Feeling Moldy

So this spring went from summer drought-like conditions to enough rain that I’m feeling moldy from the constant wetness.  The grass at home will be a foot tall before it dries out enough to be cut.  Maybe it is a good thing we can get Ike on the trailer.  He can come home with me and  “cut” our grass – OK, OK, the weeds.  I wonder what our downtown neighbors will think of our new lawn mower?  Really officer, he is a VERY large Great Dane…

Since it was not the best riding day, but the rain had dwindled to a mist for a spell, I decided that it was a fine opportunity to practice our loading.  Why not?  As you can see from the photo above, Ike was again a star.  Didn’t want to belabor the point, so after the first success, he got to have a snack of hay in his stall.

Unlike his brother who was head-to-toe mud, Ike was spotless, so there was not even any grooming to be done.  We just had some neck rubs and ear scratches and enjoyed each other’s company.

Tomorrow is my barn-free day and will be Ike’s first break from his trailer practice.  We passed the first test of me being able to load alone.  Now will we be able to continue our success after a day off?  Come back Wednesday night and find out.

I’m a Big Boy Now and Green Headed Monsters

Yes, that is Ike on the trailer again after self-loading!  I’m still shocked and amazed, but absolutely thrilled that Mr. Revelle helped us through our issues.  Today there were distractions of the neighbor’s children playing in the woods, the wicked green headed flies, and Mr. D mowing the lawn, so it was a test of our ability to focus on the task at hand.  I’d say we passed with flying colors.  So my “little” man is growing up and growing more confident.  What will he be able to accomplish next?  I can’t wait to find out.

And let me just take a moment to tell you how much I hate the green headed flies.  They are evil harbingers of summer.  I think they are immune to fly spray and are wicked fast when you swat at them.  Mutants that need annihilation.  They know exactly where to bother the horses for maximum discomfort.  I have been attacked by them and develop large, itchy, painful welts that last for days.  Most likely the only pesticide that would work on them has been banned by the EPA before even being placed on the market for fear that it would cause vast environmental damage.  I despise them.

[And now back to our regularly scheduled post.]

The only way to avoid the little green monsters was to move, so we did.  Ike was fantastic under saddle.  Neither shoulder decided to be dominant today, so we were very balanced in most of our work.  Ike even showed some stretch down in his trot circle.  There were no witnesses, so you will just have to take my word for it.  Practiced the Training Level Test 1 canter movements.  Feeling confident after today’s ride, but I know it might not be there when we debut it at a show.  The canter transitions are getting more balanced and less rushed.  Happy, happy, joy, joy.  The boy is going to have a nice canter.

The farrier comes this week for Ike’s pedicure and I’ve downloaded an entry form for a schooling show in early June.  Yes, we are going to try and head out into the world again.  Stay tuned…

Load Up!

Yes, everyone, this is a photo of Ike on the trailer with the butt bar in place, and the ramp up.  The most exciting part is that I did it ALL BY MYSELF!!!!  If a strong gust of wind had come, it would have blown me over.

I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical when I arrived at the barn.  Would Ike load?  Would I have to call Mr. Revelle back and have to have another loading lesson with him?  Can I do this?  I used the same halter with a chain hooked to the lead rope.  I put the lead rope over Ike’s neck just like yesterday.  I had the piaffe whip at the ready in case we needed a bit of encouragement and peppermints in my pocket.  We walked up to the trailer and I said, “Ike, Load Up!”  He balked for a second.  I gave him a pat and repeated the request with a little tap on his croup. In the trailer he went, I latched the butt bar, and folded up the ramp.  And stood there in astonishment.  Had I just done it?  I ran around to the escape door just to make sure and take the photo as evidence. Gave Ike a handful of peppermints and the biggest hug.  I gushed praised, “good boy, such a brave man, that’s my big boy.”  I then unloaded him and decided to try one more time.  The second time there was no hesitation from Ike.  I felt like doing the victory dance like Rocky at the top of the steps.  Thank you Mr. Revelle for whatever you whispered in Ike’s ear.

Ike and I then had a short, but productive ride.  Worked on shoulder-fore, canter to stretch down trot circles, centerline turns, and keeping my weight in the right place.  Perfect weather for riding with a breeze to keep away the natty bugs and green headed flies.

Look out world, Baby Huey will be on the road again soon.


Bet you are thinking what the heck are those letters in the title of the post.  Look closely and think of a license plate.  Got it?  It is the license plate of the gentleman who came today to help Ike and I over our trailer issues. [Horse Whisperer for those of you who need a little extra help.]  Mr. Revelle arrived bright and early this morning.  Thank goodness that I was able to give coherent directions to the farm.  We introduced ourselves and I explained Ike’s issues.  He was not at all concerned, but he’s been working with horses for 50 years and has been there and done that.

We retrieved the big boy from his paddock.  Mr. R went right to work with some lunging and groundwork – a bit of a get-to-know-you and you get-to-know-me.  I stood to the side and watched.  As Ike would trot by me while lunging, I swear he kept looking at me as if to ask, “Who is this and why are we doing this?”  But, Ike being the good fellow that he is, went along with the program and tried his best.

Then it was time for the trailer.  My role was limited at first.  Stay out-of-the-way and dispense treats if and when Ike got on the trailer.  All I can say is that I was truly impressed with Mr. R’s technique.  He has a great feel for when to push and when to release the pressure and when to push for more.  Soon Ike was walking on and standing quietly.  In the blink of an eye, the butt bar was in place.  What?!  Holy Moly!  The ramp was up and there we were.  The boy did try some pushing to see if it would move, but got a poke in the butt.  Then it was my turn to try.  With Mr. R’s guidance, I had Ike load himself and was able to then put the butt bar in place.  No way!  I can load my horse by myself?!  Who would have thought it…not me.  The light at the end of the tunnel is a bit brighter.  We will practice regularly and pray that it will only get better from here.

The day was not over once Mr. R headed home.  Ike and I also had our lesson with Ms. C.  Boy was he strong and dominant with that right shoulder today.  I like to think that my legs are strong, but it took all I had to attempt to stop it, but failed miserably on numerous tries.  (I wish the hot tub was filled tonight for the sore leg muscles.)  What impresses me with Ike is that even after his trailer training, he still gave 100% in our lesson.  Worked on shoulder fore and turn on the haunches with some success.  The canter continues to improve.  Ike’s right lead is now better than the left lead on many days; that dominant right shoulder caused us some turning issues today as well as some outward drift and ovals rather than circles.  We even played with the thought of canter lengthening.  Ike liked that part of the lesson.  There is definitely some range in that canter.

I did my own horse whispering as I took Ike back to his paddock when we were done.  Told him that he is a very special horse and I am very lucky to have him in my life.

Sometimes the Hardest Thing to do is…

…the right thing.

Made the decision today to scratch our entry in Sunday’s schooling show.  Let me explain…as you know Ike has been having some trailer issues.  The biggest issue is not that he won’t get on the trailer, but that he panics when you go behind him and either touch the ramp or the butt bar.  He throws his mass into reverse quicker than a stunt car driver and backs off the trailer.  Not sure why now since he did ride in this trailer to and from the dressage show in April.  Too bad I’m not psychic.  It is not a safe situation and someone or Ike is going to get hurt.  It is an issue that needs to be resolved and soon before it becomes dangerous.  Better to stay home and work out these kinks than to travel to the show only to find that Ike won’t get on the trailer to come home.

I have talked to a local expert who works with behavioral issues and horses who have trailer “concerns.”  If the scheduling works, he will come next week to help me with Ike.  Hold the press!  He just called and is coming tomorrow.  Keep all fingers, toes, and hooves crossed that he can work his magic and our problems will be solved.

I did manage to fit in a ride this afternoon as well.  Had not been in the saddle since Sunday.  Do you know what happens when you give a four year old three days off?  He gets very forward, but in a good way.  Wow, what a ride.  It is a shame that he has decided to be a homebody for the time being.  Walk-trot transitions were fluid as were the down transitions.  Gone are the days where we ran into the brick wall when asked to walk.  Ike also got every canter transition when asked, on the correct lead, and with round circles instead of ovals.  Dare I say the boy is starting to have some body awareness?  I probably should not and jinx myself.

To tide you over until we make it out in public again, here is the upload of my rides from April.  The video was done by Video Vibes.  If they are ever at your show, get them to do the video for you – it is well worth it.  The first ride up in the video is our Intro A test which was actually our second ride at the show.  Next is the Intro C test.  Finally Intro B – Watch closely and you will clearly see us almost take down the rail on some of the turns.  No laughing at our canter is allowed…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P0g6UQyd0AY

Success and Failure

I saw a quote in my new Whole Living magazine (http://www.wholeliving.com/) that arrived today that made me grin to myself, “The upside of grand failures: They make great stories.”  If that is the case, it is no wonder that I started a blog about my riding experiences.  Oh yes, there is some success in the mix, but it seems like the small victories come after I’ve failed in some miserable and usually public way.

Apparently, I am a magnet for special-needs animals who are experts at humbling me.  Anyone who knows Cigar knows that he relishes his misbehavior and naughtiness even in retirement.  He just recently ripped the hot wire off the fence when he realized it wasn’t working.  My dogs are no exception.  My therapy dog Tim was pretty easy to train, but chose to relieve himself on the bag of expensive dog treats with the entire class and instructor watching.  My old hound dog had me chasing after her around the neighborhood while wearing 4 inch heel boots – my future husband dubbed them my jogging boots.  My newest canine addition Spencer?  He barked and lunged at every dog at the local dog parade and in his Obedience 101 class.  We dropped out of the class since we were more of a distraction to the other dogs who were trying to learn.  I was so proud.

And Ike?  Well he is quickly earning a reputation as “challenging to load” and “frequent no-show” at clinics.  Great.  I was hoping for a reputation as “a talented, young horse with great potential to move up the levels.”  At least we can entertain the blog readers with our misadventures and hope for a better performance tomorrow.

Ike had the day off to enjoy the weather, recover from the vet visit, and because I worked all day and had the commute from he_ _  to get home this afternoon.  Back to work tomorrow.  Three days to practice loading and get some saddle time before our Training Level debut on Sunday.  Just breathe, Alison, breathe.

Open up and Say Aaaah

It was dental and shot day for the boys.  Cigar needed the full set of spring shots and his teeth checked.  Ike needed his flu shot, a coggins (in case we actually get on the trailer and leave the farm), and his teeth checked.  And since they get sedated for their teeth and I believe in better living through drug chemistry if necessary, they also had their sheaths cleaned since neither is cooperative in that department while fully conscious.

I will never forget the first time I saw a horse have their teeth floated.  The Medieval-looking mouth clamp, the “wood rasps,”  the blood.  It was an eye-opening event, but a necessary evil because of the domestic lifestyle of today’s horses.  Ike still has a few baby teeth.  It is odd to look in his mouth and see those teeny tiny teeth when the rest of him is so large.  I’m hoping to find one before all the baby teeth are gone – a little sick and twisted, but I’m sure I’m not the only horse owner that wants one or already has one sitting in a box somewhere.

Was not able to get to the barn early enough to ride…but since we seem to be doing fine under saddle, the time was spent doing what?  Take three guesses and the first two don’t count.  That’s right, trailer practice!  Ike was cooperative and walked on and off the trailer three times and stayed on the trailer for a full 5 minutes fully relaxed the last time.  He also spent that time eating the grain strewed on the floor of the trailer.  Hey, if it helps him get over his fear, I say let him eat off the floor.

No ride times yet for Sunday.  Trying not to get too excited or think too much about it  – one step up the ramp at a time, one step.  In the mean time, Ike is going to bed.  It was a big day for the big man.