Working On The Farmer Tan

It was a SPECTACULAR weekend in Maryland!  Which means, of course, I got to spend lots of time outside and work on tanning the back of my neck and my lower arms.

Saturday started off easier than originally planned.  While I am definitely a little sad about it, the prospective buyer who was going to look at Bid and Archie had to cancel at the last minute.  Hopefully we will be able to re-schedule soon, as they seem like wonderful people and I think would have a great time with either horse.  On the flip side, that meant that my afternoon was not going to be quite so hectic, and after moving horses around I would be able to just do my own thing.

I met up with Deidra pretty much exactly on time (which, amazingly, set a great precedent for the entire morning), and climbed in the truck with all my camera batteries charged up and ready to go.  We arrived at the farm in Jefferson where the bay filly had been living for a few months ALSO pretty much exactly on time.  To refresh memories, this filly was part of a small group of horses at Charles Town who needed to be placed very urgently back in January.  Thanks to a donation received specifically for this purpose, we were able to take this filly in.  We had decided on her out of the whole group as she had recently bowed a tendon, and due to the freshness of the injury were worried she might have a hard time finding a home.  As it turns out, within a very short time of getting to her temporary digs, she was cleared for turnout – the bow is so minor you can barely see it – really, it looks more like a pimple than a bow.

She loaded with absolutely NO fuss so we were turned around and back on the road in no time.  Her temporary caretaker was a bit of a puddle – she had gotten quite attached to the filly, and if circumstances were different would have kept her forever.  That, of course, meant that I was a puddle when we left – it’s really hard for me to see people being upset without also getting upset, so I’m not lying when I say I had a few tears myself.

We arrived at Goofball Central EXACTLY on time (seriously, this NEVER happens to me.  I’ve never experienced anything like it when moving horses, ever, in my whole life.  Usually I give myself extra time and still end up late).  She went out in a small paddock and settled right in.  We expected some high-tailing, but she merely trotted around a few times and showed off for about three minutes, then quietly started checking things out and focusing on more important matters like grass.

Here she is showing off.  Isn’t she the loveliest thing you’ve ever seen?  I noticed, with a little chuckle, that up close she has a head sort of like Parker’s, which makes me giggle just a little bit.  I have a feeling this girl will end up with Jess when she’s a little older and ready to go to work.

Here’s her conformation shot.  She’s about 16 hands, possibly more, and while the Jockey Club says she’s three, her birthday hasn’t quite arrived.  So she has lots of growing and filling out to do.  I’m not quite sure what her career will be, but when we picked her up were warned that she could jump – when she first got there she apparently jumped out of the ring a few times. 

Once we were sure she was settled in, we hoofed it out to the gelding field to check on the boys and get some new photos. Spring at the farm is just so incredible – everything is this amazing shade of green right now, and lots of water is flowing through the boys’ swimming hole.  When we first got there we were treated to a great lineup of the geldings up on top of the hill:

Bid, Admiral, Cecil, Haagen Dazs, Leo, and Truckee

There’s an extraneous rear end in there that I can’t quite identify, but I love that all our guys tend to hang out together.  They have their little subgroups, and sometimes let outsiders in, but for the most part the TBs all seem to have formed TB cliques.  It kind of makes you wonder how much they can communicate – they all have definitely got a shared history and shared experiences, and I like to imagine they all manage to recognize that.  Very few of them make good friends with outsiders.

Of course, sometimes it happens:

Tuck and Leo and their QH friend

On the left is an adorable dun Quarter Horse that seems to be best buds with Tuck and Leo.  Tuck is not a CANTER horse, but an ex-racehorse owned by our director.  He has a pretty amazing history and was one hard knocking racehorse in his time.  Now he’s mostly a troublemaker and goofball extraordinaire.  It seems that these three are pretty much inseperable (which we found out more about on Sunday).  Tuck and Leo are especially close, and their favorite activity (in addition to long walks on the beach) seems to be to throw mud at each other.  Shortly after we took the above photo, we were treated to about ten minutes of this:

Mud-Fest 2010

Leo and Tuck when on a splashing extravaganza that could have gone on all day.  Even their little dun friend got bored with it.  First they took turns splashing… then they splashed together.  At one point, they were faced nose to tail and seemed focused on getting as much mud as possible on each other.  They eventually got bored and decided to head back in to the run-ins (now, all the other geldings had already galloped in at that point), but unlike the others who make a run for it, they would run five or six strides, then stop to play-fight, then walk a bit, then start over.  It’s the only time I’ve ever beat horses down the length of that field when on foot, because they kept getting distracted by play-time.  It was an absolute riot.

After a trip to the Cracker Barrel for delicious pancakes, I got home and was able to get Archie out on a trail ride.  We went out with a friend and her enormous and wonderful Belgian.  At one point, her horse spooked and whirled around.  Archie did nothing – for exactly five seconds.  Then he whirled around too, though I don’t think he knew why (other than Jonas did it first).  Once we got them sorted out the rest of the ride went really well.  We walked and trotted, did open fields as well as closed trail, and Archie was great.  I did find he got a little tense/worried when in front.  He loves to follow, but I think being in front makes horses more on edge in general, as it puts the responsibility of “herd safety” onto them – instead of just following, now they’re the lookouts, so they tend to be more active and looky in that position.  I had him get in front a bit, and for a while we rode side by side, but we’ll have to work on his bravery a bit (though really, he doesn’t blink an eye at anything out there, which is great).

I also found when trotting or moving along, he doesn’t love to pass.  He will go exactly as slow or as fast as the lead horse with little or no prompting, but so far shows no desire to get competitive or try to pass or crowd the other horse (though he will make faces if you get too close).

By the time I got in the house (after also riding my horse) I was exhausted, and though I know I edited pictures and stuff, I don’t remember much.  I think I crashed out before ten.

Sunday dawned sunny and beautiful.  My big plan for Sunday afternoon was video.  I was determined to get video of as many horses as possible.  What I did not count on was the heat and my relative lack of fitness, so in the end I got around to riding four.

The drive out there was just gorgeous – I kept finding myself slowing down to look around.  Everything just looks so bright and wonderful right now (except for the coating of pollen), and all the farms had baby animals to coo over.  There’s something about driving out there on such a beautiful day that just makes me happy.  Frightened Rabbit on the iPod, and sun and green everywhere, and the windows down… it just felt like heaven.  And when you get there, it looks a little like heaven too:

Paradise Acres from afar

 When I got parked, I realized that we had another new addition.  She must have come in that morning, and she is a five year old black mare.  She’s petite, not like the bay from the day before, but just beautifully put together and attractive.  Mare lovers will especially love her, I think.  She is just beautiful and feminine – no mistaking her for a boy!  

Another lovely new addition!

Pretty pretty girl!

I got all my stuff unpacked, then it was time to go find our first victims.  The day before I had asked the farm owner about the mares’ schedule – what time they actually come down off their giant hill for water, etc.  It turns out that every day, they come down between 1:30 and 2, and they chill for a while by the water and run-ins.  So I decided to get geldings first and we went out after Bid and Leo.

They were at the far end of their field, back by the water hole, but it was still a much easier walk than the mares’ field would have been.  I grabbed Leo and Laura walked out to get Bid, and all was uneventful until we had to get Bid across the water.  We chose to cross at a narrow point that is much easier for people, and Leo had no issue with that, but Bid wanted none of it.  He knows all about mud and water (indeed, he was caked with it), but I think just wanted to cross at HIS spot.  We tried to switch horses, me thinking that maybe I could get it, but as soon as his lead rope was dropped (really, for like half a second before I could grab it), Bid whirled around and took off, crossing the water hole at HIS favorite spot, then galloped all the way across the field and down to the bottom of the hill (lead rope flying in the air and us having minor palpitations).  Leo was trying to be good, but we had the additional issue of being surrounded by Tuck and the dun QH.  They wouldn’t take off ahead, instead circling around and trying to play with Leo as we tried to lead him.  This was getting Leo a bit fired up, and at one point I pulled fairly hard on the lead to get his attention – when the lead rope broke.  And off Leo went, with his two friends, galloping on ahead of us like lunatics.

We managed to catch them at the bottom and start over, but Tuck and the Dun Horse really made it problematic to get Leo out of there.  They kept trying to follow him or herd him, despite my best efforts to wave them away, and we ended up needing several extra pairs of hands to get them out of the gate.

After a lot of scrubbing (these were seriously dirty horses!) we managed to get some new conformation shots of Bid (the one on the website right now has him standing in a pile of poo and leaning backwards – it’s just NOT a good look!):

I think he's trying to chew on the reins, but he's cute anyway!

He needs his mane done… yay more projects!  I hopped on and rode him around a little, but for some reason when I tried to upload the video last night the computer ate it.  I swear, I’m really not kidding!  You’ll have to take my word for it when I say he was very, very good considering he hasn’t had to do anything in a while.  While he reminded me I have to work on things like keeping my hands still (why does that sound so easy? bah!) he was nice and pleasant under saddle, felt good, and seems to remember all his training.  When I took more contact and thought about sitting up and really getting my leg on he did respond appropriately, and felt all big and round moving, but we could only hold it together for short periods.  Again, he’s been sitting in a field for months with the occasional quick ride, so I wouldn’t expect any more, and was actually pretty happy with the ride (the last time I rode him he was a cheeky little bugger and kept trying to play tricks on me).

Then it was Leo’s turn.  I didn’t take new conformation pics because I had gotten a decent on Saturday (of course he’s filthy in it… oops!).  We did get video of this, though, which you can see here:

Direct Link Here, if you can’t see the embedded version.

It was funny watching that – when you ride everything feels soooo slooooow – I don’t know if the video on my little camera tends to speed things up or what, but it really seems like it, as the whole time I was cantering him it felt like I was working my butt off to keep him going, and we were barely going anywhere.  For real, he feels like a La-Z-Boy rocker to ride – it’s comfortable as heck, you feel incredibly secure up there, and if you lose your balance or have an issue, his default reaction seems to be “stop.”

He seemed to me to still be a little bit sore from his recent abscess, so I only rode him for a few minutes.  We did get one half a lead change in that time, but as soon as he switched behind he lost all steam and dropped back to a walk despite my best efforts.  He’s such a good boy, with such a good heart – even though I was huffing and puffing like I’d just worked through a session of The Insanity Workout, I hopped off with a huge grin and a desire to hug him, despite how sweaty and gross he was.

When we got them back to the field, all the geldings were back out up the hill… except Tuck and the Dun QH.  They were waiting for Leo.

Then it was on to the mares.  I wanted to get Wek and Minnie.  Fortunately, they had all galloped down while I was riding Bid, so we didn’t have to walk up the giant hill at all!  It was like magic.  When we got out there, we found that Wek and Minnie had matching spa treatments:

Wek's Mud Mask

Minnie's Matching Mud Mask

I dunno, I think Minnie wins, as she covered substantially more areas on her face. Getting them cleaned up was quite a project – the breeze kept blowing and I kept ending up with dried mud and hair in my eyes, nose, and mouth.  And my ears.  And down my shirt.  It was disgusting.  No offense, pretty ladies, as both mares are quite beautiful, but really. 

The good news is they clean up really nicely:

Wek Looking Lovely, and, um, Rubenesque

The beautiful and talented Minnie Ball

I rode Wek first, and in the interests of being totally honest, it was… interesting.  I knew she would likely be worried or upset by the saddle, simply because she is immense, and there’s no way my saddle could feel comfortable to her (sorry! I wish I had three extra saddles, but I don’t think anyone has ever donated an extra-extra-wide tree saddle, so…).  Also the last time I rode her she had a few good crowhops.  So I led her around for a few minutes, and sure enough, she got a little hump in her back and while staying perfectly besides me (and otherwise very polite) she leaped up off the ground (well, as much as she could given her mass), and crowhopped about a dozen times before getting used to the feeling. 

I decided to lunge her before getting on, and she settled quite a bit, and even looked to be moving well (or better than I remember her moving the last time).  She’s not a hack winner but has a nice pleasant way of going and looks very sound.  Then I got on, and we got a few video clips:

Link for those who need it.

Wek is very hesitant about moving forward under saddle, but also very touchy about leg and worried about the crop.  My thinking is that even though I hopped on her Sunday, she would probably benefit from starting over from scratch, or at least being given a week of lunging and progressive work to get used to the idea.  I only rode her for a few minutes, and we had a couple good hiccups in there (unfortunately the worst of it is not on video – not that I like showing misbehaving horses, but it made me laugh pretty hard. I had been worried about her bucking but when she actually did it… well, let’s just say she’s just not “fit” enough to make a real go of it.)

After her little blow-up, I gave her a second to recompose (or rather, gave me a second, haha!), and asked again for forward motion.  I did achieve that and we got to a slightly more forward and comfortable trot a few times around the ring, so I stopped there and gave her lots of pats and praise. 

Then it was Minnie’s turn. Yay!  I saved the best for last, I think.  She was pretty good, and though we had some trouble with the left lead (not a problem at all in our first ride – I’m thinking I was tired at that point and not sitting straight at all), she still made me grin ear to ear.

Direct link to video

I can’t wait to see this horse after some training – right now things are a little rough, and I’m probably not helping, but I know there’s a huge slow stride in there, and she’s remarkably easy to ride compared to others with similar amounts of work (like Wek).   We did have one minor green moment – Wek was acting up for Laura so I had her turn her back out.  Minnie is a teeny bit herdbound, so when Wek left she got upset and had a little moment.  In retrospect I could have handled it better, probably, but I chose to get off and walk her in circles for a minute.  It turns out that actually worked fine, and she calmed down immediately upon me being at her head.  When I got back on it was like it hadn’t happened and she was happy to trot and canter around.  We also got a decent enough left to right lead change, although it was missed on the video (I have a clip of right before, and a clip of right after… go figure!)

When we got Minnie back out, she took off at a dead run to rejoin her friends – who all promptly went running back up the hill (probably to that spring they’ve disturbed to make their mudbath).  At that point, walking the hill was out of the question, so we did not get any new video of Sister. I have no idea when/how to make that happen, but will have to figure it out as we’ve had lots of requests.  Maybe someone will be around to help later this week.

Seeing video makes it really clear to me I have to ride more.  I’ve been so busy I haven’t been working at it quite as much as I’d like, and as a result I’m a little loose, and my hands unsteady.  So I see plenty of work for me in the near future 🙂 Thankfully I have a very tolerant grey horse at home to help me with that and tell me when I’m doing it wrong 🙂

On tap for this week – some rest! Hah! That was a lot of activity for me, I’m not used to it, and I feel like I need a weekend from my weekend! We’ll also get Archie started with some real flatwork, and hopefully some fun trail video if the weather cooperates 🙂

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2 responses to “Working On The Farmer Tan

  1. Great job Kell! I don’t know where you get the energy.

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