Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sinatra update

I'm not feeling that great today. I'm catching a cold and just generally feeling yuck. So, I spent a little time today lounging on the couch. I probably could've used more time but I needed to go out and see Sinatra because I didn't make it out there yesterday. And I picked up a stud chain and some calming supplements yesterday.

I was very happy that Sinatra inhaled the Animotion and calming supplements that I mixed with a tiny amount of grain. He even licked up the left over powder from his feed bin. I don't see why since I caught a whiff of it when I was closing the bag and it poofed up at me a little and it smelled just like puke to me. Ugh. But then that's what grapefruits taste like to me and lots of people like those for mysterious reasons, so who knows.

I took him out and groomed him in the grooming area just to get him out of his stall and give him some attention. He was very ancy though and kept reaching his front legs way out and kicking the floor. I corrected him on that but it would only last for about three minutes and he'd do it again. I think he was bored and trying to play but his reach is so long it's just not safe in that small area to keep doing that. He stood quieter for longer this time than last week though. And when I was brushing his back after using the shedding blade he struck a Saddlebred pose - a pose I haven't really seen any other breeds do except maybe Arabians. He looked so little and cute posing like that! I called V. over to see because he really can be such an elegant little guy.

I didn't take him for a walk because V. was riding Gabi in the arena and I didn't want to deal with a hyper Sinatra outside after he tried to get away in the arena on Tuesday. It just seemed to risky for fear he could run off and not knowing the area get out to the road or something and possibly get hurt. So, I took him back to his stall and he was walking next to me like such a polite boy and *almost* walked right into his stall. Then he remembered whatever it is that makes him not want to go in and balked. I did exactly what Karen showed me and rocked back and forth and stayed very calm and clucked and said, "Come on, Sinatra, come on," and praised him when he stepped forward. He came halfway in and I said, "Good boy, and reached up to give him a pet and just as soon as I'd touched his neck he suddenly tried to rear (but I had the stud chain on) and he bolted backward out of the stall and pulled back as hard as he could with his ears back. Something must have spooked him, but I don't know what. Or he just got angry about being in the stall ... I don't know what but he definitely had a "must get out!" moment. I'm just glad no one was standing in back of him outside his stall.

I just stayed calm like Karen said and quietly said, "You're ok, Come back in, come on ... come on ..." and rocked back and forth pulling toward me, let go, pull toward me, let go - with me literally rocking forward and backward. And sure enough, it took him a minute or so to calm down, then he lowered his head and walked right into the stall! Of course, then he got lots of love and praise and a carrot and a big hug. I was very proud of him! Too bad I totally forgot that I'm supposed to then take him out and do it over again three times. Ooops! I will have to remember to do that tomorrow when I take him in.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Victory!

Well, first off all, I went for an eye exam today and found out I need glasses for the first time in my life. That is kind of weird. But it's also exciting because as I was doing the eye exam and optometrist flipped the little lense thing in front of my eyes and said, "Is this clearer?" It was *really* clearer! Ah, reading small print will no longer be such an issue! Plus, I found some really cute glasses. I'm starting to learn to appreciate accessories.

So, in major victory news - Sinatra went into his stall today! Granted I had to employ the help of one of the trainers, K. at the stable (my instructor wasn't there), but not only did Sinatra go in, then he went in three times for her and three times for me. She didn't just work with him, but worked with me on what I was doing and how to help encourage him. Before I take him out again though I need to get a stud chain because he is starting to get ancy today. And he got much more so today because I walked him in the arena. At one point he tried to shake the lead rope out of my hand and reared and tried to turn and run away. Luckily, my instructor, V. has worked with me on how to handle it when Rolls does that when he spooks, so I let the lead rope go in my right hand and held on lightly with my left and said, "Whoooa ..." calmly and he stopped and looked at me like, "Oh come on! Why can't I run!" In general he is a really good horse - I still firmly believe that. Even though he's kind of ADD and very mouthy and young and stubborn.

Unfortunately, when we got to the arena door to leave he wouldn't budge. K. and one of her students were too far away to hear me so despite my better judgment I had to take Sinatra's lead rope off and leave him in the arena to get get K. to help me. Especially because I didn't have as much time as I needed because I needed to pick my daughter up after school in a half hour. As I was walking up to K. and her student her student's eyes got really big and she said, "Oh my god! How did he get loose?" and I said, "I couldn't get him to come out of the arena so I came to ask for help and I needed to let him go to come get you." Unfortunately, he ran around the arena twice before we got back.

When we got back in the arena he was standing quietly looking happy, cantered over to us and did a sliding sideways skid and looked at us like, "Aren't I cute?" He followed K. right out of the arena, which I found disconcerting. But I was relieved to see that as soon as he got to the stall he stopped and refused to move or go in. K. asked me to hold him and came back with a stud chain. Then instead of pulling on him from standing next to him or pulling steadily standing in front of him, she walked into the stall in front of him, then rocked back and forth with the lead rope - pull, release, pull, release ... over and over again in a steady rocking motion. Then as soon as he took even a tiny step forward she gave him a pet and me, her student and now the owner of the stable who came to watch all said, "Goooood boy! Very good job, Sinatra." This kept up for maybe ten minutes or so until Sinatra finally just gave up and walked right in. We gave him lots of pets and a carrot. Then K. walked him in and out three times (each time he went in giving him lots of pets and carrots). Then she handed me the lead rope and I took him out and put him in three times in a row!

So, I need a stud chain and I need to practice walking in and out of the stall now when I got out to see him. And I need to call his vet to talk about calming supplements so he doesn't drive himself crazy on his stall rest.

I am very concerned because the Lizzaner two stalls down has a fever. I don't know anything about horse diseases but the vet's been out the last couple days and he's being treated and his owner uses gloves when touching him and doesn't touch other horses. And the vet has not quarantined him. But it's still worrisome with Sinatra being so young and Girlfriend coming in and being so old. But I need to trust the vet that he knows what he's doing and isn't going to put the other horses in danger.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A very nice Easter

Despite my inability to make it through this holiday without talking about zombies, this was a very nice day. My parents and my brother and his wife came over in the afternoon and I took them out to meet Sinatra. Then my daughter taught my mom and brother how to play Wii and she even walked through through making cute little Mii's which look eerily like both of them. It was all around a very fun, relaxing day just like I'd always hoped I'd have with my family and finally after forty-some years we're able to have.

Sinatra continues to be doing well in his new home. None of my family were too interested in petting him because as soon as I took him out of his stall he decided he wanted to try and eat my mom's pants. They were kind of the color of grains in his defense ... ahem ... my brother is not keen on horses at all and I don't think his wife is either. My mom tried to pet Sinatra and he kept nibbling at her hand for a treat and she finally just gave up. He's been much less mouthy with me though. As soon as he starts up I put my elbow up like my instructor showed me and he bonks his nose into it and looks annoyed so he stops ... until he forgets a few minutes later and tries again and gets the same result - he just ends up bonking up against my arm and not getting anywhere.

His hand walking is going strangly fine still. I expected him on his fourth full day of stall rest - especially after yesterday when I didn't take him out at all - to be a lot ancier. I took him out to eat some grass and he started bolting it down so I led him away from it out of fear he might choke on it. And we just walked around outside. And he sniffed a lot and looked around a lot. He tried to get a little prancy at one point but then seemed to realize "What's the point? She's not going to let me," and stopped quickly. The other horses seem to have a very positive effect on his attitude though and he is already quite taken with Rhodi next door to him and she with him.

Once again we ran into the problem at the stall. This time I walked with purpose and didn't even pause at all at the door. Which turned into me walking forward and him stopping dead at the door and me feeling for a moment like I was going to get catapulted backward from the yank of him stopping suddenly and me continuing to move forward. I tried again turning him in a circle, disengaging his hind quarters, putting a carrot in my pocket and he wanted none of it. My family was staying far away saying, "Oh, it must be us," even though my mom reads this blog so she knows this has been an issue for us since his first day on Wed.

Finally, I just stood in the stall holding the end of the lead rope, and he stood in the hallway outside and I just thought I'd relax a minute and try to meditate on what could possibly be a good solution. Then I heard the owner yell from the other end of the barn, "Hey, you back that horse out of the doorway and I'll show you how to get him in there!" I was so relieved that someone with decades more experience than me had a solution and the owner walks by with a flake of hay and Sinatra just follows him right in. "Lunch time," the owner said and walked back out again. So, I took of Sinatra's halter and give him lots of pets and went on my way.

I'm going to have to work on this with my instructor to find out what the solution is to Sinatra not wanting to go into his stall. I have a nagging suspicion that it is due to my inexperience handling young horses more than anything. That I am either freaking him out, or sending out some sort of weird "don't go in there" signal that I'm not catching. Because the rest of his ground manners - although clumsy and little kid inattentive - are fine. He leads fine even if he does have difficulty with personal space boundaries and he stops fine on the ground and doesn't try to bolt or pull you over or walk over you. I'm thinking maybe I need to spend more quality time in the stall with him too. Maybe groom him in there instead of the grooming area and give him treats and lots of attention and love in there - instead of it being the place he goes after treats, attention and love.

Friday, April 22, 2011

We're all on stall rest now

I made a foolish decision today which I'm feeling very guilty about (so if you're reading this spare the "you should've known better comments" unless you'd like me to ignore you for the rest of my life). I figure I should document it though so I don't make it again. Our instructor was incapacitated and unable to come in and teach today so I asked if my daughter could do a practice ride on Tiny. I couldn't find Tiny's saddle though and was worried that putting the other pony's saddle on her would be a terrible idea because it was much bigger and would likely irritate the cranky pony more than necessary. So, I suggested to my daughter she try riding bareback while I led Tiny on the lead rope. I told her if Tiny got too jumpy she could just jump off. Well, Tiny was fine once around the arena, the bucked my daughter off and galloped off. This time instead of falling down and laughing, she landed on her head, crumpled in on herself and started crying hysterically in that way that I know she's not just trying to get attention, she is actually in a lot of pain.

I went and caught Tiny and tied her to the arena wall then picked up my daughter and surveyed the damage. She kept screaming that her nose was broken but when I got her to take her face out from being buried in my shoulder I could tell it wasn't. I asked her about pain and if it hurt with movement or breathing and she screamed that it did, but then when I would change the subject to help her calm down I listened to her breathing and noticed she wasn't showing any pain upon breathing which was a relief. I took her back to the car and left Tiny in the arena until my daughter was settled. I tried cracking open a cold pack that we keep in the first aid kit in the car but it was too old and didn't work anymore. Watching me fumble with it seemed to distract my daughter from her pain and she started relaxing and I noticed she wasn't having any pain with movement.

I put Tiny away and didn't scream and beat her like I felt like. Then I saw the owner of the stable and told him what happened and said I felt like a terrible parent who made terrible decisions and he asked with concern, "Is she injured? Do you need help getting her to the doctor?" and I said, "No, she's just bruised up and it was really scary for her," and he said, "Well, kids fall off horses. Especially bratty little ponies. It happens." Then he went to talk to her while I stopped to talk to his wife (she was worried too) and he came back and I saw my daughter was laughing (and didn't show any signs of pain) and the owner said, "Thank goodness I don't have to pull out my knife and operate. I think your daughter is happy about that too!"

We went to the drug store and bought some new portable cold packs then went to the drive through at McDonalds. I got some sort of rope burn on my finger from the lead rope whipping out of my hand. It seriously looks (and feels like) a second degree burn. I am regretting that I didn't remember to put on my swanky new riding gloves. After McDonalds and a movie on Netflix my daughter's been jumping on the couch and dancing around and talking about how tomorrow she's going to spend the whole day in her pj's to "recover" (ironic that she's saying that while jumping on the couch). I still feel guilty though like I should've known better. But then I felt guilty when she got her tonsils out like it was my fault the recovery was so hard - or it was my fault for taking her to the doctor in the first place who discovered they needed to come out. Urgh.

But after my recent experience of falling off a horse and not feeling sore at all the first evening and just a little the next day so that I ended up totally over doing it, I told my daughter that this weekend she's not to be riding horses or her scooter or bike, just chilling out and not stressing any of her upper body muscles. Just like me. Just like Sinatra. Three over-energetic, nervous-energy creatures having to take it easy this weekend. And as for me, my lesson from all this is that my daughter is not going to ride Tiny unless my instructor is present because she is a bratty little pony and only seems to listen to my instructor. I'm wondering if my daughter is going to want to ride horses again? It sounds like she is even though she's angry with Tiny. The terrified mom in me now never wants her to even get on a horse again without an eventing vest. Why why why did I think it would be great for my daughter to ride horses with me? I think I'd rather she stuck to rock climbing until we can figure out a way to attach a belay rope to her while she's on a horse!

Meanwhile, Sinatra is still doing well. I took him out for a short walk again today and again he was not ancy or super amped up at all. He seems to really like his barn mates and seems to especially like Rhodi the mare next door. He was quiet in his stall and did not rush to go out the door at all again when I went in today. He wanted to eat some grass on our walk but we didn't have much time and I wanted him to stretch his legs a little so we had to skip that and it was the only thing we disagreed on. He was once again completely fascinated by the puddles in the driveway. Somewhere a few blocks away someone was riding a really loud dirt bike and made him stop and point his ears up and freeze in that "this is how I spook" way that Girlfriend does (the easy kind that doesn't involve rearing and bolting). I told him calmly it wasn't a scary noise and scratched his neck and he relaxed and within a minute didn't seem to care anymore. Very impressive. He's a hardy kid and I like that!

He balked again going into the stall. Jaime from S.A.F.E had given me some advice on how to deal with that without having to resort to bribing for treats so I took her advice. And it almost worked but didn't quite work. He moved forward then stopped part way in, then backed out quickly. I walked him up and down the aisle once and got him in a direction where we wouldn't have to make much of a corner, we could just walk straight in and he still balked. Gemini's owner was standing there and said something along the lines of not having any advice. I said if she had any ideas I would love to hear them and she said she'd never run into this situation before. So, I put a carrot in my jeans pocket and this time Sinatra walked right in with me.

That's when Gemini's owner pointed something out to me. She said that I walked with purpose up to the stall door but then right when I get to the stall door I pause - just for a moment, like I'm hesitating. And that's when Sinatra stops. I was so surprised I had to ask, "Seriously? I'm pausing before him?" because I didn't even realize it. And she said it was only for a split second she could see me walk forward then hesitate for just a split second then walk forward again. Like I'm anticipating him balking at the stall door! But when I put the carrot in my jeans pocket I didn't pause at all I just kept walking forward. Wow! I would never have picked up on that because I didn't realize I was doing it - I had to have someone standing right there outside of the situation see it and point it out.

I will be very curious to see how it goes tomorrow when he goes back to his stall when I make a very conscious effort not to pause at the doorway. And I'm going to wear my riding gloves. From now on no more lunge lines, lead ropes or reins in my hands without riding gloves. Other than that, he seems like he's adjusting quickly and liking his new digs.

So much to learn.

I'll start with the first lesson. Do not hide plastic Easter eggs filled with candy in the back yard and then leave the dog unattended back there. It was frustrating but thankfully not too awful. I'm not sure what candy she ate since I never found the wrappers. Which makes me think of this song for some reason. Which is one of my favorites by them (I actually have many favorites by them ... ironic since I remember when they'd play at the Grey Door in the 80's and everyone thought they sucked). So, after that brief digression ... I am happy to say the pitbull is fine even if she did eat the candy - wrappers and all.

And I have a lot to learn about young horses. I went out yesterday to spend time with Sinatra and realized how spoiled I've been working with older, really well trained horses. Even Ziggy, who is always so excited to be out of his stall that I have to really work to get his attention to slow down and not pull me out to the pastures or back, is old enough that he's been fully trained. And even though Rolls and Gabrielle are close to the same age, they've had lots of time working every day with the same consistency and the same trainer. Granted I don't get nervous around Sinatra like I do Rolls because he doesn't spook like Rolls does (and he's a lot smaller) I realized yesterday I was at a loss as to what to do for his stubborn balking episodes.

When I first met Sinatra when he was maybe a year old but probably less, I hadn't been around horses in about twenty-some years and I just went with what little I remembered (basic safety stuff) and my gut feelings. A few times when I was done cleaning the stalls I would put the treats I'd brought into my pocket and go out and find Sinatra and put on his halter and walk him around. When he first let me groom him and pick up his feet I used the same technique. Pet him lots, show him the brush/give him a treat and take the brush away when he looked worried. Let him chill out a second then show him the brush/give him a treat and maybe put it closer to him, then take it away when he looked worried. Until he finally let me brush him with it and then he loved it.

But between then and now I have since been told not to bribe babies with treats because it spoils them and they will start not doing stuff in order to get a treat. I noticed that the first day with Sinatra. So, yesterday I (mistakenly) figured he was doing the same thing with me. But of course not. That would be too easy and simple and horses are complex creatures (or complex to us predators because as prey animals they experience the world so differently).

He seemed happy to be getting attention when I got out there yesterday and although happy to leave his stall he was very mellow. He was walking a little stiffly on his front feet and after watching for a few minutes I realized it was because he'd just had his shoes taken off - not because his lameness was bothering him. I'd forgotten he'd had shoes for ... a year maybe? and that they'd just been taken off. So, that was a relief that he's just adjusting to that and not having pain from the strain in his feet. He was being pretty polite for a kid in a new place. He wanted to sniff everything and he was very interested in the puddles in the driveway. I wanted to take him in the arena because the footing is so much better than outside but he was very scared of it and I decided since he's still adjusting to the barn, his stall, the grooming area, we didn't need to add the arena just yet. We can add that this weekend when there are no horses in it.

We went all the way around the outside of the barn and came in the back door instead of the front door, which was a little disconcerting to him because from that new angle he thought it was a new place. Then we walked by Gemini, the Lipazaner who is about his age. Gemini stuck his nose out of his stall and was very interested in Sinatra and I let Sinatra look at him, but I could tell if they touched noses Sinatra was going to get excited and jump around which is currently a no-no and not safe in the aisle of the barn anyway. Then I asked him to come with me so I could groom him and he wouldn't budge. He had decided he loved Gemini and was going to stand there in front of his stall forever. Gemini, meanwhile was leaning his nose out as far as he could and making little "You're my new best friend!" noises. I had a sudden vision of me in the same situation with my 7-year old at a friend's house and thought, "Threatening Sinatra that I'm going to take away his privileges is not going to do any good. Damn!" So, we just stood there a minute or two (because he does need to get to know the horses even if it is just standing by their stall), then I asked him to walk and he ignored me, so I gave him a light tap with the lead rope, firmly told him to walk and clucked a few times and he sighed and followed me.

Didn't want to go in the grooming area again, but this time he looked more scared than stubborn. Granted, we were going in a different one (even though they all look the same to me) because another horse was in the one he was in yesterday. So, I reached in and rattled the treat bag in my grooming bag and he walked right in. I made a point of getting him into the cross ties and praising him heavily before I gave him his treat. Cross ties didn't go as well as yesterday. He wanted to suck on one of them, then when my instructor let Toadie out in the arena I told Sinatra I'd be right back so I could watch Toadie do her galloping and bucking because it's so pretty and poor Sinatra had a panic attack and was kicking the walls and getting all worked up. So, I came back and calmed him down and he went back to trying to suck on one of the cross ties. I found a horse pacifier online that I think I'm going to get and hook up to the wall in his stall. He continued to be ancy and impatient on the cross ties, then the minute I took them off he relaxed and followed me like a puppy.

Until we got to his stall and we had another show down because he didn't want to get in his stall. I tried walking him in a circle then entering again, tried backing him in (which made him panic a little) then tried leading him in again. Finally, out of frustration I decided I had to give in and bribe him with treats because I had to go home and get ready for the Easter egg hunt at our house. So, I grabbed a carrot and held it out for him to follow me and the carrot into the stall, but this time he tried to reach his head in as far as he could to grab the carrot without going in the stall. And he didn't have that stubborn look in his eyes, he had a kind of scared look in his eyes. So, it took a lot of coaxing and gentle talking and soothing to get him to go in and get the carrot. And he finally did and he relaxed as soon as he was in, especially when I took off his halter. We're working on not rushing the door when I come in or when I leave and I can tell that for a split second he wants to do it correctly, but then the habit takes over and he starts to walk toward the door when I leave to try and squeeze out. But even yesterday he was much quieter about it than the day before.

I left the stall and thank goodness there was my instructor walking by and she asked how he's doing. I lamented that I did not know how to get him in the stall when he balks without using treats as an incentive. She said, "What is wrong with treats? You're just using small pieces and only using them as rewards, right?" and I said yes, but I'd been told you don't want the horse to equate going in the stall with deserving treats. She scoffed and said, "Do you have ten hours right now to work with him? I don't think so. Small treats at appropriate times are fine. He's a little kid and he's in a totally new environment. We will get more firm with him when he is more established if need be but right now he's in the adjustment period and treats are appropriate." Ok then. My instructor has spoken. ;)

That makes me think of Juan at my old stable. All the horses love him and when he leads them around and handles them, even the "loco one" Tyee* acts like a calm little kitten around him. And I've seen him give all of them a handful of grain whenever he brings them in from the pasture. It doesn't matter if they walk right up to him with or without grain, they still get a little handful of grain. But he grew up in Mexico and didn't have all these different trainers telling him conflicting things or all these books or dvd's swearing "this is the only way to train a horse". He just does what he was taught and what feels right. Which reminds me, I need to do the same thing working with Sinatra I do as a parent. Find, first of all a mentor or two that I like the way they are with horses (like my current and previous instructors) and then stick to the advice that feels right in my gut from books and dvd's from trainers. And then just leave the rest as "not for me".

*I actually really like Tyee and I think he and Sinatra have similar personalities - very smart, very energetic, very social. But they are kids and high-energy, smart kids at that, so not the same experience as a well-seasoned high level dressage horse.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Girl's Night, Horse Addiction and Sinatra Update

I actually got to go out last night "with the girls". Only two of my friends could make it but they are two friends that I really like and don't get to see that often so it worked out well. Other than lunch with BFF on days I'm downtown at work, I can't remember the last time I went out just with my friends. We went down to the International District to see an acquaintance do a one man show called All My Children about a middle-aged man who tells all his ex-girlfriend's kids that he's their real father (which he isn't). It's actually a really good, mesmerizing story. As a writer I was really impressed! I know Matt because of Improv because I've met him and some of his friends in his Improv troupe at some parties and one of his troupe came with some friends camping with us last summer. But this was a very developed and really great story. The enjoyment of the evening was helped too in that we got downtown early so we had some time to walk around Chinatown (as it was called when I was a kid before everyone went P.C.) It really hasn't changed at all since I was a kid. Except China Dragon is closed.

I'm convinced now that it is as difficult for me to be on "stall rest" as it is going to be for Sinatra. I think I mentioned the series of events that has caused me to have a horrible headache and messed up shoulder/neck since last Thursday. Thrown off Rolls onto my left side - did NOT listen to my instructor and take care of myself like she recommended and instead powered through because I wasn't that sore - led Ziggy the bad-ground-manners-giant-thoroughbred out to the pasture with Girlfriend a few days later holding Ziggy with my left arm (what was I thinking? Why didn't I hold Girlfriend-of-the-perfect-ground-manners with my left arm and Ziggy with my right??? Duh!) ... did lots of shoveling in hard clay in the garden ... picked up lots of toddlers and swung them around ... lifted heavy boxes ... mucked out eight stalls and five paddocks last Thursday and ... boom. As of Friday morning I was toast and wimpering in pain. So, I told myself that for at least a week I would not lift up kids, not lift any heavy boxes, not do any gardening and not ride any horses (or use my left arm when leading them). And takes lots of ibuprofen switched off with tylenol and use ice and heat and rest.

All this would've been fine except I went out to the stable yesterday with T. who is going to do a 3-day a week lease with Girlfriend in May. It will be great for Girl because T. is a more advanced rider than me, and it will help me a lot with the expense of fostering Sinatra. Anyway, I went to just be there with T. and help groom before she rode Girl (this is only her third time riding her) but I flipped out a little after we had Girl saddled and said, "Ok, I know I said no riding for me, but I just want to go out and warm her up. We'll only walk for ten minutes. No trotting or cantering for me!" T. understood my obsession and despite my better judgment I hopped on Girl for a warm-up.

Girlfriend hadn't been ridden in a week though so of course as soon as I got on her back she took off at a trot and tried to bolt. I reminded her it was me riding her and she slowed to a prancy trot, and she's so hot I just let her get it out by trotting for one lap around the arena and then quietly asked her again to walk and this time she heard me above the "RUN! RUN!" in her head and we did a nice quiet walk for the next few minutes. Emotionally I felt that huge sigh of relief I feel whenever I get on her back which is "Aaaaah! This is where I belong!" but even with just a few minutes of walking, I hopped off of her and felt my back/neck/shoulder starting to seize up again. Aargh. So, I had a bad headache the rest of the day.

Sinatra is moved into my stable now! A volunteer from the rescue showed up with him at lunch time. He had apparently had a tough time entering the trailer but to our relief he exited just like a big boy with no problems! He was a little shaken when he got out of the trailer and seemed very disoriented but despite that he seemed like his spirits were still high. He was very interested in the other horses - and they in turn were very excited about him. Especially my instructor's horse, Gabi who is the same age as him (although at least two hands bigger). I had thought Gabi was pure Arab but the SAFE volunteer guessed Andolusian and it turns out she was right - part thoroughbred, part Andolusian, part Arab. No wonder he is so pretty. Sinatra is three quarters saddlebred and one quarter Arab. I remember him as such a scrawny, bumbling little baby but he's definitely maturing into a beautiful horse.

I walked him around the grounds slowly and let him eat a little grass. His front legs seemed a little sore - I imagine having to ride in a trailer stressed them a little bit where he's injured. I showed him his stall which he seemed to like just fine, especially when the owner threw in a flake of grass hay. After he ate and had some downtime I took him out to the grooming area to groom him and spend some time with him. He wouldn't go in at first and seemed very wary of the space. So - big mistake - I bribed him with a carrot to come in. He did fine in the cross ties but then my instructor brought Gabi in (who is the same age) and he's like a big kid. He just lost it and was all, "New friend! I want to play!" and practically ran down my tiny little instructor, who was none to happy about that. Someday when Sinatra is all heeled he and Gabrielle can be friends.

Sinatra did great with the grooming and loved the attention and the "ooohs and aaahs" over how pretty he is. But then when I went to take him back to his stall he got to the door, almost walked in, then I could just see in his eyes that something clicked in his head and he backed out and refused to go in. I could just tell that he had decided, "If I don't go in, she'll bribe me with a treat so I'm not going in without a treat." I cursed myself for using that to get him in the grooming area (which looks just like a stall but with no door) and tried to gently coerce him into his stall. Did no work. I'd back him out, walk to the end of the aisle, turn around and try to walk him in and he'd balk right at the door. There was still some hay on the ground he wanted to eat and could almost reach from the doorway, but I wouldn't let him eat it unless he came in the stall. But he wasn't going to go in the stall without a treat. So, we ended up standing there for quite some time, me in the stall with the lead rope and him standing outside the door. Every now and then he'd lower his head to eat hay and I'd correct him and say "No, not till you come in the stall."

Finally the owner came by and suggested, "Try backing him in," so I said ok and turned Sinatra around and tried to back him into the stall. That actually freaked him out and he balked and let me know I was scaring him. So, I stopped, turned him back around and calmly led him into the stall going forward and this time he walked right in with no problem. I guess he figured I had won and if he had to go in it'd be better to go forward than backward. And of course I showered him with praises and pets and hugs.

He has a jolly ball to knock around and I'm going to try and get out there every day to at least groom him and spend time with him. Plus he gets his 15-minutes of walking a day up to five days a week. I'm also researching ground work exercises for horses on stall rest to keep him stimulated and help him to remember his manners. I can tell he's a good boy, he just gets bored and mischevous. The nipping seems to be a combination of testing the handler, a bad habit, and something to relieve some of his pent-up energy. The poor boundaries as far as body space goes just seems to be not having someone consistently working on ground work with him and a lot of it is just that he's so young and still a big clumsy and not totally aware of his body space. He's already had some great training though, you can tell when he's in the mood to show it. And he listens and responds really well once you can get that flighty 4-year attention focused on you!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The hard life of the rural suburbs

Usually when there is big change (for the good) my anxiety levels go down and I bask in the good big change and life seems great. Then things become normalized and my normal fretty-little dog anxiety levels rise again and I am once again stressing about whatever it is I am in the habit about stressing about at that point in my life.

I have had my moments of stressing here in our new neighborhood. And I have had my small existential crisis moments that I am so want to have for some reason. But on the whole I have been so much more relaxed the last three months that I am a little surprised. I think I can definitely chalk it up to life is just all around easier out here. One thing that stands out: I can literally just open the garage door and say, "Go down the block and find your friends," and my 1st grade daughter can grab her scooter and run off down the street to play with her friends without me having to go along and make sure she's ok. Back in Seattle that was not safe at all. Add up these factors: frequent drug deal sitings on either end of our block, narrow street that people like to tear down at 40 mph in their giant SUV's and souped-up gangster cars (usually poser white boys), three registered sex offenders living within a few blocks of us (and those are the ones who have been caught and are registered), a park three blocks away where the junkies/drunks like to sleep and get high, and frequent daytime break-ins within a few blocks of our house (and sometimes on our block - never at our house while we lived there thank god!). Even our neighbor's sixth grade daughter was not allowed to walk to the bus stop three blocks away by herself to go to school (and everyone thought that was good thinking - no one thought that was overprotective!).

Seattle didn't used to be like this when I was growing up. But I guess that's the price you pay when cities get bigger and bigger really fast like Seattle did. A lot of people say that "it's the economy turning people to crime" but the crime I saw in our neighborhood in Seattle was all about either professional thieves or drugs. I can honestly say that was a problem more than five years ago when the economy had not tanked yet. I think that a lot of people are naive to what crime is really about and want to put some sort of comfy, touchy-feely spin on it like everyone is Oliver Twist and wouldn't steal if only they had a loving mom and a good job. When the reality is, most of the crime in Seattle is based around drugs, professional crime and the fact that Seattle is super soft on crime and super soft on vagrancy. Thus the bums name for Seattle "Free-attle". I probably sound like the worst Glenn Beck lovin' Republican right now, but the reality is I sound more like someone who has volunteered/worked for homeless groups (food banks, school for homeless kids) and has first hand knowledge of poverty versus crime (two completely separate things despite what the majority seems to think). It's like the flipside of hard core right wingers - they think everyone who lives in poverty is a criminal or lazy. Hard core left wingers think every criminal lives in poverty and if it weren't for that they'd be wonderful people.

Hmmm ... impromptu morning rant. Most unexpected. I better drink more coffee.

What else is so much easier? Well, maybe it's just our street but people are so friendly (except our next door neighbors who my mom and I are formulating theories on - more on that later). I definitely don't feel as lonely here even though I don't know as many people as I did after living in Seattle for ... basically forever. Maybe it's an Eastside thing? Now I'm wondering why I swore I'd never move to the Eastside.

And it's quiet. And my mountain ash tree is doing better than it ever did in Seattle. That is very unintuitive to me because the soil here is so awful. Wait - did I say soil? I mean the clay and rocks where soil would normally be is so awful. But then I look out my back window at the environmentally protected area and it has the same clay (worse cause it turns into swamp and then the creek) and the trees just grow like crazy back there. Maybe there was just way too much sand in our soil for it? That could be it - our soil there was still clay, although a different, softer red clay than this really hard concrete gray clay - but we were also so close to the Puget Sound that there was a lot of sand. So, I'm happy to see if finally thriving. My friend, Libby who is a professional landscaper gave it to me about three years ago and I've really wanted it to bounce back and this is the first year it has.

Cliff Mass (the weather guy) says to wait until June to plant starts outside because it keeps getting down to almost freezing at night still and it's going to take awhile for the soil to get to a consistently warm temperature. Which is good because I still haven't gotten the soil for our raised beds yet. I need to get on that, but I'm glad that I have time to procrastinate. Meanwhile my starts are actually beginning to get kind of big inside. Maybe this is good and they will have a better chance of surviving if it's later in the year and they are bigger when I finally put them out.

This afternoon, apparently, Sinatra is getting moved to my stable and today will be our first official day of him being my foster horse. I went out and got him a jolly ball for his stall since he's going to be on stall rest for three months!!! Poor little guy. He just turned four years old this month so I'm sure he'll be climbing the walls. I may research what other kind of toys to get him too. And I'm going to make sure that I find ways to keep him stimulated and entertained even though the only exercise he's allowed the first month is 15 minutes of hand walking 3-5 days a week. I'll have to do lots of grooming and see if there are ground work exercises we can do that don't involve a lot of walking.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Sinatra

I think tomorrow is going to be a lie around the house kind of day. I got up this morning (after not enough sleep) and went up to S.A.F.E. to clean paddocks. I haven't been up to do that in two years and things have changed a lot since then. For one thing, they have a tack shed with a white board with a list of chores you can initial when you're done. And many of the paddocks are gravel which is a lot easier to pick out than grass. But when I used to go one person would come in and clean everything, so I cleaned about eight stalls and paddocks before the owner of the farm came out to give one of the horses his bute (medication for pain) and said I didn't need to bother to do the stalls because there was a second person coming. I said I'd already done the stalls and she said, "Well, you can leave those paddocks over there," and I said, "I've already done those too," so she said, "You should stop and go home." I was realized. The last two paddocks looked very tiring after the first eight.

Since I was already in Monroe I drove up to see if I could visit Sinatra at Northwest Equine Stewardship Center where he is staying while the vet figures out why he is lame. I signed up to be his foster mom and he'll probably be coming to live with me within the next couple weeks. Well, live at the stable where I'm going to move my horse at the end of April.

I met Sinatra about three years ago when he was scruffy little baby that had been nearly starved to death when he was about five months old. He was so starved that he couldn't even stand up and his rescuers were not sure he would live. Animal control was supposed to go in on a specific day and seize all the horses on the property but they were afraid if they waited a day to take Sinatra off the property he wouldn't survive. As it is he barely survived.

He's a cremello Arab/Saddlebred but he is small for those breeds - only 14 hands. Probably because his growth was stunted by being so severely starved as a baby. He has a great personality though and is very smart and fiesty and silly.

I haven't seen him in at least a year - maybe two - and he is a lot bigger than I remember him. And he's very handsome. But he's still a kid. He kept trying to nip at me but after we walked around the round pen together for a bit and I corrected him every time he started to reach to nip at my arm and praised him whenever he stopped himself, he quickly started to catch on. Then before I left the round pen, he got all excited because the horse in the arena started galloping around and he wanted to play with her so he started cantering and bucking (a big no-no for him right now!) in the tight circle of the round pen and he came roaring toward me as I was unhooking the latch to leave. I turned around, held my hand out and said firmly, "Stay back!" and he skidded away from me, then reared. I snapped at him, "I'm still in the pen, silly boy!" and got the latch open and exited. He definitely needs to learn some boundaries and some manners - like not running around like that with people in the round pen and to be able to stop himself before running over a person whether they instruct him to stay back or not. It was an unfortunate thing to happen the first time I've visited him in a long time because his vet and her assistant popped their heads up over the arena wall in concern and asked if I was ok. I explained he was just excited and not paying attention that there was still a person in the round pen.

His vet (who is also my vet ...) gave me his halter and lead rope and said I could take him for a walk and groom him if I had time. So, we went out so he could eat a little grass. I tried to walk him toward the woods but he got very nervous and I figured he doesn't know me well enough to trust me to take him somewhere that new yet, so we just went and walked around the grounds. I took him back to the arena to groom him and let him eat some hay while I was since standing still is not his strong point at his age. That made him really happy and his whole body relaxed and he let out a bunch of happy sighs. One thing I need to ask the vet is what's going on with his front hooves. I've never seen hooves like his - extremely concave and he didn't appear to have any frog. He wasn't really into lifting his feet for me at first and I'm not sure if that's because he's young and was being stubborn or if it's because they hurt. Either way, he did end up lifting them for me and being very polite. Except when he tried to bite my sweater.

When I was done grooming him, I went over to the arena wall to get his blanket and turned around to see him grabbing his brushes out of his tack bucket, waving them around and then flinging them across the arena. Totally like the baby Sinatra that I remember for a few years ago! I'm definitely going to have to get him some toys! Especially because he's supposed to be on stall rest with only light hand walking it sounds like.

He's so much less spooky than Rolls who reminds me of him as far as personality goes, just Sinatra is so much less nervous. When I was leading him out of the round pen into the arena, the vet knocked something and it clanked and my whole body tensed because I expected Sinatra to spook and gallop off, but he just perked his ears and kept following me. That was a nice surprise.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Sending woodpeckers to peck on metal poles

That's how my husband described his day at work "I sent a lot of woodpeckers off to peck on metal poles." We were sitting in traffic in the middle of the "Mercer Mess" waiting to get on the freeway and talking about how our days went. My day was mostly a couple meetings - one of which could've been much shorter if I'd just said, "I'll make a designated account for the grant money and it will all be ok. Trust me," and left it at that. "No, don't say anything. Just trust me." But that's not how teamwork works. But today was not a good day for me to coherently explain things. Add to that my latest hang-up that I think my tone of voice when explaining things sounds too harsh so I'm trying really hard to double-check my tone of voice when I talk, I think today was just an awful day for me trying to express ideas, especially complex ones like how I'm going to work the accounting for designated grant money.

Our daughter at the ripe old age of seven has developed an extremely rude way of talking where she barks orders at everyone and if someone doesn't understand something she treats them like they're an idiot. I am constantly telling her how to "nicely say that" and reminding her to check her tone of voice, but she must be getting it from somewhere. So, out of the horror that maybe I sound really rude and authoritative when I try to explain things I'm trying to use a "soft tone" when I talk to people. I really have no idea how I come across. I usually think I come off nice until I'm really angry and start swearing up a storm, but not if my daughter is a reflection of my actions. Hmmm ... very unsettling.

The woodpecker reference is to this cute little guy who was pecking at the holes in the street sign in front of our house the other morning. He was tiny and speckled like a young bird (although it's too early in the year for him to be a baby from this Spring) and obviously thought he'd hit pay dirt by finding a "rotted silver tree filled with holes"! He spent a couple hours out there trying to find bugs in the holes in the street sign before he finally figured out there were not bugs in there. My husband - who works in the computer industry and fixes other people's code after he finds security flaws or purposely breaks it, said that he often feels the same way as that woodpecker when he's at work.

I was all set to go out and ride Sinatra for the first time next weekend and he came up lame this morning when he was being lunged at the vets today. She did some tests and took some x-rays and we'll know more tomorrow. I'm still fine with fostering him and figure it is good timing if he needs someone to do some rehab with him, because I'd like to have that time to do groundwork with him and get to know him again. Poor guy. I really think it's just an overuse injury because he's too little and young to be have been jumping, which is what they were doing with him at his last foster home.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

My daughter's day of living dangerously

My daughter has joined the elite club of "those who have fallen off a horse". I'm actually very proud of her. She had her lesson with Tiny today and I told our instructor that Tiny was being very difficult yesterday. She tried to pull the same thing today. She's got this thing about wanting to come stand beside me (like she thinks I'm a sucker and will always pet her???). So, when I sat down on the mounting block in the middle of the arena to watch the lesson my daughter got her half way around the circle and despite using the reins and her legs well Tiny just came over to me and stood right next to me. When my daughter tried to get her to move she bucked. She did it twice before our instructor exclaimed, "What is wrong with you, Tiny?" and I said I would leave the arena and go sit in the stands.

Before I'd even left though my daughter gave Tiny a good hard kick to let her know she was not going to get away with this behavior and Tiny bucked her right off. I was standing in the arena with another mom whose teenage daughter had fallen off her own horse twice in the last hour so maybe that helped me be calm, but I just waited to see what my daughter's reaction was. She fell on the ground said "Ouch!" and started laughing really hard. She stood up and rubbed her butt and said, "That'll leave a bruise" and said to Tiny, "No, Tiny! Stop acting like that!" then started laughing really hard again saying, "That was silly!" I said, "You are now initiated into the I've-Fallen-Off-a-Horse club," and she laughed and said, "Totally!" So, I'm glad her first fall was a non-event. It probably helped that she fell off the smallest pony in the world who may actually just be a big dog masquerading as a pony.

I was also proud of my daughter when she was taking Tiny from her stall to the grooming area. Tiny likes to stop and try to eat any little bits of hay she can find on the floor and I've been coaching my daughter on how to tell before Tiny is about to pull away to eat so she can correct her early on before she actually has her nose on the ground and she's getting really good at that. But Tiny did manage to get her nose down to eat from some hay that had spilled out of a stall across from the grooming area and my daughter had the rough task of getting her out of the hay. She pulled on the lead rope and Tiny ignored her (she does after all weight over ten times what my daughter weighs). So, she squared her shoulders, said firmly, "No, Tiny!" and pulled on the lead rope. Then she said, "You're following me, Tiny, not eating!" and gave the lead rope a good hard pull and Tiny actually lifted her head, sighed and followed my daughter into the grooming area. I was really proud of her because Tiny can be really stubborn about eating!

I thought the falling off and Tiny being such a pain would frustrate my daughter but she kept going on about how cute Tiny is and how much she loves her. She has started talking again about how she wants a mare when she gets a pony and how she's going to name her Lilly. As we were leaving she said, "I wish we could live here." So, I guess she's back to being into horses. After her lessons her instructor had one of the older kids who is still really small come out and work Tiny and it was so cute watching her canter! She's so little with such short little legs but she loves to canter and actually has really nice conformation when she does. Unfortunately, the little girl riding her tried to go into her two point seat for some reason while Tiny was cantering and lost her balance and went right over Tiny's head. I totally saw it coming. Luckily, she too got up laughing and we had to leave which anyway and our instructor headed over to give her instructions on what she needed to be doing. Our instructor commented that she's never seen a week where everyone seemed to be falling off their horses like the last few days.

At my old stable my horse was the hardest one to ride, but other than the ponies I think my horse is going to be the easiest to ride. There're my instructors two young, green Arabs, one of which, Rolls is really spooky. Then M.'s horse she's leasing who is young, bratty, green, and for some reason keeps bucking her off. And Toadie the beautiful thoroughbred who is has been off the race track for all of 6 months after winning some races at Emerald Downs. And Gemini, a young green Lipazaner. I don't know all the horses so some of the others may be much easier to ride, but for the first time in 2.5 years I'm looking forward to having Girlfriend there to ride when my daughter takes her lessons because she's so easy to ride! I'm trying to convince M. she should lease Girl instead of Roadie because I'm impressed with the way she takes care of Roadie and Girl is not going to buck her off at some point in their ride every time like Roadie does, but she loves Roadie.

Friday, April 8, 2011

I am the alpha dog

My daughter had a friend over from school that I hadn't met before except briefly when I volunteered in the classroom. His mom is from Mexico and his dad is from Puerto Rico and they only speak Spanish at home. It never ceases to amaze me when a 7 year old child flips from one language to another completely fluent and with a perfect accent in each language. What a gift for children who grow up with parents who speak two languages! It is inspiring. Especially when her friend ran out to the car when his parents picked him up and yelled to his dad, "Tienen dos gatos!" and I actually understood him and said, "Si, negro y naranja." Which probably made his mom raise her eyebrows at my horrible pronunciation. I'm excited to meet his family because his dad is really into horses and rode a lot back in Puerto Rico (my daughter's friend said his dad also had a wolf when he was a kid) so I may have another family to be horse crazy with me. My neighbor's daughter who just turned three is also horse crazy and wants to come over to my house all the time because she apparently does not understand my horse does not come here (or she thinks I'll take her back to the horse).

I talked to my instructor about my plan to teach preschool/kindergarteners horsemanship and beginning riding skills and she thought it was a good idea. I asked her if she'd go over the curriculum with me sometime and told her just the basics - that I'm going to make a coloring book with instructions in it and games to play with safety rules. And the riding would be all lead line until they were five years old, playing games like Simon Says and working on their seat. I was surprised when my instructor said she'd talk to me more about possibly using Tiny with my neighbor's 3 year old daughter after I get my teaching certification. I've got a board game brewing in my head about safety rules and horsemanship skills and a doll set to help see proper posture. All good ways for preschool kids to learn stuff and really get it into their heads. I feel really strongly that young children need to learn horsemanship skills and safety skills early because I've seen too many teenage girls (and some adults!) who ride ok but don't have basic horsemanship down.

Speaking of children and horses, our instructor wanted to reschedule our lessons this afternoon because she had something personal to attend to and her other lesson, S. from yesterday canceled because she's too sore to ride today. But she said my daughter could go practice riding on Tiny, the bratty Shetland pony. Tiny was being a real brat today though and my daughter got frustrated really quickly with her. She was definitely pushing the boundaries because our instructor wasn't there. So, I put her on the lunge line and lunged her a bit and she was trying very hard to get me to back down and let her be in charge. It never ceases to amaze me though that when I stood up to her (not hard when it's a teeny little fluffy pony that looks like a fuzzy, rotund dog) she got more snuggly and happy with me.

Tiny was giving my daughter such a hard time - standing still and refusing to move, then bucking when my daughter gave her a swift kick - and I'm a terrible teacher for my daughter because she just fights with me and doesn't want me to tell her what to do. So I decided we would play Simon Says and I led my daughter around and she worked on her seat. We just went around at a walk and I said things like "Simon says put your arms straight up in the air" "Simon says put you hands on your helmet" etc. She seemed to really enjoy that.

When she and her friend were playing this morning they got all excited about something and talked back to me and I said, "Don't challenge me. I'm alpha dog in this house," and her friend loved that idea. I swear a good portion of my parenting skills come from training dogs. I imagine that is something that will come up in therapy for my daughter in twenty years. Sigh.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

My day of living dangerously

I fell off a horse for the first time in thirty years today. And I'm feeling achy and miserable this evening. But here's the irony - I am not at all achy and miserable from falling off the horse, it's because after I got home I tripped on a step on our front walk and fell with a hard smack onto the pebbled asphalt. So, my right palm and my left knee are achy and stingy and painful enough to make me want to whine where I skinned them pretty badly. The rest of me is suprisingly fine including my whole left side where I landed when I fell of Rolls-the-scary-Arabian.

It was one of those things that just happens and seems so ridiculously unfair. Rolls was in great spirits today. He seemed calm with me and happy and relaxed while I was grooming him. He even decided he wanted to play with me and leaned his neck way over at me to get me scratch it, and tried to take stuff out of my non-existant pockets when I cleaned his feet and was just generally being a fun, snuggly kid. I took him out to lunge him before my lesson and my instructor left to go take care of her ponies saying she knew I'd do fine with him, and I did! He listened to me really well and was incredibly easy to lunge. After I lunged him he was once again really relaxed and snuggly and goofy and happy.

S. was early for her lesson and I was late so we were going to ride together in the lesson with her on Gabi who is younger than Rolls, but generally much calmer. I was feeling confident and wanted to walk for a bit off the lunge line (even though I'm still not ready to be riding a spooky Rolls off the lunge line because my seat isn't good enough for his spooks). But it was sunny and calm and he was in a great mood so it seemed fine. And he was listening to me really well and I was proud of how well I was doing.

Until some dumbass up the street decided to rev the motor on his muffler-less car. I'm not completely sure what happened. I heard the noise but figured it wasn't that big of a deal, but then a split second later what I remember was Rolls was moving to the right really fast and kind of leaned over to the left as he did and it felt like I was literally just poured right off his back to the left. I think I yelled, "Damnit!" as soon as I realized I was falling, and then landed on my side and exclaimed, "Ouch! Shit!" then I heard my instructor yell something that led me to believe that S. might not be ok, so I sat up and looked to my left just in time to see S. laying on her back in the fetal position with Gabi bucking right above her. Luckily, he took off and she rolled away. I think my instructor was asking if I was ok, and I was surprised at how ok I was and was saying in surprise, "I'm fine. I'm totally fine," and watching to see if S. was ok.

Rolls is such a spooky, dainty guy that he danced off away from me as soon as I went thud on the ground - because that was probably scary to him too having someone "fly out of the sky" and land next to him. But then he stopped, but Gabi flipped out and was bucking like crazy and racing around the arena. Our instructor was trying to hold Rolls and calling to Gabi, so I grabbed Rolls for her and she caught up with Gabi and was able to calm her down. Gabi was freaking out for a minute or so longer which started to make Rolls freak out, but finally they calmed down. Luckily, S.'s mom was there making sure she was ok. Poor girl fell on her chest. Ouch! If I were her I would've had to be driven home and put to bed but these kids just bounce right back. Apparently Gabi started doing the bucking bronco act and S. tried to ride it out but as she put it "was being bucked up his neck and ran out of neck and just flew off" Poor girl definitely got the worst of it and I'm positive that Gabi would've been fine if Rolls hadn't been there and panicked and set him off.

But S. got right back up on Gabrielle and finished her lesson after I left the arena with Rolls so both of them could calm down and stop feeding off each other and our instructor lunged Gabi. I tried to do my lesson on the lunge line but it just wasn't working because Rolls wanted to chase Gabi and we had to keep making the lunge circle smaller and smaller until I was too dizzy to really ride correctly. But at least I got back on. The amazing part was it was not as scary once it was happening as I'd feared the last couple years. No matter how much I remind myself I have fallen off of plenty of horses when I was a kid and a teen, it still sounded really scary now as an achy old grown-up. But thankfully I had that experience riding the mechanical bull and falling off because it helped me not be so scared this time. In fact, it seemed a bit familiar.

What I need to practice though is letting go of the reins. Our instructor said I held on too long and could've taken Rolls down with me - which would've been horrible for both him and me - we both could've gotten seriously injured if that happened. I have a right mind to sit on the back of the couch and practice rolling off and letting go of some extra reins I have, just to get the body memory of letting go of the reins if I fall. I'm getting better at letting go of the lead rope if the horse spooks, but now I need to make it a body memory to let go of the reins.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The great media battle

We've cut way back on tv the last few days as planned and it has had a positive effect. I also started recording some of my daughter's favorite PBS shows on DVR so they are available any time. The last two nights the only tv my daughter has watched is Glee with us. The first episode was ok because she enjoyed the singing and dancing. The second episode she liked but I decided it was not ok for her at her age because it was all about the kids having Brittany Spears fantasies and the dancing was over-the-top tacky/sexual for a girl her age and there was one character who kept throwing off his clothes because he was "so stimulated" which I deemed "totally inappropriate for a little kid to see!" So, we'll wait until she's older to let that be a normal show to watch. She also loves Modern Family but that one is fine for her so far. I think we'll stick to Food Network and dog training shows for her adult shows.

Meanwhile, the lack of tv has been good because she has been playing a lot more and complaining a lot less just in the last few days. This morning she complained about wanting to watch tv during breakfast and how she wasn't getting her regular quota of tv. I pointed out that the more I watch tv (and in my case am wasting time on the computer- something I need to cut back on!) the less creative I feel. I pointed out that she had been complaining about being bored a lot less the last few days since she's watched a lot less tv. She thought about it a minute and said, "That makes me not want to watch tv at all!" Then she ran upstairs and gathered up her art supplies and brought them downstairs.

I got the ok from the city to put in a community garden in the green space behind our house. I just need to email them a drawing/map of my garden plans for them to have on file. Yay! I'm going to put in a raised bed, some drought resistance meadow grass and a path down the middle to make it more walking friendly. I'd also like to put a little bench or something in there too if I can find a cheap one at a thrift store or on craigslist. I'm hoping it will catch on a pleasant place for the kids to hang out and neighbors to grow veggies or whatever they want.

My latest gardening challenge is spiders. I know, normally spiders are beneficial insects. But these are the regular garden spiders that build webs in the trees and catch bugs, these are hundreds (I really am talking hundreds) of little black ground spiders who are running around the grass in the backyard. If you walk back there when it's dry and look closely it is like a plague of little black spiders swarming around. I want to get rid of them but don't want to get ride of the rest of the beneficial insects. I wish I could just borrow someone's chickens or something to come in and eat most of them. I think my Little Dude salamanders eat them but there are apparently not enough of the Little Dudes to make much of a dent. Maybe when we start hanging out more in the backyard they will start to abate. From what we can tell the previous owners never went in the backyard. Except to put treated wood down as steps from the back porch (which we are having removed next week - yay!). But there really aren't any plants back there except the cheap, generic box hedge type plants that were put in when the house was built. And the lawn is more a garden of dandelions than lawn. But we are going to change all that this year hopefully.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

I can't believe I'm writing about this

I honestly did not think I would live to the age where I would be writing about peri-menopause, but since I just turned forty-four I need to start thinking about it. I am still mostly in denial I am in my forties because I feel like I'm still twenty-nine. My new neighborhood friends apparently had no idea how old I am because when someone in their late thirties starts talking about how old they're getting and I mutter, "You're not as old as me," they always say, "Oh, I'm much older! I'm turning thirty-eight next month!" Unfortunately, my girl parts are not deceived into thinking I'm only thirty-two.

I'm still not too into the idea of taking Estrovan because I don't think I need to be taking kava kava, so I've been looking at other natural remedies. It turns out that aerobic exercise has shown in studies to reduce peri-menopause symptoms. Good to know! And there's a couple herbs out there that help too that are not as controversial or have as many side effects as kava kava. So, I'm hopeful. Especially about the exercise. It would be nice if I could just do completely natural things instead of taking weird herbs or hormones. And yes, herbs are natural but they are natural in the same way that chemicals are natural - they are from the earth. But that doesn't mean they don't have weird side effects and can't be harmful in some circumstances. I'm not sure why so many people are in denial of that?

I really started thinking about this yesterday when I was so cranky I felt like I was going to blow a mental gasket and start picking fights with random passer-bys and start throwing things at other drivers. It was a very uncomfortable feeling because I felt so overwhelmingly irritable and couldn't just breathe myself out of it. I ended up leaving the house to go run errands to have some "alone time" because I didn't want to keep going off on my daughter. I tried to improve my attitude by making a conscious effort while in the grocery store to smile at people and say excuse me when I had to pass and just generally put out lots of positive energy toward my fellow man (that I felt like pummeling). It worked some and I felt a little better when I got home.

There are a few reasons why I felt that way other than hormones. I have a cold, hadn't had enough sleep and felt physically crappy, and I'd had to miss lunch with my BFF because traffic was so bad she couldn't get here in time before I had to take my daughter to her riding lesson which had been last minute canceled and I hadn't gotten the message till we got out there. And I've been using a steroid nasal spray every day for the last week because of my cold and I'm very sensitive to steroids.

And my daughter has been acting up a lot recently because the last three months - while moving and then having moved into this house - we've been really lax on discipline because we are all exhausted with all the transition and we've been trying to go easy on her because of all the transition. But now it's time to get back on track with structure and discipline again. We're turning the tv off for most of this next week and she's going to get back to doing chores and eating dinner with the family instead of sitting on the couch watching tv. I kept meaning to get back to the structure and regular rules but I just realized it has been two months now since we moved and my daughter is now starting to only want to watch tv, play video games and talk about all the toys she wants to buy. I'm becoming one of those moms whose kids drive me nuts - the ones who have no structure or discipline and just let their kids decide everything so as not to "stifle their inner creativity". So, part of my crankiness I think was an abrupt slap-in-the-face from myself to say "Hey! Get back on track with your parenting!"

I had a long talk with my husband last night who said he's totally behind me on getting back some structure and will support me as best he can (Yay! Best husband ever!). We decided she will continue her riding lessons till the end of the school year, then she can choose three day camps to go to during summer (that's all we can afford - if even that!). Then when school starts again she needs to choose a sport and stick to it - whether it's dancing, soccer, horseback riding - but some sort of physical activity lesson every week. And she's old enough now she needs to learn an instrument and that's not negotiable. I told her she could choose piano or guitar (because my husband can't stand the idea of listening to student violin, any horns or drums) and she chose piano. What surprised me about when I told her these ground rules she got really excited and said it sounds great! Well, there ya go.

I planted three roses yesterday and on the middle one used a seawee extract that my neighbor loaned to me which is supposed to be a great fertilizer. I'm curious to see if there is a difference between the middle rose bush and the other two as time goes on. My starts are getting big enough I had to put them in actual pots. I figure in a month they'll be ready to go outside. Which means I have to get some decent dirt delivered. I'm really liking my garden area and just got an arbor with a gate that I have to assemble to keep the dog out. I'm trying to decide what to plant to grow over the arbor. I really want to grow wine grapes but I'm not sure if that would be good for an arbor that one walks through and I'm not sure that space gets enough sun. If we put a pergola over our back deck I may plant them there because it gets a lot more sun. We're debating pergola or screened in porch. Right now I think I'm leaning toward pergola. I love having all this new space for gardening! And I'm waiting on a call from the city to find out how much of the empty space between our house and storm pond we can use for a neighborhood pea patch.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Alternatives to Cartoon Network

My daughter is now 7 years old so she's not very interested in the PBS Sprout channel anymore, which is good because we don't have expanded cable anymore either. The only kid channels we have now are PBS at certain times (yay!) Disney channel (I can live with that) and Cartoon Network. Lately Disney Channel has literally been showing the same episodes of the same shows practically every night. They seem to have four episodes of each show that they cycle through for a few hours every night. So, that channel has become pretty worthless. PBS only has kids shows about four hours a day and not in the evening. So, that leaves Cartoon Network.

Cartoon Network is completely Verboten! in our house. I tried to explain this to another mom yesterday and all that could come out was, "It drives me crazy and it's soooo stupid." It causes me pain it is so stupid. And the way our new house is set up, our whole first floor is all one huge room. It's like a loft style lay-out where you walk down the hall into a huge room that is our living room, dining room and kitchen without any walls. So, since my daughter gets to watch tv while I'm making dinner, it has to be something that doesn't drive me nuts. And everything (except Scooby Doo and grown-up cartoons on at night) drive me nuts. Sponge Bob for instance. WTF? And all the Sponge Bob take-offs which are amorphous blobs that screech and wail in stupid voices and fart, spit-up and puke on each other and laugh maniacally. It's just a set-up to enjoy tasteless stupid Dumb & Dumber Jim Carey comedies that aren't funny either.

More than that I HATE the commercials every five minutes (well, five if you're lucky, if it's at peak viewing time in the early evening it's every three minutes). My daughter thinks I'm mean and too strict, and maybe I am. Maybe Cartoon Network is harmless - and I don't tell her she can't watch it at her friends house (who all watch that channel). But at home I have to save my sanity and that means now CN when I'm in the house.

So, when she wants to watch tv and Disney is showing re-runs AGAIN, we've been trying to find alternatives. Well, for one thing we signed up with Hulu. But we've also been trying out different shows that aren't quite as bad. I'm surprised as the ones that seem to be a hit. Home and Garden has a show about staging houses for sale which my daughter got really into. And she loves the cooking shows on the Food Network and could watch those all day. And she likes It's Me or the Dog about training dogs. Next I'll get her hooked on Ceasar Milan. It's fun that she is old enough to have interests in things other than just cartoons. I also got her hooked on my friend from work's cooking site.

I told myself when she was a baby that I would not be as strict as my mom, but unfortunately, I am turning out to have a lot of rules myself. I try not to be one of those moms who won't let their child do frivolous things that other kids get to do, but sometimes things (like Cartoon Network) are just so tasteless and stupid I just can't allow it.