Sunday, March 29, 2009

Shot in the Dark: Trust

To be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved.

~ George MacDonald


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A Life of Leisure

Many thanks to all who have asked after Aaruba. He continues to do well, considering, though I still sense that he's what endurance riders call NQR -- Not Quite Right. I'm doing my best to keep him comfortable and healthy, a big part of which is managing his diet. He's not entirely thrilled that I've decreased his hay rations in favor of beet pulp and Senior mash, but there are some perks. Hand grazing has become a regular activity for us.

Managing his mental health is more difficult. Aaruba has never been content to stand around in the pasture for long. Almost two weeks after coming home from the hospital, he's bursting with energy and obviously bored without a job.

On Friday, I took him for his first, post-colic ride -- as leisurely a stroll as he could be convinced to tolerate. We've enjoyed some long handwalks. Maybe I'll teach him a few tricks to engage his mind. I have another job for him as well: Riding instructor. I'm overdue for remedial bareback lessons, and his schedule is wide open.

Aaruba? You're hired.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Point from the Pub

We always order Bombay and tonic.

Two rounds.

We spend them catching up on the past few months, in voices familiar as if we'd talked yesterday. Our voices sound quite alike, in fact. In the office, other people used to mistake us for one another.

There's no one for whom I'd rather be mistaken.

She's the one who hired me, you see, on potential more than qualifications. She handed me tools and let me work. When the politics blew and dragged us all through a professional firestorm, she was the leader who refused to airlift out. She had offers, of course. The best people always do. But she stayed and fought for the rest of us, and she took down the threat.

Problem was, she went down with it.

"You're the best decision I ever made," she said, along with goodbye. I figured if that was true, must be I'd do all right alone. And I did.

I had another mentor, once. He had a big ranch and a big dream, and needed help with both. I spent a year working with him on weekends, absorbing knowledge about his dream. Finally, I quit my day job, sold my house, and moved to the ranch to make that dream come true.

A couple months later, I was tearing down an old structure on the property, clearing space while salvaging what lumber I could. There were a lot of nails in those boards, so I set up a pair of sawhorses, grabbed a hammer, and started wrenching them out.

He brought over a cat's paw nail puller. I gave it a try, but it didn't fit well in my hands. I switched back to the hammer and was doing fine, thank you. Until he returned and slammed that cat's paw down inches from my fingers. He shouted that he'd been doing this for fifty years, and I'd better start doing it his way.

That wasn't our only conflict, nor the worst, but it was the last. Except for the conversation in which I said I wasn't going to live on eggshells, and he said he wasn't going to change for anyone.

He chases his dream alone, these days. Doubt he'll catch it.

Turns out he's the kind of guy who focuses on other people's weaknesses until their strengths don't matter. My other mentor focuses on strengths and makes them stronger -- both other people's and her own.

She rose from the ashes, of course, brighter than ever. Our professional lives intersect on occasion. She's still tough, still savvy, still genuine class. Still the woman I want to be when I grow up. I like knowing she's at my back, even though I'm confident I can walk the alley alone.

Last night, we finished our customary gin and sipped water for a while, wrapping up. Hugged. I told her I think of her every day, which is true.

"You're the best," she said.

"I try," I said.

"You're the best," she said.

Do you know how it feels when someone you respect truly believes in you?

I'd do anything for her.

I've never written so many words here without mentioning horses. Some of you are wondering what I'm up to. Well, I have a point to make. Let me ask again:

Do you know how it feels when someone you respect truly believes in you?

Does your horse?

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Building on a Balk

If there's one equine behavior I see more horsepeople get upset about than any other, it's balking. A weekend studded with balky behavior from both Consolation and Acey reminded me why: It's frustrating. A horse is a big animal. When you can't move it's feet, you have a big problem.

You also tend to look like an idiot to passers-by, a fact which I suspect is responsible for much of the spurring, lashing, and equine-intelligence-insulting that tends to occur in balking episodes. I'll tell you this: Whips and spurs may make you look tough -- but power without heart is a wrecking ball on any relationship.

It seems to me that horses generally balk for one of two reasons: 1) fear, or 2) disrespect. With some horses, it can be difficult to know which cause you're dealing with. Maybe it's a combination of the two. Fortunately, fear and disrespect are more closely related than they appear, and the same principles apply in training through any balk.


If my horse balks out of fear, she's telling me she isn't confident in my leadership. My job, then, is to build her confidence through consistency and reliability (that is, not allowing her to be hurt. So much for whips and spurs).

If my horse balks out of disrespect, she's telling me I haven't fully established leadership. My job is to earn her respect through consistency and reliability. (How much do you respect someone who beats on you? So much for whips and spurs.)

See the connection? Regardless of the cause, balking behavior -- frustrating though it may be -- isn't the horses fault. Nothing ever is.

So, what's involved in working through a balk? Like every other training issue, it's not a matter of forcing the horse to do anything. Rather, it's as simple as setting up a choice and sticking with it, no matter what, as long as it takes for the horse to make the right decision.

Take Consolation, for example. Yesterday afternoon, I wanted to ride her across a wide, paved bridge over an irrigation canal. She objected to the idea. So, I gave her two options: move forward across the bridge, or we'll stand here and practice lateral flexion (in the form of bending her nose to my knee). Although Consolation already has a clear understanding of lateral flexion, it's not her favorite lesson. On the other hand, she really didn't want to cross that bridge.

Here's how it looked: We approached the bridge. She balked. I asked her to go forward. She refused. I bent her once in each direction, waiting for the "give" as usual, then asked her to go forward. She refused. I bent her twice in each direction, then asked her to go forward. She took a few steps and was rewarded with a slack rein and quiet seat. Then, she balked again...

Lather, rinse, repeat. Calm. Consistent. Clear. Eventually, we made it over the bridge and went merrily on our way.

There's an important point: I believe that, in the case of balking, it's generally best not to press the issue. Get past the obstacle and move on. If you keep hammering away at it, making the horse cross that bridge again and again, what motivation has she to "unstick" next time? That's no way to earn trust or respect.

On the other hand, you can't leave the game at halftime. Earlier today, Acey and I headed out for a handwalk in a blustery wind, giving her the opportunity to deal with stressful weather while keeping her mind on me. We weren't a quarter mile from the herd when she decided she'd rather be with her buddies.

She balked. I asked her to walk on. She backed up. "Okay," I told her. "If that's your choice..." I asked her to back several more strides up the hill (a conveniently difficult thing for a horse to do), then requested forward motion again. She refused. I backed her about twice as far, asked her to come forward...

You get the point. It took a good 20 uphill-backs, with several stretches of tentative forward motion in between, but finally Acey sighed, licked her lips, and walked freely on down the road.

We weren't done yet. As we hiked along, the wind blew in an steely mass of clouds. Naturally, Acey wanted to be back in her paddock. A mile or so out, as the scent of rain grew strong upon the wind, she began balking again. I'd have liked to head for home, too -- but not at the price of leaving my horse unsure of who was directing this show and whether I could guide her safely through the storm.

We went immediately back to the same choice as before: Come forward (easy) or go backward (hard). Both of us were soaked through before she decided that continuing our walk didn't sound so bad, after all -- but it was worth every chilly raindrop. By the time we turned around and headed home, Acey was walking quietly and respectfully at my side.

I can't help feeling that both mares and I have added a few bricks to the fortress of our partnership. Whips and spurs might have gotten us along the road, you see, but they'd have knocked the castle down.

Will my mares balk again? Of course they will. In fact, Consolation provided an encore in the same location today. I gave her the same choice, and she made the right decision in less than a quarter the time.

I'd bet my favorite boots that by the end of the week, she'll be crossing that bridge with no hesitation at all.

Let the passers-by laugh, then.


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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Beating the Rush

Several years ago, when I first got back into horses after a seven-year haitus, I had a problem. Almost nothing I remembered from a youth spent in stables full of domestic horses applied to my seven, wild Barbs that, according to someone I used to respect, "almost nobody can train."

The Arabian I bought to help ease my transition turned out to be not the well-started trail horse I'd been promised, but an extremely emotional greenie whose mind had been fried by hasty training. Instead of having a horse to ride while I figured out the Barbs, I had another problem.

So, I did what I usually do when I encounter problems: I researched. My logic was that if I could understand how my horses perceived and understood their world, I'd be able to figure out how to lead them through it. I devoured scores of websites and books on the subject. My favorite, which I re-read at least once a year, is Lucy Rees' The Horse's Mind. A second favorite, more focused on actual training techniques, is Building Your Dream Horse, by Charles Wilhelm.

All that reading went a long way toward preparing me to train. What it couldn't cure, however, was my physical response to the occasional crises that are bound to occur when you're working with ungentled or, especially, green horses. I remember several times, early in Aaruba's trail experience, when I slid gratefully from the saddle, post crisis, with numb hands and quadriceps turned to water.

Over the miles, I became increasingly adept at the kind of forced relaxation that a person can require of her body despite racing mind and pounding heart. That skill proved useful, but it wasn't enough. Horses are too sensitive to our thoughts and emotions to be tricked by good acting. So what was I to do? I figured I had two choices: Get over it, or take up knitting.

I hate knitting.

One of my best friends is a fighter. Not only is he highly trained in the martial arts, but he's lived through the kind of encounters most of us only see in movies. Recently, we got to talking about adrenaline's impact on the body and mind. "The cure for drowning in the adrenaline flood," he said, "is desensitization through graduated exposure."

I thought about that conversation today while Consolation and I were out on her fourth training ride of the season. Our trek featured the usual array of temper tantrums, teleport spooks, and coltish enthusiasm. We also had an attempted bolt.

Go ahead and say I have control issues, but I don't like being on a bolting horse. It's dangerous. It's scary. On it's surface, of course, it's not that big a deal. The horse is only running. It'll stop. All I have to do is stay aboard ...unless we encounter traffic, barbed wire, slick footing... It's the contengencies that scare me.

Anyway, today's monster was a sneezing calf. Consolation shot forward like a bar of soap in hot bathwater. I caught her in three strides, with low hands and molassas voice, and had resumed a pleasant trot before I realized that I'd hardly felt the burst of electricity across my chest. It had been there; I recognized its aftertaste. But it hadn't impacted my ability to deal with the situation.

I guess my friend was right when he said, "with additional experiences, [adrenaline's] effect diminishes, which is to say, you learn to compensate for it." Huh. All those miles astride Aaruba really have changed me as a rider. It's one of the many gifts for which I thank him.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Milady Consolation

She sounds very medieval, doesn't she?

Luckily for me, in light of Aaruba's uncertain future career, my beloved Stonewall saddle fits Consolation just as well as it does Aaruba. A couple adjustments to the centerfire rigging, which can be shifted front to back with a couple buckles on each side, and we were good for a quick training ride in this afternoon's unseasonably mild weather.

The difficulty, now, is getting personalities to mesh. Medieval or otherwise, Milady Consolation is a queen of the highest order. She's one of the most strong-willed mares I've ever known...and that's saying something. The descriptor (epithet?) "strong-willed" has been applied to me a time or ten, as well.

Today's ride was one of many reminders: With this horse, I need to pull on my Lead Mare britches and take control of the situation. Consolation isn't going to accept an unworthy leader. I haven't quite convinced her, yet, that I fit the bill. Fairness and consistency are critical, and it's going to take some time -- and timing. With Consolation, I must take even greater care than usual to push an issue only until I've made my point, then stop before she crosses the line between acceptance and frustration.

Mares. Honestly. As a friend of mine said recently, give me a stallion any day!

Ah, well. Consolation is a lovely lady worth every minute of trouble. We'll make it through together.

In the meantime, however, I'm looking hard for nice things to say about her.

Umm...she has a pretty tail? ;-)

PS. Down in the comments, Lori is right. Not all mares are like this. I'll be shocked if SandStorm ever demonstrates a modicum of disrespect, and Ripple Effect is an odd combination of sugar-sweet and iron will. Acey is a powerful mare, but nothing on Consolation. Furthermore, the only horse I've ever genuinely disliked was a gelding. (I'll bet if I'd understood then what I understand now, I wouldn't have disliked him at all. Poor guy.) Anyway, they're as individual as the rest of us.


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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Until the Twelfth of Never

You know that age-old question about whether it's better to have loved and lost, or never to have loved at all?
I never wonder about that. I know.

Aaruba and I may have twelve days left together, or twelve years.
Either way, I mean to enjoy them.


Don't miss the journey.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

The Little Arab That Could

Well folks, here he is: Aaruba the Miracle Horse, home from the hospital against all odds. He may not have won the Tevis Cup, but this guy is an endurance horse in my book.

He stepped off the trailer at 7:00 this evening, full of vigor and ready for a long roll in the lightly sprinkled sand of the round corral. Rising at last, he shook off the dirt and tension and dug right into the very same meal of beet pulp and senior feed he's been snubbing at the hospital.

Personally, I think he was on a hunger strike. (You want me to eat? Get me out of this bleeding stall, and we'll talk!)

He's now finished his paltry helping of soaked alfalfa and is giving me the pity eyes for more. He'll have to wait an hour yet. I'm taking no chances, even if he does have more lives than all the barn cats put together.

Thanks again, and again, and again to all of you for your encouragement, wisdom, and concern -- and to the best team of vets with whom I've ever had the pleasure to work. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Y'all are the best. Really.

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

The View From Here

I sincerely hope this is the worst photo I ever post here on The Barb Wire, in more ways than one. Poor Aaruba doesn't look quite this bedraggled in person, though the shaved patches on his neck (for the catheter) and flank (for ultrasound) are admittedly unflattering.

He's feeling good enough to want a great deal more soaked hay than is safe to offer. Every couple hours, he gets a handful of the soggy stuff. He gobbles it in great, dripping mouthfuls that make him look like the Loch Ness monster in a fur coat. I'm afraid his eagerness has made him forget his manners, judging by the photo sent by a friend who stopped in to visit him, offered a bite of hay, and nearly lost her fingers.

Assuming all goes well tonight, he'll come home tomorrow. I'm a little nervous.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Is It Over?

I spent several hours with Aaruba today. Took him for walks. Let him graze. Cried on his shoulder. Remembered.

He's feeling better, but many questions remain.

There's a good chance he'll make it through this time, but when will it happen again?

What will make him happiest and healthiest in the meantime?

I wish he could talk.

Here's a photo of him in early summer, 2007, still a wild-eyed baby. (New readers, you can find a bit of Aaruba's story here.) I don't like to think how our journey could end.

Update & Answers

I received no call from the hospital last night, which means Aaruba is still holding steady or improving. I think it's likely he'll get a bit of Senior mash today. I'll spend some time with him, take him for a couple walks, try to keep his mind quiet. Now that he's feeling better, he could become a littler harder to manage, mentally, because of his dislike of confinement.

Some of you have wondered about how this misadventure will affect Aaruba's stomach, considering his history of gastric ulcers. As part of the diagnostics for this colic, we scoped him and found no ulcers, which is good in and of itself. However, it means that the symptoms we'd been attributing to ulcers in the past couple months were caused by something else -- something unknown and possibly more sinister. Anyway, to avoid recurrence of the ulcers, we're had Aaruba on a maintenance dose of omeprazole (GastroGard) so he won't have an overabundance of acid in his empty stomach.

Also, several people have asked me for an explanation of refluxing. I'm no vet, but here's my layman's explanation:

A horse's small intestines secrete fluids to aid in the extraction of nutrients from feed. Normally, these fluids continue into the large intestines, where they are reabsorbed into the horse's body. However, if a portion of the horse's gut is obstructed and the fluids are unable to pass through, they back up into the stomach. A horse's stomach has about a 4-gallon capacity, and a sphincter where it joins the esophagus prevents vomiting. In a horse with an obstructed gut, therefore, fluids with nowhere to go build pressure in the stomach and can cause it to rupture, which is fatal.

To relieve this pressure in a case like Aaruba's (small intestine impaction, in which fluids excreted by the small intestine refluxed into his stomach), vets pass a tube down the esophagus to siphon off the excess fluid, relieving pressure and resultant discomfort. The process must be repeated every few hours if the horse continues to reflux, in order to protect the stomach until the obstruction can be eliminated. Diagnostically, of course, refluxing is an indicator that the gut is indeed obstructed; that's why it was concerning that Aaruba refluxed a little yesterday afternoon, though he had not done so several hours before.

Okay, I'm off to try to eat some breakfast and visit Aaruba. Many, many thanks for all your comments and emails and blog posts of support as we continue through this ordeal. They mean more than I can say.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Bright Eyes

Aaruba was ready to see me when I went to visit him this afternoon. He was also ready to go for a brisk walk to check out the sights around the hospital, play with the resident tabby, and apply his mind to a little remedial groundwork lesson to relieve the boredom of hanging out on an IV all day.

As reassuring as it was to see him bright eyed and comfortable, we're not out of the woods yet. He's being offered a small amount of water, but no feed yet. He refluxed half a gallon around lunchtime, which is concerning but not devastating. They'll try refluxing him again in about an hour; hopefully, we won't get anything this time.

Here's the heartbreaking news: We're relatively certain now that Aaruba has something anatomically wrong with his small intestine. We'll do our best to diagnose and manage it, but our options are limited in both departments. Even if he recovers from this episode, it's probably just a matter of time before we face another round.

I don't know how many miracles one horse can manage.


My cell phone glitched and dropped the vet into voicemail without ringing. I checked the message with eyes closed and heart pounding, ready to be told the time was here for a very difficult conversation.

My vet's voice was utterly astonished. "Your miracle horse did it again."

This morning's rectal exam revealed no distended small intestine. Aaruba didn't reflux much overnight, and is much brighter this morning. Just like last time, in October 2007, he should not have survived this. It was almost impossible the first time...but a second? Amazing.

Now, we walk the dicey path of putting him back on feed and exploring management strategies to deal with the mysterious, underlying small intestine problem that seems to be responsible for these near-lethal episodes.

Don't put those curb chains away just yet.

(For those who are wondering, COTH forum readers collectively refer to prayers, good thoughts, positive energies, and the like as "jingling," as in, the hopeful jingling of curb chains.)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Bad News

FRIDAY MORNING UPDATE: No call from the vet last night, which is good news. They'd have let me know if Aaruba had turned for the worse. That's all I know at the moment...thanks so much for all your messages of hope and support. Keep jingling!

is in the hospital. We checked him in at 11:00 last night with mild, persistent colic symptoms that reminded me too much of his near-fatal impaction in October 2007. Everything is the same this time, only we caught it sooner, and he's not improving at the same rate as before.

He appears to have a small intestine impaction, which my vet tells me is unusual in our area. Even more unusual is the fact that his heart rate is normal (32 bpm) and his pain is mild. He's passed some manure, but he also refluxed 4 gallons a couple hours ago. Surgery is not an option due to poor prognosis for success, given his history. Everything points to some kind of flaw in his intestine, an adhesion or similar, that has persisted for years now and causes occasional, serious problems. Even if he makes it through this time, the underlying issue will remain.

All we can do is keep him on IV fluids and try a drug to enhance intestinal motility. Typically, the drug is contraindicated in cases where an impaction already exists, and you probably wouldn't want it in a horse that might go to surgery, but we're running out of options. I'll be honest with you: this looks very bad.

As they say on the Chronicle of the Horse forums, start jingling.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Lady Luck

There are moments in every trainer's life when his or her work is tested. Monday evening, such a moment presented itself to me. As I pulled into the driveway, fresh from the office, I scanned the herd in my usual headcount.

One-two-three-four-five-six-seven. Seven?

My heart rate hardly had time to jump before I spotted number eight, Consolation, milling anxiously between Insider's and Aaruba's paddocks...outside the fence.

Dressed as I was in a suit and heels, I knew I'd spook her if I approached immediately. I hurried indoors, pulled on jeans and a sweatshirt while keeping an eye on Consolation through the window, and bustled out to my tack box by the round corral for a halter. On the way, I noted with a sinking stomach the mangled fence that had, until sometime during my workday, contained Consolation.

While half my mind ticked off possible first aid procedures, the other half wondered whether I'd have trouble catching Consolation. She's never been a problem in that department, but she's also never been loose in a large, exhilirating, unfamiliar field after a traumatic experience. And let's face it -- she was, for all intents and purposes, and wild horse for her first three years of life.

I circled around the outside of Aaruba's pen, halter over my shoulder, and approached Consolation with intentional casualness. I scanned her for bumps and blood. Nothing. She watched me with calm, liquid eyes as I sidled up and rubbed her neck for a while before moving around to slip the halter on. We stood there a while longer, she nibbling grass and I inspecting her more thoroughly. Still nothing alarming, though she was covered with grass stains from cannons to withers.

We moseyed back toward the round corral, investigating her hoofprints in the soft earth. It seems that something on the road spooked her into her 5-foot, wire mesh horse fence. She probably caught her knees mid-jump and flipped over, judging by the state of the fence, the scuffle marks and grass stains, the scatter of rakes and shovels, and the skidding-out prints left as she regained her feet. She galloped around the partially finished root cellar (think room-sized hole in the ground), through the garden, then looped around Aaruba's paddock to flirt with the stallions.

Back in the fenced compound, I offered Consolaton water, then walked and trotted her around the round corral in both directions to check for lameness. Nothing. I ran my hands over every inch of her body, searching for wounds or sore spots. Nada.

Thank heavens for good stallion fences, effective training, and a heavy dose of luck. Consolation, whose royal bearing long ago led me to call her 'Milady' more often than not, survived her adventure without so much as a scratch, bruise, sore muscle, or anything worse than the temporary appearance of a green-spotted pinto.


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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

It's Your Party!

A year ago today, The Barb Wire began with this post. Since then, a lot of trail has passed beneath my stirrups:

Aaruba and I completed our first Limited Distance race. And our second. And our first 50-miler. And our second. Better yet, he overcame his cow phobia.

Consolation won the honor of becoming the first horse to dump me in quite a few years. She also got a good start under saddle and on the trail, which included a great effort to excise her herdbound behavior.

Acey had her first ride, plus a few more. Tuetano didn't do much. (He was storing it all up for this year.) Ripple Effect and Crackerjack got to be babies, mostly. Sandstorm got a good start on gentling. Insider got a girlfriend.

I got an awesome sponsor, over 1,200 miles in the saddle (at an average speed of 6.49 mph, in case you were wondering), a new favorite CD, and some fantastic friends I'd never have met without this blog.

All told, The Barb Wire saw 190 posts and nearly 25,000 hits. Yeah, I know. Some of the megablogs out there get 25,000 hits a day. You gotta start somewhere, right? Besides, they many have more readers, but I have better readers. I can't tell you how many times your comments have made my day.

You're the best, and I thank you.

Come along for another year at In the Night Farm!

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Sunday, March 8, 2009

Shot in the Dark: Reach

Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what's a heaven for?

~ Robert Browning

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Saturday, March 7, 2009

On the Road Again

One of my favorite ways to prepare a horse for its first rides out of the round corral is to do a lot of in-hand roadwork, first walking, then driving, then trotting. The benefits are both physical and mental -- and not just for the horse.

Our lovely model for this post is Alternating Current, aka Acey, a 2004 Barb mare by Marawooti. I started her under saddle late last summer, but she hasn't been ridden on the trail yet. By the end of this year, my goal is to have her not only well started, but fit for her first LD.

Speaking of fitness, a bit of roadwork is just what I need to revive my own muscles after too many hours spent in front of my computer. It's also perfect for reintroducing Acey's bare hooves to gravel after a winter spent on packed soil and mud.

Most of my Barbs, including Acey, were raised running loose on a 500-acre ranch, never touched by human hands until they were several years old. They come equipped with independent minds and a strong sense of self-preservation.

I like to know, before I'm on their backs, that they understand that trotting out in the big world does not mean it's time to return to their wilder days. In-hand roadwork simultaneously builds Acey's dependence on me for leadership and her confidence in leaving the herd and exploring new territory.

Besides, it's fun! Energy is welcome...

...but control issues are not. Here, Acey and I are engaged in a little reminder about respecting my space. I always prefer to have this kind of conversation from the ground, if I have the choice. The horses aren't the only ones who believe in self-preservation!

If you haven't taken your horse for a jog lately, give it a shot. Sweat a little. Review groundwork. Bond with your horse. And, don't forget to look at the expressions of passing drivers.

Bonus points for every passerby who says, 1) "Wouldn't it be easier to get on and ride?" or 2) "That's a mighty big dog you got there!"

Double bonus points if you take your horse for a morning trot, then come back in for a steaming bowl of my Pumpkin Baked Oatmeal. Ahhh, workout food.

Related Posts

Breaking Free: Training the Herdbound Horse
The Horse I Lead: Starting Horses Under Saddle
Driver's Ed: Training Horses to Ground Drive
Where To, Ma'am? First Trail Ride on a Green Horse

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Friday, March 6, 2009

Burnin' Daylight

Here's a new toy for you: Create Your Own Sunrise/Sunset Calendar.

Mine includes all three varieties of twilight, the phases of the moon, and moonrise/moonset times, in addition to the information I really need: sunrise/sunset times for the rest of this year. (Yeah, yeah. I can practically hear your eyes rolling. But how else was I supposed to complete my Endurance Conditioning Log?)

With the long-awaited demise of Daylight Wasting Time, In the Night Farm's 2009 training season will officially begin. Beginning Sunday next, I'll devote to the horses every scrap of daylight that isn't lost to working and commuting. Thanks to my custom sunrise/sunset calendar and conditioning log, which also schedules sessions for horses in various stages of gentling and training, I know exactly when I should be able to increase my workload from one horse per evening to two, and when I'll have to cut back in the fall.

I know, I know. It looks great on a spreadsheet, but what about circumstances beyond my control? What about wind? Don't I expect some spring rainstorms? Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't it snow this morning?

Yeah. Well. I'm working on that. Has anyone found a website where I can order good weather?

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Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Lion Abroad

Wind fascinates me. It sweeps down like an invisible predator, and the entire countryside bows. In spring, it cracks the ice upon the troughs with weightless footsteps. The horses alternately hunker beneath its claws and spin like dandelion seeds before its breath. It steals precious training hours, leaving entire weekends shredded and useless in its wake. Did I say 'fascinates?' I meant 'infuriates.'

It is well that I have another project on my hands, one that can progress despite the roar beneath the eaves. (For those who have kindly asked, the book is coming along well, though last week was a nightmare of stubborn, snarled plotlines. The middle is always the hardest to write. Have you ever noticed that it is often the hardest to read, as well? These facts are related.)

I work beside a window, impatient for the moment March's departing tail will sweep the sky with gold. In the meantime, may method forstall madness. Words, words! They're all we have to go on!

6:00 pm update: Well, I finally threw caution to the wind (ha!) and took Aaruba out for a conditioning ride. We rode the gusts for 16 miles and made it home just in time for the storm to blow itself out. Ah, well. The wind left a thick layer of clouds behind, and our forecast calls for nothing but rain until Wednesday so, all things considered, I'm glad I took what miles I could get. And now, ladies and gentleman, back to the book. (You know I have to finish it, now that I've told y'all what I've been up to. No promises when it comes to actually getting the thing published...except that I'll give it my best shot.)

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