Exploring the Town

I got up early this morning and buzzed up to the barn. I have a day in Boston planned for tomorrow (and a concert in the evening, which is exciting, because it’ll be my first concert of 2013!), so today was going to be a pony day of epic proportions.

Image seems to have bounced back from his weird “my bum, no touchies!” episode from last week no worse for the wear. I’m anxiously awaiting the Lyme multiplex test results before doing anything else. With that in mind, I brought him in the barn and buffed the hell out of him. It is SO MUCH EASIER to groom him now that I’ve scrubbed the ever lovin’ daylights out of him! He napped on the cross ties while I contorted myself in odd positions to get every inch of him. Sometimes I wonder if he really enjoys being groomed, but when I finally get up to his face and start brushing that, and he practically drops his head to the ground so I can reach every inch of it, I’m a little more convinced that he enjoys it 😉

After buffing him so he shined, we set out on a little walk around the neighborhood. Today was one of the first truly warm weekend days of the season, so there were people everywhere…and yard sales everywhere! You ever see a horse walk past while you’re at a yard sale? Me neither. So, Image’s presence was met with lots of requests to pat him. Little kids and senior citizens alike were all asking me questions and patting him. He stood like a stone and charmed the hell out of everyone when I gave him a cookie and he tilted his head to ask for more. There was one little girl who was totally enthralled — I told her parents not to blame me when she starts asking for a pony!

We went down another road and headed back towards the barn. I brought him into the baseball field that I used to ride GP in, and let him nibble on some grass in there, before heading back up the road. A police car was idling off to the side — obviously, he was running radar on passing cars. We came up next to him, and he said hello and commented that it was a lovely day for a walk. I stopped Image to respond…and I kid you not, he stuffed his head right in the officer’s open window!!

I about died. Thank God he was good natured about the whole thing, because I was kind of mortified! Image, on the other had, was kind of indignant that the human in the weird smelling, odd shaped box thing had no cookies for him. Bah. Stinker!!

We went home and after another quick (ish…) once over with the brush, I turned him back out with his buddies. I then spent an hour or two cleaning tack, rearranging and cleaning out my grooming box, and scrubbing the dirt off of Image’s rope halter. I chilled out with the bunny (yes, you read that right) and he snuggled right up next to my legs and took a nap. I cleaned a couple of paddocks, because I felt like it, and took some pictures of L riding Jasper, an adorable older Morgan with the sweetest face ever.

SERIOUSLY adorable. Holy crap!

Then, I scooted out to a coworker’s house nearby, and rode her lovely little Arab gelding, Roo. It was nice to ride — any ride time is good ride time! — but I was a little shocked at how sad I was that I wasn’t riding my own horse…and by my “own” horse, I’m not even sure if I mean Image, but just a special critter that I truly adore. I’ve been riding everyone else’s horses for my entire riding career of 15 years. I’m so excited for the day, whenever that may be, that I can mosey down the trail on my very own silly little black horse.

Hopefully the Lyme test gives me some answers. Maybe it won’t. It’ll be back to the drawing board, then. Luckily, I’m working on trying to draw and not getting bent out of shape when I can’t do it perfectly! 😉

Proof that I’m not always behind the camera when someone’s in the saddle!

Oh, before I finally decide it’s bedtime…this is, decidedly, not horse related, but it was so cool that I feel the need to share! I park my car outside, so when I get home, I have to open the garage door to get in. I had just opened it when I heard something rather large making a lot of noise in the woods behind the house. I peeked around the side of the house, gasped, and fought to get my camera out and ready. There were a few deer in our (fully fenced!) back yard that I had spooked. One jumped over the fence before I could get my camera ready, but I just managed to catch the other one!

You can see the fence post in the background. Boiiinnng!
There were a bunch of them in the woods behind the house, all staring at me intently.
I was making high pitched squealy noises to keep their attention. Their WTF faces are so. freaking. cute.
They stood and watched me for quite some time, even though I kept creeping closer. Deer in my neck of the woods is a bit strange. I live right off of a VERY busy state highway, so people are almost always surprised by pictures of deer showing up on my Facebook. I’m just far enough off of the state highway to get these critters roaming around the property. I’ve seen a fox in the front yard, and we have an owl that hangs out somewhere in the woods behind the property sometimes. It makes me laugh that even though I lived in the boonies as a kid, I’d never heard an owl until living practically in the city!

I don’t know much about deer, but I’m assuming the little one is a youngin’. 

Okay, bedtime…tomorrow will be a day of non-horse related fun. It’s like I’m actually doing normal, 22 year old girl things! What a strange phenomenon… ;D

Vets and Baths

You know when you bring your car in to the mechanic because it’s doing x, y, and z, and when you get there, it quits doing x, y and z?

That was my horse today.

I got to the barn directly after the vet (Dr. Mike Lennon of Nashoba Valley Equine — nice guy who is to the point…but he still laughed at my jokes, so he gets a thumbs up from me!). We exchanged pleasantries, and I went to halter my horse. He let me catch him with no fanfare…and let me run my hands all over his hind end with no reaction.

Well. Damn it.

Still, Dr. Lennon pulled some blood and agreed that his symptoms sounded much like Lyme. The blood will be sent off to Cornell University for the multiplex Lyme test, which is a much more comprehensive test than a simple Lyme titer. There’s a bunch of information here, if you’re interested in learning more!

So, I gave him a couple of hugs and put him back in the paddock. After work today, I headed back up to the barn because it was the first truly warm day this year…like, almost 80 degrees warm! So, once I realized just how warm it was…I decided it was bath time.

I have been itching to give him a bath since I brought him home. There is nothing better than a shiny, clean, soft pony! I’m also vain and probably spend too much time on his mane and tail…but, whatever, he likes the attention. So, I put him in the wash rack and went to work.

He stood like a stone for me, but made it abundantly clear that this was No Fun. The look on his face was so disgruntled that I couldn’t help but giggle at him. By the time I was done, the sun was setting so I layered a few coolers on him, and brought him into the barn. I began toweling off his face (mostly as an excuse to love on him)…aaaand then I did this:

Most. Tolerant. Horse. EVER.

I adore him.

Bring On the Vet Bills…

After only a marginal improvement overnight with the bute, Mr. Image is getting his little black butt checked out by the vet tomorrow morning.

Here’s to hoping it’s a simple “fix”. I’ll give ya’ll an update tomorrow afternoon once I’m home from work.

Warning Bells

Lots of them going off in my brain.

I still had a horse that, very loudly, was telling me not to touch his bum today…but, unlike yesterday, he  had lost the pep in his step, and was very stiff in his hind end, especially on his left hind.

Ruh roh.

All of his vitals were good (outside of his temp being up a teensy weensy little bit), so I gave him a small dose of bute and will check in with L in the AM to see how he’s doing. I foresee a vet visit in his immediate future, though. My gut says that this could be Lyme, as it’s EXTREMELY prevalent in this neck of the woods. I’m wondering if this is a preexisting condition as well, as it would explain a lot of things…which would be nice, because otherwise, I just have a weird pony that needs his head fixed 😉

After having him move on the end of the line a bit for L so I had another pair of eyes on him to confirm what I was seeing, he stood in the middle of the paddock with me and (for lack of a better way to put it) cuddled. He rested his head against my chest and gave me a big, blustery sigh as I rubbed his ears.

Sometimes, I fear that I’m going to end up doing something irreparably wrong to this horse, by accident. It’s a bit paralyzing at times, so much so that I wonder if I am capable of being the person this horse needs. Then things like that happen, and I realize that we’ll find a way to figure it out.

This picture is obviously not Image…but it keeps making me giggle every time I look at it.

“Maybe she’s born with it…maybe it’s Neighbelline!”

Eye Booboos, Touchy Hind Ends, and Nosebleeds

This week has been…strange, to say the least. Most of you know that I am a Massachusetts native, born and raised. I’ve never been one to visit the city often — I don’t like being surrounded by so many people — but when the news broke at work on Monday that the Boston Marathon finish line had been bombed,  my heart broke into a million different pieces. I cried the entire drive back to where I was staying in northern MA. You see this stuff on the news — “Jeez, that’s terrible, those poor people, ect”…but you’re so far removed, because it’s another state or another country or another continent, that it’s a different feeling of empathy. No tragedy is worse than another, but when it’s in your own backyard, the heartache is very different. Then when Friday’s insanity unfolded, we all sat on the edge of our seats, watching live streams of the manhunt. I live about 20 minutes from Watertown, MA, so knowing that this kid was running around so close to home made me feel sick to my stomach. 

Of course, that sick to my stomach feeling may have also been the bug I ended up catching that had me flat out for two days. I’m going for bloodwork this week or next week, because being sick all the time really, really sucks. 

Between house sitting, getting sick (hmph), and the insanity in Boston, I was just not “with” it enough to go to the barn this week. I did a lot of sleeping, and a lot of rewatching of Castle. I finally felt mentally and physically well enough to get my butt out to the barn today, and I’m glad I did, despite the fact that a whole new set of (kind of strange) issues popped up.

I went with only the idea to fuss over him and play with the toys I bought at the dollar store. I may or may not have come upon foam pool noodles and hula hoops. Ahem. So, of course, he must have known this…because he was a dirty mess when I got the the barn. A dirty mess with an odd bite mark right under his eye. Bah!

It looked far too small to be horse, but much too big to be an insect bite. For all I know, it’s just teeth-shaped and he smacked his head on a tree or something. Regardless, I doctored it up (and he was unhappy, but cooperative) and put some EquiFit AG Silver on it. The stuff works wonderful on fresh wounds. Once I got that fixed up, I stood back and tried to figure out a plan of action for getting him semi-clean. Warm weather, PLEASE COME NOW. My horse needs a bath!

I had tied him outside in the sun, as it was too damn cold in the barn when I arrived. I spent about 20 minutes out there, fussing over him and getting him clean-ish. During this entire 20 minutes, he showed no signs of being tense and/or upset about anything. I picked out his tail and ran brushes all over his hind end. I gave him pats and scratches all over that area. He snoozed quietly and happily leaned into forehead and ear rubs. 


It wasn’t until I went to move him into the barn so I could get my saddle on him, that something flipped in his brain. When I pass behind him (or any horse I know well enough), I run my hand along his side and over his butt while I walk, giving him more than enough time to register that I’m walking around his hind end. He started off snoozing as I put my hand on his barrel, ran it down his side, and hit about hip area.

His head shot up and he scooted forward, tail tucked. I stood there for a moment, trying to figure out what had happened. I don’t *think* I zapped him, because I didn’t feel anything, but it was possible. I shrugged, and clipped his leadline on. It wasn’t until I went to run my hand down his side and rump again that I realized I had a small issue.

He darted away from me, the whites of his eyes showing. I circled him tightly and kept my hand on his rump until he stopped moving. I had to do this a few times before he would stand, extremely tense and shaking, while I laid a hand on his rump.
Well. That’s special.

I cross tied him and experimented a bit. He was NOT okay with me anywhere his hind end for about ten minutes, on either side. He relaxed marginally after some quiet time with me just hanging out back there with my hand resting on his croup area. He never offered to kick or do anything malicious — he just wanted nothing to do with me being anywhere near his back end — do not pass Go, do not collect $200 dollars, no touchies, no nothin’. 

I palpated his back end all over once he was standing quietly, and he didn’t flinch away from me as if he was in pain. His muscles were all rock solid with tension. He seemed more fearful than anything else, but I hadn’t done anything new or different with him that morning, outside of cleaning up the wound under his eye. I brought him out of the barn and lunged him briefly to check his movement, and he wasn’t off in his hind end. I ran my hands down both legs (no reaction to this, by the way) and felt no heat or odd bumps. He had his normal amount of energy and responsiveness. Very, very strange. 

I did some cookie stretches with him, which he always appreciates (yay food!) and saddled him up. The saddle was going to be nothing more than a host for the noodles to hang off of. To be honest, I didn’t expect a response out of him. He honestly doesn’t care about anything like tarps, baby pools, weird colored things on the ground, balloons, ect. I figured it would just be fun for me to dress him up in crazy things.

Aaand it was. He didn’t bat an eye at the hula hoops around his neck, the noodles tied to his saddle, or his tarp cape. He literally did not care. Okay, he probably cared a little because I was laughing like a hyena and he probably thought I was goddamn insane, but whatever. I lunged him very lightly with his getup on, laughed some more, and called it a day. 

World’s most tolerant horse. Hah!


He didn’t mind when the tarp was flapping over his butt, or the noodles tapping him anywhere on his body. However, when I ran my hand down his side and came close to his hip, he spun away from me. So, he got to spin in circles until he quit moving, and I backed off. It took him less time to just stand and accept my hand on his rump this time, but he was still completely unhappy with the situation. Once he relaxed, I brought him back in and pulled the saddle off. He hadn’t even broken a sweat, so I spent some time brushing him out with a soft brush, clipping his muzzle and bridle path, and cleaning up his fetlocks. He fell asleep again. 

I took him out to the ring where there are chairs, and set him up with the bran mash treat I had brought him from work. He smacked and slurped happily, making a mess of himself (and me!) with the soupy mash. I enjoyed his happiness, until he tried to share it with me by pressing his wet, sloppy nose to my cheek as I was idly scrolling through Facebook on my phone. The look on his face was undoubtedly mischievous. Head saves your neck, pony!

Thanks for sharing, Image…!


I threw a fly mask on him to protect his booboo from as much dirt as possible, and turned him back out. Now, I had tossed some toys into the paddock with Gus and Rodger for fun, and had to pick them up. I had just thrown a hula hoop over the fence, when I turned around to see my horse’s muzzle covered in blood. What the frak!?

I approached his shoulder calmly and reached for his fly mask. He gave me the proverbial middle finger and wheeled away from me. So, a five minute impromptu round pen session went down until he decided running in circles was no fun, and let me catch him. I groaned when I realized it was coming from inside his nose. Insert many uncouth cusses here.

I brought him into the barn and cleaned it up. Wherever he was bleeding from in his left nostril seemed to have stopped, and there was really only a tiny bit of blood, seeing as horses are such large animals. I cleaned him up, inspected his nostril, and saw nothing. I texted Lexi and did some Googling on my phone while I waited for her response. He seemed no worse for the wear, only annoyed at being yanked out of the paddock again. Lexi texted me back to ask if he had been rough housing with Gus, and I realized that he had. He and Gus tend to play bitey face when I turn Image back out into the paddock, complete with rearing and striking. They had been playing behind me when I was picking things up. With that in mind, I watched him for another five minutes, and turned him back out. Lexi is keeping an eye on him (well, more so than usual, anyway) and if it reoccurs, we’ve got an issue. I suspect Gus knocked him on the noggin when boxing with him — as does Lexi — but I’m glad she’s there to keep an eye on him.

Sigh. Horses?! Sometimes I wonder why we do this to ourselves, other than pure insanity. Of course, then I look at his adorable face and how he leans into me when I rub his head, and I grudgingly decide to continue being insane 😉

I’m headed back up tomorrow, as I stupidly left my camera at the barn (in my cushy camera backpack, thank GOD). He gets his feet done tomorrow as well, and despite the fact that I hate not being there, I’ve missed an insane amount of work because I’ve been so ill. 

Tomorrow’s another day…hopefully another day WITHOUT random injuries! 

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

This is something I’d love to elaborate on…

ONCE I’M NOT SICK.

My immune system has taken a hell of a hit this year. I’ve gotten every single bug imaginable. I’m hoping this stomach flu thing is the last of my ailments for awhile, because I’m DONE with being sick.

Anyway, my horse is probably just fine hanging out with his buddies all day, but I’d rather be out there playing with him, not stuck in bed trying not to move in case the water I just drank wants to make another appearance…

Grumble!

Head Saves His Neck!

Remember when I said I was sure I hadn’t seen the last of Image’s acrobatics?

I was right.

Thank God for full seat breeches and getting PISSED OFF enough to stay the hell on. Yeehaw! He quit quickly and we made progress otherwise, so the ride was not a bust in any way! Still…damn good thing he’s cute! 😉

Full report later when I’m awake again — I spent all day today at the barn and am now feeling a bit like roadkill. I guess I haven’t fully recovered from the plague just yet!

Here’s a picture of my silly little black horse being…well, silly!

“RAWR I EAT YOU!” (He was playing bitey face with Gus!)

Riding a Nervous Couch

That’s the way I described it to L, anyway. This happened today:

How did it happen? Well, I repeated last weekend’s exercises, and he was totally okay with all of it. So, when I was up there, I let him have his head…and he didn’t explode. He stood there and allowed me to fuss about on his back, including swinging my legs on both sides. So, when he stepped off a bit, and didn’t immediately start pogo-sticking, I decided to go with it. We had a nice little ride, though he is much more comfortable when we aren’t actually moving. Once forward motion is added, he can keep himself composed for a few strides…but then it takes a couple of tight circles to help him back down to Earth. He gets tense, throws his head up, and powers forward. That will just take time and repetition to help him through. We’ll be working on softness and flexibility through the bit starting tomorrow. He’s great with it on the ground, but because he’s so unsure under saddle, he’s bracy and tends to try and blow through my hands. I have no interest in moving to anything other than a Myler curb bit some day in the future, so softness is a must.

Even when he did get quick and pacy, he was not uncomfortable to ride, which is encouraging. Being up on top of him is so strange — his neck is WIDE. The only other horse that I’ve ridden that’s had a neck this chunky from the top is my friend K’s stallion! Hence my comment to L — he’s a damn couch!

It was maybe a 20 minute ride, including me getting on and off a few times to reiterate the fact that mounting does not mean kaboom! time. I highly doubt I’ve seen the last of his fireworks, but it was VERY encouraging to have him move off without any today.

I’m not 100% ready to say we’ve moved on to working on stuff under saddle just yet, but we are certainly getting to that point. It also doesn’t mean we’re done on the ground.

In other news, a very kind friend has let me borrow her lens for a little while so I can use my real camera again. I did just that today 🙂

Dos and Don’ts

Do give you horse snuggles.

Don’t give your horse snuggles when you’re recovering from the plague, can’t breathe, and it’s shedding season.

Bad things happen.

Like a mouthful of fur that leads to a fifteen minute coughing fit.

I’m not as smart as I like to think I am…

Steps in the Right Direction

I house sat again this past weekend. I honestly love this part of my “job”. I’ve been house sitting for five or six years now, and it’s always something I’m happy to do. Most of my “clients” these days are up north, so it means closer to work and closer to the critter. It also means a little mini-vacation of sorts. I love my current living situation, but sometimes, it’s really nice to be “alone” for a few days! I actually head back up north on Thursday for another client. Of course, now that I’m sick, I just want to stay home and hide in my own bed. Obviously, I’m never satisfied 😉

Anyway, it’s meant I’ve been able to see Image the past few days in a row.

After last weekend’s success with me being able to get my full weight on his back, there were a couple of things I wanted to experiment with. First of all, my fantastic and far more knowledgable aunt made a suggestion at Easter dinner that stuck with me. With the addition of our makeshift around pen, it made executing said suggestion much easier.

When I realized last weekend that he was not comfortable with things “flopping” on his off side when I was over his back, we began working on that. Thursday, I worked him in the round pen. He transitioned beautifully from medium gait to canter in both directions with little encouragement, and was tuned into my body language. Once I was sure he had his attention fully on me, I haltered him, and worked on his flexing response. Oddly enough, his worse side is his left side. I tend to find horses are stickier on their rights, as the norm is to do everything from the horse’s left. Once I was getting a nice, fluid flex on both sides, I dragged the mounting block into the round pen. I stood on it, flexed him toward me, and gently used the end of the line to tap him on his off side. I immediately got a tense horse who moved away from me. So, I sent him off and moved him around me and the block with a lot of energy. After a few revolutions, I asked him to whoa and had him come back in to me. Moving = work. Standing still and relaxing = reward. I repeated the exercise again. It only took a few times of me sending him away from me when he chose to move off on his own for him to “get it”. Smart pony is smart!

I called it a day there, and made an attempt to clean him up. Black pony is a dirty pony. Hair is coming off of him in handfuls now, which is wonderful. I can’t wait until he’s slick and shiny!

Friday was a lot of the same. He remembered his lesson well, and I was able to get relaxation out of him much more quickly. I also worked with him with a saddle on. After I was able to stand on the mounting block and tap him with a decent amount of energy on his off side, I flexed him in, boosted myself up into the stirrup, laid over his back, and repeated the exercise. The new sensation had him flustered, so he got sent off around me each time until he stood calmly.

“I was good. Now feed me, kthxbai.”

Saturday was mostly a goof off day. I threw his halter on, pulled his bridle on over the top, and we went for a walk. The trails have melted nicely…and there is a LOT of water in the two water crossings we have. I wondered what his reaction to water would be. I probably shouldn’t have worried. He marched right up to the edge, blew some bubbles, and pawed for about five minutes straight. I allowed him to go in, after thinking he was just going to stand there and splash. He had me duped, though:

That cold water touched his belly and he sprang right back up. Neener!

We then spent some time hanging out in the clearing, where he grazed a bit on some grass and thoroughly inspected my lap and phone when I sat on a stump.

We wandered back home where I tried, unsuccessfully, to clean him up a little. I don’t think he’s going to be truly clean again until it warms up enough for me to scrub the hell out of him with some shampoo. Poor horse ain’t gonna know what hit him!

Sunday rolled around and I did a bit of everything with him in the morning. The ring is finally useable again (woo!), so I lunged him a bit, working on voice commands for gait changes. He’s still having issues with coming back down to a walk, but will gait off (be it a pace or a rack) quietly, pick up a canter, and drop back down to a gait. Walking is slowly coming to him…he just has a lot more get up and go than he knows what to do with!

I had saddled him up, and wanted to ground drive just a bit to see where his head was at. Well, he was pretty muh perfect. We zigged and zagged all over the ring, stopped, backed up, went in circles, racked off, and dropped back down without a fuss. No head tossing, no nervous dancing, nothing…just a calm critter on the end of the lines. Good boy!!

With him being so good, I wanted to work on the previous lesson. I positioned him next to the big mounting block, flexed him in towards me, stepped into the stirrup, and leaned over his back. I patted his off side heavily, talking and praising him the entire time. He seemed bored. I like bored, right now. Bored is good.

I did this a few more times, and decided to kick it up a notch. I feigned swinging my leg over, like I was going to get on. He lifted his head momentarily, but that was the extent of his reaction. So, with this, I finished swinging my leg over, and gently lowered myself into the saddle.

He tensed briefly, but offered no real reaction. I was up there for maybe 30 seconds, tops, before getting back off. I dismounted as fluidly and quietly as I had mounted, and released him. He stood there, licking and chewing, with the gears turning in his head. I rubbed his forehead and praised him profusely for being such a good boy.

As for me? I had just sat on my horse and nothing bad happened. I cried like a fool into his neck.

The rest of the day was full of the other girls at the barn riding. I played photographer (with my 50mm, for the most part…sigh) while Image snoozed next to me in the ring. It wasn’t until later in the afternoon that I turned him back out, and he was more than happy to spend the day chilling out with me. I then helped L shovel out a paddock, returned back to the house, and realized that I felt like death warmed over.

Oops.

So, it’s Monday night now and I’m probably going to be down and out for a day or two. Nasty fever, really gross cough, body aches, a sore throat and a headache usually mean bad things. Sigh.

However, I sat on my horse this weekend. We have a very long way to go, but these are certainly steps in the right direction!!