Spring and All It’s Glory

Today’s Tip: Look for the silver lining, even in the muck!

I’ve fully committed to spring now. Today was beautiful. Sunny. 42ish degrees. And mucky. I’m really not a fan of this time of spring other than that I look forward to “real” spring, which doesn’t come until mid to late spring.

I FINALLY got on a horse again. A work project completely hijacked my life for most of the last 3-4 weeks. Normally I have a great job that doesn’t require 24/7 devotion, so I didn’t mind it too much this time, but I did miss the rest of my life.

Come on Mom! Can't we PLEASE go for a walk today?

After getting home from work and a 10 minute stint on the couch decompressing, it was time to get out and enjoy the day and the extra sunshine this whole daylight savings time thing gives us. The dog and I went for a walk because she hasn’t gotten on a good walk really since last fall. Then we hurried home for some pony time.

 

I was running out of daylight, so I did the easy way out and jumped on bareback and just went up and down the driveway. If I could have gone down the road, the saddle would have come out, but I get a little nervous about the time of day when the sun is low and blinds anyone driving west.

Pretty was still being goofy, like she was a few weeks ago. She’s a pretty level-headed horse, but she can still doubt that my ideas about where to go are good ideas. So we spent a lot of time forward and back, up and down the driveway. I took the opportunity to work on our leg pressure cues. She came to me with what I call “point and go” training. Leg pressure, other than “go,” go was pretty foreign to her. It’s a driveway, so not a lot of room for wide turns, so we did a lot of turns on the haunches. Now before you think this is a great idea and try it yourself, don’t forget that they go much better when you’re turning toward “home” (or in this case, friends). So we would sometimes only turn 90 degrees and then turn back. Sometimes we’d turn back away after turning toward home. She obviously didn’t get it as well as it seemed when we’d turn around at the end of the driveway, but she’s getting it. I believe that even those times where it’s mostly her idea, the leg cue will register in her brain. Next time she feels it, she’ll remember she was rewarded for turning. Sure, it’s nice if it’s just my idea, but she’ll catch on, no matter whose idea it was in the beginning.

I’m looking for the silver lining in the muck that this is what causes spring plants to come, and of course it means the snow is disappearing. I also noticed the silver lining in Pretty being goofy – it “forces” me to spend some time on the basics, which is what we should be doing!

Advertisements

Daydreaming…

Today’s Tip: Don’t give up! Summer’s coming!

We’re back in a winter wonderland. Last week we were in a mucky mess and now the snow has returned. I’d admit, this morning when the snow and wind had stopped and the sun was shining, the landscape was breathtaking. But I’m done. You’ve seen me declare my unending love for snow, but I still start to crave the warmth of the summer sun and the safety of ice (and mud) free earth.

While I immerse myself in the overwhelming amount of work (as in job-work, not just the random assortment of “things to do”) I have to do and the thesis editing I should be doing, I just wanted to remind you all that spring will come back and summer will soon be here!

This is me aboard my mom's pony Cookie. She bought her almost 3 1/2 years ago - a six-year-old pony who'd never been ridden! Obviously she's more short horse than pony, but she's technically a pony. My dad has been riding her. The day I took her out on the trail was an 80+ degree day. Thank goodness for an off-shore breeze from Lake Michigan or we would have melted. (On the downside there were a plethora of mosquitos in certain areas, but it wasn't too bad.)

Spring Is Coming!

Today’s Tip: Distance isn’t everything. Lessons in patience can be good for both horse and rider.

Want to hear something funny? The week when I actually started spending time with the horses was the week I totally failed at blog life! I wish I could say it was because I’ve been riding miles and miles, but it’s just been general craziness.

I DID however, have some great pony-time. Last Sunday – the 13th, so over a week ago – was the day spring hit. It was 55* when I left where I was visiting for the weekend. It was glorious. The entire 3 hour drive home I was just itching to get outside. I finally got home, changed into Muck boots and barn clothes and got my ride on! Pretty and I went for a quick jaunt down the road. We only got about 1/4 a mile down the road. The road, though melting, was a mix of mush and slick. We also headed out with a bit of an attitude on our hands. It was great exercise for both of us in patience.

Our plan for the day, since it wasn’t destined to be a ride for distance, the plan was to work on calmly walking away from the barn and calmly walking back. We went until we were nearly to the safe part of the road (before we reached a corner that was snowpacked and icy) and then a little farther until we were walking calmly and without any apparent indication of spinning around to head home. Then we’d stop, wait, turn, stop, wait, and proceed forward. As soon as we’d start getting antsy, we’d turn around and try it all over again. We started with counting to 5 at our “waits” and then moved up to 10 or more if I felt she was standing but not really patient. Every time she’d start to paw, look over her shoulder, dance, or do anything else that suggested impatience, we’d start all over again. It was tedious, but kind of calming because we could just stand and enjoy the sunshine.

And then there was the mailbox. I wasn’t sure if my husband had gotten the mail the day before, so I thought, “Why not check it?” Isn’t that why they put mailboxes in trail classes? We walked right up near it, but heaven forbid we actually get withing reach of it. Granted, there are low hanging branches that her ears were kind of tangled in, but she didn’t seem to care. She also wasn’t afraid of the mailbox. She somehow just didn’t get that the leg pressure meant move closer so she did the opposite and/or just moved wherever she could to express her annoyance. At one point I wondered, “Do you get the appropriate points in the trail class if the horse is the one who opens and closes the mailbox?” Not 2 seconds later, she opened it! It was an accident of course, but a humorous tension breaker nonetheless. The fight was far from over. It took 10-15 minutes to get the stupid thing shut! After much patience, little requests, reminders (when away from the mailbox) of what leg pressure meant, and a lot of sitting and thinking, we finally got it shut and called it a night.

Other spring activities have included attempting to remind the fjords that sometimes they have a job to do and starting to tackle the mounds of manure that built up over the winter. And then yesterday came. We had our (hopefully only) spring blizzard yesterday and today, so we’re back to deep winter again for another week or so.

The hope, though, is that we have had a taste of spring. We have been reminded that it does, in fact, arrive. It will be here soon!

The Impending Clip

I’m giddy with the high of retail therapy! Actually, it’s better than “retail” therapy because it’s “getting a great deal on a gently used item that needs a new home” therapy! Come Sunday afternoon, I’m going to have a super-duper, serious set of clippers ready for spring body clipping.

I have never body clipped before. Just never had a reason. This year, though, I’m taking Pretty to the Midwest Horse Fair and the Minnesota Horse Expo. Pretty – the woolly mammoth of horses – will in no way be ready for public exhibition in April without a serious encounter with the clippers.

For the last several months I have been racking my brain regarding how to get my hands on some clippers suitable for body clipping. I just have a nice trimmer, perfect for ears, faces, bridle paths, etc., but it would be pure torture to do an entire body with them.

Finally it occurred to me – Pretty was body clipped when I rode her at the Midwest Horse Fair five years ago, before I owned her. I knew her previous owners were kind of getting out of horses, or at least to the extent that would require body clipping, so I sent them an email. Low and behold – they had two sets they wanted to sell. After much deliberation (not sure why, there was a clear choice, but my mom made me question spending the extra money, which is odd because that’s not usually her “way”) I finally decided on the Groomer’s Edge Portable – Variable Speed Clipper. Most importantly for my purposes, despite the fact that it’s a stellar set of clippers, is that the motor is separate from the clipper so it won’t overheat. The previous owner did suggest rotating blades as the blades do get hot, but at least I should be able to clip her whole body in one shot.

If you are a veteran body clipper – or even if you’ve just done it once – I’d love to hear the lessons that you learned from your experiences.

Back On Grid

Today’s Tip: Take time to learn something new, even if it’s not going to be a lifelong passion.

My little brother and me on a mountain in Utah a couple of years ago.

Only crazy people leave piles of snow and ice to go spend money to careen down larger piles of snow and ice at high speeds, but that’s where I have been the last few days. My baby brother lives in Montana, so we visited him for our annual skiing excursion. This was the first year – and quite possibly the last – that my husband partook in the ritual. He is not a skier, but I thought it was time he experienced the ritual. The beginner runs in Montana are large and gentle and are a good place, in my opinion, to begin mountain skiing. Though we’ll never convert him to a hard core skier, he toughed it out well and I was proud of him.

There was one run that my husband and I started out together. We split off at one point so I could take a slightly more advanced run. Whatever leads me to love trail riding must also affect my skiing preferences because I like to – though am not particularly good at – ski the trees! At one point I got to the top of a steeper drop-off and I felt like saying, “I could ski this, but I don’t really need to.” Just as I was about to head off another direction, I remembered that what I just told myself was exactly what I had told my husband that he shouldn’t be saying. To avoid hypocrisy, off I went, down the steeps.

I’ll never be hard core, my husband will never be even a casual skier, but we both pushed ourselves a little on this vacation.

On the drive back, I started daydreaming when I saw the horses that scattered the countryside and the vast expanses of undeveloped land in Montana, Wyoming, and South Dakota. I pictured the riding that I was ready to get started with in 2011. I’m hoping to keep pushing myself on horseback, just as I did on skis last week. Come with me! What are your goals in 2011?

Nopocalypse

My poor girls already survived a Snopocalypse once this year. This was taken December 11, 2010. We got just under 20″ of snow and had terrible winds followed by -20* weather (and the Metrodome collapse, but let’s focus on the important stuff).

Just for the record, Classy also survived, though I did fear he may impale himself in the night. “Why?” you ask. Take a look at these icicles hanging from his pudgy belly:

Yes. That sucker was almost 2″ thick and I could not get it off. Normally I scrape the snow and ice off my horses before I put them to bed if I’m bringing them inside. I know it will melt in there and there’s no need for extra moisture on their bodies. If they’re outside, the snow serves as a kind of shell, preventing them from getting wet and cold. A little melts (obviously! hence the icicles), but not enough to soak through to the skin (usually).

I may be the only one, but I’m kind of bummed that we’re not getting a Snowpocalypse this week. First of all I love all the good names for it. Second of all, that’s what winter’s all about! (sorry for the “mild language” below)

I love snow. I do. I hate wind, so I’m not digging that our problem tonight is wind, but, c’est la vie. (And yes, I do acknowledge the problems including loss of life that can occur from blizzards. For those who legitimately do suffer…not just complain…you do have my prayers.)

Time to stop procrastinating, finish this section of thesis revisions, and then put my ponies to bed and get them out of the wind!

Baby Steps

Today’s Tip: Set small goals. They’re easier to achieve and sometimes lead toward achieving even more than the goal!

It’s that time of the year – the time where winter has caught up with everyone’s body, the novelty of new year’s resolutions has worn off, and spring is starting to (maybe, just maybe) come into sight. I’ve heard several people, just in the last few days, mention the need to get serious about losing weight. I mention that “the novelty of new year’s resolutions has worn off” because a lot of people get really excited about their new plans. For me it seems really easy because I have off work between Christmas and New Year’s Day. When you’ve had a week without work in the way, goals seem so much easier! For some, they commit to too much and after a couple weeks, it fails.

A couple of these mentions of the need to lose weight have included requests for sharing tips. Generally speaking, I feel like the last one to provide weight lost tips. I can yo-yo within a range of maybe 20 pounds…no, probably not even that much. I can get up to 10 pounds over where I usually am and sometimes manage to get up to 5 pounds under that average. That 5 under, maybe a couple more, is about where I want to be, so I never feel the need to be too serious about it.

Despite my weight loss goals being different than others’, I have come to realize I do have some tips to share. I do have related goals, including eating healthier and getting more in shape (muscle definition, lung capacity, strength, etc.). I also have other goals to which I have to commit time. Here is my major tip for anyone trying to achieve a goal that requires you to carve out time to achieve.

Just promise yourself you only need to complete one little bit.

If you need to exercise, just commit to 10-20 minutes (depending on how much you started with). It’s more than 0. And guess what. Once you have those first 10 minutes done, you might feel like doing some more! One of my goals is keeping a cleaner house. This morning I came home from church and set out to pick up one little corner. I ended up cleaning for 2 hours because it felt so good! A couple nights this week I promised myself I would take the time to clean one wheelbarrow full of manure out of the paddock a couple of different nights. While I really didn’t give any more time (I did have to move on to other things), I got it done and felt great about it!

So whether it’s 10 minutes or one load of laundry or getting one horse groomed today, just go out and do it!