Friday, August 31, 2012

I have an idea ...

That is one of my husband's most dreaded phrases from me - "I have an idea ..."
My latest idea isn't really an idea it's more of a daydream.  My latest daydream is to have my own horse farm, only it wouldn't just be my horse farm I would move my friends there too.  That way I could have my horse in my own "backyard" but not lose all the benefits of boarding my horse.  The biggest benefit is that if Trainer K. isn't there then often Trainer Jim is there and when I run into a problem I can always run and ask them.  And it's nice social time to see the other students.  Anyway, when I run across that extra million dollars that who knows where it will come from, I'm going to buy my own horse farm.  And I will have some sweet-tempered mini's who I will make available to therapists to use as equine-assisted therapy horses and we'll have clinics with classical instructors and we'll have educational forums on how to train your horse correctly without rushing them or using hurtful mechanisms or terrifying them into submission - instead how to gain respect and trust with them.  And we'd have a full-composting system for the horse poop and sell it to the public through local garden stores.  I even thought of a name - Northanger Farm - after the first Jane Austen book my husband gave me (Jane Austen is one of my all-time favorite writers).

I have my budget all written out on how we could afford to financially maintain the farm, and a work schedule of things I would need to do and the few things we might need to hire out for.  And I even know the few boarders I would invite.  I wouldn't be open to the public except for clinics and educational forums so that it would be very low drama.  Just me and my friends.  I even know the the property I want to buy.  But alas, I do not have the money to afford the property to get the whole thing started.  So, if an extra million dollars were to fall out of the sky I could do it but I don't foresee even being able to afford a small version of that farm any time soon.

So, despite not getting to have Toadie and Girlfriend at home where I can wander out back in my pajamas to see them any time I want, or look out my window and see them, at least I can be happy that they are boarded in a place that they are well cared for and I have the trainers there most of the time for resources.

I have my first homework for training this weekend.  I'm supposed to do some lunging with a new configuration of the lunge line to help with lateral bending and work with Toad on softening her jaw.  Right now she's got this thing going on where she clamps her jaw shut and "hangs on the bit".  Sure, if you yank the reins really hard in one direction or the other she'll turn, but she'll still have her jaw really tight if you do that.  I don't know where that comes from and Trainer K. is trying to figure it out herself.  I asked if it had something to do with how the bits work on the race track and she said she didn't think so.  I looked up some racing bits though and damn there are some serious torture devices out there!  Like the Springsteen bit which has prongs on it that poke into the horse's mouth. Good God.

What I'm working with her on is applying pressure with the rein - about where my hand would be but from the ground - until she softens her mouth.  Then I immediately release and praise her.  It's very cool that I actually get to be part of the training process and am finally able to do some of it by myself too.  I'm starting to be glad that I bought such a green horse because I'm learning so much from being hands on with her training with Trainer K.   Even if it is frustrating that I really wanted to go on a trail ride this summer and I don't know when Toad will be ready for that.  Maybe in five years.

In other news my daughter now has braces.  Fun. Fun. Fun.  They seem to be bothering me more than they are bothering her.  She got them on Wednesday and yesterday didn't really eat anything except a little yogurt and ice cream because her mouth hurt so much.  In true motherly fashion this upset me far more than it upset her.  Every night I have to "turn" her palat expander in order to open it up more to stretch out her jaw.  I had one of those when I was a kid but it was much more like a medieval torture device.  Hers looks like a plastic retainer and is very mild.  Mine was a large metal bar  across the top of my mouth and the first time they had to turn it I developed a fever and had a horrendous headache (which we were told was to be expected).  The weirdest thing was that last night was the first night I had to turn it and my daughter was a trooper and totally fine with it, whereas after I was done I suddenly had this taste of metal in my mouth and this phantom aching feeling radiating throughout my jaws and head.  It was actually really creepy to have such a vivid sensory memory of something from so long ago.  I've had some nasty vivid sensory memories of traumatic stuff in my past but I never considered having braces to be traumatic - just annoying.  I would prefer to not have that happen anymore although I guess it's just part of life.   There's just a lot in my past I would prefer to not vividly remember.  But then I guess I had that feeling years ago when I was watching first-person horse riding video game that my daughter had while I was watching her go over the jumps I had a very vivid, sensory memory of what it felt like to be riding horse over jumps - but of course that was a *good* memory so I didn't think twice about it.  Can't have the good without the bad.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Reunion of my two white pets

I've been dogsitting my boss's dog, Keiko for the last two weeks and because of that our kittens, Nermal and Snow have spent most of the time under our bed.  The last two days though they've been venturing out into the rest of the house and snarling viciously if Keiko comes near them - which causes him to slink away in terror which is bolstering their confidence.  Just now Snow was sitting on the back of the couch looking down at our big, white pitbull (who she normally snuggles with when there isn't a big black interloper dog getting in her way).   Snow was leaning way over trying to get the pitbull's attention with no success, so she finally slid down the back of the couch onto the pitbull's head and started rolling around on top of her.  Still no response, so she started licking the inside of the pitbull's ears.  That woke her up so the pitbull tried to lift her head so she could lick Snow, but since her head is as big as Snow, it accidentally flung Snow off and onto the floor.  So now Snow is back on top of the back of the couch staring down at the pitbull who immediately went back to sleep.

It has not rained in our area for something like a month now which is annoying.  I keep having to write myself notes to remember to go out and water the garden - especially the three new trees we planted last Spring.  Oddly enough the plants up on the strip by the main road that I planted last fall seem to be doing fine even though I am unwilling to cart buckets of water up the hill to water them.  Hopefully they will live through this dry spell until it rains again.  Someday.  The weather forecast doesn't show it doing that in the next week or so.

Up until yesterday I didn't get to ride Toad because she needed five days off while she took a five day course of wormer (last time she had a wormer it gave her a mild colic and that was only a one day dose so I was pretty worried about this five day dose).  Then my trainer had the day off to go to the Mariners game for her birthday, then Toad was too wack-a-doodle for me to ride her first day back at work, so yesterday was my first time to ride her in 12 days.  And as always happens when I haven't ridden her for awhile I decided I was terrified to and wasn't going to. 

What made yesterday worse in that regard was that last Friday when Toad was too out-there for me to ride, I asked to do a practice ride on Misty.  I feel totally safe on Misty because she's pretty bomb-proof and doesn't spook at anything (a good, solid quarterhorse!) and although she can be a little bratty and occasionally super hot, she's that Western barrel racer hot that I am so used to with Girlfriend.  The whole dancing, bolting thing isn't scary for me with her because it's just like Girlfriend.  And she doesn't always do that.  But Friday I got up on her and as soon as my butt was in the saddle before I even had my foot in the stirrup, she jumped and ran backwards.  Then she paused for a second, and ran backwards again.  I have NO idea why.  Something must have startled her? Hurt her? Maybe she got bit by a big horse fly? I don't know.  I stayed on just fine and never felt like I was going to fall off but it was the unknown - why are we flying backwards? She's obviously lost her mind - is she going to start bucking bronco until she gets me off?  Then as quickly as it came on it stopped and we stood there a moment, I gathered my wits about me and then asked her to walk on.  The rest of our ride was completely uneventful (except Trainer K. did have to scold me for going too fast and told me I can not canter on Misty anymore because she's been trained to go slow and I apparently do not know how to canter slowly and I make Misty backtrack every time I let loose and go roaring around the arena - and she's not my horse so I'm not allowed to ruin all of Trainer K's hard work to make her a slower horse for her owner - which makes sense!).

Anyway, that and not having ridden Toad for almost two weeks and of course all the "Toad horror stories" from when I bought her last year still have not completely left my head - I was in the bathroom just before my ride and I distinctly thought, "I am NOT riding her today. No way. I am not up for getting killed today and this is too dangerous and I'm crazy to be a middle-aged woman riding a green OTTB and what am I thinking? I'm going home!"  I didn't even have it in me to talk myself out of it, I just resigned myself to it.

Then I walked in the arena, looked at Trainer K. and thought, "I don't have the energy to argue or get that "you have to ride your own horse or what's the point of having her? If you want to be safe get a guinea pig for a pet" lecture" and dutifully put on my half-chaps and helmet and eventing vest and gloves and thought, "I'm not going to ride today. This is a crazy hobby. I'm not going to do  this anymore."  And next thing you know I'm up on Toad and saying, "I'm feeling really insecure today so I need lots of babysitting while I'm riding."  And we ended up having a great ride!  Well, maybe not a technically great ride as far as my form and using my aids properly goes, but it was fun for me and I had quite a few times where I felt really in-synch with Her Toadness.  I even had to carry the dressage whip (which freaks me out because the times she has spooked the worst have been because of seeing the dressage whip out of the corner of her eye when I didn't keep it exactly flat on my leg).  But I had to carry it because she was not listening to my leg and Trainer K. is training her to listen only to light aids and does not want me desensitizing her by using my legs really strongly or god forbid kicking her.  So, if she doesn't listen to my leg the first time I use my leg again very lightly but give her the lightest touch with the dressage whip down by where my leg is.  And she HATES being touched by the dressage whip.  And we're talking just the lightest tap so that if you were me and spacing out you wouldn't even notice it if someone touched you with it.

I actually really appreciate her being so green and being trained with me because when I'm not stressing out about her spooking she is actually easier to ride than the lesson horses I do practice rides on - Tasha and Misty.  When I can relax and not clench myself all up out of worry and am doing well in my riding, Toad does really well.  She relaxes and has a nice rhythmic walk and trot and she will easily stretch her neck and then everything feels like it falls into place.  Someday in twenty years or so I have a feeling she's going to be a sweet, old schoolmaster who will teach little girls how to ride dressage and no one will ever believe she was "the crazy horse no one wanted".

Friday, August 24, 2012

More about horses and slugs

School starts just over a week and as usual things are very busy.   I've been dogsitting my boss's dog Keiko the last week or so and it's been surprisingly more quiet with two dogs around than I thought it would be for this long.  I'm hoping that convinces my husband that in Spring when my parents move into their new condo on Mercer Island and can't take their Australian Shepherd, Misty, that we should take her.  My brother wanted to take her but his wife vetoed it because their house is already small, they have as many pets as us (sans the kid and the horses) and they both work full-time and are gone all day.

Speaking of animals, day before yesterday when I went out jogging on my usual path through the woods I ran into a bobcat.  That was unexpected.  I didn't think they came down this far from the foothills.  I had both dogs (my boss's dog is actually quite big - bigger than our pitbull) and my daughter was riding her bike, so the little guy paused, looked at is curiously for a second, then scurried off.   He was very young and I'm assuming had already been weaned and didn't need his mama, but I wasn't taking any chances on a possibly freaked out protective mama nearby so we went the opposite direction of him and I keep my daughter within eye sight just in case an 8 year old speeding through a wooded path on her bike was a threat to a protective mama.

I'm watching with my garden and wondering why my tomatoes, peas, cucumbers, pumpkins and watermelon are all doing well despite the slugs, but my peppers, lettuce and carrots were eaten almost immediately.  I noticed the slugs were going for my pumpkin starts a month or so ago so I tried putting used coffee grounds around the starts to deter them.  It worked and now the pumpkin plants are huge and have buds getting ready to try and be pumpkins (I have no idea how long it takes to turn into a pumpkin so I'll be watching curiously to see if we'll have any by Halloween).  I tried the same experiment with the pepper plants and I guess that they are so tasty that a little coffee grounds are not enough of a deterrent.  My husband thinks I should cave in and try slug bait but I'm bound and determined to figure out this no chemical organic gardening thing.

Which reminds me, I found out yet another irritating thing about "organic" food in our lovely corporate food industry.  I recently read The American Way of Eating and was horrified to find out that organic farms are allowed to use a certain amount of chemical pesticides and that even though they are only allowed to use a certain amount, it doesn't stop the huge corporate farms from using a lot more.  That's not to say that little organic co-op right outside your city is doing that - they probably aren't which is why they are still small and not millionaires, but the large organic farms have free rein.  So, unless it's a local organic farm that I can go visit and see for myself, I'm hesitant to bother spending that extra couple dollars or more per pound for products that have "organic" stamped on them - probably a label bought by the corporation, much like Energy Star products are more about the company following the bare minimum guidelines and then buying the brand.  Someday we'll have a farm big enough that I can grow much of our own food.  Maybe by the time we have enough money to buy a place like that I will have figured out how to successful deter these damned slugs!

And when we have enough money to buy that farm, it will also be a horse farm so I can have my horses at home.  And in an ideal world I'd also have Trainer K.'s horses there too so that she would be at my barn everyday! I've learned so much from her in the last year but I'm nowhere near being ready to be cut loose and on my own.  I imagine it will be a good ten years or more before I feel like I am.  But I feel a bit more confident.  The other day my friend, Star and I decided that we would take Bogo and his mom Temple out for a walk.  We got the ok from their owner and Trainer K. and Bogo is 5 months old now and the only "work" he gets is when Trainer K. leads him to and from the paddock.  But she can't afford to work with him and handle him for free - she barely has time for all the horses we all pay her to train.  Star and I are worried that the older he gets, the harder it will be for him to be handled and we don't want him to get any bigger and get dangerous and end up with no one wanting him and having to send him to auction (ie: bought by the Canadian slaughter houses because no one wants a full-grown horse that can't be handled).

Ironically, I said I felt safer handling Bogo than his mom because when he breaks away and panics he run wildly (and without paying attention to where he's going) to his mom and I don't want to get run over.  Whereas if I'm handling him I can focus on him and stay out of his way.  And Star seems better at avoiding danger than I am - she has a lot more horse experience than I do.  So, I asked her to take the hard task of holding mom.  When we left the stall Bogo did really well (his times being lead by Trainer K. obviously are paying off).  He got a little excited about being near the pastures so we let him and his mom out in an empty pasture to play for a little bit and Star kept an eye on them to make sure Bogo wouldn't escape.  When it was time to bring them in Bogo had obviously not had what he thought was enough time outside playing (he really doesn't get any time really to be in a big pasture and run around because he breaks through fences and his owner doesn't have time to come out and let him run while keeping an eye out on him).  So, I walked up to him to put the lead rope on and he scooted backward just as I was about to clip it on and to my surprise reared up and struck out at me with his front legs.  My instinctual reaction was to snap, "Oh! That is so not ok!" and smacked him as hard as I could in the chest with the lead rope while he was still in the air.  He made a funny grunting, squeeling sound that sounded distinctly like "Oh shit!" and scurried to the other side of his mom and tried to hide his head under her belly.  Star just reached around and grabbed his halter and held onto him until I came around and clipped the lead rope on.  Then he was very sorry and polite (or as polite as a baby can be) after that.  I was impressed with him that when he tried to break away and rush the gate, I was able to ask him to back up and he did.  He would walk a few steps and then try to bolt ahead, but because I was holding the lead rope it would turn his head as he bolted so he'd try to circle, but each time I just pushed him back over to my side behind me and he complied - he just looked very confused.  But I could see the gears working in his baby head as he was trying to figure out the cause and effect.  I think he's a smart boy and a very good horse - he just needs someone to work with him every day and handle him a lot more.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Driving mini's, killing fish and heat

It's hotter than usual around our area right now.  For us hotter than usual is in the mid 90's.  It's not too bad, especially when you have central air (urgh - I feel so guilty about that but hey, the previous owners of the house put it in so why not use it those two weeks out of the year?) but it makes it hard to do some things.  Like work in the garden in the sun if you're say me - who grew up here and my body thinks weather in the 80's is hot.  It also makes it hard to work the horses because they too are from here and their bodies can't handle working in the heat because they're Pacific NW horses and they aren't acclimated to it.  So, some of my outdoor projects and cleaning the garage type projects are on hold until the temperatures get back down into the 80's.

But with the hot weather comes the desire to "do more fun stuff".  So Sunday we took the girl fishing at a farm up the street that has two big stocked ponds with trout.  They aren't horribly over stocked like I've seen some, but enough so that you're pretty sure to catch a fish.  In fact, my daughter caught three in a short period of time.  I think that may have been an anomaly though because other kids weren't catching any and her BFF only caught one - even after we'd cut our daughter off and said three trout was by far enough for us.  As it turned out, the guy who owns the farm apparently does not kill the fish for you so while everyone was standing there looking horrified I took the the task of trying to get the hook out of the fishes mouth - which was a big catastrophe for the first one and I had to ask the farm owner for help.  Then I was the one elected by default (as in no one else wanted to do it) to kill the fish.  I felt kind of bad for him but I also wanted to put him out of his misery so he didn't die a slow agonizing death suffering.  It took me about eight wacks on the head before it killed him.

The second fish I was a little better at killing and it went faster but I still said, "I'm sorry, Buddy. Thank you for providing us with a meal," and felt sad.  The when my daughter's BFF caught a fish her dad was having trouble getting the hook out so I helped him do it, then he said, "Since you seem to be so good at it I'll just let you kill him," to which I said, "I'm not very good at it," and he said, "No, no, please. I insist.  You seem to be enjoying it," to which I said, "I'm not enjoying it," and he said, "Oh sure you are ..." to which I said, "Fine. But I'm telling your wife I had to kill your daughter's fish for you!"  I'm kind of glad he didn't do it because this trout was 18 inches long and had a really big head and wasn't even phased the first two times I wacked him on the head, so the third time I hit him so hard that it killed him instantly and blood flew out of his mouth and splattered all over the inside of the white bucket.  That's when I decided that I was screwed and it looked like I had a long future ahead of me of being a vegetarian.

The owner of the farm did offer his services for cleaning the fish - which was good because I haven't helped someone clean a fish since I was in 4th grade and couldn't remember how.  My daughter stood up on an upside down bucket so she would be right there to see what he was doing.  He made it look really easy - cut the fish open and scoop out the cuts all in one graceful scoop.  I know when I try to do that it is not going to go even remotely like that.  Then he told my daughter which organs were which and then showed her how if you poke at the heart it still beats.  While he was cleaning our fish a little boy came up and said he'd been trying for a long time and couldn't catch any fish at all and what was he doing wrong? So the farm owner cut off a piece of fish guts and held it out to the little boy on the end of his knife and said, "Here, put this on your hook and you'll have one in a split second!" To which I said, "Fish guts? They'll eat their own kind's guts?" and he said, "Oh yeah, they smell blood and they pile on it like vultures. They'll eat anything, especially each other."  To which I muttered, "So they're cannibals.  That's disgusting.  Phwew! Thank god I don't have to feel bad about eating them! I don't have to be a vegetarian after all!"

And speaking of things that people make look easy and go terribly wrong when a person like me who has no idea what they're doing tries it ... I learned a little about driving mini's the other day.  When I say "driving mini's" I mean walking behind a miniature horse with long reins like you are driving in a cart with them (only without a cart yet because you don't use a cart until you and them are well trained).  My friend, Star took my favorite little mini-stallion, Rex, out for his first training session on long reins with a surcingle and halter.  It looked so easy - or at least easy if you already know how to ride a horse.  How different could it be?  So I asked Star if I could try and she handed me the reins and said, "Hold them just like in dressage" and next thing you know Rex is spinning and bucking and freaking out.  While he's dragging me by the long reins across the arena, Trainer Jim (a new trainer at our barn who was actually Trainer K.'s trainer in the past) yelled out, "Star - oh Star - could you do something for me?"  Then he said "Ask --- to give you back the reins for a second, ok?"  So I handed them to Star and Trainer Jim said, "Now, don't give them back to her again.  That is a recipe for disaster!"  It was seriously as bad as if you had put a person who'd never ridden a horse before on the back of a horse who had never been started under saddle.  I had no idea that driving could go so wrong.  I seriously thought, if I can ride and work with a horse on the ground why couldn't I just instantly know how to drive a horse? But it doesn't work like that - there is a lot to it that is complex and isn't readily apparent.  Much like riding.  So, now I have a new thing I want to learn.

Unfortunately for Star she had a family emergency today so I took her horses in and out of turn-out for her and fed them lunch.  Rex was a perfect gentleman as always but I had some trouble with Sonny.  He's her Arab that broke down the arena gate a couple weeks ago when he panicked so badly and tried to jump it and didn't make it over.  He decided when it was time to come in from the pasture that he wouldn't let me put his halter on.  So, after a few minutes of trying I said, "Fine, stay out here until last!" which he hates because it makes him panic to be the last one out at pasture.  But when I came back from him after the other horses were back in the barn he was not only not letting me put the halter on but was now panicked on top of it.  I was trying to ascertain whether the not letting me put the halter on was fear or being a stubborn jerk.  It appeared to be a bit of a mixture of both.  I tried a couple times and he whipped his head away and scooted across the paddock away from me.  So I walked around next to him for a minute or so, dangling the lead rope trying to figure out how I could get that around his neck so I could convince him to hold still long enough to get the halter on.  I thought I could toss it and make it over his neck - and I know him well enough to know that if he had the lead rope over his neck that he is well trained enough he would stand still because that is what you do when there's something rope or rein like on your neck.  Unfortunately, I am not a cowgirl and the lead rope just flew up in the air and scared him and went no where near landing over his neck.  So he went and stood in the corner with his face against the corner of the fence and I was able to walk right up to him and put the halter around his neck.  I led him away from the gate a little ways, then slowly was able to get the halter off his neck and over his nose and then he was a perfect gentleman all the way back to the barn.  I have no idea what changed that he gave in but I'm glad it did.

I had a good ride on Toad during training today.  We worked on my steering and her listening to my steering and getting her to listen to my leg.  I was a lot calmer today riding her although I was still in hyper-alert mode and seeing and hearing everything that might make her spook - apparently spooking myself way more than she was going to spook.  I have developed my own fear of going by the big open arena gate at the parking lot end of the arena because that's where she spooked and I fell off.  So, we rode by there only once today right on the rail, most of the time I turned her a few feet before the wall.  The one time we rode by a breeze came through and I felt her sides start to twitch and her whole body tense up.  So baby steps for me.  Usually it is the horses scared of that big open side of the arena but then I'm pretty sure I'm kind of a Thoroughbred myself.  So maybe calmer is not the right word - but more confident with her.  I felt more confident about giving her instructions and insisting on her listening than I have in the past.  And it worked well.  She let out some nice "starting to relax" or at least "resigning to listening to me" sighs which she doesn't always do for me.  Once again, I felt like today was another positive step in the bond that's being built between us.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Unpleasant life lesson

Last night in what seemed out of the blue, one of the girls who boards her horse at our barn had her horse die last night.  It was really shocking and scary to think that a horse I had just seen in the morning who seemed fine and had no health issues would be dead the next morning.  I can't even imagine how devastated the girl is.  I don't know her well at her but I would see her and her horse around the barn.  He coliced so badly last night that he had to be put down.  So when we got to the barn this morning there was a dead horse covered with a tarp in the parking lot - which is a heartbreaking sight.

I had to bring my daughter and her friend with me to the barn because we were going to a going-away party for one of their friends after Toad's training.  I explained to them that Shamus had died and his body was in the parking lot under a tarp and that they weren't to touch it.  When I explained to my daughter about him dying last night I didn't know what to expect her reaction to be.  But after explaining she would see his body under a tarp and a truck would come to take his body away and she was to stay in the office while the truck was there, she was silent for a moment and said, "I feel really sad."  I said I felt the same way. 

Horses are so delicate! I couldn't help but feel that fear of "what if it had been Toad?"  I think it is more important to me that she doesn't suffer and I was relieved to hear that Shamus was put down in order to end his suffering so he didn't die on his own from the colic.  Meanwhile it is a reminder to value every moment I have with my pets because they won't be here forever.  And even though it was a tragic way to learn it, I think it was good timing that my daughter and friend were scheduled to come to the barn with me to deal with the situation. 

Toad got to be turned out with Misty in the front pasture today so there was lots of shadowing Misty everywhere.  She really likes to touch other horses - as in rub her face on them.  Misty doesn't seem to mind at all so they are a good pair together.  They'll even stand together and eat from the same pile of hay very peacefully and happily.  It's almost like they're both saying, "Do you have enough? Am I in your way? Here - you can have some of mine."

I got Toad started on the lunge line so Trainer K. could take Shamus's shoes off and I think she clipped her forelock for his owner.  She asked who would help her who wasn't squeamish and I said I would if she needed me too but luckily another one of our friends said she would so I could work with my horse.  I wasn't so worried about being squeamish as I would've probably started crying if I helped her hold his feet to take the shows off.  The girls wanted to watch the truck load his body in but Trainer K. said no, under no circumstances could they watch.  When I asked her to explain to me how they did that and why they couldn't watch, she explained how they do it and it didn't sound gross at all to me, it sounded sad.  I think if I had watched I would've ended up in a heap on the ground crying my eyes out.  I almost started crying just hearing about it.    And to make matters worse my friend's horse, Gemini is sick with something which worries me.  The vet is hoping it is just a virus so fingers crossed.  Gemini was very sheltered and didn't see a lot of horses where he was a baby and we just got a new horse in the barn across the hall from him (and next door to Toad) so he may have picked up something that the new horse was inadvertantly carrying.  Toad is fine but then she lived at Emerald Down when she was young and there are literally 1,000 horses there.  So she's like a baby in daycare - she's been exposed to everything!

Speaking of Toad she did great in our short ride today.  I only rode her for about twenty minutes and we had just had a great trot where I literally had that moment of feeling like we were dancing in perfect rhythm, when one of our friends stopped by the arena door to say the rendering truck had arrived.  Trainer K. and I had agreed that I wouldn't ride when they got there because of the strange noises and such.  Plus, most of the horses were already pretty tense because they knew something tragic had happened. And as it was I wasn't feeling very confident myself - between having a cold and feeling shaken up about Shamus.  So, I'm glad we ended on a good note.  And it was a REALLY good note for us.  I'm really liking this ride Toad three times a week thing.  It's especially good for me because I lost a lot of confidence about riding her when I fell of a couple months ago and I need to get that confidence back.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Toad and slugs

I am losing my garden battle with slugs when it comes to my lettuce.  Or I guess now I should say I've lost because the lettuce starts are all gone.  I tried putting copper tape around the top of the raised beds and used coffee grounds around the plants and that didn't help with the lettuce.  It kept them away from my pumpkin starts though and now those are huge plants.  I'm going to have to do some more research to come up with more ammunition against those damn things.

My daughter had her riding lesson in the morning and although I spent half of it sitting on the mounting block with my head in my hands rubbing my face around where my sinuses are, I did watch the other half of it. Especially the part where she cantered on the lunge line for the first time even though she was very scared! I was so proud of her and Trainer K. really gave her the courage to do it! She looked really good to - sitting up straight and balanced.

Then I had Toad training and she did well.  I felt so sick and not-myself I didn't want to ride her but Trainer K. said I need to start being the one who rides her every training now because it's been a year, she's gotten a lot better and she needs to become more my horse under saddle - right now she is Trainer K.'s horse under saddle because she's the main one riding her and now it's time to change that.  So, three times a week now I'm going to be riding her in training and hopefully within a couple months I'll be riding her without supervision too.  It's a challenge for me to ride a young high-strung sorta spooky horse! And it will improve my riding ability dramatically I'm sure over time. What's great is that I'm learning what to do when she starts to get scared and once I've had plenty of practice and that becomes second nature I will be a lot safer on any horse.

I did tell Trainer K. yesterday I needed to be "babysat" though. I just wasn't up to thinking on my feet and handling anything between lack-of-sleep, nasty cold and that buzzing cold medicine feeling.  But we did well.  I rode her without a dressage whip again and she actually listened to my other aids and to my leg.  The big problem we run into that I've had to resort to a tap with the dressage whip to get her attention is starting out either at a walk or moving into a trot, and not going into the middle.  We didn't trot yesterday because I wasn't up for it but she did walk on just fine every time I asked.  And a couple times she decided that she was just going to walk right into the middle instead of staying on the rail and I was able to correct her without the dressage whip.  And a couple times I don't know what she was thinking, I think she just wanted to go crawl into Trainer K's lap because she went straight toward her and I was able to correct her without the dressage whip, just by steering. Six months ago she would not listen to steering and I'd have to tap her with the whip before she'd finally listen to move back on the rail (or not run over Trainer K).

We did have one close call when Trainer J. was bringing a stallion down the aisle on her side and he freaked out and started dancing right next to the arena door and Trainer J. was yelling at him and he was banging around.  Trainer K. told me to stop and turn Toad so she could see what was going on and shorten the reins and then she came over and stood next to us to hold onto the reins also.  Right before Trainer K. got there Toad was starting to shuffle her feet in fear and throw her head and I wasn't feeling well so I was glad Trainer K. was right there.  It bothered me though that once we got across the arena Toad didn't want to leave Trainer K.'s side.  Of course she feels safer with her because she's so much more confident and experienced, but it reminded me that I need to keep working hard to build my confidence and to form that bond with her too where I make her feel safe.

We're definitely getting there on the ground, just not under saddle yet.   When she freaks out when I'm leading her on our walks and tries to run off and spins and rears I've gotten to the point where I am calm and just firmly and gently work to get her behind me and to stand still enough so I can get her calmed down.  We're starting to understand and trust each other.  I know when she's doing that she is aware of where I am and is not as likely to run me over but more likely to run away from me (although I do stay constantly aware to get out of her way just in case) and she does come down off her panic and reconnect with me as opposed to just staying off in panicky-la-la-land.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Evil-free children's clothing

Some neighbors tipped me off that Eastside thrift stores are pretty great so I took my daughter shopping at one in Kirkland last week - the first time I'd been in a thrift store in years - and my neighbor's were right.  They had some wonderful clothing for kids and adults.  I'm thinking for the sake of saving money that may have to be our place for back-to-school shopping.  Especially because I'm not making quite enough per month with my one job just to make ends meet.  And no, I don't have my second job anymore.  That died with a pop and fizzle within a week.  Anyway, we bought some cute clothes from designer labels I wouldn't actually buy because the companies seem kind of evil to me.  Of course, at this point all clothes not made by someone in our neighbor are kind of evil because everyone seems to use sweat shops no matter who they are.

My husband has been encouraging me to listen more to my intuition when I get the "crazy vibe" from people.  I get all sorts of senses from people when I meet them ranging from "really nice and grounded" to "control freak/trust issues so approach slowly" to "boundary issues so stay at arm's length" to "must be on the autism spectrum" to "super crazy - stay away!!!"  I am generally 98% right with my first intuition but my problem is that with the "super crazy - stay away!!!" I always feel guilty for thinking that and then tell myself I'm being paranoid and must be projecting someone from my past onto that person.  But no - it always turns out I should've listened to my intuition.  Like with our crazy neighbor who spews profanities at me.  Who thankfully I have not seen for a month and hopefully he will move soon so it will no longer be an issue.

Anyway, the vibe I got off my second employer was "so stupid and helpless she needs a keeper".  My husband has now informed me that this is a bad vibe and must be treated the same way as "super crazy" as in "stay away!!!"  So, when I find myself thinking that an employer  needs me because she seems helpless and scattered I should run far away.  At least I stood up for myself which is kind of new for me in regard to employment.  Maybe I had good practice because the last few years I've worked for really nice, highly functional people so I never had to make that decision of "should I stand up for myself and lose my job or cower to keep my job?"  Anyway,  she was being very rude and implying that I was lying and what was an honest misunderstanding on both our parts was actually me being a bad employee and lying to cover it up so I straight out told her that wasn't ok with me.  She threw out the "do it my way or you're fired" statement "If this isn't going to work out tell me now!" and I surprised myself by instead of wallowing and backing down to keep a job I said what I really thought which was, "No, this is not going to work out," to which she snapped "Fine, good luck to you!" and hung up on me.  I immediately felt guilty like I did something wrong, but after touching base with my husband and some friends I was reminded that I don't need to be treated poorly for a job.  Especially a job that I cut the employer slack and let them pay me way less than what I'm normally paid just because I wanted to help.  Weird for me though to stand up for myself where work is concerned.  Still getting used to that.  I'm going to try to just stick with my one job and see if I can make ends meet with the fewer hours than I had at my old office job.

In other news, I have a cold and it's very hot out.  Not a good combination.  So, we broke down and turned on the air conditioner.

Toad had another "first" yesterday.  She had a chiropractor appointment just to keep her loose and not get too sore with all her work.  It was during lunch time and the barn was busy so she was distracted and ancy.  But we decided to try one needle for acupuncture just to see how she handles it.  A couple months ago when she was really sore we tried to do acupuncture to help her with the pain she was in but Dr. Penny barely got to the needle in and she convulsed her body and shot both her back feet out because it freaked her out so badly.  This time I stood with her and massaged her neck and talked softly to her (which wouldn't have worked last time) and it actually worked and Dr. Penny got the needle in.  After it was in I stopped massaging her neck and she started to freak so I started massaging her again and she relaxed.  After a few more minutes she had relaxed enough that I could stop massaging her and she was still able to keep the needle in for the whole time and stay relaxed.  I was really proud of her! I was especially glad because acupuncture can be a powerful modality for pain relief in sore muscles in horses and I'm glad to know it is an available one to us now.