Thursday, July 17, 2014

It's too darn hot

The dog days of summer seem to have arrived bringing tropical weather and stormy skies. Harley and the girls stomp and swish away the flies, dropping weight in the process. Thunderstorms stalk us, leaving little room for riding. But the urge to throw a leg over Harley and ride off into the steamy woods, hounded by deer flies holds little appeal. This is the time of year when I can't wait for September.

Last week, before the monsoon season hit, we went for a very brief, fast morning ride. In an attempt to stay ahead of the bugs, we trotted and cantered wherever footing allowed. Harley pushed into a higher gear, not quite a gallop, in his zeal to stay caught up with Rolex.

When they get into "racing mode" in the woods, things can get dicey, especially when we're headed home. A couple of hemlock branches skimmed my helmet as Harley surged forward, reminding me why a lacrosse helmet might be a better choice for trail riding!

Rolex, feeling full of herself, decided to throw in a couple of little bucks. Poor John, riding Rolex in a halter with perlon (climbing rope) reins, said the rope just slid through his hands. I think it might be time to get his Dr.Cook's bridle repaired! It's bad enough to have no brakes in the bitless bridle, but even worse with a halter and rope burns!

I think Harley and Rolex had a good time--a chance to stretch their legs and escape the monotony of fighting off biting flies. But once we bathed the horses, the horse flies descended like Apache helicopters, closing in on their targets. And boy, are those guys resilient! They need a stunning smack followed by a crushing boot heel! It seems they appear out of nowhere as soon as the hose starts to run. After their baths, the horses enjoyed a good nosh on some exceptionally tender clover, followed by a snooze in the cool, dark of their stalls with blowing fans. Ahhh----now that feels good!

Harley sneaks in some bites from a fresh hay bale
We're on the hunt for some alfalfa or alfalfa blend hay. John is trying to wean them off feed and keep the horses on a forage diet, supplemented by a balancer, rice bran, flax seed, and beet pulp. They seem to be doing well on this plan. The hardest part is finding really, really good hay. We have a couple of leads and hopefully, we can track down a steady supplier.

I read a number of blogs, and follow a number of OTTB groups. Many of my fellow bloggers are recreational horse people like myself. Some are much more intense in their desire to compete, and to attain a certain level. And though I may have mental images of riding Harley in a show (someday), chances are slim that we'll ever enter a show ring. I know I don't work hard enough in that direction--either with myself or Harley--but I'm having so much fun with him, it really doesn't matter. I accept his shortcomings as I hope he accepts mine, although I try to improve my horsemanship each time I ride.

I recently read a piece on the Retired Racehorse Project website about a woman and her OTTB Schmoopy. She's happy at the level she's reached with her horse, and happy just to have him in her life. Her love for her horse shines through in the self-deprecating descriptions of her riding, his shortcomings, and his shining strengths. Kudos to Malinda Lawrence!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Suddenly Summer

Today was my first time back in the saddle after our first dreadful heat wave of the summer. As our farrier said yesterday, "The only reason to like summer is fresh hay." I have to agree with him, oh and maybe the long daylight hours as well. Of course, that only means we have dinner after 9 p.m. most days!

Why the long absence, you ask? Well aside from the 80 to 90 degree days with horrible humidity and thunderstorms, I threw my back out trying to play plumber and appliance mechanic. I think I finally got the kitchen sink fixed--it had been leaking terribly for months--but the hot water pressure doesn't seem right. Hmm...Then the washing machine croaked. And you all know how many sweat-soaked saddle pads you go through in a week! I watched a YouTube video, took it apart, found the broken culprit and went to my local appliance store only to be sold the "new model" which the parts man said would work. Hah! So aftera morning scrambling under the kitchen sink, an afternoon wrestling with the washer, two trips to the appliance store,my back was toast. I couldn't ride Sunday, and I was sent home from work on Monday. What a wreck!

Saturday morning was spent with the farrier. And I just have to say, Harley was a good boy for St. Butch, better than Rolex! Then we zipped off to look at two properties, only to see both had barns with broken sills that needed A LOT of work. We'll keep an eye out and maybe make an offer on one, taking into account the barn needs to be torn down and rebuilt. So the afternoon of a glorious day was shot. We still needed to go to the feed store and by now it was after five. Day is done, gone the sun--we didn't get home until after 9 p.m. again.

So today, I vowed to ride my 'ole Gnarley Harley! Thankfully, all we received from Hurricane Arthur was a lot of strong winds which cleared out the nasty humidity. The wind still blew like crazy, gusting up the hill and through the trees.   This was a good thing; I hoped it would keep the biting flies at bay. The deer flies arrived with the hot weather so now a ride in the woulds requires a whisk and lots of bug spray.  As expected, he pranced down the street, jumping at thrashing branches, and trying to chicken out on me at the turkey place. "Oh no, you get up there, Mr. Spookypants!" We only did a short ride up towards Big Bump and down the power line since the deer flies were so bad.

 Mr. Spookypants safe at home in the clover patch

So we did a bit of ring work, something I'm so bad at disciplining myself to do. But we made use of some telephone poles Pete had pulled from the deep grass. First, Harley spooked at them--they weren't there before--then realized they were harmless. Since the poles were too close together to jump, but we played "trail class" and I made him walk in a serpentine through them, turn on the forehand, and back up a bit in a line as well. Maybe I can add some other obstacles for fun. I may move one of the poles for a jump! 

Harley has a nice nosh on some clover after a post-ride bath while I scrubbed buckets, cleaned stalls, and put away gear.

Then I had to go attend to our poor Ruffy girl, badly lame on one front leg. I think she hurt herself galloping around in the field yesterday. After being cooped up in the rain, everyone was "hot to trot" and ready for some action! Since they were bred to run, that's what they do best, but our fast girl must have whacked herself or strained something. I hosed her leg and gave her a dose of applesauce and bute. She's on stall rest with lots of hay and a cool fan blowing on her--poor Miss Ruff, she's our accident prone gal that needs a bubble wrap suit!