Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Oh no!

I just realized I forgot to post a video. My husband shot a bunch last Wednesday; I'll have to upload them to YouTube.

If I remember.

Many blogs are good with visual aids. This one--oh, the irony!--is not, and I apologize for it.

(Yes, I am aware that I never posted pictures from my trip to Kentucky in July. I feel like it is pointless now. But if you disagree, feel free to leave a comment after this post.)

It has started

Up until now, Lim has been pretty good with the weather changes.

Sure, there was Saturday, but that was a fluke.

(Despite the stinging wind and temperatures--without the wind chill, mind you--in the low 30's, I decided to try riding in the outdoor arena on Saturday. Lim was so full of herself that she kept shaking her head from side to side like a frisky Thoroughbred in the paddock before a race, and gone was her lovely forward propulsion! In its place was the odd sensation of riding a 4-pegged pogo stick. After 17 minutes of walking and "please PLEASE don't let the pasture horses come galloping up right now!" trotting, I decided to get off before she pitched me into the slop.)

On Sunday we rode in the indoor arena and Lim was back to her old self.

Last night I put Lim on the crossties and took her light sheet off. She gestured at her shoulder and I scratched her shoulders and withers. Her eyes bugged and she poked her upper lip out and stretched her neck and bobbed her head up and down.

Ohh that feels good!!!

When I was done she remained bug-eyed. She had spotted her sheet, which I had put in the corner on the aisle floor.

What's that?! she snorted.

I moved the sheet with my foot, hoping its muddy nylon rustled enough to sound familiar to Lim. One of the belly bands fell off the top of the sheet and lay splayed out towards Lim. It was a tentacle reaching for her!

"It's just your sheet, silly!"! It looks different! she snorted. She eyed the "tentacle" suspiciously. Snort!

"Here, see?" I picked the sheet up and held it to her. She sniffed. Her nostrils stopped blowing but she remained bug-eyed and on alert.

It's a monster!

My ride tonight might be fun.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Full seat breeches work!

Last week I ordered a couple pairs of new riding breeches.

My old ones (one green and one black) were nearly as old as Limerick, and stretched out seven ways to Sunday. The seat of the black ones was tissue-thin and I had to wear black underwear every time I wore them. Each time I mounted up, I wondered if today was the day the seam split, displaying my undies for the world (okay, one, possibly two, other boarders, and Limerick) to see.

I ordered three pairs of breeches. Two are Harry Hall full seats and one is a pair of basic black TuffRider pull-ons. Since I only buy clothing items when they are on incredible sale, the total price came to $119 for all three. Not bad considering one full-priced pair of Harry Hall breeches can be a little over $100.

Full seat breeches have some sort of clingy material, like suede or...whatever...covering the entire seat and inner legs. Basically any part of you that touches the saddle is covered with this material. This supposedly creates a nice, secure seat.

I had to put them to the test last Wednesday. At the end of the night I crossed my stirrups over Lim's withers and rode stirrup-free. The walk--as always, easy! The trot--smooth as butter! And the canter...

Before I go on, I need to tell you that Limerick has begun an interesting habit since August. If I ask for the canter and she starts on the wrong lead, she will not let me bring her down to a trot to try again. Oh no, she will insist that she can correct it herself, and will do a neat little flying lead change right there on the rail.

When Lim was young and green, I taught her to get her flying lead changes (for the non-horsey people, an explanation: When horses canter or gallop, one foreleg "leads" slightly ahead of the other. A flying lead change is when the horse switches from one leading foreleg to the other without missing a stride. It is an important skill for jumpers and dressage horses. Horses can do flying lead changes galloping out in the pasture, but they usually need to be taught to do these on cue with a rider on their back). After I taught Lim to get her lead changes, she would do them if I asked her to but it was a rare day when she did them on her own.

But Lim did have fun doing the lead changes, so despite the fact we were retired from jumping, I would ask for them now and then just for the heck of it. When arthritis began to creep into her joints, I stopped asking because they were too hard on her.

So now you can see why I am surprised that Lim insists on doing these flying lead changes on her own, on the rail, no less (it is typically difficult for a horse to get them going perfectly straight--a slight curve towards the desired lead helps).

Not only that, but she can be so pleased with herself afterwards that she throws out a little buck or two, or tries to take off with me. Hey, I don't mind--these days, any sign that she feels good brings a big smile to my face!

Back to the present. I am riding in my spanking new full seat breeches, stirrup-less, and about to ask Lim for the canter. She starts off on the wrong lead. I try to pull her back down to a trot but she shakes her head in protest and prepares her hind end for the lead change.

There is no time for words to go through my head. I can only acknowledge the fact that Lim is about to do a flying lead change and that a buck and/or attempt at bolting will follow closely behind. Helpless, I mentally resign myself to the arena dirt!

A lead change, downwards head shake, mini-buck and two big cantering strides forward later, I am still comfortably in the saddle. Whew!

Then I ask for the canter going the other way.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Less than a week of fall

From absurdly gorgeous on Halloween to bone-deep cold this prior Saturday? Welcome to Chicagoland.

Limerick had her feet done on Saturday and by the time the farrier was done, I was so cold that I couldn't feel my toes and my jaw could barely move when I asked him about her feet. I had to go home to warm up, and was not ready to head back to the barn again for two hours (and by then, everyone was gone, it was dark, and I had to ride alone in the indoor arena).

Lim's feet are excellent; my farrier is very happy with them. The left fore isn't perfect--the toe needs to grow out a bit more--but everything else just about is. He applied the Sole Guard on the fores again but said that we will probably leave it off next time due to her soles thickening.

I will probably have a new set of radiographs taken in March or April to see how the foot is progressing. I am hoping that we see nice, thick soles and zero degrees of rotation! I'll also probably have her blood checked for insulin resistance, then once everything is all clear, talk to my vet about letting Limerick graze without a grazing muzzle.

When the gates to the grassy section of the pasture are first opened in the spring, the barn guys let the horses stay out there for a half-hour for a week, then an hour for a week, and so on so forth. Then for the rest of the summer, the horses only go onto the grass after noon.

But! Why am I talking about spring? The chill of winter is upon us, after a total of 5.4 days of lovely fall weather.

As a rider (or perhaps it's the English blood in me--thanks, dad!), I have always been somewhat resistant to the chill of winter. I will complain nonstop about being cold indoors, and on the couch I pile myself with trillions of blankets and cats. But when it's time to go to the barn, I put on my layers and go. Once outside, after an initial shiver, the cold is mostly forgotten. The trick is to keep moving! I only truly freeze when I hold Lim for the farrier or vet.

Sunday was a gray day, gray and windy. The trees were mostly bare and a blanket of golden leaves covered the ground, too wet and low to run away with the wind. The indoor arena was crowded but I decided to ride Lim in the outdoor. No one was out there and the west half of the arena was covered with leaves, which was oddly tempting. I wanted to ride Limerick over those leaves, I had to! I would!

And so, once tacked up, I walked her to the outdoor arena. Head high, mane blowing in the wind, she was a horse enlivened by the chill. I got on her back and her head was so high that her neck seemed half as long as usual; I felt I could touch her poll without leaning forward. A year ago, I would have fretted and worried that she would spook.

But now I know that if I fret, then she will, then I will become nervous, then she will be nervous, then I will be worried, then she will whirl and spook at every blade of grass bending in the wind. Instead, I stroked her short neck.

"That's a good girl," I said. I encouraged her to walk at a quick but comfortable pace and left the reins just slack enough so that she felt no tension in the bit, which is another absolute way to light the fire beneath a Thoroughbred! Yet I did not hold the reins by the buckle, for her neck was so high and to do so would be foolish (there is always that chance she will take off with me, after all).

She looked around and I let her. At times she craned her head around so much that she almost walked into the railing surrounding the outdoor arena, and only then did I make her face forward again. There was plenty of time. Like me, Lim has a wild imagination and if I don't allow her to get a good look at things, she may worry and fret about those things because she cannot see them, cannot understand them and her mind tries to fill in the blanks.

(Yet at the same time, if she is staring at something very dark and impenetrable, like thick shrubbery, I ask her to look away before she begins to hallucinate boogeymen jumping out of said object. Honestly, if we are alone, and sometimes even when we aren't, I will hallucinate such things, too!)

I asked for a trot. Within fifteen minutes, her head was down low and she was giving me an energetic, smooth trot.

The wind lifted my helmet off my head. The wind made my eyes run and sting. The wind blew Limerick's mane straight up. We trotted and cantered over those golden leaves on the west end of the arena many times and each time, I got a childish thrill out of it.

Tomorrow my husband may record me riding. Once a week, I get back to my dressage basics and ask for some collection from Lim. I would like to do more but she does not need the practice; it is old hat to her, and there is no point in demanding more than she'd prefer to give.

If my poor, sick husband is up to keeping our recording date, and I don't look too silly, maybe I will post the video on here.