Archive for the ‘respnsiable horse ownership’ category


November 14, 2011

Jigs has forgotten everything.  Or maybe it’s me. Not that it matters.

Sunday was frustrating-

  • Too hot/muddy/hungry to jog
  • Sticky Spurs
  • Leg yield = go back to the gate
  • Which right?
  • Side-pass? Don’t even ask

There is no way to ride at night. It’s dark. The ring at the barn is somewhat muddy, enough so that I fear going faster than a trot.

Lessons  have morphed into trotting in circles for 20 minutes and then loping in smaller circles for 15. He’s not getting rounder or slower.

The instructor just watches and says nothing. She’s given up too. Not that she ever had expectations  once she saw me ride – except, of course, that I pay…

Not sure it’s worth another round of lessons.

I try to get out of work in time to get to the barn before he’s wandered off to the back field, but it just hasn’t been possible in the past few weeks.

Did I mention it is dark now? There are coyotes and other creatures out there. A bear, maybe. They don’t bother the herd but I fear I would be another story.

Tonight I couldn’t see the horses.  Nor hear them.

I’m sure Jigs was there, in the shadows.  Hiding.

I just wanted to groom him. Talk to him. It was a LONG day.

I know he’s frustrated too.

He deserves  a better rider.  One who can teach him to dance.

That will never be me

Early Dark

November 7, 2011

It’s been really busy the last month or so. Work. Gran-boys. Jigs. We lost power for 3 days with a freak October storm.

I miss consecutive nights at the barn because of work. It’s dark at 5 now.

But despite the reduction in ride time, Jigs did manage to take third place at a versatility which was a total shock to me. We were there to hang with friends and practice. Who knew he could do the course in less than 2 minutes? Probably never happen again.

The ribbon was a pleasant shock but what was great was the connection we had when we did the course. I felt like we were connected. What a rush to flow as one mind.

We’ve been having a lot of weekend fun.  An old time games show, a judged pleasure ride. Good friends. Good food.

Then last night I did a stupid thing. I got my trailer STUCK IN THE MUD. I am so embarrassed. I don’t know what I was thinking.  At least it was empty and Jigs was already safe in his stall.

Thank heavens for patient friends who unstuck me and got the trailer safely parked. I was near tears.

I can be such a klutz. I am such a klutz.

My car was covered with mud. It was on the roof. So there I was at 8 PM going through the local car wash.

I hate to see what the trailer looks like.

Probably a good thing it will be dark when I get to the barn.

Summer is Over

October 8, 2011

 It’s cold enough now that most of the windows must be closed at night or I can’t sleep. I don’t want to get out from under the cocoon of covers when I wake up because it is so warm and the air around is too icy.

The nights are chill too. When I get out of my lessons on Thursday nights, it is dark. The first dark night, I left the trailer lights on. Jigs was definitely spooked by the lights. He loaded because he wanted to get home, but he was suspicious of the glowing things above him.

I’ve been having an internal debate whether or not to suspend lessons during the winter.

I can handle the cold, but the footing will make it difficult to practice. Already the wet fall weather has made loping at home chancy, so we don’t do much of it. And the trails are pretty muddy, so riding is limited to walk-trot.

I’m too old to take chances with myself or Jigs. This week the only real cantering we did was during our lesson.

I love riding in the indoor during lessons. The footing is level and soft. Jigs seems to like it too. Let me rephrase that, Jigs doesn’t seem as lazy when we are riding in the indoor during lessons. Of course that just might because the instructor is there and I’m using spurs. He definitely takes it more seriously, but he doesn’t hate it.

The barn where we board doesn’t have an indoor or a fancy ring- it is almost level, but grass. The barn does have 12 acres of pasture for the horses. Jigs can be out pretty much 24/7, weather permitting. He’s really happy there.

I do believe horses are outdoor creatures. It may be because when I was 15 and got my first real horse of my own, the vet told us to keep him outside and build a lean to for shelter. He was a believer that horses fare better outside and that keeping them stalled was not good for them.

That was in the 70s. Recently I’ve been seeing articles about studies that show there is a benefit to keeping horses outside, not stalled. One noted that stalled horses are more prone to colic than horses kept in pastures.

I have noticed when new horses come to the barn that have been kept stalled most of the time, they eventually get calmer as they adjust to pasture living.

So as much as I like riding in the indoor, I’m happy boarding where I am, partly because I believe it is ultimately better for Jigs. I also like the people I board with. Like me, they care most about their horses being happy and well. They are true horse people. It’s about the horses, not them.

But lessons have been great for Jigs and me. We are getting stronger and more balanced. I’ve learned things that I have never would have otherwise.  So we’ll sign up for another 4 weeks. By then, the clocks will have changed and it will be dark before the lesson. I’ll decide then if we continue through the dark winter….

True North

August 14, 2011

Despite the rain, today we wandered over to trails that we haven’t been on in at least a year- the ones behind the farm where I used to board Pepper.

They are okay trails, just far enough away that we don’t go there.

The soft rain kept the bugs in check. We saw a deer leap past us and neither Jigs nor Willow spooked. Not a bad day for a ride after all the humidity of the last month.

I assumed we were far enough from the grain room that the horses didn’t know where we were.

As we headed back toward Keith Hill Forest where we usually ride, the horses got their going home attitude on. We had gone longer than planned, so I thought we’d cut below the power lines and travel back Old Upton Road. It is quicker.

Jigs had a better plan. All of a sudden he turned and bushwhacked back into the woods. Curious see what he was thinking, I let him go. Willow followed behind. Sure enough, he found a trail I forgot existed; one that would take us back sooner.

I swear he has only been on that trail once and it was quite a while ago.

Horses are guided by an inner compass. No matter where they are they always know their True North.

What is this magical force, center from which they depart and to which they return? I suspect it is the grain room!

Late Summer

August 14, 2011

The long days of summer have passed quickly. It gets darker around 7:30 now. Today is humid and misty, but definitely cooler. I’ve been thinking of the Emily Dickinson Poem:


Further in Summer than the Birds

Pathetic from the Grass

A minor Nation celebrates

Its unobtrusive Mass.


No Ordinance be seen

So gradual the Grace

A pensive Custom it becomes

Enlarging Loneliness.


Antiquest felt at Noon

When August burning low

Arise this spectral Canticle

Repose to typify


Remit as yet no Grace

No Furrow on the Glow

Yet a Druidic Difference

Enhances Nature now


I love fall, but I don’t want the days to get shorter.

Lost in the Woods on a Sunday Afternoon (or Humans Can’t be Trained)

August 3, 2011

The Plan: Get Deliriously Lost on Sunday and See Where We End Up…

We packed lunch and trail halters. We had our smart phones. Endomondo and My Tracks were turned on. We knew there were lots of trails we had never ridden before.  We were going to find try them, or at least a way to get to Upton State or somewhere between.  It didn’t matter where.  We had all day.

The horses had other ideas. They know where the grain is kept.

We headed out around 10. It was hot, but once we got into the woods, the temperature dropped comfortably. The bugs were numerous but both Willow and Jigs had their fly hoods on, so they didn’t seem bothered by them.

We cut out of the pine grove by the cell tower and up Stowe Road. It was early enough that the shooting range was silent. Except for one crazy, want to-be monster truck driver, there was little traffic. After a nice canter behind the field of Christmas Trees we were in the woods.

I had a route in my head that would take us behind Hillside Equestrian, parallel to George Hill Road and over to the High Tension Wires. Beyond that was pure chance.

We got there, despite a wrong turn that brought us back to the road, and started down toward Mechanics Street- virgin territory.

After a turn back to the woods and some bushwhacking and we found the Blue Trail. It was perfect. Just the kind of trail I love, narrow, challenging and winding.

Unfortunately the direction we chose came to a dead end for horse traffic. The narrow foot bridge was not safe for all eight hooves and the chasm was too deep and rocky for safe passage.

BOTH horses perked up when we turned. Willow actually managed a trot. That should have been our first clue.

We took the other direction. Eventually the trail came to a fork with three wide paths. We decided we were lost enough that the horses could choose the way.

Ten minutes later we were back behind the Christmas trees. WHAT? How did that happen?  So much for being lost.

We ate lunch before tackling the trails across from the Christmas Tree Farm. I’d gotten lost on these trails before.  One time we ended up nearly cross town. Cool.

Humans have short memories- again, we let the horses choose. They brought us out to a field which we skirted around until it came to a road. George Hill Road. HUH? The entrance was blocked so we road back to the woods. This time Humans choose the trail.

It doubled back to the road again. We gave up.

As we walked by the field again both horses turned and looked at the blocked entrance and sighed.

“Stupid Humans” they just don’t listen.


July 27, 2011

I’m clumsy. And I know you don’t wear anything but hard boots/shoes around horses, although I suspect most folks who are around horses everyday don’t always follow that common sense rule.

But it was hot. We were tired. We’d just returned from an hour and a half trailer ride after finishing a ten mile ride. I was too lazy to get the lead rope so I took Jigs by the halter and walked him back to the field.

My shoes were open on the top and when we both took a step at the same time, we got tangled up in my shoe. The tip of it got stuck on Jig’s front hoof.

It took a moment for us to untangle. No harm done.

Later I went back to check on Jigs. He was out in the field eating his evening hay. He look me over and went right to my foot with his nose- the one that we had the ah hem, accident with, and sniffed it as if to make sure it was alright. He let out a big sigh before returning to his hay.

Now I know he’s a horse. I know I can’t assume his motives or expect that he was concerned about an incident he mostly likely had forgotten. Even if he did remember, he’s not supposed to have human emotions like concern or worry.

But he does. I know he was relieved my foot was okay. No one can tell me otherwise.

Riding Lessons

July 23, 2011

Jigs and I have now had 3 riding lessons. I’m actually feeling improvement. This week he backed through the l-shaped shoot at the barn with ease. His nose was down and he didn’t fight. I didn’t have to push. We both exited the shoot relaxed.

Am I being clearer with my cues? Is it confidence?

We’ll probably sign up for more lessons.

Not sure Jigs is as excited about working in an indoor ring and doing what he is asked with softness and precision.  He’s not grumpy about it but when friends were watching from the benches, he clearly gave them the “save me” eye as he passed.

I have no intent to show other than doing the odd versatility or judged trail ride. The other day we saw some horses being worked western pleasure style at the jog.  It’s not my thing. I’m sure Jigs would hate it. We are more the hack around the trails couple.

But I think there is great value in learning how to be clearer when I cue him. Getting him to yield quietly and with fluidity will improve our partnership. We need to learn these things so one day we might be able to take a beginning penning lesson.

I think Jigs would like that.

So would I.

Me, the frustrated old lady, whines….

July 9, 2011

July 9, 2011

Today I felt like a dowdy, past middle aging woman fooling herself into thinking she could add “refinement” to her horse by teaching him to side pass.

I just can’t get it. I’m too clumsy. I am not clear with my body and I confuse Jigs. Worse still, he does know how to do it; he just plain refuses to.

Jigs isn’t mean. He doesn’t crowd my space. He doesn’t try to smack my knee into a tree or knock me down. He doesn’t run off with me- he’s slow and lazy and eats his way through the trail. He walks crooked.

I know I’m the problem.

I’m one of those aging women desperately trying to reconnect with their youth through horses.  Rather pathetic. There’s a whole industry built up around our fantasies. We read the books; go to the clinics; buy the magic tools. Most of it is hogwash and doesn’t work.

But the truth is I love Jigs. He is a great horse. I trust him with my grand boys. He listens to me most of the time. He’s fun to be around.

He’s the bright spot in my life.

So what if I’m a past middle age dowdy almost old woman trying to teach a horse to side pass for the first time?  Maybe one day we’ll figure it out together.

Herd Orders

July 3, 2011

Near dinner for the geldings is a great time to see the herds order- Jigs, Winter, Traveler, Spottie, and finally CJ. The Vampire Pony is outside the order. He is ubiquitous. He is everywhere. The bigger boys ignore him- or they think they do. In truth, he bosses them all around.

If one of the geldings steps out of order, the horse above him drives him away. That horse then drives off the horse behind him, and so forth, depending on who started it until the order is set back the way it is supposed to be.

Since Pono (a.k.a. “Oh No” Pono) left the barn, Jigs has been leader. He is not an aggressive leader, but with one snake of his neck and flat back ears, they all get out of his way. On the rare occasion it’s needed, he will call up enough energy to drive them away but he’s not a bully.

Winter is second to Jigs. He follows Jigs around a lot. He always has. They are best buds. During the time Winter was moved to the middle turnout to help transition a new horse to the barn, he and Jigs would stand next to one another with the fence between them. He’s the first to greet Jigs when we return from trail rides or a day off property.

I know I’m anthropomorphizing, but they are good friends. Bonded is the correct word I guess.

But I digress.

CJ is a large draft pony- about 14 hands and he is as heavy as or heavier than the rest of the geldings, but he is low in herd order.

He used to be in the mares herd where he was his own clique. I suspect he hates being with the boys. Alyssa said it best, “the geldings have rules that CJ has to follow; the mares just ignored. There were no rules.”

The geldings push him around a lot.

Tonight when the boys were hanging at the barn door waiting for their grain, I decided to take Jigs out of the herd to groom him.

CJ was pleased to see me heading toward the gate. I became his escape plan.

He’s done it before and blown by me. I know better now.

CJ followed us.

Or he tried to.

Jigs rolled one eye back toward and CJ froze. When he didn’t go away, Jigs swung his head around and glared; CJ jumped back.

Jigs and I easily slide the gate open and passed through.

Once it was closed, CJ went to the gate and shook it. “Wait, take me, take me.”

The rest of the herd watched, disinterested.

Jigs dropped his head to graze. CJ was out of sight and mind.

It’s is amazing how little effort Jigs took to put CJ in his place. Was it a roll of the eye and a snake neck?  My guess is there are cues so subtle, that me, a mere human, could not detect.

Once Jigs was groomed, I led him back to the pasture. Dinner was still pending. Jig barely waited for his halter to come off to charge up hill to reestablish proper order.

By the time I made it back to the barn he was where he belonged, at the back fence waiting for dinner, ahead of the rest of the geldings.