Tuesday, June 30, 2009

tuesday's drama

Somehow, even knowing our wacky feline crew, it's just a bit startling to walk up the stairs and see THIS looking at you:

Don't worry. We opened the window and let him in. :)

Monday, June 29, 2009

the drama starts early on November Hill

Thanks to my amazing son, who heard me shrieking that Dickens was facing down another snake and ran outside with my camera, we actually have good photos of the early morning drama here on November Hill.

I was on my way to the bathroom when I glanced out the bedroom window and saw Dickens stalking. It took a moment to see the snake, which was quite successfully camouflaged as the root of a tree.

I realized it wasn't and then saw it moving oddly - it turned out the snake had a bird, which appeared to have been previously dead, as it was covered in yellow jackets, flies, and one inchworm!

The snake coiled around its meal, too distracted by the yellow jackets to get into it with a cat-turned-mongoose.

The approach of my son caused the snake to give up the meal and head for the holly tree, with Dickens carefully tracking its every move.

It became apparent as the snake moved that it had already eaten! Don't forget you can click on the photos to enlarge them, if you want to see the finer details of this unfolding episode. :)

I don't think this is the same snake from a few weeks ago, as the previous one had an entirely white belly.

Dickens was riveted to the tree.

I held my breath and hoped he wouldn't try to climb up and capture the snake in mid-climb.

By the time the snake got to a place of safety, where presumably it would digest that big meal, Dickens had settled in to monitor the situation.

We didn't manage to capture it in a photograph, but a few moments later, he was joined by fellow comrade-in-snake-hunting, Mystical Kit. The two laid themselves out in the shade, like twin guardians, and kept their collective eyes on the tree.

I suspect we're in for an exciting week if Monday morning has started out with such a bang.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

thank you netflix "watch it now"

With sick kids and tired parents and all our regular Netflix queue DVDs in transit, we took full advantage of Netflix's nifty "watch it now" feature over the past few days.

Last night we watched I Capture the Castle and The Adventures of Milo and Otis. I highly recommend both.

Today my first disk of the next-to-last season of McLeod's Daughters arrived in the mailbox and I spent the heat of the day watching ALL FOUR episodes in a row. There's just something about that show that grabs hold and doesn't turn loose.

I think I might watch The English Patient tonight.

So far, so good. Mom is not yet sick!

Friday, June 26, 2009

battling heat and bugs (not the usual kind)

It's not THAT hot, but we haven't had rain in a week and it's dry, dusty, and low 90s out. Definitely a "walk straight from the laundry room to the shower" when I come in from the barn day.

I've realized this summer that feeding wet has been a real blessing with the horses and donkeys. They all get breakfast tubs with their cool (this time of year) "soup," Salina gets another tub around 2 p.m. and again at 6, and they all get dinner tubs in the evening. It's reassuring to know they're getting water plugged in all through the day.

I've been rinsing hay in the hay nets lately and especially in this hot dry weather, the hay seems absolutely luscious wet. They seem to love it, and I figure it's one more little piece of beating the heat and making sure everyone gets water into their bodies.

We are fighting bugs. Not the flies, although of course that is an endless battle. (the double shipment of 30,000 fly predators 3 weeks ago with another double shipment on the way right now has done a lot to decrease the population!)

What we're fighting as of 24 hours ago is either a nasty summer cold or a flu. Husband has been feeling off the past two days and has worked from home. Daughter and son woke up yesterday with sore throats which have shifted to congestion and general yuck today.

A quick trip to the grocery store helped stock the shelves with the regular weapons:

tissues with lotion

ginger root


fruit popsicles


soup (I have one container of turkey soup in the freezer but other than heating that up I'm not really in the mood to make homemade soups mid-summer!)

vitamin C

We have various and assorted herbal teas, local honey, and my trusty homeopathic kit, so hopefully this will be a short, sweet battle for all of us.

I'm not yet having symptoms but still treating myself with the same vitamin C, ginger root tea, etc. so that hopefully I can either miss this one or have a mild version.

If sweating works to flush the system I should be just fine. :)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

the six-year old psychs out the boss mare

Last night we decided to give the geldings some time in our front yard. They love grazing there, and we love having them right by the front porch. My husband went out to shift things so that Salina and the donkeys could have the big barnyard while the geldings came down front.

It didn't exactly work that way.

The donkeys got wind of what was happening and came running. That, of course, triggered Salina to come running, and there they were, in the front yard grazing away. We decided to just let all of them down, which is a rare occurrence.

Keil Bay sauntered down and took his position in the midst of the grass. Cody and the pony came cantering down the grass paddock, only to be stopped cold in their tracks right at the "gateway" to the front yard.

Salina had decided she only wanted her "immediate" family down front, so she parked herself in the grass just inside the gate and turned her rear to Cody and the pony.

The pony decided to live in the moment, and just graze where he was, since the grass paddock does in fact have grass too.

But Cody (the six year old) became obsessed with trying to sneak past Salina. He got behind the holly tree and took a sneaky step toward the gate. She couldn't possibly have seen him, but she whipped her head around and flagged him back.

He went around the other way. Again, when he got one step too close to the gate, she turned and flagged.

After 3 or 4 times of this, she seemed to get exasperated, much like a mother who has told a child something 4 times with zero effect. She turned and flagged again, once, then two more times for good measure. This triple flagging caused Cody to wheel around and walk a few steps away from the gate.

Salina must have felt she had gotten the message across, because she moved a few feet forward to a new patch of grass. It was about thirty seconds before Cody saw an opening and took it, going from standstill to gallop. He shot right by her and headed all the way down to the furthest corner in front. She looked up and then continued grazing. Too much trouble to go roust him out.

The pony had been watching all this while continuing to eat.

I guess he figured Cody had paved the way, and since Salina hadn't gone ballistic, it was safe for him to follow suit.

A few seconds later, the painted pony dashed through the gate and down front in a flash of brown and white.

After that there was only the sound of serious grass pulling and chewing, and the hard swish of tails and stamping of hooves that screamed "HORSEFLY!"

My husband took a break from his laptop to show off his horsefly-aversion skills. The horses are very good about letting you get the big biters, and will almost always stand patiently while you wait for the fly to land.

Usually if you do this for a few minutes the horseflies get savvy and leave the area.

It was a rare night that they all get to go in front together, and sometimes one or more have to be removed, but last night they were happy to graze in peace.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

it's a pinot evening

Everyone in my household has left me to go to our local community game night, and I've cracked open a bottle of Pinot, watched an episode of McLeod's Daughters, and now I'm heading out to check on the equines, who are presumably out there enjoying the time of day when flies disappear and the temps get low as the sun goes down.

Not to mention the approach of the dinner hour.

To my right is the latest chapter in my "Nutrition as a Therapy" class, titled Muscle, and to my left are the remaining pages in the novel-in-progress. I think tomorrow is the day I shall finish typing in the edits and prepare to send this baby off to my good reader, pull out the magical pony pages, and set to work finishing the first draft.

I'm feeling good after about two weeks of daily yoga. Today's chuckle came when my daughter joined me, and our online yoga instructor told us to "bring our gaze to our third eye." We got the impossible silly giggles, but apparently that's what this particular yoga practice was likely to incite. And it succeeded! If you're hungry for yoga but don't like to leave the house, try Yoga Today. It's a great resource.

For now, I'm off to the barn. There is no telling what is going on out there - this morning my husband found Rafer Johnson in the arena, taking himself what I call "a private moment" while Salina stood steadfast in the back field, refusing to come in until her best buddy was spotted and rescued. (as if he needed it!)

new post over on mystic-lit

I wanted to alert any writers who read here that I just wrote and posted over at my other blog, mystic-lit.

Come on over and add your final edit tips and practices.

Monday, June 22, 2009

much cooler monday

This morning it was much cooler than it has been the last few days, and because there's a slight breeze and alternating cloud cover and sunshine, it feels very much like an early autumn day.

All the horses and the donkeys were noticeably more chipper. Keil Bay chased the geldings out of the stalls while I was making the breakfast tubs, and that kept him busy enough that he didn't stand and bang with impatience at my slowness.

The donkeys rolled the round bale right off the pallets and then Redford proceeded to climb on top. We nipped that little activity in the bud, as I am paranoid about little donkey legs getting hung up in the pallets.

The pony had an actual Jungian scarab beetle in his water bucket, which I admired, carefully dumped, and then it just disappeared. That is probably part of the synchronicity of the sighting, but I had hoped to get a photo.

I'm not sure what is going on with our weather and the season, but I find it interesting that the day after summer solstice feels like fall!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

summer solstice 2009

Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability.
-Sam Keen

Moomintroll showed us how to celebrate the summer solstice in his own special feline way: stay inside, find a comfortable spot, and just let it all hang out.

The cats have been doing all kinds of kooky cat things this week.

Osage (aka Muffine Eloise) was found in the washing machine, nestled on top of the clothes waiting to be laundered. Yesterday she was in the laundry basket.

Keats slithers in and out as needed to maintain the balance between hunting and relaxing.

Dickens was seen flat out in the hay a few days ago, with a big black mare and two miniature donkeys quite literally eating around him.

Mystic appeared at an upstairs window, asking to be let in. Yes, he was on the roof of our house.

Every now and then I walk into the living room and find them all laid flat out like lions on the veldt, and that especially makes me smile.

And in the meantime:

Do what we can, summer will have its flies.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, June 18, 2009

beating the heat on November Hill

Forecast is for 97 today and tomorrow, and knowing the way it seems to work here, the temps will actually be higher by about 4 p.m.

Here's what we're doing to beat the heat:

Ride at night - daughter was out in the arena last night at 10:45 p.m., riding dressage tests on her pony.

Spritz with cold water in a spray bottle. Or take a bucket of cold water and sponge the horses off.

Offer cold hosings during the hottest part of the day. Sometimes I just wait for these hot, hot days to give full baths, since we give them in the shade of the big oak tree in the small barnyard. I end up getting as wet as the horses, and they get clean AND cool at the same time.

Up the loose salt in the feed.

Mix up buckets of Apple A Day electrolyte water for each paddock.

Dampen the fly masks with cool water - some horses like it, some don't.

Hose down the hay in the nets with cold water and let them eat it wet. It's closer to fresh grass in moisture content, and it's cooling.

Turn on the fans, keep the sun out of the barn, and let them go in and out as they feel like it.

Fill up the Corgi pool and play diving for hot dogs. (we learned this game from the annual Corgi picnic we've managed to get to one time!)

Hose down cap with cold water to keep head cool.

Be anal about pulling shades on the sunny side of the house. It's amazing how well this works to keep the house cool.

Anticipate the big sweaty chores and do them before the heat hits. We did shavings two days ago to avoid doing that particular chore on these hottest days.

Would love to hear more suggestions if you have them! Thankfully we'll be back to high 80s/low 90s by Sunday.

dressage detox (reprinted with permission from jme)

It's about time. Riders and trainers have long complained about the decline of horsemanship in general and dressage in particular, especially as concerns competition. In recent years, only the most spectacular, showy performances have been rewarded at the expense of correct dressage and, more importantly, at the expense of the well-being of the horses. The situation is becoming toxic - for horses and riders. It's time to clean house.
Granted things are unlikely to change when these riders are backed by serious money and corporate sponsorships, but we have to try something to bring the standards back up to some meaningful level.
Grey Horse Matters sent me this link from Philippe Karl's website and I thought I'd pass it along to those who might be interested. Philippe Karl is one of the too few truly classical voices out there, and someone I have great respect for as a horseman. Of course, the Petition only addresses the German Equestrian Federation, however, this organization sets the standards to which we are all eventually subject due to its powerful influence on the FEI. A change in the German system might just positively influence the FEI and other national federations, including the USEF and USDF. I have signed the Petition, and I hope you will consider signing too and possibly forwarding to horsey friends or post on your own blog...

Thanks, jme, for allowing me to reprint this. You can go read many excellent articles on horsemanship on jme's blog, Glenshee Equestrian Center.

And don't forget to read the petition and sign if you agree.

Petition: Reforms of the FN rules

To read the Petition and sign, click here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

another rainy day and more random thoughts

I haven't been able to ride yet today due to rain, but the horses seem to be enjoying the break from the heat, and the fields are drinking in the rain as it falls.

My husband called this morning in some distress because when it rains the turtles get active, and he had stopped several times on his way to work to rescue turtles on the road. His distress was over a turtle he was unable to rescue - he stopped, pulled over, and as he was walking out to move the turtle from the other lane to safety, a truck came by and purposely veered out of its path to run over and kill the turtle.

There was not much I could say that made things better. Perhaps the turtle was sick and a quick death was actually a good thing. Maybe the man will have some sort of awakening later today about his hideous behavior. Or maybe my husband will be moved to some new revelation after witnessing such cruelty. It's very hard to make sense of the things people do sometimes, or what ripples the acts might set in motion.

Here on November Hill, I had to smile when I went out to feed breakfast. It's a rainy day and donkeys must have been in dire need of some activity. I found every lead rope that had been hanging in the barn aisle dragged out to the grass paddock. There was a blue one, a green one, a purple one. Three fly masks that had been hanging in the barn aisle had also been taken out and were soaking up the rain. Two brushes were out there as well.

I wish I'd seen if both donkeys were busily cleaning out my barn aisle, or if Redford did it all on his own!

On another note, I have discovered a wonderful online magazine called Horses For Life.

In an interview with Phillipe Karl, he says:

As soon as the horse is giving his mouth and is flexible in the neck, the rider should train a proper extension of the neck, in order to gymnasticise the whole body in the forward movement. But, each time the horse stops giving his mouth, he is saying: “It is too much, I am contracting, and out of balance,….please stop this and restore the right conditions”. When the rider doesn’t care about that, he tries to manage the horse by mediocre means – using force, tight nosebands, running reins, over-flexion etc.

In fact the fundamental thing is: through a lively mouth (understanding, relaxation, balance, attention), bend the neck, extend it, raise it, as the horse needs and according to what you intend to do. This is more important and more difficult than being obsessed by ONE position, supposedly the good one. The official doctrine is that you will create balance by forward movement. [My rebuttal] is that you don’t teach a young child to stand on his legs by forcing him to run.

There are many gems in the interview, and many of the articles are fascinating. So far I haven't done the paid subscription - but there is a fair amount that you can read for free.

Karl calls his training philosophy the "school of lightness" and I found a lovely video that shows a bit of what this means.

I've been doing a lot of reading recently about bridle fit, including tightness of noseband, bit placement, and weight of reins in the hand, and how this applies to creating bend and flexion. Lightness and freedom is what I'm after, and I'm disappointed to say there's a lot of the opposite going on in the dressage world.

Monday, June 15, 2009

finally - shifted the a.m. routine

I've been struggling mightily to get myself up and in a mindset to ride in the a.m. as mornings are the coolest time of day here and will be for the next few months.

It's been harder than I expected. I was feeling slug-like anyway, so last week I took 3 doses of one of my "tune-up" remedies, hoping it would help. It did.

Then I decided to add morning yoga in so I'd get some stretching and moving done before heading out to the barn. Amazingly enough I've been finding good yoga classes free online. You have to Google around and find the ones that might work for level and preference, but it's been great.

This morning, it was much cooler than it's been being and I decided if any time was right to push myself out the back door, this was it.

Keil Bay went into a sort of shock when I walked out with a clean white dressage pad under my arm and put the beet pulp pitcher in the feed room. Cody and the pony saw me setting out saddle and bridle and figured they'd go back out to graze, but Salina stood by the tack/feed room door and gave me the "you are doing this all wrong, are you having some sort of senior moment?" look.

When she realized that wasn't it, she looked mildly disgusted and went out into her paddock.

Keil got over the shock pretty quickly and stood quietly in the stall while I tacked him up. I told him quite plainly that there was to be no hard work today. We both needed to do lots of walking and get ourselves back in gear.

He followed me from stall to arena and I mounted without batting an eye (or fidgeting with the mounting block for 10 minutes!).

One thing that surely made the ride good was the yoga class I happened onto this morning. It was focused on opening the hip joints! I have never done the pigeon pose before, but whoa - that one truly does open the hip angle and stretches things out.

We had a very nice walk session. Keil marched around like a panther after the ride, which is his way of letting me know he likes doing his work for the day and being free to enjoy the remaining 23 or so hours eating, grazing, drinking, sleeping, eating, grazing, etc.

They were all ravenous for the slightly late breakfast tubs, but I've decided until this new routine really kicks in for ME, if breakfast tubs are served a little bit late, so be it.

I got back inside just in time for lunch. Hopefully I can maintain this routine through the summer. I'll report back on how it goes. :)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

horse forums, commitments to our horses, and taking JOY

There's a discussion in process on a horse forum I read having to do with the issue of making a lifetime commitment to the horses we own/ride. The original poster asked for thoughts on this, with her own perspective being that we owe it to our animals to provide that level of commitment. The question wasn't posed in a judgmental way. It was simply asking for discussion on the issue.

I'm sure you can guess where the discussion is going.

A number of folks feel that yes, making a lifetime commitment is a value they hold true. A few more agree, but make the concession that sometimes things happen and we can't live up to our commitments, so we do the best we can finding new, good homes for our horses.

There are a few who point out that horses need jobs and thus need to be sold/traded/given away in order to keep them "happy."

And a few others who feel the rider needs the freedom to own new horses more suited to the rider's increasing skill level and thus can't be expected to "collect" and pay for all the horses ridden and owned at the lower levels.

The most interesting part of the discussion to me (from a psychological point of view, mostly) is that the people responding most vehemently are those who have sold/given away/rehomed horses and feel they are being judged for that.

By my reading of the various comments, no one has judged them. I actually went so far in my own response to state that everyone has different values and perspectives and while I don't agree with the practice of trading horses regularly, I can't project my values onto everyone else.

Several people commented they would keep horses if they owned their own property. Since they don't, they can't. And I made the point that we BOUGHT our property BECAUSE of our feelings about the horses who share our lives. We could never afford to board them for the rest of their lives, so we chose to give up things like family vacations, new furniture, and expensive clothing and cars in order to create a situation that fits our values.

It's fascinating to me that when people are not secure in their own behaviors, and someone else discusses, in a neutral non-judgmental way, their differing practices, the insecure folks turn it into judgment.

Being a psychotherapist, I can't help but think: hey, wait a minute! You're the one judging your very own self! If you feel judged, maybe it's because your actions don't match up with your inner feelings.

Own that and move on.

It's difficult for me to read all the advertisements for "free to a good home" horses. If someone has fallen on hard times and are doing the best they can to relocate their horses, I feel badly for them. On the other hand, if someone has ridden a horse into the ground showing and competing and now the senior horse needs medication, special care, and they want someone else to do that for them, I get angry.

But I come from a viewpoint of seeing the horse as a partner, a family member, and a sentient being who deserves my lifetime commitment.

It's completely alien to me to view a horse as a vehicle for sport or even pleasure, but certainly if used to that end, I'd feel I owed them a loving retirement home, with me. If the horse was such a wonderful partner, how could I part with him?

My husband tells me I should just stay off the forums.

I get some good information on various forums. I also get reminded of how complex and sometimes downright irrational we humans can be.


And then, I get a comment from Sheaffer on my "june" post, that prompts me to go back through my own archives for a quote:

Just for fun, my family invented a religion like the Shakers we called Stillwater. I'm eldress, and we have a big celebration on Midsummer's Eve. It's really a state of mind. Stillwater connotes something very peaceful, you see, life without stress. Nowadays, people are so jeezled up. If they took some chamomile tea and spent more time rocking on the porch in the evening listening to the song of the hermit thrush, they might enjoy life more.

Stillwater believers are very hedonistic. Life is to be enjoyed, not saddled with. Do you know that lovely quotation from Fra Giovanni? He was an old monk from away back who wrote to his patron, 'The gloom of the world is but a shadow; behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. Take joy.' That's the first commandment of the Stillwater religion. Joy is there for the taking.

-Tasha Tudor, from The Private World of Tasha Tudor

I think that's my solution to reading the forums. :)

Take Joy!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

more on our resident black snake

I was checking water troughs this morning and noticed something long and black lying by a tree root in the sun. It was the black snake! As soon as I walked over, it crawled to the nearest tree, slithered up the trunk and in through the wire mesh we have wrapped, and sequestered itself in the "nest" formed by the three tree trunks!

Where is Dickens when you need him? He was nowhere to be found, but my daughter ran inside to get my camera so we could take some photos and identify the snake.

At first I thought it was a black racer - but I think it's a black rat snake due to the keeled scales. It was very alert to me and where I was, but what a smart place to settle in, safe from cats and donkey hooves. I think it has been injured slightly just by its left eye, probably the mark of a certain cat who thinks he's a mongoose.

The black rat snake eats rodents, frogs, lizards, and other snakes, so he is welcome to stay and help maintain balance in our little ecosystem.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


It feels like June has snuck up and tapped me on the shoulder, out of the blue. Whenever I step outside, the sound of insects, the vivid green against bright blue sky, and the heat of the season all seem omnipresent. I'm not sure if that's part of why I have been feeling overwhelmed this week, as though I've been weighted down with things to do while at the same time shifted into slow motion.

Yesterday I opened the back door and the red tails were having a fit over something. My daughter came in later with a lovely photograph that made me realize yet again how far we are into this season.

Today I was on the front porch, looking at the garden beds, noting that the muscadine grape vines I cut so severely back only a month ago have come back with ferocity and are taking over again. The trumpet vine is doing the same thing. I have visions of a grape arbor on the side of my porch, and a bed that is, while somewhat wild, a bit more ordered. What I have is pure chaos out there. Lovely, but out of control.

Like me and my eroding schedule. I've got to get the routine shifted before it gets any hotter, or just give up on riding until fall arrives.

The summer solstice hasn't even rolled around yet and already I'm longing for autumn!

Sometimes the seasons are sweetest when they're just around the bend from where we are. But when I slow down in the morning and do things with a quieter tempo, I make the most of the rhythms that sing this time of year.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

off to see the wizard

When we got home after a long afternoon at the horse show, I checked email and found that my OED word of the day was spooky:

Of, pertaining to, or characteristic of spirits or the supernatural; frightening, eerie.

Surfing. Of a wave: dangerous or frightening.

Of a person (or animal): nervous; easily frightened; superstitious.

Of or pertaining to spies or espionage.

We didn't hold a seance with the pony, nor did we attempt to surf with him. He's a bit boldly colored to be a spy.

But his first ride in the lakeside dressage arena did bring out a bit of anxiety, some fear, and all the relaxation and rhythm, the base of the training scale in dressage, went right out the window!

Combine that with a very tough judge and you get low scores and lots of "glass half empty" comments. The scores and comments were so low and negative that competitors were openly remarking on them at the ribbon table and the scoreboard.

In spite of this, though, we had a good day that I consider quite successful. The pony loaded perfectly onto the trailer, and unloaded just as well. He was well behaved and easy to handle. We parked beside a trailer full of ponies, one even smaller than he is, and that was a first. The little pony nickers were cute, and they all kept checking each other out. Interestingly, the ponies were being ridden by a local trainer (a tiny woman) and it was really fun to see. She was very enthusiastic about ponies in general, and we kept tabs on how the rides were going throughout the afternoon. She told me we should plan to all show up and overwhelm the judges with ponies throughout the season! I love that idea.

We tacked the Little Man up and took him to see the lakeside arena, then went to warm-up. He was quite alert, looking and checking things out, and there were a few upset horses in warm-up, kicking out, rearing, and generally not happy. In hindsight, we should have persisted with a longer warm-up, but at the time, it just wasn't much fun being in that melee.

The lakeside arena had been reduced for the day to a 20m x 40m size, and the extra 20m was being used for the warm-up box. There was another box outside of that so you could warm up while waiting. The pony wasn't thrilled. The lakeside arena is actually quite beautiful. It sits just down a short but steep hill from the big covered arena, and then there's another hill on the outside that drops down to a small lake.

There are geese and assorted other birds, lots of insect noise, especially as the day passed, and a fair amount of distraction on all sides. Upper level rides were going on in the covered arena, with readers calling out upper level tests on a mike. (hearing that while trying to ride my own test would have completely done me in)

I've heard from many riders over the past two years that many folks don't like riding in the lakeside, because it has so much potential for spooking. Most of the time they use it for the very upper level tests.

When my daughter rode the pony into the first warm-up box, he managed himself okay. He wasn't thrilled but he didn't balk. When it was her turn to ride into the next box, he did balk a little, and he really didn't like the A marker that was sitting there. He spooked at it, then she rode up to and had him sniff it, then he tried to knock it down with his hoof. Ahem!

And then the little bell rang and it was time for him to start his test - the most difficult one she'd signed up to ride. We'd already talked about not worrying about score, but using the test to break him in to the new environment.

The first difficulty was the judge's stand itself. Riding down center line he looked like Dorothy and her friends approaching the Great Oz himself. The pony did okay to X, but after the halt and salute he was very nervous about going to C. The judge's stand is a covered gazebo, with latticed wood around the bottom so that it looks like a checkerboard pattern with the white and the shadow. There's a mimosa tree behind it, which was dripping gorgeous feathery blooms down around the little structure, but the woman in the hat who stood up inside this monstrosity was just too much. He veered to the left, he veered to the right, while my daughter sat calm and deep and just kept working him through this. However, it was clearly going to take some time, so the judge called out that she could proceed toward B and continue from there.

B is the mid-point marker on the long side and in this arena was the side nearest the lake. The B marker also had a lovely mimosa planted behind it, and it proved to be a sticky point for many horses throughout the day. The pony was very happy to be heading away from the All Powerful Oz judge, but when he saw B looming ahead, it may as well have been the Wicked Witch herself behind it. He spooked again.

I have to say, my daughter kept her cool. In the face of that much chaos, I would have forgotten the test completely. But she kept her head, kept her deep seat, and continued riding. They had some good moments, particularly the free walk, which she smartly used to relax him and proceed with a bit more relaxation into the second half of the test. Still, it was a tough ride and she knew the score would be low.

We had just enough time to untack and offer hay and water, sponge him off, and breathe, before it was time to go back to warm-up and get ready for the next test.

Second test was the second most complex of the day, but we talked about improving on the first ride and again, not worrying about overall performance.

They did much better. He got over the fear of the judge's stand and redirected his anxiety to the markers, mostly the B. Near the end of the test he knocked over a rail near A. But he was more relaxed overall and they raised their total score by a few points.

We had a longer break before the last test, so we untacked, sponged, and tied him to the trailer so he could eat and drink and relax while we had lunch in the little bit of shade our trailer cast.

We reviewed the score sheets and comments and relaxed.

Then we got ready for the last warm-up and ride of the day. By this time the pony was fairly ready for the routine. He had a couple of rough spots but managed to get a fifth place and again raised the total score. My daughter decided she wanted to spend a little time riding him before we left, in order to continue to build on his improved demeanor and comfort level.

The rings were all clearing out, and she took him back to warm-up to do some big trotting and cantering, and then hacked around the grounds a bit, by the portable john, over to the jump ring, and past the award stand. We asked if we could go back down to lakeside and ride a few tests on our own, since the rides down there were all done. They said we were welcome to, and off we went. Daughter rode him down and I marched in on foot, and headed directly to B. He touched the top of the marker with his nose, I shook the mimosa branch and let him smell a mimosa bloom. I walked up to the judge's stand and then stood there, trying to be menacing as daughter rode him back through the first test of the day. He of course did much much better, and they had a full ride with no spooking.

She trotted by B in both directions a number of times, circling to make sure he was comfortable with it. It was nice to end on a fun note in that scary place. Much like coming back to Oz with the witch's broom and realizing - there is no Great and Powerful Oz. Just an empty judge's stand and a sand arena, with a few not so scary geese and some mimosas swaying in the breeze.

But we didn't stop there. My daughter rode him out of the arena and onto the grass around the arena, behind B and the mimosa, right by the lake, and right by the judge's stand. He was fine. We were then able to head back to the trailer feeling like we had truly accomplished something, and very proud of a little painted pony who faced down his fears and conquered them so nicely.

The next show in the series is in August, so we're looking forward to another day with some challenges and opportunities to improve.

Today we woke up to fog and clouds. A nice respite from yesterday's sun, and a quiet day on November Hill.

Friday, June 05, 2009

dreary day, brilliant daughter, happy horse, busy weekend

It was rainy and cool here today, and I'd been waiting for just this sort of break in the temps to do our last equine deworming until September.

Redford led the herd in getting his portion. He saw the tube of ivermectin and marched up, eager to take it. Rafer Johnson spied the action and was soon lined up for his. The pony finished off the tube (it works out perfectly for the pony and donkeys to share one) without a blink and on I went.

Salina is back in heat again, and had already been squealing this a.m. I had fussed at her for flinging her head up wildly in response to Keil Bay committing the gross offense of sticking his head over his own stall door. So I wasn't sure how the deworming would go with her in that kind of mood. She had a mouthful of hay, so I rubbed some circles on her temple while she finished chewing. She turned her head away when she saw the tube, but I went slowly, and when I reached to bring her head back to me, she was quite willing.

Keil Bay was his usual one-handed operation.

Cody has been difficult in the past, but the last few times he's been really easy to dose. Today, though, he saw the tube and when I allowed him to sniff it he walked away. My daughter came out with halter and lead rope and waited with him in the back field while I came out. He was fussing and then he pulled back pretty hard. We stopped and just stood with him, allowing him to smell the tube but not trying to put it in his mouth.

He was quite calm until I positioned the tube again - then he tensed up. Daughter said "why don't we try the tapping?"

Duh! I had completely forgotten about that. She tapped his star and I tapped his cheek, and the dewormer tube slid right into his mouth and it was all done in about 3 seconds. No fuss, no muss.

I'm incredibly fortunate to have such a brilliant young horsewoman keeping me on the right path!

The rest of the day has been very lazy. Daughter and pony are riding 3 dressage tests in a local show on Sunday, so she called the tests out to make sure she has them all straight. The pony is slick and shiny as a seal and assuming we can get that tangerine dream color out of his tail he will look gorgeous.

Tomorrow my husband and I are celebrating our anniversary with dinner and a movie in my favorite little horsey town. The theater is an old artsy place that still has the original seating. They sell refreshments but the soft drinks are poured by hand and the wine is uncorked while you stand there. There's a big bin full of seat cushions in assorted sizes, colors, and shapes that you can pick up on the way in. I love the movies they choose to screen, and that the theater has the old-fashioned amazing acoustics that make it a fabulous venue for live music. George Winston played there a few years back and I still regret missing the performance.

Lazy Friday, full weekend, and the Mystical-Kit had the best idea of all - big fat book and a bed!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009


One of my favorite childhood stories was Rudyard Kipling's Rikki-Tikki-Tavi. I had fond dreams of having my own mongoose, who would protect me during the night and keep a watch over the house and yard by day.

A little while ago I was at the barn doing some afternoon chores. The geldings were munching rinsed hay from their hay nets, and Salina and the donkeys had wandered out to the round bale (which now has a hanging tarp that is meant to be a shelter but today it's blowing like a giant flag - and no, they are not afraid - but stand there and let it blow up and away right over them as they eat).

I heard a commotion in the forest and immediately looked at Salina, who is my barometer of all things not quite right. And she too had heard the noise and was staring intently into the trees.

The skittering sounded again and suddenly Dickens E. Wickens bounded out of the trees into the sunshine, intently chasing something that I at first thought was a shadow.

Then Rikki-tikki went out into the garden to see what was to be seen. It was a large garden, only half cultivated, with bushes as big as summer-houses of Marshal Niel roses, lime and orange trees, clumps of bamboos, and thickets of high grass. Rikki-tikki licked his lips. ``This is a splendid hunting-ground,'' he said, and his tail grew bottle-brushy at the thought of it, and he scuttled up and down the garden, snuffing here and there till he heard very sorrowful voices in a thorn-bush.

He proceeded to chase something and I peeled my eyes to see what it was. Something long and black and slithery, winding hither and yonder as Dickens pursued.

Darzee and his wife only cowered down in the nest without answering, for from the thick grass at the foot of the bush there came a low hiss --- a horrid cold sound that made Rikki-tikki jump back two clear feet. Then inch by inch out of the grass rose up the head and spread hood of Nag, the big black cobra, and he was five feet long from tongue to tail. When he had lifted one-third of himself clear of the ground, he stayed balancing to and fro exactly as a dandelion-tuft balances in the wind, and he looked at Rikki-tikki with the wicked snake's eyes that never change their expression, whatever the snake may be thinking of.

It was not, thank goodness, a cobra, but probably a black snake, about three feet long. Suddenly the snake turned to face Dickens, rose up in the air, and struck, one, two, half a dozen times. Dickens bravely battled the snake, swatting it with his paws, until the snake resumed its path to the platform by the arena.

Dickens got on top and paraded around, watching for the serpent to come out again. And then he sat and began to lick his paws.

Rikki-tikki curled himself up in the grass and slept where he was -- slept and slept till it was late in the afternoon, for he had done a hard day's work.

On my way inside, I scooped up the snake-eating cowboy and brought him inside, where he restored himself with cat food.

When Rikki got to the house, Teddy and Teddy's mother (she still looked very white, for she had been fainting) and Teddy's father came out and almost cried over him; and that night he ate all that was givn him till he could eat no more, and went to bed on Teddy's shoulder, where Teddy's mother saw him when she came to look late at night.

He's now curled up on the foot rest beneath my desk, taking a well-deserved break. I enjoyed re-reading Kipling's story today, and realizing that another childhood dream has come true.

Who needs Rikki-tikki when we have Dickens E. Wickens?

Rikki-tikki had a right to be proud of himself; but he did not grow too proud, and he kept that garden as a mongoose should keep it, with tooth and jump and spring and bit, till never a cobra dared show its head inside the walls.