Sunday, January 31, 2010

Horsey Sunday

Today Brian and I went out to the barn. It had been a very long time since he rode Steen. Since I still have stitches in my leg and Steen needed some exercise, we figured today was the perfect opportunity to get the two of them reacquainted.

We found Steen still cozy in his wug, though I have still neglected to take a photo of him all dressed up. He was happy to see us, and we brought him inside and made sure to stay relaxed and happy, and make a big fuss over how pretty he is and how sweet he is (like he likes) and he stayed very relaxed through the grooming and tacking process. Then Brian hopped on and put in a solid 40 minute indoor ride with lots of walking and trotting. I was impressed with them both and looking forward to riding again myself.



We left our barn and headed north to Cedar Falls, where we tested out Potential Second Horse number two. He's a cool horse - 1/2 saddlebred, 1/4 arab, 1/4 paint. However, we were somehow under the impression he had a little more experience than he did, and we left with the conviction that he's a little much for Brian at this stage.



So, the hunt continues. But we're having fun.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Snug in a Wug

It's been an interesting little phase of horse-ownership for me. A couple months ago some nasty ice-storms rolled through the area, wreaking havoc on all the pasture horses. Brian and I were in Chicago at the time, and I spent a very unhappy few days worrying about Steen getting his coat all wet and then freezing.

He made it through, as they always seem to, but one of my good barn buddies who boards her horse in the "feed lot" with Steen invested in a blanket, and my barn owner recommended I think about doing the same. Long story short, I explored the pros and cons of blanket ownership, assured myself we only have storms like that once or twice a winter, horses are better off when left in as natural a state as possible, and didn't buy one.

Last week we got another ice storm. Steen got wet and started shivering. I found myself getting a ride to the barn with my friend Gay (since I couldn't get my car out of our ally), her spare blanket in the back.

The entrance to the barn was frozen shut and given Steen's extremely nervous indoor-behavior lately, we decided it would be best to put the blanket on him outside. (The storm had passed by then, but another was on the way.) We confined Steen to one of the little pens where the feed-lot horses get their grain. At first he was scared of the blanket, then he was convinced he could not move because he was wearing a blanket, and finally he tried to run away from the blanket once we let him loose again. After a few laps around the pasture he cooled it, however, and stood still, his head coming down and his eyes beginning to droop a little with every breath.

Still, I needed to buy my own blanket. Cathi sings the praises of the Rambo Wug. I figured if I was going to buy Steen something to wear day in and day out, I might as well get him the best.

It arrived yesterday, and due to a string of rather coincidental and somewhat bizarre circumstances, I was unable to make it to the barn until after 5:00. I would have waited until this morning except a cold front was blowing in and temps were falling. The loaner blanket was older and though water-proof, I worried it wasn't warm enough. With the natural insulating value of his own coat destroyed from wearing the blanket, I wanted Steen in his wug.

Brian picked me up from the gallery the moment I got off work and we drove straight to the barn. We walked across an ice-rink to get to the pasture. The sun was setting, the wind was blowing, I had seven stitches in my leg and Brian had never touched a horse-blanket in his life. I had visions of Steen's pulling all his fidgety stunts and us succeeding in getting the old blanket off but failing to get the new one on.

I shouldn't have worried. Steen meet us at the gate, looking cute and cozy in the loaned duds. I put his halter on and led him to his feed-pen. I draped his rope over a tube and told him to stand. He did just that while we fumbled with the swap-out, our fingers going numb as we worked. And when I say still, I literally mean his hooves never left the ground. Even when Doc pulled the old blanket off the fence and it made strange noises and spooked Doc and Cal, Steen didn't budge. He'd turn his head to watch the proceedings, but he seemed to understand time was of the essence.

We got him all Wugged out as the last light faded from the sky. I gave him lots of praise and he ambled back into the pasture in his new get-up. I am a little astonished. The last four times I've been to the barn have been stressful and trying, with Steen refusing to keep his feet still for even a few seconds while I groom him. Yesterday made me remember why I love him.

I still don't know what I think about blanketing in general. I suppose, like most things involving horses, it's one of those "re-evaluate constantly" kinds of things.

Some tiny tiny photos of Steen in the old blanket:



Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Fog Must Be Crazy

Today the weather was warm (34) and foggy. Brian and I headed for the barn around 10:30 to meet Gay and take the horses out on the trail.

I had a feeling things with Steen weren't going to be great, but hoped the presence of his buddies, Cal and Doc, would get him through with minimal agitation. Things did not start well. Steen was an absolute basket-case while I was tacking him up, and I had to go through my old process of tying him for a while, then untying him, doing some circling and yielding exercises, then tying him again. After a lot of pretty deplorable behavior on Steen's part, we got the three of them outside. Steen calmed down almost as soon as we stepped out the doors. I don't know what has got him so upset about being in the barn right now, but I need to get to the bottom of it soon.

Outside things at first seemed to settle down. Steen stood while I made some adjustments to his saddle. We all mounted and headed off down the strip. We made our way along and I tried to relax. Steen relaxed too.

We got to the big downhill and the next thing I knew, Steen was on his knees in the deep snow drifted up against the hillside. I thought he'd lost his footing, and jumped off to help him get back on his feet, but then he went down onto his belly and flopped onto his side. He was trying to roll! Since I was lying on the ground next to him, I kicked him in the butt with the heel of my boot so he wouldn't break the tree of my saddle. He stood up very calmly and waited for me to get back on.

I got back on my feet only to realize Cal had done the same thing to Brian. Luckily he too managed to get clear before she flopped onto her side. Cal then made a half-hearted escape-attempt, but Brian caught her with a deft rein-catch and he and I climbed back aboard.

After that we figured the worst was over, but we had continued into the corn-field only a few hundred feet when Doc popped up on his hind-legs and spun. It wasn't a rear. It wasn't a strike. It was a sort of a fast pivot on the hind-end with front legs raised. Now, Doc is usually the steady one, so this behavior was entirely unexpected.

Gay got him back under control, and we pressed on. I, personally, was taking a lot of deep breaths and trying to keep from getting tense. And from that point forward, Steen was actually pretty good. Other than a few little instances of breaking into a trot unasked, and a few other times stopping when he was supposed to be walking, he performed remarkably well considering he hadn't been out in a long time.

The rest of the ride was less bizarre, but pretty tiring for Brian. Cal kept falling behind and then breaking into a fast trot or lope to catch up. Doc did the hop-spin a few more times. We did our normal ride, though, and made it back to the barn intact.

I kept Steen inside, alternately tying him and walking him, until he was completely relaxed. While I was doing this, we did figure out Cal was most definitely in heat. When we put everyone back into the pasture, she and Doc immediately launched into big-time courtship behavior. So, the crazies partly came from that, I'm sure. The rest of it, I'm just going to blame on the fog.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Expecting

I had a somewhat frustrating day at the barn on Friday. I went out to do some ground-work with Steen, and the sound of the snow sliding off the roof of the indoor arena had him totally freaked out by the time I gave up and put him back in the pasture, so I'm not sure how effective the session was.

However, today Brian and I went and checked out a potential candidate for our second equine family-member. He is located in Grinnell, and seems like a pretty neat horse. He belongs to a woman who has lots of other horses, mostly show-horses, and he's her steady go-to guy for kids and family friends, etc.. As a result, he's obviously gotten used to being a bit lazy and disregarding certain cues he'd rather not heed (mainly, walk forward). But, we stuck with it for a while and he seemed willing enough once persuaded he really did have to do what was asked of him.

He's good-sized for a paint, definitely larger than Steen, and Brian did not look too big on his back at all, which is a definite plus.

One of the woman's daughter's kept Brian company on her mini horse while Brian rode. It was pretty funny.

So, we shall see. We've made no decisions, but Steen may have a brother before too long.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Still Frozen

Well, I've been a lazy blogger. Let's see. Quick recap.

It's been cold.

I haven't been riding much.

But, I have had a couple rides as well as a couple non-riding barn visits. I had another nice indoor bareback experience last week, and a couple of days ago I had a not-so-nice indoor, not bareback riding experience. I suppose I can't really blame Steen for being a pill, since he's had a lot of time to himself lately, but on Wednesday I went out for a ride in the morning and Steen was nervous, fidgety, and doing all of the things he usually does when he's uncomfortable or edgy. I tried to stay patient and calm but didn't really have enough time to work him through the nerves, as so often happens.

I've decided everything about my life would be easier if I didn't have to work for a living. So I just need to secure sufficient funding for the next 70 years or so, and I'll be good to go...

Here's another "waitIthinkyouhaveacamera" shot of Steen:

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Frozen

It's been really cold here. Like, highs below zero kind of cold. Last winter I discovered even riding indoors was really not pleasant below five degrees, so I've been lying a bit low since our return from our Christmas journey.

Today was no exception to the cold rule, but Brian and I took a trip out to the barn to check on the horses anyway. With Steen's tendency to lose weight at the slightest provocation, I'd been experiencing the nagging fear that I was going to arrive at the barn after my hiatus to find him skinny and forlorn in spite of all our best efforts. (Not that there aren't people checking on him multiple times a day. But I myself hadn't seen him in almost two weeks.)

So, it was a nice affirmation when we walked into the pasture to find Steen fluffy and perky. I ran my hands over his sides and had to poke around a bit to find his ribs under a nice layer of fat. His back is still wide and his spine is a canyon. He does not appear to have lost weight at all, in spite of the ice/sleet storm followed by the ubercold snap. This encourages me immensely.

Steen seemed happy to see us. We hung out petting him and Cal and Doc for a few minutes, but my fingers were starting to feel deadened before long, so we returned to our heated car.

Tomorrow it's supposed to be five degrees. I might hazard a ride.

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