Thursday, March 29, 2012

I'm Onto Him...

The clouds that brought us snow, hail, sleet, rain and wind finally cleared and last Sunday I got a chance to ride Bob.  It was the first time I'd ridden him since I'd hauled him into Mike's Western Supplier and had Mike evaluate how Bob's saddle fit. 

Mike had determined that the saddle did fit but that it was riding forward a bit and pinching Bob on his shoulders.  Mike had recommended an additional pad. 

With Monday's lesson coming up, I knew it would be a good test to ride Bob on Sunday and then see how he reacted when I rode him the following day at my lesson. 

Sunday's ride went well.  This was also the first time I'd ridden Bob with a back cinch.  When I'd purchased Bob I'd been informed by his previous owner that he'd used one before.  However, I'd chosen to do extensive ground work with Bob before riding on Sunday just to make sure there were no issues - which there weren't.

The proof of test was our lesson on Monday.  As I'd saddled Bob up I noted the missing turn of his head when I cinched him up.  Just blubbering sighs.  A good sign.

We had hauled up to the barn and I'd again done some ground work before climbing on for my lesson.  Bob had appeared much more comfortable.  I could feel it in how he moved.  No more raised back and swishing of the tail.  He felt great.


Bob's a pretty smart guy.  It appears that he's gotten a bit...lazy? 

Yup...and smart enough to know that when given an inch, he'll take a mile.  (After all, he IS a horse (but don't tell him that)).

This is probably because the last few times I rode Bob I sensed that something was wrong and wasn't firm when I requested something from him.  And even though there was something wrong, Bob has realized that just maybe...he doesn't have to do all that is being asked of him.

When riding on the rail, Bob will slide off of it and move into the center.  Bob knows this is where he has been allowed to stop and take a break while my Frainer and I discuss my riding. 

No longer!  Now there is more leg on the rail and Bob is stopped somewhere along it instead of in the middle.

Another issue was simulating sorting.  (I love this part of my lesson!) 

Bob and I are parked between two cones, simulating we are guarding the gate.  My Frainer simulates being a cow and tries to run past us through the gate.  Bob and I must do turns to fan his front end (quickly) from right to left and back again in an attempt to keep her from passing us.  This means I must constantly be using my legs to keep Bob's back end from moving as I turn his front.

Bob was initially slow and sluggish this week when I tried to move him.  I got the message loud and clear, "Oh she really doesn't mean it."

I did mean it.

Increased pressure of my leg resulted in a surprised grunt from Bob.  From that moment on it was obvious he had gotten the message.  I couldn't help grinning because I loved his increased response and knew he no longer had my number.  Instead I had his.

With the boss established, the rest of my ride was great.  Lots of blubbering sighs from Bob and fun for me.

Yes, I'm onto you little buddy of mine!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Bob's (Temporary) Little World

I've noticed the pastures are getting so green one would think we live in Ireland instead of Washington.  And even though we've woken up to snow each morning for almost two weeks, spring is on its way. 

When I saw how high the grass has grown in the last week, I knew the day was coming where Bob wouldn't be able spend his entire day out in the pasture grazing to his heart's content much longer.

It's the big talk up here every spring.  Everybody reminds everybody else to keep your horses off of the emerald green fields.  The grass is too rich and many a horse has met their fate from gorging on it.

Sigh...The day has arrived.  When I was out for my morning walk with Hank this morning I hated the thought, but knew it was time to change Bob's routine.  I might be able to wait another week or two, but I'm not taking any chances in risking Bob's health.

Today Bob's big world became restricted.

Bob settles down for a nap in the paddock. 

The paddock has great drainage - I use it for riding and have been putting Bob in there each night for the past few months.  He has access to the double stall off the back of the barn.  He can get out of the weather and eat in a dry environment and has enough room to run around if he so chooses.

But it seems all Bob wants to do is snooze in the sun.

In the coming days we'll pull out the temporary fencing and make Bob a spot to go to during the day so he can graze a little and have a change of scenery.  With the better weather (hopefully coming soon) and longer days, we'll be able to ride more often and I'll also be hauling him up to "the barn" for lessons and "social cow events".

But for now the days of letting my horse out in the field to graze all day are on hold.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What Was Wrong

The saddle I use had been Poco's before it was Bob's. I had been unsure about sharing one saddle with both horses and had gone into Mike's Western Supplier's in Enumclaw, WA, to discuss my concern. 

Mike runs his saddle shop on one side of the store.  Mike will actually take the time to fit your horse to the right saddle.  He knows his stuff.  His wife Cindy entices one with apparel (and awesome bling) on the other side of the store.  And just like Mike knows his saddles, Cindy knows boots and how your jeans should fit.  It's a joy to spend time in their store, where one is always treated like an old friend.

I hadn't hauled Bob up to Mike's.  Thinking the saddle seemed to fit fine, I thought I only needed verbal validation from Mike that all was well.  To Mike's credit he told me that he couldn't tell me if all was well without directly checking Bob and the saddle out, but from what I'd explained it seemed to be fine.

Ugh.  I had heard what I wanted to hear! 

As our rides progressed, especially after my last lesson, I knew it was time to load Bob up and take him to Mike's so he could be evaluated. 


We've had these continuous winter storm cells which have left inches of snow or hail on the ground.  I needed clear roads to haul Bob and dry weather in order to do a saddle fitting, which takes place outside.

No Luck!

Last week I hooked up the trailer and truck so I could haul out in a moment's notice.  For DAYS I waited for the right time, in-between storm cells, when the roads were clear, to get Bob up to Mike's.  Last Friday brought us a few hours of sunshine and off Bob and I went.

I had saddled Bob up and walked him around for about 20 minutes before we hauled up so that Mike could see how the saddle fit.  Mike was able to make a quick assessment.

Something was wrong and it was Bob's saddle.

The saddle was wide for Bob in the front.  Mike showed me how it had slipped down on Bob's shoulders the longer it sat on him and that had caused him pain.  Yet, Mike confirmed the saddle fit Bob perfect everywhere else.  Bob needed extra padding so that it wouldn't pinch his front.

For less than $20 I walked out of Mike's with a solution.  Mike did warn me.  He told me to ride Bob for a few weeks and see if there was any discomfort.  He also told me to watch the cinch.  It should remain straight after my ride and not become crooked.  It may be I need additional padding.  If so, Mike urged me to not hesitate to return for a different pad (and you can bet I won't).

Of course, I couldn't leave Mike's without buying something.  I bought a back cinch which matches my saddle. I needed one - now I've got one.

To date the storm cells keep coming and I can't get out and ride.  But I'm on track and know that if this doesn't resolve the issue that I'll be going back to Mike's for a thicker pad...Plus that breast collar and headstall that match my saddle are calling out to me...and then there are those cool boots and (many) purses on Cindy's side...  :)  But one more note... 

Bob - my wonderful horse!  We have become so close.  Hauling him up and initially parking on the side of a busy two-lane highway, unloading him without any other horses around in a new environment, etc. 

Bob was incredible during this whole experience.  Calm, cool, agreeable and so tuned to me.  I think he actually enjoyed the attention of the fitting and the trip!  I was so proud of him!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Something Was Wrong

When I bought Bob last summer he was a willing horse.  He moved out easily.  But I noticed a growing trend.  Bob started to become sour.

Initially it started with sorting.  After the second or third run Bob would balk and try to refuse returning into the pen for additional runs.  My Frainer (Friend and Trainer) encouraged me to push him through it, thinking he was being lazy after standing idle along the wall with all the other horses' in-between runs.

But it worried me.  I asked my Frainer to check out Bob's saddle.  I had purchased the saddle for Poco and wanted to make sure it fit Bob correctly.  It seemed ok to me but I needed a second set of eyes.  She had checked it out told me that everything seemed fine.

As I've started to ride more often this late winter/early spring, I've noticed that Bob is once again becoming sour.  Initially I thought it was due to returning to work after a few months off.  But my last lesson brought it all to a head.

I'd hauled up to ride on Tuesday and had a great ride.  Returning for my lesson on Wednesday, I'd gotten on Bob and felt an immediate change. 

If you've ever ridden a horse that's wound up tight as a spring, you'll understand what I felt when I'd gotten on Bob.  He was tight, real tight.  He walked out but trotting was not an option.  He balked each time I asked him to trot and I felt him get tighter.  The more I asked, the worse he got.  Suffice it to say I did ok until he started to shake his head and hump his back.  And with confidence started to drop.  This was not my Bob...

Something was wrong.

I had told my Frainer, "I think something is wrong".  She admitted that Bob did seem to have an attitude that day.  But she told me that if I intended to sort this year that I'd need to learn to deal with these type of situations.

I tried to "deal with it" but it wasn't getting any better.  I kept repeating my concern.  My Frainer would hear none of it.  We battered around the "no there isn't/yes there is" for awhile.  It was a frustrating time for both of us.  She apparently thought it was all in my mind and I was frustrated that she didn't believe me.

It seemed we spent most of the lesson arguing the point.  As the next lesson started I got off of Bob and we walked out of the arena and back to the trailer in silence. 

For the first time in five years I didn't say goodbye.  I was upset that I wasn't being listened to, upset that I hadn't stood up for myself (and for Bob) and terminated the lesson when I suspected something was wrong, upset that I'd kept on riding.

Something was wrong and until I found out what it was I would stay off Bob.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

"The Plan"

I took this picture yesterday from inside my office.  Things are going well here in our one-horse home.  Bob has settled down nicely.  He's become very focused on me; indeed our bond has become stronger.  When I'm in the pasture he follows me around like a dog.  Sometimes we just stand together in silence and talk.  He likes to hang around my office when I'm in there working.

Sometimes he naps...

In my efforts to "fix" our relationship a few months ago, I still halter Bob each morning and lead him to one of our pastures where he grazes for a period, which will be cut short as the rich, spring grass arrives.

I restrict Bob to the riding paddock at night where he has access to his loafing shed.  This is where Bob has spent his nights for the last few months and he is comfortable here.

This area can be viewed from our bedroom window across the barnyard.  I love to wake up each morning to see Bob at the gate waiting for me.  I always open the window to wish him a Good Morning before getting dressed and heading out to see him.

What I describe above is a special time for Bob and I.  However, it also describes a lonely horse...and the fact is...I'm not a horse.

Enter "The Plan".  That's what my husband and I have been calling our future with horses since we lost Poco in early December.

The Plan IS to get another horse.  In conversations I've told my husband I'd like a horse that has some background in showing.  I'd like to do some more shows as well as attempt Western Dressage while continuing to sort on Bob.

I know what I want and it's a horse like this guy.  His name was Want My Autograph (Champ).  He was our daughter's horse who I inherited when she headed off to college.  In order to ride him I had to take lessons to LEARN how to ride.  This horse is responsible for the start of my Blog, "50+ Horses" on September 10, 2009.

Champ was NOT an easy horse to ride.  He had an attitude and indeed I write about how he ran me until I learned about ground work.  Then I ran him and life was very good until we suddenly lost him in June 2010.

I can't replace what I lost but I'd like another Paint.  A horse with a smooth Western Jog, so smooth I could drink tea riding him at that gait.  A horse large enough that my 6'8" husband can ride.  A horse that can be used for many functions be it trail riding, showing, and most of 

A horse that has...bling.

Yes, that's what I want in my second horse.  And in our fiscal world a horse like that will not come immediately.  So we will save and we will wait and when the time comes that is what we will purchase.

Now back to Bob.  I struggle with this decision and as I write this I don't guarantee it will all play out because "Plans" are not written in cement.

"The Plan" is to move Bob up to the barn for the summer.  This is where I used to board Champ and Poco.  It's the barn where Bob and I go each week to take lessons.  This allows me to go up and ride whenever I want vs hauling.  It gives our pastures at home a chance to rest.

Why that barn?  Because they have gigantic stalls and huge pastures where the horses are turned out each day.  Because I know the horses are treated and fed well.  Because my Frainer (friend and trainer) is there and will provide oversight for Bob.  Because I know Bob will be happy there, with other horses around him.

Sigh...looking out my window each morning and not seeing Bob to greet me is going to be tough.  So I struggle.  But the good thing about "Plans" is that sometimes they find their own endings.  And I'm thinking that this one will do just that.

Friday, March 9, 2012

And Then There Was One

It was heart breaking to watch Bob run along the fence line, chasing the trailer as it left.  Long after the trailer was gone Bob ran (and ran) around the large pasture, frantically crying out.  He knew he was now alone and he sure didn't care for the idea.

Six months ago we had four horses.  In fact for the past fifteen years we've always had at least two horses.  How odd to think that the horse I purchased last June is now the ONLY horse I own.  The sobering thought makes me uncomfortable.  Bob is all I have.

Tonight Bob has settled down nicely although he's probably out there tonight feeling lonely and a bit vulnerable. 

I can relate...

Monday, March 5, 2012

The End of the Goldens

He is a Golden.

He's still here but will be leaving soon. 

He is no longer ours.

Horse life can be so rewarding.  It can also be heart breaking.  And if you've had horses long enough you've had your share of both.  After losing four horses in two years something here has changed regarding our future horses.

We will hope the God's are with us and only have one saddle horse for the time being.  Down the road we will purchase a second saddle horse.  Our future will be two saddle horses.

With the sale of the large horse that grazes in our pasture tonight, it is the end of the Goldens.

But what a great run it was...