Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Where's Jackson?

Flash and I had three outings in a row two weekends ago; all between rain storms.  In a way it was like three day eventing, only difference being it was  in Flash's and my world.

Day #1 was on Friday when I fed Flash at 0530 and left with him in the trailer at 0645 for a 4 hour trail ride in a nature preserve in Irvine Ranch.  There was a total of 10 horses, none of which Flash knew.  He was very good and didn't care if he was in front, in the middle or in the back.  The only time he expressed his opinion about anything was when we stopped to open a locked gate and had to wait for the docent to unlock it.  He thinks that stopping means turn around and head back.  We discussed it over a sharp slap of the reins on his haunches, and he decided it was best to go forward.  On the way back the group walked on a concrete road which went over a swift creek running about 60' wide and 18" deep.  I decided to take Flash off the road and down the embankment to cross thru the water instead.  There was no hesitation in leaving the other horses.  We went down the embankment and he walked right into the water.  There were 3 large pipes about 2' in diameter which the creek flowed through under the road.  Flash walked right up to them, checked them out, and continued walking over the boulder strewn creek bed and out the other side.  Good boy.  We got home just before the first rain storm hit.

Day #2 was Saturday.  Up and feeding at 0500 and leaving at 0600 for a posse training day in Chino.  The training was "emergency care for a horse" put on by an outstanding vet.  It was 4 hours in the classroom, a break for lunch, and 4 more hours of hands on training.  The vet wanted 6 "demo" horses for the group to practice on, and Flash volunteered to be one of them.  Good boy.  I put him in a strange stall surrounded by strange horses during the classroom portion, and he didn't even blink.  The hands on part consisted of using hoof testers, wrapping bandages, pulse and respiration check, gut sounds for colic with a stethoscope, dental check in the mouth, and of course the old favorite, temperature taking.  Flash just stood there while he was wrapped and unwrapped, had his gums checked, was twitched, and had a thermometer placed up his rectum numerous times.  I think he even liked it because he was "dropped down" most of the time.  Typical gelding.  One good thing was that the vet checked his dental work and was really impressed with the doctor who had done the work several months ago.  We finished the day at 1600 hours and got home at 1730 just in time for dinner.  The entire day was spent dodging rain drops.

Day #3 was Sunday.  Day of rest?  Not for Flash and I.  Up and feeding at 0430 and this time leaving with both Flash and Jackson at 0600.  We were out the gate and down the block when Jackson remembered that we had forgot Annette.  Back to the house, picked up Annette and her coffee, then off to San Diego, (2 hour drive), for a sensory clinic before the next rain storm.  When we got there and took the horses out of the trailer, I could tell that Flash was a little hyped up.  He normally excels with in these clinics, but today was different.  Things were ok until the group of about 15 horses in the arena had to trot down the rail about two horse lengths apart.  Jackson doesn't do well in an arena setting with other horses, so his trot became VERY extended.  Annette maneuvered Jackson to the inside and began passing other horses.  This upset Flash and he kept asking, "where is Jackson going"?  I kept holding Flash back until we were cantering in place, both of us getting upset with each other.

We then lined up in columns of two to march into the other arena where the obstacles were set up.  Annette and I were the leaders or the "guide".  Jackson didn't like being stirrup to stirrup and kept moving away.  "Where's Jackson going?" asked Flash. " Don't worry, you know how to do this", I said.  But worry he did.  When we got to the other arena and started doing obstacles, Jackson took the imitative and went first.  Flash became more upset when Jackson was leaving before him.  At the obstacles Jackson was really good , this being his first time.  He would study and diagram them, then formulate a plan of attack, reconsider and evaluate, then eventually go through, most of the time. Then he and Annette would leave for the next obstacle and Flash and I would be left behind.  Normally Flash would care less being the alpha horse of his herd, but today was different.  Soon as Jackson left it was "where's Jackson?" "He's right over there", now go through the obstacle.  ":No, I need to be near Jackson".  "No, go through the damn obstacle".  We played this scene over and over.  Flash eventually went through every obstacle the first time, never balking, but always asking, "where's Jackson?"  Other horses had trouble crossing through the tray of water or over the baby crib mattress or popping balloons.  Flash seemed to say, "alright, I'll go through, but where is Jackson?"  The only obstacle he didn't do was the pole on the barrel.  Flash has done this before several times with no problem, but not this day.  His only concern was "where is Jackson?"

It was not a good day for us.  I was upset with the way Flash acted, and Annette was upset with the way I was acting towards Flash.  She told me he was just having a bad day.  He's tired and this is the third day in a row for him she said.  All valid points, but I knew he could do better.  I just don't understand why he needed to be near Jackson.  It's always the other way around. Flash wasn't insecure, I don't know what his problem was.  If anybody out there has any ideas, please let me know.

Several days later I went down to Home Depot and bought two trash cans and a 10' long PVC pole to practice the barrel thing with.  I set it up in our arena, tacked up Flash and got on him.  He walked right over to the pole on the trash cans, sniffed it, then knocked it off the cans with his nose.  I got off, put the pole back up, got back on Flash and approached the pole.  Flash just stood there calmly while I picked up the pole.  Then we walked in a big circle around the trash can with the pole on top three or four times, just using my legs to turn him.  We changed directions while holding onto the pole and did it four times the other way.  Never once did Flash ask, "where is Jackson?"

Funny horse, full of compost.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Happy Birthday Mom!!!!!!!!

Happy Birthday Mom.  This is my card to you, but I had to have Pops help me write it.  When I use my hoofs on the keyboard, it doesn't work too well.  I wasn't sure what to get you, so I talked with Flash and Kalvin and they had a great idea.  They both said I needed more practice on obstacles, and the one they suggested was that pole on top of a barrel.  I told Pops he could ride me someday in a mounted patrol event if he could run to Home Depot and pick up a pole and something to put it on.  I thought maybe trash cans turned upside down would work.  Barn green to match the property, yes?

Anyway, here's my birthday gift to you.  I love you Mom.


Mom's birthday gift from me.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The bridge to nowhere

I spent all day Sunday building a bridge.  Annette calls it the bridge to nowhere.  Here's how it all began.
The bridge to nowhere.

Six years ago Flash and I decided we wanted to join a mounted patrol group.  Well, Flash was young at the time, so me, being his guardian, decided that we should join a posse or mounted patrol unit.  I looked and researched several different posses and it came down to two choices, Riverside County Sheriff or Chino PD.  Both had tests for the rider and mount in order to be accepted in the posse.  One of the tests was for the horse to be able to walk calmly across a 4' wide bridge 8' long.  I wasn't sure Flash could do it, so I set about building a wooden bridge with left over wood we had from when we built our house.  I built this bridge in front of Flash's stall while he watched me.  I used a nail gun, threw lumber around, yelled a bit, all the while Flash was watching me.  He wasn't scared, just curious.  I wasn't sure how he would react once I asked him to cross the bridge; but I figured it would take several hours of training to get him to walk across.

When I finished the bridge, I used my tractor to haul it out to the arena.  I tacked up Flash and walked him out to the arena, and while I was closing the gate, Flash walked over to the bridge and started to chew on it.  My plan was to walk him across the bridge until he felt comfortable, (it might take an hour or so), then I would get on and ride him across the bridge.  I figured this could take several hours.  He walked across twice, then walked backwards across the bridge.  Four minutes had gone by.  I got on him and he walked across the first time , no problem.  I had spent several hours building this sensory device, wondering if Flash could handle it.  After 5 minutes we were done.  That was the last sensory device I spent time building.

I kept the bridge next to the arena.  Why I don't know.  I couldn't just throw it away, I had spent a lot of energy building it.  I used it several more times for training.  Once I put old tires underneath it so it would be unstable when Flash walked across.  No problem, he thought it was an amusement ride of some type.

Flash forward to Sunday.

I decided to move my bridge next to the pasture over a natural water course which runs through our property.  With the tractor it didn't take long.  The bridge is built on two 4x4's with 2x12 boards on top.  Pretty simple.  One end of the bridge went into the slope below the arena, while the other end was raised up on two concrete blocks.  Why does that matter asked Annette?  Because it has to be level.  Women, sometimes they ask to many questions.  Flash and Jackson watched; they both understood.  It didn't take long to level the bridge.  When I finished I decided to give it a test and got Flash out.  He walked right over it with no problem.  When I put Flash back in the arena, Jackson tried to push his way out through the gate.  I yelled at him and asked him what he was doing.  "I want to cross the bridge too Dad".  Alright.  I put a halter on Jackson and led him to the bridge.  He started to walk across when all of a sudden one of the 4x4's split in half.  Jackson finished crossing the bridge, but I thought "Oh shit, do he get cut or hurt himself"?  After all, I had done this without Annette's permission.  Jackson was ok, but my nerves were shot.  I told Annette later what had happened.  "Don't worry dear" she said, "the couch in the barn is clean, you can sleep there tonight".

The next day I went down to Home Depot early and bought supplies for a new bridge.  This one is done right, with 4x4 posts sunk in the ground with concrete and 5 2x6's running length wise for support, braced every 12" with 2x6 blocks.  The top is 2x12's, 40" long.  Today was test day.  Both Flash and Jackson went across, no problems.  Neither horse was scared, and no more compost was made.  That was enough for today.
The new bridge.
Flash checking out the load bearing capacity.
It held us both.
I'm done Dad, it's time to eat .

The bridge still goes nowhere, but I have plans to add steps up the side of the hill to the viewing stand.  I wonder, can I get the horses to stand on the raised viewing stand?  Better wait until Annette is in a really good mood or intoxicated on wine.  I can't seem to get "horse challenges" out of my mind.

His foot is fine.

I haven't blogged for awhile because I've been busy working, both at home and my part-time job.  I've had several inquires on how Flash is doing so I guess it's time to update and turnover my "compost pile".

Flash is doing fine.  We missed one dressage lesson two weeks ago because we thought he may have an abscess.  He was having trouble putting weight on his right front foot and couldn't trot at all.  I took Annette and Jackson up to the lesson, and when we came back, Flash was at the pasture gate, ticked off that he couldn't go.  When Annette put Jackson away in the pasture, Flash chased him around for five minutes, letting Jackson know that he is not supposed to leave without Flash's permission.  His foot seemed fine then.  Flash was definitely upset; either because he couldn't go, or the fact that Jackson was in Flash's "stall" at the front of the trailer.  Maybe both.

I worked the next day, (Sunday), and when I came home I decided to longe Flash and see how he was.  Well, I haven't longed Flash for at least 6 years because there wasn't a need to.  He used to be wild when I first got him and had to longe him before I got on.  There were several occasions when he tried to drag me around the arena.  On this day he started out fine at a walk for 30 seconds, then decided to trot half a circle and then go into a canter.  When I told him he was on the wrong lead, he bucked, farted, picked up the correct lead and took off .  I held on because I knew he wanted to have a tug of war.  I was right, but was ready this time.  After a few more bucks he went into a nice canter.  We then changed directions and he was a good boy.  After 5 minutes we stopped.  Flash was still snorting, ready to go, so I walked up to him and asked him if he just wanted to run around the arena.  He just looked at me and said, "what do you think?"  I took off his halter and said "go".  He turned as he "flew out of sight", a twinkle in his blue eyes, full of delight.  We played "chase" games in the arena for the next 15 minutes.  He would run and I would chase him down the rail.  If I got closer than ten feet he would shift gears and leave me in the dust.  When he got to the corner, Flash would turn and prance towards me.  When he got close he would say "haha" and take off again.  After the 15 minutes, I walked over and picked up the halter, and Flash came right over to me.  I put the halter on and asked if he was done.  Flash nodded his head yes, and said "thank you".  His foot was fine.  No sign of an abscess.  I think he just tweaked something.

This last Saturday both Annette and I took a lesson.  Flash was really good.  I wasn't sure what to expect since I had only ridden him once the past week.  The lesson was hard as usual, 50 minutes of NON-STOP trot and canter in both directions.  Gayle, our trainer, asked if I wanted a break half way through.  Me, being macho, said no, I was alright.  I didn't want to tell her that my thighs were killing me and my right calf was cramping.  That's not to mention I couldn't close my fingers because of the arthritis in my hands.  I just grit my teeth until my crowns fell out.  Look how tough I am. Not.  Flash felt it too.  Near the end he started to transition down to trot from canter without permission because he was getting really tired.  He was good though, and when I asked, he immediately went back into canter.  I've never seen Flash so happy to see Jackson when Annette and he walked into the arena for their lesson.  Yes, Flash's foot is fine.

This next week will be an interesting one for Flash, if the weather holds and it is not rainy.  On Friday Flash and I are going on a 4 hour trail ride with a group from Irvine, (limited to 10 horses).  It goes through the hills of Irvine Ranch, following an old Wells Fargo stage coach route.  On Saturday it's up and leaving the barn at 0600 for posse training all day, (emergency medical aid for horses), put on by a local vet.  She wants 8 horses to stand still for three hours while we practice bandaging.  We'll see.  On Sunday it's up again early for a 2 hour drive to San Diego with both Flash and Jackson for an all day sensory clinic.  Not only do I have to get up at 5 to feed the horses, I need to run back and forth to the house every 10 minutes to slowly wake up Annette.  She did promise me she would go to the clinic, but I think she is secretly praying for rain so it will be cancelled.  It's not that she doesn't want to do the clinic, she just doesn't do well getting up early.  It's a process, but she's getting better.

I'm looking forward to the clinic because that is what Flash and I really like.  Tarps over his head. walking under a parachute while other horses hold it up, walking over mattresses, crossing over a teeter totter, going thru a "car wash", dragging a trash bag full of cans, shooting a paint ball gun off his back, pushing the "battle ball" around, smoke bombs of all colors, fire crackers, popping balloons, and his best friend "air man".  This and more.  I'm also interested to see how Jackson does; though I suspect he will do fine.  He has a really good head.  I went to this clinic 3 years ago and it was great.  In the afternoon there was a contest, voluntary only.  It was a timed event going thru 4 obstacles.  You could trot or canter between obstacles, but had to walk thru the obstacle itself.  The first obstacle was a "trash pit", just like it sounds.  The second was walking up to a bunch of balloons and popping three of them.  The third was the "car wash", (walking thru streamers of various sorts attached to an overhead frame).  The last was walking across a king size mattress, then back to the start as fast as you want.  This, by the way, is staying on and with your horse the whole time.  Most riders completed the course in 3 or 4 minutes; some a little faster, some a little slower.  Flash, well he is just a tad bit competitive; somewhat like his owner.  We finished the course at a full gallop, scattering instructors everywhere,  Our time; 29 seconds. 

I sure hope it doesn't rain.  It makes my compost too soggy.

Friday, March 4, 2011

A long week

This past week has been really long.  After spending 5 days in Coeur d'alene, Idaho watching my 8 year old grand daughter compete in a big gymnastics meet, I flew home on Monday to nice weather.  It was fun watching my grand daughter compete, but it was 5 long days driving back and forth from the hotel to the meet in ice and snow with a rental car.  I have a real appreciation for all you bloggers  who live in those conditions.  I don't think I could do that.  I got up at 4 in the morning to drive back to Spokane, Wa. on Monday, caught a 7:45 flight back to Ontario, Ca., then drove home in time to feed the horses Monday evening.  When I turned onto our street, I saw Flash standing in the middle of the pasture.  When he heard my car he looked up, which he sometimes does.  However, this time he looked at me and trotted over to the fence.  I stopped and got out of the car and walked over to the fence.  Flash put his head half way over and let me give him a kiss.  The first time he's ever done that.  I guess he's getting sentimental in his old age, (he turns 15 in two months).

Tuesday it was back to work at 5 in the morning.  Luckily it was the only day I worked this week.  On Wednesday I rode Flash in the morning and he was really good.  It had been a week since I last rode him, but he was bent and forward, at least forward for him, and all our canter transitions were on the correct lead each time.  We worked hard for 45 minutes, and when we finished we were both tired but happy. Annette wasn't feeling well and was coming down with a bad cold or the flu, so she stayed in the house.  I came in around 2 PM to check on her, and she was sound asleep on the couch, curled up in a little ball with blankets around her.  She never does that so I know she was hurting.  I started a fire for her in the fireplace and then went back outside to trim trees.  At 5 I fed all the animals and came back up to the house.  Annette was feeling a little better, but still weak.

On Thursday I thought I would ride Flash again, getting him ready for our dressage lesson on Saturday.  I tacked him up and walked to the arena, but when I got on him I could tell he was off.  I'm not very good at knowing when a horse is off, but this time I could tell that he had trouble putting weight on his right front leg.  We walked for about 10 minutes and he seemed a little better, so I asked him to trot.  He could barely move.  Flash is very stoic, but I could tell he was in pain.

I asked Annette, (my own on-site vet), if she could take a look at him.  She came down from the house and after he took two steps she told me to get off.  She checked his right front leg and the tendons were fine and there was no heat.  I iced both front legs, (which he wasn't sure about), gave him some bute and put him away.  That evening I had a posse meeting, so Annette fed the animals.  She checked Flash and felt a little warmth in his coronary band.  She called me and said she thought he probably had an abscess in his right foot, and that tomorrow morning we should soak it in epson salt and warm water.  I then remembered that about 4 months ago our farrier found the remnants of an abscess in one of Flash's front feet under the shoe.

When I got home from my meeting, Annette and I discussed how Flash may have gotten an abscess.  His turnout area next to his stall is 12' x 24', but near the entrance to his stall, the soil is very muddy when it rains.  I put wood pellets down to absorb the water and urine, but over the years it has turned to muck when it gets wet.  It's so bad that when you step in it, your boot comes off trying to get out.  It's no wonder he hasn't pulled a shoe going in and out of his stall.  When the barn was finished, I didn't spend a lot of time preparing the turnout areas because I didn't know what I was doing.  That was 8 years ago.  I guess now is the time to do it right.  I'm not sure if Flash even has an abscess, but it all makes sense; and what the heck, I have nothing else to do on Friday.

Of course Annette and I go to bed last night and I can't sleep because I start planning on how to fix Flash's turnout.  I keep asking her questions: What should I put down for a base?, What should go on top of the base?, Should I take down the gate panel to get my tractor in?,  How many yards of DG, (decomposed granite), do I need?, and so on.  Annette has all the answers, but doesn't want to share them with me because she wants to go to sleep.  What nerve.  So I stay awake until 2 AM planning tomorrow's job.

Up at 6:30, feed all the critters, and get to work.  First I soak Flash's foot.  He doesn't like it and gives me a hard time.  So Annette comes on scene.  Flash knows not to mess with her.  On with the boot and stand still and eat your hay for 25 minutes.  I keep him company and listen while he vents about Annette putting a sloshy boot on his foot.  Yeah buddy, I know the feeling.  Then it's out to the pasture with his herd, and I take down the gate panel and start digging out all the old "yuck".  There are huge holes next to the entrance of his stall.  Finally after 30 minutes I get down to the hard pack, and the area looks like craters on the moon.
I put all of the old stuff in the compost piles and put in two tractor loads of "blend", (a mixture of pea gravel and sand).  At first the horses didn't notice the gate panel down.  After the second load of blend I start to back up and there is Flash, supervising.  I almost run over him.  Then comes Jackson and the two donkeys.  The next thing  all of them are in a 12 x 12 stall, holding  an ad hoc meeting on whether or not I am a licensed contractor.  The heck with this.  I pull my tractor up to the entrance of the stall and out jumps Jackson like he is shot from a cannon.  He is followed by both donkeys.  Flash sticks his head out to see what the commotion is all about and decides it is time for his hydraulic snack on my tractor lines.  I finally get him out of the way, put the gate panel back up temporarily, hook up my dump trailer and head down the hill to pick up some DG.  On the way out Annette tells me that she has calculated that we need 3 cubic yards of DG.  She knows her math.

Extra DG for tomorrow's project.
Back home at 1:30 and I start to dump the trailer full of DG, but the battery on the dump trailer is dying.  The DG is wet and heavy, but I finally get it dumped after using a battery jumper.  Now I've learned from the morning session what happens when the gate panel is down, so I put all the horses and donkeys away in separate stalls.  Two hours of leveling and compacting, and Flash has a brand new turnout.  Me, I have sore shoulders and a very stiff back.  An all day project, but somebody is happy; I'm just not sure who.
Flash's renovated turnout.

As I stand bent over admiring my work, Annette shows up with two glasses of wine.  What a gal, one for me, and another one for me.  Flash, he must be feeling better.  He's racing Kalvin up and down the fence line between bites of hay.  We'll see how he is tomorrow morning.  He does have a choice; either a tough dressage lesson or rattlesnake avoidance training with the mounted posse.  But that's another story.
Flash eating with Kalvin.
My two glasses of wine.