Monday, December 31, 2012

Thanks, 2012. You Were a Good Year.

The last day of 2012 finds me sitting in the waiting room of a huge automobile sales and repair place, one crutch propped next to me and a cup of coffee in a styrofoam cup by my hand, mulling, as my car is routinely serviced.

A lot of people review accomplishments and set goals at times like this -- not at the mechanic's, but at the year's end.

Goal #1: Don't embarrass my horse.
I'm not usually one to proclaim my goals.  I learned my lesson years ago, first with countless failed new year's resolutions, then by announcing overly ambitious horse goals, and not meeting most of them.  I hate the way that feels!  Now, I don't set myself a big list.  Instead, I just point myself in a general direction, then fill in the details as I go. 

But I do think this is a good time to review accomplishments.  2012 was full of accomplishments for me and my horses, and while they might not be all that dramatic to many, I'm pretty happy with what we did this year.

My happiest horsey accomplishment is the progress of my sweet paint mare, Starlight -- so sweet her registered name is actually Sweet Starlight.  We put on a lot of miles this year, and attended one clinic and one show.  

This was her first year of receiving expectations for performance from me beyond just learning how to carry a rider.  And while she is still green at that, she started to realize that there is more to learn, and started to work with me to learn new things (about at that same time, she started running away from me in the pasture).  We also tried our hand (legs) once at herding sheep, and she took to this so nicely that we will definitely be pursuing some cowy activities this coming year (Oops, that sounds like a goal). 

Here are some things I learned from Starlight this year:
  • Feet with nice, strong hooves can still get sore, but hoof boots are a great remedy.  They also can prevent future pain.
  • Conditioning a horse is not easy or quick and should never be underestimated.
  • Horses will keep trying to do what you ask and sometimes seem to feel satisfied when they know they got it right.
Another big event for me was selling Dee.  When I got Dee, she came as a package deal with Starlight, in trade for a buckskin quarter horse mare.   I got Dee and Starlight as two-year-olds and told my husband I would train them both, keep the one I liked best and sell the other.  Four years later, after I'm sure he gave up on my ever selling either one of them, I actually did just what I said I would do.  It's not that I didn't like Dee, though.  I actually liked her a lot, and still do, but it was time for a change.

Of course, it took a serious injury on my part to realize that I was not well equipped to finish training Dee (hence, the crutch).  Oddly, I did not get the injury working with her, but with her little brother, Stormkite, and it wasn't, strictly speaking, caused by him (just in the ensuing chaos he created).  But the injury made me realize I had too many green/unbroke horses and had to move one along, and Dee drew the short stick.  

She is now a most beloved and most pink-bedecked pony, living in Greene.  She has a pink halter, a pink massager, a pink saddle pad, and, oh, a bunch of pink things, and (as you could have guessed) her own girl. 

For many horse people, such accomplishments and events would seem so minor, but they mattered a lot to me, and these, along with many others (not all horse-related!) helped make 2012 a good year.

And while I'm not in a hurry to list my horse-related goals for 2013, I will say that continuing to simplify my life, so I can focus on what I love -- especially, horses and husband -- will definitely be in the future.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Painted Pony

I think this painting of Hudson is pretty close to being finished.  It's technically a collage, since I incorporated horsey items such as a bit of electric tape fencing, a snip of fly sheet, a twist of baling twine and several long pieces of hay.

Yup -- while my poor husband has been out on the tractor, trying to find a place to push all the snow, I have been sitting on my butt, painting a horse picture.  But I AM now walking around the house without crutches, so it won't be long before I'm back out in the stable, shoveling all kinds of stuff along with him.

And I can't wait!  

But I have to remember something pretty important about ACL reconstruction: Just when I'm starting to walk around, that's the same time that the ligament graft is at its weakest. The piece of stretchy, soft tissue taken from my patella tendon has been dying over the past few weeks, as its old blood supply is gone.  It is going to start building a new blood supply from the bones to which it is grafted, and will gradually regenerate, but this part takes months.  

Weird, huh?  

Oh, so anyway, here's the painting.

I don't do the Queen justice!  She was actually much more pissy than depicted here.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

No Activities This Week. So...A Pony Video!

Photo borrowed from
We have no organized horse activities in the Twin Tiers until January 5, at least not that I’m aware of.  Please let me know if I’m missing something, though, and I’ll post it. 

As I write, my husband is marching around in the cold, getting the horses and sheep ready for this big snow storm that is heading our way.  I wish it were I who was marching around in the cold, as I do some of my best marching in the cold, but I’m still on crutch (yes – singular. I have graduated to one crutch).

In the meantime, here’s one of my favorite pony videos of all time, from Fairytail Miniature Shetlands.  Enjoy!

Click HERE for video.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Recharging on Solstice

Brenda, my great farm sitter, took care of the beasts last night when my husband had to work late.  She asked if I’m getting bored, being laid up after knee surgery.    

Nope.  I’m not a bored kind of person.  I’m frustrated, because I can’t go near the horses or sheep or do much of anything physical.  When you’re on crutches, at least one leg and BOTH hands are tied up, so it takes a lot of your important parts out of action.  It’s really annoying. 
Warning: Dog moves abruptly when person on crutches tries to get past.

Luckily, we have a set-up, here at home, where I can move things across surfaces.  A hot bowl of oatmeal goes from the microwave to the butcher block.  Then I hop around to the other side of the butcher block, and move the oatmeal to the island counter.  Then I hop around the counter and move the oatmeal from the counter to the coffee table.  Then, at last, I sit and eat the oatmeal.   Just getting a bowl of oatmeal is a major activity, and I’m sorry for people who are always on crutches, and so thankful that this is a temporary condition for me.

But back to not being bored.  I’m just not.  I have been pouring over saddle websites, plotting and dreaming about the perfect Western saddle and the perfect eventing saddle for Starlight. 

I have been reading horse training articles, having just discovered Andrew McLean’s website (click).   He developed and manages the Australian Equine Behaviour Centre, “the most internationally recognized horse training and behavior modification center in Australia.”  Who knew?  He is insightful and interesting.

Here's the book.
And I just got a Jane Savoie book from Amazon (I’m doing the “one for them, one for me” method of Christmas shopping) called That Winning Feeling, which has received good reviews from horse people since its initial publication many years ago.  Savoie is an internationally recognized equestrian coach, writer and speaker.

In the preface, Savoie writes, “…This isn’t just a horse book.  It’s not about competition; and it’s definitely not about ending up in first place on the scoreboard.  Instead, it’s a ‘life’ book.  It’s about struggling and picking yourself back up when you feel like there’s nothing left inside of you.  It’s about doing your best and facing the consequences of your efforts with no excuses. It’s about taking the principles described within and courageously applying them to so many areas of your life – from your career, personal relationships, other sports, as well as to your health.”

I’m surely not even close to feeling like there’s nothing left inside of me, but I do know that when I get back on a horse, I’m going to experience some new fears that I will need to acknowledge and conquer.  It will happen, after having major surgery to repair an injury.  It can’t be helped, and being honest about it and getting past it will be important to me.  So this seems like a good time for Jane’s book.

Oh, and I’m working on a painting of Hudson that I’ll show ya’ll, once it’s done.

So no, not bored, just repairing and re-energizing, and getting ready for a hell of a good year with horses. 

And happy Solstice, all!  The world has not ended, and after tonight, the days will start getting longer, and you know what that means!  Spring will be here in the blink of an eye, and we will be charging across green meadows and splashing through still waters -- on horseback, again.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Stall Rest and a Jumping Doc

My ACL reconstruction surgery is over.  All went well and now I'm healing and rehabbing. 

I won't be on or near horses for a while.  All I'm doing is dreaming and planning.  Along, those lines, I updated the BIG Calendar, so have a look at some of the fantastic activities you can do with your horse in the Twin Tiers in 2013.  And there will be much more to come.

Lucien Rouse competing in 2012
So I'm on stall rest at the moment, but I thought you might be interested in a video of my orthopedic surgeon, Lucien Rouse.  He's a knee specialist, but he's not bad on his hunter horse, either!  

It's handy to have a surgeon who is also an equestrian.  His rehab advice will be right on target ("Sitting trot: yes.  Standing in your stirrups in a canter: No.  Do what I tell you.  Don't make me use a twisted wire on you.")

Here his round:

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Twin Tiers Horse Activities, Dec. 15, 2012

Hello, horse junkies.  If you need to get a fix, head down to Birchtown Stables for their show.  Otherwise, have a great weekend with your horse!

December 15 - Chinese New Year--Passport Horse Shows, Birchtown Stables, Inc., 115 Birchtown Drive, Clifford Township, PA 18421 Great For Beginners and Green Horses! 11:00am Start ~ $10 Class. Judges: TBA; Show Manager : Jessica Polednak, 570-241-5195; Facebook: Birchtown Stables Horse Shows.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Rushing, Slipping, Slopping, Sticking in the Mud

Here on the hill (now officially known as Gilbert’s Toad Song Farm, or simply, Toad Song), we have been scurrying around, trying to pack in whole gobs of big projects before I go under the knife.

"Who you calling a brat?"
If you knew me, you might recognize the kind of fevered frenzy in which I have whipped us both -- “both” being my husband and me.   When I get like this, we just start going first thing and don’t stop until it’s too dark, and then sometimes we work after dark as well, and then we finally both just collapse on the coach and start thinking about all the places our bodies hurt.  And my husband eats a bowl of ice cream.

One factor that is both contributing to the frenzy and slowing it down is the huge amount of mud that has taken over the farm world of the Northeast.  Once upon a time, the ground used to freeze, usually in December, and that was a huge boon.  Now, we sometimes go whole winters hovering at around the freezing mark, and this means what used to be snow is rain, and what used to be frozen mud is just mud.  

And that’s what we have now, just mud, everywhere.
The run-in, unloaded from the truck, gets a ride on a cool gadget.

Its own little pad.
This mud has both driven our activity and also brought it to a dead halt, literally.

For example: We have a sacrifice pasture, which is an area that the horses live in during the muddy season, when the grass starts to go dormant.  If we didn’t do this, the pastures would all become muddy messes during the winter, and the grass wouldn’t have a chance to rejuvenate.  We had a portion of this area made into a pad last year, under our pole barn and stretching into the paddock, ensuring an always-dry area.  It’s great and we love it.  

However, we have seen the need to divide this sacrifice area into two, so we can house horses separately at times.  And of course, it has to be done NOW!

The top part of the sacrifice pasture is not on the pad, so it gets muddy.  To house a horse there safely, we needed some improvements and shelter.  We don’t have time to build this, which is what we normally would do, so we decided to purchase a pre-made run-in shed.  It was delivered to its own little dry pad on Friday.

So, one mud-influenced project is nearing completion.  Yesterday, we augered holes for some additional wooden posts and today we’ll run the fence.

Another example of the mud influence in my world: I decided that, while I’m laid up, that little booger Stormkite, my sole gelding, and a cheeky one, Is going to get some larnin’.  He needs to be trained to be ridden and generally to be a horse and not a brat, and so I delivered him on Friday, after the freezing rain turned to just rain, to Ashley Haffey at Lane Cover Dressage, Greene, NY.

"I have to work?"
Ashley trained my former horse, Dee, to be ridden, and Dee is now being ridden by her new owner, and is boarded at Ashley’s.  Stormkite, Dee’s full brother, joined her there on Friday.  I believe Dee recognized him right away. 

We put him out with another gelding, a striking red quarter horse/Arab mix, and the two pretty much just sniffed each other and said, “Cool.”  That never happens with mares.  It’s always dramatic when mares meet, but with these boys, I think, there was one squeal and one raised hoof, but no kicks or strikes.

Anyway, back to the mud.  After Ashley and I did the paperwork, I started to happily drive away and immediately got mired in the mud on what had been a patch of grass at Ashley’s, until my truck turned it into a big mess. 

Have you ever gotten your truck and trailer stuck someplace?  I have twice now.  Once at Ashley’s and once, believe it or not, in a creek.  That’s another story and one I may not have told my husband, so no need for details. 
Objects on mirror are closer than they appear.

In both cases, it was a farmer with a big tractor to the rescue.   

It makes quite a parade, a tractor pulling a truck pulling a trailer.  Ashley suggested photos for the blog, which I regrettably didn’t take.  But this shot of the mirror should tell you something.

And only five more months of this to go!