Saturday, October 25, 2014

Pay Attention, Human

If you've tuned in before, you may have done some reading on my thoughts regarding the risks of assumptions with horses.  Of course, I'm so cleverly human that I can write a long cogent blog post on the issue and then completely disregard my own advice and thoughts and be freshly surprised at the shenanigans of horses thought to be Something They Maybe Aren't (Yet?).

Today we revisit the land of assumption-overturning Rushcreeks, but instead of focusing on Scrappy, this is about young missus Rushcreek Aurora, she of the freckled blaze face, who shares my name--and apparently my independent streak and cool planning brain. Aurora arrived here in April at 9 months old with minimal handling. From the moment she marched off the transport trailer and coolly started grazing I knew I had a different sort of filly on my hands. It's understandable that a young horse in a new setting may glance askance at it's new human, be nervous, maybe take some time to settle in. What was fascinating about Rory was that as a 9 month old, suddenly 1500 miles from her birthplace, she seemed to assess her paddock, the horses on either side of her, and that was that. There was simply no drama. Also remarkable to me was the fact that she had zero interest in me *at all* for the first few days. Having raised the ever affectionate and attention demanding Sheza, this was some cool treatment from filly #2, but we're all individuals, and fair enough! 
 As Rory gained weight, shed out, and generally came into her own over the next few months, I found her detachment from humans still a bit head-tilting, but was *thrilled* with her steady, non dramatic approach to, well, everything. Sheza has put me through the OhMyStarsICouldn'tPossibly! Show on catching, haltering, feet handling, haltering, hoof trimming, bathing, haltering, tying, blankets, the list goes on (and yes she really did revert to un-catchable that many times in her wee youth). The resistance doesn't necessarily run deep in her, but the Show is *always* there, and learning how to buy a ticket for the ride but not react back and jump off in fear/frustration has been a truly invaluable learning experience for me over the last few years. 

Cue Rory, who's one and only catch/halter issue was the first catch after her arrival, consisting of 25 minutes of relaxed trotting around and a final and very obvious stop, sigh, Whatever, Do your thing Human. With the exception of spray bottles, that final attitude has held on everything I have presented her with. On hand walks she is bold and inquisitive, and when presented with confounding moments like hoses being turned on or Weird Human Behavior, she boldly stares and often marches up to whatever the offending item is, human or otherwise. 
Maybe you can see how I could get lulled into a false sense of security with my little namesake. Even as Rory tried on a half assed version of being spooky from hanging around Sheza, Sheza suddenly became grudgingly bolder about items and behavior that made her want to run away in grand terror--don't get me wrong, she still embraces her true nature, as evidenced by Rory and I wearing our rubber mash pan hats together in the field while Sheza orbited us in disbelief. But the Rushcreek mellow was rubbing off on us all and I started assuming I had myself a real quiet nice little obedient filly on my hands.
In Mid July, I moved Rory into her own pasture, with adjoining fence lines to Desire and Blaze. Much like her human counterpart who once manipulated grade school seating charts to her liking, Rory re-seated herself into Desire's pasture one morning, giving herself a grand hind leg scrape in the process. I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt that she was itching on the fence, panicked, and somehow ended up over into the next paddock, but forensic evidence and the measured look in this filly's eye as she trotted experimental rushes at the fence line in the following days showed me that it was an entirely calculated effort. The hot fence went higher, and hotter. We moved on.
Recently, Mel and I discussed how Rory's outwardly quiet and amiable attitude may allow her to get away with more than blowy Sheza does, and the potential for her to present me with new challenges with the very different head on her shoulders. Oh Mel, we are so wise! 

step sisters in mischief
Yesterday I had a chance to do a quick hill workout from home on Scrappy, which was drama in and of itself. Long story short we got surrounded on a paved public road by 300+ lbs of aggressive dogs and in the seconds after I'd thrown everything I had at them and was panic-hoping Scrappy would start kicking, the owner finally called them off and apologized (gee, thanks). Mostly it was a salvageable ride, especially the part where Scrappy was a shit about heading home so he had to turn and trot back up the big hill--and he did so, without flagging! I actually got the impression I've been building some fitness in the mellow fellow.
Anyway I'd  gotten home, simmered down from my dog attack/hill ride and was distributing mashes back home, fillies last. I left their gate cracked behind me as I do, and with the assumption they'd eagerly be at my shoulder for the mashes as usual, started down the hill to their mash spot, only I heard rapid hoofbeats going the *other* way and turned to see Rory on a direct beeline across the yard, ducking the barely visible hot wire, and straight out the open gate toward the county road, with a car coming. I was already running as this unfolded but didn't have a shot at cutting Rory off before she got the road until Sheza's obvious uncertainty at this behavior--she stayed in the barnyard as Rory darted for the road--made Rory pause long enough for me to spring past her and shoo her back up the driveway. We have an auto gate and it would take too long to dismantle it to close it manually with the determined escape filly so all 3 of were in a run for the cross tie stalls--they because it's where the goodies are, I because it's where the gate clicker was. The three of reached it at approximately the same time, I snatched up the clicker, and we all three wheeled and had a dead heat foot race back toward the now (slooowwwwllyyy) closing gateway. I haven't run that hard since high school track and I did in fact beat them down there. My husband and his friend arrived around the corner in time to shoo Rory back in the pasture (Sheza was clearly confused and wanted to be haltered immediately) and I dumped their mashes out to the chickens in a fine fuming redhead rage. 

the culprits and the gate
The escape was clearly Rory's idea, and while Sheza bucked and goofed and headed right for her buddies as I would expect a newly minted young escapee to, Rory made a direct and concerted effort to get out the front gate, a gate she'd seen Scrappy and I ride out from and back to not long before. She also showed no concern that Sheza was haltered and led back to the pasture, deciding instead to adventure out alone in the yard until my husband and his friend shooed her back the right way. 

I believe the young miss Aurora has put me on notice: Be Lax and Beware. I see a similar streak in Scrappy in that if you give him an inch (of sympathy, say) he'll take a mile (my god, yes, I AM dying, we must quit immediately). Scrappy however has a strong sense of self preservation, and that's something that I'm hoping Rory might embrace a bit more in the future.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Catching Up

 The horses have been enjoying the cooler temperatures lately, and their human has too. 50s at night, high near 80 in the day, you couldn't ask for better riding weather. I've mostly been busy with other areas of life lately but I'm never too busy to appreciate the beauty in my pastures.

What you get when you call "Fillies!" around here
Sheza doing evening hot laps
 Rory is growing up!
The weenies love the autumn sunshine too
An evening walk with my girls. Pretty true height comparison over the rumps
<3 My girls <3
 After a busy two weeks with no riding, I saw some daylight and scheduled a ride with Mel last Thursday. She wasn't hauling her own horse out due to her youngster's Pigeon Fever so I hauled my boys Blaze and Scrappy for us to ride.
We put Mel's Freeform Classic and old Equipedic pad on Scrappy and my Sensation and Skito on Blaze, and had a *really fun* 13 mile ride. The trails had a few slicks spots leftover from the rain in the areas of the trail the sunlight didn't penetrate strongly; we rode conservatively on the turtle geldings but both boys did little hind hoof slips on downhills. Scrappy's was minor and nothing resulted, while Blaze loaded stiffly into the trailer after the ride.

 And unloaded even more stiffly at home.

The big red light really came on when he didn't roll immediately upon being put back in his paddock, since Blaze *always* rolls, especially after being drippy. He only ate about half his mash. About this time my mom was due to be pulling up for a weekend visit, and I was busy staring at my non-rolled, non mash eating gelding who was standing very still with his head low, looking a bit glazed over, to be honest. Blaze is a quiet gelding who just went 13 miles, but this was different. While metabolic concerns flashed in my head, I thought of the hind slip I'd seen too, and felt him all over. There was nothing to be detected on his legs and he gave me both hind legs and flexed them seemingly fine. Then as he half heartedly dipped his head at flies on his front legs I could hear a faint popping sound each time he went left or right. Feeling along his neck about midway down I came upon tightly knotted muscle on both sides, with 2 specific knots on the left side. I have a chiropractor out fairly regularly but am no expert on the subject, however I do know what an improperly knotted muscle feels like and what may feel good to relieve it, so I went to work on his neck while my husband gently massaged his rump. By this time my mom had arrived and had heard the neck pops I keyed on from where she stood outside the shed. In maybe two minutes of working his neck and rump gently Blaze licked and chewed and heaved some big sighs, and that glazed over stillness left him. He was certainly still stiff but the alarming stillness was gone and he finished his mash, wandered over for a drink, and was all nickers for dinner. I talked to Mel that night and she had felt a left front slip while I had a seen a right hind slip, so probably both had happened and Blaze had tweaked himself properly. He was himself but still not rolling Friday, then cantered up his hill and gave a half assed roll Saturday. Today, he had a thorough roll and seems quite himself, but my chiropractor will be here tomorrow afternoon just to be sure.
Oh, and if that wasn't unexpected drama enough? The Freeform with old Equipedic that I tried same day left Scrappy sore over his loins after those 13 miles. My working theory is that the padding-free Freeform and squashed down old inserts in the Equipedic=nowhere near enough padding for Scrappy? My Sensation has 3 layers of insert padding in the saddle itself plus the brand new firm inserts in the Skito, and he hasn't been sore backed at all in it up to 18 miles riding. I'll have to do another ride in a Freeform with a better pad at some point to test that theory, but meanwhile have 50s coming up in a month or so and will probably just stick with the Sensation.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Autumn Trails and Silly Fillies

I really know that autumn has come when I start riding all of my horses--a lot! Don't get me wrong, I ride in every season, and in theory mean to pursue endurance each and every calendar year, but like life, that always takes a slightly different form. As a redhead with heat issues I regulate my summer riding somewhat, and in general I don't ride nearly as many conditioning miles as I used to when I first got into endurance. Good thing probably because if I tried to I think my Rushcreek Tracer (Scrappydoo, to you) would mutiny altogether. As it is the poor bugger went almost 30 miles this week! In fact with buddy N's assistance, all three of my saddle steeds saw the trail this week, lucky critters.

First there was Scrappy and Sheza:
And then Scrappy and Blaze:
N brought her Freeform Liberty and I rode in it on Blaze that day-- and it was magical! The first saddle that I ever felt that "aha, this is my seat's happy place" moment with was the Specialized Trailmaster that I bought right off the horse in Utah a few years ago--but now that I've ridden the Freeform Liberty I want to sell or trade one of my saddles (Frank Baines or Trailmaster) and get a Liberty, stat! Even as absurdly wide as Blaze is, it was SO comfortable, and he moved out fabulously. For whatever reason I could actually SIT his ridiculous trot somewhat too--not the extended one, god no, but at least the slower pace. Blaze is a kidney pounder, the type that tosses you nearly a foot out of the saddle, forcing you to post or more ideally 2 pt, so sitting anything is a bit unheard of on him.  If anyone has a 17.5 or 18" Freeform Liberty they want to sell or trade, let me know! 

Scrappy sleeping off that 6 mile ride..Blaze in the Freeform

Meanwhile, in Filly land....

(Step) sisters have such beautiful relationships..

 "I HATE YOU!"

...3 minutes later....

"I LOVE YOU!"
Sheza working the autumn sunlight.. 3 1/2 years of gorgeous.. 
Rory ever curious, Sheza sulking a bit
she knows she's the Original filly girl! 
Rory @ 15 months and 13 hh...her butt might be more like 14.1...
Yep that rump is almost as high as Sheza' s-- just no other body part. Ah, babes! 
Last but not least, I FINALLY managed to get in my 15 mile (actually 16.5, ah thank you) ride with Scrappy this morning. I've meant pretty much all of the last rides not also involving Sheza to be 15 mile rides, except due to smoke or tack or changes of plans they've fallen way short. With 20 Mule Team 100 in my sights at the end of February but first hopefully a 50 or two coming up in November, I really need to be testing my tack on longer rides and making sure that Scrap and I are properly prepared.

someone on FB asked if he was dirty or  if that was all just "Scrappy markings" 
 I'm going with the latter!  That's really rather clean for him..
 you want to go how many miles?
 lovely quiet morning on the trails
 weary traveler sees the trailer
 While we did manage to rip a boot shell off the captivator after a water crossing/uphill combo, we otherwise had a solid (warm!) conditioning ride, finishing with a happy back and lovely even sweat mark at the end. Phew. Onward and upward!