Saturday, February 18, 2012

Removing Winter Grit...

Since Lady loves her mud bath treatments—in other words, since she loves to roll in the muck—I decided to get a hand held, cordless vacuum. An old metal curry comb or sweat scraper works well to get the heavy stuff off the surface, but it takes a lot of brushing to get grit and dust out of that thick winter coat. I thought maybe a vacuum might make the job easier. If Lady would let me do it.

She doesn’t mind the sound of a clipper, so I thought a vacuum wouldn’t be much more difficult.

I bought a Black and Decker vacuum, the 12 volt dustbuster weighing 3 pounds. I walked into Lady’s stall and let her look at it and put her nose on it. I told her this little gadget would help her look beautiful. With a mare, you know, you have to appeal to that female intellect. I rubbed her all over with it, using the same motion I thought I’d use when actually vacuuming. I did both sides of her body, and she didn’t seem to mind.

Then I did a stupid thing. Before leaving her stall, I turned on the vacuum, just a short spurt of sound, to see how she would accept it. For its size, this vacuum is pretty loud! And Lady reacted accordingly, looking for a safer place to be.

A few days later, I took her out to the indoor arena on a long line. As she circled around me, I turned the vacuum on and off in short, rhythmic spurts. At first, she startled and moved out. At one point, she stopped in her tracks and turned to look at me. I kept the vacuum silent. Lady actually took a step toward me and the vacuum. I praised her, and waited. She took another step, then another, and finally came to touch her nose on this funny object that I held out to her. I was amazed that she seemed so brave, and I even rubbed her face with the vacuum nozzle. Of course I did not turn it on yet.

I led her around the arena as I turned the vacuum on and off, again in a kind of rhythm. She followed, at first keeping her distance, then walking closer to me, keeping her eyes on that thing that kept going on and off. As I walked beside her, I kept turning it on and off, leaving it on a little longer each time. After a few minutes, I stopped, and rubbed her all over with a quiet vacuum. Standing in the same position, I turned it on for a moment, then off again. I rubbed her with it, and turned it on while rubbing. She moved away a step, and I stayed with her. A few minutes later, I was vacuuming her, on both sides, as she stood still. I vacuumed until the filter clogged up and I had no suction. Lady seemed at ease, and she looked great!

The next day, as I brought Lady in from her paddock, I noticed she was heavily plastered with mud on both sides. I find myself wondering if this little vacuum will be enough to keep up with Lady’s needs.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Lady is Still in Charge

It's been awhile. I don't ride much in winter. And my herd of 3 has changed since my last post, to a herd of two. I had to say goodbye to my wonderful old Traveller on January 9th, and I can't believe it's been a month already! Lady and Rocky now share the paddock, and I'm happy to report that Lady hasn't killed Rocky yet. Rocky seems able to take care of himself, fortunately, and Lady is learning to share. I can't put out one big pile of hay, like I did for Rocky and Traveller to share peacefully. But after scattering lots of little wisps of hay all over the paddock for a few weeks, I can now toss out several piles over the fence, and Lady is much better at sharing. She still insists on being the first one to leave the paddock when it is suppertime, so I know she is still in charge of the herd. I rode Lady once, on a warm day when the ground wasn't muddy, and we went on the trail by the barn all the way to the edge of the woods. Lady was calm, and I was happy to be able to enjoy the ride. Lady is still being good, ever since the October ACTHA ride. She's almost like a different mare. Is that possible? She waits when I ask her to let me walk through a doorway first, and she seems very calm most of the time. I can't wait for spring. I think Lady and I will enjoy many rides again!

Monday, November 14, 2011

You Were Always on my Mind!

Gotta share an article by Jerry Finch just published on Going Gaited online magazine...entitled You Were Always on my Mind! I was amazed that a male writer showed such emotion toward horses, and even described a mare. A great article! I really enjoyed it. And now, I have to go spend more time with my own horses! Thanks for sharing, Jerry!

And here's the link:

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sharing a Posted Online Article

Going Gaited online magazine is using some of my articles about mares. First one was published a few days ago, and you can check it out at this link: If you have gaited horses, this is a great site to follow! All kinds of articles, columns, a forum, beautiful photos and more! My next article, probably published next week, will have a nice photo of Lady and me, taken by Linda Snyder of Bunker Hill. She's a great photographer! She took the cover shot photo for my second book, MARES! (ya gotta love em), as well as the photos of Lady and me used in the book.
I'm on the lookout for online sites for gaited horses as well as anything about and for mares. Drop me an email if you find anything, at Thanks!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

That Winning Feeling

My November column has been posted on my website, at

It's all about my first ACTHA ride on Lady. That whole day was amazing. After the day was over, I looked back and saw how different Lady had been, and I keep wondering what really made the change. I hope she stays that way!

And only a few days ago, Lady and I rode into the woods behind our stable, and we went through the whole trail, just Lady and me. Our first time to go that far, after doing a little more each ride. Lady whinnied all the way to the woods, calling out to Boogey who is her new boyfriend. She has been in the round pen for a week or more, and Boogey has been giving her lots of attention over the fence.

Yes, I'm gaining my courage back, and it makes a difference. All those baby steps over the past few years have finally paid off. The fears still try to invade my imaginative mind now and then, but I can just go slower for awhile until they leave. Lady and I are doing better than ever!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Training to drag!

Lady and I have completed our first ACTHA ride! I’m working on my November column, and you can read all about it soon! ACTHA is the American Competitive Trail Horse Association. Their Competitive Trail Challenge events are growing in popularity all over the country. Each ride is six miles with six obstacles, and each obstacle is judged, giving horse and rider separate scores. I worked with Lady for several weeks, maybe five sessions or more, to get ready for this event. After looking over the possible obstacles on the ACTHA website, I decided to teach Lady to drag a log. Or something like a log. I started by walking around her in the paddock, dragging a long rope. Then I attached a piece of wood and dragged it around her. After a time, I dragged the rope and then the piece of wood while leading her. I also laid the rope over her back and walked her around, and touched her all over with the rope. Then I rode her and dragged the rope and flicked it all around her. It was a moment of elation for me as I dared to flick the rope beside her on both sides, then over her head while she stood quietly. Finally, I attached the piece of wood and dragged it around and around, letting the rope touch her rump and letting her feel the pull of dragging. One day, after she had been in the round pen awhile, I brought her back to her stall and since I didn’t want to make two trips, I also dragged the empty muck bucket from the round pen to the barn while leading her. That was much noisier than the piece of wood, but Lady was good. I knew then we were ready to drag something. I just didn’t know it would be a “body!” Be sure to read my November column for the rest of the story!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Twice this past week, Lady has been exposed to a big truck in close proximity without bolting! I'm still pondering the meaning of this; I know it isn't a total cure, but her calmness is a place we have reached after many rides and experiences over the past seven years.

I remember coming to the barn one fall morning a year ago, to see Lady standing at the back fence of her paddock watching a combine going back and forth in the adjoining soybean field. I took a photo to record the momentous event! She seemed more curious than frightened, which was so different from her usual excited run to the other end of the paddock.

On Monday this past week, as I unsaddled her at the edge of the road and the big truck was coming down the street, I thought at first it would turn in a few doors away. When it kept coming, I quickly led Lady off the road to a safer distance, and turned her to let her watch it go by. She stood very alert, but didn't move. We were probably fifteen feet from it as it passed.

Then, on Thursday, after I had ridden and put her back in her stall, a load of sawdust arrived for the barn. She probably watched it arrive from her stall, as the big double truck backed into the driveway and dumped its load. It comes in a double truck rig, two loads of sawdust in one trip. Our barn gets the load in the rear truckbed, and the main truckload goes elsewhere. Lady probably saw the dumping of the sawdust and probably heard the airbrakes. The driver parked the rig on the roadway, right in front of the driveway to Lady's stall, and I decided to take advantage of this opportunity. I led Lady out to eat grass between her stall and the truck. She did not seem at all spooked by the truck, still running, though she looked at it now and then as she grazed closer and closer to the road where it was parked. She was almost to the edge of the road when the driver got back in the truck and drove away. Lady and I followed it for a short distance. I'm not sure where this new courage is coming from, but I am overjoyed! Lady just turned 14 a few weeks ago. Some of us do get better with age.