Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spring Thing: Puddles of Opportunity

Spring is a good time to take advantage of all those yucky puddles that form after spring showers and melting snow. If you are looking forward to trail riding, puddles at home offer great training opportunities.

When I purchased Marley I was forewarned of his great aversion to water.

He hated getting his toes wet.
He hated baths.
He hated any water touching his body.

I was even told of an incident during a cup-of-water relay game, when Marley threw a tantrum when a small amount of water spilled out of his handicapped rider's cup onto his shoulder.

Marley has challenged his trainers in ground training sessions involving water. I watched as he refused to walk across a water puddle and opted to run up a hillside, pulling his trainer with him. This was a forested hillside, so the trainer took quick advantage and wrapped the lead rope around a tree and brought Marley to a surprising halt. Marley can put up a pretty strong argument when presented with a task he doesn't like. But we've been working on his water issue every chance we get.

When I came home from work yesterday, I was pleased to see that the melting snow from last Saturday's blizzard had created puddles of opportunity for Marley.

Marley's opportunity to walk through a puddle:

Ok, Mom, I can do this.

When working through puddles on the ground, I like to do more than simply lead Marley through the puddle. We started out that way, but now we work in a circle on a long lead rope and I "send" him through the puddle, without being close to his side in a typical leading position. When I'm riding Marley on the trail and we encounter a puddle, I won't be by his side to lead him through it. I'll be on his back and he may feel he is facing that horse-eating puddle all alone, unless I've reinforced his confidence on the ground by sending him through these preparatory puddles.

Marley's opportunity to stand calmly in a puddle:

Look Mom! I'm calm and sweet and willing.

And finally, Marley's opportunity to stand patiently while the puddle muck is washed away:

I'm a good boy. Can I have dinner now?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Misty's Monday Muse: On The Road Again

Can you feel it in the air? That's Springtime! We're feeling it in Colorado between blizzards, that is.

In the spring, the horse-peoples start planning lots of outings and adventures to share with their best equine friends. Soon, a lot of us will be hitting the road, traveling with our best horse-peoples. It's very exciting and scary too.

With all the courage and loyalty that our big horsey hearts can muster, we'll be stepping into that rolling-box you like to haul us around in. We are very flattered to be your special guest, but remember...we put our life in your hands every time we enter that box. We want to arrive safely and unharmed at our destination, whether near or far.

So please be sure to have annual maintenance performed on your rolling-box. They seem like such simplistic contraptions; after all it's just a box. Don't let that fool you. Even if your rolling-box has been sitting around unused, there are a lot of hidden pieces and parts that can break; the results of which can be tragic.

Annual rolling-box maintenance is very important!

Please read more about it in this article posted at The Horse Prepare Your Horse Trailer for Travel Season

Before the start of the summer travel season, it is critically important for horse owners to perform basic yet essential maintenance on their trailers.This will be time well spent because it will ensure that their trailers will be in optimal shape to provide safe passage for precious cargo during the upcoming season.

"A good roadside assistance program is something all horse owners should have but hope they will never have to use," said Mark Cole, managing member for USRider, a national provider of roadside emergency assistance for horse owners. "To that end, our mission is to continually educate horse owners about trailering safety."

To provide a reliable and accessible source of information about trailering safety, USRider maintains an Equine Trailer Safety Area on its Web site.

"We have carefully developed this area to be a resource with helpful and practical topics--all free and available to members and non-members alike," added Cole. "Our Web site is designed so visitors can print out information as a handy reference. We also post safety bulletins as new information develops."

Some of available resources include a list of items every horse trailer should have on board, short trip and long trip precautions, and trailer inspection procedures.

Here are some tips to prepare your trailer for the upcoming travel season:

  • Remove and inspect all wheels and hubs or brake drums.
  • Inspect suspension for wear.
  • Check tightness of hanger bolt, shackle bolt, and U-bolt nuts per recommended torque values.
  • Check brake linings, brake drums, and armature faces for excessive wear or scoring.
  • Check brake magnetic coil with an ohmmeter. The magnetic coil should check 3.2 ohms (+/- 0.3ohms). If shorted or out of tolerance, replace.
  • Lubricate all brake moving parts, using a high temperature brake lubricant.
  • Remove any rust from braking surface and armature surface of drums.
  • Inspect oil or grease seals for wear or nicks. Replace if necessary.
  • Inspect and grease wheel bearings.

In addition to these recommendations, horse owners are advised to check all trailer tires, (including spares) for signs of dry rot, correct air pressure, faulty air valves, uneven tire wear, overall tire wear, and damage. Use a high-quality air pressure gauge to inspect tire pressure before each trip. Always replace tires if worn or damaged. In addition, tires should be replaced every three to five years regardless of mileage. When replacing tires, always replace the valve stems. USRider recommended that only high quality tires specifically designed and rated for trailers be used--never use retread or automobile tires on a horse trailer.

It is also important to service the wheel bearings every 12,000 miles or annually (regardless of mileage) due to moisture build-up. Keep a spare set of wheel bearings in your trailer in case of premature failure. Be sure to inspect trailer wiring and lighting; inspect door latches and grease the doors; inspect the floor (be sure to remove any rubber mats so the entire floor can be examined); and inspect and lubricate mechanical moving parts, such as the hitch and suspension parts. If the trailer has been sitting for a while, check for wasp nests, spider webs, and any other creatures that might have taken up residence.

Cole also reminded equestrians to check the contents of their equine and human first aid kits.

Those hauling horses are also encouraged to program emergency contact information into their cell phones under the listing designation "ICE," which stands for In Case of Emergency. This can aid emergency workers in identifying victims and determining who needs to be notified in case of an accident.

Horse owners should also ensure that their emergency contact information is stored in their tow vehicle. To facilitate this, USRider has developed an In Case of Emergency form and posted it online for horse owners to print out. Simply fill in the blanks and store copies in the tow vehicle as well as in the trailer. Additional recommendations, including a Power of Attorney form, are posted on the USRider Web site.

For additional safety tips, visit the Equine Travel Safety Area on the USRider Web site.

Happy Trailering,

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Beautiful Award

Thank you juliette of honeysuckle faire for this Beautiful Blogger award. It is a huge compliment to receive an award like this from juliette because she is the perfect example of a Beautiful Blogger as she shares her talents and thoughtful insights on horses. See juliette's Beautiful Blogger Award post here.

The Beautiful Blogger award rules are:
1. Link back to the person who gave you the award.
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Pass the award to 15 other bloggers.

I'm having trouble coming up with things to share about myself, so I'm tickling my thought processes with a stack of conversation cards. When our family gets together, we like to randomly draw from these cards as we sit around the dinner table, then we each take turns answering the questions. So I'm going to draw 7 cards from the stack and answer the questions.

Q1: Would you like a quiet life of safety or a life of great adventure and uncertainty?

A quiet life of safety. I am a seeker of peace rather than thrills. I like to plan ahead and I'm the safety monitor of the family. That doesn't mean I won't take reasonable risks to accomplish new goals, because there are always risks we must take when we stretch and challenge ourselves. But I believe we can mitigate those risks with good planning, preparation, and education. Ok, I'm boring; I admit it.

Q2: Would you rather live by the beach or in the mountains?

Definitely in the mountains. I love the scent of pine trees and the crunchy sound of dried pine needles under foot. I love hiking around the bend of a trail and discovering a beautiful blue lake reflecting the surrounding mountains in its calm waters. I'd rather be clothed in denim, flannel, and hiking boots than in a swimsuit and flip-flops. Although I do like to wear flip-flops and sandals in the summertime and I want to go someplace warm and tropical for vacation. But I want to come home to a mountain view.

Q3: If you could relive your childhood, how would you like it to be different?

I wish I had grown up on a farm or a ranch. I like the earth and animals, which are in short supply in the suburbs where I grew up, living most often in an apartment or townhouse. I would have enjoyed more room to roam, although I did have fun riding bikes around the neighborhood with friends when I was young. I have a longing for rural roots.

Q4: When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a veterinarian and a mom. Missed the boat on both counts, unfortunately. But life doesn't always go as we hope and I'm not mournful about that.

Q5: What car would you love to buy without considering any practical reasons?

I don't want a sports car. I don't want a luxury car. I want a big, bad pickup truck that can haul my horses with ease through the mountains and anywhere I want to go. Maybe a luxurious, big, bad pickup truck that is comfortable inside the cab, has a nice sound system and has that new-pickup-truck-smell. I have a 1994 F250 turbo diesel non-PowerStroke truck and it is under powered for mountain hauling. It's the first pickup truck I've ever had and while it is a great old truck for what it is, I wish I could upgrade.

Q6: What kind of party would you throw if you had an unlimited budget?

Hmmm? I'm not good at party planning. But with an unlimited budget, I could hire a party planner to handle all the details. I'd want a long weekend or a week-long, summertime party, in the mountains of course, where family and friends could gather. We'd stay in a big mountain lodge with a swimming pool, theater room, bowling alley, hay rides, horseback riding, hiking, jeeping, ATV-riding, crafts, games, movies, and good shopping in a nearby, quaint, rustic, mountain town. And of course the food would be delicious and we'd have theme nights for dinner (Italian, Mexican, BBQ, Pizza Night, Build-Your-Own-Sandwich bar).

Q7: What one goal do you want to accomplish this year?

I'd like to achieve the confidence and skill (for both Marley and me) to take Marley on a pleasure carriage drive without a driving trainer in the cart with me.

I pass this award onto the following bloggers. If you have received this award and don't want to post your 7 things again, you don't have to; I admire your blog and just want to share your link.

Feel free to answer these same questions if you need to tickle your brain too.
In alphabetical order:

50+ Horses
Adventures of a Horse Crazed Mind
After Racing: Retraining Thoroughbreds
A Good Horse
A Year With Horses
Dapple of my Eye
Down on the Farm
Food, Life
Golden the Pony Girl
Highland Hooves
Horse Centric
Horse of Course
Living a Dream
Super Size My Cob
Wander With Wild Things

...the list could go on, but that's 15.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Work-Life-Horse Balance

The stick is in full swing here in the land of OnceUpon and I’m very frustrated about it.

I don’t mean that stick used as an extension of the human arm in some Natural Horsemanship training techniques.

I’m referring to that stick which falls heavily upon us and rocks the equilibrium of our work-life balance.

Work-life balance is the achievement of parity between one’s “work” (job, ambition) and one’s “life” (personal, spiritual, family, leisure).

My work-life balance is really out of whack right now, as exemplified by the following video clip.

Can you relate to that poor little stick figure on the left?

We’ve experienced a long, cold winter in the land of OnceUpon. Mother Nature is teasing us with a few warm, sunny days scattered amongst the impending spring snowstorms. As the temperature warms and the sun shines, I long to be outside working with my horses. (Heck…I even long to be outside scooping manure in the sunshine.) But doggone it! I’m getting beaten up by that mean old stick called “work”!

Keeping horses isn’t cheap. I have horses, therefore I work.

The problem is…my work load is increasing. Like a lot of companies in this current economy, mine has experienced layoffs and reduced benefits, including pay cuts. While staffing and benefits go down, the work load goes up for those of us fortunate to have kept our jobs. I do feel fortunate to still have a good job, but I’ve developed a frequent twitch in my left eye and I’m exhausted. I have less time and energy to spend with horses.

Some may suggest I sell my horses. NOT an option! Then I’d be just another eye-twitching, exhausted, horseless woman with more money in her purse. That doesn’t appeal to me because the intrinsic value of a horse cannot be measured in dollars.

  • Hoof care in April: $80.00
  • Vet care in May: $220.00
  • Hay purchase in June: $1,500.00
  • The sound of a soft nicker greeting you as you walk toward the barn: Priceless!

So, I’m stuck with this work-life dilemma. What is a horsewoman to do?

My first idea is to improve my diet. As I sit here typing this post, I’m very aware that I don’t feel good physically. Sitting at a computer all day; and stress-snacking from the vending machine in mid-afternoon after my microwave entrée (eaten at my desk while I work through lunch) has worn off, does not help the situation. Perhaps a healthier diet would aid in combating the exhaustion I feel, leaving more energy to play with horses in the evening. (Ok…and do household chores too, if you are reading this Mr. OnceUpon).

How can we successfully juggle the demands of work (whether employment or other ambitions) with our personal life and horses?

What suggestions do you have to manage the work-life-horse balance?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Breakfast, Anyone?

Here's a little tip from this blogger.

Do not sit down to write a blog post while toasting a bagel under the broiler.

Why I do not have a cooking blog.

I've been blogging for over a year now, and I'm happy to report that my house is still standing. In my defense, I did retrieve this from the broiler before the smoke detector went off.

Today is a sunny Saturday.

Sunshine + Saturday = Horse Play.

I'm turning off the computer.

I'm staying out of the kitchen (for the safety of the family).

I'm loading Misty and Marley into the trailer (hope they remember how), and we're going to a soft-footed arena to get a little exercise.

Have a wonderful weekend safely!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Misty's Monday Muse

We had Frosted Fences for breakfast this morning.
They're Grrrrreat!

Hay! I mean, "Hey!" (I have a one track mind). My Haflinger friends are featured in a brand new blog. Hop on over to Living a Dream and say howdy to Pippin and Doc.