Monday, May 30, 2011

Freedom Isn't Free

In Flanders Fields
John McCrae, 1915.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Rough Life of Our Horses

For Those of You Who Have/Want Kids

Kipp over at Rockbottom has a way with words:

rockbottom: Mystery meat

News on the Front

Despite appearances from the previous post, it wasn't a bad week...just a long one that seemed like it might never end. But Friday finally came, and since I woke up this morning, the much anticipated Rapture appears to have been postponed.

As DN3 had qualified in four events to participate in the High School Equestrian State Meet, last weekend was spent at the Grant County Fairgrounds in Moses Lake, WA. It was a good weekend overall, and she and her riding partner placed 5th in Ranch Sorting.

On the down side in the horse world, there has been an outbreak of the neurological form of EHV-1 (Equine Herpes Virus), which can be deadly to horses. This article from the local news sums it up in layman's terms. There have been conflicting reports as to whether an exposed horse was present in Moses Lake. In addition to the WAHSET meet, there was a Reining Horse event at the fairgrounds. I would conservatively estimate that 500-600 horses were present last weekend. Thus far the two horses we took aren't showing any signs, and while we doubt they were exposed, we are playing it safe.

So is most of the horse industry. Shows, organized trail rides, and just about every planned gathering of horses for the next three weeks have been cancelled. Boarding facilities are in lockdown, with no horses permitted to come or go. While this may seem a bit knee jerk, when dealing with a virus that has no prevention or cure, it is the safest course of action to take. While I would much rather be on a trail ride today, it's more important to know that my horses are safe.

Deb sent me this link to a good video* about EHV-1 that may be of interest to horse owners.

*Posting this video does not constitute an endorsement of Parelli.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Solo Trail Ride

Sunday's weather was clear and bright, with the high reaching in the upper 60's. With the Ladies BR off to shop for wedding dresses and attend showers and such, yours truly declared it to be a fine day for a trail ride, and to try something I've been wanting to do for some time. I was going to ride alone. I know I've ridden Smokey along the river levee alone, but riding within a mile or two of home doesn't really count in my book. I'm talking pack the horse and tack in the trailer, drive somewhere, and ride.

Mrs. BR suggested that I should take our Paint gelding, Dozer. I though, "why not", and loaded the young man up.

Dozer is DN2's horse. She bought him him when he was four. He's nine now, and has spent the last two years leased out to a girl who has used him for 4H, but she is done riding, so he's headed back to our care. He has spent the better part of the time being ridden in the arena only, and has become a bit punchy. Dozer is a tad skittish, goofy about his off side, and has run off once or twice while his rider was dismounting. At the 4H show on Saturday he did his level best to unseat three different riders. What could possibly go wrong on a leisurely trail ride?

Dozer needs a confident rider. Horses are very sensitive to their riders mood, particularly if nervousness, trepidation, or fear enter the equation. You are the leader when riding, and if you're scared, most horses will sense that there is something to be afraid of, and will make heroic effort to "get the heck out of here". As the horse becomes more skittish, the nervous rider gets scared, which in turns scares the horse more, which causes the riding to become seriously frightened...wash, rinse, repeat. Possible recipe for a bad ending.

We went to Mill Pond, a series of equestrian trails on Weyerhaeuser land off Hwy 410. After saddling up, I looked him in they eye and in no uncertain terms informed him that it was a nice day, and we were going to have a good ride. That, or he would go to France in a box. And off we went...for three uneventful hours.

He was uncertain, but he paid attention. He stopped on occasion, requiring some added encouragement (read: spurs) to get going again. If we encountered other groups of riders, he became certain that we needed to follow them, and would get a little loose in the steering until I applied proper motivation (read: spurs) to get him pointed in the desired direction of travel. Beyond that, nary a problem. A very enjoyable ride, and, I think, good for his mind.

It was interesting to contrast the differences between Smokey and Dozer on the trail. At 22, Smokey is very trail wise, and follows the path with little to no rider direction. I'm reasonably certain I could take a nap in the saddle and still find myself on the same trail upon waking. Dozer, on the other hand, would occasionally lose sight of the trail and head off into the trees. Dozer has a quicker walking pace, which I rather enjoyed. Smokey can be a bit of a slow poke, which can be infuriating at times.

I know that one ride is only a data point, but Dozer just may have a future in the mountains.