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!