Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Registration Forms Available

For the Summer Solstice Trail Ride!

The trail ride will be held June 18th at Fort Hill Farms in Thompson, Connecticut (www.forthillfarms.com) as a benefit for First Descents (www.firstdescents.org)

These trail rides are always a lot of fun - we hope you will join us.

Send me an email at: sfstearns@gmail.com if you need a registration form.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter and...

Break out the fly spray. Spring may have officially arrived.

After turning horses out on this very sunny morning, I was cleaning stalls and noticed that my thre were antsy. Tails swishing and a lot of moving around, when generally they stand still and eat.

I grabbed a bottle of fly spray and headed out to the field. John was right by the gate so I sprayed him and then went to Remi. I sprayed her, trying to figure out how I was going to get Secret fly sprayed.

Secret is not the biggest fan of fly spray. And she wasn't wearing her halter (its missing, I think Emerson's puppy might have stolen it, but we cannot find it).

I turned around and Secret was standing behind me. I pet her once and then started fly spraying her. She stood stock still the entire time. The horses know :)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Biothane Tack

I have always loved tack. Saddles, bridles, martingales, you name it, I have it. And its all leather. I was very opposed to biothane tack and adopted the attitude, "who would want that?"

Then I was introduced to the sport of competitive trail riding. At every water stop, I encouraged my horse to drink and then cringed as he submerged his head, completely covering his noseband and half of the bridle in water. More tack to clean.

After he finished drinking, I would use the sponge bucket to sponge his neck and aid the cooling process. My martingale and reins were soaked after this.

Our first ride of the 2011 season is next weekend. I bought a used biothane bridle from another trail rider and I am loving it. It may not have the "look" of leather, but I am no longer cringing when my horse submerges his head in a water tank.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Look On My Horses' Faces: Priceless

One of my friends convinced me to run a relay race with her and several of our other friends. The race is not until August, so I have a little bit of time to prepare.

Those of you who know me well, also know that I have not done any serious running (except after a loose horse or cow perhaps) in years.

So off I go, five days a week. The majority of my runs (in the two weeks that I have been running) have started and ended at my parents house so that I can work horses or clean stalls when I am done.

One of these days I need to take my phone or a camera, the look on my horses' faces as I go running down the street is priceless.

It is as if they are saying, "Finally she is working as hard as she makes us work!"

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Rider Beware

I took Secret out for a little hack around the field last week. She had several days off prior to this outing because of rain and my busy schedule.

I hopped on and walked her down the road to the field.

I am used to my horses feeling like a coiled spring on occasion, but Secret was different today. Usually, if she has a lot of energy, she will snort with every step she takes. But today, there was no snorting, there was an explosiveness brewing under the surface that she was working very hard to contain.

At one point she stopped walking, stood still, bucked in place, swished her tail once and then proceeded to walk.

I interpreted this as "Rider Beware."

After some more bursts of energy, she did settle down and we had a calmer walk. I haven't taken her into the ring yet this spring, but perhaps it might be a good idea if she has several days off in a row again.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Jumping Cows

Have you seen the video of the 15 year old German girl who teaches a Hereford cow to jump because her parents won't let her get a horse? Its a really neat story, and if I could figure out how to get links to work in my blog, I would post it here. Google search "jumping cows" if you have not seen the video yet.

It took two years to teach "Luna" to jump, but that cow can jump higher than any of my horses.

If I was going to teach one of my cows to jump, it would definitely be Favorite (yes, thats her name - and if you yell Favorite, she will come).

Friday, April 8, 2011

Braver Than I Thought

The other day, I took John on his one hour trail ride at dusk. We left the barn at 5:55 pm and headed over the hill to walk the farm roads.

We ran into two herds of white tail deer. The first group had six and the second group (seen much later on our walk) had three. Of course on viewing us, the deer shot their white tails into the air and bounded away.

We saw a big flock of turkeys (I didn't bother to count - at least twenty). When they saw us, they flew up into the trees.

We walked right into a flock of Canada geese, who flew away as we walked into their midst.

John did not spook at any of this. He stopped and watched and then when he was satisified, we continued walking. I was so proud of my little horse.

For good measure (and to keep my ego in check), he did spook once on the way home. A leaf blew across the road and he jumped three feet and spun around :) Don't sweat the small stuff John...

Monday, April 4, 2011

Dogs on the Trail

On one of our last rides of the year in November of 2010, before his three month break, John and I were chased by a couple of dogs. We had run into dogs before, but never had a problem.

We were riding through some hay fields at the dairy farm (that John wasn't particularly fond of before this ride) when a small dog at a neighboring house started barking at us. The dog was tied, so I did not think much of it, I just used the situation as a training experience for John. We circled and circled until he calmed down and were just about to head for home, when the lady at the next house over let her two dogs out. Two Boxers came barreling across their lawn and ran straight for us (while their owner yelled for them to come - they completely ignored her). One got stuck in some pricker bushes (thankfully) but the other one made it through and came into the field after us. I halted John and he stood still. I think he was too scared to try his usual "sit, spin and run" tactic. I yelled at the dog and after a few minutes it finally ran back. Once the dog was gone, I had a lot of horse on my hands for the rest of the ride home. I did not try to school him to "get over it", I focused on keeping him at a walk and getting him out of the field calmly.

I have not been back in that field this spring. Its been too wet to go in the hay fields, but when I do, I will ask my brother to ride up there with us. I think John will feel braver and overcome his fear if he has another horse with him.

We have run into several dogs on our early spring rides though and I think it is helping John's confidence. One day I was riding down the road past my cousin's house, and Daisy and Bear were out in the yard with Brian (my cousin's husband). At a word from Brian, the dogs stayed right by his side and watched us walk by. John eyed them warily, but calmly walked past.

Another day, my other cousins' children were out walking their Golden Retriever, Xena. They came right up to John and me to say hello and this was great because Xena is a very sweet dog. She sat right in front of John and wagged her tail while he stared at her dubiously and the kids and I chatted. Another postiive experience under our belts.

We have had two other positive dog experiences this spring too. John sees the dog(s) and they see him, but everyone stays in their own space. I am hoping that with a few more positive experiences and using the skills I learned at the ECTRA convention (conveying a "this is my space, who do you think you are" attitude to the dog) that we have overcome this little issue.

I will let you know how our return trip to the hayfield goes, although with more rain coming, its going to be awhile.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Family Circus

Growing up, I loved reading the comics in the Sunday paper, especially Family Circus. One of my favorite themes was when Billy was sent from point A to point B and instead of taking the most direct path, he wandered all over the neighborhood and looked at everything, before arriving at his final destination.

Given a choice, John would also wander all over the neighborhood to look at everything when we go for trail rides.

I try to let him ride on a loose rein, but honestly, on a few of our 25 mile rides last year I think we may have added an extra 1/2 mile in "wandering" steps. Shuffle left, shuffle right, veer off trail to look at that branch...

This spring, as we do our long, slow conditioning rides (remarkably I have been able to keep these mostly at a walk) I am also concentrating on keeping John moving in a straight line (or straighter than he normally tracks). I use a lot of seat and legs so I can leave him on a loose rein, but just try and cut out some of the extra steps he takes, at least while we are riding. He can explore all he wants in his pasture!