Sunday, May 31, 2009

Lost: A poem about my day

I got good and lost today,
while hiking on the trail.
I tried and tried to find my way,
but t'was to no avail.

We chose a route on which to stay,
though I did not know it's course.
Then, I saw the sky turn grey,
and wished I had a horse.

My trusty dog, though hound she be,
just had no mind to lead me free.
Indeed, into the woods she raced,
without a care for what we faced.

It all seemed to look the same,
made worse by hail, wind and rain.
When chance did choose to end our game,
I thought, "Can't wait to do that again!"

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Lessons of Another Kind

It was an absolutely glorious day today. The sky was clear; it was warm but low humidity. There was enough wind blowing to keep you cool while working and to keep the bugs away. Perfect.

Sasha and I went up to the farm to help out and for me to work with Cherokee. I decided I wanted to hit the trails today. Cherokee was in great form, he was actually very forward and wanted to go. No spook and no growing roots. This is BIG because last year at this time he spooked at everything and it took some convincing for him to start down the trail. We ride through the farm’s maple sugar bush which has really nicely broken trail all through it.

I don’t have many pictures of our trail(s) but here is the entrance of one route, taken last fall.

After some time, we come to an open field which is fantastic for doing a little schooling or just letting loose.

Sometimes I let Cherokee choose his own gait/pace after I’ve done a few transitions to make sure he knows who calls the shots. Usually, he really likes to trot and it’s a nice one…like a touring trot! Today, he wanted to canter, canter, canter. This was also a pleasant surprise since he is historically quite lazy about cantering. I interrupted him several times to take trot and walk breaks and he was good about that but I could tell he would go if I let him. I think he was excited to get to “the field”. Once there, I let him go for a bit. As long as he was straight and not crazy, I was fine with him having a little fun. Well ok, it was fun for us both!

Now, here’s the lesson. We were cantering along happily and I started thinking how lucky I was to be doing what I was doing at that moment. And then Cherokee bucked. I was so relaxed and he was so good it was completely unexpected. Except I should have expected it because he was a bucking, spooking fool when I first started with him last year. He was so much better by mid-summer last year and has been great this year (yeah…all two times he’s been ridden, I know!!).

So in that split second when it seems like time has slowed I thought about whether to “stick it” or not. I am very good at sticking bucks, I think it’s because I grew up in Calgary and always watched the stampede :) In any case, this time I decided to bail. Since I was unprepared for it I think it would have been potentially more dangerous to try to stay on. So off I came, no problem.

Cherokee thought about hanging around for about one second, maybe two. I think he might have if it wasn’t for the little pony waiting back in the field! Of course, we were at the farthest point too. I started to run. Not to catch the horse, I’m not that optimistic. No, it was because I could imagine what my husband would think when he saw the horse return without me.

Turns out Sasha didn’t hear Cherokee approach. He did notice that Hazel wasn’t beside him anymore so he walked around the side of the house and saw the horse grazing next to the pasture fence. His first thought was that I must be back already, until he saw the bridle was still on and I was no where in sight. Clearly not how I would leave a horse!

Long story short (or shorter), I was fine except for some blisters on my heels (riding boots are NOT good running shoes!). I met up with Sasha who asked me about 10 times if I was okay.

Then I got Cherokee and explained to him that he just won 30 extra schooling minutes :-)

Here we are, right after I got back on.

It was, after all, a really good schooling session. For both of us!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Horsey weekend.

I had a busy, fun weekend. Well, mostly. I had a deadline to meet for Tuesday, so I worked at home on Saturday. It was okay though because the weather was terrible anyway and it meant I wasn't worried about it for the rest of the weekend.

Sunday I rode Edgar. He was a pain in the ass at first! I wasn't really surprised because I didn't ride him the weekend before due to hard rain most of the weekend. What did surprise me was that as soon as he was under saddle he behaved much better. His balance is getting better but still needs lots of work. He IS listening better and will keep a nice even trot for quite a while now. Still tends to get "anxious" at first and wants to do a crazy jackhammer trot, but he is learning. Now, all I have to do is take a deep breath and sit deep and he calms down. I was probably tensing up before, making it worse, so this exercise works for both of us. Still mostly walk-trot-halt transitions in any multitude of combinations. Also, I think our circles were actually circular!

Here is an old picture, to give you something to look at.

I had some extra time so I also rode Edgar's 17 yr old grandmother. She was...interesting. A little herd bound, a little stubborn. Ok, a lot stubborn. Reminded me of my first few rides on Edgar. Bah! I kept it short and as soon as I had calm forward for a minute or two, I quit for the day.

Sunday, Sasha and I went up to the farm to help with spring planting. I didn't get many photos because we were too busy and dirty! Of course, I mostly went to ride :) Cherokee was moved back a few weeks ago and I was anxious to try him out. He's had regular work all winter but no riding. He was SO much better than last spring when he hadn't been ridden ALL winter. He didn't spook once and he listened and was a real pleasure to ride. I was surprised. I think it also helps that he has a little friend here now. Here are the two of them.

Copper belonged to a neighbour who lost his job but, lucky him, he was offered a home at the farm. It's good for both of them. Plus, they match! The downside is they get upset when one is removed from the pasture. Oh well, they will have to deal with it.

I worked with four horses (well, 3.5) on the weekend so I can't complain. We also did a good thing by helping out around the farm. They needed the help and we love the work and air.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Can't Fool the Camera! Fixing Bad Habits.

I love it when my husband comes with me to my lessons! I usually end up with photos and often video too. Tonight, I have a few photos from the beginning of the lesson; the light was not good enough for photos a little later, so no jumping shots :( I find photos really helpful as I sometimes have a hard time translating what I feel into what it looks like.

For example, I have a number of photos of me riding Edgar and in a couple I can see that I'm leaning into the turn. So now I am much more aware of this tendency on him and can prevent it. Poor guy needs to learn balance without me messing it up!

My latest thing has been making sure to look up. This horse I'm riding is very nice, but that is no reason to stare at his pole! In this photo I think I am actually avoiding the low sun in my eyes and mosquitoes, but there are others where I am clearly looking heavy-headed.

Tonight, after warming up, we cantered a square. You can't see it here, but the "box" continues on the other side, so there are two turns. This was hard, especially on a 16.3 horse when everyone else is riding much smaller mounts. No complaints though, I love a challenge.

I love this horse's expression. He is almost always ears-forward and alert.

I just think this is a pretty shot of my favorite boy trotting. I think I'm planning my attack on those corners!

I love, LOVE lessons. I ride with the most supportive people and my instructor is awesome. I live for lesson day.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sleepy Sunday with Roasted Duck.

It was another really hard day around here ;)

Hazel was clearly feeling the stress.

Tonka also needed a "time out". He is our chameleon kitty, it's weird how well he matches the carpet, isn't it? We used to have taupe walls in one apartment and when the light was right, Tonka looked identical.

Now, it's been way too long since I've done a food post! Tonight's dinner was Roasted duck served with plum sauce and green beans (aka haricots vert).

First, to eliminate some of the fat from the duck, I boiled it for about 15-20 minutes. You can do it longer if you like. This also helps shorten the roasting time. Of course, ducks float, so it's useful to weigh it down with something!

We prepared root vegetables (carrots, turnips & onions) and put the duck on top. Inside the duck cavity, I placed many garlic cloves and several wedges of lemon. It was then roasted at 350F for about 1 hour. It could have roasted longer.

Unfortunately, it was too much for the vegetables and they were not very good. It is rare that I mess up so badly that it's inedible. Oh well! Next time I would add them to the roasting pan about 30 minutes before the end of cooking time.

The duck itself was very delicious.

I then warmed up some homemade plum jam and added a small amount of Chinese 5 spice and a splash or two of apple cider vinegar. This was served on the side.

Paired with simple steamed green beans, it was a very nice meal!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

So it ends; so it begins.

I prepared lists and typed out tables. I met with a behaviourist from the humane society. I was ready to post all the details of the decision that lay before me. The thought of that made me really tired! What I really needed was to think and to talk to my husband. And that's what I did. I think I knew the whole time what the right decision was. It just hurt to get there.

Sometimes, you need to do something even if it goes against rational thought. Horse of Course's purchase of her lovely Fame is a perfect example. But it works both ways. I could have justified any reason to keep Mattie! I could rationally refute every con on my list. But I let her go, and it was the right thing to do.

I'm really going to miss those yellow eyelashes.

We did a really good job socializing Mattie and helping her gain confidence. That is the whole point behind being a foster parent, giving them a better chance, NOT adopting all of them! The fact that it breaks my heart sucks though. I've been crying on and off since dropping her off yesterday.

Besides, I'm really not ready for the long-term work a puppy needs to become the kind of dog I want!

Whatdoyamean?? Puppy doesn't need work, just play!
I'm going to go hug my dog now.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Mattie's Progress

Mattie is doing very well! She has come a long way in the two weeks we've had her. She is much more adventurous, less timid and much more playful. She is still wary of new people and dogs but no longer tries to flee in terror. She really likes to approach people when their back is turned.

Hazel injured her paw so I am doing my best to keep her quiet in between soaking her paw and dishing out antibiotics. It's not working out too well :), she is used to a total of about 2hrs walking/running per day! Sasha was out of town this week too, so I have had my hands full!

We are considering adopting Mattie. Just considering!! I am torn because the whole point is to help increase the adopt-ability of these guys so that more of them will find permanent homes. If we adopt them, we can't help as many. It's just Mattie is such a good fit for us. Her and Hazel are a really good match both energy and temperament wise. As I type this, they are dreaming in unison *sigh*.

Here are some photos of them playing around.

It's amazing they can look like
this and still be incredibly gentle
with each other!
Hazel getting a better grip. Just look
at those beautiful teeth. Not bad
for a dog who is almost 3!

Mattie's turn.
"Wait. I think I found some
cookie in your teeth!"
Settling down.
All tuckered out. Seriously, how
can I send her back