Sunday, September 23, 2012

Bays Galore

With the arrival of two new boarders these last two weeks, Sherm is now one of 7 bay horses on the farm. Twelve in residence, and 7 are bay, wow!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

And then the other side...

Cool decal from 
Yes. No. Push. Pull. Michelle Obama. Nancy Reagan.  For everything, there is a balancing opposite force.

Monday was a wonderful day with Sherman, a two-workout day, a balanced, whole, happy, giving, thinking-horse day.

And Wednesday was not.

He was wild, wooly, bratty, uncontrollable, unhappy, snotty, and brainless yesterday.  Feisty coming in from pasture, antsy (with a side of dramatic) in the crossties, and a complete wild thing on the lunge.  I had my boots and hat on, but it was pretty quickly clear that I wasn't getting on that wild child yesterday.

Was it the weather?  There was a front moving through, and it was cool, brisk, dry, and breezy.  And, of course, it had rained for 12 straight hours the day before, so perhaps he was just getting out the ya-yas dampened in Tuesday's rains.

Was it payback for the two-a-day session on Monday?  Was he making it clear that he isn't that sort of workhorse, and just cannot be put to work in such a pedestrian fashion?

Was it just fall hormones?  Though a gelding, he is constantly wooed by the heaty mares in the adjacent pasture and goaded into being a tough guy by the studdy gelding with whom he shares a pasture.  Was he playing jr. stallion wannabe?

Was it just irritation at being pulled from pasture, where everyone else was eating happily in the sun the day after a miserable day in the rain?

Maybe it was any, none, or a combination of these.

Last night, however, I had a frightening realization... Sherman has always, always been a complete, bratty shitbag when he's about to go through a growth spurt.  He couldn't be doing that, could he?

Frederick Meijer Gardens- 

On Monday, I noticed his saddle fit nicely again; I noticed an actual "saddle spot" behind his shoulders, and just the faintest outline of a wither, about the most sign of a wither anyone in his family gets...

Did he not lose weight these last six weeks, but rather heighten into it?  Oh jeez....

Monday, September 17, 2012

Socksy Boy!

No, Sherm doesn't have any socks.  His older brother, Sonny, has a perfect pair of matching hind socks, just short ones, but perfectly-proportioned and mirroring one another, as though hand-painted.  I do envy that touch of chrome, just a little, but not during mud season...or green grass season...

Love the girth, but we can make it better!
No, today's socks were about dealing with a little something that I think has been bothering the BBW (henceforth known as the Delicate Flower or the Princess from The Princess and the Pea) for a while.  The transition point at which the padded neoprene of his Cashel Soft-touch girth connects to the elastics bothers his delicate skin.  It's a thick, padded girth, with a sticky surface, and it works very well for him, except that when the girth is tightened, the elastics stretch and put just a little inward pressure on the point where they are attached, tipping the blunt edge of the neoprene inwards and against his skin.  He hasn't had a rub or any wear spots there, but he has been periodically girthy and will reach around and look at the girth, on either side, from time to time.

And when I ask him to canter on the lunge, with the side reins attached to the girth, that motion pulls the girth forward just a little more, and he kicks out at the start.  Initially, I'd thought he was kicking at being asked to exert himself into the canter, but I should know better.  Sherm loves to be asked to do things, particularly fast and fancy things.  I've been wondering lately whether he was actually kicking at the irritation of the girth right there.

While wondering, I've shopped girths, in person and online, and haven't yet seen one that would do all the good things this one does without this little irritating thing.  I looked at girth covers, but I didn't really want to cover the whole thing-- the neoprene surface is a huge part of why this girth works so well for Sherm, so I didn't want to cover all of it.   I was getting frustrated, and I stopped asking for canter while I sorted it out.  Even without the canter work, Sherm has dropped some weight and is a good bit fitter than he was.  I had secretly hoped that with weight loss, the irritant factor of the girth end would be resolved as well.  No such luck.

So today, to test a theory, I made my own mini-girth covers.  I cut off the above-the-ankle part of both socks in a pair of wool-blend winter socks, turned them inside out to expose the fuzzy soft side, and slid them over the transition spots of the girth, where the neoprene & padding meet the elastic.  They looked a little funny, and I figured he'd be all over that visual distraction, but he didn't even seem to notice.
Blue band at the top of the white sock..

Girth sock!

Well, lo and behold, I think it worked!  He wasn't girthy, other than a slight anticipation wiggle.  Once the saddle was on, and I was tightening in earnest, he ignored me, all the way to the final hole.  Good start.

Socks are Comfy!
But the proof was in the amazing canter work he gave me!  Best work I've seen from him, literally, all year.  He was smooth and round, and was volunteering the prettiest little departs-- not the dramatic kick-and-launch he had heretofore demonstrated.  And emphasis on the volunteering-- he kept cantering, and when he'd lose his balance on the circle (remember, we haven't been doing much of this), he'd gather himself together and re-start the canter out of his own amusement and seeking his own satisfaction at the work!  The body language was clearly saying, "No, wait, I can do better!"

There is no better feeling in horses than to have your boy say to you that he knows what you want, knows how it should be, and wants to go again to do it better.  He got much praise for doing it well, and we ended on a positive note before he wore his little Morgan self out.

All it took was a pair of socks and a pair of scissors.  Who knew?

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The BBW's First Show Experience: The Good, The Bad, and...

Well, no, there was nothing ugly at all about Sherm's first outing at the showgrounds!  Much, most even, was good!  There were a couple of blips, but nothing too terribly bad.  All in all, I think it was a success.

First off, we got on the trailer and got there.  Still in the trailer, Sherm did two laps of the grounds while we attempted to sort out a stall-assignment glitch.  We finally got him unloaded and settled into his stall about 30 minutes later than I would have liked, but that was fine.  He ate some hay and sniffed things for a bit; I did a very preliminary grooming, and then we went out for a walk around the grounds.

I was really pleased with how quietly he walked with me-- looking at everything, of course, and very tall (he's not as tall as he looks in this photo... or maybe I'm shorter than I think I am) as he got himself up to his full Morgan 17h in a 15h package posture.  But one small spook at something was all he gave me.  I was very, very happy with how mature he was through it all.  I particularly like how he marched right between the jump standards in the warm-up ring.  A good sign for future endeavors, I hope!

Sydney came and got him working after I gave him a second, more-thorough, grooming.  Yesterday's session with the ShopVac did get a lot of the dirt out, but a night out in pasture probably put it back in.  (This, of course, is why I elected not to bathe him-- that would have just been a wasted effort.)  He was good for her, as well, though getting a bit more keyed up as the traffic increased in all the arenas and in the stabling area.  We have quite a few pictures of Sherm being fancier than necessary-- looping in front of Syd, flagging his tail, giving his Morgan prance a try.  But for the most part, considering it was his first outing, he handled himself pretty nicely.

Moving?  Good!  Standing?  Bad!

Things got pretty chaotic up at the indoor arena where the classes were being held.  The show organizers only opened one gate for all access-- exhibitors lining up for the next class, exhibitors trying to leave from the preceding class, and the holding area (in out of the sun) for all exhibitors in the area.  Quarters were tight, and it was confusingly crowded.  Sherm held his own for the most part, but did lose his cool at the first burst of applause at the announcement of winners from a class.  I had worried about the loudspeaker, but he didn't care about that-- it was the applause that unglued him a bit.  Nothing major, just a few tight, prancy circles, but that looks huge in a ring full of half-dead Quarter Horses.

Oh, did I not say this was a QH-dominated show?  Yeah, it was open to other competitors, and some classes (like "Registered Other Breeds") allowed for some variety, but it was mostly the big hunters and  WP horses, all quiet and low in their carriage.  Sherm would have stood out like a sore thumb even without his roached mane.  So the fancy spook was really quite something in that environment!

And then we missed our first class.

Yeah.  We were waiting in the melee of "staged" horses behind another bay gelding, thinking the handler was taking him into the Geldings/Stallions class, but she didn't, and it was busy enough in there  that by the time we realized that those two were just staging for the next QH class, the judge was placing the geldings and stallions.  We'd missed it.  

But that's probably not a bad thing.  That class had somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 horses in it, most all of them much larger than Sherman.  I think he'd have lost his marbles in that big a class his first go 'round.  So it was probably not a bad deal that he didn't go.  He got to watch, then went back outside for some more waiting.

Oh, and the waiting... there was a hell of a lot of waiting.  And that's not something Sherm does very well.  So actually, he was a champion today, a blue-ribbon earner for how quietly, patiently, and kindly he stood still in the middle of such chaos.  For that alone, I am so very, very proud of him.

Syd, we're standing again.  I hate standing.

Syd was determined not to miss his next class, so she charged right in and went first, something she hates to do.  Sherm seemed a little confused to be working suddenly after so much standing around.  I really wish  they'd had a chance to walk around the whole arena one time before being judged, just so he could have gotten a look at it.  As it was, he was pretty looky and noodly-- not at all the pretty, relaxed sporthorse-in-hand he has been in so many of their working sessions together.  (That's okay; it was a halter class; they'd have had no idea what to do with sporthorse power in that setting.)  And he didn't really want to stand still after their run--  the door was open at the end of the arena, and he caught sight of the lower warm-up rings, where riders were now beginning to really rip around, warming up their horses.  The look on his face was one of, "hey, Syd, let's go out there and do that; this is boring, and we've been here for hours!"  So he was crooked and antsy, and, again, not at all reflective of the work Syd has gotten out of him at home.  But that's how showing goes.

He placed third behind a palomino and an appaloosa.  Those aren't breeds, are they?  I thought they were colors.  The judge had to ask Syd what breed he was, so I guess that wasn't a good sign going in.

He got his "set-up" right after the placings were made!

After that, Syd made the very mature decision to scratch her showmanship class with him, and I agreed completely with her call.  He wasn't quite comfortable yet in that arena, and the showmanship class was going to be huge.  She'd have had her hands full, period, but in a class where she's not allowed to touch him?  Fuggedaboutit-- it was a recipe for a bad experience.

So we all agreed that it was time to call it a day after his good, positive outing.  Back to the stall, off with the bling-bling halter, and into the hay pile.  Munch, munch, munch for 20 minutes or so, and then back on the trailer and home. 

It was good mileage for the boy, and (I think) a good experience for Syd, who really called the shots at this one.  She did a superb job of managing a wiggly, wily, inexperienced 5-year old, and did it with grace and class.  I'm proud of her, as I am of him.

A happy horse, working with a good young woman.

So nothing ugly, lots of good, and just a little oops at missing the class-- we can't even call that bad!