Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tickle In The Feet

"Sometimes, when I have had less exercise than usual, I have felt so full of life and spring that when John has taken me out to exercise I really could not keep quiet; do what I would, it seemed as if I must jump, or dance, or prance, and many a good shake I know I must have given him, especially at the first; but he was always good and patient.
"Steady, steady, my boy," he would say; "wait a bit, and we will have a good swing, and soon get the tickle out of your feet." Then as soon as we were out of the village, he would give me a few miles at a spanking trot, and then bring me back as fresh as before, only clear of the fidgets, as he called them. Spirited horses, when not enough exercised, are often called skittish, when it is only play; and some grooms will punish them, but our John did not; he knew it was only high spirits."

-Black Beauty, Anna Sewell

The Cold Week took its toll on everyone. The horses were cranky and crabby, as was everyone else. I discovered a nifty way to unfreeze the spigot: it took some trial and error, but I balanced it between the spigot and a pipe with the nozzle pointing at the spigot. Left it there for a couple of minutes, and when I came back, no spigot-sicle!

Obviously I didn't do much with Royal. Neither of us a particularly fond of cold, and it can be dangerous to do to much physical activity in freezing cold. It did fluctuate from negatives to single digits to teens. I couldn't feel much of a difference, to be honest. Once it gets past a certain point (mid-teens for me), it's just cold. Maybe I could feel the difference from 0 to -50, but not to the extent I could feel the difference between 0 to 50.

The first day I could do anything with Royal was Saturday, but on Friday he got the "tickle-in-the-feet" syndrome, and could not eat his grain normally. He'd take a bite, then spook at the hay bales, a bird, a horse-eating-invisible-squirrel, anything. Moving him around a bit helped, but not enough. So Saturday, we went out to the front to let him boogie for a bit and burn off some energy.

It helped. We played a bit with the figure-8 and hopping over some trees. He ate his grain like a normal horse and was no longer worried about the horse-eating-invisible-squirrel. He looks fabulous, weight wise. His ribs are still somewhat visible when he does a big theatrical sigh, but otherwise he looks great.

Coco the pony had some trouble, though. The cold was not kind to him, he's starting to have some teeth troubles, and he doesn't like to fight for a spot at the hay bales. There's plenty of space around the hay, but since everyone was so crabby, he just didn't eat enough and dropped quite a bit of weight. So now he has his own little paddock (which I can't upload pictures of, for some reason) with as much hay as he wants and a bit of SeniorGlo every day. He and Royal will visit the Tooth Fairy soon, so hopefully we'll get the tooth situation straightened out. So far, he's been pretty happy. He's been eating his hay well, and knows when it's grain time and practically bounces up and down when he sees it coming. He's on the mend.

It's been fairly warm the past few day. We got some snow on Sunday, which I hoped would provide a nice cushion over the glare ice. Unfortunately, it didn't and the back paddock and big field were as slippery as ever, but the front is still nice. We carved out a little ring close which is mostly ice free. I'm getting a little more particular about posture and not letting him bounce around shaped like a llama. He's getting batter about it, but old habits are hard to break.

Today we went for a walk on the road. As usual, we try to make it to the Sheep of Death farm, and at first it went well. However, as we approached the Sheep of Death, he lost his mind over the nondescript light gray barn and equally nondescript light gray mailbox in front of it. He just completely shut down and refused to move in any way, snorting and blowing at the barn he walked past all summer and fall long without incident. Why? I don't know. Maybe the gray looked weird against the snow. Maybe he saw something in the woods beyond the barn. Maybe Satan and his demons were having a rave in there. Whatever the reason, I ended up having to get off and play with him on the ground, trying to help him rediscover his brain. We eventually got past the Sheep of Death (he was fine with them, by the way), and after I got back on, slowly inched our way back and forth towards the Demonic Barn. There was a lot of circling and pooping and chewing on the bit and frenetic stretching, and I'm sure the sheep and their people thought we were absolutely nuts, but after about a half an hour, I got him to walk semi-calmly past the Demonic Barn, if a little quickly. We made it home without further incident, and I let him mosey around the front ring to clear his mind. There was a lot of sighing and snorting.

I'll try to get us back to the Evil Area soon, but it's going really cold again, with a few days in the single and negative digits again. So, it may be a while. We have to survive the next cold snap and dream of warmer days in the future. Soon, but not soon enough for me.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Geez, It's Cold! GEEZ!

Times like these are when I start to question my sanity. When I start wondering why anyone settled in this place, and chose to stay here. Why I'm staying here.

Last week was a challenge. Days of above-freezing temps led to lots of snow melting, and eventually the temperatures dipped below freezing. Which meant glare ice everywhere. The "arena" Royal and I had tracked out? The lower half is pretty solid ice, with the top part not being much better. We got a bit of snow, which helped slightly, but you don't have to go too far before hitting ice. The road is slightly better, but we still have the same problem as before: close to home is fine, but you run into more glare ice as you go up the hill. The good news is that the front field is a bit higher, so not a lot of ice there, and the parts that are ice are easily avoidable. Royal and I played a bit up there on Saturday.

We can create a pretty good track from walk/trot stuff that has reasonable traction. I prefer to use that area for jumping normally, but the snow has made it a nice flatwork area. Which we will hopefully be able to use eventually, because on Sunday, it got cold. Like bone-crunching cold.

The projected highs have either been in the single positive digits or the negative. Combine that with lots of wind and I'm ready to pack it in and move south. Or west. Anywhere but here.

And it doesn't help when things go wrong. Yesterday it never got out of the negatives, but I went up to see Royal anyway and wanted to give him and the other horses lots of Pity Cookies to help keep their spirits up. Imagine my shock when I go to give Royal his grain in the morning (when it was -8 without factoring in wind chill) and see both gate hooks (the fences are two lines of electrical wire/rope) lying on the ground. The top one was still attached to the line, which was completely slack as far as I could see down the line, and the bottom line was no longer attached to the hook. Which was not good. At all. We do have problems with the lines stretching in the wind, but sometimes it looks like a wild animal hit the line, got shocked, panicked, and broke through. I'm not sure what broke the top line, but it must have happened overnight, and I'm guessing one of the horses saw the top line was down and stepped on the bottom and broke it. Luckily all five were in the paddock when I arrived and looked okay.

I had brought Royal's food with me and hoped I could just let him eat while I fixed the fence. I restrung and tightened what I could of the top line, but Coco wanted to come with, so he stepped under it and followed us. I had to grab my spare 12 foot and put him back, but Gabby decided to join the fun and she got out too. So I chased her back in (and Coco away from the gate), retied the bottom line, and put that back in place. I then started tramping around the fence line to see where the break was. It was pretty far down, but it broke hard, taking a lot of the insulator hooks with it (which makes me think it was a wild animal, because those had been holding the line fine). I had to keep going to find the other half of the break, and bring it back, wrapping it around some of the insulators. I eventually made it back and retied the line with a quadruple knot just to be safe. Now, I had unplugged the fence so I could handle it, and Coco figured that out. I looked back at the horses just in time to see him squeeze between the lines to get to Royal's grain. I ran across the field yelling "COCO! NO! BAD PONY!" which was a stupid thing to do, considering how icy it was. Coco managed to get a mouthful or two before going back through the lines. Royal decided to follow him and broke through the top line, separating it from the hook. So I had to retie the line to the hook, plug the fence back in, get Royal, bring him back to his grain, and baby-sit him until he finished. And then I had to do the task I had originally planned on do, which was chipping off the ice layer a few inches above the water that is formed by rapidly heating and cooling air that passes above the heater. By the end of it, I was cold and coughing up a storm from breathing all the cold air, so no one got any Pity Cookies then.

After warming up inside the house, I went back out to recheck the water, and saw that I hadn't replugged the fence all the way. The same cord is also connected to the heater, so it wasn't operating at full capacity and a thin layer of ice had formed on the water. I plugged everything in fully, broke up the ice, and when back inside because I was coughing so much. I came out again later, finally gave everyone the Pity Cookies, and chucked all the ice chunks out so the heater wouldn't have to work so hard to warm up the water. That seemed to help a lot when I checked it one last time before I left, because it had reached a nice temperature then.

Coco say he's sorry about the whole escaping thing, and he would really like a cookie.

I would really like for winter to be over now.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Returning To The Land Of The Living

Well, 2013 got off to a terrible start didn't it?

I'm moving on as best I can for now. I'm not entirely sure if I'll try applying for vet school again this year or not. There's a very teeny-tiny chance that Wisconsin could come through for me, but I highly doubt it. In the meantime, I'm making plans for the coming year and trying to get back to normal.

It's been a nice week, weather wise. Mid-to-high thirties all week, so Royal and I have been out doing stuff.

Playing and riding in the snow has been good for him, I think. Instead of schlepping around like he normally wants to do, he has to pick up his feet and start using some different muscles than he's used to. I've tried to be very careful in how we're going about this; given that he had so much time off, I'm trying to slowly increase our time spent in the snow, other than when he decides to go running around on his own time. So far we're up to about 15 minutes walking and 5 minutes trotting at a time. We've also gone for walks on the dirt road, which is exciting and hair-raising. The road close to the house is fine, but turns into glare ice when we start to go up the hill, so we have to stick really close to the side and occasionally go tramping through the snow in the shoulder. I imagine that's what a passage feels like.

But Royal would often act cold on our rides, so I went down to Dover Saddlery on Tuesday and got a light blue quarter sheet. It was a hit with the cats.

Royal also seemed to like it too, after I go it all figured out. At first it was really moving around, and being blown around by the wind, but the best configuration appears to be having it between my legs and the saddle (holding the front in place) and having the tail cord under the tail (holding the back in place). 

Sorry about the crappy quality. One day I will have a cell phone that takes good video.

Anyway, he apparently felt so good about the sheet that he turned into Philosopher Royal. Philosopher Royal likes to stop and stare into the distance for no reason, but is happy to be gently nudged on again. Except for the time he took off briefly, but he was easy to stop and we resumed our walk.

Now of course, it's cold again, so I may not be able to do stuff with Royal for a while until it warms up later in the week. 2+ months to go until spring.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Rejected. Again

What the rejection e-mail says:

What the rejectee reads:


Thursday, January 3, 2013

Happy 2013!

We made it! The world is still here (Take THAT, people-who-don't-understand-how-calanders-work-and-think-ancient-people-were-magic), and it's still winter. I survived the holiday craziness despite have the cold from hell, and would really like to please start doing stuff with my horse again if the weather can find it in its metaphorical heart to cooperate. I know this weekend is supposed to be nice, but if that could last for the rest of winter, that would be super fantastic.

Anyway, 2013! The odometer has kicked over and it's time to assess last years *New Year's Resolutions(tm)* and tentatively consider new ones.

For myself are:
-Cook at least 1 meal per week, something that involves mixing, or stirring, or grilling, or baking. I absolutely hate cooking and find it much easier to get something on the way home or stick something in the microwave, but I'll try some new stuff this year. Sorta-kinda successful. It went really well for a while, but after a string of failures in the spring (I may have succeeded in turning chicken into rubber), I kinda gave up for a while. I've been trying again, but I think I'll always be "cooking challenged." <sigh>
-Begin running in the spring/summer. I tried this last year and between the bizarre spring and horrid summer, never got the energy up for it. And I can't afford a gym membership or treadmill, so it's outside or nothing. Hopefully this year the weather cooperates. Complete failure. I tried, but the weather went absolutely insane again this year, and I was never able to go beyond a couple of days. I really want to run as a habit, but I just can't seem to get beyond the first week.

For me and Royal
-Compete in the Starter division at the spring Otter Creek Horse Trials, and finish with a score.
Nope. Too close to finals, and was able to go to other local schooling shows instead. Not a complete failure.
-Compete in the Beginner Novice division at the Roebke's Run Horse Trials and at Steepleview Horse Trials, and finish both with a score. Fail on the former, complete and total success on the other! I didn't have the finances for Roebke's Run, but was able to get it together for Steepleview and we not only finished with a score, we brought home our very ribbon from a recognized HT!
-Take at least one cross-country jumping lesson. Sorta-kinda fail. We was able to do some xc schooling in Bayfield, but no one was yelling at me about my leg or hand positions. I would have loved to have gone to the Schooling Days, but it fell on the same weekend as the Tour Stop. So, maybe this year.
-Go trail riding more! Success! We forayed up and down the dirt road and to a local park, and even faced down the Sheep of Death more than once. I wasn't able to get to the park as much as I wanted, since extensive work on the bridge that runs through started mid-summer and didn't end until recently, but I want to get there more and trailer to the local state park a few times this year.
-Compete in at least 2 schooling shows. Success and then some! We made it four (Pipe Opener, Carriage House, schooling HT, and Hunt Cup). None ended in complete disaster and we had a good time at the PO, CH, and HC.
-Self-assess to Level 3 in On-Line, Freestyle, and Liberty and be well into Level 4 by the end of the year. Almost there. I would say we're solid L3 Online and Freestyle, and I'm not sure about Liberty. We keep progressing, but I've stopped putting level labels on them. We've just having fun.

So, a mixed bag. Honestly, I'm a little disappointed. I really wanted to make it to Otter Creek and Roebke's Run, and I'll do everything I can to make sure we get there this year. But what else do I want to do this year?

For me:
-Take up running. No, really. For real this time. I hope.
-Figure out how to use an "exotic" piece of cooking equipment. Crockpot/Slow Cooker? Panini Press? Wok? Who knows? I'll figure something out, even if it involves writing the names of various types of cooking equipment on slips of paper and throwing darts at them.
-Finish my crochet hat, start and finish the earband, and make something challenging, like socks or mittens.

For me and Royal:
-Go to Otter Creek's Spring HT in either the Starter or Beginner Novice division and finish with a score.
-Go to Roebke's Run Summer HT in the BN division and finish with a score.
-Go to Otter Creek's Summer HT in the BN division and finish with a score.
-Go to Steepleview's HT in the BN division and finish with a score.
-Keep road riding and trailer to the local state park at least four times
-Take a proper xc lesson
-Swim in Lake Superior again!

All in all, I hope I have a more successful year in 2013. I lost so many core institutions after May/June when I graduated from college and had to take an involuntary leave of absence from the job I'd held since I was sixteen (not due to anything I did; there's a majorly annoying and pointless contract dispute with a different group that means no one in my department is working now), and I felt lost and directionless for a while. Now my life is slowly getting on track again and I feel a lot better. I feel this could be a better year for me.

Speaking of which, long time readers may remember that I got rejected from vet school almost exactly a year ago. I did a file review and made most of the suggested improvements (at least the ones I could) over the summer/fall. Still, the applicant pool changes every year, and I'm so scared to get my hopes up. I'm somewhat embarrassed to report that my heart races every time I check my e-mail and there's a new message.

It's mostly spam/unimportant stuff, though. :/

I would like to stop freaking out about it. I worry about getting the big "R" letter again, although they do try to soften the blow.

Happy 2013 everyone!