Monday, January 31, 2011

BRRRRR

A snowstorm and deep freeze rolled in this morning — when I woke up this morning (kind of late) it was already snowing.  The temperature dropped throughout the day, and is currently in the single digits.  It's supposed to get down to -6 to -10 tonight, with wind chill values down to -15.  Tomorrow's high will hover right around 0 degrees, and Wednesday won't get any warmer than single digits.

Luckily I planned ahead, and put Panama's blanket on him late yesterday afternoon, even though it was only going to be in the mid-20s overnight.  I didn't want to be running out there in a hurry this morning!  The blanket will be on until Thursday morning, most likely, since it'll be too cold to ride (even inside).  Thursday is supposed to shoot up to a toasty 30 degrees or so.

I did get a short ride in yesterday afternoon, knowing the weather was going to turn.  We only rode for about 25 minutes, and with only one canter — mostly walk and trot work.  He was acting rather needy yesterday, mouthing excessively for attention (something he doesn't usually do — he even bit me when I stopped to chat with another boarder on the way out of the arena!).  This translated to a lack of focus, a kind of "being all over the place" type of behavior, under saddle.

I'm not sure why he felt so needy, considering he had had so much exercise two days before — I thought he'd still be recovering!  Ha.  My best guess is that he actually liked playing and working until he was tired — kind of like how satisfied we feel after a good ride or a good workout — and was itching for something a little more demanding than our short half-hour ride.  Despite his restlessness, though, we had a decent ride.  Nothing groundbreaking, but we were able to work through some of his antsy-ness and get the basics done.

It'll be nice when the weather warms up and I can ride some more!

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

A riding lesson in which no horse tried to kill me

A friend of ours gently teased me the other day for posting so often about near-death experiences on my horse blog, so I am happy to report that yesterday's lesson went off without a hitch.

Well, except for one teleportation to the side followed by a bolt (I'm getting better at sitting those!) and one lost stirrup at the canter.  But I didn't fall either time.

Panama was pretty fired up yesterday.  I got out there early and turned him out first with Lady for a short reunion, and then with Spaghetti.  He and Spaghetti alternately ran together and played bitey face for a good 45 minutes, and still weren't done when we had to interrupt them so that I could start tacking up for my lesson.

Despite the long playdate, Panama was still fired up for our lesson.  My trainer pulled a barrel down from where they rest on the rail in one corner, and set it down lengthwise to sit on.  Panama was convinced it was going to eat him, so we spent the first bit of the lesson working through that.  (The spook came when we were doing a lap around the arena, and he was so focused on the barrel that when we went by the gate, he wasn't paying attention to what was happening in the aisle, so the unexpected motion of a saddle blanket caught him off guard.)

Finally he started winding down, but I think it was more because he was running out of energy than for any other reason.  We spent the rest of the lesson working on our canter, and I could tell when he started getting tired, because his trot was uncharacteristically slow and he kept dropping out of the canter.  It's rare to see Panama tired, as he seems to have an almost bottomless source of energy.  Poor Panama — it's a lot of work being that scared of something, especially after a good run with your best buddy!

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Monday, January 24, 2011

How Panama saved me

I had another great lesson on Friday.  Panama was a bit squirrely when I arrived — Spaghetti's owner and I met around late morning for a playdate before my lesson, and he was pretty eager to get out there and run.  He remained amped up when I was tacking up, so I really had no idea whether he was going to behave himself during our lesson or not.  I really need to start riding more often again — once a week is leaving too much of his mood and behavior to chance.

As it turned out, though, Panama was very well-behaved during our lesson.  As usual, the first ten minutes or so had to be spent reminding him of the "ground rules" — working him into corners, and reminding him to bend and not let his inside shoulder fall in through turns.  But once he and I worked through that, my trainer suggested we work on cantering for a bit.

We haven't worked on cantering in a lesson for a couple of months at least, I think.  I've cantered a few times, but usually only once or twice when he's being especially good, as Panama tends to get pretty fired up once he gets to canter, and I spend a lot of time working him back down from his excitement.

This time we cantered several times in each direction, practicing it both in the saddle and in my two-point.  Although I'm still coming out of the saddle a bit during my sitting canter, it's not as bad as it used to be, and both Panama and I are doing much better in our upward and downward transitions.  I do need to remember not to just hang on his face when I'm trying to slow him down from a very excited canter, but other than that, we seem to be doing much better than we had been.

We had one scary moment during our lesson.  The arena was quite crowded, with two or three other riders, one person hand-walking a horse that just had surgery, and one or two people on foot in the middle at one point.  We were passing the mare that was being hand-walked and getting ready to canter; her owner walked her away from the rail so that we could have it, and we got ready to pass her.  As we approached, I saw her stop and plant herself, getting ready to kick us.  Her owner tugged and got her moving, and then she planted again, and as we got even with her, I saw her kick.

This all happened so quickly that I didn't have much time to react.  We were maybe four or five strides away when she planted the first time; I could have perhaps slowed him in time at that point, but when her owner got her moving again I didn't think I had to.  By the time she stopped and planted herself the second time, it was far too late for me to do anything.  It was Panama who saved the day: He slammed on the brakes and turned quickly into the rail, presenting her with his butt but not kicking back.  I was in my two-point, and for a moment I was worried I was going to fall, but I didn't (which tells me I'm getting to be a much stronger rider, as this all happened very quickly).  The mare's owner got her moved away from us, and I let Panama stand at the rail for a moment while both of us got our bearings again.

Later, my trainer said that I was pretty close to getting a hoof in the knee.  It's hard to remember because it was all such a blur, but I'm pretty sure I didn't tell Panama to do what he did.  I'm pretty sure he acted immediately and instinctively to protect both of us.  I am still amazed that I stayed as balanced as I did, especially since I was ready for a canter, not an abrupt halt and direction change, but I managed.  I got a lot of compliments from others in the arena for how I handled it.

In that brief instant, I think Panama redeemed himself for much of his naughty baby behavior during the late summer and fall.  Despite the occasional growing pains he still goes through, he is showing signs of growing into a confident horse and a wonderful companion and riding partner for me.

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Busy, not-so-good week

I've had a busy week, and not a very good one, either.  As a result, I haven't ridden since my lesson on Friday... once again!

I was planning not to ride over the weekend or on Monday.  Even though Monday was a holiday for many people, I was working because I wanted to take some time off on Tuesday to read a book that was coming out that day.  As I'd hoped, ordering the ebook meant I was actually able to download it at midnight — Eastern time! — Monday night, so I was able to stay up late reading.

My plans for reading all day Tuesday went awry, though.  In the morning we found the remains of someone's poor house cat lying in the yard.  It had been eaten by a coyote, and only two paws and a little bit of fur on its chin were left.  I hate how many people let their cats roam in our neighborhood, so it's probably a good thing there wasn't much left to make an identification — if I'd known whose cat it was, I would have return what was left, and probably given them a piece of my mind about letting their cat outside, too.

You know how sometimes something bad like that just gets into your head and ruins your entire day?  That was how Tuesday was.  I cried all afternoon, and I couldn't bring myself to eat until dinnertime, not because I was grossed out but because I was so upset.  A horrible death like that is entirely avoidable if you just keep your cats inside.

I didn't end up reading or working much on Tuesday, so I've been busy for the rest of the week, absorbing what I didn't get done then.  (I also finished reading the book finally, late last night.)  And every day, something negative has happened, just bad enough to spoil what would otherwise be okay kinds of days.

I regretted the week I've had today most of all, though.  I went out to the barn in the morning to pull Panama's and Spaghetti's blankets.  It snowed yesterday evening and overnight, but it was beautiful and sunny (even if a little cold) when I was out at the barn.  I was going to hop on bareback, but quickly realized Panama was too hyper and impatient for that, so I turned him out for a roll and a display of energy.  I still wanted to get on and ride, but I didn't feel like getting my butt wet by riding bareback (he'd rolled in the snow), and tacking up would take time I didn't have.  I just couldn't shake the feeling that I had better get home and get some work done.

I have some more things to do with the rest of my day, but perhaps if I have time later this evening, I'll go back out and get a short ride in before our lesson tomorrow.  Otherwise, I don't have many plans for the weekend — hopefully I'll be able to shake this once-a-week schedule and get some real riding in!

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Friday, January 14, 2011

A bit of jumping and a great lesson

I was a little worried about how Panama would behave for my lesson today, since I hadn't ridden him since last Friday's lesson, but as it turned out I had nothing to worry about.  My first clue was when I turned him out, and even with me encouraging him to run, he showed very little interest.  I thought it might be because of the sloppy footing in the outdoor arena (all of the snow we got last weekend is currently in the process of melting, now that it's warm and sunny again at last), but he proved me wrong.

In fact, he was so good during our lesson, that after about 15 minutes my trainer asked me which I'd rather work on: cantering, or jumping.  Since it's been a while since we've been able to do either, I was surprised!  I chose jumping — the snow on the roof was melting, so there was a lot of dripping noises all down the long side of the indoor arena, and I thought he might be rather distracted by that.  Besides, he loves jumping — it provides more challenge for him than flat work, and he has always preferred to be challenged.

Sure enough, he was excited when he realized we were going to jump.  I thought he might like to walk over the jump first to give him a chance to see the poles — he used to like to do that — but no, as soon as I pointed him at it he broke into a hesitant little trot, as if asking permission.  I was glad he wanted to get right down to business, so I gave him the okay.

We jumped maybe a dozen times, maybe more.  Panama was very good the entire time — a little bit distracted by the other two horses in the arena, but very well behaved.  Almost too good, actually — for once he wasn't trying to rush the trot all the time, and my trainer was actually having to tell me to put more leg on to get him over the jump!

We had quite a few awkward jumps, as it's been a while since we last worked on this, and we've only had maybe a handful of jumping lessons so far.  But it's getting easier for both of us, and my trainer was really pleased with how we did today.

This ought to be incentive for me to work with Panama more and get him to a point where we can start jumping regularly.  He loves to jump — I'm not positive, but I think he might even like it better than trail riding!

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Barn arsonist brought to justice... Sort of

In May 2010, I blogged about a barn fire in Denver, in which 12 horses were killed.  Do you remember?  A couple of weeks later, a suspect was charged with animal cruelty.  They didn't really give many details, so imagine my surprise when I read today that a man was sentenced to 12 years in prison for animal cruelty in setting the fire.

"This is the most severe case of animal cruelty I have seen in my 20-plus years as a prosecutor," the district attorney, Don Quick, said in a statement.

So 12 horses, a goat, and some chickens died a horrible death, the worst case the DA has seen in years, and they give him only 12 years?!

Colorado has some of the stiffest penalties in the country for animal cruelty, which is why it angers me when people get off this easy.  The guy was charged with 13 counts of animal cruelty — why wasn't he given the maximum penalty (6 years) for each one?  And yes, I think someone ought to be put away for the rest of their life for deliberately setting a fire that would murder more than a dozen animals.  An act like this goes far beyond neglect, beyond even typical abuse.  It would take a complete lack of morals or empathy in order to do something like this — and is that someone we even want in our society?

They still aren't giving many details, despite early reports that the fire may have been some kind of vengeance on the barn owners.  The guy has also been ordered to pay "up to" (whatever that means — sounds to me like another way to let him off the hook) $149,380.  No mention of additional fines, even though Colorado law allows up to $500,000 in fines per count.

I have really mixed feelings about this.  On one hand, I'm glad they caught the guy, and I'm glad he will at least spend some time in prison for what he did.  But at the same time, it's a travesty that the judge thinks those lives he destroyed were worth less than a year apiece.  As for the restitution, I don't doubt that most of it is intended to pay for a new barn.  It makes me so mad that those who make and uphold our laws assign so little value to the lives of animals.

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Deceptive weather

We've been experiencing a deep freeze here in Denver — another one!  It snowed all day Sunday, and Monday the high was in the mid-teens.  Monday night it dropped to below zero overnight.  Last night was supposed to be a low of 9, but when I checked the weather at 10:30 or 11:00pm, it was already down to 2 degrees!  (Or zero, depending on which site you looked at.)  Today is supposed to get up to the high 30s, but at almost 11:30am, all the weather sites are reporting temperatures in the mid-teens.  They were wrong about yesterday, too — they'd called for a high in the mid-20s, but it only barely touched 20 degrees around 2:00pm.

The sad thing is, it has been sunny and gorgeous yesterday and today.  It looks like it would be really warm out there, but one step outside and you can feel how wrong you were to assume!  So I've spent both days on the couch, working and trying to ignore the sunshine streaming in the window.

Needless to say, I haven't ridden.  When we had our last deep-freeze, a couple of weeks ago, I tried to ride one day when it was in the 20s, but I found that the indoor arena is extremely cold when the low the night before was around zero.  The only thing I can figure is that it holds the cold air from the night before.

I was going to ride today, but now I'm not so sure.  At this rate, it seems rather unlikely it will get as warm as 38 degrees today!

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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Too much time off

Between my illness and the weather, Panama and I have had a little too much time off in the past month, and we are now suffering the consequences.

I rode for about an hour Thursday evening, and it was like riding my horse two months ago instead of how he was the last time I had a serious ride, right before I got sick.  We had been working on bending and not falling in through the corners, two things he really struggles with, since his priorities are forward and fast, rather than control and focus.  He was "getting it," and I had been quite pleased with his progress...  But then I got sick, and apparently he forgot everything he'd been learning.

So Thursday evening was something of a struggle.  As a result, we worked on it during my lesson on Friday, too.  I was getting frustrated, so my trainer got up on him and accomplished in 5 minutes what I couldn't in 30.  Sigh.  But after that he realized what it was I wanted, and started responding better to my (apparently weak and confused) cues.  So we did see some improvements, but it sure took a lot of work — my legs were quite sore yesterday!

And unfortunately, we'll be having more time off this week: It's snowing today, and is supposed to get down into the deep-freeze temperatures again over the next few days.  Tomorrow is only supposed to be 14 degrees, too cold to ride even in the indoor (at least in my opinion — brrr!).  Tuesday they are calling for a toasty 24 degrees, but after an overnight low of -1, the indoor might still be too cold — we'll just have to wait and see.

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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Blown away

I went out to the barn yesterday to check on Panama's face and turn him out for a playdate with Spaghetti.  I was originally planning on riding if his face was well enough that the bridle wouldn't cause him any discomfort, but that plan was quickly discarded.  It was crazy windy out there — so windy it plastered our clothes to our bodies, and our horses' tails were horizontal more often than they were vertical.  We decided they were a bit too high to ride, even indoors, and anyway we were both so cold after 15 minutes out in the wind that it just didn't seem worth it.

In retrospect, I am glad I talked myself into a quick bareback ride Monday night, even though I was cold and it was late.  I didn't ride long, only about 15 minutes, but after nearly a week of not riding because of the snow and deep freeze, it was nice to get on.  We were the only ones there, so afterward I turned him loose in the indoor to see if he wanted to roll, but instead he followed me around like a puppy while I picked up his poo.  Then I slipped out into the hall to get his halter, and when I turned around, he was doing this:

My horse being sweet!

I love how attached he is to me, I really do!

Anyway, the weather is gorgeous today: sunny, 50s, and only a little breezy.  Hopefully it'll stay like this for a little while, because I want to finally get a ride in!

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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A little too much partying...

Panama has been partying a little too much lately, I think.  This morning when I arrived to pull his and Spaghetti's blankets, I discovered he had banged his face up overnight.  So much for my plans to ride — instead, I spent a beautiful morning cleaning and icing a cut.

I actually can't tell if it's a little cut, or a puncture wound.  It also may be a split from an impact, which would explain the goose egg on his cheekbone, too.  Anyway, I filled a latex glove with snow and alternated between using that to ice it, and applying a hot compress (a washcloth soaked in hot water) to loosen up the dried blood so I could see what I was dealing with.  The swelling came down, and I was able to cut away the hair well enough to see a short, jagged tear in the flesh, which is what makes me think it may be a split from banging it on something, rather than a cut or a puncture.

I cleaned it out with Betadine and put some Furacin on it.  I'll head back out this evening to clean it out again and apply more Furacin, and ice it some more too if the swelling comes back.  I'm also going to see if I can find a syringe to flush it out a little more easily (he doesn't permit me to hose his face down).  I've found in the past that diligent wound care from the very beginning can help me to avoid having to call the vet.

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Monday, January 3, 2011

Blond and beautiful

I've now heard about Panama's sexcapades from a second witness.  Apparently Belle's mother never told her to play hard to get, either, because this time was on the same day she arrived!  He's either very good, or she's very easy.

My horse's new 
girlfriend, a Palomino mare

I didn't even know Panama liked blondes — with the exception of redheaded Lady, all of his girlfriends have been brunettes!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Ringing in the New Year

Happy New Year's, everyone!

My husband and I rang in the New Year in our usual, laid-back fashion.  Often we watch movies until late New Year's Eve, but last night we played one of the new board games we got ourselves for Christmas.

My horse, on the other hand, had a much merrier way of celebrating.  There is a new mare in his corral, a very pretty, but incredibly fuzzy, short and stocky palomino named Belle.  I already knew he rather liked her, although Savvy, the corral alpha, was being... well, very alpha.

I went out to the barn today, intending to ride but changing my mind when I discovered it was colder than they'd predicted — we had some snow on Thursday, followed by some extremely cold weather.  It has been below zero the past few nights, and I doubt it got out of single digits yesterday.  Today was supposed to be 23 and sunny, but it grew overcast around midday and never made it to 23.

Anyway, one of my fellow boarders informed me that he got some action yesterday.  Apparently Belle was being very inviting, lifting her tail and squirting, and Panama mounted her... TWICE!  I didn't even know he knew what to do!  But the really funny thing was the mental image my fellow boarder's description generated.  Apparently he needed a little help getting up there, so he bit her blanket and used that as leverage to haul himself up.  Ha!  I guess, little guy that he is, he must have a hard time reaching, if you know what I mean — and that's why I haven't seen or heard of him trying before!

And yes, before anyone asks, he IS gelded.  I've heard of (and seen) geldings mounting mares before — I guess they can still get up there and try, they just can't perform as well (or finish the job).  Belle must have realized that after those two tries, because supposedly after the second try, she started giving him mare-face over her shoulder to tell him to give it up.

I guess my horse really knows how to party it up!

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