Saturday, June 11, 2011

Angus says step away from the computer

Angus came by to tell me we needed to go on a walk.  It sounded like a good idea so I’m stepping away from the computer for a little bit. 

How can I refuse?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Stocking up on horse supplies

There’s a lot more “stuff” to get than I remembered.

About 6 months after I lost Cre I really didn’t think I’d be getting back into horses anytime soon.  Having a garage full of horse supplies was a constant reminder and wasn’t doing anyone any good.  I was reading the paper one day when I saw an article on the The Grace Foundation and learned about their activities rescuing horses.  I decided that donating my tack and blankets and other assorted horse supplies would be a great idea and one that would benefit so many more than if I’d just put it all on Craigslist. 

Little did I realize two years later I’d need to be purchasing a lot of it all over again.  Oops.

I try to do this all on a budget, and not just to keep Ken happy (though that is very important, of course)!  Every penny saved on supplies is a penny we can spend elsewhere (or gasp! - save).

So the fun of shopping began even before I brought Blu home and continues.  I’ve reacquainted myself with Christensens Saddlery in Loomis, Douglas Ranch Supply in Granite Bay and a few Internet stores like and Schneider Saddlery and a really nice one for custom sheets and blankets and such - Radon.  It still surprises me how many things a show horse “needs.”  Take blankets, for example.  I have gotten him a winter blanket that has a neck cover attached.  It isn’t exactly a subtle color pattern, but it’ll keep him warm.

At least he's toasty warm!  :-)

I really should have two heavy blankets so I can wash one while he’s wearing the second.  But that will have to wait.  The weather is taking forever to change so while I thought I needed to get him a lightweight blanket two months ago, turns out he still isn’t wearing it, so it could have waited.

But he has used his cooler.  It’s a blanket for use when he’s wet but the weather isn’t warm enough to let him “air-dry.”  A cooler is kind of like having a robe after you get out of the shower.  And he's briefly used his fly sheet.  It’s a very thin, mesh (like a screen) blanket that keeps the flies off when it’s really hot out and keeps his hair from getting sun bleached.  That’s just for starters. 

Since he’s a show horse I needed to get him a super lightweight sheet (a "Sleezy") for keeping him clean at shows.   

Here’s a picture of his show blanket from Radon in Equus Farm’s green and tan colors.

And I’ve gotten him a long fly mask so I can help keep the flies out of his eyes (Cre’s eyes got infected from flies years ago and the meds were messy ointments so I want to avoid that with Blu) and keep his nose from getting another sunburn.  I don’t know what a wild horse would do to keep from getting sunburned, other than to suffer with a peeling nose – but since Blu isn’t wild he doesn’t have to suffer.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Lets see, I’ve also gotten some Vetrolin medicated spray since all horses get cuts and scrapes and it’ll help him heal.  And a groom box with all the brushes, hoof picks, and such that I need for now.  And a groom bag for shows.  It’s got a shoulder strap that makes it easier to carry the show grooming supplies to the ring for last minute touch ups.

I bought the groom box and brushes before I’d even met Blu and I find it a funny coincidence that it’s all in BLUE.  Most of Blu's things are in blue if possible.  Though Equus Farm’s colors are green and beige and maroon, so some of his things (like his show blanket) are in those colors.

My last major purchase at this point is a show saddle.  (Though I never had one before, so getting one won’t be a replacement.)  For that purchase I’m trying HARD to buy used.  And for that I’m putting as many feelers out as I can in case anyone knows anyone with a western show saddle they need/want to sell.  If I can find a used one (wide or flex-tree, ¾ or 7/8 rigging, 16” seat, light oil) I’d love it.  If not, I’ll eventually have to shop for new.  I’ll need it by next spring at the latest.  I will make due with a borrowed saddle for the August show if I don’t have one by then.  And there’s always Cowboy Christmas in Vegas!

Re-supplying for horse ownership isn’t cheap.  I am happy I donated my things before, but really…ouch. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

I’m learning more every day even when I don’t know it

I'm liking these pictures.  One day I hope to be able to take a video because he'll be bomb-proof!

Since I’m writing this blog mainly so I have a way to look back over time and see how I (and Blu) develop, I figure it’s important to put things down on “paper.”

I’m finding it hard to put some things into words though.  And I hope I don’t sound smug, or whatever, (to whomever is reading this other than me) when I get excited about figuring something out.  But I really do get excited when I finally catch on to something Todd has taught me.  It always surprises me.

Sometimes it doesn’t feel like I’m learning anything at all.  Or that I’ll never ‘get it.”

Todd tells me to do something and I do what he says but it just doesn’t MEAN anything to me.  Sometimes I don’t see Blu’s head going down when Todd says “good!  That’s it, release!” but I release anyway.  Other times I don’t realize I don’t have my leg on Blu until Todd says “more leg!” and even though at times it seems counter-intuitive I put more leg on Blu.  That’s what I have a trainer for.

But now I can see that I’m finding pretty consistently that the next time I ride, something clicks from the previous ride and I can do the release, or more leg, or whatever, on my own.  (At least sometimes!)  And it feels so good!

As a (long) example – and speaking of ‘more leg’ - it’s funny to me how saddle sore I am now!  I thought I was working before, when I was taking lessons with the other horses but riding a green horse is really challenging me to have a better seat and leg position and as a result I’m using muscles and tendons I haven’t used in a very long time.  And they’re letting me know!

This extra soreness is because last week Todd worked with me on my leg position.  I like longer stirrups because my bad knees really scream if my stirrups are short so I make them long enough that I am reaching to have my feet touch.  But last week when I started loping I kept losing my stirrups, or having them slide so that I was oxbowing (I think that’s what it’s called when the stirrup slip back to where the heel stops my foot from sliding through entirely) so we shortened them.  It felt weird – like I was back to riding English – but I was able to keep my foot in contact with the stirrup which helped my confidence while loping.  Shorter stirrups weren’t the goal though – turns out they were a very (very) short term crutch.

Because I wasn’t putting leg on Blu the way I was supposed to, Todd worked on showing me a more appropriate leg position.  While sitting in the saddle he had me lift my toes up as high as I could, which is basically “heels down” but a different way of having me learn it.  I did the toe flex thing while my foot was in the stirrup but the ball of my foot wasn’t touching the stirrup.  He then had me straighten my leg until the ball of my foot came in contact with the stirrup.  In order to do this I had to move my leg back so I was in more of a straight line from head to shoulders to hips to knee.  If I were standing on the ground in this position I would look really funny, but sitting in the saddle it totally changed my contact with Blu’s sides AND it gave me a solid feeling of contact with the stirrup. 

A perfect example of something Todd showed me last week that didn’t feel normal, but this week when I got on I did the new leg positioning, with longer stirrups and it felt slightly less awkward and I was able to do the positioning on my own.   And I could feel the change in contact with Blu’s side.  I was able to squeeze with my calf rather than kicking with my heel.  And amazingly, Blu moved off the calf better than with the heel.  Voila!  It was another of those “ah-ha” moments that clicked this week from a previous lesson.

I will continue to get excited when something “clicks” – it’s who I am and one of the (many) reasons I love riding.  And I hope that I’ll be able to look back on this blog and recognize things that while awkward at first, become second nature later.

I don't have any video of me riding since the first days, but here's Todd on Blu

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Driving to see Blu

For those of you wondering about my ‘commute’ to see Blu I’ve got the route pretty well set.  I’ve got plenty of options and some depend on what vehicle I’m driving.  I could take I-80 down to 680, but I do that route to the Bay Area often enough that I HATE it and will avoid it at all costs.  I can take I-5 to 205 to 580 to 680 to 101 but the roads are bumpy as all get out and if I’m in the truck with the camper I am driving much slower than the speed limit and in the slow lanes the bumps are even worse.  That alone makes me skip that route.

I can take I-5 to 33 in Santa Nella but I-5 to Stockton is quite bumpy too.

So I’ve determined that my best route is to take Hwy 99 to Hwy 4 to I-5 down to Hwy 33.  From there I take 152 to 156 to 101.  It isn’t as confusing as it may sound and it’s fairly scenic (as opposed to the drive through the Bay that is just houses/businesses).

And Google Maps says it is only 6 minutes longer than if I take their recommended I-80 to 680 route.  In real life it’s about 10 minutes longer – I’ve timed them both.  Hwy 99 is much less bumpy through to Stockton, and I am getting to know the horses housed along I-5 even.  There are some distinctive ones and I try to say “hi” along the way!

Here's a mare and foal I'm watching every trip - if you zoom in you'll see the foal is nursing 

Here they are again

All in all, in the MINI it takes me just under 3 hours to get to Todd’s from my house, including stops for gas.  In the truck and camper it’s closer to 4 hours, but then if I’ve got the camper it’s because I’m staying the night.  It works for me.

I guess it’s a good thing I like driving.  And knowing that I've got a great horse waiting for me makes the drive worth it.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Crazy weather

June first and I’m wearing a sweater to work! 

Off and on all day it just dumped rain.  Ken was home during the worst of it after 4pm when there were tornado warnings.   He took a video so we could hear the thunder and a Coopers Hawk happened to fly through.

Check it out at the 2 second mark – it flies from right to left just before the thunder.

At my work the building was shaking with the thunder and we could hear the rain pounding on the roof – and we’re in a big office building.

Like I said – crazy weather.