last time, by writing everyone's names on a slip of paper, folding them up, and then drawing a name out of a hat. The book, by the way, is just like new — as the winners of my previous drawings know, I take very good care of my books!

Good luck and happy Valentine's Day!

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Great horse pictures

I love it when horse blogs have lots of pictures. I guess I work on that on my blog.

Anyway, check out these great pictures — and the story behind them — on Nuzzling Muzzles:

Shavings Bag Fun

The last picture cracks me up!

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Monday, February 9, 2009

Friendship Award!

Nuzzling Muzzles has granted me a Friendship Award. Such an honor! I've only discovered this horse-blog community fairly recently, but already I feel like such a part of it. Thanks so much to all of you who have welcomed me, made me feel at home on your blogs, and spent time visiting and commenting on my blogs!

Here is what this award is all about:

"These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award."

The problem is, many of the people who fit the bill are already recipients. So I am going to have two lists — 8 new recipients to satisfy the award's requirement, and a short list of "honorary" recipients, bloggers I want to show my appreciation for but who have already received the award from someone else.

Also, please note that not all of these folks are horse bloggers. As a freelance writer, I have some friends in the online writing-blogging community who are very deserving of this award.

Here we go...

Official recipients:

1. Tacky Tack of the Day

I just recently started following this blog, but it's an amusing daily analysis of some of the horrific tack available. I like scaequestrian's blogging style, so I'm making my newest addition to my blog-reading habit my first award recipient.

2. Desert Horses

I've been following Cheryl Ann's blog since she entered (and won!) my holiday book giveaway. She always has great pictures, which makes her blog a joy to read.

3. Screw You!

Kathy Kehrli, a.k.a. the Irreverent Freelancer, is one of my oldest blogging friends. Her wit and sarcasm makes it easier for many of us to bear the most frustrating parts of freelancing. On a more personal level, I can also say that she is a great friend with a good heart and an admirable dedication to her career.

4. Words on the Page

Lori is another freelancer I've known for quite some time, but I've only recently started following her blog on a daily basis. Thank you, Google Reading List! I've enjoyed her blog so much recently, I don't know why I didn't start following it regularly some time ago.

5. Writer in the Making

Harmony is an on-again, off-again freelancer who used to blog regularly. Come back, Harmony, come back!

6. Meow-Bark-Blog

Fellow freelancer Kristen King has her own pet-focused blog. Her biggest pet is a little smaller than Panama, but not by much. :o)

Honorary recipients:

7. Laughing Orca Ranch

Lisa is an absolute sweetheart. I "met" her when she signed up for my book giveaway, and I've been reading her blog ever since. If anyone deserves an honorary award, she does!

8. There is a Horse in My Bubblebath

Pam, a.k.a. RedDunAppy, also has a great blog with lots of pictures that I read regularly. Unfortunately, Nuzzling Muzzles beat me to her.

9. Nuzzling Muzzles

I love this blog, so... Right back atcha, baby!

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For the love of a stall

I think I've mentioned before that my horse loves having a stall. For the first 2 years or so of his life, all he knew was pasture without shelter — and there were bad ice storms the winter he was on my in-laws' pasture, so he's had his share of being out in nasty weather.

When I brought Panama to Denver, it was to a barn where he had a stall and a run all to himself. He balked at going inside at first, but he quickly came to love having a stall. I soon noticed that when it was cold at night, he'd pee inside rather than go outside in the run, as he preferred to do when the weather was warm.

Although I now have him in an environment where he no longer has his own stall, there is a large open barn in the pasture that the horses can go in and out of as they please. It's a good setup, because he isn't confined, but it also confirms how much he loves a stall: He is the only horse there who sleeps in the barn every night, and stays inside anytime it is cold or wet.

Last night we got some rain, and I was worried about Panama getting wet — even the hardiest horse can get chilled if he is wet in cold weather, and heaven knows Panama (being an Arab cross) doesn't have a very thick winter coat. I emailed the barn owner asking him if he'd check on the horses at some point, and let me know if Panama was shivering. But when the owner emailed me back, it was to tell me that Panama was the only one in the barn, and he was completely dry.

I guess I should have known better. My horse isn't going to be caught outside during a rainstorm! What an endearingly spoiled little baby he is!

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Sunday, February 8, 2009

Expanding my horse's comfort zone: Part 2

After grooming, turning out, and lunging my horse this afternoon, I decided to finish the visit with a little practice walking away from the barn.

When I moved to this barn, one of the things I really liked was the opportunity it offered to really expand his comfort zone. The property borders a narrow neighborhood street; across that street is a large field where we can ride, and on the other side of the field is a major trail that offers miles of trail riding opportunities.

Unfortunately, in four months at this barn I really haven't done much to take advantage of this setup I liked so much. Today was only the third or fourth time I've hand walked him out into the field, and I have yet to lunge or ride him out there yet.

Panama actually seems to be doing pretty well with the field though. He snorted at the asphalt a little today as we crossed the street, which cracked me up because that is FAR from the first time he's seen asphalt. (Though it might have been the crack running through the road that he didn't like — he seems to think he can't cross those unless I go first.) In the field he walked rather close to me, but he didn't try to walk on top of me like he usually does when he is feeling insecure and frightened.

We walked further today than we have before — probably about 50 feet out. Panama even approached and sniffed one of the VERY SCARY wooden fences that are set up randomly in the field. (The field is owned by a radio station, and the fences apparently enclose some type of broadcasting equipment.) I was so proud of him!

On our walk back, Panama tried to rush at first, but slowed down after I made him whoa and walked him in a little circle. He even stood quietly about 15 feet back from the road while a car passed, and then again about 10 feet from the road when a second one drove by. So really, the entire 15-minute walk transpired without incident.

In fact, the biggest challenge was moderating his grazing — despite the fact that it was dead and weedy, he was pretty interested in the grass beneath his feet. He learned pretty quickly that I didn't want him eating, though, and only tried a few times.

As mean as it sounds not to let him graze, I don't want him to start thinking of the field purely as a food source. If he gets into that mindset, I'll have a really difficult time getting him to focus once I start riding him out there. And since I always feel bad about hauling on his mouth to get him to pull his head up, I'd rather start teaching him now not to always expect grazing privileges out there.

My goal is to start taking Panama out in the field more often. As he gets comfortable, I'll start lunging and riding him out there, and gradually work him further and further away from home. Eventually I hope to get him so that he is comfortable crossing the field and riding on the trail without another horse to keep him company!

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Expanding my horse's comfort zone: Part 1

Today I was able to spend some time with my horse. One of the things we worked on was expanding his comfort zone.

Panama was in a pretty good mood today, but I didn't feel like riding, so we worked on some other things. I started out by brushing him, and then I turned him out to run a bit. He kept going back to the fence, at first because the owner was around and Panama was hoping for food, so I kept having to chase him (Panama, not the owner!) away. Once when he turned around at one end of the fence, I jumped toward the fence to prevent him running back along the same path, and stamped my foot. Panama jumped straight up in the air and ran off in the other direction, bucking three or four times in a row! It was hilarious!

Then a group adults and kids came to the fence along the edge of the front pasture, and all the horses clustered around the fence, hoping for treats. Panama stood at the fence in the back pasture, looking very forlorn, so I gave up chasing him and tried lunging him instead. He kept trying to move our circle toward the fence, but otherwise he was good.

Panama worked up quite a sweat between turnout and lunging, so after I rubbed him down with a towel and brushed him, I decided to walk him around in the field while he cooled down a bit.

This post is getting a bit long, so I'll finish the story later tonight in part 2. Stay tuned!

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Friday, February 6, 2009

Keep off the ice!

I saw this article on my local news site last night: A horse was rescued from a frozen pond in Kentucky.

They think Pencil the horse was looking for water, walked out onto the frozen pond, and fell through the ice. Apparently the heater in his trough had stopped working, so his water had frozen over.

It's tempting to say "Why the heck didn't the owner notice the horse had water," but I guess if he cares enough to chop ice around his horse and help the rescue crew get him out, he's probably not neglectful. I can't help but wonder, though — who names their horse Pencil?!

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Thursday, February 5, 2009

One step closer

Remember recently when I posted about a fake Craigslist ad that was used to raise public awareness of a severely neglected, starving mare? In that post I mentioned that because horses are viewed as livestock, abuse of them tends to be treated differently than if it were someone's cat or dog.

Well, recently Arkansas included horses in a piece of very important new legislation, making animal cruelty a felony. I found this out from a new blog I'm following, Tacky Tack of the Day, which usually talks about horse tack but went a little off topic for this post.

I hope this new law in Arkansas will encourage other states to follow suit!

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Farrier visit!

My farrier came out today to give my horse a trim. I got there early to brush him with the hopes of having time to play with him a little before the farrier got there, but then the owner brought out the hay and I realized he hadn't eaten yet. (At 9:30! Not pleased, especially considering he feeds them dinner around 4:30 or 5:00pm.)

So I hurried up and finished brushing Panama, then turned him loose to get his breakfast. While I waited for the farrier, I sat down, enjoyed the warmth (it was in the mid-60s today), and watched Panama's halter winking in the sun as he ate.

When my farrier came, Panama was a touch annoyed at having his breakfast interrupted, but he was reasonably well behaved. He did try to run off when my farrier and I walked up to him (he stopped when I scolded him). We took him into the other pasture to trim his feet, but he could still see his buddies eating without him. Every time the farrier finished with a foot he tried to walk off, and looked annoyed when we stopped him. By the time the farrier was halfway through, he was trying to walk off even with one foot held captive!

I didn't get to spend much time with him afterward, because my farrier proceeded to talk my ear off. Even so, it was good to get at least a little time with Panama. It's supposed to be even warmer tomorrow afternoon so I'll try to get out there again then, and hopefully even ride!

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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Speak up for Tessa the mule

Yesterday in the comments on Fugly Horse of the Day, I ran across a link to a website about a mule named Tessa who died after being abused by her trainers.

If you don't do well with pictures of animal abuse, avoid the link on the site that says "Warning - Graphic Photos." The rest of the pages are G-rated, and the story is worth reading. It's a good reminder of how careful you have to be when hiring people to work with your horse. I personally would never send my horse away to be trained, but it's a pretty common practice, so if you do just be careful!

Unfortunately, Tessa's abusers have not been brought to justice, so her owner is asking that people write letters asking the Humane Society and the sheriff's office to take action on the case. It shouldn't take more than a few minutes to write a quick note telling them how horrified you were, and asking them to do what needs to be done. Please help make sure these horrible people will never be able to do this to another horse!

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Monday, February 2, 2009

A horsey weekend: Sunday's visit with my horse

When I decided not to ride my horse on Saturday, I was thinking I'd have a chance Sunday. Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way — it was even more windy yesterday, and we didn't get the snow we were supposed to get. I swear, my horse missed his calling as a barometer, because he was quite fiesty when Michael and I visited early in the afternoon.

I started out grooming Panama, as usual, and then I turned him out to run. He seemed to only want to run toward the fence that divides the pastures, so I'm pretty sure he thought the other horses would be getting their grain at any moment.

He was kind of a pill on the lunge line, too. Again, all he wanted to do was run toward the fence, and I had even more problems getting controlled gaits out of him than I did yesterday. So I decided — again — that we needed a day of groundwork, not riding. The work paid off and by the end of our lunging session, Panama was behaving himself reasonably well, though he still seemed anxious about whether he'd be done in time for his grain.

We also practiced one time at having Michael halter Panama, though Michael (having watched Panama's behavior on the lunge line) wasn't too keen on that. Neither was Panama, apparently — when I handed Michael the halter, the silly horse walked off! He did stop when I scolded him and told him to Whoa, and stood still while Michael haltered him, however. And actually, at this point I think Michael actually needs the practice more than Panama — he's extremely reluctant to stand close enough to Panama's shoulder to put the halter on.

It wasn't the most satisfying visit, but it was good to get out to the barn and feel that at least I was spending some time with Panama. It's like the saying goes: Any time you work a horse, you are training them. Some sessions just go better than others!

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A horsey weekend: Saturday's visit with my horse

I got out to the barn both days this weekend — the first time I've been able to do that in ages, it seems.

On Saturday I met my mom out at the barn. It was the first time she had seen my horse in months. When I arrived Panama was lying down, so I messed with him a little and took his picture while I was waiting for her.

Originally I was planning on riding, but as it turned out he was too fired up — probably because it was windy (which always makes him jittery and excitable) and had recently turned warm (same with sudden changes in the weather). So instead I groomed him while my mom spoiled him with attention, and then turned him out to run.

I've noticed before that when I chase Panama around when someone else is in the pasture, he has a tendency to almost run the other person over. He was cutting it awfully close with my mom, so I showed her how to spread her arms and wave them to remind him not to run her over.

Ten minutes later, I was really glad I showed her, because he ran right at her. I yelled, "Arms out!" Thank heavens my mom is a quick study! She threw her arms out; Panama threw his head up in surprise, slammed on the brakes, put his head down, postured like he was going to buck, then turned on a dime and ran around her instead. It was hilarious because it looked like a really bizarre body wave, but it confirmed what I already suspected: That he is focusing on me so much that he forgets to pay attention to where other people are standing.

After that little near-collision, I decided to lunge Panama a little — on a line for a bit better control. It took him almost ten minutes to settle into controlled walks and trots (and only then did he get to canter), but I decided at that point that he was not in a good mood for being ridden. Besides, by then I was running out of time.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to ride him Sunday either. Hopefully this week I'll get a chance to get back in the saddle again!

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Sunday, February 1, 2009

Budweiser horse-themed Superbowl commercials

I didn't watch the Superbowl but I was told Budweiser had some good horse-themed commercials, so of course I looked them up on YouTube. For those of you who are like me and don't bother with football — or even if you just want to see them again — here they are.

Cute:



Cuter:



Cutest:

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My horse lying down

My horse lying down

When I arrived to visit my horse yesterday, he was lying down in the pasture, sunbathing. He remaining lying down as he watched me get out of the car, unlock the pasture gate, and walk up to him. He even stayed put when I knelt by him, petted him all over, kissed his face, and then got up and sat on his back.

Isn't he adorable?

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