Friday, January 30, 2015

Icey Frosty Horses

Its February!! Its Almost Spring.. Ok, maybe not.. but a girl can dream right??

Actually , it kinda felt like Spring a few days ago. I was feeding in the evening , around 5:45 p.m and it was still relatively light out. The birds in the big rotten Larch tree were even singing. It really felt like March out there.. I couldn't help but linger a bit longer. I raked the hay barn and straightened a few things up while I was enjoying the mild evening (ofcourse it gave me an excuse to not be involved in dinner prep!)

This past week we have been enjoying a few days of sun with  mid to high 40's . The typical end of January thaw , just to tease us! We have not had any further snow fall since earlier this month.
For the next few days, we are slipping into our inversion season, where the fog gets stuck in the valley and the cold damp weather is trapped. 25 degrees feels like it's zero out.. damp cold.. and you can't see more than a half mile ahead due to the inversion/fog.  We don't see much sun.

Everything is covered in a frosty glaze , including the horses.
JB says he is not getting grey...

even the hair in my ears has frost!!!

The Morgan ofcourse with his thick coat is really frosted.. !

I saw a statistic  somewhere indicating this area I live in has one of the highest % of antidepressants prescribed from December through March. I can believe it. S.A.D is a real thing here. It gets downright depressing from all the cloud cover and cold.

 Vitamin D supplementation helps some to fight off SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) If not, I go sign up for a few weeks of tanning bed time. 10 minutes a couple of times a week won't kill me. The benefit outweighs the bad I think. I might go shopping this weekend for one of those Happy Lights. and set it up on my desk at home so when I am working, I get the added benefit.

Another helpful tactic I try to take is plenty of rest and plenty of exercise. I started a new video program, T25 by Sean T. I honestly can't stand listening to him after having done Insanity but the 25 minute workout was appealing. Trying to get back on some sort of workout routine has been challenging. My motivation has been in the tank. (I really just want to start riding). T25 is alot of core work combined with Interval training. It's only 25 minutes but it's intense and so far, I am definitely feeling plenty challenged. I keep telling myself it will just help with riding when it gets warm enough.

I have been re reading the book by Ingrid and Reiner Klimke, "Cavaletti" to get my mind geared back up for jumping excercise. Its a book for schooling the green horse (and rider) over caveletti and building up into gymnastics for jumpers. It has some great info in there and helps me make a plan for Brego. I can't wait to get jumping.

Tomorrow we are loading up and going over to an indoor. I have moved a few of my jumps over to the arena  and the plan is to haul over once a week. It's very close by so time wise, it should be manageable.


Monday, January 19, 2015

It Begins...

My clicker training quest... for Otto.

Ofcourse,,,The first step with anything new is educating oneself. After alot of looking and thinking and looking some more, I want ahead and bought a book about it.

It arrived today. .

The reason I chose this one, among several available out there,  is that it was described as having good "basic" instructions, regardless of your skill levels or knowledge of clicker training. I have alot of horse training knowledge but have never done anything with clicker training so basic was good. It also claimed to have good pictures and with something like this, I thought that would be ideal for me. It also had alot of positive reviews.

So far, my impressions are in line with it's claims. I feel confident that I can follow these instructions and gain some level of success with Otto. Normally, when it comes to training horses , I don't prefer the "recipe" approach, meaning, follow these steps , 1, 2, 3, etc to obtain response X.

 However, in this case, I until I get  more comfortable and begin to get a feel for how Otto responds, I thought having an idea going in on what I needed to be looking for in regards to a response would be helpful. I am anxious to see how it the first lesson goes.. but I still need to obtain a clicker and make my own homegrown version of  a target stick..

Stay tuned! I am excited to start trying this all out

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Hungry Growing Bratty 2 year old


We have been throwing as much feed (hay) at Otto as he will eat.. and eat he does. My GAWD this horse has an appetite. I think he outdoes JB in the appetite department , and I never thought I would live to see another horse put away groceries like JB does. JB is not a big horse either.  Ofcourse, in Otto's case, he is growing and he is alot bigger. His weight is still , in my opinion a little light but I think I am going to fight that for a while yet. At the same time, he doesn't have ribs showing anymore and he has "thickened" up a bit. I guess I will just continue to throw huge amounts of hay at my Hoover vacuum horse and be thankful we purchased an extra 5 ton of hay we didn't think we would need.. because now we probably will!
Early November

Early December
His energy levels are more than adequate and I think he feels really good, considering all of his antics in the pasture. 

Regarding his growth, I was curious and wanted to see how typical or Atypical his growth rate was. The last time I had him into the vet on November 22nd for his last round of catch up vaccines, he was 760 lbs. That was 100 lbs heavier than September when I took him in the first time.  I found this chart to give me a visual representation of where he was at for his breed. According to the ranges listed he should be somwhere between the  2 or 3. Surprisingly, his growth rate fell closer to the range 2. I thought he was alot bigger than "average" for his breed and age (19 months when I did this) but according to this, he isn't. 

embiggen to see the stars indicating his weight. 

Bratty  2 Year Old

He has gotten more challenging to handle in the last few weeks as the stud attitude has only increased. I was hoping to avoid this but it seems he is one of those colts that has the potential to be very studdy.  He is very mouthy and wants to bite alot. He isn't mean about it.. no ear pinning or anything, but those hormones are just telling him that is what he should do to greet people these days.. uggh.. 
How do I get lucky enough to get a colt who is exhibiting two of the habits I hate the most.. rearing and biting.. gheez!!!

I am somewhere between trying to  not make a huge issue out of the biting and trying to ignore it when possible , and also correcting it. 
Sometimes with the "bitiness" behavior, it's tricky. It can  easily  create a bigger issue when trying to correct it.  Horses can get to where they think biting is a game. When a horse goes to bite, what is our natural reaction?? well for me, it's yell  something like.. "hey" or "Knock it off", and then smack the horse in the shoulder or wherever I can make contact, sans the eye area. 
It's just that , a natural reaction , but I don't think it's necessarily the right reaction.  If this cycle continues , it sometimes turns into a cat and mouse game for the horse,, try to nip the human before they scream and smack them.   I really want to avoid that.  

So, what is the right thing to do ??  I am still working that out in all honesty and would welcome any insights but here is what I have implemented in the meantime. 

I use the flag. 
***As a important thing to note here,  I have done alot of flag work with Otto already to set the ground work. He understands that the flag is not something to fear. Correct application of the flag is all  about intent. 

Using the flag for Otto's biting issue is to keep him a safe distance from me, which in turn  seems to negate  the temptation for him to bite, especially whenever I feed him. He respects the flag and understands that he is to stay away,  but he did test things out the first few times,  turning his butt and backing up to me with his hind quarters. 

Not cool buddy..not cool.. 

 He got the business end of the flag right on the rump and quickly realized that wasn't the answer. 
He is a quick study, I will give him that!..  

When I bring his grain bucket in, he stays away , about 4-5 feet, until I have the bucket attached to the hanger and ready . 

Then I "ask" or invite him to come in, ears forward, and I allow him to eat. 

If he is the least but pushy, I send him off again with a shake of the flag. 

I only shake the flag with as little energy as needed until he moves off. No need to get crazy waiving it around and creating a big reaction in  him.  I just want him to yield and try something different than coming in like a bully.  He has this figured out and as a result, he is a perfect gentleman now.

I also make sure that once he is eating, I can rub him all over with the flag. He understands that  I can ask different things with the flag. That is key and I find it works best to often reinforce this idea. It's easy to get caught up in using the flag to send a horse off. I try to be pretty specific about how I use the flag. My queue to invite the horse in is to drop the flag (plastic bag end) in the downward pointing position at my side. 

This is all great for the time being but it doesn't solve everything . The down side is that it dlimits my interactions with him. Anytime I come in close, the biting attempts begin and the boy parts start dropping. 
I am pretty sure I don't look like or smell like a  mare.. good grief .

For now, I am limiting my interactions in close with him. No, it isn't ideal,  but the way I see it, until I can get him gelded , the less negative interactions and the less likely the biting will become a habit. 
Don' t get me wrong, I still halter him , brush him, pick up his feet, but we limit the time I am doing that for now. He's pretty sure that everything needs to go in his mouth 

If there was ever a bratty 2 year old stage, he has definitely hit it. 

The vet really wants me to hold off on his gelding until the footing is better.. That won't be until March. Hopefully we can manage until then...

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Pencil to Paper

Bundles up in our woolies out for a ride

I have finally had a little time to catch my breath and think about my past year , what I accomplished , what I wanted to accomplish and didn't, and so on. I also had some time to think about what I want to accomplish in  2015. 

For 2014, the job and the stress of it was an overarching theme the first part of the year,  coming to a head in June, when I contracted the H flu that had the same symptoms of Meningitis. I honestly don’t remember ever getting so sick for so long.  It was SEVERAL weeks before I was on the mend BUT  I learned some valuable lessons. The job is not life and I was not taking very good care of myself. I made some changes with work, got myself off the high stress project with the help of my manager,and got onto a healthier path. 

My old knee injury haunted me a bit and kept me from getting into trail running but I did do some great hikes in the area that I have long wanted to accomplish. I actually did a lot of hiking. I have a whole list of new hikes I want to do this coming summer! See below for some visual graphics of those!

I attempted to purchase a new horse related online retail business but it fell through and as always, things work out the way they are supposed to. At the time, I didn't  see it that way and kicked myself for dragging my feet. Hindsight is always 20/20 and as time has gone on, I think it would have been a bad move. In order for it to have been successful, I would have been traveling and working so much in my free time that it would have reaped me of more horse time, something I can't afford! 

 In November, I slipped in the ankle deep muck while crawling through the fence rails in the corral and in my attempt to not do a face plant ,  I managed to pull my hamstring. It was totally dumb and less than graceful. The good news is that I didn't fall, but the news was I tore ligaments.  It was painful and when it first happened, I couldn't walk for several minutes. I just stood there, kinda of stuck.. Eventually, I limped into the house,  Just walking was a chore for about two weeks. I spent alot of time sitting on an ice pack and taking anti inflammatories in order to stay comfortable. Even now, I still can't bend over with a straight leg, like to tie my shoes . Any attempts to stretch that leg or do any deep squats are still a challenge, but it's slowly getting better. I can atleast get myself into the saddle now. I never realized how much hamstring muscle is required for this. 

As far as my 2014 horse related activities, they were pretty low key. I did a little trail riding with JB and Brego, did a little jumping with Brego at home, sold Maggie and found Otto .  I got ok with the notion that I didn’t HAVE to ride anyone if I didn’t want to. When I did ride, it was fun again. I needed that break and glad I took it.  2014  ended on a sad note for me, having lost my buddy Rebel.

 What's Ahead?? Who Knows.. !!! I do I have a few goals that I really want to accomplish. Some hose related, some not. Starting with the horse related;

1.  Continue to work Brego over jumps:He started to come along last fall pretty nicely, finally learning to relax a bit more at a trot and canter. Maybe enter a local show  if things come together right. 

2. Ongoing ground work with Otto- He needs more work with his feet handling, standing tied, ground driving, lungeing, 

3. Trick training for Otto:  I have wanted to trick train a horse for very long time. I tried with Maggie and only got as far as a partial bow .I was able to train her to jump up onto a pedestal on a verbal  command but that was as far as I got.  
Otto seems to have a disposition for it so I want to delve into a bit more. I am looking into the whole Clicker training concept to achieve it. I am still in the research stage which involves doing a lot of reading up and watching video  before I am comfortable enough to start.  I have found some useful information from Alexandra Kurland , and I have also found a good resource at Catkin Farm out of New Zealand. I get their weekly newsletter about trick training horses and so far it’s provided some useful information.
4. Keep JB fit- He's an uncomplicated ride and is most suitable for pleasure and a little dressage to keep him strong.  I might have a young girl interested in helping out in that department.  She loves horses and used to come out to ride Rebel from time to time. She's a beginner rider so he would be fine for that. 
5. Distance riding- I have this as #4 only because I am not sure its possible given I don't really have a horse for it.  Tom has offered for me to condition Brego for that but given that Tom rides Brego a lot, it might prove to be a challenge. There are two rides that I have my eye on. One is in Washington and one is in Oregon. We have talked about doing the rides together, but that presents a bit of a logistal issue, considering we  we don’t have two horses that are capable of that right now.  I don’t really want to add any new horses to the herd, atleast not permanently. 
There might be some other avenues to look into in order to accomplish that goal,  possibly a  care lease for a suitable mount. We will see how it all shakes out. 

6. Get a good camera and get into some Photography, maybe take a course. I have always loved photography. 

7. Hiking in Glacier National Park- Two hikes I want to bag this year for sure are Grinnel Glacier and Cracker lake. Grinnel is a 300 Acre glacier and sits just below the Continental Divide.
Grinnel Falls

 Cracker Lake has some of the most beautiful Turquiose colored water in the world, apparently. 
Looks amazing! 

The only down part to both of these hikes is the likelihood of running into Grizzly. Both hikes have high populations because of the high elevation and particular location. I will have to be sure to pack my bear spray .. that also leads me to another goal..

8. Obtain my concealed Weapons permit- I have been around guns all of my life. My dad has always been an avid hunter so guns don't bother me at all. however, I was used to shotguns and Rifles. He was never a big Pistol man so I never really got exposed to them. My husband is however . He has alot and shoots them alot. He has tried to help me with that but for some reason, whenever we have gone to target shoot, the pistol freaks me out. I think its the fact that the barrel is so small and close to my body or something.. So I need to take a class and try to get over this. 

9. See Crater Lake in Oregon. If everything works out the right way, the ride in Oregon could coincide with a parallel vactation of sorts. 

10. Ride my horses into the Bob Marshall Wilderness for a pack trip and see the Chinese Wall. The "Bob" as it is know locally,  is a wilderness area with some of the most amazingly beautiful rugged scenery. But . its not easy to get to. You either have to hike or ride for many many miles to see its treasures. Some of the trails are not exactly easy two track either. One of the big attactions, possibly the most sought after for those going into the wilderness is what is known as the Chinese Wall. It is a 1000 foot Limestone Formation those goes for miles unbroken. I believe it's about a 60 mile trek in to get to it. 

In all honesty, I doubt I will get there this year. It requires a minimum 2 week chunk of time. It's been on the list for a very long time.. and will remain so until it happens. I actually don't care if it's on horse or on my own two feet. I just want to see it. Someday.

11. Continue with outdoor house/property projects to prepare to sell the place. We are eventually planning/hoping to sell and move. We don't know where to yet.. just somewhere with less winter...and more riding opportunities.  It's a process and isn't going to happen overnight.. especially for hubby as he is a teacher.. the whole retirement thing  plays a huge part in that. We like Oregon, Idaho, parts of Arizona and Nevada. Part of the  #9 above is to do some exploring of the southern Oregon area. 

So there's my that I have put it all down in black and white, its just a matter of working my way through it.Execution is usually where the difficulties begin ! 

 Meanwhile, we are just slogging through winter doldrums.  Riding when we can and keeping ourselves occupied with other activities when we can't. 

Snow has arrived and lots of it here in the Northwest. We have over two feet right here in the valley. Some people had over 4 feet..It’s been a while since the valley floor has seen that much snow and while it makes things a little difficult,  I will gladly take snow over ice, which is what we usually have by now.  

I have been able to enjoy lunchtime snow shoe excursions with my dogs out my back door into the surrounding hay fields. It's good way to step away from the computer, get some fresh air and with such deep snow to slog through, gets my heart pumping and the dogs exercised.

Last night, I hopped aboard JB and we took a ride through the deep snow. I think he was having as much fun as I was. When I caught him up, he was literally vibrating with excitement until I got the saddle on him. I just love that little horse. He’s always happy to see me, and always so excited to go for a ride. He never gets irritable or scowly and being around him always seems to put me in a good mood. How can you not love this face???

Thursday, January 8, 2015

2015- I want a Do Over

I snuck away for the  week after Christmas . I headed to sunny  (or what I anticipated to be sunny) Arizona to get out of the cold and visit my sister.  Originally, the plan was to meet my parents down there so we could all get into some warm weather but that isn't quite how it all worked out. My mom's long awaited surgery  ended up being schedule just before Christmas so she would not be able to travel. By the time we figured all that out, it was too late to change my flight because I was dumb and booked through priceline.

*************Apparently you have to go through alot of hoops to postpone or change your flight ( even if you do buy the travel protection plan) when you book through a booking agent like Priceline, Orbitz ,etc.

Lesson learned..

Nonetheless, I went , sans family, hubby, dogs and horses.. just me, and the wide open desert.

I wouldn't really be in wide open desert or what I would refer to as  the "country" ( do they even call it that in the desert?)  I would be staying in a house in North Scottsdale housing development. I had a rental car so I could have some freedom since my sister had to work three of the 5 days that I was there .  Yep, I was on a solo vacation.. mostly...Who goes on vacation to spend time alone? Apparently me. Nonetheless, that is how things shaked out and I was determined to make the best of it.

Luckily, my sister got me a guest pass for her fitness club so I spent most mornings there working out and enjoying the hot tub and sauna. My sister has 4 Corgi's that require a whole routine of attention, so that alone kept me hopping in between. I spent time hiking, walking in nearby parks (mostly looking for an opportunity to lay eyes on the Havalena's that frequent the suburbs) shopping, etc.

When I didn't feel like going and seeing anything,  I spent time watching TV shows that I don't have at home since we don't have dish or cable, like Naked and Afraid.

I couldn't believe people volunteer to put themselves through this!!. I was thinking the whole time  "why am I watching this?"  It was like watching a train wreck. I just couldn't look away. Thank goodness I don't get alot of TV shows at home! What a colossal time void!

 I did make it up to Cave Creek a couple of times and loved that little town.  On one of the days, I took a guided hike into the Sonoran desert. The only wildlife we saw was a Cardinal.. of all things.. My guide was entertaining and relatively knowledgable enough about things to keep the conversation interesting .  I was in a small group with two other people, a married older couple. We planned to take a four hour hike to Elephant Mountain. We stopped alot to talk about Cacti and in spite of being interested in learning all I could about Cacti,  I really wanted to make it to the top of the mountain. Unfortunately our pace was too slow because the guide took too many stops to look at the various types of Cacti (I was less than intrigued about an hour into the hike) We had to turn around, about 1 mile short of the top. I was slightly dissappointed( ok alot dissappointed)  at this but I suppose the top of that mountain probably would have just given me a view of  more Cactus. I quickly let the  goal driven side of me go and just went with it.

In the broader scheme of things, it didn't matter . I wasn't in negative 15 degree weather like they were having at home in Montana. It was about 50 degrees out. While native Arizonians were running around in boots and winter parka's, it was pure bliss to me!

 I did  learn some interesting things that seem to be unique about Arizona...

A street name such as N 67th street is a right hand turn onto a narrow, rutted sandy dirt road. How can that be classified as a street?????
Cactus are very protected
Rain is a serious event, and flooding is an issue. Roads frequently are flooded when they get a heavy rain and underpasses literally fill with sand.
No one seems to own anything but a fancy gooseneck trailer
The city backs up to horse farms. There are little ranchettes right in the middle of what seems to be upper end neighborhoods.
If your a landmark navigator type, meaning, when you are  in a car trying to find roads, or follow directions, you look for certain landmarks, like a certain store or building. (atleast I tend to be this way).

Well in Arizona,  don't plan on relying on this sort of tactic  because everything looks the same. The buildings are the same height , the landscape is the same (cactus follow by more cactus) and oddly enough, most buildings or shopping centers are hidden well behind cactus, trees, etc. They don't build tall buildings outside of the main cities. You could take a right turn and BAM, your in the middle of a large shopping center that you didn't even know existed from the road!

All I can say is Thank god for GPS. Me and Garmin got to be very good friends but I still carried a map because I had to get a visual of the area to get my bearings.

Did I mention I saw alot of Cacti and learned alot about them? Here's some Cactus Trivia for you!

  •  The common Barrel cactus is often referred to as the Suicide cactus because it grows towards the rising sun in the East. Eventually it starts leaning so badly, it falls over. Bad design. Lot of tipped over dead barrel cactus out there.

  • The giant Saguero only grows in one place, the Sonoran desert in AZ. So all those western movies with Saguero's that were supposed to take place in Texas were actually filmed in AZ.. go figure.
  • I always wondered how the Saguaro supported what appeared to be a tremendous weight , with it's arms extending way out in a variety of directions and  impressive height. Inside the Saguaro  there is in fact a support system. Saguaro have ribs ,  that run vertical. The ribs are woody poles that run from the bottom to the top of  the main trunk of the cactus. It's pretty cool.
  • If your stuck in the desert and try to drink the fluid in a Saguaro, you will still die of dehydration. The fluid inside the cactus has a high saline level, meaning it's salty. 
  • The Cholla cactus also has a lot of names. It's commonly known as the Teddy Bear cactus or the jumping Cholla. The jumping part is because while it doesn't actually jump, if you brush it ever so lightly, the segments can break off easily and stick to you, ie jumping. Our guide did a nice demo of this with a stick. The Teddy bear name is because it kind of looks fuzzy , like a Teddy bear but definitely not one to cuddle with.

It was nice to get away but as usual I missed my dogs, my horses, my husband, and my routine . I got home on January 2nd.

And SINCE my return to Home??

Well I never quite made it home.. not really anyways
Unfortunately, I no sooner got home and found myself later that night boarding a medflight because my mom had to be flown back to the hospital in Seattle for  an emergency post surgical complication. Given the nature of the surgery, it was beyond the local hospital's comfort level so they made arrangements to fly her back. There was no way my mom was going to manage being alone, even if there were flight medics aboard. It made the most sense for me to go along.  It was all such a whirlwind.

I think I was home for an hour to see my dogs, see my husband , grab a bite to eat and then I was back in the clouds once again. I could not believe this was happening. The plane was also no commercial jet . It was a small prop engine and to make matters , we were getting a terrible snow storm. The ride there was less than comfortable. It felt like we were a ping pong ball being tossed around. They had my mom strapped onto a gurney and she was facing me. I was trying like hell not to seem worried , so as to minimize any additional anxiety for her, which was already through the roof. Inside, I was terrified myself.. and since I had been up since 3:30 that morning to catch my flight from Phoenix, I was exhausted.

We made it to Seattle in 2 hours, landed safely and were swept off the ER. I have been in Seattle ever since, mom has had yet another surgery and possibly needing another one yet. We aren't sure.. I do get to go home today and other family members are arriving today.

We are all on pins and needles right now and praying for a positive outcome.

At home, the hubby has been dealing with his share of issues. We had several days of sub zero weather , followed by over 30 inches of snow in a 12 hour period.  It took him a full day to shovel and snowblow his way out to the road.

So if you have been wondering , I have been a bit preoccupied. When things settle down a bit, I am thinking maybe I will make Feb 1st my new New Year's because January 1st and the days following were not something worth celebrating..

** I did get a few good photos of the the Arizona trip, I will be sure to post a few on here when I get home and get settled back into a routine.

Thanks for reading!