New Digs

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Bully & Rascal (Click on photo for full size & best resolution)

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We moved the three horses into our “new” barn over the holiday weekend. Needless to say, it was a momentous event! We built the barn because we desperately needed a bigger place to store hay, but we didn’t expect to have our horses live out of it. The plan was to have the structure built by a builder and gradually do most of the finish work ourselves. (I’ve seriously questioned that wisdom about a million times since) We finally got things to a point where we could use the barn for more than just a hay mow if we wanted, and after spending so much money and time on the new barn, we did! There’s still lots to do to get everything 100% up to snuff, but it’s nice to have horses and hay in the same location. It beats having to load the truck up with a week’s worth of hay every Sunday and haul it over to the other barn. I’m all for anything that (eventually) makes life easier!

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Out To Pasture

Fall Foliage-406(Click on photo for full size)

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We all think about it: What will we do with our horses when they grow old and unable to perform the tasks we got them to do? I didn’t have to think about it for very long. Suddenly that moment had arrived and I knew I had to face the inevitable. But I was lucky, I was able to keep, even ride (lightly) my aged mare until just a week or so before she left for greener pastures. Other people haven’t been so lucky.

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I know there are places where owners can retire their senior horses. A retirement farm will care for the aged equine and provide for their comfort while allowing the owner to move on with a younger mount if desired. Few people have the luxury of being able to stable and ride more than one horse at a time, so unfortunately that means sending your beloved, faithful senior to go live out the remainder of their golden years under the care of someone else. If the owner is lucky, they’ll find a retirement farm close to home, but often that’s not the case. Some owners have to send their horses to live in another state, where they’ll have limited access to them. That means relying on internet updates, photos and phone calls to stay abreast of the weekly or monthly changes.

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I can understand wanting to make room in your heart and barn to move on with a younger horse. After all, most horses don’t live but maybe a third of a human life span. But I can’t imagine missing those last few years of my horse’s life. Tia was engaging and fun right up until the week she passed on. To have missed those last few rides and months with her would have left me feeling sad and …. well, maybe just a bit neglectful. So with that said, if money was no object and I had all the time (and energy) in the world, I would love to have a retirement horse farm. I know caring for some aged horses can be stressful and hard work, but I definitely have a soft spot in my heart for elderly equines. I suppose running an old horse farm doesn’t exactly fall under the heading of a charity but it’s probably about as close as I’m ever going to come.

Spring has Sprung

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I was riding quite a bit until I got bogged down supervising a seriously large landscaping project. We had a crew in to do more tree and landscape work around the new barn and it required being present to answer lots of on-the-spot questions. Try as I might, it was impossible to carve out enough time to get my routine chores done and the dogs exercised and have enough time left over to ride. Seemed like every time I thought I could break free I was needed to discuss and decide something or other. Unfortunately, that was also the nicest stretch of weather we’ve had this spring. Good for getting landscape projects done, but I think I may have missed some of the best spring riding. Today it’s windy and quite cold. The thermometer is barely showing a chilly 50 and it’s rainy and damp. They say tomorrow might be better, but that remains to be seen.

Dharla has been doing great! I’ve done some very nice trail rides as well as some good ring work. I’m please with her growth and maturity. The miles are starting to really pay off. Aldo still rides her once every other weekend or so, which means she’s getting exposure to things I won’t probably do with her when I ride. Not that we wuss out, but I ride predominantly alone so there are certain risks it doesn’t make sense to take. I have a neighbor who has ridden most of her life and was seriously injured in a riding accident last weekend. She was out trail riding alone. Good thing she was carrying a cell phone and was able to get a signal. I saw Lifestar fly over my house, but never dreamed it had someone I knew on board … with nine broken ribs and a punctured lung. Yeah, that made me recommit to wearing my helmet (I do!) and taking a few safety precautions before I hit the trail.

I’m hoping after the holiday I can get out and pick up where we left off. Perhaps this cold snap will keep the onslaught of bugs away for a few more weeks? Hot humid (non-riding) weather will be here before we know it and I’ll be dragging my feet again.

Trail

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Got out for another really short, quick ride today. This time I spent most of the ride in the woods, but I still think I see a nice change in my horse. It’s like she’s less spooky and more settled or something. I don’t know why and I can only attribute it to having taken some time off this summer. Maybe Dharla grew up or passed that point where she isn’t quite so immature anymore. Whatever it is, I like it a lot and I hope it sticks. I haven’t done any ring work with her in a LONG time. I might give that a try soon and see what I’ve got. I get the sense that she’s not real big on ring work. That doesn’t surprise me much. Some horses just like trail riding more and are better suited to it. Still, there are a couple of things I’d like to work on with her, so it might be worth the time and effort to put in a little ring time. We’ll see. I’m not big on it either, so it’s kind of easy to talk myself out of it on a nice day like today!

Elusive

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It was a long, hot, humid summer. I didn’t get a ride in for almost seven long weeks. When the temperature finally broke early last week I couldn’t wait to get out on Dharla. I contemplated lunging her, but decided it would be a good test of how well behaved she is if I skipped it. I guess I was feeling edgy and I so wanted to do what I was used to doing with Tia, which is just tack up and ride. No matter how long it had been, I just got back on Tia like it had been yesterday. No fuss, no lunging, just gear-up and ride! I liked that and I want Dharla to have the same work ethic. I figured the only way to know if she’s capable of that is to try it out and see.

I grabbed my helmet and cell phone (something I have to remind myself to take on rides) and headed out to the barn. Dharla was unsuspecting and walked right up to me. Not that she’s ever all that hard to catch. Usually she’s curious and friendly and wants to interact with me. As is my habit, I’d groomed her at breakfast, so I started piling on the gear. She was quiet and cooperative, bored with the whole process almost! We walked through the gate together, listening to Bullet who, though his head was buried in a fresh pile of hay, was already lamenting Dharla’s absence. I made a few adjustments to our gear, swung up into the saddle and off we went.

The first thing I noticed was that Dharla seemed to be walking at a slightly faster pace than normal. I liked that. Nothing irks me more than a plodding walk, and sometimes Dharla can really drag at the walk. That’s something Arabians are not usually noted for and I don’t appreciate it when she does that. (She’s quite capable of a faster moving walk!) The second thing I noticed was that Dharla was a lot less spooky than she’s been in the past. That’s not to say she didn’t spook at anything … she did. But she didn’t seem to anticipate the scary spots on the trail like she usually does. All I can think is that the seven weeks we took off was good for her mentally and apparently she needed a break. A lot of the little issues we get into at certain places on the trail were gone. Non-existent. At first I thought it was just a fluke, but as the ride progressed it became more and more genuine. I was tickled pink, but not thoroughly convinced it would stick. That remained to be seen.

A couple days passed before I could get out again. This time I rode with my husband, so I didn’t expect any of the occasional wariness that I get when I ride alone. Overall we had a great ride and both horses seemed happy to be out together. Then a few more days passed before I could get back out for another ride, but my second ride alone was as pleasant and unencumbered as my first. All I can say is that Dharla feels more “grown up” if that makes any sense? She’s just not giving me the kind of resistance we’ve struggled with in the past. I’m really not sure what changed or if it will stick, but I’m liking what I’m seeing. I do wonder if she just needed a break? We’ve been riding very consistently since I brought her home over a year ago. Maybe she just needed to digest some of what we’ve done? I dunno. I do know the seasons are changing again and that means the trails will start to look different. She could find new things to spook at …. or not! Only time will tell.

My eye surgery date is fast approaching. I know that will mean at least a week, if not more of no riding. I can only hope and pray my vision is improved by this procedure. If not, I’ll be up against some big problems. If nothing else I’ve learned how much we take our vision for granted and how valuable our sight really is. I’ve been impacted by this journey in ways I’d never imagined. But I’m tired of not seeing well. I’d like to have my life back now, thank you very much!