Monday, February 27, 2012

The Pip, The Whoop and I.........

 Pippi standing in her little field, waiting for us to get her. After Trainer told us to chase her when she does not come when called in, there have been about three merry chases around the field. Donna's mom much enjoyed the sight of me running around like a looneytoon for about 20 minutes last week.
I can report that each chase is shorter, and Pippi is now proving easier to catch. But - BOY - she sure  can turn on a dime when being chased by a crazy middle aged wacko! (great exercise!)
 Here I am riding. I had every plan to canter yesterday, but Pippi was a spitfire and I lost my nerve. Okay - I totally chickened out!

The Mini's came out, and with their running around Pippi felt it was quite unfair that she had to work. Pippi is used to being alone, so when she has equine company she gets real excited.
Miranda ended up schooling her for a bit more, with some very bad behaviors from Pippi, and then guilted me into riding again. And I did.

Trotted like a champ.


 This is my new fun little project; Gracie. She is a a hairy little beast that I am hoping to have some fun with. No one shows her, so my "training" should not mess anything up for anyone.( I can play with her while watching Miranda ride Pippi.)

I have nicknamed her "Whoopie" because she is a little tramp. The mare field butts up againts the stallion field, and Whoopie butts up against the fence. A LOT!! Her rear end is almost permanently placed against that fence, rubbing back and forth so much that the fence now has a Whoopie booty imprint. A girl after my own heart; if you want it, you go get it girl!
And finally a Picture of me. See that, Kelly?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Betty Turns and Burns!

As I have probably mentioned a time or two, Pippi comes from a long line of purely western horses. They showed in Western Pleasure, probably some English flat, and some were Contest Horses. NO Hunter Jumpers. Pippi was untrained when we found her, and we tried a number of things to find out what talents (if any) she had. She hated barrel racing, and would get worse with time, and was not fond of the heavy western tack. An English saddle was more her thing, and when she first jumped cross rails (and received a blue ribbon ten days later) it was clear that she loved it.

Our friend Donny, drove to Michigan in January 2011, and brought back a TB Mare named Betty. This mare raced just a few times when she was young, but after that her life is a bit of a mystery. The best we can tell she just stood around, and I think she had a few foals.  Betty is a bitch. No other word for it. She hates everything, and lets you know it. Brush her, she will try to bite you, tighten a girth and teeth are coming at you, enter her stall and watch out for flying limbs. I don't know why, but we love her.

Donny has had Chiro work done, several vet checks, and put her on all the supplements one can think of. She has the most expensive and best farrier around. All of this made her feel better, but did not improve her mood. Although it did wonders for her speed. Betty can run, and loves it. Oh Boy, can this Bitch pick up some speed. Donny has spent the last year doing his best to make Betty a Hunter Horse, but Betty will have none of it. She will give him one course at medium speed, but then she is off to the races. It is Nascar time, and she takes off like a shot. Just all out hand gallop hunter jumper style. Donny has had a hard time controlling her, and was he not such an excellent rider (with velcro breeches) it would be disaster after disaster. I kept saying to him that she just does not get it, and she just disagrees with him, strongly, about the need for slow controlled canters. Some people suggested she become a Jumper, or an XC horse, but she is is just too fast, and strong, to control. After our weekend at Chagrin, Donny was heartbroken, after having to send her towards the wall to stop her.

So how about barrels? I know, a TB running barrels? Well, we just thought she would like it. At first we joked about it, although secretly I was serious. I have watched this horse for a year, gritting her teeth and trying to show Donny that fast is just better. Her frustration at his unwillingness to learn was palpable. I felt her irritation, and she held a grudge, cursing him every time he held her back. If slow is good, FAST IS BETTER!!! They way she handled herself, reminded me of a chomping at the bit QH Barrel racer.

So on Saturday he tacked her up western. And gave it a whirl. First he let her warm up, and then worked on some sharp turns. Turn and Burn style. Betty was thrilled. Ears forward, pounding the ground, neck low, ripping it up like she loves to do. If she could have, we would have heard a rip roaring "WooHoo" or a "Hell Yeah." Betty was allowed to run all out, and really let go. (side note; Donny has lunged her extensively, let her run, and not run, to see if anything would stop her penchant for speed, to no avail.)

We then set up a barrel pattern, and this is one of her is her first run around those:

She was killing it, and as you can see she even started doing the signature barrel horse hop. Digging in with both hind legs and hopping around that barrel. TB's can be a bit stiff to bend (IMO), but look at the sharp turns she does. With even the lightest tap, she would step out or in. Between runs, and they only did 5-6, she was breathing hard, but was calmly waiting to go again. After two runs, the objective was crystal clear to her, and she was just going for it. Slowing for the barrels, and shooting out between.We were amazed! Jaws dropped, goofy grins for everyone.
Donny asked me what I thought, and I just was smiling like a goof ball, with tears in my eyes. Betty seemed like a different horse, and I was thrilled that she had found her purpose. Donny had not been sure what to do with her before Saturday, as he could not sell her without fear of her killing someone. But now he had his barrel horse. Donny started out as a Contest rider, but never found the right mount. Then fell in love with Hunters, but still dabbles when possible in speed events. Who knew that his dream Barrel Horse would be a grouchy old TB Mare?

After he cooled her down, we all walked, still in awe speaking over each other, to untack her. For the first time ever, Betty stood quietly while tack was being removed. She even allowed Donny to brush her all over, and stood quietly while he rinsed off her legs. She was happy and content, and yawned as though it was all in a days work.
Later Betty told the herd all about how you really should put the time into your human, and not give up. Sometimes they surprise you, even though it may take a year, and finally get what you have been trying to teach them. I know Pippi agreed whole heartedly saying; "Oh I know, can you believe mine thought I was a western horse? Stupid Humans, Right?"

Friday, February 17, 2012

Dream pics of my horse

I have a series of very funny pictures of Pippi:

Yawn about to erupt!

 I love these photos, and somehow treasure them more than the splendid photos of Pippi and Miranda executing a perfect three foot jump. But I have one shot of Pippi that I would love to get:

  I would JUST LOVE capturing a shot of Pippi doing that. It would be printed and framed, and placed in honor at my house. For some reason it just cracks me up to see a horse do this. Never have had the pleasure of seeing Pippi do this maneuver, but she has it in her I just know it.

Do you have favorite funny shot of your beast?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Miranda's photos - and self motivations!

Since I have not done any riding, or even hanging out at the barn, lately, I will just go ahead and take advantage of my daughters work. Hey now, I made the kid, allowing me to use her photography is the least she can do. I HAVE STRETCHMARKS from that kid!!!

Pippi looks about ready to go inside here.

Pippi in front of her little barn.

Huge stride for such a little mare.
Pippi is only 15 hands, 1100 pounds (we think), but she sure can stretch those legs out. When we first found her, I would see her at liberty and I just knew she would be a great Hunter/Jumper. She glides, and flows; like an equine waltz.

My next lesson is Monday, and I need to really kick it in gear. Amy, at A Work in Progress, has some pics on her Facebook that really inspires me to get my lazy, fearful, chickenshit, ass moving. I never thought of myself as a chickenshit person until I started riding.
I mean I have stood toe-to-toe with the "Queens (and Kings) of The White Trash People" in moments that were Jerry Springer worthy. One Tenant Wrote "F$%# YOU" on the wall in one of the apartments using his own poop. (I know, how stupid do you have to be? Why use and touch your own crap, when a permanent marker is harder to remove? The Site Manager felt awful for me, and I felt awful for her. I mean; I was not the one who had to clean that up.)

I've got some stories!

But I hope to have stories of how I jumped my horse. Stories of my first time doing more than a step-step-hop over crossrails. And I will!


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My Valentine

My Husband surprised me by bringing flowers for Valentines Day on Friday last week. I prefer that he give them to me in person, at home, rather than have them delivered to the office. It is always so awkard kissing the delivery person, don't you think? I know some women enjoy  the show off factor, but to be truly romantic I prefer a private moment with my sweetie.

It was my turn to feed this morning, and so I pulled on the muck boots, and brought work shoes. I have tried being careful when in the barn, only to find hay on the floor in my office. It was above freezing today, so the mud was also a factor.
A little after seven am, I entered the barn and Pippi was waiting - Impatiently! A big harrumph escaped her, and I swear she shook her head in disgust. Kevin feeds the mini's around 6:30am, and although he gives her a handful of hay, it must be hard to watch Chance chow down on grain while she waits for her sleepy humans to finally make it down. Sigh!
I grabbed her hay, let her get a bite and threw it in the corner. She turned towards it, bent to eat, and I checked on her water buckets before turning to go get her grain. I ran my hand down her neck and said "Happy Valentines Day, Pippi," and she lifted her head. Looked at me, and stepped in close. Her head went over my shoulder, across and down my back and she held me there for a moment in the warm embrace of her neck. A deep sigh escaped me, she lifted her head, looked at me, and nudged me gently towards the door with her muzzle. "The moment is over Human, go get my grain now." (She is so smart, she always knows first when the hug is over. )

In the car I noticed that I had hay in my hair.

Happy Valentines Day everyone.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Deep thoughts about horses.....

A Good Rider can hear the voice of a horse
A Great Rider can hear its whisper
A Terrible Rider can not even hear its screams!

I live in a house, but I make my home in a Stable.

It knows when you are happy,
It knows when you are proud,
It knows when you have a carrot!

Friday, February 10, 2012

When I am an Old Horsewoman

When I am an Old Horsewoman

When I am an old horsewoman

I shall wear turquoise and diamonds,

And a straw hat that doesn’t suit me

And I shall spend my social security on

white wine and carrots,

And sit in my alleyway of my barn

And listen to my horses breathe.

I will sneak out in the middle of a summer night

And ride the old bay gelding,

Across the moonstruck meadow

If my old bones will allow

And when people come to call, I will smile and nod

As I walk past the gardens to the barn

and show instead the flowers growing

inside stalls fresh-lined with straw.

I will shovel and sweat and wear hay in my hair

as if it were a jewel

And I will be an embarrassment to all

Who will not yet have found the peace in being free

to have a horse as a best friend

A friend who waits at midnight hour

With muzzle and nicker and patient eyes

For the kind of woman I will be

When I am old.

-By Patty Barnhart

Originally published in The Arabian Horse World magazine in l992

Thursday, February 2, 2012

It's all in the Brain!

I had some very interesting conversations yesterday, one with our farrier, Bill, and one with my Bestie, Dee. Both about animals, and both really got me thinking.
Let me tell you first about the subject Dee and I wandered upon during a phone call:

Dee was talking about how some animals seem more communicative and interactive than others, and she wondered at the cause. If you have followed my blog for a while, you have read all about how I feel that some horses are "with you and connected" while others are not. All horses are of equal worth, but I do not sense them all as I do Pippi. Sure, the reason might be that I think I feel Pippi, because of my own emotional attachment, but in my opinion it goes deeper than that.
I am a social worker, and human behaviors are quite interesting to me. After many years, oh so many, of working with the generationally poor I could tell you some stories that would have you gasping and/or rolling with laughter. But mostly it makes me sad. The kids I meet are very different than my kids' friends, as they are raised very differently, and have a very different culture. Many of them lack a certain maturity and understanding that leaves me, well, tired. They are somehow stunted, and yes, I know that sounds harsh. I think "who would you have been if.............?"
As you can read in the pic, this is an image of two three year old brains, and the differences are astonishing. There have been extensive studies done on the orphaned children of Romania, that have clearly shown what neglect, abuse and sensory deprivation does to brains. If interested you can read some great info from The Department of Health and Human Services, and pretty good article by The Daily Mail.

Babies are born with Brain functions, synapses, that govern essential body functions, such as breathing, swallowing, rudimentary movement, etc. The development, and strengthening, of synapses beyond that is highly influenced by outside forces.  In other words, intelligence is learned and developed by sensory stimulation, and interactions.

On the Right is a healthy brain, and on the left an abused brain. "Abuse" in this instance would be like that of a neglected brain. One is clearly "brighter" than the other. Isn't it odd that the word "bright" is what we use to signify intelligence?       
So, what we know is that children's brains are very much influenced by their social interactions. (if your kids are bright, pat yourself on the back NOW, and if you are bright this would be a good time to call mom and dad and say "thank you")
It is not a stretch to assume that this is also true for the other mammals we share this earth with. I have many times stood in front a vacant muzzle, and wondered if "anyone was home." If you communicate and interact with your horse, the synapses will develop and strengthen and that horse will communicate back. They will learn and develop an intelligence beyond what is needed for hay, water, poop, and lay down. We know this to be true, because we see it every day. Crinkle the plastic on a peppermint, lift the lid of your treat box, wrap the legs of your horse, and you see behaviors that correspond. Pippi knows that wrapped legs means we are trucking somewhere, and she knows that western saddle means trail ride as opposed to jumping lesson. She also knows to paw her right hoof for a treat when asked, she knows to nod up and down to get her feed, and she moved sideways to give me room with the wheelbarrow when she is in the aisle. None of that came pre programmmed.
Now, where some people may think I am taking a leap is whether we humans can sense the "brightness." I totally and unapologetically say "Hell to the YES!!" Look at the pic above, of course we can sense that kind of electric brain function. And we can sense the lack of it. Probably through a lot of non verbal communications, and lack of it, but also just the actual firing of neurons and electricity surging through the brain.
A few weeks after we met Pippi, I took the Son to the barn and let him walk around seeing the dozen or so horses that lived there. He knew nothing about them, but very quickly told me which horses he liked and which he did not. The reason he didn't like some was because, as he described them, they were "robots." They all stuck their heads out, and looked at him, but some he liked and some he didn't. The Black and White gelding was a "robot", while the giant QH Mare was "really cool." Gelding never dumped a rider, Mare did, by the way. But Gelding also ran right into a wall because rider was not paying attention, hurting himself more than rider, could not walk a straight line (no EPM or other issues, tested several times), and was oblivious to the world at large. Mare placed well at QH Congress, is quite beribboned, and can/will dump any rider that pulls on her mouth or kicks her sides. She is not evil with her dumping, she just seems to "remove riders by the power of her mind" as described by one dumpee. One minute you are on, and the next you are safe and sound on your butt in the sand.

So, as I told Dee, I think animals are as much a product of their environment as any child. Pippi has been treated as though she can communicate, and we have expectations that she meets in that regard. Kevin once announced at a horse show that Pippi had a "head ache," and was quite embarrassed at the certainty in which he made the statement. I just smiled, because I hear her too, and find myself answering her. Kevin no longer doubts this, and calls her "my buddy." And at our barn, no one thinks it odd when I say "no, Pippi I think we will just stay in today" to an unasked question.

I wish we could scan Pippi's brain, because I bet she it is as lit up as a Yule Tree.