Saturday, December 29, 2012

Our Pens Have Turned Into Inksicles! Our Assets Are Frozen!

Water freezes. It's supposed to when conditions are right. Sometimes this causes problems, as the conditions are right but the situation is not.

Early this week, I noticed the water in the trough was low. No problem, I thought as I fetched the hose from the garage. This had been the home of the hose, as the garage is attached to the house. Ergo, the garage is kept at an above-freezing temperature and the water in the hose remains in liquid form. Not that cold and fateful day. Apparently, the temperature of the garage was just cold enough to create a hose-sicle, from which no water would flow. I tried using a hair dryer to warm up the hose, but to no avail. Eventually I gave up, and we decided to store the hose inside the house for a while to melt our hose-sicle, and I carted buckets of water to the trough. The hose-sicle was especially stubborn, and refused to thaw until the next morning.

That should have been the end of it. We should have been able to simply hook our former hose-sicle to the spigot and filled up the trough. But no. Now the spigot decided to become a spigot-sicle, despite my sister aiming the blow-dryer at it for a good five minutes.

Early afternoon, I decided to try to persuade the spigot-sicle to thaw. Armed with the hair dryer and warming ambient temperatures, I turned the handle of the spigot-sicle as far as it would go. Nothing. The hair dryer was turned to high, and I waited. After a little bit, water started to drip, and that drip turned turned into a trickle. I yelped with joy and bolted back into the house, grabbed the hose, and dragged it out to the spigot as fast as I could. I was pleased to discover that water was physically able to flow through the hose, and unraveled in the direction of the trough. I triumphantly watched it fill up.

The horse, however, had been watching the whole time, and all of the gave me a look that clearly said, "You humans are so weird." And went back to eating their hay.

Can winter be over now?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Lakehorse Day 2 and A New Kitten

In the complete opposite vein as the last post...

My sister found the pictures she took of day 2 of our swim in Lake Superior; the day we actually went swimming (instead of wading). It was still fairly wavy but we were still able to swim and confuse some kayakers.

The second to last photo is of us actually swimming! Keep in mind, this was after we'd had one of the best x-c schools ever, so I was really on Cloud 9 that day. Royal seemed pretty proud of himself too.

And, yesterday, we got a kitten for Christmas!

He was a stray at the Animal Humane Society in St. Paul, so we had to wait for him to go off his holding period and get neutered before we could bring him home yesterday. So far he's one of the most friendly and snuggly kittens ever, and we have tentatively dubbed him Patches. Our cat Jitterbug still isn't too sure about our new addition, but so far there haven't been any fireworks.


Now for my favorite Christmas song.

Monday, December 17, 2012

When It Snows, Ain't It Thrillin'

No, not really.

Last weekend's snowstorm left 16 inches of snow on the ground when all was said and done. Which brought up a series of Winter Problems. Such as:

1. Shoveling a path to the trailer
2. Shoveling a path to the water tank
3. Shoveling a path to the water spigot.
4. Making sure the water heater is working
5. Making sure the horses have their blankets on and they are dry underneath

I made the mistake of wearing my winter paddock boots the day after the storm and got some very soaked jeans for my foolishness. Now it's tall winter boots or bust. I also have upgraded to some very nice winter gloves and so far they've been worth the expense, because it was very cold for a couple of days.


Tuesday. That's a minus sign in front of the 2

 Between the weather and my work schedule, I didn't play with Royal much. I'm not sure how well my light will work in the snow and I was too cold to find out. Of course it got warmer mid-week so a good portion of the snow melted, so it might work then. The other option is to plow a little ring in the back paddock and use a headlamp at night. Or dig out the trailer and trailer to an indoor arena for an hour or so. The winter is young and we have plenty of time to figure things out.

Meanwhile Royal continues to do pretty well. He and the rest of the herd have figured out the big haynets and eat from them without much fuss. Occasionally there's a bit of ear-pinning and face-making, but usually there's peace. And Operation Reverse Weight Watchers is very successful! Tonight I couldn't see and could barely feel Royal's ribs, and his topline is slowly filling in. I would say we've got around 50 lbs. to go before he's at his ideal winter weight and then we can start backing off the Cool Calories a bit and just see how he does on the Senior Glo. Or, keep the Cool Calories and switch him to a grain with fewer calories but more vitamins and minerals. At this point I'm reluctant to change anything too drastically, but all our hard work is paying off.

He still likes his blanket. Everytime I take it off to groom him/check for rubs, he looks at me like "Stop that. Put it back." The horse wants what he wants.

And, for no reason, here's an Animaniacs Christmas song, Enjoy!


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Let There Be Light/Snow

It's been another quiet/uneventful week for me and Royal, with one exception.

The poor-girl version of an indoor arena. I went to a hardware store a couple of weeks ago and got a tripod halogen light so I can play with Royal at night. My brother-in-law got it sent up and, 200 feet of extension cords later, we have light. And it's pretty bright too.

When I have them adjusted right, they can light up pretty much the whole back pasture. There's a good amount of glare, but if I make the tripod as tall as possible and turn the lights outward, it's not bad. I was only able to get them set up before I got too cold, so I haven't had a chance to do stuff with Royal with them, but he ate his grain in tripod light and didn't seem too bothered.

So I was unable to get up there the rest of last week until yesterday, and we had a pretty lively session OnLine. His hind legs were stocked up again, and he was full of energy. I'm working more on his responsiveness, and he keeps getting better. I'm hoping to really work on our Freestyle riding this winter and the weather looks to be helping me out. We got more snow today in a blizzard than if feels like we got all last year. Witness poor Sweetie.

We might actually get a real winter! I'm excited and scared.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Winter Blechs

It's been a while since I've written about Royals' and my hijinks, but in the meantime, my hours at my jobs have sharply increased. It'll be good for my wallet (Hello Smart Pad/trailer repairs/2013 season!), but I've had a lot less time with Royal lately. And the weather has had more personalities than usual. While my attitude towards the summer heat was

My attitude towards the descent into winter is more

Wake me up when it's over.

Royal and I have had some good sessions, though. He was a star in our Contact session, taking the contact and even offering to canter. We've also continued playing with one-rein ground driving and the Weave pattern. But honestly, it's hard to accomplish much. I have to make sure he doesn't get too overheated and sweaty, otherwise it takes him forever to dry off. It may be a good idea for me invest in a nice fleece cooler, but right now my main strategy is to keep our sessions under 30 minutes and repetitively easy. I'm still trying to teach him new things, but right now the next steps in our progression involve the 45-foot line or bridleless riding, neither of which are very do-able in our circumstances. I'll do what I can, but I wish the weather would just pick a season and get it over with.  It may be a very quiet winter.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Of Haynets and Valleys

Royal and I have had some interesting adventures over the past couple of weeks. The biggest change came when we got hay and put it out for the horses. Given the drought of this past summer, hay is in short supply so we're trying to reduce the amount of waste. There were a lot of slow-feeders at the Horse Expo this year, but the one we decided on was basically a small hole haynet big enough to put over a round bale. I picked up a couple in October and we were able to start using them a couple of weeks ago. This resulted in lots of confusion with the horses. Here was hay, but with a tough inedible exterior. At first they tried to bite through the net, but they eventually realized that it was easier to nibble through the holes. It doesn't seem to have slowed down their consumption much, but there's a lot less waste.

While the nets are designed to help horses eat like they are grazing, they are no longer moving like they're grazing, which has caused Royal's hind legs to stock up. Not severely or horribly, but enough to be annoying.

They usually go down after 5 or 10 minutes of moving him around, and they look completely normal. But the next time they're a bit stocked up, although they seem to be less and less stocked up each time I see him. Hopefully this means he's adjusting to his new activity level.

I've also been able to ride him in the big field a bit, but the struggle is crossing the little valley that separates the back pasture from the field. I thought that wouldn't be a problem as he's had to cross it multiple times where they were turned out there. But now it's muddier which greatly displeases him. So he prefers to gingerly inch his way down the hill, then leap across like there are alligators at the bottom. I tried to play with him a bit OnLine to help his realize crossing the valley is no big deal. He disagrees.

At this point, I'm not sure how to address this. On one hand, he's going to have to cross this valley a lot next year since the field is the best riding place, so I want to nip this in the bud. On the other, all the slipping and sliding can't be good for his joints and connective tissues, and I don't want to risk an injury over this. So we'll play it by ear for now.

We had a very successful session with Contact today. He started stretching pretty much immediately and was more than willing to take the contact at the trot, even offering the canter at one point. He's got a fairly fluffy winter coat, so I'm trying to keep out sessions short so he doesn't get too sweaty. It seems to be working.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Nine Years

I realize this post is a little late. All the events of last week made it hard for me to focus on writing. Or working. Or anything, really. And it was a good reminder of why Royal is so important to me.

Copper's death left a big hole in my life. My days tended to revolve around his needs and having that gone was hard to deal with it. It was a case of the cliche "You don't know what you're got until it's gone." I sank back into the depression that sits in the back of my mind and I basically lost the motivation to do anything. If it weren't for Royal, I probably wouldn't have left the house.

But I needed to be with Royal. We just set up hay for the winter and the horses are no longer forging in the big pastures, which is apparently like stall rest for Royal. His hind legs stocked up big time, and I had to figure out how to make the swelling go away. The day after Copper's death, I was playing with Royal and getting him to move around, trying to get his legs back to normal. Which helped, but not as much as I'd hoped, so Friday I saddled him up for the first time in a while and rode him out to the big field that the horses had eaten down over the last month. He leaped over the muddy creek and we cantered around the field, the wind in our hair and our cares long behind us. It was very healing. And his legs looked great afterwards.

I wrote last year that Royal came into my life when I was at my lowest and contemplating suicide. He gave me something to focus on beside my badly-wired brain, and helped give my life meaning and purpose. That's still true. He is the cheese to my macaroni, to steal a phrase from Andrea at Eventing-A-Gogo. My days revolved around Copper, but my life revolves around Royal. I still don't have any idea where I'll be this time next year (Wisconsin, send out your supplemental application already!) but wherever I go, Royal's coming with me. Leaving him behind would be like leaving oxygen behind, or something. Completely out of the question.

This last year had been good for the most part. I wish we could have make it to more competitions, but hopefully this next year will be our year. I never expect to win anything, seeing as we're usually going up again professional riders and/or ex-upper level horses, but it's so much fun. And we're really grown as partners. We both have a lot more confidence in ourselves and each other. I've stopped trying to micromanage the whole course and he no longer tries to rocket around like it's a race. We listen to and learn from each other, and have become better for it.

I'm so lucky to have him in my life.

And, for no reason except I love it, a video of an auto-tuned Mr. Rogers.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Copper: 8/14/95 - 11/6/12

On Tuesday, our 17-year-old beagle was euthanized. It wasn't for any one specific issue, but for a lot of little issues that were starting to affect his quality of life. He was pretty much blind and deaf, could not go down stairs without falling most of the time, and was starting to lose his balance. Last Wednesday, he had a serious neurological episode where he lost control of his limbs and bodily functions, and we knew it was time. It was nice, as far as euthanasias go. He had a great last few days, filled with car rides and burritos and chicken and french fries. The vet came to the house and he died comfortably, sleeping on one of his favorite beds. Certainly a much more peaceful death than some I've witnessed.

He wasn't Lassie, but he wasn't Marley either. He was obsessed with food and new smells (I called him "the nose that happened to be attached to a few legs"), but was one of the sweetest dogs I've ever known. He let kids climb all over him and never so much as growled at any human. He wasn't fond of other dogs, but eventually learned how to co-exist peacefully. He was willing to try almost any kind of food and would lick any pot clean. I pretty much dread cooking now, since I won't have him to clean the dishes off before they go into the dishwasher. I miss his scent, his snoring, and his pretty much constant presence. The house seems much emptier without him.

Good-bye Copper dog. We'll miss you.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Doing Stuff With Royal

I've had something of a minor epiphany over the last month which is: Royal likes to do stuff.

No really. He does. I've noticed a pattern with regards of how happy he seems to see me. If our previous session was fairly low-key, he doesn't want much to do with me. He's willing to be caught, but seems very uninterested in the whole thing. Even though there's always cookies and grain involved when he sees me. If our last session was interesting and/or challenging, he's really happy to see me. He walks right up to me and seems really perky. So, we need to Do Stuff.

I say this is a minor epiphany because I'm so used to thinking of Royal as a Right Brain Extrovert.

Which he was when I got him. Almost off the charts spooky and reactive, and as a result, dangerous. So everything had to be very consistent and calming. Any change used to send him into a mental and emotional tailspin, so I worked really hard to making sure that didn't happen. We also spent a lot of Undemanding Time to allow him to associate humans with good things and relaxation. So for year, I was in the mindset of keeping things calm and consistent.

But Royal isn't that horse anymore. He's really developed and changed in the nine (!!!!) years I've had him, and small changes in his environment don't mean the end of the world. He's not quite a Left Brain Extrovert in that he hasn't become really dominant or naughty, but he likes learning new things and having fun. So I need to keep that in mind. A bored Royal will probably result in a disgruntled Royal.

This last week had a few... interesting events, what with the SLEET that arrived on Thursday. Really? In October? The horses apparently lost their minds and tried to outrun the sleet while my sister was putting their blankets. But they didn't get too far before they realized that a) it was sleeting everywhere and b) the food was back where they came from. So, luckily they didn't get too far before going back home, but still. NAUGHTY HORSES. Try that again, and we'll get really loud colored blankets for you. With flowers and polka dots.

The next day, there were puddles everywhere, so I used that as an opportunity to practice water crossing. And he did great! The few couple got a mini-Stink Eye, but the rest went without incident. He even tried to jump the ditch which was completely filled with water. And the next day, because I'd been interesting, he was happy to play with the Weave pattern and even offered to go through a big puddle before I'd even thought of asking.

Today was more of the same. We stuck with the Weave but added another blok at the end, so in order to turn back and go the other way, he had to do a little pivot on his hind end. He thought that was interesting, so I mixed it up with figure-8s, sideways over the bloks, and Touch It. The high note was when I used the bloks to make a little jump, and incorporated that into the figure-8. So he would go around a single blok, come though the middle, turn and go over the jump, then turn and go back though the middle. He was a bit confused at first, but began to seek the jump before long and really put a lot of effort in.

So, the lesson here is Do Stuff With Royal. We can still have lots of relaxing time, but I need to make sure he's always mentally engaged.

Monday, October 22, 2012


Well, this past week wasn't as consistent as I would like. Work and other stuff kept interfering with having nice long sessions with Royal. We had a Game of Contact session on Monday and it really reinforced the need for regular GoC sessions. He tried to take the contact but kept reverting to his old habit of alternating between being behind the bit and going inverted. A couple times he stuck his head straight up. I ended up finishing the session with lots of stretching to refresh that habit. Again, he was really trying, but we haven't had any contact sessions in a while, so he was a little rusty.

We also having been playing with the Weave pattern OnLine, and he seems to enjoy that. He tends to skip the last marker, so I've been focusing on really sending him around that. It works, and he enjoys stopping to stand over the Bloks.

Today, it looked like rain, so we just played with the weave again, but I tried jazzing it up a bit. Every once in a while, I would turn the pattern into a figure-8 to try to keep him on his toes. He REALLY got into that and started putting a lot of effort into it.

I hope I'll have a bit more time this week, but supposedly it's supposed to rain pretty much every single day. So high hopes, but we'll see what happens.

Saturday, October 13, 2012


For various reasons, I couldn't get out to see Royal until after dark on Tuesday. He still needed his grain, so I had to go find him. And of course it was overcast and the horses were out in the Big Field. Armed with only a flashlight, I headed out to find the Fuzz so I could give him his dinner.

One thing about the country is that it's very quiet. So I'm sure the neighbors about a mile away could hear me calling "Royal... Gabby... Bandit... Xena... Coco!" Over and over again as I carefully made my way over the creek bed and through the field. About halfway down, I head some hoofbeats and snorting, and then all the horses burst through the tall grass to my left, wanting the cookies I had brought.

And it was then I discovered Royal is afraid of flashlights. Sigh.

I had to turn it off to halter him, and he was willing to follow the light back to the food, but he did not want it coming anywhere near him. Luckily we were able to use the garage light so see could see his food.

He was able to find his way back to the field in the dark and the next day we started focusing on our OnLine stuff. I'm hoping to help him focus through his spookiness. Usually when he gets scared of something, he obsesses over it to the point where we can't do anything else until I do some serious pattern interrupt. Which is annoying and not often practical. So my plan is to plant spooky things around the area where we're playing and just act like everything's normal, and therefore he should maintain his responsibilities of maintaining gait and direction. The first spooky object was the Carrost Stick Flag.

We didn't do anything with the flag. It just lay there, rippling in the wind and making all sorts of noises. At first, he didn't want to go anywhere near it, and then only with a lot of dramatic snorting and prancing. But eventually he went by it without a big fuss. Day 2 I used his folded up rain sheet, which also caused a lot of dramatic flair. But he focus on his responsibilities a lot better.

The other thing I'm working on is practicing standing wraps. I learned how to wrap years ago, but I don't do it very often. Boots are just so much easier. But I figure it's a good skill to have and I may as well use it. Royal has been pretty patient with the whole thing, although he isn't too crazy about it either.

I'm improving. Slowly.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Arrival Of... Winter?

It's been a quiet week or so for me and Royal. He's having fun eating down the big field and I've been busy with non-horsey life. We did manage to go for a ride on the road that was a lot shorter than I thought it would be. The road was so dry and packed that it was like concrete with little rocks scattered around. Even with his hoof boots, he was uncomfortable, so we only went to the Sheep of Death farm before heading back.

Then Thursday and Friday arrived with a blast of winter weather. Temperatures plummeted and the winds were hard and cold. I was woefully unprepared for it on Thursday and was too cold to do anything more that just play for a little while before retreated back to heated space. And on Friday I found Royal miserable and shivering. Which wasn't surprising: he hasn't grown in his full winter coat yet and he's still a bit underweight. So I brought out the big heavy blanket, which I think he appreciated.

Snug as a bug in his rug

On Saturday I was able to change it to the lightweight sheet before heading out to Bayfield for the weekend. Without Royal? Indeed. It was Applefest weekend, full of shopping, good food and beautiful trees.

I'm hoping we can do a bit more this week, especially with Game of Contact type stuff, if the weather holds out. I think he's ready to try some new things.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

MN Hunt Cup 2012

In which the Drama Llama comes to visit.

We had a quiet prep week before the Hunt Cup, which turned out to be okay. Royal's so good about jumping now that he doesn't need a lot of preparation. So a jumping session here, Game of Contact session there, a day of putting up fencing around the big field, and we were good to go. He about gave me heart failure on Saturday when he appeared to choke on his grain. He made a few bad sounding noises and bent his neck in ways I didn't think he could, but after a couple minutes of that, he was back to happily munching on grass. Crisis averted.

It was a long drive to the Hunt Cup, and we got there fairly early, not knowing that the Drama Llama was with us. The first incident was when one of Royal's back hooves caught on the wiring line of the trailer when he stepped out and broke it, which knocked out one of the rear lights. I still had brakes and the other light, but I figured it would be a cautious drive home. Nevertheless, we registered and got ready for our run. While we warmed up, I noticed the footing, which had a lot of fresh-cut grass with piles of the clippings still around, was pretty slippery. So we had a very abbreviated warm-up before heading to the course.

The course was set differently this year. Instead of going clockwise and starting down the Big Steep Hill, we went counterclockwise and starting on a more gradual slope. Royal did a lot better with it on our practice run. He didn't really spook at any of the jumps (brushy as ever) was able to keep a nice even pace, at least until we got to the Big Steep Hill. This year we rode up the hill, which was somewhat of a challenge. I tried to stay in a light three-point, keeping my weight more towards Royal's hind end, and that seemed to work. We finished pretty well and only had to wait a little bit before the timed round.

This also went super well. Royal was a rockstar, keeping the same nice pace and tackled everything with no problem. I think the varying terrain helps keep him interested and balanced. But he listened to my cues very well and we were able to find good spots to almost every jump. We finished only 7 seconds outside the optimum time! He seemed very pleased with himself, as he should.

On our way back to the trailer, we met up with my friend Anna, who brought her mare Piper up. We talked for a while, she got Piper warmed-up, and then it was time for me and Royal to go home. I had to go to a dinner that night, so we couldn't hang around. I would like to stay that we got home without incident and all that, but no. The Drama Llama was not done with us. About 20 miles from home, the truck started to vibrate. Badly. I don't know much about vehicles, but I knew this was not good. I was about a half a mile from the nearest exit when I heard a BANG and the whole truck shook. Not good. I slowly pulled off to the shoulder and got out to find that the tread on the rear passenger tire of the truck had ripped off. Most of it was gone except for a big flap, and it looked pretty gnarly.

Luckily, Royal was okay and nothing was wrong with the trailer. I called my brother-in-law to come meet us in the town and I slowly nursed the rig there. He arrived and changed the tire and we were able to make our way home. However, since bad things seem to happen in threes, about 5 miles from home, the truck started to smoke. We still made it okay, but it seemed to be transmission fluid. Great. So, yesterday the truck got towed to the mechanic (thank you, AAA) and we'll see how bad the damage is. Hopefully it's fixable and Sweetie will be up and running soon. I'm just glad no one was hurt.

So, both parts awesome and bummer. Why can't the rest of the world be as reliable and super fantastic as my horse?

In other news, I submitted my vet school application today! Hopefully I get a better result this time around, but for now, it feels like such a relief.