"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Weather is A-Changing

Woke up to this yesterday morning:

Maybe I'm nuts, but I heart fog so much! It often means a big temperature change is coming.
It's supposed to start dropping another 10 degrees next week!

I stopped by the old barn to do a bib clip on Paris, the old man TB that I body-clipped back in July. One of his owners met me at the barn and had him all ready to go in the cross ties when I arrived. I did his clip (under neck and jaw, front of chest, under belly, and whiskers) in less than 20 minutes. It was a nice little visit. I even got to see Alex and Juan. When I'd said good-bye before moving, Alex had not believed that I would come back to visit. So I was able to tell him, "See? I told you I'd come back!"

By the time I pulled up at my barn, the fog had burned out. I discovered this:

Lily standing guard while Gracie and Kara the new Icelandic pony take naps.
I pulled up to the gate so I could grab Lily's feed bin to refill with her forage baggies.

Yes, it was a giant-ass spider. But it was eating a yellow jacket (hate those things), and the web looked so pretty in the morning light!
As I was putting the bin in the trunk of the car, Lily came up to the gate, wanting attention. I gave her a Stud Muffin for coming, and she hung around impatiently at the gate, wanting to come out.

"Whatcha doin'? Open this-here gate for me."
"I'm waiting..."
"Come over here. I don't fit through this tiny entrance!"

"Stop. taking. pictures!"
She was pawing in impatience. I was quite literally standing there laughing at her.
It cracks me up and overjoys me to see her being assertive! She never  used to ask for anything. Ever. Opinions were relegated to letting me know when she was afraid, which was over 50% of the time. Every once in a while she'd show impatience, and of course annoyance if I confused her in dressage, but she never asked for anything.
It is so AWESOME to see her want, and have her tell me.
"Seriously. This is what I think of your picture-taking."

Over the weekend, she gave me two surprises.

1. On Saturday, I went out to the barn after work and all-day rain to make sure she was okay and the field wasn't totally underwater. I pulled up by the fence and leaned against the top rail. Lily saw me and came over. All of the other mares had been turned out, and Gracie, Circe and Kara all came with Lily. Lily came up to the fence and then, as the other mares flocked around, turned with pinned ears and snaked her neck at her besties to chase her besties away. Once they had skeddadled, she turned around to face me again, reaching her nose towards me with pricked ears, "Hi!! Now we can talk."
I was SHOCKED. This is the first time EVER in two years of owning her that Lily has claimed me as her own and bothered to stand her ground among other horses just to be with me.
I think I gave her like 4 Stud Muffins...

2. On Sunday the rain held, but it was overcast all day, so I just went straight home after work. On Monday night I went to the barn to see her.
I had gotten out of work an hour late, so it was pitch black when I pulled up at the field gate. All of the mares were turned out again, and I walked out into the field with Lily's halter in tow. A group of three horses came towards me, but I could tell by their shadows that none of them was mine. I made kissing sounds into the darkness (I can't whistle to save my life). I turned around to discover that Lily had walked up right behind me while I was looking in the opposite direction. Again she had happy ears and twinkling eyes as she came to a stop right in front of me. "OHAI! You came!"
SO CUTE!! She was rewarded with her grain and a good brushing while she ate.


I set up Lily's forage baggies, put her grain and hay in the hospital paddock, took out all of her tack, then went to get her.

This time it was herself that was taking a nap with her buddies.

She let me rub her forehead and put on her rope halter while still lying down.

I let her have her second breakfast while putzing around the barn. No one else was there, so I mucked paddocks to kill time. It's a workout, and I was still trying to decide if we should go on solo trail ride (this was the first time the sun had come out in 5 days, so I knew it would be muddy), do a dressage school, or both.

Orange is the new black.
LOVE these colors on her!
Sally arrived and groomed Jezebel while I got Lily ready for a ride. I booted her and put her new high-vis vest on her, opting for the trail ride. We hadn't been out in a week due to the weather, and I knew that if I let myself slip into the comfort zone of arenas and paddocks, it would be a long time before I became brave enough to go out on the trails on our own again.

Rockin' the blaze orange.
I was expecting freakouts over footing (Miss Priss doesn't like mud on her tootsies), but I was pleasantly surprised.

We walked down the bridle path and trotted up the hill after Lily decided she had never seen horses before and would like to talk to the retired broodmares in the neighbor's field. We made it to the end of the paddocks and Lily did try to turn around, which I was expecting: this is the same spot where we had turned around the day we worked on sprints.

She was looky going up the next hill into the woods. One of the neighbors had set up a ground hunting blind a couple of weeks ago...about 100 feet from a deer food dispenser. (Isn't that cheating?? I'm okay with hunting, as otherwise we'd be overrun by deer, but c'mon.) The blind was open on this day, and despite it being on the other side of TWO fences and a yard, Lily saw it and noticed that it looked different. She snorted and side-passed halfway across the lawn we had to cross to get to the woods before I could get her moving forward. We entered the woods at a peppy trot.

She was absolutely awesome. She asked to trot most of the way, and as we rounded the trail in the forest, I debated continuing on to Four Corners to do some real canter/gallop sets. However, as the trail passed the edge of the tree line at the end of the back woods, I looked over and realized that the corn field that has been there since we moved to this barn had been mowed down!

Phoebe had mentioned during our first trail ride together that we are allowed to ride on the edge of the corn field when it's mowed.

I turned Lily and we rode through the brush onto the corn field.

She was initially confused by the rows. The times we've been on mowed corn fields, there has been a wide tractor path to ride on; we hadn't ever actually ridden between the rows.

Thankfully my hypersensitive mare isn't that hypersensitive about things rubbing against her legs and belly while I'm riding her, and once she understood that all I wanted was for her to stay between the rows, her ears pricked and she asked to trot. So we trotted. We went all the way to the end of the rows in the photo above, just a straight line forward. I wasn't sure how far around the field we were allowed to go, so we turned around at the end, still trotting. Lily was SUPER HAPPY and asked to canter. So I let her canter. She gave me a super uphill collected canter, neck arched, snorting happily with each stride. She has NEVER cantered that nicely in an arena. I laughed at her and had her come back down to a walk as we neared the spot where we had entered the field. Once back on the trail, we trotted through the trees and cantered on the firm clay next to the road before turning around to complete the trail loop.

Lily power-trotted most of the rest of the way, as we cut through the new trail. She trotted right up to the logs and fallen trees in the path, jumping all of them. I was grinning: first time ever that my mare has wanted to jump all the things! I had her slow to a walk halfway down the new trail: the landmarks have changed with all of the leaves now on the ground and I keep losing track of the path. The trail itself goes on in a straight line, but there is a huge cluster of giant fallen trees right smack in the way. Phoebe and I had trimmed the rose bushes to make our own trail so that we could go around the fallen trees, eventually connecting back to the main trail after passing the trees. The rose bushes, grass and ferns have dried up, so most of my landmarks have disappeared. We always find the way back to the main trail, of course, as it is easy to see, but our make-shift path is gone. Lily happily went cross-country wherever I pointed her, then trotted once we were back on the main trail.

We followed the trail down to the bridge, trotting and cantering alternately. Once at the bridge, I asked Lily to walk. It was mostly covered in leaves, so I pointed her at the parts where you could see the wood, hoping that she'd have enough traction on the wood itself.

She owned that bridge, despite the fact that her feet slid with every other step. I stayed very still in the saddle and held my breath as we made our way across in 3 strides (thankfully it is a short bridge!), already dreading having to go back over it upon our return! We continued trotting on the trail, and again Lily asked to canter, so we cantered. We arrived at the edge of the field that we are not allowed on, turned around, and cantered most of the way back. I was grinning like an idiot all the way: she was so happy. SO HAPPY. This is the first ride where she has really asked to canter.

The leaves on the trees are finally more yellow than green.
Back to a walk to cross the bridge, and again she didn't falter as she skated over the wood. We cantered a little more down the trail, then walked as we came onto the loop that would take us to the Hill of Doom. I pointed her at the hill, told her "Up!" (my canter cue for her, copied from Stacey at The Jumping Percheron) and she took off at a gallop, leaping over the fallen branches across the hill. This is the first time where she has really, truly galloped up that hill. She continued cantering as we breasted the rise, but slowed to a walk immediately when I asked her to.

She gave me a loose, swinging walk all the way home. She had completely cooled down by the time I dismounted at the barn.

It was our BEST trail ride so far! I know the weather made a huge difference in her energy level, but it was wonderful to see her use that energy positively by asking to trot and canter. The asking to canter is a HUGE deal. Back in FL, I had a hard time getting her to trot on the trails simply because she was so timid; she was fine at the walk, but she didn't trust me nor herself enough to go at a faster pace. She wanted to walk so she could look at things. It took months before she was relaxed enough to stay at a trot on the trails in FL.

I do want to clarify that these are things that I would probably not encourage in a different horse. I've had horses "ask" to canter by trying to snatch the bit and bulldozing through the contact. That is rude and dangerous, and the kind of horse that "asks" like that is also the kind that will also become unruly when told no. Lily's asking just means that her trot gets quicker and shorter, and if I give an inch on the reins and shift my weight precisely at that moment, she will immediately pop up into the canter. If I say no (which involves me simply keeping everything the same; she won't try to canter unless I change my position), she is quite willing to just lengthen her trot and continue on our merry way, which I will have her do if I'm questioning the footing or scenario. We have finally reached a point of understanding where she trusts me enough to be confident in the direction I'm pointing her, and also where I can trust her enough to make good choices and tell me when something is not right. It's more of a feeling of being one mind and one body than two separate entities arguing all the time! It's pretty fantastic...I thought I'd never reach this point with Lily.

Lily received a bath and I then hopped on Angel, the little Morab, for a bareback walk in the arena. She had her hocks injected 2 weeks ago, so she has been cleared to ride again. You could definitely feel the difference: her walk was big, loose and swinging from the get-go. No stiffness at all. She is a round little thing with a short back that makes it super comfortable to ride her bareback. I had a ton of fun. We did circles, shoulder-fore, and lots of changes of direction to get her to start loosening up.

Her ears are so fuzzy!
"Really? I have to work?"
She's a Morab, but she has a total pony-tude.
Angel Baby!
In the afternoon, Jezebel got aced and finally was able to go out with the mare herd after 7 months of stall rest. Sally wrote here about how it all went down. I'm happy to report that Jez was absolutely fine today; the trainer came out and worked with her on the lunge and under saddle, and the mare was super calm and cooperative, almost on the lazy side. And moving 100% sound. Big relief!

Sally's girls trotting together!
Circe is the only chestnut. That's Jezebel trying to follow her.
Jez: "But Sis! We hang out in the barn together!"
Circe: "You drive me crazy all day! Go make your own friends!"
Jezebel had still been trying to romp and play, and trying her hardest to get someone, anyone, to participate. Everyone, including Lily, Gracie, and Circe, who are all in Jez's age bracket (4-6 years old), refused to play.
That's Jez by the fence, still in "up" mode, while Circe, Lily and Gracie stare at her.
The girls: "Stop running around! It's not cool!"
Sally said they were like the mean girls in high school: the blonde, the redhead, and the brunette!
Later on the three young ones moved off down the field while Jez tried very, very hard to get Windere, the oldest of all the mares at age 33, to be her friend. Windere, being the only one who couldn't really run away, eventually gave up and let Jez hang out with her. I predict that by next week Jez will be part of the "in" crowd with the younger mares. She's good in a herd situation and tends to have a lot of friends.


  1. ALL THE THINGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    And I like your description of wanting to canter. Its spot on. That's how my guys get (and Stan).

    1. YAY ALL THE THINGS!!!! Lol!

      Very cool that yours do the same thing re: canter! Every time Lily did that, all I could hear in my head was your voice going "Endurance ponyyyyy!!" Yessss!!!