Wednesday, May 4, 2011

It's Kentucky Derby Time!

I am not fond of horse racing in general but every year I find myself drawn in to the drama of the Kentucky Derby and The Triple Crown races. I admire the horse athletes so I leave it at that. After Eight Belles, I swore I was never going to watch another Derby, or horse race, on TV. again. The next year I found myself drawn in one more time. Finally, I gave in to the fact that it's the horses I enjoy watching. It's become a guilty pleasure. 

I suppose this Saturday around 5 pm I'll be tuning in to see who will be the next big media story in horse racing for this year. I can't enjoy my own horses in this ultra wet, mucky, muddy, rainy period,and that part of my world doesn't look to get much better in the near future.

To anyone who enjoys this guilty pleasure, It's Derby Time!

Reunion Part 2

Tuesday proved to be a bad weather day. I couldn't leave my homestead due to high running creek. Spent the day keeping debris from clogging up the drains so we wouldn't have our own disastrous flood into the horse stall area and garage. The ranch itself had high water. Weather looked good for the following day.

Wednesday and Thursday were absolutely gorgeous Spring days! They've been few and far between in the month of April this year.I was excited to go back over to the ranch and work with my old horse buddies. I honestly hadn't been this excited about horse related activities in quite some time.

The two afternoons were spent with groundwork, leading and riding. These horses hardly ever get beyond a trot in the riding lessons. My philosophy was always, work with them like they'll be worked with during the programs. Besides, I was only there this week so in my mind my focus was simply on exercise. If they'd developed too many problems since the four years I'd been absent, I wasn't going to have the chance to work correcting too many bad habits in two afternoons.I worked with four horses, and Lori worked with four others.

On Wednesday I worked with Dani and a horse the barn calls Dinky but I refer to as DeeDee. I never liked the name Dinky when I met her four years ago. She was newly brought in just before I resigned so I'd never worked with her much. I was told DeeDee was former barrel racer mare. Both Dani and DeeDee did fine with my leading and ground work. They both tacked up nicely. DeeDee did have a cinching issue so I slowed the process down even more. She wanted to anticipate being cinched up tight, quickly, but I showed her I wasn't going that route. Now, just because I do it that way doesn't mean the next person won't come in and do it the way DeeDee anticipates. Dani,a Halflinger/Icelandic from appearances, was always a solid ride. She does have a "go" issue sometimes. But, if the rider remains consistent and firm, Dani will engage. Dani just needs to know the person up there means what they're "saying". She will test the rider. It's something she's always done. She actually does better with adults. More than one lesson rider became frustrated with Dani. DeeDee did like to surge ahead quickly with an easy "kiss" and not even a leg squeeze. I worked with her a little on that and when she smoothed out she was a very nice ride. I can understand the startle factor though, for a new rider who might get that surge. The only thing I could do would be to explain my findings on my review. Whether the staff paid attention or tried my suggestions, I knew that was completely out of my control.

Thursday brought another fine Spring day. Warm, sunny, cool. Lori and I had two hours, four horses to work and the barn to ourselves. Seemed almost like old times without having to worry about stall cleaning.

My first pick of the day was a horse named Sissy. I have never worked with Sissy, she was a newly, donated horse to the riding facility. She is a nicely built, about 15 h QH mare who had also come from a barrel racing background. She is a people pleaser for the most part. She was very good with grooming, tacking and the necessities. Her main quirk is apparently being herd bound. She goes a little spastic when she's in the arena alone. I was able to keep her mind on what I was doing with her and over a period of about 20 minutes she settled and didn't worry so much about being the only one out there. Sissy seems like she would be one of the better schooling horses although she had an instantaneous get-up-and-go with the gentlest of urging. Didn't take much. I wondered how the current staff would work on that. Hopefully, they'd read my evaluation and take my suggestions to heart. Speckles, one of my past favorites, a little Appaloosa pony-size fella who is way too smart for his own good was my last "student".

When we'd worked with Speckles in the past his issues were based on who was working with him. If he thought he could get away with a little nip, he tried. One time, as I was cleaning a front foot, the little bugger reached around and got hold of my upper arm with his teeth, to which my response was to put my body weight into him and he fell into the wall. I'm not a huge woman, but I have some weight on me. I recall he looked at me with a rather puzzled look, ears moving back and forth. I honestly never had that kind of problem with him again. This day he seemed eager to get out and do something which worked in my favor. I tied him, leaving a length of lead rope hang to the ground. Went to get his tack and saddle. When I walked back toward the arena, I couldn't help but laugh when I saw Speckles standing there twirling the lead rope like a lasso. Yes, we'd allowed him to do that and he'd remembered. We realized he liked to twirl the lead rope so we had encouraged it. At the end of our programs we'd give him the lead rope and he would twirl it around just like he knew what he was doing. The girls would laugh and applaud. Speckles always enjoyed the attention. I'd forgotten he could do that little trick. However, obviously the new staff group didn't find it as cute or entertaining because they said he had a habit of grabbing the lead rope. Oh well. I would leave a note letting them know it was something we'd taught him a few years ago. At least they'd know what it was all about when he did it. From then on Speckles complied nicely. Rode nicely and listened fine. I had no complaints and couldn't see much of a problem. Maybe Specks just needed to get out and go, period. 

The afternoon ended much too quickly. We wrote up our evaluations and hoped we'd helped out. We laughed about the fact that at first we thought we were getting into some kind of wild horse mess from the information we'd been given. We decided the horses just needed handling and riding after being idle since October. Maybe the staff just wasn't use to all the horses. Hopefully they'd see our suggestions as helpful. OR, they'll read them and say we were a couple of crazy old ladies who didn't know what the heck we were talking about! Whatever the outcome, it was an enjoyable week and renewed my confidence. Now if the rain would just stop so I can work with my own horses!

The only thing I heard later was that the programs went well and that Lori and I were appreciated for coming to the rescue that week. We were rewarded with boxes of Girl Scout Cookies. Honestly, Lori and I both agreed, our payment was simply spending time with some of our old horse friends and that had been enough reward.