Feb 26, 2012

A Little Comfort for Blue


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A blustery weekend.  The sun was shining but the wind was fierce.  Yesterday was spent inside at a tack sale and hanging with horse friends.  Couldn’t have picked a nicer day to do just that.  Had hoped to get a nice ride in with Mary, Dwight and John this morning, but the wind started up again early.  I had a vet coming out to look at Blue and he called as we were a few miles into our ride and none of us were disappointed to cut it short.  Out of the wind it was sweater and vest weather and in the wind; full winter gear. 


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We bought Blue in the year 2000.  The first couple of years, he was primarily my ride and then the kids each took their turn with him.  A variety of riders, saddles and his terrain.  He was always soft footed, but started to be off a bit – one would say a ‘hitch in his giddy-up’.  It never seemed to be pain related; just a condition and he would work it out.  One vet said a knee problem, another stringhalt; both offering advice on shoeing options to help him stand up better.  We vacationed with Blue in 2008 and 2009 and then the kids quit riding and except for an occasional Platte River Ride, he has been semi-retired.


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After losing Ginger last fall, we never really thought about pulling Blue out of his quasi retirement.  Anytime we have rode him recently, he seemed so rough.  But dang, he’s a good horse.  As I am putting on miles for the Distance Derby, I have wanted to include him in the rotation but his jarring trot is unbearable and when asked for a lope, I could not get him to stop cross firing.  He seems to have gotten worse.  John and I decided if we could get him back to where he was when rode regularly, we would each try to continue to put some time on him.  We decided to try a vet who does chiropractic adjustments.


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No Blue is not perfect.  As my farrier says, Blue can be a “prick”.  Since he hasn’t been in work mode, he has decided he doesn’t need to pick up his feet for the farrier and ended up with the “twine across the gums” the last time.  So I decided to set him up for success with this vet and worked with him on picking up his feet.  Using my own version of clicker training, I would pick up his foot and if he held it quiet, click with my tongue and reach behind me with a treat.  Blue is very food motivated.  After our session, he stood quietly while John trimmed him and he was ready to go for the vet today.


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The pictures through this post were taken with his session with Dr. Zink.  I was very impressed with how Dr. Zink talked to Blue as he worked through the manipulation; at one time even hearing a “pop” from a distance away.  Blue could have very easily been a “prick”, but he wasn’t.  Perhaps whatever Dr. Zink was doing, felt good. 


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He spoke to us afterwards about areas of concern.  Unlike the human chiropractors, he did not put us on a series of manipulations, but said to work with him and look for improvements.  He felt he did relieve some of the trouble spots and that he had been out for quite awhile.  I hope we were able to provide Blue with a little relief.  He took good care of us for many, many years. 




AN OLD FASHIONED HORSE & TACK SWAP MEET is coming soon to Chance Ridge in Elkhorn.  Reserve your space today.  Horses welcome!   See information here



Feb 24, 2012

It’s (almost) Wednesday, Let’s Ride!


Many years ago – gosh, back when I was still riding Jo, so prior to 2005 – my friend, Robyn, and I started the Platte River Riders.  Simple idea:  every Wednesday during the good weather months, we would pick a trail to ride and invite others to join us.  Just adults, no kids.  Be saddled and ready to ride by 6:30 PM.  And right from the get-go, these rides were a success.


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Riding on a Wednesday evening after work does not afford a lot of people much time for travel.  So over the years more rides were scheduled to encompass specific geographical areas to accommodate more riders.  This year with gas prices looming in crazyville once again, I’ve scheduled rides in my neck of the woods for those who live in and near Saunders County.  It will reduce the miles I have to drive to get to rides and hopefully I will find other like-minded souls in my neighborhood who want to ride all year around and I can quit whining about not having riding buddies nearby.




This year’s schedule for the eastern Nebraska area is posted on the Platte River Riders page.  The northern and central groups will have their schedule in soon.  I hope you’ll look for a ride in your area and come join the fun. 

Feb 20, 2012

Just Forgetaboutit…..

I just can’t stand pulling up my website and being reminded of the dent in my new truck.  Someday John said he’ll pull the tail light off and see if he can’t just pop it out.  I am not overly optimistic.  If it works, great.  If he can’t, oh well.  The first cut is the deepest. (Name that song.)  I’m over it now.  Forgetaboutit already!

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We did get out for a ride yesterday with our friends, Mary and Dwight.  They do live in the county and are perhaps our closest riding buddies but still far enough to have to trailer when we plan a ride.  Mary and I try to take turns so one of us is not always doing the trailering.  Mary and Dwight also don’t mind getting out and moving, so we had a nice time road trotting and cantering down her gravel roads as well as riding in the fields along the creek.

I took this video of John on Fancy; I really enjoyed watching her increase her strides while trotting next to Windy and me.  I only wish I had a video of her canter earlier in the day.  She moved beautifully into frame and looked so smooth.  I was in awe watching her.  I think John had a good ride.  I know I did. 

After a twelve mile ride, I came home and worked out to a new DVD, Jillian Michael’s Killer Buns and Thighs.  Oh.  My.  Gawd.  She was likely to kill me!  I know her exercises aren’t easy;  I have been doing the 30-Day Shred and haven’t got past level one.  But this one is tough.  I couldn’t even follow some of the modified exercises.  But let me tell you, I feel it today!  So it must work!  I am working toward a specific weigh and jean size goal.  If the workout doesn’t kill me first. 


Feb 18, 2012

All By Myself

Ninety-nine point nine percent of the time, I love where I live.  I am a 1/2 hour from my work in Lincoln and about that from west Omaha.  City close, country fresh.  Branched Oak, Pawnee Lake, Oak Creek, Two Rivers and Camp Moses are all thirty miles or less from me, so I don’t have to trailer far to meet friends and ride some nice trails.  But what I do miss out here is having someone close enough to ride with; someone I don’t have to trailer to meet; someone I can meet at the two mile marker, ride a section or so and head on home.

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Now granted, I don’t mind hopping on Windy and riding an hour or so by myself.  I have done it for years and it’s a great way to unwind.  But upping the ante and increasing miles for the Distance Derby is no fun by myself.  I read about others riding together and admittedly I am a bit green with envy that they have folks in their neighborhood or family members who will ride.  I can maybe get John to ride with me for an hour or so every other weekend when the moon is in the second house and Jupiter aligns with Mars…..  The boys won’t ride anymore at all, it seems.

I have four nice saddle horses that anyone who knows how to ride could ride.  Its crossed my mind to post an ad on Craig’s List.  “Wanted:  Horseless horsewoman to become my riding buddy.  Must know how to ride, be over 35 years of age and close to my size and weight.  Need help putting miles on stale horses.  Can't be afraid to walk/trot/canter. ”  That’s the criteria. 


Now what scares me is getting the call from a middle aged woman who hasn’t been on a horse in 35 years and prior to that only rode an uncle’s plow horse on the trip to his farm every third year.  Or the mom of four kids whose 12 year old daughter has always loved horses and just needs someone to teach them but can’t afford it because mom is on disability and dad is not in the picture and oh, by the way, they don’t have a car, either.    Or a rider much heavier than any of my horses, but Baby or including Baby, can comfortably carry.  Or a man threatening discrimination because he knows how to ride and why do I only want to ride with other women?  (I don’t think John would be too keen on me advertising for a man to come ride with me.)

I want that person who is around my age, give or take a generation and dress size and had horses all her life, or a good portion of it, and for some reason no longer has a horse.  Someone who is not afraid to ride and a fairly decent hand and has a few hours a day or two a week to burn and will come ride the roads with me.  This person must own a pair of boots and aren’t too proud to wear a helmet and aren’t afraid to get out and move.  Oh, and they must be punctual.  I have no time to wait.  Or better yet, someone who lives close enough that I can call at the spur of the moment and say, “Let’s ride!” and they are game.

But how do you interview for that?  How do you tell someone they are not a good enough rider or they are too heavy to ride my horse?   And what if it doesn’t work out; that you don’t like the way they ride or you don’t click with that person?  Friends are found usually quite by accident, not application.

So unless one of my friends moves into the neighborhood, (and I did get hopeful a few times!), I ride alone.  I know, I'm whining.  And I am grateful I have a horse that will leave the farm without much angst and that I trust miles from home.  It would just be fun to occasionally share it with someone.


Feb 15, 2012

Wild and Crazy


It was nice enough outside when I got home tonight but almost dusk, so really no time to ride.  From the kitchen window, I saw Windy rolling - probably just itchy - but I always worry nonetheless.  I changed clothes and went out to the barn.

By now Windy had joined the rest of the herd.  She saw me coming - no doubt waiting on me to go to her.  But the corral was muddy and this was about as far as I wanted to go.  We were at a stand-off.  While I waited, Fancy sidled up to Blue and started to play.  She is probably in heat but it was fun to watch her try to engage him.  She would rear and buck and shake her head, then prance around the corral and come back to him. 
I love that it looks like she was trying to kiss him here and he was kissing back.  I worried about Blue when we lost Ginger; they were inseparable.  It broke my heart when I would see him walk by himself from the pasture to the barn as if he was looking for her.  But when we brought Fancy home, Blue was the first in our herd to accept her and they have grown quite close.  I often see the two of them standing together in the sun.  I like that. 
Windy couldn't stand it any longer and made her way over to see me and Fancy followed.  Mickey, the one-eyed kitty, had made his way out of the barn and was standing on the fence.  Fancy came over to check him out; neither scared of the other.  Doesn’t Fancy have a pretty face?

She then engaged Windy in play; running through the corral, tails flagged.  It occurred to me as they passed the last time that I should be using the video on my iPhone; hearing them tromp through the snow and listening to them snorting as they played.  I switched the camera over and videoed the next few clips.

I tried to encourage Windy to go play and she moves off and Fancy moves in next to Blue.  He quickly moves her off and if you look quick between Blue and Baby you can see Fancy "dancing" behind them.  I regret moving the camera off so quickly. 
The footing is not good, and Fancy slipped in the hay and fell to her side at one point.  Not to be discouraged, and with some encouragement from Windy, she gets up and moves out again. 
No, I didn't get to ride, nor did I really want to.  Too mucky and slick.  But I did enjoy the show. 

Feb 12, 2012

“Cheatin” for Success




There are days when I really want to ride.  Today is one of them.  The ten day break when winter returned has got me hankering for some horse time.  But the idea of putting on all the winter gear and finding someplace where the footing is suitable takes the fun out of it for me.  The arena still has drifts of snow so I don't even have that option at the moment.  So I’ll wait a little longer. 


I follow a lot of blogs, list servs and other horse related items on the internet.  Some I read with gusto while other entries I just scan.  The following post by “Greg” (former jockey and self-proclaimed philosopher) on Heart in Your Hand Yahoo group caught my eye and with his permission, I am posting here.  Greg said:   


“The amount of fear you have depends on the amount of confidence you have.
They only way to increase your confidence is to test yourself incrementally.
When life is a constant process of testing your limits, you will find that you
have few. But as in all endeavors, the more you test yourself the better you
get at it. You acquire the ability to make up tests and have a good idea of the
likelihood of success. It's kinda like cheatin', you make a test you know you
can pass. But by doing the test, you prove to yourself an ability for which you
have evidence. Granted, it is necessary to fail some of the tests or they are
ALL meaningless. There again is where it's important to be good at testing
yourself. When you choose the circumstances for the test you should be able to
have an idea of several outcomes from the test and anticipate how you will deal
with the various outcomes. Even failing a test is useful, it gives you valuable
information about your limits. When you fail you know what you need to do to
give yourself the skills to pass the test next time. So success and failure are
both good, they give you valuable feedback on your ability to proceed. So
either you test yourself and become confident, or you don't test and remain a
quivering mass of inability and indecision. It's your choice.”


When I first met Greg years ago, online like so many of us meet, I was harboring a lot of fear.  I would only ride horses I knew very well and would not ride them outside my comfort zone.  I spent a lot of time yelling at John to slow down and do this or don’t do that; anything to lesson my worries.  My MO in the past was simply if a horse scared me, I didn’t ride it anymore; I’d move on.  Through a lot of online self-help, Horsetales mainly, to which Greg used to participate, I started to realize that everyone else doesn’t have this same problem.  I was starting to see that perhaps it wasn’t the horse’s fault.  Maybe it was me.  (Do you hear the bells going off?) 




I didn’t say I got braver but I did get a little smarter.  The first big change was to stop changing horses.  Windy was just a three-year-old then and I loved this horse from the day she was born.  I was determined we were going to make a team. 


Perfection doesn’t come overnight.  It might not ever come for me.  I can’t turn back time and will always be a middle-aged rider who is getting older.  Windy probably could have progressed more eloquently under a better rider but I know very well the now ten-year-old horse under me.  She has lessened my fears and I have become a more confident rider.  And yes, I did have the help of a trainer and I did take lessons.  But doing what Greg describes above was the key to my success.   


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Someone mentioned that Fancy sensed my lack of confidence, hence our undoing last month.  She may have but I didn’t go out that day feeling unsure of myself.  It would be a good segue into how confidence and trust are both important, but I’ll save that for another post.  I had been working Fancy in the fashion Greg describes every time I ride her; just like Windy before her.  This particular day, we simply came undone.  Was I fearful of riding her?  No.  Has the fear returned?  No. 


My reply to Greg’s post was as follows:


“You hit a home run with this post, Greg. Thank you. Can I steal it for my blog
sometime (with full credit of course?)

The "cheatin" you mention has been the tool I have used for the last few years to get me over the fear and has been successful for me. I have been using it with our new mare and with the horses that aren't ridden as much and have become barn sour. I call it breaking it down to my comfort level; going farther, stay longer... all that jazz.

Have I failed a few tests? Yep. Just a few weeks ago. I think my lack of skill probably got me in more trouble than my lack of confidence. A resistant horse, a herding dog, uneven footing, high anxiety from all mammals concerned.  My out is to bale and Mary Lou Retton I am not...

I have no doubt that this would have ended differently if John was riding or
some of you, but it happened to me and so as Greg said, I flunked that test. I
just have more homework to do is all. And yes, I have been back on her since;
even loping in the field. If I was leaving on a horse vacation tomorrow and
Windy came up lame, I would not hesitate to take this young mare in her place.

I just wanted to say that the tracks you mention in your post, Greg, have moved
me beyond fear (the unreasonable kind) and has helped me build confidence over the years. I may never be as skilled as some riders, but I am no longer a
"quivering mass of inability and indecision" that some of you may remember. ;) I
know I'm improving and I am still having fun.

You articulated what I have been doing and while you may not totally endorse it,
you see its value. Thank you for that. The only thing I would add is if you
don't try (through whatever method) you aren't giving yourself the opportunity
to succeed.”


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“I knew when you roared to the top of the hill you were ok. Wasn't it an
incredible view?”


Yes, Greg.   It certainly was.



Feb 11, 2012

Nice Enough to Ride


Horse Blanket 2


Although 14 degrees is far from sweatshirt weather, I was surprised when I geared up in coveralls and the works that I almost felt overdressed.  Last night’s wind chill temperature was –18*.  The horses have plenty of shelter and windbreaks, but I did slip blankets on them last night.  I think they were certainly happy to get them off this afternoon; their coat quite warm beneath the lining. 


Truly, it did not feel too cold to ride.  But then again, I was pretty layered.  Our gravel roads are still snow packed as well as our driveway; just not the best conditions yet.  Spring will be here next month. 


Although the bruising from my fall last month is gone, I still continue to have stiffness in my lower back.  Not terribly painful, but there.  When I injured my tailbone a few years ago, it was almost a year before that pain went away.  I was hoping that wouldn’t be the case this time.  But it is worrisome. 


I spent some time yesterday at the DMV.  I needed to pay sales tax on and license the new Ram truck and renew the plates on the Ford Focus and the 1-ton Chevy truck.  The plates on the bumper pull trailer expired in December and also needed renewed and I wanted to relicense my living quarter trailer to an RV plate to keep me from having to stop at those pesky weigh stations.  A grand total of $2,339.76.  I spent more at the DMV than I did for Christmas – the last two combined!  I am pretty sure I spent more at the DMV than our wedding cost 19 years ago.  Nebraska.  The heartland of taxes. 


Feb 6, 2012

Super Snow Weekend

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We had our first major snowstorm of the season.  Heavy, deep snow, but very pretty.  Since we have been blessed with such wonderful weather this winter, I won’t even complain.  We got close to 8 to 10”, and quite a bit of it already melted today.  Although I was out on Saturday, I didn’t venture anywhere on Sunday and I’m quite disappointed I didn’t go out to take pictures.  Driving to work this morning, it was just beautiful out; the snow still layered on the trees. 


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I did snap some pictures of the dogs on Saturday;

they love the snow. 

Well, the boy dogs love the now. 


Photo Feb 06, 10 22 16 PM 

St. Bernards really love the snow.


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Photo Feb 06, 10 22 10 PM 


Fat Springer Spaniels. 

Not so much. 

Poor Maddie.



Feb 4, 2012

The Great Horsetrailriders Distance Derby


Late last year, I announced on this blog the start of The Great Horsetrailriders Distance Derby and very quickly seventy-four riders signed up to participate.  And it has been a huge success – partly because of the unseasonable winter weather that many of us across the country have been experiencing -- and most likely because its fun to do something different with your own horse that does not require trailering or group participation.  Its just horse and rider.


I bring it up here because there are about 16 riders that have not submitted any miles to date.  And it could be they simply aren’t riding yet.  I know we have one participant from Alaska and she has not been getting the mild weather we have here in the lower 48.  But I thought perhaps others just may have forgotten they signed up or lost The Distance Derby blog address where miles are recorded.  Miles must be recorded within 7 days of the ride to be considered in the Derby. 




Here is the Leaderboard of miles.  Its incredible that we have had riders hitting 200 and 300 miles already and yes, they are from the midwest.  Riders in the top two positions are from Iowa.  The rider in 3rd place is from Nebraska (with Iowa roots).  What the heck?  Nebraskans?  We need to get out there! 


If you signed up for this Derby and have decided not to participate, please click here to send me an email.  Just give me your name and team # and let me know that you won’t be participating.  And if you do plan to participate and just haven’t been out yet, no problem at all!   Ride when you can.   


If you are curious about The Great Horsetrailriders Distance Derby, visit that blog and read the riders’ bios.  They come from all over the county and have as a group, ridden over 3,000 miles since January 1. 

Feb 1, 2012

A Day Off

After work yesterday, I put a little over five miles on Windy.  We had a nice ride through the fields and over on the south mile road.  We had some things to do with the kids later last night and by the time I got home, I felt a killer headache coming on.  Still plagued with it this morning, I took one of my mega-headache pills, I called work to take care of some items that had to be done, moved some meetings and then took a day of PTO. 

By noon, the prisms in my eyes were gone and the meds had kicked in.  I wondered out to the barn where the horses were napping in the corral.  The sun felt so good.  I had the afternoon off.  Why not ride?  Not being 100% and with the mega pill still in my system, I figured I probably shouldn’t stray from home too far.  Perhaps just get the B-team out and do some arena work.  (Big groan; I hate arena work). But if I did just two miles each on the three of them and then three miles on both Fancy and Windy, I would break my 100 mile mark in the Distance Derby.  Now that was a goal!   

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Blue was first up.  OMG, would someone put some time on that horse?   He would sneak in a crow-hop about every 3rd lap!  He was nervous and jumpy and more uncomfortable than normal.  It didn’t help that Fancy had her head over the arena fence watching him.  She’s his new love, you know.   I don’t know how, but I pulled 2.61 miles out of his butt!

Round 2 was with Butter.  I barely got a mile on her and decided she needed a time out; the pushy beyotch!   Baby was up next. 

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Now you all recall, Baby is a draft horse; a hay-burner.  Baby doesn’t have a job.  I saddle her up in the only saddle we have that is close enough to fitting her only because of its fiberglass tree.  And I slip the headstall on which McCain got for me for Christmas one year that didn’t come close to fitting the quarter horses.Now pretty is as pretty does.  The picture above should tell you something about how this ride goes....

Because Baby is a fat draft horse, she has no withers to speak of.  She stands close to 16hh tall and mounting from the ground, although doable, is tough.  The saddle slips or she moves…  frustration building.  I tried to sidle her up to the bucket which I use with the other horses and she would move away as soon as I would step up.  Finally, I took her to the mounting block by the barn and nine minutes later, I am in the (now very loose) saddle.  We went to the arena and I rode her about 3/4 of a mile.  That was it.  She wore me out. 

Butter’s time out was over and I took her back to the arena.  She would stall by the corner with the gate and have her little fits.  So I fetched Baby and put Baby in the corner.  She does not like Butter.  The first time Butter stalled near that corner, Baby moved her big fat butt in Butter’s direction.  I then had the nicest 2 mile ride on Butterball.  She actually got a little soft.  Soft Butter. 

I saved the best horses for last.  I figured if the B-team gave me fits, Fancy and Windy could make up the miles.  Since I had been resetting the GPS with each horse, my best guess was I needed about 6 more miles to hit 100 Distance Derby miles. 

Fancy was good as gold.  I got some nice lopes in the arena and she was light and comfortable so I quickly moved her out to the field.  We walked, we trotted and we loped.  It was probably one of the best rides I have had on her here at home.  I put her up at 4 miles.

Windy was saddled and ready, so I fetched my dog and we headed down the road.  I figured I had about an hour until dark and I only needed a couple more miles.  It was time to enjoy the ride.

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My ride on Windy was remarkable.  Not because we broke any speed records or did anything different than we normally; we just simply went down the road.  Her ears were forward, her movements steady.  She kept a pretty good 4.0 mph pace.  I read email on my phone as we moved quietly down the road and before long, we were three miles out.  I was wearing just a long sleeve t-shirt and poly vest and was getting chilly.  I started to dread the 3 miles trip back home.  I tucked my fingers under the front of her saddle pad.  She moved into a slow trot and carried us home. 

I downloaded my tracks from the GPS and surprised to find I not only hit the 100 mile goal, but rode a total of 17.25 miles.  Not bad for a sunny warm day in February. 

Work has been pretty overwhelming lately and I am sure the headache was brought on by tension.  There is nothing like a little horse time to cure all.



Nap Time


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Its not too often I find them all snoozing at one time.  I snapped this picture off the deck because I was afraid if I moved any closer, I would catch their attention and one or all would get up. 


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But no, they kept on snoozing and never paid any mind to me as I walked toward the corral.


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I wasn’t sure if Butter was in a deep sleep or dead.  So I zoomed in.


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Either she is dead or sleeping does not become her…. 


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Butter!  Wake up!  Ah, much better.