Sunday, July 29, 2012

Hey, Dude.....and, Pa-toy-ing!

As I mentioned in my last post, DH's Mom and I went on a trail ride last Sunday morning.  We went out at 10:30 a.m. with the hope of beating the such luck.  Within 5 minutes, I had sweat dripping into my eyes.  Thank goodness for waterproof mascara!   For the next hour and a half, DH's Mom told me about her awesome dude ranch vacation.

The resort she went to is a family-run working ranch, which hosts 40 people each week.  The Ranch also offered other activities, including hiking, river rafting, fly fishing and mountain biking.  In addition to managing a resort and running cattle, the family runs a high-end reining training facility.  They know horses.  :-)  At the time DH's Mom registered with them, she had to fill out a questionnaire outlining her riding abilities.  

The facility was gorgeous, with small cabins around the main lodge, surrounded by the Canadian Rockies. The first evening was basically getting to know everyone.   Can you just imagine sitting out having a cocktail on this porch?  The next morning, her orientation included getting acquainted with her assigned horse and showing her skills to the wranglers to ensure that she was was matched with the right horse.  There were all levels of riders - some had never been near a horse before this!   After the skill levels were determined, groups were formed - beginners, some experience, experienced, etc.  Each group had, I believe, two wranglers  assigned to them.  A few of these wranglers were actually from Australia!  All of the horses wore special shoes, so that they could better grip the rocky terrain and avoid hoof damage.

DH's Mom was in the advanced group.  One of the wranglers assigned to her group of 4 is a vet student.   He is working towards being a large animal vet.  He grew up with horses. He told DH's Mom that he didn't "love" his horses.  His focus is on respect and ensuring that the horse understands what is required of him/her.  This is my understanding of what he was trying to get across:  "Love" was humanizing a horse and he believes that this is doing a disservice to the horse.  Horses don't "love" each other.  They respect and protect each other, but "love" is not something that is part of a herd environment.   When we start to apply our human emotions to a horse and expect it to be reciprocated, it's not a fair.  Horses are horses.  Guilty as charged!  I am not ashamed to admit that I love my horse to bits.  Absolutely, respect plays a big part in your relationship with your horse, but I also think showing affection makes us relaxed and in turn, makes the horse relaxed.   What do you think of the wrangler's comment??

He also said that horses that have a job to perform; whether it's jumping, dressage or trail riding.  It is our job to make sure they understand what is required and we shouldn't make excuses (humanizing) for them not performing their job.  They either do their job or they are made to do their job.  OK, I sort of get this.   Actually, DH's Mom follows this line of thinking and I have to say that DH has not suffered in the least with this approach.  He is solid and well adjusted.  I admit I have a hard time with the disciplining aspect of horse ownership and making Gem do what I ask.  I am inconsistent in this area.   In fact, DH's Mom and LA have told me on numerous times not to let Gem away with stuff and that I baby him. I don't know about you, but I make "human" excuses for Gem all the time when he gives me the business.  "He must be hot", "the flies must be bothering him", "he's tired"....  

DH's Mom rode every day for about 5 hours.  Each day was a different type of ride.  One day they rode along and in the river.  Another they rode up a mountain - the path was less than 3 feet wide in some parts!!  Yikes!!  One day they went through forests.  They would gallop through any terrain put in front of them.  DH's Mom said she had never ridden like that in her life (and she's as old as me!!).  She was pushed way beyond her comfort zone and had to completely trust the horse she was riding.  

Sometimes, lunch would be served out on the trail.  How cowboy is that?!  All the meals were homemade.  Cocktails were at 5:30 p.m., dinner was early evening and very relaxed - lots of talking and laughing.  Very civilized.  DH's Mom said she when she hit the pillow, she was asleep instantly!  She said it was the best sleep she had had in years.  :-)   

DH's Mom said that this vacation not only increased her confidence by pushing her riding comfort level, but this experience also pushed her in other areas.  She came to realize that it was time to make some personal changes.  You see, DH's Mom lost her husband 6 years ago to a brain tumour; he suffered for weeks.  This vacation highlighted that it was time to get out there, be an active participate in life and be with others.  She feels she is now ready to start dating......Giddy up!   :-)

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Gem and DH were relaxed and OK with just plodding along the trails while DH's Mom chattered away, telling me of her adventure.  As we started to head back,  I suggested that we trot across the small field we were in to the next field opening.  Off we went....Gem doing a lovely big trot.  We hadn't done this kind of activity in a while (back strain) and I was really into it, posting and thinking how amazing it felt.  Suddenly, I felt Gem power up and break into a uninvited lope.  In a flash, LA's comment you shouldn't post a trot when asking for a lope because you are off balance - you should always sit a trot before asking raced through my mind.  She was right...I came down, he came up and I bounced and lost my balance.  I tried to save myself but ended up in the dirt .  

It seems my butt hit first, then my left elbow and then the back of my head.  After I made sure I could wiggle my toes, DH's Mom helped me up.  As I was getting up I felt this excruciating pain shoot up my from my where my inner thigh meets my body.  I was having difficulty walking.  I explained to DH's Mom that it felt like a "pa-toy-ing!".  She immediately understood my description.... Pa-toy-ing = a pulled groin, probably a result of trying to right myself in the saddle.  I limped over to a rock, DH's Mom held Gem and I got back on him.  It hurt like crazy, but riding actually stretched it out a bit.  Getting down was another challenge, as was driving, as was getting out of my car.  I iced my crotch from the moment I got home.   Advil did an amazing job, as usual.  My Husband and I surveyed the damage the next morning:  obviously, I was stiff, I have a lovely black/purple bruise about the size of my hand on one cheek of my butt, numerous other bruises over my arms and legs and a particularly nice swollen one on my left elbow which I was delighted to show the guys at work.  :-)  I consider myself lucky that a) I didn't land on any pointy rocks, b) that I had a helmet on,  c) that my back was not re-injured, d) that my shoulder was not re-injured and e) I didn't actually get stepped on by Gem as I sort of fell in front of him.  So, all in all, not a bad fall.  :-)  

Monday, July 23, 2012

One Week to the Next

  • We have had a couple of grass fires in outlying areas that have taken days to get under control.  Although there have been promises of a reprieve from the 34C temperatures we have had for weeks now, the occasional grey clouds never amount to anything. Everything is crispy.  LA's mother, who has lived on the property since 1961, says she has never experienced weather like we have had recently. 

  • The beginning of June, I strained my back quite badly....badly enough that there were times I had to sleep in a chair because I couldn't get in or out of bed.  It was worth it, though.  :-) It was caused by a great riding lesson that included poles.  I was planning on taking the summer off from lessons (too hot!!), so I just stopped a little sooner.  About 3 weeks ago, I started riding again.  I needed assistance getting up, and I only lasted short periods of time, but it felt good to get back in the saddle.  I managed to get Gem up to a lope a couple of times and I was very pleased with myself.  Funny how quickly your confidence and endurance diminishes when you haven't ridden in a few weeks.....

  • Just over a week ago, LA convinced me to have Gem put out at night and brought into the cool barn during the day.  DH is still out there with him.  Now for those of you who have been reading this blog for a while, you might remember that Gem is a bit of an escape artist.  He is not afraid of the electric fence and has proven that a few times nowInitially, I wasn't fussy on it, but with the heat we have been experiencing I decided to give it a go.  It seems to be working out OK.  The downside is that when I see him to ride, he is full of beans and is anxious to get out of the stall.  Not a great combination when when you are trying to ease back into riding.  :-)

  • I bought my Australian stock saddle.  I put it together last week and tried it out on Friday.  Everything is quite stiff yet, so I won't be taking it out on the trails until it's broken in. I am having difficulty in getting the girth as tight as it should be.  It is sooo much lighter than my Western! I love the seat of it - the cantle is quite high and helps support your back and it's very comfortable.  The knee pads keep you in position.  It will take some time to get used to the leathers and I am definitely going to swap out the stirrups - I find them a bit small.  

  • DH's Mom just got back from a dude ranch adventure.  She went on her own.  She has ridden most of her life and this type of holiday has always been a dream of hers.  She was in the interior of British Columbia and said it was the best vacation she had ever been on.  She was there a week, along with 40 other people.  Every day there were trail challenges - riding up mountains, crossing rivers, stony paths, deep brush.  There was lots of galloping and she jumped a a gallop....this was her first time jumping!  The place was a first class resort and very well managed.  The horses were terrific and the food amazing.  She made lots of friends.  She said that she learned soooo much from the rancher and the professionals that took them on the day excursions.  Some of her observations hit really close to home for me.....but I will share them in another post. 

  • Jean made the decision last week (I admit that I did push it a bit) to get a professional trainer involved with Stu.  It's a hard pill to swallow, but she has come to the realization that perhaps she needs help.  I am very pleased that she has made this decision.  She met with a trainer that LA recommended and they had their first session last Friday.

  • A few weeks ago, I sent an email to a local Hyundai dealership enquiring about the delivery wait for a red Veloster.  Dealers around here are only getting a few of these cars and they are sold practically before they arrive.  In my email, I said that I was interested in a base model, I wanted an automatic and I wanted it in red.  No one replied.  :-( On Saturday, My Husband and I were out shopping and he started talking about my need of a new car and he suggested we swing by the Hyundai dealer to look at the Elantra as an alternative.  As we were sitting in a floor model, I mentioned to the sales rep that what I was really interested in was the Veloster.  He said that he had one on the lot that was sold, but if I wanted to sit in it I could....yes, please!  He returned with the keys and as we were walking to the car, he said he was mistaken....this car was not sold; it was their 2013 model that had just arrived.  My heart skipped a beat.  As we walked closer, I saw that it was red.  My heart fluttered.  When I got in, I noticed it was an automatic....  I asked if this was the base model - yes it was.  My heart jumped.  So, I bought my car on the weekend!  No waiting, no fuss.  In fact, the car was so new to the lot that the price had to be verified. How weird that My Husband would suggest going to the dealership on Saturday and that the car had just been delivered and was exactly what I was looking for.  It was meant to be!!  
Have a great week!!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Shaken and Stirred

Geez, the temps are up to 35C here, 40C with the humidex!  Yikes!  Makes for really big hair.  :-)

Jean has been doing amazing work with Stu.  When she lunges him, he now responds immediately to all of her verbal commands: easy, whoa, walk, trot.   She has been exposing him to different things to desensitize him.  Stu now wears a western saddle on his back while being lunged. Jean has done all of this on her own and her confidence has grown.  I know Jean pretty well, and I can tell she was getting bored with her routine with Stu.   So it wasn't a surprise when Jean asked LA if she could go to the next step.  With LA's help, she actually sat on Stu a couple of weeks ago, with LA holding Stu's headstall.  Very exciting.  He was skittish, understandably.  Jean was nervous, understandably.  Unfortunately, after Jean sat on Stu, he got the step ladder caught on his back foot , causing him to spook a bit.   LA continued to hang on and calm him, Jean gratefully got down and untangled him.  Now, apparently, white step stools are killer monsters to Stu.

The plan was to have someone sit on Stu every day, eventually working up to a walk.  The challenge was that Jean couldn't be out at the barn every day and LA could not risk injuring herself on a green horse because it would impact her training business.   The 2nd time Jean was scheduled to sit on him, she started working herself up to a tizzy with her nervousness.  Fortunately, she came clean and one of the other adult boarders, who has worked with green horses before, volunteered to "sit" on Stu with LA holding Stu's headstall.  Even though he routinely swung his hind end out, Stu did pretty well with the boarder on his back and LA actually led him around in a couple of small circle.  This boarder volunteered to sit on Stu when Jean was not there, but scheduling became an issue.  So, on Sunday, as I was untacking Gem, I overheard Jean explaining the situation to another boarder and how she was frustrated that it appeared that Stu was ready but the stars were not aligned.  At that point, I volunteered to be Jean's ground person if she wanted to try sitting on him.

Jean lunged Stu in the arena while I finished up with Gem.  I got my Confidence Vest out of the car and handed it to Jean as I entered the arena.  At first she said she didn't need it, but I asked her to wear it for me and she did.  We both had helmets on.  She handed Stu's reins to me and I walked him around the arena a couple of times, talking to him, getting him used to me and my voice.   Jean put the big black 3-step mounting block in the middle of the arena.  Initially, all Jean did was pull down on the stirrup, getting him re-acquainted with the feeling.  He kept swinging his hind end away from Jean.  She would reposition the mounting block and we would go through the same routine.  Eventually, we moved him to the 1/2 wall next the to gate; Jean didn't want him to feel claustrophobic, so she thought that standing parallel to the gate where he could see outside would be a good thing.  Positioning him there worked wonderfully.  He did not swing out his hind end and over a 10(?) minute period, she worked up from pulling down on the stirrup, to stepping up and leaning over him and dismounting.  All the while, I was stroking Stu's neck and telling him what a good boy he was.  His anxiety started to melt away, his head lowered, he sucked on the bit and his eyes were relaxed.  Jean was nervous because she knew the time had come.  I told her that if she didn't feel up to it to walk away now - in my mind it was already a very successful session.   She decided to give it a go.

She slowly swung her leg over him and gently sat down.  Stu, perked up and as usual, took a big step and started to swing his hind end out.  What happened next caught both of us off guard.  Stu became a whirling dervish, with me hanging on to his face for part of it.  Unfortunately for Jean, the momentum of Stu doing a really fast small circle whipped her out of the saddle.  She flew through the air coming down hard on her hip, then chest, finishing with a face plant in the new fluffy sand.  I was glad that she was wearing my vest.  :-)  Stu immediately stopped and stood about 15 feet away, looking at us.  I swear he was scared but concerned about what had just happened.  While Jean was trying to catch her breath, I went to Stu, spoke quietly to him and then looped the reins over the horn of the saddle, to keep them from sliding down his neck and over his head.  

LA's husband came in to the arena and while I moved the mounting block over the Jean so she could sit, he went over to Stu.  After a few minutes, LA's husband got on Stu (from the ground, for cripes sakes!) and sat on him for a few minutes while LA and I ascertained that Jean could walk, etc. 

I am certainly no expert, but here's my postmortem:
  • Jean was nervous and Stu picked up on that.
  • Perhaps 10(?) minutes was too long to be working up to Jean getting on him.
  • Jean and I were lulled into a false sense of security when Stu became relaxed. 
  • I did a good job of calming Stu, but perhaps it was too good.  If he was half asleep when Jean sat on him, he may have been startled.
  • Jean was a bit too slow in getting into the saddle; it was not fluid, hence her foot was not secure in the other stirrup and she did not have a secure grasp on the reins.
  • When Stu took that initial step when Jean sat in the saddle, swinging his hind end away from me, I believe he hit the bottom of the gate with one of his hind feet, causing him to jump forward (reminiscent of the killer monster stool).
  • It happened so quickly, that neither of us had the sense to actually use any verbal commands, like "easy" or "whoa!" 
I know what it's like to fall from a large horse.  I fell from Gem while galloping (the galloping was not by choice!!) and once when he bucked at a horse that was too far up his butt on the trails, catapulting me out of the saddle to fall like a rag doll in the hard snow.  It's scary and it hurts.  A lot.  I was able to get right back on Gem both times, which was good for my confidence.  Jean was focused on herself after the fall and didn't have any contact with Stu, not even a reassuring pat while we were still in the arena.  :-(  Someone else took him to the barn, untacked him and put him out.  After I agreed to pick her up, she sent me a note saying she had decided not to come out to the barn on Tuesday because she was stiff and didn't think that it would be good for her to be traipsing around the fields looking for Stu..... 

I know her confidence has suffered with this fall and it has been a humbling from a "knowing her horse" and "horse trainer" perspective.  I just hope it doesn't take long for her to get over it and that I will see her out at the barn this weekend, working with her beautiful horse.   

Have a good weekend and stay cool!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Weird and Wonderful and Awkward.....


My normal routine when tacking up is curry, brush, feet, saddle.  I have found over time that adding a bit of saliva to my finger tips aids in grasping my 100 lb (I may be exaggerating) saddle when I lift it over my head.  So, why is it that I can lick my fingers, which even though I have given them a dust on my pants. are covered in dirt and whatever dirt and manure mixture that came out of Gem's feet, but cringe when someone doesn't wash their hands after they use the bathroom?


LA got an Australian Cattle Dog puppy 8 months ago.  He's a very clever dog and will be a great companion for LA when her only child leaves for college in the fall.  Tuesday, the puppy's mother came for a visit.  They hadn't seen each other since he left her.  They were so happy to see each other and it was wonderful to watch them together....playing and loving each other non-stop.


Jean asked if I would help her clean Stu's sheath.  In making our arrangements, I sent her an email saying "we will do them both" and "you bring the K-Y"......hmmm


Is it just me, or have you noticed that when you are grooming your horse's hip and croup area, he/she passes gas?


The front paddock is under renovation right now.  The finished product will be huge - double in size!  You should have seen the boulders that were pulled out of the ground....   :-)


A couple of weeks ago, while out on a trail ride, we entered the forested area from a different less-traveled opening. The two riders in front of me were on smaller horses (of course!) and the tree branches weren't much of an issue for them.   I, on the other hand, had to bend right over Gem's neck to avoid having my head smashed by the branches.  I actually had to stay like that for a while.  Eventually, we came to a clearing and as I started to sit up, I was jerked back down to Gem's neck.  The front of my bra had become hooked on my saddle horn and my t-shirt had sort of become wrapped around the horn.  I yelled out to my friends to wait because I had to "unhook my bra"........  Sigh.


LA told one of the other boarders that if she didn't call her farrier and get her horse's feet done immediately, she was going to call ours and have them done and charge her a service fee on top of having to pay for the farrier.   This boarder considers herself to be quite a horsewoman, but seems completely oblivious to the long, split feet of her horse. Why is it some people just don't get it.....


I received my Sunbody hat a month ago and LOVE it.  I got the same style that Raeta wore in the movie "Buck". Does it make me a better rider?  I don't know because I wear a helmet when I ride.....  :-) 


I don't understand how the type/font when I am composing my blog post looks fine while editing, but changes size after I post it.  Drives me crazy.  What's with that???


My natural hair colour was black, but when I hit my 40's and it started greying, I started colouring it a medium brown.  I stopped colouring my hair a year ago.   One more hair cut and I will be silver!  I love it!!  Strangely, the hair on the back of my head is still pretty dark.  I cannot tell you how many MEN have told me that they love it.  ;-)


The lady who does my nails is 6 months pregnant.  I didn't notice.  She was going on about how the stairs in her 3-storey condo were going to be a PITA and I didn't get it.  Oops.   In my defence though, she's always in a white smock and she sits behind a table.....


My Niece wants to come for a visit and she wants to bring a friend!  They will be coming for a couple days at the end of the month.  Yipee!!

Have a great weekend!!