Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Why I Love Rain

Rain is very good. It washes away the snow and ice, and provides moisture to nourish the grass. It also means it's above freezing (at least for now) and that spring is on the way! One of my favorite childhood memories relates to melting snow. We had a long gravel driveway, and I walked down it every morning to wait at the end for the school bus. At about this time of year - I grew up in Ohio and we had lots of snow when I was a child - the snow would be melting and there would be rivers of water running down the driveway in between sculptured banks of snow. And that wonderful spring smell of wet earth! I try to remember that rain is good as I'm sloshing through the mud and muck with the horses.

Fred and I had the beginnings of some good remedial gate work this morning. As I was leading Fred and Fritz out, our local landfill started firing off rockets to scare off the seagulls - they make a whizzing and then a banging sound. Fred thought this would be a good excuse for a spook and bolt. If Fred seems a bit "up", I keep his nose tipped towards me so that if he does take a leap or go up - his two favorite moves - his shoulder will be away from me. Fred has been known to run people down when he's in a state. I recovered him from where he'd stopped at the end of the lead, and had him do some head-downs - this sometimes helps him "collect" himself (or at least his brain). At the gate to the pasture, Fritz stood patiently while Fred went into and out of the gate four or five times. By the last time, I was able to ask him to stop every few steps while exiting the gate and stand there for a moment on a loose lead. Of course he didn't have Scout on his heels to scare him, either. This afternoon I plan to take him out of the pasture first, and with luck while there are no other horses near the gate so he can feel safe while we practice.

Our trails are down to the hard-packed ice that was under the snow, although we're supposed to hit 50F today and have some more rain, so some of that may go away, except in the shaded areas which will take longer. I'm hoping the rain holds off this afternoon so Maisie and I can ride, assuming we can find any place where the footing is at least passable.

11 comments:

  1. I like hearing about how you work with Fred. I've dealt with horses similar to him (not the quickest processers/thinkers, maybe?), and it's nice to hear your perspective. When you are leading horses in & out, do you do one at a time or do you ever lead two at the same time?

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  2. We are experiencing sunny warm weather here (45F) and the snow is melting!! I was out on the trails this past weekend and it was basically deep slush but it was fabulous to be out without a heavy winter jacket. Hope you get your ride in this afternoon!

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  3. Nothing like a spring rain to freshen things up. Good work with Fred

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  4. Jen - I almost always lead two at a time - they're used to that, and some of our summer pastures are almost a quarter of a mile from the barn (don't get me started on how our facility was set up - by idiots!). Some combinations don't work - huge Maisie is terrified of little Sugar and can't lead with her (!) - and I usually lead Dawn alone as she is the alpha and can be pretty aggressive with other horses, although she does lead OK with Misty, who is the bottom of the herd order.

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  5. A long time ago, in another lifetime, I was working for an Olympic event rider, six days a week. On Sundays another girl came in for chores. One Monday, one of the more neurotic horses in the barn, valued at $40-50,000 (1970's money--and he was one of the less expensive mounts), had a huge, unexplained gash at his hip. The next Sunday I "dropped in"--instead of calmly leading through the opening and having the horse turn and face it and stand calmly for the gate to be shut and his halter removed, the girl would lead the horses to the turnouts, drop their halters mid-gate, and smack them on the rump, to watch them gallop off! The previous weekend, the horse had caught the corner of the gate!
    Gate manners are so important! Good for you to demand Fred's best behavior.

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  6. Sounds like you're getting the weather we've had all winter--MUD. You have a good outlook on it though, and we all did the same--we kept telling ourselves if it wasn't raining, it would be snowing, but I'd look at pictures of all the clean horses in the snow and kind of miss it. (Did I say that?!?) Wow, that's a little scary that the loud sounds came right when you were leading a couple of horses! Sounds like you handled it just right.

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  7. I also have to agree that good gate manners are so important to insist on! I always give my guys a treat after taking their halters off, because that way they don't want to go galloping off right away. We do the same routine every single time so that the in and outs with the gate are done on autopilot.

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  8. Good work on the turnout manners. It's so important when you have to handle horses like that in all kinds of situations.

    The footing is always tricky this time of year. Hope you get some riding in, but do be careful of those slippery spots.

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  9. Rain? All we keep getting is snow...and then it's frozen each night and thaws during the day. So we get snow and mud. yay....bleh!
    It's snowing right now actually and has been snowing since Sunday night.
    I can't wait for Spring, but I'm glad I was able to get some riding in this past weekend. This time of year, you just have to grab it when you can, because the weather can change so suddenly.

    Fred sounds like a challenge, but one you are completely prepared for. He's lucky to have someone so patient and understanding.


    ~Lisa

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  10. That's great to have people shooting off rockets while you're trying to lead a horse that is looking for a reason. I also do a lot of "head downs" with horses that seem to want to blank out, I've found it to be the most effective thing to keep them from blanking on me. If they're already gone not much works at that point (as you know).

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  11. Let's hope he has a breakthrough. It seems like nothing is working then the light bulb goes off.

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