Friday, November 30, 2012

Q spreads joy to children

Nighttime. Lights flash. Shadows fall and create monsters where there are none.

Q takes it all in, a little nervous at first, but trusting my calm demeanor, she calms and settles. She cocks a back foot and rests. We wait for the start.

Drums bang. Headlights blind us. Bells ring. Music blares. 

Q shifts her weight to the other hind foot and rests the first one. She yawns.

Kids jump. Sirens flash and scream. The train horn blows. 

Q cocks an ear. Turns her head a little. Shifts her weight again. We get the cue. The parade begins.

Horses around us spook and jitter. Kids scream. Kids run. Flash photography everywhere.

Q asks to please walk faster, this parade business is slow.

People yell. People scream. People laugh and point with happiness and glee at the horses.

Q moves off my leg to walk along the edge of the road, feet away from the people.

Kids scatter here and there. Some dart into our path. Children dressed as sparkly elves rush around.

Q listens to my cues and side steps around the children.

People smile. They point. They tell their children to look at the pretty horsie.

Q moves off my leg again, toward the people. She stops when I request with my seat. She looks at the children's bright, curious eyes. She lowers her head a little so they can reach.

Children giggle and smile. Their faces light up.

Q and I move along down the route, catching back up only to stop again. I wave to the kids. Smile as their faces light up as Q and I move in again for a new group to pet what may be their first ever horse.

Smiles. Laughter. Bright eyes and happy expressions. Kids rush over, parents tell them to slow down.

I caution, with a smile, for them to be careful.

They grin up, pat her quickly, and dart away.

Q continues up the line of parade-goers, watching the children with curiosity as they dart about picking up candy.

Navy men back away.

One asks if "he bites". I smile and shake my head. Q steps forward and thrusts her head in his arms.

Everyone smiles. Others rush in to pet her.

Q graciously accepts the praise and we move on. Again and again we stop for children to say "hi". For girls to take pictures. For kisses to be given. Smiles shared. A word of caution here and there, but most realize to be slow and steady with their movements around the horse. Other riders are offering the same opportunity on the other side of the road. Smiles become so bright. Eyes light up. Giggles from children, grateful glances from parents. Something about the outside of a horse is good for the inside of a person. I'm so happy Q could share that with so many tonight.

Film Friday: Thrift Shop by Macklemore

IF you haven't seen this yet....seriously?!

And.... I'm sorry.

Its the catchiest damn song EVER.

And....  You're welcome.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Not-so-Little Man

Forgive my lack of legit photos. My cell phone will suffice until I get motivated.

Griffin is getting BIG! He's probably 3x the weight he was this time last year and has grown 6 + inches since January. He has his angsty teenager moments, but overall, he's a great little citizen. Notice, in the below photos he isn't haltered. He just comes into the barnyard and hangs out on days I just work with Q. On this day I was trimming her feet and he hung out eating the *better* grass. And then I snatched him up by the hair on his chinny-chin-chin (read: throat latch) and led him back into the field when I was done with Q.

So happy I have such wonderful little horses. So well behaved! And they're dirty, but they're so happy.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Girls Trip 2012 [raptors!]

Girls trip, except not your typical girls trip. These girls like to play with predators that fly. Predators that when in hand, have a desire to rip your eyes out with their beak or talons. Unblinking eyes that challenge you and demand respect immediately. Yep, that sounds like a perfect girls trip to me!

I traveled east to meet up with Mandy in MD on Thursday. It was good to have a night to catch up before we headed further east to Cape May, NJ. I needed time to unwind from the god-awful DC-metro area traffic (give me my windy country roads any day, snow, sleet, hail - I’ll take them over that traffic nonsense) before beginning anew with more driving.

We were up and at ‘em pretty early the following morning. LMFAO’s “Sexy and I Know It” was the first song of the day for the drive – dancing commenced immediately.

Fortunately (for me), traffic wasn’t too horrid as we headed east. Once we reach NJ the roads are small and pleasant. There was no lack of conversation as we traveled. Mandy lives in San Diego, so this is the only time of year we get to see each other and we definitely make the most of it. We had great music (Mumford and Sons, The Apache Relay, etc.) playing to accompany the conversation and we lapsed in and out of singing with music and continuing our briefly-interrupted conversation. It was one of the most entertaining drives I’ve had in awhile.

We arrived at the blind around 11a to find that Arthur had three birds he’d caught in the past 10-15 minutes ready to be released! Excitement! Two red tails and a Cooper’s. 

Overall, we banded far fewer birds than the year prior, but the quality (read: badass-ness) of the birds we banded this year was far superior.

Last year I got to see all three falcons (merlin, kestrel, and peregrine) in hand in addition to two Accipiters (sharp-shinned and Cooper’s). This year I got to see all three Accipiters (sharpie, Coop, and Northern Goshawk) and two Buteos (red-shouldered and red tail), and even owls (saw whet)!

Saw whet
Red shoulder

We camped each night in my new two-person tent that we set up IN THE BLIND because the ground was still quite saturated with water from where flooding had occurred due to Sandy. Overall, Cape May had very minimal damage from the storm – they faired MUCH better than the rest of NJ, it seems.

The nights were increasingly warmer, as were the days, each day we were there. We ate out a lot, hung out with some super-savvy birders and got all nature-nerdy discussing a myriad of things. It was such a treat to meet and spend time these folks.

 Any time with Mandy and Arthur is sure to be full of nonsense. When you sit all day in a 6’ x 10’ shack with people you tend to get a little loopy. Jokes, snark, and innuendos were full-force this year. We thought we were doing pretty well for ourselves, but then Sunday Dom joined us. Our snark was put to shame. My stomach hurt for two days from laughing so much.

But yes, you read correctly, I took a day to convert the horse trainer/dog trainer/photographer extraordinaire into a raptor junkie (is it safe to say you’re hooked on banding now, Dom?). It was really great to get to meet a blogging friend in real life. It was amusing how conversations just picked up as if we’d known each other for ages since we were familiar with each other’s pursuits through the blogosphere. Dom’s excitement and curiosity about banding and birds was very evident and while we had a slow day, we did get to see one really killer adult female red tail. Definitely the prettiest red tail of the trip!

While it completely slipped my mind to get a photo together, I do have this photo of Dom from my camera (because obviously if there aren’t pictures, it didn’t happen). We have some future adventures in the works... So, hopefully more photos of shenanigans will be available by the end of winter. We've decided we could get into quite a few spectacular shenanigans together.

Let me state the following items for those who will understand and appreciate them (and because I never want to forget the following statements):
I only want to touch you once.
That is not okay.
And you thought this was going to be awkward for me.
Go home turkey vulture, you are drunk.
Go home rock, you are drunk.
Go home   insert noun here , you are drunk.

Overall, such a great trip. So awesome to see NOGOs in hand after surveying for them 4 summers prior. And spending time with my best friend is always a huge plus. This trip allowed me to completely forget the rest of the world for a few days, laugh harder and more often than I have in awhile, and reset myself from stresses that come from the rest of the world. And without further ado, more photo spam for you.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A fun Q&A now, raptor post tomorrow!

Splurge or save: 

1) saddle: I saved on my current, will splurge on the next
2) board: save
3) halter: save, DIY
4) bit:  save
5) bridle: save
6) saddle pad: splurged
7) trailer: charity of friends!

First thing that comes to mind: 
1) Haflinger: Amish driving teams at Equine Affaire
2) Quarter Horse: Mayer

3) Thoroughbred: OTTBs are the best, I hear!
4) Warmblood: A horse I'll never afford!
5) Welsh Cob: Q looks like one at times

This or That:
1) english or western: English
2) tall or short: short
3) trail ride or beach ride: Trail ride, but beaches are awesome
4) long mane or short mane: long
5) hunters or jumpers: JUMPERS
 6) XC or barrel racing: XC
7) outdoor arena or indoor arena: indoor, if I'm outside I'm on the trail!
8) trot or canter: canter!
9) canter or gallop: gallop
10) paddock boots, tall boots, or cowboy boots: tall
11) horse shoes or barefoot: barefoot
12) saddle or bareback: saddle

About you: 
1) How long have you been riding? 17 years
2) Do you own or lease a horse? Own
3) Breed? Age? Height? Name? 2 ArabX, 9yr and 2yr, 14.1 and 14.0, Q and Griffin
4) Do you have any other pets? Cheat (cat) Kenai (Siberian husky)
5) If your horse was a person, what kind of voice would they have (you can use a celebrity for an example) Griffin would be like Shia Lebouf, Q would be like a young Judi Dench.
6) Does your horse have a “color”? If so, what is it, and what do you have in that color? Purple and Orange - halters, leads, an orange saddle pad
7) Does your horse do any tricks? No
8) Have you ever dressed your horse up for Halloween?  No

1) Breed? Arabians, Welsh ponies, TWH
2) Discipline? Endurance
3) Coat color? Bay
4) Famous horse? Hidalgo
5) Horse race/competition? Tevis
6) Brand of tack? ....biothane? hahahahahaha
7) Thing to do with your horse?  Trails and jumps

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Bad blogger

I'm joining the ranks of "bad bloggers".

I'm starting to feel a twinge of guilt that I haven't posted much of substance in a few weeks. However, it seems I'm merely joining the ranks of others who are doing and feeling the same.

The good news? My courses are almost over for the quarter. I will have a month of freedom with which to play horse, go ski, edit photos, WRITE POSTS, and craft my little heart out prior to Christmas.

The horses are happily munching away. Q is convinced that she may never do work again as all I've done with her is give her peppermints for coming when I whistle. Griffin gets brought in every time I manage to get out there and messed with to some extent. He's been quite the angsty little pre-teen lately. Once school settles (and hopefully next quarter - my final one! - is over) I really hope to start him very lightly under saddle (i.e., sitting on him and flexing him from saddle, walking around the round pen and applying former ground cues as US cues). This gives great promise for some exciting blog posts a few months down the road.

Until then, here's a photo of a friend's foal two years ago...

Friday, November 16, 2012

Preview of Raptors

Post is written, but I have had little time to edit photos!

Here's a preview!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

WW: Headed back to Cape May TOMORROW!!

Trailer loading

School is still taking over my life. Le sigh.

But I went out last night for 45 minutes or so to see the horses and do some more trailer loading work.

I think Q really likes coming in, getting a small scoop of grain, doing easy work on the ground, getting lavish praise, then getting to go back to her boyfriend in the field all in less than 20 minutes. She's so much quicker to pay me mind when I arrive lately and when I turn her loose in the field she now waits for some ear scratches before sauntering off. I've always been slightly sad she didn't want more time with me when I turned her out like Griffin does, lingering for a moment or two. I'm thankful she doesn't tear off though. She's always let me take the halter off and then walked away politely. Now she's added a pause to that.=)

Q is self loading and not trying to turn around in the trailer any more. We got to where we walked up and she all but ran onto the trailer! Good girl! She was also backing off per voice cues instead of pressure on her halter - most excellent. I'm beyond thrilled with this progress.

Griffin took two steps back and one step forward with trailer stuff last night. He didn't want to get on at all at first. It took a lot of patience to get him to finally hop on. Lavish praise. Rinse, repeat. Once he was getting on like a civilized gentleman, I called it good and quit for the evening. It was getting dark, I had homework, and he was hopping on like a champ again. Positive note!

Love my horses  - they're the perfect stress relievers.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

stress vs. study break

I have a LOT of schoolwork to do. Like, a LOT. Today I accomplished a lot fortunately. But tomorrow brings more. And Monday brings an exam. But I'm hopeful that by the end of tomorrow I will be 75% ready for the exam and 100% complete with other things I need to accomplish prior to my vacation & some work travel that is all lumped together over the next week or two. Oi vey.

During undergraduate at college I would have been majorly stressing over the amount of work I needed to accomplish. Fortunately, I recognize that my old worrying and stress habits weren't healthy. I've taken leaps and bounds to overcome these old, bad habits. And I've succeeded in a very large way.

Before, I would freak out and blow things out of proportion. I'd make mountains out of mole hills and work myself into a frenzy (all inside my head) over things. I'd bottle things up to a breaking point. And then I'd explode in a crying heap of frustration over what was essentially -  nothing.

Now I'm different. In a very good way. I'm able to see things for what they are and accept them. I focus on what I need to get done and I do it. It can be frustrating, definitely. That's a little stressful, those frustrating moments, but for the most part they don't bother me because I know I can get through them. That big, bright light on the other side is always right there. I'm calm and relaxed about getting things done and getting through the rough patches. I know I'm capable. It might just take a little out-of-the-box thinking, that's all. And that's just character building. Its good for me. Or that's what I tell myself! So far, the only potentially unhealthy thing about my new studying/dealing with tough stuff routine is that I tend to just block off communication with people while I'm in crunch mode. Its offended a few, I think, but tough. Its not permanent, and it's not intentionally hurting anyone.

: : : : :

Griffin's wee foot
I have realized I need barn time to get through everything though. Locking up and blocking out people and things for awhile is cool, but damnit, I need horse time. So I've been working on getting out more. Winter is just full of exciting groundwork possibilities, primarily because I can't get side tracked wanting to go on some huge ride since there are a.) hunters, b.) bad weather c.) poor trail conditions, and d.) ruined trails from Frankenstorm.

Friday afternoon I brought both horses in and worked on trailer loading after I found that Q's fetlock was back to normal and Griffin's back was no longer sore (he must have wrenched it playing with Oliver).

Q was up first. I led her on 2 or 3 times per the norm. Then we proceeded to self loading. It took her a second or two - no more than a minute. And up and in she went. She turned around immediately once she went on the first time and almost got stuck. Freaked me out a little but I got out of her way in a hurry and she got out without an issue. We circled a bit outside the trailer, then I led her on again. Perfect. Back to the self load. She did it within 10 seconds. I jumped on right after to placate her and prevent her from turning. Excellent. Repeat. She got on and hesitated, twitching to turn, but standing when I made the "eh, eh, eh" noise. I followed her on and praised her lavishly. Ended here on a positive note. Good girl.

Griffin was up next. I had zero expectations for him getting on this trailer as the slant load is much different from the stock trailer he'd ridden in prior. If I could get him on I was going to be happy. I circled him outside the trailer for a minute or two, then I strode on it as if it was nothing and he followed suit. My mind was boggled. Lavish praise for the little man. Good Griffin!

He was hesitant to want to back off. Not in this "No way am I getting off here and I'm angry you're asking me" way. It was more of a "Nah, maybe later. Its nice and shady in here and the sun is out of my eyes now." way. He sluggishly backed off with a bit of encouragement. Lavish praise.

I led him on twice more and then we proceeded to self loading. I implemented Dom's annoyance technique with the dressage whip here. He definitely figured out that forward movement toward the inside of the trailer made that obnoxious thwapping go away real quick. Within 2 minutes he'd self loaded. And he stood put, baby. None of that immediate turning nonsense per Q. Lavish praise. Repeat. He did it this time in under a minute. Lavish praise. Ended it there on that positive note. He wasn't showing signs of being tired from thinking about it, but I didn't want him to have the opportunity to even get frustrated. I want this to be a super positive experience through and through. Very satisfied with both horses' progress!

This afternoon I called it quits to go on a ride with the ladies to assess damage on the rail trail. Holy poo moly. Trees and powerlines down EVERYWHERE. I think I spent as much time out of the saddle clearing things so we could get over/past them as I did in my saddle. Oi vey!

It was a very good thinking ride for Q though. She hates things whacking against her legs and belly and it just couldn't be helped today. Not at all. It was a MESS. MESS. The simplest of my trails was obliterated. It will take an hour to clear that couple hundred foot segment alone! I think the majority of my trails overlap with hunters' trails, so fortunately, the bulk of them should get cleared as those folks take the 4-wheelers out to their huts/stands/blinds. But omgMESS.

Optimistically, some of the logs that get left will be GREAT for jumping. Today there was one that was a little gymnastic line. If I hadn't been with the ladies I would have let Q take it at greater speed. At the walk she still jumped the first little thing, pranced the second, and jumped the third. Silly girl. So eager and sassy.

 She was a really good girl overall today. She thinks and overreacts to things - making mountains out of mole hills...wait. Who does that sound like?! Its no wonder this horse and I get along so well. As Q decided that a giant ball of plowed snow might really be a horse-eating snow cougar and went TEARING past it in an odd trot/canter/sidepass maneuver with me just giggling, Tina remarked, "Its a good thing you got that horse. No one else would get that." I took Q back over to approach the snow cougar. She snorted a little and gave it a good eye, I wanted to make her touch it it, too, but there was one of the many downed powerlines down about 2 feet in front of it that I didn't want her to step on so we called it good where we stood. As we continued back home along the clear road between the rail trail and our trails she oggled at some stuff, but was a very, very good girl overall.

I started messing with her moving off my leg and not my hands, too, as she supposedly spent 3 years on and off with cowboy-man and is supposed to be able to do a helluva lot more than I thought. I'm not as skillful with my aids as he is, and I also lack a 3" shank on my spur that I'm sure was dug into her side a time or three, but she did respond well and we zig zagged dramatically back and forth along the road. This is going to be fun to explore.... She has no more excuses for not listening to me, and unfortunately for me, all fault will be my own! But more reason to learn to be better.

We checked the upper field fenceline (horses are gated off from this half of the property currently) for damage. Its remarkable that on 40+ acres of field with its appropriate fencing that there are only minor places of damage from fallen trees/limbs. The top strand is missing in two or three places, and the only downed tree (a whopper of a tree with a 3+ foot DBH) is in the top corner of the field and only BENT the strands, not breaking them or downing fence posts. Lucky?! Yes.

The ride was a phenomenal study break. I've conquered a significant amount with the energy I gleaned from it! Looking forward to a winter of more horse time, snowy rides, and ground training stress relievers. Oh, and skiing! ;-)

Hunters have no excuse shooting us

We're obnoxious even without the flash!

Barefoot on zee gravel

Obnoxious colors! Weee

Relatively easy to maneuver destruction

I was gallivanting in the snow having a jolly-good time

Hock action, no?

Woah there pony! I was beside myself giggling at this point.
I'd been making vroomy car noises and singing la-la-la!

Home is not places, it is love. - The Apache Relay