Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

I haven't posted much since September because that is when I began working off of the farm. In this economy, my getting a full-time paying job, in addition to running the farm, became a necessity.

It has been 11 years since I worked full time, and then it was only for 6 weeks, and occasional days as I was a substitute teacher. Now I am the office manager for an Orthodontic and Dental office. A vast difference, but I'm quite glad to be working. It is a very pleasant and busy place to work, but it does mean that I have far less time with my horses. A definite downside.

This means, I am definitely looking to down-size, so if any of our horses are interesting to you, contact us.

In the meanwhile, we do wish everyone a joyous winter season, and a positive, healthy 2009!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Two weeks ago we were supposed to take *Jack and *Leo to the Champlain Valley Expo for the last weekend of August. On the Friday night before our old faithful truck died. Deader than a doornail type of died. We were vastly disappointed, as I'm sure you can imagine.

We ended up buying a new truck, a GMC Sierra 1500 and today it got it's inaugural pull. Early this morning we loaded up *Jondra DMC Suncatcher, a 5 year old gelding from John and Andrea Schaap's farm in the far north of Ontario, and *GMC Yukon Jack, our 3 year old. It was their first trip to a show.

Arriving about 20 minutes before the show was to start. The Mad River Riding and Driving Club has had a horse show for many years, and they are known for putting on a fun, relaxed, casual show perfect for "first timers". *Jack and *Sun got to look around, gazing at the other horses, trailers, people, and dogs.

The first two classes were for Lead-line and then it was Fitting and Showmanship which is what I had signed *Jack up to participate in. It was actually my second time, but the last time had been five years ago with *GMC Sierra Verde (Ra). Guin brought *Sun along to stand outside the ring and keep *Jack company. In we went and began walking around the outside. This F&S was a bit different than the ones I'm used to watching. Typically one horse goes in and is judged for Fitting (cleanless of horse, presenter, and tack), then on to the next judge for the Showmanship portion. This time we all went into the ring and walked around as if it were a typical riding class. He then had us line up, one behind the other. He came up to us one at a time and checked for Fitting, spoke with us, etc.; then asked us to trot to the gate, slow to a walk, and turn right. *Jack was superb!!!! He was polite to the judge, lifted his hoof when asked, and trotted immediately. He then came to a walk when I asked. When we were first in the ring, he was quite the Looky-Loo, but he listened well to me the whole time. And....

We got a second place!!!!!!!!!!

He really deserved it and made quite an impression on the crowd.

After *Jack's class we went back to the trailer to get *Sun ready for his first two classes. As Guin is 18 now, she is classified an adult in the classes. She chose to take him in Walk-Trot as they didn't have any "green horse" classes. The first class was W/T equitation. There were nine in the class and *Sun was very, very distracted. Guin rode him quite well, keeping him listening despite his lightbulb not being on full brightness . He was not the only distracted horse, but with 9 in the class she did not get a ribbon; however, the judge did speak to her and said that he was impressed with how well she handled him and felt she was a good rider, but that he couldn't judge her fairly when *Sun wasn't moving forward consistently.

The second class immediately followed the first, so everyone stayed in the ring. I think this was a good thing for *Sun has he then settled nicely and really tuned into Guin. This time, in the W/T Pleasure *Sun gained a second place!! Guin was well pleased with that.

We then had quite a hold before getting ready for the costume class. Guin had never done a costume class and decided to give it a try. We didn't know how many folks take this class so seriously! There was a cute Icelandic dressed up as a Rhinocerus with a "zebra" and a "cheeta" on his back (two little humans dressed up); a "rainy day pony" complete with their own rain coat and a HUGE umbrella being carried over its back; a Pumpkin patch horse, a Minnie-mouse horse, and two fab costumes. One was a spaceship horse complete with a Princess Leia riding her. The spaceship was made from cardboard and had "May the Horse be with you" on it. Then two adults came in with their two icelandic done up as tow trucks complete with a gas cannister, jumper cables and twirling lights on the helmets! Really funny!

Guin did take second place adult in this class as *Sun was dressed as a Unicorn and she has a fairy with flapping wings! The funniest part was the judge commented positively about *Sun tolerating the flapping wings and yet when the ringmaster went to hand Guin the ribbon, *Sun shied and danced away!! It was funny.

After that, it was time to clean-up and go home. The boys boarded the trailer easily and we got underway. They were glad to be home again, and so were we!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Trail Walk!!

Today, *Jack and *Leo got on the trailer for their first ever trailer ride. We had Guin's BF, Chellis, ride in the back with them. This is, of course, not really recommended; however we were going only about 3 miles and it is very reassuring for a couple of youngsters on their first ride to have someone along that they know.

We took them up to Groton State Forest. Here's a link to just one of their camp grounds: The Forest is quite horse friendly and has many miles of multi-use trails. Because we were only going to be there a short while, the Forester I spoke with a few days before recommended that we actually park up the road from that spot at a parking lot used for day hikers, and in the winter, snowmobilers. We were the only ones there today (and it was a lovely day, weather-wise!). Here we are after off-loading the boys and before heading out on the trail.

Because we have a large camera we decided not to take it with us this first time, so we don't have shots of them on the trail with us; however I'll do my best to describe what we saw and how the boys reacted.

The trail we took followed the roadway for a bit, always with trees and bushes between the trail and road. Come Autumn, you would be able to see the cars, but today we just heard them. The trail was wide enough to comfortably walk by the horses' sides. It wound up and down, strewn with small rocks and branches. Sun dappled the trail between the overhead leaves, while ferns, tall grass, brambles, and other horses' manure were underfoot. The manure was of particular interest to young *Leo; although *Jack had to have a sniff once in a while too. There were large boulders occasionally to the side of the trail, and sometimes you could spy an old rock wall in the nearby trees.

Everything was worthy of investigation, and we took our time to stop and taste-test or just bury our noses in and SNIFF! *Leo and Chuck led the way. *Leo is a very forward horse, and did not like being behind *Jack who was happy to amble along checking things out. The only item that evoked a startle on the trail, was when *Leo spied a boulder with, OMG, branches on it!!!! The startle response? He stopped and stared at it and wanted Chuck to lead him by. *Jack thought it needed thorough investigation, so we "touched the monster" and received a treat. Once *Leo saw *Jack getting a treat, he needed to return to "touch that monster" too.

Before long we found a place that was open enough for us to turn them around and head back. Our goal was just to get them out and about, with that trailer ride to and from, so we didn't feel we needed to walk a long way.

On the way back *Leo, still in the lead, slowed down and wanted to really check things out, as did *Jack. *Jack was particularly curious about the various trees. Chuck feels that *Leo demonstrated curiosity and braveness, while at the same time needing to have that quiet competent leader next to him. He particularly enjoys it when Chuck drapes an arm across his back and walks beside him in that position. *Jack was unsure. He wants to be brave, but he also wants to be careful. So watching his feet was important to him (*Leo was too busy gawking, Chuck said and tripped over rocks constantly, lol) *Jack gained a lot of confidence because *I* was there to tell him how great and wonderful it all was. I could see by the wrinkles over his nostrils that there was some worry, and when it got too much for him, he would reach over with his nose and touch my hand. I spent some time rubbing his neck and reassuring him that he was a lovely, smart, brave boy as we walked along.

Here we are as we returned from the walk, having gone a bit over a mile, out and back.

The only other spook occurred here as we investigated the perimeter of the parking lot. Suddenly *Jack leaped toward me, although only going perhaps a foot, and not running into me. I had no clue what had startled him, because it certainly didn't startle *Leo. Then Chellis mentioned he had seen a toad over in that area. Perhaps that was it.

The boys then very easily loaded back up into the trailer, and away we went home again.

A highly successful first trip!!

Friday, August 08, 2008

Last year we received an invitation to bring Curlies to the Champlain Valley Exposition ( ); however, as one of our daughters was being married, we really couldn't break-away from preparations to attend.

We received an invitation this year, and have decided to take *Jack and *Leo! Because they are young and this will be their first outing, we will only be there for two days, the 30th and 31st of August. Do try to make plans to come meet these two awesome young horses in "real time"!

In the meanwhile, we are busy teaching them things that they will need, such as trailer loading. This week we have concentrated on just going into, and hanging out in, the trailer; both alone and together. They have done fabulously!! And once again, the fact of just how different each horse is, has been driven home in my mind.

*Jack has a solid belief in me. If I tell him I think he can, he will strive to do whatever I ask of him; yet he is a bit more tentative in his approach. *Leo also needs to be reassured that he can, but he is more bold about his tasks; more willing to "get it wrong" than *Jack is. The differences just amaze me.

This weekend we hope to take them for their first "spin" in the trailer. We won't go anywhere to off-load, just drive them a bit and return home. Check back in to see how it went!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

The show at Towne-Ayr Farm; August 2

Guinevive decided that she wanted to give the Open show at a local farm a go. So, this morning Chuck, Chellis (Guin’s BF), and I put on our Curly t-shirts, and loaded everything that we needed into the truck, trailer, and jeep. Guin dressed up in her English show gear, and loaded UB Raggae Babe up (like a champ I might add).

At this point, I would love to be able to say, “We had a great time; wowed everyone with our Curly; and won lots of ribbons.” But the truth is, Chuck and I were, once again, disappointed at the inability of the Judge to be unbiased. It had nothing to do with the fact that Babe is a Curly. It had everything to do with the fact that Guin is no longer in 4H and not a “show regular”.

It would be very easy to say that we were suffering from sour grapes, but that isn’t it. It would also be easy to say that the Judge can’t see *everything* that goes wrong with all the riders in the ring. But that isn’t it either. It was the third class that showed the blatant disregard the Judge had for reality.

Guin chose 5 classes: Fitting and Showmanship; Equitation; Pleasure; Command; and Equitation over fences. She ended up scratching the jumping because both she and Babe were tired (and it was so hot and HUMID), plus the whole show was held inside an undersized and too dark arena.

She came out of the F&S with a 4th place. Completely respectable considering it has been 4 years since she has tried her hand at this. In Equitation they combined the Adult and Senior classes. There were five total entrants. During the class, one pair had real problems; the horse reared, wouldn’t accept cues, and when waiting on the sidelines for others to canter, was threatening to other horses. Two of the other horses broke at the canter; two did not. Guin and Babe were one of those. Considering this, we expected she would place 3rd, or perhaps even 2nd. No, she placed 4th putting the two horses above her who had not stayed in gait. We simply shook our heads and figured the Judge had not seen it.

Her next class was Pleasure. Now for those of you unused to shows like this, the Pleasure class is supposed to judge the horse whereas the Equitation is to judge the rider. Basically the horse needs to demonstrate that they are a pleasure to ride: easy to cue, easy to change directions, easy to change gaits, easy to stay in gait, easy to halt and easy to back. In this class there were only 4 entrants. The troubled pair from above had scratched the rest of the show. Again, two of the horses broke at the canter (same two as above in fact), and two did not. And this time both Chuck and I were watching the judge watch the horses. She looked straight at BOTH horses when each of them broke their canters; there was no way she could have missed it. Yet, once again, one of those horses placed above Guin and Babe, giving Guin a 3rd place. The comment the Judge made to Guin was, “This horse likes to go, doesn't it?”

It was obvious that there was no way Guin was going to place higher, and in fact in Command class, she again placed 4th.

Again, it would be easy to say “Well, Guin must be out of ‘shape’ as a rider,” or “At least she GOT a ribbon.” But in all honesty, Guin is a sweet rider. She can handle anything a horse puts out; she knows how to coax, how to teach, how to reward, and how to gently correct what a horse offers. I watched her closely and she made no glaring errors today. It is disheartening to have to deal with such bias. She has reworked Babe from the rushing, rooting, unbalanced mare we got, into a more balanced and confident mare. From Babe, Guin has learned to be subtle with her cues, and Babe rewards that with more relaxed movement. Babe did well today at the show, and so did Guin.

Will Guin show again? It is hard to say, but at this point I suspect not. I believe that Guin may have learned that she doesn’t need an outsider to tell her she is a good rider; all she needs is the willingness of the horse to show her.

ps....on a side note, we did talk with several folks about what kind of horse Babe is. One, who was actually there with a team of oxen, said that she used to have a horse that folks told her was half Curly because he would curl up in the winter. I can't begin to say how many folks up here have told me about "a horse they used to have that got all curly"; but it's been many a one over the years.

Friday, August 01, 2008

So, two blog posts in one day, from me? Simply amazing! However, I have discovered that I have been "tagged" in a game of Blog-tag. Apparently, in blog-tag, one must share some things about oneself (in this case, 6 things) and then "tag" other bloggers. My problem may be, that I only have a few folks whose blog I read, and Michelle, from the Bottom of Chestnut Hill who tagged me, also tagged the ones I read! I'll have to poke around on the net to find some that I can tag too!

On to the six things you may or may not know about me.

1) I was born in Maryland, daughter of two Rebels. In case you didn't realize it, Maryland is below the Mason-Dixon line; so although it did NOT secede from the Union back before the Civil War, it IS a Rebel state. I may live in Vermont, but I am most certainly not a Yankee. I'm proud of my Rebel heritage, and especially proud that most of my forebearers came from Virginia.

2) I grew up on the grounds of a Tuberculous hospital, called Glenn Dale Hospital. I spent the first ten years of my life there. My father began as a steam-fitter, slowly went through business school and then became the business manager of the hospital. We left there when my father changed jobs in 1964. The hospital closed in the early 80's. Primarily it closed because TB was on the decline (thanks to Penicillian) but it was full of asbestos and would have cost mega-dollars to clean up. The hospital actually belonged to Washington, D.C. but they had no use for it. It still stands, empty, and a wreck from vandels. A shame too, because the brick buildings were gorgeous when the hospital was in full swing.

3)I am a certified open-water diver. I learned to dive when I was stationed on Guam. Typically you learn to dive in a pool, but because I arrived on Guam hours before it was struck by SuperTyphoon Pamela in 1976, the pools had not been fixed when I took the course. So, I literarily learned to dive in open water. I loved it, and went as often as I could. I continued to dive until I was about 5 months pregnant with Bethany. By then the weight belt would no longer fit around my waist, so I just snorkled. I only dove once after returning to the states, down in Key West. I competely gave it up when I moved to Vermont.

4) I am interested in genealogy. I used to do a lot of research, and will return to it at some point I'm sure. I have been able to connect our family, on my father's side back to a Swedish immigrant who came over on the SS Swan in 1643 into New Delaware. On my mother's side, we go back to English immigrants in 1610 into Virginia. Also, on my mother's side we are Cherokee (Tsa la gi)

5) I "fell in love" with Vermont when I lived in Massachusetts in 1969. I determined that one day I would move here to live. Why? There was something wild about what I had seen in our drives; so country. My years at Glenn Dale had affirmed the country of my soul and I knew I would need to return to it at some point. I did in 1982.

and finally

6) I volunteer with a group called "Good Beginnings". It's basis is to pair an older, experienced mom with new moms for the first three months of their motherhood. Primarily, it is to offer emotional support, but we also help them to make community connections, as well as, connect them with needed physical support (clothing, food, etc.) should the need be there.

Well, I'm down to the "who should I tag" portion.

I'll tag: Cara's Blog and Top 'O the Hill's Blog
The first of August! Today, on the trip to take Sophie to the airport we saw the first Sugar Maple turning to orange! Yes, for some Maples, Autumn comes a wee bit *too* early.

We thoroughly enjoyed having Sophie with us. It was a great experience for all of us. She was a hard worker, with a quick intellect and avid curiousity. We wish her huge success in her life to come!

Now is the time to think toward fall and winter. We've redone some paddock fencing and electrical wiring for them, and have a few more to go. Then we want to get a bit cleaned up around the farm and build a couple of winter run-ins.

Here is a picture I took today, of Dude and *Suncatcher with Sophie, before she left. Double Trouble!! Enjoy.

Monday, July 07, 2008

High summer in Vermont. So many people equate Vermont with winter, or with the beautiful fall colors of autumn. They just think that Vermont is always cool. But it is NOT! Come July we have many very hot days. What does that mean for us who work with horses? It means we work early in the day, and later in the evening; leaving the hot mid-day for drowsing and grazing.

With our exchange student, Sophie, here from France, we have been working with a lot of horses. Sophie's primary "job" is to ride Silken and *Suncatcher. Guin rides *Red and *Babe. I work with *Jack and *Beau and *Glory, and they help me with *Walker, Dude, and *Leo.

I am also taking an on-line photography course and learning to use my camera better, so processing the pictures I get to take is also good to do in the heat of the day.

And in my "off" time, I am serving as Navigator for Marcy Baer and her stallion, Dykedale Duke (an English Dales pony). We went to our first 3-day event in Bromont, Quebec over the last weekend of June and Marcy & Duke came in FIRST PLACE in single-pony Training Level and Reserve Champion of Training level!! We were all so proud!

So, please forgive me for not writing as often as I should. I'll make sure to post a few pictures here as I prefect my "shooting" techniques.

Enjoy your summer!

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Spring has continued here in central Vermont, but we have had some days where we thought winter had returned! Brrrrr!

Now that our ground has dried out we have begun working with the horses again. We are changing around our pasture set-up; mowing, bathing horses, and all the general spring type activities on a ranch.

One of the other things that is changing is that soon it will just be the two of us. Our youngest daughter is graduating from high school and plans to move out on her own. After much thinking we have decided to reduce our herd. We are not in any rush to do so, as we want to make sure that the horses we want to sell our partnered with the right human in their life.

The first horse offered is Z Silken. She is a lovely 9 year old mare, very well trained, and smooth-coated (so if you are sensitive to being 'different' then you can have your hypo-allergenic horse and smooth hair too!!).

The second horse being offered was a very hard choice. We have decided to offer *Leo for sale. *Leo is one of TWO champagne colored American Curly horses in the WORLD! That's right, one of TWO IN THE WORLD. Rare among rare. He's just a year, and still has a lot of growing to do. At this time we are offering him intact as a stallion.

We may choose to offer another horse for sale later in the season; we have not decided yet.
So many things have changed in the last year, and decisions have had to be made that were not easy. But like the old saying goes: When life hands you lemons, you should make lemonade (and not be a sour-puss!!).

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Another day of Calmer, Braver, Smarter tasks. This time only 2: bobbing for apples in a water vat and pin-wheel alley. To make pin-wheel alley, I purchased 6 $1 brightly colored pin-wheels that have wooden stakes, that I simply pushed into the ground. Today I placed them about 3 feet apart, three pin-wheels on each side.

I worked with 5 horses total, but to me, if a horse is non-reactive then they are already de-spooked. Not that this is a bad thing at all! But to gain points I can only count three on any particular task. So today, I will count *Jack, *Walker, and Silken.

Silken was first out and I’ve learned that she is sensitive, yet intelligent and she does have a lot of training behind her, which has given her exposure to different things. We approached pin-wheel alley and I let her look and then asked her through. She thought about it, and walked through, but kept her eyes on the twirling pin-wheels the whole time. You could see she was ready to move out if they decided to eat her, but since they did NOT, going through the second time was an easy task. She remained relaxed and happy to follow my lead. I admit I had expected more worry out of her, but I’m glad all was okay with those pin-wheels. Now bobbing for apples was a loss on her. She sniffed the apples once, tried to bite, found they floated away and completely lost interest. So, we went for a walk around the drive and yard and then I put her away.

*Jack was next and like last time, I noticed that he was more up than in previous months. I believe I may have figured out why. He is now the lead horse in his paddock and he is rising 3. He has to be serious and aware; it is his job now! Gone is the carefree boy. So, to help him get his mind on me rather than potential monsters, we took a walk up by the house. He was particularly worried about the traffic going by, so we stood and watched it for a while, from a distance, until he relaxed. I will work on getting him closer and closer until he realizes it is safe as long as I’m there. Then we returned to pin-wheel alley. He brought his nose down to one of the twirling pin-wheels and touched it. I clicked and treated him, from that point on he had no trouble going through the alley! We walked through several times, from different directions, and he just walked through as if they were not there. Next up to the apple bob, and he reacted just like Silken had. Tried for a bite, couldn’t get one, and completely lost interest. Sigh.

Last was *Walker. As herd leader she is ultra aware of her surroundings, and can be quite the worry-wart. Again, I began with a walk up and down the drive and then over to pin-wheel alley. “WHOA!! You expect me to go near those things???” she seemed to say. I just stood while she decided if she would check them out or not. Because I stood relaxed, she felt they must be okay, even if they warranted keeping her eyes on them. When she seemed relaxed enough I asked her though. Have you ever seen a horse teleport? One moment she was at one end, and the next she was on the other side. Obviously we needed to try this again. Next time through I asked her to ‘step-up’ rather than walk all the way. We stood and dwelt; then another ‘step-up’, and dwell time. It only takes about three steps to get through my little alley, so once we were out I turned her and asked her through again, and this time it was as easy as pie. So off we went bobbing for apples! Now *Walker loved this!! She would not stop going after them even though they kept scooting away from her mouth. She shoved her face into the water, completely covering her nostrils, blowing bubbles the whole time, and still kept going after them. Within one minute she had one and happily crunched it up. But wait! There was another apple to be eaten, and off she dove again, searching until she got that one too.

I’m sorry I don’t have any pictures from today, but it sure was fun.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

It has been two months since I last wrote in the blog. There is a very good reason for that and it is not a happy one. On the morning of February 14th we woke up to discover that the brand new arena we had built in the summer had collapsed. Unfortunately, for many reasons, we have to go through litigation to make any recovery so I cannot talk much about it.

Because we had only been working with the horses inside and Vermont experienced snowfall about 40 inches above the average, we had no place to work with them outside. Even the driveway was icy! Finally, though, late last week and this week the warmer temperatures have arrived and the driveway is real again, not ice and snow covered.

I took advantage of today’s weather to do some fun de-spooking activities with the horses. As I’m participating in the Ride A Curly contest I’ve already mentioned, I was happy to learn about a “mini-contest” in the month of April. We are to choose obstacles from the CSB course located on the website and introduce as many as three horses to any one of them to gain points.

The course I set up for today included: the Big Ball, a penguin ‘decoy’, a tarp, a plastic bag filled with noisy cans and plastic bottles, a backpack with goodies and more plastic bottles, and a old tire.

*Jack was the first one I took down and I learned that I, indeed, had a 7th obstacle. We cannot clean up the arena yet and the torn tarp flaps in the breeze. It was a good de-spooking exercise for sure! *Jack has seen the ball before, but not blowing in the wind! It took him quite some time to come up to it as it rocked back and forth, but he did. I then decided to move it inside because it was getting all the other horses going as well. Next up was the tarp I had laid down. He had no trouble walking across it (first time!) and then I picked it up and waved it around and dragged it next to him. He just would look at it, then at me, until I clicked and treated him. We investigated the tire (ho-hum!) and then the back pack. That was a favorite! “Hmmm,” he said, “I can smell goodies. Let me stick my nose in as far as possible to find them.” The plastic can bag also caused a reaction. Every time I would shake it those ears came forward, but eventually he crept closer and closer, and touched it. “Good boy *Jack!” Click and Treat.

The last item to play with was the penguin and it too was “Ho-hum”. Next time I’ll try to add a couple of items but keep the ones that bothered him the most (plus the yummy backpack)

Next up, Guin took *Leo for a walk. He was just weaned this weekend and this was his first day out. *Walker has been fine with him in the paddock next to him, but once he was out, she really put up a stink. *Leo, on the other hand, was far too interested in Guin and the walk. She took him all the way down to the barn and they investigated the tire. He walked back up just fine but then he decided that the stream of water he had already crossed going out of the paddock would eat him! She very patiently worked with him while I entertained *Jack and *Bill. It took about 15 minutes but eventually he felt he could take one small step at a time and come across. Never did he get upset, sweat, or show any nervousness. He just stood and contemplated until he was ready. I was very proud of the both of them.

I then took *Glory down to do the obstacles. She was not spooked by any of the items, and in fact, not particularly interested. She was FAR more interested in the collapsed arena’s tarp flapping though. However, it is too dangerous to take a horse near it. I worry about nails and such. However, we were able to get a nice photo of her with the tarp draped over her showing just how easy going she is. (Please excuse the mud, the snow is melting here!)

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Finally! Finally, finally, we drove *Beau again.

This time of year is difficult for us, because as Chuck is an accountant, it is year end and tax time, so his hours tend to be long. Finding time on an evening to work with horses is next to impossible, so we only get to work with them on the week-ends. We have concentrated on *Beau because he enjoys the work and we love being with him.

The past few week-ends have been in-hand work, getting him primed for the cart again. Today, he went between the shafts and I tell you, it is as if he hadn't had any time off at all. He is so brilliant!

The one thing that we could feel though is that he is not in shape. So, I ground drove him first for about 10 minutes and then we limited his time between the shafts to 20 minutes. Each weekend we will raise the amount to increase his fitness again. If we get time during the week, you can bet we'll be bringing him down for more driving.

He is just incredibly responsive and so obviously proud of the work he does. Of course, it helps that we tell him how wonderful he is all the time. Stallions love that!

So, *Beau got 20 minutes pull the cart, and I got 10 minutes toward my RAC points. Not much, but it is a beginning.

It is also so very different driving in the arena compared to driving in the old one (now our barn) due to the base. You go much faster in the new one and it is much easier for him to turn and pull the cart as the drag is much less than the sand of the other base. Wahoo!!

I hope you enjoy the pictures from today.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Every once in a while, the stars align just right to cause an adventure to happen. I'm not talking about the fun ones where you get to see new sights, experience new thrills, and generally have a fun, happy time. These kind of adventures are the ones you are glad ended just fine, but hope not to repeat again too soon. Of course, this adventure involved horses.

I was sitting inside just finishing my lunch and a bit of reading. I am accustomed to the noises outside, but always notice when there is a new or odd noise. I can't tell you, now, what that noise was, but it arrested my attention immediately. Then I heard the unmistakable sound of a stallion excited! As I know our *Beau's voice well, I knew it was him (*Leo does not have a mature voice yet for all he thinks he does). I jumped up from my seat and looked out the windows.

There were *Beau and *Red, heads hanging out of their fence, snuffling noses with THREE RED HORSES THAT SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN THERE! I popped my head out of the door and said, "*Walker girl, what are you doing out? And how did you get out?"

I ran down the stairs, threw off my slippers, crammed my feet into my boots, whipped my coat around me, stuffed treats into my pockets and slapped my hat on my head. Out the door I ran and the fun was ON!!

Before I even approached the horses, I went to check the gate to their paddock expecting some damage. There was none. It was simply unclasped. Great, I have a mouthy, smart horse that can undo gates. I'm betting on *Leo.

Although all three know me well, and love their treats, they were FREEEEEEEEEE, free as the wind, free as the snowflakes flying through the breeze, free as....well you get the picture. And so, they were having little to do with me. Each time I got close they veered off into another direction. Finally after a bit, *Jack noticed that I had treats in my hand. He decided that treats were far more interesting than running around in deep snow following some mare that likes to kick his butt whenever she gets the chance. *Jack followed me all the way into the paddock and I shut him in.

One down; two to go.

This time I knew I had to have a halter. You see, when you are dealing with more than two horses, it is best to divide and conquer. I knew I could get *Jack with treats. *Walker is a bit harder; being older and more experienced at evasion.

I approached with the halter in one hand and treats in the other. She politely took the treats and let me slip the halter on, even though it isn't her color (what red horse would wear hot pink, really??). Off we went to the paddock, *Leo following like a good little foal. In *Walker went, but alas, *Leo refused to follow.

Adventure time for *Leo!! Off he went. He's starting to become more brave, and wants to venture forth without mom. Afterall, he is a big colt now of 8 months old! *Leo explored and I followed. Finally, after about 5 minutes of exploration he ended up back at the paddock gate. I grabbed the halter from *Walker and slipped it on *Leo.

With foals, aw heck, with horses...well you know the old can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink. When a horse decides they will not do something, there is no making him. The key to a good relationship with a horse is to have them always want to please you. The problem with foals is that they haven't figured that out yet because of their lack of experience.

So here we stood, a hot pink halter on a gold champagne 8 month old, paddock gate open. Halter in my left hand, a too-big halter I might add, which allowed *Leo to snake his teeth around and graze on my knuckles from time to time, and treats in my right hand. All the while I am having to convince both *Walker and *Jack that they don't want to come back out of the paddock. Finally, about 20 minutes later, *Leo decided he wanted to do what I wanted and came in.

Like I said, some adventures you don't necessarily wish to repeat too soon.

The gate now has a second clasp on it.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

I'm sure some of my readers may have wondered exactly what a day at "Green Mountain Curlies" might be like. I thought in this edition I would walk you through a "typical" day.

5:30 a.m. Wake-up and get-up out of bed. Have coffee. If not for my 2 cups of coffee my day would be much more difficult! Between this time and about 7 a.m. I also put together Chuck's lunch (nice wife, aren't I?), pour out our OJ, and feed the cats their brekky.

7 a.m. Wake-up Guin for school and fix brekky.

7:30 a.m. Head down cellar to mix the horses' brekky. Typically Chuck heads out to give them their morning hay while I'm mixing. Then we both feed them.

8:00-12:00 Pick manure out of all 5 paddocks. During winter I cannot get it all, so I concentrate on their run-ins and loose manure where we usually throw the hay. Then I top off their water. Hay them again and tend to other small things. For instance, I wash two feed buckets each day, Mon-Fri. I need to bring up hay to store under the porch. Then I will do ground work with one of the horses. This morning I took *Glory for a walk and then brought Silken down to work on some lateral flexion and also do some lunge work.

12-2 p.m. Inside for human lunch and house work/computer work.

2-4 p.m. Back outside to hay if they need it and for more work with horses. Today, I worked on *Suncatcher's mane. He seems to have developed a fungus so I'm treating it with DermalAide. Today was his second application and he is so cute about it. He was laying down resting when I came in. I began to rub it into the skin of his mane, vigorously. He lay there, literally groaning with pleasure! It was funny to hear. Then I worked with haltering *Leo. Today, we got it on all the way, but boy is he a mouthy colt! That halter went into his mouth way more often than I could seem to get it on his nose! Next up was *Jack. *Jack is now living with *Walker and *Leo in preparation for weaning *Leo. So *Leo was slightly concerned when I took *Jack out, but he settled quickly. We went down to the arena and met Guin coming up with Dude on the way. While in the arena we worked on Game 4, more W/T transistions in-hand, including trotting over ground poles, and we played with our huge Cage ball. Lastly, while Guin stayed in with *Jack and *Leo, I took *Walker out for a short walk. She didn't seem too stressed with leaving *Leo behind, but I could tell that tension was rising by the time we got down to the barn, so while there I asked for head down and rewarded her with a small treat. Then we turned around and went back. Guin said that *Leo was actually okay about it UNTIL he saw us heading back. Funny guy.

4-5 p.m. Do evening hay, mix supper for the horses, and feed.

5 - 10 p.m. Come in, have a cuppa tea and relax a bit. Then get supper for humans going and take care of more inside chores as needed. Chuck is very sweet in that he typically does the supper dishes for me. Then we will relax for the evening by chatting, reading, or watching a movie.

10 p.m. Off to bed.

As you can see it is a full day. I try to plan just one day "off the farm" for running errands, going shopping, etc. It doesn't always work out, but I do as I can.

So, if you ever decide to come for a visit you'll know just what to expect.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Short and sweet. Sometimes that's all the training you need to do with a youngster. Tonight that was what Guin and I did with *Bill and *Jack.

After everyone was fed and settled for the evening, I went down and turned on the arena lights. The lights are metal halide and so need a bit of warming up before they are bright enough. Then we haltered the both of them and walked down.

Our main purpose was just to get them used to the idea of being in the arena, at night, with the lights on. Things look different at night, both outside and inside, and for horses the more experience they get at different things the better off you both are.

We just did some walk/trot in hand, took them through the labyrinth a couple of times, and worked on backing up by the Driving Game.

Neither of them was worried or concerned about how different things looked and both stayed "on task". Considering that *Bill is just a long yearling we felt he did very well!

Both walking down and walking back, because it was dark and things were shadowed differently (and covered with snow), we did have a couple of threshold moments. But once they got a good look at whatever had their attention and saw that we were relaxed about it, off they went again.

Our only sticky spot at all was when *Jack and I stayed behind to turn the lights off! It was very dark, and *Jack was a bit surprised. I just kept speaking to him and we made our way to the arena door.

By next year we hope to have a small light installed just for those times.

I love having a lighted arena! What a blessed life we have!

Friday, January 04, 2008

Today began chilly, at about -2F at 7:30 a.m. but by 11 a.m. we had warmed up to almost 20 and we got to the mid-20's by the late afternoon. We had off and on sunshine and everyone, humans and horses alike, enjoyed being outside.

I have noticed that when we have a couple of days of really frigid weather, as we just did, that the following day the horses spend a lot of time napping. Of course, the amount of hay the consume lessens considerably, but it amazes me the amount of time that they will spend lieing down and sleeping. Adult horses rarely spend more than 2 hours out of 24 laying down to sleep, but most of mine today spent more than that. As I worked outside, the feeling surrounding our space was of total relaxation and peacefulness. Lovely!

This afternoon, I took *Jack down to the arena to do a few minutes of in-hand work. We walked and trotted in hand, and I varied the speed that I traveled, which *Jack noticed and changed his speed to accompany me. This is good! Then we did a trip through the TEAM labyrinth and next I decided to begin teaching him the Yo, of the Parelli game 4 "Yo-yo" game. Please note that I am not a "level" anything in Parelli-speak, but I have found much to his 7-games and enjoy using them with the horses as alternative training techniques. Therefore, how I do his games may not be "perfect" according to his goals.

Anyway, the "Yo-yo" game is one in which the horse is asked to back away from you while you stand still; get to the end of the line and "dwell" for a while; then on request come back into you. The object, of course, is to make the requests you use as subtle as possible.

Now *Jack understands the voice command of "back-up" and he understands pressure on the bridge of his nose and that he must move backwards when I walk towards his head/chest area. He has known all that since he was but a foal. Today was the day to incorporate an object to drive him backwards (that happens to be Game 3). As I had my TEAM wand in hand, I simple held it pointing toward him and began moving it rhythmically toward his chest, between his front legs. I then said "back" (I believe that Parelli discourages the use of voice, but as I drive I prefer them to be extra familiar with voice cues). *Jack just looked at me. When he hadn't responded in a few moments, the wand tapped him between his legs. I could see on *Jack's face a "What?". Again, I said back, and when he didn't respond, I increased the amount of contact (that's PC for the wand 'tapped' him harder, lol). At that he took a tentative step backwards with his left fore and I immediately stopped the movement and praised him. We did this 3 to 4 times, and each time he needed the contact of the wand to respond. So, it was time for a break.

We walked off, we did the labyrinth, looked out the door at the turkeys, and then went back to Game 4. Lo-and-behold he got it right away! As is usual he simply had needed a bit of "dwell" time to process what I had been asking. This time when he gave me two lovely steps backwards with just a wave of the wand toward him, I lavished praise on him and gave him a treat. Oh *Jack liked that! And we quit.

I was very proud of his good work.

Next out was Silken and Dude (you will notice there are no astericks next to their names; that is because we use the asterick* to denote a curly coat. No *, means no visible curls). I brought Silken in and Guin brought in Dude. I like to start my work sessions with a trip around the arena. It sets the "mood", i.e. "This is now learning/work time, not relaxing time". So, Silken and I made a trip around the arena, and we varied our speeds in the walk and trot as I had with *Jack. I took Silken through the labyrinth for a first time and she did well. Then I began the games with her. Silken knows the games and is a sensitive mare. What she will help me with is my subtlety.

Each horse responds differently to the different games. For instance in the Yo-yo game, Silken's yo is much better than her Yo. She does not like to be asked away from the human. She does it, but you can see in her eyes that she doesn't like being "sent away". So I make sure to do it gently, quietly. I think that I can become even quieter yet. Silken also has a default behaviour and that is to do the Circle game, or game 5. If she is confused at all, she circles you. So, one must be aware of it and ready to interrupt her circling. But, it is a game she does really well!

And her Game 7, or Sideways game is soooooo smooth. Lovely to work with, lovely to watch. Again, I know I can become more subtle with it though as I got a couple of tail-twists and snorts with a head bob. She was telling me that I was "shouting" and that she could hear me just fine "thank you very much"!!

After a bit with them both, we went out and just walked around a bit with them. Guin and I agreed that it was fun playing with two horses at the same time and want to do more of it.

After that it was time to wait for my new helper! Beginning today I have a cute-as-a-button 9 year old coming to help with afternoon chores and learn more about horses. Today, she helped me water; mix supper; give the night hay out; and feed supper to the horses. While we worked I asked her to think about a topic for each Friday that she would like to talk about regarding horses. I did catch her by surprise with this but she decided that today we should talk about the insides of a horse! So I told her how they were the same and how they were different. We spoke about their brains, their digestive system, and how they are prey not preditors and how that effects their insides and thinking. I had a great time and I think she did too! I'm looking forward to next Friday.

We hope you had a lovely day today as well.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Was I complaining yesterday about snow? I'll take snow. When it snows it is warmer than today was!

I spent as little time as possible outside today. We began, at 7:30 a.m., with -10F and a small wind. Eventually, by 2 p.m. we managed to get to 8F, again with a small wind. By the time we fed about 2-1/2 hours later it had dropped to -4F.

On days like this the only thing that matters is feeding and watering the critters. All they really want to do is eat hay and sleep in the sunlight.

My policy is not to work a horse at more than a walk between 0 and 10F, they can do a bit of light trot between 10-20F. The reason for that is that they will work up a sweat and trying to cool them down in those temperatures takes a long time and can be difficult on them. So, you just don't work them to a sweat. It also is not good for them to breath so deeply as they would need to. Heck, it's hard on us to breathe in those temperatures!

So days like today mean no working with the horses because it is hard on both of us. But they love to see me come out and give them hay. Yep, I'm the most popular human on earth when I have hay in my hands on days like today!

Stay warm!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

I love snow. I love winter. But the winter I love is one that allows you to enjoy the outside, the snow, without freezing. Ahhh, if wishes were fishes we'd never be hungry, eh?

For me, one of the best things about winter BUGS. Bugs crawl on you, bite you, sting you, and dive-bomb you. I enjoy working with the horses even though it is cold, because there are NO bugs to drive either one of us crazy.

But, being the "at home" person who runs the farm on a daily business means that I am the one that deals with the snow. Believe me, I am thankful that we have a tractor. I do count the money saved each and every time I plow. But, it is just January 2nd and I am heartily TIRED of plowing!

I try to keep my sense of humor; I am always one to make lemonade from those darned sour lemons, however I am running out of ideas for making plowing fun.

So, I'm including a few pictures from the first snowstorm, back on 12/03/07, where I actually was smiling while I was plowing. It is hard to find me doing that now.

Ideas are appreciated!!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008


Yes, we have finished with 2007 and begun 2008.

2007 did turn out as we had imagined it would. We had hoped that by bringing in Stephanie, that we would expand our business. We built fences; we built a new arena; we also built three new winter paddocks. Then the bottom dropped out and we learned to NEVER depend on anyone but ourselves. Occasionally, you get fooled.

The only thing left now, though, is to make new goals, new decisions, and go forward.

I could wax philosophical and ponder on why we needed to learn this lesson; but, rather than doing that I will simply take the sour with the sweet.

And the sweet is: we have a larger arena, with LIGHTS. It isn't totally finished because winter came on fast and strong this year. We also had to fire a carpenter. What is it with "professionals" these days? Ah, never mind, that could be a totally separate blog.

What else is sweet? We have each other, we have 3 lovely, intelligent and strong daughters and a great new son-in-law. We have 11 horses that we have plans for, and we have a future.

Another sweet is, I have signed up for the "Ride A Curly" contest on Curly Horse Country. I did this to help me set the goal of accrueing hours in riding and driving. For me it is not important to win, but just to achieve those hours. Only active riding and/or driving counts; not time working with them on the ground. But, I also have horses to work with on the ground, most especially a particularly sweet 2 year old named *Jack. He is the light in my eyes.

So, today I began to approach my goals, as the horses have had December "off". *Jack and I went to the arena and worked with the TEAM (Linda Tellington-Jones) Labyrinth. On the third time through he only followed my guiding hands and voice. I did not need to hold the lead at all! He had never experienced the Lab before, so I was mightily pleased. With *Leo I began to re-introduce him to the halter. And then this evening *Beau accompanied us to the arena to see it under the lights. It was a new experience for him, and he was a bit up at first, but quickly settled to the labyrinth and walking/trotting/cantering on line.

Our 2008 is off to a good start. We hope yours is too.

ps *Red is healed from his stringhalt and is doing pretty well!