Thursday, November 26, 2009

Best Mash Ever

At least, I thought so! I wanted to share the holiday spirit with the girls, so I made up some delicious timothy pellet mashes for dinner! Of course there were carrots and mini candy canes added too! Mercy takes no time diving in and picking out the goodies:

Star, however, is not always so sure about the whole ordeal. Until we got Mercy, we really never fed her mashes of any kind. She takes a while to get her lips icky, but once she gets past that part, it's gone.

Mercy was having such a fun time eating her num nums that she forgot to keep it in the bowl! Silly mare! I'll remember to buy the deeper ones next time...

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Farting is NOT Allowed! (Part 2: Solo Ride)

After a long morning of work at a friend's place, I was invited to go on a trail ride on one of her horses at Taylor Mt. that afternoon. This was very exciting because I have never had the opportunity to ride there, even though I live 10 minutes away. I just don't like exploring unfamiliar trails that can be ridden across state- too many places and turns to get lost in. I had a great ride! It was sunny out and after making it to the top of the mountain, I remembered that I had left my camera in the trailer. Boo.

Coming down from the top was a little challenging. My friend has reiners, still in slid plates, and the ground was rain soaked clay. We slipped and slid all the way down. Thank goodness I trust the gelding I was riding. He is such a fun ride!

I got home with just enough daylight to jump on Mercy for a short ride. I grabbed Star on the way out and we headed out for the short loop. It was kinda windy, so we took it easy walking through the clear-cut, but we managed to stay spook free.

The next morning it was brisk and clear. A storm was just off the WA coast and steaming our way quickly, so I wanted to head out for another ride as soon as possible. I wanted to really ride Mercy, so Star got left at home. I headed off to the left and up the rocky hill. I should have know this was going to be another challenging ride because when she climbed the hill, she loped. As you probably remember I have been having issues getting Mercy to move out on the trail recently. Nope. Not now. She blasted off up the hill! Usually at the top she walks really slow. Nope Not now. She continued to lope down the trail. I let her keep going for a ways before I asked her to slow.

Then, to my shock and amazement, she willingly turned and carried on down the hill once in the woods. This NEVER happens. She hates going down this trail because once you start down, you can hear people on the trails above us. She has to see who's up there, always. Nope. Not today. We got to the bottom in record time. We stopped by the apple tree, where the last apple was still hanging. I grabbed the trunk and shook it. The apple dropped to the ground and rolled a ways off, so I had to help Mercy find it.

After Mercy's tasty snack, we headed for the train track. This is where all hell *almost* broke loose. Mercy took off without me being ready. Well, I was ready for her to lope, but she lunged at the hill. I lost my seat and couldn't gather my reins quick enough, and Mercy knew it. She hadn't even finished the turn on the hill when she took off bucking. It wasn't a really serious bucking fit, more of a 'it feels cold out and I feel frisky,' but it wasn't acceptable. Once she hit the flat, straight track I had time to regain my seat and suck the reins back up to stop her. Even once she was stopped, she felt like she could shoot off again. I insisted she walk straight and brisk. When she wigged out, we backed up on a loose rein, then continued. Grrr...

From that moment on, I insisted she control her own speed or pace. If she took off without me cuing her, I hauled her ass down. Then we started over again. If she stopped without me sitting or reining her down, she got her sides kicked into a new gear. I had finally come to the realization that allowing her to choose her own pace was the worst thing I could let her do. She is the kind of horse that will take advantage of anything, any mistake or unseen opportunity. I have to control every movement she makes. If she doesn't listen, there will be consequences, no exception.

For the remainder of the ride I practiced my new epiphany. Guess what? By the end of the ride (which was just taking switchbacks home, at a walk) she was listening and reacting to every cue I made. She no longer took off at the bottom of a hill, assuming we lope on every hill. She also waited until I decided which trail to follow. It is no longer her idea.

Even with the rough start, I am glad it happened. I finally figured something else out about Mercy. I NEED to be her leader. She needs to rely on me for everything. I can't wait to see how this translates to the show ring.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Farting is NOT Allowed! (Part 1: Our First Reining Show)

Last weekend Mercy and I were invited to the reining schooling show at the Tacoma Unit in Spanaway, WA by some close friends. Since I don't have a haul-worthy vehicle right now, they volunteered to pick us up so we could get a good ride in, and maybe enter a schooling class or two! Of course I said I would come! It was an awful rainy, windy day complete with thunder and lightening and I am glad for any chance to ride in a covered or indoor arena.

The only thing I was nervous about with this whole adventure was loading Mercy into their trailer. Their trailer is a massive 4horse with a monster sized tack room up front and a rear tack room in back gooseneck... with a ramp. That's the part I was nervous about. She loads in any trailer with other horses and hay, but I have never squeezed her into that narrow of an opening after climbing a ramp. Plus it had been months since I'd loaded her. Hmmm....

Well, my good friends got to my place around 12:30 and pulled up in front of my house. We loaded Mercy's tack up and then I went to grab Mercy. I quickly brushed her down while my mom grabbed her cooler (just in case) and we headed up to the house. Mercy took some very slow steps toward the trailer, but she never stopped moving forward. I lined her up with the ramp and trailer stall and walked in in front of her. She took one big step onto the ramp, paused, and then came forward easily . She wanted to smell the horse in the 3rd stall, but that's not allowed! No touching of the other horses! LOL! When I told her 'no' she backed out slowly, starting to get a little nervous. I asked her to come in again, which she did, and showed her the hay in the hay bag. Oh! She liked that. she reached forward and took a nibble, then backed out. One of my neighbors had been patiently waiting in their car to drive by so I took Mercy off the ramp and let him pass. After the very short break I tried driving Mercy into the trailer instead of leading her in. Voila! It worked! She climbed in and dove into the hay while I closed the butt bar and tied her in. We were off!

She hauled great and when we got to Spanaway she unloaded like a pro. I tied and tacked her up quickly. We were running late, the show had already begun! Not only that, but this was the largest showing of participants this show had ever had- a new record for them! This meant that I had no time to ride in the indoor arena and every rider was working or waiting in the smaller covered arena. No big deal right? Wrong.

That was a horrible shot. Her ears look as long as her head, Ugh. Unfortunately, I didn't have the chance to take many pics and most of them were in REALLY low light, so ya...

A little better, kinda. This time it's her suspicious/evil eye going on. I should have known this was to be a challenging day...
We walked over to the arena, where the steers used for sorting and cutting were mulling around in their pens, and mounted up. Mercy was very calm and taking everything in stride while I walked her around the other horses and equipment on that side of the arena. The other side of the arena was the 'active' side; riders were loping and jogging their horses in preparation for their runs. After I checked Mercy's 'whoa' and bending, I aimed her toward the rail to join the start our warm up.

Mercy basically bolted down the rail all the while trying to kick the horses working around us. I couldn't believe it. I had zero control of my horse. I was finally able to gather my reins, but Mercy was already way too flustered to calm her down quickly. We had bolted back to the 'calm' side, so I worked on bending her head around and getting her mind back with me. We progressed into walking and then trotting small circles around the other groups of horses that were 'resting.'
She had relaxed so much that I thought we would try going to the other side again. I asked her to walk a few steps at a time into the chaos, then stop and stand there. We almost got half way around the circle when it became too much and she bolted again. She would swing her butt out and back into other horses to kick them. Talk about some serious confidence issues...
We went back to the calm side and I worked her butt doing small circles and backing. Then I took a break for myself. I had no idea what to do. I wanted to be able to work on this issue, but it was also my number one priority to keep everyone else in the arena safe from my poorly acting mare. We worked on spins for a while and then I just parked her over by the cows. After about a half an hour, my friend came over and suggested I let Mercy walk with her horse into the active side, which was far less busy now that the show was almost halfway through. I took the rail and my friend and her gelding took the inside track. I just forced Mercy to stay by his side, no falling behind and no blowing ahead. When she was calm, she got a loose rein. When she got bothered I took ahold and corrected her, then released to see if she would stay with me. After maybe 3 times around the circle, we switched directions and we took the inside track. My friend suggested that I let her trot as long as she stayed in control, so I asked her forward and away we went.
She got a little bothered with the speed and tried taking off, throwing in a little buck and fart. My friend suggested I try getting her to relax her neck and poll by massaging her mouth with her bit- basically squeezing each rein alternating left then right and so on, but without steering her off the circle. It worked! Mercy finally relaxed into the bit and soon we were changing from a slow jog to an extended jog back to a walk, all without issues. And while other horses had joined the circle again. After another 45 minutes of this, changing directions, speeds, and gaits, we took a break in the middle of the circle. She had relaxed so much that she had come off the bit, lifted her back, and collected her whole body, so her break was well deserved. *sigh*
From that moment on I was able to ride anywhere in the arena and feel confident that she wouldn't bolt, buck, kick, and carry on in any way. I pretty much spent the next hour or so jogging circles and practicing our stops. We had made a major break through for the day, so I didn't want to push her anymore. While waiting for my friends' classes, I took her to the trailer and untacked her. She wasn't sweaty, but I threw her cooler on anyway since it was really cold, wet, and dark. I walked her back to the arena where the cows had just been fed. They were really hungry and in their frenzy to eat they had pushed most of the hay through the fence. Mercy really wanted the alfalfa, so I had to hand her off to my friend while I pushed the hay back in.
Mercy wasn't real happy about this so she had to stare down the cows after I took control of her again, tee hee!
We hung out until the show was over, at about 6:30, and walked into the indoor arena so she could look around. Maybe next time we will get there earlier so I can ride in a larger area. And maybe *gasp!* we could actually enter a schooling class! That was the goal for today before this whole Mercy-acting-like-a-stubborn-appy thing happened. Just one class, that's all I was looking for. Oh well.
She loaded like a pro heading home and boy was Star happy to see her. Mercy just wanted her hay, some water, and a good place to sleep. She make life way too difficult lol!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Ripples and Rays

Mercy was really interested in the tasty leaves this past Sunday. It's pretty challenging to get going on our rides this time of the year because we all know those leaves are so irrasistably crunchy, right!? Well, atleast Mercy thinks so...

It was a beautifully sunny day for a ride. I was still feeling a little 'weird.' so we took it slow to start and took one trail at a time. After getting past the crunchy leaves, we headed out toward the creek. The surroundings were certainly looking a little less colorful then even just a week ago.

We picked our way through the rocks and logs and finally reached the creek. Lately Mercy hasn't shown any interest in going into the water, but on this ride she insisted that we go down there. I'm pretty much a push over, so down we headed while Star and mom stayed on the trail to wait. She took a good drink, looked around for something to eat, and stared in the direction her trail mates were waiting.

When Mercy had finally decided to leave the water we headed up the service road and took the first trail to our left. Usually we ride this trail the other direction, but it was time to try something new. As we rode along Mercy and I started hearing other people on an adjacent trail. I ignored it for the time being and continued on behind Star. We ran up the hill at full speed and when we hit the top we ran into the gals I had heard, on horses! Cool!
We often see trailers parked near the 'public' trail head, but never seem to catch the riders. Well, Mercy came undone a little and pranced in place until we went our separate ways. And she continued to really move out (at the walk) until we reached the tracks and out of hearing range of the other riders. She doesn't often meet other riders and their horses on our trails. How dare they ride there too! ;)

All the maple leaves on the track are down now. From the weather being difficult to me being sick, we didn't get to ride there during the peak leaf fall-out. The year's best pictures come during this time. Oh well, next year.

When we rode off the track trail we stopped by the apple tree to steal a couple apples for the girls. Just as we reached it the other riders came down the trail ahead of us. After saying hi again and making Mercy stand still and mind her manners, we all carried on our way. Coming down the rocky hill we met two bikers. They pulled off to the side so we could pass and continue on our way home.
It was such a nice day, so when we got home we let the girls out back to graze a little. Mercy was looking really pretty being outlined by the sun-kissed trees.

Star, not so much. Sorry girl...

Chai couldn't be outdone so she came out to help us clean the paddocks.

She was watching something amongst these sunlit maples...

On Tuesday, both my mom and I were both home so we headed out for a quick ride. We rode out to the lake and then followed the creek trail back home. It was really weird being on that trail after more than a week. The leaves are ALL down and the creek is really visible and loud because of it. The sun is easily able to filter through the saplings now, highlighting neat branches and stumps.

We rode while it was pretty windy, but the girls remained calm and as a reward we let them haul up the hill leading home. I love Mercy's explosive power when I let her loose!
With a fast approaching storm predicted for the early afternoon, I took the girls out for a quick ride this morning before the rains hit. It was already pretty windy so I knew it would be a short ride. I didn't really want to take Star with me, but she has been stocking up pretty good lately, so I took pity on her and brought her along. Any movement is better than none.

Of course, as soon as we headed out it started to sprinkle. The wind was howling too, so I asked Mercy to move out to hasten this ride even further. Star had a hard time keeping up so I brought Mercy to a more even pace. We rode the 'short loop' and headed home, a ride less than 20 mins long. It was sprinkling pretty good at one point, but by the time I got home it had quit. *sigh* At least we got out and they got to stretch their legs. Good thing we had some great rides earlier this week.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

When H1N1 Interferes...

It has been over a week since I have ridden thanks to what I presume was swine flu. I never went in to get tested, but I can't think of anything else it could have been. I started feeling 'weird' on Monday and on Tuesday I started getting a sore throat. By Wednesday I was on the couch. There I stayed, drugged up on cough medicine and painkillers until yesterday. I will spare you the major details, but it was not fun. Obviously.

I was able to get out of the house yesterday. I was feeling good enough to get dressed and go to the feed store with my mom to pick up some stall pellets. I made sure I stayed away from people and cough in my tissues. I also didn't touch anything around me.

I am still not feeling great, but I can move around now without body aches and sneezing boogers on everything. And the biggest thing for me, I can sleep! Those first two nights I didn't sleep. And I am not one who naps easily. Thermaflu finally helped that.

Now that I am feeling kinda human again, we are going to try going for a ride today. I'm trying to wait and see how the Seahawks game will go, but it's sunny outside and I don't want to wait too long. I will say that I am interested to see how Mercy rides today. We recently bought some nice alfalfa to see if the girls just need a little more protein. I haven't ridden since starting their 2-3lbs a day alfalfa treat. I'll let you know how I survive!