Monday, March 22, 2010

Catching Up: Water Works

It was the last day of February and even though the air was brisk, the horses were looking for a little fun. We headed over to the lake to let them splash around. And splash around they did! Even Starlett, who doesn't like the water that much, got in on the fun!

Mercy pretty much dove into the lake! She couldn't get wet fast enough. Look at the water fly!

And then she dunks her whole head into the water, all the way up to her eyes! She often submerges her whole head and then blows bubbles. Someday I will get a video of it! It's just too funny! Here she is coming up from her first round of bubble blowing:

And then she drip dries while figuring out a way to trick me into going closer to the grass...

Starlett knows her game and doesn't approve, so Mercy gets a wet muzzle bump on the butt to remind her who's boss.

After all of that hard work playing in the lake, a good roll on the spring grass is called for!

Oh that must feel so good! :)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Catching Up: Moving Logs and Trees

It was a couple of days before Valentine's, so I really wanted to stay out of the woods. The salal hunters would most likely be out there, wandering around picking salal for floral bouquets still

So Starlett, Mercedes, and I headed out toward the creek trails. There is very little salal that grows there so seeing anyone pop out from the underbrush would be very unlikely.

Little did it know at the time, but that tiny sapling on the right of the mossy log would soon be 'laid down' by Mercy's antics...

Right after taking this picture...

... Star decided to move forward to grab at a delicious looking fern, dragging Mercy forward too. Unfortunately, her lead rope got hooked around the end of that moss covered fallen log. And instead of waiting for me to fix the situation she decided to take matters into her own... er, hooves?...
She wasn't bad. she just didn't give the the pressure of the rope around the tree right away. instead of just standing still she drove forward, dragging the log with her. The log then hit the sapling and simply mowed it over! When the sapling was bending over it swapped Star and I until Mercy decided to stand still. *sigh*
I jumped off of Star and went over to help Mercy out. I actually had her help move the log back by asking her to back while I used the lead rope to pull the log back into it's original place. This released the sapling and it sprang back into place. Here's the aftermath:
You can see where the sapling rubbed the moss and lichen off the log when the log ran over it. You can also see the bark that fell off the log as the lead rope pulled taught around it.

Then, I took a closer look at the log Mercy had just pulled several feet out of it's resting place. This log is at least 30 feet long and is partially submerged in the creek! OMG! I know Mercy is strong, but wow!
After all of the exciting stuff, I jumped back on Star and we continued down the creek trail and headed home. On 'Our Trail,' I saw some more signs of winter coming to and end... and allergies.

All of that excitement sure made the girls hungry... we stopped for some sweet grass.

Starlett's Barbie doll mane was looking particularly shiny this day too.

And these pictures are just a visual for their body score coming out of winter. Star's looking much better since being on the timothy. That's just the hay for her.

And Mercy's top line is looking a little stronger from a few weeks ago. Just a little, but that's OK with me. Any muscle will help her long back!

Yup, looking good on that sunny day!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Catching Up: Rollbacks and Circles

January 17:

We're back at those circles again! Actually, we started out just flexing and relaxing. She has gotten into a habit of moving immediately when I pick up the reins. I need her to flex at the poll, round her back, and wait for me to tell her to move. When she was 'released' she liked to stretch her neck and back; must have felt good to flex and relax over and over!

After our warm up it was time to get to work.Since we have the most problems loping to the right, I thought I would try loping her to the left first, to try and increase her confidence at the lope before we moved to her 'bad' side.

One thing I noted on this ride is that she is now reliably picking up her leads, whether starting from a stand still and moving out straight or staring already in our circle. I have also tried to really keep my body relaxed as I ride. I focus on keeping my hands low, my eyes up, my legs quiet, and my upper body leaned more back than forward. By the end of our left circles she was offering some nice collection and speed control depending on how my body was positioned!

After an amazingly square stop, we took a break... and I got the camera!

Star still wasn't 100% on her left hind, so we worked on bending again and kept it real low key. BTW, those new stirrups are much better than those thin, metal ones. A great purchase for sure!

Then it was time to try the right circles. After checking that we still had flexion and could stand still until told...
... we were off! She felt much more balanced than the last time we had ridden here. But, I still wasn't quite right. I know I put more weight in the left leg than my right. I fix it when I recognize it, but that's usually after the saddle starts to roll... :/ You can see how I am a little unbalanced here, but you can also see that Mercy isn't leaning in or leading with her shoulder!

Once we both got settled into a nice rhythm, I lead her out of the circle to practice rollbacks. Her stops were decently square and it only took a time or two to get an amazing rollback...

...with a lope departure! Awesome job Mercy!

After this photo was taken I got off and TrailridinRN climbed on to cool her out for me while I jumped on Starlett. To be honest, it's weird seeing someone else on my horse, and to be seeing her from a perspective other than riding her myself, lol!

What a cool horse.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Catching Up: Return of The Salal Man??!?!?

January 10:

Hmmm... Why does this look so familiar?!

Looks mighty suspicious...

After breaking into the clearing and getting past the loose and scattered salal, we worked our way down to the creek. Riding past the lake was fun, but it was cold and TrailridinRN and I were looking for a short ride. Mercy really wanted to go in the water at the creek, so I let her. Big mistake.

She went in quite deep and pawed and pawed.

Even Star got int the near freezing water and splashed around while Mercy dove her head in and snorkeled around for a while. And resumed pawing...

Of course, that didn't stay fun forever... her splashes grew increasingly larger and eventually she was spraying water up onto me! My right leg got completely soaked up to and past my knee! not to mention the saddle, cinches, and reins were completely covered in now freezing water.

Needless to say, we wasted no time getting home. I was chilled to the bone and still needed to clean stalls. Thanks Mercy...
January 13:
I had a few hours to spare and a break in the weather so I saddled up Mercy and ponied Starlett out to the creek for another short ride. Little did I know when we headed out that we would *almost* have an encounter with a wild animal!
I knew something was up as we approached the creek because Mercy was on full alert. Something was up ahead. She kept stopping and sniffing the air. A few words of encouragement was all it took to get her moving again. The next time she stopped I looked down. Oh... I see...

We were following an elk! We never got to see it because we took the turn it didn't. Mercy needed a little convincing, with the help of my boot, to let go of the scent and follow my lead, down the new trail. Once she believed me that we weren't going to follow the elk, we were good.
January 16:
TrailridinRN finally bought new new stirrups for her saddle. The super thin medal stirrups that came with the saddle just weren't doing it for us any more. They provided little foot and leg support and had no weight to them. using money from Christmas, she bought a pair of Crates stirrups that matched the saddle. Now it was time to give them a test run!
We rode out to the trails in the woods and guess what!? We found more proof... of the Salal Men!
They had obviously been out there recently and had left bundles of salal everywhere.

These neat little bundles of salal were no doubt headed to local nurseries for Valentine's day floral arrangements. I'm just glad we didn't actually meet the salal collectors this year; just they're left over bundles. *HUGE sigh*
'Til next year salal man... 'til next year...

Friday, March 5, 2010

Catching Up: Good Times in The Wind and Indoor Arena

Early January:

We noticed that Starlett was starting to look less 'filled in.' Her hindquarters were lack some serious muscling and her top line, oh her top line. It was just pitiful looking. She turned 21 Jan. 28, but she just isn't that old! For a mare that gains weight on air, we knew something was up. As you probably know we feed local hay to our girls so that they can get more throughout the day and munch pretty much continually without getting obese. Unfortunately, some of the hay we bought this year wasn't as great as we first thought. When there is nothing else for them to eat the girls will eat it, but otherwise they won't even sniff it. Since we have already decided to quit buying local hay (at least in bulk), we picked up a bale or two of timothy, which we used to feed Star all the time, to see if it made a difference. While transitioning hays, I cleaned up the feed room and rearranged the 4 different types of hay we had!

Alfalfa, timothy, good local, and bad local, along with the two different grains (LMF, not really grain), treats, first aid kits, supplements, hay pellets, and pellet bedding... argh that was a job.

January 6: A few days before my good friend headed out of state for a job in Wisconsin, we hooked up for one last trail ride for who knows how long. I drove over to the landsburg trails, which she lives on (jealous), and tacked both girls up. I wasn't sure which one I wanted to ride even after they were tacked up, lol!

The wind this day was atrocious! It was a constant 35 mph with much higher gusts. And, it was still cold. We got there REALLY early, so once they were tacked up we stood around for a good 25 minutes in the wind. Good times... Star could care less, I think.

Mercy, the oh-so-impatient one did, however. She went from this happy face...

... to grinding her teeth and chewing on her rope. At least she wasn't pawing and moving around.

My friend finally rode up to the trailer. We applied our hand and toe warmers and I jumped on Starlett. I decided to ride her because it's easier riding the slower horse in this particular group. Mercy had to figure out the going faster was only going to get her to the pali-butt in front of her, no where else. And if she got too pushy, well, let's say that Star isn't afraid to aim a hoof at her.

Since my friend had to be home in two hours, we just rode the pipeline loop. This is the ride that my mom and I like a lot. We get some time in the woods and also some time on the gravel pipeline, a great place to really move the horses out. We kept it at a walk, because I was ponying and my friend's mare is still young and silly.
Our ride was really quite uneventful. The only interesting part was when we were on the pipeline and Mercy decided that she didn't like Luna, my friend's mare. She would swing her hind end toward her and threaten to kick. This was easily fixed by dallying her lead rope off onto Star's saddle and pulling Mercy off balance when she did this. It only took a few times for her to figure this out and she quit... for now... grrr. :/
When we got back to the trailer we said quick goodbyes and both headed home. The wind and cold had really taken a toll, but it was well worth it. I don't know when I will see my good friend again; soon, I hope! The girls were worn out too- both quickly found places to nap for a while.

January 8:
We need to get out again. The cold was still miserable and riding on the trails was not an option. So we hauled the girls out to our friend's indoor arena! Mercy and I needed to continue working on loping circles. Of course, taking pictures in an indoor arena is a pure challenge, as most horse people know. Most didn't turn out, so bear with me on this post.
Our circles to the left are much better than going to the right. The right circles are super unbalanced and downright ugly. I am having trouble deciding if it is me and how I sit her lope, or if she is just unbalanced, throwing me off. Either way, we needed to just ride.
Breaks are looked forward to by everyone- me included!

While taking a break from circles I watched and helped my mom get Star to flex and relax into a smoothish jog. The cold weather really made Star stiff and we just needed to get her loosened up.
After TrailridinRN was done riding Starlett, Taylor jumped up for a quick ride! Taylor had used Starlett for gaming in 4H a few years ago and still enjoys riding her when we come over.

Ears up and big smile!

After another round of circles, we get another break! YEAH!

Thanks for letting us use your beautiful facility Taylor! See ya at the barn again soon!
Later January:
We were sick of the joint supplements. They weren't doing anything for Star and they were getting ridiculously expensive, so we finally did it. We started Star on Adequan injections. After the loading dose (one injection every 4 days for 5 injections), we only have to maintain with one injection a month. This combined with the knee injections we did a few months back, we hope to make Star more comfortable in all of her joints. I'll update you later on her progress!
*Does 100th post dance!* ;)